The Ancient City of Athens
Acropolis - North Slope

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This site was created for educational purposes by Kevin T. Glowacki. All content on this website (including text and photographs), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

When most people think of the Acropolis, they probably envision, first and foremost, the temples of Athena (the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike) on the top of the citadel. But it is important to realize that the slopes of the Acropolis were also home to many sanctuaries that played vital roles in the religious lives of the ancient Athenians. Some of these cult places, especially on the South Slope, received monumental, architectural embellishments (for example, the sanctuary and theater of Dionysos, the sanctuary of Asklepios). But many shrines on the slopes were much simpler in nature, of the sort that scholars sometimes call "rustic", and were places where divinities of nature, fertility, and healing were worshipped on a less monumental and more personal level.

This type of "popular" religion is attested vividly on the North Slope of the Acropolis, where many shrines were nestled among the steep cliffs, caves, and pathways. For example, at the northwest corner of the North Slope, Apollo, Pan, and (probably) the Nymphs were worshipped in shallow caves. The Klepsydra Spring House, mentioned in Aristophanes' Lysistrata (910-913) and other ancient literary sources, was also probably sacred to a nymph (originally called Empedó). Farther to the east, Eros and Aphrodite had an open-air sanctuary. Evidence for other shrines is provided by numerous rock-cut niches for the dedication and display of offerings to gods whose names we do not know. The sacred spots on the slopes of the citadel were connected by an ancient path, called the Peripatos, that circled the Acropolis and intersected the Panathenaic Way at the western approach. It is also likely that most (if not all) of the North Slope was within the sacred area at the foot of the Acropolis known as the Pelargikón.

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Select Bibliography:
  • Borgeaud, P. 1988. The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece, Chicago.
  • Broneer, O. 1939. "A Mycenaean Fountain on the Athenian Acropolis," Hesperia 8, pp. 317-433.
  • Broneer, O. 1960. "Notes on Three Athenian Cult Places," Archaiologikis Ephemeris, pp. 54-67.
  • Camp, J. 1984. "Water and the Pelargikon," in Studies Presented to Sterling Dow (GRBS Monograph 10), pp. 37-41.
  • Camp, J. 2001. The Archaeology of Athens, New Haven and London.
  • Edwards, E. 1985. "Greek Votive Reliefs to Pan and the Nymphs" (diss. New York University).
  • Hurwit, J. 1999. The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era to the Present, Cambridge. (Look in the index for Klepsydra; Apollo, Cave of; Cave of Pan; Mycenaean fountain; Arrhephoroi; Aphrodite, sanctuary of Eros and A.; peripatos).
  • Iakovidis, S. 1962. I MYKINAIKI AKROPOLIS TON ATHINON, Athens.
  • Nulton, P. 2003. The Sanctuary of Apollo Hypoakraios and Imperial Athens (Archaeologia Transatlantica 21), Providence.
  • Parson, A. 1943. "Klepsydra and the Paved Court of the Pythion," Hesperia 12, pp. 191-267.
  • Pirenne-Delforge, V. 1994. L'Aphrodite grecque, Paris.
  • Rosenzwieg, R. 2004. Worshipping Aphrodite: Art & Cult in Classical Athens, Ann Arbor.
  • Tobin, J. 1993. "Some New Thoughts on Herodes Atticus's Tomb, His Stadium of 143/4, and Philostratus VS 2.550," American Journal of Archaeology 97, pp. 81-89.
  • Wickins, J. 1986. "The Archaeology and History of Cave Use in Attica, Greece, from Prehistoric thru Late Roman Times" (diss. Indiana University).
  • Wycherley, R.E. 1959. "Two Athenian Shrines," American Journal of Archaeology 63, pp. 68-72.
  • Wycherley, R.E. 1963. "The Pythion in Athens: Thucydides 1.15.4; Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 2.1.7," American Journal of Archaeology 67, pp. 75-79.