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Key facts about the Acropolis of Athens

An unprecedented conceptual design embodied in architectural excellence

View of the Acropolis from the west.
View of the Acropolis from Philopappou hill (southwest).
View of the Acropolis from a drone. Source: GEOPAHAS ⧉
View of the Acropolis in 360 degrees. Source: BBC ⧉
View of the Acropolis on Google Maps ⧉
View of the Acropolis from space. Source: NASA ⧉

Name, location, function

The Acropolis is a complex of ancient structures on a fortified hill in the heart of Athens. The constituent components of its name are acro + polis, meaning it is at the tip, the highest point, of the city.

The Acropolis has a long history which is reflected on the structures built on and around it. Through the progression of time, layers of different values, identities and functions were assigned to the monument, parallel to the various transitions that the city itself underwent. 

More information about the location and access to the Acropolis is available here:

List of structures

The best-known structures of the Athenian Acropolis are listed below.

On the Acropolis hill:

At the foot of the Acropolis hill:

More information about these structures is available further down on this page.

A bit of history

The history of the Acropolis of Athens is long, the best-known period being the classical period in the 5th century BC, also referred to as "the Golden Age", when the classical buildings, as known today, were constructed under the governance of Pericles, the political leader of Athens in the 5th century BC. This is when democracy, philosophy, and art flourished in ancient Athens, granting the building complex its unique historical, artistic, and symbolic value known worldwide.

The Acropolis, and the Parthenon specifically, is the most iconic monument of the ancient Greek civilisation. It continues to stand as a symbol in many ways: it is the symbol of democracy and the Greek civilisation. It also symbolises the beginning of Western civilisation and stands as the icon of European culture. The Parthenon was dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of the city of Athens and goddess of wisdom.

Another much-discussed period in the history of the Acropolis is in the early 19th century. This is when many of the sculptures that adorned its buildings were removed and shipped away from the city, scattering some of the most essential parts of the monuments to different cities in Europe, mainly in London. Despite the unique symbolic and cultural value of the monument, the issue of the removal of the sculptures from the Athenian Acropolis by Elgin continues to shadow their history. 

In 1987, the Acropolis was inscribed as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO, 1987). Uniquely, capturing the gravity of the Athenian Acropolis as a symbol, UNESCO recognises that “[…] the Acropolis, the site of four of the greatest masterpieces of classical Greek art – the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheum and the Temple of Athena Nike – can be seen as symbolizing the idea of world heritage” (UNESCO, 2006).

Today, more than half of the Parthenon sculptures are in London, and their return to Athens, for their display in the Acropolis Museum together with the other originals, is awaiting to be settled. The international community wants to reunite all of the Acropolis sculptures in Athens to restore both its physicality and meaning.


UNESCO. (1987). WH Committee: Report of 11th Session, Paris 1987. Paris: UNESCO / World Heritage Center. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/archive/repcom87.htm#404

UNESCO. (2006). Acropolis, Athens: (Cycle 1) Section II Summary. UNESCO / World Heritage Center. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/404/documents/

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The Acropolis of Athens is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site (UNESCO, 1987)

The 4 main structures on the Acropolis hill

The Propylaea from outside, as one enters the Acropolis.
The Propylaea from the inside, as one exits the Acropolis.

The Propylaea 

The monumental entrance to the top of the Acropolis, from the west.​


The Temple of Athena Nike 

A small temple on the right hand side of the Propylaia.​

The Erechtheion from the west.
The iconic porch of the Erechtheion with the six Caryatids.

The Erechtheion 

A truly unique building with an iconic porch with the six Caryatids.

The Parthenon 

The Parthenon is a breathing structure, a unique architectural standard featuring curves and proportions that render it not static but a dynamic composition in space.

How is this achieved? Key design features are presented in the section below.

The Parthenon from the east.
The Parthenon from the northeast.
The Parthenon from the southwest.
The Parthenon from the north.

Key architectual features of the Parthenon 

Architectural refinements

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The columns of the Parthenon are curved along their length to convey the impression that they are supporting a large weight as living entities.

Curved base

The basis of the Parthenon is curved to convey a harmonious optical effect.

Optical column corrections

To correct for the fact that objects against bright light appear to be thinner, the four corner columns of the Parthenon, which are against the bright sky, are thicker than the other columns.

Precise geometric design

Extensions of the overall layout meet precisely meters above the temple

If, on the diagram of the Parthenon you draw extensions going upwards, they will meet precisely at the same height above the temple.

The odeons and theatres at the foot of the Acropolis

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The Roman-time theatre near the Propylaea.

Theatre of Dionysus

The theatre from the classical period. The first theatre in Europe. 

Odeon of Pericles in Athens

The rectangular odeon (not saved today).

Put the best of science, art and philosophy together in one creation and you have the definitive monument of human civilisation. UNESCO calls it the symbol of World Heritage. The world calls it the Athenian Acropolis!

Next in this section: Sculptures