According to mythology the city took its name from goddess Athena. Athena competed with god Poseidon over who would be the patron god of Athens. The result would depend on who would offer the city the finest gift. Poseidon (god of sea) hit the Acropolis rock and created a sea water spring for the Athenians while Athena, offered them an olive tree. The Athenians preferred the olive, as it symbolized to them peace and prosperity and thereinafter, the city was called Athens.
The first settlements in the location of Athens dates back some 5,000 years ago. Gradually the Neolithic village grew into one of the first Greek city-states, which reached its “golden” peak in the fifth century BC, under the leadership of Pericles. During that era, the city of Athens became the birthplace of democracy and the spring of free, human – centered, thinking, which formed the basis of western civilization. Athens experienced a unique intellectual and artistic blossoming, representative samples of which are the monuments of Acropolis and the development of tragedy, with the most important representatives being Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, comedy with Aristofanes and historiography with Herodotus and Thucydides. The education of Athenians during this period was focused on philosophy with the contemporary sophists and Socrates.
At the same time Athens prospered as a naval – mercantile power of the ancient world and became the leader of the Greek alliance that defeated - twice – the armies of the invading Persian Empire. Nevertheless, after decades of bitter fighting with its rival Greek city of Sparta, Athens was utterly defeated and lost everything but timeless edifices and its illustrious cultural reputation.
Athens was conquered and destroyed time and time again. In the 2nd century BC it falls to the Romans becomes part of their empire and subsequently part of the Byzantine Empire. A series of raids and especially the one from Goths in 3095 AD, damaged badly the ancient city. After suffering greatly at the hands of the Catalans, Florentines and Venetians during the Middle Ages, the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1456. In a battle for the control of Athens, in 1688, the Venetians bombarded the Turks who were fortified on the Acropolis – which was holding on remarkably until then – and reduced its ancient temples to the ruins that we see today. In 1800 Lord Elgin, ambassador of England in Constantinople, invoking on the disasters of the ancient Athenian monuments and offering the excuse of protecting them, violently took away parts of the interior decoration of the temples on the Acropolis Mountain.
In 1821 the Greek Nation rose against the Ottoman Empire and soon afterwards Athens was liberated. In 1833 the city was designated as the capital of the modern Greece and from a backwater market town around the Acropolis, developed into the cosmopolitan centre that it is today. In 1896 the revival of the Ancient Olympic Games took place in Athens, with the occasion of which in the capital was realised appreciable work.
In 1936 Ioannis Metaxas imposed the dictatorship in the city, and in 1941 Athens occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. The German Possession lasted between the 1941-1944 intervals. The resistance to the conquerors was already organised by the first days, with the most characteristic the burning of the German Nazis flag that was posted in Acropolis, in May 1941. Unfortunately the liberation of Greece in 1944 didn\\\'t bring peace but civil war, which ended in 1949. A period of political unrest led to the dictatorship by military forces in 1967. Democracy was finally restored in 1974. The year 1981 marked the entrance of Greece into the European Union. Since then Athens has blossomed into a modern, exciting, multifaceted European metropolis. In August 2004 the Olympic Games were held in the city with great success and brought renewed international prestige to Athens.