Ever since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated about Heroes and Gods of Greek Mythology. Epic histories about war, love, betrayal and passion, from the legends about the siege of Troy by Achilles and his allies to the more historically accurate tales of Leonidas and the fight of the Spartans against the Persian Empire.
The heart of Greece lies in Athens, one of the most historical cities in the whole world, and the center of such culture starts at the Acropolis, a citadel located on a rock plateau above the city of Athens, containing a significant number of historical temples, the most famous one being the Parthenon, considered to be one of the new Wonders of the World.
Are you ready to explore it with me?
A brief history of the Parthenon
The Parthenon, like the Hagia Sophia in modern-day Turkey, has suffered a complete shift in functions in its long history, mainly due to outside forces that have held control over Greece over the ages. It originally started as a Temple to Athena, patron deity of the city and Goddess of wisdom, strategy, law and justice. If you are a Mexican (or a Japanese) reading this, you probably best know her as the main Goddess from Saint Seiya.
The name of the building comes from Athena Parthenos, which is one of the many aspects or representations of the Goddess, Parthenos meaning Virgin in Greek, which is very important since, in a pantheon of Gods with daily incest, adultery, zoophilia and more, Athena was the only pure one of the bunch.
The Parthenon served as her temple for more than one thousand years, from the 4th century BC to the 6th century AD. It became a Christian Church and its name changed to the Church of the Parthenos Maria.
How unimaginative, uh?
During the 15th century, following the fall of the Byzantium Empire, Greece was taken over by the Ottoman Turks and the Parthenon became a Mosque, minaret included.
It should be noted however, that the exterior reliefs and decoration remained intact and became an impressive wonder to all travelers and citizens alike, who marveled at such exquisite details that, during such time, were more than 2000 years old.
This, however, soon came to an unexpected halt.
The downfall of the Acropolis of Athens
In 1687, during a war between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, the Parthenon, which was strategically used as a gunpowder magazine, was hit by a mortar round and suffered significant damage, leaving the whole Acropolis in ruins and facilitating the subsequent looting of precious sculptures and friezes, the most famous of the lot being the Elgin Marbles, which currently reside at the British Museum in London and are a subject of controversy since the Greek government is interested in recovering them.
It wasn’t until the Greek Independence in the 19th century that the foreign Christian and Muslim elements were completely removed from the Acropolis, starting a slow and yet steady process of Hellenization and restoration of the Greek cultural heritage. As of today, the Acropolis stands as closely as it was during the 4th century BC, the only difference being that it is now in ruins.
Incredible tale of endurance, right?
The other archeological wonders of Athens
Finally, once your visit to the Acropolis is complete, you can choose to trek down the opposite way, visiting the ruins of the Theater of Dionysius as well as finding your way to the new Acropolis Museum, this place, inaugurated in 2008, holds all the marbles, sculptures and friezes recovered from the Acropolis and offers some very good views of the Acropolis itself from the restaurant located on its terrace.
This museum is a very nice opportunity to complement your Acropolis experience since it also offers recreations of what the Parthenon and its friezes looked like before its destruction as well as offering explanations about the stories being told in them such as the battle against the Giants and the Contest between Athena and Poseidon, for example.
If you still got the time (and the energy), you can also visit the Temple of Zeus, which is located near downtown. I remember I once took a duckface selfie here with my friend Marysa and Zeus got so angry that it started to rain non-stop for days!
Practical information about the Acropolis of Athens
From Monastiraki square, it is a short (or long, depending on how much time you want to spend taking pictures of the breath-taking views) trek up to the Acropolis.
At the entrance gate you can buy combined tickets (12 euros) that allow you to enter the Temple of Zeus as well, please note that if you are currently studying in Greece (or any other European Union country) you can get in for free regardless of your nationality.
Have you ever been to Athens? Would you like to? Hit the comment section down below!!!