The Most Important Ancient Monument in the Western World
A crowning achievement of Greek civilization’s golden age, the astonishingly sophisticated Doric temple known as the Parthenon is the largest such structure built in Greece, and it has crowned the loftiest point of the city horizon (acropolis means “upper town”) since the 5th century R.C.
Dedicated to the patron goddess of the city, Athena Paithenos (Virgin Athena), it was originally so vividly painted (like all the other buildings on the Acropolis) that an alarmed Plutarch complained, “We are gilding and adorning our city like a wanton woman.”
Today it shimmers golden white in the sunlight, evidence of its subsequent incarnations as Byzantine church, Frankish cathedral, and Ottoman mosque lost to history. Save the museum for last and see, among other superb statues, four of the original Caryatids, or maidens, formerly serving as columns, and the marble friezes that Lord Elgin did not manage to take back to England.
Greece’s primary artistic event, the summertime Athens Festival, presents ancient dramas, operas, music, and ballet performed by local and internationally acclaimed artists. The 2nd-century Odeon of Herod Atticus on the south slope of the Acropolis has legendary acoustics.