The Acropolis of Athens, perched high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city, is an iconic symbol of ancient Greek civilization. This ancient citadel has captivated travelers and history enthusiasts alike for centuries.
In this article, we look at 34 amazing facts about the Acropolis, highlighting its rich history and cultural importance. Let’s dive in!
1. The Acropolis is older than the Great Wall of China, Colosseum, and Mesa Verde in Colorado. The construction of the Acropolis began during the 5th century BC, under the leadership of Pericles, during the “Golden Age” of Athens (That makes it over 3,300 years old). Its primary purpose was to house religious and civic buildings.
2. Despite the age, there are 4 main structures still standing in the Acropolis. These are the Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon is by far the most famous temple in the Acropolis.
3. The Parthenon once housed a colossal gold and ivory statue of Athena Parthenos, the city’s protector. Created by the renowned sculptor Phidias, the statue was 12 meters (40 feet) tall, which is almost half the size of the Statue of Liberty.
4. The name “Acropolis” is derived from two Greek words: “akros,” meaning highest, and “polis,” meaning city, indicating its prominent location overlooking Athens. The Acropolis literally means “High City.”
5. Over the centuries, the Acropolis fell under the rule of various civilizations. It has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and of course, the Greeks.
6. In 1987, the Acropolis was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is recognized for its historical significance and outstanding universal value. Only one site in Greece, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, was listed before it.
7. The Acropolis sits 150 meters (490 feet) above sea level on a flattish rock overlooking the city of Athens. 8,000 two-ton limestone building blocks were used to level large parts of the summit. In some areas, the Acropolis’ foundations are 11 meters (36 feet) deep.
8. The Acropolis isn’t the highest temple of its kind in Greece. Acrocorinth in the ancient city of Corinth sits atop a 575-meter (1,880-foot) hill.
9. The marble used in the construction of the Acropolis was quarried from Mount Pentelicus. The marble was transported from approximately 16 miles northeast of the city.
10. The Acropolis has a surface area of approximately 3 hectares (7.4 feet). That’s larger than 5 football fields! Its overall dimensions are roughly 170 meters (557 feet) by 350 meters (1,148 feet).
11. The area surrounding the Acropolis features multiple cave sanctuaries. These caves were used by the common folk to contact deities. The three largest caves were devoted to Pan, Apollo, and Zeus.
12. The weather in Athens regularly reaches extremely hot temperatures. In 2023, the Acropolis was closed to tourists because temperatures rose above 40°C (104°F).
13. Despite the high temperatures Athens usually experiences, snow has been known to fall on the Acropolis. 2023 marked the third year in a row that the Acropolis was covered in snowfall.
14. The Acropolis also experiences its fair share of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see owls, buzzards, and eagles flying around the temple. In fact, some species of owl live in the center of the Acropolis. Lots of stray dogs call the Acropolis home, too.
15. The area that surrounds the Acropolis is covered in a forest of pine and olive trees. The Acropolis landscape also features local flowering herbs and shrubs.
16. More than 17,000 tourists visit the Acropolis of Athens every day. That’s almost 1 million visitors a year. Most tourists visit the Acropolis to observe the architecture and learn more about Ancient Greek culture.
17. The Greek government is in the process of implementing a time slot system for tourists that visit the Acropolis. This is to alleviate the pressures of overtourism, which has seen the number of Acropolis visitors increase by almost 70%.
18. Adjacent to the archaeological site, the Acropolis Museum is a state-of-the-art facility that houses an extensive collection of artifacts found on the Acropolis. The museum currently houses more than 4,000 individual artifacts.
19. One unique tourist attraction at the Acropolis is the current excavation work. Visitors can witness ongoing archaeological excavations and restoration efforts on the site.
20. Throughout the year, the Acropolis hosts various cultural events, concerts, and performances. These include the Full Moon Tango, Jazz concerts, National Greek Choir performances, and World Tourism Day.
21. In the third century AD, the Acropolis was nearly destroyed when a fire broke out on the temple’s roof. The fires destroyed most of the roof and large parts of the Acropolis’ interior.
22. The Acropolis has been attacked and damaged throughout history but has never been totally destroyed. Around 500 BC, two attacks by the Persians left some of the temples destroyed. During the Venetian siege in 1687, the Parthenon suffered significant damage when a cannonball struck the powder magazine stored inside the temple.
23. The Panathenaic Games, one of the most prestigious sporting events in ancient Greece, were held at the Acropolis. The games were held in honor of the goddess Athena. They took place every four years and included various athletic competitions, such as running, wrestling, boxing, and chariot races.
24. The ancient Athenians built gymnasiums and training grounds in and around the Acropolis. The training grounds provided athletes with the necessary facilities to hone their skills and prepare for competitions.
25. In the 19th Century, Lord Elgin controversially stole some of the Parthenon Marbles and took them to London. These marble sculptures are now displayed in the British Museum in London. They are also called the “Elgin Marbles”.
26. In the Erechtheion temple, the Caryatids are woman-shaped columns supporting the roof. One of these columns is also on display in the Museum of London. Others are kept in the Acropolis Museum.
27. In 1941, the Acropolis fell under Adolf Hitler’s rule, and the Greek flag at the top of the hill was replaced with a swastika. However, in a sign of resistance, two Greek university students managed to climb into the Acropolis. They stole the flag and escaped unseen.
28. The famed English poet Lord Byron visited the Acropolis in the early 19th century. He was so captivated by its splendor that he carved his name on one of the ancient columns.
29. King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Bavarian monarch, was a passionate admirer of ancient Greek art and culture. He visited the Acropolis in the 19th century and made significant contributions to the preservation and restoration of its structures.
30. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have been to the Acropolis. The British royal couple visited the Acropolis during their tour of Europe in 1840, leaving a mark in the guestbook of the Erechtheion.
31. The renowned American author and humorist, Mark Twain, visited the Acropolis during his travels to Greece in the 1860s. He documented his experiences in his travel writings.
32. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis also visited the Acropolis. The former First Lady of the United States visited during her European tour in 1961.
33. The Acropolis has been featured in a variety of different movies. These include “El Greco” (2007), “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” (2010), “Before Midnight” (2013), and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018).
34. The Acropolis can be seen in a range of different television shows too. Good examples include “Lost Worlds: The Acropolis” (2007), “Globe Trekker: Athens City Guide” (2017), and “Ancient Greece: Gods and Battles” (2019).