Acropolis. ATHENS. 2. Route. 39
b. The Acropolis.
Visitors are admitted to the Acropolis free at any time between sun¬
rise and sunset. Those, however, who wish to make a "Visit to it by
moonlight may do so after 8 p.m. on any of the five days about full-moon
by procuring a special permesso (a8si«), issued gratis by the general
ephoros (p. 63).
The natural centre of all settlements in the Attic plain within
the historical period has been formed by the **Acropolis, a rocky
plateau of crystalline limestone, rising precipitously to a height of
about 510 ft. above the sea. The semi-mythical Pelasgi are said to
have levelled the top, increased the natural steepness of the rock on
three sides, built a wall round it, and fortified the only accessible
part on the W. by the so-called Ennedpylon, an outwork with nine
gates. The Acropolis was the earliest seat of the Athenian kings,
who here sat in judgment and assembled their councils, and also of
the chief sanctuaries of the state. At a later period the judicial and
popular assemblies were removed to the lower town, and the Acro¬
polis devoted solely to the gods. Peisistratos, however, who embel¬
lished the Hekatompedon and built a fine gateway in the upper¬
most wall of the Enneapylon, also fixed his own residence here.
These ancient buildings were destroyed by the Persians in B.C.
480-479, after which Themistokles (on the N.) and Kimon (on the
S., W., and E.) renewed the encircling walls. Then began the meri¬
dian of its splendour under Perikles, whose buildings imparted to
the Acropolis its future character, and the ruins of which still pre¬
sent the finest picture of the unrivalled art of antiquity.
The first road diverging to the right from the Dionysos Areopagites
street, a little to the W. of the Odeion of Herodes Atticus (see
p. 35), ascends to the so-called Beule Gate, on the plateau below
the upper and steeper part of the W. side of the Acropolis. Walk¬
ers may also ascend to this point from the Tower of the Winds by
the shorter route mentioned at p. 65.
The Beule Gate, named after the French savant who discovered
it in 1852 under the Turkish bastions that previously concealed
it, has since 1889 again become the sole entrance to the Acropolis
(comp. the modern inscription on the ancient marble tablet on the
inside). It is 5J/2 ft- in width and lies exactly in the axis of the
central opening of the Propylaea. The gate itself is constructed of
the fragments of the choragic monument of Nikias (p. 36), which
was taken down about 160 A.D. The two low towers with which
the gateway is flanked show by the continuity of their mason's
marks that they were formed of stones specially prepared for the
purpose; they are contemporary with the great marble staircase
(see p. 40).
The old Greek gate probably lay in the same direction, a little below
the present one. It was reached by the ancient road mentioned at p. 37,
which was intersected farther down by the road running round the hill
about midway between base and summit.