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Ancient World Seminar: Janric van Rookhuijzen (Utrecht), “The Lost Virgins of the Parthenon”

Wanneer:di 12-02-2019 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), Court Room
Lecture Janric van Rookhuijzen
Lecture Janric van Rookhuijzen


The origin of the name Parthenōn ‘Virgin Room’ for the Great Temple of Athena on the Athenian Acropolis (our ‘Parthenon’) has never been satisfactorily explained. It was certainly used for the entire building in various literary texts of Hellenistic and Roman date. But this is not so in the inscriptions of the Classical period, in which Athena’s treasurers made annual inventories of her possessions. Here, the term appears in opposition to the Hekatompedon, which certainly designates the east room in which the chryselephantine statue of Athena stood. Under the assumption that Parthenōn must refer to something in the same building which was later called that in its entirety, scholars have almost invariably identified the original Parthenōn with the west room of the Great Temple. However, there is no obvious explanation why this space should have been called ‘Virgin Room’. On the basis of a reanalysis of the nomenclature preserved in the inscriptions and the archaeological remains this paper challenges the assumption that the Parthenōn must be looked for in the Great Temple. It will then propose that it can be more comfortably identified with a part of the temple which is habitually known as the ‘Erechtheion’.

About the speaker

Janric van Rookhuijzen is a classical archaeologist working at the universities of Leiden and Utrecht. After studying at Nijmegen, Oxford and Leiden, Janric received his PhD at Radboud University, Nijmegen (2018, cum laude). In his dissertation he explored the complex relation between Herodotus' account of Xerxes' invasion of Greece (480-479 BCE) and the landscapes of Greece and Anatolia. Following numerous publications on this topic, a book based on his dissertation was published in November 2018. His current research, for which he received awarded a VENI grant for the period 2019-2022 concerns the symbolism, archaeology and reception history of the Acropolis of Athens, in particular that of the 'Parthenon' and its predecessors, as well as the Temple of Athena Polias (incorrectly known as the 'Erechtheion’).