The Acropolis is a limestone bluff standing 300 feet above the surrounding city of Athens. It has supposedly been occupied since 5000 B.C., but really came into its own around 1500 B.C. during Mycenaean times when a cyclopean wall was built around it to fortify the top where there was a palace and a temple to Athena.
In 510 B.C., the Oracle of Delphi declared that only the gods could occupy the top of the Acropolis, which was probably a good thing since not long after that, in 480 B.C., the Persians sacked the city and destroyed much of what was on the Acropolis. The Persians were not long for the city though and soon the Greeks undertook a massive rebuilding campaign, completing the construction of the Parthenon and the other temples of the Acropolis in an amazing ten years.
Of course, those were the old Greeks. The current batch don’t seem to be able to get their act together. The reconstruction you see in this picture was supposed to have been completed for the 2004 Olympics which were held in Athens. They now expect the work to last another 40 years.
Really. I am not making this up.
What has been completed in the reconstruction of the Parthenon, though, is quite spectacular, especially around the back:
And it’s especially impressive when you learn that most of the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess, Athena, was blown to pieces in 1687 by the Venetians when they tried to retake Athens from the Ottoman Turks who, at that time, were occupying the city.
The Turks had stationed troops on top of the Acropolis due to its commanding presence overlooking the surrounding city. They were clever, those Turks: they used the Parthenon to store their gunpowder, figuring that nobody would be crazy enough to risk destroying a cultural treasure like the the Parthenon just to capture a piece of dirt.
Well, they forgot that they were fighting the Italians who, I guess, were a little miffed that they weren’t still in charge here in Athens. Those Venetians were crazy enough to lob a cannon ball up onto the Acropolis and they scored a direct hit, blowing off the roof and tumbling the columns. Too bad they hadn’t just stayed back in Italy, fiddling away like Nero.
If you look directly behind us in the picture above, you’ll see another temple, called the Erechtheion, where both Athena and Poseidon were worshiped.
Around the back of the temple is the Porch of the Caryatids, although the statutes you see here are replicas, the originals being now located in the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum.
We exited the Acropolis by way of the Propylaia, built to complement the Parthenon…
…but our big adventure of the day was awaiting us down the hill.