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Recapturing the ancient spirit of Athens

Posted in Ancient History, Travel on Thursday, 29 September 2011

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This edited article about Athens originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 828 published on 26 November 1977.

Acropolis, picture, image, illustration

The Acropolis in the Fifth Century by Pat Nicolle

On the surface modern Athens seems not unlike any other small city. Large ugly buildings, shops selling shoddy gifts for the undiscriminating tourists, noisy cafes and restaurants, too many shabby streets and too many cars, all this makes up a part of the Athens of today.

But there is another Athens which time and the march of so-called progress has not managed to destroy. We refer, of course, to Ancient Athens, the home of democracy and the cradle of a culture which has excited the world for centuries. Its supreme memorial is the Parthenon, or Temple of Athena on the Acropolis, the original site of the city, now dominating modern Athens from above the slopes of Lykavitos. There the height of any building is limited to two storeys, so that the magnificence of the Parthenon, and of other ancient buildings on the Acropolis, is not obscured.

The true Athens is to be found in its historic monuments and antiquities, in the ancient streets of the Plaka, full of tavernas and tourists, but still retaining something which is essentially Athenian, and at the busy and often chaotic port of Piraeus, the birthplace of Athenian commerce, visited by ships from all over the world. All these make Athens a city quite unlike any other.

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