Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 34,000 years, and its earliest human presence started somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC. Many of Classical civilization’s intellectual and artistic ideas originated there, and the city is generally considered to be the birthplace of Western civilization.
Athens lies 5 miles (8 km) from the Bay of Phaleron, an inlet of the Aegean (Aigaíon) Sea where Piraeus (Piraiévs), the port of Athens, is situated, in a mountain-girt arid basin divided north-south by a line of hills. Greater Athens has an area of 165 square miles (427 square km). The Kifisós River, only a trickle in summer, flows through the western half; the Ilisós River, often dry, traverses the eastern half. The surrounding mountains—Párnis, 4,636 feet (1,413 meters); Pentelicus (Pendéli), 3,631 feet; Hymettos (Imittós), 3,365 feet; and Aigáleon, 1,535 feet—add to the impression of barrenness. Yet such considerations are superficial when compared with the fecundity of Athens’s bequests to the world, such as its philosophy, its architecture, its literature, and its political ideals.
Data and facts
- Athens hasn’t always been the capital of Greece. Athens is Greece’s second capital city. During and after the War of Independence, the capital of the new Greek State was Nafplio, 1821–1834.
- Athens is Europe’s oldest capital. Records show the city’s origins go back to around 3,400 years ago, also making it one of the oldest cities in the world.
- Athens is home to the first known democracy. Democracy was established in Athens around 500 B.C. It was based on a direct democracy system, in which eligible citizens directly voted on laws.
- The ancient Olympic games were never held in Athens. The first Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C. in Olympia, in Peloponnese, but the city-state of Athens also had its own games, called the Panathenaic Games, since 566 B.C.
- Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica that is often referred to as the Athens or Attica Basin.
- Athens has experienced almost every form of government. Having been inhabited for over 4,000 years, Athens has been submitted to nearly every form of government known to this day: monarchy, democracy, socialism, capitalism, even communism.
- The municipality (City) of Athens is the most populous in Greece, with a population of 664,046 people (in 2011) and an area of 38.96 km2 (15.04 sq mi), forming the core of the Athens Urban Area within the Attica Basin.
- The Athens Metro hid unexpected archaeological finds. During the construction of the Athens Metro to support transportation needs during the 2004 Olympic Games, the works led to the greatest archaeological excavation in the Athens area, and over 50,000 artifacts were excavated. Six Metro stations displayed some of the finds.
- The Hotel Grande Bretagne is the oldest hotel in the city. The magnificent Hotel Grande Bretagne, located in Syntagma Square, was used as a royal guesthouse in the 19th century, and it served as Nazi headquarters during the German occupation of Athens in World War II.
The Athens Urban Area today consists of 40 municipalities, 35 of which make up what is referred to as the Greater Athens municipalities, located within 4 regional units (North Athens, West Athens, Central Athens, South Athens); and a further 5, which make up the Greater Piraeus municipalities, located within the regional unit of Piraeus as mentioned above. The densely built-up urban area of the Greek capital sprawls across 412 km2 (159 sq mi) throughout the Attica Basin and has a total population of 3,074,160 (in 2011).
Athens is the financial capital of Greece. According to data from 2014, Athens as a metropolitan economic area, produced 130 billion US-dollars as GDP in PPP, which consists of nearly half of the production for the whole country. In the list with the strongest economic metropoles of the world, Athens was ranked that year 102nd, while the GDP per capita for the same year was 32,000 US-dollars. Athens is one of the major economic centers in south-eastern Europe and is considered as a regional economic power in Europe generally. The port of Piraeus, where big investments by COSCO have already been delivered during the recent decade, the completion of the new Cargo Centre in Thriasion, the expansion of the Athens Metro and the Athens Tram, as well as the projected metropolitan park in Elliniko and other economic projects, are the economic landmarks of the upcoming years.
Athens is a modern dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis, where people work during the day and have lots of fun at night! Therefore everything must be efficient and up to date, as required by the inhabitants themselves. The Athenians are very demanding and critical of their own city from which they want everything, from a convenient transport system to a wide shopping variety, from great business opportunities to fashionable and wild entertainment! Although the Athenians are very fond of using their own cars, the great local public transport revolution of recent years is gradually changing their minds. Not only has there been a total renewal of the bus, metro and tram systems, but many kilometers of preferential lanes have been built along with tens of kilometers of new lines (tram, metro, and urban rail) for rail transport as a result of its great success. Athens houses more than half of the Greek population, nearly all the economy of the country, all the business and all the important cultural and sports events. This is why there are so many infrastructures that are often advanced even for the high European standards. Let's get to know them better.
For much of its history, Athens was either preparing for war, at war, or recovering from war. But in the window between the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, from 454 to 430 B.C., the city was at peace, and it flourished. The Athenians were “not very numerous, not very powerful, not very organized,” as the classicist Humphrey Kito noted, but they nevertheless “had a totally new conception of what human life was for, and showed for the first time what the human mind was for.” Like Silicon Valley today, ancient Athens during this brief period became a talent magnet, attracting smart, ambitious people. A city with a population equivalent to that of Wichita, Kansas, it was an unlikely candidate for greatness: Other Greek city-states were larger (Syracuse) or wealthier (Corinth) or mightier (Sparta). Yet Athens produced more brilliant minds—from Socrates to Aristotle—than any other place the world has seen before or since. Only Renaissance Florence came close.