The greatest and finest sanctuary of ancient Athens, dedicated to the goddess Athena, dominates the centre of the modern city from the rocky crag known as the Acropolis. The monuments of the Acropolis, unique masterpieces of ancient architecture, stand in harmony with their natural setting. They 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 sacred rock is approached from the West through the Beule gate or through a small door under the temple of Athena Nike. The visitor then approaches the Propylaia, the monumental entrance to the sanctuary. The temple of Athena Nike, built c. 420 BC by Kallikrates, dominates the bastion to the south of the Propylaia. Near the temple was the shrine of Aphrodite Pandemos, of which only part of the epistyle is preserved. Opposite the north wing of the Propylaia is a tall rectangular pedestal known as the pedestal of Agrippas, because it once supported an offering by the city of Athens to Marcus Agrippas, son-in-law of Augustus.
The Parthenon, the hallmark of ancient Greek civilization, is indeed the most imposing of all. Dedicated to Athena Parthenos, it was erected under Perikles replacing two earlier temples dedicated to the same goddess. Between the Parthenon and the Propylaia, along the south wall are the traces of two buildings, the Brauronion, a shrine dedicated to Artemis Brauronia, and the Chalkotheke, a building that once contained votive offerings of bronze. East of the Parthenon is a small circular temple dedicated to Augustus and Rome. At the highest point, on the east side of the hill, carved on bedrock, are the traces of the shrine of Zeus Polieus, while the current museum occupies the site of a shrine dedicated to the local hero Pandion. On the north side of the hill is the Erechtheion, the Ionic temple of Athena and Poseidon-Erechtheus with its famous porch of the Karyatides. Along the south wall of the Erechtheion are the foundations of the “Old Temple”, the sixth century Doric temple of Athena Polias, destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC, repaired and finally burnt down in 406 BC. Northwest of the Erechtheion, along the north wall of the Acropolis, is the Arrhephorion, a small square building where the Arrhephoroi lived. These young women weaved the peplos of the goddess for the Panathenaic festival and took part in initiation rituals.
The famous Herod Atticus Odeon dominates the western end on the south slope of the Acropolis. The monument was restored during 1952-1953 using marble from the Dionysus area; since 1957 it stages art festivals (concerts, ancient drama performances, etc.) mostly in the framework of the Athens Festival.