Big City Tales

Athens – The Birthplace of Democracy and Western Civilization | March 12, 2018

With its recorded history dating back several thousand years and its innumerable contributions to the arts, sports and culture, and philosophy and politics, the city of Athens, Greece is often referred to as the birthplace of democracy and cradle of Western civilization.  Whether you want to walk where Plato, Aristotle and Socrates trod or visit the site of the first-ever modern Olympic games, you’ll be taking a trip back in time through well-preserved ancient ruins and enduring ceremonial rituals.

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Acropolis of Athens

Located high above the city, the Acropolis of Athens is one of the world’s most famous citadels. In addition to ancient Athenians taking refuge on the Acropolis Hill during war times, they also congregated there to worship the Greek gods in temples such as the Parthenon and the Erechtheum.

The Parthenon is dedicated to Athena and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Greek architecture, particularly because of its Doric-style columns and elaborately carved and brightly painted statues. The columns surrounded the inner temple that was comprised of two chambers: one housed a large statue of Athena; the other contained an area for priests to utilize and safeguard the city’s treasury.

The Erechtheum is dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon and is noted for the Porch of the Caryatids (or Porch of the Maidens), a series of six draped female figures that were installed as supporting columns.

Other buildings of significance that form the Acropolis include the Propylaea, the monumental gateway, and the Temple of Athena Nike.

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Greek Parliament House

Moving from the ancient era to more recent times, the Greek Parliament building was built in the 1800s and was originally used as the palatial home of King Otto I, the first king of modern Greece. After the monarchy was abolished, the building was re-purposed for use first as a hospital and museum; later as the official house of the Greek parliament.

Located in Syntagma Square (formerly Palace Square), Parliament House is designed in the Neoclassical style and is situated by the National Gardens and Zappeion Gardens, two expansive green spaces. The gardens are popular gathering places because of their tall, shady trees and winding paths that provide a peaceful refuge.

In front of Parliament House is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that is guarded by Evzones, members of the presidential guard. The Evzones wear traditional attire, known as foustanella that consists of a pleated white skirt, white shirts with long sleeves, red pointed shoes with large pom-poms, and an embroidered vest. To mark the hourly changing of the guard, the Evzones kick their feet on the ground and in the air.

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