Some stories are genuinely as old as time. Way back when, people used to craft myths about the things they saw and experienced. How much truth is in these myths, and how much is improvised? The world may never know.
Greek Mythology is a prime example of what we’re talking about. Hercules, Achilles, Atalanta – these are names you’ve probably heard before because they’re all famous heroes. According to legend, Athens was founded by a mythical hero.
It’d take some time to explain the whole story. Suffice it to say that Theseus, conqueror of the Labyrinth and slayer of the Minotaur, is said to be the founder of Athens. It only makes sense for a city like Athens to have so many mythological sites to explore.
Temples to the Olympians and locations from famous Greek Myths are all par for the course in this city. Today, we proudly present our Mythology Buff’s Guide to Athens. Slip on your sandals, strap on your sword, then use a luggage storage service for your extra baggage.
Long ago, people believed that kings and queens were the blood descendants of deities. This belief spreads to just about every culture you can think of; Arabic, East Asian, African, Slavic, and South American civilizations all ascribed to this idea. The Ancient Greeks weren’t an exception to this trend. In fact, many believed that the Greek Royal Family was related to Zeus and Hera.
How does this spiel relate to the National Garden of Athens? Well, once upon a time the National Garden used to be the Royal Garden. Queen Amalia of Oldenburg is essentially the founder of this massive 38-acre garden. As you might expect, the garden is full of statues to Greek icons. However, there are also tributes to poets like Lord Byron.
Many words in the English language have roots in Greek Mythology. Panic comes from Pan, the forest god who jumped out of bushes and scared people. Narcissist comes from the tale of Narcissus, tantalize from Tantalus – seriously, there are a ton of words we could cover.
Philopappos Hill is a key location in the story of Arachne – the weaver who was turned into a spider by Athena. Philopappos Hill is loved for its gorgeous architecture and sweeping view of Athens. And you can bet that there are more than a few arachnids in the area.
We’ll admit, we’re bending the rules a bit with this entry. Eleusis is actually one of Athen’s neighboring cities. Not many people live there, however, as it mostly consists of ancient ruins and sacred archaeological sites. This town is also the home of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
If that sounds kind of cryptic to you, it should; the Eleusinian Mysteries were a series of tests held by the Cult of Demeter and Persephone. What sort of secrets might you find in Eleusis? What sort of knowledge could you gain from exploring the unknown? These questions are why we included Eleusis in this article.
Acropolis of Athens
Acropolis means “city on high”. The Acropolis of Athens lives up to that name, as it overlooks just about everything else. It’s also one of the oldest parts of Athens. Almost every other building, park, and street the Acropolis overlooks are much, much younger.
A trip to this venue will afford an awesome view of Athens as well as an opportunity to explore the Parthenon. For those who don’t know, the Parthenon is one of the numerous temples dedicated to Athena herself. With structures like the Parthenon and the Acropolis, it’s easy to see why the goddess of wisdom favors Athens so much.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Zeus is probably a name that most folks are familiar with. It doesn’t hurt that he’s popped up in more works of art than we can count. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is dedicated to the master of Olympus of Athena’s father.
We’d be remiss to mention this place without discussing how Athena was born. Legend holds that Zeus swallowed a pregnant nymph named Metis out of paranoia. Some time later, Athena sprouted out of Zeus’ head as a fully grown, armor-clad woman.
Tower of the Winds
There are many great Greek tales, but the Odyssey is one of our favorites. It chronicles Odysseus’ long journey to return home after the Trojan War came to its tragic end. Odysseus and his men encounter numerous gods and monsters along the way. Some meant to help, others meant to harm.
The Anemoi were wind gods who sought to aid Odysseus. They gave him a bag full of wind that was supposed to bring him home. Instead, one of Odysseus’ crewmates accidentally blew the ship off course. The Tower of the Winds is dedicated to the Anemoi and is also one of the oldest meteorological buildings on Earth.
Temple of Hephaestus
Zeus has many children, which means Athena has many siblings. We already explained how Zeus essentially gave birth to Athena himself. However, Hephaestus is the direct child of Zeus and Hera.
Despite this, Hephaestus was originally shunned for a congenital disability. It wasn’t until he displayed prodigious skill at smithing, metalworking, and craftsmanship that he was accepted. This temple is dedicated to the Greek god of the forge. As for Hephaestus, he’s often viewed as a symbol for disability rights movements.
Old Temple of Athena
We’re ending this guide where it all began, at least in Athens’ case. The Old Temple of Athena was built in the Archaic period, sometime during 500 BC. That’s a fancy way of calling this structure older than every other building in the city, save for the Parthenon.
An enormous statue of Athena lies in this temple. Centuries ago, only Greek priestesses were allowed to visit and commune with it. Now, anyone who’s willing to show proper respect can enter.