Athens is a place of great cultural interest, as well as a vivid and modern city. The harmonious and perfectly balanced fitting between the old and the new age makes this city unique. Both sides of Athens are extremely appealing to tourists.
There are many interesting museums to visit and various cultural activities to attend , that cater for all tastes. Travelers attracted to Athens by an interest in the history of the ancient world's cultural capital have many choices to make.
Every city in ancient Greece had its own acropolis, the equivalent of the fortress in medieval times. An acropolis was always built on a rock or a hill overlooking the city, not necessarily the highest one but the one with a water supply was chosen. High walls were built around it in order to offer refuge and protection to the citizens in case of invasion or war.
The Acropolis, consisting of the words Akron (edge, summit) and Polis (city), means "the highest point of a city", is certainly the focal point of any visit and every archaeological tour undoubtedly starts with the Parthenon, the temple that symbolizes Greek architecture and represents the very core of Greek civilization. Built in 448-438 B.C. from a design by Phidias, Ictinus and Callicrates, the temple is a classic example of the Doric order, with a colonnade of eight columns at each end. Its structural and decorative elements were based on complex mathematical calculations, successfully expressing in architecture the harmony of proportions already experimented with and codified by Polyclitus in his sculpture. The underlying principles are probably to be found in the philosophical debates of the Pythagoreans and Anaxagoras regarding universal harmony.
The Acropolis of Athens was both a fortress and a sanctuary mainly for the worship of the goddess protecting the city, goddess Athena, after whom the city was named. Light is the word that comes to mind when one looks up at the holy rock of the Acropolis.
So for today's visitors, too, the traditional heaviness of the Doric order is transformed by the austere elegance and harmony of forms and proportions, while the white Pentelic marble enhances the in play of light and shadow on the temple's majestic structures. The decorative features of the Parthenon, completed in 432 B.C. flourished in political , civic and religious significance.
The sculptures were entirely designed and perhaps also executed by Phidias, assisted by some of Attica's finest emerging artistic talents. Works that survived the fury of Christian fundamentalists after the Edict of Theodosius II (of AD 395), Muslim iconoclasm after the Turkish conquest of 1456 and Venetian cannon-fire in 1687 * can be seen still in situ, in the Acropolis Museum nearby, in the British Museum in London and in the Louver in Paris.
* The Venetians under leader Captain Mourozini besieged the Acropolis. The disaster happened on 26 of September in 1687 when a cannon ball hit the Parthenon. Due to the ammunition stored there by the Turks the cannon ball exploded and the Parthenon was destroyed. Many years later the English Ambassador in Constantinople received permission from the Turkish authorities to remove sculptures from the metopes of the temple.
In 437 B.C. the architect Mnesicles began his project for the Propylaea, the monumental new gateway to the sanctuary of the Acropolis, on the site of a much more modest one built under Pisistratus. After five years work, almost certainly by the same craftsmen who had only recently completed the Parthenon, the Propylaea became the point of arrival for the last, winding ramps of the Sacred Way. The elegant small temple of Apteros Nike ( Wingless Victory ), stands on the SW bastion of the Propylaea. The goddess whose wings were cut off so she could never leave the city of Athens.
The last addition to the Acropolis before the end of the 5th century B.C. was the new temple of Athena Polias, known throughout history as the Erechthion, after the Attic name for Poseidon (the old patron of the city). It was built north of the Parthenon, between 421 and 405 B.C, to a plan by Philocles or according to some - Callicrates or Mnesicles. The Ionic portico with six columns on the east gives access to the cella, where the ancient wooden cult icon of Athena Polias was devotedly kept.
On the west side, on different levels, were spaces for the cults of Poseidon Erechtheum, Hephaestus, the hero Butte and the serpent - boy Erichthonius, particularly dear to Athena. The famous porch with the Caryatids marked the legendary tomb of Cecrops.
The six beautiful statues of young
women wearing Ionic costumes are perhaps the work of one of
the best disciples of Phidias, Alcamenes.
Outside the building on the west side grew the sacred olive tree traditionally believed to be the gift of Athena in her dispute with Poseidon. On the north side a high Ionic portico protected the mark left by the trident thrown by Poseidon to make a sea -water spring gush from the rock.
The famous theatre of Dionysus stands on the southern slope of the Acropolis, in the precinct of the god who protected the dramatic contests held during the festival of the Great Dionysia. The visible structures date to 330 B.C. with Roman additions. Around it are remains of a Hellenistic portico used as a promenade and the odium of Pericles (445 B.C.), a large auditorium rebuilt in Roman times. Herodion Theatre by.
The Agora, with the nearby hill of the Areopagus, is Athens' other main area of archaeological interest. Originally an open space crossed by the Panathenaic Way, the Agora was quickly flanked by large numbers of public buildings and adorned with temples and altars, stoas and fountains.
It acquired its final form in the 2nd c. AD. Its most prominent structures today are the modern reconstruction of the Stoa built by Attalos II of Pergamum in the 2nd century B.C. now housing the Agora Museum and the Doric Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion), still miraculously intact. Built in Pentelic marble in the same period as the Parthenon, the temple is still an important landmark in the lower part of Athens. It is about 32m (105 ft) long and 14m (46 ft) wide, with 6 columns at the ends and 13 at the sides. Its plans appears conventional Doric, but its cella resembles the larger one in the Parthenon.
The Agora, which extends over the north-west slopes of Acropolis, was the heart of ancient Athens from the late 6th c. BC onwards. It was a place for political gatherings and debate, for elections, religious occasions and trading activities, theatrical performances and athletic competitions. The word “Agora” drives from the word “ageiro” meaning “I gather”.
In the beginning somebody spoke in an open
space and people gathered around. He came back and they came
back to listen. Another orator took his place and people went
on gathering around the speakers.
Peddlers came with their goods, and gradually shops were built around this open space, and the orator’s stand finds its permanent place. The Agora – market place – is born.