The building that attracted the most attention in antiquity was the Propylaea. Built over an archaic predecessor, the Propylaea was regarded as the grandest example of what was, in essence, nothing more than an entry gate. Designed by Mnesicles, it covered the entire western portion of the Acropolis rock. It was built in five years, between 437–432.
The exterior columns are of the Doric order. After coming up the huge staircase, one entered a passageway flanked by six Ionic columns, taller and more slender, so that the interior of the gate complex seems lighter and less massive than it appears from outside. This mixing of the orders is characteristic of the Parthenon, as well; thus, the Propylaea was in harmony with the building one saw as one passed through the gateway. Although it did not carry sculptures or reliefs, the building was famous for its marble ceiling, decorated with golden stars set on a blue backdrop.
Flanking this entranceway were two wings. The one on the south gave access to a terrace on which stood the small temple dedicated to Athena Nike, goddess of victory. To the north, the other wing housed the pinakotheke, or picture gallery.
[Courtesy Professor Jeremy McInerney]