An acropolis (Ancient Greek: ἀκρόπολις, akropolis; from akros (άκρος) or akron (άκρον), "highest, topmost, outermost" and polis (πόλις), "city"; plural in English: acropoles, acropoleis or acropolises) was in ancient Greece a settlement, especially a citadel, built upon an area of elevated ground—frequently a hill with precipitous sides, chosen for purposes of defense. Acropolis also had a function of a religious sanctuary with sacred springs highlighting its religious significance. Acropolis became the nuclei of large cities of classical antiquity, such as ancient Athens, and for this reason they are sometimes prominent landmarks in modern cities with ancient pasts, such as modern Athens. Perhaps the most famous acropolis is the Acropolis of Athens, located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and containing the Parthenon.
The word acropolis literally means in Greek "upper city," and though associated primarily with the Greek cities Athens, Argos (with Larissa), Thebes (with Cadmea), and Corinth (with its Acrocorinth), may be applied generically to all such citadels, including Rome, Jerusalem, Celtic Bratislava, many in Asia Minor, or even Castle Rock in Edinburgh. An example in Ireland is the Rock of Cashel. Acropolis is also the term used by archaeologists and historians for the urban Castro culture settlements located in Northwestern Iberian hilltops.
The most famous example is the Acropolis of Athens, which, by reason of its historical associations and the several famous buildings erected upon it (most notably the Parthenon), is known without qualification as the Acropolis. Acropolis of Athens achieved its form in the fifth century BC and is currently an archeological site. Although originating in the mainland of Greece, use of the acropolis model quickly spread to Greek colonies such as the Dorian Lato on Crete during the Archaic Period.
Other parts of the world developed other names for the high citadel or alcázar, which often reinforced a naturally strong site. In Central Italy, many small rural communes still cluster at the base of a fortified habitation known as La Rocca of the commune.