18 April 2023

What is an acropolis? – Meaning and function of an acropolis

By Donald

The Greek cities stand out in the history of humanity for the architectural beauty they presented and the events that took place there. However, there are others that stood out from the place where they were built, such as the acropolis. So, this article explains what is an acropolis and what function they had for the Greeks. In the same way, some of the monuments of ancient Athens where the Parthenon is located are detailed.

Concept and definition of acropolis

The ancient Greek city states or polis were very important because all matters of interest in Ancient Greece were controlled from them. Such as the development of philosophy, the training of great armies and the beginnings of the sculptures from which Hellenistic art is inspired. However, when making a count of these polis, you can find some cities that stand outn like an acropoliswhich positions them with a better range.

The term acropolis comes from ancient Greek, where akros has the meaning of top or height. While polis refers to a city state and of great magnitude. In this sense, an acropolis city refers to a population that was located on top of a hill or a plateau. It also includes a city that has a rock fortification, that is, it is difficult to access due to its geographical location.

However, on some occasions, the word acropolis was used to designate the highest part of a city. Well, there were several settlements that were built around a small hill or an elevation. Therefore, the acropolis represented the noble part, where the the temples and the agora, important buildings. Likewise, there were the meetings of people to philosophize or exchange knowledge.

In Greece there are several of these cities, but the most relevant was the Acropolis of Athens, since it was destined as the capital of Hellas. The famous Parthenon was built there and some important events for this culture took place. However, despite its good location, the city’s enemies managed to loot it on several occasions.

What is the function of an acropolis?

In Ancient Greece, wars took place very frequently, so the Greeks built their cities on protected sites. So they were looking areas with natural elevations to provide a formation that would fortify the place, like a kind of wall. So, in the highest part of these sites they built a temple, the square and the leader’s house.

However, these settlements grew rapidly, so they were divided into the upper zone and the lower part. An acropolis was built with the intention of having the better natural defenses for a polis. So, no enemy would have the facility to enter the city and plunder the resources.

This is how the famous cities of Ancient Greece were born, such as Sparta and Athens, which they located on their respective hills. Other of the most famous are in the city of Pergamum and in Asso, present-day Türkiye. But, the acropolis was not only a Greek construction, as there are also some in ancient Constantinople and Bratislava.

What are the characteristics of an acropolis?

Any city in Ancient Greece was not considered an acropolis. Some of them were polis or city states, while others were considered as towns and settlements. The acropolis had fixed characteristics, among which the most relevant was the geographic location Of the same. Its characteristics were:

  • Height: An acropolis must be located on an elevation, either a hill, plateau or small mountain
  • Defenses: The Greek objective was that the rivals could not capture these cities, so they looked for natural defenses, such as cliffs or cliffs, wallstall rock formations.
  • Extension: The establishments could grow, as it happened with the Acropolis of Athens or Sparta. Therefore, the city was long, uniting several towns. In these cases, the acropolis was the highest place, Where were the important buildings?
  • Temple: Any acropolis should have a templethe god they honored varied, but always belonged to their mythology.

What activities did the acropolis carry out?

Studies in archeology managed to find some of the most important cities in the history of Ancient Greece. In the list it is possible to find the name of Troy, the Acropolis of Athens, Sparta and some others. The data of this culture describe that the places where there were more gathering of people It was in the famous agoras, the name by which the squares were designated in Greek.

In these squares, citizens used to exchange information and knowledge, so there were people telling their stories. In the same way, as described by great philosophers such as Aristotle or Plato, the agoras of the acropolis were the places where these characters imparted education to the people. These sites were also filled with viewers when the greek democracythat is, to decide a matter of state or the volunteers to form an army.

The temples in these high cities were also common and used to receive people who wanted to pay homage or tribute to a god. It should be noted that the temples were the places most sought after by visitors, who came there to see the magnificent works. On the Acropolis of Athens was the famous parthenon, which survives in present-day Greece. There, a sculpture in honor of Athena, carved in wood, with gold and ivory, was exhibited.

In Athens itself the building of the Propylaea was raised, which had the function of the entrance to the acropolis. It had several Doric columns and 5 carved posts that attracted people to admire its beauty. Near the Propylaea another temple was built, this one in the name of athena nike in order to commemorate the victory achieved in the battle of Salamis. The population could see a statue of the goddess whose wings were clipped.