Monuments and statues In Athens

I appreciate that monuments and statues in Athens are not on everyone’s list of things to do in Athens. But, there are many out there with a fascinating history. Also, they are all free to see and open 24 hours a day.

How about the most “bullied” statue in Athens? Or ones of mythical kings and heroes. Or, maybe, a man from a destitute family who climbed the heights to become a general, was condemned to execution by a Greek king but got away with it.

So, what are the best monuments and statues in Athens? Where are they? Whether your plan to visit Athens for a day, a weekend or an extended holiday, my travel guide answers those questions and a lot more for your holiday plans.

So let’s begin the journey, shall we?

Top of my list is just two minutes walk from the Acropolis Museum, and guards the entrance to the famous and popular Plaka district of Athens. The Ioannis Makriyiannis Statue stands on his plinth calmly waiting with his curved sword at the ready, and perhaps even guarding the entrance to the Plaka.

General Ioannis Makriyannis was born in 1797. Starting from humble origins and a poor family, he witnessed his father dying at the age of seven.

At 14, he decided to head for Epirus, seek his fortune, and eventually join the Greek revolution fight.

During the revolution, he fought so well that he kept being promoted until he reached the rank of General in 1824 at just 27 years old.

When peace eventually struck, he moved to Athens, bought a farm below the Acropolis and became an outspoken politician. He is attributed to many political feats, including playing a significant part in granting the first Constitution of the Kingdom of Greece.

Not afraid to criticise anyone, including the then King Otto, in 1853, Ioannis Makriyannis was arrested and condemned to death for conspiracy against the king in what has been called a pre-fabricated trial.

The prosecution brought up false testimonies and false evidence. Furthermore, the tribunal president, Kitsos Tzavelas, was a personal enemy of Ioannis Makriyannis.

Five out of the six judges voted for the death sentence and requested the king extend royal clemency. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the king, but he only spent 18 months in prison.

Quite an exciting life, wouldn’t you say?

Second on my list of monuments and statues in Athens is the Harry Truman Statue. It holds the record for being the Most Bullied Statue in Athens since it was erected. 

Just a short walk from the Panathenaic Stadium, the Harry Truman Statue in Athens is a tribute to the 33rd president of the United States, who was instrumental in founding the state of Israel. 

During Greece’s military dictatorship between 1967 – 1974, there were two bombings. One of them, in 1971, killed an on-duty policeman.

In 1986, perhaps the most memorable episode occurred when a leftist group protesting “American imperialism” in Greece bombed the monument. 

In a follow-up on 15th January 1987, The New York Times published the article “Athens Said to Agree to Put Truman Statue Back.” The Times called the matter a “deeply symbolic issue” while recounting what took place nearly one year before when protestors attacked it.

In April 2018, during a protest against American, British and French airstrikes in Syria, the communist-affiliated union PAME tried to remove the statue by using a metal grinder to cut off its feet and bring it down with ropes. But riot police intervened and dispersed the crowd.

Third on my list was unveiled in Athens in April 2019 by the then Mayor of Athens, George Kaminis; the stunning bronze Alexander the Great Statue is a sight to behold.

Previously, the statue occupied a less prominent spot in the middle of a property near the sculptor Giannis Pappas workshop from 1993, who passed away in 2005.

Just a minute’s walk from the Arch of Hadrian, it depicts Alexander astride his beloved horse Bucephalus as a teenager rather than a mature warrior and conqueror.

Last on my list of monuments and statues in Athens is Athens’s mythical king and founder-hero. The Statue of Theseus is situated in the Athenian neighbourhood of Thissio and opposite the Metro Station of the same name.

Theseus was the mythical king and founder-hero of Athens. The myths surrounding Theseus, his journeys, and his exploits have provided material for fiction throughout the ages. His role in history has been called “a significant cultural transition.

Theseus is often described as the son of Aegeus, king of Athens, and sometimes as the son of the god Poseidon. Of course, the most famous legend is his slaying of the Minotaur, half man and half bull. He then unites Attica under Athenian rule: the synoikismos (‘dwelling together’).

As the unifying king, he is credited with building a palace on the fortress of the Acropolis of Athens. Pausanias reports that after the synoikismos, Theseus established a cult of Aphrodite Pandemos (‘Aphrodite of all the People’) on the southern slope of the Acropolis.

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