The magnificent Acropolis sits on a rocky outcrop 150m above the city of Athens, Greece & this UNESCO World Heritage Site listed in 1987 covers about 3.04 hectares. Though artefacts dating to the Middle Neolithic era have been found, the present architectural appearance of the Acropolis took shape during 7th – 6th BC. Partial view of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus & Filopappou Hill just beyond.
This is the partially reconstructed Odeon of Herodes Atticus which is a stone theatre located on the Southwestern slope of the Acropolis. It was built in 161 AD by a Roman citizen Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla to be used as a venue for music concerts with a seating capacity for 5000. It was destroyed & left in ruins by the Heruli in 267 AD until the 1950s, when the audience stand & the orchestra stage was restored using Pentelic marble from Mount Pentelicus situated Northeast of Athens, an ancient quarry protected by law & used exclusively for the Acropolis Restoration Project. Some artistes who have staged shows here include Maria Callas, Frank Sinatra, Nana Mouskouri, Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, Vangelis Mythodea, Yanni, Sting, Mario Frangoulis, Elton John Andrea Boccelli, Foo Fighters etc.
This is the monumental Western facade & gateway to the Acropolis which is called the Propylaea. This was one of the public works commissioned by the Athenian leader Pericles, to rebuild the Acropolis after the end of the Persian Wars (499-449 BC). Construction began in 437 BC but was terminated in 432 BC unfinished with the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War between Athens & Sparta in 431 BC.
The Temple of Athena Nike was built around 420 BC & is the earliest Ionic temple on the Acropolis. It sits on a steep bastion on the southwest corner of the Acropolis on the right side of the entrance, the Propylaea.
Of Ionic Order it has 4 monolithic columns at the east & west fronts. As the epithet Nike (Victory) implies, here Athena was worshipped as the Goddess who stands by the Athenians in time of war.
The Propylaea was designed by architect Mnesicles & it was constructed of white Pentelic marble with grey Eleusinian marble or limestone accents. Structural iron was used which experts concluded actually weakened the building. The massive gate comprised of a central building with 2 adjoining wings on the West (Outer) side, one to the North & one to the South.
Lying Northwest of the Acropolis is Areopagus Hill which in pre-classical times (before 5 BC) was where the council of city elders would preside over corruption, arson, religious matters or homicide etc. This judicial body of aristocratic origin subsequently formed the Higher Court of modern Greece. This was also where Paul the Apostle preached the Good News about Jesus & the resurrection in 50 AD to a group of Epicurean & Stoic philosophers when he proclaimed in Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world & everything in it is the Lord of heaven & earth & does not live in temples built by human hands.” There is an engraved plaque containing Paul’s Areopagus sermon on this prominent rock.
Here we see the Eastern facade of the core building of the Propylaea which has 6 Doric columns as with the Western facade.
The Propylaea though not a fortified structure, served an important function where ritually unclean, runaway slaves or nefarious characters were denied entry to seek protection from the gods. The State Treasury was also housed at the Acropolis, thus making security all the more necessary.
The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at its peak of power. Work completed in 438 BC but embellishments continued till 432 BC. It was also referred to as The Temple of Minerva during the 19th century which was the Roman name of Athena.
This is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece & is considered the zenith of the Doric Order. The decorative sculptures excavated are high points in Greek art. The Parthenon is an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy, Western civilization & one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments.
View of the City of Athens from the Southeastern part of the Acropolis with the Acropolis Museum on the lower left side of the photo.
The Acropolis & other Periclean structures were built in celebration of Hellenic victory over the Persian invaders & as a thanksgiving to the gods. Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon did not serve wholly as a temple but was also the city treasury until the final decade of 6 AD when it was converted to a Christian church dedicated to Virgin Mary.
Notice the sculptures on a remaining section of the East pediment of the Parthenon & the Doric Order architecture most easily recognised by the simple circular capitals at the top of the columns. Since 1975 till date, large scale restoration projects have been undertaken to restore & reverse the centuries of attrition, pollution, decay, destruction from military use & misguided past restorations.
The project involves the collection & identification of stone fragments, even the small ones from the Acropolis & its slopes in an attempt to restore as much as possible using reassembled original material & with new marble from Mount Pentelicus being used sparingly. Kudos to the archaeological teams for their dedication & years of hard labour excavating, investigating & restoring this mammoth ancient citadel for posterity.
An astounding 2,675 tons of architectural members were restored, with 686 stones reassembled from fragments of the originals, 905 patched with new marble & 186 parts made entirely from new marble. A total of 530 cubic meters of new Pentelic marble was used in the process.
On this Eastern end of the Acropolis is a high Flag pole flying the Greek National flag. During WWII when the Germans occupied Athens, they ordered the Evzone guarding the flag to take it down. Konstantinos Koukidis calmly did so, wrapped himself in it & jumped to his death at the Acropolis.
After the Ottoman conquest, the Parthenon was turned into a mosque in the early 1460s. On 26 Sept 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was bombarded during a Venetian siege of the Acropolis. The Parthenon & sculptures within & without suffered considerable damage during the explosion. From 1800 – 1803 Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed some surviving sculptures now known as the Elgin Marbles to England which today is housed at the British Museum in London.
The Parthenon is regarded as the epitome of Greek architecture & a detailed study of its construction would reveal the ingenuity of the Greek architects in obtaining optical aesthetics. The dimension of the Parthenon base is about 69.5m by 30.9m. There are 8 columns on either ends & 17 on the sides with a total of 46 outer columns & 23 inner columns. Each column rises 10.4m high measuring 1.9m in diameter & contain 20 concave flutes.
On 30 May 1941, two 18 year old Greeks Apostolis Santas & Manolis Glezos tore down the Nazi flag that was flying, inspiring the Greek resistance to rise up against Nazi oppression all over Greece. Today, the Greek infantry raises the flag at 6.30am & lowers it at sunset. On Sundays this tradition is carried out by the Evzones.
The area around the Erechtheion was considered the most sacred of the Acropolis. It was dedicated to both Athena & Poseidon. This complex marble building in Ionic Order was built between 421 – 406 BC. It was an exceptional artwork & the need to preserve multiple adjacent sacred precincts explains its complex design.
The main structure consists of 4 compartments & the largest is this East Cella (a small inner chamber) which usually contained a cult image or statue representing the deity venerated in the Classical temple. This Eastern part of the temple was dedicated to Athena Polias.
This is the side view of the East Porch of the Erechtheion which is really built on a slope, so the West & North sides are about 3m lower than the South & East sides. The Western part of the temple was dedicated to the archaic king Poseidon – Erechtheus & housed the altars of Hephaestus & Voutos, brother of Erechtheus. It was rebuilt several times after the original building was destroyed by fire in 1st BC.
This is the North-eastern view of the Erechtheion where you have to descend a flight of stairs to see the North Porch. The Erechtheion was associated with ancient holy relics like the Palladion, a carved wooden effigy of Athena Polias (Protectress of the City); Poseidon’s Trident & the Saltwater Well called Erechtheis that resulted from Poseidon’s strike; the sacred olive tree planted by Athena after her victory over Poseidon (the existing one seen today is however planted later by Sophia of Prussia); the supposed burial places of the mythical kings Kekrops & Erechtheus; the sacred precinct to Kekrop’s daughter Pandrosus & an altar to the tribal hero Boutes.
On this Northern side of the Erechtheion is another large porch with 6 Ionic columns. Some remaining details on the roof of the porch can still be seen.
The Porch of the Maidens is famous & easily recognisable by the 6 draped female figures or Caryatids which are stylised pillars used to conceal the gigantic 15 ft beam needed to support the Southwest corner over the Kekropion, after the building was drastically reduced in size due to a budget cut at the onset of the Peloponnesian War (431 – 404 BC).
All the 6 draped figurines are carved out of Pentelic marble (421 – 405 BC) & are not identical in appearance. Since the Roman era, columns shaped like women have been called Caryatids with the word originating from the Spartan City of Caryae where young women did a ring dance around an open air statue of the goddess, Artemis. The Porch of the Maidens is a closed sided chapel & its inaccessibility may be symbolic of the maiden’s protected virginity. These are reproductions, 5 originals can be seen at the Acropolis Museum & 1 other taken by Lord Elgin, at the British Museum in London.
As you gradually descend from the Acropolis via the Southern slope, you will get a bird’s eye view of the Theatre of Dionysus which was considered the world’s 1st theatre.
There were many cats around the vicinity of the Acropolis & this regale reclining feline, nicknamed the “Temple Cat” by a Tour guide caught my eye.
Dedicated to Dionysus (the god of plays & wine), this theatre with the capacity of 17,000 has excellent acoustics, making it an ideal location for ancient Athen’s biggest theatrical celebration, the Dionysia. This 1st theatre was cut into the southern cliff face of the Acropolis & was believed to be the birthplace of Greek tragedy. Dramatic Festivals were staged where playwrights produced & competed based on 4 plays. 3 were tragedies usually linked & forming a trilogy & the 4th a satyr featuring lighter themes.
The Theatre of Dionysus in this present state, dates from around 390 -325 BC. Alterations during the Hellenistic period saw the addition of 67 Marble thrones around the periphery of the orchestra, inscribed with the names of the dignitaries that occupied them. These Klismos chairs are thought to be Roman copies of earlier version & at the centre of this row of seats was a grand marble throne reserved for the priest of Dionysus.
Right above the Theatre of Dionysus, is the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllos (320 -270 BC) which was sponsored by a rich Athenian Thrasyllos to hold the Tripod, a victory trophy of the drama contests which took place in the theatre.
The Choragic Monument of Thrasyllos was constructed on the flattened surface of the Acropolis rock in the most prominent place covering the entrance of a cave. On top of the monument stood the bronze tripod which Thrasyllos won. 50 year later his son, Thrasycles won 2 more contests & added on to his father’s monument 2 more tripods with a statue of Dionysus in the middle. The monument & cave was converted into a church named “Our Lady in the Cave” during the Byzantine era & was dedicated to the Mother of God. It stood in perfect condition for over 2000 years until it was bombed & destroyed by the Ottomans in 1827. We see here the restored monument with only 2 columns instead of 3, recently completed in 2017.
View from the stands of the Theatre of Dionysus & remains of the Roman stage building with re-used Bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the myths of the god, Dionysus.
This is the pathway that leads to the exit at the South-eastern part of the Acropolis going towards Acropolis Museum. It is very obvious from this viewpoint that the Acropolis is sloping upwards from the Western to Eastern section giving every visitor a good workout.

The Acropolis was transformed from a rocky hill into a unique complex that heralded the emergence of Classical Greek art & thought. On this hill was born Democracy, Philosophy, Theatre, Freedom of Expression & Speech which provide to this day the intellectual & spiritual foundation for the contemporary world & it values.

The Acropolis’ monuments having survived for almost 25 centuries through wars, explosions, bombardments, fires, earthquakes, sackings, interventions & alterations; have adapted to different uses & the civilizations, myths & religions that flourished in Greece through time.

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