Athens, the Acropolis

(continuer en français) – Published: January 29, 2022

The Acropolis from the museum, Athens, Greece

Because of its location, 100 metres above the rest of the land, the site of the Acropolis has long been coveted. A natural fortress, its military purpose faded as Athenian society became more sophisticated. At its heyday under Pericles in the 5th century BC, the Acropolis was home to the city’s most sacred sanctuaries.

Even today, visitors still seek it out and are eager to visit it during a stay in Athens.

The slopes of the Acropolis

There are two entrances to the site, one from the south and one from the north. To the south, the path is lined with ruins, traces on the ground and columns that the interpretation boards put into context. However, it is difficult to imagine what the monuments were like in the past; it looks more like an archaeological site.

The first group of buildings that can be identified is probably the theatre of Dionysus. One can clearly distinguish the layered stone stands where 17,000 spectators could be seated. In the front row, a semicircle of marble seats still awaits the dignitaries, as in the 5th century BC.

A little further up the path to the top, the Odeon of Herod Atticus is a theatre built during the Roman period in 161. Rediscovered and restored, the theatre is used for modern shows.

The Propylaea

This is the ceremonial entrance before entering the sanctuary. After climbing a large staircase that tames the steep slope, the visitor is welcomed by a large portico of crenellated columns with Doric and Ionic capitals. There were five passages, closed by large wooden doors.

Temple of Athena Nike

This small temple, like a scale model, stands on a platform in front of the Propylaea. It is a sanctuary dedicated to the victory that the Athenians wished over the other Greek cities.

The Ottomans had dismantled the temple and used the stone blocks to build a wall. In 2010, the temple was rebuilt, stone by stone like a big puzzle with all the identified elements.

The Parthenon

The most emblematic building of the Acropolis, the one that can be seen from afar. Unlike the other buildings, it is not a temple but a treasure. This is where the Athenians kept their reserve of precious metals.

Its dilapidated state is the result of the cannonade in 1687 when the Venetians attacked the Ottomans. Since the 19th century, the remains have been gradually cleared of interfering additions and the ancient structure has been reconstructed and consolidated. The sculpted elements were deposited and presented in the Acropolis Museum. Copies are replacing them.

The Erechtheion

This strange construction, whose main façade cannot be discerned, contains the most exquisite ensemble with the caryatids. It is a temple intended to collect the cult of various gods whose sanctuaries were destroyed during the conflicts. It had several rooms and must have expanded even further.

Young girls are often associated with the service of ancient sanctuaries. It is therefore not surprising to see them represented in the portico, the purpose of which we do not really understand. Of the six original caryatids, one is now in London at the British Museum, the other five are on display at the Acropolis Museum. Copies replace them on the site.

The flag of the Acropolis

It flies high in the sky of Athens. It reminds the inhabitants of the patriotic action taken by two young Greeks during the German occupation in 1941. One night in April, they took down the swastika flag and put up the Greek flag. Every evening, a group of soldiers comes to lower the national colours in a short ceremony after the visitors have left.

Caryatids

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12 comments

  1. You really captured these ancient structures with some stunning shots. Surely one of Planet Earth’s must see sights and very much on my list filed under the drawer ‘one day’. I’d give anything for a day of those Greek skies here in gloomy England right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you that it is an essential point of reference, more for what it represents than what it actually is. As for the sunny skies, I am also delighted to return to them while preparing these articles in the middle of winter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It must have been pretty neat to walk through the site of the Acropolis and step back in time to learn about its history. I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology and actually took a couple of courses on it while studying in university.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true that it’s a visit that has been prepared for a long time with all that we learn about Antiquity. In comparison the visit goes by so quickly, a few hours for years of preparation on centuries of history!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely agree, this little dot on earth has shaped the basis of our way of life, centuries later and continents away. I’m glad you were able to visit it too, it’s a bit like going back to the source of a river.

      Like

  3. Agree with some comments above – looking across the Athens skyline to the Acropolis is just one of the greatest sights in the world. We had a fabulous view from our hotel balcony on each of our last two visits and the view first thing in the morning is so wonderful that it almost feels spiritual.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are two historic sites I never tire of, one is the Acropolis and the other is the Colesseum in Rome. The sense of history is so potent in both these places, perhaps because I’d just been reading Plato when I first visited Athens and my head was full of his world, and Rome, well, Rome just captivates.

    Liked by 1 person

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