Athens and the ancient past of the Acropolis
On an ancient hilltop above the city of Athens stands the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a collection of the most significant architectural monuments of human civilisation.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by ancient civilisations. The Greek and Roman empires with their incredible law, order, culture and ways of life that have made such an impact on the world as we know it today. Their literature – the complex and colourful tapestries woven within the stories of Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. As a child, I used to lose myself in the Greek myths – fascinated by the stories of gods who threw thunderbolts, people who could fly but whose wings were burnt by the sun and the infamous Pandora, who opened the forbidden box and unwittingly brought pain and suffering into the world. I have always been captured by the mystical and magical nature of ancient Greece and how its influence is evident in so many aspects of our modern-day culture. So when I took my first trip to Athens and to the Acropolis, I was very, very excited.
The birthplace of western civilisation
The Acropolis (from the Greek words meaning ‘edge’ and city’) lies above the city of Athens. It dates back as far as the fifth century BC and represents a time of great wealth and power in Athens, when culture and democracy flourished. The site is home to four of the most architecturally and culturally significant ancient Greek buildings – the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheum and the Temple of Athena Nike. The site pays homage to the golden age of Pericles, when many of the buildings were constructed, and a time of great splendour. The Parthenon was completed around 432BC and was considered to represent the beginning of Western civilisation. Today it still stands as a symbol of democracy. The Propylaea surrounds the entrance to the Acropolis and was built to create a striking introduction to the site, while the Erechtheum was a temple dedicated to the gods Poseidon and Athena, who were originally both protectors of the city of Athens. The Temple of Athena Nike (meaning ‘victory’) was a way for the people to worship Athena as the goddess of victory and bring them luck in wartime.
The power of the Gods
I will never forget my first sight of the Acropolis. Greece is a country that is warm and welcoming, with friendly, tactile and bubbly local people who make your journey to their land an immersive and natural experience. To be able to stand at this magnificent structure and gain the unique experience of absorbing the ancient Greek civilization against the backdrop of the modern Greek society – that is something truly special. The Parthenon is one of those structures that I have glimpsed so often in books and in photographs but to see it up close was a whole different experience. Despite being surrounded by many other visitors, I felt as if the entire site belonged to me. The majestic presence of the towering remnants of this revered site took centre stage and pushed aside any background noise. The backdrop of the blazing April sunshine and clear blue skies enhanced the awe-inspiring feeling of standing atop a surface where so many significant historical events have taken place.
Gods played a significant role in ancient culture and the Greek people believed that the gods watched over them and took the form of immortal beings. The Acropolis stands as a monument to these beliefs with the temples dedicated to the gods. As an extremely sacred site, it played host to many early Athenian cults and Olympian gods, as well as significant religious festivals. Each building is a masterpiece in Classical art and details of the exquisite architecture that has influenced so much of our modern-day design can still be seen today. The holiness of the site can still be felt with the hushed atmosphere and the exceptional ruins of such momentous buildings. To visit the site is to feel like a part of history, both ancient and modern and makes for a truly exceptional journey.
To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, Fresh Hotel, Athens