Undoubtedly, Greece has brought forth one of the highest forms of civilization in the history of humankind. The birthplace of democracy and the idea of freedom, the Greeks held in high esteem the idea of posthumous legacy, or hysterophimia, an ideal that expressed their deep desire to overcome the boundaries of their age, and create something that would endure the vicious waves of time.
To that end, they took great care to construct their cities with that idea in mind, and it is for this very reason that today we can admire and enjoy the material remains of these great works of human ingenuity.
8 Famous Cities of Ancient Greece
The birthplace of democracy and the most famous ancient Greek city, Athens has been inhabited for over 5000 years. The influence that the city had on the formation of Western civilization cannot be overestimated, since it was also one of the most important cultural centers of antiquity. Blessed with a rich history, it was also the home of some of the most important and influential philosophers, politicians, and artists.
Without a doubt, the Acropolis remains to this day the most impressive landmark of the city, while many other monuments still survive, such as the Agora, the Pnyx, the Kerameikos, and much more. Athens is the ultimate destination for the true lover of high culture!
Home of the most lethal fighting force in antiquity, Sparta came to prominence after it defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian war. The Spartans are also well known for their sacrifice in the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC against the invading Persian forces. Here you can take a walk in the city and take a look at the ruins of ancient Sparta, and also visit the Archaeological Museum which is full of exhibits that reveal in great detail the way of life of these ancient warriors.
Considered one of the most important and largest cities in ancient Greece, Corinth boasted a population of 90000 people in 400 BC, and it was an important trading and cultural center in antiquity. The Romans demolished the city in 146 BC and built a new one in its place in 44 BC. Here you can enjoy the Acrocorinth and its environs, and particularly the Temple of Apollo, which was built around 560 BC. A trip to Corinth is for sure the experience of a lifetime.
Most famously known as the hometown of the Greek hero Hercules, Thebes was also one of the largest and most important cities of the ancient region of Boeotia. An important rival of Athens throughout history, it also played an important role in several other Greek myths, such as the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus, and others.
The sacred band of Thebes was considered one of the most elite military units of antiquity. Although the city was one of the most dominant states during the late Classical period, it was finally destroyed by Alexander the Great. Today, the modern city contains an important archaeological museum, the remains of Cadmea, and several other scattered ruins.
Eleusis was a city-state situated in West Attica, and also one of the most important religious sites in ancient Greece. The town was named after the ‘eleusis’ (arrival) of the goddess Demeter’s who arrived there while looking for her daughter, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld.
Eleusis hosted the most famous mystery initiations in antiquity, the Eleusinian mysteries, in honor of Demeter and her daughter, considered a celebration of the victory of life over death. Today, the ruins of many significant buildings of the sanctuary still survive, the most important of which being the Telestirion, where the initiation ceremony took place.
You might also like: The story of Hades and Persephone.
Megara was a powerful Greek city-state, the origins of which are dated back to the 8th century BC. The city was famous for its seafarers and trade between the metropolis and its rich and numerous colonies, such as Byzantium. The philosopher Euclid was born in the city, while it is also considered the hometown of comedy, due to the high-spirited nature of its inhabitants.
Among others, some of the most important landmarks of the city were the Theagenis Fountain, the Temple of Zeus, the temple of Artemis, containing statues made by the famous sculptor Praxiteles, and the temples of Dionysus, Isis, and Apollo.
The historical capital of the kingdom of Macedon, Pella was an ancient city in northern Greece and the birthplace of Alexander the Great. The city grew rapidly under the rule of Phillip II, but it turned into a small provincial town when the Romans conquered Macedon in 168 BC.
The archaeological site of Pella reveals new finding every year. Thanks to the excavations the ruins of many important buildings were brought to the surface, such as the Palace, well-built houses decorated with mosaic floors, sanctuaries, and royal tombs, all revealing the glory of the Macedonian kingdom.
Messene was an ancient Greek city of the Peloponnese. The history of the city began already during the Bronze Age, although today most of the area contains the ruins of the classical settlement refounded by Epaminondas from Thebes, after the defeat of Sparta.
Today, Messene’s archaeological site presents one of the largest and most remarkable sites in the whole of Greece, which also used to host numerous athletic events and famous theater plays. It is also believed that this is the location where the Greek language was born since the earliest Linear B clay tablets were excavated in the area, dating back to 1450-1350 BC.