The changing of the guards at Parliament

Athens is a city rich in history and culture. Luckily, I, along with my classmates, was able to see the amazing things this city had to offer. From its ancient buildings to it majestic mountains, Athens has stood the test of time. Athens is the economic, cultural and political center of Greece and is home to more than 3 million people (Athens, Greece).

Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece, is located in the southeastern part of the country along the Attic plain. Three of its sides are mountainous, the Parnis, Pendeli and Hymettos Mountains, and two rivers, the Kifisos and Ilisos, flow throughout the city (Athens, Greece).

Perhaps the most famous of Athens monuments is the Acropolis and the buildings located atop it. Archeological evidence shows that the Acropolis, a hill in the center of Athens, is made of limestone that was once an island in the Mediterranean Sea (Stuart). Of the buildings located on the Acropolis are the Parthenon, Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechthion. The most famous is the Parthenon, which was built on sacred land at the highest point in Athens. It was immediately considered symbolic of Athens' position as head of the ancient Greek Empire. The Propylaea was constructed in 437 BC at the entrance of the Acropolis and soon after the Temple of Athena Nike was built. The Erechthion, the last of the famous ancient buildings, was completed in 406 BC as a dedication to Athena and Poseidon and contains architecture revolutionary to that of ancient times (Yalouri).

The oldest section of Athens, the Plaka, is a popular area for tourism and culture. Due to the Summer 2004 Olympic Games, some areas are still under construction throughout the Plaka, but there is still much to be seen. Before the ban of amplified music in the 1970s, the area was a popular spot for nightclubs. Now the area is full of restaurants, souvenir shops and other establishments appealing to locals as well as tourists. The Plaka also contains several art galleries and museums. Many believe it to be the most beautified area of Athens. Most of the streets are intended for pedestrians and do not allow automobile traffic (Plaka).

Knowing basic information about Athens history is important to understanding its significance. Athens was always an important cultural center of Greece and continued to be after the city lost independence to Macedonia in 338 BC. In 146 BC the city fell to Rome and until the Romans destroyed many of Athens' monuments in 86 BC the people of Greece remained in good relations with the Romans. The city was damaged by invading Goths in the 3rd century and for many years it was ignored and many of its artworks were taken and moved to other cities. In 1458 the Ottoman Empire gained control of Athens and under Ottoman rule, Greeks were the overseers of what took place in Athens. The city's population consisted of Greeks, Turks and Slavs. During this time the Parthenon was badly damaged from a bombardment that ignited gunpowder stored within the building. The Greek War of Independence in 1821 freed the city from the Ottomans and much of the city was rebuilt over the next century (Athens, Greece).

The city is now a major industrial center as well as a popular destination for tourists. Though still an important historical city, it now suffers from urbanization and pollution. Many people have speculated that it will not be adequately prepared to host the 2004 Summer Olympic Games due to lack of hotels and venues to suitably accompany mass amounts of people. It will be interesting to see how the city does in its attempts to meet these needs. Overall, Athens is an amazing city with so much to offer Greeks as well as tourists. Its ancient buildings will no doubt attract visitors for many years to come.

Athens, Greece. Encarta Encyclopedia.

Stuart, Jesse. Dandelion on the Acropolis. Archer Editions Press. 1978. USA.

Plaka. The Guide to the Plaka in Athens.

Yalouri, Eleana. The Acropolis: Global Fame, Local Claim. Oxford International Publishers Ltd. 2001. New York.

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