2D/1N Backpacking Athens Without A Tour (Part 6) : Exploring The Acropolis Of Athens – The Propylaia (Propylaea), Temple of Athena Nike, Monument of Agrippa & Statue of Athena Promachos

From the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, my sister and I made our way up towards the hill and found ourselves standing in front of the steps of a magnificent marble stone structure; supposedly the entrance to the Acropolis of Athens complex, Greece.

It was a surreal experience to see the entire structure up-close and personal! To be standing on the ancient and historical grounds of Greek history and civilisation was an honour and privilege too. We felt both blessed and happy. 🙂


Athens city skyline view from the Acropolis
The west gate of the Acropolis of Athens


Monument Of Agrippa

On the west of the Propylaea there is a tall pedestal originally supported a bronze life-size quadriga. The monument was dedicated by the Athenians to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, son-in-law and general of the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus. According to history, Agrippa was a benefactor of the city.

Today, only the pedestal, made of gray Hymmetian marble and Pentelic marble at the base and crow, is preserved, measuring a total height of 8.9 metres. The quadriga, which would have been mounted by Agrippa is not preserved. However, the monument was not originally intended for the Roman general.

The architectural features of the pedestal, the technical details on its upper surface, as well as traces of an earlier defaced inscription indicate that the monument was erected in the first half of the second century B.C. and originally bore the chariot of one of the Pergamene Kings, probably Eumenes II or Attalus II.

The deme dedicated the monument in order to commemorate a victory of the Pergamene Kings in a chariot race in the Panathenaic Games. The Pergamene Kings benefited the city by funding the erection of two important public buildings – the Stoa of Eumenes to the south of the Acropolis and the Stoa of Attalus in the Athenian Agora.


What’s left of the Monument of Agrippa – only the pedestal, made of gray Hymmetian marble and Pentelic marble at the base and crow, is preserved
An informative sign explaining the Monument of Agrippa to visitors


Temple of Athena Nike

Temple of Athena Nike is a small temple in the Acropolis of Athens. The temple stands at the southeast edge of the sacred rock atop a bastion, which during Mycenaean times protected the entrance to the Acropolis. The Classical temple, designed by architect Kallikrates and built in 426-421 BC, succeeded earlier temples also dedicated to Athena Nike.

Outside the temple, to its east, was the altar. A marble parapet was built in 409 BC along the edge of the bastion for safety reasons. It consists of relief slabs, one metre high, with representations of winged Victories leading bulls to be sacrificed or sacrificing them or decorating trophies before the seated Athena. Several slabs and parts of the frieze can be seen in the Acropolis Museum; other parts of the frieze are in the British Museum.

Conservation and restoration of the monument is currently in progress since 1997 by the Service of Restoration of the Monuments of the Acropolis in collaboration with the First Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, under the supervision of the Committee for the Conservation of the Monuments of the Acropolis.


The Temple of Athena Nike, Acropolis of Athens
Erika at the base of the Temple of Athena Nike, Acropolis


Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea

The Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea was built as a monumental entrance to the Acropolis citadel complex. The Propylaia is a building of the Doric order with few Ionic columns supporting the roof of the central wing. It was a complex structure to conceive and assemble, and was clearly designed to make a lasting impression for the approaching visitors. 😀

The main hall divided the building into two wings, one to the east and one to the west. The east section of the Propylaia had an inner wing decorated with paintings of mythological content. The west wing, is on a slightly higher level than its east counterpart, and is built adjacent to the small temple of Athena Nike.

The west wing stood a massive pedestal (of Agrippa) which was constructed by two patrons from the city of Pergamon, Eumenes and Attalos in the Hellenistic era, and was used by Agrippa to support a complex of bronze statues depicting four horses pulling a chariot.


The view of Athens from the marble steps of the Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea, Acropolis of Athens
Eva admiring the breathtaking view from the marble steps of the Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea which is also the grand entrance to the Acropolis of Athens
The grand entrance to the Acropolis of Athens, Greece
Admiring the astonishing marble roof and pillars of the Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea at the Acropolis of Athens. How the Greeks accomplished such a feat is mind-blowing!
A volunteer doing tedious restoration work (by matching the bits and pieces of broken marble like a jigsaw puzzle) on the base of the Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea, Acropolis. My sister and I have huge admiration and respect for people like these
The ruins of Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea at the Acropolis of Athens


The Statue of Athena Promachos

Several metres away from the Propylaia a.k.a Propylaea is the site which once stood the colossal bronze statue of Athena Promachos and other votive offerings. The statue was made by the renowned sculptor Pheidias probably at the bronze foundry situated at the southwest slope of the Acropolis.

The Athenians dedicated the statue to Athena to express their gratitude for her contribution to the victories in the Persian Wars. According to the inscription with the expense accounts, the construction of the statue is dated to 475-450 B.C.

The exact form the statue is not known, but copies and coins of the Roman Period present the goddess standing, in a calm pose, wearing a belted peplos (robe). According to another version, the goddess’ outstretched right hand held a Nike (Victory) or an owl.

The total height with the pedestal is estimated around 900 metres. According to ancient tradition, the point of her spear and the crest of her helmet were visible to sailors at sea off Cape Sounion.

Pheidias’ masterpiece was carried to Constantinople, and was placed at the hippodrome, probably in the 5th century A.D. There, it was destroyed by the crowd during the siege of the city by the Franks in 1204, because it was considered that the outstretched hand of the goddess beckoned the enemy.


An informative sign at the site of the Statue of Athena Promachos, Acropolis of Athens


Up next: Exploring the Temple of Rome & Augustus, Erechtheion, Parthenon and Pandroseion 😀


Leave a Reply