- The building: The Parthenon is the most important and famous monument
of Athens Acropolis and even of all the Ancient Greek civilization.
The temple is dedicated to Athena Parthenos (the virgin), the patron
goddess of Athens and the name "parthenon" means "virgin's
apartment". The temple is located on the highest part of the
Acropolis. It was designed by the architect Iktinos and Kallikrates
and was built between 447 and 432 B.C. during the Periclean project.
The supervisor of the whole work was Pheidias, the famous Athenian
sculptor. The temple is built in the Doric architectural style and
in Pentelic marble.
The temple consisted of 8 Doric columns on each of the narrow sides
and 17 columns on each of the long sides. The lines of the temple
were curved in a special way in order to give an optical illusion
that gives the impression that the foundations are straight.
The central part of the temple, in front of a pool of water, stood
a 40 foot ivory and gold statue of Athena.
- The decorations: The decorations of the Parthenon are considered
as unique masterpieces. It is a combination of the Doric metopes and
the Ionic frieze on the walls of the cella.
The metopes, on the east side, depict the Olympian gods fighting against
the giants, on the west side, the Lapiths battle the centaurs, on
the east side, the triumph of the Greeks over the Amazons while the
north side depict the triumph of the Athenians over the Trojans.
The relief frieze runs along the four sides of the temple and depicts
the Procession of the Panathenaea, the most important religious festival
of ancient Athens. The frieze includes figure of gods, beasts and
some 360 humans.
The two pediments of the temple represented major mythological scenes:
the east pediment represents the birth of Athena and the west pediment,
the fight that took place between Athena and Poseidon for the name
of the city.
The Parthenon was the victim of many transformations, depending of
what civilization was ruling the city. The final destruction took
place in the beginning of the 19th century when the British ambassador
in Constantinople, Lord Elgin, stole the decorations of the Parthenon
and sold them to the British Museum where they are still exhibited.
The Temple is built on the part of the Athens Acropolis that was considered
the most sacred for it was a sanctuary where the cults of Athena,
Poseidon and Erechtonius took place. It is named after Erechtonius,
a mythical snake-bodied king of Athens killed by Poseidon in a battle
for the city patronage.
The Temple is located around the northern portico of the Parthenon;
it was part of Pericles'plan for the Acropolis but the project only
started (because of the Peloponnesian Wars) in 421 BC and ended in
The Erechtheion is considered as the supreme example of Ionic architecture.
It consists of three different dimensions basic parts which are the
main temple, the northern and the southern porches.
The main temple is divided into two cellae, one dedicated to Athena,
the other to Poseidon, as a reconciliation of the two gods after their
contest for the city's name.
The northern porch consists of six Ionic columns and has a propylon.
It leads into the Temenos of Pandrossos where Athena's sacred olive
The southern porch is the one with the famous six Caryatids replacing
columns to support the heavy roof of Pentelic marble. Those beautiful
maidens are called Caryatids because the models used for them were
women from Karyes, in Lakonia.
The Temple of Athena Nike
This little temple, closed to visitors, is perched on a platform on
the south-west edge of the Athens Acropolis. It was built between
427-424 BC and designed by the architect Kallikrates. It is an almost
square building of Ionic architecture with four Ionic columns at each
ends and a frieze representing the conference of gods and other mythological
scenes on the east and south sides, and battles scenes on the other
sides. Most of the frieze is only fragments remain; parts of it are
in the Acropolis museum.
A marble parapet surrounded the platform; it was decorated with sculptures
relief now exposed in the Acropolis museum, like the beautiful representation
of Athena Nike (Victory) fastening her sandal.
The Temple of Athena Nike used to house a statue of the goddess Athena
who was holding a pomegranate, symbol of fertility, in her right hand
and a helmet, symbol of war, in her left hand.
The temple has been rebuilt twice: once after the Turks dismantled
it in 1686 and once after 1936, when the platform crumbled.
The Propylaia is the monumental gateway of Athens Acropolis and is
aligned with the Parthenon. It was built during 437-432 BC and designed
by Mnesikles. It consists of a central hall with two lateral wings.
Each section had a gate which was the only entrances to the Acropolis.
The middle section had a gate opening onto the Panathenaic Way while
the western portico was really imposing, with six double columns which
were Doric on the outside and Ionic on the inside. The northern wing
was decorated with painted panels and was used as a picture gallery
(the "Pinakotheke"). The south wing was the antichamber
to the Temple of Athena Nike and the ceiling of the Propylaea's central
hall was painted with gold and colourful decoration.
The building was badly damaged in the 17th century by an explosion
in a Turkish gunpowder store and, in the 19th century, Heinrich Schliemann
removed one of its appendages. Reconstruction and restoration of the
Propylaea started in 1909 and still continues.
Other elements of Athens Acropolis
The Panathenaic Way
During the Panathenaia, festival venerating the goddess Athena, The
Panathenaic Way was the route taken by the Panathenaic procession.
It was cutting across the middle of the Acropolis, beginning from
the Keramikos and ending at the Erechteion. The Great Panathenaic
Festival consists of dances, athletic, dramatic and musical contests.
The procession was effectuated on the final day of the festival and
was composed of men carrying animals for sacrifices to Athena, of
maidens carrying drinking vessels (call rhytons), musicians and girls
holding the sacred shawl call "peplo". The procession ended
when the girls placed the peplo on Athena Polias' statue, in the Erechteion.
The statue of Athena Promachos
On the left side of the Panathenaic Way are the remains of the foundations
of the statues which used to board the path in ancient times. One
of those pedestals, 15m from the Propylaea, is the foundation where
the gigantic statue of Athena Promachos (champion) used to stand.
This 9m-high statue had been made by Pheidias to symbolize the Athenian
invincibility against the Persians. That is why the famous sculptor
represented the goddess holding a shield in her left hand and a spear
in her right one.
In 426 AD, the statue was taken to Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius
and destroyed, in 1204, by the inhabitants of the city who believed
that the statue was the cause of the invasion of the crusaders.
The southwest Slope of Athens
This area of the Acropolis played an important role in ancient Athens
for it was where public building were built to carry out the major
artistic, spiritual and religious activities of the city. Here are
the most important monuments standing on this area:
The Theatre of Dionysos
In 1838, the Greek Archaeological Society started excavations in Dionysos'sanctuary
and brought to light the enormous theatre of Dionysos.
The preserved ruins of the 5th-century theatre built in stone and
marble by Lycourgos indicates the extensiveness of the site: the auditorium
had 17 000 seats of which only 20 survived. The relief at the rear
of the stage date from the 2nd century BC and represent Dionysos'
exploits but most of the figures are headless. The only two figures
still having a head are those of the so called "selini",
worshippers of the mythical Selinos, Dionysos'mentor, who was the
debauched father of the famous satyrs.
During the golden age, the annual Festival of the Great Dionysia,
introduced in the 6th-century AD by the tyrant Peiseistratos, was
one of the major events of the year. Politicians would sponsor dramas
and comedies by writers like Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Euripides and
Sophocles and people would come from all around Attica to enjoy the
plays and the different festivities.
Roman also used the Theatre of Dionysos for state events, ceremonies
The Temple of Thrasyllos
It was erected in 320-319 BC by Thrasyllos, standing on the "katatome",
the great rocky artificial evened out vertically when the Theatre
of Dionysos was been constructed. The Temple has been destroyed; the
only remains are two Ionic columns standing above the lovely, tiny
Chapel of Panagia Hrysospiliotissa (our Lady of the Cavern) that occupies
a small grotto in a cliff behind the Theatre of Dionysos.
The stoa of Eumenes
West to the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, beneath the Asclepion, is
the stoa of Eumenes, a long colonnade built by the king of Pergamos,
Eumenes II (197-159 BC). It was built of conglomerate, poros stone,
Hymettian and Pergamene marble and was a shelter and promenade for
the theatre's audiences.
The Theatre of Herodes Atticus
This architectural marvel is an Odeion built in AD 160 by a wealthy
Roman called Herodes Atticus, in memory of his wife Regilla. It is
a semicircular theatre of a 38m radius. It could seat 5000 spectators
(on marble seats) and the scene was decorated with architectural elements.
It was partly demolished by the invasion of the Herulae in AD 267,
then excavated in 1857-58 and restored in 1950-61.
The Theatre of Herodes Atticus is still used for drama, music and
dance performances during the summer Athens Festival during which
famous performers and artists come from all over the world. The Asklepieion
The excavations of the Asklepieion were made by the Greek Archaeological
It is located on the left top of the wooden steps leading to the Theatre
of Dionysos. It was built after 420 BC to worship the physician Asklepios,
son of Apollo. The Asklepieion consists of foundations of the Temple
of Asklepios, a Doric stoa used as the "katagogion", an
Ionic stoa dating from the end of the 5th century BC and an altar.
about the Acropolis...
Animation of teh Acropolis