The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens

“Acropolis” means “high city” in Greek. It comes from the Greek words “akron” (highest point) and “polis” (city). In fact, any structure or citadel built on a high hill anywhere on earth is called an “acropolis”. In the modern times, the word “acropolis” is synonymous with Athens, the capital of Greece. A trip to Athens is incomplete without visiting the Acropolis.

Considered as the central landmark of the city, the Acropolis hill so called the “Sacred Rock” which rises over 500 feet high above the capital city of Athens sprawling around it, constitutes one of the most recognisable monuments of the world. It is visible from almost everywhere in the city. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance which include the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheum, and the Temple of Athena Nike – all of which are constant reminders of the glory of ancient Greece during the 5th century BC, the period called the Golden Age of Pericles, great general and statesman.

The entrance to the Acropolis is a monumental marble gateway called the Propylaea through which visitors have to pass to reach the main buildings on the site.

Built on a slope, the building with a row of columns at the colonnade consisted of a central section with five gates having enormous doors and wings to either side.

To the south-west of the Propylaea is the Temple of Athena Nike, the Greek goddess of victory and wisdom. “Nike” means “victory” in Greek. Located at the edge of a high cliff, the temple, now being restored, is the smallest at the acropolis. The marble structure has a colonnaded portico at the front and back.

At the centre of the Acropolis is the Parthenon or Temple of Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin), considered as the most famous building in the world. The timeless Parthenon, standing atop the limestone outcrop for nearly 2,500 years, dominates the ancient acropolis. Built to give thanks to Athena, the patron goddess of the city, for the salvation of Athens and Greece in the Persian Wars, the Doric temple constructed between 447 and 432 BC is made of about 13,500 blocks of marble, no two are the same. The outer colonnade consists of 46 columns supporting 96 metopes (carved panels) adorned with battle scenes. The building holds a statue of Athena which is over 11 meters high (36 ft.). The Parthenon has functioned most importantly as a Greek temple, but has also been a treasury, a fortress, a church, and a mosque.

On the north of the hill of the Acropolis is the Erechtheum, an elaborate building constructed between 421 and 405 BC. To the southwest is the famous porch with the caryatids (architectural columns of sculpted standing female figures supporting an entablature on their heads).

South of the platform that form the top of the Acropolis are also remains of an outdoor theatre called Theatre of Dionysus, the main theatre in classical Greece. Dionysus is the Greek god of fertility and wine, also the patron god of Greek stage. A few hundred meters away there is the now- partially reconstructed open-air stone Theatre Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a Greek aristocrat, senator and orator. All the valuable ancient artifacts are situated in the Acropolis Museum which resides on the southern slope of the rock.

To get to the Acropolis we walked from the popular Plaka, the oldest historical neighbourhood of Athens located on the northeast slope of the Acropolis until we came to a small road that goes around it and followed a large pedestrian street called Diaysiou Aeropagitou.