The Nashville Parthenon


One place that I really wanted to visit while we were in Nashville was the Parthenon. I have kind of become a Greek mythology enthusiast, especially after teaching it (along with Homer’s The Odyssey) in ninth grade English year after year. It’s fascinating to me that a giant replica of the Parthenon in Athens stands in the middle of Nashville, complete with a 42-foot high gilded statue of Athena inside. I wasn’t really prepared for the admission charge (Come on! Do we have to pay to see EVERYTHING?), but it was only $6 a person, so it was definitely worth it.


The full-scale Parthenon replica became even more amazing when I learned inside the museum that it was built for the 1897 World Fair. That they even had the ingenuity and technology to build those 34-foot outer columns and those giant brass doors is incredible! (Those doors are seven feet wide, 24 feet high, and one foot thick, weighing seven-and-a-half tons each, in case you were wondering.)

Justin standing in front of the giant doors

Justin standing in front of the giant doors, to give you an idea of their size.

lion's head ornament on the door

lion’s head ornament on the door

I am a bit of a young adult novel nerd, but I was also eager to see the Parthenon because it was the scene of one of Percy Jackson’s first battles in the book The Lightning Thief. The author, Rick Riordan, was also an English teacher who taught Greek mythology. He relayed (PG versions, I’m sure) stories from Greek mythology to his own children before tucking them into bed at night. When he started running out of stories, his kids encouraged him to make up new stories featuring the Greek gods, goddesses, and monsters, so he came up with modern-day Percy Jackson–a twelve-year-old kid with an absent father who discovers that he is a demi-god (half human, half god–like Hercules). His mother is human and his father is Poseidon. He also begins to discover that he has the power to control water, among other super-natural talents, and the evil Greek monsters and villains are determined to take him out before he becomes too powerful. In the first book, when he is on a cross-country quest with his friends to recover the stolen lightning bolt of Zeus, he encounters the infamous multi-headed Hydra inside of the Nashville Parthenon. I’ve included a short clip from the movie below so that you can see it:

Fortunately, I didn’t see any Hydra while I was in the Parthenon. I did spend a good bit of time just staring at Athena, and marveling at her size, and the effort that went into sculpting her. She is currently the largest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western World.


Her dress and helmet are gilded in a thin layer of nearly 24-karat gold leaf.

Her dress and helmet are gilded in a thin layer of nearly 24-karat gold leaf.


There were some other cool things to see inside the Parthenon, too. It doubles as a museum about the history/building of the Parthenon, as well as an art museum featuring pieces collected and donated by a local Nashville man.

Justin and my dad reading up on the symbolism behind what Athena is wearing and carrying

Justin and my dad reading up on the symbolism behind what Athena is wearing and carrying

Replica of an ancient Greek frieze

Replica of an ancient Greek frieze

Some puppets that I found

Some puppets that I found

I was interested to know why the puppets were in there, and what kind of puppet shows went on in ancient Greece, but when the friendly puppeteer approached me, I shied away. It’s all because of a bad experience I had one time with an overly friendly puppeteer at a Christmas festival in Thomasville, Georgia. (The story is too long to tell here, but to give you an idea, it involved being strong-armed into attending a TWO-HOUR, locked-door, one-man rendition of A Christmas Carol inside of a theater, along with two very perturbed friends and one exasperated husband. Oops!) I didn’t want to get shanghied into any more bad puppet shows, so I pretended to answer a call on my cell phone and stepped away.

Anyways, in my opinion, no trip to Nashville is complete without seeing the Parthenon! 🙂



Categories: Museums, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Nashville Parthenon

  1. So I’ve been to the Parthenon in Nashville twice, but never been inside! I definitely need to do that! The Athena statue looks incredible! I’m so glad you guys had fun! And I’m glad you didn’t get roped into another awkward puppet situation (though I have to admit, I’m really curious about what happened the first time!).

    • You definitely need to go inside and see her next time! It’s really incredible–it feels like a real ancient Greek temple. Haha, and I don’t mind indulging in the occasional puppet show, but they need to be brief–not hours long. And I feel like puppeteers are creepy–right up there with carnies. Anytime a puppeteer approaches me with a, “So I see you’re admiring my puppets…” I take that as a red flag to get out as quickly as possible. 😛

  2. How cool! I love that you have such a passion for Greek history. And I’m going to add The Lightening Thief (I think that was the name of it!) to my Goodreads list.

    • It’s a good series! It is a bit more “middle school” reading than “high school,” just to warn you. The first book reads almost like children’s literature, but by the time the series finishes (when Percy Jackson is 17 and he’s been through A LOT), it’s much more young adult. 🙂

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