Athens' Ghosts of the Past: Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Temple of Hephaestus

Athens Travel Blog

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Lizzie's Photo taken at the Acropolis looking back on Athens.
Acropolis

Athen's ancient Acropolis dominates the view in Athens - being visible from nearly everywhere.  It still holds the power, beauty and promise of what it once was.  It's location on top of a solid rock hill with sheer cliffs on all sides adds to the dramatic effect. The Acropolis is both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.  It ipedmizes man's destructive tendencies and disregard for the past, but also shows what great things men and civilizations are capable of.  The entire Acropolis was once reduced to ashes when the Persians burned it on the eve of the Battle of Salamis (480 BC).
  Pericles then rebuilt the Acropolis, creating a city of temples on the barren rock.  In 1867, the Venetians arttacked the Turks and open fire on the Acropolis, where the Turks, in their great brilliance, had stored their gun powder.  The Parthenon was blown sky high (it's never healthy for ancient monuments to have GUN POWDER stored in them) and the fire that resulted from the explosion burned for two days.  When you walk around the Parthenon, it's tumultuous past is glaringly evident.  But, even with all this destruction, the Partenon allows one to get a feel for the massiveness and architectural beauty of the Golden Age of Athens.

When you enter the Acropolis you first walk through the propylaia, a columned entryway.  This part of the complex is nicely preserved.
Carytids on the Erchtheion.
  Once through the Propylaia, the Parthenon towers above you, still imposing even if it is a little worse for wear.  The Parthenon is an excellent example of Doric architecture and it's sheer size is mind-blowing for ever the most experienced, archaeology-obsessed, traveler.  To achieve the perfect form it's lines were curved to give an optical illusion of them all being perfectly straight.  After being awed by the Parthenon, we visited the Erechtheion (still hanging out on the Acropolis).  The Erechtheion is a gorgeous bundle of Ionic architecture built on the part of the Acropolis held most sacred.  It is said that on that spot was where Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and that Athena produced the olive tree.  The building's strange name comes from Erichthonius, a mythical King of Athens.
Temple to Hephaestus.
   The temple was built to house the cults of Athena, Poseidon and Erichthonius; which means they all had to play nicely and couldn't go around smitting each other.  On one side of this temple are 6 larger-than-life maidens who also double as columns.  They are called the Caryatids.

On the other side of the Acropolis there is a small museum that houses the artifacts found on the site.  This museum is well worth the entrance fee.  Some interesting items were terracotta figures offered by poor worshippers (dates to the Archaic period, 520-480 BC), freize from the earliest Parthenon (the one the Persians destroyed), blocks from the Temple of Athena Nike (at this time conservators had taken the temple apart piece by piece to clear it and were now putting it back together), statues from the pediment of the Archaic Temple of Athena depicting the Gigantomachy - the Battle of Gods v.
Giants (erected by the sons of Peisistratos, 520 BC), and a must see, the Caryatids (not to burst your bubble, but the ones that stand in the temple are replicas, spot on, but replicas none the less).

For great views of the Acropolis, walk over to the little hill next to the Acropolis.  Besides a good photo-op, this is also where 5th Century BC murderers and arsonists were tried.  Yep, the hill has a little bit of character, but sadly no ancient dead people, they come later in the trip.

Ancient Agora

 There isn't much left of the Ancient Agora; just a lot of foundations, lower halves of columns and the occasional statue.  It is still a pretty area to see and it was the business and administrative center of ancient Athens.

Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus, dedicated to the god of the forge Hephaestus, is the best preserved Doric temple in Greece.  The structure was built by Ictinus, an architect of the Parthenon, in 449 BC, then rebuilt by Pericles.  The temple is well preserved and amazingly intact.  Even though the building is small it is quite beautiful.
paul_gr says:
Great blog entry. Almost makes me feel like I'm there despite the crappy weather in Toronto.
Posted on: Oct 04, 2008
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Lizzies Photo taken at the Acropo…
Lizzie's Photo taken at the Acrop…
Carytids on the Erchtheion.
Carytids on the Erchtheion.
Temple to Hephaestus.
Temple to Hephaestus.
View of the Agora from the Acropol…
View of the Agora from the Acropo…
View of Athens and Lykavittos Hill…
View of Athens and Lykavittos Hil…
Carytids on the Erchtheion.
Carytids on the Erchtheion.
Erchtheion.
Erchtheion.
Erchtheion.
Erchtheion.
Erchtheion.
Erchtheion.
Lizzies pic of the Parthenon.
Lizzie's pic of the Parthenon.
Parthenon.
Parthenon.
Battle scene. Parthenon.
Battle scene. Parthenon.
Ancient Agora.
Ancient Agora.
Ancient Agora.
Ancient Agora.
Ancient Amphitheatre.
Ancient Amphitheatre.
Roman Agora.
Roman Agora.
Depicts the seasons. Roman Agora.
Depicts the seasons. Roman Agora.
Roman Agora.
Roman Agora.
Athens
photo by: Johnpro