Pausanias Project
   Athens - Peripatos
The “Peripatos” is a path around the Acropolis, which already existed in antiquity as shown by the “Peripatos-inscription” on the right. The inscription may still be seen in situ and is well preserved. Many interesting landmarks and smaller sanctuaries lie at the Peripatos, some mentioned by Pausanias. Some of the most important are discussed here.  

Remarkable is the small open-air sanctuary of Aphrodite and Eros which was excavated in 1932. In the rock at the back you may still see a number of small niches comparable with those of the sanctuary at Dafni. In antiquity they housed small statuettes or other votive gifts as vases. Characteristic are the many small marble reliefs depicting the male or female genitals. Possibly this sanctuary was connected with the festival of the “Arrephoria” mentioned by Pausanias: young girls descended from the Acropolis by way of a secret, subterranean corridor with a basket filled with mystical objects.

The so-called Klepsydra-well (Paus. 1.28.4, photo right) lies at the junction of the Panathenaic way with the Peripatos. It was already in use in Mycenaean times. According to a 5th century B.C. inscription nymphs were revered in the cave at the back. Kimon built a fountain-house with a cistern. In late classical times, after the destruction of Athens by the Herulians, the well was enclosed within the defenses of the Acropolis and could only be reached by way of a staircase. In the Byzantine period the complex was made into a chapel dedicated to the Holy Apostles.  

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 so-called “Older Agora” lay east of the Acropolis, not to the north, as had always been thought. Here lay also the famous prytaneion, which housed many important statues as well as the original transcript of the laws of Solon.


Cave of Aglauros

Aphrodite in the Gardens

Klepsydra a.o.

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.