The Parthenon Mosque
Despite its present-day abuse as a universal symbol of democracy or local symbol of nationhood, the Athens Parthenon has enjoyed a conspicuously diverse history, more so perhaps than any other building in the world. The scrubbed white columns we immediately recognize tell little of the temple’s varied afterlife as first an Orthodox and then a Catholic cathedral, next a mosque, and finally an archaeological monument.
Since the nineteenth century, this complex history has sparked divisive debate: should the remnants of each phase be preserved, or erased in order to expose and privilege the Parthenon’s original, Periclean form? Needless to say, the monument’s nearly four centuries of Islamic use have evoked little interest.
At a time when the whole Acropolis complex is acquiring a new skin and even shape, join us for this Cambridge Festival of Ideas talk to find out why might the Muslim strand in the Parthenon’s history and identity be retrieved and meaningfully incorporated in the interpretation of the building for its millions of visitors.
Speaker: Dr Elizabeth Key Fowden
Sparked by an early interest in Renaissance Italy, Elizabeth Fowden studied Classics, specializing in late antique history and material culture in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Her PhD thesis, supervised by Peter Brown at Princeton University and later published as The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius between Rome and Iran (Berkeley 1999), examines religious, political and architectural crosspollination in late antique and early Islamic Syria. The after-life of artistic forms and religious ideas freed from their original contexts is a dominant theme throughout her teaching and research. In her current book project, The Parthenon Mosque, Fowden applies her interest in Islamic re-formulation of the Classical and Christian inheritance to the early modern conjunction of Greek, European and Ottoman views of Athens’ most celebrated building.
From 2016-2021, Fowden is Senior Research Associate on the ERC-funded project 'Impact of the Ancient City' with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (PI), Classics, and Amira Bennison (Advisory Board), FAMES.
Tickets for members of the general public are available here.