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The history of the Parthenon of the Acropolis of Athens is long, with great moments, when democracy, science, philosophy and fine art were flourishing at the time the temple was created, and times as dark as those when a British ambassador vandalised the monument's finest decorative parts. Despite the unique historic, symbolic and cultural value of the monument, there have been most frustrating acts of looting against it. Read more about the stealing of the Parthenon's Marble frieze: a crime committed by a British ambassador in the 19th century, and shamelessly continued by the British Museum today.
The largest building atop the Athenian Acropolis is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos (Athena the Warrior Maiden). It is a Doric building, made entirely of white pentelic marble and surrounded by freestanding columns. It was designed by Ictinus and Callicrates, with sculpture by Phidias. The sculpture was composed of a giant ivory and gold figure of Athena, a continuous frieze band inside the colonnade depicting the Panathenaic procession, and metope panels depicting, among other scenes, the Battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs. The temple was unusual in that it had two rooms within its cella, the enclosed space inside the colonnade. The smaller room, dedicated to the maiden goddess (parthenon), eventually lent its name to the whole building. The larger chamber housed the huge image of Athena by Phidias, which much later was removed by the Crusaders to Constantinople and there destroyed.
The Parthenon later served in succession as a Byzantine church, a Roman Catholic church, a Turkish harem, and a Turkish powder magazine. On Sept. 16, 1687, a direct hit by Venetian artillery caused the powder in the Parthenon to explode, scattering debris across the Acropolis. The remaining sculpture rapidly began to disappear. A few pieces were taken to France by the duc de Choiseul, but most of it was sent to Britain in 1802-03 by the 7th earl of Elgin. In 1922-23 the Greek archaeologist Nicolas Balanos collected the remaining fragments of the temple and restored a number of columns and parts of the entablature that they carried.
The Propylaea, located at the west end of the hill, is the gateway into the Acropolis. Although never completed, the present structure was worked on in 437-432 BC by the architect Mnesicles. His gate was intended to replace an earlier one built under the administration of Peisistratus in c.530 BC. The inner and outer colonnades are Doric, recalling those of the Parthenon although they are much more severe. Inside are more slender Ionic columns. Flanking the central gate-hall are two chambers. One was used as a pinakotheke "painting gallery"; the other, although never completed, was probably intended as a glyptotheke "sculpture gallery".
Temple of Athena Nike - The diminutive temple of Athena Nike (Athena of Victory), which measures only 5.64 by 8.34 m (18.5 by 27 ft), stands southwest of the Propylaea, on a rebuilt Mycenaean fortification. The only wholly Ionic building on the Acropolis, it was designed by the architect Callicrates in a delicate style, with four columns on the front and on the rear porches. The Nike temple remained intact until 1686, when the Turks dismantled the building to use the blocks in fortifications. It was reassembled hastily in 1836 and then more carefully reerected by Balanos and A. K. Orlandos in 1935-40.
The temple of Erechtheus, or Erechtheum, was the last, the most complex, and the most richly embellished of the Periclean buildings. The unorthodox two-level plan adopted by the architect (perhaps Mnesicles) served to accommodate several sites long held sacred by the Athenians. The upper portion of the temple, facing east, contained a sanctuary dedicated to Athena Polias (Athena Protectress of the City); on a lower level at the west end were three smaller chambers dedicated to local gods and to Poseidon. The large porch opening to the north, enclosed by elegantly proportioned Ionic columns, protected a stone believed to have been struck by Poseidon's trident. The Erechtheum is best known for its caryatid porch on the south side, facing the Parthenon. Its roof is supported by six caryatids, columns in the form of female figures. The present caryatids are copies, the originals having been moved to the Acropolis Museum in order to preserve them.
One of the most extensive, internationally acclaimed antiquity conservation and restoration projects has been taking place on the Acropolis of Athens since the 1980's. The Restoration, comprising a number of sub-projects that aim to stabilise, conserve and prolong the life of the Parthenon and its satellite temples, is supported by the Greek State and the European Union. As far as the appearance of the monuments is concerned, the Erechteion will appear fully restored, without scaffoldings. The Parthenon will appear partly restored, given that the projects for the restoration of the pronaos and opisthonaos, were completed in July 2004. The only project still in process will be that of the restoration of the north side. The project of the Temple of Athena Nike will be in progress, while the euthynteria, the krepis and part of the lateral walls will be restored. The Propylaia ceilings will be partly restored, while the rest of the project will be in process. Furthermore, in order to facilitate the access of the large number of visitors during the Olympic Games, a new floor has replaced the earlier floor of the central passageway through the Propylaia. Finally, the overall appearance of the Sacred Rock will be enhanced after the collection, identification and classification of the scattered members on the Acropolis plateau.
Athens owes its good climate, mild winters and warm summers cooled by a system of seasonable winds, to its geographic position. The general condition of the weather in Athens usually stabilizes in early summer, and is characterized by bright sunshine and very little rainfall. Temperature do vary, however. Summers are long and dry, with extremes of 37º C (99º F), making the yearly mean temperature about 17º C (63º F). Winters are mild and sometimes rainy, with quite low temperatures. Lightweight clothes during summer months, including protection from the midday sun (hats, sunglasses etc). light sweat shirts are needed for evenings. Rainproof jackets are advised for autumn and normal winter-wear (woolen sweat shirts, winter coat etc.) during winter.
These are mainly freestanding votive sculptures and important groups of architectural sculptures, which decorated the buildings erected on the Acropolis in the Archaic and Classical periods. The display also includes clay votive offerings. This single-story museum, which was built on an east-west orientation, is located where the natural rock dips at the southeast corner of the Acropolis, so as not to detract aesthetically from the ancient monuments.
The museum is entered through a porch with four stone-built columns, from a small courtyard, which is accessed by two stairways at the north and south. The display elements are exhibited in chronological and thematic order in the lobby and nine halls. The north part of Room VIII was closed off in 1993 and has since been used as a laboratory for the conservation of the Parthenon's west frieze. The museum also has a conservation laboratory, basement storage rooms and a bookshop. The museum is directly linked to the archaeological site of the Acropolis and to the extensive conservation work carried out on the sacred rock. It is under the supervision of the First Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture, which also oversees the construction of the New Acropolis Museum.