As I walk up the last steps of the Acropolis, I stop and admire the beauty and grandness of it all. I do not take any photos at first. Instead, I marvel at all of the detail and imagine of all the extensive labor that must have been put into building this city. Every direction I turn has an astonishingly exquisite temple with a story behind it. I can envision the workers pouring their dedication into these temples, knowing that they used manual labor instead of technology. I can conceptualize what the Parthenon may have looked like before it started to deteriorate. I then started to wonder about every single detail of the Acropolis, from the base of it to its location, which is what made me want to research into it.
Before the ancient city was built, it is believed that the base of the Acropolis was first used as a military fortress to protect the people from attacks. Because of it’s height, it was the best place to ward off unwanted visitors. Many years later, during the Mycenaean period and under the leadership of Pericles, the Acropolis was built. The Parthenon, which was dedicated to the goddess Athena, is said to be the symbol of Greek civilization. It is believed that Poseidon left his trident marks where Athena’s olive tree grew by The Erechthion. So much history occurred at the Acropolis but unfortunately, the Persians destroyed much of it in 480 BC . The Acropolis Museum did a beautiful job at preserving many of the artifacts that was found at the site, and it’s most definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Athens.
The base of the Acropolis is composed mostly of two different rock layers. The bottom layer, Athenian Schist, is a type of metamorphic rock . Metamorphic rocks are ones that form when other rocks are subjected to high heat and pressure, causing the atoms to rearrange and a new rock to form without melting. They are commonly buried at depth, have a great amount of pressure due to the friction caused from their surroundings, and have an extreme amount of heat since they are buried deep. When more pressure and heat it added, they chemically change to form a new rock but don’t melt. Rocks exposed to varying temperatures and pressures get metamorphosed to different degrees. For example, when mudstone is metamorphosed, it first turns into phyllite, then slate, to schist, and lastly, gneiss. Therefore, the Acropolis’s bottom layer is highly metamorphic but not the highest.
The layer above the schist is limestone, which is a sedimentary rock . A sedimentary rock is formed by sediment that deposits over time, usually by an ocean or by a body of water. Limestone itself is composed primarily of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that precipitates out of ocean water. It bonds together and crystalizes. As the crystals accumulate, the limestone starts to form. Because of this, the area where the limestone formed had to be surrounded by an ocean in order for limestone to form. This type of rock doesn’t have a lot of pore spaces and is very resistant to weathering compared to other types of sedimentary rocks. The limestone itself was lifted upward due to faulting and hardly deteriorated due to the resistance to erosion, which made it a solid rock. This is why this platform was the perfect place to build on top of.
In between these two layers is cataclastic limestone, otherwise known as fault breccia . Breccia itself is a sedimentary rock that is composed of angular pieces. The more angularity, the more evidence that shows that the rocks have not been transported very far. There are different types of breccia but fault breccia is specific to faults, which the base of the Acropolis has many of. When the faults grind together, they break and create a layer of broken and powdered pieces along the fault plane.
Considering this, why did the Ancient Greeks decided to build their Acropolis on this piece of land? Try to imagine it without the temples: Flat, accessible, and high enough to protect them from attacks. What many people are not aware of is that the Acropolis is on top of many springs, that gave everyone access to water. These springs were found in caves surrounding the area, and many wells were dug into for easier access. Springs are mostly found by limestone because it fractures relatively easily. Because limestone is a chemical precipitate, it can be easily dissolved by groundwater. Weak carbonate acid that is formed by rainwater enters these fractures, which dissolves bedrock. When it reaches a rock that doesn’t dissolve, it begins to cut sideways, which forms an underground stream 
Overall, The Acropolis has much more to it than just temples. When people visit, they are mostly worried about seeing the Parthenon, when they should be seeing the big picture. The Athenian Schist as the basement rock, the limestone that was deposited on top, and the fault breccia that was caused by movement makes up the base of the Acropolis.. Also, the springs found inside the base are hardly ever talked about. Whether it was researching about the rocks or the history, the Acropolis completely intrigued me. I will never forget the moment I saw the Acropolis in all its beauty.
- Hurwit, Jeffrey, 2000, The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era to the Present, CUP Archive
- Regueiro, M., Stamatakis M., Laskaridis K., The Geology of the Acropolis (Athens, Greece) European Geologist, November 2014
- Higgins, M. & Higgins, R. 1976, A Geological Companion to Greece and the Aegean, London, Gerald Duckwort & Co Ltd.