Archaeological Monuments of Greece

Acropolis Of Athens


The greatest temple of ancient Greece, dedicated to the goddess Athena, dominates the city from the hill known as the Acropolis. The most celebrated myths of ancient Athens, its greatest religious festivals, earliest cults and several decisive events in the city s history are all connected to this sacred precinct. The Acropolis stands in harmony with its natural setting. It is also the first earthquake resistance building of the World. The Acropolis of Athens dates back to fifth century BC and are the most accurate reflection of the splendor, power and wealth of Athens at its greatest peak, the golden age of Perikles.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon, dedicated by the Athenians to Athena Parthenos, the patron of their city, is the most magnificent creation of Athenian democracy at the height of its power. It is also the finest monument on the Acropolis in terms of both conception and execution. Built between 447 and 438 BC, as part of the greater Periklean building project, this so-called Periklean Parthenon (Parthenon III) replaced an earlier marble temple (Parthenon II), begun after the victory at the battle of Marathon at approximately 490 BC and destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. This temple had replaced the very first Parthenon (Parthenon I) of c. 570 BC. The Periklean Parthenon was designed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, while the sculptor Pheidias supervised the entire building program and conceived the temple’s sculptural decoration and chryselephantine statue of Athena. The Parthenon remained unchanged until the fifth century AD, when it was converted into a church dedicated first to Saint Sophia and later to the Panagia (Virgin Mary). Under Turkish rule it became a mosque. In 1687, during the siege of the Acropolis by Morozini, the Parthenon was bombarded and largely destroyed. Further serious damage was caused in the early nineteenth century by Lord Elgin, who looted much of the temple’s sculptural decoration and sold it to the British Museum. Conservation and restoration of the Parthenon took place in 1896-1900 and again in 1922-1933. A vast conservation and restoration program of the monuments of the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, is currently under way since 1975 by the Service of Restoration of the Monuments of the Acropolis in collaboration with the First Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, under the supervision of the Committee for the Conservation of the Monuments of the Acropolis.

The Erechtheion

The Erechtheion is located on the north side of the sacred rock of the Acropolis, it was built between 421-406 BC as a replacement of a temple dedicated to Athena Polias.The name Erechtheion is mentioned only by Pausanias (1, 26, 5), derives from Erechtheus, the mythical king of Athens, who had the body of a snake and head of a Man. Other texts mentions to the building simply as temple or old temple. The building owes its unusual shape to the irregularity of the terrain – there is a three-metre difference in height between the eastern and western parts – and the multiple cults it was designed to accommodate. The eastern part of the building was dedicated to Athena Polias, while the western part served the cult of Poseidon-Erechtheus and held the altars of Hephaistus and Voutos, brother of Erechtheus. This is where, according to the myth, Athena s sacred snake lived. The sanctuary also contained the grave of KekropsOn that spot Athena and Poseidon had their fight who is going to give his name to the city.

Temple of Nike

The temple of Athena Nike stands at the southeast edge of the sacred rock atop a bastion, which in Mycenaean times protected the entrance to the Acropolis. The Classical temple, designed by architect Kallikrates and built in 426-421 BC, succeeded earlier temples also dedicated to Athena Nike. The first one of these, a mid-sixth century BC wooden temple was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. The eschara, the altar believed to have supported the cult statue of the goddess, dates to this period. Under Kimon, c. 468 BC, a small temple of tufa was erected around the base of the statue and a new altar was built outside the temple. The foundations of these early temples and altars are preserved inside the bastion under the floor of the Classical structure. Pausanias (1, 22, 4) refers to this temple as that of the Apteros Nike, or Wingless Victory, and mentions that the cult statue of the goddess had no wings so that she would never leave Athens. Apart from the cult of Athena Nike other, earlier cults were also practiced on this site. On the west side of the bastion was a Mycenaean double-apsed shrine and on the east side, the pre-Classical shrines of the Graces and of Hekate Epipyrgidia. The construction of the Classical temple of Athena Nike was part of the Periklean building project. Several inscriptions, mostly decrees of the city of Athens, provide information on this particular part of the project.

The Propylaia

Propylaia means the entrance gate of eachtemple. They were built on the west side of the hill, where the gate of the Mycenaean fortification once stood. The first gate was constructed in the years of Peisistratos (mid-sixth century BC), after the Acropolis had become a sanctuary dedicated to Athena. A newgatewas built in 510-480 BC, unfortunately it was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC during the attack and repaired after the end of the Persian Wars, during the fortification of the Acropolis by Themistokles and Kimon.The monument was admired by modern visitors were part of the great Periklean building program. They were erected in 437-432 BC, after the completion of the Parthenon, by architect Mnesikles.It wasn’t complete because Peloponnesian War has started.


Located on Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which became the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. Delphi in Mythology was mentioned as the centre of the world, it is here that the two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world met. The sanctuary of Delphi, set within a fantastic landscape, was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world.

The history of Delphi begins in prehistory and in the myths of the ancient Greeks. In the beginning the site was sacred to Mother Earth and was guarded by the terrible serpent Python, who was later killed by Apollo. Apollo s sanctuary was built here by Cretans who arrived at Kirrha, the port of Delphi, accompanied by the god in the form of a dolphin. This myth survived in plays presented during the various Delphic festivals, such as the Septerion, the Delphinia, the Thargelia, and the Theophania and, of course, the famous Pythia, which celebrated the death of Python and comprised musical and athletic competition The archaeological site of Delphi includes two sanctuaries, dedicated to Apollo and Athena, and other buildings, mostly intended for sports.

Visitors arriving from Athens first encountered the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia – that is, Athena who is before the temple? (of Apollo). Outside its walls spread the settlement of Delphi. Within the walls were the famous Tholos, the symbol of Delphi today, and the remains of three temples dedicated to the goddess. The two earlier temples were built of tufa on the same location. These date to the middle of the seventh century and to c. 500 BC. The third temple, made of limestone, was built at the west end of the sanctuary after the earthquake of 373 BC. This sanctuary also includes the altars of Zeus Polieus, Athena Ergane, Athena Zosteria, Eileithyia and Hygeia, the remains of two buildings dedicated to the cult of the local heroes Phylakos and Autonos, who routed the Persians from Delphi, and two treasuries with marble roofs, one Doric and the other Aeolian. The Aeolian Treasury of Massalia preserves a characteristic palm-leaf capital. Finally, the sanctuary included a memorial to the routing of the Persians, a statue of Emperor Hadrian, and a building known as the? House of the priests? exercise and learning, the palaestra and the baths. Further up the slope was the Castalian spring, the sacred spring of Delphi, were travellers quenched their thirst after a long voyage and purified themselves before consulting the oracle. The central, most important part of the site was the sanctuary of Apollo, which was surrounded by the usual peribolos, or enclosure wall, with a main gate at its southeast corner. From here visitors entered the Sacred Way, the street that led to the temple of Apollo with its famous adyton, where Pythia delivered her oracles.

With the temple and the Sacred Way as its centre, the sanctuary grew larger, spreading over artificial terraces to the northwest of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia lay the gymnasium, a place for supported by monumental walls, bordered by porticoes (of Attalus, of the Aetolians, of the Athenians) and accessed through corresponding gates in the enclosure wall. Scattered among these buildings and along the Sacred Way were numerous votive monuments dedicated by Greek cities or wealthy individuals on the occasion of socio-political events, or simply to express gratitude to the god and his oracle. These monuments are representative of artistic achievement from the East to the coasts of the Mediterranean and indicate the wealth of their patrons. They vary from bronze and silver tripods (one of the oracle’s symbols) to complex groups of sculptures in bronze or marble. The luxurious and impressive, however small, votive buildings known as treasuries were used for storing smaller votive offerings, but above all for displaying the art and splendour of the city which commissioned them. The imposing temple of Apollo dominated the sanctuary from atop a large terrace supported by a remarkable polygonal wall. In front of its entrance visitors could admire a series of impressive votive monuments dedicated mostly by wealthy individuals. Above the temple is the theatre where the theatrical and musical contests of the Pythian Games took place, while even higher up the slope, beyond the sacred enclosure, lies the stadium where the athletic contests were held. Outside and around the two sanctuaries are the remains of the settlement and cemeteries of Delphi, which developed mainly in the Classical and Roman period.


In western Peloponnese, in the beautiful valley of the Alpheios river lays the most celebrated sanctuary of ancient Greece. Dedicated to Zeus, the father of the gods, it sprawls over the southwest foot of Mount Kronios, at the confluence of the Alpheios and the Kladeos rivers, in a lush, green landscape. Although secluded near the west coast of the Peloponnese, Olympia became the most important religious and athletic centre in Greece. Its fame rests upon the Olympic Games, the greatest national festival and a highly prestigious one world-wide, which was held every four years to honour Zeus. The origin of the cult and of the festival went back many centuries. Local myths concerning the famous Pelops, the first ruler of the region, and the river Alpheios, betray the close ties between the sanctuary and both the East and West. The archaeological site of Olympia includes the sanctuary of Zeus and the many buildings erected around it, such as athletic premises used for the preparation and celebration of the Olympic Games, administrative buildings and other lay buildings and monuments. The Altis, the sacred enclosure and core of the sanctuary, with its temples, cult buildings and treasuries, occupies the centre of the site. It is surrounded by a peribolos, or enclosure wall, which in the late fourth century BC had three gates on its west side and two on the south, and is bordered on the east by the Echo Stoa, which separates the sacred precinct from the stadium. The enclosure wall was extended in Roman times and two monumental entrances were created on its west side.
The Classical Temple of Zeus and the earlier Temple of Hera dominate the Altis. East of the Heraion is the Metron, a temple dedicated to Cybele, the mother of the gods, and behind this, on the foot of Mount Kronios, a row of treasuries dedicated by Greek cities and colonies. To their west lies the Nymphaion, a splendid fountain dedicated by Herodes Atticus. South of the Heraion and over the remains of the prehistoric settlement of Olympia is the Pelopion, a funerary monument commemorating the hero Pelops. Also within the Altis are the Prytaneion, the see of the sanctuary officials, and the Philippeion, an elegant circular building dedicated by Philip II, king of Macedon. Southeast of the Heraion was the great altar of Zeus, a most important monument entirely made of ashes and therefore now completely lost. The remaining space inside the Altis was filled with numerous altars and statues of gods, heroes and Olympic winners dedicated by Greek cities or wealthy individuals, such as the Nike of Paionios. Outside the sacred precinct of the Altis, to its south, are the Bouleutherion and the South Stoa, the southernmost building of the greater sanctuary and its main entrance from the south. West of the Altis and separated from it by the Sacred Road is a series of buildings for the sanctuary personnel, the athletes and the distinguished visitors: the gymnasium and palaestra, exercise grounds, the Workshop of Pheidias which in Late Antiquity was transformed into a Christian church, the Greek baths with their swimming pool, the Roman hot baths, the Theokoleion or priests’ residence, the Leonidaion or officials’ quarters, and the Roman hostels. East of the Altis lies the stadium where the Olympic Games were held. South of the stadium was the hippodrome, of which no trace remains as it was swept away by the Alpheios. South of the hippodrome is a group of mansions and baths, including the famous House of Nero, built by the emperor for his stay at Olympia during his participation in the games.


Knossos is the site of the most important and better known palace of Minoan civilization. According to tradition, it was the seat of the legendary king Minos. The Palace is also connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Icaros. The site was continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period (7000-3000 B.C.) until Roman times. The Linear B tablets (Mycenaean script) of the 14th century B.C. mention the city as ko-no-so. Intensive habitation occured mostly in the Minoan period, when the so-called first (19th-17th centuries B.C.) and second palaces (16th-14th centuries B.C.) were built along with luxurious houses, a hospice and various other structures. After its partial destruction in 1450 B.C., Knossos was settled by Mycenaeans from the Greek Mainland. The city flourished again during the Hellenistic period (sanctuaries of Glaukos, Demeter, other sanctuaries, chamber tombs, north cemetery, and defensive towers) and in 67 B.C. it was captured by the Roman Quintus Caecilius Metelus Creticus. The “Villa of Dionysos”, a private house with splendid mosaics was built in the same period. Knossos was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos. Arthur Evans conducted systematic excavations at the site between 1900 and 1931, bringing to light the palace, a large section of the Minoan city, and the cemeteries. Since then, the site and the surrounding area have been excavated by the British School of Archaeology at Athens and the 23rd E.P.C.A. knossosreconstruction.gif The restoration of the palace to its present form was carried out by Arthur Evans. The interventions were mostly imposed by the need to preserve the monuments uncovered. The Archaeological Service of the Ministry of Culture carries out only consolidation work, whenever necessary.

Theater of Epidaurus

This impressive open-air theater is renowned for its nearly perfect architecture and acoustics. Its location within the sanctuary of Asklepius is also of some significance. The theater as a whole is considered to be the best preserved structure in Greece from the Classical period. The theater was built around the mid-4th century B.C.E. by Polyclitus the Younger. His work at Epidaurus has been praised for centuries, including by Pausanias, the geographer from the 2nd century C.E. Pausanias wrote in his “Descriptions of Greece” that the theater is “most especially worth seeing.” The theater is still considered one of the most beautiful and symmetrically perfect of all Greek theaters.Theater Description and Dimensions Its cavea, or the seating of the auditorium, is almost 350 feet (114 m) across. There are about 14,000 seats total, with 54 rows of seating – 34 below and 21 above the diazoma, or horizontal passageway. This was built in two phases, the upper 21 rows having been added during the 2nd century B.C.E. “Seats of honor” were red, and the rest were simply white limestone. Towards the center there is the round base of the altar or thymele, and the orchestra is a complete circle about 60 feet (20 m) in diameter.

There is a parados or entrance on either side of the theater that contained double doors and columns decorated with Corinthian capitals. The skene is a background building connected to the platform stage, and the proskene is comprised of a row of columns in front of the skene that support a high platform used as a raised stage, especially for comedies. In this stage area in the center, the smallest sound made is amplified and can be heard anywhere in the theater, regardless of seating. The astounding acoustics of the theater are due to a few factors in the architecture of the structure. The limestone material of the seating provides a filter effect of low frequencies, eliminating the problem of sounds from the chatter of the audience, for example. However, the rows of limestone reflect high frequency sound back to the audience from the stage. Also, ridges and grooves on the surface of the seats act as natural acoustic traps. The theater is architecturally perfect for sound and is a true wonder in this sense, though it is also possible that the Greeks did not actually understand the scientific principles behind the perfect acoustics of their architecture. Theater’s Relation to Asklepius The theater’s magnificence is often overshadowed by the shrine to Asklepius, although it is the sanctuary’s best preserved structure. It is the oldest shrine dedicated to this god of medicine and healing and was built during the 6th century B.C.E. There is a possibility that a significant relationship exists between the theater and the sanctuary and cult of Asklepius due to the location of the theater within the sanctuary at Epidaurus; there are other places situated in a very similar manner, such as Pergamon in present-day Turkey, where a smaller theater is located within the walls of a sacred area dedicated to Asklepius. During excavations at Epidaurus, two statues were found – one of Asklepius and one of a woman, likely his daughter Hygeia – between the orchestra and skene in the theater. During a yearly festival, noble citizens of Epidaurus, dressed in white, would march from the city to the Asklepion, chanting hymns to Asklepius and his father, Apollo. At the sanctuary, these choral hymns, accompanied by a kithara, a type of lyre, were continued in the “holy theater,” which was used as a gathering place following processions for Asklepius. Speeches in his honor, as well as regular temple services, also took place in the theater. Asklepius was said to have prescribed writing songs and “comical mimes” as treatments with the idea that the emotional state of a patient is as important as the physical, and so the theater was part of the cure. Thank offerings to the god from cured patients could include choral performances also. Games and contests in Asklepius’ name date back to the 5th century B.C.E. in Epidaurus and included musical and literary contests. All of these performances would have been performed in the theater linked to the sanctuary.The Theater’s Fate The theater was used in general for several centuries, but in 395 C.E., the Goths invaded and damaged the entire sanctuary. Then, in 426 C.E., Theodosius I, the Roman Emperor who made Christianity the official religion of the Empire, banned all activities at the sanctuary. Finally, in 528 C.E., an earthquake destroyed the shrine and covered the theater. The first excavations in 1881 found the auditorium in a rather good condition, as it was preserved in a layer of soil.


The civilization which blossomed in Greece during the Bronze Age, we call it, Mycenaean. In the period (1660 – 1400 BC), Mycenaeans amassed great prosperity and became the dominant power in the Aegean. Adventurous, daring, master seafarers, the Mykenaeans colonized Crete, Cyclades, Cyprus and Dodecannese, Sicily and northern Greece. Their goods replaced the Minoans and could be found at the markets of Egypt and Syria. According to the tradition, the city of Mykenae, the main representative of this civilization, was founded by Perseus (1400 – 1350 BC), the son of Zeus and Danae, the daughter of king Akrisios of Argos. Mycenae was build by the mythical Cyclops, the same ones who constructed the enormous walls of the nearby city of Tyrinths, which was governed by his brother Proetos. Perseus was succeeded by his son Sthenelos, the father of Eurystheus, who captured Argos and according to the myth, he assigned Herakles to perform the twelve labors. After the death of Eurystheus, the city was governed by Atreus of Elis (1250 BC), the brother of Eurystheus wife and son of Pelops and Hippodameia. There are many and various myths about the tragic fate of the Atreides family. The rivalry between Atreus and his brother Thyestes for the throne of Mykenae and the illicit love affair between Thyestes and the wife of Atreus, Aerope, ended in the tragic “Thyestian dinner”, in which Thyestes ate his sons, who had been killed by Atreus. For this horrible action of Atreus, his family was cursed.The city under Atreus expanded its boundaries and amassed great wealth and under the leadership of his son Agamemnon (1200 BC), who led the famous campaign against Troy, the city reached its greatest wealth and power. We do not know the reasons for the war, if we don’t accept as credible, the abduction of Helen by Paris. Many suggestions have been given, from fishing rights to the textile trade. We also don’t know the exact date of the war. Dates, as high as 1270 BC, had been given, though the Greek traditional date was 1184 BC When Agamemnon, the “king of men”, returned victorious from the Trojan war, he was assassinated by Aegisthos, the son of Thyestes and lover of his wife Klytaemnestra. Soon after, the son of Agamemnon, Orestes, took revenge by killing them both. mycenae-citadel-reconstructed.jpg Eighty years after the fall of Troy and during the reign of the son of Orestes, Tisamenos, the city of Mykenae was captured and destroyed by the Dorians. The city with the walls intact, though lost its power continued to exist for many centuries. The outer city was not deserted, as the many tombs, which have been found, indicate. A fine relief has survived from a temple that was erected in the early sixth century. When the Persian army invaded Greece, Mykenae send army both in Thermopylae and Plataea. The city was destroyed once more by Argos (468 BC), after a long besiege. In the Hellenistic times, Mykenae revived, the walls were repairedand a temple was build at the acropolis, where the Argive tyrant Aristippos was killed (235 BC).


The island of Delos in the centre of the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece. The excavations in the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean; ongoing work takes place under the direction of the French School at Athens.Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and established as a cult centre, Delos had an importance that its natural resources could never have offered.In 1990, UNESCO inscribed Delos on the World Heritage List, citing it as the “exceptionally extensive and rich” archaeological site which “conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port”.


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