The Ancient City of Athens
Acropolis - East Slope

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The East Slope of the Acropolis is an area that has not (yet) been the focus of a great deal of archaeological investigation. Early travelers and explorers noted, of course, the very large and prominent East Cave that forms such a distinctive landmark and speculated that it must have been used as a sanctuary in antiquity. (One early -- and incorrect -- hypothesis was that it was the City Eleusinion). The interior of the East Cave was briefly explored by O. Broneer in 1936, but it was found that the earth had been disturbed in (relatively) modern times and that no ancient levels were preserved. Outside of the cave, Broneer located a rock-cut bedding for an ancient stele. On the steep cliff north of the stele bedding, Broneer also discovered some rock-cut steps leading to a rectangular bedding, probably for an altar, demonstrating that the area did have some importance in antiquity.

In 1980, an ancient, inscribed stele was discovered a good distance downslope from the East Cave. The inscription dates to the 3rd century B.C., and records honors awarded by the Athenians to a priestess of the heroine Aglauros. The inscription also specifically states that the stele was to be set up "in the shrine of Aglauros".
Since the stele was found intact and still attached to its base, G. Dontas argued that it was still in its original location and that the Aglaureion was on the East Slope. Until the discovery of this inscription, almost all scholars had thought that the shrine of Aglauros was on the North Slope (the most popular candidate was at the old Mycenaean Fountain). If the "true Aglaureion" was on the East Slope, then the location of several other unexcavated shrines (such as the Anakeion) attested in ancient literary sources as being near the Aglaureion must also be shifted to the east. We also know from Herodotus that the Persians scaled the Acropolis rock from somewhere near the Aglaureion when they captured and destroyed the citadel in 480 B.C.

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Select Bibliography:
  • Broneer, O. 1936. "The Cave on the East Slope of the Acropolis," Hesperia 5, pp. 247-272.
  • Dontas, G. S. 1983. "The True Aglaurion."  Hesperia 52, pp. 48-63.
  • Hurwit, J. The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era to the Present, Cambridge 1999.