Athens: The Birthplace of Freedom
Athens is recognised as a global city because of its geo-strategic location and its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, culture, education and tourism. It is one of the biggest economic centres in southeastern Europe, with a large financial sector, and features the largest passenger port in Europe, and the third largest in the world. The municipality (City) of Athens had a population of 664,046 (in 2011, 796,442 in 2004) within its administrative limits, and a land area of 39 km2 (15 sq mi). The urban area of Athens (Greater Athens and Greater Piraeus) extends beyond its administrative municipal city limits, with a population of 3,090,508 (in 2011) over an area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi). According to Eurostat in 2004, the Athens Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) was the 7th most populous LUZ in the European Union (the 5th most populous capital city of the EU), with a population of 4,013,368. Athens is also the southernmost capital on the European mainland.
The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of Ottoman monuments.
Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery. Landmarks of the modern era, dating back to the establishment of Athens as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1834, include the Hellenic Parliament (19th century) and the Athens Trilogy, consisting of the National Library of Greece, the Athens University and the Academy of Athens. Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896, and 108 years later it welcomed home the 2004 Summer Olympics. Athens is home to the National Archeological Museum, featuring the world's largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, as well as the new Acropolis Museum.
HISTORY OF ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY:
The type of democracy practiced in Athens of the fifth and fourth centuries may not have been perfect. But it was the best government up to that time and superior to what most of the ancient world was living under. Much of the credit goes to Cleisthenes whose reforms turned Athens from an oligarchy (government by the few) to a democracy (government of the people).
The key to Athenian democracy was Cleithenes redrawing of the social-political landscape of Athens and Attica. The four existing tribes were replaced by ten new tribes (phylae) each split into thirds (trittyes). Each of these thirds were located in one of the three areas of Attica which had been the way the city had been split up in the past. These were the center of the city, the coast and the area beyond the hills. Then these trittyes were broken up in 140 demes (municipalities) of varying sizes. A way to imagine this is to think about when you were in class and the teacher re-arranged the seating so that you and your pals would not be sitting together and distracting each other and the rest of the class. This helped you focus on school, kept you and your friends from causing trouble (or over-throwing the teacher) and helped you make new friends.
The Assembly or ecclesia was open to all male citizens and met four times a month which with ten months in the Athenian calendar came out to forty times a year. Important decisions on foreign policy and legislative issues were debated and the final decision or proclamation was carved in stone and erected in prominent places in the city like the agora (marketplace). Since there were thousands of people involved, the assembly could get pretty noisy and unruly. Though anyone could address it, only the best speakers had the courage (or the vocal ability) to do so. Once a year they would vote on whether to hold what was called an ostracism. If it was agreed, members of the assembly wrote the name of the person they wanted banished on a piece of pottery. The person with the most votes was exiled from Athens for ten years. He did not lose his property or his rights as a citizen and after ten years he was welcome back. The first to be ostracized were the friends and relatives of the tyrant Pisistratus. Despite it being one of the most talked about practices in Athenian democracy there were only a dozen people who were ostracized though among them are Aristeides, Kimon, Themistokles, Thucydides, Alcibiades and Hyperbolus, who was the last person to be ostracised. But it achieved its purpose since fear of banishment kept those with lofty aspirations from being too aggressive.
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