The Acropolis of Athens
Have you ever wondered why almost all photos you see of the Parthenon are from the same angle? 😉
I’ll show you in a bit, but first, an interesting little story on how Athens got its name.
According to George, my guide from the Athens Free Walking Tour I blogged about earlier, it all started with a battle amongst the gods to get the city of Athens named after them.
The two gods who made it to the final round were Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, god of the sea. It was decided that the two gods would make an offering to the people of Athens, and the god with the gift that was deemed most useful to the people would have naming rights to the city.
So Poseidon stepped up and struck a rock with his trident, from which a river came gushing forth. Athena then stamped her foot on the ground, and from that spot on the ground grew an olive tree. In case you didn’t figure it out already, Athena was crowned the winner of the competition, and so the city of Athens came to be. 🙂
The one tiny detail that George left out though was why Athena was crowned the winner, because from where I stood, I would totally have picked Poseidon because hey, amigos gotta drink – that river would’ve been mighty useful. It was only recently that I came across this article which cleared up my confusion – the olive tree was meant to indicate that Athena was offering the new city the fruits of peace and wisdom, which I guess would’ve been a better long-term gift than Poseidon’s gift, which signified success in war and at sea.
Anyway, Poseidon’s huffiness as a result of his loss is said to be why Athens suffers the occasional problem with water shortages today, and something else I didn’t notice until George pointed it out – Athens lacks something many major cities have, which is a river!
You’d be crazy to visit Athens without a visit to the Acropolis – that’s a fact. Good thing is, it ain’t too expensive, and admission to other places of interest are included in that ticket as well, so it’s pretty good value for money, especially if you’re a major history buff! Tickets are priced at 12 euro (6 euro for discounted rates), and are valid for a couple other sites – you can find the full list here.
The ‘Acropolis‘ isn’t just that building it’s so often confused with; that’s just the Parthenon, the most famous building of the bunch. Before you get to the Parthenon, here are some of the other buildings you’ll pass:
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a massive 5,000-seater theatre. It’s still used for performances today – can you just imagine attending a concert there?!
The Erechtheion, a Greek temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.
So back to the Parthenon, the icon of Athens, dedicated to its patron goddess Athena! The reason why many photos of the Parthenon are from a very specific angle is because…
… this is your first sight of the Parthenon when you finally reach the peak of the Acropolis! Scaffolding and cranes aren’t exactly the best accessories for an ancient temple 😛
I didn’t realise it until I went there myself, but the Parthenon is currently undergoing some serious reconstruction efforts. According to George, the construction will take another ten years, upon which the Parthenon is supposed to be restored to its former glory. So if you’ve yet to visit Athens, fret not as you have plenty of time to plan your trip before you visit the Parthenon to see it in all its scaffolding-free glory 😉
You can see where the old pieces are painstakingly spliced together with the new ones in white here.
Close-up of the individual pieces the ancient Greeks stacked up to make those massive pillars for their buildings! Very clever.
So here’s how you get that classic shot of the Parthenon everyone knows – just walk all the way past the Parthenon to the other end, crouch down, wait for some dramatic clouds to roll past, and… snap!
Words can’t describe the feeling of reverence and awe for the ancient Greeks who toiled so hard to build the Parthenon when you see it in person.
One of the best parts of the Acropolis (apart from the Parthenon of course) is this… lookout point where you can see pretty much all of Athens from above. I think I spent a good half an hour there just taking in the view 🙂
That’s Mount Lycabettus in the distance.
Spot the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Panathenaic Stadium hidden in the cluster of green in the middle!
The Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, and the new Acropolis Museum further up.
The treacherous Hill of Ares! 😛
After wandering around the Acropolis for a good hour or so, I headed down to the Greek Agora, or Ancient Agora, one of the other sites a short distance down which is included in the packaged ticket for the Acropolis I mentioned earlier.
Wild poppies along the way 🙂
There wasn’t very much to see unfortunately, but there were a few interesting things there like the Stoa of Attalos.
It’s a reconstruction of an ancient covered walkway along a row of shops, which is now the Museum of the Ancient Agora. I didn’t have much time to take a good look at the museum because it was nearing closing time, and there was a stern-looking woman reminding us that we had 10 minutes left.
This is the Temple of Hephaestus, which George mentioned was sorta like a miniature version of the Parthenon on the Acropolis!
You can get a pretty sweet view of the Parthenon looking up from the Temple of Hephaestus 😀
So that’s the end of my short visit to Athens. Santorini is coming up next! But before that, one last photo of the Parthenon at night, from my hostel 🙂