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  Wikipedia: Athens

Wikipedia: Athens
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

For alternate meanings see: Athens (disambiguation)

Athens (Greek Athina or Αθήνα) is the capital of Greece, and also the capital of the Attica region of Greece. In addition to being a modern city, Athens is also famous for being a powerful city-state and a very important center of learning in ancient times.

In Ancient Greek Athens was called Athinai (Αθήναι), and in the 19th century this name was formally re-adopted as the city's name. Since the official abandonment of Katharevousa Greek in the 1970s, however, the popular form Athina has become the city's official name.

Location and setting

With its suburbs, Athens has a population of about 3.7 million, or more than a third of the total population of Greece. Athens has grown rapidly in recent years and suffers from overcrowding, traffic congestion and air pollution.

Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica, which is bound by mount Aegaleo on the west, mount Parnitha on the north, mount Penteli to the northeast, mount Hymettus on the east, and the Saronic Gulf on the south-west. Athens has expanded to cover the entire plain, and is thus unlikely to grow significantly in area in the future, because of the natural boundaries. The geomorphology of Athens frequently causes temperature inversion phenomena partly responsible for its air pollution problem (Los Angeles has similar geomorphology and similar problems).

The land is rocky and of marginal fertility. The ancient site of the city is centered on the rocky hill of the Acropolis. In ancient times the port of Piraeus (modern name Pireas) was a separate city, but it has now been absorbed into greater Athens.

The centre of the modern city is at Syntagma Square (Constitution Square), site of the former Royal Palace, the Greek Parliament and other 19th century public buildings. Most of the older and wealthier parts of the city and clustered around this area, which is also where most of the tourist attractions and museums are. The newer parts of the city are mostly constructed from grey concrete and suffer from a lack of parks and amenities.

Athens will host the 2004 Summer Olympics. Athens was also the host of the 1896 Olympics and of the 1906 Intermediary Olympics.

The old campus of the University of Athens, on Panepistimiou Avenue is one of the finest buildings in Athens, together with the National Library building and the Athens Academy building. These three form the so called Athens Trilogy, built in late 19th century. However most of the university's functions have been moved at a larger modern campus east of the city centre near Zográfou. Another university is the Athens Polytechnic School (Ethniko Metsovio Politechnio), where 24 students were killed in 1973 during demonstrations against the Greek military regime.


Main article: History of Athens

The Athenian coat of arms,
showing the goddess Athena

Athens was the leading city in Greece during the greatest period of Greek civilisation during the 1st millennium BC. During the "Golden Age" of Greece (roughly 500 BC to 300 BC) it was the Western world's leading cultural and intellectual centre, and indeed it is in the ideas and practices of Ancient Athens that what we now call "Western civilisation" has its origins. After its days of greatness, Athens continued to be a prosperous city and a centre of learning until the late Roman period.

The schools of philosophy, however, were closed in 529 after the Byzantine Empire converted to Christianity. Athens lost a great deal of status and became a provincial town. Between the 13th and 15th centuries the city was fought over by the Byzantines and the French and Italian knights of the Latin Empire. In 1458 the city fell to the Ottoman Empire and the city's population went into decline and conditions worsened as the Ottoman Empire declined as well. Parts of the city (including many of its older buildings) were destroyed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as different factions tried to control the city.

The city was virtually uninhabited by the time it was made the capital of the newly established kingdom of Greece in 1833. During the next few decades the city was rebuilt into a modern city. The next large expansion occurred in the 1920s when suburbs were created to house Greek refugees from Asia Minor. During World War II the city was occupied by Germany and fared badly in the war's later years. After the war the city started to grow again.

Greek entry into the European Union in 1981 brought new investment to the city along with problems of congestion and air pollution.


The public transport system in Athens consists of bus and metro service. A tram system is also under construction and is expected to begin service in June 2004.

The Athens Metro is one of the most modern systems in the world. It has three lines which are distinguished by the colours used in maps and signs. The green line, which is the oldest and for the most part runs on the ground, connects Piraeus to Kifissia. The other two lines were constructed mainly during the 1990s and were put to service in around 1998. They run entirely underground. The blue line goes from Monastiraki to Papagou, and the red line from Dafni to Sepolia. Extensions to both lines are under construction.

The bus service consists of a network of lines on which normal busses electric busses and natural gas buses run. Busses are frequently crammed with people and there are also complaints about the frequency of the service.

The tram will go from near Syntagma Square to Palaio Faliro and from there the line will be split in two branches, going to Glyfada and Piraeus. Only Syntagma - Palaio Faliro - Piraeus will be completed in 2004; the Glyfada branch is scheduled for later.

There are many taxis in Athens, which complement the saturated bus service. They are quite cheap, but in rush hours it is considered normal to halt a taxi even when it is on service (although, strictly speaking, this is forbidden); in that case, if the one halting it happens to go to the same direction as the customer, they are also allowed in, and each one pays normally as if they were the only customer.

Athens is served by the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport at Spata east of the city, about a 40-minute taxi ride from the city centre. There is also an express line connecting the airport to the metro system and 2 express lines connecting the airport to Pireus port and the city centre. Athens is also the hub of the Greek railway system, and ferries from Piraeus travel to all parts of the country.

There are two motorways that go to the west towards Patra (GR-8A, E94) and to the north towards Thessaloniki (GR-1, E75), and a ring motorway (Attiki Odos) which goes from Elefsina on the west to the airport after circling the city from the north, and another from Kaisariani to Glyke Nera where it meets the main road for Eleusis and the airport Its total length is now about 70 km in 2004 up from 18 km in March 2001 when it first opened. There are about 21 exits and 4 junctions, up from 8.

Many of the transportation infrastructure works, especially the tram, the ongoing expansion of the metro, and Attiki Odos, have been rushed in order to be ready for the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Local government

The modern city of Athens consists of what were formerly distinct towns and villages which gradually expanded to form a single large city; this expansion occurred in the 20th century. The city is now divided into 54 municipalities, the largest of which is the Municipality of Athens or Dimos Athinaion, with about one million people (the second largest is Piraeus). Athens can thus refer either to the entire city (also called greater Athens) or to the Municipality of Athens, or even to downtown Athens. Each of the municipalities of Athens has an elected city council and a directly elected mayor. Dora Bakoyannis of the conservative New Democracy party has been Mayor of Athens (that is, of the Municipality of Athens) since October 2002. She is the first woman to be Mayor of Athens.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona