Athens (Greece), city in southeastern Greece, capital and largest city of the country. Athens dominates the economic, cultural, and political life of modern Greece.
Athens is a sprawling city located on the Attic Plain of southeastern Greece. Mountains rise in a semicircle around the city. They include the peaks of Parnitha (Párnis), Pendéli, and Hymettos (Imittós). At least one of these peaks can be seen from nearly every street in Athens. Located about 8 km (about 5 mi) southwest of Athens is Piraeus (Pireás), Greece’s largest seaport. Piraeus overlooks the Gulf of Saronikós (Saronic Gulf), an arm of the Aegean Sea. Two rivers, the Kifisós in the west and the Ilisós in the east, flow through the city.
Athens is often called the cradle of Western civilization for its momentous cultural achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries bc. The city still holds a wealth of ancient buildings, monuments, and artworks from the classical age of Ancient Greece, as well as museums devoted to Greek art, culture, and history. Many of the cultural highlights of Athens were renovated in preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
The greater Athens metropolitan area had an estimated population of about 3.2 million in 2003, nearly one-third of the total population of Greece. Athens expanded rapidly during the 20th century and today covers nearly the entire Attic Plain. In addition to ethnic Greeks, the Athens region is home to many thousands of immigrants.
The city's high population density has contributed to urban problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution, and overcrowding. Religious affiliation in Athens is overwhelmingly Greek Orthodox Christian (see Orthodox Church). There are also small numbers of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. About 100,000 Muslims live in the Athens area, mostly immigrants from Albania and the Balkan Peninsula, with others from countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
A large portion of industrial activity in Greece is concentrated in and around Athens. Manufactures include textiles, cement, alcoholic beverages, soap, flour, chemicals, paper products, leather, and pottery. Other industries include machinery and transportation equipment, and printing and publishing. The city’s port at Piraeus is the country's most important shipping and transportation center. More than two-thirds of the current workforce in Athens is employed in services, including government administration, banking, education, health care, and transportation.
Recent construction related to the 2004 Olympics, including modernization of the city’s transportation system, has provided a significant economic boost to Athens. Tourism is of major importance to the city’s economy. The 2004 Olympic Games, and their legacy of improvements to the infrastructure, museums, and monuments of Athens were expected to further develop the city’s tourism industry. Athens serves as the hub of Greece’s national transportation network. The Greek railway system is centered in Athens, and ferries sail to the rest of the country from the port at Piraeus. The urban area itself in Athens is served by taxis and public buses that must contend with heavily congested traffic.
The major part of the city’s metro subway, Attiko Metro (Athens Metro), was completed in 2000 and serves the heart of Athens; extensions to residential districts are planned over the next few years. A tram system under construction was expected to begin service in 2004. Light rail will also provide a link to Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport at nearby Spáta. The airport, completed in 2001, replaced Ellinikon International Airport. Economic development aid provided by the European Union (EU) has been a crucial source of funding for the city’s ongoing transportation projects. They include the construction of avenues circling Athens to help relieve traffic congestion in the city center. However, improvements to the transportation system in and around Athens often proceed slowly due to archaeological discoveries made during excavations and construction. "Greece" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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