The Parthenon Enigma
By Joan Breton Connelly
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307476593, 528pp.)
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Since the Enlightenment, the Parthenon—the greatest example of Athenian architecture—has been venerated as the definitive symbol of Western democratic values. Here, Joan Breton Connelly challenges this conventional wisdom, drawing on previously undiscovered sources to present a revolutionary new view of this peerless building. Reaching back across time to trace the Parthenon’s story from the laying of its foundation, Connelly finds its true meaning not in the rationalist ideals we typically associate with Athens but in a vast web of ceaseless cultic observances and a unique mythic identity, in which democracy in our sense of the word would have been inconceivable. Marshalling a breathtaking range of textual and visual evidence, and full of fresh insights woven into a thrilling narrative that brings the distant past to life, The Parthenon Enigma sheds a stunning new light on the ancient Athenians from whom we claim cultural descent—and on Western civilization itself.
Joan Breton Connelly is a classical archaeologist and the author of two previous books, Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece and Votive Sculpture of Hellenistic Cyprus. In 1996, Professor Connelly was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She has held visiting fellowships at All Souls College, Magdalen College, New College, and Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, and at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, and has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Professor Connelly has excavated throughout Greece, Kuwait, and Cyprus, where she has directed the Yeronisos Island Excavations since 1990. She is professor of classics and art history at New York University.
“Exciting and revelatory. . . . That rare thing: the exposition of a truly great idea, and a reminder of what a thrilling subject the past, that foreign country, can be.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Joan Connelly’s brilliant study of the Parthenon shows how a myth can reveal as many secrets as a rock or a ruin, and how rethinking what we know about antiquity can help us better understand ourselves today.” —George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga
“A detailed portrait.” —The Washington Post
“One of the most original theses of modern classical scholarship.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Learned, ambitious…up to date with the excellent theoretical work of recent decades. It is time to change the textbooks and the museum labels.” —Times Literary Supplement.
“Original, insightful and convincing. . . . A very important book: thoroughly researched and written for the intelligent reader. . . . [Connelly] breaks new ground.” —Huffington Post
“Connelly’s groundbreaking work will forever change our conception of the most important building in the history of Western civilization. By cracking the hidden code of the Parthenon, she reveals the classical world in a radical new light that will reorient how we all view its legacy for the twenty-first century.” —Tom Reiss, author of The Black Count, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“General readers with an interest in Greek history and architecture will find The Parthenon Enigma fascinating. . . . [It reads like a] supremely intelligent riff on a Dan Brown novel.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A careful, learned account and a good read.” —The New York Review of Books
“Gracefully written, informative. . . . Engaging and intensely interesting. . . . Thoughtful, stimulating, and unquestionably valuable.” —J.J. Pollitt, The New Criterion
“Connelly’s interpretation [offers an] even positive message, one that speaks to the influence of the Parthenon in the fields of architecture, government and the very nature of civilized society.” —New York Post
“Learned and elegant . . . a powerful case for a new understanding of the Parthenon, its original meaning as a religious object, and for the fullest possible restoration of its many parts still scattered far and wide.” —Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Classics and History, Yale University, and author of The Peloponnesian War
“Masterly. . . . Connelly’s depth of knowledge and scholastic effort shine through brilliantly.” —Library Journal (starred)
“Luminous . . . courageously and intelligently starting from scratch, Joan Connelly reconstructs the meaning of the Parthenon. . . . The unfamiliar picture that emerges gives us all a sharper vision of what this timeless monument can still mean to our own troubled world.” —Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University
“Gripping.” —Metropolis Magazine
“Edifying. . . . A book for all who seek direction and are capable of seeing the bigger picture.” —Kirkus
“Persuasive. . . . This detailed, smart, and tantalizing study offers much to savor.” —Publishers Weekly
“Connelly’s book is one for the twenty-first century, full of new finds and fresh insights.” —Angelos Chaniotis, Professor of Ancient History and Classics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton