20 Interesting Facts About Athens – The Immemorial Capital of Greece

A charming city located in the sunny Mediterranean, Athens is genuinely one of the most mesmerizing cities in the world. The legacy of glorious history, Athens today stands as a modern cosmopolis coloured with classical ruins, scenic natural beauty, and vibrant culture.

Here are some interesting facts about Athens that will make you yearn to roam around and discover the secrets of this enchanting city.

1. Athens is the oldest capital of Europe

Athens is historic. It has a recorded history of at least 3000 years, and there is evidence pointing out that people have been inhabiting the city since late Neolithic times. This could mean that Athens is definitely well over 3000 years old, perhaps even 5000 years old!

2. Athens was named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom

Mythology explains that there was a famous contest between Athena and Poseidon to become the patron god of Athens. Poseidon created a saltwater spring for the Athenians. On the other hand, Athena offered the Athenians the olive tree. The king of Athens chose the olive tree and named the city after the goddess.

Athena Poseidon Dispute

3. Athens was ruled by kings until the 9th century BC

The most popular of these kings is the Greek hero Theseus, the slayer of the Minotaur.

4. Athens is the birthplace of democracy

Led by scholars and statesmen like Cleisthenes, Solon, Ephilates, and Eucleides, Athens developed one of the earliest democratic political systems in the world.

5. Ancient Greek philosophy thrived in classical Athens

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Speusippus are the names of just a few of the great philosophers and thinkers who lived and formulated their theories and ideas in the city, some of which are still influential in the modern day.

6. Two most prominent schools of philosophy and science in the ancient world were located in Athens

The Academy and the Lyceum, two of the most prominent schools of philosophy and science in the ancient world, founded by Plato and Aristotle, respectively, were located in the city of Athens.

The School of Athens

7. Classical Athens was the main centre where the traditions of Greek theatre flourished

The Dionysia, a massive theatrical festival, was held in Athens. It was here that many modern theatre concepts, such as the genres, the themes, and the terminology originated.

8. There are 150 theatre stages in Athens

The Athenian love for theatre has not changed to date! There are about 150 theatre stages in the city today. This is possibly more than any other city in the world.

9. Much of the modern Western culture has its roots in ancient Athens

The arts, the philosophies, the sciences, the architecture, and the political systems of the city, have all profoundly influenced the Western world. It is why Athens is sometimes rightly referred to as the 'cradle of Western Civilization.'

Herodes Atticus

10. The Parthenon of Athens was once a church and a mosque

Commissioned by Pericles and sculpted by Phidias, the Parthenon has endured a long and tumultuous history where it was looted, bombed, and repurposed into a church and a mosque!

11. National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the largest archaeological museum in Greece

The National Archaeological Museum is universally considered as one of the largest, greatest, and the richest collections of ancient Greek artifacts in the entire world.

12. It is a popular misconception that Athens is the birthplace of the Olympic Games

The city was actually the home of the Panathenaic Games, a similar multi-sports event in ancient Greece. The Olympics originated in the town of Olympia. Athens, however was the host of the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first international Olympic games held in modern times. It was mainly held in the Panathenaic Stadium, the gargantuan stadium where the Panathenaic Games of the old were held. 

Panathenaic Stadium Athens
Panathenaic Stadium

13. Another sporting system that has its roots in Athens is the Marathon

The name Marathon originates from a legend where the Greek messenger Pheidippides ran all the way from the town of Marathon to Athens to inform them about their victory. The modern athletic event is held in honor of this messenger and his run.

14. Athens is the seventh largest city in the European Union

It is also one of the biggest economic centers in the Mediterranean. 

15. Athens was the first European Capital of Culture

The legendary Greek actress, activist, and former Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, was born in the city of Athens. It was Mercouri who first proposed the European Capital of Culture initiative. Later on, Athens became the first city that was designated with this prestigious title in 1985.

16. Athens has the largest digital planetaria in the world

The Athens Eugenides Planetarium, located in the Palaio Faliro neighborhood, is one of the best and largest digital planetaria in the world. 

17. Athens houses the largest pipe organ in Greece

The Athens Concert Hall is one of the most popular music venues in the city. It holds the largest pipe organ in Greece, which has an impressive 6,080 pipes.

Athens Concert Hall at night

18. Athens was the World Book Capital

In 2018, UNESCO designated the city of Athens as a World Book Capital. Throughout the year, numerous book and reading-related activities were conducted in the city.

19. Athens has one of the busiest container ports in the world

Piraeus, a municipality within Athens, is the home to the Port of Piraeus, one of the largest and the most busiest passenger and container ports in both Europe and the entire world.

Piraeus Port

20. Athens metro had archaeological finds hidden underneath

When the tunnels for the Athens Metro were being constructed, several artefacts and archaeological structures were found underneath, shedding light on the city’s ancient topography. Today, these artefacts are on display at various metro stations around the city.

Maybe you are a history nerd, or maybe you like to bask in natural beauty. Perhaps you are someone who loves partaking in dynamic local cultures. Whatever type you are, Athens always promises you with an unforgettable experience.

This post was published by Sai Srujan Reddy

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