Acropolis of Athens... With the well known structures like Parthenon, Erechtheion, Odeon of Herodes, one of the most important ancient places which has been survived until today since 5th century BC. It's the symbol of Athens, and an attractive point for many tourists even they interest in history or not. As a family with many relatives here with immigration to Greece, Athens has always been a place we regularly visit. And during those visits, the family members of 2mi3museum visited Acropolis for many times. There are a few photos in our archives from Acropolis which have been taken in different decades. Here on this article we would like to share with you informations about Acropolis through the photos and memories of our family.
Ακρον (acron) and Πόλις ( polis ), if you know the meanings of those two words in Greek, you can easily understand what it means when they say Acropolis (Ακρόπολη). Ακρον (acron) means the highest point and Πόλις ( polis ) - which is much more known - means city. So, Acropolis is a city which is located on the highest point of an area. Like the Acropolis of Athens, it's located in the middle of Athens and on the highest rocky outcrop. The construction of the Acropolis that we can also see today has been started during the reign of Pericles (c. 495–429 BC), even there are evidences that the history of area is much more older. The most important buildings like Parthenon, Erechtheion have been builted in different times but in same century. Over time, Acropolis was damaged as a result of many historical events. The symbol building Parthenon has been converted to church, mosque and after all, demolished during Morean War. Even in 1833 Acropolis has been operated as an archaeological site, by following important historical events and wars it has been harmed. In 1987 it has been listed as a world heritage property by UNESCO.
1930s, Vafiadis Family in Acropolis:
The earliest photo of our family members which has been taken in Acropolis is from 1930s. Apostol Vafiadis, one of the nine children of Stavros Vafiadis, was born in early 1900s in Istanbul. But in 1930s he migrated together with his family to Greece. We are sure that they heard about this ancient place before in their school days and when they went to Athens they visited Acropolis. On below photo you see him with his family, posing on the entrance of Acropolis. Apostle is in his suits, next to him his wife Fotini, and the children Basil & Telemachos are standing.
1930s Vafiadis family members, Acropolis
If you look carefully, children are holding flowers that seems like they picked from the rocky around. Behind them you can see the columns of Temple of Athena Nike and Propylaea ( monumental gateway). The Temple of Athena Nike which you see on this photo, has been built around 420 BC, and it was dedicated to the goddesses Athena and Nike. Below we share with you the exact point that they pose with a red arrow, on a photo of Acropolis.
1940s, World War 2 & Acropolis:
In 1941, during World War 2, Nazi Germany invaded Greece and they raised the Nazi German War Flag on Acropolis. Naturally, we don't have any family photos taken in the Acropolis from the 1940s, as WW2 ended in 1945. The Nazi invasion of Greece was also effected some of our family members who lived here on those years and somehow our family members who lived in Turkey. You can find more information about, on our article 'Our Family & Historical Events' .
On this part of our article, we would like to share with you briefly three important names : Konstantinos Koukidis, Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas. The story of Konstantinos is not confirmed yet until today, but it is told as a legend. According to this legend, Konstantinos was the Greek flag guard on the day 27 April 1941, when the Nazis climbed on Acropolis. Nazi soldiers asked him to give up the Greek flag and raise the Nazi swastika flag. However, Koukidis refused and wrapped the Greek flag around his body and jumped to the death from the Acropolis.
The German War Flag is raised on the Acropolis of Athens, April 1941.
The story of Konstantinos could be a legend, but Manolis and Apostolos are certain. Manolis and Apostolos, two Greek veteran of Resistance, climbed on Acropolis secretly, on the day 30 May 1941 and raised back the Greek flag on Acropolis. Of course, they have been arrested, imprisoned and tortured. But this movement of them, encouraged the Greeks against Nazis.
1950s, Vafiadis Family in Acropolis, Erechtheion:
It was only a few years after World War II and its effects had not yet passed. The members of Vafiadis family from Istanbul decided to travel Europe with their car. You can find the details of this roadtrip on our article, The Vafiadis: Roadtrip to Europe, 1950s. Athens was one of their destinations in this roadtrip. They wanted to travel and visit their relatives in here. Of course they visited Acropolis. Here below we would like to share with you two photos from the same day in 1951, which has been taken in front of the famous Erechtheion.
1950s Vafiadis family members, Erechtheion
On first photo we see Aleko Vafiadis together with his uncle Yorgos and on the second one, we see Ashen together with the wife of Yorgos, posing in front of Caryatids. Let us tell you about Erechtheion, Caryatids and what makes those two photographs unique as they have been taken in 1951.
The temple Erechtheion ( also known as Erechtheum ) has been built between the years 421 and 406 BC, in the honour of legendary king Erechtheus, Athena and Poseidon. According to legend, there were ancient relics like the tomb of King Erechtheus, the trident mark of Poseidon and the sacred tree of Goddess Athena. What makes this temple unique is the six female shaped columns which is called as Caryatids. One of those columns have been removed by Lord Elgin and it has been bought by British Museum in 1816. The five Caryatids on the temple were originals until the Acropolis Museum replaced them with replicas and took the originals to the museum in 1978. So we came to the point which makes our two family photos unique. As those photos have been taken in 1951, the seen five columns are the original ones, and we can easily say that Vafiadis family members were so lucky, as they could see the original ones on the temple. Today, we can only see the original ones in the new Acropolis Museum.
1960s & 1970s, In front of Parthenon:
Now it's time to talk about one of the most famous ancient temples in the world: Parthenon. This temple which was dedicated to Goddess Athena, constructed in 432 BC. It took 15 years to complete this temple. The name Parthenon derives from Athena Parthenonas, which is one of the many ephitets of the Goddess and means 'virgin'. According to archaeologists, there was a huge statue of Athena inside the Parthenon. The statues surrounding the temple were colorful. We are lucky to be able to see this ancient temple today, because over time the Parthenon has survived many difficulties.
Parthenon has been used as a treasury of Delian League and Athenian Empire for a long time. In 5th century, it was converted into a church under the name 'Panagia Athiniotissa'. During the Latin occupation which has been started in 1204, converted to a Catholic church ' Santa Maria di Atene'. Did you notice the name of the church and the common feature in the old name of this temple? As we said in the begining of this section, Parthenon means 'virgin'. After being a church, Christians named it by Virgin Mary. Panagia, Santa Maria are all the names of Virgin Mary. It seems that the first Christians here did not want to break away from the goddess to whom this temple was dedicated for thousands of years, and instead of another saint, they dedicated this place to an important religious name that stands out with its virginity.
In 1458 , Athens fall to Ottoman Empire. Ottomans let Parthenon as an Orthodox Church for a while but then they converted to a mosque. During all those conversions, sculptures, drawings from pagan days have been removed or damaged. But the scariest thing that ever happened to this temple is the bombardment on 26 September 1687, during the siege of Acropolis by Venetians in Morean War. Even Parthenon was converted to a mosque by Ottomans, it has also been used as an ammunition dump and unfortunately the temple was damaged more during the explosion. Between the years 1800-1803, the sculptures on the temple was removed by Lord Elgin and in 1833 Acropolis started to operate as an archaeological site. The restorations of the temple still continues.
We would like to show you Parthenon with two photos from our family archives. One of them is from 1960s and the other 1970s.
The photo below has been taken in 1960s, during a trip of Aleko Vafiadis and his wife Giuseppina Sanzoni in Athens. As many tourists did, they visited Acropolis. We are sure that at least this is the second time of Aleko in Acropolis, but for Giuseppina it was the first. They look very stylish, and it was their daily style. They are sitting on a horizontal column which seems that it has been put there for photoshooting. They are lucky, cause the ancient site is empty ( there is only one couple behind ) and it's very suitable to take a photo in front of the temple.
1960s Aleko Vafiadis & Giuseppina Sanzoni, Parthenon, Acropolis
Nearly ten years after, in 1970s, in same place on the same column other members of our family had their photos taken. On this photo below, you see Theodora Koulurgioti as a teenager, her aunt Sofia Çakıroğlu and their friends from Sarıyer. This time area is more crowded. We can see from the people behind. And also there is a difference between two photos. Look at the right side of both photos. Another piece of column has been added to the photoshooting area.
1970s Theodora Koulurgioti, Sofia Cakiroglu & friends, Parthenon, Acropolis
Who knew that two families in this same place, photographed 10 years apart, would one day meet each other and strengthen their bond with a marriage? Stavros Vafiadis, the son of Aleko and Giuseppina on first photo is married with the young girl on second photo, Theodora Koulurgioti, in 1984.
We tried to share with you a brief historical information about Acropolis and the buildings inside over our family photos which have been taken in here in 1930s, 1950s,1960s and 1970s. This ancient site has survived for 2500 years, and we hope it will survive thousands of years and continue to keep the culture of the past era alive. For more information about the history of Parthenon, you can watch the video animation below.
Written by : 2mi3, August 2021