3.1.15

Acropolis of Athens - Site Monuments

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The Parthenon
The Parthenon, dedicated by the Athenians to Athena Parthenos, the patron of their city, is the most magnificent creation of Athenian democracy at the height of its power. It is also the finest monument on the Acropolis in terms of both conception and execution. Built between 447 and 438 BC, as part of the greater Periklean building project, this so-called Periklean Parthenon (Parthenon III) replaced an earlier marble temple (Parthenon II), begun after the victory at the battle of Marathon at approximately 490 BC and destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. This temple had replaced the very first Parthenon (Parthenon I) of c. 570 BC. The Periklean Parthenon was designed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, while the sculptor Pheidias supervised the entire building program and conceived the temple's sculptural decoration and chryselephantine statue of Athena. 

Erechtheion
  The elegant building known as the Erechtheion, on the north side of the sacred rock of the Acropolis, was erected in 421-406 BC as a replacement of an earlier temple dedicated to Athena Polias, the so-called ''Old temple''. The name ''Erechtheion'', mentioned only by Pausanias (1, 26, 5), derives from Erechtheus, the mythical king of Athens, who was worshipped there. Other texts refer to the building simply as ''temple'' or ''old temple''. The building owes its unusual shape to the irregularity of the terrain - there is a three-metre difference in height between the eastern and western parts - and the multiple cults it was designed to accommodate. The eastern part of the building was dedicated to Athena Polias, while the western part served the cult of Poseidon-Erechtheus and held the altars of Hephaistus and Voutos, brother of Erechtheus. This is where, according to the myth, Athena's sacred snake lived. The sanctuary also contained the grave of Kekrops and the traces of the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for the possession of the city of Athens. 

 Propylaea

The Propylaia of the Athenian Acropolis were built on the west side of the hill, where the gate of the Mycenaean fortification once stood. The first propylon, or gate, was constructed in the age of Peisistratos (mid-sixth century BC), after the Acropolis had become a sanctuary dedicated to Athena. A new propylon, built in 510-480 BC, was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC and repaired after the end of the Persian Wars, during the fortification of the Acropolis by Themistokles and Kimon. The monumental Propylaia admired by modern visitors were part of the great Periklean building program. They were erected in 437-432 BC, after the completion of the Parthenon, by architect Mnesikles. The original building plan was particularly daring both in architectural and artistic terms, but was never completed. 

Temple of Athena Nike

The temple of Athena Nike stands at the southeast edge of the sacred rock atop a bastion, which in Mycenaean times protected the entrance to the Acropolis. The Classical temple, designed by architect Kallikrates and built in 426-421 BC, succeeded earlier temples also dedicated to Athena Nike. The first one of these, a mid-sixth century BC wooden temple was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. The eschara, the altar believed to have supported the cult statue of the goddess, dates to this period. Under Kimon, c. 468 BC, a small temple of tufa was erected around the base of the statue and a new altar was built outside the temple. The foundations of these early temples and altars are preserved inside the bastion under the floor of the Classical structure. Pausanias (1, 22, 4) refers to this temple as that of the Apteros Nike, or Wingless Victory, and mentions that the cult statue of the goddess had no wings so that she would never leave Athens. Apart from the cult of Athena Nike other, earlier cults were also practiced on this site. On the west side of the bastion was a Mycenaean double-apsed shrine and on the east side, the pre-Classical shrines of the Graces and of Hekate Epipyrgidia. The construction of the Classical temple of Athena Nike was part of the Periklean building project. Several inscriptions, mostly decrees of the city of Athens, provide information on this particular part of the project.  

 Brauronion

The Brauronion, located just south of the Propylaia inside the sacred enclosure of the Acropolis, was a shrine dedicated to Brauronian Artemis, protector of women about to give birth and who had just given birth. It probably functioned as an adjunct to the great sanctuary of the goddess at Brauron, Attica. It was founded in the mid-sixth century BC, possibly by Peisistratos, who was originally from the Brauron region.
  Temple of Rome and Augustus

The temple of Rome and Augustus was erected in the late first century BC east of the Parthenon or of the Erechtheion. Several architectural elements of the building were found east of the Parthenon and many more were brought here after their discovery elsewhere. Nearby are the irregular tufa foundations (approximately 10.50x13 metres) of a building generally considered to be the Roman temple. Another theory, however, based on the construction technique of these foundations and on depictions of the Acropolis on Roman coins, places the temple east of the Erechtheion. 

 Pedestal of Agrippa


The pedestal of Agrippa stands west of the Propylaia, directly opposite the north wing and the so-called Pinakothiki, and is the same height as the temple of Athena Nike to the south. Originally it was built in honour of Eumenes II of Pergamon in 178 BC to commemorate his victory in the chariot race of the Panathenaic games. Atop the pedestal was a bronze quadriga (four-horse chariot) driven by Eumenes and his brother, Attalos. This chariot was replaced by another in approximately 27 BC, dedicated by the city of Athens to Marcus Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, in gratitude for the odeion that he erected in the Agora. The following inscription is still visible on the west side of the pedestal: ?The city (dedicates this) to Marcus Agrippa, son of Leukios, three times consul and benefactor?. Below this inscription are the traces of an earlier one, which probably referred to Eumenes and was erased. 
 Beule Gate

The Beul? gate, by which the Acropolis is accessed today, stands to the west of the Propylaia. It was built in the mid-third century AD as part of a program to protect the sacred precinct, possibly after the destructive invasion of the Herulians in 267 AD. Together with another gate located under the tower of Athena Nike, it was built into a strong fortification wall erected west of the Propylaia. The gate was named after the French archaeologist who investigated this area in 1852. 

 Acropolis fortification wall
Because of its geomorphology, the Acropolis has been a refuge since prehistoric times. The first, so-called 'Cyclopean' wall, was built along the top of the hill in the Mycenaean period, at approximately 1200 BC. Remains of this wall are still visible to the southeast of the Propylaia, while its course can be traced fairly accurately. A curved enclosure wall, the co-called 'Pelargic' wall mentioned by Thucydides, was also built to the northwest during this period. This wall had several doors, hence its name 'enneapylon' (nine-doored). The main entrance to the fortress was on the west side, next to a bastion, which later supported the temple of Athena Nike. This Mycenaean wall remained in use with minor repairs and changes until 480 BC, when it was severely damaged by the Persians.   

Chalkotheke
East of the Brauronion and along the south wall of the Acropolis was the Chalkotheke, an elongated building whose name and function are known from ancient inscriptions. The building housed mainly the metal votive offerings - weapons, statuettes and hydriae, dedicated on the Acropolis and considered to belong to the goddess Athena. According to an edict of the fourth century BC, all of the objects contained in the Chalkotheke had to be listed on a stone stele to be erected in front of the building. The Chalkotheke was erected in the fifth century BC, but was enlarged and repaired in later years, as architectural elements found in this area show. Interestingly, Pausanias does not mention the building, possibly because it had no artistic or historical merit in his time. 
Old temple of Athena
The earliest temple to Athena Polias on the Acropolis, called 'the Old temple' in ancient literary sources, was located between the Erechtheion and the Parthenon. It was probably built in the third quarter of the sixth century BC, on the site of an earlier, Geometric temple and of the even earlier Mycenaean palace. The Old temple was damaged by the Persians in 480 BC, but was repaired soon after; parts of its entablature were incorporated in the Acropolis fortification wall. The temple was damaged again in 406 BC after the completion of the Erechtheion and was never rebuilt. Traces of the temple's altar to Athena are visible on the bedrock, east of the building. 

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