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.

What are the Elgin Marbles? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Elgin Marbles.

  • The Elgin Marbles are a collection of classical Greek sculptures. The marble pieces were originally part of the Parthenon, the temple built on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

  • They have been on display in the British Museum in London since the early 19th century. Since then, Greece has campaigned to have the works of art returned to Greece.
  • A Scottish diplomat, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, removed the pieces from Greece during the early 1800s. He claimed he had been given permission to remove items he excavated.
  • At the time, Athens was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which gave its permission for the items to be taken away. Lord Elgin was very interested in ancient Greek art.
  • Parliament decided Elgin had acted legally and he sold the marbles to the British Museum. The sculptures meant that public were more interested in ancient art and they also influenced art of the period.
  • The Elgin Marbles collection includes about 82 metres of the original frieze, or decorative stone work from the Parthenon, and 17 stone figures. It also includes items from other nearby temples.
  • The collection also includes 15 of the original 92 rectangular carved panels. These show battles between a legendary Greek tribe, the Lapiths, and centaurs, who were half men, half horse.
  • Some of the decorative items from the Parthenon remained in Greece and can be seen at the Acropolis Museum. Others can be seen in museums such as the Louvre and the Vatican Museum.
  • In December 2014, one of the Elgin Marbles left the UK for the first time and was loaned to a Russian museum. The British Prime Minister promised it would be returned.
  • About 40 percent of British people think the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece. Organisations and celebrities have campaigned to have them returned, including UNESCO and George Clooney.