acropolis history, architecture and what to see

Athens Acropolis History & Architecture

The nation of Greece has a very deep-rooted connection with its history. This has been preserved in the form of several iconic monuments and museums across the country. One such is the Acropolis of Athens, one of the foremost specimens of Grecian culture. Built atop a massive hell, the citadel comprises the ruins of several historic buildings including the Parthenon. The Acropolis is also one of the foremost tourist hubs of South-Eastern Europe. If you’re planning a visit, know more about the Acropolis of Athens.

The Acropolis of Athens at a Glance

acropolis history
  • The earliest artifacts can be dated back to the Middle Neolithic era.
  • It is believed that a Mycenaean megaron palace stood here during the late Bronze age.
  • Located at a height of 150 m above sea level, the citadel is spread over 3 hectares, which is approximately the size of four football fields.
  • The hill on top of which the Acropolis is situated is unstable due to the constant shift of tectonic shifts, causing damage to the age-old structures.
  • There are more than 20 points of attraction at the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, and the Temple of Zeus.

A Detailed Look at The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens is said to have stood for millennia and in this time, it has experienced a fair share of history. The structures within the citadel are quite significant chronicles of ancient stories.

acropolis history

Acropolis History

Settlements at the site of the Acropolis of Athens can be traced back to the 4th Century B.C.E. The records are difficult to trace, but most of the current-surviving ruins were built under the reign of politician Pericles. His prominent contributions were the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike.

The temples of Athena Polias, Poseidon, Cecrops, Herse, Pandrosos, and Aglauros, with its Caryatids' balcony, began around the same period. During the Hellenistic and Roman eras, a lot of the adjoining structures were renovated. The Parthenon was converted into a Church during the Byzantine years. The Latins used the Acropolis of Athens as the main administrative center of Athens. 

After the Ottoman conquest, the Erechtheion was converted into the Governor’s private harem and the Parthenon was used to garrison the Turkish army. Later, the Ottoman, Frankish, and the Byzantine elements of the Acropolis of Athens were cleared in an attempt to restore the original glory of the stronghold.

acropolis architecture

Acropolis Architecture

Until about the 5th Century B.C.E., the Acropolis of Athens was enclosed by a massive wall, 760 m long, and about 10 m high. A temple to the tutelary deity, Athena Polias, it was built out of Doric limestone inside the citadel between 570-550 B.C.E. The older Parthenon or the Pre-Parthenon was built around 500 B.C.E. using Piraeus limestone. The foundation for this grand structure was 11 meters deep at places. 

The construction of the temple of Erechtheion was planned in Pentelic marble. The complex architecture of the structure required the circumventing of the rock’s terrain and other buildings in the area. Phidias' gigantic bronze statue of Athena Promachos was built between 450 and 448 B.C.E. The base of the structure was close to 5 feet while the total structure stood 30 ft tall. 

Centuries later, during the Julio-Claudian period, a small Temple of Rome and Augustus was built just 23 meters away from the Parthenon. This was the final major addition to the Acropolis of Athens site.

What to See at the Acropolis of Athens

To this day, historical tourism in Europe always includes the Acropolis of Athens. Several sites within the fortress are of major tourist interest. Here are some of the most popular sites to visit at the Acropolis of Athens.

parthenon athens

Parthenon

The Parthenon was built as a temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena, the patron of Athens. When the Greek Empire was at the peak of its political stature in 447 B.C.E., the temple’s construction began. It took nine years for the main structure to be completed, but the decoration and improvements continued for another six years. The structure has been repurposed several times throughout its history.

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Erectheion Athens

Erechtheum

The Erechtheum, also known as the Erechtheion, is located on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens. The temple was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. Mnesicles is thought to be the architect of this magnificent structure that was constructed between 421 and 406 B.C.E. Keep an eye out for the six beautiful Caryatids -- female statues placed as supporting structure for the roof.

Temple of Athena Nike

Temple of Athena Nike

This temple, located next to the Propylaea, was dedicated to Greek goddesses Athena and Nike. Since it was built during 420 B.C.E., it currently stands as the first fully Ionic temple built at the Acropolis of Athens. The temple stood until 1686 when it was demolished by the Turks. The temple was reconstructed after the independence of Greece in 1834. The temple was again dismantled in 1998 for renovations.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus acropolis

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

On the southwest slope of the Acropolis lies the majestic Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This Theater was built in 161 C.E. by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife,  Aspasia Annia Regilla. During its 106 years of existence, the theater could accommodate crowds of up to 5000 people. The structure was left in ruins by the Heruli in 267 C.E. Today, it is still used for cultural events in Athens.

Book Acropolis Tickets & Tours

Skip the Line Athens Acropolis & Parthenon Tickets with Mobile Audio Guide
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Skip the Line Acropolis Museum & Athens City Tour