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Nashville Parthenon (Nashville, Tennessee)

By Richard Grigonis — January 19, 2013

While driving through Nashville, Tennessee, you may come across a sign for the Parthenon. The Parthenon? Although we call Nashville “Music City, USA” (a phrase adopted by its Chamber of Commerce in 1978) because of its association with the music industry, the city also does call itself “The Athens of the South,” so at first you think that maybe some enterprising fellow has started a theme bar, like Legend’s Corner (Nashville’s premier Country honky-tonk bar) or Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.

Nashville Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee.

Eastern front of the remarkable replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, Nashville, Tennessee. Entrance is at street level, between the two sets of stairs pictured here. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The signs, however, direct you to spacious Centennial Park, just west of downtown Nashville and across the street from Vanderbilt University. There you will see a lake with ducks, gardens, picnic tables and picnickers, kite-flyers, frisbee-tossers, and, oh yes, the park’s centerpiece: The world’s only full-scale, detailed replica of antiquity’s most famous building, the Parthenon. It was the greatest architectural project of the Age of Pericles, erected between 447 and 438 B.C. (with some addtional work continuing until 432 B. C.) by the legendary Greek sculptor Phidias, who called upon Ictimus and Callicrates as his architects.

Nashville Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee.

Looking at the south side and east pediment of the Nashville Parthenon in Centennial Park, Nashville, Tennessee. Entrance is at extreme right. (Photo © Boykov | Dreamstime.com)

Nashville’s Parthenon and Centennial Park are the only remnants of the classically-themed Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1896 (actually held in 1897), a spectacular celebration marking the 100th anniversary of Tennessee’s admission to the Union as its 16th state, back in the days when the seat of the U.S. administration was still in Philadelphia. (Tennessee was the last state admitted to the Union during George Washington’s presidency.)

But why this emphasis on ancient Greece? As Ellie Shick writes, “Most Nashvillians don’t know why a full-scale replica of the ancient Greek Parthenon in Athens was built in Nashville or why it’s a symbol of our city.” READ MORE


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