The Acropolis Peripatos Walk
The Acropolis Peripatos was the name of the beltway-like road that surrounded the Acropolis along the foothills of the sacred rock at a level slightly higher than the historic Tripodon Street, which served as the beltway of the times.
In the vicinity of the NW side of the Acropolis rock it met Panathenaeon Street, while on the South side it coexisted, as it does today, with the second level of the Theater of Dionyssos, through which it lead to the Asclepieion towards the West.
The Peripatos Walk could begin at the Beulé Gate west of the Propylaia, from which one could follow the little path that goes towards the north slope. The approach is fairly difficult and the remains limited. On the north side of the Acropolis a series of caves in the rock is noteworthy. Here were the earliest dwellings of prehistoric times. With the passage of time the caves became cult places dedicated to the twelve gods or to lesser local divinities with their shrines around the main cult of Athena, patron goddess of the city, at the top of the Sacred Rock.
As the name peripatos implies (walking around), its course was ideally suited for leisurely walks, offering spectacular views of the surrounding areas. As one approaches the South Side of the Acropolis, we can see a sign carved on the rock known as the "Peripatos Inscription" (second half of the 4th c. BC) according to which the length of the road was 5 stadia and 18 Greek feet or 900-1,100 m approximately.
The Klepsydra is a spring located at the intersection of the Panathenaic Way with the Peripatos. The only means of approach was by a stairway that begins behind the Agrippa Monument at the Propylaia. Water was now drawn from a well over which was a vaulted roof. Klepsydra continued in use during Byzantine times and the Frankish domination.
The Sanctuary of Apollo, dedicated to the cult of Apollo Hypoakraios, that is Apollo “under the cliffs” or “under the long rocks”. This is known from inscriptions dedicated by the nine Archons, that were found in front of the cave. Apollo was worshiped here in two other forms as well: Patroos and Pythios. He was called Patroos because, according to mythology, at this place he loved the daughter of Erectheus, Kreousa, who gave birth to Ion, an ancestral hero of the Athenians. Apollo had the epithet Pythios because he slew Python, the terrible snake of Parnassos, and established his famous oracle at Delphi. His sanctuary here on the north slope of the Acropolis, however, was also known to the ancient writers as the “Pythion”, because from this point the “Pythaïstai”, devotees of the god, set out on their sacred mission to Delphi, to offer sacrifices there and to bring back the sacred fire for their sanctuaries.
The Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios or Astrapaios, from the Greek word for lightning. The rectangular cutting visible today in front of the entrance to the sanctuary, may have been for the altar where offerings were made to the god. According to tradition, it was here that the Pythaïstai stood to watch Mt. Parnes for the lightning signal to begin their sacred mission to Delphi.
The Sanctuary of Pan and the Nymphs is a series of little caves, all dedicated to the cult of Pan and the Nymphs. There are three such niche-like openings, three little caves that held, perhaps, the cult statue of the god and dedications to Pan and the Nymphs. The cult of Pan himself appeared in Attica after the victory of the Greeks at Marathon (490 BC) in which the horned, goat-bodied god was thought to have played an important part. The ancient Greeks believed that Pan’s wild shouts wrought havoc and fear or –as the name Pan suggests– panic among the Persians, thus contributing to their defeat.
The Aglaureion, a sanctuary dedicated to Aglauros, a daughter of Kekrops, the mythical king of Athens. Legend has it that the sanctuary was founded at the spot from which Aglauros threw herself from the Acropolis in panic upon opening the forbidden chest to find Erichthonios, in the form of a snake. It was thought that the sanctuary was located in the next cave, the largest on the north slope. In the depths of the cave there appears to have been a spring, which was in use only for a short span during Mycenaean times. The cave communicated with the Acropolis by a stairway, cut into the walls of the rock, which led to the sanctuary of the Arrephoroi, the two little girls chosen to live for one year in the sanctuary, to help with the weaving of the peplos of Athena. On the night of the mysteries of the Arrephoroi, they evidently descended this secret passage to the north slope of the Acropolis carrying on their heads the holy objects, the areta (unspoken). Leaving behind them the cave with the long-forgotten spring, they would go to the neighboring sanctuary of Aphrodite “in the Gardens” and Eros where they left their sacred burden. Yet the finding of an inscription outside another large cave on the east side of the Acropolis suggests that this may be a more likely location for the Aglaureion than the cave on the north side. It was there that the Athenian youths, as ephebes, took the oath that they would defend their land and that they would not dishonor their weapons. Near the Aglaureion was the Anakeion, another sanctuary, dedicated to the cult of the Dioskouroi.
The Sanctuary of Aphrodite and Eros is the last sanctuary on the north slope. It is connected with the cult of the goddess of beauty and her winged son. A pathway leads from the cave with the Mycenaean spring to this point here, in the middle of the north side, directly below the northeast corner of the Erechtheion. Niches cut in the rock and many votive offerings showed this place to be the Sanctuary of Aphrodite and Eros. We will not attempt here to stick to the historic Peripatos walk but rather to imagine how it would feel to do the same walk in the streets as they have formed through the ages to what they are today. We shall begin at the Visitor Center, located on Areopagitou pedestrian street, at the intersection of Areopagitou, Vyronos and Thrassyllou Streets and walk uphill.
Where to Stay
We recommend Electra Palace, a fabulous modern hotel, centrally located, which offers great service, a beautiful rooftop pool and well-appointed rooms with a buffet breakfast included. The spacious rooms are equipped with A/C and satellite TV. Thoughtful touches include bathrobes and slippers. Some rooms offer direct views of the Acropolis. Guests can start the day with Greek Breakfast provided in the dining area. The hotel's rooftop includes a restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine. Electra Palace is within walking distance from most of Athens' main attractions. Syntagma Square is less than 5 minutes' walk away and shopping districts are nearby.