Acropolis in Greek means "The Sacred Rock, the high city". All around the world the Acropolis of Athens is known as 'The Acropolis'. There are many Acropolises in Greece but the Acropolis of Athens is the best known.
The Acropolis is primarily dedicated to the Goddess Athena. But humans from the prehistoric era have populated the Acropolis and the caves around it. Situated in the middle of Athens, many myths, festivals and important events are connected to the sacred Acropolis. The Acropolis echoes the grandeur and the power of the Athenian empire.
Geographical DescriptionAcropolis rock has been a part of Earth since the Late Cretaceous period. Built of limestone it is based on the Attica plateau and includes the Likavitos hill, the Philopappos hill, the hill of the Nymphs, and the Pnyx. The Acropolis is also known as the Cecropia, after a mythological half serpent-man Cecrops who is considered the first Athenian King. With a height of about 70 meters and 300 meters long, it is 150 meters wide. Many human inhabitants have made constructions here since the Mycenaean era resulting in the flat top table of the Acropolis. As there was spring water and caves in abundance, the place was perfect for human habitation.
History of Acropolis
Neolithic EraHuman occupancy of Acropolis and Attica has been dated back to 6 BC i.e. during the Neolithic Era. Many unique works of arts and architecture prove that inhabitation around Attica started in the Upper Paleolithic period while the caves in Acropolis and Klepsythra springs were occupied from the Neolithic Period.
Mycenaean EraIn the Mycenaean Era, during the 13th century a well-built wall was constructed around the hill of Acropolis where the king resided and he controlled the small settlements around the fortress. These walls that were created by the Mycenaean kings were around eight meters high and constructed their palaces inside these walls. These walls consisted of two barricades. The walls are built in a typical Mycenaean style consisting of a wall, barricade and a tower on right hand side for defense. Today very little remains of these walls and palaces.
The Dark AgesThe Acropolis has seen no major destruction during the Mycenaean Era. The Acropolis successfully resisted the attack by the Dorians, a fact, which is supported by Athenian folklore. Therefore the palaces and walls show no signs of fire or attack. But the Kylons and the Pisistratus had overtaken the Acropolis, suggesting power transfer. It is during this period that the 9-gate wall 'Enneapylon' was built around the water spring 'Clepsydra'.
The 'Sacred Acropolis' EraThe Acropolis became a sacred place in the 6th century BC when a temple dedicated 'Athenia Polias' was built in the northeastern side of the hill. The 'Athenia Polias' temple is made up of limestone and many artifacts and documents were found from this area. The temple is also known as 'Bluebeard temple' after the 3-headed serpent whose beard was blue. In the late 6th century BC another temple was built known as the 'Archaios Naos' or the Old Temple, which was built by the Peisistratos. The Acropolis flourished during the Peisistratos rule when many religious festivals and memorials were recognized. Many artifacts and works of art bear inscription describing the splendor of Athens during the archaic period. The 'Bluebeard temple' was destroyed when the Athenians defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. A much larger and grander building was built which is known to be the "Older Parthenon". The Mycenaean gate was also destroyed and replaced by the 'Old Propylon' monument, which was used for religious purposes. The "Older Parthenon" construction remained unfinished because the Persians once again attacked Attica in 480 BC and destroyed Attica and its monuments. Whatever artifacts were remaining, were buried by the Athenians (to save them) in the small, natural caves and 2 new walls were built around Acropolis. These walls were known as the 'The wall of Themistokles' and 'The wall of Kimon'. Whatever artifacts were buried by the Athenians during the war, and survived, are known today as the 'Persian Debris'.
The Golden Age of AthensWhatever chief and sacred temples were built in and around Acropolis and Attica was during the Golden Age of Athens i.e. from 460 BC to 430 BC. Pericles was responsible for most of these structures. Pericles was an ambitious man. The constructions lasted for about half a century. Phidias, a sculptor and Ictinus and Callicrates, who were architechts, were in charge of these constructions. Workers who were laborers on these constructions were paid 1 drachma a day. Temples and monuments such as the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike were built during this time. The temples on the north of Acropolis housed earlier sects and Olympian Gods and those at the south were dedicated to the Goddess Athena and her forms such as Polias, Parthenos, Pallas, Promachos, Ergane and Nike. No major structures were constructed from 404 BC to the 1st century BC during the Peloponnesian Era. In the 7th century BC a small temple dedicated to Augustus and Rome was built east of the Acropolis. In spite of many Roman invasions of Greece, the Acropolis has retained its charm and has been saved from destruction and looting.
Advent of ChristianityAs time passed, natural degradation and human interference both affected the Acropolis. As Christianity was introduced, the monuments were converted into churches. All the structures were renamed and served as churches and cathedrals. During the medieval period, some of the structures became residences or headquarters for kings such as the Frankish or Turkish rulers. Due to reasons such as wars, invasions and attacks important structures such as the Parthenon, etc were destroyed leading to a tragic loss of history. It was only during the late 20th century that the Acropolis was excavated properly and paid attention to. The excavation and restoration process is ongoing. The artifacts and works of arts can be seen at the Acropolis Museum.