Ancient Cities

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ATHENS
Athens is the capital of the Greek state and was the most important city of ancient Greece. It reached the zenith of its glory during the 5th century B.C., often referred to as the “Golden Age”, by displaying an immense and astounding role as the founder of a great civilization, mainly due to the highly gifted political personality of Pericles.
He was the first to establish the Athenian Democracy that became a symbol and has been admired throughout the centuries. Pericles endowed mankind with a magnificent system of government based on freedom and human dignity in which “the demos (people) was the most powerful,” according to Aristotle.
At the same time, Pericles adorned Athens with brilliant architectural monuments erected on the sacred rock of the Acropolis.
The Parthenon (447-438 B.C.), the most illustrious architectural creation of all time and the most perfect expression of the classical art prevailing in Pericles’ era. It was a Doric temple dedicated to the goddess Athina and built by the architects Iktinos and Kallikrates of white marble from Pendeli. The Parthenon housed a gold and ivory statue of Athina, a work by the famous sculptor Pheidias who also created the sculptures on the friezes of the temple.
The Propylea (437-432 B.C.), the glorious entrance to the Acropolis and its monuments, were constructed by the Athenian architect Mnisikles. They are some of the most magnificent masterpieces of Greek classical architecture.
The Temple of Athena Nike (Apteros Nike = Wingless Victory) built in about 420 B.C. is a masterpiece of Ionian architectural style erected after the plans of Kallikrates to commemorate the victories of the Greeks over the Persians.
The Erechtheion (420-406 B.C.) is an elegant and gracious temple of Ionian style, dedicated to Athina Polias and King Erechtheus. It was ornamented with six Caryatids, statues of most beautiful and elegant maidens, supporting the roof of the south porch.
The Acropolis of Athens constitutes the symbol, the glory and the pride of its city throughout the millennia. In spite of the countless incursions and attacks it has suffered, it raises the majesty of its marbles on top of the sacred rock to link its sublime ancient civilization to its modern one.
Priceless finds from excavations on the Acropolis, with sculptures from the Parthenon and other temples are housed in the Acropolis Museum that was erected in 1878. It is a unique museum where one can become acquainted with the origins of Attic art.

 

ELEUSIS
A city-state of ancient Greece, this town was named after the “eleusis” (which means “arrival” in ancient Greek) of the goddess Demeter’s who came here looking for her lost daughter Persephone.
To honor Demeter and Persephone, secret “Eleusinian Mystery” ceremonies were held.
Eleusina is the hometown of the most illustrious tragic poet of ancient Greece and of all time, Aeschylus (525 B.C.)
The city occupied a very important place in history, as for many centuries, it has been, along with Delphi and Delos one of the greatest cultural centers of the ancient world. Important ruins of Demeter’s sanctuary, known under the name of great Telestirion where the ceremonies of initiation in the Eleusinian Mysteries were held, can be seen today. A museum houses the numerous archeological finds from the area.
Today, Eleusina is a constantly developing industrialized town.

 

MEGARA
As far back as the 8th Century B.C., glorious Megara was a powerful and autonomous city in Ancient Greece. Her seafaring people founded very important colonies in Sicily, by the Marmara and Black Seas and the famous Byzance (today, Constantinople) on the coast of the Bosporus during the 6th and 7th centuries B.C.
The welfare and prosperity of Megara were mainly due to the trade between the metropolis and its rich colonies. Its great wealth exerted a cultural influence on its inhabitants and inspired very important personalities in the field of arts and letters: the philosopher Euclid (450 - 374 B.C.), founder of the Megara philosophy, his disciple, Stilpon, the great architect Eupalinos, the famous elegaic poet, Theognis, as well as large number of sculptors and other poets. Megara is considered the hometown of comedy because its inhabitants were famous for their high-spirited nature and the satirical improvisations.
The ancient city, along with its multitude of magnificent monuments, is amply described in Pausanias’ works about travelling. The most remarkable landmarks were Theaghnis’ Fountain and the aqueduct which supplied the water, the majestic Temple of Zeus with a statue of the god of gods, the Temple of Artemis containing a statue of the goddess along with statues of the twelve gods of Olympus made by Ptaxiteles, the Temple of Athina on the city’s Acropolis with a gold plated statue of the goddess, the Temples of Dionyssos, Isis and Apollo and a vast number of other temples and sanctuaries dedicated to various deities.
There is a celebrated dance in Megara called “Trata” which is performed by young girls wearing beautiful, gold-worked traditional costumes and reminiscent of the ancient dance of veiled virgins. It takes place every year on the Tuesday following Easter Sunday and attracts large numbers of visitors. It is worth mentioning that the young girls of Megara are famous for their beauty, their stature and their Dorian profile.

 


ANCIENT CORINTH
Ancient Corinth was one of the most illustrious cities of ancient times and one of the first cradles of art.The city, built at the foot of Akrokorinth, had become extremely rich and was ornamented with magnificent monuments and buildings, among which dominated the temple of Apollo and the Agora. The greatly prized Corinthian vases and idols were created in the city and painting and poetry flourished. A new style in the architecture of columns was elaborated, the Corinthian style.
The city was looted and burned down by the Romans in 146 B.C. and for one hundred years the “lumen totius Graeciae” (the light of all Greece, according to Cicero) was put out. It was reconstructed in 46 A.D. by Julius Caesar and rapidly developed. In 52 A.D. the Apostle Paul founded a church. He addressed two Epistles to the church and its members.
The modern city of Corinth, built 8 km from Ancient Corinth, is one of the major urban centers of the Peloponnese.

 


ANCIENT NEMEA
Ancient Nemea was a renowned city of ancient times because of the great Panhellenic Games, called “ NEMEA ”, held there every two years, and also because of the famous Temple of Zeus of the 4th B.C., one of the most venerated sanctuaries in Ancient Greece. Ruins of the temple can still be seen today. Ancient Nemea was also involved in one of Hercules’ labors that killed the Nemea Lion.
Ancient Nemea is today a picturesque village and the small town of modern Nemea is a short distance from there and well known for its wines produced from the vineyards of the region. 

 

 

TEGEA
A very important ancient city in the Peloponnese, where the goddesses Alea and Athina were worshipped. In their honor, the temple of Alea Athina, one of the most famous temples of ancient times was erected. It was decorated with a statue of the goddess made by the great sculptor Skopas. There were also magnificent buildings in the city, a stadium, a gymnasium and an all-marble theater. Tegea had its own currency and was the hometown of many writers, historians and lyric poets.
A remarkable archaeological museum displays various sculptures by Skopas along with many important finds from the surrounding area.

 

  

SPARTA
The history of Sparta goes back to very ancient times, as excavations have revealed that the area was inhabited since the end of the Neolithic period.
The ruins of ancient Sparta lie 500 m from the modern town. The Acropolis of the town, the “Tomb of Leonidas”, the ruins of the temple of Halkioikos Athina and the temple of Orthia Artemis, those of a theater of the 2nd century B.C. and a 10th century Christian church can be seen.
Sparta dominated the entire Peloponnese as an aristocratic, oligarchic and military state.
Legislator Lykourgos was considered the person who established the military and Doric regime of Sparta by separating its citizens into three classes: the “Spartans” who were descendants of the Dorian conquerors and were rich landowners with full civil rights, the “Perioiki” who were local people allowed to live only in the surrounding area and permitted to join Sparta’s army, and the “ilotes” who were the Spartans’ slaves with no civil rights.
Sparta’ s history during ancient times Sparta was troubled and marked by conquests, great victories and defeats and very powerful alliances. Generally, Sparta has played a primordial role in Greek history.
Modern Sparta, the capital of Lakonia, is an administrative center and also the industrial, agricultural and trades center of the fertile Evrotas valley with its extremely rich crops of citrus fruit and olive oil of superior quality. The city has a remarkable urban layout with attractive architecture and an important archaeological museum containing a great number of sculptures, idols, amphorae, statuettes, etc.
Sparta is surrounded by a luxurious, evergreen panorama of astonishing beauty protected by two majestic mountains, the Parnonas to the east and the Taygetus to the west.

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Described as the world's most grueling race, the Spartathlon runs over rough tracks and muddy paths (often it rains during the race), crosses vineyards and olive groves, climbs steep hillsides and, most challenging of all, takes the runners on the 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night.
This is the mountain, covered with rocks and bushes, on which it is said Pheidippides met the god Pan.

Spartathlon is the event that brings this deed to attention today by drawing a legend out of the depths of history. The idea for its creation is belongs to John Foden, a British RAF Wing Commander. As a lover of Greece and student of ancient Greek history, Foden stopped his reading of Herodotus' narration regarding Pheidippides, puzzled and wondering if a modern man could cover the distance from Athens to Sparta, i.e. 250 kms, within 36 hours.

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