A bit of the history of the Acropolis


The Acropolis overlooks Athens on a limestone outcropping providing great views of the city and  inspiring views of the temples from below, the Parthenon being the most prominent.   Its defensive properties no doubt appealed to early inhabitants.  Evidence of their interest dates to the 4th millennium BCE.  The Mycenaean Megaron palace was probably built here during the late bronze age.  The temple to Athena Polias came circa 550 BCE, a bit after the Old Temple of Athena.  A structure called the Older Parthenon was started circa 500 BCE but sacked by the Persians, who destroyed and looted the city.  Elements of that structure were used to build the curtain wall still visible today.    Pericles (circa 495–429 BCE) built the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.   


Parthenon at Dusk, pen and ink, 15 x 21 cm/ 6 x 8 “
During the Hellenistic and Roman periods there were significant repairs to the temples.  The Parthenon was used as a church during the Byzantine period.  During the Duchy of Athens, founded by Crusaders, the Acropolis was the administrative center.  The Propylaia,  the monumental entrance to the Acropolis, was part of the Ducal palace.  A large tower was added to the Propylaia but later demolished. 



The Propylaia
It was the Venetians who most seriously damaged the Parthenon.   In 1687 it was largely intact until gunpowder stored in the Parthenon exploded after it was struck by a cannonball.   Columns fell, the roof collapsed.   This accounts for its appearance before the renovations began in the 1990’s.  



The Parthenon
Temple of Erechtheion or Erechtheum
Caryatid at Temple of Erechtheion, pen and ink, at the Museum
In 1801 Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, transported sculptures to England with permission of the Ottomans.  These were later sold to the British Museum where they remain to this day, much to the chagrin of the Greeks, who call it a theft.  After the Greeks became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1830, anything from the Byzantine, Duchy (124-1500) and Ottoman periods were removed.  
The columns of the Parthenon are now being restored and put in place.   Some of the 19th century restorations to the columns are being redone as the columns were incorrectly assembled.  Over 2000 tons of marble elements have been restored to date using new Pentelic, the same marble the ancients used.  It is white so you can distinguish it from the older marble, which has a yellow tint.  This marble comes from the region northeast of Athens. 
For further information visit the Acropolis Museum to watch the excellent videos.  Also click the links below. 



Acropolis in Greek literally means “the highest point of the town”

Great timeline history of Greece  Timeline

Acropolis Museum

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