The Acropolis in Athens, Greece
View of Athens from the Acropolis
The Acropolis is easily viewable from just about any location in Athens and the surrounding area, including the port of Piraeus. Likewise, from atop the Acropolis, one may see nearly all of Athens and out to the Saronic Gulf.
Brief History of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece, has served as a religious ritual center, fortress, harem, church, capitol and tourist-stop supreme over many centuries, and is a constant touchstone used for histories of Western Civilization, where it will often be called 'the zenith of classical civilization achievement'.
How the Acropolis / Parthenon was damaged
While being used as an armory by Turkish soldiers amid battle against the Venetian army during the war between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice in 1687, explosives stored in the building were accidentally set off when an overhead exploding cannon shell ignited the stockpile. The Parthenon roof, which had managed to stay in structurally safe repair since 438 BC, blew to pieces.
Additional damage to the Acropolis
In 1827, Turkish artillery hit the Erechtheion during the Greek War of Independence, wrecking some of the Caryatid statuary. An earthquake in 1894 caused further destruction.
Caryatids at the Acropolis
The Acropolis mount is 156 meters (512 feet) above sea level.
The Acropolis with Lycabettus Hill in background, Athens Greece
Removal of pieces of the Parthenon: The 'Elgin Marbles'
Tourists and archeologists have removed pieces from the Acropolis over the centuries (tourists have often carried off small marble splinters and pebbles scattered over the Acropolis mount, which is now illegal). But the most famous removal from the Acropolis are the Elgin Marbles, sections of the Parthenon shipped to England between 1801 and 1812 by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin.
Elgin took claim to approximately half of the then surviving statuary through an arrangement with the ruling Turkish Ottoman officials. Elgin claimed he was spurred toward this because statuary was being damaged and sometimes burned up in an effort to gain lime by the Ottomans.
Elgin's collection was consequently sold to the British government a few years later at half of what Elgin spent in order to ship the pieces to his home. The effort to have the pieces returned to Greece has so far produced no result. This story is covered thoroughly in the 2009 book "Loot" by Sharon Waxman.
[For comparison, see this 2018 news item Why returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece would be madness - UK Telegraph and this June 2018 news item Greece wants Parthenon Marbles back, Tsipras tells May - Reuters]
Costs for building the Parthenon
"The Parthenon, the Propylaea , the temple miscalled the Theseion overlooking the Agora, friezed with sculptures in Parian marble (still in situ) - - how did Periclean Athens afford such buildings? We read that the solid gold of the gown of Athena Parthenos made the cost of this statue 1,000 talents. A talent was equivalent to roughly $6,000, so this Phidias statue alone cost $6,000,000 [in 2012 the cost equivalent would be $1.4 trillion]; and then the Parthenon building 700 talents ($4,200,000). Altogether, Athens spent some $57,600,000 on edifices, sculpture and war-painting during the Periclean years."
From page 18, Greece: The Unclouded Eye, by Colin Simpson (Greece: The Unclouded Eye [Amazon]), Published by Wm. Morrow & Co., 1968. Simpson's costs are based on the 1939 book The Life of Greece, Simon and Schuster.
Visiting the Acropolis
"After seeing the monuments and visiting the museum, one should pause to take in the view of the city below. The Acropolis is high enough so that one can clearly see all that remains of ancient Athens and yet it is low enough so that one can feel the pulse of the modern city. On a field below the northwestern edge of the 'Sacred Rock' lies the agora, the center of ancient Athens, where Socrates strolled and Saint Paul preached to crowds assembled in the marketplace.
Besides the many ruins, the agora is the site of the Stoa of Attalus, which was completely rebuilt by American archaeologists in the Pentelic marble of the original. It now serves as a museum of the agora. To the west , on higher ground, is the Temple of Hephaestus, better known as the Theseion because it was long mistaken for a temple dedicated to the legendary king of Athens. The Theseion is the best-preserved Doric temple in Greece, and is a half brother to the Parthenon because of its beauty and harmony."
Page 150, Hellas: A Portrait of Greece, by Nicholas Gage, published by Villard Books, 1971, 1986 (Hellas: A Portrait of Greece by Nicholas Gage [Amazon])
Important Dates in the history of the Acropolis
Approximate first indication of inhabitation of the Acropolis
The Mycenaean Period
The Dorian Invasion
The Dark Ages
Origination of the Olympic Games
Homer's Iliad and Odyssey
Kylon history of Athens (he died 632)
The kouros statuary appear
Black figure vases appear
The law code of Drakon
Solon and the Athenian Constitution
The Panathenaic festivals reorganized
Tyranny of Peisistratid in Athens
Drama begins to evolve from strictly choral presentation
Red-figure pottery begins in Athens
Assassination of Hipparkhos (by Tyrannicides, Harmodius and Aristogeiton)
Cleisthenes Reforms the constitution
The "classic" period
Ionian cities revolt against Persia
Persian invasion of Greece
Reforms of the power of the arkhons
Second invasion of Greece by Persia
Formation of the Delian League led by Athens
Propylaia gateway constructed
Erechtheion costructed on North side of Acropolis
The rule of "The Thirty Tyrants" a pro-Spartan oligarchy
The Lamian War and end of democracy in Athens
Roman General Sulla sacks Athens (and Piraeus)
Apostle Paul in Athens
Roman Emperor Hadrian invests heavily in Athens (Hadrian ruled Rome 117 to 138) and sponsors the rebuilding of the Parthenon
The Herulians, an East German tribal group also called Heruli and classified as 'Gothic', sack Athens. Excavations since 1931 have shown that the size of the assault and the damage was much greater than originally believed in older historical records, and indicates the size of the city was also larger than what was thought previously for that era.
Theodosius II, also called Theodosius the Younger, ruled the Eastern Roman Byzantine empire from 408 to 450 and married a Greek woman named Aelia Eudocia, aka Athenais, daughter of Greek scholar Leontios. She later sponsored the building of what is perhaps the very first Christian church in Athens, near the Hadrian Library. Theodosius, influenced by his older sister Pulcheria, converted to Christianity and subsequently outlawed pagan-faiths throughout Greece in 435. Pulcheria governed as regent prior to him, and ruled briefly after his death.
Snow on the Acropolis
Page updated July 2018