Acropolis (or Greek: Akropolis) means upper city. This elevated, fortified section was a refuge for civilians in times of trouble. It also is the place for the city or polis' sanctuary and its 'genius loci': the deity that protects the polis.

The Acropolis hill is the most important site of Athens. During the Greek Golden Age under Pericles, ancient Greek civilization was represented in an ideal way on the hill. Over the centuries since the Neolithic period, the rock-strewn hill was constantly used as a cult place or for housing.

In the Classical period (450-330 BC) three temples were erected: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Nike. These were correspondingly dedicated to Athena Parthenos, Athena Polias, and Athena-Apteros Nike. The epic entrance (called Propylaea) to the sacred area was also constructed in this phase of time. Large-scale restoration and supporting of the monuments started in the 1970's and is still in progress.

The Parthenon is the most important and characteristic monument of the ancient Greek civilization and still remains the nation’s international symbol. Dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of Athens, it was put up between 447 and 438 BC (initiated by Pericles). The marble temple is built in the Doric style, with eight columns on each of the narrow sides and seventeen columns on each of the long ones. The central part of the temple (called cella) sheltered the famous chryselephantine cult statue of Athena. The Parthenon retained its religious character in the following centuries and was converted into a Byzantine and a Latin church and a Muslim mosque, before becoming a gunpowder arsenal and a fortress. Over the years, the Venetians and the British were mainly responsible for devastating the monument.

The Erechtheion was constructed around 420 BC in the Ionic technique. The main temple was split into two segments, which were committed to the adoration of the two main gods, Athena and Poseidon. A relief wall painting decorated the outside, probably displaying a depiction of Erechtheus’ birth.

In the same period, the Ionic Temple of Athena Nike was constructed. It also shows relief friezes, illustrating the conference of gods and scenes from battles.

The monumental gateway of the Acropolis called Propylaea was constructed in 437-432 BC and consists of a central building with two side wings. The mixture between Doric and Ionic construction styles also had lots of wall paintings.

A*crop"o*lis (#), n. [Gr. ; extreme + city.]

The upper part, or the citadel, of a Grecian city; especially, the citadel of Athens.


© Webster 1913.

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