The history of Athens, a city for 3500 years, dates back at least 5000 years.  The natural landscape, the sea and the climate were determining factors in the make-up of its people and contributed to the creation of an exceptional civilization;  a civilization that left its mark on the entire ancient world and laid the foundations for the modern one.  Ancient Athens' greatest glory was during the classical period of ancient Greece from which so many buildings and artifacts still survive.  The 5th century BCE in particular was a golden age, when Pericles set about transforming the Acropolis into a city of temples after being informed by the Delphic oracle in 510 BCE that it should become a province of the gods.  Within the Byzantine Empire and under Ottoman rule, Athens played only a minor role.  It returned to prominence in 1834 when it became the capital of Greece.  Today it is a busy and modern metropolitan center with a population of four million.

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Monument of Lysiskrates and Acropolis

Monument of Lysiskrates (right), located in the east of the Plaka district, and the Acropolis (top left).  Lysiskrates was a very wealthy citizen of ancient Athens, who sponsored many theatrical performances in the Theater of Dionysus, a common practice by the rich people of that time. In 344 BCE, one of the performances he had sponsored was awarded the first prize and Lysiskrates received the honors. In memory of this honor, he financed and built this choregic monument, the only intact choregic monument remaining in the city of Athens.

The Lysiskrates MonumentThe Lysiskrates Monument. This is the earliest known example where Corinthian columns are used externally. Six marble columns rise in a circle to a marble dome decorated with an elephant finial of acanthus leaves that supported the winner's bronze trophy. A frieze, probably the theme of the winners' performance, depicts the battle between Dionysus and Tyrrhenian pirates. Surrounded by satyrs, the god transforms the pirates into dolphins and their ship's mast into a sea serpent.

Placa's Agora WorkshopOur favorite jewelry store in the Plaka was this one: Placa's Agora Workshop located at 12-14 Vironos Str.  We spent lots of money here. LOTS. Notice how much the owner is smiling... enough said. J
Shopping at the Plaka

Walking through the Plaka's stone-paved, narrow labyrinthine streets. The Plaka is the center of Athens and has been so since antiquity.  It is located on the northeastern slopes of the Acropolis rock. This is Athens' oldest and, thanks to the restoration efforts which went into its buildings in recent years, most picturesque neighborhood.
PicolinoOur last dinner in Greece was at our favorite restaurant in the Plaka -- Picolino's. Electra Palace HotelThe Electra Palace Hotel, our primary hotel in Athens, as seen from the Acropolis.  It is located in the Plaka within easy walking distance of all the major sites in Athens.
Lycabettus Hill

Lycabettus Hill as seen from the Electra Palace. The peak of Lycabettus reaches 277 meters (910 feet) above the city and is its highest hill. The hill derives its name from the popular belief that wolves (lýkoi) lived here.
View of Athens from Lycabettus

A panorama from Lycabettus: the Acropolis, the hill of Philopappos, Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf.
Lycabettus TheaterView of Athens from Lycabettus hill.  The open-air Lycabettus Theater where contemporary jazz, pop and dance performances are held annually during the Athens Summer Festival is visible to the left.
Hill of the PnyxHill of the Pnyx, the meeting place of the ancient Athenian Democratic Assembly. Today's role for the Pnyx, as outdoor theater for multilingual sound-and-light performances, seems a sad fate for the home of 4th and 5th century BCE democracy. In its heyday, 6000 Athenians gathered 40 times a year to listen to speeches and make vital political decisions. The Asteroskopeíon

The Asteroskopeíon (Observatory) on the Hill of the Nymphs. The Asteroskopeíon, built in 1842, occupies the site of a sanctuary to nymphs associated with childbirth.
The Monument to PhilopapposThe burial Monument to Philopappos on the Hill of the Muses was built in honor of Gaius Julius Antiochus Philopappos in 114-116 CE.  It was the Athenian way of expressing their gratitude to a generous citizen of Syrian origin who, as Roman consul, had distinguished himself by building many monuments and passing decrees for the good of the city. Its unusual concave marble facade, 12 meters (40 ft.) high, contains niches with statues of Philopappos and his grandfather, Antiochus IV. A frieze around the monument depicts the arrival of Philopappos by chariot for his inauguration as Roman consul in 100 CE.
Panathenaic StadiumThe Panathenaic Stadium, on Mets Hill, is the Stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held on April 5, 1896. The white Pentelic marble stadium was constructed on the site of the original Panathenaic stadium, which was built by Lykourgos in 330-329 BCE.

Olympiad locations

The Olympiad locations since 1896.

The Panathenaic StadiumThe Panathenaic Stadium is 204 meters (669 ft) long and 83 meters (272 ft) wide and can seat up to 60,000 spectators.
The thrones in the Panathenaic StadiumThe thrones in the Panathenaic Stadium. The National Archeological Museum

The National Archeological Museum of Athens houses magnificent gold artifacts from Mycenae and spectacular Minoan frescoes from Santorini (Thira), among other exquisite objects and antiquities.
Dóra Strátou Dance TheaterThe dancers at the Dóra Strátou Dance Theater, located on the Hill of the Muses, perform traditional regional Greek dancing nightly between May and September.
Dóra Strátou Dance TheaterThe Dóra Strátou Dance Theater. Dóra Strátou Dance Theater

The Dóra Strátou Dance Theater.
Dóra Strátou Dance TheaterThe Dóra Strátou Dance Theater.
Greek Parliament buildingThe Greek Parliament building located in Sintagma Square. The monument of the Unknown Soldier

The monument of the Unknown Soldier, in front of the Greek Parliament building. The monument is decorated with an evocative relief of a dying Greek hoplite. Unveiled on March 25, 1932 (National Independence Day), the tomb is flanked by texts from Pericles famous funeral oration. 
The ÉvzonesThe monument is guarded day and night by a pair of elite soldiers called Évzones.  They are on continuous patrol in front of the tomb. The soldiers are dressed in the traditional uniform of Tsolias (kilt and pom-pom clogs).
Athens AirportHopping aboard our plane to Herakleion in the West Terminal of the Athens Airport. View from PlaneView of Athens, Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf from the plane.

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© All pictures are Copyright 2000 Grisel Gonzalez and Jeff Prosise