As with most cities, Athens has gone through many changes over the years. Just 2 centuries ago the Greek capital was nothing more than a small town with big potential and tremendous history.
Greece gained its independance from the Ottoman Empire in 1830, after the victorious Greek War of Independence. A few years after, Athens became the country’s capital and the ambitious procedure of city planning begun! The first major issue was to expand the city and build its much needed infrastructure. Just a few years later, Athens is double in size and growing.
The capital starts to expand north, towards Omonoia and scattered here and there are ancient temples, monuments and ruins. Quickly the expansion gets out of control and just 50 years after its naming capital Athens has more than doubled its population.
Ever since, its growth has been rapid and undisturbed. As a relatively new independent state, Greece wasn’t very stable politically and financially. However trade started to flourish and a few families gathered great influence and wealth. The last decades, due to trade, it was Piraeus time to grow. The port expanded kilometers and workers at the docks settled in unplanned and relatively empty fields between Piraeus and Athens.
However the Greek economy continued to struggle and in 1893 the country defaulted on its creditors. This unfortunate development didn’t hold down the small country when the idea of re-establishing the Olympics came up. Athens hosted the first Modern Olympics in 1896, to the surprise of many. The Olympics were a great way to further promote the country and create a direct link to its ancient past.
Athens Panathenaic stadium 1896 - Opening Ceremony of First Modern Olympics
The next few decades were critical for the future of Greece and Athens. Constant battles and wars changed the borders of the country year by year. In the ‘20s one of the most shocking pages of its history, Greece received the influx of over 200.000 Greek speaking migrants from Turkey. Most settled temporarily in the outskirts of Athens, forming slowly new areas of the capital.
Migrants from Asia Minor arrive in Athens.
After this difficult period another one come with the Nazi occupation of Athens. Destruction and hunger were the only things that one saw during these few years, that all Athenians who lived then want to forget.
However in the decades that followed Athens transformed into the modern metropolis and most important city of Greece and the Balkans. Small mansions gave way to block of flats that housed a handful of families flocking for a better life in Athens.
Athens soon housed more than 1 million people and there seemed no ending in its expansion and growth.
In the following years Greece started to welcome more and more tourists and the Athens Airport, first built in 1938, needed expansion and modernization. In the early ‘60s the airport served millions of passengers already and the development of its second terminal was underway.
Athens Airport 1957
Cars became more and more popular, leading to a huge infrastructure expansion of roads and junctions. Blocks of flats replaces almost all one or two storey houses and where once were nothing but empty fields, now countless flats surrounded small public parks and squares.
Downtown Athens, evolved into hosting more commercial uses, like stores, clubs, cinemas etc. and its nightlife attracted bon-vevers and jet-setters from all over the globe, but also Hippies and students, wanting to learn more about the birthplace of democracy and philosophy.
By the ‘80s as much as 3 million people resided in Athens and its suburbs. Public transportation and traffic conjunctions were all over the news, as were the amount of smog that troubled the city.
In the last decade of the 20th century, Athens took its today’s form of a modern megalopolis trying to juggle millions of residents, millions of commuters and millions of tourists every day while slowly but steadily showing its charming facade again.