Parthenon replica Nashville on water

Parthenon of Nashville, Tennessee: a Replica of the Acropolis of Athens

    Nashville is the capital city of Tennessee. The relatively small capital is home to a replica of one of the greatest monuments in human history. The Parthenon of Athens, the original work of art that has stood proudly in Athens for generations, has a sister in the so-called “Athens of the South”. But how similar are these two temples, really? Without further ado, let’s find out!

    Parthenon of Nashville: The American Version of the Parthenon 

    Parthenon replica Nashville columns

    The Nashville Parthenon opened its gates as an international temporary exhibition, but it was built to stay, even if no one believed that at the time. Before Centennial Park embraced the Nashville Parthenon in 1897, huge buildings could be seen around Lake Watauga, which housed the exhibit.

    Why was Nashville hosting such an exhibition? Well, the city was celebrating its 100th birthday at the time and, as the “Athens of the South,” wanted to create a spectacular 6-month international event. They had a beautiful space available for the representation and did it without hesitation. The Parthenon embodied the ideals of the city.

    The building tried to restore all aspects of the original ancient Parthenon, including elements that were damaged or lost over time. In the meantime, the exhibition attracted nearly 2 million people. This was almost 20 times the population of Nashville at the time and a great success for the city and its citizens.

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    Everyday, people came to see with their own eyes a monument that was too far away to reach. But is the Parthenon of Nashville an exact replica of the Parthenon in Athens? Let’s investigate.


    Nashville’s Parthenon was initially constructed of three simple elements: Wood, plaster, and brick. When the rest of the buildings were demolished or moved, the Parthenon was left standing in 1898 after the exposition ended. Many years passed, and in 1931 the building was ready inside and out to be reopened as a city museum. Let’s explore the superbly constructed individual elements that created the amazing whole.

    The facing of the Replica

    Parthenon replica Nashville all columns

    The facing of the temple consists of the roof line above, the pediment, the entablature with its frieze, and the columns. All these elements form the unique carved facade of the temple, which contains many mythological scenes and sculptures.

    The pediments of the temple depict scenes from Greek mythology and are arranged according to specific themes. The story on the east pediment tells about the birth of the goddess Athena from her father’s head, Zeus. On the west pediment, the myth of Athena against Poseidon for supremacy in Athens will leave you speechless. 

    The entablature consists of the frieze and the metopes. In the frieze, there are many captivating sculptures on a small scale. The metopes depict the myth of Lapiths and Centaurs in a uniquely seductive way.

    The columns are 46 in total and in Doric order. The Doric order is one of the three main orders, along with the Ionic and Corinthian. The optical illusion created by the columns is interesting. When you first see the columns, they appear to be straight, balanced, and simple. But the closer you look at them, the more you understand that they are not straight, but deliberately curved.

    Do a simple experiment! Take a pen, that is, an object with a straight line, and hold it up to the Parthenon. You will notice that there are indeed curves!

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    Interior View of Nashville’s Parthenon

    The interior of the museum consists of two floors. The first floor hosts the paintings of American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, along with other temporary exhibitions. On the second floor, the interior replica of the Parthenon is revealed. 

    There, you are able to explore what the original Parthenon looked like with its main temple (naos), Treasury (the place where used to store the valuable offerings by the people) and the columns. Of course, no one can avoid the colossal statue of Athena Parthenos. 

    Athena Parthenos Statue: A Unique Representation of the Original

    Parthenon replica Nashville DP Athena Parthenos

    The original statue of the Parthenon in Athens stood proudly in the largest of the temples of the Acropolis, the Parthenon. The original piece was created by the famous sculptor Phedias in 438 BC. It was a huge chryselephantine sculpture of the patron goddess of Athens. Unfortunately, we do not know exactly what happened to the sculpture, but sources say that the iconic masterpiece either was destroyed by a fire in the temple or was taken to Istanbul in the 10th century and probably destroyed there. 

    The statue depicts Athena as a victor in battle with her military uniform and weapons. The historian Pausanias, who saw the statue with his own eyes, wrote that it was nearly 38 feet high and weighed 2,400 pounds.

    A full-size replica of this masterpiece was created in 1990 for the Parthenon Museum in Nashville. Alan LeQuire was the sculptor who accomplished this. This statue is a detailed replica of the original. 

    However, it is made of other elements such as plaster, gypsum cement, and ground fiberglass. It is worth noting that the replica is taller than the original. In any case, the colossal statue remains a unique representation that the Nashville community has given to the world.

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    Permanent and Temporary Exhibitions 

    James Cowan, a businessman and art collector, donated 63 paintings to the Nashville Parthenon in 1927-1929. Keep in mind that this action took place 4 years before the opening of the Parthenon as a museum and between the renovations of the building. 

    Cowan set the condition that he would donate the paintings to the Parthenon only if he remained anonymous until his death. You can also visit the East and West Galleries that host the temporary exhibitions. You can discover historical exhibits, visual art and more.

    Before entering the galleries, you’ll find the “Kidsville Activity Corner”, where children can learn, play, and create their own hands-on experiences. This section of the museum is a great way to explore American history combined with ancient Greek knowledge about the original Parthenon.

    The Centennial Park

    Parthenon replica Nashville DP

    Centennial Park is a lush oasis full of trees and monuments with a lot of history, covering 132 acres. It is located near downtown and the Vanderbilt College campus. 

    It was established in 1897 as a park for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Prior to that, it was converted several times, including as a farm (1783), as a state fairgrounds after the Civil War (1884-1895), and as a racetrack. 

    However, the earliest known activity in the area was Native American (Chickasaw and Cherokee) settlements prior to the arrival of Europeans in the late 17th century. At the time of the Civil War it was known as West Side Park. After the 1897 Exposition, it was established as a public park in 1902.

    The park houses many monuments and memorials on its grounds. There are also numerous courts in the park, such as tennis courts and football fields, as well as playgrounds for kids, as it is home to Centennial Sportsplex. 

    Finally, you will find beautiful gardens with plants, Watauga Lake, ponds and bridges in the park.  It is the perfect place for a walk with your family because it combines history with nature.

    Comparing the Two Parthenons 

    The Parthenon of Nashville and the Parthenon of Athens may look like two peas in a pod, but let’s verify if that’s true by presenting a few important things. 

    Differences Based on The Architecture 

    First of all, the Parthenon of Athens is made entirely of Pentelic marble, a local product. 

    The replica in Nashville is made of concrete and many other elements that characterize mankind’s progress in the art of building. Still, the two of them share the exact same size and scale. So, the optical illusion referred earlier is visible in both buildings. 

    In antiquity, the original building was full of colors inside and out. Sculptures and other architectural elements were visible and colorful along with the sculptures. The replica is more similar to the present form of the Parthenon than the first, in terms of colors. 

    Since many of the architectural elements in the original Parthenon were destroyed, the metopes (part of the frieze) in the replica show the same mythological story, the story of Lapith and Centaurs. 

    In the original building, the metopes on the four sides of the temple show different themes and not the same. The metopes’ themes originally are: the battle of Athenians versus Amazons, the Olympians versus Titans, the already mentioned Lapiths versus Centaurs, and the Trojan War.

    Differences Based on The Interior Design and Purpose

    Nevertheless, the statue of Athena Parthenos in the main part of the museum is a very well executed replica, which has all the details that the original had according to Pausanias. The only difference is that the statue is slightly higher than the original. 

    The biggest difference is not in the architectural part, but in the purpose of the building. 

    The original Parthenon was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, and the replica was originally built as part of an exposition. In any case, after presenting all the evidence, it is obvious that the differences between these two buildings are not great. 

    So we can safely say that if you visit the Parthenon of Nashville, you will be able to fully understand the greatness of the original masterpiece. 

    Greek Mythology Background

    Greek gods and temples Greek Mythology Kids DP

    The mythological reference of the building is obvious and very well executed. When you see the building and follow the mythological episodes in each corner, you will understand what this building is about: the gods and goddesses that the ancient Greeks worshiped.

    Gods as well as other demigods and creatures played an important role in the history of ancient Greeks. The best proof of this is the unique statue of Athena Parthenos, which represents the patron goddess of the city of Athens, Athena. 

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    Even in the statue, the mythological presence is clearly visible. In the sandals of the statue is visible the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs. Gods holding their symbols, creatures and humans holding their weapons all have a place in Greek mythology and represent the beliefs of the Greeks. This masterpiece is the crown of ancient Greek architecture and culture.

    Useful Information About the Parthenon of Nashville Museum

    You can easily visit the Nashville Parthenon with your family. There is no charge to visit Centennial Park and the out space of the Museum. Adult tickets are $10 and children (17 and under) are $8. Children up to 4 years old are admitted free. Hours vary each day. For more information on hours and available Holiday hours, click here.

    The average visitor spends around one hour in the museum. Usually there are no guides to take you on a tour, but you can take a look at the calendar of dates when volunteer guides can accompany you. There are numerous events throughout the year. So try to combine your visit with an exhibition or a concert in the museum.

    Why Should Families Visit the Parthenon of Nashville?

    Nashville’s Parthenon is indeed an excellent replica of the original. If you are an American family unable to visit Athens, or if you have already visited the original building and want to make a trip worth seeing, then you can definitely spend a day at this amazing museum and park.

    So you can get a sense of the original Parthenon and explore the other exhibits. But if Athens and the Acropolis are on your “To Do” list, then preparation is everything! In that case, you can contact us for more information and create an amazing itinerary for you and your family.


    Is the Parthenon of Nashville Worth Visiting?

    Nashville’s Parthenon is a unique replica of the original Parthenon of Athens and a museum that is definitely worth a visit. The replica not only gives you the opportunity to understand the ancient Greek architecture of a temple, but also to discover exhibitions of great Americans.

    Is the Parthenon of Nashville an exact replica of the Parthenon of Athens?

    The Parthenon of Nashcille is an exact replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. Small architectural elements differ such as the mythological theme of the metopes outside the temple, but the size and scale of the building are the same, allowing visitors to see the building and the statue of Athena Parthenos in the museum in full size.

    How to reach Parthenon in Nashville?

    You can easily reach Nashville Parthenon by various means of transportation. The distance between the Parthenon and downtown Nashville is less than 3 miles. You can take a bus (lines 3 or 50) or a taxi. Also, the museum offers plenty of parking spaces if you want to drive.

    Should you visit Nashville if you’ve already visited Athens?

    If you have already visited the Parthenon in Athens, be sure to pay a family visit to Nashville’s Parthenon. It is located in Centennial Park, a beautiful park for families with playgrounds and various historical monuments. The museum also hosts art exhibitions by 19th and 20th century American artists, as well as other events.

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