The South Slope of the Acropolis was from the beginning a pole of attraction for the inhabitants of Athens because of its terrain, its natural protection and the existence of sources of drinking water. From the archaic times on, the establishment of important sanctuaries and theatrical buildings on the south side of the Acropolis gave great religious, cultural and spiritual significance.
The oldest traces of human presence in the South Slope of the Acropolis, dated from the Neolithic period (4th millennium B.C.) recovered at the west of the Asklepieion and from the cave north of the theatre of Dionysus. West of the Asklepieion a prehistoric tumulus, probably of Middle Helladic times (1900-1600 B.C.), was excavated at the end of the 19th century. North of the Stoa of Eumenes have also been discovered wells of the Late Helladic period (1600 - 1050 B.C.)
‘he springhouse constructed in archaic times on the natural terrace, where later the Asclepieion founded and the archaic temple of Dionysus in the Sanctuary of Dionysus Elefthereus consisted the first proven constructions of the archaic period in the South Slope of the Acropolis. The formation of a circular area slightly north of the temple, used for the celebration of the cult dance in honor of the god, is dated in the same period (second half of the 6th century BC.). This area gradually took the form of the Theatre of Dionysus where the works of the great dramatists of antiquity were 'taught'.
In the 5th century. B.C., in the western part of Asclepieion, a stoa erected with four rooms, which is considered the earliest building of the sanctuary as well as the Odeon of Pericles, to the east of the theatre of Dionysus. In the 4th century. B.C., in the eastern part of the Asclepieion the temple of Asclepius together with the altar and the Doric stoa at the north, were constructed.
Around 330 B.C., in the archonship of Lykourgos, the Sanctuary and the Theatre of Dionysus in the eastern part of the South Slope of the Acropolis were completely configured. In that period the Later Temple of Dionysus, with the altar in the east, and the so-called Doric stoa in the northern part of the sanctuary are, probably dated. At the same time, the theater acquired its monumental dimensions and form. It was constructed entirely by stone and was extended up the foothill of the Acropolis rock, including Peripatos, the road that ran around the hill. Around 320 B.C. the choregic monuments of Thrasyllos, north of the theater of Dionysus and the choregic monument of Nicias west of the cavea of the theatre, were added.
In the 2nd century B.C., in the area west of the theater of Dionysus, the Stoa of Eumenes erected, which was donated to the city by the king of Pergamon, Eumenes II. In the 2nd century A.D., on the western edge of the area, Herodes of Atticus built the magnificent Odeon which bears his name, in memory of his wife, Regilla.
The predominance of Christianity brought about significant changes in the South Slope of the Acropolis. The 5th-6th century A.D. almost the entire area of the old Asclepieion was occupied by the three-aisled Early Christian Basilica of the Aghioi Anargyroi, in the construction of which the temple of Asclepius, its altar and the most part of the Doric stoa of the Sanctuary of Asclepius and the Roman stoa, were incorporated. Another Early Christian Basilica was built in the middle of the same century, in the east parodos of the theatre of Dionysus. Several centuries later, in the 11th or 12th century A.D., slightly further east of the basilica which had been already destroyed, the church of St. George the Alexandrian was built, which was destroyed during the Greek Revolution.
In the 13th century A.D. the so-called Rizocastro fortification wall was built around the base of the Acropolis. The section of the wall from the Odeon of Herodes of Atticus until the theatre of Dionysus, known as the bastion of Serpentze, was maintained during the first phase of Turkish domination (1456-1687). It seems that in those years the South Slope of the Acropolis was resettled, since it remained deserted during the Frankish domination. In 1778 the entire area of the south side was enclosed by the Hasekis wall. By then the monuments of the area were already covered by enormous earthfills. Only the settlement grown up during the Turkish domination in the south east edge of the area continued to exist in the years that followed. In the 1960s, the buildings of the settlement gradually expropriated and demolished, expanding eastward as far as Thrasyllos street and southward to Dionysiou Areopagitou street.
The exploration and excavation of the South Slope of the Acropolis was a major project of the Archaeological Society with main periods those as followed: From 1848-1858 the Archaeological Society began clearing of Odeon of Herodes Atticus. In the years 1862-1867, the Archaeological Society in collaboration with the German Archaeological Institute was undertaken the excavation of the most part of the Theatre and the Sanctuary of Dionysus. Finally, from 1876-1879 the Archaeological Society conducted extensive excavation over nearly all the South Slope of the Acropolis, where the ruins of Aslepieion as well as the Stoa of Eumenes were fully exposed. The remnants of Odeon of Pericles were discovered in 1914-1931. The years that followed archaeological and restoration works carried out by the 1st Ephorate of the Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, which revealed smaller monuments of the site or contributed to a better understanding of the already revealed ones.
On entering the archaeological site of the South Slope of the Acropolis from the new entrance at the intersection of Thrasyllos street and of the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street, the visitor is already on the course of an ancient road that connected the area of Olympieion with the South Slope of the Acropolis, running until the area of Asklepieion. At the intersection of this currently configured route with the roadway running east of the Sanctuary of Dionysus there are the ruins of the small chapel of Saint Paraskevi, built on the place of an older temple of the Late Byzantine Times.
Slightly north, there are the remnants of the monuments contained in the Sanctuary of Dionysus Elefthereus. The archaic temple of Dionysus, of which only the northwestern corner of its foundations is preserved today, is dated in the second half of the 6th century B.C. The cult of the god has been introduced in Athens from the deme of Eleutherai in Boeotia by the time of the tyrant Peisistratus. In the Sanctuary of Dionysus, in the spring, was celebrated the Great (or ?en Astei?) Dionysia. A little to the south of the earliest temple of Dionysus the remains of the Later Temple of Dionysus are preserved, which was erected in the second half of the 4th century B.C. The Later Temple of Dionysus housed the gold and ivory statue of the god, a work of the sculptor Alkamenes. Preserved today are only the conglomerate foundations of the temple and the base of the cult statue. The temenos of Dionysus is bordered at the north by the remains of a stoa, which is thought to have been of the Doric order and it too will have belonged to the building program of the orator Lycurgus (c. 330 BC). The other sides of the Sanctuary of Dionysus were enclosed by a precinct, the southern and eastern parts of which are preserved today. In the eastern side of the precinct there was a –-shaped Propylon (gateway), at the point where the final section of the Street of the Tripods ended. Today, the plan of the foundation of the Propylon is visible.
Õorth of the sanctuary, the Theatre of Dionysus constitutes a development of the circular area formed in the 6th century B.C. for performing cult religious ceremonies in honor of the god. Later, around this area, wooden seats were added, which were gradually replaced by stone ones. During the archonship of Lycurgus the Theater of Dionysus was entirely rebuilt by Piraeus limestone (?aktites?) and the cavea was extended to the north, including Peripatos and converting it as a diazoma separated the main cavea from the Epitheatron. The pavement of the orchestra, the parapets around it, as a high bema, known as Phaidros? Bema are all with marble and dated to the Late Roman Period. In Phaidros? Bema slabs reliefs were incorporated, derived from an unknown monument of the 2nd century A.D., which illustrate important events in the life of Dionysus. Exhibited in the shed, ?the Sculpture Shed?, slightly north to the main entrance of the archaeological site, are sculptures adorned the Roman stage of the Theatre of Dionysus and architectural members come from the wide area of the Sanctuary of Dionysus.
North of the Epitheatron remnants of Thrasyllos? choregic monument (320/319 B.C.) are preserved. The monument closed a cave mouth in the natural rock of the Acropolis. Its facade had architectural configuration and on its superstructure brought a choregic tripod. The monument underwent two more subsequent configurations. North of the Thrasyllos monument and near the south wall of the Acropolis, stand two columns of the Roman Period on which once also held choregic tripods.
East of the Theatre of Dionysus the Odeon of Pericles was built in the middle of the 5th century B.C. It was a square, pillared building made specifically for the music contests, whose few remains have been revealed in excavations.
West of the pathway running along the west side of the Sanctuary of Dionysus, the foundations of the choregic monument of Nicias are preserved (319B.C.) It was a temple-like monument with six columns of Doric order at its facade, whose most part of its building material was built into the facade of the gate in the entrance of the Acropolis in 237 A.D., known as the Beule Gate after the French archaeologist who excavated it.
Slightly north of the choregic monument of Nicias, the imposing arch of a retaining wall is extended. This heavy wall was built in order to hold both the embankments to the north and the Peripatos, the ring road of the Acropolis, which connected the North Slope with the South Slope of the Acropolis. Along the length of this wall, the Stoa of Eumenes II, was constructed by the king of Pergamon, Eumenes II (197-159B.C.). It was a two- storeyed stoa and was made of an island marble of the sort used for most of the buildings of Pergamon.
On a natural terrace, further north of the Stoa of Eumenes II, the Sanctuary of Asclepius was established in 420/19 B.C., on the proposal of an Athenian citizen named Telemachus. In the western part of the Sanctuary a stoa with four rooms was erected in the 5th century B.C., while in its eastern part the temple of Asclepius and his daughter Hygeia, the altar as well as a two-storeyed stoa of Doric order, were constructed. This stoa, will have probably been used as the abaton or place of incubation (enkoimeterion), in which patients were hosted. The stoa includes a natural spring, known as ?the Sacred Spring?, while in its western edge is a square room with well-like circular structure in the centre, known as ?the Sacred Pit?. South of the temple of Asclepius a small stoa and a propylon were added in Roman Times. In the end of the 5th century B.C. or at the beginning of the 6th century A.D. a three-aisled Early Christian Basilica occupied the entire area of the Sanctuary.
West of the Asclepieion one of the most ancient monuments of the site is preserved today, the archaic fountain, constructed around 520 B.C. Further west the remains of a foundry of the 5th -4th century B.C. are preserved, which are now covered over with earth, for protection reasons. In this area a shed, ?the Inscriptions? Shed?, has recently been built for the display and protection of important epigraphical members from the Asclepieion.
At the western edge of the South Slope of the Acropolis, outside the fenced area of the archaeological site, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus was built in 162 A.D., in memory of his wife Regilla. In the area just south of the Odeon Of Herodes Atticus, important ancient remains have been revealed, among which the outdoor Sanctuary of Nymphe, with numerous pottery finds.
(Odysseus, Greek Ministry of Culture)