Acropolis - Athens, Definition & Greece | HISTORY (2024)

What Is the Acropolis?

The term “acropolis” means “high city” in Greek and can refer to one of many natural strongholds constructed on rocky, elevated ground in Greece, but the Acropolis of Athens is the best known.

Made of limestone rock that dates to the Late Cretaceous period when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, the Acropolis is located on the Attica plateau of Greece and includes four hills:

  • Likavitos Hill
  • Hill of the Nymphs
  • The Pynx Hill
  • Philapappos Hill

Rebuilding Acropolis

How Old is theAcropolis?

The Acropolis’ flat top is the result of thousands of years of construction beginning as far back as the Bronze Age.

There’s no recorded history of what happened at the Acropolis before the Mycenaeans cultivated it during the end of the Bronze Age. Historians believe the Mycenaeans built a massive compound surrounded by a great wall (almost 15 feet thick and 20 feet high) on top of the Acropolis to house the local ruler and his household.

Years later, the Athenians built a Doric temple made of limestone, known as Bluebeard Temple, on the northeast side of the hill in honor of the goddess Athena in the sixth century B.C. It was named after a sculpture that adorned the building that depicted a man-serpent with three blue beards.

Another temple dedicated to the Athena was also erected in the same century, as was a shrine to Artemis Brauronia, the goddess of expectant mothers in Greek mythology.

During the Greek Dark Ages (800 B.C. to 480. B.C.), the Acropolis remained largely intact. Many religious festivals were held there, and the artifacts of the time reflected the grandeur of ancient Athens.

History Lists: Ancient Empire Builders

Around 490 B.C., the Athenians started building a majestic marble temple known as the Old Parthenon. By that time, the Bluebeard Temple had been demolished by the Persians.

In 480 B.C., the Persians attacked again and burned, leveled and looted the Old Parthenon and almost every other structure at the Acropolis. To prevent further losses, the Athenians buried the remaining sculptures inside natural caves and built two new fortifications, one of the rock’s north side and one on its south.

Golden Age of the Acropolis

If the Acropolis was impressive during the Mycenaean Civilization, it was nothing short of spectacular during the Golden Age of Athens (460 B.C. to 430 B.C.) under the rule of Pericles when Athens was at its cultural peak.

Determined to bring the Acropolis to a level of splendor not seen before, Pericles initiated a massive building project that lasted 50 years. Under his direction, two well-known architects, Callicrates and Ictinus, and renowned sculptor Phidias helped plan and execute the Pericles’ plan.

Pericles didn’t live long enough to see his entire Acropolis vision come true, but temple builders and architects continued working until they completed the project. The southern and northern walls were rebuilt and some of the most iconic structures in the world were constructed such as:

The Parthenon: An enormous Doric-style temple that remains the star attraction of the Acropolis. It featured ornate sculptures and housed a spectacular statue of the goddess Athena.

The Propylaea: A monumental entryway to the Acropolis that included a central building and two wings, one of which was covered with elaborately painted panels.

The Temple of Athena Nike: A small Ionic-style temple located to the right of the Propylaea built as a shrine to Athena Nike.

The Erechtheion: A sacred Ionic temple made of marble which honored Athena and several other gods and heroes. It’s best known for its porch supported by six Caryatid maiden statues.

The Statue of Athena Promachos: A gigantic (almost 30 feet tall) bronze statue of Athena that stood next to the Propylaea.

The Acropolis saw few changes after Sparta won the Peloponnesian War, although a minor temple honoring Caesar Augustus and Rome was built in 27 B.C.

Who Destroyed The Acropolis?

Many of the original buildings of the Acropolis were either repurposed or destroyed. In the sixth century A.D., after Rome converted to Christianity, many temples at the Acropolis became Christian churches. The Parthenon was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Erechtheion became a chapel.

As Greece endured many unwelcome invaders, including the Venetians and the Turks, the Acropolis and its temples also served as mosques and storehouses for ammunition. The Propylaea was a residence for Episcopalian clergy and later, the ruler of the Ottomans. It also once served as barracks for the Turkish occupying army.

On September 26, 1687, the Venetians bombarded the Acropolis and decimated the Parthenon, which was a powder munitions depot at the time, leaving it at the mercy of looters, vandals and even tourists; many priceless artifacts were lost.

In 1801, hoping to save the Parthenon’s architectural magnificence, the seventh Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce, began removing its sculptures with permission from the occupying Turkish government.

Elgin eventually removed over half of the Parthenon’s sculptures, known as the Elgin Marbles, and sold them to the British Museum where many still reside today. The Greek government strongly disapproves of the artifacts remaining in the hands of the British and feels the sculptures should be returned to Athens.

Preserving the Acropolis

After the Greek War of Independence in 1822, the Acropolis was returned to the Greeks in disrepair. They began investigating the condition of their crown jewel and meticulously excavated the entire site in the late nineteenth century. At the turn of the twentieth century, restorations began.

In 1975, the Committee for the Conservation of the Monuments on the Acropolis was established which includes architects, archaeologists, chemical engineers and civil engineers. The Committee, along with the Acropolis Restoration Service, works to document and conserve the history of the Acropolis and restore its structures as closely to their original state as possible.

They also work to minimize environmental damage caused by pollution and weathering and identify ways to limit future damage. The restorations of the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike are complete.

Visiting the Acropolis

The Acropolis is open to tourists year-round and is located in a busy area of the city of Athens. Tickets are available at the entrance, but be prepared to wait. To miss the crowds and the summer heat, arrive early in the morning or after 5:00 p.m.

Most importantly, bring comfortable shoes and water because exploring the Acropolis requires a lot of walking. Keep in mind that some buildings may be inaccessible due to renovations.


Acropolis of Athens: History. Odysseus.
History of the Acropolis.
The Acropolis. The Stoa: A Consortium for Electronic Publication in the Humanities.
The Acropolis of Athens. Archaeology.
The Erechtheion. Acropolis Museum.
The History of the Elgin Marbles: Past, Present and Future. The Art & Architecture of the British Renaissance.

Acropolis - Athens, Definition & Greece | HISTORY (1)

From Egypt to Greece, explore fascinating documentaries about the ancient world.

Acropolis - Athens, Definition & Greece | HISTORY (2024)


Acropolis - Athens, Definition & Greece | HISTORY? ›

The Acropolis of Athens (Ancient Greek: ἡ Ἀκρόπολις τῶν Ἀθηνῶν, romanized: hē Akropolis tōn Athēnōn; Modern Greek: Ακρόπολη Αθηνών, romanized: Akrópoli Athinón) is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens, Greece, and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural ...

What is the Acropolis of Athens Greece? ›

The Acropolis of Athens is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times. It is situated on a hill of average height (156m) that rises in the basin of Athens. Its overall dimensions are approximately 170 by 350m.

What is the definition of acropolis in ancient Greece? ›

The term “acropolis” means “high city” in Greek and can refer to one of many natural strongholds constructed on rocky, elevated ground in Greece, but the Acropolis of Athens is the best known.

Why is the Acropolis so important to Greece? ›

The Acropolis was the site for Athenians to worship their patron goddess, Athena. It had other uses throughout history, but the main use was to worship Athena.

Who lived in the Acropolis of Athens? ›

The Mycenaean civilization established many important centers, one of which was Athens. The first inhabitants we can trace to the Acropolis of Athens were Mycenaean Kings who fortified the rock with massive eight-meter tall walls, and built their palaces there in the 14th century BCE.

What happened at the Acropolis in ancient Greece? ›

When the Acropolis was ransacked by the Persians in 580 BC, the Athenians vowed never to rebuild on it. But thirty-three years later, the great statesmen Pericles persuaded the popular assembly to rebuild on it as a lasting testament to the glory of democratic Athens and its empire.

What is the meaning of Athens? ›

(ˈæθɪnz ) noun. the capital of Greece, in the southeast near the Saronic Gulf: became capital after independence in 1834; ancient city-state, most powerful in the 5th century bc; contains the hill citadel of the Acropolis.

Who does the Acropolis honor? ›

The Monument

The temple, built in honor of the goddess Athena, is 70 meters long (17 columns), 31 meters wide (8 columns) and 19 meters high. Its style is Doric but also shows elements of Ionic style as shown in the frieze.

What was the Acropolis of ancient Greece most likely to be used for? ›

While still functioning as a religious center, the Acropolis, in a sense, became a kind of "museum" or "theater of memory" linking the "glory days" of Athens with the new powers of the Hellenistic and, later, Roman world. In 267 A.D. Athens was invaded and partially destroyed by the Heruli from northern Europe.

Which Greek god lived in Athens? ›

Athena was regarded as the patron and protectress of various cities across Greece, particularly the city of Athens, from which she most likely received her name. The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens is dedicated to her.

What was Athens famous for? ›

Athens, historic city and capital of Greece. Many of Classical civilization's intellectual and artistic ideas originated there, and the city is generally considered to be the birthplace of Western civilization.

What is the difference between the Acropolis and the Parthenon? ›

Answer and Explanation:

The Acropolis and the Parthenon are two separate entities located in Athens. The Parthenon is an ancient religious temple the Athenians built for the Greek goddess Athena. The Acropolis is the high hill that the Parthenon was built on.

What God was the Acropolis for? ›

The most famous Acropolis is by far that of Athens. During the classical Greek era, it was a sacred space devoted to the cult of the city's patron goddess, Athena, as well as other local heroes and deities.

Are the Acropolis and Parthenon the same thing? ›

The Acropolis is a large fortified hill in the center of Athens, and it houses several ancient structures, including the Parthenon. The Parthenon is located on top of the Acropolis and is one of the most prominent and iconic buildings on the hill.

Is Zeus at the Acropolis? ›

Location: Syntagma

The half-ruined Temple of the Olympian Zeus is dedicated to the king of the Olympian Gods, which explains the monument's name. It stands within walking distance from the Athens center, only 500 meters southeast of the Acropolis and 700 meters south of Syntagma Square.

What is the Acropolis of Athens Assassin's Creed? ›

The Akropolis Sanctuary, also called the Akropolis of Athens, was a massive acropolis and citadel in central Athens, Greece. Notable landmarks atop it built out of Naxian marble include the Parthenon, the Statue of Athena, and the Erechtheion.

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