Athens, having been inhabited since the Neolithic age, is considered Europe’s historical capital. During its long, everlasting and fascinating history the city reached its zenith in the 5th century BC when its values and civilization acquired a universal signifiance and glory. Political thought, theatre, the arts, phislosophy , science, architecture, among other forms of intellectual thought, reached an epic acme, in a period of intellectual consummation unique in world history.
Therefore, Athens constitued the cradle of western civilisation. A host of Greek words and ideas, such as democracy, harmony, music mathematics, art, gastronomy, architecture, logic, Eros, euphoria and many others, enriched a multitude of languages, and inspired civilisations. Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied the city and erected splendid monuments of great signifiance, the creating a rare historical palimpsest.
Driven by the echo of its classical past, in 1834 the city became the capital of the modern Greek state. During the two centuries that elapsed however, it developed into an attractive, modern metropolis with unrivalled charm and great interest. Today it offers visitors an unique experience. A Journey in its 6000- year history, including the chance to see renowed monuments and masterpieces of art of the antiquity and the Middle Ages, and the architectural heritage of the 19 th and 20 th centuries. You get an uplifting, embracing feeling in the brilliant light of the attic sky, surveying the charming landscape in the environs of the city (the indented coastline, beaches and mountains), and enjoying the modern infrastructure of the city and unique verve of the Athenians. Year-round visitors are fascinating by Athens, one of the most attractive and charming capitals of Europe.
Pedestrian visit plan
A 3 kilometre pedestrian zone (the biggest in Europe) has been established in central roads (Vas Olgas Street, Areopagitou Street, Apostle Pavlou Street, Adrianou Street of Ermou and Piraeus Street (in the Keramikos area) may enjoy the ancient lanscape in a tranquil setting of the city. The archaeological tour is an unforgettable experience.
The Olympieion includes the sanctuary (temple) of Olympieion Zeus, Roman baths,classical houses as well as a section of the ancient city’s fortification wall. According to the geographer Pusanias, the temple of Olympian Zeus was founded by Deukalionas, a mythical ancestor of the Greeks. In the age of tyranny , circa 515 BC, Peisistratos the younger gradnson of the tyrant Peisistratos, attempted to replace the old temple with a new, more impressive temple. The tyranny, however, was abolished and construction work was terminated. The construction of the new temple was later assigned to the Roman architect Decimus Cossutius by the king of Syria Antiochus IV Ephiphanes. Antiochus died in 163 BC and the construction of the temple was once again abandoned. The structure did not have a roof and pediment. The construction of the temple, which ranks among the biggest in antiquity, was completed in 131 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It is of Corinthian order (110 m in lenght and approximately 44 m in width) three rows of eight columns at its long sides. Inside the temple there was a gold and ivory statue of Zeus which does not exist today.
The surveing section of the Ilissos river valley (right behind the temple of Olympian Zeus) is worth a visit. In antiquity the Ilissos river was known as the sacred river of the Muses. Scattered remains of ancient sanctuaries are located in the valley. You will find nearby the rock of the Kalliroi spring- which was built in 1872 at the site of an ancient temple, on the foundation of the sacred sanctuary of Ekati. You will find nearby, the preserved monuments of the Classical, Roman, and Byzantine age, among others, (The temple of Apollo Delphinos, The Temple of Cronos and Rhea, a Byzantine quarter with workshops, and Leonidis Church.).
Following the construction ofthe Temple of Zeus, the Athenians, in 131 AD, in honour of Emperor Hadrian, built an arch on the northwestern perimeter of the temple. The monuments is 18 meters tall and 13 meters wide while the arch, built os Pantelic Marble, bears two inscriptions on the architrave over the arch. One inscriptions, facing the Acropolis and the Old Town, says :” This is Athens, the city of Theseus”. The other inscription, facing the sanctuary and an extension of Athens constructed by Hadrian, says :” This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus”.
3. Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street
Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street is one of the most impressive streets of Athens, offering an ectraordinary view of the southern slope ofthe Acropolis, where some of the city’s most significant moments stand, and the Parthenon. Most of the buildings on one side of the road facing south were constructed in the late 19th century in the neoclassical or modernist style, reflecvting the bourgeois style of the street.
4.The Ancient Theatre of Dionysos
Directions: Enter the archeological area on the southern slope ofthe Acropolis,and descend. On the slope to your right is the most ancient theatre of the world, The Theatre of Dionysus. In this theatre, the most famous ancient Greek poets, like Aeschylus.
The Acropolis is the symbol of Athens, the sacred rock, linking the fabulous ancient civilisation with the modern city. The monuments on the sacred rock date back to the prehistoric era and antiquity. The grandeur and beauty of the Sacred Rock attract Greek and foreign visitors. A visit to the Acropolis is a unique experience.
5.1. The Propylaea
Adorned with monuments, is the grand entrance of the Acropolis. The Propylaea, built by Pericles in 437-432 BC, were the work of the famous Athenian architect, Mnesikles. They were incorporated in the wall which has been preserved until today and was built during the first half of the 5th century BC, in place of the older destroyed Cyclopean wall. Before reaching the Propylaea, you will pass through the Beule Gate, part of the the Roman fortifications of the Acropolis. Right after that you will encounter a 13 m high pedestal, known as the “monument of Agrippa”, on which the Athenians in 27 BC erected a statue of the Roman Marcus Agrippa, benefactor of the city.
5.2. The Temple of Athena Victory
South of the Propylaea, was built circa 420 BC in commemoration of the victory of the Greeks against Persians. The temple was the work of the architect Kalikrates. The site was the location of a sanctuary in the prehistoric era. To the left of the temple you will find the Erechteion. Facing the temple is the Parthenon.
5.3. The Parthenon
Is an architectural masterpiece of a great renown. You will appreciate its splendour if you visit, and learn about the history and the secrets of the construction of the Parthenon. This unique temple. dedicated to the godess Athena, was built of Pantelic Marble. The Parthenon of the classical era was built on the remains of the monumental earlier Parthenon, an archaic temple built in the late 6th century BC.
The architects of the classical temple, which has constructed and decorated from 447-243 BC (in the golden century of Pericle) , were Iktinos and Kalikrates . It is a Dorica peripteral temple with 8 columns on the front and the back and 17 columns on each side. In the Parthenon stood the chryselephantine statue of Athena, the work of the famous sculptor Pheidias, who was also in charge of the overall construction. The statue was the destination of the great procession of the Partheenaea, depicted on the frieze of the temple.
The chryselephantine statue of Athena:
According to mythology, the name of the city is connected with a rivalry between Poseidon and Athena for the guardianship of the city. Poseidon offered the Athenians a horse, while Athena, struck the rock of the Acropolis with her spear, and an olive tree sprouted. The Athenians preferred the olive tree, which simbolished peace and prosperity. The city was named after Athena. The 12 meters high statue stood in the Parthenon. The interior of the statue was made of wood , while the nude parts were made of ivory. The removable robe and the helmet were coated with gold planting. The statue, which represented the goddess Athena bearing arms, and on her right hand a 2-metre high ivory statue of victory, was lost in the early Byzantine era. Ancient sources and analytical descriptions of Pausanias, testify the existence of the statue. Archaeologists have derived information about the statue from copies. The most famous copy is the Varvakeios Athena.
Was built from 420-406 BC at the most holy site of the Acropolis, where goddess Athena planted the olive tree, her sacred symbol. The tree was later destroyed by Persian invaders. According to mythology, following the expulsion of the Persians, the tree miraculously sprouted again.
The figures of the maidens supporting the roof of the southern balcony of the temple are copies. Five or six Maidens that once adorned the temple are displayed in the Acropolis Museum, while the sixth is displayed in the British Museum.
5.5. The Areios Pagos
The Areios Pagos, venerated in the antiquity, is the most ancient low court of the world. It was the seat of the first aristocratic assembly of ancient Athens. The assembly gradually lost political influence and in the later half of the 5th century, it retained solely its functions as a court , mostly hearing murder cases. The Oresteia describes the trial at this court of Orestes for the murder of his mother Clytemnaestra, and her lover Aegisthus. Apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians at the Areios Pagos in 51 AD. Abronze plaque on the base of the hill commemorates his sermons.
6. Philopappou Hill
Well worth a visit any time of the year. A walk at Philopappou Hill is a fascinating experience: you will find here a magnificent park, important monuments such as the alleged Prisons of Socrates, The Tomb of Kimon, the ancient Koilis Street, which was a mercantile boulevard with shops and houses, the Iroo Mousaiou, the Philopappus Monument and the spectacular view of the Prthenin and the Acropolis.
7. The Pnyx
The Pnyx is situated between the Hill of the Muses and the Hill of the Nymphs (the location of the Sanctuary of the Nymphs and the National Observatory. The semicircular square was after 6th century BC the location of the assembly of the people ofAthens. They gathered here to hear orators speak from a rock platform in the centre of the Pnyx, and participate in the democratic polity. The assembly is thought to have a capacity of 10.000.
8. The ancient Agora
The archaeological area of the ancient Agora is located on the foothills of the Acropolis, near metro stop Thission. In antiquity, the Agora was not solely a comercial centre. It was also an important political, cultural and religious centre. In the area of the agora were located administrative buildings, temples, public services and courts. The Athenians gathered here every day to buy and sell their goods, learn ther current news, criticise the government, exchange ideas, or angage in discussion. The area was settled in the Neolithic age. The monuments located there were built in various historical periods: from the classical age to the 11 th century AD. The church of Ayioi Apostoloi was buit in the 11th century AD.
Thission (Theseion) – Temple of Hephaistos
The Thission was dedicated to Hephaistos and Athena, and not Theseus. It is located in the western perimeter of the Agora. It is the best-preserved temple of antiquity. It was built in 460-415 BC. In the temple stood the statues of Hephaistos and Athena, thought to have been sculpted by Alkamenes.
The monument of the Eponymous Heroes
Here stood the statues of the ten heroes of Attica (4th century BC). The ten clans ofAttica were named after the heroes. Public announcements were displayed on the pedestal of these statues.
It is thought that the Poikile Stoa derived its name from the variety of the colours and themes of its frescoes. The name “Poikile” means diverse, leads us to the supposition that the frescoes here were painted in a variety of colours and themes. Here Zinon taught Stoic philosophy, which was named after the Poikile Stoa.
Odeion of Agrippa
Built by Agrippa in 15 BC. It could seat 1000 spectators and had a two-storeyed portico. It was destroyed in 267 AD by the Herulians and in 400 AD the Gymnasium was built in its place. On the north side four large statues of Giants and Tritons, salvaged from the Odeion, were placed on pedestals. Three opf these statues still exist.
9. The Roman Agora
The Roman Agora On the Piaka area) was an architectural complex, built between 19 and 11 B.C, consisting of a large rectangular court surrounded by colonnades (stoas). Behind the stoas were various shops.
- Gate of Athena Archegetis. Located at the west side of the area. A monumental gateway with four Doric columns and a pediment of Fentelic marble, preserved in excellent condition.
- Kyrristus’ Clock – Tower of the Winds. On the eastern side of the Roman Agora stands an octagonal monument. The Clock ofAndronicus Kyrristus , constructed in the 1st century BC, was a hydraulic clock. On each face of the dock can be seen bas-reliefs of the eight winds. The monument has taken its name ‘Winds’ from the depictions.
- Vespasianes (public lavatories). Rectangular building with anteroom and square room with benches with holes in them on all four sides and a sewage canal underneath (1st century A.D.), named after the Roman Emperor Vespasian.
10. Hadrian’ s Library
It is situated North of the Roman Agora. The entrance is on 3 Areos Stret. It is a rectangular building measuring 122m x 82m with a Corinthian propylon on the west side. It was built by Roman emperor Hadrian in 132 A.D. It formed a colonnade with specific areas used for the storage of papyrus- es and books, lecture halls etc. There was a courtyard in the center. In this courtyard an Early Christian Church was built during the 5th century A.D., which was later destroyed and replaced by a 7th century three- aisled and an 11th century single-aisled basilica.
11. The Kerameikos
The ancient Kerameikos was located in the northwestern outskirts of Athens. It was partly enclosed by, and partly beyond, the walls that divide the area of the excavation. In the centre of the archaeological site are the two best known arches of ancient Athens, the Dipylon where the Panathenaic procession would start and the SacredArch, where the sacred way would begin and the Elefsinian Mysteries procession would pass through (page 115). In the vicinity of the arches was the most ancient and the biggest cemetery of Attica. Moreover it was the place of burial of citizens who were honoured by the city of Athens. According to the geographer Pausanias, the location was named after Keramos. However, the place was most likely named after the neighbourhood of the ker- ameoi (potters). (The definition of Kerameikos is something related to ceramics of potters). The neighbourhood of the ker- ameoi was established on the banks of the river Iridanos. You can see the riverbed in the archaeological area. The ancient Demos of Kerameikos covered a large area. Only part of it has been unearthed in excavations. It is thought that the area of the Kerameikos was bounded by the north-western perimeter of the Agora on one side and the copse that was named after the hero Akademos, on the other side.
Tombs and stelae (columns).
The Kerameikos is mainly known for its tombs and columns. The copy of the marble bull in the enclosure of the tomb of Dionysus from KoIIytos, and the copy of the famous columns of Dexileos and Hegeso (late 5th century BC). If you want to see the original sculpture of the Dexileos tomb stele, as well as other finds of the excavation, please visit the Museum. The tomb stele of Hegeso is displayed in the National Archaeological Museum.
Is located in the archaeological site of Kerameikos. It displays very significant finds of the excavation of Kerameikos, including funeral gifts found in tombs and scrulptures adorning tombs of the archaic and classical periods.
The festival of the Panathenaea
Every year the ancient Athenians celebrated the Mikra (small) Panathenaea, and every four years they celebrated the Megala (great) Panathenaea, which were grander and included horse racing, athletic contests, competitions in music and other activities. On the last day of the festival, a procession began at Kerameikos, (the preparation of the procession would take place in a large 5th century B.C. building with a peristyle central court named Pompeian next to the Dipylon). The procession passed through the Agon and ascended the Acropolis, where a veil named “ Peplon” was offered to goddess Athena. According to custom, during the festival, statues were covered with real clothes. The robe of the gods was basically a woollen tunic, woven by a priestess assisted by young virgins. It was placed on the mast of a large wooden boat as its sail and carried to the Acropolis. The procession followed the boat. This procession is depicted on the frieze of the Acropolis.
12. Plato’Academy – Akademia Platonos
The area was inhabited in the prehistoric age (in the 6th century BC one of the three famous Gymnasia of Athens was founded here). It is named alter the hero Akademos, or Ekadi- mos. However, it is known after the famous philosophical school founded by Plato (neighbourhood Akademia Platonos) in 387 BC. The school was a focal point of the prestigious Neopla- tonist philosophers. Today, the archaeological site is developing within a park. It occupies a surface of approximately 37 acres, between Athinon Avenue and Lenorman Avenue (access from the streets Monastiriou, Faonos and Drakondos).
- The Sacred Residence of the Geometric period consists of seven rectangular spaces, it has the same features as the sacred residence of Remnants of sacrifices found at the residence seem to Indicate that Intensive worship took place here
- The Gymnasium. The Gymnasium Is a large rec rangular building (1st century BC – 1 century AD), with an Internal peristyle and rooms on the northern side. In the Gymnasium Is a small area that served as an arena.
- The Peristyle building. A large rectangular building (4th century BC) with an Interior peristyle. It is thought to be an arena or an annex of the Gymnasium.
- The Early Greek Arched Residence. It consists of a hall, a chamber and a storage room. It is thought to be the prehistoric residence of Akademos.