Athens, the capital of Greece is the city of the Olympic Idea, the city of
culture, of science and commerce. A city with ancient monuments like Acropolis,
the inimitable ancient monument and landmark of Greece, museums, lively
tradition districts like Plaka and numerous sights. These are some of the
reasons that make Athens worth visiting.
The Acropolis hill
This unique monument, which represents the ultimate in architectural and
artistic expression of the ancient Athenian spirit, occupies a rock 156m above
sea level, which is itself a natural fortress. During the Classical period
(450-330 BC) the most important temples were erected. It acquired its first
temple in the 8th c. BC. Building started on the Parthenon itself, dedicated to
Athena Parthenos, in the early 5th c BC only to be razed by the Persians in 480.
It was rebuilt during Pericles rule in just ten years. Greek Goddess Athena
entrance to the summit of the holy rock, the Propylaia, designed by Mnesicles,
was under construction form 437 to 432 BC. The Erechtheion, dedicated to Athena
Polias, was completed twelve years later. Pheidias supervised these brilliant
architectural and artistic achievements of the 5th c BC, while the designs were
the work of Iktinos and Kalllikrates. The foundations of the temple of Athena
Nike, dedicated to Athena Apteros Nike, were also laid at this time.
Temples of Acropolis
The Parthenon: It is the most important and characteristic monument of
the ancient Greek civilization and still remains its international symbol. It
was dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of Athens. It was built
between 447 and 432 BC, to plans of Iktinos and Kalikrates while Pheidias and
his pupils had charge of general constructional supervision and of the
decorative carvings. It was the first time that a peripheral temple in the Doric
style was decorated all round with a sculptured frieze 160 meters long,
illustrating the Panathenaean Procession (the most formal religious festival of
ancient Athens). The 92 metopes were also sculptured with reliefs representing a
battle with giants, a battle with amazons, battles with centaurs and scenes from
the Trojan War. The gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena, the work of
Pheidias was set up in the interior. When construction of the temple had been
completed, the pedimental sculptures were added. The two pediments of the temple
are decorated with mythological scenes: the east, above the building's main
entrance, shows the birth of Athena, and the west, the fight between Athena and
Poseidon for the name of the city of Athens.
The Erechthrio: It was build during the Peloponnesian War (420 BC) by
Philocles. The main temple was divided into two sections, dedicated to the
worship of the two principal gods of Attica, Athena and Poseidon Erechteus,
from whom it got its name. Six female statues, the famous Karyatids, with
canisters on their heads as column capitals, support the roof of the temple.
Today five copies stand in their place. The originals are in the Acropolis
Museum (the sixth Caryatid can only be seen in London).
Temple of Apteros Nike: It was constructed in ca. 420 BC, by architect
Kallikrates. The temple is built in Ionic order, and it is amphiprostyle with a
row of four columns in front of each of its narrow sides. The relief frieze on
the upper section of the walls depicts the conference of gods on the east side,
and scenes from battles on the other three. A marble parapet decorated with the
relief representation of Nike (Victories), protected the edge of the Bastion on
which the temple was erected. Athenians placed a statue of Nike without wings to
ensure that she would never fly away from their city. Today the statue can
be seen in the Acropolis Museum.
The Propylaia. The monumental entrance to the Acropolis was designed by the
architect Mnesicles and constructed in 437-432 B.C. It consists of a central
structure with two wings. The colonnades along the west and east sides had a row
of Doric columns while two rows of Ionic columns divided the central corridor
into three parts. The walls of the north wing were decorated with painted panels
or wall paintings and that is why it was called the "Pinakotheque". The
ceiling of the Propylaia had coffers with painted decoration and a perforated
sima around the roof. The Shrine of Zeus Very little is left of this temple
dedicated to Zeus Polios, to whom sacrifices, the Bouphonia, were brought every
summer during the harvest season.
The Acropolis Museum The museum was designed by the architect Panages
Kalkos and constructed between 1865 and 1874. In the 1950's it was extended
towards the east and the exhibition was rearranged by the archaeologist I.
Meliades. The museum contains mainly pedimental sculpture, reliefs and statues
found on the rock of the Acropolis, which formed part of the decoration of its
buildings or were dedicated to the goddess Athena. The collections of the museum
include: · Sculptural offerings of the Archaic period · Pediments of temples
dated to the Archaic period · Archaic Horsemen · Sculptures of the
"Severe" style · Pediments and metopes from the Parthenon · The
Parthenon frieze · The Erechtheion frieze · Parapets of the Athena Nike temple
· Frieze of the Athena Nike temple · The Caryatids · Clay figurines and vases
from the sanctuary of the Nymphs
Theatre of Herod Atticus (The Herodion): Erected in 161BC by the Athenian
orator and benefactor whose name it commemorates. It can seat 5.000 spectators
but most of its marble seats, except for those in the front row, are modern
restorations. It hosts all the events of the Athens Festival, as well as a few
other concerts and performs throughout the summer.
Stoa of Eumenes: Constructed in the 2nd c BC, it took its name from the
king of Pergamon, Eumenes II, who paid for it. Only its foundations remain, but
Athenians used to stroll and discuss in the shade of this 163m long arcade.
Theatre of Dionysos: This theatre, which occupies the site of an earlier
sanctuary of Dionysos Eleuthereos, is considered to be the oldest yet
discovered. Of the original 5th c. BC structure, only the orchestra remains. The
movable stage and seats were of wood. It was here that the great dramas of the
Golden Age had their first performances. The stone seats were added in the 4th
c. BC. Measuring 100m in width, 90m in depth and possessing 78 rows of seats, of
which only two-thirds are extant, the theatre underwent many alterations before
it reached its final form.
Odeon of Pericles: Completed in 443 BC. Its foundations have been only
partly excavated. This roofed building with columns was used as a concert hall.
National Archaeological Museum
The Museum displays finds from all parts of the ancient Greek world, which date
from Neo-lithic times to the last years of the Roman Empire.
The Prehistoric collection (7000 - 1100 BC) Includes prehistoric
collection from Thessaly, mainly clay idols and ceramics. Exhibits from the
Cyclades islands with such statuettes as the marble figure of a naked woman, the
Flute and the Lyre-player and the frescoes from Milos. And last but not least
finds from the Mycenaean period treasures from royal tombs, including the gold
death masks, jewellery, weapons, ceramics and miniatures.
The collection from the Historic period Sculpture ceramics but also a
variety of miniature arts, coins and gold objects make up the main branch of
this period's art.
Ceramics: There is pottery, mostly Attic vases from the Protogeometric
and Geometric period, Orientalising pottery, Corinthian and Attic vases of the
Black Figured style and Attic vases of the Red Figure style.
Sculpture: Daedalic sculptures, bronze statues (male and female figures) of
the Classical and Hellenistic period as well as Roman sculptures, Portraits of
the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods, relief and sarcophagi.
Metalwork and Miniature Arts The Karapanos' collection forms the core of
the exhibits located in the east wing. There are finds from the oracle at Dodona
and three rooms with Roman sculptures and Egyptian works.
Gold Objects The finest and most rare specimens are contained in the
Heleni Sthathatos collection of necklaces, earrings etc.