Acropolis and Parthenon: 6 facts you did not know

Jul 5, 2023
Like a sentinel towering over Athens city below, the Acropolis and Parthenon keep watch over this hallowed piece of real estate, proclaiming to one and sundry its vital importance to the world. While these iconic landmarks have captivated countless visitors, there are lesser-known aspects that lie hidden beneath their awe-inspiring exteriors. In this article, we unveil six intriguing facts about the Acropolis and Parthenon that will deepen your appreciation for these timeless treasures.

1. The Acropolis Was Not the First Site of Worship

Archaeologists have discovered that the sacred hill of the Acropolis had been populated well before Cecrops, Athens‘ first king ever settled there. Evidence of it being used as a sacred place of worship has been unearthed, with some of the finds suggesting that it was populated since Neolithic times. There were ancient shrines and sanctuaries and the rock was deemed of religious significance since then, although which exact deities were worshiped remains a mystery. Over time, these earlier structures were replaced by the grand architectural marvels we see today.

2. The Parthenon Served Multiple Purposes 

Everyone associated the Parthenon with the goddess Athena, and rightly so, but it’s worth noting that at different times in history, it served other purposes too. Apart from being a temple, the Parthenon acted as a treasury, storing valuable offerings from the city-states of ancient Greece. It also functioned as a repository for the city’s official records and important documents, as well as an ammunition depot while under Venetian rule, much later on in life. 

3. The Elgin Marbles

One of the world’s most protracted legal disputes over ownership rights of antiquities is that of the notorious Elgin marbles, aka the Parthenon marbles. They are housed in the British Museum since being forcibly removed from their original place on the metopes of the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the 19th century, while the country was still under Ottoman occupation. The controversy over this has spilt over onto mainstream fora and gained traction over the years. Today, the marbles remain in the British Museum, sparking ongoing debates about their rightful ownership and calls for repatriation.

4. The Parthenon’s Optical Illusions

One of the Parthenon’s lesser-known secrets lies in its architectural design. The temple incorporates subtle optical refinements that counteract the visual distortions caused by the human eye. The columns, for instance, taper slightly toward the top and lean inward, giving an impression of perfect symmetry when viewed from a distance. Additionally, the horizontal lines of the temple appear perfectly straight, even though they are slightly curved to counteract the effects of optical distortion.

5. The Parthenon’s Inner Chamber

Beyond the grandeur of its exterior, the Parthenon houses a hidden sanctuary within its inner chamber, known as the ‘naos’. This section was reserved exclusively for the goddess Athena and housed a colossal statue of the deity made of ivory and gold. Sadly, the statue has long since vanished, leaving behind only a few fragments and replicas to hint at its former splendour.

6. The Acropolis’ Enduring Symbolism

Throughout history, the Acropolis and Parthenon have represented much more than architectural marvels. They embody the birthplace of democracy, the pinnacle of ancient Greek civilization, and the resilience of human achievement. Despite suffering damage from wars, earthquakes, and the passage of centuries of time, these structures continue to inspire awe and reverence. Their preservation and restoration efforts stand as a testament to the importance of safeguarding our shared cultural heritage. The Acropolis and Parthenon hold endless mysteries and stories within their ancient walls. Exploring these lesser-known facts unlocks a deeper understanding of their historical significance, making a visit to these iconic landmarks all the more enlightening and fulfilling. Begin to unravel the mysteries with our Acropolis and Parthenon tours. 

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