As Athens’ most famous attraction, the Acropolis has been drawing visitors to Greece for decades. And the ancient citadel dates back much further than that – it is estimated that humans have used this hill for a myriad of purposes dating back to the Bronze Age. If you’re planning a trip to Greece and want to know a bit more about this incredible destination, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll show you ten interesting facts about the Acropolis.
What on earth does “Acropolis” mean?
1. The word “Acropolis” translates literally in Greek to “High city”, which we think is a pretty accurate name for the site.
2. The Parthenon and the Acropolis are not the same thing. Although often confused, the Parthenon is the most famous building in the Acropolis, which is itself the name for the hill on which the ancient temple and other buildings sit.
3. Although the Acropolis is a world famous religious site, it started life as a military fortress. Its hilltop position above Athens meant it was crucial for the defence of the city and a defensive wall (some of which survives today!) was first built around the area in around the 13th century BCE. Temples such as the Parthenon came much later, in the 5th century BCE.
We wish this survived today…
4. You’ve probably heard of the Colossus of Rhodes – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was a giant statue of the sun god Helios, which greeted travellers to the city of Rhodes. It has long been lost, probably destroyed. But did you know there was once a similar statue at the Acropolis? A gold and ivory statue of the goddess of war, Athena, once sat on the top of the Acropolis, inside the Parthenon.
5. The temples of the Acropolis weren’t always white. Using laser technology, experts were able to discover that the Parthenon was once painted with shades of blue, red, and green. Over hundreds of years, the stones have slowly been bleached in the sunlight, returning them to marble white.
6. Restoration work has been taking place at the Parthenon for more than 45 years. Starting in 1975, painstaking work to restore and preserve one of the world’s oldest structures has been underway. Replacement marble is taken from the exact mountain where the original marble was quarried from. And even the tiniest decisions can take months to sort out, thanks to the importance of getting them right so as to preserve the site.
7. In the early 1800s, the Englishman Lord Elgin removed some of the artefacts and marble from the Parthenon and gave them to London’s British Museum. He claimed that he was given permission by the Ottomans, who were in power in Greece at the time. Greece has tried for many years to get the marbles back to Athens, but for now they continue to reside in London.
It’s not one of a kind but it’s one of the best
8. The Athens Acropolis is not the only one of its kind. There are several other acropoleis in Greece, including ones in Corinth and another in Rhodes. But the Athens Acropolis remains the most famous and popular with visitors.
9. More than 1 million visitors head to the Athens Acropolis every year. This makes it one of the most popular destinations in the whole of Greece.
10. The last of our facts about the Acropolis is that during the Second World war, the site became a beacon of Greek resistance to Nazism. In April 1941, the country came under Hitler’s rule and the swastika was hoisted to the top of the Acropolis. A few weeks later, two university students – Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas risked execution to sneak past the guards and up to the Acropolis, where they removed the flag. This symbolic act of resistance helped raise spirits in the city before Nazism’s eventual defeat.
If you’ve found these facts about the Acropolis interesting and would like to visit the famous site for yourself, then you’ll want to check out our range of Greece tours! You can combine a trip to Athens with an island-hopping trip to Mykonos and Santorini. Or you can explore more of the mainland, from Olympia to Thessaloniki!