The Acropolis is one of the most significant ancient monuments. Rising majestically above the city square of Athens, it is still a reminder of the might of the Ancient Hellas. Its name translates as “city on the hill”. It dates back to the Mycenaean era. It is believed that the Acropolis was built by the first king of Athens – Cecrops. At first he located there his palace and several places for paying to the gods. Later the place was turned into a holy city consisting only of temples. At the end of the 5th century BC, the “sacred hill” was burned by the Persians, led by Xerxes. During the time of Pericles, most of the temples were rebuilt. By his order, the main architectural objects of the Acropolis were also built – the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of the goddess Nike.
Description: panoramic view of the Acropolis /picture source: Shutterstock.com/;
The Parthenon was the main temple in ancient Athens. It is dedicated to the patroness of the city – Athena Parthenos (the virgin goddess). Its architects were Ictinus and Callicrates. Its construction lasted 10 years and Pericles personally watched the process. Unfortunately, not much of its former glory remains today. After the adoption of Christianity, everything associated with paganism was removed from the temple. Initially, it was turned into a church, and after the establishment of the Ottoman rule – into a mosque. However, the troubles of the holy place do not end there. In 1687 the Venetians besiege the city. One of their bombs hits the Parthenon, splitting it in two. In the 19th century, a large part of its treasures were looted, and some of them were sold to the British Museum and the Louvre. The last information about the greatest value of the temple – a twelve-meter statue of Athena, made of gold and ivory, the work of Phidias, dates from 375. It was most likely destroyed as unacceptable to the Christian religion. A replica of the statue is presented in a museum in Nashville, USA. A shield was placed at her feet, and a spear rested on her hand. A snake coiled around the spear, an animal associated with wisdom. In her right hand, Athena held a human-sized figure that symbolized victory. Sapphires were used for the eyes of the goddess. The helmet of the goddess was decorated with three figures – the central one was a sphinx, and the two side ones were griffins.
To the left of the Parthenon rises the Erechtheion. This temple is dedicated to several deities – Athena, Poseidon and Hephaestus. His name is associated with the ancient hero Erechtheus. There are different versions about his personality. Some consider him to be one of the founders of the city along with Cecrops and Erichthonius. The Erechtheion was built on uneven terrain, its eastern part being three meters higher than the western part. What makes it unusual is the presence of two porticoes – the north-west one supported by tall Ionian hills and the north-west one by six massive female figures known as caryatids. The caryatids that visitors to the Erechtheion see are exact replicas of the original figures that are kept in the Acropolis Museum. Each of the three deities is assigned a certain part of the temple. The eastern one is dedicated to Athena. The xenon (a wooden image of the goddess) is kept there, in front of which a fire burns round the clock in a golden lamp. The western part is dedicated to Poseidon. In it is the salt spring, which the god formed by striking the rock with his trident, during his dispute with Athena for the patronage of the city. Little is known about the interior of the temple. As it underwent numerous metamorphoses over the years, its interior is today a matter of conjecture.
Description: Erechtheion /picture source: Shutterstock.com/;
The third most significant building on the Acropolis is the Temple of the Goddess Nike. Nike is known as the wingless goddess of victory. It was designed by Callicrates and is much smaller than the rest of the buildings – 4.19m by 3.78m. In its center stood a statue of the goddess. It was installed by the Athenian general Callimachus after the victorious battle near Marathon.
Address: Dionyssiou Areopagitou, Acropolis, Athens;
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