The gate of the Acropolis of Athens
|Propylaea of the Acropolis of Athens|
|Construction started||437 BC|
|Destroyed||Partially in 1656|
|Design and construction|
|Other designers||Phidias (sculptor)|
The Propylaea was the monumental gateway to the Acropolis of Athens, and was one of several public works commissioned by the Athenian leader Pericles in order to rebuild the Acropolis a generation after the conclusion of the Persian Wars. Pericles appointed his friend Phidias as the supervisor and lead architect of this massive project, which Pericles allegedly financed with funds appropriated from the treasury of the Delian League. According to Plutarch, the Propylaea was designed by the architect Mnesikles, about whom nothing else is known. Construction began in 437 BC and was terminated in 432, when the building was still unfinished.
The Propylaea was constructed of white Pentelic marble and gray Eleusinian marble or limestone, which was used only for accents. Structural iron was also used, though William Bell Dinsmoor analyzed the structure and concluded that the iron weakened the building. The structure consists of a central building with two adjoining wings on the west (outer) side, one to the north and one to the south.
The core is the central building, which presents a standard six-columned Doric façade both on the west to those entering the Acropolis and on the east to those departing. The columns echo the proportions (not the size) of the columns of the Parthenon. There is no surviving evidence for sculpture in the pediments.
The central building contains the gate wall, about two-thirds of the way through it. There are five gates in the wall, one for the central passageway, which was not paved and lay along the natural level of the ground, and two on either side at the level of the building's eastern porch, five steps up from the level of the western portico. The central passageway was the culmination of the Sacred Way, which led to the Acropolis from Eleusis.
Entrance into the Acropolis was controlled by the Propylaea. Though it was not built as a fortified structure, it was important that people not ritually clean be denied access to the sanctuary. In addition, runaway slaves and other miscreants could not be permitted into the sanctuary where they could claim the protection of the gods. The state treasury was also kept on the Acropolis, making its security important.
The gate wall and the eastern (inner) portion of the building sit at a level five steps above the western portion, and the roof of the central building rose on the same line. The ceiling in the eastern part of the central building was famous in antiquity, having been called by Pausanias (about 600 years after the building was finished) "...down to the present day unrivaled." It consisted of marble blocks carved in the shape of ceiling coffers and painted blue with gold stars.
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