acropolis

acropolis (əkrŏpˈəlĭs) [key] [Gr., = high point of the city], elevated, fortified section of various ancient Greek cities.

The Acropolis of Athens, a hill c.260 ft (80 m) high, with a flat oval top c.500 ft (150 m) wide and 1,150 ft (350 m) long, was a ceremonial site beginning in the Neolithic period and was walled before the 6th cent. B.C. by the Pelasgians. Devoted to religious rather than defensive purposes, the area was adorned during the time of Cimon and Pericles with some of the world's greatest architectural and sculptural monuments.

The top was reached by a winding processional path at the west end, where the impressive Propylaea (see under propylaeum) stood. From there, the Sacred Way led past a colossal bronze statue of Athena (called Athena Promachus) and the site of the old temple of Athena to the Parthenon. To the north was the Erechtheum and to the southwest the temple of Nike Apteros (Wingless Victory). On the southern slope were the Odeum of Herodes Atticus and the theater of Dionysus.

Although the Acropolis was laid waste by the Persians in 480 B.C. and was later further damaged by the Turks and others, remains of the Parthenon, Erechtheum, and Propylaea still stand. Many of its treasures are in the national museum of Greece, in Athens. Over the years, the Acropolis has suffered severely from pollution and from well-intentioned but badly executed attempts at repair. In 1975 the Greek government began a major restoration project. A number of works that were originally on the Acropolis have been moved to the New Acropolis Museum, which lies at the foot of the hill and opened in 2009.

See studies by R. J. Hopper (1971) and J. M. Hurwit (2000); Bernard Tschumi Architects, ed., The New Acropolis Museum (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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