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.)
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.
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.
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! 🙂