after nearly four centuries, they left the Acropolis covered with gardens and hundreds of small huts, its monuments in ruin.

More depredations were inflicted by a supposed friend: in 1801 the British ambassador, Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, arrived in Athens with a Turkish decree permitting him to look for fragments of sculpture on the Acropolis. Among the fifty pieces he plundered was much of Pheidias’s surviving Parthenon sculpture, later sold to the British Museum. He also took a caryatid from the Erechtheion, replacing it with a plaster cast. The moral debate over ownership has become an international issue and still rages.

Greece won its independence in 1836. Under Otho, first king of the Hellenes, every postclassical structure on the Acropolis was removed as he set about to restore “the glory that was Greece.” The Athena Nike temple was rebuilt in 1835–1836. The Acropolis Museum was opened in 1878. In the twentieth century the American School of Classical Studies partly rebuilt the Erechtheion, which had been destroyed by a combination of wars and weathering. Some fallen columns of the Parthenon were restored, but the building suffered more damage in World War II and remains empty and roofless, a noble ruin. At the beginning of the Acropolis’s fifth millennium, the worst threats to its survival are atmospheric pollution, the vibration set up by passing aircraft, and most paradoxical of all, tourism. All that one can hope for today is a mere glimpse of the original splendor of the Athenian Acropolis. In the Golden Age, its buildings were bathed in the clarity of Aegean sunshine and glowed with color. Reds, blues, and greens, not just painted but patterned, picked out the structural elements, all hung with swags of gold and silver and punctuated with glinting bronze rosettes. The sculpted stone friezes were rendered in realistic hues, and the brilliant yellow columns of the Parthenon added their fire to what must have been a breathtaking scene.

See also

Erechtheion; Parthenon

Further reading

Economakis, Richard, ed. 1994. Acropolis Restoration: The CCAM Interventions. London/New York: Academy Editions.

Rhodes, Robin Francis. 1995. Architecture and Meaning on the Athenian Acropolis. Cambridge, UK: University Press.

Takahashi, Bin. 1969. The Acropolis. Tokyo and Palo Alto, CA: Kodansha International.


The Netherlands

The 20-mile-long (32-kilometer) Afsluitdijk (literally, “closing-off dike”), constructed from 1927 to 1932 between Wieringen (now Den Oever) and the west coast of Friesland, enabled the resourceful Dutch to turn the saltwater Zuider Zee (South Sea) into the freshwater IJsselmeer and eventually to create an entire new province, Flevoland. Like their successful responses to similar challenges before and since, it was an audacious and farsighted feat of planning, hydraulic engineering, and reclamation.

Throughout their history, the Netherlanders have fought a battle against the water. Much of their tiny country is well below average sea level, in places up to 22 feet (7 meters). The threat of inundation comes not only from the sea but also from the great river systems whose deltas dominate the geography of Holland. Over centuries, literally thousands of miles of dikes and levees have been built to win agricultural land back from the water, and having gained it, to protect it. From the seventeenth century Amsterdam merchants invested their profits in building the North Holland polders—Beemstermeer, the Purmer, the Wormer, the Wijde Wormer, and the Schermer—reclaimed through the ingenious use of the ubiquitous windmill.

In 1250 the 79-mile-long (126-kilometer) Omringdijk was built along Friesland’s west coast to protect the land from the sea, and as early as 1667 the hydraulic engineer Hendric Stevin bravely proposed to close off the North Sea and reclaim the land under the Zuider Zee. His scheme was then technologically impossible. The idea was revived in 1891 by the civil engineer and statesman Cornelis Lely. Based on research undertaken over five years, his plan was straightforward: a closing dike across the neck of the Zuider Zee would create a freshwater lake fed by the River IJssel and allow the reclamation of 555,000 acres (225,000 hectares) of polder land—in the event, 407,000 acres (165,000 hectares) were