1. Ergasterion; 2. sanctuary for Zeus Polieus; 3. temple for Roma and Augustus; 4. Parthenon; 5. Altar of Athena; 6. Erechtheion; 7. Pandroseion; 8. House of the Arrephors; 9. Athena Promachos; 10. Chalkotheek; 11. Artemis Brauronia; 12. Propylaien; 13. Temple to Athena Nike; 14. Monument to Agrippa; 15. Boulé gate; 16. Panathenaiënweg; 17. Klepshydra; 18. Apollo Hup ‘Akraiais; 19. Pan Cave; 20. Mycenaean staircase; 21. Sanctuary of Eros and Aphrodite; 22. Peripatos inscription; 23. Odeion of Pericles; 24. Temple of Dionysos; 25. Theater of Dionysos; 26. Thrasyllos monument; 27. Nikias monument; 28. Stoa of Eumenes; 29. Asklepieion; 30. Ionic Stoa; 31. Odeion of Herodes Atticus; 32. Sanctuary of the Nymphs.


The propylaea and the pinacotheque. The propylaea, the monumental gatehouse to the Acropolis, was only built after the Parthenon had largely been completed, when the Peloponnesian wars had led to a financial crisis. That same financial crisis caused the whole to not be finished in the end.


Two wings of different sizes flanked the temple-like facade, with the pinactheque on the north side, a room with paintings where possible ceremonial meals were held. On the south side there was only space for a frontroom directed to the (later built) temple of Athena Nikè.


Below: the Pinacotheque as a banquet hall and a section through the Propylaea (both drawings from “City in Antiquity” by P. Connoly).


The temple of Athena Nikè, with the pedestal of the Agrippa monument in the foreground. This monument, built from marble from the Hymettos Mountains, was built in the middle of the 2nd century BC. erected as a pedestal for a chariot statue for a king of Pergamon. In 27-12 BC. Augustus had the statue removed and replaced by a statue of his son-in-law Marcus Agrippa. If the light is in a good position, Agrippa’s name can still be seen on the pedestal.

Construction history and appearance


The temple to Athena Nikè was probably designed and built by the architect Kallikrates in 437 BC. It is situated on the remains of an older temple, built by Kimon (468 BC), under which are again the foundations of a wooden temple from the time of the Peisistratids (561-510 BC). Greek vases, such as on the left, give an impression of such a wooden temple.



In 1668, the Turks demolished the temple to build a bastion from the building materials at the entrance to the acropolis, when the Venetians under Morosini were about to attack Athens. After the expulsion of the Turks in 1836, the French first attempted to reconstruct the temple. A hundred years later in 1936-1940, N. Balanos and A. Orlandos again largely dismantled the temple to repair the shortcomings from the first reconstruction. Due to the large amount of cement used by Orlandos, a new reconstruction was necessary in 2000. This is now completed.


Both pieces shown here (each about 1.70 m. Tall, now in the British Museum) clearly show that the battle was between Persians and Greeks. The shape of the shield of the man at the top left is clearly Persian, while the rider above also wears trousers and can therefore be recognized as Persian. The battle of Plataia was the main battle in which the Persians deploy their cavalry. Below the moment is shown that Masistios is killed. Still in 160 AD. were shown to Pausanias the gilded breast armor of Masistios and his “akinakes”, a Persian scimitar. Both were kept as trophies in the Erechtheion. Interpretation of D. Giraud in: Dialogues on the Acropolis ”

It is a very small temple with 4 ionic columns at the front and back. The cella is extremely small because there was little space on the bastion where the temple was built. Inside was the ancient statue of Athena Nikè, made of wood.  From the akroteria (sculpture on top of the roof),nothing has remained and almost nothing of the sculptures in the pediments. However, the Ionic friezes of the temple are somewhat preserved, so that we can imagine something. On the east side of the temple there was a meeting of the gods (left). The two long sides, show Athenian propaganda. They depict a critical moment from the battle of Plataia, in which Spartans, Athenians and the Allies fought together against the Persian army of King Xerxes. It were the Athenians who succeeded in killing Masistios, the leader of the Persian cavalry (and sub-commander under Mardonios). This neutralized the Persian cavalry, which far outweighed that of the Greeks. On both friezes the battle can be recognized between the Athenians and the Persian cavalry. Masistios’ death is depicted very realistically.


The Erechtheion:

There have been two Erechtheions in history. There was an old archaic Erechtheion built of tuff. This shrine was built in 480 BC. destroyed by the Persians. The Erechtheion as we know it today was made by Philokles between 421 and 406 BC. This seems to be a long construction time, but between 415 and 409 BC. there was a delay because of the Peloponnesian War. The Erechteion is named after King Erechtheus, who is said to be buried here.

The Erechtheion has a complicated layout and shape. This is probably due to the fact that several gods were worshiped and that there is a height difference between the parts of the temple. The Erechteion therefore consists of two floors. The higher part of the Erechteion is 3 meters higher than the lower part. The most famous is the Erechtheion for its “hall of women” with the Karyatids, columns in the shape of women.

In the work of the Roman writer Vitruvius we read where the name comes from. In the war between the Spartans and the Persians, the inhabitants of Karyai, a Spartan city-state, took sides with the Persians. When the Spartans won, the residents were punished. The capitals of the Karyatids are decorated with eggshaped edges. This hall was probably used as a canopy above the tomb of King Kekrops. The lower part has six Ionic columns, inside is the temple to Athene Polias, the ultimate destination for the Panathenaic procession, where the ancient statue of the goddess was offered a new peplos.



In 450 BC. Pericles suggested to the House of Representatives to rebuild the temples and monuments on the Acropolis that had been destroyed by the Persians 30 years earlier. Pericles wanted to make Athens the cultural capital of the entire Greek world. His first interest was to create a beautiful temple for the patron goddess of the city: Athena Parthenos. As soon as the parliament allowed the project, Pericles appointed the architects Iktinos and Kallikrates to prepare the building plans for the temple. Pericles’ friend Pheidias was put in charge of the overall project and he also had to make the statue of Athena, which was placed in the temple. It started in 447/446. After 10 years, the construction of the temple was finished and in 433/432 the decorations were also finished. Most Athenian citizens probably worked on the project, either voluntarily or for money. The Parthenon was created by a unique combination of factors: a thriving democracy, an “enthusiastic” people, a p

The statue of Athena that stood in the Parthenon was built in 432 BC. made by Pheidias. It was a colossal statue, the size is not known exactly because the statue was lost. It represents the goddess Athena Parthenos standing and armed. The statue was made of ivory and gold. The helmet was decorated with a sphinx on the top and embossed griffins on the sides. On the palm of her outstretched hand she held a statue of Nike and in her other hand she held a spear. On this side was also a shield against her leg, in which a snake wriggled; this probably represented Erichthonios. The pedestal depicted the birth of Pandora, some say the first woman. The head of Medusa was depicted on the chest in ivory. The statue shown here is one of the best copies from ancient times (now in the National Archaeological Museum), and together with the description by Pausanias and some other images, it is the primary source of the original. A very fine reconstruction of the Athena statue can be found in Nashville, America, where inside a full-size replica of the Parthenon the statue can be found. Another replica is located the Holy Land foundation (now: Museumpark Orientalis, Nijmeghen, The Netherlands). Other copies have been used for the decoration of the shield (also from Pausanias).

The western pediment depicts the battle between Poseidon and Athens for the possession of Attica. The left side depicts the Athens party, with Athens (L) itself, Hermes (H) and Nike (G) from right to left. Behind Nike is the legendary king of Attica, Kekrops (B), with to his right his three daughters (C, D and F) and his son (E). On the right is Poseidon’s faction. Next to Poseidon (M) are left to right Iris (N) his charioteer and Amphitrite (O), his messenger. In the middle is an olive tree as a sign of Athens. However, some also say that in the center is a lightning bolt from Zeus, because Poseidon was threatened with a flood.

The sculptures of the eastern pediment depict the birth of the goddess Athena. The main characters on this pediment are next to Athens: Zeus (center), Athena (left next to Zeus) is born from the head of Zeus, and Hefaistos (H), who opens the head of Zeus with an axe. The remaining figures are other gods such as Dionysos (D), Artemis (G) and Aphrodite.

Dionysos, among others, god of Wine and Drunkenness (D), and therefore professionally too drunk to witness the miracle of the birth of Athena. Instead, he is watching the horses rise from the sunrise below the horizon: a beautiful sunrise!

The (heavily damaged) goddesses K, L, M with reconstructed painting, based on paint remnants of 5th century sculptures. Image from “City in Antiquity”, P. Conolly and H. Dodge, Cologne 1998. The entire pediment was originally painted, as were the metopes and the (continuous) frieze.

Starting at the back of the temple, where riders are getting ready to go, first walk (from back to front) riders, then chariots, elders, musicians, sacrificers, the sacrificial animals, and finally at the front of the temple offering the dress itself, with some girls, then magistrates and the eponymous heroes of the 10 tribes of Athens, the gods of Olympus and all the way in the middle, the offering of  the dress. In this procession, which should symbolize the respectful attitude of the Athenians towards the gods, almost all layers of the population followed, although the elite (of course) play an extra large role: all riders and chariot drivers were among the rich upper layer of society.

The Panathenaic procession and the large frieze: Around the cella is also a continuous Ionic frieze, which was no less than 160 m long and 1 m high, an invention that Iktinos would later apply to the famous temple in Bassai. Because of this finding, the Parthenon has become a combination between a traditional Doric temple with its triglyphs and metopes, and an Ionian temple, where a continuous frieze was common. The Panathenaic procession, the annual procession in honor of the goddess Athena, which began in Eleusis, was depicted in low relief and ended at the acropolis itself. This very famous frieze is unfortunately part of the loot that the English Lord Elgin was able to steal from the Acropolis, and is therefore largely on display in the British Museum, and not in Athens itself. Below: a scene on Olympus, where the gods are waiting, while the new dress for the old wooden Athena statue is taken in the procession.

The metopes: The temple is apparently a good example of the Doric building order with Doric columns all around and a regular alternation of triglyphs and metopes, the so-called Doric frieze. The 92 metopes were each on average 1.2 m high and 1.25 m wide. In these metopes we see, among others, the battle between the Lapiths (a north Greek tribe) and the Kentaurs with the mythical Athenian king Theseus in the lead role, on the front of the Parthenon we see the mythological battle between the gods and the titans on the west the battle between the Greeks and Amazons, on the north the battle in the Trojan War. The whole scheme depicts the struggle between the Greeks, order, virtue against the barbarians, disorder, unreliability, symbol for the Persians. Usually two figures are depicted, sometimes more. These scenes were depicted in high relief, the images seem to separate from the background.


The next cave is that of Zeus Keraunios (center photo), with traces of an altar right in front of it. The cave is dedicated to Zeus in his capacity of God of Lightning, because lightning had struck on the spot.


The third important cave (pictured right) was dedicated to the god Pan, and is dedicated to him for the help Pan had given the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon against the Persians.

Grot Zeus
Grot Pan

Grot Apollo

The “Peripatos” in Athens is a walking path around the Acropolis, which already existed in ancient times as a “sightseeing tour”, as shown by the so-called “Peripatos inscription” on the left. The inscription is still in situ and is partly legible. There are many special places and smaller shrines along this walking path, many of which are mentioned by Pausanias. Some of the most interesting things are shown here.


Several caves east of the Klepsydra at the foot of the Acropolis were also used to worship certain gods. A first sacred cave was known as Apollo Hyp ’Akrais, or“ Apollo-under the Summits ”(photo right). According to Pausanias, Apollo would have slept here with Kreousa, the daughter of King Erechtheus. Erechtheus himself of course lived on top of the Acropolis, at that time still a castle to protect the palace and its treasures. After Kreousa had her child, she was abandoned, after which Apollo had Hermes rescue the child, which was in danger of being eaten by wild animals, and taken to Delphi. There the child grew up, now called Ion, to spend his life in the service of Apollo. Kreousa, meanwhile, married a certain Xouthos or Xanthos, but could not forget her divine lover. She asked the gods for advice and was instructed to go to Delphi with her husband and adopt the first best child. That, of course, became Ion, who was thus reunited with her son.

Special is the discovery of an old Mycenaean well, which at the time was only accessible from the Acropolis. Preserved are some more holes in the rock wall that served to fix a wooden structure for a long staircase down to the well. Unfortunately, most tourists are not allowed to view this crevice in the cliff face, mainly because the attendants seem to be unaware of its importance. This staircase was almost certainly used in the classical period for the rite of the “Arrephoria”, the journey of the “Secret Bearers” from the Acropolis in the middle of the night. At this festival (described by Pausanias), young girls who had spent a year on the Acropolis descended in the middle of the night with a basket of mystical objects unknown to everyone on their heads. This ritual may be related to the goddess Athena, who also gave the daughters of Kekrops a basket with a secret. Of the three daughters, only one managed to curb her curiosity. The other two girls secretly looked into the basket and saw the baby Erechtheus, half man, half snake. Having gone mad, they rushed down from the Acropolis to their deaths, and Aristophanes also refers to this staircase.


The so-called Klepsydra spring (for which see Pausanias 1.28.4) at the place where the Peripatos connects to the road of the Panathenaians, was already in use in the Mycenaean period. According to an inscription from the 5th century BC. Nymphs were revered in this “cave”, while Kimon later built a well house with a cistern. In the late classical period, after the destruction of Athens by the Herulians, the well was closed to the outside, which was then only accessible by stairs from the Acropolis. In the Byzantine period, it was completely converted into a chapel, dedicated to the Apostles.





Aphrodite in the Gardens


Noteworthy is the small open-air sanctuary for Aphrodite and Eros excavated in 1932. In the rock wall we see numerous smaller niches, similar to the shrine at Dafni, in which in ancient times figurines or other gifts such as e.g. vases were placed. Characteristic are especially the marble plates with images of male or female genitalia. This sanctuary may be related to the “Arrephoria” mentioned by Pausanias, where young girls descended from the Acropolis down a secret underground passage with a basket of mystical objects.

Cave of Aglauros

The next cave, dedicated to Aglauros, one of the daughters of Kekrops (see above), has led to a small revolution in the archeology of Athens. The discovery of an inscription for a priest of Aglauros at a cave on the east side of the Acropolis has ended all speculation about the exact location of this sanctuary. Aglauros Cave was on the east side of the Acropolis. Since Pausanias mentions that he could see the cave of Aglauros from the sacred space of the Theseus sanctuary, this sanctuary must also have been on the east side. All this means that there must be an “Ancient Agora” at Pausanias, east of the Acropolis, where both the Theseus sanctuary lay, as well as the famous prytaneion, where all kinds of images were kept and the original laws of Solon.

Sanctuary of Asklepios

Finally, the Asklepios sanctuary west of the Dionysos Theater is of interest, given the modern restoration work, which has allowed some impression of the ancient sanctuary. The worship of Asklepios in Athens was not introduced until the Peloponnesian Wars, 10 years after the plague (420 BC). In the sanctuary the foundations of the temple are visible (10.4 x 6 m.) And a large altar (6 x 3.5 m.). To the north was a large columned hall (50 x 10 m.) In two floors, which served as a sleeping place for the sick, with on the west side a square room with a pit for the remains of the various offerings (accessible by stairs). To the south of the temple, a second column hall was built in the Roman period, while a second column hall was built west of the large column hall with 4 rooms of 6 x 6 m., Possibly as a second infirmary, or as a guesthouse. A sacred well behind the great stoa, and a monumental entrance gate completed the complex. At the moment only a small part of the large colonnade has been restored (indicated in orange on the photo below), although work is continuing on further restorations.