What’s a trip to the Acropolis of Athens without seeing the famous Parthenon? Besides the Parthenon, other notable sites in the Acropolis include the statue of Athena Promachos, the Erechtheion, the Temple of Rome and Augustus and the Pandroseion.
The site of the Erechtheion was considered the most sacred of the Acropolis complex. The Erechtheion is a complex marble building in the Ionic order. The eastern part of the temple was dedicated to Athena, whilst the western part was dedicated to local hero Boutes, Hephaistos and other gods and heroes.
The building had two porches. The roof of the north porch is supported on six Ionic columns, while below its floor the Athenians pointed at the mark of the thunderbolt sent by Zeus to kill the legendary King Erechteus.
At the south porch, the roof is supported by six statues of maidens known as the Caryatids a.k.a Korai. Below it stood the grave of Kekrops, another legendary King of Athens. The second Caryatids a.k.a Korai from the western section was removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 and is being displayed in the British Museum.
The main building and the north porch were surrounded by a continuous Ionic frieze decorated with images of gods, heroes and mortals, in scenes related to the ancient cults of the Erechtheion. The figures were separately carved in Parian marble and affixed on slabs of grey Eleusinian limestone.
The magnificent temple that sits high up on the Acropolis of Athens is known as the Parthenon. It was dedicated to the city’s patron deity, Athena the goddess of war. The temple was built between 447 and 432 BCE in the Age of Pericles.
The name Parthenon derives from one of Athena’s many epithets: Athena Parthenos, meaning Virgin. Parthenon means ‘house of Parthenos’ which was the name given in the 5th century B.C. to the chamber inside the temple which housed the cult statue of Athena. From the 4th century B.C. the temple acquired the name Parthenon.
The temple was designed by the architects Iktinos and Kallikratis with supervision under the famous sculptor, Pheidias. Pentelic marble from the nearby Mt. Pentelicus was used for the construction of the building.
For your info, Pentelic marble is known for its pure white appearance and fine grain. It also contains traces of iron which over time oxidises and gives the marble a beautiful soft honey hue. This attribute gives the Parthenon its spectacular appearance during sunrise and sunset.
The Pandroseion lies between the Erechtheion and the Old Temple of Athena Polias. This small temple was named after Pandrosos, the daughter of the first king of Athens. The temple contained the altar of Zeus Herkeios (protector of the hearth) and a shrine to Pandrosos.
Scholars believe that the sacred snakes of the Acropolis were kept here. Also, according to legend, Athena presented the sacred olive tree to the city here after her victory over Poseidon in the contest for the land of Attica.
The fifth-century BC Greek historian Herodotus tells us that on the day after the destruction of the Acropolis by the Persians in 480 BC, a fresh shoot had sprung from the trunk of the burned tree. This tree became a symbol of Athens’ survival. As a tribute to this ancient event, an olive tree was planted at the site.
The Temple of Rome & Augustus
The east side of the Parthenon lay the foundations of a small building attributed by the first excavators of the Acropolis to the Temple of Rome and the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus.
The architectural members indicate that The Temple of Rome and Augustus was of the Ionic order, circular and monopteral – namely that it featured a single circular colonnade made of nine columns (pteron) without a walled room inside (cella).
The Temple of Rome and Augustus is the sole Roman temple on the Acropolis and the only Athenian temple dedicated to the cult of the Emperor. The Athenians deme (people) constructed it in order to propitiate Octavian August and reverse the negative climate that characterised the relations of the two parties, as, during the Roman civil wars, the city of Athens had supported its opponent, Marcus Antonius.
Up next: Exploring the other historical sites in Athens 🙂