Athens’ Acropolis and its temples are universal symbols of the ancient spirit and culture, constituting the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed to the world by Greek Antiquity.
Athens rose to prominence among the ancient world’s city-states in the second half of the fifth century bc, following its victory over the Persians and the establishment of democracy.
In the era that followed, as thought and art flourished, an outstanding group of artists carried out the ambitious plans of Athenian statesman Pericles, transforming the rocky hill into a unique temple of thought and the arts under the inspired guidance of the sculptor Pheidias.
The Parthenon, built by Ictinus, the Erechtheon, the Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis, planned by Mnesicles, and the small temple Athena Nike were all constructed during this time period.
Exceptional Universal Value
A succinct summary
Athens’ Acropolis is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex that survives to the present day. It is located on a hill with an average elevation of (156m) that rises from the Athens basin. It measures approximately 170 by 350m in total.
Except for the western slope, the hill is rocky and steep on all sides, with an expansive, nearly flat top. For over 3,300 years, strong fortification walls have enclosed the Acropolis’s summit. The first fortification wall was constructed in the 13th century BC to protect the local Mycenaean ruler’s residence.
The Acropolis gradually acquired a religious character in the eighth century BC with the founding of the cult of Athena, the city’s patron goddess.
The sanctuary flourished during the archaic era (mid-6th century to early 5th century BC). In the fifth century BC, inspired by their victory over the Persians, the Athenians embarked on an ambitious building program led by the great statesman Perikles, which included a slew of temples such as the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the temple of Athena Nike.
The monuments were created by an extraordinary group of architects (including Iktinos, Kallikrates, and Mnesikles) and sculptors (including Pheidias, Alkamenes, and Agorakritos), who transformed the rocky hill into a unique complex that heralded the arrival of classical Greek thought and art.
Democracy, Philosophy, Theatre, and Freedom of Expression and Speech were born on this hill, and they continue to provide the intellectual and spiritual basis for the modern world and its values to this day.
The monuments of the Acropolis, which have undergone nearly two centuries of battles, bombings, bombardments, fires, earthquakes, sackings, attacks, and alterations, have adapted to various uses and the cultures, mythologies, and religions that flourished in Greece over time.
The Athenian Acropolis is the pinnacle of architectural adaptation to a natural setting. This grand composition of perfectly balanced massive structures creates a monumental landscape of unparalleled beauty, comprising a complete series of 5th-century BC architectural masterpieces: the Parthenon by Iktinos and Kallikrates with the assistance of sculptor Pheidias (447-432); the Propylaia by Mnesikles (437-432); and the Temple of Athena Nike by Mnesikles and Kallikrates (427-424). (421-406).
The monuments of the Athenian Acropolis have had an extraordinary impact, not only during Greco-Roman antiquity, when they were regarded as exemplary models, but also in modern times. All of the Acropolis’s monuments have influenced Neo-Classical architecture around the world.
From myth to institutionalized cult, the Athenian Acropolis bears an unmatched testimony to ancient Greece’s religions through its precision and diversity.
It is the holy temple that gave birth to the city’s fundamental legends. Beginning in the sixth century BC, myths and traditions inspired the construction of temples, altars, and votives to accommodate an extreme diversity of cults, resulting in the Athenian religion in all its splendor and complexity.
Athena was revered as the goddess of the city (Athena Polias), the goddess of battle (Athena Promachos), the goddess of victory (Athena Nike), and the goddess of crafts (Athena Ergane), among others. The Parthenon, the patron-temple, goddess’s honors the majority of her personalities.
The Athenian Acropolis is an excellent illustration of an architectural ensemble illustrating important historical periods dating all the way back to the sixteenth century BC.
To begin, there was the Mycenaean Acropolis (Late Helladic civilization, 1600-1100 BC), which included the royal residence and was fortified in the distinctive Mycenaean style.
The Acropolis monuments are singular structures that invoke the ideals of the Classical 5th century BC and represent the pinnacle of ancient Greek architectural growth.
Criterion (vi): The Acropolis is inextricably linked to events and concepts that have endured throughout history. Its monuments continue to bear witness to the accomplishments of Classical Greek leaders (e.g. Themistokles, Perikles) who led the city to democracy; the thinking of Athenian thinkers (e.g. Socrates, Plato, Demosthenes); and the works of architects (e.g. Iktinos, Kallikrates, Mnesikles) and artists (e.g. Pheidias, Agorakritus, Alkamenes). These monuments bear witness to a priceless aspect of humanity’s cultural heritage.
The Acropolis of Athens encompasses all of the main characteristics that contribute to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value as an ensemble of unparalleled splendor in excellent condition.
The perfection of ancient construction techniques guaranteed the monuments’ resilience to natural forces over time. Despite the inevitable deterioration caused by time, they retain their elegance and express their incalculable artistic and historical significance, retaining all the characteristics that link them directly and visibly to the events and ideas of Democracy and Philosophy.
Inevitably, the vicissitudes of history from the fifth century BC to the present day have resulted in considerable damage, which is being successfully tackled through ongoing preservation and conservation efforts that improve the monuments’ stability and legibility.
The Acropolis hill, crowned by masterpieces of Greek Classical art and architecture, has retained its authenticity. To preserve the monuments’ authenticity and structural integrity, an integrated intervention began in 1975 and continues to the present day.
The works are founded on sound theoretical and academic foundations and adhere to the Venice Charter’s values. The interventions are minimal and respectful of the ancient structural structure, thus adhering to the concept of reversibility.
Additionally, the reconstruction methods and equipment used are comparable to those used by ancient craftspeople, and the white marble used to complete the eroded architectural elements is quarried from the same mountain as in antiquity (Mt. Penteli). As a result, the restorations are fully consistent with the monuments’ original components.
Minimum criteria for security and management
Since 1833, shortly after the creation of the modern Greek state, the Acropolis has operated as an archaeological site. Nowadays, the property is strongly protected by Law No 3028/2002 on the «Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in General.» Additionally, the Acropolis and its environs, which constitute monuments in their own right, are protected by legislative decrees (Ministerial Decrees F01/12970/503/25.2.82 designating its buffer zone; and F43/7027/425/29.1.2004 designating the city of Athens’ peripheral zone and imposing mandatory control prior to issuing any building or development permit within its peripheral zone).
The fact that the property’s buffer zone is itself a protected archaeological area, combined with the strict legal framework in place since 2002 – especially for the urban tissue in Athens’ historical center – and the intensive monitoring by the professional Ephorate, ensures that urban development pressures are adequately addressed.
The Presidential Decree No 24/2007, which declares the Acropolis area a no-fly zone, provides additional security.
The property is administered by the Ministry of Culture, Education, and Religious Affairs, through its professional Regional Service, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Athens, which is responsible for the site’s security and safety, as well as the implementation of an effective site and visitor management system. Additionally, the Ministry of Culture, Education, and Religious Affairs enforces statutory decrees pertaining to the property’s security and peripheral zone (which corresponds to the ancient city of Athens and its environs) and maintains the site’s visual integrity.
To oversee the preservation, protection, and supervision of the site, a consultative body, the Committee for the Restoration and Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments, was established in 1975. It is responsible for preparing, directing, and supervising interventions.
The establishment of the Acropolis Restoration Service in 1999 allowed the expansion of academic and technical staff and the enormous expansion of restoration works, all under the oversight of the aforementioned Committee and in collaboration with the competent Ephorate. The detailed research program and methods used are groundbreaking in this field and serve as a model for future restoration projects. The site’s financial services come from both the state budget and European Union funds.
Special consideration has been given to the site’s accessibility, including pathways and visitor facilities, especially for disabled visitors.
Additionally, emergency measures for visitor security and scientific studies for the site’s safety, such as earthquake monitoring, are being implemented.
The New Acropolis Museum (opened in 2009), which houses the majority of the monuments’ original sculptural and/or architectural elements, the ongoing project «Unification of Athens’ Archaeological Sites,» as well as long-term restoration work, will all contribute to the property’s preservation and presentation.