Athens’ Ancient Acropolis and its Modern Museum
Nov 10, 2018
|The rocky hilltop in Athens known as the Acropolis has been inhabited since the Neolithic Era (3500-3000 BC). The iconic buildings at the top, however, were not built until 500 BC, what is known Classical (Greek) Period. These buildings (Parthenon, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, Propylaea) served a variety of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and other leaders/people.
Contrary to my assumptions that the ruins - as in bits and pieces - were from ancient times, the buildings of the Acropolis actually withstood centuries of decay, destruction and looting quite well.
In fact, it was (relatively) recently (1687) that a Venetian cannonball struck the Parthenon and detonated the gunpowder being stored within. Little of the Parthenon was left standing after that 1687 explosion leveled it and most of the surrounding buildings too.
In 1976 a restoration project began to piece the place together and address prior restoration inaccuracies. However, the work, such as piecing together and righting the massive Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns, halted in 2017 when Greece’s economy collapsed. Across from the massive hill and surrounding structures is the spectacular Acropolis Museum.
The museum actually “floats” on 100+ concrete pillars that hold it above an ongoing archaeological dig. One day this too will be open to the public.
The centerpiece of the museum - literally the centre of it - is a solid concrete rectangle built to the same dimensions and orientation of the Parthenon. Atop and around these four walls runs illustration of the entire temple frieze.
This is only possible because there were several drawings of the Parthenon that predate the explosion, providing archaeologists with good resources as they put together what I imagine was an incredible mixed-up jigsaw puzzle. The results of years of painstaking work sifting through rubble, numbering, cleaning and sorting fragments are now mounted over the illustrated panel as they would have appeared to the ancient societies that frequented the Acropolis.
On the perimeter of the Parthenon frieze gallery are displayed works created after the Parthenon. This includes ancient classical Greek sculptures and reliefs as well as Roman copies of the same from the other Acropolis buildings; the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion.
Unfortunately, photos are prohibited in the Acropolis Museum; I got a few shots before I learned that. This rule seems simple to give the museum staff some entertainment as the other spectacular museums we visited in Athens, even the National Archaeology Museum, had no such concern.
Anyway, a picture of the Acropolis, and specifically the Parthenon, has been in my mind’s eye since elementary school. Despite that familiarity, it truly is something else to experience the scale of the structure and the beauty of its adornments in real life.