The Historical past of the Acropolis

As soon as a middle for historic Greek non secular life, the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis is now one in every of Athens’ most well-known historic websites. From celebrating festivals of the gods of previous to housing royalty all through the ages, the Acropolis has remained standing proudly above town.

Much more thrilling, you’ll be able to see it in individual. What makes this journey actually particular is the flexibility to peek into the world of the traditional Greeks — and even additional again to the civilizations that got here earlier than them. 

Let’s step again in time to go to the Acropolis of previous and find out about the way it’s advanced.

In This Article

What Is the Acropolis?

The Athenian Acropolis has served many functions all through the centuries, nevertheless it’s most well-known as an historic non secular web site. Right this moment, the Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage web site and a well-liked vacationer attraction. 

The phrase “acropolis” actually interprets to “excessive metropolis.” Whereas the time period can technically confer with any elevated stronghold within the nation, the Acropolis of Athens is probably the most well-known. 

Resting on high of the Attica plateau in Athens, the Acropolis consists of 4 hills:

  • The Hill of the Nymphs
  • Likavitos Hill
  • Philopappos Hill
  • The Pnyx Hill

Atop these hills are a few of antiquity’s most opulent constructions, which have survived largely intact. These buildings have left an outsize influence on Western structure, inspiring many neoclassical designs resembling people who had been fashionable through the Renaissance.

Who Constructed the Acropolis?

Who Built the Acropolis?

Archaeological proof suggests the traditional Mycenaeans had been the primary to start constructing on the Acropolis within the late Bronze Age, round 1600 to 1100 B.C. Whereas none of their unique constructions stay, historians imagine they constructed a fortified stronghold for the native ruler and his household.

The Acropolis as we all know it right now was the results of an formidable constructing plan by legendary statesman Pericles within the fifth century B.C. Whereas the mission initially confronted criticism from different outstanding Greek politicians who believed it was too extravagant, Pericles ended up going by way of together with his mission. 

Pericles commissioned three famend artisans — architects Ictinus and Callicrates and sculptor Phidias — to assist design and construct the brand new Acropolis. These people constructed the 4 constructions which you can go to right now. 

Though the Acropolis confronted many adjustments all through the ages, a lot of its unique glory has remained.

The Acropolis By means of the Ages

The UNESCO World Heritage Conference calls the Acropolis an “excellent instance” of a web site that has been current by way of vital durations of change. As a central hub for one of many oldest civilizations on earth, it’s a tremendous monument to human historical past.

Right here’s a quick overview of vital moments in Acropolis historical past.

The Mycenaean Acropolis

Mycenae was a Bronze Age civilization that lived in Athens from round 1600 B.C. to 1100 B.C. In response to fantasy, the legendary hero Perseus based the city-state, enlisting cyclopes to construct the fortifying wall round it.

Archaeological proof means that the civilization’s elites occupied the Acropolis beginning round 1600 B.C. On the heart of their fortified metropolis was the megaron, a central corridor attribute of Mycenaean palaces. 

Little is left of the unique palace, which was situated the place the Erechtheion is now. Nonetheless, historians imagine this construction housed the native king and his family.

Though historians are uncertain why, the Mycenaean civilization started declining round 1200 B.C. The traditional Greeks changed them someday across the eighth century B.C.

Archaic Greece: The Hekatompedon Temple

The archaic Greek civilization thrived from 800 to 499 B.C., setting up new buildings on the Acropolis and creating a robust custom of artwork and tradition.

At the moment, the biggest construction on the location was the Hekatompedon, or the Pre-Parthenon. This construction was a big limestone temple devoted to Athena, the Greek goddess of knowledge and warfare.

One of the crucial outstanding sculptures on the temple was a three-headed man-serpent. All three of the heads had brightly painted blue beards, which earned the constructing the nickname of “Bluebeard Temple.” This temple initially occupied the identical house the place the Parthenon stands right now.

Different archaic constructions that existed on the Acropolis embody:

  • Brauroneion: The Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, the protector goddess of ladies throughout being pregnant and childbirth, sat on the southwest nook of the Acropolis between the now-demolished Chalkotheke and the Propylaea. 
  • Chalkotheke: The Chalkotheke, Greek for “Bronze Retailer,” was an historic constructing that served as a storehouse for the treasury’s steel. Solely a portion of its limestone basis stays right now.

After the collapse of the Hekatompedon, the Athenians started constructing a brand new marble temple recognized solely because the Previous Parthenon. This construction — in addition to all the pieces else on the hill — was destroyed within the second Persian invasion.

The Athenian Golden Age

The Athenian Golden Age

Athens reached its cultural peak between 480-404 B.C. Underneath the rule of the Athenian statesman Pericles, the city-state reworked into the inventive and mental hotbed that may elevate among the most influential Western thinkers, together with Socrates, Plato, Herodotus and Hippocrates.

Your complete mission took 50 years to finish and included the next constructions, the stays of that are nonetheless standing right now:

  • Parthenon: Constructed between 447 and 432 B.C., this colossal Doric-style temple honored the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos (“Athena the Virgin”). Contained in the Parthenon was an unlimited statue of Athena, which is now not there.
  • Propylaea: The Propylaea is the big set of gates that serves because the entry to the Acropolis. It consists of two wings flanking one central constructing that some students imagine to have been a spot for guests to relaxation.
  • Temple of Athena Nike: This small Ionic Temple was as soon as a shrine to Athena Nike (Athena because the goddess of victory). It sits subsequent to the Propylaea and changed an earlier temple that had been destroyed within the Persian Wars.
  • Erechtheion: Constructed between 421 and 406 B.C., this marble temple options an iconic porch supported by six Caryatids — statues of ladies that function assist columns. Its unique function was to deal with an historic wood statue of Athena, nevertheless it has been repurposed a number of instances since its preliminary building.

The traditional fortification wall, left by the Mycenaeans, nonetheless encircled the Acropolis presently. It’s nonetheless standing, although it has been restored a number of instances all through the ages.

Hellenistic and Roman Interval

Whereas little modified on the Acropolis after the Romans conquered Greece in 146 B.C., they did construct a brand new minor temple devoted to Rome and Caesar Augustus. This marble temple, constructed in 27 B.C., was a round Ionic construction situated subsequent to the Parthenon. Solely the foundations of the temple’s pillars stay.

After the Roman Empire had transformed to Christianity within the fourth century A.D., a lot of Greece’s historic temples had been repurposed as Christian church buildings. That included the Parthenon, which was rededicated to the Virgin Mary within the sixth century A.D. Equally, the Erechtheion served as a Christian chapel for a lot of the medieval interval.

The Acropolis Right this moment

Centuries later, folks nonetheless flock to the Acropolis in droves — however not for a similar causes they as soon as did. UNESCO designated the Acropolis as a World Heritage web site in 1987, and it’s been a well-liked vacationer web site ever since.

That stated, right now’s Acropolis seems to be a lot totally different from Pericles’ unique building mission. All through the generations, building on the Acropolis by no means stopped. Every new occupying pressure transformed or added to the traditional constructions that had been already there, repurposing the location for the world’s altering wants. 

Listed here are some examples of these post-Classical adjustments:

  • Franks: Historians imagine the medieval Franks constructed the Frankish Tower, a big watchtower, close to the Propylaea, someday within the 14th century. Nonetheless, as a result of the Greek authorities demolished the Tower in 1874, its historical past is unimaginable to find out with certainty.
  • Ottoman Empire: Whereas the Ottoman Empire managed Greece, the Parthenon was transformed from a church to a mosque and later right into a gunpowder journal. This ultimate repurposing led to the temple’s destruction within the late seventeenth century.
  • Greek independence: After the Nineteenth-century Greek Conflict of Independence, the brand new Greek authorities launched into a large-scale mission to revive the Acropolis to its unique, pre-Roman look. This mission demolished something constructed after the Classical interval.

Whereas these evolutions imply right now’s Acropolis is kind of totally different from its unique look, its historic roots are nonetheless unmistakable. 

Who Destroyed the Acropolis?

It’s powerful to level to any particular group because the one which destroyed the Acropolis because the web site skilled heavy harm from many attackers all through its lengthy historical past. Listed here are just a few of probably the most notable incidents.

The Persian Wars: 499 to 449 B.C.

The Persian Wars: 499 to 449 B.C.

The Persian invasion of 480 B.C. left Athens in utter ruins. Led by Xerxes I, the invading troops ransacked town, together with the unique temples on the Acropolis. 

After the assault, surviving Athenians performed a non secular ceremony the place they buried the desecrated temple stays on the mountain. Curiously, it was this ceremony that allowed future archaeologists to uncover these items centuries later.

The 1687 Siege of the Acropolis

The Ottoman Empire — based mostly in what’s now modern-day Turkey — occupied Greece from the mid-Fifteenth century to 1832. Within the late seventeenth century, the Ottoman Empire was concerned in a territorial warfare with the Republic of Venice. The Venetians first attacked the Propylaea, laying siege to the Acropolis.

Hoping the Venetians wouldn’t assault one other historic monument, the Turks turned the Parthenon right into a gunpowder arsenal. However they misunderstood their enemy. On September 26 of 1687, the Venetian military opened fireplace on the Parthenon, detonating the gunpowder at its heart and decreasing the cella’s partitions to rubble. The blast additionally knocked out a number of of the Parthenon’s columns, completely destroying a good portion of the construction.

The Elimination of the Elgin Marbles

One of the crucial controversial incidents to occur to the Acropolis occurred in 1801, when Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, determined he was going to breed components of the Parthenon for preservation functions.

Elgin, then the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, claimed to have acquired permission from the occupying Turkish authorities to do greater than merely copy the monument — he might take away no matter items he wished. Some trendy historians imagine this declare to be a misinterpretation.

Elgin ended up eradicating a big quantity of items from the temple and introduced them again to England with him. The gathering, nicknamed the Elgin Marbles, contains:

  • Fifteen metopes (ornamental stone slabs) from the Parthenon
  • About half of the Parthenon’s surviving frieze
  • One caryatid and one column from the Erechtheion
  • 4 slabs from the Temple of Athena Nike
  • A number of different items from different websites in Athens

He then bought this assortment to the British Museum in 1832, the place it stays to this present day. To this present day, the Greek authorities is negotiating with the British authorities to return the Marbles to their unique properties.

Suggestions for Visiting the Acropolis

If studying the historical past of this wonderful monument acquired you excited to see it in individual, we’re right here to assist! Listed here are a few of our high ideas for making probably the most out of your journey to the Acropolis:

  • When to go: Beat the crowds — and the new Greek solar — by getting there as early as attainable. Summer time evenings are additionally good instances to go to, because the Acropolis closes at sunset.
  • What to carry: Pack frivolously because you’ll be doing a variety of strolling. Ensure to carry comfy sneakers and loads of water. You might also need to carry some sunscreen and lightweight snacks for later within the day.
  • Tips on how to get there: Taking a taxi from Athens would be the best technique to get to the bottom of the Acropolis, however you too can take the metro. You’ll get off at both the Acropolis station or the Monastiraki station, relying on whether or not you need to use the entrance or aspect entrance.
  • Tips on how to get in: Whereas you should purchase a ticket on the gate, traces are usually lengthy — as much as an hour or longer throughout peak vacationer season. Professional vacationers suggest shopping for a ticket prematurely to skip the traces. If you happen to plan to spend a very long time in Athens, it’s additionally a good suggestion to buy a Metropolis Go to realize admission to many sights along with the Acropolis.
  • Earlier than you go: Earlier than you make the hike up the mountain, you should definitely go to the Acropolis Museum in Athens to study much more about what you’ll see up high. It’ll make the expertise all of the extra particular.

When you’re within the space, take a while to discover town of Athens. Go to among the native artwork and historical past museums, and pattern some genuine Greek delicacies. Athens is a stupendous metropolis with a wealthy historical past that you just simply should expertise for your self.

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