Acropolis of Athens

When you think about Athens, most likely the first image to come to mind is that of the Acropolis. The stunning rock defines the city and is the main attraction when it comes to things to do in Athens. The Acropolis in Athens is the most famous acropolis in Greece, and the entire world, for that matter. No trip to Greece would seem complete without at least a glance at the Acropolis and a visit to the site ranks high on any suggested Athens itinerary. The Acropolis of Athens is so identifiable with the country and continent that it prompted the European Cultural Heritage to list it as the primary monument on its list. Evidence shows that the Acropolis in Athens was of great importance to all recorded groups who inhabited the city, and current archaeological investigations continue to reveal insights into the site’s past.

In the Bronze Age, a wall constructed around the Acropolis by the Mycenaeans served to fortify the hill, and for centuries the wall remained as the primary line of defense for the Acropolis. Part of this wall remains today among the primary monuments built later. By the 8th century BC, the cult of Athena Polias erected their first temple on the Acropolis of Athens and housed a wooden statue of their goddess there. By the 6th century BC, the Panathenaic festival originated, becoming the city’s primary religious festival. During that time, Athens was experiencing a burst in architecture and sculpture, and a Doric temple in honor of Athena was built on the Acropolis. As the 6th century BC ended, another temple would join the Doric temple and the predecessor to the Parthenon would be started in 490 BC after Athenian victory over the Persians at Marathon. But Persian forces weren’t finished, and in 480 BC, they succeeded in capturing the city and setting fire to the Acropolis. Eventually, however the Athenians would regain control over the Persians, but the Acropolis would be left in a state of ruins. Enter Pericles.

Pericles is the heralded statesman of Athens who made his name during the Golden Age of the great city. Pericles would firmly attach himself to Athenian affairs during this period and eventually become general of Athens. In 461 BC, Pericles fully established himself as the leader of the Athenian Empire until his death in 429 BC. Interested in promoting the arts and literature, Pericles would lead the initiative to rebuild the Acropolis in dramatic fashion. Some of the greatest artists, architects and sculptors of the day were hired to lend their skills to the Acropolis of Athens, and workers both Athenian and foreign earned a daily allowance of one drachma for their services. Most of the significant monuments found at the Acropolis today are credited to Pericles and his ambitious project, and they include the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaia and the Erechtheion. Four almost four centuries, further building on the Acropolis had all but ceased, until a small temple was built on the eastern side of the Parthenon to honor Augustus and Rome.

Unfortunately, throughout the following centuries, with the coming and going of various rulers and invaders to Athens, the most famous Greek Acropolis would suffer extensive damages and looting. After the Greek rebellion, Greece would unite as a new state and the Acropolis would fall under Greek control. Some investigations on the Acropolis were performed in 1835 and in 1837, but it wasn’t until 1885 that serious excavations began on the site. Restorations to the Acropolis would first be carried out in the early 1900"s, but any large-scale projects to conserve and restore the hill’s monuments would have to wait. Finally, in 1975 a committee was formed with the specific purpose of renovating and conserving the Acropolis in Athens. The project has been ongoing ever since.

The Acropolis of Athens is a must visit for pretty much any Greece tour, but specifically for those touring Athens. It is located near the pleasant Plaka neighborhood, and is an easy walk heading south from the central Syntagma Square and Parliament Building in Athens. Of course, finding the Acropolis is easy, as it can be seen from many vantage points across the city. Many good Athens hotels are found near the Acropolis, with options to fit most budgets. The Acropolis of Athens is open daily, and although hours vary for season, generally it can be visited from 8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. The cost of admission is around $15, and includes other sites found near the Acropolis, including the Tower of the Winds, the ancient agora, and the Temple of Zeus. Be sure to check out the Acropolis Museum, and you’ll also find the Athens Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre and Aereopagus Hill just below the Acropolis. Things to consider at the Acropolis are the fact that you have to check any bag you are carrying before entering, and during the summer it can get pretty warm on the Acropolis during the peak daytime hours.

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