The best advice I can give you related to visiting this institution is to go either early in the morning or late the evening.
Walking around Athens in the summer is like taking a stroll on the surface of the sun. That is not an exaggeration… It may be a slight exaggeration. Nevertheless, by wisely planning the time of your visit, you can avoid toting a change of clothes because you will be less likely to express pints of sweat while standing in line. An early or late visit should allow you to visit amongst a smaller crowd of people.
You’ll thank me when you see the size of the place. Don’t let me scare you away because this is one of the most famous landmarks in history! It is known as the birthplace of democracy and one of the greatest architectural influences of modern civilization. In the 5th century, Pericles oversaw the construction of the buildings and monuments that make up the Acropolis.
Let’s also get something straight that I didn’t know until I began researching for my trip. The Parthenon and the Acropolis are not the same thing. The Acropolis is the hill on which the Parthenon was built.
The Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC and dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos, also known as the Athena the Virgin. A gold and ivory statue of Athena was constructed for the interior of the building. While the building has suffered damage through the centuries the basic structure remains intact. In the 5th century A.D., the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church with certain structural alterations made in the inner portion. Then the Turks seized the Acropolis in 1458 and converted the building into a mosque. No major changes were made to the structure other than the raising of a minaret at the southwest corner.
In 1687, during the attack of the Acropolis by Venetians against the Turks, a powder magazine, that was stored in the temple, exploded. This destroyed the center of the building and damaged every part of the structure.
From 1801 to 1803 large sculptures were removed by the British nobleman, Thomas Bruce, aka Lord Elgin, and sold to the British Museum in 1816. Other pieces of the Parthenon were taken to the Louvre Museum in Paris, Copenhagen in Denmark, and several other places. Many pieces, however, still remain in Athens.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus sits on the southwest slope of the Acropolis and was home to musical contests during ancient times. Herodes Atticus had the theater built between 160 AD – 174 AD as a gift to his wife, Rigilla. At the time it was partially covered with wood and tiled roof and as of today, it can seat 4,680. The original structure was destroyed around 68 AD and became yet another ruin in the great city of Athens. The restoration took place starting in 1898 and continued through 1922. Even a few modern appearances have been made by Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra performing for the masses. If you ask a local for directions to this location, ask for “Herodeon”.
The Erechtheion sits on top of the most sacred site of the Acropolis where Poseidon and Athena had their contest over who would become the Patron of the city. This building is the real religious temple on the Acropolis and sits on the corner of the original temple that was destroyed by the Persians in 480 B.C.
Check out the Caryatids of the Acropolis (also known as the Porch of the Maidens). It sits at the rear of the Erechtheion which was built around 400 B.C. These maidens were assigned the name, Caryatids, after the young women from the village of Karyes in Laconia in the Peloponnese. During a festival that honors the goddess Artemis, young girls from Karyes would perform a dance that was considered extremely difficult to master, and upon successful completion of the dance, they would be given the title of Caryatid. These statues are 7 ft and 7 inches tall and are exact replicas of the five original statues that were removed in 1979 and are now on display in the Acropolis Museum. There is some controversy surrounding the 6th statue that was taken by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s and is now housed in the British Museum. Sounds shady to me…
One of my favorite buildings to visit was the Temple of Athena Nike. Nike is not just a shoe and clothing brand. It actually means “victory” in Greek, and Athena was noted as the goddess of victory. The original structure was constructed with wood in 426 B.C. but destroyed by the Persians. It was replaced in the 6th century and remained intact for over 2,000 years until 1686 when the Ottoman empire demolished it to use the marble as a fortification wall. The wall was later removed, and the temple was reconstructed in 1834. The temple was taken apart again in the 1990s and underwent restoration efforts that lasted over a decade. All 315 marble sections of the temple were impressively reconstructed to the exact formation of their original design.
While walking around the Acropolis you will come across, what seems to be, a random flagpole. This flag is set on the remains of what was the Belvedere Tower. Here is the best vantage point to see over the whole of Athens and the ruins therein. It also represents some important events in Greek history.
The first of which occurred during the start of the occupation of German troops in Athens. A member of the Evzone (Greek Presidential Guard) was ordered by the German Army to remove the Greek flag and replace it with the Nazi banner. The Evzone soldier calmly removed the flag then wrapped himself in it and jumped to his death rather than giving up his country’s symbol of independence.
The second heroic act occurred on May 30, 1941. Two teenagers, Lakis Santas, 19-years-old and 18-year-old Maonlis Glezos, went on a dangerous mission which inspired and sparked the resistance movement. After reading some textbooks on the old ruins they were able to locate an ancient pathway to get into the Acropolis. They tore down the Nazi Swastika leaving an empty flagpole.
This was one of the first and most famous acts of resistance to Nazi rule during this time. Santa went on to fight in the resistance movement during the war and passed away in Athens in 2011 at the age of 89. Glezos worked in the European Parliament and retired in 2015 at the age of 92. He moved back to Naxos, his place of birth, and passed away in 2020 at the age of 97.
My name is Kristal and I am so happy to have you visit my site!
I hope that the travel guides, fun facts, and photography you find here will inspire you to explore new places!