The word 'Acropolis' is the name of every city or town built on the top of a hill or on a high ground level. The word derives from the Greek 'acropolis' and is a composition of two other words, 'acro', which means 'edge', and 'polis', which means 'city'. However, when we talk about the Acropolis, we always refer to the Acropolis of Athens, the famous navel where the Ancient Greek spirit was nurtured in order to later illuminate the track of western civilization.
General History of Acropolis
The Acropolis hill - credits: TTstudio/Shutterstock.com
The hill of Acropolis had been inhabited since the 8th century B.C, but the coordinated construction of the buildings that we see today was launched by Pericles in the 5th century B.C, during the so-called Golden Age of Athens. The Acropolis site has been used for a variety of purposes through the centuries depending on the ruler of the time. It went through serious damages during the 17th century A.D., while in the early 19th century many sculptural artifacts were removed by Lord Elgin. Eventually, the Acropolis went under restoration during the emancipation of the Greek state in the 19th century, with the restoration process continuing to this day.
Directions and Important information about visiting Acropolis
Monastiraki Square - credits: igabriela/Shutterstock.com
You can easily access the archaeological site of Acropolis, as it is located in the city center. You can either walk a few minutes from Monastiraki Square or take the metro red line and disembark at the 'Acropolis' station. Please bear in mind that the opening hours are 8.00 am to 20.00 pm daily during the summer months and the ticket costs 20 euros (including the north and south slope of the hill).
If you plan on visiting the archaeological site of the Acropolis, we suggest you take the time to check up-to-date information about opening hours and ticket prices at the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
Tip! A tour around the Acropolis Museum will help you put all the pieces together, quite literally, as many original artifacts from the Acropolis' buildings are part of the exhibition.
Walking around Acropolis
Begin your Acropolis tour first thing early in the morning, so you can avoid the heat and the crowds. Additionally, a good time to visit the temple would be approximately an hour and a half before it closes; the sun setting dresses the Acropolis in an adorning setting under the mystical light of the forthcoming dawn.
Columns of Propylaea gateway in the Acropolis of Athens - credits: Fotokon/Shutterstock.com
Enter the site and walk towards the monumental entrance of the Acropolis, Propylaea. Get ready to be amazed by a Doric-order fronted structure with internal Ionic-order columns. Having served multiple purposes over the centuries, Propylaea were initially designed to provide an impressive entrance to the hill plateau – and it still succeeds in that! Mnesicles, the architect of the building, achieved in embedding the already built temple of Athena Nike as a construction that adjusts to the abnormal terrain of the craggy hill and reflects the fused architectural order of the Parthenon.
Heading towards the entrance, stand on the staircase for a moment to relish the Athena Nike Temple perched on the right wing of Propylaea. Although most depictions of goddess Athena Nike showed her having wings - as most representations of Victory deities in Greek mythology - the Ionic-order shrine was built to honor Athena as 'Nike Apteros', which means 'wingless victory'; that way, Athenians made sure that the wingless goddess would never fly away and abandon their city.
Porch of the Caryatids at Erechtheion temple, Acropolis of Athens - credits: Anastasios71/Shutterstock.com
Continuing your tour in the Acropolis, walk up the staircase that leads up to the main area of the sanctuary through the impressive towering columns of Propylaea. Erechtheion is found on the left, revealing the famous maidens, Caryatids, standing there, exhuming pure elegance and beauty. The temple was most probably named after Erechtheus, a former heroic ruler of Athens, and according to Greek mythology, this is the place where Athena and Poseidon competed for the patronage and protection of the glorious capital of Greece.
On the right-hand side, the absolute architectural masterpiece of antiquity is erected: the Parthenon, the classical symbol of perfection and harmony! Dedicated to the goddess 'Athena Parthenos', which translates to 'Athena the Virgin', one of the goddess’ multiple qualities, Parthenon was constructed in a time span of nine years and was designed by Iktinos and Kallikratis, while Pheidias – the famous sculptor – supervised the general construction.
It is the literal representation of the golden ratio, as everything in the Parthenon is built in the mathematically perfect analogy of about 1.61. What is also interesting, is that Parthenon's structure lines are barely vertical, as its designers took into consideration optical illusions and used curved lines to present a sight perfect to the human eye. You don’t need to be an architecture geek though to marvel at the perfection of the building and be awed by the magnificence of the Parthenon.
Tip! If you visit the archaeological site in the evening, make sure that you complete your Acropolis tour with a nice dinner enjoying the night view of the illuminated Acropolis hill.
Whatever your purpose of visiting Athens is, it would be sacrilege not to spend some of your time admiring a city from thousands of years ago, and witnessing the birthplace of mathematics, philosophy, harmony, and democracy at their very roots.