Everything and everyone in Athens seems to be drawn irresistibly towards the Acropolis, the 156 meters high limestone rock that crowns the city. Clearly visible from any part of Athens, the delicately poised and dazzling white columns of the Parthenon stand out against the blue background of the sky, an immortal symbol of the spirit and genius of man. Archaeological excavations carried out on the slopes and the flat summit of the Acropolis have disclosed that this great Sacred rock was first inhabited in the Neolithic Ages some 6,000 years ago.
First, the Pelasgians and later the Ionians came to settle here living In the caves mainly along the northern side. In times of danger, they sought refuge on its summit. Its natural springs attracted tribe after tribe to its slopes and with the passing of the centuries, the small settlements spread to the neighboring regions of Pnyx Hill, the Agora, and Keramikos.
The uninterrupted occupation led to the growth of the city until by the middle of the 6th century B.C. Athens extended as far as the foothills of Lycabettus and Mount Hymettus. The first stone temples were built at the beginning of the 6th century B.C., replacing wooden ones. The Parthenon was dedicated to the Goddess Athena. Some of the sculptures from its pediments are housed in the Acropolis Museum. During the Persian wars the Acropolis was sacked ( 480-479 B.C. ). The splendid monuments we see here today date from the great era of reconstruction under Pericles, between 460-429 B.C. From that time, and throughout the Middle Ages, the Acropolis has remained almost intact.
Fortifications, embellishments, and changes were made by its various conquerors. In 429 A.D. the temples were converted into Christian Orthodox churches and later, under the Turkish occupation, the Parthenon was made into a mosque.
During the Venetian siege of Athens in 1687, some of the buildings were partially destroyed by cannonballs and a fire that raged for two days.
To the west of the Acropolis lies the Areopagus, the small rocky hill on which the oldest Athenian council met. A lower hill, the Pnyx, is where the General Assembly gathered. The highest of the low hills which face the Acropolis is crowned with the monument of Philopappos -a marble memorial, dating from the 2nd century A.D.
The Graceful and gigantic columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus stand to the east of the Acropolis. The temple was started under Peisistratos in 530 B.C. but was not completed until Roman times under Hadrian in 129 A.D. Hadrian’s Arch, which stands near the Temple of Olympian Zeus, was erected in the Roman era to mark the boundary between the “City of Hadrian” and the “City of Theseus”, as the inscription reads above the slender columns.
Other sights below the Acropolis include the impressive octagonal tower with its inscriptions and figures of the wind gods. Built-in the 1st century B.C. as a hydraulic clock, complete with sundial and weather-vane, this monument is commonly known as the Tower of the Winds.
The Monument of Lysicrates is a small 4th-century marble edifice in a square where Lord Byron stayed during his first visit to Athens. This circular choragic monument was erected by the Athenian Lysicrates, winner In a Chorus competition at the Theater of Dionysus.