Parian marble

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Bust of a girl (Kore) made of Parian marble in the Acropolis Museum , Athens
Ordinary Parian marble as a building material
The Venus de Milo ( Aphrodite ) in the Louvre
Dance of women, relief from the island of Paros, approx. 570–560 BC Chr. ( Glyptothek in Munich)

Parian marble is a fine-grained, white marble from the Greek island of Paros . While the Cycladic island received great attention in antiquity as a raw material for sculptures and architectural applications, the underground ancient mining sites in the northern mountains of the island now serve primarily as a tourist attraction.

Quarries and rock properties

There are several old quarries on the island of Paros, but not all of them could provide material for statues. The marble of some extraction sites is interspersed with quartz grains, which makes its use for sculpting work largely impossible. The color varies in light gray tones, sometimes dark gray and a bituminous odor can be perceived when the rock is chipped.

In the transition areas to neighboring gneiss sections , mica and iron minerals are embedded in the Parian marble. Most of the quarries on Paros avoid the transition zones and open up massive marble deposits.

The rock is mostly coarse-grained, usually two to three millimeters, in some cases up to five millimeters in size. It is mainly a calcitic marble.

There are important ancient quarries between the villages of Parikia and Agios Minas and in the valley that leads to the port of Naoussa .

History of marble quarrying

Since the 6th century BC There is evidence of marble quarrying on the flank of the Marpesso mountain , the central mountain range of Paros, especially on the northern flank, not far from the village of Marathi. In the first century BC, marble extraction came under Roman influence. Pliny names him in his Naturalis historia and uses the term lychnites . Praxiteles is one of the famous ancient sculptors who worked with Parian marble . This proves its use in the 4th century.

Statue marble

The statue marble, which was coveted in antiquity, was extracted underground, in the so-called nymph grottos. Following a certain bank , the raw pieces of statue marble called Lychnites were extracted here. This name refers to the Greek word λύχνος (German: lamp, lamp), because the crystal structure enables considerable translucency in the rock. This feature was very much appreciated for the statues. The most famous statue made of Parian marble is probably the Venus de Milo .

The light transmission led to some roof coverings of well-known temples with this marble, whereby a certain amount of natural interior light was given.

The Temple of Apollo in Delphi and the gable sculptures of the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina are among the important ancient buildings with Parian marble .


There is a small archaeological museum (founded in 1960) in the main town of Parikia on the island. Excavation finds are shown here, including numerous relics of ancient marble work.

See also


  • G. Richard Lepsius: Greek marble studies . 1890
  • Monica T. Price: Decorative stone, the complete sourcebook . Thames & Hudson, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-500-51341-5

Web links