Athens is the biggest city and the capital of the country of Greece. It covers an area of fifteen square miles and has a population of over seven hundred and forty-five thousand residents. Athens urban zone is the seventh most populous in the European Union and the city is also to be one of the oldest cities in the world. The city is an important center for Greek economic, financial and political life and is rated as an alpha world city. Athens is a city that has been inhabited on a continuous basis for over seven thousand years. Its history can be traced to the Neolithic period when it was a fortified settlement on top of the Acropolis in the fourth millennium BC. The city at this time bears no resemblance to the Athens of today. It occupied an area of only one square mile and was surrounded by walls. The city was named after the goddess Athena, who was daughter of Zeus. According to myth, Athena won the role of the protector of the city by defeating Poseidon in a contest where the citizens of the city chose her over him.
By 1400 BC, Athens had become an important part of the Mycenaean civilization. From the tenth century BC on, Athens became an import center of trade and was very prosperous. In the first century BC, many Athenian military structures and homes were leveled by the Roman commander Sulla. Under Roman rule, the city achieved the status of a free city. During the five centuries under the authority of the Roman Empire, the city remained an important center of philosophy and education. In 529, Emperor Justinian close the schools of philosophy when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity. That same year, Athens fell under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. Until the seventh century, the city became overrun by Slavic peoples and began a journey into insecurity. Its fortunes changed for the better in the ninth century and the city began an economic recovery. This upward spiral continued until the twelfth century, when the Golden Age of Byzantine art began in the city. In the nineteenth century, the Prince of Bavaria Otto was declared the king of Greece. He moved the capital of the country back to Athens and started the construction of public schools.
Today, Athens is a vibrant city with a thriving tourists trade. A popular attraction in the city is the Acropolis. The Acropolis of Athens is a rock that rises four hundred and ninety feet above sea level and has a surface area of three hectares. On it rests a complex of buildings. In the center of the Acropolis is the Parthenon (also known as the Temple of Athena Parthenos). North of the Parthenon is the temple called Erechtheum. There are also the ruins of a theater known as the Theatre of Dionysus. Several hundred feet away is the ruins of the Theatre of Herodes Atticus. South of the gateway that was known as the Propylaea is the Temple of Athena Nike.
Another important attraction in the city is the National Archaeological Museum. The National Archaeological Museum contains a collection of artifacts from all around Greece and covering the timespan of prehistory through late antiquity. This museum was founded in 1889 and contains nine sections. The sections of the museum include Near Eastern Antiquities Collection, Prehistoric Collection, Egyptian Art Collection, Sculptures Collection, Vlastos Collection, Vase and Minor Objects Collection, Metallurgy Collection, Santorini Collection and the Stathatos Collection. Major attractions of the museum include the Aphrodite of Cnidus, Ninnion Tablet, Egyptian mummies, Poseidon of Cape Artemision, Varvakeios Athena, Pitsa panels, Antikythera mechanism, Capitoline Venus, Jockey of Artemision, Daidala , Mask of Agamemnon and Statue of a Nereid. Ancient artists and sculptures represented in the collections here include Myron, Hermonax, Scopas, Damophon, Euthymides, Agasias, Lydos and Cimon of Cleonae.
The Ancient Agora of Athens is another prominent attraction in the city. It was a place where citizens could assembly in public. At these assemblies citizens could discuss politics and hold political meetings. The Ancient Agora of Athens is a perfect example of one of these ancient forums. Building contained here include Tower of the Winds, Vespasianae, Gate of Athena Archegetis, Agoranomion, East Propylon and Fethiye Mosque. Also located in the city is the National Garden of Athens. This garden is situated behind the Greek Parliament building and was commissioned in 1840 by Queen Amalia. Originally, the garden had a large collection of over five hundred different species of plants, but many of the species couldn’t tolerate the hot Mediterranean climate and died. The collection of flora and fauna that is currently located there is a much smaller collection than was originally planned for this beautiful and elegant park. The main features of this park include a zoo, botanical museum, duck pond, a children’s library, a cafe and a small playground.
Other prominent attractions and landmarks in the city include the Acropolis Museum, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Hellenic Parliament, National Library of Greece, Pnyx, Temple of Hephaestus, Philopappos Hill, Arch of Hadrian, Zappeion, Olympic Sports Complex, Kapodistrian University of Athens, Plaka, Areopagus, Monument of Lysicrates, Panathinaiko Stadium, Mount Lycabettus, Stoa of Attalos, Byzantine and Christian Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, New Acropolis Museum, the Athens Concert Hall, Athens Planetarium, Athens City Hall and Omonoia Square. Athens is also home to quite a number of great restaurants and hotels. Popular restaurants in the city include Vitania, Kouklis Ouzeri, Akropol, Eden Vegetarian Restaurant, Daphne’s, Trastellis, Apostolos, & Co and the Athens Hard Rock Cafe. Popular hotels in the city include The Athens Gate Hotel, Fresh Hotel, The St George Lycabettus, Hermes Hotel, Athens Center Square Hotel and the Airotel Hotel Parthenon. Athens also has a large collection of shopping districts, malls and unique store fronts. This is a beautiful city to take in not only the culture but also the history of Greece.