Remarkable is the small open-
Several caves to the east of the Klepsydra at the foot of the Acropolis served the cult of the gods. A first one was dedicated to Apollo “Hyp’ Akrais”, (Below the Summit) (photo above). According to Pausanias, this was where Apollo slept with Kreousa, the daughter of King Erechtheus. Erechtheus himself of course lived on top of the Acropolis, at the time a fort to protect his palace and riches. After Kreousa gave birth, she abandoned the child in fear of her father. Apollo however, had the baby which was in danger of being eaten by wild beasts saved and brought to Delphi by Hermes, where the child grew up and became a temple servant, ignorant of his noble birth. Kreousa married a certain Xouthos or Xanthos, but never forgot her divine lover. She then asked the gods for advice and was directed to Delphi with her husband and to adopt the first child they met as their own. In this way Ion, her own son, was reunited with his mother.
The next cave is dedicated to Zeus Keraunios (middle photo), which has some remains of an altar in front. The cave was dedicated to Zeus in his capacity as god of the Thunder, as the spot had been struck by lightning. The third important cave (photo above right) was dedicated to Pan as a reward for the help this god gave the Athenians against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.
Very special is the discovery of an old Mycenaean well, which had been accessible only from the summit of the Acropolis. Only the holes used to support the wooden construction for a long staircase down to the well are preserved. Unfortunately, it is usually forbidden to visit the cave at the bottom. This old staircase was probably still used in classical Athens for the rites of the “Arrephoria”, in which the “Arrephoroi” (“Bearers of a Secret”, young girls who had lived a whole year on the Acropolis, serving the goddess Athena) descended from the Acropolis in the middle of the night, carrying a basket with mystical objects on their heads. The ritual probably reflects a myth which tells how Athena had given the daughters of Kekrops a basket to keep secret. Only one of Kekrops’ three daughters was able to suppress her curiosity. The two others looked into the basket and saw the little baby Erechtheus, half human and half snake. Struck with madness, they jumped of the Acropolis and died on spot. The staircase is also mentioned by Aristophanes as a secret way down the Acropolis.
The discovery of the small cave shown on the right (on the eastern side of the Acropolis)
has revolutionised the discussion of the geography of ancient Athens. In it was found
an inscription proving that it was dedicated to Aglauros, one of the daughters of
Kekrops (see above). According to Pausanias, this cave lay above the holy terrain
of the sanctuary of Theseus, which consequently must have lain east of the Acropolis.
As this Theseion was located on the “agora”, this proves that a second agora, the
Cave of Aglauros
Aphrodite in the Gardens
Finally, the sanctuary of Asclepios must be mentioned, lying to the west of the theatre of Dionysos. Modern restaurations now give some impression of how this sanctuary will have looked like. The cult of Asclepios in Athens was introduced during the Peloponnesian Wars, some 10 years after the destructive plague (420 B.C.). In the sanctuary you may see the foundations of the temple (10,4 x 6 m.) and a large altar (6 x 3.5 m.). North lay a large portico (50 x 10 m.) in two storeys, serving the sick as a place to sleep in the hope of a healing dream, with at the western end a rectangular room with a pit (bothros) for the remains of the sacrifes. South of the temple in Roman times a second portico was built, while west of the large portico a third one with 4 small rooms (4 x 4 m.), possibly a another infirmary or a building to house guests. A holy well behind the large portico and a monumental entrance completed the complex. At the moment only a small part of the large portico has been restored (colored orange on the photo below), but work on the building has not yet been completed.