The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens is a rock that rises 150 meters above sea level in central Athens. The rock has been used for nearly 5000 years, as it is easily defended, The great Perikles, who led the Greeks against the Persians. ordered the construction of three temples and a gate on the Acropolis in the middle of the 5th century BC. In addition to the temples, there’s also two ancient theatres on the south side of the cliff.

Parthenon

This grand marble temple is recognizable worldwide, and is still the foremost symbol of Athens. It was purposefullly built to appear perfectly symmetricala, and a large statue of Athena, the patron God of Athens, was once placed. Today, nothing remains of the statue, but a smaller Roman-made copy can be seen in the National Archaelogical Museum. Friezes and metopes along the walls depict scenes from Greek mythology, and form an elaborate sculptural decoration. Through the years the Parthenon has been used as a church, mosque and an arsenal. This latter usage by the Turks led the Venetians to bombard the temple in 1687, eventually blowing up an ammo dump, destroying parts of the structure and the roof in the process. The Greek government has started a major restoration project on the Parthenon..

Erechtheion

This temple on the north side of the Acropolis is named after the hero Erichthonius, and possibly also king Erechtheus II. On the south side of the temple is the famous “Porch of the Maidens”, with the six caryatids, draped female figures, as supporting columns. The temple itself was dedicated to Athena Polias and Poseidon Erechtheus. According to legend the two competed for the favour of the city. Poseidon struck his trident and created a salt water well. In return Athena struck the rock with her spear, and a sacred olive tree sprang forth. The people preferred olive trees to salt water, and thus the city become known as Athens.

Propylaia and Temple of Athena Nike

If you want to enter the Acropolis, you have to pass through the Propylaia gate on the southwest side of the rock. The propertions of the columns in the gateway mirror the ones in the Parthenon, and the gateway itself marks the end of the Sacred Way that stretched all the way from Eleusis to Athens. The southern wing of the Propylaia leads to the small temple of Athena Nike. This temple has slender columns and is only 23 feet high, and was the first temple finished on the Acropolis.

Theatre of Herodes Atticus

To the south of the entrance is a theatre built by the Roman consul Atticus, in memory of his wife. It houses 5000 people, and is used for ballet, opera, orchestras and theatre performances during The Athens Festival, held every summer. It orginallly had a wooden roof to shield the spectators from the elements, and to improve the acoustics.

Theatre of Dionysos

Carved into the southern side of the rock, is the theatre where the playwrights Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles had their plays performed for the first time, and its therefore known as the birthplace of Greek tragedy. The Romans greatly expanded the theatre and used it for gladiatorial battles among other things.

The New Acropolis museum

If you want to see all the remaining 4000 sculptures and friezes that were once on the Acropolis, you should visit the New Acropolis Museum, just opened in 2009. You’ll find it along the promenade going southeast from the entrance of the Acropolis. The museum is actually built on top of the Makrygianni archeological excavation site, easily seen in front of the entrance to the museum. One of the reasons for building the museum, is the expected return of artifacts from other museums around the world. The former Acropolis museum had been criticized for being too small for the increasing amount of findings.

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