The Acropolis

Greece is a country with many mountains, and cities were often built on rocky outcroppings to be better able to defend themselves.  There are many acropoleis throughout Greece, but the most famous of these is the Acropolis in Athens. It is located high above the center of Athens, roughly 150 metres above sea level. It is not known when the Acropolis began to be used by humans.  There is evidence that humans have occupied the hill since the Neolithic Period.

The Greek Acropolis

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It was during the years 495 BCE to 429 BCE that the Acropolis’s most important buildings were constructed. This was during the reign of Pericles. The rule of Pericles was considered a “golden age” for Athens because of the peace and wealth he brought to the city. The buildings on the Acropolis were built as a monument to the greatness of Athens. 

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Pericles was responsible for the building of the Parthenon. The Parthenon was built on the site of an older temple after the Greek victory at Marathon in 490 BCE.  It was built to honor the goddess Athena, for whom the city is named. Pericles was also responsible for the building of the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the temple of Athena Nike. The construction of these buildings took roughly fifty years.

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The Acropolis was originally seen as a fortress. It was meant to protect Athens from attacks. As the years went on, the people of Athens saw another purpose for the Acropolis. They wanted it to be a beautiful symbol of Athens.

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number1The citizens of Athens believed their city was the best in the world. They believed the Acropolis should be as grand as the city itself. They spared no expense. The best sculptors, artisans, and architects were hired to construct the buildings of the Acropolis.  A respected sculptor, Phidias, created a massive statue of Athena. Her bronze helmet and spear were visible to sailors at sea!

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The Parthenon, along with most of the other buildings, was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BCE. Many of the buildings and monuments were destroyed in this attack. Many of the sacred objects were destroyed. Some of these were buried in special ceremonies in the surrounding caves. New walls were built around the buried remains. The jars, vases, and votives were buried with such care than many have survived and are known as the “Persian Debris.”

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Over the centuries, the Acropolis was attacked and taken over many times. Other religions took over the sacred buildings. Sometimes the ancient temples were used as headquarters for later kings. Many of the buildings and monuments were damaged or destroyed. But I think you’ll agree that buildings that are still standing after a few thousand years are pretty special!

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Here are some things you should know about the Acropolis and the buildings there:

  • Many of the most important buildings on the Acropolis were designed by two the leading architects in Athens, Iktinos and Kallikrates. 
  • The Acropolis is also known as the Cecropia. This is because of the myth that the first Athenian king was a serpent/man known as Cecrops. 
  • The sculptures of the Parthenon are considered to be some of the best in the world. 
  • The Parthenon was once used as a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Athens in 1456. 
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