Acropolis of Athens


The Acropolis is a famous architectural complex in Athens, a masterpiece of Greek and world culture. The Acropolis rises on a steep hill with a flat top and is visible from anywhere in Athens. The Acropolis was a fortified part of ancient Athens, where the main shrines of the city were located.

The Acropolis was destroyed by the Persians and again restored in the V century BC. e. with the participation of architects Iktin and Kallikrath, as well as the sculptor Phidias. The commander and politician Pericles suggested turning the Acropolis into a monument to the greatness of the goddess Athena. Construction work was launched, three temples and gates (propylaea) were built. Then two theaters appeared - Dionysus (the oldest of the famous theaters) and Herodotus Attica. All buildings of the Acropolis are built of white marble. The main architectural monuments of the Acropolis: Parthenon - the temple of Athena, the patron goddess of the city, Erechtheon - the temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, the temple of the goddess of victory Nika, Propylaea - the main entrance to the Acropolis. These great creations still stand on a hill with rocky slopes. The constructed city consisted of decorated and gilded structures. Giant bronze and marble statues were plated with gold and precious stones. According to legend, it was in the Acropolis in the temple of Nicky that King Aegeus expected the return of his son Theseus, who went to fight with the Minotaur.

The Acropolis is the pride of the Athenians. Until now, the monuments of the Acropolis have been badly damaged, but still they amaze the imagination with beauty and grandeur.

Today, tourists can get acquainted with the culture of Ancient Greece by visiting the new Acropolis Museum, opened in 2009. The modern multi-storey building of the museum is located at a distance of 300 m from the sacred rock of the Acropolis. The museum has collected about 4 thousand exhibits found in the Acropolis since 1834. The permanent exhibition includes the following exhibitions: - the slopes of the Acropolis, where you can observe the current excavations under the museum building, - the Acropolis in antiquity, - the hall of the temple of Perphenon, where preserved engravings are presented, including portraits of Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite and Eros,

Through the glass wall of the museum offers spectacular views of the Parthenon. The museum’s collection contains several statues and objects of the temple of the goddess Athena and genuine Caryatids, preserved from the temple of Erechtea.

Acropolis of Athens

Acropolis of Athens - a hill 156 meters high with a temple complex erected on it, protecting citizens from enemy raids. The upper city, covering an area of ​​300 by 130 m, was built over many centuries, starting from the ancient Greek archaic and ending with the era of Roman Greece. Today, the Acropolis of Athens is the most visited attraction of the Greek capital: history lovers are not disturbed either by the scaffolding surrounding the ancient temples, or by continuous excavations, or by the scorching sun. They are not confused by the fact that a significant part of the decor is the fruit of the work of modern masters who made copies instead of the originals stored in the halls of European museums.

Acropolis History

According to legend, the founder of Athens and the Upper City was the half-man half-serpent Kekrops. It was he who preferred the goddess of wisdom as the patroness and erected the first temples in her honor. In subsequent centuries, more magnificent structures appeared on their ruins until all the buildings of the Acropolis, with the exception of the fragmented surviving temple of Hekatompedon, were destroyed by the Persians in the 5th century. During the time of Pericles and immediately after his death, the hill was decorated with the best works of ancient architecture - the Parthenon and the Erechtheion.

In the era of early Hellenism and the submission of Greece to Rome, several theaters appeared at the foot of the hill. Christians turned pagan temples into Christian ones, not rebuilding them, but partially changing the interiors. Turks who came to the Balkans in the 15th century used the buildings of the Acropolis of Athens as mosques. There were no significant changes on the hill until the Venetians fired cannons at the city in the 17th century. Many temples were destroyed, requiring huge costs, their reconstruction has not been completed so far.

In the XIX century, part of the sculptures that adorned the facades of the temples were exported to France and Great Britain, and a debate about their affiliation is ongoing today.

Panorama of the Acropolis of Athens

Architectural Features of the Acropolis of Athens

The territory of the hill was built up gradually, new buildings were erected on the ruins or unfinished foundations of the former. The work was frozen for decades due to lack of funds. In general, and in antiquity, the hill almost always represented a construction site. The oldest surviving objects of the Acropolis of Athens, such as the Parthenon, are executed at the end of their dominance in the architecture of a strict Doric order with massive columns. In structures close to them in time, for example, in the Propylaea, along with the Doric, elements of a more decorative ionic style are already manifested. The later Erechtheion is an example of an ionic architectural order.

Parthenon - the most important temple of Ancient Athens

The central, highest point of the panorama of the Acropolis is the Parthenon Temple, dedicated to Athena, the patroness of the city. This is the pinnacle of the work of the architect Iktin, who, however, acted not alone, but with a team of like-minded people. The material for the temple was white marble mined nearby, which in the sunlight acquired a golden glow. These features of the stone became noticeable now, and in ancient times the temple and all the statues were painted in bright colors - red, blue, yellow.

All work, from the creation of the project to the decoration of the Parthenon, was carried out at Pericles, from 447 to 432. BC e. According to the architects, the temple on the Acropolis of Athens was to surpass all that existed before. Formally, this building is rectangular in plan, resting on three marble steps and surrounded by a perimeter with a colonnade more than 10 m high. People entered the temple through the western entrance with low steps. What tourists see today, there are steps with columns.

The merit of architects is that they put the laws of optics at the service of architecture. The columns expand in the center, the corner columns and the floor are angled - all this creates an observer's feeling of strict straightforwardness. In addition, thanks to the tricks of the architects, the Parthenon looks strictly proportional from any point of view - both from the territory of the Lower City, and when approaching it.

Sculptures of Phidias

The giant, 13-meter statue of Athena, which has not survived to this day, was prepared for the temple by Phidias, the author of one of the wonders of the world - the statue of Zeus of Olympus. The wooden figure of the armed warrior goddess, according to historians, was decorated with precious stones, ivory and gold. This is indirectly evidenced by the records found containing the builders' reports on the purchased materials - in total, about a ton of metal was spent on the statue. The approximate appearance of the warrior was restored thanks to copies made in antiquity, one of which is stored in the National Museum of Athens. The goddess in a long robe and helmet with her left hand rested on the shield, and in the right outstretched to the audience she held the figure of a winged Nika.

In addition to Athena Parthenos, the master, together with the students, made embossed metope plates for the Parthenon frieze. Some of them were taken by Lord Elgin to the UK in the 19th century and are now exhibited in the British Museum, in a huge separate room, decorating marble walls at the eye level of visitors. More recently, a visiting exhibition of the collection took place in the St. Petersburg Hermitage - an unprecedented event, since so far the Parthenon sculptures have not been exported anywhere. Greece is suing Britain in the hope of returning artifacts to their homeland, since the permission to export them was not given by the Greeks themselves, but by the Turks, under whose oppression the country was. However, in Greece there is also something to see: over 40 original plates have been preserved here. Sculptures of the pediment, in contrast to the reliefs, almost did not survive and have survived to this day only in fragments.

Parthenon frieze cavalry, Western II, 2-3, British Museum Procession on the south side of the frieze, X XI, 26-28, British Museum

The further history of the Parthenon

The temple was partially damaged by fire even in antiquity, then, in the VI century, after the final decline of Athens, it became a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. When remodeling for the needs of the cult, the Parthenon statues and interior were damaged, and wall paintings replaced the previous decor. Under the Turks, starting from the 15th century, the building served as a mosque. All this time, the temple was in relatively good condition, until in 1687 the Venetians fired at it in another conflict with the Turks, provoking destruction. Decorative details were partially exported outside the country. At the end of the 19th century, restoration work began, which was not completed to this day.

Erechtheum - memory of the legendary king

Temples were built not only in honor of the gods, but in memory of mortals. Such an honor was given to King Erechtey, who, according to legend, was buried in these places. In another opinion, it was at this point in the Acropolis of Athens, where in 421-406. BC e. Erechtheion appeared, Athena and Poseidon argued for leadership in the region. Athena is known to have whitened, but just in case, the temple was dedicated to both. The Erechtean who ruled Athens was not a stranger to the gods: he died at the behest of the angry Poseidon. The picturesque multi-level ruins of the Erechtheion are located north of the Parthenon. The building is made of several grades of marble - snow-white Parosian, golden-white Pentelian and grayish Eleusinian.

Unlike the outwardly straightforward, majestic Parthenon, the Erechtheion consists of parts of different heights. The reason lies in the unevenness of the soil - the architect had to overcome the features of the relief. The Mesicle took up the matter: earlier, he had already justified the confidence of Pericles by building the entrance gate to the Acropolis - Propylaea. In order not to offend the gods, the architect reasonably divided the space of the temple: Athena got the eastern part, Poseidon and Erechteus - the western one. The southern portico of Erechtheion is supported by the caryatids - the figures of women who replaced the columns. Today, at the site of the work of ancient sculptors, copies of statues are installed, the originals are stored in the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum.

The history of Erechtheion follows the path of the Parthenon: the building survived the Christianization and invasion of the Turks, but was destroyed in the struggle against the Venetians. Subsequently, the Italians tried to lay down the details as a designer, so that the general shape of the temple was restored, but the impression of devastation still remained.

Propylaea - the main gate of the complex

Tourists enter the Acropolis of Athens through the western gate, Propylaea. Six massive Doric columns of the central part of the entrance resemble the Parthenon, the main part of which was completed by the time of construction. Lateral ionic columns, lighter and more decorative, relieve a feeling of tension. Once an art gallery and a library adjoined the gates - archaeologists managed to find their tracks and recreate their outlines in three-dimensional models. Now the general complex of gates has been mostly restored, the destroyed columns are replaced with copies.

Temple of Nicky Apteros

In front of the main gate, a small temple with four ionic columns with spiral curls at the top, along the edges of the porticoes, has been preserved. The sanctuary was called to guard the entrance to the Acropolis. Once there was a statue of Athena inside, whose usual companion is Nika, the goddess of victory. Usually it was depicted as winged, but this temple is an exception, it is not by chance that its patroness received the name Afteros - “wingless”. The reason for this deviation from the canons, according to legend, is considered a little trick of the Athenians. They deprived Victory of wings so that it never flew out of the city.

The temple was erected during the Peloponnesian war, so the building was decorated with reliefs depicting the victories of the inhabitants of Attica over the Persians and Spartans for further inspiration. The Turks dismantled the temple for building materials in order to build fortifications from the Venetians. Today's temple was restored much later, the original sculptures were given to the New Museum. The active phase of the work has not been completed, so the temple of Nicky is often closed to visitors.

Destroyed objects

A few more objects have been preserved in the Acropolis in the form of the remains of a foundation or shapeless ruins. In the eastern part of the complex is the sanctuary of Pandion, allegedly named after the legendary king of Attica. Between the Parthenon and the Erechtheion - Hekatompedon, the most ancient temple of the Acropolis of Athens. One hundred years before the appearance of the Parthenon, he was the main sanctuary of the patroness of the city of Athens. From it remained the base of the columns discovered during excavations and limestone sculptures that preserved the remains of paint. To the right of the Propylaea are the modest ruins of the shrine of Artemis and the arms depot. Behind the Erechtheion was the Pandros sanctuary with the altar of Zeus and the olive tree planted by Athena herself. Nearby was a tiny building, in which noble girls worked, weaving peplos, women's upper clothing, for the statue of Athena at the Panathenaic Games - Attica's largest competitions.

Acropolis Hiking Trails

It is difficult for a tourist not sophisticated in archeology and architecture to understand the ancient Greek ruins: at first glance, all the ruins are similar to each other, periods and styles are mixed. In order not to get lost, you can choose simple guidelines. The main gate from the west is the Propylaea, the modest temple in front of them is the sanctuary of Nika. The largest rectangular cluster of columns visible in all directions is the Parthenon. A smaller building, harmoniously combining columns of different heights and porticoes decorated with female figures - the Erechtheion. You can walk along the Acropolis of Athens in the dark - the objects are highlighted by powerful spotlights.

New Acropolis Museum

The Athens Acropolis Museum, which housed decorative fragments of the buildings of the Upper City, was opened in 1874. Over time, the collection grew so large that the existing rooms and storage rooms were not enough to store objects. The new building, significantly larger than the old in size, had to be located near the Acropolis. The misadventures with the project began in the 70s of the twentieth century and lasted until the end of the century: either the Greek authorities could not find suitable architects, or the land could not withstand any criticism. Finally, the builders began to dig the earth under the foundation and discovered new archaeological finds. The work in this place was frozen until the architects proposed a project that did not affect the land layer.

The three-level complex was opened in 2009, 300 meters south of the complex, next to the Akropol metro station. Its basement is supported by a hundred columns, and the glass floor allows you to admire the excavations passing under the feet of visitors. The glass walls offer fantastic views of the Acropolis. There is a cafe on the ground floor, on two levels - a souvenir shop and a bookstore. In the tourist season, the museum awaits guests from 8 am to 8 pm, on Friday - until 10 pm, on Monday - until 4 pm, in winter it works on an abbreviated schedule. Ticket for adults - 5 euros.

New Acropolis Museum

Tourist info

The largest number of tourists come to Athens from April to October, although the Acropolis welcomes guests all year round. Inspection of the complex will take about two hours, you need to plan it in the early morning, about 8, until the marble warms up under the sun. In the evening, before 6 o’clock it’s still hot, the main stream of organized tourists leaves before 15 o’clock. They always take drinking water with them, they choose non-slip shoes without heels.

A ticket to visit the Acropolis of Athens with theaters lying on the hillsides and adjacent to the Agora and the Temple of Zeus costs 12 euros. It is difficult to see all the sights at a time, so a ticket for one visit to each object is valid for 4 days. Near the ticket office of the Acropolis there is usually a queue, you can avoid it if you buy a ticket near another historical monument from the list. On the May Night of Museums and the September Days of European Heritage, the complex can be accessed for free.

View from the Acropolis to Athens

How to get there

Near the Acropolis there are several public transport stops. It is most convenient to get off at the M2 metro station of the same name, next to which there is a junction of trams and buses. A little further south is the tram stop 1, 5, 15. Bus number 230 passes from the south. An electric locomotive takes the guests from the metro and from the Acropolis Museum to the ticket office.

Holidays and festivals in the Acropolis

The breathtaking summer and part of the fall Athens Festival chose the Odeon of Herod as one of the main venues - the well-preserved theater, built in 165 AD e. Permanent access to it is closed, visitors get inside only during concert events on tickets. The capacity of the theater is about 5,000 spectators.

The same fate awaits the theater of Dionysos, located on the eastern side of the southern slope of the Acropolis. In the heyday of Attica, competitions of comedians and authors of tragedies took place here, during the Romans gladiators fought in it. In the process of reconstruction, it is planned to strengthen the preserved stone tiers and add a few more spectator rows to them.

Hotels around Acropolis

Hotels in the Acropolis area are expensive, but you need to book rooms in them long before the trip due to high demand. Near the New Museum is a 4-star “Herodion Hotel”, from the southeast - The Athens Gate Hotel, which has earned excellent reviews from guests. The 4-star apartment hotel AVA Hotel and Suites east of the hill will cost tourists about one and a half times more expensive than a hotel with rooms.

Acropolis view from the restaurant of the Herodion Hotel The Athens Gate Hotel

Restaurants and cafes near the Acropolis

In addition to the museum cafe, you can grab a bite to eat at several restaurants around the hill. To the south-west of the Propylaea, at the foot of the semi-wild park “Hill of Muses”, next to the bus stop 230 of the bus, is the restaurant “Dionisos” with magnificent views of the Acropolis from the summer terrace. A little east is the Strofi restaurant of national cuisine. On the north side of the hill is the Stamatopoulos tavern, which was opened in 1882. The close cafe “Klepsidra” is located on a narrow street with graffiti on the walls. Not far from it is Anafiotika with live music.

Attractions around the Acropolis

In the Acropolis area are concentrated the main historical attractions of Athens. In the east - the ruins of the temple of Olympian Zeus, or rather, one of its corners, the perfectly preserved temple of Hephaestus and the remains of the masonry of the Agora market square - from the north-west. To the west is the Areopagus, a rocky hill where the Athenian authorities met.

A bit of history

The history of the Acropolis dates back to ancient times. When a new city appeared on the territory of the legendary Attica. In the 15th century BC, the residence of the Mycenaean kings settled here. During the reign of Pisistratus, a beautiful temple dedicated to the goddess Athena - Hekatompedon was erected in the city.

In the 5th century BC, most of the Acropolis was destroyed by Persian warriors. The revival of the city began 3 years later under Pericles. In the 15th century, Greece was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. And the numerous temples of the ancient complex turned into mosques. After Greece became officially free (19th century), new work began on the restoration and restoration of the appearance of the Acropolis.

Dionysus Theater

At the entrance to the territory of the architectural complex you can see the famous gate of the Propylaea - the brainchild of the famous ancient Greek architect Mnesikl. Only a few snow-white columns and part of the roof have survived to our time. A tour of the holy city begins from the southern slope of the hill. Here stands the oldest theater in Greece - the theater of Dionysus. In the 5th century, famous Greek playwrights - Euripides, Aeschylos, Sophocles and Aristophanes - presented their creations on its wooden stage. The seats in the auditorium were also made of wood. A scene and benches made of marble appeared only in the 4th century BC. Currently, a huge auditorium in the form of a semicircle and part of a dilapidated facade opens up to the gaze of tourists. In the 2nd millennium BC, during the reign of Eumenes II, a fortified portico was attached to the theater of Dionysus. In the sweltering heat or extreme cold, viewers could take refuge in it. Today it is an elongated stone structure, "battered" and damaged by time.

The next point of the tour is the legend of the Acropolis - the sacred temple of the goddess Athena Parthenon. At one time it was the most beautiful building of the complex, an unsurpassed masterpiece of architectural art. In the 6th century BC, a small archaic temple was built on the site of the Parthenon. In the 5th century BC, a new, beautiful structure made of white Pentelian marble grew on its ruins. The central hall of the temple was decorated with the golden goddess Athena - the creation of the sculptor Phidias. Now restoration work is underway in the Parthenon, so you can admire the "remains" of ancient Greece only from the outside. To date, only a small part of it remains from the temple - several elegant antique columns towering on a powerful marble foundation. The walls and roof of the Parthenon are practically not preserved.

Erechtheion and Areopagus

Another notable building of the Acropolis is the ancient Erechtheion temple, built in the 5th century BC, not inferior in beauty even to the Parthenon. Currently, only a few columns remain from the temple, an original portico decorated with sculptures of young girls, several dilapidated walls.

The Areopagus is the place where the famous ancient court sat in the days of Ancient Greece. The first city parliament appeared here. The most interesting thing is that the courthouse was "carved out" of the sacred rock. At first glance, it seems as if it is part of it, as if growing out of the ground. To this day, small "crumbs" of this building have survived, ruins in which the "spirit of justice" still hovers.

Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum is very popular among tourists. Within its walls you can learn a lot of interesting things about ancient civilization, tyrant kings, the history of the city, Greek architecture, etc. The pearls of his exposition are - Moskhofor, a unique sculpture dated to the 6th millennium BC. In the center of the composition is a young man who donates a golden calf to the goddess Athena. The barks are a few elegant, refined figures belonging to young girls. The sculptures are made so realistic that you can see their hairstyles, facial features and even folds on national clothes. Plates of frieze - rectangular plates with the image of the Olympic gods. On some plates you can see whole scenes from ancient Greek mythology. Caryatids - statues of ancient priestesses of the Erechtheion temple.

Acropolis of Athens - a brief description

Located Acropolis of Athens on top of a 156-meter hill that rises above the city. The first fortifications on the site of the modern acropolis were built a very long time ago. It is believed that its founder was Kekrop, the son of the goddess Gaia - a half-man, a half-snake. In the Mycenaean period there was a royal residence. These rules reigned by Homer Theseus.

In the 7th century BC, the Parthenon, the most significant temple of the Acropolis, began to be built, and a century later the Temple of Athena was also built. Today you can see the remains of its foundation. In 480 BC The Acropolis was destroyed by the Persians.

After 33 years, they began to rebuild it and entrusted this business to Phidias, who created the statue of Zeus in Olympia. He created a statue of Athena Parthenos, which after 900 years was transported to Constantinople, where it burned down in a fire.

In the XV century, Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire and the Acropolis of Athens was turned into a mosque, then into an arsenal. In the temple of Erechtheion (where the symbol of Athens, the olive branch, was previously stored), a pasha harem is located. Temple of Nicky Apteros was demolished. After the construction of the acropolis, Europeans were repeatedly vandalized.

After the restoration began in the 19th century, the temple of Niki Apteros was re-laid, the late development was removed. Later, the statues and sculptures of the temple were transferred to the British Museum and the Louvre, and in Acropolis of Athens (Greece) put copies.

Acropolis of Athens - attractions and temples

Despite the fact that the temple has not been preserved in its original form, there is still something to see here. For example, such Attractions of the Acropolis of Athens:

  • Sanctuary of Aphrodite Pandemos - located to the right of the gates of Bule. From him there was only an architrave.
  • The Theater of Dionysus is the oldest theater in the world. Here were presented to the public the creations of ancient authors: Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides.
  • Odeon of Pericles.
  • Odeon of Herod Attica.
  • Erechtheion Temple.
  • Temple of Nicky Apteros.
  • Statue of the goddess Athena.

The territory of the acropolis is declared a museum. Entrance to its territory is paid - 12 euros, but by ticket you can get to the Agora and the temple of Zeus. The museum is usually open from 8:00 to 18:30.

Acropolis of Athens (Greece): interesting facts

The Acropolis is perfectly visible from all sides, since in Athens it is forbidden to build houses that can close the view of it.

From the Greek, “acropolis” means “fortified place in the city”.

If you plan to visit Greece to see the Acropolis of Athens, I advise you to buy tickets in advance and make a Greek visa. To find out what documents you need, will help, for example, this site, here is the link.