“The Parthenon Enigma” by Joan Breton Connelly

Reading such a title, you’re probably wandering what author Joan Breton Connelly will reveal about the Parthenon in this large hardback tome. What is it?

It’s a family affair.

Yup, according to Connelly’s research, this vanguard of architecture intended to show ancient Athenians as a family.

However, before you purchase this book, I recommend learning (or refreshing whatever you know of) Greek mythology and history before diving into Connelly’s exploration of Athenian mythology and the arts that took inspiration from said myths. In fact, read up on terminology relating to architecture and other writings contemporary to Ancient Greece because I guarantee you will end up lost in Connelly’s writing. I know I found myself lost at times. She goes deep into the Parthenon’s design and layout, its history, its function for Athenians, and its influence on the rest of the world. She even disputes accepted knowledge about the Parthenon. What I found especially revelatory, originated from her writing about the Athenian’s mixed reactions to Perikles’ ambitious makeover of the first version destroyed by the Persians. While I did read Stealing Athena, author Karen Essex’s dramatized version of those reactions, to read it from a non-fiction book still left me in surprise. Especially when she took apart the idea of Lord Elgin even gaining consent to remove the marbles.

While I enjoyed the book and consider it an essential addition to my library, I had an issue with it.  
When writing about the Elgin marbles controversy, Connelly never acknowledged Greece’s current economic situation. While she makes a very strong case for moving the marbles, I found it disappointing that she did not mention Greece’s troubled economy. The Parthenon Enigma went into publication in 2014, so she could have acknowledged it in her argument and maybe even offer a solution to the debate.

In fact, this website has a brief post about the Parthenon marbles and Greece’s current economic issues.

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