Paros is a beautiful island in the Cyclades, Greece, known for its picturesque villages, sandy beaches and rich history. But Paros is also famous for another reason: its marble. The Parian marble, as it is called, is one of the world’s finest marble varieties, renowned since ancient times for its clearness, limpidity and ability to capture the light. In this blog post, we will explore the connection between Paros and the marble industry, and discover some of the most amazing sculptures and buildings that were made from Parian marble.
The Marble of Paros
The Marble of Paros is a semi-translucent, pure-white and flawless marble that was quarried on the island from the 6th century BC onwards. Its main characteristics are:
- It has a fine-grained texture that makes it easy to carve and polish.
- It has a high degree of refraction that gives it a sparkling appearance and a soft glow.
- It has a low coefficient of thermal expansion that prevents it from cracking or breaking due to temperature changes.
- It has a high resistance to weathering and erosion that preserves its quality over time.
The Marble of Paros was considered the finest quality in antiquity, and was used for the construction of temples, statues, monuments and other works of art. It was a valuable trading product that brought prosperity to the island and also attracted many invaders who wanted to control its production and distribution. The marble quarries of Paros were located in Marathi, a village on the northern side of the island, where you can still see the remains of the ancient mines today.
The Sculptures of Parian Marble
The Parian marble was the preferred material for many famous ancient sculptors who created masterpieces of classical art. Some of the most renowned sculptors who worked with Parian marble were Praxiteles, Polyklitos and Scopas. They used the marble to create realistic and expressive representations of gods, goddesses, heroes and other figures from Greek mythology and history. Some of the most famous sculptures made from Parian marble are:
|Nike of Paionios||A winged statue of Nike, the goddess of victory, standing on a triangular base with an inscription dedicated to the Messenians and Naupactians for their victory over the Spartans in 421 BC.||Olympia Archaeological Museum|
|Venus de Milo||A statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, standing in a contrapposto pose with her arms missing. It is one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture and a symbol of Western art.||Louvre Museum|
|Hermes of Praxiteles||A statue of Hermes, the messenger god, holding the infant Dionysus in his arm. It is one of the few original works by Praxiteles that have survived and shows his mastery of anatomy and expression.||Olympia Archaeological Museum|
|Victory of Samothrace||A statue of Nike, the goddess of victory, standing on the prow of a ship with her wings spread and her clothes fluttering in the wind. It is a dynamic and dramatic representation of triumph and movement.||Louvre Museum|
|Head of Alexander the Great||A bust of Alexander the Great, the king of Macedonia and conqueror of most of the known world. It shows his youthful features, curly hair and characteristic gaze.||Acropolis Museum|
The Buildings of Parian Marble
The Parian marble was also widely used for the construction of temples and other sacred buildings in ancient Greece. The marble was chosen for its durability, beauty and symbolic value. It was used to create columns, capitals, pediments, friezes and other architectural elements that decorated the structures. Some of the most famous buildings that were made from Parian marble are:
- The Acropolis: The citadel of Athens and the most iconic monument of ancient Greece. It includes the Parthenon, the temple of Athena, the Erechtheion, the temple of Poseidon and Athena, and the Propylaea, the monumental gateway.
- The Temple of Zeus: The largest temple in Greece, dedicated to Zeus, the king of the gods. It was built in Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games, and featured a colossal statue of Zeus made of gold and ivory.
- The Temple of Apollo: The most important temple in Delphi, the oracle of Apollo, the god of prophecy, music and art. It was built on a slope overlooking the valley and housed a sacred fire and a priestess who delivered the god’s messages.
- The Temple of Apollo Epicurius: A unique temple in Bassae, Peloponnese, dedicated to Apollo Epicurius, the god of healing and protection. It was designed by Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon, and combined elements from Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders.
- The Temple of Athena Nike: A small temple on the Acropolis of Athens, dedicated to Athena Nike, the goddess of victory. It was built in the Ionic order and had a frieze depicting scenes from the Persian Wars.
Paros and its marble have a long and fascinating history that spans from ancient times to the present day. The Marble of Paros is a remarkable material that has been used to create some of the most beautiful and impressive works of art and architecture in human history. The sculptures and buildings made from Parian marble are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also culturally significant and historically influential. They reflect the values, beliefs and achievements of the ancient Greeks and their legacy for Western civilization.