By Christina Poulopoulou
The Attica region has been inhabited continuously for thousands of years and is a place full of history and mythology. We’re not talking only for the city of Athens, but the whole peninsula and the islands close to it. When you visit Attica you will encounter places with historical and mythological backgrounds that date back centuries. A stroll with goddess Athena? Nymph inspired islands? Attica has it all!
What about witnessing an olympic gods’ battle? You can visit the Acropolis site, where on top of the rocky outcrop you will find not only the archeological monument but also the mythological location of the battle between Athena and Poseidon. The myth goes that once upon a time the half-serpent half-man king of Attica, called Cecrops, ordered a race between the two gods. The winner would be the god the citizens of Attica would worship. Poseidon ran first to the Acropolis site, hit the rock with his trident and salt sea poured all around the hill. The well that was formed was called Erechthean well, located inside the temple of Erechtheus. Then Athena arrived and planted an olive tree at the top of the hill. Cecrops judged the olive tree to be of much more importance to the citizens, so Athena was chosen to be the goddess of Athens and the city was named after her.
You will encounter Athena again when you visit the Lycabettus hill in Athens, the highest point of the city, famous for its stunning panorama. The story goes, when Acropolis was being built, Athena went to fetch a large limestone rock, to use in the construction of the site. Midway, she heard bad news from crows, enraged, she dropped the stone and the Lycabettus hill was formed at that same point. And what did the crows get? They turned forever black, as bearers of bad news.
On Salamina island, 10 miles west of central Athens, we’ll meet the Argonaut and Troy war hero, Telamon. Telamon was a mythical and homeric king of the island, friend of Jason the Argonaut and Hercules. The island is named Salamina, after the nymph Salamina, daughter of river Asopos. Poseidon fell in love with the nymph, grabbed her from her father and took her to the island that was from then on, named after her.
Aegina, one of the Saronic islands close to Athens, was named after the nymph Aegina, sister of Salamina. Zeus fell in love with her, kidnapped her and transferred her to the island that was until then known as Oenone. Aegina gave birth to Zeus’ son there and also her name to the island. Aegina was the place where Zeus trained his Myrmidons, an ant army (greek for ant: Mirmigia) he turned into fearsome warriors that wore all black and had 3 sets of arms.
Eleusina, the birthplace of Eleusinian Mysteries, is the place where Pluto stole Persephone from goddess Demeter and took her to the underworld. South of Athens, on the island of Poros is where Theseus was born. And going further south, to the island of Kythera, we’ll find the place where Aphrodite emerged from the sea.
In every corner of Attica, the ancient meets the modern and history meets myth. You will walk the same paths, the people that created these myths walked, under the same blue Attica sky. These are the myths that inspired humanity and arts for centuries, ready for you to discover!