What Color Was the Parthenon in Ancient Times?

The Parthenon

The Parthenon is a temple located on the Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece. It was built in the 5th century BCE and dedicated to the goddess Athena. The temple is considered one of the greatest achievements of ancient Greek architecture, and it still stands today as a symbol of ancient Greek civilization.

The Colors of the Parthenon

Many people wonder what color the Parthenon was in ancient times. The answer is not simple because we do not have any records or descriptions that tell us exactly what colors were used. However, there are some clues that can help us make an educated guess.

Firstly, it is important to note that all ancient Greek temples were painted. This was done not only for decorative purposes but also to protect and preserve the building materials from weathering. Therefore, it is very likely that the Parthenon was also painted.

The Marble Color

The main material used for building the Parthenon was white marble. This has led many people to assume that the temple was entirely white. However, this is not necessarily true.

Marble can come in different shades and colors depending on where it comes from and what impurities are present in it. The marble used for building the Parthenon came from Mount Pentelicus, which produces a type of marble that has a slightly yellowish tone.

Furthermore, over time, exposure to sunlight and other elements can cause marble to darken and discolor. Therefore, even if the original color of the marble was white, it is possible that by now, after centuries of exposure to weather and pollution, it has acquired a different hue.

The Painted Elements

Another clue that can help us determine the colors of the Parthenon is the presence of painted elements that have survived to this day.

For example, some of the sculptures that were once part of the Parthenon’s decoration still retain traces of paint. These traces suggest that the sculptures were originally painted in bright colors such as red, blue, and green.

In addition, some of the decorative elements on the temple’s frieze and metopes were also painted. These include depictions of battles and mythical scenes that were painted to make them more vivid and lifelike.


In conclusion, while we cannot know for sure what color the Parthenon was in ancient times, it is very likely that it was not entirely white. The marble used for building it had a slight yellowish tone, and there is evidence that many of its decorative elements were painted in bright colors. Regardless of its original color, however, the Parthenon remains a magnificent testament to ancient Greek architecture and art.