Acropolis of Athens

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The Acropolis hill, so called the “Sacred Rock” of Athens, is the most important site of the city and constitutes one of the most recognizable monuments of the world. The history of the Acropolis of Athens is long, with moments when democracy philosophy and art flourished, leading to its creation.

 

Then there were the times when its best standing pieces were removed and shipped away from the city, dividing the monument in two. Built by the architect Mnesicles with Pentelic marble, their design was avant-garde.

 

To the south-west of the Propylaea, on a rampart protecting the main entrance to the Acropolis is the Ionian temple of Apteros Nike, which is now being restored.

 

While there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, it was Pericles in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike.

 

While the earliest artifacts date to the Middle Neolithic period, there have been documented habitations in Attica from the Early Neolithic (6th millennium BC). There is little doubt that a Mycenaean megaton stood upon the hill during the late Bronze Age.

 

Nothing of this megaton survives except, probably, a single limestone column-base and pieces of several sandstone steps.  Soon after the palace was constructed, a Cyclopean massive circuit wall was built, 760 meters long, up to 10 meters high, and ranging from 3.5 to 6 meters thick.

 

This wall would serve as the main defense for the acropolis until the 5th century. From myth to institutionalized cult, the Acropolis, by virtue of its precision and diversity, bears a unique testimony to the religions of ancient Greece.

 

It is the sacred temple from which sprang fundamental legends about the city. It illustrates the civilizations of Greece over more than a millennium. From the royal palace of kings in the 15th century BC and the Pelasgic walls of the first fortification, to the Odeon constructed in AD 161 by Herod Atticus, a unique series of public monuments was built and conserved in one of the densest spaces of the Mediterranean.

Acropolis of Athens

After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1204, Athens was put into the hands of Frankish lords who had little respect for its ruins. When the Turks took over the city in 1456, it became a mosque, and the Erechtheion was used from time to time as the harem of the Turkish governor.

 

In 1687, the most tragic of dates, the siege of the Acropolis by the Venetian armies of Morosini resulted in the explosion of the Parthenon, which the Turks used as a powder magazine.

 

In the 19th century, with official authorization from the Sultan, Lord Elgin, ambassador of the King of England to the Sublime Porte, completed the pillaging by acquiring marble sections which since 1815 have been the pride of the British Museum.

 

In the present day, more than half of the Parthenon sculptures are in the British Museum in London and their return to Athens, for their display in the Acropolis Museum together with the other originals, is a cultural issue waiting to be settled.