We had just arrived in Athens and one of the first things we did was visit the Acropolis to see what all the fuss was about. The Parthenon is the ancient temple in the center of Athens on a hill overlooking the whole city. It is the most prominent symbol of Greece, connecting the ancient with the modern. Originally Nafplio was the capital of Greece from 1829-1834, after which King Otto of Greece decided to move it to Athens. At the time, Athens had a population of roughly 4000 people. His decision to move it to Athens was fueled by his vision of creating a modern city around antiquity connecting the Greeks with their rich history. His vision was quickly realized and less than 200 years later Athens contains over 3 million inhabitants.
Today it makes for an interesting sight. There are buildings such as the Parthenon, which are thousands of years old and step a kilometer in any direction and you can find modern chic cafes, restaurants, and shops. Additionally, there are thousands of tourists per day trekking uphill through sweltering heat, often in the high 30s, in order to catch a glimpse of the ancient world.
Three things struck me during our visit. Firstly, the general wonder of being next to several structures that have survived through thousands of years of weather, war, and devastation and are considered symbols of western civilization. Secondly, the ancient being the center of a bustling metropolis demonstrated Greek culture’s survival and transition into modernity. Thirdly, the fact that tourism accounts for 18% of the Greek economy was made visible by the sheer amount of travelers around the acropolis. Although, physically challenging, the climb was well worth the view of the temples, structures and of the city.
Richard Clogg’s ‘A Concise History of Greece’ contains greater details of the context in which King Otto moved the capital to Athens. Page 49 of his book reads, “The choice of Athens as a capital, a town dominated by the imposing ruins of the Parthenon and with its associations with the glories of the Periclean age but in the early 1830s little more than a dusty village, symbolized the cultural orientation of the new state towards the classical past.”
Peter Von Hess painted a scene featuring King Otto entering Athens. It is an interesting artistic interpretation of the events and can be found http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_of_Greece#mediaviewer/File:Otto%27s_entry_in_Athens.jpg