The overcast sky was bound to fulfil the forecast of a rainy afternoon. To avoid being drenched, we left for the Acropolis early in the winter morning. We walked past the foothills staring at the Cyclopean walls through tree canopies growing adjacent to the hill. It was believed that only the mighty Cyclops could carry massive boulders that seemed to have been set without any mortar.
Athens took the name of the Goddess, and she was venerated as Athena Polias or Athena of the city. She was deified in the Parthenon as Athena Parthenos, the Virgin Goddess. She had many talents and was also the Goddess of wisdom and creativity, so it was not surprising that on the South-Western slope of Acropolis lay the Odeon of Herodes Atticus that to date is a centre for performing arts. The open air theatre is the main venue for the annual Athens Festival.
Swaying olive trees lined the stone pathway up to the western side, through Propylaea or the entrance to the Acropolis. By the time, we walked through a large marble gateway; a light drizzle welcomed us and paused.
Parthenon has been voted the most beautiful building in the world by Business Insider. Interestingly, it was never the main temple of Athena. The main temple for the cult of Athena was at the northern end of the Acropolis in a temple called Erectheum. It was said to be the spot where Athena had struck her spear and created the first olive tree for her people.
Parthenon once held a statue of Athena Parthenos and functioned mainly as a treasury. Later during the Byzantine rule in the sixth century, the temple became a church dedicated to Mother Mary. By the 15th century, Ottomans turned it into a mosque. And during the Great Turkish War in the 17th century, the building was used as a gunpowder magazine. It was then when the building blew up during the Venetian siege.
From the eastern end of the citadel, a Greek flag fluttered in the wind that could have knocked us off our footing. With frigid faces, we looked down at the square roads cutting through the terracotta-roofed houses creating neat sections of Athens. Beyond the hill, to the east was the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the southeast was the New Acropolis Museum.
Later when we were in the museum, the rain hammered the glass panels of the building. I stood staring at the monument beyond the time defying Cyclopean walls. The Acropolis Museum mirrored the Parthenon on the hill beside it. Artefacts found on the hill have found a home on the lower floors. On the topmost floor, the marble panel or frieze that once adorned the upper part of the Parthenon have been showcased in the same sequence as the original monument. And replicas replace a part of the sculptures, known as Elgin Marbles that has been usurped by the British.
Parthenon has seen the rise and fall of empires and faiths; it has inspired numerous buildings in Europe and Americas; it has been a symbol of not only Greece but also the Western Civilisation. Athena might have lost her worshippers, but her spirit is here to stay!