Athens. The very name inspires visions of mythical ancient gods and goddesses; of muscular, armour-plated warriors carrying terracotta-coloured shields and long spears; of horse-drawn chariots; of wise, elderly man in flowing robes; and, above all, of the majestic celebration of the Olympics Games, for Athens is where it all began.
Text and photos by Melani Semuel.
Athens is truly one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years. It is known as the cradle of Western civilization, having been the birthplace of democracy and philosophy. Why are we here? That question was first pondered by the likes of Plato and Aristotle, two of the most prominent Ancient Greek philosophers.
According to myth, Athens was named after the Greek goddess Athena, who had a competition with Poseidon about who would become protector of the city. In the myth, Poseidon gave Athens a spring with seawater whilst Athena offered an olive tree as she touched the ground of the sacred rock of the Acropolis. The people of Athens chose Athena as their protector, and so the city was named after the goddess of wisdom. The myth is symbolic, with the two gods symbolising the strength of Athens as a city of wisdom and as a sea power.
Modern Athens is a bustling and cosmopolitan metropolis and is central to the economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life of Greece. It is the capital and largest city in the country, and dominates the Attica periphery. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the birthplace of Western civilization, largely due to its immense cultural and political achievements during the 4th and 5th centuries BC. Athens became a democracy under the rule of Solon in 594 B.C. and soon entered its golden age, becoming a centre of wisdom and learning.