Saturday, July 21, 2007
Acropolis (c 440 BCE)
Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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The Acropolis of Athens can be considered as the most representative of the Greek acropolises. It is a flat-topped rock which rises 512 feet above sea level in the city of Athens, Greece. There is archaeological evidence of occupation and use in the Mycenaean period when a palace stood there. During that time, it was surrounded by a thick wall (between 4.50 and 6 meters) consisting of two paraments built with large blocks made of stones cemented with an earth mortar called emplekton. The main entrance was facing west. To the north-east there was a secondary entrance, reachable through a stair of about fifteen steps carved in stone. This secondary entrance was located close to the royal palace. To the north-west a small gate and a stair lead to the spring known under the name of Clepsidra.
After the Dark Age the Acropolis ceased to be a residence and became the cult-center of Athens, center of worship for the city. Following the Dorian invasion of the 10th century, a new building named Enneapylon ("nine gates") enclosed the spring. Traces of Mycenaean houses prove that the acropolis was permanently inhabited during that age and continued to be so during the dark periods that preceded the birth of the Athenian polis in the 8th century BC. At that date there existed a small temple dedicated to Athena and mentioned by Homer. The fortified acropolis served as a citadel for Pisistratus. In 510 BC, when he was defeated by a popular revolt supported by the Spartans, the walls were demolished. On the same spot, the old people of Athens refuged during the The Persian Wars around 480 BC. For that purpose, damaged portions of the wall were replaced by a wooden shelter, but this didn't stop the Persian king Xerxes' invading troops from conquering the Acropolis and sacking and burning the major temples.
Most of the major temples were rebuilt under the leadership of Pericles during the Golden Age of Athens (460-430 BC).
Phidias, a great Athenian sculptor, and Ictinus and Callicrates, two famous architects, were responsible for the reconstruction. During the 5th century BC, the acropolis gained its final shape. After winning at Eurimedon in 468 BC, Cimon and Themistocles ordered the reconstruction of southern and northern walls, and Pericles entrusted the building of the Parthenon to Ictinos and Phidias. In 437 BC Mnesicles started building the propylaea, monumental gates with marble columns at Pentelic, partly built upon the old propylaea of Pisistratus. These colonnades were almost finished in the year 432 BC and had two wings, the northern one serving as picture gallery. At the same time, south of the propylaea, the building of the small Ionic temple of Athena Niche was started. After an interruption caused by the Peloponnese war, the temple was finished in the time of Nicias' peace, during 421 BC and 415 BC. At the same period they started the building of Erechtheum, a temple of Athena Polias and of Poseidon Erechtheum, with its so-called Core's porch (or Cariatide's balcony). Between the temple of Athena Niche and the Parthenon there was the temenos of Artemida Brauronia, goddess represented as a bear and adorated in the Bruron dema. The archaic xoanon of the goddess and a statue made by Praxitele in the 4th century BC were both in the sanctuary. Behind the propylaea, Phidias' gigantic bronze statue of Athena Promahos ("that fights in the first line"), built between 450 BC and 448 BC, dominated the ensemble. The base was 1.50 meters high, while the total height of the statue was 9 meters. The goddess had a lance in its hand and a giant shield on the left side, decorated by Mys with images of the fight between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. Other monuments that have left almost nothing visible to the present day are the chalcotec, Pandroseion, Pandion's sanctuary, Athena's altar, Zeus Polieus's sanctuary and, from the roman time, the circular temple of Augustus and Roma.
Cultural Significance of the Acropolis
Every four years the Athenians held a festival called the Panathenaea that rivalled the Olympic Games in popularity. During the festival, a procession moved through Athens up to the Acropolis and into the Parthenon (as depicted in the frieze on the inside of the Parthenon). There, a costly robe (peplos) was ceremoniously placed on Phidias' massive ivory and gold statue of Athena.
Art and Architecture Found on the Acropolis
The entrance to the Acropolis was a monumental gateway called the Propylaea. On the right and in front of the Propylaea is the Temple of Athena Nike. A large bronze statue of Athena, built by Phidias, was originally at the center. To the right of where that statue stood is the Parthenon or Temple of Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin). To the left and at the far end of the Acropolis is the Erectheum. There is also the remains of an outdoor theater called Theater of Dionysos. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on the Acropolis.]
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