The Acropolis, Athens And Its Port City
In This Issue
- The Acropolis, Athens
- The Acropolis Museum
- Athen’s Metro From Piraeus
- Three Piraeus Museums
Ancient Athens, Democracies Birthplace
Rising up out of the center of Athens, Greece is the Acropolis. It sits atop a rock formation that rises 490 ft above the sea with a semi-flat surface that covers an area of about 7.4 acres. Considering its size it’s a pretty small place to be recognized as the birthplace of Western democratic civilization.
This claim about the creation of Western democracy is not a hollow one. In all of history it was at this very place 2,600 years ago where people first assumed the responsibility for their own governance. This allowed those citizens that lived in and fought for the city to have a say in the decisions concerning Athens and set the spark that brought on a golden age for the Greeks. Admire what they built in stone at this place but more importantly celebrate what they created with their minds.
The word acropolis is from the Greek words meaning the highest point of a city. The term acropolis doesn’t refer to this single place in Athens as there are many other acropoleis in Greece, but the site in 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 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 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 goddess. 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 located 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 were sacrifices to their patron goddess, Athena Nike were made.
In addition to the Acropolis ancient Athens left behind a number of other significant archeological sites like the Temple of Zeus’ and the Temple of Hephaestus that deserve visiting.
Visiting The Acropolis Museum
Sitting at the base of the Acropolis in Athens and just two blocks from the Acropolis Metro station is the Acropolis Museum. The Acropolis Museum, one of the ten most important museums in the world, was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes. Discoveries date from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It was also built over the ruins of Roman and early Byzantine Athens with its foundation carefully designed and built in a way that protects and provides access to the archaeological sight.
This ultra modern museum is dedicated to restoring and protecting the amazing buildings associated with ancient Athen’s Acropolis. Seriously damaged over centuries by looters, war and vandalism the recovery, preservation and restoration of the sites major buildings is a massive undertaking. Working from drawings, historic photographs and actual artifacts from the British Museum, the restoration is intended to specifically restore the Parthenon to its original condition. That will include the statue of Athena, the East and West building pediments, the metopes of the peristyle, and the continuous frieze of the cella and the temples exterior with its abundance of sculptures.
The collections of the museum are exhibited on three levels with a fourth middle level that houses the museum shop, the café and offices. On the first level of the museum there are artifacts from the slopes of the Acropolis with its long and rectangular hall whose floor is sloping to resemble the ascension to the Acropolis. At the top the visitor finds a large hall which houses additional findings that include artifacts and sculptures from the other Acropolis buildings such as the Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea and artifacts from Roman and early Christian Athens. The top floor features a movie on the Parthenon along with exhibits on the statuary restorations and an amazing gallery with its glass wall looking directly at the Acropolis.
The museum is normally open from 8 to 4 on weekdays and 8 to 8 Saturday and Sunday. General admission varies by season: 10€ from April through October and 5€ from November to April.
Athen’s Metro – From Piraeus To The Acropolis
Visiting the Acropolis from the port of Piraeus Greece
It’s an easy trip from the port of Piraeus into Athens for a visit to the Acropolis. It is inexpensive and takes about forty minutes each way. The main Piraeus Metro station is located at the back of the port itself and is a fifteen to twenty minute walk from where most cruise ships dock. If you are walking from the pier there is a sky walk over traffic at the subway station location. The Metro (subway) system in Athens offers various kinds of electronic tickets but for a single day trip the best option for a trip into Athens and back is the 90-minute ticket at € 1.90 each way.
There are also:
24-hour ticket at € 4.50 that allows 24 hours to travel any number of times in and out of the various public transportation systems. It does not however include the airport as a destination)
3-day ticket at € 22 (Includes transport to the airport)
5-day tourist ticket at € 10 (It does not include the airport destination)
There are easy to use vending machines at all stations that accept credit cards and provide instruction in a number of languages. You can also purchase any number of tickets at one time and use them as needed. A discount of 25% is also available for seniors over 65, teenagers under 18 years old and university students under 25. Children under seven ride free. In order to get the discount you will need to purchase tickets from a ticket window.
To enter the metro system tap your ticket at the entry post. From that point the ticket is valid for 90 minutes (with the 90 minute ticket) in the system or until you leave by taping out to exit.
Getting on the train going in the right direction is easy. Each platform is named for the last station on the route. So in order to get the train back to Piraeus follow the arrows showing Piraeus which is the last station on the green line.
Note – If you are flying in or out of Athens there’s an airport metro stop. The Athens airport subway offers reliable and fast transportation services from and to Athens airport. The Blue Line connects Athens International Airport to Syntagma Square in the center of the city, in only 40 minutes. A one-way Metro ticket from Athens airport to Syntagma Square costs € 10 for adult passengers and € 5 for children, students and elders. The price for a round trip ticket is € 18. Cruising out of the Port of Piraeus? Take the Blue Line to Monastiraki station, switch to the Green Metro Line to get to Piraeus. Furthermore, the subway Blue Line also serves many other areas of Athens. A 3-day tourist ticket includes a return ticket to Athens airport and costs € 22.
A Walking Tour Of The Acropolis Area
The Acropolis Museum
For a much more in-depth understanding of the history of Athen’s Acropolis a visit to the museum is strongly recommended (admission € 20). Inside are a number of artifacts from excavations along with many of the damaged statuary saved from the Parthenon itself.
The Agora and Roman Forum – ruins of the Forum with remains of the agora built by the Romans from 19-11 B.C. include columns & an octagonal tower.
Roman Ruins – walking around the base of the Acropolis are a number of archeological sites to explore that include Roman houses and the ancient cisterns.
Areopagus Hill (Λόφος Αρείου Πάγου) Historic site sitting high up on another hill it once served as the high court of appeal for judicial cases in ancient Greece.
While the highlight of the trip is ascending the Acropolis itself there is much to see around the area. One recommendation is to walk through the Filopappou Hill Park. Admission is free and there are a number of archeological sites to explore. Walking to the top of the hill offers one of the best views of the Acropolis itself.
Three Great Piraeus Museums
Piraeus is a popular cruise departure port in the Eastern Mediterranean and while cruisers look forward to visiting fascinating ports on their cruise, they should allocate some time to this amazing port city. Piraeus was the harbor for one of the ancient worlds greatest cities and this seaport has a lot of history to explore. It is also a vibrant city boasting two harbors, one being a beautiful yacht harbor ringed with a walking promenade featuring a number of outdoor cafes and restaurants. It is also home to a number of really good museums.
Archaeological Museum of Piraeus
Plan to spend an hour or two at the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. If you happen to be there on a Saturday, even better, as admission is free on Saturdays.
Occupying the western side of an Archaeological site in central Piraeus the three floor museum houses a remarkable collection of Greek artifacts from around the area. The city has been an active port dating back 2,500 years so there is much to see.
Its permanent exhibits include finds from the wider area around the city and along the southern coast of Attica. The museum’s collection covers a period spanning from the Mycenaean era, through the Golden Age of Greece, up to the Roman times and covers the history of ancient Piraeus, an important trading center of the Eastern Mediterranean.
A Liberty Ship Museum Near Athens Greece
I admit I have a special fondness for these WWII antiques having spent over two years at sea on one. So I was really surprised and pleased to find one set up as a museum in Piraeus harbor.
During World War II American shipyards launched almost three thousand Liberty Ships. These amazing cargo ships played a major role in winning the war by shipping ammunition, troops, food and military equipment across the Atlantic. This class of cargo ship was built in the United States from a British design for its simple, low-cost construction. Mass-produced on an unprecedented scale, the Liberty Ships came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial might.
When the job was done and the war ended all those cargo ships were seen by some as a huge business opportunity. Put up for auction nobody took better advantage of them than Greek shipping companies and a number of Greek families became very rich as a result.
One Liberty Ship built by the California Shipbuilding Corporation in 1943 was bought at auction in January 1947 and registered in Piraeus, Greece. This ship, one of almost one hundred bought by Greek companies remained in service until 1967 when it was retired. Restored it now it sits tied up to a pier in Piraeus harbor as a floating maritime museum.
A few other of these ships still survive restored as floating museums. Today in the United States, only three remain intact, the John W. Brown, docked at Baltimore, the Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco and the American Freedom in Tampa Bay.
If you find yourself in the Athen’s port city with some free time, pay a visit to the fourth, the Hellas Liberty. She’s well maintained, has a number of historic exhibits and admission is free. A great way to spend an hour going back in time.
Hellenic Maritime Museum In Piraeus, Greece
Another museum worthy of a visit while in Piraeus is next to the Marina Zeas (the Piraeus small boat marina). Another jewel of a museum, the Hellenic Maritime Museum celebrates Greece’s impressive naval past from antiquity to the 20th century. The modern building sitting at the mouth of the marina has exhibits that include miniature vessels, naval instruments, weapons, furniture, and wonderful paintings, maps and engravings. One section of the museum is devoted to the private collection of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, a trove of sea-related treasures that once adorned his extravagant yacht, the Christina.