Church visited Greece in 1869 and spent several weeks in Athens. There, he painted numerous studies and oil sketches of the ruins of the Parthenon that later served as the basis for this work. Although he intended to paint a large canvas of the Parthenon while still in Greece, it was not until 1871 that a commission from the financier and philanthropist Morris K. Jesup permitted Church to begin this large canvas. By February of that year, he was already at work on "a big Parthenon". By May, he had apparently finished the painting and wrote of his concern for its proper lighting in Jesup's home. The picture was first exhibited in New York at Goupil's Gallery in 1872 where it was highly acclaimed. It appeared subsequently in many major exhibitions, including the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878.