Athens, the city of Gods, is where many myths and Greek mythological legends were born. Here are some of them as we are walking through the remains of that ancient world. Here is a guide on how to wander in Athens and relive the Greek Mythology stories in 2 days.
The name Athens is coming from Athena, the goddess of wisdom, intelligent activity, arts, and literature. Athena was the daughter of Zeus, she came out of Zeus‘ forehead. She became the city’s patron goddess after winning a contest against Poseidon. The victory came to the one who will offer the best gifts to the Athenians and Athena with her offering of the olive tree, a symbol of prosperity and peace, won and became the patron goddess.
Day 1: Objective Acropolis
Practical advice: get a 2-day pass at one of the sites that will allow you to go to all the must-see archeological sites without having to wait in line and pay for each separately. And of course, it does come out cheaper as well.
Start your day at Syntagma Square where, every hour, you can witness the change of Evzones, a special unit of the Hellenic Army, in front of the parliament. Their old fashion guard outfit is what makes those guards unique. Other info, they are doing this for free. It is a service to the nation.
Behind the square, you have Athens beautiful and peaceful National Garden. It is a Greek heaven in a middle of a busy city. Take a morning walk through the park and when you get out from the opposite side you will found yourself in front of The Panathenaic Stadium.
Athens National Garden
Athens National Garden
The Panathenaic Stadium, which means “beautiful marble”, was built by Herodes. The stadium steps and seats are indeed made out of marble. It held the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and the latest one in Greece in 2004. Today, you can visit it and take a seat where the emperors used to seat. I will talk later on about Herodes, as he has other monuments dedicated to him.
Next stop, The Temple of Zeus. Tall columns and ambitious layout, the temple of Olympian Zeus reflected the height of the god of the sky and ruler of the Olympian gods. The ruins are still impressive. You can take a close look at the Doric Column, a vertical fluted column shaft, thinner at its top, with no base and a simple capital below a square abacus. It is one of the marks of Greek Architecture. The Temple was built over several centuries starting in 174 BCE and only finally completed by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 131 CE.
Temple of Zeus
Temple of Zeus
Hadrian was a Roman emperor from 117 to 138. As an admirer of Greece, he wanted to make Athens the cultural capital of the Empire. Between 124 and 132 CE a monumental arch, 59ft high, Hadrian’s Arch, was built by the entrance of the temple of Zeus, in honor of his many benefactions to the city.
From there, head to the Acropolis Museum. How amazing it is to visit a museum and have under your feet the ruins of an ancient world. The museum is filled with the ancient history statues.
Take a Break: The small streets around the museum will lead you to Plaka, where you can have lunch or do some souvenirs shopping.
You can finish the day by going to the Acropolis. Start from the bottom and make your way to The Parthenon. You will pass by:
Dionysus is the god of the grape harvest, wine, and theater in ancient Greek religion and myth. The Theater of Dionysus in Acropolis was built at the time when ‘drama’ or ‘theater’ was first being created in the late 6th Century BCE. The plays were performed during the Dionysiac festivals, as part of the cult celebrations of Dionysus.
Herodes Atticus, the “patron of the arts and letters” built the amphitheater below the Parthenon in 161 AD in memory of his wife. It is one of the rare ancient constructions that is still used today; one of the best places to experience a live classical theater performance.
Asclepius, the God of Medicine as told in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, was a physician to soldiers wounded on the battlefield at Troy. By Hippocrates’ day, he had become elevated to the status of a god. His temple, on Acropolis, was a healing temple, a place where patients would visit to receive either treatment or some sort of healing, whether it was spiritual or physical.
The Parthenon, like all temples in Greece, was designed to be seen only from the outside; no need to step inside to see the statue of Athena it once housed. As you can notice, the Greeks loved marble. When you walk around the Parthenon you will realize the floor was in marble. The best marble came from the islands of Naxos or Paros.
The Temple of Athena built in Acropolis was to honor Athena Nike, the goddess of victory and Athens’ patron goddess.
Day 2: Agoras
The discovery of different Greek Gods and Goddesses continue with a visit from the Ancient Agora and The Roman Forum – Agora which means market-.
Take a Break: On your way there, you will pass by Monastiraki Square. It is a colorful square with a beautiful old church. You can head to the small streets from some flea market shopping or go towards the water for relaxing at one of the cafes.
Hadrian, he again ordered the construction of Hadrian’s Library that was created in AD 132 by the Ancient Agora.
Hephaestus was the Greek god of blacksmiths, sculptors, metallurgy, fire, and volcanoes, has his temple on top of the Roman Agora. There were numerous potters’ workshops and metal-working shops in the vicinity of the temple, as befits the temple’s honoree.
Ancient Agora with temple of Hephaistos
A stoa, another mark of Greek Architecture, is a long, narrow row of columns backed by a plain wall and roofed. It is often placed at right-angles to create an enclosed open space. The Stoa of Eumenes in the Roman Forum is the perfect example of it.
Last Mythology Story:
If you go towards the port of Athens, you can take the boats to go on the Aegean Sea. The city was also the starting point for the story of Aegeus and Theseus. Aegeus was the king of Athens; When the son of King Minos of Crete was killed, Minos waged war against Athens, emerging victorious. As punishment, Athens was forced to send young men and young women to Crete annually, in order to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, who dwelt in the labyrinth under the palace of Minos. At some point, though, Theseus, son of Aegeus, decided to go as part of the sacrifice, planning to kill the Minotaur. He was successful in his quest, but upon returning to Athens, he forgot to change his ship’s sails to white; when Aegeus saw the black sails, meaning that Theseus had died in the labyrinth, he fell into the sea, and drowned, giving his name to what now is called the Aegean Sea.