The Acropolis

A new grandiose building programme begun on the Acropolis during the Classical times. The south side was filled with the ruins of destroyed temples, broken statues, inscriptions and tons of earth in order to flatten the surface and make it ready to accept the huge foundations of the Parthenon. A new wall was constructed and the entrance was radically redesigned with the new Propylaea. Some years later, the Erechtheion was built and some other auxiliary buildings, many of which would remain unfinished due to the Peloponnesian War. The ruins of the older temple of Athena were still visible as a reminder of the Persian Wars. The eastern part of these was converted to a smaller temple. According to Xenophon, this temple was set on fire in 405 BCE but possibly was repaired and continued to exist, perhaps even until the Roman period.


Γενική άποψη της Ακρόπολης κατά τους κλασικούς χρόνους. Κάτω δεξιά τα Προπύλαια, η στοά της Βραυβρωνίας Αρτέμιδος με σχήμα "Π", η Χαλκοθήκη και ο Παθενώνας. Δίπλα στον Παρθενώνα, τα ερείπια του αρχαίου νεώ και το Ερέχθειο.

Panoramic view of the Acropolis. On the bottom right, the Propylaea. On the top of them, the stoa of Braubronia Artemis in “Π” shape, the Chalkotheke and the Parthenon. On the left are the ruins of the older temple of Athena and next to them, the Erechteum.


The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to Goddess Athena Parthenos (Virgin). The construction begun in 447 BCE after the order of Pericles. The architects were Iktinus and Kallikrates. The chief supervisor of the project and especially of the sculptures and the decoration, was the sculptor and Pericles’ friend, Pheidias. The Parthenon is a unique Doric building that successfully incorporates the Ionic order. It is known that in the west room (opisthodomos) was kept all the wealth of the Delian League. Furthermore, the gold and ivory statue of Athena that stood inside the main temple, was covered with the gold of Athens’ allies. This proves that the Parthenon also functioned as the treasury of the Delian League, containing wealth which Athens had misappropriated from the allies.


The construction of Propylaea was assigned to the architect Mnesicles in 437 BCE. The original design (symmetry between the north and south side) was never completed due to the Peloponnesian War. The central building of the Propylaea is composed by two parts. The eastern one is a little higher. It is notable that besides the clear Doric impression, six Ionic columns exist in the interior. In front of the south wing is the small Ionic temple of Athena Nike (427/6-424/3 BCE). The north wing was occupied by a square building, the Pinakotheke, where according to Pausanias many paintings were on display (including works of the most famous Polygnotos) which today are, unfortunately, lost.


The Erechtheion was the most sacred place in Athens. In there were worshiped the gods Athena, Poseidon, Hephaestus, and the mythical heroes and kings: Kekrops, Boutis and Erechteus. The whole history of the city could be found in this very place. Traces of the quarrel between Athena and Poseidon in order to become protectors of the city were here. Athena offered the olive tree and Poseidon used his trident to crack the rock from where salty water came out. The “marks” of his trident are still visible. Under the north wing of the building is the hole where the sacred snake of Erichthonius lived. The ancient (even for the time) wooden statue of Athena was kept in one of the rooms. According to the myth and to show its age, the Athenians used to say that it fell from the sky.

The spot where Erechtheion was built was not chosen by chance. It was there that, nearly a thousand years before, the Mycenaean palace with all of its sanctuaries stood. The main characteristic of Erechtheion is the south wing with the woman-shaped columns, the Caryatides. In this place was believed to be the tomb of Kekrops. West of the building was a small stoa dedicated to the nymph Pandrosos, daughter of Kekrops, the Pandroseion.


The Arrephorion was a square building in the northwest side of the Acropolis. It was the residence of the two “Arrephorai“, girls of 7-11 years which were chosen each year to sew the peplos of Athena. During the Panathenaia feast, this peplos was used to dress the wooden statue of the goddess. The girls also carried the Sacred Relics during the feast of Arrephoria (άρρητα-φέρειν). It had four sides measuring 12,5m each. The south facade, where the entrance was, was decorated by two -or four- doric columns. In the west, there was a courtyard where the girls used to play which was named  “Σφαιρίστρα των Αρρηφόρων. The small rock-carved staircase in the courtyard which connected the Acropolis with the city beyond, was very important during the Arrephoria. There was performed the “Descending of the Arrephoroi” ritual.


Το Αρρηφόριο με την αυλή του από τα νοτιοδυτικά. Στην αυλή διακρίνεται η μικρή κλίμακα που οδηγούσε στην πόλη.

The Arrephorion from the southwest. In the courtyard is the small staircase leading to the city beneath.


Also some other buildings, sanctuaries and altars were on the Acropolis. The most important were: The stoa of Brauronia Artemis, the Chalkotheke and the sanctuary of Zeus Polieus and Pandion.

   For other monuments of Classical Athens click below: