In the mid-5th century BC, the Athenian statesman Perikles persuaded the Athenians to begin a program of building work that has come to represent the political and cultural achievements of ancient Greece. Three new contrasting temples were built on the Acropolis, together with a monumental gateway. The Theater of Dionysos on the south slope was developed further in the 4th century BC, and the Theater of Herodes Atticus was added in the 2nd century AD.
The museum is devoted to finds from the Acropolis. Divided chronologically, the collection begins with 6th-century BC works that include fragments of painted pedimental statues, such as Moschophoros, or Calf-Bearer, a young man carrying a calf on his shoulders (c. 570 BC). Two rooms house a unique group of korai (votive statues of maidens offered to Athena) from c. 500 BC. The korai illustrate the development of ancient Greek art — moving from the formal bearing of the Peplos Kore to the more natural body movement of the Almond-Eyed Kore. The museum’s collection ends with the original four caryatids from the south porch of Erechtheion (Porch of the Caryatids).
Built as an expression of the glory of Athens, this temple (Parthenon) was designed to house a 40-ft (12-m) high statue of Athena Parthenos (Maiden) sculpted by Pheidias. Taking nine years to complete, the building was finally dedicated to the goddess in 438 BC. The temple was 230 ft (70 m) long and 100 ft (30 m) wide, with a striking red, blue, and gold entablature. The sculptors used visual tricks to counteract the laws of perspective, making the building completely symmetrical. Over the centuries, it has served as a church, a mosque, and an arsenal.
At the heart of Greek architecture were the Classical “orders”—the types and styles of columns and the forms of structures and decoration that followed on from them. Of these, Doric is the earliest, the column has no base, a fluted shaft, and a plain capital. The Ionic column is a lighter development from the Doric; the fluted shaft has a base and a volute capital. The Corinthian, with its plinth and fluted shaft, is a variant of the Ionic and distinctive in its ornate capital. The capitals of the columns were representations of natural forms, as in the rams’ horns of the Ionic or the stylized acanthus leases of the Corinthian. Other architectural features included pediments (triangular structures crowning the front of the temples), caryatids (sculptures used as columns), and friezes of relief sculptures, used to adorn exteriors.
Theatre of Herodes Atticus
Also known as the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, this superb theater was originally built in AD 161 . It was restored in 1955 and is used today for outdoor concerts.
This was the first entrance to the Acropolis.
Temple of Athena Nike
This temple to Athena of Victory is on the west side of the Propylaia . It was built in 426-421 BC.
This was built in 437-432 BC to form a new entrance to the Acropolis.
The Acropolis today
The Acropolis provides a stunning backdrop to the modern city of Athens and is Greece’s most visited site. Having survived earthquakes, fires, and wars for over 2,500 years, today its monuments are under threat from the atmospheric pollution that is slowly softening their marble.
In Greek mythology, Athena and Poseidon competed to be patron deity of Athens. Athena won by giving the gift of an olive tree. Today, an olive tree grows on the spot where she planted hers.
Porch of the Caryatids
These statues of women were used in place of columns on the south porch of the Erechtheion. The originals, four of which are now in the Acropolis Museum, have been replaced by casts.
Built in 1878, the museum is located on the southeastern corner of the site. It exhibits stone sculptures from the Acropolis monuments and artifacts from on-site excavations.
Although few sculptures are left on this famous temple to Athena, some can still be admired, including those on the east pediment.
Two Corinthian Columns
These are the remains of monuments erected by sponsors of successful of dramatic performances.
This chapel is set in a cave in the Acropolis rock.
Theatre of Dionysos
The theater seen today was built by Lykourgos in 342-326 BC. A figure of the comic satyr Silenus can be seen here.
As the highest part of the city, the rock is an easily defended site. It has been inhabited for almost 5,000 years.
THE ELGIN MARBLES
Lord Elgin acquired architectural features from the Parthenon in 1801-5 and sold them to Britain. Controversy surrounds these so-called “Elgin Marbles,” which are now in London’s British Museum, as some believe they belong in Athens.
3000 BC: The first of the settlements is built on the Acropolis.
510 BC: The Delphic Oracle declares the Acropolis a holy place of the gods.
451-429 BC: A. lavish building program is begun by Perikles.
AD 267: Much of the Acropolis is destroyed by the Germanic Heruli tribe.
1987: UNESCO inscribes the Acropolis as a World Heritage Site.