The Acropolis of Athens and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world. In the second half of the fifth century B.C., Athens, following the victory against the Persians and the establishment of democracy, took a leading position amongst the other city-states of the ancient world. 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 thought and the arts. The most important monuments 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 temple Athena Nike.
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum was founded to exhibit all the significant finds from the Sacred Rock and its foothills. It was designed by architect Bernard Tschumi with Michael Photiadis and inaugurated in the summer of 2009. The Museum hosts its collections across three levels, as well as in the archaeological excavation that lies at its foundations. The “Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis”, the “Archaic Gallery”, the “Karyatides room” and the glass-encased “Parthenon Gallery” will make you travel back in time. The Museum’s exhibition program is also enriched with the extensive finds from the ancient Athenian city, which were uncovered during the archaeological excavation that took place prior, to the construction of the Museum. The excavation is visible from different points on the ground and upper floors of the Museum, through a series of well positioned large glass openings. Visitors will soon be able to walk among the remains of this ancient Athenian neighborhood.
The Ancient Agora
The Agora of Athens was the center of the ancient city: a large, open square where the citizens could assemble for a wide variety of purposes. On any given day the space might be used as a market, or for an election, a dramatic performance, a religious procession, military drill, or athletic competition. Here administrative, political, judicial, commercial, social, cultural, and religious activities all found a place together in the heart of Athens, and the square was surrounded by the public buildings necessary to run the Athenian government. It is during the “Classical” period that the Agora and its buildings were frequented by statesmen such as Themistokles, Perikles, and Demosthenes, by the poets Aeschylos, Sophokles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, by the writers Thucydides and Herodotos, by artists such as Pheidias and Polygnotos, and by philosophers such as Sokrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Located south-east of Athens’ acropolis near the River Ilissos, the temple would become the city’s largest. The site shows evidence of habitation from the Neolithic period while Pausanias claimed the ancient sanctuary to Zeus was first created at the site by the mythical figure of Deukalion. The earliest archaeological evidence of a temple in the area dates to the 6th century BCE. The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, also known as the Olympieion, was built over several centuries starting in 174 BCE and only finally completed by Roman emperor Hadrian in 131 CE. Its unusually tall columns and ambitious layout made the temple one of the largest ever built in the ancient world.
Kerameikos: The Ancient Cemetery
The archaeological site of the Kerameikos, between Ermou, Peireos, and Asomaton Streets, is a small part of the ancient Attic Deme of Kerameon, one of the largest demes of ancient Athens, located on the northwest edge of the city. As suggested by its name, the Kerameikos (from the Greek word for pottery) was a settlement of potters and vase painters, and the main production centre of the famous Attic vases. Those parts of the Kerameikos that were located near the riverbank suffered continuously from the overflowing river, and so the area was converted into a burial ground, which gradually developed into the most important cemetery of ancient Athens. The earliest tombs at the Kerameikos date from the Early Bronze Age (2700-2000 BC), and the cemetery appears to have continuously expanded from the sub-Mycenaean period (1100-1000 BC). In the Geometric (1000-700 BC) and Archaic periods (700-480 BC) the number of tombs increased; they were arranged inside tumuli or marked by funerary monuments. The cemetery was used incessantly from the Hellenistic period until the Early Christian period (338 BC until approximately the sixth century AD).
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was built during the reign of Julius Caesar and his successor Augustus as an extension of the older Agora. As today, its main entrance was on the west side, through the Gate of Athena Archegetis. The best preserved and easily the most intriguing of the ruins inside the Forum site is the graceful octagonal structure known as the Tower of the Winds. This predates the Forum, and stands just outside the main market area. Designed in the first century BC by Andronikos of Kyrrhos, a Syrian astronomer, it served as a compass, sundial, weather vane and water clock – the latter powered by a stream from one of the Acropolis springs. Each face of the tower is adorned with a relief of a figure floating through the air, personifying the eight winds.
It was built in A.D. 132 by emperor Hadrian, was destroyed by the Herulae in A.D. 267, and was subsequently incorporated into the Late Roman fortification wall. It was repaired by the Roman eparchus Herculius in A.D. 412, and in the 5th century the quatrefoil building of the Early Christian church was constructed in the centre of the peristyle court. After its destruction, a three-aisled basilica was erected on its ruins in the 7th century, which was in turn superseded by the single-aisled church of Megale Panaghia, in the 11th century.
During the Turkish occupation it became the seat of the Voevode (Governor) and in 1835, the barracks of king Otho were erected in the place of the Voevodalik.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the world's great museums. Although its original purpose was to secure all the finds from the nineteenth century excavations in and around Athens, it gradually became the central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all over Greece. Its abundant collections, with more than 20,000 exhibits, provide a panorama of Greek civilization from the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity.
It is the oldest district in Athens (it is also mentioned as "Gods' district") with outstanding scenery. The moment you start walking on its paved narrow lanes you get the feeling that you travel back in time. You will be mesmerized by the beauty of the houses with neoclassic colors, the architecture, the well preserved gardens, the elegance and the atmosphere of the whole area. Discover hidden alleys and mystical corners like you would be exploring a labyrinth!