Enjoyable Walks in the Heart of Athens

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Getting around as a pedestrian in certain cities can be as adrenaline-filled as cliff-diving. Dodging cars should simply not have to be a worry on holiday when relaxation and fun tend to take priority. In the lovely bustling  city  of  Athens , a welcome refuge from such unpleasant stress can be found on the Grand Promenade in  Athens . Closed to automobiles only a few short years ago, this pedestrian haven is filled to the brim with some of the best historical sites  Athens  has to offer. On this elegant pedestrian route, you will encounter marble temples, neoclassical museums, and ancient theatres. Of course, all the while you will be casually circling the Acropolis.

A great starting point is the Temple of Olympian Zeus located next to the National Gardens. This colossal temple took centuries to build. Completed in no less than 700 years by Hadrian in 131 A.D., it maintained its complete structure until a rogue storm in the 19th-century took out some of the columns.

On the southern side of the Acropolis, you will find the Theatre of Dionysus. This is the theatre that welcomed the dramatic arts as they are known today in existence in 543 B.C. It also served as the first forum for the plays of Sophocles, Aristophanes and Euripides in their day. The nearby Roman Herodes Atticus amphitheatre is closed to visitors except during the summer  Athens  festival when attendees can view its form and structure up close. If you decide to follow the marble walkway up to Filopappou and Hill of the Muses, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Parthenon and the Athenian skyline. From this promontory, you will be able to see as far as the Saronic Sea. With views like this, your camera may run out of memory space before you manage to pull yourself away and on to your next destination.

After such a hike, you may need a breather and possibly some refreshments. For that, your best bet is Apostolou Pavlou where you can sip espresso or perhaps some ouzo at a lively bouzouki club or quaint outdoor cafe and even take in a film at the Thission cinema. For a slow return into modernity, you can also check out the multimedia exhibits at the Centre of Traditional Pottery and the recently minted New Acropolis Museum. With this much culture and history to experience, the question isn’t what to do but, how to fit everything into one trip!

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Athens – A Gourmet Delight

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If you want to experience Greece, then Athens is the city for you. Imagine going to the Parthenon on top of Acropolis Hill to enjoy the breathtaking view. Acropolis is known to be the Sacred Rock. It is situated on top of 512-foot limestone rock. Acropolis was originally built in 1500 BC.

Erechtheum is another impressive sightseeing spot. It is a temple that is built to honor Greek gods: Athena and Poseidon. The Propylea is a huge ancient gateway. It is situated right next to the Temple of Athena Nyke or Wingless Victory.

At night, you can find astounding sound and light show in the Acropolis. This show is held every night in English, and it is performed every night, except on the full moon night. The show lasts for around 30 minutes.

After the show, you can walk to the Plaka which is full of cafes and restaurants. Even if you don’t speak Greek, there is no need to worry. Most waiters can speak and cater English speaking customer. The food here is delicious and inexpensive.

In the afternoon, if you don’t have too much time for all of the sightseeing in Athens, you can stop at the souvlaki shop for gyros and authentic Greek salad. In case, you want to eat on the go, you can buy cheese pie, spinal pie, Piroski bread from the street vendors.

Syntagma Square is another area that is known for great foods. There are many great cafes in this area. Metax is a sweet brandy which is often served here.

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All About Athens

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 Athens  is the capital  city  of Greece. It is a modern, big  city  as the capitals of other European countries are, and more than a million people live in  Athens  and its suburbs. But  Athens  is also one of the most important  cities  of history. Thousands of years ago, when most of the men on earth were still ignorant savages, the learning and the science and the art of today had their start in  Athens . About five thousand years ago, men first built a  city  where  Athens  stands today. They built the city around a rocky hill about four hundred feet high.

On this hill they built walled-in fortifications called an acropolis, about which there is a separate article. The people lived around the hill and farmed the land. If an enemy attacked, they could all go to the Acropolis for safety. All cities in those ancient times passed under the rule of one king after another, fought and lost many wars, sometimes were conquered and ruled by neighbouring peoples, and sometimes conquered the neighbouring peoples and ruled them. For hundreds of years,  Athens  rose and fell in this way.

But about three thousand years ago-not long after the year 1000 B.C. – the people of  Athens  began to develop a civilisation greater than the world had known before. The first step toward this was the Greek language as the Athenians learned to use it. No other language then had the words needed to write great books of science as well as great poetry and other literature. The poetry of Homer, written in this language, is still as great as any that has ever been written. In the hundreds of years that followed, the drama was born in the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and others. Three of the greatest philosophers of all time, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, taught and wrote in this Greek language.

Laws written in this language, by the great statesman Solon and others, gave  Athens  one of the earliest democratic governments. The Greek language is still used by scholars throughout the world.  Athens  became a democracy in 508 B.C. The two hundred years that followed were the times of its greatest glory. During this period the sculptor Phidias and other Athenian sculptors built the magnificent buildings on the Acropolis and carved statues that are still models of beauty. The people elected their own leaders.  Athens  was a “ city-state ,” which means that it was a city but also an independent country. There were many slaves, however. In 338 B.C.,  Athens  was conquered by King Philip of Macedon, a neighbouring country in Greece. (Philip was the father of Alexander the Great, who conquered almost the entire civilised world.)

After it fell under the rule of Macedon,  Athens  did not become big and independent again for more than two thousand years. The Romans ruled it, then a series of conquerors until the Turks made it part of Turkey about four hundred years ago.  Athens  became just a small town. In the year 1834, the entire country of Greece became independent again and  Athens  was made the capital. It began to grow, and now is a great city again. It is the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church (also called the Orthodox Catholic Church), and the capital of the kingdom of Greece. About two thirds of all the manufacturing in Greece is done in and near  Athens . The remains of many of the great buildings of ancient  Athens , including the Acropolis, can still be seen there. During World War II, the Germans occupied Greece and captured  Athens , but it was not damaged.

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Athens – The Capital of Greece

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During the independence of Greece in 1830,  Athens  was a small town, with the size of a village. Now it is a great town with authentic look that is still fascinating. What makes it unique is the diversity of architectural styles, good people, sirtaki and the icy ouzo…all these things will spell you.

In  Athens  you cannot get bored, but you should take some time for an afternoon nap. In the summer time, between two and four in the afternoon, the killing Athenian sun shines mercilessly. That’s why the most appropriate time to travel to Greece is in the early autumn or late spring.

 Athens  is both the capital and the largest  city  in Greece. It is situated on Attica peninsula, in a relatively hilly area and is connected to Piraeus port.

Your trip with bus to Greece will not cost much. It is very comfortable and you will be able to see many places there. There are many hotels where you can stay for little money.

When you go to  Athens  you will have the chance to walk for hours and to try the delicious food of some of the small restaurants in the narrow streets. You can sit in one of the thousands cafes and taverns full of lanterns and musicians. Here is the paradise of the Greek salad, covered with olive oil and olives. In Piraeus, the port of  Athens , you can find seaside taverns, where the most delicious thing is the seafood – fresh octopus, squid and fish and ouzo as an aperitif. At about nine or ten o’clock local people go to dinner, drink coffee or cocktails. If you decide to join the nightlife, one o’clock at night on Friday and Saturday is the right time.

It is clear that if you are on holiday in  Athens , you will want to see some attractions of the town. You will find many new beauties there – from beautiful squares, monuments to taverns. It is better for you to get a map and to mark your route and put some red circles around the places you want to see. The historic  center  of  Athens  is the Acropolis (now a museum) with the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Temple of Nike, Erechteum and others. This is definitely the place that you should visit. At the foot of the hill are located the theatre of Dionysus (5 century B.C.), the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the ancient necropolis, agora. Do not miss the political and cultural center, Academy of Sciences, the National Archaeological Museum, the National Gallery and the Museum of Byzantine art. The chief town square is Syntagma.

There is a great possibility that you will fall in love with  Athens . It is really wonderful town and you will be amazed by all the sights there.

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The Old Temple of Athena Polias

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Farther along the Sacred Way we notice the foundations of an ancient temple in front of the Erechtheion. On account of its length of 100 Attic feet, this edifice was wrongly believed for centuries to be the Hecatompedon, until identified as the Old Temple of Athena Polias (Athena of the City). This is the most ancient building uncovered on the Acropolis; it was originally a simple sanctuary dating from the remotest times. The modest Doric temple of limestone was restored in the sixth century BC by Peisistratus, who embellished it by adding a colonnade and pediments depicting a Battle of the Giants, while its opisthodomos served as the Athenian Treasury.

In this heap of stones, enclosed by a railing, we can distinguish two bases in poros for the support of wooden pillars belonging to the Mycenaean megaron (palace) of the first King of   Athens . This was the center of the public life of the citadel and extended as far as the north wall of the Erechtheion. A flight of rock-cut steps built in Pelasgic times connected the megaron and the Acropolis with the lower city. Later, in historical times, on these Mycenaean vestiges was raised the above mentioned Temple of Athena Polias, a rectangle of 32.80 m. long, that is 100 feet, whence its name of “Hecatompedon” (temple of a hundred feet). This temple was rebuilt after it was destructed during the persian invasion but it appears that after the completion of the Erechtheion it became useless and an encumbrance, and was finally destroyed in 406 BC.

Opposite the ruins of the Old Temple of Athena Polias and close to the seventh column of the Parthenon, there is an inscription which reads: This spot was consecrated, after being indicated by an oracle, to the Fruitful Earth. Exactly on this spot was a statue of Earth beseeching Zeus to send rain. Nearby is a circular base, which formerly bore the statues of Conon and his son Timotheus and farther along is the base of a statue dedicated to Hermolycos, son of Deitrephes.

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Edinburgh – The Athens of the North

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Europe may be the second smallest continent in the world, but it is possibly one of the most diverse regions on earth.

The sheer variation in language, culture, architecture and even weather, makes Europe one of the most visited regions in the world, and it’s easy to see why. For modern metropolises there is London, Paris and Barcelona. For warm weather and beaches there is thousands of miles of Mediterranean coastline spanning Spain, France, Italy, Greece and numerous other countries; all with quite distinct historical, cultural and linguistic differences.

But as great as it is to have such massive diversity squeezed into such a relatively small space, it could be argued that there are probably bigger metropolises and better beaches located elsewhere in the world. Indeed, what makes Europe truly special are those ‘one-of-a-kind’ places, and Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is such a place.

Located in the south-east of Scotland close to the River Forth, Edinburgh is often considered to be one of the most picturesque cities in Europe and is certainly regarded as a major tourist destination, attracting around 13 million visitors each year.

But what makes Edinburgh a truly mesmerising city is its landscape and architecture. To realise how stunning a city the Scottish capital is, it only takes a short hike up one of the several hills that the city is built around. Arthur’s Seat, for example, offers perhaps the most panoramic view of the city and is only a mile from the city centre. As an extinct volcano, it consists of rocky crags and basalt cliffs, rising to about 250 metres high and affords magnificent views across the city, with the world famous Edinburgh Castle taking centre stage.

The one striking feature of the Edinburgh skyline is the lack of skyscrapers or any other particularly tall building. This has been a deliberate attempt not to spoil the famous cityscape that has seen both the old and new town districts of Edinburgh listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

And it’s these two districts that make Edinburgh what it is. The medieval, windy streets and alleys of the Old Town sandwiched in between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, contrasts splendidly with the beautiful Georgian architecture and Greek-inspired neo-classical designs that are spread throughout the New Town.

Indeed, the New Town is generally considered to be a masterpiece of  city  planning and is partly responsible for Edinburgh’s reputation as the ‘ Athens  of the North’, which is quite a compliment considering the esteem in which Greek architecture is held throughout the world.

Of course, like any other city in the world there are all the usual activities to keep visitors happy throughout their stay such as restaurants, cinemas, clubs and pubs; ensuring that hotels in Edinburgh are always in great demand.

But in a city of Edinburgh’s breathtaking beauty, these could be considered merely as distractions from the main attractions. It is difficult to think of anywhere else in the world that can compare to Scotland’s capital city, which is why it truly is, one-of-a-kind.

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Piraeus Port – Athens, Greece

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The port of  Athens , Piraeus was the greatest port of the ancient world and remains one of the busiest in the Mediterranean. In a country that derives most of its livelihood from the sea, Piraeus is the true capital, while  Athens  is a sprawling suburb full of bureaucrats. Still, it’s hard to find much charm in the tall buildings and dusty streets, although Zea Marina and Mikrolimano with their yachts, brightly-lit tavernas and bars are a handsome sight.

Themistocles founded the port of Piraeus in the 5th century BC when Phaliron,  Athens ‘ ancient port, could no longer meet the growing needs of the  city . The Miletian geometer Hippodamos laid it out in a straight grid of streets that have hardly changed. The centre of action was always the huge central agora, where the world’s first commercial fairs and trade expositions were held. All religions were tolerated, and women were allowed, for the first time, to work outside the home.

As Piraeus was crucial to  Athens ‘ power, the conquering Spartans destroyed the Long Walls linking  city  and port in 404, at the end of the Peloponnesian War. After the 100-year Macedonian occupation and a period of peace, Sulla decimated the city to prevent any anti-Roman resistance, and for 1,900 years Piraeus dwindled away into an insignificant village with a population as low as 20, even losing its name to become Porto Leone. Since the selection of  Athens  as the capital of independent Greece, Piraeus has regained its former glory as the reigning port of a seagoing nation, but much of it dates from after 1941, when German bombers blew the port sky-high.

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Athens – Ancient Athens

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Let us try and bring to mind a picture of  Athens  as the ancients might have known it, drenched in diaphanous light, its arid mountains protecting it from the north winds and harsh weather, with the beauty of the Acropolis thrown into relief by the sun and the delightfully modest houses at the foot of the great rock. An  Athens  free of noise other than the voices of children and pedlars in the narrow streets. An  Athens  to be dreamed of.

That’s what it must have been like in the Age of Pericles, when the city was already very ancient. Research shows us that the area around  Athens  has been inhabited since the neolithic age, as testified to by artifacts found in wells near the Areopagos (Mars’ Hill) on the south side of the Acropolis, and in the Agios Kosmas peninsula near Alimos. The original inhabitants were then joined by waves of new settlers, Carians, Leleges and finally Pelasgians, mainly tribes of IndoEuropean origin. The intermingling of all these peoples contributed to shaping the Hellenes, with their contradictory temperament and frequent conflicts.

Sometime around the late 9th or early 8th century BC, Hesiod and Homer gave us the first myths, exaggerated, heroic tales which provided a glimpse of the kind of society where everything was dependent on an unknown divinity. During subsequent generations, these gods and heroes underwent many sea-changes in the service of local, often political needs. Myth may be a wonderful depiction of the world but it was also the easiest way for simple people to learn about their history. Thus the early inhabitants believed that their leaders-who sometimes took peculiar forms-were descended from the gods. Even their names can be explained in the light of societal needs.

Then gradually, over a period of time, the leaders ceased to be supernatural, and began taking on more human dimensions. And the people themselves, as they acquired knowledge of the outside world from the sea routes, stopped being afraid of the otherworldly and began to wonder about the world. It is a fascinating experience to watch myth evolving hand in hand with the development of a people and to discern historical truth through an imaginative construct.

Thus Kekrops and Erichthonios, the first kings of  Athens , were strange creatures, half-man and half-snake, whose form portrayed how they had sprung from the Attic soil. Kekrops had brought in master craftsmen, the Pelasgians who, having built a strong Acropolis, stayed on to settle round it. Names ending in -ttos or -ssos appear to have been Pelasgian, such as the Ilissos, Kefissos, Hymettos, Lycabettos, Ardettos; they are all geographic landmarks (mountains, rivers) which remain prominent in the topography of  Athens  up to the present day. Likewise, it was Kekrops who selected the goddess Athena as protector of his city, after whom he named it. It should be noted that some scholars believe the name of the goddess to have been derived from the Egyptian word aten.

With respect to Erichthonios, mythology provides us with a number of illuminating details. It is said that Hephaestos, the lame blacksmith of the gods, wanted to join in union with Athena, the great goddess of knowledge, but she drew back from his loving embrace and the divine seed fell on her legs. She then rubbed her leg with a swatch of the wool she was spinning and threw it to the ground. But whereas Athena refused the seed of the god, the Earth received it and thus did Erichthonios spring forth.

The Athenians always had a particular affection for their founding father in his snakish form: they built him an exquisite temple, the Erechthion, which priests made sure was constantly supplied with offerings of honey cakes. In some myths, Erichthonios is called Erechtheas; in others Erechtheas is the grandson of Erichthonios and in a third version, Erechtheas has come from Egypt. Perhaps all these versions represented attempts to explain the successive waves of colonists inundating the Aegean during those turbulent years.

If we seek to unravel the threads of the myths, then the truth emerges in all its radiance. The name of Erichthonios shows us his origin: eriochthon means wool-earth, i.e. born of the earth and from it. His descendants intermarried with peoples from Thessaly whose genealogical tree shows their founding father to have been Prometheus. He was the wise Titan who gave mortals the gift of fire, i.e. the light of knowledge-previously the exclusive realm of the gods or perhaps of some priestly brother hood- and for this reason was cruelly punished on a rock in the Caucasus.

It was Prometheus’ son Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha who brought the human race back to life in the mountains of Thessaly after the great flood. His grandson was Hellene. Today we know that the Indo-European Aryan tribes, after discovering the use of metals somewhere in the Caucasus, learned to craft strong weapons. Some tribes spread out into central Europe and the Balkans, some remained to take advantage of the good grazing lands while others pressed on southward.

The initial root began to put forth many branches as Hellene, grandson of Prometheus, had sons who were quite different one from the other. There were Aeolos, Xouthos and Doros, who gave their names to Hellenic tribes in later years. Xouthos, which means “the fair”, was quite distinct from the early Athenians who had the darker skin of the Aegean peoples. He was to marry Kreousa, the granddaughter of Erechtheas: their children were named Achaeos and Ion, the forefathers of the later Hellenes. Another variation of the myth had Ion as the offspring of Apollo’s secret liaison with the same princess. This detail helped advance the mythic cycle from the primeval, with its demonic forms of nature, evolving into humanized deities like Apollo who led man to thought, poetry and philosophy.

Many modern historians believe that the later Hellenes came from Pindus, on the border between Thessaly and Epirus. This fits in admirably with the Attic myths about the genealogy of their kings and the various intermarriages, documenting the arrogance of the ancient Athenians toward the other inhabitants of the region, since from the very outset, gods would frequently come down and intermingle with the mortals, lending a divine dimension to many conjugal dramas.

We know that the first inhabitants of the Attic earth were cultivators, but its poor, arid soil made them turn toward the sea. The story of Theseus who volunteered to go to Crete and kill the Minotaur, delivering  Athens  from the terrible annual tribute of youths sent to feed the insatiable monster, may perhaps be telling us about the Athenians’ first great campaign at sea and their independence from a ruling naval power.

From then on, Theseus never stopped traveling, like all those who, having once experienced the vastness of new horizons, could never thereafter remain closed within narrow confines. He went with the Argonauts to the Pontus (Black Sea), fought against and defeated the imperious Amazons, winning their queen, and taught the spoiled Centaurs a hard lesson in good behavior. But he also took care of his own region, joining together little individual townships into a large and powerful confederacy, with temples in which gods and ancestors were worshiped and with a citadel for security against jealous neighbors.

Theseus was possibly a historic figure who, over the passage of centuries, has become wrapped in the glory of myth to serve domestic expediencies and presented as the scion of the divine race of Ion. A hero who was also a demi-god was always more impressive than just a worthy leader; the inhabitants of the city favored with such a leader would feel special and try to emulate him. Thus the descendants of the first Athenians began their fearless exploration of the sea. As they succeeded in guaranteeing their livelihood, their numbers grew; they learned, became wealthy and expanded their activities around the Mediterranean coasts, creating bridgeheads of commerce and free thought. The colonizers of the east side of the Aegean were called Ionians; and it was there that the ideas of philosophy, the principles of human rights, ethics, metaphysics and the harmony of the universe were born.

Economic ease created a new order of things. Until then, the head of the largest family had been king; but when other men gained power through trade, they too claimed the right to a voice in government, thrusting aside the custom of the hereditary monarchy. A special place was needed for the exchange of commodities and this was how the Agora (market) grew up. The meetings of the local people with strangers made it necessary for them to learn how to develop convincing arguments; from this need sprang the art of rhetoric.

The interests of the people had to be protected. As there were already a great many people, the proper role models had to be found on whose example they could shape their behavior, which at its most sublime moment, led to the formulation of laws by Solon the Sage in the 6th century. Developments in the administrative system were accompanied by cultural progress. The local clay was used to make ceramics which, while initially serving the needs of daily life, soon became objects of trade and then developed into works of art, since men, having assured themselves of the necessities, now sought the beautiful. Athenian potters began producing enormous grave amphoras with austere ornamentation, dominated by Greek key designs and shadowy figures. Black-figured vases were the next phase, with their stylized silhouettes; these evolved into the marvelous red-figured vases which sometimes bear the craftsman’s name under vivid compositions depicting moments from the lives of gods and men.

The gods were worshiped in stately stone temples decorated with marble statues that replaced the earlier idols. The myths became overlaid by a multitude of heroic details, as gods and mortals alike came alive in a new form of ceremony which took place in the theater. Meanwhile, more and more Athenian ships were sailing to and fro in the Mediterranean, carrying new developments and provoking envy in other lands which rapidly turned into the desire of foreign leaders for conquest and expansion. The result was the Persian wars at the beginning of the 5th century BC.

The decisive military confrontation at sea and  Athens ‘ defeat of the Persians in the battle of Salamis, promoted  Athens  to a position of foremost power and intellectual leader over the other Hellenes, much to Sparta’s great annoyance. The Athenians, having acquired the social comfort that accompanies economic prosperity, had by then developed the versatility of thinking people with freedom of opinion and political views. On the contrary, the strapping sons of Sparta remained products of a rigid military education and attitude. Thus, when the gold-bedecked invaders, decimated and in tatters, retreated back into the hinterlands of Persia,  Athens  justifiably assumed a position of preeminence, achieved greatness which culminated in the classical age, and produced works of eternal beauty which have remained vital until the present day. It caused the historian Thucydides to prophesy that if ever the two great adversaries  Athens  and Sparta were someday lost, everybody would know where  Athens  had been by its wonderful monuments whereas Sparta would have left not a trace to remind people of its once great power.

These wonderful monuments were what roused military Sparta’s ire and ultimately led to the armed confrontation. Like all civil wars, the Peloponnesian War was devastating and, unbeknownst to anyone at that time, it signalled the beginning of the end for the proud  city  of  Athens . This was a slow decline which lasted for centuries; it saw insults and passions, tyrannies and uprisings, flaming rhetoric and objections; it saw  Athens  yielding to the Hellenes of the North, the Macedonians, and finally its subjugation by the Roman legions. All this occurred in the shadow of the Parthenon, at a time when the theatres continually presented works by playwrights whose names would become renowned throughout history, and when Athenians would gather under the colonnades of the Agora to listen to the wandering philosophers and discuss the current political situation.

The Christian religion which was slowly spreading hope of deliverance among oppressed peoples, began to gain followers while the philosophical schools were still full of young people seeking enlightenment on questions of rhetoric, the written word and even theology. One of the most famous students of these schools (4th century A.D.) was Julian, later the Byzantine emperor who came to be known as the Apostate because of his attachment to pagan religion; others were Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus, future Fathers of the Church. The philosophical schools of  Athens  functioned until the 6th century, at which point Justinian closed them by decree, perhaps because freedom of philosophic thought conflicted with the dogmatism of what had become the state religion. At this point,  Athens  entered the Dark Ages.

Deprived of its intellectual nourishment, the city was gradually forgotten, destined to continue its progress through time as an insignificant village, the roads of which were studded with pieces of marble from statues that had been smashed by fanatics remembering the heathen past of this once-great city. It was this past that made the official Byzantine state neglect the birthplace of art and beauty, which they regarded as a dangerous incitement to those who tended to disagree with the medieval terms of immortality. The religious exaltation of the period could in no way be reconciled with the frivolity of the ancient gods and thus Christianity’s fight for dominance was a tough one without concessions or exceptions.

In the 13th century, when the Crusaders transferred their need for expansion to the East, thinly disguised under a veil of religion, knights who had been excluded from the division of the conquered lands fanned out over the Aegean and around the coasts snatching land by brute force. During the years that followed, the Franks and Catalans established their principalities in Attica and fought to keep them safe from the rising power of Islam. All during this time, the few remaining residents of  Athens  were simply struggling to survive, as they sank ever deeper into the lethargy of illiteracy, poverty and obscurity. The rest of Europe welcomed the educated Byzantines who had fled after the fall of Constantinople (1453), and this infusion of new culture helped push forward the Renaissance, contributing substantially to what we now know as Western civilization. But at that time, this forgotten corner of the earth was not even called Hellas, even though from time to time, travellers would fill tour journals with notes about the monuments, carved stones and inscriptions they had seen on the ground along the pathways of Attica.

It was these descriptions which awakened the memories of Hellas and soon the travellers would start coming in earnest to look, dig and depart in order to send others in ever greater numbers. The Ottoman conquerors, gazing down indifferently from the heights of the Acropolis, where they had established themselves for security reasons, looked condescendingly upon those who came to do research, while the suspicious local population tried to make some money by helping those people whom they, in their ignorance, termed “silly strangers”. In the mid- 18th century, lists had already begun to circulate around Europe of the most significant Greek monuments; some of these lists were even accompanied by drawings. By the early 19th century a few collections of the plunder had already been established.

The French Revolution brought a different atmosphere to the intellectuals of Europe. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity became accepted values. Romantic verses by Lord Byron brought back to the Western mind the memory of Hellenic culture associated with this part of the Balkans, rather than the Greece that had become known through the wealthy Greek merchants in various cities of Europe. Thus the news that the Greek War of Independence had been proclaimed fell on fertile ground and the voice of the enslaved Greek nation was heard once again after centuries of silence, inspiring artists to paint episodes from the desperate struggle waged by the few descendants of the heroes of Marathon and Thermopylae. The scene depicting a mounted, turbaned warrior fighting against an impassioned footsoldier. In his fustanela inspired a sense of heroism and the confrontation between life and death, as well as awakening feelings of anger against the oppressors and support for the oppressed.

In June 1822, the Greeks captured the Acropolis and made it their command post, while the struggle continued with an uncertain outcome on all fronts. Five years later, Kiutahis Pasha had recaptured the citadel in a last ditch effort to suppress the revolution. But the Great Powers of the times formed an alliance -either because they wanted to bow to public opinion or because they were counting on gaining influence in the new independent state in the strategic Mediterranean region, or because they regarded the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire as inevitable-and in the decisive battle of Navarino, it was they who administered the final blow to the Sultan, which gave Greece her freedom.

As soon as it gained its independence, the newly constituted state became an apple of discord for European politicians, while the dusty village of  Athens  was, as a matter of courtesy, designated capital. Still reeling from their bloody fight and from the heady feeling of freedom, the Greeks were struggling to rediscover their identity, and at the same time to wipe out the taint of slavery. They wore European clothes, avoided the brigand-riddled mountains and began building mansions that resembled their monuments. The simple people were awed by the fact that their huts had been built on the settlements and graves of their forefathers and began to be aware of themselves as constituting part of a long, unbroken chain. They all started tearing down, clearing away, digging up and restoring. At last, the Attic earth was ready to surrender its treasures and ideals to humanity.

It was in this way that Greek archeology, the new science of antiquities, was born.

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A City Guide to Athens

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Named after Athena, the goddess of wisdom,  Athens , capital of Greece, reached its zenith in the fifth century BC with the construction of many classical buildings some of which survive even today and are on the UNESCO World Heritage List including the Acropolis, standing proudly in the heart of the  city . A visit to  Athens  is an enriching experience. Listed here are just some of the attractions you can see on your next visit to  Athens .

Agorá (Market):In its heyday, Agora was the centre of city life – today it hosts ruins from different periods. It was here that ordinary people, stall holders, and merchants mingled with public figures, officials, philosophers and politicians. The main attraction here is Hephaisteion (Temple of Haephaistos), one of the best-preserved ancient temples in Greece, and dating to the fifth century BC. Also visit the Museo tis Agoras (Museum of Agorá) that houses an amazing range of everyday artefacts found in the area. It is housed in the Stoa of Attalos.

Acropolis: This UNESCO World Heritage Site dominates the city and the skyline. Acropolis refers to the rocky outcrop that formed the original settlement in  Athens . The site includes the Acropolis Museum and four sacred buildings, dating to the fifth century BC. Ascend the steep summit to the Propylaea, a monumental gateway, which serves as the entrance to the site. To the left, you will see the Temple of Athena Nike. The original temple was destroyed in the 17th century by the Turkish forces but has now been carefully restored. The Parthenon, the largest building on the Acropolis, is built entirely from marble and was intended as a sanctuary for Athena and once housed a statue of the goddess.

Delphi:According to Greek mythology, Delphi is located at the point where the two eagles released to the East and West by God Zeus met, thereby marking the centre of the world. Delphi is the sanctuary of Apollo and the seat of his oracle. The ancient site is in ruins but still attracts thousands of visitors who throng here to see its remains. The site also houses the impressive Delphi Museum which exhibits various statues and offerings from the sanctuary of Delphi. The UNESCO World Heritage Site houses the Temple of Apollo, the Sacred Way, an amphitheatre, and a stadium.

National Archaeological Museum: The museum is housed in a late 19th century building and houses one of the finest collections of ancient Greek artefact including the fascinating Mycenaen Collection comprising beautifully crafted gold work dating from between the 16th and 11th centuries BC, and the Bronze Collection.

Tourism is one of the main industries in Greece and continues to flourish even in the uncertain economic times. Every year,  Athens  attracts thousands of visitors from across the globe. There are several accommodation options available to cater to their accommodation needs from bed and breakfasts to resorts to private Greece villas.

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