Athens the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent, and in particular the Romans. Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece. The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. Athens is also home to several museums and cultural institutions, such as the National Archeological Museum, featuring the world’s largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum. Just beyond Athens are more spectacular antiquities, such as the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, and Ancient Mycenae.
The magnificent Acropolis, visible from almost every part of the city, is the hub around which Athens still revolves. The Acropolis is the most important ancient site in the Western world. Its monuments and sanctuaries of white Pentelic marble gleam in the midday sun and gradually take on a honey hue as the sun sinks, while at night they stand brilliantly illuminated above the city. The Acropolis has come to be regarded as the zenith of Classical Greece.
The Acropolis Museum is at the foot of the Acropolis and its collection covers the Archaic period to the Roman period. The emphasis is on the 5th century BC. The museum reveals layers of history – from ancient ruins beneath the building. The 1st-floor Archaic Gallery is a veritable forest of statues, mostly votive offerings to Athena. These include stunning examples of 6th-century kore – statues of young women in draped clothing and elaborate braids. The museum’s crowning glory is the top-floor Parthenon Gallery, a glass atrium housing the temple’s 160m-long frieze depicting the Panathenaic Procession, starting at the southwest corner. Interspersed between the golden-hued originals are stark-white plaster replicas of the missing pieces.
Historic Center Of Athens
The Agora was Athens’ heart, the hub of administrative, commercial, political and social activity. Socrates expounded his philosophy here; in AD 49 St Paul came here to win converts to Christianity. The site today is a lush respite, home to the grand Temple of Hephaistos, a good museum and the 11th-century Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles.
Temple of Olympian Zeus, a can’t-miss on two counts: it’s a marvelous temple, once the largest in Greece, and it’s smack in the center of Athens. Of the temple’s 104 original Corinthian columns (17m high with a base diameter of 1.7m), only 15 remain.
Cape Sounion, a strategic point rising above the Aegean sea, was known by Ancient Greeks as the “Sacred Cape.” On top of this 60 meter cliff stands one of the most important sanctuaries in the region, the temple dedicated to Poseidon, God of the Sea.
The Golden Mask and Lion Gate
Ancient Mycenae is synonymous with Homer and Schliemann. Homer told in his epic poems, ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’, of ‘well-built Mycenae, rich in gold’ The city was first settled in the Neolithic period. It came to prominence in the late Bronze Age, from about 1600 BC. Mycenae consisted of a fortified citadel and surrounding settlement, at its height from 1450 to 1200 BC. Legend has it that Perseus enlisted the help of a Cyclops, one of the one-eyed giants described in the Odyssey, to build the city. The Golden Mask of Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae: The Mask of Agamemnon is an artifact discovered in Mycenae in 1876 by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. This mask is made of gold and is a funeral mask found over the face of a dead body in a burial place at Mycenae.