The ancient city of Athens is not only Greece's capital, but also the country's cultural, political, financial and commercial powerhouse. A popular destination on our Mediterranean cruises, Athens has a recorded history spanning 3,500 years, and ranks as one of the world's very oldest cities. After establishing its democracy, Athens emerged as the supreme Greek power, even eclipsing Sparta. Following many different struggles for power with various Greek city states, Athens again rose to a position of eminence.
The 5th century BC is considered to be the city's golden age, when its moral values and way of life surpassed its city limits and became a template for much of Western civilisation. In the centuries that followed, many conquerors tried to take over Athens. Some succeeded, including the Romans, the Venetians, the Duchy of Burgundy and the Ottoman Empire. Each of these groups left architecture and other landmarks in the city that still exist today.
1834 saw Greece finally gain independence, and that year Athens was chosen to be the capital of the newly established Greek State. Now Athens generally boasts Greece's most important archaeological monuments, and is a city of many different exciting aspects. Along with well-preserved mansions and ancient ruins, there are many imposing neoclassic buildings, all true ornaments of the city. Of course, one of the ancient world's most famous landmarks is perched proudly high above the main city. The Acropolis is widely regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.