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acropolis (əkrŏp´əlĬs) [Gr.,=high point of the city], elevated, fortified section of various ancient Greek cities.

The Acropolis of Athens, a hill c.260 ft (80 m) high, with a flat oval top c.500 ft (150 m) wide and 1,150 ft (350 m) long, was a ceremonial site beginning in the Neolithic period and was walled before the 6th cent. BC by the Pelasgians. Devoted to religious rather than defensive purposes, the area was adorned during the time of Cimon and Pericles with some of the world's greatest architectural and sculptural monuments.

The top was reached by a winding processional path at the west end, where the impressive Propylaea (see under propylaeum) stood. From there, the Sacred Way led past a colossal bronze statue of Athena (called Athena Promachus) and the site of the old temple of Athena to the Parthenon. To the north was the Erechtheum and to the southwest the temple of Nike Apteros (Wingless Victory). On the southern slope were the Odeum of Herodes Atticus and the theater of Dionysus.

Although the Acropolis was laid waste by the Persians in 480 BC and was later further damaged by the Turks and others, remains of the Parthenon, Erechtheum, and Propylaea still stand. Many of its treasures are in the national museum of Greece, in Athens. Over the years, the Acropolis has suffered severely from pollution and from well-intentioned but badly executed attempts at repair. In 1975 the Greek government began a major restoration project. A number of works that were originally on the Acropolis have been moved to the New Acropolis Museum, which lies at the foot of the hill and opened in 2009.

See studies by R. J. Hopper (1971) and J. M. Hurwit (2000); Bernard Tschumi Architects, ed., The New Acropolis Museum (2009).

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acropolis Hilltop fortress of an ancient Greek city. The earliest known examples were fortified castles built for the Mycenaean kings, and it was only later that they became the symbolic homes of the gods. The most famous acropolis, in Athens, acquired walls by the 13th century bc, but the Persians destroyed the complex. The surviving buildings, including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, and the Temple of Athena Nike, date from the late 5th century bc.

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a·crop·o·lis / əˈkräpəlis/ • n. a citadel or fortified part of an ancient Greek city, typically built on a hill. ∎  (the Acropolis) the ancient citadel at Athens, containing the Parthenon and other notable buildings.

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acropolis a citadel or fortified part of an ancient Greek city, typically one built on a hill; the Acropolis is the name given to the ancient citadel at Athens, containing the Parthenon and other notable buildings, mostly dating from the 5th century bc. The word comes (in the early 17th century) from Greek akropolis, from akron ‘summit’ + polis ‘city’.

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acropolis. Elevated part of the city, or the citadel, in Ancient Greece, especially the Athenian acropolis (from acro-, meaning highest or topmost, and polis, meaning city).


Dinsmoor (1950)