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The Propylaea

This structure on the Acropolis could be described as the grand entrance hall. On ascending upwards to the Acropolis, you will first reach the "Beule Gate", the main entrance that was built in 267 A.D. under the orders of Emperor Valerian.

The Propylaea - Entrance to the Parthenon

This gate was probably built in order to add reinforcement to the defences of the Acropolis. This gateway is named after the French Archaeologist, Ernest Belule, who discovered it underneath Turkish fortifications.

Following the steps upwards, you will come across the “Agrippa” monument. This is a pedestal, that supported a statue of Agrippa, Emperor Augustus' son-in-law, who was Rome's governor in Athens from 27 B.C. On the right side is the Ionic “Temple of Nike”.

After climbing the Roman-built steps up, you are taken to the “Propylaea”, which was a magnificent entrance hall, designed by the Athenian architect Mnesicles. The brilliance of Mnesicles meant that he was able to find a solution to the problem that was posed due to the differences in levels.

What he produced could only be described as magnificent. The Propylaes consisted of a grand hall, that was flanked on both sides by two Doric porticoes. Six of these Doric columns remain and can be seen today. The ceiling inside the roof, which was supported by two rows of three Ionic columns, was painted to display a heavenly scene, with gold stars on a dark blue background.

The left side of the structure (the north wing), known as the Pinakotheke, was the largest, and was used initially as a banquet hall, and then a gallery for paintings and frescoes. The celebrated piece of art “Achilles on Skyros” by the painter Polygnotus, is one that has survived. The right side (south wing) was relatively smaller, due to the presence of “Temple of Nike”. In fact, one could say that the south wing was built purely to establish a sense of symmetry.

The Propylaea on the Acropolis

Towards the end of this structure there were 5 doors. The widest of them was used by the Panathenaea procession. On exiting from the Propylaea, visitors today catch their first glimpse of the mighty, dominating Parthenon, standing slightly towards the right. It was actually planned that the Propylaea would open up onto the Acropolis at this slight angel, in order to offer the Parthenon at it's best profile.

However, in the ancient days, the first sight that would have welcomed you would have been a huge 9 meter bronze statue of “Athena Promachos”. This statue was created by Phildias, and was in commemeration to the Athenian victories over the Persians. The statue of Athena was so tall, that it could actually be seen by sailors around the Cape Sounion are of Attica, which is some 70 km (45 miles) away to the south east. The statute was taken to Constantinople under the orders of Emperor Justinian and subsequently destroyed in a fire.


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