Greece is the home to a number of acropolises or 'high cities', yet no visit to Greece would be complete without taking in the ancient splendor of the Acropolis of Athens. The Acropolis was first settled around 600 BCE and was inhabited continuously for centuries afterward. It is still the 'must-see' attraction for all of Greece.
The Acropolis is accessible only from the west as it is bordered by cliff faces in the other three directions. Visitors can either walk or arrange transport by lift to arrive at the Propylaea. The Propylaea, built between 437 and 432 BCE, is the monumental gateway to the Acropolis. The building consists of the main structure flanked by two wings. Inside the buildings, Doric and Ionic columns divided the spaces. Lavishly painted walls or panels in the north building gave the entire structure its name.
The three main temples on the Acropolis are all built upon the ruins of previous temples all dedicated to the city's patron goddess Athena. This is reflected by inscriptions found in pottery, vases and statuary from the archaic period that show the early period of the cult.
The Temple of Athena Nike, constructed in approximately 420 BCE, is built in the Ionic style. Inside, the temple features an open-air or amphiprostyle with a row of four columns placed in front of each wall. Three walls feature a different frieze of battle scenes while the east wall depicts a conference of the gods.
The Erechtheion, constructed around the same time as the Temple of Athena Nike, is dedicated to the two main gods of Attica: Athena and Poseidon-Erechtheus. Divided into two main parts, the porch of Caryatids is featured on the south with a propylon to the north and a prostasis on the east. The frieze relief on the outside of the building (the wide central section part of the entablature depicts the birth of Erechtheus, better known as Poseidon.
The most famous building at the Acropolis is the Parthenon. The building itself is designed in the Doric order and constructed almost entirely from Pentelic marble. The building was completed in 438 BCE and the religious decoration was finished in 432 BCE. Like the other temples in the Acropolis, the Parthenon is dedicated to Athena Parthenos.
The Parthenon suffered severe damage during the 1600s when an explosion occurred inside the temple. Until that time, the Parthenon had withstood time in good condition. In the 19th century, it's devastation was complete when Lord Elgin, the English ambassador to Constantinople, stole most of the remaining friezes and other decorations. These items remain on display at the British Museum in England.
Many buildings on the Acropolis later served as Christian churches or homes to the Turks until the Greeks liberated Athens from them. The restoration of Acropolis became the first priority of the Greek state.
The government of Greece, along with financing from the European Union is working to conserve and restore many aspects of the Acropolis and its many sacred buildings, monuments and statuary. With the stated goals of the restoration project, the Acropolis may once again reach the status of 'sacred rock' that it enjoyed for almost two thousand years.