Nashville is known as “Music City, U.S.A.” because of the country music industry. The city has several other popular tourist attractions, such as the Civil War-era Fort Negley, the even earlier Fort Nashborough, and the Tennessee State Museum.
Besides these attractions, the most extraordinary place to visit is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. The structure, built in 1897, is a stunning reconstruction of the ancient Parthenon that was severely damaged centuries ago.
Nashville has long been known as the Athens of the South because of its many colleges and universities, some of which have emphasized a classical education. In 1895, the Tennesse Centennial Exposition was planned for the 100th anniversary of the state. Nashville wanted to participate in the fair and offered to build an art pavilion. It would become one of the most beautiful replicas made anywhere in the country.
The Parthenon is in the public Centennial Park, and it contains a re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue, which was added in 1990 by Alan LeQuire. The initiator of the Parthenon replica was Major Eugene Castner Lewis, who was the director of the Exposition. The structure was made from simple materials like plaster, brick, and wood, because it was meant to stand only for the Exposition.
But when the time came to demolish the Parthenon, the city council reconsidered and decided to make the structure stronger because of its potential tourist draw. Starting in the 1920s, the reconstruction was done using concrete, and the whole Parthenon was completed in 1931.
Today, the replica serves as Nashville’s art museum, and in its permanent collection are 63 paintings made by American artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. There are other spaces inside used for temporary exhibits and shows. After it had been decided to create the statue of Athena, the Athena Fund was established for raising money.
After a lot of consideration, the sculptor Alan LeQuire was hired for the job because of his reputation for creating works of large scale. This replica brought him, even more, fame after it became the biggest sculpture in the western world placed indoors. Before he began, LeQuire researched the Athena statue of antiquity.
Not much is known of the ancient gold and ivory sculpture, because it was lost by 400 AD. The creator of the original Athena was Pheidias, who finished it in 438 BC. The statue appeared on city coins of the second and first centuries BC. Even today, visitors can see the outline of the statue base on the floor of the Parthenon in Athens.
After more than a decade, the statue in the Parthenon in Nashville was gilded. Over four months, they made the sculpture look very similar to the old Athena. Many details were repainted, including her wardrobe in gold, her face, and her shield. It glows when one enters the Parthenon.
The 42-foot-tall goddess with her spear, beautiful crown, and companion snake is a masterpiece. Its look makes visitors lower their voices in her presence. Some people with pagan beliefs even lay flowers in front of her as a sign of respect.
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Other gods and creatures on the statue appear as details such as the Thunder God Zeus, the divine stallion Pegasus, the mythical creatures Sphinx, the God Apollo, and more.