A Change of Pace in Athens Greece

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When someone mentions a holiday in Greece, the first thing that pops up in most people’s minds is sandy beaches and sparkling clean water. With a coastline 13,676 kilometers long, there is certainly a beach to suit every taste. However, Greece is also known for its capital  city ,  Athens ; a buzzing metropolis that never sleeps. Apart from the many fine hotels that are available, there is also alternative accommodation such as studios or apartments for a more affordable stay. For the tourist who wants to experience this city up close and work up a sweat at the same time, the best way is to rent a bike.

There are many cycling enthusiasts willing to take the challenge in a foreign country. Greece has many cyclists of its own and a plethora of agencies renting bikes or offering bike tours. All you have to do is decide how you want to do it; on your own or with a group. Since  Athens , like any big metropolis, has constant traffic congestion, cycling will certainly give you the freedom you’re looking for. Once you have studied your maps, you will be ready to zip in and out of traffic and discover secrets of the city that are off the beaten track.

Right in the heart of this modern city lie the ruins of an ancient civilization. As you head towards the city centre, you cannot miss the majestic hill of the Acropolis, a world heritage site. Sitting proudly at the top of the hill, is the famous columned structure of the Parthenon, which was built in honor of the goddess Athena. The hill and surrounding area abounds with the splendid remains of the past such as the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, the Erectheion and the Agora, the marketplace of ancient  Athens . All roads and narrow alleys lead you to these proud remains and reveal the mysteries of a distant world that is set amidst a modern city.

Along the way, you will find people and places to accommodate you on your tour. There are many roads that are off limits to cars as well as wide pedestrian pathways that are bicycle-friendly. Of course, during high season, the streets are dotted with people from all walks of life who come here to see the sights and experience the culture. The cafes and many eateries overflow with tourists while the locals, most of them fluent in English, are friendly and welcoming. Various artists and musicians are also there to entertain the crowds and shops spilling over with beautiful souvenirs.

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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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Classical Athens to Modern One

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“Just as eyes are trained to astronomy, what are the ears to perceive the movements of harmony.” This quote belongs to the Athenian philosopher Plato, who possesses the highest figure in his time in the town that gave birth to democracy. The ideas around an architecture of parameters studied and balanced for a time in which the sage lived with Socrates and Aristotle differentiated way. This moment marks the zenith that Greece has had in its history, more refreshing than any other and that the Roman empire for centuries used this extension to the thinking in the West.

In these days of apathy the Athenian capital stretches slowly, but steadily. It is the epicenter of thinking, knowing and dedicated to the daily lives of its inhabitants, totaling nearly four million. Byzantine conquests enriched the past despite the political struggles that still exist between Turkey and the country and around the city today is a mixture of survival, rundown myth, and racial variety.

The desire to discover what lies beneath the ruins in  Athens  is a constant traveler who gets surprised by the way the most advanced social thought public education participates in the elitism of the port of Piraeus or small restaurants of the low of the Acropolis.

The first thing the visitor, a lover of the classical past of the city should do is make a booking in the Plaka. The hostels in  Athens , located in the winding streets of the place, offering access to the ancient Greek  city  and revolve around 10/15 Euros.

Then our meeting will begin with the city. The metro network (single ticket 0.80 EUR), tram and bus service is remarkable and is the best option (even reach the city from the airport) to scroll. To delve into classical  Athens , we know that we will move one or two areas where the development of our legs is important.

The pedestrian zone is around the Acropolis has an area of over three miles. By acquiring entry (General 12 EUR, Sundays and students free) walks around the ancient Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus by it would be advisable to begin the journey to reach the top of the polish (the acropolis). The vision of the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and Erechtheion (adorned with the rostrum of the caryatids) will be our reward in addition to the magnificent view it gives us the rise of the Gulf Sarano. On the hill, we will run into the theater where playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes premiered many of his works, the Theater of Dionysus.

The agora to which we referred earlier, and whose function was public communication among its inhabitants, is the valley between the Acropolis and the hill of Philopappou. The latter is the eponymous name funerary monument that we cannot ignore.

In the current political  center  of  Athens  are Plato’s Academy, reconstruction of Théophile Hansen in 1887 as a library, and the National Archaeological Museum (EUR 7 general admission, free EU student). Parts like the funeral mask of Agamemnon or the Zeus of Artemision are headquartered in place, althoughm ost of the city’s treasures were looted in the colonial period and taken to other cities. See, for example, the headquarters of the Elgin Marbles, the British Museum in London.

XXI century Greeks were aware of being the origin of language, culture and pace of life, but today nothing extrapolated. The appointment of Socrates “I am a citizen, not of  Athens  or Greece, if not the world” would be understood today pursuant to globalization, but not in the sense that the teacher of Plato meant to express universal ideas a  city  and country, classical  Athens  and Greece in half the world.

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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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Athens Syntagma Square – Athens City Center

The heart of present day Athens is fashionable Plateia Syntagmatos which lies below the imposing mass of the Old Royal Palace. Plateia Syntagmatos, which translated means Constitution Square, commemorates the constitution granted by Othon I in a proclamation from the balcony of the Palace on the night of 3rd September 1843.

The OLD ROYAL PALACE, which since 1935 has housed the Parliament, was designed as the residence of King Othon, at his own and his father’s expense, by the Bavarian architect Friedrich Garther and built between 1834 and 1842.

At the foot of the west facade of the Old Palace is a large square bounded on three sides by walls on which, in evocation of the ancient custom of hanging the victor’s shield in the temple, are set bronze shields flanked by the names of the many victories won by Hellenic arms since National Independence. Built into the center of the retaining wall is the TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, a relief impressive in its simplicity, which depicts a dying hoplite. This work is by the sculptors Constantinos Demetriades (1881-1943) and Phokion Rok (1886-1942), and was unveiled on 25th March (National Independence Day) 1932.

South of Plateia Syntagmatos lies Leophoros Amalias, which is so called after King Othon’s consort, who, with the horticulturist Friedrich Schmiedt, created the delectable retreat adjoining the Old Royal Palace that we know today as the NATIONAL GARDEN. The National Garden is open daily from sunrise to sunset and the shade of its multitudinous trees provides a cool and peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.

On the east side of the Garden are the busts of Capodistrias and Jean-Gabriel Eynard, a great Swiss philhellene who donated large sums of money to the cause of Greek Independence. Both these busts are the work of the famous Pelopennesian loannis Kossos. Other busts in the National Garden are those of three leading Greek poets of the 19th century: Dionysius Solomos of Zante, who is considered the national poet; Aristotle Valaoritis, also a native of the Ionian Islands, and Jean Moreas, which was the nom-de-plume of loannis Papadiamantopoulos, an Athenian who lived the greater part of his life in Paris.

Contiguous to the National Garden is a large public park called ZAPPEION after the brothers Evangelos and Constantinos Zappas of Epirus, who donated it with its splendid exhibition hall to the Nation. On either side of the entrance to the exhibition hall stand statues of the donors, that of Evangelos by loannis Kossos; that of Constantinos by Georgios Vroutos. Among the many pieces of statuary by famous sculptors is the bust of loannis Varvakis by the master Leonidas Drossis. Varvakis is best known as the founder of the renowned boys’ school, the Lykeion Varvakeion, for the endowment of which he bequeathed his huge fortune. Other busts include those of Constantinos Paparrighopoulos, the greatest historian of Modern Greece, of Stephan Dragoumis, the most prominent political personality during the Macedonian struggle (1903-1909), and of George Souris, the leading satirical poet of his times.

A short distance from Plateia Syntagmatos, on the right of Odhos Panepistimiou, we come to a Renaissance edifice of Italian inspiration. This is the NUMISMATIC MUSEUM, which contains a rich collection of Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins, cameos and seal-stones. Built by the noted architect Erst Ziller in 1878, it was the private residence of the illustrious archaeologist Henry Schliemann.

Still keeping on the right-hand side we come to a five-storeyed building situated at the corner of this street and Odhos Omirou. Here are the premises of the ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, built entirely in marble. The classical motif of the magnificent bronze door with its richly painted and gilded surround and the ceiling coffered in a delicate blue and gold deserve the greatest admiration. Besides creating the first National Archaeological Museum the Society, which was founded in 1837, has excavated sites all over the country.

Immediately after the Archaeological Society’s premises stands the ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL. As the Latin inscription shows, the cathedral was begun in 1853, completed in 1887, and dedicated to St. Dionysius Areopagite. It is a three-naved basilica designed by Leo von Klenze (1784-1864), Bavarian Court architect and master-plan ner of modern Athens, and built under the direction of Lysander Kaftanzoglou (1811-1885), the outstanding Greek architect of the period.

Adjoining this edifice is the OPHTHALMIC HOSPITAL, a Byzantine-style construction designed by Theophil Hansen (1813-1891, the younger of two Danish brothers, both distinguished architects), in 1847, and completed by Lysander Kaftanzoglou four years later.

Just beyond the Ophthalmic Hospital is an ensemble of neo-Classical buildings: on the right the Academy, in the middle the University, and on the left the National Library. All three were gifts to the Nation from wealthy patriots; they are the most sumptuous monuments of Modern Greece.

The HELLENIC ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, a meticulously accurate reproduction of an edifice of the Classical period erected in the graceful Ionic order by Theophil Hansen at the expense of Baron Georgios Sinas, was begun in 1859 and completed in 1875.

The nine sculptured pediments and all the statues before the Academy are the work of the Athenian master Leonidas Drossis. The relief in the central pediment, which portrays The Birth of Athena, and the two gigantic statues of Apollo (right) and Athena (left) standing on tall columns, one on either side of the principal facade, are particularly impressive. The seated figures flanking the short flight of steps leading to the portico represent the philosophers Socrates (right) and Plato (left).

The portico consists of a double row of columns. The coffered ceiling is painted in bright blue and gold and the door opening into the vestibule has a surround of classical inspiration executed in brilliant color and gilding. A statue of the donor Baron Sinas stands on the right of the vestibule, while the interior of the Academy Hall is decorated with eight superb panels by the Oldenburg painter Christian Griepenkerl (1839-1916), depicting scenes from the Myth of Prometheus.

Visitors to the University will be surprised to see a statue of William Ewart Gladstone, standing on the right of the lawn surrounding the forecourt. The dedication on the plinth of this statue immortalizes the prominent part played by the great British statesman in the deliverance of Epirus and Thessaly from Turkish oppression, and their return to the Motherland in 1881.

The statues at the top of the steps leading to the entrance commemorate the great philologist Korais (1748-1833), ardent patriot and “father” of the Modern Greek literary language (right), and Capodistrias (1776-1831), first Head of State (1827-1831) and one of the major architects of modern Greece.

The UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS was founded in 1836, and was initially established in a large house which Schaubert and Cleanthes had built in Plaka (the old quarter of Athens) when they first came to Athens in 1831. This building, at the corner of Odhos Prytaneiou and Odhos Tholou, is still standing and is converted into a museum devoted to the earlier history of the University. The present University buildings were designed by Christian Hansen and the foundation stone laid by King Othon in 1839. The central building was ready for use in 1842, but owing to lack of funds, the buildings as a whole were not completed until 1850.

A colonnade with a handsome portico in Pentelic marble fronted by two Ionic columns with gilded capitals, and a coffered ceiling in blue and gold in harmony with the classical motif of a painted and gilded door surround, gives access to the interior of the main building.

On the upper part of the wall a fresco by the celebrated Austrian painter Karl Rahl (1812-1865) shows the resurgence of arts and sciences under King Othon. Statues of two national heroes, Patriarch Grigorios and the martyred poet Rhigas Pheraios, stand respectively at the right and left angles of the facade.

The NATIONAL LIBRARY, which is built of Pentelic marble on a foundation of poros, consists of a central building in the form of a Doric temple, with two wings. It was planned by Theophil Hansen in 1887 and the work executed under the supervision of Ernst Ziller, at the expense of the Valianos brothers of Cephalonia in 1901. A statue of one of these munificent benefactors, Panayis, stands outside the central building, and those of his two brothers Andreas and Maris inside the entrance hall. All three statues are the work of Georgios Bonanos.

The eminent philologist Andreas Moustoxidis on the island of Aegina formed the nucleus of the Library in 1827. The books were brought to Athens in 1833 and stored in the beautiful church of St. Eleutherius (the “Little Cathedral”). In 1842 they were removed to the first floor of the central building of the University – which had just been completed – where they remained until the National Library was inaugurated in 1903.

In recent years many fine nineteenth century buildings have been demolished and unimaginative concrete structures built on the sites, so that with the exception of the Ionian Bank of Greece on one corner of Odhos Pezmazoglou and the former buildings of the Arsakeion College for Girls (founded in 1836) on the other corner over the Doric portico, built at the expense of Apostolos Arsakis of Epirus in 1848, nothing remains of the splendid buildings that once lined both sides of this street of central Athens.

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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Breathtaking Historical Athens

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The history of  Athens  dates back over five millennia and one can therefore imagine the rich culture, art and civilization that it must possess. Tourists like to visit  Athens  for its range of absorbing museums, to explore ruined temples and relish the exquisite Greek cuisine.

On an  Athens  tour one must explore the splendid Parthenon, considered perhaps, to be the finest of all Greek temples. The adjoining area too has a collection of temples which can be explored. Another captivating temple is the Temple of Olympian Zeus built by the Romans.

Being an ancient  city ,  Athens  naturally is home to a number of renowned museums. You would require almost a day to view the famous collection of ancient Greek artifacts on a visit to the National Archaeological Museum. The Theatre Museum and the Numismatic Museum are worth a shot for their fascinating displays.

You will be surprised by the rich cultural life that  Athens  is proud of. You must on a visit to  Athens  see productions of ancient plays in their original settings. It is an experience by itself to explore the many shops and classy restaurants of Kolonaki. A taste of Greek coffee on the streets of Plaka will impress you. One historical site which one must not miss is ‘The Acropolis Hill’ or also called the ‘Sacred Rock’. The area is home to three important temples: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Nike in honor of the goddess Athena. These and many other  Athens  sites you can take pleasure in while enjoying the hospitality of  Athens  hotels.

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The Political Polarity That Was Athens and Sparta

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Around 800 B.C.E. the Greek populous started to coalesce into communities which were called poleis. The polis was a city state with its own governing body and typically a military. Each polis varied considerably from other poleis. A polis could have anywhere from one thousand to tens of thousands of citizens between its main urban center, and its surrounding towns and agricultural developments. The poleis of Sparta and Athens were two of the largest and most powerful city states in ancient Greece. These two poleis were also among the most competitive, mostly with each other, and influential in the ancient Greek world.

Athens was a largely agriculturally based polis in Attica, off of the Aegean Sea. It was dependent on slaves to do the manual labor of the polis, from working the fields, to working in the homes of Athenian citizens. Athens was a democratic city state whose society revolved around politics, as it was the primary day to day activity of the male citizens. Athens hosted a powerful navy which was influential on more than one occasion for fighting off Persian invasions.

Sparta is in most ways the opposite of Athens. Sparta is also heavily dependent on slaves, or ‘helots’ as they are called. Helots primarily work the land which was conquered by Sparta for agricultural production. Sparta is a highly militaristic polis, having its entire society based around warfare. For more of the antiquity of Greece than any other polis, Sparta maintained the definitive hoplite infantry force in Greece.

The attitude of both of these great poleis was vastly different. Athens was the sophisticated, innovative, and cultured democratic polis. Sparta was completely militaristic. It was traditional, simple, and straight forward. At birth newborns in Sparta were judged as being big and strong enough to become a Spartiate warrior, or a child was judged incapable, and it was left in the mountains to die. At age seven children were taken into state-run educational systems where men were trained for war. Athens young men were largely dedicated to battle, not to the degree of Sparta, but there was a large factor making up for this fact.

Pericles, an Athenian Strategos, had urged the married women of Athens to bear more children. Athens population was much greater than Spartas to begin with, and had a much larger birth rate. Spartiates were to get married between age twenty and thirty, but until age thirty, they were to remain living in the barracks. “Men living in the barracks were only permitted to meet their wives surreptitiously-a fact that may account in part for the notably low birthrate among Spartiate couples.” To compete with Athens, Sparta’s’ militarism was necessary to keep up, but they did even manage to surpass the Athenians land forces.

Both poleis had forms of government to match their respective differing attitudes which further high lights the polarism of these two city states. Spartan government is made up of two kings, of equal power, each with their own royal family and line of succession. Under them is a council of twenty-eight elders, who put issues forward for a strictly ‘yes’, or ‘no’ vote, with no discussion, by an assembly made of all Spartiate warriors over thirty. There was also five ephors, who were elected officials with the task of supervising the educational system, and to protect the traditions of Sparta. The ephors had the power to remove a king from command if necessary. If anything, the Spartan government, and society overall was primarily static, and compared to such a polis as Athens who was a quickly changing and open cosmopolitan city state, Sparta could be called stubborn.

Athens’s form of government changed from time to time, but primarily Athens was ruled by nine Archons who exercised executive power in Athens. They had one year terms, and once their term was over they were lifetime members of the Areopagus Council. The council had a large influence on the judicial matters of Athens. This council was the party responsible for electing the Archons. The political atmosphere in Athens did change considerably, because of its open and democratic nature, and more than one politician caused political reform. Politics and discussion went hand in hand. Athens also hosted some of the most well known philosophers in history, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, which were all very political thinkers.

Athens and Sparta were two fundamentally different city states functioning In the same ‘country’, which at times could have been said to not have been big enough for the two of them. With each polis striving to expand outside of Greece, as well as each trying to control the various smaller and less powerful poleis of Greece they were fierce competitors. This elicited more than one armed conflict, including the twenty-seven year long Peloponnesian war. Though on a few occasions Athens, Sparta, and various other unfriendly poleis banded together to fight invading Persians, the two poleis were both too fundamentally different, competitive, and patriotic to allow any strong unity between them beyond peace and trade treaties. They both existed as communities adapted to survive independently from other city states, and when their interests merged either it was to protect Greece itself from foreign powers, or it meant conflict as they fought over resources and other goals.

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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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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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