Rising to a height of between 60 and 70 meters above the city, the rocky flat-topped hill of the Acropolis is 300 meters from east to west and 150 meters from north to south.
Its first fortifications were constructed by the Myceneans in the 13th century BC, and some of these survived until 510 BC when the tyrant Hippias was overthrown and they were torn down to prevent a return to tyranny.
When the Acropolis was ransacked by the Persians in 580 BC, the Athenians vowed never to rebuild on it. But thirty-three years later, the great statesmen Pericles persuaded the popular assembly to rebuild on it as a lasting testament to the glory of democratic Athens and its empire.
Most of the buildings remaining on the Acropolis today were built as part of Perciles' massive building program in the middle of the 5th century BC. However, many were not finished until after his death in 429 BC. Further embellishments were added by the Romans when they conquered Greece in 146 BC.
The winding rocky path that led up to the Acropolis was surrounded by numerous small shrines, including one to the god Pan, who had appeared to the runner Phidippides before the battle of Marathon.
At its top was the Propylaeum, an entryway and façade that formed the gateway to the Acropolis.
Once inside the 'sacred precinct' the most fabulous building was the Parthenon, the surviving ruins of which are what most people associate with Ancient Greece.
The Parthenon was started in 447 BC and completed some fifteen years later. It housed both a treasury and a sanctuary to Athena, in which was placed a fantastic 12-meter high ivory and gold statue of the goddess Athena, called the Athena Parthenos.
Numerous smaller temples and shrines dedicated to both mythical ancestors and Greek gods were also to be found on the Acropolis. These included the Temple of Athena Nike, as well as the huge imposing statute of Athena Promachos, which stood 10 meters tall and could be seen from some 5 kilometers out to sea.
Combining three buildings into one structure, the other great building of the Acropolis was the Erechtheum.
It contained shrines and sites whose
origin stretched back to Mycenean times, and it was here,
according to Ancient Greek mythology, that the goddess Athena
had defeated the sea-god Poseidon in her battle to win
possession of the city. Within the temple also dwelt the
goddess' sacred snake