The Acropolis – on the home stretch
This is the North side of The Parthenon. You can see that there has been a lot of restoration done. If you want to read about this incredible work just click the link. The white Pentelic marble is from the original quarries and over a passage of time – a long, long time I would say – this will turn the creamy golden colour of the ‘original’ marble which is considered sacred and is not touched in any way.
Whilst The Parthenon will never be returned to its former glory – it will still be a jaw dropping experience.
Looking north, The Erectheion is one of those Acropolis OMG moments.
Sometimes overshadowed by the glory of The Parthenon, The Erechtheion is considered more prestigious as this is where the Panthenaic procession ended.
Built from 421 – 395 BC, this complex contains a number of sanctuaries, but I suppose the best place to start would be the most obvious – the most recognizable of all the features – those six beautiful maidens known as The Porch of the Caryatids. Standing as columns to support the roof – each maiden has a base beneath their feet, pleated robes as fluting, a fruit basket hat as the capital and lots of hair as buttresses. Both feminine and functional they also expose a hint of leg. How beautiful are they and what incredible work even though they are copies.
Unfortunately due to modern pollution all the statues we see here today are copies made of artificial stone. Some of the ladies have been given a bit of a touch up to show how they looked pre pollution.
Fortunately for us, five of the originals are in the Acropolis Museum – one is in London – thank you Lord Elgin. Ok, let’s discover some more.
As I am standing in front of the below temple deciding on what angles would be best, a group of ill mannered ‘tourists’ arrive, push everyone out of the way and plonk themselves and their gear so that no-one can take any photos. Out comes hats, bags and scarves. The women start with hat on the left side. hat on the right, scarf on the neck, scarf over the shoulder – you get the drift. After around fifteen minutes of this carry on, everyone has had enough of these would be models, so being brave I walk forward and politely say ‘can we please take some photos?’
I get a mouthful of some asian language and then totally ignored – I am not putting up with this nonsense, it is too bloody hot, so I stand right in front of them to take my photos and likewise all the others follow me with a smile and do the same. I think they take the hint; grumbling and picking up their props they move on. I don’t mind waiting for people to take photos – but I draw the line at rude and pushy clickers who think they have exclusive access. Back to the Temple.
At the east end is the Temple of Athena Polias, built in the sixth century BC within the walls of the Mycenaean Royal Palace – the oldest building on the Acropolis, built in the 14th century BC. This temple has six iconic columns and it was built by the same architect that built the Propylaea. It was made of white marble with black trim and had painted columns.
Inside the temple there was a life size statue of Athena (900BC). Made of olive wood, it was legend that Athena dropped the statue from the skies as a gift to the people of Athens. So revered was this statue, Pericles took it for safekeeping when the Persians invaded and destroyed Athens. What happened to it after that no one knows.
Walking around to the western side of the Erechtheion, tourist numbers seem to be increasing but I am heading in the other direction and working my way back to the entrance.
Ah – the legendary Olive Tree of the Pandroseion.
This small temple was named after Pandrosos, the daughter of the first King of Athens. It contained the altar of Zeus Herkeios (protector of the hearth) and a shrine to Pandosos. It is believed that the sacred snakes of the Acropolis were kept here.
Legend has it that Zeus offered a contest between Athena and Poseidon for the possession of Athens. In the battle, Poseidon threw his trident at the rock and made an open gash in the earth to bring the gift of water. The diagonal crack in the path of the north entrance is said to be said gash but modern scientists proclaim that the gash was made by lightning – I would rather believe the legend.
Athena then stabbed a rock with her spear and an olive tree appeared with its rich fruits dangling from the branches. The Athenians chose Athena’s gift and the olive tree has remained a central part of Greek life ever since for all of its wonderful qualities. One bit of advice – don’t pick an olive from a tree and expect to eat it there and then. The olives have to cured before they are eaten.
Walking back to the Propylaea I have more time to take some photos –
There are still plenty of the touchy feely brigade to keep the attendants on their toes. Through the Propylaea I head down the pathway and follow the signs to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
I do not plan on going in but I do plan on sitting in the shade and then taking some more photos. This photo was taken while I was being lazy –
I suppose I should have walked from one end of it to the other – but at the time it was too much like hard work.
Time to get back on the HoHO bus and head for my next stop – The Library of Hadrian. But there are still some photos to take while I say my farewells to the incomparable Acropolis.
No matter how many times you visit – it is still a place of wonderment. Thank you to Cimon and Themistocles, Phidias, Ictinus, Callicrates and of course Phideas for this brilliant work.
The bus is working its way through the ever constant traffic and soon it is time for me to alight so that I can discover the Library of Hadrian.
The library was erected in 132-134 AD by the Emperor Hadrian – yes he’s at it again with the building. It follows the Roman Forum style – one entrance with Corinthian columns on the west, a high precinct wall at its long sides and an interior peristyle courtyard. The library was located on the eastern side where the books (rolls of papyrus) were kept. Adjoining halls were used as reading rooms and the rooms at the corner sides as lecture halls.
The complex – which measured about 120 metres long and 78 metres wide – was built around a large rectangular inner garden with a pond. The garden was adorned with large marble statues of Athena and Hadrian. The floors of the halls were decorated with mosaic marble tiles.
The most prominent remainder of the original library is a section of the outer wall, with huge Corinthian columns. You can also see the large portico that served as the main entrance to the inner courtyard.
The building was seriously damaged during the sack of Athens in 267 AD by the Herulians. It has been repaired over the years but lately there is major restoration work being done as you can see by the new marble.
There are not a lot of tourists here so I can wander around uninterrupted and use my imagination wondering what it was like all those years ago.
Time to get back on the HoHo bus and head for home. It still is hot so maybe I will pick up some late lunch or early dinner and one of those delicious iced lattes and then collapse in the cool of my room.
As I arrive back near my hotel – the good old Golden Arches it right next to the bus stop. How easy is this and also how lazy is this? Just as well I am walking and sweating as much as I am. Well at least that is what I am telling myself.
After making a pig of myself I have to start packing for my 3 day tour starting tomorrow. Delphi, Kalambaka and Meteora, How much history can one country have?