Acropolis of Athens
The greatest and finest sanctuary of ancient Athens, dedicated primarily to its patron, the goddess Athena, dominates the centre 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 splendour, power and wealth of Athens at its greatest peak, the golden age of Perikles.
The Parthenon, dedicated by the Athenians to Athena Parthenos, the patron of their city, is the most magnificent creation of Athenian democracy at the height of its power. It is also the finest monument on the Acropolis in terms of both conception and execution.
The elegant building known as the Erechtheion, on the north side of the sacred rock of the Acropolis, was erected in 421-406 BC as a replacement of an earlier temple dedicated to Athena Polias, the so-called ”Old temple”.
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.
Temple of Athena Nike
The temple of Athena Nike stands at the southeast edge of the sacred rock atop a bastion, which in Mycenaean times protected the entrance to the Acropolis. The Classical temple, designed by architect Kallikrates and built in 426-421 BC, succeeded earlier temples also dedicated to Athena Nike.
At the foot of Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. Delphi was regarded as the centre of the world. According to mythology, it is here that the two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world met. The sanctuary of Delphi, set within a most spectacular landscape, was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world. The history of Delphi begins in prehistory and in the myths of the ancient Greeks. In the beginning the site was sacred to Mother Earth and was guarded by the terrible serpent Python, who was later killed by Apollo. Apollo’s sanctuary was built here by Cretans who arrived at Kirrha, the port of Delphi, accompanied by the god in the form of a dolphin.
Ancient theatre of Delphi
The theatre of Delphi, one of the few theatres in Greece for which we know the exact date and design, is located inside the temenos of Apollo and against the north-east corner of its peribolos, or enclosure wall. This is where the musical contests (song and instrumental music) of the Pythian games and other religious festivals took place, which made this theatre the intellectual and artistic equivalent to the athletic stadium at Olympia.
The tholos of Athena Pronaia
The tholos of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, clearly visible from above, is perhaps the most characteristic monument at Delphi and the most important building of this small sanctuary. Located between the later temple of Athena and the Treasury of Massalia, this circular building of unknown purpose is a masterpiece of Classical architecture.
Temple of Apollo at Delphi
The temple of Apollo, the most important building in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, dominates the temenos from its central position. This is where the statues and other offerings to the god were kept, and where the cult rituals, including that of divination, took place.
In western Peloponnese, in the beautiful valley of the Alpheios river, lies the most celebrated sanctuary of ancient Greece. Dedicated to Zeus, the father of the gods, it sprawls over the southwest foot of Mount Kronios, at the confluence of the Alpheios and the Kladeos rivers, in a lush, green landscape. Although secluded near the west coast of the Peloponnese, Olympia became the most important religious and athletic centre in Greece. Its fame rests upon the Olympic Games, the greatest national festival and a highly prestigious one world-wide, which was held every four years to honor Zeus.
Knossos is the Palace of King Minos of Crete, and is also mentioned as the Labyrinth, considered to be the most important monument during the Minoan civilization. A visit to Knossos should be completed with a visit to Heraklion Archaeological Museum where all the items found on the site are on display.
For more information on all great archaeological sites in Greece, please visit http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh30.jsp for a complete reference and address guide.
HELLENIC MINISTRY OF CULTURE
Tel. +30 2108201100, +30 2131302100. Website: www.culture.gr & www.yppo.gr
Sources: www.culture.gr, www.destination360.com, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Magazine Greece.