Rising up out of the center of Athens, Greece is the Acropolis. It is located on a rock formation that rises 490 ft above the sea . The semi-flat surface covers an area of about 7.4 acres which makes it a pretty small place to be recognized as the birthplace of Western civilization.
It is one of a number of places around the world that I have tried to visit in the past and have been frustated for a number of reasons. I’ve been to Athens a couple of times and had not made it up to the Acropolis. Just recently I broke this particular string of bad luck when my wife and I made up onto the Acropolis.
The word acropolis is from the Greek words meaning the highest point and city. The term acropolis doesn’t refer to a single place and there are many other acropoleis in Greece, but the Acropolis of Athens is so significant that it is commonly known as just “The Acropolis”.
While the earliest artifacts relating to this site date to the Middle Neolithic era, there have been documented habitation as far back as the 6th millennium BC. It has been established that a Mycenaean megaron palace (the megaron was the great hall in ancient Greek palace complexes) stood upon this hill during the late Bronze Age. Nothing of this megaron survives except, probably, a single limestone column-base and pieces of several sandstone steps. The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel that contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic importance, the most significant being the Parthenon.
It was Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BC) in the fifth century BC who managed the construction of the most important structures including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.
The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC during the golden age of the Athenian Empire. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the zenith of the Doric style. The Parthenon is the most enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and Western civilization and one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. To the Athenians the temple was a symbol of victory over the Persian invaders and a tribute to the gods .
The Erechtheion is an ancient Greek temple on the north side which was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. One of its more noteworthy features is on the south side, the famous “Porch of the Maidens”, with six draped female figures (caryatids) as supporting columns. The porch was built to conceal a giant beam needed to support the southwest corner of the building.
The Temple of Athena Nike is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike. Built around 420 BC, the temple is the earliest fully Ionic temple on the Acropolis. It has a prominent position on a steep bastion at the south west corner of the Acropolis to the right of the entrance (the Propylaea). In contrast to the Acropolis proper, a walled sanctuary entered through the Propylaea, the Victory Sanctuary was open, entered from the Propylaea’s southwest wing and from a narrow stair on the north. The sheer walls of its bastion were protected on the north, west, and south by the Nike Parapet, named for its frieze of Nikai celebrating victory and sacrifices to their patron goddess, Athena Nike.
In addition to the Acropolis ancient Athens left behind a number of other significant archeological sites like the Temple of Zeus’ ruins and the Temple of Hephaestus that deserve a visit.
Heat getting to you? Be sure and visit the Acropolis Museum (€5), it has good air conditioning and excellent exhibits. It features glass floors that show off the ruins of homes excavated during the construction the museum and displays that let you get up close to details up on the Acropolis.
It is highly recommended that during peak season you arrive early to avoid the ticket lines and crowds. If you are visiting be sure to wear good walking shoes as there is a nice up-hill walk and uneven ground at the top. Disabled access at the Acropolis is provided by a wheelchair stair climber lift and an elevator.