Athens, Greece: Syntagma Square, Pláka, Acropolis
Traveling to Greece
While living and working in Stockholm, Sweden several years ago, my boyfriend and I went on a 10-day vacation to Greece. We split our time between the islands in the Cycladic archipelago and Athens, the capital of Greece since 1854. While in Athens, we went on a day trip to central Greece to view the site of the Oracle of Delphi.
Visiting Athens, Birthplace of European Civilization
Athens, the birthplace of European civilization, has been inhabited for more than 7000 years. An entire book would be needed in order to tell you all there is to know about Athens.
I’m going to concentrate on just three areas of the city — Syntagma Square, Pláka, and the Acropolis. Syntagma Square and the Pláka area are very close to each other.
We walked from our Pláka hotel to the Acropolis, but some people staying in this area might prefer to take a taxi.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Syntagma (Constitution) Square
When we were in Athens, we stayed a short walk from Syntagma (Constitution) Square. Syntagma is both the city’s transportation hub and its most important square.
The Hellenic (Greek) Parliament Building is located on the square’s eastern side. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is at the building’s base.
The building and the tomb are guarded by soldiers wearing the most unusual uniforms I have ever seen. The soldiers, whose average height is around 6’3’’, are called evzones.
Their uniform consists of kilts and shiny black shoes with a very large pompom in the front.
Tower of the Winds
Pláka is the oldest continually inhabited area of Athens. The name of this section of the city comes from the Albanian word pliaka—old. It was used by Albanian soldiers in the service of the Turks who settled in Athens in the 16th century to describe the area.
The marble Tower of the Winds, in the far western section of Pláka, is on the grounds of the Roman Agora. It was built by Syrian astronomer Andronikos Kyrrestes in the second century BC as a weather vane and water clock.
One of the eight mythologcial winds is depicted on each of the sides of the octogon-shaped tower. My boyfriend was especially interested is seeing the tower since one of his master's degrees is in astronomy.
Theater of Herodes Atticus
Pericles (495-429 BC) was an Athenian statesman, orator, and general who persuaded the people of Athens to begin a huge building project.
Financed by Pericles' own money, a rock in Athens known as the Acropolis became a showcase of the political and cultural achievements in Greece.
Three temples were built on the top of the rock—the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike. Two theaters were built at the base—the Theater of Herodes Atticus and the Theater of Dionysos.
For as long as I can remember, I had seen photographs of the Parthenon. I found it difficult to comprehend that one September morning several years ago, we were standing on the Acropolis rock gazing at this magnificent structure.
Pericles commissioned the building of the Parthenon as part of his Athens redevelopment plan. He wanted the sculptor Pheidias to supervise the building of a Doric temple to Athena, the patron goddess of the city. The building of the Parthenon was begun in 447 BC and was completed nine years later. The temple was dedicated in 438 BC at the Great Panathenaia festival.
A photograph of the Parthenon is at the beginning of this article. Other images can be seen in the video.
What is a Caryatid?
A caryatid is a sculpted, draped figure of a woman used in place of a column in a structure. The most famous caryatids are those created for the Erechtheoin, but they're not the only examples. The figures can be found in other parts of Greece and in Rome, Italy.
The Erechtheion, an Ionic temple built between 421 BC and 406 BC, was named in honor of Erechtheus, a mythical Athenian king. The Erechtheion was used by several cults as a place of worship, and at one time was used as a church.
The temple has three porches. One of these is very recognizable Porch of the Caryatids. There were originally six sculptures. One of the carytids was removed from the Erechtheion in the early part of the 19th century by Lord Elgin. It is now displayed in the British Museum in London, England. The five other carytids are in the Acropolis Museum. Casts of the five statues were made. The replicas stand in the place of the originals at the temple. The pedestal on which the sixth caryatid stood remains empty.