The Acropolis (upper city) of Athens was the religious heart of the city. In 480 BCE, the Persians stormed Athens, thus destroying large parts of the city including the monuments on the Acropolis. At the end of the Persian Wars, the Athenians initiated a restoration program aimed at showcasing both the political and economic power of the city. The objects and artworks “polluted” by the enemy were buried on the Acropolis, prior to building new temples. Pericles, the protagonist of Athenian political life around the mid-fifth century, played a key role in the reconstruction of the Acropolis. He entrusted the direction of the works to the sculptor Phidias, who served as episkopos (superintendent).
The Acropolis was accessed by the Propylaea (from the Greek pro, “in front”, and pyle, “gate”). This complex was built on several levels between 438 and 432 BCE by the architect Mnesikles.
The small temple of Athena Nike (Victory), built between 430 and 421 BCE, was visible from the stairwell that led to the Acropolis.
The Parthenon, dedicated to Athena Parthenos (Virgin), was the first temple to be built between 447 and 438 BCE by the architects Iktinos, Kallikrates, and Mnesikles. Its sculptural decoration, produced by Phidias, was completed in 432 BCE.
The turmoil of the Peloponnesian War against Sparta slowed the construction of the Erechtheion in the northern portion of the plateau, which was built between 421 and 404 BCE with long interruptions. The unusual plan of this temple is a result of the desire to locate there the worship of several deities, such as Poseidon, Erechtheus, Zeus, and Athena. The famous Caryatids Porch embellishes the southern side of the building, deriving its name from the six statues of maidens (korai), called Caryatids, that support the lintel.