â€œThere was one measure above all which at once gave the greatest pleasure to the Athenians, adorned their city and created amazement among the rest of mankind, and which is today the sole testimony that the tales of the ancient power and glory of Greece are no mere fables.â€.
(Plutarch, Pericles 12).
The concept of beauty was first explored by the ancient Greeks, beauty being narrowly defined and a central concept to their quality of life. Their classical values stressed order and serenity. In 447 Periclesâ€™ building program, one of his greatest achievements was conceived with the objective of reconstructing and beautifying the Acropolis, which, upon return from the Athenianâ€™s triumph against the Persians at Plataea in 479 BC, was discovered to have been destroyed and its precious buildings laid to waste.
Themistocles, Aristides and Kimon successively vied with each other in rebuilding the city. But Pericles surpassed them all. .
Through its great naval alliance the city controlled an empire - Pericles now insisted his countrymen support him in constructing a city whose magnificence, architectural genius, and sheer brilliance would reflect the prestige of imperial Athens:.
â€œAll kinds of enterprises should be created which will provide an inspiration for every art, find employment for every hand. we must devote ourselves to acquiring things that will be the source of everlasting fame.â€.
Pericles summoned a conference of all Greek states to consider the questions of rebuilding the Greek temples destroyed by the Persians. Athens decided to draw heavily on the reserves of the alliance for a magnificent building program centred on the Acropolis. In 447 work started on the temple later known as the Parthenon and on the gold statue of Athena (by Phidias), which it was to house; the Acropolis project was to include, among other things, a temple to Athena Nike and the Propylaea (started 437), the entrance gateway, far grander and more expensive than any previous Greek secular building.