Places to go-Akropolis
Akropolis- view from  Philopappos Hil
Akropolis- view from Ancient Agora
It is difficult to estimate the importance of the Akropolis to the ancient Greeks. The religious significance of this sheer-sided rock, 90 m above the town, was paramount, and the enduring images of the temples represent the principles of freedom and democracy in the present day. You can see Akropolis from most parts of the city, particularly at night when it is beautifully lit, which only adds to the feeling that this small area is still the essence of the city. The name Akropolis derives from the Greek words acro meaning highest point and polis, meaning town.

A path leads to the summit of the Akropolis, a relatively flat plateau around 320 m by 130 m
in area. This path is the original Sacred Way, used for ceremonial entrances to the inner sanctum in ancient times.

Used for strategic purposes throughout the Mycenaean and Archaic periods, the rock had water supply and superb views of the surrounding area. The first religious structures appeared at the end of the 6th century BC, when the summit became a sanctuary and the town was founded on lower ground below. These early temples were destroyed by the Persian forces of Xerxes in 480 BC. Following this, new defensive walls were constructed that included elements of the ruined old Temple of Athena and the old Parthenon.

It was during the era of Pericles that construction began on many of the buildings that we see today. He commissioned the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike and Propylaia, taking advantage of a new marble quarry on Mount Penteliko, the marble became known as Pentelic. As the Romans took control of Athens they embellished the site with small additions, but the wake of Christianity and the decline of Roman power saw the Acropolis vulnerable to attack, theft and vandalism. Statuary was removed and temples were used as palaces by European nobles during the 14th century. The rock reverted to its earliest use as a strategic stronghold during Ottoman rule, resulting in damage to most of the major structures. Vast amounts of stone were taken from temples on the pinnacle for a program of building in the city below.

Once through the Propylaia, the sacred way leads on to the Akropolis plateau proper. In Classical times, a 9 m statue of Athena Promachos (the Defender) dedicated to Athenian exploits during the Persian Wars stood immediately beyond the entranceway. This was taken to Constantinople during the Byzantine era. Make your way left along the southern flank of the Propylaia to view the Temple or Athena Nike (Athena of Victory). The Akropolis had been a sanctuary to Athena Nike, since the 5th century BC, and following the sacking of the site by the Persians a new smaller temple, or naiskos, was commissioned and designed by Callicrates. Six elegant columns support a pediment with decorative friezes depicting the gods on Mount Olympus and heroic battle scenes of Greek warriors fighting barbarians. The temple, built on the remains of an older Mycenaean wall, offers excellent views across the surrounding landscape, and this location was prized by the Ottomans, who tore down the structure to build a defensive battery. The temple has been painstakingly reerected using rubble found underneath the battery when it was removed in the 1830s. It has now been dismantled to enable the columns to be strengthened.
Back to the top
The Parthenon

The Parthenon is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. The series of columns supporting pediment and frieze is Athens to many visitors, and would have been also to travellers in ancient times. However, they would have seen a structure with a veneer of splendid colour and decorated with magnificently carved sculptures; not to mention a strong wooden roof now lost to posterity. What remains is the bare Pentelic marble used in the construction and the refined lines and form that make it an architectural masterpiece.

The Parthenon was dedicated to Athena and means Temple of the Virgin-Athena in her guise as protector of the city, goddess of wisdom and justice. It also housed the national treasury, bringing together the spiritual and secular power of ancient Greece. At least four other Parthenons have been built on the site, in fact the base of the present temple indicates that its predecessor was wider. Designed by architects Callicrates and Iktinus, work began in 447 BC and the temple was dedicated in 438 BC with a huge celebration, the Panathenaic Festival, that involved thousands of people and live animals were sacrificed at an altar on the eastern facade. This festival then took place every four years during the Pagan era and continued until the 5th century AD. Converted into a church in the 6th century, the cella (inner temple) had frescoes painted on its walls and upper galleries where women worshipped. A bell tower was added by the Byzantines who named it Aghia Sophia, also meaning wisdom. Later, under Ottoman rule, the bell tower became a minaret and the church was converted into a mosque.

Later, the Parthenon was used as a powder magazine. In September 1687, Venetian forces threatened Athens and one of their mortars hit the Parthenon, igniting the powder inside. The resulting explosion badly damaged the structure and many other ancient buildings on the site. The centre of the Partherton was totally destroyed along with many columns and priceless carved friezes. Subsequent "licences" granted by the Ottomans to European nobles saw many prize friezes disappear to archaeological collections around Europe, including the Elgin marbles (ornately carved pediments) that were taken to London by Lord Elgin. Restoration of the temple has been almost constant since 1834.

Today it is not possible to walk among the columns and through what remains of the inner temple. This echoes the rules of ancient Greece, when only the highest priests could enter the cella. There they would be able to worship an ivory-and- gold-covered wooden statue of Athena said to be 12 m high which has long since been lost. Walk around the 70 m by 30 m exterior to really appreciate the grace of the columns. There are no straight lines anywhere in the building, the graduated curves simply create the illusion of the vertical and horizontal.
Back to the top
The Erechtheion

To the north of the Parthenon stand the graceful statues of the Porch of the Caryatids, which adorn the southern facade of the Erechtheion. This temple is an unusual melange of architectural styles, with rooms at varying levels, where the worship of three gods took place. It was the last of the great building flurry of Pericles to be finished, dedicated in 406 BC. Built beside an ancient Temple of Athena whose scant remains can just be seen, the Erechthefon brought together the worship of Athena and Poseidon under one roof. Legend says that following the contest between the two gods for the honour of protecting Athens, they were reconciled and this dual temple recognised their special bond with regard to the city. Erechtheus, part man, part snake, was a legendary king of Athens who, over the generations, became closely connected with Poseidon. A temple of Zeus also forms part of the complex. The temple was damaged by fire almost immediately and again during the Roman period. It was converted into a church in the 6th century AD and was used as a harem building during Ottoman times.

The Caryatids, female figures used as pillars, are thought to represent the Arrephoroi (maidens who attended to the goddess Athena and performed rituals in the sanctuary and the temple), as they originally carried libation vessels in their hands. Both the vessels and the arms of the Caryatids have been destroyed. The sculptures at the site are copies, with all but one of the originals displayed in the Acropolis Museum. Their portico protected the tomb of Cecrops, the mythical founder of Athens.

Beyond the porch is the eastern facade. Here a row of Ionian columns mark the entrance to a rectangular inner sanctum of the new Temple of Athena. The walls of the interior were removed duringthe Byzantine era and the north corner (column and pediment) was removed by Elgin and taken to London with the "Elgin marbles."

A large north porch balances that of the southern Porch of the Caryatids. This sits on high foundations as the ground level falls steeply on the northern side. Much of the building here dates from the time of the Roman Empire, a devastating fire destroyed the earlier temples to Zeus and Poseidon. Marks on the ground in the porch area suggest that this building was once struck by lightning. A hole was left in the ceiling of the temple since the belief at the time This triple-headed demon was that a lightning strike is a prized display in the should never be closed off Akropolis Museum from the sky. Ancient Greeks believed that the Akropolis was guarded by a giant snake that lived under this temple. Pilgrims would buy honey cakes for this snake and leave them at the temple entrance for it to enjoy.

The west wall was restored in the early 20th century after it fell down in 1852. The reconstruction recreates the temple of the Roman era.

The Akropolis Museum

The Akropolis Museum in the southeast corner of the plateau was opened in 1934. It was designed and built so as not to spoil the skyline or compete with the temples and it cannot be seen from the streets of the city or from the sacred way as you enter through the Propylaia. Much of the fine stat- uary and carved friezes still present when Ottoman forces left have been displayed here along with four of the original Caryatid statues from the Erechthefon. The museum displays pieces of the omate decorative pediment that adorned the temples, and dedications to Athena herself found in the inner sanctuary. The whole collection is breathtaking and proof if it were needed of the immense wealth and influence of this ancient site. Each room has something of note but look for the pediment of a lion tearing apart a bull, dating from the 6th century BC in room 1. Pediment depicting a triple-headed demon, and a kouros (male statue) named The Calf-bearer, a young man carrying a calf to ritual slaughter at the temple, are both displayed in room 2. Kritikos Boy and Blond-haired Boy, two sculptures carved in the "severe" style fashionable around 480 BC, are displayed in room 6. Panels from the Ionic frieze that decorated the Parthenon are in room 8 and the original Caryatids can be found in room 9.
Back to the top

A number of other archaeological remains can be found on the flanks of the Akropolis and on nearby hills. Head south of the rock by taking a left out of the main entrance and you'll reach the first after a 5-minute stroll.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus was one of the last great building projects of ancient Athens. The vast auditorium was completed towards the end of the 2nd century AD in typical Roman style. During Byzantine times it was used as a dye works, and the Ottomans used it for defensive purposes. However, excavations began in the 1850s and the Odeon is once again holding spectacular summer performances.

On the southeastern flank of the Akropolis are the vast remains of the Theatre of Dionysus, hacked out of the earth in the 5th century BC and upgraded in the 3rd century BC. In Roman times a long colonnaded stoa and promenade linked the two theatres, but only scant remains can be seen today. The theatre was the birthplace of the dramatic and comic art and formed the social and political heart of Athens during its "golden age." The premiers of several major pieces by Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were performed here, and the Athens assembly also met here late in its history. The whole auditorium held 17,000 people, but most interesting are the carved front row thrones for VIPs, including one with lion's-claw feet that was reserved for the priest Dionysus Eleutherios. The particularly fine bema of Phaedros (carved stage) depicting scenes from the life Dionysus, god of wine and merriment, is of Roman origin. Surrounding the theatre are remains of several other buildings including an Asclepieion (place of healing) and Odeon of Pericles. These are currently being worked on by archaeologists.

To the west of the Akropolis stands another small range of hills now cut by footpaths and covered in trees offering cooling shade in the heat of summer. This area, reached by crossing Odos Rovertou Gali and walking up behind the Dionysus restaurant, offers splendid views across to the Acropolis (it's the best place for afternoon overviews), and the Sound and Light Show auditorium is located here for this reason. Several archaeological sites can be seen and the area is much less crowded than the Akropolis itself. You'll also see the 16th century church, Ayios Dimitrios Loumbardhi, nestling under the woodland canopy.
Back to the top
In the northeastern area, you'll come to the Hill of the Pnyx, meeting place of the Assembly of Athens. Loosely translated, pnyx means "crowded or tightly packed place," and in ancient times this was a highly populated area. You'll see the outlines of walls, including the defensive Themistoclean Wall, between the bushes or under the turf as you stroll. The Pnyx meeting place can be found below the summit on the northeastern side of the hill. When democracy was established at the end of the 6th century BC the debating chamber moved from the Agora to this structure and it was here that the great states-men of Greece made their speeches at the rostrum. Seats were provided for the 5,000 citizens of the city needed for a decision, making quorum, who would listen to the arguments of Pericles and Themistocles.

On the Hill of the Nymphs north of the Pnyx you'll see the Neo-Classical lines of the original Athens Observatory, founded in 1842. Perhaps the most popular point for visitors lies in the south where at the highest point, Hill of the Muses or Philopappos Hill, is the Monument of Philopappos, a high-ranking nobleman in Roman times. Its convex facade has a sculptured frieze depicting Julius Philopappos riding a chariot and performing his duties in the Senate. It is from here that you'll get the best views of the Akropolis, so don't forget your camera or video recorder!

On the north flank of the Akropolis is the hill of Areopagos, found close to the right of the main Akropolis ticket office. With views across the city below it is a popular spot for photographs, however it also has a long and illustrious history. Tradition states that this was the site of the orig- inal Agora of Athens, and the original council of the city was known as the Council of Areopagos. Later it held courts of law, and justice was dispensed here. In AD 51 St. Paul addressed a crowd of Athenians from the hill with his ser- mons of Christian faith. He met with a hostile response from the Pagan population, but did convert Dionysus who later became the patron saint of Athens.
Back to the top

  Athens Festivals 2005: Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theatre of Lycabettus, Rockwave Festival, Gagarin 205/Live Music Space  
Send eCards: Seasons Greetings, New Year's, Congratulations, Humour,Flash Cards, Occasions, Holidays, AnyDay, Event Calendar
QUIZ - Test Your Intelligence
Akropolis- view from Temple of Olympian Zeus  
Akropolis- view from Ancient Agora
Akropolis- view from Roman Agora
Akropolis- view from Ancient Agora
Brief History, Aristocracy & Democracy, Persian Wars, Golden Age, Peloponnesian War, Roman Period, Byzantine & Ottoman Obscurity, Independence, 20th Century. Theatre, Traditional Music and Dance, Sailing, Golf, Football (soccer), Horseracing, Where to Shop, What to Buy, Suggestions For Children, Annual Events. A range of accommodation at each price and quality level in Athens. Where to Eat & When to Eat, The Menu, Appetizers, Fish & Meat, Dessert & Cheeses, Drinks. Time Zones, National Holidays, Airport, Customs, Public Transport, Language, Religion, Medical Care, Open Hours, Money,Climate, Clothing, Driving, Car Rental, Fixed Telephony, Mobile Telephony, Police, Post Office, Maps, Weights & Measures, Tourist Info, Complaints, Youth Hostels, Hitchhiking, Laundry, Toilets. The Religios Character of the Ancient Olympic Games, First Olympiads, Heraia, Cultural Contribution, Gods in Ancient Greece. The Ancient Olympic Games Organization, Famous Ancient Olympic Winners, Rituals & Olympic Program, Ancient Olympic Events, Ancient Olympic Title, Olympic Games in Hellenistic & Roman Times. International Olympic Committee, International Olympic Academy, Lighting of the Olympic Flame, Pierre de Coubertin Monument, Museum of the Modern Olympic Games. Athens 2004 Olympic Games Athens - Places To  Go Photographic Voyage, White Athens Album, Christmas in Athens, Peter Hammill live in Athens. Excursions-Cyclades  Islands Athens Festivals 2005: Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theatre of Lycabettus, Rockwave Festival, Gagarin 205/Live Music Space Traditions - Easter - Christmas Propylaia Photo Album Parthenon Photo Album Erechtheion Photo Album BT Design Approved Site Award, The Crystal Sea Merit Award, World Web Award of Excellence, Van Gogh Award for Artistic Excellence, Best of the Web Award, Market-Tek Design Award Winner, Golden Nugget Award, News Wire Award, The 5 Hearts Award, Domain-Me Award For Artistic Ability, eBook-It Best Site Award, Screaming Head Award Akropolis Akropolis Akropolis Akropolis Akropolis Akropolis