Facts About the Acropolis in Athens

Here are some facts about the Acropolis.

  • The Acropolis is an ancient citadel built on a rock in the centre of Athens, Greece. There are other acropoleis in Greece, although the one in Athens is the most well-known.

  • The large flat outcrop is about 150 metres high, and covers an area of about 7 acres. Its most famous building is the Parthenon, which has become a symbol of Greece.
  • The name Acropolis means ‘edge of the city’ in Greek. The area was also once known as Cecropia, after Cecrops, the serpent-man who was the first king of the settlement.
  • The Acropolis became a sacred area when a temple was built there in the 6th century BC. It was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, from which Athens takes its name.
  • Over the centuries, the buildings on the Acropolis have had different uses. They have been used as churches, mosques, for storing money and valuables, and to defend the city of Athens from attack.

Acropolis

  • There are two ancient Greek theatres on the Acropolis. The larger Theater of Dionysus could seat 17,000 people and had a stage floor made from marble slabs.
  • The propylaea was the huge gateway leading to the Acropolis. A 10 metre high marble pedestal is in front of the propylaea, on which originally stood a statue of King Pergamon.
  • During the Morean War of 1684 to 1699, many buildings on the Acropolis were damaged by cannon fire. The Parthenon was being used to store gunpowder, and was badly affected.
  • The buildings have also been damaged by pollution and from crude attempts to repair them. The first major excavations on the Acropolis were carried out in the early 19th century.
  • A major restoration project started in 1975, taking over 20 years to complete. Many fallen stone fragments were collected from the Acropolis and used in the building repairs.

What next? Discover more facts about the Ancient Greeks by visiting our Ancient Greece resources page.

Facts About the Parthenon in Athens

Here are some facts about the Parthenon.

  • The Parthenon is a ruined temple on the Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece. It has become a symbol of the country and is one of the most well-known monuments in the world.

  • It was built between 447 BC and 438 BC, during the height of Classical Greece. It was designed to be a temple to the goddess Athena, the patron of the city.
  • The temple was built to align with the Hyades, a cluster of stars. In Greek mythology, the Hyades were the five daughters of the strong Greek god Atlas.
  • The biggest expense in building the Parthenon was transporting the 13,000 large stones 16 km from Mt. Pentelicus. The mountain is well known for its smooth and flawless marble stone quarried there.

Parthenon

  • The Parthenon contained statues and carvings, many dedicated to Athena. The frieze, or carved wall inside the building shows Greek myths and legends, as well as battles.
  • Some sculptures were removed in 1806 by the Earl of Elgin. Known as the Elgin Marbles, these are in the British Museum, despite ongoing efforts by Greece to get them back.
  • The base of the Parthenon measures 30 by 70 metres. The 46 columns around the perimeter of the temple were designed in the Ionic style and are 10.4 metres high.
  • Although the Parthenon was designed as a Greek temple, it was used as a Christian church in the 6th century. It has also been used as a treasury and as a mosque.
  • In 1656, an explosion destroyed several walls and columns. In 1687 more damage occurred when Ottoman Turks defended themselves in the Parthenon against the attacking Venetians.
  • There is a full scale replica of the Parthenon in Nashville in the United States. The National Monument of Scotland and a memorial in Bavaria, Germany are also closely modeled on the temple.

What next? Learn more about the Ancient Greeks by visiting our resources page.