Acropolis of Athens
The greatest and finest sanctuary of ancient Athens, dedicated primarily to its patron, the goddess Athena, dominates the center of the modern city from the rocky crag known as the Acropolis. The most celebrated myths of ancient Athens, its greatest religious festivals, earliest cults and several decisive events in the city's history are all connected to this sacred precinct. The monuments of the Acropolis stand in harmony with their natural setting. These unique masterpieces of ancient architecture combine different orders and styles of Classical art in a most innovative manner and have influenced art and culture for many centuries. The Acropolis of the fifth century BC is the most accurate reflection of the splendor, power and wealth of Athens at its greatest peak, the golden age of Pericles. In subsequent centuries the monuments of the Acropolis suffered from both natural causes and human intervention.
After the establishment of Christianity and especially in the sixth century AD the temples were converted into Christian churches. The Parthenon was dedicated to Parthenos Maria (the Virgin Mary), was later re-named Panagia Athiniotissa (Virgin of Athens) and served as the city's cathedral in the eleventh century. The Erechtheion was dedicated to the Sotiras (Saviour) or the Panagia, the Temple of Athena Nike became a chapel and the Propylaia an episcopal residence. The Acropolis became the fortress of the medieval city. Under Frankish occupation (1204-1456) the Propylaia were converted into a residence for the Frankish ruler and in the Ottoman period (1456-1833) into the Turkish garrison headquarters. The Venetians besieged the Acropolis in 1687 and on September 26th bombarded and destroyed the Parthenon, which then served as a munitions store. Lord Elgin caused further serious damage in 1801-1802 by looting the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion. The Acropolis was handed over to the Greeks in 1822, during the Greek War of Independence, and Odysseas Androutsos became its first Greek garrison commander.
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The Parthenon, the biggest temple of classical Athens, was converted into a Christian church in the 6th century. The veneration of the pagan Virgin gave its place to the Christian Virgin Mary, Theotokos, and the church was named after her (Panagia Athiniotissa). This took place in the middle of the 6th century with certain architectural alterations such as the addition of an apse in the east. Moreover, the entrance was moved to the western side of the church. Three gates opened in the wall that separated the church from the opisthodomos converted it into a narthex of the Christian church. Thus, the Parthenon was converted into a three-aisled basilica with a prestige spreading through Greece and the entire empire, since it was a veneration place. This was also the church where Basil II celebrated his victory against the Bulgars.
Temple of Athena Nike
The Temple of Athena Nike stands at the southeast edge of the Acropolis. The Classical temple, designed by architect Callicrates and built in 426-421 BC, succeeded earlier temples also dedicated to Athena Nike. The construction of the Classical temple of Athena Nike was part of the Periclean building project on the Acropolis.
The history of this structure has been quite tumultuous. In the 5th century, the temple was converted into a church. In the Ottoman period it was used as a munitions store. During the siege of Morosini, in 1686, the Turks demolished the temple and used its building material to erect a fortification wall in front of the Propylaia and a tall tower, the so-called Koulas. The temple was restored soon after the Greek War of Independence, in 1835, and again in 1930s.
Temple of Athena Nike by Carl Werner (1877)
From the Benaki Museum
Propylaia and Frankish Tower
The Propylaia of the Athenian Acropolis were built on the west side of the hill, where the gate of the Mycenaean fortification once stood. The first propylon, or gate, was constructed in the age of Peisistratos (mid-sixth century BC), after the Acropolis had become a sanctuary dedicated to Athena. A new propylon, built in 510-480 BC, was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC and repaired after the end of the Persian Wars, during the fortification of the Acropolis by Themistocles and Cimon. The monumental Propylaia admired by modern visitors were part of the great Periclean building program. They were erected in 437-432 BC, after the completion of the Parthenon, by architect Mnesikles. The original building plan was particularly daring both in architectural and artistic terms, but was never completed.
In Christian times both the south wing and the central section of the Propylaia were converted into churches, the former during the Early Christian period (fourth-seventh centuries AD) and the latter in the tenth century AD when in was dedicated to the Taxiarches. Under Frankish rule (thirteenth-fourteenth centuries AD) the Propylaia became the residence of the dukes of de la Roche; during the same period a tower, known as Koulas, now demolished, was built against the south wing. In the Ottoman period (1458-1830) the Propylaia were used as garrison headquarters and munitions store, resulting in a great explosion that destroyed the building in 1640. After the Greek War of Independence the Medieval and Turkish additions to the Propylaia were demolished and the site was excavated.
Byzantine Athens, 10th - 12th Centuries by Charalambos Bouras
Athens Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)