By: Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor
Nashville has been coined as the Athens of the South. This is because in the early days, there were not too many educational opportunities in the South. Nashville began building colleges and universities to make up for the lack of education, also instituting the South’s first public school system.
Just as the Athens of ancient Greece, Nashville became the metropolitan center for education and culture in the South, a pinnacle of knowledge and wealth for the area.
While other cities have since made up for the lack of educational opportunity and Nashville does not quite go by this name anymore, opting for a more modern “Music Capital of the World,” there are still testaments to Nashville’s Athenian roots.
This includes the dozen of prestigious colleges all around the city, from Vanderbuilt and Belmont to Trevecca and Fisk.
It is because of this nickname that they built the Parthenon replica in Centennial Park during the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition to celebrate Nashville’s 100th year in the Union.
The Parthenon is a scale replica, the columns and pillars the same length/height/width as the actual Parthenon in Greece. The Athena Parthenos replica stands golden in the center of the second floor while the first floor is devoted to art pieces and a museum about the construction of the replica in the late 1890s.
You may have seen the Parthenon and the Athena replica in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie based on the best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. While the Parthenon does not appear in the book that the movie is based on, it does showcase an action sequence where the main characters face off against a Hydra in the main room in front of the Athena Parthenos.
So hey, what better place to spotlight a series about Greek demigods than the Parthenon?
Rick Riordan does something special with the Percy Jackson series: he makes the Greek myths relevant, modern, interesting, and hilarious. The series follows the (mis)adventures of demigod UN-extraordinaire, Perseus Jackson – son of the sea god, Poseidon.
The first series chronicles the efforts of Camp Half-Blood, a haven in Long Island for demigods, to stop the ancient titan Kronos from rising again and taking vengeance on the Greek gods.
Percy grows up through the book series, going from twelve to sixteen over the course of the novels. He deals with many aspects of the Greek mythos, from finding the Golden Fleece to battling the Minotaur, traversing the dangerous Labyrinth and visiting the River Styx.
Riordan writes with a sense of wryness and the dry wit is a signature of the series, as the characters comment on the inconsistencies of the ancient legends and on the many, many transgressions committed by the Greek gods in their “sovereign rule” of humanity.
Mount Olympus presides over the Empire State Building, Medusa owns a statue garden, the witch Circe runs an amusement park in the Sea of Monsters, Daedalus is an out-of-work engineer, Poseidon wears swimming trunks and Hawaiian shirts.
Percy and his romance with fellow Half-Blood Annabeth, daughter of Athena, has sparked an Internet phenomenon known as a fandom. The celebrity nickname for the two of them is Percabeth.
In the sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus, we get to see from Annabeth’s point-of-view in the POV shift from first-person of the first series to third-person of the second.
Just read it, you won’t be sorry. You’ll gain knowledge of the Greek mythos that you can impress your friends with. It’ll also expand your awareness about just how much our current society draws from Greek culture and mythology, from names to customs.
While the books are labeled as “Middle Grade” reading level, it’s worth the read. Just don’t expect anything too serious.
Riordan hasn’t limited himself to writing about Greek mythology in modern day. He’s expanded to Roman and Egyptian mythos with the Kane Chronicles, and this year he will be releasing a fourth series dealing with Norse myths.