The Acropolis of Athens

Nancy Klein

in Classics

Published online June 2015 | | DOI:

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The Acropolis (Akropolis) of Athens has played an important role in the history of the city from prehistory to the present day. It is both a physical location, standing on a rocky outcrop above the city, and a locus for the expression of religious and civic identity. Excavations have uncovered evidence of a Mycenaean palace and citadel from the Bronze Age. Habitation and burials continued into the early Iron Age, while evidence for religious activities appears in the 8th century bce. The character of the Acropolis continues to change in the 6th century before becoming the preeminent sanctuary of the city. Herodotus (I, 59) suggests that it was occupied by the ruling family of Athens (Peisistratids), and the remains of a late-6th-century cistern in the northwest corner may indicate the presence of a garrison as well. Several temples were built to honor Athena, patron goddess of the city, and a range of votive offerings, including stone sculpture, bronzes, pottery, and other objects, were dedicated in the sanctuary. In 480/479 bce, the invading Persian army captured and laid waste to Athens, including the sanctuary on the Acropolis. Only decades later, following the defeat of the Persians, did the Athenians begin a systematic rebuilding of the Acropolis. These efforts, initiated by the Athenian statesman and general Pericles, led to the construction of the temple of Athena Parthenos (Parthenon), the Propylaia, the temple of Athena Polias (Erechtheion), and the temple of Athena Nike. For almost a thousand years, the Acropolis functioned as a center of civic and ritual activity dedicated to Athena and other deities. Sometime in the 6th century ce, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Classical buildings were adapted to new purposes, including residences and churches. Under the Ottoman Empire, the Acropolis was transformed into a village and garrison. In the 19th century, the Acropolis became a symbol and centerpiece of the newly independent Greek nation as excavations removed postclassical remains and restored the ancient monuments. Today, archaeological research and conservation efforts continue to make new discoveries and contribute to our understanding of the Acropolis.

Article.  16245 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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