The Acropolis of Athens is the best known acropolis (high city, The "Sacred Rock") in the world. Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as The Acropolis without qualification. The Acropolis was formally proclaimed as the pre-eminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on 26 March 2007. The Acropolis is a flat-topped rock which rises above sea level in the city of Athens. It was also known as Cecropia, after the legendary serpent-man, Kekrops or Cecrops, the first Athenian king.
There is no conclusive evidence for the existence of a Mycenean palace on top of the Athenian Acropolis. However, if there was such a palace, it seems to have been transplanted by later building activity on the Acropolis. Not much is known as to the arcitectural appearance of the Acropolis until the archaic era. In the 7th and the 6th centuries BC the site was was taken over by Kylon during the failed Kylonian revolt, and twice by Pisistratus: all attempts directed at seizing political power by coups d' etat. Nevertheless it seems that a nine-gate wall, the Enneapylon, had been built around the biggest water spring, the "Clepsydra", at the north-western foot. It was Pisistratus who initially established a precinct for Artemis on the site.
To confuse matters, by the time the "Bluebeard" Temple had been dismantled, a newer and grander marble building, the "Older Parthenon" (often called the Ur-Parthenon), was started following the victory at Marathon in 490 BC. To accommodate it, the south part of the summit was cleared of older remnants, made level by adding some 8,000 two-ton blocks of Piraeus limestone, a foundation 11 m deep at some points, and the rest filled with earth kept in place by the retaining wall.
The Older Parthenon was still under construction when the Persians sacked the city in 480 BC. The building was burnt and looted along with the Archaios Neos and practically everything else on the rock. After the Persian crisis had subsided the Athenians incorporated many of the unfinished temple's architectural members (still unflutted column drums, triglyphs, metopes, etc.) to the newly built northern curtain wall of the Acropolis, where they can still be seen today. The devastated site was cleared from debris. Statuary, cult objects, religious offerings and unsalvable architectural members were burried ceremoniously in several deeply dug pits on the hill serving conveniently as a fill for the artificial plateau created around the classic Parthenon. This "Persian debris" is the richest archaeological deposit excavated on the Acropolis.
In 437 BC Mnesicles started building the Propylaea, monumental gates with columns of Pentelic marble, partly built upon the old propylaea of Pisistratus. These colonnades were almost finished in the year 432 BC and had two wings, the northern one serving as picture gallery. At the same time, south of the propylaea, building of the small Ionic Temple of Athena Nike commenced. After an interruption caused by the Peloponnesian War, the temple was finished in the time of Nicias' peace, between 421 BC and 415 BC.
During the same period the building of the Erechtheum, a combination of sacred precincts including the temples of Athena Polias, Poseidon, Erechtheus, Cecrops, Herse, Pandrosos and Aglauros, with its so-called the Kore Porch (or Caryatids' balcony), was begun.
Between the temple of Athena Nike and the Parthenon there was the temenos of Artemis Brauronia or Brauroneion, the goddess represented as a bear and worshipped in the deme of Brauron. The archaic xoanon of the goddess and a statue made by Praxiteles in the 4th century BC were both in the sanctuary.
Behind the Propylaea, Phidias' gigantic bronze statue of Athena Promachos ("she who fights in the front line"), built between 450 BC and 448 BC, dominated. The base was 1.50 m high, while the total height of the statue was 9 m. The goddess held a lance whose gilt tip could be seen as a reflection by crews on ships rounding Cape Sounion, and a giant shield on the left side, decorated by Mys with images of the fight between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. Other monuments that have left almost nothing visible to the present day are the Chalkotheke, the Pandroseion, Pandion's sanctuary, Athena's altar, Zeus Polieus's sanctuary and, from Roman times, the circular temple of Augustus and Rome.
In the Byzantine period, the Parthenon was turned into a church, dedicated to Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia). Under the Latin Duchy of Athens, the Acropolis functioned as the city's administrative center, with the Parthenon as its cathedral. A large tower was added, which was demolished in the 19th century. After the Ottoman conquest, the Parthenon was converted into a mosque. The buildings of the Acropolis suffered significant damage during the 1687 siege by the Venetians in the Morean War.
Most of the valuable ancient artifacts were situated in the Acropolis Museum, which resides on the south-east corner of the same rock. An operation to move them for the 400 metres distance to the New Acropolis Museum started on Sunday, 14 October 2007, and continued for six weeks.