Cave Sanctuaries of the Akropolis

Athens, Greece

Cave Sanctuaries of the Akropolis

The Cave Sanctuaries of the Akropolis, Athens, are the natural fissures in the rock of the Akropolis hill that were used as sites of worship for deities of the panhellenic pantheon in antiquity. Traditionally a sharp distinction has been drawn between the state religion practised on the summit of the akropolis and the cult practice of the shrines on the lower slopes. Recently, however, interest has burgeoned in the individual religious experience or personal piety in Greek society of which these cult sites may be the expression. The proceeding description follows the order of the shrines from the Klepsydra at the northwest face of the akropolis clockwise via the Peripatos round to the foot of the Nike bastion.

The northwestern slope of the rock of the Akropolis is dominated by three cave openings dedicated to the worship of Pan, Zeus and Apollo respectively. The most westerly cave on the terrace is not a shrine but a sculpted cavity, called cave A in the archaeological literature, with a carved surface in the form of a podium was used as a viewing area for the Panathenaic procession. Moving easterly the next cave along, cave B, is that of the Apollo Hypoakraios (Apollo under the Long Rocks, also worshipped as Pythios). Here, according to tradition, Apollo was united with Erechtheus' daughter Kreousa. From that liaison Ion the Athenian hero, was born. The sanctuary was identified after finding marble plaques nearby which detail a crown and an inscription that they were a dedication to Apollo from the nine archons.

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