Athens (Modern Greek:Αθήνα, Athina, Ancient Greek: Aθηναι, Athenai) is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years, and the earliest human presence around the 11th–7th millennium BC.Classical Athens was a powerful city-state that emerged in conjunction with the seagoing development of the port of Piraeus. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum,it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent.In modern times, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece.
Athens is recognised as a global city because of its geo-strategic location and its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, culture, education and tourism. It is one of the biggest economic centres in southeastern Europe, with a large financial sector, and features the largest passenger port in Europe (Piraeus) and the third largest in the world.
The municipality (City) of Athens had a population of 664,046 (in 2011) within its administrative limits, and a land area of 39 km2 (15 sq mi).The urban area of Athens (Greater Athens and Greater Piraeus) extends beyond its administrative municipal city limits, with a population of 3,090,508 (in 2011) over an area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi).
The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of Ottoman monuments.
The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist, which has been dated to between the 11th and 7th millennium BC. Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years.By 1400 BC the settlement had become an important centre of the Mycenaean civilization and the Acropolis was the site of a major Mycenaean fortress, whose remains can be recognised from sections of the characteristic Cyclopean walls.
The leading position of Athens may well have resulted from its central location in the Greek world, its secure stronghold on the Acropolis and its access to the sea, which gave it a natural advantage over inland rivals such as Thebes and Sparta.
By the 6th century BC, widespread social unrest led to the reforms of Solon. These would pave the way for the eventual introduction of democracy by Cleisthenes in 508 BC. Athens had by this time become a significant naval power with a large fleet, and helped the rebellion of the Ionian cities against Persian rule. In the ensuing Greco-Persian Wars Athens, together with Sparta, led the coalition of Greek states that would eventually repel the Persians, defeating them decisively at Marathon in 490 BC, and crucially at Salamis in 480 BC. However, this did not prevent Athens from being captured and sacked twice by the Persians within one year, after a heroic resistance at Thermopylae by Spartans and other Greeks led by King Leonidas, after both Boeotia and Attica fell to the Persians.
The decades that followed became known as the Golden Age of Athenian democracy, during which time Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece, with its cultural achievements laying the foundations of Western civilization. The playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides flourished in Athens during this time, as did the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the physician Hippocrates, and the philosopher Socrates. Guided by Pericles, who promoted the arts and fostered democracy, Athens embarked on an ambitious building program that saw the construction of the Acropolis of Athens (including the Parthenon), as well as empire-building via the Delian League. Originally intended as an association of Greek city-states to continue the fight against the Persians, the league soon turned into a vehicle for Athens's own imperial ambitions. The resulting tensions brought about the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), in which Athens was defeated by its rival Sparta.
The city is a world centre of archaeological research. Apart from national institutions, such as Athens University, the Archaeological Society, several archaeological Museums, including the National Archaeological Museum, the Cycladic Museum, the Epigraphic Museum, the Byzantine Museum, as well as museums at the ancient Agora, Acropolis, Kerameikos, and Kerameikos Archaeological Museum. The city is also home to the Demokritos laboratory for Archaeometry, alongside regional and national archaeological authorities that form part of the Greek Department of Culture.
Athens' most important museums include:
-the National Archaeological Museum, the largest archaeological museum in the country, and one of the most important internationally, as it contains a vast collection of antiquities; its artifacts cover a period of more than 5,000 years, from late Neolithic Age to Roman Greece
-the Benaki Museum with its several branches for each of its collections including ancient, Byzantine, Ottoman-era, and Chinese art and beyond
-the Byzantine and Christian Museum, one of the most important museums of Byzantine art
-the Nomismatic Museum, housing a major collection of ancient and modern coins
-the Museum of Cycladic Art, home to an extensive collection of Cycladic art, including its famous figurines of white marble;
-the New Acropolis Museum, opened in 2009, and replacing the old museum on the Acropolis.
-A number of smaller and privately owned museums focused on Greek culture and arts are also to be found.
-the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum, a museum which displays artifacts from the burial site of Kerameikos.
material from the Wikipedia article "Athens"