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What should I do and not do when visiting and praying at the Greek Acropolis?
Do bring a drink with you. Don’t expect to find cheap drinks in the vicinity.
On my latest visit to the Sacred Rock, I said to a vendor at the foot of the hill:
—As our ancient ancestors used to say: I’ll have a coke please.
The vendor replied.
—As our ancient ancestors used to say: that’ll be €5, buddy.
Don’t run eager to see the Marvels Of The Holy Rock, like I did when I was 8. It’s a 100m climb: you want to pace yourself.
Do look out for the Anafiotika. It’s a Greek Island village perched right on the Acropolis hillside. Which makes sense, because it was settled from a Greek island: “The first houses were built in the era of Otto of Greece, when workers from the island of Anafi came to Athens in order to work as construction workers in the refurbishment of King Otto’s Palace.”
Don’t expect the Parthenon frieze. There’s only tiny bits of it left on site: the frieze is scattered among museums throughout the world, though I was grateful that the British Museum sold a book which put photos of them all together.
Do expect scaffolding: the Acropolis has been a building site for restoration since 1975.
Don’t expect that you’re seeing all the history of the Acropolis. You’re seeing Bavarians’ impression of what the history of the Acropolis should be like. The Acropolis had 2500 years of history after Pericles, as a citadel and a cathedral. All of it was stripped away after Athens became the capital of the Modern Greek state.
Photo from 1872.
The tower was dismantled in 1874, as part of a wider cleaning-up of the Acropolis from post-Classical buildings, a project initiated and financed by Heinrich Schliemann. The demolition of such an “integral part of the Athenian horizon” (Théophile Gautier) drew considerable criticism at the time, while the eminent historian of Frankish Greece William Miller later called it “an act of vandalism unworthy of any people imbued with a sense of the continuity of history”.
Do expect to find the Caryatids, the “maidens of the rock”, and do expect people to tell you the story that the five maidens wept when their sister was stolen away by Lord Elgin.
Don’t expect the same people to say that the Caryatids you’re looking at are replicas: the real remaining five sisters are shielded from Athens smog in the Acropolis Museum.
And, hate to say it, do expect odd looks if you do a Hellenic Pagan prayer. Hellenic pagans exist, but they’re not widely known.