“Secrets of the Parthenon” (Documentary/PBS)

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“Secrets of the Parthenon,” Tuesday night on PBS, is no mere how-did-they-lift-those-heavy-rocks rumination. It’s a condensed mathematics course, challenging you to keep up as it examines the principles and proportions the ancient Greeks used to erect that majestic building. You may fall by the wayside in the home stretch, which features a detailed analysis of the slight curve in the Parthenon’s columns, but you’ll still feel smarter by the program’s end.

“The Parthenon, like a statue, exemplifies a certain symmetry, a certain harmony of part to part, and of part to the whole,” explains Jeffrey M. Hurwit, an art historian at the University of Oregon. “There’s no question that the harmony of the building, which is clearly one of its most visible characteristics, is dependent upon a certain mathematical system of proportions.”

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