The Acropolis of Athens, the Sacred Rock, is the greatest sanctuary of ancient Athens, dedicated primarily to the city patron, the goddess Athena, and dominates the center of the city. The most celebrated myths of ancient Athens, its greatest religious festivals, earliest cults and several decisive events in the city's history are all connected to this precinct. These unique masterpieces of architecture combine different orders and styles of Classical art in a most innovative manner and have influenced art and culture for many centuries. The Acropolis of the 5th c. BC is a reflection of the splendor, power and wealth of Athens at its greatest peak, the golden age of Perikles. In the mid-5th c. BC, when Athens became the seat of the Athenian League and was the greatest cultural center of its time, Perikles initiated an ambitious building project which lasted for the entire second half of the century. I was very fortunate in my life to have been born under the shadow of this glorious rock, and, having lived all over the world for decades, to once again reside in the neighborhood of the gods!
Even a mere stroll around the Acropolis Rock will leave you charged with an inexplicable energy, regardless of whether you believe in cosmic energy spots, or simply experience the excitement of visiting the physical place where so many great things evolved for the humanity.
The Acropolis is a rock of blue-grey hard crystalline limestone, which springs from the soil to a height of 150 m (500 ft) above sea level and 70 m (230 ft) above the northward part of Athens. This rock is completely geologically isolated and is accessible only from the western side, where the ground is sloping. All the other sides of the rock are cut abrupt, hollowed out by caves or grottos, which from times immemorial served for the worship of the first deities of the area of Attica. The surface of the Acropolis is an irregular polygon extending from West to East to about 270 m (886 ft). Its greatest breadth is about 156 m (512 ft). The greatest of all archaeological sites, the Acropolis dominates the Athenian landscape. Ascend 80 steps, take in the views, and marvel at the glorious monuments atop.
The Acropolis of Athens.
The most important buildings visible on the Acropolis today - including the Parthenon, the Propylaea,the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike - were erected during the Golden Age of the Perikles' period, under the supervision of the greatest architects, sculptors and artists of the time. The temples on the north side of the Acropolis housed primarily the earlier Athenian cults and those of the Olympian gods, while the southern part of the Acropolis was dedicated to Athena. After the end of the Peloponnesian war in 404 BC and until the 1st c. BC no other important buildings were erected on the Acropolis. In 27 BC a small temple dedicated to Augustus was built east of the Parthenon. In Roman times, although other Greek sanctuaries were pillaged and damaged, the Acropolis retained its prestige and continued to attract the opulent votive offerings of the faithful. After the invasion of the Herulians in the 3rd c. AD, a new fortification wall was built, with two gates on the west side.
What the British Museum officials define as The Elgin Marbles, we Greeks call The Parthenon Sculpture.
They opt to name them after the thief and the raw material. We elect to name the glorious ancient monument and define the form of art.
It is, after all, a matter of culture!
Ion Frantzeskakis, Publisher, The Athens Key
The Athenian Acropolis by John Vellis
The Acropolis became a fortress during the medieval times. Under Frankish occupation (1204-1456) the Propylaea were converted into a residence for the Frankish ruler, and in the Ottoman period (1456-1833) into the Turkish garrison. The Venetians under the admiral of their fleet, the idiot Doge Francesco Morosini besieged the Acropolis in 1687 and on September 26th bombarded and destroyed the Parthenon, which at the time served as a Turkish munitions depot. The fatal bomb that ruined Parthenon is thought to have been fired from a canon placed close to Agia Ekaterini church, in Plaka. A few days later, troops of Morozini ruined a whole segment of the Parthenon pediment, where the Horses of Athena were depicted, in their effort to remove it as loot.
In subsequent centuries the monuments of the Acropolis suffered from natural causes, such as earthquakes, but mostly through human intervention. Especially following the establishment of Christianity in Greece, and mostly in the 6th c. AD the temples were heavily damaged and converted into Christian churches.
The roof of the Parthenon itself was almost totally demolished so that the dome of the christian church built inside the Parthenon and dedicated to Agia Sophia (the Christian equivalent of the goddess Athena, goddess of Wisdom) would protrude! You may wish to watch the short movie by director Kosta Gavras at the end of this page on the history of Parthenon, which, much to the dismay of the Greek church, revealed some of the shameful historical facts on the destruction of the Parthenon.
British Lord Elgin caused further serious damage in 1801-1802 by looting the sculptural embellishment of the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion. The violently dismembered looted sculpture, including the magnificent Karyatides korae, is still held hostage at the British Museum, London.
After the liberation of Greece from the Turkish yoke, the monuments of the Acropolis came under the care of the newly founded Greek state. Limited investigation took place at first, while in 1885-1890 it was systematically excavated. In the early 20th c. the first large-scale restoration project took place. A Committee for the Conservation of the Monuments on the Acropolis was created in 1975 with the aim to plan and undertake large-scale conservation and restoration on the Acropolis. The project is still in progress. The Acropolis was formally proclaimed as the preeminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on March 26th 2007.
The Parthenon is an architectural masterpiece of grand renown. The visitor will appreciate its splendor, and learn about the history and the secrets of the construction of the Parthenon. This unique temple was built of marble from the quarries of Mt. Penteli. The Parthenon of the classical era was built on the remains of the monumental earlier Parthenon, an archaic temple built in the late 6th c. BC. The architects of the classical temple, which was constructed and decorated from 447-432 BC in the golden age of Pericles, were Iktinos and Kallikrates. It is a peripteral temple of the Doric order of architecture with 8 columns on the front and the back and 17 columns on each side.
Inside the Parthenon, the centerpiece was the chryselephantine statue of the goddess Athena, work of the famous sculptor Pheidias, who was also in charge of the overall construction. The statue was the destination of the great procession of the Panathenaea, depicted on the frieze of the temple.
President Obama on his November 16, 2016, visit of the Acropolis.
The Propylaea, adorned with several monuments, is the grand entrance of the Acropolis. Built by Pericles in 437-432 BC, Propylaea were the work of architect Mnesikles. They were incorporated in the wall which has been preserved until today and was built during the first half of the 5th c. BC, in place of the older destroyed Cyclopean wall. Before reaching the Propylaea, the visitor will pass through the Beulé gate, part of the Roman fortifications of the Acropolis. Right after that, one encounters a 13 m high pedestal, known as the “monument of Agrippa”, on which the Athenians in 27 BC erected a statue of the Roman Marcus Agrippa, benefactor of the city.
The Temple of the Athena Victory (Wingless Victory) south of the Propylaea, was built circa 420 BC commemorating the victory of the Greeks against the Persians. The temple was the work of the architect Kallikrates. The site was the location of a sanctuary in the prehistoric era. To the left of the temple you will find the Erechtheion.
The Erechtheion was built from 420-406 BC at the most holy site of the Acropolis, where goddess Athena planted the olive tree, her sacred symbol. The figures of the maidens supporting the roof of the southern balcony of the temple, called the Caryatids, are copies. Five of the six Maidens that once adorned the temple are protectively displayed in the Acropolis Museum, while the sixth, stolen by Lord Elgin, is held captive in the cultural prison of the British Museum.
Mark Zuckerberg celebrated his 7 years of happy marriage with Priscilla Chan "at the temple for the goddess of wisdom".
A short film by Kosta Gavras on the History of the Parthenon
The Athenian Acropolis as seen from Lycabettus Hill. The ancient port of Piraeus and the Saronic Sea at the far back. 2016 Photo by Sophia Yiannakou.