Saturday, February 6, 2010
Nashville, the Athens of the South
To the left is a picture of the replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, Nashville, TN. I've visited this park and the Parthenon many times. The top picture shows the huge gilded statue of Athena in the naos inside the structure. According to Wikipedia:
"A modern replica [of the original statue] by Alan LeQuire stands in the reproduction of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee. Alan LeQuire, a Nashville native, was awarded the commission to produce the Parthenon's cult statue. His work was modeled on descriptions given of the original. The modern version took eight years to complete, and was unveiled to the public on May 20, 1990.
"The modern version of Athena Parthenos is significant because of its scale and its attention to recreating Phidias' work. The statue adds an additional dimension of realism to the replicated Parthenon, whose interior east room (the naos) was merely a large empty hall prior to the statue's unveiling. The reproduced Athena Parthenos gives visitors the impression that they truly are inside an ancient place of worship.
"The Nashville Athena Parthenos is made of a composite of gypsum cement and ground fiberglass. The head of Athena was assembled over an aluminum armature, and the lower part was made in steel. The four ten-inch H beams rest on a concrete structure that extends through the Parthenon floor and basement down to bedrock, to support the great weight of the statue. LeQuire made each of the 180 cast gypsum panels used to create the statue light enough to be lifted by one person and attached to the steel armature."
Once in the 90's in some introductory remarks, I welcomed a large group of educators to the city with the words "Welcome to the Nashville, the Athens of the South." They laughed because most people think of the city as just the home of country music and associate it with rednecks, etc. But I went on to explain to the audience that beginning in the 1850's Nashville was called the Athens of the South because it was the first southern city to establish a public education system and also because of its numerous institutions of higher education. Today, the label still applies; the city is home to Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, David Lipscomb University, Fisk University, Tennessee State University, a community college, and numerous private schools.