The Parthenon, perched atop the majestic heights of the Acropolis, dominates the beautiful skyline of Athens. When you stand on the heights of the Acropolis and overlook Athens, it is as if the wind whispers the words of Athena to Odysseus in your ears: “A day can press down all human things, and a day can raise them up.” Her wisdom has held through the ages. It is an unforgettable, uplifting moment to stand atop the Acropolis, beside the Parthenon, and feel the power and majesty of Greek antiquity.
A place sacred to Athena
Athena is the patron goddess of Athens. As the grey-eyed, maiden goddess of wisdom and the favorite daughter of Zeus, she represents intellect, understanding, and purity. Her protection of ancient Athens was honored with her sacred shrines built upon the mighty acropolis, the high point of that great city at almost 500 feet above sea level.
On that lofty summit, in 447 BC, the Athenians began the construction of the present temple of Athena. When completed, it likely was possible for a citizen of ancient Athens to turn and view the majestic, gleaming marble of Athena’s temple throughout the city. The goddess was infused into the fabric of daily life for 5th century Athenians.
The grand vision of the sacred Acropolis was imagined by Pericles, but he was not alone in its execution. The Parthenon was built by Ictinus, the incredible entrance was designed by Mnescicles, and the complex blossomed with the temple-monuments of the Erechteon, the Propylaea, and the small Athena Nike temple. That astounding complex on its granite summit overlooking ancient Athens reflected the legendary greatness of a mythic goddess and the human grandeur of a classical time that was to echo through the centuries to come.
A true bucket list site
No trip to Athens would be complete without a visit to the heights of the Acropolis. Take time to take in the summit’s incredible view of Athens and feel the majestic power of the Parthenon. Take a moment to imagine back to Athens, a powerfully influential city-state of the ancient world, in a time when democracy experienced its early bloom and reverence of art and intellect flourished.
In the age that followed, as thought and art flourished, an exceptional group of artists put into effect the ambitious plans of Athenian statesman Pericles and, under the inspired guidance of the sculptor Pheidias, transformed the rocky hill into a unique monument of philosophy, civil thought, and treasured arts. The most important monuments of the Acropolis were built during that time: the Parthenon built by Ictinus, the Erechtheon, the Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis designed by Mnesicles, and the small Athena Nike temple.
The Greek tourist bureau ranks the Acropolis, the greatest and finest sanctuary of ancient Athens, among its six most photographed sites in Greece. They suggest capturing its grandeur late in the evening when the illuminated monument proudly overlooks the city against the dark Athenian sky. Online, the Greek tourist bureau provides a brochure of Athens and its antiquities as well as maps of the city.
At Athens’ official city guide site, an Athens monument section offers a list of free admission dates as well as cultural and heritage information on the Acropolis. For those seeking the facilitation of tours to view the Acropolis, a current list of active agencies is supplied to facilitate visitors with organized private or group tours.
The Acropolis and Parthenon are iconic sights for any Athens visit, so massive crowds of tourists are an issue. If you are in thrall of archaeology, consider going twice at two, separate visiting times. Go early in the morning, before the 8 AM opening, and take pictures and be among the very first visitors through the entry gates. Leave when the crowds begin to mass. In the summer, when the site’s hours are longer and the crowds are largest, return at about 4 pm for some, quiet time when visitors have thinned immensely.
The beauty of Athens springs, powerful as a timeless wind, from the significant role of Greece at the deep taproots of Western Civilization. The unforgettable, magical resonance of the Acropolis, a well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an honored testament to its reflection of the grandeur and depth of Greek history and culture.