Athens (Greek: Αθήνα, Athína) is the capital of Greece and one of the most famous cities in the world, named after goddess Athena. Modern Athens is a bustling cosmopolitan metropolis, home to some 3.2 million people. The Athens metropolitan area is currently growing both northwards and eastwards across Attica and it constitutes the dominant center of economic, financial, industrial, cultural and political life in Greece today. The city is also rapidly becoming a leading business centre in Europe. Athens is located at 38°00′N 23°43′E.
Ancient Athens was a powerful city-state and a renowned center of learning, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum. It is considered to have been the cradle of Western civilisation, largely due to the immense impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 4th 5th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European Continent. The heritage of the Athenian Enlightenment is still evident in the city, portrayed through a number of spectacular ancient monuments and artworks, the most famous of all being the Parthenon on the Acropolis ("high city"), nurtured by Ictinus, Callicrates and Phidias. The latter is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Classical Greek architecture, still standing as an epic legacy to the West and indeed to the rest of the world. Many of these cultural landmarks were renovated ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games.Athens was the leading city in Greece during the greatest period of Greek civilisation during the 1st millennium BC. During the "Golden Age" of Greece (roughly 500 BC to 323 BC) it was the world's leading cultural and intellectual centre, and indeed the phrase "Western civilization" has its origins in ancient Athens' ideas, achievements, and practices. In 431 B.C, Athens went to war with another city-state, Sparta. Due to its losses during a plague, Athens was defeated by Sparta, and its walls were pulled down (however remnants of the original walls of the era are still to be found today, especially in the coastline of Piraeus).
The schools of philosophy were closed in AD 529 by the Christian Byzantine Empire, which disapproved of the schools' pagan thinking. During the Byzantine era, Athens gradually lost a great deal of status and, by the time of the Crusades, it was already reduced to a provincial town. It faced a crushing blow between the 13th and 15th centuries, when the city was fought over by the Greek Byzantines and the 'French' and Italian Crusaders. In 1458 the city fell to the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror. As the Emperor entered the city, he was greatly struck by the beauty of its ancient monuments and issued a firman (imperial decree) that Athens' ruins not be disturbed, on pain of death. The Parthenon was in fact converted into a mosque and therefore preserved.
Despite the Sultan's good intentions to preserve Athens as a model Ottoman provincial capital, the city's population went into decline and conditions worsened as the Ottoman Empire declined from the late 17th Century. As time went by, the Ottoman administration slackened its care for Athens' old buildings; the Parthenon was used as a warehouse for ammunition during the Venetian siege of Athens in 1687, and consequently the temple was severely damaged when a Venetian shell targeted the site and set off several casks of gunpowder stored inside the Parthenon.