The Acropolis rises over 100 metres above the Greek capital and ancient city of Athens as the undeniable symbol of the emergence of western civilisation.
The Acropolis (Greek akros, meaning ‘high’ and polis, meaning ‘city’) has been inhabited since the early Neolithic era (6th millennium BC) and evidence suggests that has been used throughout its history as a place of religious worship.
During the Bronze Age, the Mycenaean’s built a massive fortress to defend royal palaces on the hill.
Between 447 and 406 BC, the Acropolis went through a monumental rebuilding period.
The transformation was initiated by the Athenian statesman Pericles (Perikles) following the monumental victory of the united Greek states over the invading Persians.
The building program involved some of the world’s greatest ever sculptors and architects including Pheidias, Callicrates, Ictinus and Mnesicles.
The Parthenon, the Propylaia – the monumental entrance to the Acropolis, the exquisite temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion and its famous Caryatid porch were all erected during this period.
Buildings of the Acropolis.
Crowning the Acropolis summit is the magnificent landmark and icon Parthenon Temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin) and remaining to the present-day witness to the glorious ancient Greek classical civilisation.
It is without doubt, the most influential and majestic building in Western civilization.
Constructed and decorated between 447 and 432 BC, the Parthenon is a Doric style peristyle temple with 17 fluted columns along each side and eight at the ends, which lean slightly inward and bulge out in the centre to cunningly offset the natural optical distortion.
The entire Temple, apart from the roof, was made of white Pentelic marble with the sculptures that once decorated the pediments, friezes and metopes all being painted in vivid colours.
The inner chamber Ionic frieze of the Temple represented the Panathenaic procession. It surrounded the entire inner chamber of the temple and consisted of 115 one metre high marble blocks featuring over 350 human figures and divinities and at least 200 animals, mostly horses.
The Frieze was created under the direction of the famous Greek sculptor Phidias or Pheidias.
Built between 420 and 406 BC, the elegant and unusually shaped Erechtheion Temple was designed to incorporate several ancient sanctuaries and cults including that of Athena and her olive tree and Poseidon-Erechtheus.
On the south side of the building is the famous Caryatid porch which has six sculptured graceful figures of maidens supporting the entablature.
These figures are copies, five of the original six maidens are displayed in the new Acropolis museum and the sixth looted by Lord Elgin is on display in the British Museum.
On the west end is six Ionic columns built into a low wall, the east side has a porch, with six Ionic columns and the north side has monumental Propylon also with six Ionic columns.
Temple of Nike
Designed by Ancient Greek architect Kallikrates, the small and elegant Ionic Temple of Athena Nike (winged victory) was built around 420 BC as an expression of freedom by commemorating the triumph of the united Greek states over the Persians.
Theatre of Dionysus (Dionysos)
Located on the southern slope of the Acropolis the Theatre of Dionysos was originally established in the 6th century BC and enlarged and improved over the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods and was the first theatre built of stone.
The famous tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and the comedies of Aristophanes were first performed here in the 5th century BC.
What is seen today is largely from the 4th century BC during the time of Lycurgus, who controlled public investment in Athens from 338 to 324 BC.
The structure has 25 surviving tiers of seats from the original 65 and had a capacity to seat 17,000 spectators.
The Stage front is Roman and is represented by the Bema of Phaedrus, which has 2nd century AD decorative reliefs showing scenes in the life of Dionysus, god of wine and patron god of the Greek stage.
Odeion of Herodes Atticus
The Odeion of Herodes Atticus is situated on the south west slope of the Acropolis.
The Odeion or Theatre was built in 161 AD by the wealthy Herodes Atticus, a teacher and philosopher, in memory of his wife Regilla, it dominates the SW slopes of the Acropolis with its three-storeyed stage building and steeply sloped semicircular auditorium or cavea.
The Acropolis of Athens and its monuments is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures
Around 1800, Lord Elgin, British Ambassador to Constantinople Ottoman Empire (Turkey), crudely removed a vast number of sections of the Parthenon marble sculptures.
On the way home, Elgin’s hastily packed vessel Mentor wrecked of the coast of the Peloponnese and the cargo of priceless sculptures sank to the bottom of the sea. The precious sculptures lay there, under water, for 3 whole years until Elgin could raise enough funds to salvage them.
Elgin later sold the sculptures to the British museum in an attempt to repay his escalating debt.
There is an international campaign to return all Parthenon marble sculptures back to Greece, in which I support.
Please support one of the following organisations.
- The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures
- Australian Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles
- British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
A rightful return home to Athens, allows the sculptures to shine and be energised once again by the purity and warmth of the Aegean light and most critically, to be embraced by their natural heritage from which they were masterfully, emotionally and spiritually formed.
All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.