Acropolis is the crown jewel of Athens for more than 5000 years. The greatest and finest sanctuary of ancient City State of Athens, dedicated primarily to the goddess Athena. Acropolis dominates the center of the modern city from the rocky peak. The most celebrated myths of ancient Athens, its greatest religious festivals, and many decisive events in the city’s history are all connected to this sacred precinct.
The monuments of the Acropolis of Athens stand in harmony with their natural setting. These unique masterpieces of ancient architecture combine different orders and styles of Classical art in a most innovative manner. Acropolis and its landmarks have influenced art and culture for many centuries. The Acropolis of the fifth century BC is the most accurate reflection of the splendor, power and wealth of Athens Greece at its greatest peak, the golden age of Pericles.
It was the mid fifth century BC, that the Acropolis became the seat of the new formed Athenian League. As a result the city of Athens developed to the greatest cultural center of its time. Most importantly, the Athenian leader and statesman Pericles, initiated an very ambitious building project that lasted for more than 50 years!
When you visit Acropolis of Athens today, you will see, still standing the most important buildings of ancient Greece. Above all, the Parthenon for the goddess Athena. Also you will see the Propylaia (the entrance to the Acropolis), the Erechtheion in the honor to Poseidon and Athena, the temple of Athena Nike. All this monuments were erected during this period of Perikles. This monumental effort needed some of the greatest architects, sculptors and artists of the ancient world. The result of their work is still standing and it fill our eyes and minds with awe to the beauty of the monuments.
The ancient Greek Temple on the north side of the Acropolis is Erechtheion. It was dedicated to both the ancient goddess of wisdom Athena and the god of the sea Poseidon. It was erected between 421 and 406 BC. The Temple took its name after a shrine of the Greek hero Erichthonius. It is also suggested that the name could be in the honor of the legendary king Erechtheus. Homer mentioned Erechtheus in Iliad as the great king and ruler of Athens of the Archaic Period.
The leader of Athenians, Pericles, assigned the building of the Parthenon and the Erechtheion, to the legendary sculptor and mason Phidias. The entire temple stands on a slope. As a result, the north and the west side of Parthenon, are about 3 m lower than the south and east sides. The Athenians used the white marble from Penteli Mountain some 40 km from Acropolis in order to build Parthenon. The Temple originally had decorated carved doorways and windows. Even its columns were elaborate decorated. Moreover, they were painted and highlighted with bronze and multi-colored inset glass beads.
Porch of the Caryatids
On the north side of the Temple, there is a magnificent and large porch with six Ionic columns. On the south end stands the “Porch of the Maidens”. As supporting columns there are six draped female figures the infamous Caryatids. The purpose of porch was to conceal the 15-ft beam needed to support the southwest corner over the Kekropion. As a result of the Peloponnesian war there was a drastic reduce in the size and budget of the Temple.
Propylaea is the gigantic gateway to the Acropolis of Athens. It was part of the colossal public that Pericles, the Athenian leader commissioned after the Persian Wars. Phidias was again, the supervisor and lead architect of this monumental project. The funds for this impressive building was appropriated from the treasury of the Delian League. The construction started in 437 BC and was terminated in 432. But still the building was unfinished.
The unique Pentelic white Marble was the main material used for the construction among with gray Eleusinian marble or limestone. In order to keep the monument in place, Athenians used structural iron which is nowadays concluded that resulted to the weakening of the building. Propylaea is a structure of a central building with two adjoining wings on the west side, one to the north and one to the south.
The core is the central building. A standard six-columned Doric front both on the West for those entering the Acropolis and on the east for those departing. It is important to notice that the columns echo the proportions of the columns of the Parthenon.
The Central building
The central building contains the gate wall, about two-thirds of the way through it. You can see five gates in the wall. One is for the central passageway and it was not paved and lay along the natural level of the ground. Two on each side at the level of the building’s eastern porch, five steps up from the level of the western porch. The central passageway was the culmination of the Sacred Way, which led to the Acropolis from Eleusis.
The Propylaea is the entrance into the Acropolis. Even though it was not built as a fortified structure, it was important that people not ritually clean was denied access. In addition, runaway slaves and other miscreants were not permitted into the sanctuary where they could claim the protection of the gods. On the Acropolis was kept the state treasury and as you understand its security was very important.
The Parthenon is dedicated to the goddess Athena, the patron of the ancient city of Athens. Its monumental construction started in 447 BC at the peak of the Athenian Empire. After nine years, the building was erected. Although it took five more years for the fantastic decoration of the building to be complete. Parthenon is by far the most important surviving building of Classical Greece and a monument symbol of the western civilization. It is considered to be the towering of the Doric order.
Most importantly, its decorative sculptures are the high points of Greek art. As a result, the Parthenon is regarded as the absolute symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and Western civilization. It is widely considered as one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. Meanwhile, to the Athenians, the Parthenon and the other monuments of the Acropolis were seen as a celebration of Hellenic victory over the Persian invaders. Also they build them as a thanksgiving to the gods for that great victory.
The Parthenon was erected in the place of an older temple of Athena. Historians call the former Temple, the Pre-Parthenon that was destroyed by Xerxes during the Persian invasion of 480 BC. The temple is even aligned astronomically the Hyades constellation. Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon served also as the city treasury. At the beginning, it served as the treasury of the Delian League, which became later the Athenian Empire. Even though the Parthenon is architecturally a temple, it is not really one in the conventional sense of the word. A small shrine has been excavated within the building, on the site of an older sanctuary probably dedicated to Athena as a way to get closer to the goddess. Although, the Parthenon never hosted the cult of Athena Polias, patron of Athens.
The Statue Of Athena
Parthenon masterpiece was the colossal statue of Athena by Phidias. The statue was not related to any cult and is not known to have inspired any religious fervor. It did not seem to have any priestess, altar or cult name. According to Thucydides, Pericles once referred to the statue as a gold reserve. The statue Pericles said, “Contained forty talents of pure gold and it was all removable”. It was a clear implication of the Athenian statesman that the metal, obtained from contemporary coinage, could be used again. The Parthenon should then be viewed as a grand setting for Phidias’ votive statue rather than a cult site.