Just a 10-minute drive from the center of Athens is an ancient citadel that’s lost in time. Join us as we take a look and marvel at the beauty of Greece’ Acropolis.
The first thing that catches your eye is a structure commanding a great view from everywhere in the city — The Parthenon. Originally built as a temple for the Greek goddess Athena (the goddess of wisdom), THIS special structure is what most of us think of when we hear the word “Greek temple”. The building’s style mainly has “Doric” features, alongside with “Ionic” elements. The columns are massive and have shallow broad flutes. It goes down into the floor of the temple known as the “stylobate”. The Capitals are very simple;. it rises up to a simple rectangular block called an “abacus”, and above it are triglyphs and metopes. Sculptures can be found all over the building, some of which depict the Greek people and gods battling various enemies. The incredible beauty of this building lies in how it was built — its architects Iktinos and Kallikrates have implemented several incredible building techniques that contributed to its seemingly “perfect” visual appeal. One of which is the “Golden Ratio” or “Perfect Ratio”, which is mathematically expressed as X=2Y+1 or 8:17. This ratio is everywhere on the building, from its length, width, internal layout, and column design. The building, in reality, is actually far from perfect, but this was due to Iktinos and Kallikrates aiming for a more “organic” and “dynamic” building, rather than a static or “lifeless” one. This is best seen in the way the columns bulge around 1/3rd of the way down (also following the golden ratio). This ended up in a visually “perfect” building that retains its soul and dynamics.
Meanwhile, just beside it lies a small compact structure called The Erechtheion. In comparison to the Parthenon with doric features, the Erechtheion possesses ionic features prevalent during its corresponding era, i.e., the scroll shapes found in the columns. The structure was mainly used as a temple housing a statue of Athena made entirely from olive wood. This statue was particularly impressive because it was believed to be a gift from the heavens itself. Unlike the symmetrical design seen in the Acropolis, the Erechtheion had a unique design. Even if the architects who were tasked to create this did not have the space to create a symmetrical temple, they still succeeded in designing an elegant floor plan that made the structure fit perfectly between the cliffside behind it and the remains of the old temple of Athena that was destroyed by the Persians. What’s beautiful about this small structure was the attention to detail placed in designing it. One example is the entablature that can be seen in the north porch of the structure; even if it isn’t the star of the show it has a very detailed design. The main tourist attraction is the “Porch of the Maidens” which is located in the south area of the temple. This particular group of columns is caryatids which are low-bearing sculpted female figures. These caryatids were used to depict women holding up the porch instead of the usual column design seen prevalent in the Acropolis. It is incredible how the greek architects were able to design a multi-purpose complex given the space they had to work with. In addition to this, the presence of symmetry still existed despite the different surface levels the structure was on; the east porch has symmetrical columns to its west counterpart while the 6 columns in the north and south porch were symmetrical.
The temple of Athena Nike is known as the smallest temple at the Acropolis. It is placed in a southwest corner, at the edge of a high cliff. This temple is built in the Ionic order of beautiful white Pentelic marble, it has four columns at the front and back of the cella and it is monolithic. Its small structure is very interesting and elegant to the point that they made a volute to make a pleasant viewpoint. The proportion of the temple was changed because its intention was to create a harmonious whole with the other buildings. Right next to the temple of Athena Nike stands a heavy, monumental gateway to the Acropolis named as the Propylaea.
What makes this gate beautiful is how it acted as a symbolic partition between the secular and religious parts of a city. This massive structure was made with widened columns due to the fact that ancient Greeks were very aware of mathematical ratios when constructing architecture, the ancient Greek best believes that “the key beauty lies in correct proportion.”
All in all, these were structures that pushed the limit of human thought and mathematics in the light of the goddess Athena’s wisdom and craftsmanship.
Parthenon. Academic.reed.edu. Retrieved on 4 September 2013.
Penprase, Bryan E. (2010). The Power of Stars: How Celestial Observations Have Shaped Civilization. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 221. ISBN 978–1–4419–6803–6. Retrieved 8 March 2017.