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The first of the older temples to Athena on the Acropolis was the Hekatompedon ("hundred‐footer"). The remains of this building, according to William Bell Dinsmoor one of the principal archaeologists to excavate the site, were found intermingled in a stratum of terrace fill south of the Parthenon. The temple was probably constructed about 570 BC and completed by 566 BC in order to celebrate the establishment of the quadrennial Panathenaic Festival. The remains of this building, according to William Bell Dinsmoor, one of the principal archaeologists to excavate the site, were found intermingled in a stratum of terrace fill south of the Parthenon. The temple was probably constructed about 570 BC and completed by 566 BC in order to celebrate the establishment of the quadrennial Panathenaic Festival.
The sculptures were carved to adorn Athena’s rise to power as the principal goddess of the city. The pediment sculptures were intended to reflect the attitude of the citizens of Athens and honor her as the goddess of vintage, sowing, and harvesting as well as her political and civil character. There are three groups of sculptures on one pediment showing Herakles combating the Triton, a large three-headed monster with a coiled serpent's tail, and between them two lions attacking a bull. Each of the three-bodied figure holds an object in his hand, which have been identified as the symbols for water, lightning and the earth. This group of figures represents a single person in the form of Zeus Herkeios. Pausanias (2.24.2-4) makes the account that Zeus was depicted in images “…which had two eyes in the natural place and a third on its forehead…so whoever made the image made it with three eyes signifying that this same god rules in all the three ‘allotments’ of the universe as they are called.” It may be that the archaic sculptor was unable to portray Zeus, who takes three forms and occupies them in time and space simultaneously, had no other way to style it.
The Older Parthenon or Pre‐Parthenon, built on the Acropolis of Athens was begun shortly after the battle of Marathon (c. 490–88 BC). Built upon a limestone foundation that extended to the southern part of the Acropolis summit, this temple replaced the Hekatompedon and would have stood alongside the archaic temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos.
The Old Parthenon was still under construction when the Persians sacked the city in 480 BC and razed the acropolis. The ruble from the destruction was later used for other building projects, as some of the column drums look to have been built into the curtain wall north of the Erechtheum. Excavations of the Acropolis by Panagiotis Kavvadias in 1885-1890, discovered further evidence of the temple. The findings allowed Wilhelm Dörpfeld, then director of the German Archaeological Institute, to assert the original Parthenon was not entirely below the present Parthenon edifice as had been previously assumed, but existed slightly offset from it.
William Bell Dinsmoor, who did extensive work for the American School at Athens, concluded that the date for Parthenon I was no earlier 495 BC.