The Parthenon is one of the most iconic structures in the history of Western civilization. On Acropolis Hill in Athens, Parthenon stands more than 2.500 years. For decades it has survived a large number of earthquakes and ravages. Many researchers, engineers, architects and scientists have wondered how Parthenon successfully stood the test of time.
Many experts argue that the ingenuity of this structure, with its height, width and depth define the concept of perfect proportion that allows Parthenon to survive the ravages of time, nature and mankind. Parthenon has kept its secrets for many centuries since its completion in the year 438 BC.
Today scientists believe that they have found how the Parthenon temple survives for about 25 centuries without having a foundation. Several studies claim that it has triple anti-seismic protection, which is the reason of its survival.
Niki Timotheou, who studied its architectural and structural form as a civil engineer believes that people of the Classical Era had already discovered the seismic isolation, and the temple successfully contradicts all theories of modern civil engineering. Even though it has no foundation whatsoever, and stands right on bedrock, it has three means of protecting itself against earthquakes which are located in different parts of the structure.
The first point consists of the layers of enormous, extraordinarily smooth marble slabs on which the Parthenon stands.
The second point is found in the metal joints attached to the plates of each layer, around which lead has been poured. Lead not only has the vital property of protecting the iron from rust, but additionally, its softness and elasticity absorb any kind of tremor, and part of the tremor’s kinetic energy is thereby converted into thermal energy.
The third point of isolation is located in the pillars of the structure, which are not made of single columns of rock, despite their appearance from afar. The ancient Greeks already knew that in order to withstand the vibrations of the earth, all the columns had to consist of “slices,” which were perfectly carved and matched with each other.
The result of this triple formula, Timotheou noted, was that the seismic waves on the earth’s surface push one layer of marble slabs over the other at the same time as all the joints of the building absorb the kinetic energy produced by the quake.
Additionally, the way the columns were positioned allows the entire building to oscillate, but not to collapse, in the event of a sizable earthquake.
After the affront of having its interior used as an ammunition dump by the Ottomans and the subsequent explosion caused by artillery fire from a Venetian attack on September 26, 1687, the iconic building continued to stand, despite being damaged.
Considering its old age, its location in an active seismic zone and the fact that it was the site of an explosion, the Parthenon’s survival seems nothing less than a miracle, even taking into account its brilliant engineering.
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