Plan of the Athenian Acropolis
(adapted from Eyewitness Travel Guide, Greece)

As in antiquity, visitors ascend the Acropolis from the west (left hand side of this plan) and enter the site through the Propylaia. In late antiquity, the Beulé Gate, as it is now called, provided a means of prohibiting entry to undesirables.


  • at west entrance to Acropolis, below the Propylaia

  • named for French archaeologist Ernest Beulé
    • who discovered the gate in 1852

  • built in A. D. 267

  • incorporates stones from choregic monument of Nikias
    • which once stood near Stoa of Eumenes, on the west side of Theatre of Dionysus
    • part of its original inscription is visible above architrave
      • “Nikias, son of Nikodemos of Xypete, dedicated this monument after a victory as choregos with boys of the tribe of Kekropis; Pantaleon of Sikyon played the flute; the Elpenor of Timotheos was the song; Neaichmos was archon.”

  • name means ‘front doors’

  • entrance to Acropolis

  • begun in 437 B. C.

  • designed by architect Mnesikles

  • rectangular central building, divided into two porticoes; had five entrance doors, rows of Ionic and Doric columns, vestibule with blue coffered ceiling

  • later served as archbishop’s home, Frankish palace, Turkish fortress

  • destroyed and rebuilt several times

  • on west side of Propylaia

  • built 426 - 421 B. C.

  • designed by architect Kallikrates

  • frieze has scenes from Battle of Plataea (479), in which Greece defeated the Persians

  • King Aegeus is said to have jumped to his death from this site, when he thought his son, Theseus, was dead

  • destroyed by Turks in 1686; rebuilt 1834-1838; reconstructed in 1935

  • one of the most recognizable buildings in the entire world

  • sacred to Athena, patron deity of Athens

  • built 447 - 432 B. C.
    • after the Persians had been repelled

  • Doric peripteral temple

  • designed by Iktinos and Kallikrates

  • good online source is

  • main room called naos
    • housed enormous statue of Athena
      • sculpted by Pheidias in the 5th century

  • a smaller room, the opisthodomos, was a treasury
    • housed the wealth of the Delian League

  • occupied triangular space above triglyphs and metopes

  • those on west end depicted contest of Athena and Poseidon to be patron deity of Athens

  • those on east end depicted birth of Athena

  • heavily damaged in explosion of 1687

  • sculptured reliefs

  • on west side is Amazonomachy

  • on south side is Centauromachy

  • on east side is Gigantomachy

  • on north side is Trojan War

  • all represent criminality and chaos vs. order and justice
  • runs around top of temple wall
    • behind the outer wall with the triglyphs and metopes

  • 3 feet, 5 inches tall

  • 2 - 3 inches deep

  • depicts procession of horsemen, musicians, sacrificial animals, and others

  • Panathenaic procession? a mythical procession?
    • opinions vary

  • Cornell student Eugene Andrews attends lectures on the Acropolis in 1895

  • lecturer points out small holes on east end of Parthenon, where shields (probably dedicated to Alexander the Great) were once mounted

  • holes were undoubtedly anchors for letters attached to Parthenon, perhaps dedication of shields

  • Andrews obtains permission to make paper casts of the holes to determine what letters they anchored

  • is dismayed to find that it was a greeting to Nero, the Roman emperor
    • probably from Nero’s visit in A. D. 61

  • lack of weather damage around holes argues that the inscription was not left in place for long

Drawing of the Letters Betwen the Shields

Translation of the Inscription

The Council of the Areopagus and the Council of the 600 and the Athenian People to the Great Emperor Nero Caesar Claudius Augustus Germanicus, son of god, when Tiberius Claudius Novius son of Philinos is acting as general over the hoplites for the eighth time and while he is epimeletes and nomothetes and while Paullina daughter of Capito is priestess of Athena.

Parthenon before reconstruction of Balanos–more or less its state since 1687, after a Venetian artillery shell exploded munitions stockpiled in the temple by Ottoman Turks

Parthenon after reconstruction of Balanos, but he used iron clamps that damaged the marble of the Parthenon
Photos from Mary Beard’s The Parthenon

  • built 421 ­ 406 B. C.

  • on site of mythical contest between Athena and Poseidon for possession of city

  • named for Erechtheus, mythical king of Athens

  • sacred to Athena Polias and Erechtheus-Poseidon

  • was once a harem for wives of Turkish commander

  • almost completely destroyed in 1827 in War of Independence

  • part of the Erechtheion

  • columns that support the roof of the south porch

  • name means ‘daughters of Karyai’
    • Karyai is a town in the Peloponnese, with a temple of Artemis, who delights in the dance of village maidens (karyatides) who carry baskets of live reeds on their heads

  • casts of the original Karyatids are on the porch
    • 5 original Karyatids are in Acropolis Museum; 1 is in British Museum

  • each Karyatid is unique in design

  • built A. D. 161 - 174 by Herodes Atticus

  • had fallen into disrepair
    • in the mid-18th century, James Stuart did a painting of the theatre (see below) and described it as follows:

      The proscenium, the loge, the orchestra are now covered with soil and rubble.... Time has covered the area on which the spectators’ seats used to be with a layer of earth and vegetation. Today it is used for growing barley, which the Disdar Agha’s horses eat while it is still green (James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, quoted in Roland and Françoise Etienne, The Search for Ancient Greece, Thames & Hudson, p. 55).
  • reconstructed in 1950s; refurbished in last few years

  • seats 5000

  • still used today

  • scaena behind stage once featured statues of the nine Muses

  • theatre originally enclosed by cedar wood roof

The Odeion of Herodes Atticus by James Stuart

  • established ca. 500 B. C.

  • site of productions by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes

  • rebuilt 342 - 326 B. C. by Lykourgos

  • enlarged and enhanced by Romans, who also used it for gladiatorial bouts
    • could seat 17,000

  • in mid-first century A. D. marble flooring added

  • in second century A. D. front of stage decorated with reliefs depicting life of Dionysos

  • major reconstruction now underway

  • established 420 B. C.

  • Asklepios, son of Apollo, was a healing god

  • his shrines/sanctuaries/temples were ‘hospitals,’ where people came to be cured not by science but by the god’s influence

  • converted to Christian place of worship by the 6th century A. D.
    • dedicated to the Aghioi Anargyroi (‘Doctor Saints’)

  • once a cave sacred to Artemis

  • converted in Byzantine era to Christian chapel
    • Panagia i Spiliotissa (‘Our Lady of the Cave’)

  • mothers brought sick children to be healed

Panagia i Spiliotissa is burrowed into the wall of Timon.
Atop the cave are two Corinthian columns, the
Choregic Monument of Thrasyllos, erected in 320 B. C.,
when Thrasyllos dedicated the cave to Dionysus.