Ruins of the Ancient World
by: Steve Manica

When visiting Athens, tourist head directly to the site where Athens itself began, some three thousand years ago. The Acropolis Hill, so called “Sacred Rock” of Athens, is the most important site of the city. Acropolis meaning “high city” location was chosen for the reasons of defense. Over the Centuries monuments have been built over the ruins of others, mainly shrines built for the virgin warrior goddess Athena.

The Parthenon being the most important was built between the years of 447 and 438 B.C. Still to this day it remains the international symbol for the Greek people. It has eight columns on each of the narrow sides and seventeen columns on each of the long ones. The eastern room used to hold the cult statue of Athena. The largest and most expensive offering that can be given, it was made of gold and ivory. After the Parthenon’s destruction by the Persians in 480 B.C., much of its ruins were used in building walls to fortify the north end of the Acropolis. In the 16th century A.D. the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the Turkish conquest, it again was converted this time into a Mosque. Tragically in the year 1687 the Venetians shot a cannonball at the Parthenon igniting ammunition being stored there by the Turks.   The resulting explosion caused major damage, as well to most of the sculptures inside.

On the north side area of the Acropolis, there you will find the Erechtheum temple. Named After a legendary Athenian hero, said to be the son of Hephaestus, the god of fire, and born from the earth. Construction began between 395 and 421 B.C. during time of peace. To avoid disturbing nearby sacred shrines, and because of the uneven ground in the area, a unique design plan was used for building the temple.  On one side of the temple are 6 porch maiden statues supporting the roof, taking the place of columns.  One of the statues was removed by Lord Elgin to decorate his lavish Scottish mansion and later purchased by the British Museum where it is currently located today. In the past Inside the Erechtheum you would find the most treasured relics of the ancient Athenians. In the western part of the Erechtheum were the tombs of king Erechtheus. The rock, the ancient Athenians saw from an opening in the floor, showed the trident held by Poseidon, when battling Athena.

On the southwest side of the Acropolis plateau, you will find the Temple of Athena Nike. Built around 420 BC it was made entirely of marble. The decorative frieze on the temple south side depicts the decisive victory over the Persians. The north frieze shows the battle with the Greeks cavalry. The east frieze showed an assembly of the gods, Athena, Zeus and Poseidon, the west frieze is sculptures of horseman. Nike, which is the ancient word “victory”, was another form that Athena was worshiped in. Underneath, in the cellar of this temple, there is a statue of Athena Nike. Legend claims that the wings that were originally on the statue were removed so that Athena would not leave the city and help win the battle against the Spartans. 

Athens is often referred to as the cradle of western civilizations because of its achievements in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Athens has many museums devoted to art, culture and history. Such as National Archaeological Museum that ranks among the top ten museums in the world.  Amazing to think about what they were able to accomplish with just the technology at that time, it is astounding.