The Acropolis: Then and Now

Then and Now

These are some of the worlds first photographs contributing to the Greek archaeological record.

Let us go on a quest,tracing in the footsteps of these pioneering photographers, and compare then to now.

Trying to pinpoint the exact location of each photograph was a challenge – with respect to the original photographer I did my best to keep true – however geography, nature, circumstances and rules have changed. Places once ventured are now off limits – for example one cannot simply stroll inside the Parthenon or climb up to the roof of the Erechtheum Temple.

The glorious complexity of Ancient Greek design made it even more a challenge. My angles are far from perfect, but still I hope it will give you an idea of how chilling it can be to compare the past with present.

Strange coincidences occurred. While I was sifting through literally thousands of my older files I found uncanny matches, waiting to be discovered. The romantic in me theorized that the same Muse who held the hands of the photographers before me, were with me as well.

While looking at these photos you will see that much has changed but much remains the same. The displacement of archeology is alarming. The restoration of the Acropolis site feels unnerving. But above this, a pattern is revealed. Our enchantment and love for Greece. The spirit of Ancient Greece and all her wonders continue to call to us, no matter the generation.

So let us go back in time, and compare then to now.

Propylaion Photo by William James Stillman in 1882

The Propylaea, the ancient gateway into the Acropolis in 1882.

Propylaion 2014

The Propylaea today.

Propylaea 1961 (photographer unknown).

After entering the Propylaea and taking a look back. 1961.

Propylaea 2014

After entering the Propylaea, today.

29 Φεβρουαρίου 1923, άποψη Αθηνών από την Ακρόπολη

This man and the photographer are both unknown. All we have is a date from February 29, 1923.


The same location, today.

Parthenon in 1961 (photographer unknown)

The Parthenon in 1961.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon today, currently undergoing restoration.

Giuseppe Gerola early 20th century  personal moment with background Parthenon

The Parthenon from a slightly different angle. This photo was taken by the Italian historian,  Giuseppe Gerola, during the early 20th century. The woman in this photo is unknown.

Parthenon 2014

The same location, today.

Isadora Duncan at the Acropolis_ Athens_ circa 1920_

Isadora Duncan – a legend in her own right –  in 1920. This photo was taken by Edward Steichen.

Note we are looking at the northside of the temple, at the Porch of Caryatis, also known as the Porch of Maidens.

The Erechtheion 2014Today, there are five replicas of the Maidens on site. The originals are displayed at the Acropolis Museum.

During the early 19th century, the sixth Maiden was looted by Lord Elgin, and used to decorate his mansion in Scotland. He later sold the Maiden to the British Museum to clear his debts.

Returning the Maiden to her sisters in Greece is one of the most fiercely debated topics in the world today.

Mary Paraskeva late 19th century  personal moment in the Erechtheion

Mary Paraskeva infront of the Erechtheum, late 19th century.

The Erechtheum 2014

The Erechtheum today.

Clipping from 1930

A clipping from 1930 reads “Modern Athens from the Acropolis”.


Then just as now, we have the same reaction as we peer over the city.

1922 View of Athens  population 200,000 inhabitants

And looking a little closer over Athens from the Acropolis: the Lycabettus Hill in 1922.

View of the Parliament from the Acropolis

The exact view of Lycabettus Hill.

1875 panoramic view attributed to Peter Moraiti or Félix Bonfils


And even closer but further back in time, the Greek Parliament in 1875  which was then a palace.

The photographer is debated, either Peter Moraitis or Felix Benfils.


The Greek Parliament today.

East side of Parthenon in 1961

The East side of Parthenon in 1961.

East side of Parthenon 2014


The East side of Parthenon today.

Αθήνα, τέλη 19ου αιώνα, Ωδείο Ηρώδου Αττικού

View of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus from the Acropolis. Early 19th century.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus 2014

View of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus from the Acropolis, today.

Photographische Gesellschaft A.G 1905 Θέατρο Ηρώδου Αττικού

Entrance to the Odeon of Herodes in 1905.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus 2014

Entrance to the Odeon of Herodes today.

Acropolis 1941 Germans

One of the most difficult and chilling images to line up. The Germans approaching the Acropolis in 1941.

The same area today, now covered in olive and pine trees.

The exact area today; now full of pine and olive trees.

B. Anthony Stewart, 1940, αθηναίοι με φόντο την Ακρόπολη

And finally, a view of the Acropolis and Athens from the Pnyx Hill, the very birthplace of democracy. Photo taken in 1940 by Anthony Stewart.

Pnyx Hill 2014

Exact view of Acropolis and Athens from the Pnyx Hill.




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4 Responses to “The Acropolis: Then and Now

  • I’m glad to be catching up and comment primarily to note how happy I was to see that my name (“In Vergil’s day”) was spelled correctly in the newspaper clipping. A beautiful post, as always, Mellissa.

    • Oh I understand all too well what it’s like to have your name spelled wrong! I have the same problem in Greek in English..but it’s all good! Thank you 😀

  • Great post Mellissa! The whole site is very nice and I enjoy your approach and your work!

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