It’s incredible to think just how long Greece’s history spans. When nations like Australia and the United States were being born, Greece had already stood for thousands of years. Yes, there were first nations people in the aforementioned countries, but they were not as yet unified lands known as they are today. One place where you can stand and admire the expansive and colourful past of Athens, which is indicative of the nation as a whole, is in Monastiraki.
The Square has long been a busy shopping area and meeting place. Throughout the centuries countless traders, politicians, philosophers and the general masses have walked the pavers, going about their business as the city grew around them. In the distance, towering above all is the Acropolis, built in the 5th century BC. Not far below it is the 11th century Transfiguration of the Savior church. It’s diminutive size hides the great importance the church has held for many years. Then there’s the Fethiye Mosque, constructed in 1456 on the ruins of an 8th century Christian basilica. Further towards the square is Tzistarakis Mosque, built in 1759 during the Ottoman period. Behind Tzistarakis Mosque is the Roman Forum (Agora) from the 1st century BC. The city has largely enveloped this area however it still has a presence that can’t be denied, with the ruins of Hadrian’s Library standing as a testament to the past glories of the Roman Empire. There are also countless neo-classical and more modern buildings in the area too, each with their own place in the history of Athens.
This small part of what’s now an expansive city tells the story of the trials and tribulations Greece has gone through. From the ancient Roman and subsequent Byzantine periods, through the Ottoman occupation to the present day, the varied peoples that have lived here brought with them their culture and religion, and have all formed part of the rich tapestry of the country. There are few places in the world with such a diverse mix of people. Thanks to Greece’s position on the globe it has always been a crossroads, a strategic location for political and military strategy, but more importantly a melting pot of cultures.