Historical Archaeological Sites of Athens

Gate of Athena Archegetis, located in the Roman Forum of Athens. Beyond: the Acropolis of Athens.

The ancient city-state of Athens during its classical period was a bustling center of the arts and the birthplace of Western philosophy. Socrates kept himself busy corrupting the youth by inspiring them to think and discuss methodically; Plato’s dialogues expounded on his experiences with Socrates and his Academy shaped the minds of great thinkers, such as Aristotle, who organized and categorized topics ranging from logic, rhetoric and politics to the physical sciences, the arts and ethics. At the same time, great dramatists, such as, Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles commanded the stage, while the written word of the poet Simonides and the historians, Herodotus, Xenophon and Thucydides have been invaluable in the documenting of Greek history and culture. Additionally, great sculptors, such as Pheidias, designed some of the great public works shown in this photo album.

The following photos of archeological sites were taken in Athens in late November 2009 and range from the Archaic period to Roman Greece (one structure, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, actually commenced during the Archaic period and was not completed until after Rome had conquered Greece!).

Gate of Athena Archegetis at sunset.

The Temple of the Olympian Zeus originally began construction during the reign of the tyrants, brothers Hippias and Hipparchos, circa 520 BCE. The tyranny was overthrown soon after and an Athenian democracy prevailed and the temple left unfinished until the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE, amidst the ruling of various Roman emperors. Due to the hubris nature of the monument, the Athenians left it as it was in order to focus on more practical structures and monuments. Aristotle wrote in his Politics that tyrannies sponsored such haughty structures in order to engage the general populace and leave them no time, energy or means to rebel. Hadrian completed the project nearly 650 years after its initial commencement.

Landscape featuring the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

View of the remains of the open-air Theatre of Dionysus from the base of the Acropolis, surrounded by modern Athens. What is seen today is the redesigned Roman version by emperor Nero. However, the spirit of Euripides and Aeschylus are in the air!

View of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus from atop the Acropolis. Used as a concert venue, the structure was built in 161 CE.

Currently being restored, the Parthenon, built between 447 and 432 BCE, served as a treasury in honor of the protector of Athens and Greek goddess, Athena.

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Mt. Lycabettus

View from Mt. Lycabettus. In the background is Galatsi Hill. The strip of green to the left is Areos Park, with Neapoli in the foreground.

According to Apollodorus, an ancient Greek historian, the goddess Athena paid a visit to Hephaestus, the artisan god, and requested he forge some weapons for her. Mesmerized with desire, Hephaestus could not help himself, and attempted to rape a defiant Athena. In their struggles, he managed to ejaculate onto her thigh and Athena, in repulsion, quickly wiped it away, impregnating Gaia (“Mother Earth”). The unwanted boy and future king was given to Athena; she named him Erichthonius (“troubles from the earth”) and placed him in a basket and forbade all to ever open it.

Soon after, in order to augment the flat-topped Acropolis of Athens-and to help defend the city-Athena broke off a piece of Mount Pentéli and carried it roughly seventeen kilometers southwest before dropping what would be Mount Lycabettus, in a fit of rage, upon learning the basket carrying the illegitimate son of Gaia had been opened, despite her wishes.

Perhaps named after the wolves of ancient Athens who sought refuge amongst the barren landscape, towering 277 meters above sea level, the hill, now forested, offers spectacular views of modern Athens, the Port of Piraeus along the Saronic Gulf, and the northeastern Peloponnesos.

Although I didn’t make the hike until my second full day in Athens, Mount Lycabettus is probably the best introduction to Athens I can think of. Though difficult to see in my pictures, many of the ancient architectural and modern day landmarks I saw during my stay, I could map out simply by looking out from the hill. The following pictures from my 2009 trip to Athens demonstrate these views-many of them amongst a sunlit backdrop.

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