What are the main differences between ancient and modern Athens?

Athens is one of the oldest and most influential cities in the world, with a history that spans over 5,000 years. It is the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, drama, art and architecture, and the home of some of the greatest thinkers and leaders of ancient times. But how does the ancient city compare to the modern one? What has changed and what has remained the same? In this blog post, we will explore some of the main differences between ancient and modern Athens, focusing on four aspects: geography, politics, culture and economy.


Ancient Athens was located on a plain surrounded by four mountains: Parnes, Pentelicus, Hymettus and Aegaleon. It was about 8 km away from the sea, where its port of Piraeus was situated. The city had a natural spring called the Erechtheion, which was considered sacred by the Athenians. The most prominent feature of ancient Athens was the Acropolis, a fortified hill that housed the temples of Athena, Poseidon, Erechtheus and other gods. The Acropolis was also the site of the Parthenon, one of the most famous and beautiful buildings in the world.

Modern Athens is much larger and more densely populated than ancient Athens. It covers an area of 427 square km and has about 3 million inhabitants. It is still surrounded by mountains, but it also extends to the coast of the Saronic Gulf. The city suffers from air pollution, traffic congestion and urban sprawl. The Acropolis remains the symbol of modern Athens, but it is now surrounded by skyscrapers, hotels, museums and shops. The spring of the Erechtheion has dried up, but there is still a sacred olive tree on the Acropolis that is said to be a descendant of the one planted by Athena.


Ancient Athens was a democracy, meaning that all male citizens had equal rights and responsibilities in governing the city. The main political institutions were the Assembly (Ekklesia), where citizens voted on laws and policies; the Council (Boule), where 500 citizens chosen by lot prepared the agenda for the Assembly; and the Courts (Dikasteria), where citizens served as jurors and judges. The most important magistrates were the Archons, who had executive and judicial powers; and the Strategoi, who were generals in charge of military affairs. Ancient Athens was also the leader of the Delian League, an alliance of Greek city-states that fought against Persia.

Modern Athens is a republic, meaning that it is governed by representatives elected by the people. The main political institutions are the Parliament (Vouli), where 300 members pass laws and oversee the government; the President (Proedros), who is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces; and the Prime Minister (Prothypourgos), who is the head of government and leader of the majority party or coalition. Modern Athens is also the capital of Greece, a member state of the European Union and NATO.


Ancient Athens was a cultural powerhouse that produced some of the most influential works of literature, philosophy, art and science in history. Some of its famous writers were Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato and Aristotle. Some of its famous artists were Phidias, Myron, Polykleitos and Praxiteles. Some of its famous scientists were Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Hippocrates, Euclid and Archimedes. Ancient Athenians valued education, debate, freedom of speech and expression. They also celebrated various festivals in honor of their gods and heroes.

Modern Athens is a cosmopolitan city that blends elements of Eastern and Western cultures. It has a rich and diverse artistic scene that includes theatre, cinema, music, dance and literature. Some of its famous writers are Nikos Kazantzakis, George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis and Yiannis Ritsos. Some of its famous artists are El Greco,
Domenikos Theotokopoulos
Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas
Yannis Tsarouchis
and Alekos Fassianos
Some of its famous scientists are Constantine Carathéodory
John Argyris
and Dimitris Nanopoulos
Modern Athenians value democracy,
human rights,
tolerance and diversity. They also celebrate various holidays and events, such as Easter, Independence Day, Carnival and the Athens Marathon.


Ancient Athens was a maritime and commercial power that relied on trade, agriculture and mining for its wealth. It had a large and powerful navy that protected its interests and dominated the Aegean Sea. It exported olive oil, wine, pottery, silver and other goods to other regions and imported grain, timber, metals and luxury items. It also had a sophisticated system of coinage that facilitated transactions. Ancient Athenians worked as farmers, artisans, merchants, sailors, soldiers, teachers, artists and philosophers. They also had slaves who performed domestic and manual labor.

Modern Athens is an industrial and service-oriented city that relies on tourism, manufacturing and finance for its income. It has a modern and efficient infrastructure that includes an international airport, a metro system, a tram network and a ring road. It attracts millions of visitors every year who come to see its historical and cultural attractions, such as the Acropolis, the National Archaeological Museum, the Plaka district and the Panathenaic Stadium. It also produces textiles, chemicals, food, electronics and other products. Modern Athenians work as professionals, employees, entrepreneurs, civil servants, academics and artists. They also have immigrants who contribute to the economy and society.


Athens is a city that has undergone many changes and transformations throughout its long history. It has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the birth and death of civilizations, the glory and tragedy of wars. It has also preserved and transmitted its legacy to the world, inspiring generations of thinkers, leaders and creators. Ancient and modern Athens are different in many ways, but they also share some common features: they are both centres of democracy, culture and innovation; they are both proud of their heritage and open to new ideas; they are both dynamic and resilient in the face of challenges. Athens is a city with a past, a present and a future.