The Parthenon; the Greatest Marketing Tool in Greece

In this course we have learned so much about the global icon that is the Acropolis, with the highlighting feature being the Parthenon. As the modern world continues to get to know Greece, the powerful and historic structure strengthens its ties to the lives of the Greeks who live around it. And as we have seen in recent years, those Greeks have used the Parthenon’s popularity to their advantage. While the building itself may not have any obvious uses left to the naked eye, the Grecians have created an entire propaganda campaign profiting and leeching off of the building. The success of this campaign has shown the world the true marketing power of the Parthenon.

Massive crowds of tourists gather around the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. Image taken from Greek Tourist Sustainability; Georgia Funnell

The image above is just one of thousands depicting the millions of tourists that flock to the Parthenon every year. Outsiders can’t get enough of the historical significance and incredible architecture, and the Greek people know it. Using these sorts of images on tourism sites and vacation flyers draws tourists in. Tourism has grown to be one of the largest industries for the domestic economy in Greece, and a huge reason why is the popularity of the Parthenon. These images don’t do the crowds there justice, as thousands tourists walk the Acropolis every day.

Image of the ruins of the Parthenon, taken June 26, 1920 and part of the Kelsey Museum Archive Images (Easton Kelsey).

Outsiders come to the Parthenon because it represents ancient history preserved for modern times, but it wasn’t always like that. As you can see in this image from the Kelsey Museum archives, much of the Parthenon was in ruins and barely standing not even a hundred years ago. Back then, it was recognized that the building needed to be renovated in order to be preserved, so the decision was made to fund a massive restoration project. The Greek government is now reaping the benefits of this plan, as most of the Parthenon’s popularity is because of its excellent condition. The restoration of the buildings atop the Acropolis, along with the opening of the New Acropolis Museum pictured below, have shown people a glimpse into the past glory days of the Parthenon. We see the brilliant columns holding stunning marbles and arches, preserved like almost nothing else on the planet. And inside the NAM, all of the sculptures and the marble frieze kept in pristine condition give viewers a sense of realism and amazement. Nothing brings in tourists quite like these buildings and exhibits, showing us the true marketing power of the Parthenon.

Photo from Bernard Tschumi inside the 3rd floor of the New Acropolis Museum, overlooking the Acropolis and marble frieze

Despite becoming a symbol of Greek history and having a major positive impact in terms of economic growth, the Parthenon has also seen other uses for its marketing capabilities. Specifically, its platform as a beacon of hope to millions of Greeks has been used to promote both national economic and humanitarian causes. First, in the image below, we see a photograph of a group of Athenian citizens protesting the Greek involvement in taking deals from other European nations in order to try and avert a collapse of the euro. Back in 2010, when Greece was going through one of its worst economic downswings in history, the Parthenon was used as a megaphone to voice the outrage from the citizens towards the government for putting Greece in this situation, and then submitting to demands from other European countries. This event got national and international coverage as the world watched the people of Greece fight their own government, using the Parthenon as a median.

Picture of communist protesters taking over the Acropolis and Parthenon during the Greek economic crisis in 2010 (The Guardian).
Greek communist prisoners on Makronisos forced to build miniature models of the Parthenon as an act of “redemption”. The image is from the Photographic Exhibition of Makronisos 1949, and it was found in a text titled “The Other Parthenon” written by Yannis Hamilakis (Hamilakis)

We see these examples even as far back as the 1940s during the Greek civil war that followed after World War II. As punishment for backing communist revolutionaries, many Greek opposition prisoners were taken to a prison on the island of Makronisos, where they were forced into manual labor. One of the tasks they were required to perform is pictured below, which was to construct miniature replicas of the Parthenon in order to show their love and admiration of all things Greece. The government used this as a propaganda technique to picture the Parthenon as the representation of Greek redemption and loyalty, galvanizing their supporters and growing the connection they had with the Acropolis. Using this tactic proves once more that the Parthenon is a powerful symbol that can be used in all kinds of ways.

Image of a sign hung on the Acropolis protesting the closing of Greek borders to those suffering from the refugee crisis in 2015 (Challenge Image)

Even in times of relative peace and stability in Greece, the Parthenon has been used to advocate for others. One such example is pictured above, where we see an image of a group of Greeks hanging a sign on the Acropolis reading “Open Borders”. This is referring to the refugee crisis that was taking place back in 2016, when millions of refugees came up through the Mediterranean into Greece. Because Greece was still recovering from its economic collapse, the government turned many of these refugees away, leading to the loss of life as asylum-seekers made treacherous journeys to other countries. Protesters in Athens scaled the Acropolis and hung this sign, standing in solidarity with those that had nowhere to go.

As we have examined throughout this class, the Parthenon has grown to become a symbol, a beacon of sorts, of Greek history and present. But, the Parthenon has been used to send other messages as well, becoming one of the best marketing tools that the Greeks have. Whether it’s advertising the building itself and all of the history created in Athens, or promoting a political or moral cause, the Parthenon has been the stage that propels a message towards an enormous audience. Only time will tell how effective the symbol can become, but right now, it’s the best advertisement the Greeks have for their history of success and struggles.

Works Cited

Funnell, Georgia. “Tourist Sustainability.” Greek Civilizations and Their Discontents, 6 May 2015, fusclcs235t.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/tourist-sustainability/.

Choros, Evgenia. “Banner Against Closed Borders In Acropolis.” News from Greece, 18 Mar. 2016, <greece.greekreporter.com/2016/03/18/banner-against-closed-borders-in-acropolis-video/.>

Hamilakis, Yannis. “The Other ‘Parthenon’: Antiquity and National Memory at Makronisos.” Oral History Review, Oxford University Press, 1 Oct. 2002 <muse.jhu.edu/article/21976/pdf.>

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

Smith, Helena. “Greek protesters storm the Acropolis.” The Guardian. 04 May 2010. Guardian News and Media. 01 May 2019 <https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/may/04/greek-protesters-storm-acropolis>.

Tschumi, Bernard. “Gallery of New Acropolis Museum / Bernard Tschumi Architects – 5.” ArchDaily, <www.archdaily.com/61898/new-acropolis-museum-bernard-tschumi-architects/500918b828ba0d27a70017aa-new-acropolis-museum-bernard-tschumi-architects-image.>