Steeped in war and intrigue, culture and myth through the ages, it’s easy to see how Attica & Athens became the heart of the civilised world. Their rich history is very much evident today as you take in the sights and sounds of Athens, one of the many key cities in the region. No other area can lay claim to so many historical events and important cities as Attica. Indeed, it is in cities such as Eleusis, Megara and Marathon that democracy, philosophy and poetry (all Greek words, by the way) originated. War was also commonplace, and it is at Salamis and Plateai that the fate of the free world was determined when the Athenians met the Persians and emerged victorious. Having inspired many Hollywood blockbusters – including 300, the epic about the Battle of Marathon and its prequel Xerxes – this era of Greek history is one that cannot but spark interest.
The Athenians fought Darius and his invading forces without the help of Spartan reinforcements. The Persian defeat was so decisive that for many years no further attempts were made to invade Greece. In fact Miltiades’ brilliant strategy, known as The Battle of Marathon, is still the foundation of a great deal of modern warfare.
The Battle of Salamis, which preceded that of Plateai, was fought between the Persian fleet and the Greek Navy. More than 300 Persian vessels were sunk or captured as a result of the Athenian ambush on the formidable Persian force in the straits of Salamis. As with the famous story of the 300 Spartans, the few beat the many and the strategy of the Athenian general Themistocles proved effective.
Every step made and every stone turned depicts a conflict between Gods and humans, Greeks and invaders, or Athenians and other Greeks. In its history one can also see giant leaps forward for the sciences, literature and the arts, all rooted in Attica, which was once united under the command of King Theseus. Although Attica’s architecture is impressive, its buildings are overshadowed by the Acropolis, the ancient citadel that became the foundation of the civilised world and still rules the skyline to this day.
Attica, land of a thousand digs
Archaeological digs in the region of Attica have been going on for hundreds of years, until 1837, following the Greek War of Independence from the Turks. However, many of the most recent archaeological finds in Athens were uncovered not by a mild-mannered archaeologist with a careful brush, but a steel monster with sharp teeth. The metro-rat, or metropontikas, is a mechanical excavator that came across a lot of important pieces of history while grinding rock all over Attica for the new Athens Metro network; so many, in fact, that there is now a small museum in almost every Metro station.
Thanks to the Greek traveller and geographer Pausanias, who documented most of the secular buildings in the second century AD, many of Attica’s historical antiquities have been saved from the ravishes of time and now fill the numerous museums in the region. The first was the National Archeological Museum, founded by prime minister Ioannis Kapodistrias.
Today, one can spend a whole day at the brand new Acropolis Museum to be transported to the golden era of Athens and become a part of its glory.