Athens; Parthenon

Athens city break: To the cradle of Western civilization

A European city with six thousand years of history The second half of the 5th century BC is the high classical period of ancient Greek culture. After their victories in Marathon, Salamis and Plataea against the Persians, the Hellenes keep participating at the Olympic Games, where the winner was crowned with a simple olive wreath, and traveling to the Oracle of Delphi, to ask Apollo about the future. In Athens, the intellectual and cultural center of Hellas, democracy blooms. Pericles, the most prominent statesman of the city, orders the construction of the Parthenon and the other monuments of the Acropolis. Phidias adorns these temples with his sculptures. The great Tragedians of classical Greece take the old myths as an occasion to deal with existential questions, and their tragedies are performed during the dramatic competitions in honor of the wine God Dionysus. Hippocrates elevates the ancient healing practices to scientific medicine. The Sophists declare man is the “measure of all things” and Socrates asks him to recognize himself. In such an environment lives Plato in his youth. The foundations of Western civilization are laid. Romans, Christians and Turks came later. The classical past was ousted, and Athens sank into insignificance. When Modern Greece was established, the young prince Otto of Bavaria was elected king, and Athens was chosen as its capital. At the end of the same century, the first modern Olympic Games took place here. After a difficult 20th century (Balkan Wars, World War I, Asia Minor Catastrophe, World War II, Civil War, Dictatorship), Athens is today a big modern city; with a new face, and it successfully organized the Olympic Games of 2004. Despite recent economic crisis, the great city remains a must-do for every traveler interested in classical culture. It is really beautiful to walk along the cobblestone promenade beneath the Acropolis, then watch from the Philopappos Hill the Parthenon in the last daylight; or take the tram till the coast of the Saronic Gulf to enjoy sunset from the waterfront promenade.
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