The Greek word "myth" means "fairy-tale"
but not exactly in the same meaning. This is because the Greek
mythology includes more than simple stories, but it is rather
a cross-reference of historical events and mythical stories,
which require further research. Many times mythology fills the
gap of history and most of all, shows the high intellectual
level of ancient Greece.
The beginning of the history of Athens is lost in in the darkness of time.But what history ignores is filled in by myth and tradition at least in what concerns the gods who had a direct relationship with the town of Athens , through their clashes over which of them would be its protector ,whether to accept the gifts of Poseidon, Athena and Dionysos.
Myth even speaks about the great mythical men of the town such as Kekrops and Theseus.If the Athenians had been named for their heroic founder they would have been called Kekropidans. Kekrops was half serpent and half man and spawned by the earth.
The Athenians stated that their first king ,Kekrops, instituted monogamy and the burial of the dead. He also took part in the Counsil of the Twelve Gods of Olympus when Poseidon, the god of the sea ,and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, were laying claim to Attica.
According to myth, when the time came for their showdown, Poseidon struck the rock of the Acropolis with his trident and at thet point a horse sprang out and rushing water. Athena replied by striking the rock next to it with her spear and the first olive tree sprang forth.
The gods finally declared Athena the victor and thus she became the protectress of the town which took her name.
In order to placate Poseidon the Athenians dedicated an impressive temple to him at the southeastern edge of Attica, at Sounion.
Attica also has connections to two other divinities:
Dionysos the god of wine and intoxication.The vineyard was the gift of this god to his beloved city of Athens.Attica celebrated the Dionysia, an uninhibited festival , in his honor with dances and processions.
Attica is also connected to the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone whom Hades abducted as his wife.
During the goddess' despairing quest for her daughter she was given hospitality at the home of Keleos , the king of Eleusis in gratitude for the hospitality he had offered her, she taught the inhabitants of Eleusis how to cultivate the earth ,and the Eleusinian Mysteries.At the site where they first encountered the goddess, the temple was built in which the Eleusinian Mysteries were conducted.
There is a possibility for the old myths to reflect thewars the leaders of Acropolis made in order to achievetotal ruling of the territories around Athens.However, the total merging of the territories in Attica ,Athens happened much later, around year 800 B.C., a fact reflecting in the myths of Theseas and population of Athens around him. Athens developed to a great industrial and naval force during the 8th and 7th century B.C.
A milestone in the city's history has been the period of Pisistratus tyrrany. The exporting commerce of Athens reached then Sicily, Egypt and the Black Sea. New monuments were built and the city experienced its first cultural and artistic spring. Athens was also the prime actor during the war with Persia. This activity aided by the appearance of democratic governing helped Athens become Greece's leading city and the center of an allied state. The quest for success for Athens reached its climax during Perikleus "Golden Age" period.
During those years Athens was famous to the world for its power, its civilization, its culture and science.Pericles and the sculptor Phidias. A coexistence that produced miracles. The aim of Pericles wast to make Athens the "Greece within Greece".His primary concern was the beautification of the sacred rock of the Acroplis.His first work the Parthenon. This was followed by the Erechtheion, the Theseion and the Propylaia.
Pericles was the man who made Athenian Democracy a worldwide symbol, the man who gave his name to an entire century, is characterized by Schackermeyer as the political embodiment of the perfect classical style that occurred for the first time in human history.A charismatic man, he ruled the most inspired but also the most difficult regime in history because every citizen was a conscious member of the whole society.
Democracy means "the state of the deme", that is, the assembly of the people makes the decisions.
This was the period that the Ancient Athenian Wonder was achieved, to be stopped from the destructive Peloponnesian War, since that war resulted in the destruction of Aticas' naval forces and the restriction of the state to Athens and island Salamina.
The territory was not powerful enough to avoid the Macedonian King Fillipe II (338 B.C.) to include Attica to the Macedonian states. In 146 B.C. Athens was occupied, together with the rest of Greece, by the Romans, who although they actually were conquerors, they showed respect to the city's personality.
After the first years A.C. , Gothic tribes brought destructive invasions and looting to Athens. The gradual integration with the Byzantine Empire was completed with the shut down of Philosophic Schools, the modification of shrines to Christian temples and the general rural confrontation of Athens.
After year 1214, when Konstaninople was occupied by the Franks, Athens was given to French dukes. Teir successors were Catalans, Napolitans and finally in 1456 the Turks who were the first after all these years to transform Acropolis to a Muslim Temple "Tzami", and the Erehthion to a harem.
Until 1834, one year after its revolution from the Turks, when Athens was proclaimed capital of Greece,it was a miserable village with very few people and piles of ancient ruins and stones. Nevertheless it was accepted as a place with a very strong presence of memories of the past. Since it was made the capital,its rebirth from the ruins was initiated. New buildings were built in a close architectural connection with the ancient Greek style, and Acropolis and the rest of the ancient monuments were restored.
The term "old" used for a city like Athens can , of course , only be a relative one.It refers to the way the city looked in the 19th century with its ancient, Byzantine , Ottoman and neoclassical elements in the neighborhoods around the Acropolis and Lycabettus and , more generally, where the city was built up.
Whether one happens to be in Metaxourgeia , Kolonos or Petralona , or stays in PLAKA with its houses and shops , so colorful and bustling, or moves through the beautiful lanes of MONASTIRIKI, he is invited to discover the same beauties, whether they prove easy or hard to find.
PLAKA: The neighborhood of the Gods as Greeks and foreigners alike have dubbed it , singing its praises. Plaka is for Athens what Covent Gardens is for London or Montmartre for Paris. Located on the northeastern slopes of the rock of the Acropolis , Plaka was the center of Athens even in antiquity.
The area took its present form after the proclamation of Athens as the newly constituted Greek state , when the excavations also began.Then builders come in from the Cyclades, from the island of Anafi in particular , in order to work on the excavations. In order to have a place to sleep at night they built their humble dwellings under the rock of the Acropolis, and thus that neighborhood took the name "Ta Anafiotika".
Plaka is unique, and extremely colorful, full of tavernas, wine shops, cafeterias, squares,trees, columns, churches, tourists, barrel organs and bars.
Monastiraki:Monastiraki Square lies at the end of Pandorou St. According to one account it owes its name to the church of the Panagia (Vergin Mary) there which is a monastic estate of the Kaisariani Monastery whose medieval name was the Great Monastery.Next to is the electric train station that joins Piraeus to Kifissia.
Today Monastiraki is a true fair for one who strolls through it.Thousands and thousands of things are for sale .You can find everything there !!!
The odeon of Herod Atticus
The odeon of Herod Atticus was built in 161 B.C. by hte eminent Athenian orator and philosopher Herod Atticus, in memory of his wife RigillisThe odeon is in the shape of a theater because it was used for theatrical as well as musical, presentations.
The Odeon holds 5000 spectators.Today it is one of the most important open stces for cultural events.During the summer it is used for the concerts in the context of the athens Festival.
Superb presentations of ancient and modern drama are also staged in the Herod Atticus Theater.A brilliant adornment for Athens , it also constitutes an important award for the artist ,Greek or foreign ,who presents his work there. Every year it is inundated with spectators and most of its events are considered cultural landmarks.
The modern city that today fills tha Attica basin has two aspects ,so very different from one another yet at the same time so closely connected: on the one hand ,Athens is just another metropolis of the western world but on the other ,there is this aforementioned optimism,high spirits and romanticism that define the Greek.
It would be difficult to find another city in the world with more groups and organizations dedicatedto the investigation, preservetion and promotion of dance, music, customs and roots.Even artists from other countries, foreign communities and embassies, are to be fond here.
Festivals ,events, exhibitions, and in general all the activities that are carried out near the sacred rock of the Acropolis, are blessed with the preconditions for success perhaps more than anywhere else.
The Theater in Athens is not merely another form of artistic creation.This city,that gave birth to contemporary western theater,has today more theaters than any other capital city , and they are always full.
The city is a steady increase of modern and aesthetically daring buildings while new ornaments such as the Music Megaron, which has the best acoustic in the whole Europe, make Athens even more beautiful.
The heart of the modern capital houses the most important buildings connected to Greek culture and intellectual achievement.Syntagma Square, the center of Athens ,lies in front of the Greek Parliament Building and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier which attracts countless tourists every day.
All Greek distances are measured from here in Kilometers.The square has many embassies and ministries, the offices of airlines and large companies ,banks and luxury hotels.
Near the square are the national gardens.The national gardens were formerly for the exclusive use of the palace. Now they are open to everyone.Antiquities have been found there which have been fenced in.
On the eastern side of the gardens ,along Herodou AtticouSt., is the new palace, now the residence of the president of the Republic of Greece.
The Zapeion Megaron is today one of the most up-to-date centers for Greek and international conferences.Its little paths are where group of Athenians hold sessions of their outdoor Parliaments, attempting to solve the country's problems, on the model of the outdoor Parliament of Hyde Park in London.
The National library, the third great megaron here is a building in the Doric style and contains over one million volumes of books, manuscripts, gospels and archetypals.Diagonally opposite the library is the renovated Arsakeio where the Council of State is house.
Going down Panepistimiou St. you reach the large Square of Omonoia.
The rock of the Acropolis rises up in the middle of the Athenian basin, 156 m, above the sea level , with a length of 300m. and a width of 150 m. Its position is of particular strategic importance because of the view it affords of all the surrounding area, and down to the sea. This is the reason it was inhabited even during the prehistoric period.
The Palasgians, the first inhabitants of Athens , fortified this rock withwalls made of enormous slabs 6 m. wide.The cyclopean walls protected the king's palace and the houses of his officers. During the early historical period a temple dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea , and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was erected on the site of the old palace. The temple was destroyed twice and rebuilt both times. In the 6th century B.C. it was decorated with marvellous works of sculpture.
The monuments we see today are works from the Classical period. It is thought that they were erected by Pericles during the peiod 447-406 B.C. and reflect a single plan.
The artistic staff that was employed includes the names of the architects Iktinos, Mnisiklis and Kallikrates.
There is also phidias who was a sculptor but had far greater influence.In brief , the monuments of the Acropolis contain the most representative examples of the astonishing Attican architecture of the Classical period.
The Parthenon : During the period 495-480 B.C. the Athenians began to build, on the site of the present-day Parthenon, a marble six-columned Doric temple which was never completed. Its sterobate and its foundation and a section of its upper structure were later incorporated by Pericles into the the Parthenon.
After the destruction of this half completed work , by the Persians , in 480 B.C. the Athenians abandoned the idea of rebuilding the temple , until Pericles appeared in the political arena and promoted the grandeur of Athens.
So at the highest point of tha Sacred Rock the Athenians erected one of the most perfect creations of the human spirit, a symbol of classical beauty and perhaps the supreme achievement of ancient Greek architecture.
The erection began in 447 B.C. and the inauguration was held in 438 B.C. during the celebration of the Panathenaic Games. The sculptural decoration of the building would be completed in 432 B.C.Iktinos and Kallikrates are known as the architects.The decoration program and the general supervision of the structural work was handled by Phidias.
The Temple of Athena Nike.
This is a small ,elegant Ionian monument built on a bastion on the Southwest side of the Rock of the Acropolis.The temple must have been built between 427-424 B.C. and Kallikrates is mentioned as its architect.
The religious statue of the Nike, with its cut-off wings, was housed in the nave , which was fashioned into a crypt by three steps.That is why Pausanias said in the 2nd century A.D. that the temple was dedicated to the Wingless Victoty (Nike = Victory)
North of the Parthenon is the second large temple on the Acropolis ,the Erechtheion, which is somewhat later.Its construction started in 421 B.C., was halted for the Sicilian Campaign and was completed between 409-405 B.C. Its architect is unknown even though many have maintained it was Mnisiklis.
It was a pillared building , internally divided by a transverse wall into two parts.The west side of the buildng was not enclosed by a wall but had five openings separated by railings with four intermediary Ionic columns which during the Roman period were converted into windows.
To the south was the Porch of the Caraytids which was built on the tomb of Kekrops, with six kores statues which rest on the high continuous base and gracefully support the entablature, of an Asian type, and the marble roof.
Five of the statues , which today have been replaced by plaster casts, are found in the Acropolis Museum and one in the British Museum.
Inside and on the slopes of the rock of the Acropolis there are many more ancient monuments, such as :
The temple and the theater of Dionysos, the Asclepeion ,
the odeon of Pericles, the Odeon of Herod Atticus, the
Acropolis Museum, the Beule Gate , the Propylaia and many