The rich history and remarkable archaeological sites of the Acropolis of Athens make visiting this hill an incredible experience. Athens, Greece is one of the most visited cities in the world. It is the birthplace of western civilization and known for its multitude of archaeological sites. Its most coveted site is the once fiercely fought over the hill is known simply as the Acropolis.
Every trip to the city should include a stop at the Acropolis in Athens, which was named the “preeminent monument” on the European Cultural Heritage list of famous monuments.
What was the Acropolis of Athens used for?
Once you arrive, you’ll probably want to know why you’re there, right?
You’ll want to know the history behind this world-famous site, and why it is so renowned around the globe.
Well, a brief brush up on the significance of the Acropolis and learning a bit about the ancient structures that occupy the area will help you fully appreciate the importance of this area once you are standing on top of it.
Why is the Acropolis so important?
An Acropolis is technically just a high piece of land that was a popular strategic location to build cities on in ancient times due to the advantages it offers, like being able to see an incoming attack from any direction.
There are many acropoleis throughout Greece and most locations across the ancient world, but the Acropolis in Athens is so famous that it is simply known as the Acropolis.
When was the Acropolis of Athens built?
The area was first inhabited dating back to the Neolithic period, which means people could have been living here since around 6000 BC.
However, it wasn’t until the 6th century BC that structures started being built on top of the hill.
Since then, many structures have been built, defended, and destroyed, on Acropolis with only a handful of the ancient monuments still standing today.
The beauty of the Acropolis’ archaeology sites
Most of the structures were built to honor Athens’ patron goddess Athena and every 4 years the people of the city would hold a festival called Panathenaea, which paid tribute to the goddess and which was just as popular as the Olympics during that time.
The structures and archaeology sites on Acropolis have, for centuries, been an inspiration for art and architecture throughout the world.
They are renowned aesthetically for their Ionic and Doric architecture that encompasses a plain style and simple exteriors, which seem to blend in with the natural surroundings around them.
The monuments standing today include the Parthenon, Erechtheion or Erechtheum, Propylaia, Athena Nike, Arrephorion, some circuit wall-rocks, and other scattered architectural remains.
Of the five main buildings, the most prominent – now and during the Acropolis’ heyday when several other buildings scattered the landscape – are the Parthenon and the Erechtheum.
Both significant to the Athenians of the classical period, as well as the people of today for their cultural importance, the Erechtheum, and the Parthenon in Athens clearly dominate the landscape of the Acropolis.
What’s the difference between the Acropolis and the Parthenon?
The Parthenon is a former temple on the Acropolis of Athens.
It is without a doubt one of the most famous structures in the world and is seen as the foremost symbol of democracy.
Completed in 438 BC, it is considered to be the pinnacle of Doric achievement, while the various artistic offerings found on and inside the building are renowned for being the highest level of classical Greek art.
Much of the art that was in the Parthenon and the other buildings in the area were sold to England in the 1800s and are now in the British Museum in London.
Like most structures found on Acropolis, the Parthenon was built to honor the goddess Athena and there was, in fact, a giant statue of the patron goddess made out of gold and elephant ivory that greeted visitors to the building in ancient times.
Through the years the building served many purposes.
It was originally a sort of civic center and treasury, harboring several pieces of gold and treasure.
It was later converted into a Christian church during the Byzantine times.
Then, under Ottoman rule, its purpose was once again changed, this time it was converted into a mosque.
The Parthenon, Athens’ defining structure throughout its history, was partially destroyed along with some of the other structures in the 17th century when the Venetians attacked the city and this is the main reason why it lay in ruins today.
Acropolis’ major restoration project
It wasn’t until 1975 that the Athenian government decided to commence restoring the Parthenon and all of Acropolis.
This long process is still in progress to this day.
The restoration involves repairing much of the structures in a way that is actually reversible, in case future generations decide to remove or alter what has been done.
The Erechtheum rivaled the Parthenon in its heyday
The Erechtheum was the last significant structure built on the Acropolis of Athens and interestingly seems to be a monument built by the ancient Greeks dedicated to both gods who mythically battled over the city, Athena and Poseidon.
While the Parthenon was used for important civic events, the Erechtheum was seen as equally significant for the ancient Greeks’ religious ceremonies.
One of Erechtheum’s most signifying features is the porch of Caryatids on the building’s south side.
Columns on this side of the Erechtheum are carved into six Caryatids, which were female maidens of the time.
The importance of this is unknown but it definitely makes for a beautiful artistic façade.
When and how to visit the Acropolis of Athens
There are tours that will take you up to the Acropolis daily where you’ll have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the historic area.
You may also elect to travel to the site yourself and either catch a tour as it starts for a fee or simply walk around on your own and explore the area.
The best time of the year to visit the Acropolis in Athens is either in the spring or the fall time.
During these times the weather in Athens is almost perfect and the crowds are down from their summertime maximums.
If you do decide to visit the Acropolis in Athens during the summer, this too can be an exciting time.
The warm weather and large crowds are welcomed by some tourists hoping to take in the area’s amazing archaeology sites with other travelers experiencing the same joy of the moment.
A tour in Acropolis is a must! Check this Acropolis small group guided tour as it is combined with a skip the line ticket, and it is one of the best out there.
Whether you’re going to see the Propylaia, the Athena Nike, the Arrephorion, the Erchtheum, or the Parthenon, the Acropolis of Athens is an ancient wonder and a modern-day legend.
You are sure to bring home an enormous supply of memories from this site. It is the defining feature of the city and an absolute must-see place when you’re in Athens.
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