The history, development, and culture of Greece have been significantly influential in the world as a whole. This country is full of ancient ruins and monuments that provide a look into its past, helping people everywhere to understand its important role in shaping the world today. In order to protect the cultural heritage of many of these sites, Greece has enrolled 18 of the most important as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 16 are cultural sites and 2 are both cultural and natural. This article takes a look at some of the World Heritage Sites of this country.
Select UNESCO Sites
Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
The first site inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. The temple is located at 3,710 feet above sea level. It was built in the middle of the 5th Century BC and dedicated to the Apollo, god of the sun and of healing. Many people consider this to be one of the most beautiful and well preserved of all the architectural ruins in Greece. This temple is unique in that it is laid out facing north to south whereas all other Greek temples are laid out on an east to west plan. Additionally, 3 architectural styles were used throughout, namely including the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles. Because of its remote location, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius was not rediscovered until 1765. This remoteness also protected it from the damages of war and from being converted into a Christian temple. Today, the government strives to protect its structure by housing it under a tent to protect it from wind, rain, and more specifically - acid rain.
Acropolis of Athens
Perhaps the most recognized site within Greece is the Acropolis of Athens, considered by some to be the greatest archaeological and artistic building complex still standing from ancient times. The structures at this site were built in the 5th Century BC during a period of Greek triumph, when democracy was created and education and art were encouraged. Pheidias, the sculptor, worked with others to plan the development that is still standing today. Some of the most significant buildings here are: the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erichtheon, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the entrance to the Acropolis. This site is significant as the birthplace of philosophy, drama, and free speech - all concepts that have influenced the development of the world. The Acropolis of Athens is a reminder of the achievements of the ancient Greek society. During peak tourist season, as many as 10,000 people a day visit this site.
One of the two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece is Meteora, a rugged region filled with sandstone monolithic pillars. The name itself means “suspended in the sky” which perfectly explains the Eastern Orthodox Monasteries built here. Many of these building complexes sit atop the rock columns. The area is known to have been consistently occupied between 50,000 and 5,000 years ago with evidence of Neolithic and Paleolithic architecture. Monks began arriving sometime between the 9th and 11th Centuries to live in the many caves spread over the region. In order to escape the increasing number of Turkish attacks during the 14th Century, the monks moved upward. They built removable ladders that allowed them to climb the pillars, then remove the ladders to prevent intrusions. During this time period is when they began building the monasteries. Today, 24 monasteries can still be seen and 6 of these are still functioning, complete with monk inhabitants. Tourists can visit the buildings and the principal museum is located in the Monastery of Great Meteoron.
The chart below offers a look at the other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece.
Phillipi, Greece's Most Recently Inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site
The most recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Greece is Phillippi, an archaeological site. Philippi was once a thriving walled city in northeastern Greece. It was founded in 3456 BC, and by 42 BC was an extension of the Roman Empire. Between 49 and 50 AD, the city became a Christian center. The history of this region can be seen in the original Greek theater, the Roman terraces and temples, and the Christian basilicas. It is a monument to globalization and an ever-changing world.