Philadelphia- the New Athens

A city not only known as the city of American freedom or the birthplace of America but also known for the revolutionary role it has played since centuries. Welcome to Philadelphia, a life-size city in Pennsylvania and the birthplace of America. Philadelphia is often referred as the New Athens, the name first suggested for the work done by the famous native of the city Benjamin Franklin. Rightly so as Benjamin Franklin was responsible for the country’s first insurance company, the city’s first public library and the first fire department; Franklin also played a great role in establishing the city’s Postal system as well as inventing new conveniences such as bifocal lenses and the Franklin stove.

Philadelphia or “Philly” best known for its role in the American Revolutionary War saw the convening of the Continental Congress as well as the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. Shortly after the nation’s inception took place in Philadelphia, it was named the nation’s capital between 1790 and 1800 before it was relocated to its present Washington D.C. Philly is now a big metropolitan which accommodates around 6.2 million inhabitants from almost all nationalities.

One of the unique factors about Philadelphia is that it is the most walkable city in the US and this factor is well used for the better part of it. Signs like “Walk! Philadelphia” well compliments the cities uniqueness and at the same time guide visitors toward shopping, dining, gallery perusing, cultural enjoyment, local must-sees and public transportation should it need to be taken. The city has two very walkable shopping districts as well as the walkable Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is home to many museums, including the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art that was made famous in the Rocky series of movies.

Its geographic location makes Philadelphia accessible by all modes of transport. The Philadelphia International airport is a busy one and you can find regular flights to almost all the locations. You can even enjoy the road trip to Philadelphia. Moreover as a visitor you can find hotels for every budget and if by any chance you are on a tight budget you can definitely find a suitable place in the Philadelphia districts. There is a place for every budget in Philadelphia. Some of the regular facilities offered by the hotels in Philadelphia include air conditioned rooms, car rentals, airport pick and drop facilities, swimming pools, health clubs, spas, restaurants etc. The city provides a unique nightlife to all and that definitely means that you can take a ballet in the nation’s oldest grand opera house as well as knock back a Pabst and a shot of swill for three bucks. In all Philadelphia makes a great city for all and if you haven’t taken a note of that you better mark it in your next holiday destination.

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A Short History of Athens

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The history of Athens is virtually the history of Greece, for this immortal city was for centuries the heart of the Hellenic world and the acknowledged leader of its civilization. Though in common with all Greek cities, its origins are too remote to be anything more than a matter for conjecture. The Cyclopean wall that runs round the rock of the Acropolis, the neolithic remains, traces of Bronze Age habitation and a number of pre-Hellenic place-names prove that Athens was occupied by man from the very earliest times.

Athens was perhaps the largest of the independent Attic communities with its king residing on the Acropolis, probably in the palace named after Erechtheus, whose memory is perpetuated in the magnificent temple of the Erechtheion. A tribe of their Ionian kinsmen from Marathon, from whom later generations of Athenians were proud to claim descent, invaded the city and rapidly became predominant. Under the rule of Cecrops, the first known king of Athens, and that of his successors, Pandion, Erechtheus, Aegeus and Theseus, Athens increased in size and importance, slowly absorbing the smaller communities of Attica, until in the reign of Theseus (c. 1300 BC) they were all united under his leadership.

About 1100 BC, the Dorians invaded the Peloponnese and swept all before them; it seemed that no army could withstand them, and Athens was in mortal danger. Its citizens sprang to arms, though with a presentiment of certain defeat in their hearts. It had been prophesied that the Athenians could only ensure victory by the death of their king. King Codrus then decided to sacrifice himself to save his people. Making his way disguised into the Dorian camp he provoked a quarrel in which he was killed. When the invaders discovered that it was Codrus they had slain they despaired of success and retreated; Athens was saved.

Since no one was thought worthy to succeed this heroic king, the monarchy yielded to government by the nobles, who appropriated all power. They chose three archons, or executive officials, from among their ranks to represent the king and share the royal power. This change was affected by the devolution of the military powers of the king to the polemarch, who then became the supreme military commander; the first archon, who later became the chief state official, was the civil governor, while the archon basileus, who was a descendant of Codrus, retained the title of king and had control of the religious rites of the state. Although first hereditary and limited to the royal clan, the tenure of the archonship was later reduced to a period of ten years and all noblemen were eligible for office.

This reform, however, did not satisfy the masses that resented the concentration of all state authority in the hands of the aristocracy and clamored for a written constitution. In 594 BC the nobles bestowed full power to remodel the new state on one of their number, the celebrated Solon, trusted by noblemen and peasant alike. For the first time in the history of the world the people were given a measure of participation in government, the grant of political rights and a constitution. Later the office of archon was made annual and elective and to the existing three offices, military, civil and religious, were added the six thesmothetae whose sole duty was to record judicial decisions. In spite of these concessions discontent was rife, and a number of popular revolts exposed the state to constant danger.

In 546 BC, Peisistratus, a distinguished and daring statesman seized power and made himself dictator. Under his autocratic rule Athens enjoyed great prosperity. He stimulated commerce and industry, and by fostering agriculture laid the basis for the development of Athens’ chief export, the olive. Through his vigorous foreign policy, for the first time, Athens emerged as an Aegean Power. Posterity is indebted to this devoted lover of the arts since he ordered the preparation of the first authorized version of Homer’s sublime epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. He also embellished the city with monuments whose splendor was later surpassed only by those of the Golden Age of Pericles.

Peisistratus died in 527 BC. Though a dictator, he had been an enlightened and benevolent ruler. He had cared for the interests of the common man and curbed the power of the nobles; but his sons, especially the elder, Hippias, were brutal tyrants who exercised their power solely in their own interests. They excited the hatred of the Athenians to such a degree that in 514 BC a conspiracy was organized and the leaders, two patricians, Harmodios and Aristogeiton, killed the younger brother, Hipparchus. Hippias was driven into exile and the civic liberties of the state were restored.

The resounding victories over the Persians at Marathon, in 490 BC, and particularly the glorious Battle of Salamis, in 480 BC, in which Themistocles proved himself a naval commander of genius, laid the foundations of Athenian supremacy over the Hellenic city-states. A statesman of uncommon foresight, Themistocles added diplomatic triumphs to his victories. By protracting the parleys with Sparta he gained the time necessary to complete the rebuilding of the city’s fortifications, which had been destroyed by the Persians during their second invasion.

Themistocles’ policies were continued by his successor, Cimon. Athenian domination over the states of Asia Minor was consolidated and no enemy ship now dared appear in the waters of the Mediterranean. Besides being a brilliant strategist Cimon was also a great lover of art. He embellished the city, and commissioned his intimate friend, the eminent painter Polygnotus of Thasos, to execute vast frescoes recording the glorious deeds of the Athenians.

The year 460 BC saw the eclipse of Cimon and the rise of his political rival, Pericles, who controlled the affairs of the state, including the earlier period of the Peloponnesian war, until his death in 429 BC. An aristocrat but at the same time leader of the democratic party, he was a fervent advocate and champion of people’s rights. During the years of his administration Athens reached the summit of her grandeur, and the most brilliant century of Greek history is known as the Age of Pericles. Athens was now mistress of a superb fleet of three hundred sail and an army of thirty thousand perfectly armed and disciplined soldiers, with fortifications extending to the port of Peiraeus; she was impregnable to attack from land or sea, while her commercial prosperity and the tribute of the Delian League amassed in the treasury made her the richest city in all Hellas.

If the material prosperity of Athens was great during this period, her attainments in every field of culture were incomparable. A galaxy of architects, sculptors and painters and their gifted assistants adorned the city with a dazzling array of temples, public buildings and other works of art. Nor were Athenian achievements in literature less noteworthy. In this period the Attic drama produced many immortal masterpieces. It is also to Periclean Athens that the scientific thought of Europe in logic, ethics, rhetoric and history owes its origin. Supreme in the arts of war and peace, Athens was the most illustrious city of antiquity and seemed destined to endure for ever, but the inconstant gods were envious of happiness that matched their own.

The outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 was the first of a series of misfortunes to fall upon the city. Two years after the beginning of this internecine and intermittent struggle between Athens and Sparta for the hegemony of Greece, Athens suffered irreparable loss in the untimely death of Pericles during the dreadful plague that ravaged the city. Twelve years later the treachery of Pericles’ nephew, Alcibiades, was the cause of an even greater calamity.

Idol of the masses, Alcibiades was a gifted but completely unscrupulous demagogue who served his native city only when it suited him. Against the opposition of more experienced generals he succeeded in persuading his fellow citizens to embark upon the Sicilian Expedition (415) and was appointed one of the commanders. Shortly after the fleet had set sail he was recalled to stand trial on a charge of sacrilege, but fled to the Spartans, to whom he betrayed Athenian plans for the invasion of Sicily.

The crushing defeat of her fleet before Syracuse with the loss of forty thousand men and two hundred and forty ships, struck a crippling blow at the naval prestige of Athens and in 404 after twenty-seven years of war, utter exhaustion and starvation forced her to capitulate to her rival, Sparta.

Though her defeat deprived Athens of the leadership of Hellas, she retained her cultural eminence. The plays of Euripides and Aristophanes, the sculpture of Praxiteles and Scopas, the paintings of Zeuxis and the philosophical works of Plato mark this period as one of particular brilliance in the history of arts.

During the Corinthian War (395 BC) there was a revival of the Athenian naval power under Conon, whose squadron utterly routed the Spartan ships at the historic battle of Cnidus (394 BC). Following his triumphant return Conon ordered the rebuilding of the Long Walls (393 BC), which Athens had been compelled to demolish by the victorious Spartans at the end of the Peloponnesian War.

These walls completed the city’s chain of giant defenses. A roadway 8 kms in length and 170 m. wide, protected on either side by walls 18 m. high and 3 m. thick, secured communication between the city and the port of Peiraeus with its adjoining harbors. To the south was a had already been removed for the adornment of the new city on the Bosporus, and she was the object of further depredation in AD 523 when the great church of St. Sophia was erected. Under Byzantium the Parthenon and other glorious temples were converted into Christian churches, and in AD 529 Constantinople ordered the closing of the celebrated philosophical schools and the confiscation of their libraries; Athens was but a name.

After the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204 the Burgundian Count Otto de la Roche was granted the lordship of Athens, later raised to a duchy by Louis IX, and established his court on the Acropolis. On the death of Guy II, last duke of the House of de la Roche, the duchy passed to his cousin, Gautier de Brienne, the last French duke of Athens. Three years later (1311) he perished at the battle of Copais where a fearsome army of Catalan adventurers, known as the Grand Company, slaughtered the flower of Frankish chivalry. The Catalans terrorized the country for seventy years until they were overcome by another horde of Spanish mercenaries, the Navarrese Company.

In 1388 the Florentine Nerio Acciajuoli, Castellan of Corinth and Lord of Thebes, whom the Navarrese had elected as their leader, seized Athens and installed himself in the ducal court of the Acropolis. The house of the Acciajuoli lasted until 1456 when the last duke, Franco, was forced to yield to the Turks.

In 1684 when Venice declared war against the Turks, Doge Francesco Morosini was appointed to command the expedition. Ably seconded by a Swedish general, Count Otto Koenigsmark, he drove the enemy out of the Peloponnese and then marched against their garrison in Athens. In Morosini’s bombardment of the Acropolis, then held in force by the enemy, severe damage was done to the monuments there.

In 1821 the great revolution against Turkish occupation, which had lasted for almost four centuries, spread third wall, the Phaleric, which extended to the coastal town of Phaleron and protected the bay connecting it with Peiraeus. These massive walls rendered Athens an impregnable fortress, making it impossible for an invader to cut her off from her trade and food supplies.

From 338 BC the orator Lycurgus was archon. During his tenure of office he further embellished the city and restored those ancient monuments that had suffered either at the hands of man or from the ravages of time. In this same period, from the tribune of the hallowed rock of the Pnyx, resounded the voice of the great orator, Demosthenes, whose name will forever be linked with the last splendors of the immortal city.

Alexander the Great treated Athens with marked favor and granted her a considerable measure of autonomy. Though she had lost her supremacy in science and scholarship to Alexandria, Athens was still considered the natural home of philosophy, while in the theatre Menander’s New Comedy made Athenian life known throughout the civilized world.

After being sacked by Sulla in 86 BC for her part in supporting Mithridates the Great against Rome, she became part of the new Roman province of Achaea in 27 BC. Her only importance now lay in her philosophical schools which were frequented by such young Romans as Cicero, Herodes Atticus and Horace.

Athens was later restored to favor as a free and sovereign city and regarded as the cultural center of the Roman world; Hadrian and later Antonines lavishly endowed her with many new buildings. During the reign of the Emperor Hadrian a whole new city, Novae Athenae, to which the Arch of Hadrian was the gateway, rose around the Olympieion.

With the foundation of Constantinople Athens sank into the obscurity of a provincial Byzantine town and is rarely mentioned in the chronicles of the period. Pheidias’ statue of Athena Promachos and other works of art throughout Greece. A year later, in 1822, the intrepid Odysseus Androutsos, one of the principal figures of the War of Independence (1821-1833) succeeded by a surprise attack in capturing the Acropolis. In 1826 the Turks under Reschid Pasha again besieged it. An attempt by the French philhellene Colonel Baron Fabvier to relieve the heroic defense force was defeated, and the garrison commander Gouras killed. Further attempts to relieve the Acropolis proved no more successful than the first, instructions were therefore sent to the garrison to surrender.

On 24th May 1827, the Turks having accorded them the honors of war, the remnants of the gallant defenders marched out with flying colors.

The Acropolis remained in the hands of the enemy until 12th April 1833 when, in the name of Greece, Colonel Baligand took formal possession from the Turkish commander. On 13th December of the same year King Othon, the first King of Greece, entered the city. One year later, on 18th September 1834, Athens was officially proclaimed the Capital city of the Kingdom.

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A Trip To Historic City Athens

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If we speak of the oldest city with documented history and available evidence of their work, we will probably find no one older than the Greek civilization. There are numerous stories about the various aspects of the country. The capital of the country, Athens, happens to be one of the most glorious cities in the world. It has been established such that it was worshiped by men and Gods alike. It can be said that modern civilization took birth in Greece and Athens played an important part in it.

Athens has been the place of birth of some of the finest minds in the history of mankind. It is actually the birthplace of democracy and sowed the seed of the civilization that we see today. The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most notable structures that has passed through the generations of human beings and still reminds us of the glory and ascension of Athens and Greece. It was proposed as one of the seven modern wonders of earth as well.

A trip to Athens or Greece is nothing less than a trip to the pages of history. The ancient architectures are still present, many of them partially demolished, but still bearing the message from the past. The major construction, such as the Parthenon, which happens to be one of the iconic constructions of Athens, speaks of the rich history and culture of the city. The most interesting part about visiting Greece is that there is no specific attraction within the country. When you are in Athens, you will be able expecting various archaeological and historical museums which will speak about the history of the place and also about the various aspects of their art, culture and lifestyle. What really sets Athens apart from the rest of the world is that, even though there are museums and various other places to visit within the city, the city as a whole is living museums in itself. Numerous constructions and various designs can be found all across the city. They have their own story to tell and add to the pages of history of Athens. Make sure you plan your trip long enough to soak up all of it, or as much as it is possible.

Athens has played an important role not in the medieval times; the city has contribution to the modern world as well. One of the most remarkable of all contributions is the Olympic Games. The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in the year 1896. Let us not forget the fact that the English that we speak and the alphabets that we write have major contribution from Greece. It is in fact the Greek alphabets that are in use in English in the modern times. Even the word “alphabet” is combination of the words “alpha” and “beta”, the first two Greek letters. It simply shows ho greatly the Greek civilization influenced the development of the western civilization, art and culture.

While planning a trip to Athens, remember that not all that seems old happens to be old in this city. The medieval style and the contemporary designs were very much in use till much later in time. Even when the new city of Athens was built, the contemporary architectural style was followed.

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The East Side Of Athens Ancient Agora

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During the rule of Solon the Lawgiver, when the  Athens  Agora was taking shape, its eastern side was entirely free of buildings. The Dromos cut across the area diagonally, serving as a boundary. But since the city was growing, the need for public buildings was also increasing, especially after the Persian wars. Then it was that a great rectangular colonnade was built around structures that very likely belonged to one of the  Athens  courthouses, as indicated by a ballot box with judges’ votes found there. During the Hellenistic period, Attalos of Pergamum donated to the city of Pallas Athena a magnificent, two-storey stoa, squaring off the Agora site and extending the business centre of the city east of the main road. These buildings were destroyed when the city was sacked by Sulla; but immediately afterwards, the Romans began a rapid reconstruction, an unerring measure taken by conquerors throughout history. On this side of the Agora, a library was built and then another stoa, beside that of Attalos. These and other structures were seen by Pausanias and Strabo when they came to  Athens  in the 2nd century AD.

Of the first long narrow stoa on the southeastern corner of the site, just a few vestiges remained because of the many changes the building underwent during the years after it was first built. Initially, the Stoa was on two levels along the Panathenaic Way, in order to compensate for the natural slope of the ground. It had eleven spaces for shops and a row of columns with Ionic capitals. It must have been a very busy spot, as shown by the figures of Herms, animals, and sundials carved on the first of the columns. The layabouts of antiquity also carved youthful profiles, some with lovely classical features and others created with the intent to ridicule.

The colonnade must have extended in front of the library beside it, of which nothing remains, because it was totally destroyed during the Herulian raid, but also because the wall put up afterward was built on top of the structures on this side of the Agora. Evidence of the inhabitants’ anxiety after the sack of the city are the pieces of columns lying like wounded giants, in the hurriedly built wall.

This was the 3rd century AD, when the Roman Empire was confronting the threat of fierce Germanic tribes such as the Goths, Vandals and others, who had set out in the north, followed the river roads of eastern Europe and joined together with the nomadic tribes of the Caucasus. From there they spilled over into the Roman possessions around the Black Sea and Asia Minor. The Goths, together with their cousins, the Herulians, built a powerful fleet and sailed down into the Aegean sowing devastation. They captured Lemnos and Skyros, and destroyed Corinth and Argos while other cities were desperately and vainly building fortifications. In the sack of  Athens , the Herulians destroyed everything except for the temple of Hephaistos and the sanctuaries on the Acropolis. The entire Agora was covered with a layer of ash from the buildings burned at that time. Many keys have been found which had been thrown into wells at that period, an indication of the despair felt by the frantic inhabitants. But the barbarian occupation did not last long. Encouraged by the fiery speeches of the orator Dexippus, the residents of  Athens  remembered how their ancestors had dealt with the Persians, and as one man, two thousand Athenians managed to expel the invaders.

Immediately afterward, they built a wall using rubble from the ruined buildings. The perimeter of this wall greatly reduced the area which the Athenians would have to protect in any future attack. The fortifications started under the Propylaea, from the position of the present Beule gate, descended to the east side of the Panathenaic Way, crossed the southeastern stoa and the library, reached as far as the back wall of the Stoa of Attalos, turned east for some meters and then turned south again, to touch the Acropolis rock. The extent of this fortification shows that the number of residents had already – dropped sharply. The wall was 11-1/2 meters high and 3-1/2 m. wide, it had two faces and the space in between was filled with column drums, inscriptions, pedestals of votive statues and sculptures of all kinds. Traces of one fortress tower and parts of a water mill have been preserved. Three gates have been identified with certainty on the west side, along the Panathenaic Way. But the most impressive part of the remaining wall, with the built-in column drums and the pieces of marble from earlier buildings, is on the site where the library of Pantainos once stood.

This was the intellectual heart of  Athens , built around the end of the lst century AD. A long inscription has been found informing us that Titus Flavius Pantainos dedicated the entire structure with all its buildings and library with all its books to Athena Polias and the emperor Trajan. This same inscription enabled scholars to conclude that the building had a courtyard with rooms and roofed areas, as well as some outdoor stow. Another inscription demonstrated the strict operating regulations of the institution, which forbade the borrowing of the books on oath. Strangely enough Pausanias did not mention this library at all, ever partial to the sanctuaries of the gods and to more ancient structures. He treated the huge building next door, the Stoa of Attalos, with the same indifference.

Attalos of Pergamum, who built this magnificent Stoa, came from an adventurous dynasty which, although its roots were of Asia Minor extraction, had become fully Hellenized. Its founder was a certain Philetairos from the Pontus in whom the Macedonian Lycimachos had such confidence as to entrust his treasury to him to be kept in the fortress at Pergamum. The person who gained most from the disputes between Lysimachos and Seleucos over the division of Alexander the Great’s enormous empire was this flexible Philetairos who found himself owner of all the goods entrusted to him. He founded the Attalid state which, between 283 and 129 BC developed into a centre of commerce and letters, largely due to the use of a new writing material derived from animal skins. It was, of course, not so new; from very ancient times, highly significant writings were recorded on a piece of thin leather called a diphthera. The Persians took this word and adapted it to their own language as defter, from which comes a Greek word meaning notebook. When, under the rule of the Ptolemies, Egypt prohibited the export of papyrus, the kingdom of Pergamum perfected the technique of making diphthera, to give it a finer texture, whiter colour and the possibility of writing on both sides. It also acquired a new name, pergamini or parchment.

The kings of Pergamum were great lovers of beauty. They adorned their capital with wonderful monuments, and superb sculptures. The “Dying Gaul” in the Capitol Museum in Rome, but above all the Altar of Pergamum in the Berlin Museum, bear witness to the high artistic standards of the period. The library of Pergamum, which was said to contain some 20,000 volumes, later was given by Mark Antony to the lovely Cleopatra to enrich the library at Alexandria. Finally, Attalos III, the last of his line, bequeathed this wealthy kingdom to the people of Rome by virtue of a controversial will, thus consolidating the Roman presence in Asia.

Two of the most significant scions of the Attalids, who alternated their rule of Pergamum, had studied in  Athens . Each one, at the height of his glory, donated magnificent buildings to the city of their youth: the Stoa beside the Theatre of Dionysus, called Eumenes II, and the large Stoa in the Agora, Attalos II. Built in 150 BC at right angles to the slightly earlier Middle Stoa, the Hellenistic Stoa of Attalos became the new commercial  centre  of  Athens  for the next four centuries.

To construct the enormous base, or crepidoma, on which the stoa rested, the remains of an older peristyle which may have belonged to one of the 5th century courthouses, had to be covered. The Stoa was built in two tiers; it was about 117 metres long and 20 m. wide. Its facade, which faced west. was adorned by 45 Doric columns, unfluted at the bottom, as was the custom in the Hellenistic years, while in the interior, covered area there were 22 columns supporting a roof, all of which were unfluted with Ionic capitals. The facade of the upper floor also had 45 little Ionic columns which were joined together with decorated marble slabs: parapets to protect the people. There was an inner colonnade on the upper floor, as well, corresponding to the one on the ground floor. On each of the two levels, there were 22 square rooms suitable for use as shops. Initially the stairs leading up to the second level were outside, on the two narrow sides of the Stoa, as we can see traces of them on the northern edge of the ground floor roofed area, where the vestiges of a large marble fountain were also found. The outer, southern stairway was replaced by an interior one when the library of Pantainos was built to create more space between the two buildings. It has been restored and is used today. Later, a road passed over the south side of the Stoa of Attalos leading to the  Athens  gate at the boundary of the Roman Agora, where the commercial  centre  of the  city  continued to be during the centuries that followed. But even when the ancient Agora was no longer regarded as the business centre, it never ceased to be the main meeting place for the residents. Strabo, who came to  Athens  in the 2nd century AD, called the Roman market “Eretria”, referring to the more ancient one by the same name his contemporary, Pausanias, used: “Kerameikos”.

During the barbarian invasion, the Stoa was burned as seen from marks on the south inner wall. During the subsequent fortification, the solid structure built by Attalos was deemed suitable for a city wall. Then the shop facades were built, rows of columns were torn down and fortification towers were added all along the former stoa, leaving the Agora outside the protected district. One part of the back wall was dug up in the 19th century, and after the regular excavations in 1953, the Stoa of Attalos was fully restored by the American School of Classical Studies. Today it houses a museum on its ground floor, and in the roofed outdoor area there are statues, votive sculptures, inscriptions and stelae which bring to life many details of the past life of the City.

In front of the outer colonnade of the Stoa of Attalos, in the middle of the facade, a large square base was erected for a monument depicting the king of Pergamum in a chariot. Some years after the Stoa was built, a bema (raised platform) was also put up, from which orators and Roman generals could address the citizens of  Athens , another indication of how much traffic there was in the area. The large number of bases of honorary monuments on the opposite side of the Panathenaic Way proves the same thing. Right behind these monuments are the ruins of the Odeion, one of the most greatly altered buildings in the Agora, owing to the many reconstructions and additions.

From various sources in antiquity, we know that the open, triangular space in the Agora next to the Dromos, was the venue for rituals and presentations, before the theatre of Dionysus was built. There were ikria here, wooden platforms from which the spectators watched the action unfolding. A brief reference even exists to the fact that one could see by climbing up on the branches of a poplar tree growing nearby. Perhaps this previous usage, together with the existence of a playing area and a large open space, was the reason why Agrippa built the Odeion on this precise spot.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was Augustus’ son-in-law and governor of the Eastern provinces of the Empire. Late in the 1st century BC, he offered the Athenians a magnificent building for performances or even for philosophical discussions, thus winning the coveted title of benefactor of the city together with an honorary monument at the entrance to the Acropolis. The design of the Odeion reflected the Roman taste for the grandiose; it utilised the natural incline of the ground in the best possible way, giving it plenty of space on the ground, with stoae, multiple levels and two entrances. The most impressive of these must have been in the south, right in front of the Middle Stoa.

Persons entering the Odeion from this side passed under two rows of Corinthian columns, then proceeded into the main hall with its very high ceiling projecting up above the building. From this point, one descended to the 1000-seat audience area, and from there to the semi-circular marble-tiled orchestra. Above the orchestra was the stage, behind which was the other, northern entrance with a small exterior gate.

The large dimensions of this hall must have been the reason why the roof collapsed a century after it was built. In the restoration which followed, a good many rows of benches were removed from the upper section, and the hall acquired perceptibly smaller dimensions. Now it had but one entrance, that of the north side, embellished with the statues of Giants and Tritons. After the barbarian raids, the building underwent another radical change of form, to house a gymnasium. Of its old facade, only four of the gigantic statues were kept, while behind it, a large flat area was levelled off to be used as a porticoed courtyard. Even farther back, rooms and more courtyards were built and equipped with bath facilities. The large number of these disparate areas can be explained by the custom of the ancients to have classrooms in their gymnasia. This custom provided the root for the modern Greek word gymnasio meaning secondary school.

Even though the Odeion was completely destroyed, the monumental 2nd century AD entrance remained, of which we can still see the bases and the statues of two proud representatives of the world of myth. One is a Giant with a snakish form and the other is a mature, strongly-built Triton with a fishtail instead of legs.

It has been ascertained that myths were generated at the dawn of human thought. Beginning with the superstitions of the early peoples up to the symbolism of the Platonists that expressed primitive totemism and interpreted metaphysical concerns, myth passed through various stages of evolution. But it always presupposed the distant past, because only then did events take on the dimension of hyperbole. A typical example was provided by the Romans whose own mythology was comparatively poor. In addition, they were practical and victorious army commanders and administrators who had no need of heroic models, nor were they generally renowned as being lovers of speech and poetry. But they adopted the Greek religion and liked to present mythological beings in their art.

Giants and Tritons were the remnants of Greek prehistory. The former were vanquished by the gods in a decisive battle for peace, because as children of the Earth – shown by their snakish tails – they represented natural phenomena such as storms, floods and disasters. One of these was Enceladus, who was buried under the island of Sicily and every time he moved, he created earthquakes. The Tritons were considered to be marine spirits and had a dual substance of both destruction and restitution; rather like a storm followed by calm. Although Triton appears as the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite in Greek mythology, he may very possibly be of foreign origin.

A gold Mycenean ring shows some creatures wearing a strange, scaly garment. There are Babylonian ring stones and Assyrian seal stones in the British Museum, depicting forms that are half human and half fish, while at Pasargadae in Persia, a gate has been found on the jamb of which there is a relief representation of such a dual-form being. Eusebius, a 4th century Christian chronicler, mentioned similar creatures who appeared, he said, during the years of the Babylonians. Eusebius found this information in the texts of Apollodoros, a 2nd century BC historian and philosopher who was interested in the genealogy of the gods before the Flood. Apollodoros’ main source was a “Babylonian History” written in Greek in the 4th century by a priest named Berosos from Bithynia. Having access to the cuneiform texts of the Chaldeans, Berosus learned that in the very ancient times, an amphibian creature named Oannes had arisen from the sea. This strange being civilized humanity with its superior wisdom. Other Oannes also appeared from time to time, always bearers of abundance and knowledge. The Sumerians worshipped this figure as a god named Enki, while the Babylonians called the same divinity Ea, i.e. god of the waters, and believed that his palace was in the city of Eridu on the Persian Gulf. It is strange to consider the fact that in western Africa there is a tribe called the Dongons, who believe that knowledge about the movement of the stars was imparted to them by wise amphibian creatures. Then of course there is the Gorgon or mermaid of more recent Greek folklore. So it would appear that the Triton of the ancients is a timeless being, with distant alien ancestors as well as more recent local descendants.

In Pausanias’ book Boeotica, there is a very interesting reference to Tanagra. The men of the region, he said, managed to catch a Triton by trickery and beheaded it because it was annoying their wives. The traveller described the headless body, which he claimed to have seen displayed in the city, and, in fact, described an amphibian, unpleasantly anthropomorphic being. The Triton of the Odeion was a beautified version of this mythic creature which has so captured the human imagination.

In front of the gigantic statues at the entrance to the Odeion there was a large temple of Ares. Today nothing of this building has been preserved other than its outline – distinguishable from the rest of the site because it is covered with gravel – a few slabs with relief shields, and some scattered parts of columns and capitals. Many of the latter bear the characteristic notches made by Roman masons, even though the rock was cut in the 5th century, showing once more that the temple had been initially built somewhere else, and was brought here bit by bit and rebuilt together with its later altar during Roman rule. The citizens of classical  Athens  were not particularly interested in erecting a temple to Ares, the violent, strongly built, and not exceptionally intelligent, god of war; especially when their  city  was protected by Promachos Athena, she of organised defence and cool strategy. But the Romans held Ares (Mars) in high esteem as the divine leader of their legions. The prevailing opinion of scholars as to the initial position of the temple of Ares in the  Athens  Agora is that it was originally situated in Acharnes, where there is known to have been a sanctuary of the god. A cult of this kind would have been absolutely logical there, given that this Attic Deme was situated at the border which had to be guarded against enemy raids, and the war-loving Ares, pugnacious and always ready for a fight, was the most appropriate protector of the borders. One should also point out the mingling of two extreme states in the erotic relationship between warlike Ares and the tender goddess Aphrodite. The union of these two totally different divinities generated the all-powerful Eros, who could calm even his fierce father, and Harmony who brought the equilibrium into this contradictory world.

Pausanias gives us only one fleeting mention of the temple of Ares, because, when he passed by the site, he was mainly interested in the statues in and around it. Some of these statues have been identified in the truncated sculptures found nearby and now exhibited in the Agora Museum. Others have been lost forever: such as the 6th century statues of the tyrannicides Harmodios and Aristogeiton. These statues were booty which Xerxes took to Persia where they remained until Alexander the Great regained them and sent them back to  Athens . The tyrannicides were considered worthy of respect as symbols of Democracy; they were also the first mortals to be honoured by having statues erected to them, a privilege hitherto reserved only for gods and demigods. The statues had been placed on this side of the Agora because this was probably where Hipparchos was killed. His death was decisive in bringing down the tyranny instituted by his father, Peisistratos. Thucydides told us that this bold action took place on the day of the Panathenaia, when the tyrant was supervising the preparations for the procession. We also know that the celebrants’ point of departure was the Altar of the Twelve Gods, the city’s main crossroads.

This significant Altar had been built in about 520 BC on the northern edge of the Agora, the apex of the imaginary triangle which constitutes its area. Within a walled enclosure, it had become established as the place where the underprivileged, the persecuted and even badly treated slaves sought sanctuary. Perhaps this was why Pausanias wrote that he saw an Altar of Mercy: an obvious reference to sanctuary, which led -most archaeologists to conclude that these two names referred to the same altar. Of the structure itself there are no significant traces, because the train line passed right over it. This railroad line is for visitors the northernmost boundary of the Agora, even though there were in antiquity, important buildings on the other side, which have not yet been fully excavated and studied.

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Athens – Kolonaki Area

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Undoubtedly the most sophisticated fashion district of Athens, Kolonaki, with its designer boutiques and sophisticated galleries, is always buzzing. Platia Filikis Eterias, the neighborhood’s central square, boasts lively and stylish cafes, each with its own group of devoted regulars who hold court with friends and get on with the serious business of people-watching and the national pastime of talking politics. Kolonaki attracts trendy youth, Kolonakiotes (residents who consider themselves citizens of their neighborhood first and of Athens second, a phenomenon not exclusive to Kolonaki), intellectuals, politicians and various glitterati and their entourages.

As Kolonaki is removed from the ancient sites, it is relatively free from tourists and provides an authentic glimpse into Athenian daily life, albeit a more conspicuously affluent one. One of the most exclusive addresses in the area is Haritos, a tiny street of enormous prestige on which can be found excellent galleries and eateries and the latest in boutique hotels. Skoufa is ideal for stopping in at the many stylish bars and cafes, while Patriarchou Ioakim, which runs through the center of Kolonaki, is the best for window shopping, as is Tsakalof with its tempting jewellery stores. The designer-friendly streets of Valaoritou and Voukourestiou could be mistaken for Paris’s Rue de St Honore-Faubourg or New York’s Fifth Avenue. Saunter through snobbish Millione, a pedestrianized area with trendy restaurants, or flex your Gold Card at the designer shops lining Ploutarchou and Loukianou, which lead down to the main avenue of Vassilissis Sofias and “Museum Row”.

Once you’ve had your fill of the Kolonaki scene, head up to Athens’ highest point, Mt Lycabettus, for spectacular views of the city. If you are feeling energetic, make the steep 45-minute climb up one of the paths leading to the tiny chapel of St George, perched on the summit, or take the easy way up via the funicular. At the top is a pricey café and restaurant. Upon descending from the Olympian heights, stop in at the superb Gennadeion Library, named after a Greek diplomat and bibliophile who donated his entire collection of illuminated manuscripts and over 27,000 rare books to the American School of Classical Studies. Above the entrance are inscribed the words of Isocrates: “They are called Greeks who share in our culture”. A five-minute walk will take you to some of the finest museums in the city, including the Benaki Museum and its superb café, the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, the Byzantine Museum and the National War Museum, with the National Gallery a little further along Vassilissis Sofias.

Many of the tourists like Kolonaki so much that they decide to stay in a hotel situated in that area. Click on Athens Hotels in Kolonaki area for reasonable accommodation rates in great hotels or just choose one of Athens Hotels in Syntagma area which is also close by.

To learn more things about the area and its attractions what a tourist really needs is an Athens Tourist Guide.

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A Guide to Athens City

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Why go to  Athens 

 Athens , the capital of Greece, is often referred to as the cradle of Western Civilization. Despite the recent economic downturn, tourism in Greece continues to grow and the 2500 old  Athens   City  remains one of the main draws.

The archaeological promenade, a 2.5 miles long, treeline walkway now connects the Acropolis to the city’s major ancient sites making the visit to these places infinitely a much more pleasant experience.

While for most visitors  Athens  may be about its historical monuments the  city  has much more to offer.  Athens  promises one of the most happening nightlife options in Europe with everything on offer from the modern tavernas in the former district of Gazi to the sophisticated lounge-bars and eateries of Kolonaki.

 Athens  is well connected by Europe’s largest passenger port, Piraeus. The port serves more than one million of visitors who have the option of taking ferries, catamarans and hydrofoils to the various Greek islands. Piraeus is the gateway for short cruises around the Greek Islands and many companies stop here en route to their Mediterranean and world cruises. Visitors can disembark and explore the hilltop Acropolis, the Parthenon and Delphi.

When to go to  Athens 

 Athens  invites visitors all year round. For sightseeing, the best time to visit is during spring and autumn when the days are warm and sunny. The temperatures sore from mid-June to late August, while the whether remains unpredictable November and February ranging from bright to rainy to occasional snow.

How to reach

Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines operate direct flights from several countries. The cost of flights to Greece is highest from July and August when most Europeans take their holidays. For the rest of the year, prices vary according to demand.

Cruises

Cruise ships disembark passengers at the  city’s  port, Piraeus, which is about 8miles from  Athens   city   centre . Shuttle buses ferry passengers from the port to the city centre. Their frequency and cost depends on the cruise ship company involved. The metro (green line) also runs from Piraeus to Monastiraki, below the Acropolis and taxis are also available.

Transfers

 Athens  International Airport is about 17 miles north-east of the  city . The metro connects to Syntagma and Monastiraki in the city centre. Besides there are airport buses, operated by  Athens  Urban Transport Organisation that run to and from the  city . Taxi services are also available.

Getting around

 Athens  is best explored on foot, however, public transport system is both efficient and cheap. It includes buses, trolley buses and the metro. You can also hire a car in  Athens   city   centre . However, roads are congested and parking is difficult and expensive.

Accommodation

There are several options available including Greece villas, hotels and guesthouses. The peak months are July and August and so if you are visiting during this period, it is advisable to book accommodation in advance.

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Things to Do in Athens

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There is an abundance of places to go and things to do in the  city  of  Athens , Greece. You should have no trouble filling your time in  Athens  with wonderful memories and beautiful snapshots. Here are some places to get you started:

Make sure that you see the Acropolis and the Parthenon. This is known as one of the many wonders of the ancient world. Not only is this a great place to spend your time, but also your money. There is a ticket you can purchase that allows you to see the other major archaeological sites as well.

Traveling overseas is an expensive thing to do, even if you budget wisely, but that doesn’t mean that you need to limit the sightseeing that you do to bare minimum.

In an ideal world you will make time to visit the Theater of Herod Atticus, Theater of Dionysious, and the Ancient Agoraare during your vacation in  Athens  since each of these places will have its own merits that you will want to uncover.

Make sure that you set aside ample time to explore these areas so that you do not feel too rushed.

The National Archeological Museum in  Athens  is only a short walk from Syntagma. It will likely take you a half hour to an hour to comfortably complete the walk. It may seem like a long walk, but when you get there you will find that it was more than worth your effort to get there.

There is no better museum on the planet to see a collection of ancient Greek sculpture. Jewelery, pottery, and items found in a shipwreck off the island of Antikithera are also on exhibit at the National Archeological Museum.

Even if you are not a history buff or the slightest bit interested in history, you will have a difficult time not finding just about everything in the National Archeological Museum fascinating.

For those of you that already can’t get enough of history, you will probably want to camp out here and never leave. There is such a vast array of exhibits at the National Archeological Museum that you can’t help but get carried away and want to spend all day there.

Regardless of how you feel about shopping, no trip to  Athens  is complete without a trip to the Angora-Athens Market. Completely regardless of your tastes and preferences of fish, meat, and vegetables you will find that the most likely place around is the Central market on Athinas Street.

Make a stop at the market whenever it fits into your day. Early in the morning trucks unload and you can join most of the Athenian shoppers around midday.

During this time you will get to feel like you are a native to  Athens . Make sure that you ask the locals about their favorite foods at this market. They shop here all the time and can point you in the direction of some foods and finds that you would not have an opportunity to try any other time.

Even if it is something that you are not entirely comfortable with, try to give new foods that you find at this market a try if you want to have a real Greek experience during your stay in  Athens .

If you are able to, you may seriously wish to consider taking some time to climb Mount Lycabettus. If you choose to put in the effort a breathtaking view and outstanding cafe will await you. If you are not able to make the trek but do want to see the top of the mountain you can take a train close to the top of the mountain. Many visitors say that walking down the mountain is a lot of fun, even if the climb up the mountain was difficult.

You will likely walk through a neighborhood or two on your way down the mountain. Each of these tiny neighborhoods have their own townspeople with aspects of their Greek culture that is unique to their neighborhood.

If you have been fascinated by Greek ways up until this point in your trip you may want to consider trying to spend some extra time on your stroll down the wonderful Mount Lycabettus.

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Athens Gay Bars

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Athens is a large city and is the largest in Greece; it is also the capital city of Greece. In Athens there are no laws against same sex relations and therefore there is a large range of gay bars and clubs. You can expect to have a great night out in Athens with your friends.

Athens is a large city and there are a few areas which are most popular for the gay community but the majority of the bars are spread throughout the city center. Baby’s Graffiti for example is a great gay bar which is very popular with the locals. Conne is another bar which is popular and is located on Persefonis Street. This Athens gay bar is open from 11.30pm until 4am most nights and has a very mixed crowd. This is a great place to meet people and you are likely to enjoy the culture of this bar too. They play good music and also some Greek music too.

Another exciting Athens gay bar is a place called Fairy Tale which is a lesbian bar situated on Koletti Street. This is open from 10pm daily except Mondays. You can expect a mixed crowd but it’s mainly female. They have Greek music throughout the week and Live Music at weekends. You can expect a great night here with your friends. Another popular venue is a place called Kazarma and this is a great place to boogie. They have a huge dance floor and are open late expect Monday and Tuesday when they are closed.

Browse our online directory now for a complete listing of Athens gay bars!

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Enjoyable Walks in the Heart of Athens

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Getting around as a pedestrian in certain cities can be as adrenaline-filled as cliff-diving. Dodging cars should simply not have to be a worry on holiday when relaxation and fun tend to take priority. In the lovely bustling  city  of  Athens , a welcome refuge from such unpleasant stress can be found on the Grand Promenade in  Athens . Closed to automobiles only a few short years ago, this pedestrian haven is filled to the brim with some of the best historical sites  Athens  has to offer. On this elegant pedestrian route, you will encounter marble temples, neoclassical museums, and ancient theatres. Of course, all the while you will be casually circling the Acropolis.

A great starting point is the Temple of Olympian Zeus located next to the National Gardens. This colossal temple took centuries to build. Completed in no less than 700 years by Hadrian in 131 A.D., it maintained its complete structure until a rogue storm in the 19th-century took out some of the columns.

On the southern side of the Acropolis, you will find the Theatre of Dionysus. This is the theatre that welcomed the dramatic arts as they are known today in existence in 543 B.C. It also served as the first forum for the plays of Sophocles, Aristophanes and Euripides in their day. The nearby Roman Herodes Atticus amphitheatre is closed to visitors except during the summer  Athens  festival when attendees can view its form and structure up close. If you decide to follow the marble walkway up to Filopappou and Hill of the Muses, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Parthenon and the Athenian skyline. From this promontory, you will be able to see as far as the Saronic Sea. With views like this, your camera may run out of memory space before you manage to pull yourself away and on to your next destination.

After such a hike, you may need a breather and possibly some refreshments. For that, your best bet is Apostolou Pavlou where you can sip espresso or perhaps some ouzo at a lively bouzouki club or quaint outdoor cafe and even take in a film at the Thission cinema. For a slow return into modernity, you can also check out the multimedia exhibits at the Centre of Traditional Pottery and the recently minted New Acropolis Museum. With this much culture and history to experience, the question isn’t what to do but, how to fit everything into one trip!

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Central Hotel Athens – Cheap Deals and Discounts

A central hotel in Athens is an individual property, designed for the perceptive traveler. Being a landmark in Greek hospitality, St. George Lycabettus Hotel is located at the heart of Kolonaki. Kolonaki being the most upscale neighborhood in central Athens is just minutes away from the Acropolis and the cosmopolitan city-center.

The hotel is owned by the same family since their opening. They have remained focus in providing modern and fresh hospitality to both business and leisure travelers.

Breathtaking views of the Acropolis, from the rooftop restaurant to the south-facing balconies will surely be experienced on this central Athens hotel. The Modern Greek, Byzantine and Victorian art displays, highlights your interest throughout the hotel. The inspiring views of the Acropolis and picturesque church of St. George, from where its name came from, are visible throughout the hotel.

Providing you with unforgettable experiences while in Athens are the main goal of the hotel’s guest relations department. They are at your service daily. Restaurant recommendations, fun recreational ideas, opera tickets, limousine transfer arrangements are just a few samples of the many services they can offer. For more information, please contact Tel: (+30) 210 7290711-19 or fax: (+30) 210 7290439

The Athenian Callirhoe Hotel

In the heart of Athens City, along Kallirrois Avenue, lies Athenian Callirhoe Hotel. This central hotel in Athens is where you can find the finest accommodation that goes hand in hand with a delightful culinary experience.

Discovering a distinctive building with well-designed urban interiors, you are about to experience the very best in luxury and service. The hotel’s location is just a short walk from all of Athens City’s cultural attractions. Since it is minutes away from the commercial center and Acropolis Museum, this makes it perfect for business and leisure travelers. It is only a 35-minute drive to and from the Athens International Airport. It is also a mere 9km away from the Port of Piraeus. This makes this hotel very convenient to guests.

This central hotel in Athens provides “upon request” services like baby-sitting, limousine services, massage aromatherapy, Air & Sea Transportation private services and many more.

For reservations, feel free to reach them at Tel. +30 – 210-9215353, Fax: +30 – 210-9215342.

Hotel Marina

Marina Hotel is within walking distances from the main attractions in the City of Athens. Being at the heart of the city, it is just 20km away from the airport, 7km from the port of Pireaus and 150m from the Omonia subway station.

This central hotel in Athens has 81 rooms that are all equipped with air-conditioning, direct dial phone lines, satellite televisions and a mini bar. In respect to the art and tradition of Ancient Athens, the Marina was recently renovated.

Near this central hotel in Athens, you can visit the most fascinating attraction in all of Athens itself – the Parthenon. It is the temple of the Greek goddess Athena. Another site to visit is the Pnyx Hill in Central Athens. It is situated less than a kilometer from the west side of the Acropolis.

For a chance to get a glimpse of the finest attractions in the capital and largest city of Greece; make your reservations by calling their office at Tel: +30 210 5237832-3 +30 210 5225641. You can also fax them at +30 210 5229109.