Seven hills of Athens
Athens is built on (at least) seven magnificent hills, where all of them include something unique you can gain by visiting them. Many of them are related to magnificent myths, such as that of Athena and Lycabettus, but we will not start from this one, we will start with Acropolis and Pnyx. The latter is the hill where democracy was performed, today an open-air museum, a place with a magnificent view where you can enjoy a perfect dinner next to Acropolis, at Dionysus.
Might be the most famous hill in the world. But is the Acropolis really a hill?
A geologist replies to that question by stating that the limestone capping the Acropolis is the Cretaceous-aged (specifically Cenomanian-Turonian) Tourkovounia (check Athens 7th hill) Formation. The age difference is estimated to be 30 million years. In other words, the upper rock layer of Acropolis is older than the lower rock layer, a perversion of the principle of superposition.
Because the sandstone/marl of the Athens Schist is more susceptible to weathering in the arid climate of Greece than is the Tourkovounia limestone cap, the arrangement is expressed as a hill. The hill used to be larger, but is being nibbled away over time from the sides. It’s an erosional remnant of a much larger thrust sheet.
Acropolis is the center of Athens and Athens may exist because of Acropolis. Everything starts from here and all major streets end there. After passing many consecutive phases of usage as a religious place of paganism, Christianism, even Muslim, nowadays it is a symbol of classical Greece, democracy, theater, peace, and freedom.
The modern Acropolis museum is not located on the hill, but in Makrygiannika, from where you can admire both. Acropolis is a symbol of Athens but also of West and western ideals. If there were no Solon and Cleisthenes, there would be no Socrates and Plato, no Pericles and Parthenon, no Aristotle and Alexander, no Rome, no Christianity and Neoplatonism, no Renaissance and Enlightenment Age.
Acropolis, this rock that according to the myth no birds are allowed to fly over it, gives a meaning to the west, but also the rest. Around Acropolis there were mosques and knowledge of the ancient world was transferred through Arab philosophy to medieval Europe, in order for the west to be born again, and return to Greece again, in the 19th century, with the establishment of the modern Greek state and revival of classicism in architecture and arts.
Acropolis metro station is the fastest way to get there, through Areopagitou str.
Acropolis may be the symbol of democracy, but Pnyx was the hill where all really happened. But both hills offer you the essence of feeling like an ancient Athenian.
From Areopagitou str. while moving towards Saint Dimitrios Loumpardiaris church, you turn left for Filopappou and right for Pnyx.
The Pnyx is a small, rocky hill surrounded by parkland, with a large flat platform of eroded stone set into its side, and steps carved on its slope. It was the meeting place of one of the world’s earliest known democratic legislatures, the Athenian ekklesia (assembly). Here still lies the flat stone platform, the bema, the stone from where orators were trying to convince Athenians of the best decision. Themistocles, Pericles, and Demosthenes stood there.
In Pnyx the equal right of speech was expressed with the initial question – open invitation “Tís agoreúein boúletai?” (Greek: “Τίς ἀγορεύειν βούλεται;“, “Who wishes to speak to the Assembly?”).
The Pnyx was protected by a defense wall built during the Hellenistic period.
3 Hill of the Nymphs
From Pnyx you can walk to today Athens National Observatory Hill or Nymph, the third hill.
Another rocky mountain, opposite the temple of Thisseio, connected with Mouson Hill (Philopappou and Pnyx). At the top is the hill was built the National Observatory because it is said that at that point the ancient astronomer Meton made the same thing during the 5th century BC. You can have a walk and either move down to Thiseio or back to Pnyx.
This hill is very close there is where Apostle Paul talked to Athenians about Jesus Christ, Areopagus.
Areopagus (the name Areopagitou derives from it) is related to God Ares’s myth and his trial for killing the son of Poseidon. Archaeologicallythere was a Mycenaean cemetery found Areopagus was the most famous court of antiquity. In the Eumenides of poet Aeschylus (458 BC), the Areopagus is the site of the trial of Orestes for killing his mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, a famous homeric story.
It is the place also where Apostle Paul spoke “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Areopagus sermon, Acts 17:24) and had two first believers, Dionysios Areopagitus and female Damari. There were religious constructions on the top of the hill, but it was demolished by an earthquake in 1601 and rest of it removed during Athens Otto reign.
The demolition of the modern houses on the north slope of the Areopagus and the excavation of the ancient Agora have freed the hill from the clutter of its surroundings and it now stands clear and visible on all sides. In the classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods the hill slopes were occupied by private houses, but in Mycenaean and Geometric times the area served as a cemetery. The most important relics of the Mycenaean phase are the royal chamber tombs hewn out of the rock a short distance down the hill from the Archbishop’s palace.
Today Areopagus brings the name of the top state Greek court.
5 Philopappou or Mouson hill
After Nymph Hill, Mouson (Museon) Hill follows. It owns the name of Philopappos, a man of aristocratic and well-connected origins. Philopappos’ death in 116 caused great sadness to his sister, the citizens of Athens, and possibly to the imperial family. To honor his memory, Balbilla, along with the citizens of Athens, erected a tomb structure on the hill, southwest of the Acropolis. His marble tomb is known as the Philopappos Monument or in Greek “Mnimio Philopappou“, and from it, the hill became known as “Philopappos Hill”.
Philopapou hill caused most of the damage to the Parthenon, since Morosini’s bombing of Athens during the 6th Venetian- Turkish War, was said to be the one that hit the building from there (others say it was from Ioannis Theologos church at Plaka). Today it is named after a monument, a Roman official. On its south side, there is also Dora Stratou Theater. On its west side, there is Socrates prison, in a place that is not really easy to find but definitely worth passing by.
Maybe the most prestigious Athens Hill, related to Athena since Kolonaki lies there. Its top hosts a restaurant with a spectacular view, a church, and a funicular. It’s the second-highest point in Athens. Lycabettus Funicular was inaugurated on April 18, 1965. The terminal stations are situated at Aristippou street, in Kolonaki, and the Chapel of St. George, near the top of the hill. Between the terminal stations, the line is entirely in a tunnel. Other Greek funiculars are in Parnitha mountain and in Corfu.
Anchesmos was the ancient name for Tourkovounia means Turkish mountains, but also that term comes from Lycovounia, the mountain of the wolves, such as Lycabettus. Located in modern Galatsi, an urban area of Athens is also the highest point of Athens (373 m), that is why the Ottoman garrison was also there. Moreover, an Ottoman cemetery was there.
Ardettos is the hill over Kalimarmaro Stadium. The area today is called Mets or Pagrati. There is an uncovered ancient temple of Goddess Artemis.
More hills, like Strefi Hill, are located northwest of Lycabettus. There are more hills, like Kolonos, where Plato’s Academy was, Elikonos, and Skouze, which are equally beautiful.
Here is a map to navigate Athens’s historical hills and here you can learn more about Athens mountains.