The Herodeion (also known as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus) is one of many venerable monuments and buildings, such as the theatre of Dionysus, that are located on the pedestrianised Dionysiou Areopagitou Street. The Herodeion was built around the mid 2nd century and is still in use to this day. It is a prestigious theatre which also doubles up as a venue for the Athens Festival during the summer.
It is said that the founding of Olympieion happened in the era of mythical Deucalion. Archaeological evidence of settlement at this site goes back to prehistory. There is evidence of people worshipping Zeus since early history. It is estimated that around 515 BC, building works on a huge temple were begun, but these failed to be completed when dictatorships fell in Athens. About 340 years later, in 174 BC, building works on the temple restarted. It was finally finished around 125 AD. The interior of the temple was dominated by a massive statue of Zeus embellished in ivory and gold. Excavations were carried out by E. Penrose, around the late 19th century, and again by G. Welter in the early 1920s. A number of sections of the sanctuary’s circuit wall were rebuilt over the years, and care was taken to ensure that the new work blended in with the ancient stonework. You can see portions of the original ancient wall at the north wing and at the south-east corner.
The National Historical Museum is the oldest museum of its kind in Greece. It has a host of many significant collections that document key periods in Neo-Hellenism. The artefacts in the museum document the practice of ancient Greek ideals from the fall of Constantinople in the 1400s up to more modern times. This museum also operates as a centre of research on Modern Greek History.
The Acropolis is quite a popular place to head for panoramic views of Athens. However, a lesser known, and equally good spot where you don’t have as much competition for photograph opportunities, is Lycabettus Hill. This huge chunk of limestone rock is just under 305 metres high and the upper half is floodlit after dark. On the summit is Agios Georgios. It is well worth the two minute funicular journey, as from here you can see as far as Mount Parnes, Piraeus and out over the Saronic Gulf. Enjoy the breathtaking sight while enjoying coffee or food in the café/restaurant.
The south slope of the Acropolis was where ancient Athenians came to create art, as well as to pray and give thanks to their gods. Around this slope you will find significant ancient structures such as the Sanctuary and Theatre of Dionysos, and the Odeions of Perikles and Herodes Atticus, amongst many others. Restorations and excavations are ongoing in the area, and have been for about the past 170 years or so.
The Pnyx, located on a hill to the west of the Acropolis, is where meetings of the Assembly of the Athenians were held in ancient times. Archaeological excavations have revealed that it existed in three stages. During the first stage, the hillside itself was the theatre’s cavea. In order to create an even surface, the limestone material was quarried and, on the north flank, builders constructed a straight retaining wall. During the second stage, this wall was made higher, and was in the shape of a semicircle. One approached the Pnyx through a pair of stairways that were just under 13 feet in width. During the third stage, the Pnyx was made larger, but retained the same general layout. It is estimated that around 88 BC, the Assembly of the Citizens began to gather instead at the theatre of Dionysus, thereby abandoning the Pnyx.
The Benaki Museum, located in Athens city centre, was established in 1930 and today is Greece’s biggest independent museum. It has a huge collection of Greek art (constantly being added to by way of either purchase or donation), whose development is told by the painting dating from prehistoric times right up to the present day. The Benaki Museum is also Greece’s oldest museum, housed in a restored neo-classical building. It came about because a man who was an ardent collector of Greek art wished to leave his treasures to the state. Through his legacy, he made a huge contribution to our understanding of Greek history and culture. Today, the museum is a Foundation under Private Law, promoting a love of Greek art.
Established in 1949, the Nautical Museum of Greece tells the story of Greece’s nautical past, starting at prehistory and continuing right up to present times. It does this through a series of nine rooms, containing model ships, paintings, weapons and much, much more. The library is also a fountain of information and research material, with a wealth of films, photographs and maps.
Iliou Melathron is the former home of a famous German archaeologist called Heinrich Schliemann. This mansion dates from the late 19th century and is surrounded on three sides by an expansive garden. The ground floor is almost shaped like a quadrangle, while the main house is dominated by a huge twin staircase. Ornamentation consists of wall paintings in the Pompeian style as well as other murals on the ceilings and walls. On the outside face of the house are rows of Ionian style columns. This is said by many to be one of Hernest Ziller’s best achievements in Renaissance design.
The National Technical University of Athens is the result of very generous donations and is an architectural masterpiece. The focus of the main building is a square atrium. The rest of the building grew up from this in perfect symmetry. Although it consists of only two floors, the ground floor is designed to look like a foundation. On the upper floor is an Ionic tetra style porch (in the atrium), that was inspired by the design of the north porch of the Erechtheum. One accesses the porch via the twin staircases. In the ground floor atrium is a Doric style colonnade – other similar colonnades with a dark reddish background can be found on the buildings to the side of the entranceway.