Acropolis in translation means “fortress, upper city” – this is how the Greeks called the fortresses built on the hills.From the hill, an excellent view of the surroundings opened up, the patrolmen noticed the enemy from afar. In the acropolis, the rulers kept valuables and built temples dedicated to the gods, where they offered prayers and made sacrifices.
History of the Acropolis
The Acropolis of Athens is a 156-meter high rocky hill with a gentle summit, on which a complex of temples, sanctuaries, sculptures and architectural structures has been erected. The Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the temples of Nika Apteros and Propylaea were erected here. The architectural ensemble includes 20 structures. The museum complex of the Acropolis of Athens is a testament to the amazing taste of Greek sculptors, painters, sculptors and architects.
The first buildings on the sacred mountain in Athens appeared long before the construction of temples. In the 15th century BC. here was the residence of the king , the construction of the acropolis did not stop even later. In 480 BC. the Persians destroyed the magnificent temple of Gekampedon, dedicated to the goddess Athena.
New construction of the Acropolis began in 447, during the heyday of the Athenian state under King Pericles. The architectural ensemble of the Acropolis was created by the greatest sculptor of Greece – Phidias, who created two statues of Athena to decorate the Acropolis: Promachos (Warrior) and Parthenos (Virgin).
In the middle of the 2nd century BC. Greece was invaded by the Roman Republic, ancient temples were turned into Christian churches. Later, the Acropolis became a Turkish fortress, and the Turks dismantled the temples to build bastions. The Venetians, holding the Turkish garrison in ambush, blew up the Parthenon, destroying the temple. With the spread of Christianity, Athens lost its influence, philosophical schools were closed, philosophers and rhetoricians were driven out.
Buildings of the Acropolis
An architectural complex of fortified ancient Greek buildings surrounded by a fence rises on a city hill in Athens. The structures of the Acropolis, built in harmony with nature, took 50 years to create. The marble walls of temples and sanctuaries represent the long-awaited victory of the Greeks in the war against the Persians. A paved road led to the top of the Acropolis, laid out along a gentle slope.
The Parthenon is the main temple of the Acropolis , dedicated to the patroness of Attica, the goddess Athena. The temple was built in the 5th century BC. e. the architect Callicrates, and the architect Phidias decorated the building with friezes. The most beautiful structure of the architectural complex is made of white marble, which in the sun takes on a golden yellow hue.
The Parthenon was erected as the new sanctuary of Athena. The building stood on a stylobate (hill), but the grandiose temple does not overwhelm the viewer when looking at it. Straight lines of a building at a distance are perceived by the human eye as slightly concave, so the architect skillfully uses the slope of the columns so that an ideally slender building rises in front of his eyes.
In the contours of the Parthenon – design findings of the architect:
- The steps of the stylobate rise slightly towards the center so that the floor does not appear bent from a distance.
- The corner columns are tilted towards the middle, and the middle two towards the corners to visually appear straight.
- A slight thickening, carved in the middle of the columns, from afar emphasizes the slenderness and airiness of the building.
- The corner columns are thicker in diameter than the others, and are not round in cross-section.
The Parthenon, with its white marble columns and walls topped with sculptural friezes and pediments, looked festive and elegant. The pediments, painted in deep red and blue friezes, surprisingly set off the sculptures of white marble. Outside, the temple was decorated with a frieze of fine work, glorifying the Athenian people on the day of the celebration of the Great Panathenae. Cheerful beautiful people: both elders, and courageous young men, and shy girls, go to worship the goddess Athena, carrying generous gifts.
The main pediment of the temple was decorated with an architectural composition about the birth of the goddess Athena from the head of Zeus. On the western pediment there is a composition about the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for power over Attica.
Inside, the temple is divided into two unequal parts. The main one was dominated by a 12-meter statue of Athena , made of gold and ivory. In the eye sockets of the goddess there are precious stones, on the chest, in the center of the shell, the deadly ivory head of the Gorgon Medusa. Athena’s vestments were covered with gold plates.
To the north of the Parthenon rises the Erechtheion temple, which is not inferior in beauty and grace to the Parthenon. The sanctuary, named after the most ancient king and hero of Athens, Erechtheus, according to legend, was built in the 5th century BC. at the place where the powerful gods Athena and Poseidon argued when they fought for power over Attica.
The disputants decided: one of the gods will be the ruler who will make the desired gift to the inhabitants of the cities.
Poseidon threw his club up the mountain, and sea water splashed from there. In the place where Athena threw the spear, an olive grew. The residents liked the juicy fruits, and Athena, the patroness of Attica, was awarded the victory in the dispute. The temple was dedicated to Athena, Poseidon, and the Athenian king.
Sanctuary of Artemis
The Sanctuary of Artemis is a long corridor lined with majestic columns. Artemis is the goddess who patronizes all women in Athens preparing for the birth of a child.
Temple of Nike in the Acropolis
Nika is the goddess of victory. The simple and graceful temple of Nike was built in honor of the victory in the war with the Persians in 449 BC. The temple stands on a three-step pedestal on a rock ledge above Athens, so the architect Kallikrates fortified the slope of the sanctuary dedicated to the victorious Athena with an 8-meter wall. The temple is decorated with majestic monolithic columns and a frieze depicting the victory of the Athenians over the Persians at Plataea.
From the site of the Sanctuary of Artemis, a view of the city and the Saronic Gulf, washing the coast of Attica, opens. An ancient myth tells that here King Aegeus was waiting for white sails to appear in the distance, announcing the return of Theseus’ son.
The father sent his son to the island of Crete to kill the Minotaur – a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull.
Theseus, returning with a victory, forgot about the promise made to his father, to change the black sails to white. Aegeus, seeing the black sails, decided that his son was dead, threw himself down the cliff and crashed.
On the southeastern slope of the hill is the theater dedicated to the god Dionysus, the oldest theater in the world. Originally built of wood, 325 BC the theater was reconstructed with benches and a stage made of marble.
The stone seats were arranged in 67 rows so that the semicircular auditorium could accommodate 17,000 spectators – half of the Athenian citizens. Marble chairs in the first row are for priests and officials, as indicated by the inscriptions on the chairs. In the center, on a dais, there is a chair for the priest of the god Dionysus.
The actors, choir and spectators were located in the open air, the theatrical action took place in natural light. In the II millennium BC. a portico was added to the theater, where spectators took refuge in the sweltering heat. The tragedies of the Greek playwrights were staged on the stage: Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and every Athenian could take part in the production.
Propylaea of the Acropolis
The Propylaea is the main entrance to the Acropolis, the front gate, built in the form of snow-white columns under the roof. The gate was erected in 437 by the architect Mnesikla. To the Propylaea, the ancient Greeks climbed a huge stone staircase.
The central part of the Propylaea is adjoined by side wings, built of the same marble as the Parthenon. In the north wing there is a portico with a vast rectangular hall, where an art gallery – Pinakothek – with works of the greatest Greek artists was located.
Passing through the gate, the visitor met on the way a 10-meter bronze statue of Athena on a stone pedestal. In sunny weather, the golden spear of the goddess indicated with a wonderful brilliance the way for the captains of the ships to the pier in Athens.
Behind the gates is the Sacred Road, along which the participants of the festival in honor of the divine patroness of Athens marched. The procession, which began in the city, passed through the Propylaea and headed to the Parthenon, and then to the Erechtheion.
About the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum Complex is rightfully ranked among the masterpieces of world art. The monument of ancient architecture is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which is visited annually by 2 million tourists from all over the world.
Recently, another gem of the museum, the Moskhofor exposition, was put on display for tourists . In the center of the composition is a young man bringing a golden calf to the goddess Athena. Around – graceful sophisticated figures of young girls.
The sculpture is made so realistically that the hairstyles and facial features of the girls, the folds on the clothes look as if they are alive. On rectangular friezes – images of the Olympian gods, scenes from ancient Greek mythology, statues of the Caryatids, ancient priestesses.
The Acropolis of Athens is especially beautiful at night, bright and contrasting illumination transforms the ensemble, around which the Greek youth spend their time with pleasure.