Guide: Facts About Athens

July 6th 2023 in Explore
Guide: Facts About Athens

18 Facts About Athens

Are you thinking of visiting Athens, Greece? These are some intriguing facts about Athens that you ought to know.

Athens is the oldest capital city in Europe.

Athens is not only Europe’s oldest capital city but also among the World’s oldest continually inhabited cities. It was also a significant city in the Ancient World. This is what gives it its legendary magical, mythic aspect. When you wander about Athens, you walk in the footsteps of some of history’s most prominent characters.

From the late Neolithic Age, Athens has been inhabited.

The history of Athens predates the Golden Period by several millennia. The Athens region has been inhabited since the late Neolithic era, with evidence of early settlements reaching 4500 to 4000 BC. By the Bronze Age, circa 1400 BC, Athens had become a crucial Mycenaean centre. During the Iron Age, Athens began to thrive. Because of its strategic location, access to the sea, and natural Acropolis, Athens was a prominent trading city by 900 BC and beyond.

Athens was named after the goddess Athena.

Athens gets its name from the goddess Athena. A lovely narrative surrounds the origins of Athens’ name. Both Athena and Poseidon desired to be the patron of Athens. Thus, they competed. Athena triumphed with her donation of an olive tree, which symbolises peace. According to the geographer Pausanius, this sacred olive tree still stood on the Acropolis in the second century AD.

Democracy originated in Athens.

Athens is the cradle of democracy, and the name itself defines it. It is derived from the Greek terms “demos” (people) and “Kratos” (power), or the state as it is used today. People’s ability is represented by democracy. In 594 BC, Solon, the “archon” of Athens, called a citizens’ assembly. Of course, not everyone took part in ancient Athens’ democracy - just men and only men who owned land. Pnyx hill, which overlooks the Ancient Agora, is located across from the Acropolis. This was the venue of popular meetings by the end of the sixth century (as early as 507 BC). Cleisthenes rewrote Ancient Athens’ constitution, making it even more democratic (giving him the famous moniker “the Father of Athenian Democracy”).

Athens in its Golden Era.

Athens’ Golden Period was rightly termed. It is what comes to mind when we think of Ancient Athens. There was a period of quiet between the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian Wars in the 4th century BC. This was a time of great power and riches. Culture flourished tremendously in Athens. The Parthenon was constructed during the height of this era, beginning in 447 BC. Later, in 424 and 409, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion (the section with the famed Caryatids) were built to the Acropolis.

At Athens, philosophy flourished.

The decadent civilisation of Ancient Athens was built on philosophy. The philosopher Plato founded the Academy in the late 4th century BC (387 BC). Aristotle attended classes here. The Plato’s Academy remains can be visited. It has captivated the imagination for ages and continues to do so. It is depicted in Rafael’s most renowned fresco, “The School of Athens,” by the Italian Renaissance painter. This was one of many well-known Philosophy schools in Athens. Later, Aristotle established his own school, the Lyceum. It was also known as the “Peripatetic” school, after the Greek term for “to walk,” because he and his students would discuss ideas in the institution’s walkways and loggias. The remnants of Aristotle’s Lyceum can still be seen near Kolonaki.

In Athens, the theatre has long played an important role.

The theatre was also crucial in the lives of the ancient Athenians. Greek tragedy first appeared approximately 532 BC, followed by comedy a little later (490 BC). Plays were performed at the Dionysia festival, which honoured the Deity Dionysus. Ancient Greek tragedies and comedies were presented at the Acropolis’ Ancient Theater of Dionysus. Under the Athenian sun - or moon - not much has changed. Today’s Athenians adore theatre! Athens now has approximately 150 theatres. And you may still see a show at an antique theatre on the Acropolis’s slopes - the Herodes Atticus Theater. This is one of Athens’ most exciting cultural activities.

Athens has a colourful past.

Numerous civilisations existed between the splendour of Athens’ Golden Period and the modern European city we enjoy today. In the first century BC, the Roman commander Sylla sacked Athens and Piraeus. Later, the Roman Emperor Hadrian arrived and initiated many large-scale construction projects, primarily in and around the Roman Agora - however, the Arch of Hadrian by the Temple of Olympian Zeus is undoubtedly the most recognisable monument of the time. For centuries (4th), Athens was a part of the Byzantine Empire. Then, from the early 13th to the mid-15th centuries, it went through a “Latin” phase, overseen first by the Burgundians, then the Catalans, and lastly, the Florentines. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Athens for a long time, and it was during this time that Lord Elgin stole the Acropolis marble. With the Greek War of Independence in 1821, Athens became a member of Modern Greece.

Athens was not modern Greece’s initial capital.

Athens was not the first capital city of the modern Greek state. In truth, when Greece regained independence following the Greek War of Independence, Athens had only 4,000 - 5,000 inhabitants - roughly 400 dwellings near the Acropolis in what is now known as Plaka. Nafplion, an affluent and established city in the northwestern Peloponnese, was the first capital of the modern Greek State. Because of the enormous importance of Athens and its history and monuments to the Greek character, the capital of modern Greece was therefore relocated to Athens.

There was a King in Athens.

Since we’re on the subject of this intriguing era, we might mention that Athens had a king: Otto, or Othon, a Bavarian Prince, was the first King of Athens, together with his Queen Amalia. It has been a kingdom throughout modern Greece’s history, with the monarchy ultimately being abolished in 1973. Many of Athens’ large and iconic neoclassical buildings date from when the city-state was prepared to become the new capital. European architects were greatly influenced by the spirit of classical Greece and constructed distinguishing monuments that reflected Athens’ stle and history. They include the University of Athens and the Greek National Library. The National Garden and the Syntagma - the Parliament Building - are also from this era. It was once known as the Royal Palace.

Athens is the birthplace of the two most well-known athletic institutions and events.

One is the Marathon, which was founded by a messenger named Pheidippides. According to Herodotus, the Athenians learnt that the Persians had arrived at Marathonas, and Pheidippides was dispatched to seek assistance from the Spartans. He travelled 260 kilometres. The modern Olympic games are, of course, the second most vital institution. These are a resurrection of the Ancient Olympic Games, a competition between city-states in honour of Zeus. The ancient games were held in Olympia. In 1896, the Olympic Games were resurrected in Athens in the Kallimarmaro Stadium. 14 countries took part. In remembrance of the actual Marathon of ancient history, the Marathon was one of the events - a run of around 40 kilometres - the distance from Marathon to Athens.

Little museums can be found inside metro stations in Athens.

Ancient Athens is always close to Contemporary Athens! Consider, for example, the Metro. Because of the remarkable archaeological discoveries made over the history of this great historical city, just digging the subway took several years. The stations exhibit several findings, making them intriguing in situ museums displaying Athens’ multi-layered history. The most well-known of these is the Syntagma station. The Monastiraki station is in the centre of an archaeologically fascinating location; travelling the train from Monastiraki to Thisseo takes you through a little outdoor museum with glimpses of the Ancient Agora. The Acropolis Metro station houses actual and replica discoveries from the area, including models of the Parthenon marble, now housed in the British Museum.

“The City of the Seven Hills”

Many cities, including Rome, Lisbon, and San Francisco, claim this honour. The Acropolis is the most well-known of Athens’ historical seven hills. Yet, at 150 metres, it is not the highest. Tourkovounia takes the top spot at 373 metres. Lycabettus Hill is a must-see in Athens: a magnificent and serene pine forest gives way to towering granite in the city’s heart. At the summit, you may reward yourself for your effort (or simply take the teleferique) with a glass of chilled rose or a moussaka - there’s a restaurant and a cafe. Then climb to the top, where you’ll find the little chapel of St. George and some of Athens’ most famous and spectacular views, including beautiful views of Kalimarmaro, the Parthenon, and even the port of Piraeus.

Athens is a well-known tourist attraction.

Athens is a gateway to many excellent Greek sites and a destination in its own right, with 5.7 million people staying in the capital in 2019. In addition, Athens boasts a year-round tourism season. Winter in Athens is a beautiful destination.

Athens is one of Europe’s sunniest capitals.

Winter in Athens is guaranteed to be breathtaking. Athens is one of Europe’s sunniest cities, with only 5 days of rain on average, with average highs of 15 degrees in December and lows of 8 degrees. Summer, of course, is famed for its sunshine!

Athenians love fish

Did you know that Athenians have always loved fish? In Ancient Athens, it was a treasured delicacy. Even now, the Athenians enjoy their love of fresh seafood. Visit the old Varvakios market to observe the action - 5 - 10 tonnes of fresh and processed fish and seafood pass through the hands of these skilled fishmongers every day.

Piraeus is Europe's largest passenger port.

And, while we’re on the sea, did you know that Athens’ port, Piraeus, played an essential role in ancient Athens’ history? In 493 BC, the Athenian general Themistocles fortified this natural harbour to take advantage of its strategic location. The port of Piraeus fell in importance during the Middle Ages. Now, however, it is one of Europe’s busiest ports. As of 2015, it was the third most active for commercial traffic in the Mediterranean and is steadily rising. Most tourists to Athens are familiar with it because of its ferry business; it is Europe’s largest passenger port, with a total quay length of over 2.8 metres. In 2017, 15.5 million passengers passed via Piraeus port. Nevertheless, Piraeus is one of many ports that welcome travellers to Athens! Check your ticket carefully because many ferries to the Greek Islands also depart from Rafina, on the Attica peninsula’s eastern shore, or from Lavrio, in the southeastern region.

In Athens, English is commonly spoken.

It’s great to pick up some Greek phrases while you’re here. Yet, English is commonly spoken in Athens. According to 2014 data, slightly more than half of Greeks speak English, compared to 34% in Italy, 22% in Spain, 39% in France, and 27% in Portugal. English is Greece’s most widely spoken foreign language, and most young people are fluent in it.