attica Athens cradle of civi Photo: Y. Skoulas 22 Named after Athena, goddess of wisdom and knowledge, Athens is generally considered to Location be the cradle of of democracy Western civilisation. Once the glory of the classical world, the city still pulses with life and holds a great fascination for large numbers of visitors arriving yearround, especially from spring to fall. Photo: Y. Skoulas Athens is the birthplace Home to nearly 5,000,000 people, Athens is an important political, social, cultural and economic centre in the Balkans and Southeast Europe. Located in east-central Greece, Attica, the country's most populated region known as Greater Athens or Attica basin, is surrounded by the mountains of Hymettus in the east, Pendeli and Parnes in the north, the low hills of Mt Aegaleo in the west and the Saronic coastline south-west. Attica comprises the capital, Athens, the adjacent port city and commercial centre of Piraeus, the picturesque Saronic islands of Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses, the wineproducing region of Messogia in the east and a number of smaller towns and municipalities in the west. Transportation Travel to and from Athens is very easy. The selection of Athens as the 2004 Olympic assisted in the completion of many infrastructure projects with emphasis on the transportation sector, including the modernisation of road and rail links between Athens and the rest of mainland Greece. The Egnatia Highway, a 680- kilometre four-lane motorway runs from Greece's west coast in the Ionian Sea all the way to the Turkish border in the east, featuring some 85 kilometres of bridges and tunnels. Major infrastructure changes have transformed the city of Athens, including 120 kilometres of new, modern roads, 90 km of upgraded roads, 40 flyover bridges, 135 km Metro lines, a 23.7 km Tram network, parking lots in central locations with accompanying new management systems, modern train stations and a new, ultra-modern Traffic Management Centre, making the city easier to navigate and more enjoyable for even casual tourists. Athens’ Tram system is modern and clean, impressive and peppy. The futuristic, Italian designed carriages run from the heart of the capital to the coastal suburbs, offering a good inexpensive tour of the coastline, all the public and pay beaches on the capital’s southern coastal zone. The Athens state-of-the-art subway system consists of two lines radiating in four directions along 77 kilometers of track- including the Athens railway - from Syntagma Square, in central Athens, serving 45 stations and over 500,000 commuters daily. One of the Metro’s striking features is the underground "station museums" displaying 5th century BC artefacts that were excavated by crews during the project and incorporated into the walls of the stations. Air travel has been made more appealing with the March 2001 opening of the Athens International Airport. Located just 20kms east of Athens, the new airport features state-of-the-art facilities for the comfort and security of 16 million passengers per year and it is linked with Athens by a recently constructed major freeway. Regular public bus, light rail and cab services give easy access to every part of the capital, facilitated by a number of newly constructed ring-roads, another bequest of the Olympics. Ferry schedules to and from all the Aegean islands are carried out daily from the Attica ports of Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrio.
ization History Named after Athena, goddess of wisdom, ancient Athens is considered to be the cradle of Western civilisation. Some scholars date the earliest traces of settlement found on the Acropolis as far back as 5000 BC. The Ionian kings who ruled Athens until c.1000 BC were replaced by an aristocratic regime that governed rigidly until 594 BC. At that time Solon legislated liberal reforms abolishing serfdom, modifying harsh laws, altering the economy and the constitution thus establishing a limited democracy. Building on the system of Solon, in c.506 BC Cleisthenes established a democracy for the freemen of Athens, which was retained during the era of the city's greatness. Emerging victorious from the Persian Wars (500-449 BC), Athens became the strongest Greek city-state, enjoying a cultural explosion that lasted until the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), which eventually signalled the city's downfall. The rise of the Macedonian power heralded the demise of Athens, which was defeated by Philip II at Chaeronea in 338 BC. Nevertheless, despite troubled times in the Peloponnesian Wars and the wars against the Macedonians, Athenian achievements in philosophy, drama and art continued even when the city's glory faded in the 3rd century BC. The city's cultural legacy conquered the world as Hellenistic culture. During the Byzantine period, Athens became a provincial capital and the centre of religious learning and devotion, to be seized by the Turks in 1546, three years after the fall of Constantinople. One year after the last Turks were driven from the Acropolis in 1833, the small town of Athens became the capital of modern Greece and hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. More recently, Athens was occupied by Italian and German forces during World War II. Sightseeing & Monuments The organisation of the Athens 2004 Olympics brought some welcome improvements to Athens and the ancient capital reclaimed much of its former beauty. The city underwent a multi-million-euro "face lift" with building facades painted in fresh colours, unsightly billboards removed, sidewalks repaved, new pedestrian precincts made, hundreds of thousands of trees and flowers planted, lighting installed on all historic buildings, parks and squares redeveloped. The city's major ancient sites are linked in a vast pedestrian network, a modern Panathenaic Way closed to all vehicles but public transport, starting at the site of the new Acropolis Museum and eventually reaching the ruins of ancient Eleusis 22 kilometres away. A 1.7 kilometre stretch of tarmac from the Roman Arch of Hadrian to the classical Dipylon Gate, paved in Cycladic marble and stone, is the walkway in the heart of a web extending from the site of the first modern Olympics to the overgrown foundation of Plato's Academy, four kilometres to the west. Walkways link the Temple of Olympian Zeus with the Acropolis, the Philopappos Hill, the ancient and Roman Agoras, Hadrian's Library and Photo: Y. Skoulas History & Culture Photo: Y. Skoulas 23