Athens

The history of Attica is in its major part the history of Athens. The olive tree has been treated as sacred in the ancient ages since, according to mythology, goddess Athena (Minerva is another name of hers) gave the city an olive tree as a token of her protection of the city after her conflict with god Poseidon (Neptune).

Another important gift from the Gods was the vine tree, which God Dionyssos gave the Athenians. The myths and traditions about the ancient and continuous history of Attica have been substantiated by the findings of Prehistoric years that have been retrieved on the Acropolis and around other parts of Attica. There is a possibility for the old myths to reflect the wars the leaders of Acropolis made in order to achieve total ruling of the territories around Athens.

However, the total merging of the territories in Attica with Athens happened much later, around year 800 B.C., a fact reflecting in the myths of Theseas and population of Athens around him.

Athens developed to a great industrial and naval force during the 8th and 7th century B.C. A milestone in the city's history has been the period of Pisistratus tyrrany. The exporting commerce of Athens reached then Sicily, Egypt and the Black Sea. New monuments were built and the city experienced its first cultural and artistic spring. Athens was also the prime actor during the war with Persia. This activity aided by the appearance of democratic governing helped Athens become Greece's leading city and the center of an allied state.



The quest for success for Athens reached its climax during Perikleus "Golden Age" period. During those years Athens was famous to the world for its power, its civilization, its culture and science. This was the period that the Ancient Athenian Wonder was achieved, to be stopped from the destructive Peloponnesian War, since that war resulted in the destruction of Aticas' naval forces and the restriction of the state to Athens and island Salamina.

The territory was not powerful enough to avoid the Macedonian King Fillipe II (338 B.C.) to include Attica to the Macedonian states. In 146 B.C. Athens was occupied, together with the rest of Greece, by the Romans, who although they actually were conquerors, they showed respect to the city's personality.



Sightseeing


The monument of "The unknown soldier" located in Sindagma sq. , by the Greek Parliament building. The guards, dressed in the traditional uniform of "Tsolias" present an interesting sight and have been a part of millions of tourists photograph collections.

The Greek Parliament building, located also in Sindagma sq., is a neoclassical building that used to be Othon's Residence.

The National Garden, located beside The Parliament House, is a garden with many trees and plants, many of which are centuries old.

Panathinaikon Stadium, on Mets Hill, is the Stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896.

Lycabettus Hill, with St. George's chapel on its top has a great view to Athens city.

Plaka, the old neighborhood of Athens, stretched around Acropolis. The oldest and more picturesque part of Athens. Narrow streets and alleys, single storey houses, neoclassical villas, taverns and cafeterias, many tourist shops.

Monastiraki, the neighborhood next to Plaka, is famous for its traditional "Flea Market". In there you can find antiquerries, and traditional handcraft items.

After the first years A.C. , Gothic tribes brought destructive invasions and looting to Athens. The gradual integration with the Byzantine Empire was completed with the shut down of Philosophic Schools, the modification of shrines to Christian temples and the general rural confrontation of Athens.

After year 1214, when Konstaninople was occupied by the Franks, Athens was given to French dukes. Their successors were Catalans, Napolitans and finally in 1456 the Turks who were the first after all these years to transform Acropolis to a Muslim Temple "Tzami", and the Erehthion to a harem.

Until 1834, one year after its revolution from the Turks, when Athens was proclaimed capital of Greece, it was a miserable village with very few people and piles of ancient ruins and stones. Nevertheless it was accepted as a place with a very strong presence of memories of the past. Since it was made the capital, its rebirth from the ruins was initiated. New buildings were built in a close architectural connection with the ancient Greek style, and Acropolis and the rest of the ancient monuments were restored.

People who visit or spend their vacation in Greece need not - in case of a limited time schedule - advance further from the limits of Attica in order to get acquainted with the basic periods of Greek history. Ancient, Roman, Byzantine, Frank, Turkish Occupation, Modern Greek!


The Akropolis

Most visitors to Athens head almost instinctively for the Akropolis, to begin their explorations at the site where Athens itself began. From the Akropolis, one can see virtually all of Athens today, except for its furthest urban sprawl. Beyond lie the protective mountain ranges of Parnes, Hymettos, and Pentelikon, famous today as in antiquity for fine marble and honey.

From the Akropolis, it is easy to see why this abrupt steep-sided rock was chosen as the first citadel of ancient Athens: it is a superb natural defensive site. Once fortified, it was virtually impregnable, although defenders were hampered by the lack of water on the Akropolis. Still, the Akropolis was a fitting home for the virgin warrior goddess, Athena.

Many of the temples built on the Akropolis were shrines to Athena, as is the Parthenon which remains today. Its predecessor, the massive Hekatompedon of Peisistratus, was located slightly to the north of the Parthenon, beside the present Erechtheion. The Hekatompedon (also known as the "Old Temple of Athena"), was burnt in the Persian sack of Athens in 480 B.C. Its foundations remain on the Akropolis, and are the only remnants of the buildings which were on the Akropolis before the Persians sacked the city. Parts of the temple were built into the north wall of the Akropolis, where some of the massive column drums may still be seen.


However grand the buildings with which Peisistratos adorned the Akropolis, they did not survive the Persian onslaught. Fortunately, many of the buildings erected by Pericles a half century later have survived, and it is the Periclean Akropolis which we visit today. Of these buildings, the most famous is the Parthenon (447-32 B.C.), flanked by the temple of Athena Nike (427-24 B.C.) and the Erechtheion (421-06 B.C.). In addition, Pericles was responsible for the building of the Propylaia (437-32 B.C.), the monumental entrance way to the Akropolis.

As one toils up the slopes of the Akropolis, past the souvenir stands, the freelance guides, and the refreshment stalls, one is aware of the mighty presence of the Propylaia, designed by the famous architect Mnesicles. The Propylaia sits on uneven terrain, on a wedge-shaped bit of the rock, whose anomalies governed the irregularities of the building itself. The terrain may have defeated the project, which was never completed. In essence, the Propylaia has a central hall flanked by two wings, one of which contained the famous Pinakotheke (Picture Gallery), with many pictures by the legendary Polygnotos. As we knew from Pausanias, the pictures were both of legendary figures such as Perseus and of historical personages like Alcibiades. "Among the paintings is Alcibiades; there are symbols in the painting of his victory in the horse-race at Nemea. Perseus is on his way to Seriphos, bringing Medusa's head..."


Other Sites

Syntagma Square

National Achaeological Museum

Marina

Scenic View

Meteora

Kerameikos Cemetary

A Kores Statue

A Painting

Head of Zeus (statue)

Temple of Zeus



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