Propylea

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We are walking through the archaeological site of the Acropolis and, when we finally get ready to enter its very important and millenary fortification, the Propylaea is the element that makes us say “WOW!

A majestic and imposing entrance that leaves no one indifferent, but there is much more than what is perceived at first sight. In this article we are going to discover the importance of this monument and provide all the practical information you need to make the most of your visit.

Did you know that the Propylaea are even older than the Parthenon?

History of the Propylea

The history of the Propylaea of Athens dates back to the Mycenaean civilization, between the sixteenth and twelfth centuries BC. Although it was a very different construction from the one we can see today, at that time there was already a gate to access the top of the hill.

For those of you who have seen the movie “Troy“, we are talking about this time. Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus (Ulysses for the Romans)…. 

Much later in history, when the Acropolis had already become a space of worship to Athena, other Propylaea were built by order of the Athenian tyrant Pisistratus. This happened during Ancient Greece.

Athena, by the way, was none other than the goddess of wisdom and military strategy, one of the 12 Olympians. Who, moreover, would become the patron goddess of Athens (a very interesting story indeed).

The Propylaea seen from the bottom of the hill

All very nice… until the Persians arrived:

You may have heard of the Medical Wars (remember the movie “300”?), well it was in the second one (480 BC) that these invaders destroyed the Propylaea, among many other things of course.

Finally, (spoiler alert) after the ancient Hellenes defeated the Persians, the Propylaea was finally erected here and has endured to this day….

Not quite!

Fun fact: 

The Propylaea were NEVER finished. You see, they were part of the ambitious construction plan of Pericles, the person who supposedly brought us democracy (long but interesting story that we will tell another time).

It turns out that there were many differences between the city states of Athens and Sparta respectively, so many that finally the so-called Peloponnesian War broke out. This event paralyzed the work on the Propylaea and… so far we are.      

However, this monument has been having very different uses throughout its history. Let’s take a look at them:

Different uses of the Propylea throughout history

  • As was the case with many other ancient buildings, the Propylaea also became churches with the arrival of Christianity.
  • During the Frankish rule, which took place between the 13th and 14th centuries, the Propylaea functioned as the residence of the dukes of “Roche”.
  • Finally, during the Ottoman occupation, the entrance to the Acropolis was transformed into a headquarters. This space was also used to store weapons and even as a powder magazine. 

Perhaps we could say that this last use led the Propylaea to its own destruction?

Destruction of the Propylea

Back to the context of the Ottoman occupation and the Propylaea being used as a powder magazine….

It turns out that in the 17th century Athens suffered a siege by the Venetians, an event during which the Acropolis was also bombarded. So far so correct and contrasted, and now I proceed to tell you something that I have personally heard on countless occasions:

Because the Ottomans were storing gunpowder in the Propylaea, this substance reacted to the Venetian attack and exploded, thus causing the greatest destruction of all in this monument.

It could be, although it must also be taken into account that, anyway, the Propylaea received hundreds of cannon shots… That is to say: How do we know then what exactly destroyed it? 

Using several spaces of the Acropolis of Athens to store weaponry and gunpowder was a contempt to the Hellenic culture, completely agreed and unforgivable. Now, I personally have my doubts that the Propylaea literally exploded due to this fact. Besides, the same thing is said about the Parthenon for example.

In short, it is a very curious story that is interesting to know, and it is not necessary to give it more thought. I’ll stick with the opinion of:

know that I know nothing

Architecture and other features

The Propylaea of the Acropolis were built following the shape of the Greek letter “π” (pi), curious isn’t it? I invite you to check it out when you are accessing the fortification.

The Propylaea from inside the fortification of the Acropolis

Like other important temples and monuments such as the Parthenon, the Propylaea is also made of white Pentelic marble. Moreover, and less people know this, the material they are using for the reconstruction of this archaeological site is EXACTLY the same.

That’s right, today the Greeks continue to extract the same marble from the same quarry (on Mount Penteli) to build the same monument

The construction of the Propylaea was especially complicated due to the existing unevenness of the hill, since the east side is much higher than the west. Even so, the result was spectacular…

What is the Propylon itself, it is only the central part of the building that you are going to see. This element is composed of an exterior and an interior facade.

Supporting the weight of the facades are 6 Doric columns. In addition, in the past there was a main door that was also flanked by 6 Ionic columns (3 on each side).

When you are accessing the interior of the fortification of the Acropolis, you will pass between these columns of the Propylaea just before setting foot on the sacred rock.

Schedule of the Propylea and the Acropolis

As such, it shares the same schedule. That said, there are two different schedules:

– Low season hours (November 1 – March 31): 

|Everyday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm|.

– High season schedule (April 1 – October 31):

|Every day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.|

IMPORTANT: The Acropolis of Athens Archaeological Site will be closed on the following dates:

  • January 1st
  • March 25th
  • May 1st
  • Easter Sunday
  • December 25th
  • December 26th

In addition, although it rarely happens, the Acropolis also does not open its doors when it snows or when we are going through a severe heat wave.

Entrance fees and tickets

The same way it works with the timetable, to visit the Propylaea you must purchase a ticket valid for the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. Here you have two different options: Buy the individual ticket (for the Acropolis only) or the combined ticket.

The price of the individual ticket depends on the season in which you visit, having two possibilities:

– High season (April 1 – October 31): 

| Ticket price – 20 euros |

– Low season (1 November – 31 March):

| Price of the ticket – 10 euros |

The other option, which is my personal recommendation in most cases, is to purchase the combined ticket. With this ticket you will have access to 7 archaeological sites in Athens, being able to visit them in an interval of 5 days. We have an article entirely dedicated to the combined ticket (you can click on the link to get to it).

Where can I buy both types of tickets?

You can buy them at the ticket office, however, if you choose to buy the Acropolis single ticket I do not recommend it. It turns out that there is usually quite a long queue at this archaeological site, especially in high season. On the other hand, you can buy the combined ticket at any other archaeological site, where you will very rarely have to wait to do so.

A very interesting alternative is to buy your ticket online, this is the official website: https://etickets.tap.gr/.

Location

Juan Taracena
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