The Acropolis

Athens, Greece
Kirker Holidays

The modern centre of Athens revolves, as the city has always done, around the imposing rock of the Acropolis (from the Greek Acro and Polis, literally ‘High City’). Most Ancient Greek cities had their own acropolis, merely a high point within the city which became a focal religious and political point for citizens, but in Athens this monolith crowned with its impressive monuments has provided such an iconic image for visitors that it has become not only ‘The Acropolis’, but also the defining image of Classical civilisation.

The first sight of the Parthenon is an unforgettable moment, as the familiar shape appears on the horizon or around a street corner, either bathed in midday sun, or glowing in the twilight. The building itself is a temple to Athena, the patron saint of Athens, and was constructed, along with most of the city’s Classical monuments, in the Athenian ‘Golden Age’ between 448 and 404 BC. This surprisingly brief period saw the emergence of the buildings and personalities who were to define the city for the next two and a half thousand years. The General Pericles oversaw this blossoming and led a period of substantial public works, the pinnacle of which came in the reconstruction of the Acropolis complex, including it’s crowning glory; The Parthenon.

In 1687 Venetian bombardment caused an explosion in the Turkish gunpowder magazine within the Parthenon, tragically causing irrevocable destruction to the building which had endured two millennia with hardly a scratch. Then, in 1801, Athens saw the visit of Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, a keen collector and student of antiquities. He was en route to Constantinople, having been appointed British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and decided to stop in Athens in order to study the Parthenon and make sketches. On his instructions the wonderful marble frieze which surrounded the top of the monument, along with some sculptures from the pediment, were removed, with the permission of the Ottoman governor. This event has always remained controversial, but they remain, to this day, in the British Museum, despite mounting calls for their return, especially since the opening of the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum in 2009.

As well as the Parthenon, there are a couple of other buildings of note on the site. Do not miss the Erechtheum, a smaller temple on the north side of the hill, home of the Porch of the Caryatids. The six elegant female sculptures (the caryatids) seen here are actually casts of the originals, which are now on display in the new Acropolis Museum (bar one, which is in the British Museum courtesy of the Earl of Elgin).

The best way to see the site is in the early morning (when crowds are smaller) with a private guide - pre-book with the Kirker Concierge before leaving the UK.

Kirker clients travelling to Athens receive a complimentary entrance ticket to both the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.


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