THE PARTHENON is one of the most famous structures on the planet, this great icon, which stands on the Acropolis dominates the city of Athens today just as it did when it was first built over 2000 years ago. Its creation shows the scientific mathematic and creative genius of the Greek world. Today it is the symbol of ancient Greece; it stands for everything that world has given us; democracy, philosophy, literature, art, architecture, science and sport - it is a beacon of culture and civilisation.
THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilisation and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world. It is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times. The sacred rock of the Acropolis was for many centuries a place of worship of Athena, the city’s patron goddess. In the 5th century BC an ambitious building programme, under the leadership of the great statesman Pericles, comprising a large number of monuments, including the Parthenon were built.
On this sacred hill were born Democracy, Philosophy, Theatre, Freedom of Expression and Speech, which provide to this day the intellectual and spiritual foundation for the contemporary world and its values. These monuments are the testimony of a precious part of the cultural heritage of humanity. Language, literature, art, sport, architecture, culture, politics, everything in our modern world are said to be indebted to the ancient Greeks.
The Romans were just the first of many cultures who learned from the Greeks. The Parthenon which began as a symbol of victory and freedom; became a place where the Greeks honoured the Roman Emperors; and since then has been a Christian Church, a Mosque, even a gun powder store. Today it is being restored to one moment in its history, the Golden age of ancient Greece.
This amazing museum is set only 280 metres away from the Parthenon. This new modern museum was rebuilt to house every artefact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It also lies over the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens.
The Acropolis Museum incorporates a restaurant with an absolutely breathtaking view
ODEON OF HERODES ATTICUS
This theatre is located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis. It was built in 161 AD. Today it is still used for concerts. Artists who have performed here include Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti and many others.
THE ANCIENT AGORA OF ATHENS was a large square on the northwest slope of the Acropolis, the heart of ancient Athens, the focus of political, commercial, administrative, judicial and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice, but above all it was the centre of ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. Agora is Greek for “open place of assembly” and early in the history of Greece, was the designated area in the city where citizens could gather, where Pericles and Socrates once walked.
THE TEMPLE OF HEPHAESTUS - 4th century BC - A Doric temple, is the best well-preserved ancient temple in Greece, and remains standing largely as built. It was dedicated to Hephaestus, the patron god of metal working, craftsmanship and fire.
THE STOA OF ATTALOS
The Stoa (meaning covered walkway) was built and named after King Attalos of Pergamon who ruled between 159-138BC, given as a gift to Athens for the education he received in Athens. Today the Attalos houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora. Its exhibits are connected with the Athenian democracy, which includes sculptures, coins, bronze and glass objects from the 7th to the 5th century BC.
In the 2nd century BC Greece was conquered by the expanding Roman Empire. The Romans adopted and promoted Greek cultural achievements.
The ROMAN AGORA of Athens was built in the 2nd half of the 1st century BC, it was financed by Julius Caesar, with the aim of transferring the commercial centre of the city to it from the Ancient Agora.
Hadrian’s Arch was constructed in 131 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who was a lover of Greek culture, to celebrate his arrival in Greece and to honour him for his many benefactions to the city. It was a part of a wall separating the old and new cities of Athens. On the side of the arch facing the Acropolis is the inscription “This is Athens, former city of Theseus”, while the other side reads, “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus". The 18 metre gate was made from marble and decorated in the Corinthian style. Hadrian was known for his peaceful reign and for being an extensive builder. He was very fond of Greek learning.
THE TEMPLE OF OLYMPIAN ZEUS
The Temple was dedicated to Olympian Zeus, a name originating from his position as head of the Olympian Gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC but it was not completed until the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century BC.
Built of marble it consisted of 104 Corinthian columns each 17 meters high. Only 15 of these columns remain standing today. Hadrian dedicated the temple to Zeus (known to the Romans as Jupiter, the king of gods) It is an incredible sight to behold and you cannot truly appreciate the spectacular size and beauty of the architecture until you are standing next to it. Go and see it! you will be mesmerised as I was.
The view of The Olympian Zeus as seen from the Acropolis Hill.
The PANATHENAIC STADIUM built 144 AD, hosted the 1st Olympic Games of the modern era. A large attraction of Athens, it is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.
PIRAEUS, ATTICA is a port city within the Athens urban area. It is the largest port in Greece, the largest passenger port in Europe and the second largest in the world. Piraeus is famous for its tavernas and renowned cuisine.
The Greek Presidential Guards or "Evzones" are a group of elite Greek soldiers who are trained to perform ceremonial duties and are found outside the Hellenic Parliament. They also raise and lower the flag at the Acropolis every Sunday. The Evzone uniform is handmade with intricate detail and is a symbol of the country's nationalist pride, representing the significant battles fought throughout Greece's modern history.
Walking along the streets of Athens is fascinating, there are beautiful little alleyways leading to churches, coffee shops, markets. The Plaka area, also known as the neighbourhood of the Gods, is the old historical district of Athens and is marvellous for people watching and admiring the views of the city. There are lovely coffee shops, boutiques and great nightlife.
Brettos Bar is a delightful bar and distillery, and has a history that spans over a century. Colourful bottles of liquor line the stunning walls.
Graffiti in Athens
You can’t help but notice the amount of graffiti on the streets of Athens, in fact the word comes from the Greek ‘graphi’ which means to write. It almost seems an epidemic. Whether it's a combination of high youth unemployment, general unrest, the authorities seem too busy to deal with it. The result is an artistic free-for-all on the city’s streets. Some of it appears to be youthful rebellion, some form of political expression, and some just pure art. Some I across is dreadful, some beautiful, some poetic. These are just a couple of the more 'tasteful' ones I saw.
I stayed at the ELECTRA METROPOLIS HOTEL, next to Syntagma Square, as I heard it had the most wonderful views from the bedrooms and the restaurant; it didn't disappoint.
TEMPLE OF POSEIDON
Majestic Cape Sounion, a strategic point rising above the Aegean sea in the southern region of Attica, is about an hours drive from Athens. It was known by Ancient Greeks as the Sacred Cape. On top of this cliff stands one of the most important sanctuaries in the region dedicated to Poseidon, God of the Sea.
Legend has it that the Athenian King Aegeus killed himself by jumping of the cliff looking out to sea, awaiting the return of his son Theseus from Crete, who he mistakenly thought had been killed. In commemoration, Aegeus’ name was given to the Aegean Sea.
It is an absolutely beautiful magical place, which literally took my breath away, especially at sunset, where one can totally believe the legends and the stories that emanate from this mystical place.
The inscribed name of poet Lord Byron is carved into the base of one of the columns at the Temple, which possibly dates from his first visit to Greece between 1810-1811.