fl. fifth century b.c.
Although virtually nothing is known about his personal life, Greek architect Callicrates is credited as one of the codesigners (with Ictinus) of the Parthenon in Athens, part of the larger Acropolis. Built for Pericles, a prominent political leader, the building is an example of the Greek attempt at perfect orderliness. The Parthenon was constructed from roughly 447-438 b.c.
During the long reign of Pericles in the fifth century b.c., Athens experienced a golden age. Pericles's most lasting contribution, however, was a beautifying campaign that displayed the power and authority of Athens to the rest of the world. He believed the glory of Athens should be visible to all.
Pericles placed Phidias (a famous sculptor) in charge of the building program for the Acropolis. Sitting high above the city on a rocky plateau, the Parthenon was its crowning jewel. For the temple's design, Phidias turned to Ictinus (considered the leading architect of the time), while Callicrates is most often listed as "master-builder" or "master of works." In this respect, Callicrates served primarily as Ictinus's contractor and technical director.
Some scholars have suggested that Callicrates might have served as the official city architect of Athens. Others have speculated that he was more concerned with the technical and managerial aspects of architecture. If the latter were true, then he would have led the construction aspects of the Parthenon, including the supervision of the workers, but would not have been responsible for the aesthetic elements.
The Parthenon became the spiritual center of Athens. While many Greek temples served as places of worship for many gods, the Parthenon was dedicated to Athena, the god of creativity and wisdom. The building could be viewed from all parts of the city and from the harbor, which displayed the city's power to passing ships.
The Parthenon looks simple and straightforward, a columned rectangle, but on closer inspection, its simplicity becomes an illusion. Many lines in the Parthenon look either straight or tapering, but in actuality are neither. Ictinus and Callicrates used Attic marble to construct the building, making it the first to be made completely of marble, including the ceiling tiles. The designers also adhered to strict rules of proportion throughout the structure.
Outside the Parthenon stood eight columns along the ends, with 17 on the sides. Inside, the Parthenon revealed itself as a place of worship. Phidias created an enormous wooden statue of Athena that stood 40 feet (12 m) high. He covered the statue in gold and ivory—ivory for the skin and gold for the clothing. Unfortunately, the statue was stolen and whisked off to Constantinople in the fifth century a.d. and later destroyed by fire. All that remains of the statue is its image on coins and small copies made from marble.
The sculptures inside the Parthenon also represent the highest form of art in ancient Greece. Phidias designed the works, but employed numerous other sculptors to complete the great number of pieces. A frieze of reliefs covered more than 500 feet (152 m) on the pediment. The fact that more than 420 feet (128 m) of the frieze still remains attests to the craftsmanship and skill of the sculptors.
Callicrates is also recognized as the designer of the Temple of Athena Nike, on the Acropolis, which was commissioned in 449 b.c., after a peace treaty was signed with Persia. The temple was designed with pentelic marble and was much smaller than the grandiose Parthenon. After many delays, construction began on the project in 427 b.c. and ended in 424 b.c.
In addition, scholars believe Callicrates designed a small Ionic temple on the banks of the Ilissos River in Athens and a temple in honor of Apollo on the island of Delos. Renowned classics professor Rhys Carpenter, in his book The Architects of the Parthenon, proposes that Callicrates was also responsible for the Hephaesteum, the temple of Poseidon at Sunion, the temple of Ares at Acharnae, and the temple at Rhamnous.
Despite the tourists who flock to see the Parthenon today in modern Greece, the building has been through some tumult. In a.d. 393 it was turned into a Christian church and the statue to Athena was changed to one for Mary. A few centuries later, the Parthenon became a mosque. In 1687 the building suffered its worst fate when used as a storage place for Turkish gunpowder. A Venetian soldier deliberately fired into the building and blew out its side. The Parthenon, however, survived and after hundreds of years of study is being restored.