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The Architectural Wonders of Ancient Athens – Part 1

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Panathenaic Stadium

Ancient Greece, and in this case Ancient Athens, is said to have given the world many things, whether it’s theater, the Olympic Games, democracy or any of those ‘Cradle of Western Civilization-y’ type things we hear about in history class or from our grandparents. The great achievements of Ancient Greece are immortalized in the historical monuments and ruins that dot the capital of Modern Greece.

However many would be surprised to know that the Athens that gave the world so much managed to do so in only about 200 years. This period in Greek history is known as Classical Greece – or commonly the Golden Age of Athens. It starts with the beginning of Athenian Democracy around 500 BC and ends with the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC. We’ll take a tour of seven of the most popular landmarks from around Athens’ Golden Age. First off we’ll take a look at the Panathenaic Stadium, the Monument of Lysicrates and the Theater of Dionysus.

Panathenaic StadiumΠαναθηναϊκό Στάδιο

–        Area: Pangrati
–        Type: Stadium
–        Date: 329 BC

About the Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium, also commonly known as Kallimarmaro [Grk: Καλλιμάρμαρο or “beautifully marbled”], is an ancient stadium originally built in 556 BC, but completely rebuilt in marble by the governor Lykourgos in the year 329. The stadium was used for the ancient Panathenaic Games held every 4 years in Athens in honor of the goddess Athena. In the following centuries, the stadium fell into ruin and was pillaged for its marble. It was again restored to its present form for the first modern Olympic Games held in the stadium in 1896.

The stadium has the distinction of being the largest stadium built entirely out of marble, which comes from the nearby Mount Panteli and was used for the Parthenon. The Panathenaic Stadium was also used in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games for archery and end to the marathon. In 1896 it had a seating capacity of 80,000 but today it can accommodate 45,000.

Choragic Monument of Lysicrates – Μνημείο του Λυσικράτη

–        Area: Plaka
–        Type: Monument
–        Date: 334 BC

About the Monument of Lysicrates
The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates [Grk. Μνημείο του Λυσικράτη]was built by the choregos Lysicrates in the year 334 BC. Every year plays were presented at the nearby Theater of Dionysios and competed against one another. The choregos was a wealthy patron of the arts that’s paid for and oversaw the training of the chorus of the play. It was customary for the choregos of the winning play to receive a trophy, usually taking the form of a bronze tripod.

The monument stands over 30 feet high, with its round tholos [or circular building] resting on a raised square podium. It is covered with a marble roof and is capped with a capital of acanthus leaves where the bronze trophy once rested. Six ornate Corinthian columns support the roof and are joined together by the wall between them. Significantly it is the first monument to be built in the Corinthian order, hundreds of years before the Romans made it famous. This monument has proven to be so famous that several copies of it can be found all around the world.

Theater of Dionysus – Θέατρο του Διονύσου

–        Area: Acropolis
–        Type: Theater
–        Date: 330 BC

About the Theater of Dionysus
The Theater of Dionysus [Grk: Θέατρο του Διονύσου] is a ruined theater that sits carved out of the south side of the Acropolis rock. Though the theater dates back to the 5th Century BC, its present form dates from the time of the statesman Lycurgus around 330BC. Lycurgus renovated the theater with by rebuilding it with fine stone and adding seats. With the added seats, the theater could hold up to 17,000 people. It was at the Theater of Dionysus that Greek theater and drama as we know it was born.

Unfortunately the grand theater fell into the ruined state that is seen today. Although the Theater is not as impressive today as it was in its heyday, one can certainly marvel at the exact spot that Greek theater was born. The Theater of Dionysus is commonly confused with the Acropolis’ other theater: the extremely well restored Theater of Herod Atticus.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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