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View of the Acropolis from Pnyx - History
Pnyx I: Probably constructed in the early 5th century. The people apparently sat on the hillside facing a speaker's platform on the north. The seating capacity may have been anywhere from 6000 to 13,000 people. This phase is represented archaeologically only by a few cuttings in the bedrock and a boundary stone (not found in situ), so that it is impossible to determine the date and size with any precision.
Pnyx II: Probably late 5th century B.C. In this phase the orientation of the auditorum was apparently reversed (a recontruction that is based more upon ancient literary sources than from the actual archaeological record). A stepped terrace wall was created on the north to support an artificial terrace, and the people sat facing a speaker's platform on the south. Part of the stepped terrace wall is preserved, as well as a staircase with rock-cut steps leading up to it from the direction of the Agora. The size of the auditorium (as it is restored by the excavators) is not that much larger than Pnyx I.
Pnyx III: The Pnyx was rebuilt and expanded in the 3rd quarter of the 4th century B.C., probably around 345-335 B.C. A massive, curved, retaining wall was built (or at least begun) on the north. The southern side of the auditorium and speaker's platform (bema) were quarried out of the natural bedrock. (Traces of the quarrying process can still be seen at the eastern side of the great rock-cut scarp). On a terrace above (south of) the speaker's platform, the foundations were begun for 2 long stoas (but these seem never to have been finished). It is unknown for how many years Pnyx III was used as the meeting place of the ekklesia, and certainly by the 1st century B.C. the the assembly held their meetings in the Theater of Dionysos on the South Slope of the Acropolis.
Finally, in the Roman period, part of the Pnyx was used as a sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos. Evidence for the sanctuary consist of c. 50 niches for votive plaques cut into the bedrock scarp east of the speaker's platform. Many of the votive plaques are carved with representations of human body parts (eyes, breasts, etc.), suggesting that this Zeus Hypsistos was a healing divinity.
- Forsén, B. “The Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos and the Assembly Place on the Pnyx,” Hesperia 62 (1993), pp. 507-521.
- Forsén, B. and G. Stanton (eds). The Pnyx in the History of Athens (Helsinki 1996).
- Kourouniotis, K. and H. Thompson. “The Pnyx in Athens,” Hesperia 1 (1932), pp. 90-217.
- Rotroff, S. and J. Camp. ‘The Date of the Third Period of the Pnyx,” Hesperia 65 (1999), pp. 263-294.
- Wycherley, R. “Two Notes on Athenian Topography,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 75 (1955), pp. 117-121.
View of the Acropolis from Pnyx hill, Athens
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Athens: View of the Acropolis from the Pnyx
As viewed from the Pnyx, the Acropolis of Athens is the best known acropolis (high city) in Greece. Although there are many others, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as The Acropolis without qualification. A flat-topped rock rising 150 m (512 ft) above sea level from the plain of Attica with steep cliffs on three sides, it was also known as Cecropia, after the legendary serpent-man, Kekrops or Cecrops, the first Athenian king.
The first habitation remains date from the Neolithic period. Over the centuries, the "Sacred Rock" of Athens was used either as a cult place or as a residential area or both. The inscriptions on the numerous and precious offerings to the sanctuary of Athena indicate that the cult of the city's patron goddess was established as early as the Archaic period (650-480 B.C.).
During the Classical period (450-330 B.C.) three important temples were erected on the ruins of earlier ones: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike, dedicated to Athena Parthenos, Athena Polias, and Athena-Apteros Nike, respectively. The Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the sacred area was also constructed in the same period. The monuments on the Acropolis reflect the successive phases of the city's history. Some were converted into Christian churches, houses of the Franks and later on, of the Turks. After the liberation of Athens from the Turks, the protection, restoration and conservation of the monuments was one of the first tasks of the newly-founded Greek state. This major effort is continued until today, with the large-scale restoration and supporting of the monuments, which started in the 1970's and is still in progress. The first excavations on the hill were conducted between 1835 and 1837. More systematic work was carried out in 1885-1890 by Panagiotis Kavvadias.
Accessible by foot only to the west, where it is linked by a low ridge to the hill of the Areopagus, the Acroplois is formed by a layer of blue-grey limestone, which is very hard but water-permeable. This rests on a layer of schist-sandstone marl, softer than the limestone but water-impermeable, leading to the ready formation of artesian springs, as well as sheltered caves at the hill's feet, which was attracted human habitation on and around the rock.
Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.
Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.
Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.
The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.
During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.
The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.
From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.
The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.
Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.
View of the Acropolis from Pnyx - History
The Acropolis rock is part of a Late Cretaceous limestone ridge (Higgins) that cuts through the Attica plateau in the northeast to the southwest axis and includes the Likavitos hill, the Philopappos (Museum) hill, the hill of the Nymphs, and the Pnyx.
The rock rises from the basin about 70 meters and levels to a flat top 300 meters long by 150 meters wide. Its flat top is due to the numerous landfills that have accommodated construction of fortifications and temples since the Mycenaean era. With its many shallow caves, the abundant percolating water springs and steep slopes, the Acropolis was a prime location for habitation and worship location for Neolithic man.
While the area around Attica was inhabited during the Upper Paleolithic period (30000 – 10000 BCE), archaeological evidence suggests that the small caves around the Acropolis rock and the Klepsythra spring were in use during the Neolithic Period (3000-2800 BCE).
The chronicle of the Acropolis of Athens is lost in prehistory, to a time even before the plane of Attica began to be cultivated. In Mycenaean times small towns developed around a fortified citadel where the king resided and controlled the surrounding area.
Acropolis in Greek literally means “the highest point of the town”. While virtually every city had an Acropolis, like Mycenae and Tyrins, the Athenian citadel became synonymous with the word in the minds of most people during the last two millennia. The Mycenaean civilization established many important centers, one of which was Athens. The first inhabitants we can trace to the Acropolis of Athens were Mycenaean Kings who fortified the rock with massive eight-meter tall walls, and built their palaces there in the 14th century BCE. Very little remains from these buildings today, but the most obvious evidence of this era is still visible at the southwest end of the Acropolis, right behind the later Temple of Athena Nike, next to the Propylaia, in the form of a cyclopean wall that was built as part of the fortifications. According to Dontas, Mycenaean kings built a palace at the north end of the rock “where the Archaic temple of Athena was later built, or a little further east on the summit of the hill” (The Acropolis and its Museum, 6). Besides a fort and a place of royal residence, the Acropolis functioned as a place of worship for the Goddess of fertility and nature, and for her companion male god Erechtheus.
Just like Mycenae and Tyrins, the Acropolis of Athens had its own underground water supply in the form of a deep well, dug at the north end of the rock, which could be used by the defenders during a siege.
The city of Athens
Athens was a thriving Mycenaean center that very early in its existence became the center of a “synoikismos”, an alliance and peaceful coexistence of all the adjacent towns. According to legend, king Theseus united the towns into one administrative entity, and this synoikismos appears to be instrumental in the city’s survival when all other Mycenaean centers were destroyed around 1200 BCE by invading hordes from mainland Greece, or due to a possible invasion of tribes from the North (what many refer to as the Doric invasion). While all other Mycenaean centers, including mighty Mycenae, were deserted during this period, Athens was the only town to remain inhabited and active. According to tradition, the city owes its survival to the heroic personal sacrifice of king Kordos.
In subsequent years Athens was ruled not by one king but by a group of men, the Aristocrats. Administrative functions moved away from the Acropolis towards other parts of the city where later the Agora developed. The Acropolis then became exclusively a place of worship and never hosted another ruler, partly because the new realities of city administration made it inconvenient, and partly because the Athenians wanted to eliminate all references to a monarchy.
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It is just another strand of jolly happenstance that Herodotus among others believe Sais to be the burial site of another mysterious civilizing figure, one who is also connected to the largest megalithic mysteries on Earth, the Great Pyramid of Giza . Of course, I am referring to none other than the Egyptian deity Osiris.
Could the tales of Osiris and Cecrops be linked? What could this spell for the true origins of the cyclopean walls throughout the Mediterranean and the genesis of the Acropolis?
Considering Egypt is also home to Category 2-4 ashtar masonry, situated only 1,000 kilometers away to the south of Athens, is it too hard to speculate that like so many of the misinterpreted ancient sites across the world, the Acropolis and its earliest stages of development may have once belonged to a mysterious civilization, one that has links to the times of Egyptian Zep Tepi and Osiris?
The connections ranging from North Africa to the Mediterranean, from the Middle East to the South Pacific, are certainly in existence, and being systematically uncovered to reveal a civilization, or at least a chain of civilizations, that spread out its complex style of construction work all over the world, a style which later feeble attempts tried so hard but failed so miserably to replicate.
There is certainly a clear connection between all of these sage figures, and with it comes an ever-strengthening possibility that we have mis-aligned these great feats of engineering and architecture with the wrong civilizations, from the wrong time periods and believing them to have been created for the wrong purpose. Could these mysterious sages have even once called the Acropolis, with its utterly grandiose cyclopean wall, their home, maybe even their observatory?
Additionally, my upcoming ebook - The Wise Ones: How Human History Has Been Shaped by Sages - takes a deep dive into this peculiar group, looking to unravel their potential helping hand in history, from the deepest recesses to more contemporary times. I go into the history surrounding Cecrops I, along with all the other enigmatic sages, in great depth there, so be sure to check it out if that’s something you’re interested in.
Category 4 Cyclopean wall at G3 , Egypt (Lee Anderson / grahamhancock.com)
Mts. Penteli, Hymettus, Parnitha
The mountains surrounding the Athens valley are all worth exploring. Mt. Penteli (Pentelikon) was the source of the white marble used for the Periclean refurbishment of the Acropolis, as well as by Herodes Atticus for the Panathenaic Stadium. Among the ancient quarries, still clearly visible from the city, the largest, Spilia, includes a deep, high-ceilinged cave with a double Byzantine chapel at its entrance (Saints Nikolaos and Spyridon) of the 11th or 12th century. Behind the main mountain, a modern quarry in the town of Dionysos supplies marble of closely similar quality to that of the ancient quarries for the present-day Acropolis restorations. A small nearby sanctuary of Dionysus marks the rural area from which the travelling performer Thespis is believed to have first brought dramatic performances with music and dance to Athens. Pausanias reports the existence of a statue of Athena on Penteli’s summit.
The double Byzantine chapel at the entrance to the Davelis Cave at the ancient Spilia quarry on Mt Penteli. Photograph: Why Athens
Mts. Hymettus and Parnitha (Parnes) were also sacred mountains, on which were erected altars and statues of Zeus Ombrios – the cloud gatherer and bringer of rain. The statue on Parnitha was bronze (Pausanias 1.32.2). Pan also inhabited the forested slopes of these ranges, with caves dedicated his worship. Hymettus was particularly famous in Roman times for its bees, wild thyme and delicious honey. Inscriptions carved in the bedrock in the foothills near Kaisariani declare “OROS” or “boundary” – engraved by local beekeepers who thus marked their personal territories. At the base of Parnitha lay ancient Acharnai (Acharnes), the most populated deme of Classical Attica. The Roman poet Statius (1st cent. AD) wrote that Parnitha was rich in vines, Lycabettus richer in juicy olives, the air of Hymettus fragrant and the slopes of Aigaleo thick with forests (Thebaid 12.620 ff.). Today, Hymettus and Parnitha continue to offer pleasant escapes with trails for hikers and other nature or history lovers. (Map point – Mount Penteli)
Want to discover more of Athens? Learn all about the churches of Athens and the remains of Byzantium here.
Ilias Lalaounis Jewellery Museum
The perfect museum for those who prefer their history lessons to sparkle. In a handsome building that once served as the workshop of Ilias Lalaounis, Greek jeweller to the stars, this museum tells the story of adornment through the ages. The glittering collections are based on motifs and artefacts from the Stone Age, the Minoan civilization and Byzantium, all the way to the 20th century. The most eye-catching items are the massive gold pieces, almost like armour, displayed on life-sized mannequins: huge circular plates dripping with gold discs, and a thick serpent twined from neck to breast. But it’s in the foyer that you’ll find this museum’s rarest showing: a fully functioning artists’ studio, where resident gold and silversmiths follow traditional techniques, including Lalaounis’ trademark practices of hand-hammering, hand-weaving, filigree ‘embroidery’ and granulation.