Acropoli, Athina, Central Athens, Greece
Acropolis, Athens (Greece) © UNESCO Unesco World Heritage Website
Outstanding Universal Value
The Acropolis of Athens is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times. It is situated on a hill of average height (156m) that rises in the basin of Athens. Its overall dimensions are approximately 170 by 350m. The hill is rocky and steep on all sides except for the western side, and has an extensive, nearly flat top. Strong fortification walls have surrounded the summit of the Acropolis for more than 3,300 years. The first fortification wall was built during the 13th century BC, and surrounded the residence of the local Mycenaean ruler. In the 8th century BC, the Acropolis gradually acquired a religious character with the establishment of the cult of Athena, the city’s patron goddess. The sanctuary reached its peak in the archaic period (mid-6th century to early 5th century BC). In the 5th century BC, the Athenians, empowered from their victory over the Persians, carried out an ambitious building programme under the leadership of the great statesman Perikles, comprising a large number of monuments including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the temple of Athena Nike. The monuments were developed by an exceptional group of architects (such as Iktinos, Kallikrates, Mnesikles) and sculptors (such as Pheidias, Alkamenes, Agorakritos), who transformed the rocky hill into a unique complex, which heralded the emergence of classical Greek thought and art. On this hill were born Democracy, Philosophy, Theatre, Freedom of Expression and Speech, which provide to this day the intellectual and spiritual foundation for the contemporary world and its values. The Acropolis’ monuments, having survived for almost twenty-five centuries through wars, explosions, bombardments, fires, earthquakes, sackings, interventions and alterations, have adapted to different uses and the civilizations, myths and religions that flourished in Greece through time.
Criterion (i): The Athenian Acropolis is the supreme expression of the adaptation of architecture to a natural site. This grand composition of perfectly balanced massive structures creates a monumental landscape of unique beauty, consisting of a complete series of architectural masterpieces of the 5th century BC: the Parthenon by Iktinos and Kallikrates with the collaboration of the sculptor Pheidias (447-432); the Propylaia by Mnesikles (437-432); the Temple of Athena Nike by Mnesikles and Kallikrates (427-424); and Erechtheion (421-406).
Criterion (ii): The monuments of the Athenian Acropolis have exerted an exceptional influence, not only in Greco-Roman antiquity, during which they were considered exemplary models, but also in contemporary times. Throughout the world, Neo-Classical monuments have been inspired by all the Acropolis monuments.
Criterion (iii): From myth to institutionalized cult, the Athenian Acropolis, by its precision and diversity, bears a unique testimony to the religions of ancient Greece. It is the sacred temple from which sprung fundamental legends about the city. Beginning in the 6th century BC, myths and beliefs gave rise to temples, altars and votives corresponding to an extreme diversity of cults, which have brought us the Athenian religion in all its richness and complexity. Athena was venerated as the goddess of the city (Athena Polias); as the goddess of war (Athena Promachos); as the goddess of victory (Athena Nike); as the protective goddess of crafts (Athena Ergane), etc. Most of her identities are glorified at the main temple dedicated to her, the Parthenon, the temple of the patron-goddess.
Criterion (iv): The Athenian Acropolis is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble illustrating significant historical phases since the 16th century BC. Firstly, it was the Mycenaean Acropolis (Late Helladic civilization, 1600-1100 BC) which included the royal residence and was protected by the characteristic Mycenaean fortification. The monuments of the Acropolis are distinctly unique structures that evoke the ideals of the Classical 5th century BC and represent the apex of ancient Greek architectural development.
Criterion (vi): The Acropolis is directly and tangibly associated with events and ideas that have never faded over the course of history. Its monuments are still living testimonies of the achievements of Classical Greek politicians (e.g. Themistokles, Perikles) who lead the city to the establishment of Democracy; the thought of Athenian philosophers (e.g. Socrates, Plato, Demosthenes);and the works of architects (e.g. Iktinos, Kallikrates, Mnesikles) and artists (e.g. Pheidias, Agorakritus, Alkamenes). These monuments are the testimony of a precious part of the cultural heritage of humanity.
The Acropolis of Athens contains within its boundaries all the key attributes that convey the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, as an ensemble of unique splendor in excellent condition. The perfection of ancient building techniques ensured the resistance of the monuments to natural forces through time. Despite the unavoidable damage of time, they still display their beauty and convey their inestimable artistic and historic value, preserving all the features that directly and tangibly associate them with the events and ideas of Democracy and Philosophy. Inevitably, the vicissitudes of history between the 5th century BC and our days have caused extensive damage that is being successfully addressed with the ongoing restoration and conservation works, which increase both the stability and the legibility of the monuments.
The authenticity of the Acropolis hill, crowned with the masterpieces of Greek Classical art and architecture, is well preserved. In order to maintain the authenticity and structural integrity of the monuments, an integrated intervention begun in 1975 and continues today. The works are based on clear theoretical and scholarly foundations, and follow the principles of the Venice Charter. The interventions are limited to the absolutely necessary and respect the ancient structural system, while remaining consistent with the principle of reversibility. Moreover, the techniques and the tools used for the restoration works are similar to those of the ancient craftspeople, while the white marble used for completing the eroded architectural elements is quarried from the same mountain as in antiquity (Mt. Penteli). Therefore, the restorations are fully compatible with the original parts of the monuments.
Protection and management requirements
The Acropolis has been operating as an archaeological site since 1833, shortly after the establishment of the modern Greek State. Nowadays, the property is strongly protected under the provisions of Law No 3028/2002 on the “Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in general”. Moreover, the Acropolis and its surroundings, which constitute monuments per se, are protected by legislative decrees (Ministerial Decrees F01/12970/503/25.2.82 concerning the designation of its buffer zone; and F43/7027/425/29.1.2004 concerning the designation of the peripheral zone of the city of Athens and imposing obligatory control before issuing any building or development permit within its boundaries). The fact that the property’s buffer zone is a protected archaeological area itself, along with the implementation of the strict legal framework – especially for the urban tissue in the historical centre of Athens since 2002 – and the intense monitoring by the competent Ephorate, ensure that urban development pressures are adequately addressed. Special protection is provided by the Presidential Decree No 24/2007, which declares the Acropolis area a no-fly zone.
The property is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs, through the Ephorate of Antiquities of Athens, its competent Regional Service, which is responsible for the site’s security and protection, as well as the implementation of an efficient site and visitors’ management system. Moreover, the Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs implements the legislative decrees concerning the safeguarding of the property and its peripheral zone (which corresponds to the boundaries of the ancient city of Athens and its surroundings) and ensures the visual integrity of the site. Especially for the restoration, protection and monitoring of the property, an advisory body, the Committee for the Restoration and Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments, was founded in 1975 and is responsible for planning, directing and supervising the interventions. In 1999, the establishment of the Αcropolis Restoration Service allowed to increase the academic and technical personnel and made the immense development of the restoration works possible, under the supervision of the aforementioned Committee and in cooperation with the competent Ephorate. The extensive research programme and the methodology implemented are innovative in this field and act as a reference point for other restoration projects. The financial resources for the works on the site are derived from the State budget as well as from European Union funds.
Special attention has been paid to the accessibility of the site, to pathways and to visitor facilities, especially for disabled people. Furthermore, emergency plans for visitor security and scientific studies for the protection of the site, such as monitoring of earthquake activity, are being carried out.