The writer Charles Caleb Colton once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this saying has now found its way in to common usage. Its message is clear and almost undeniable – and something that must make Athens feel a proud city.
The capital of Greece – and the country’s largest city to boot – is one of the world’s oldest cities with recorded history going back around 3400 years. In that time it has been a center for arts, philosophy and architecture and has been admired and copied from afar.
Such is the reputation of Athens that other cities around the world often try to use it to boost their own standing. In total, there are 28 cities or towns outside Greece that have incorporated Athens into their nickname.
There is an “Athens” for each of the four major compass points (including a bonus historical Athens of the West) as well as an “Athens” for many different countries, eras, American states and hemispheres.
Each has their own reason for the nickname – although some, such as the Scottish town of Troon being known as the ‘Athens of Ayrshire’ – are a little less clear.
Jyvaskyla – the ‘Athens of Finland’ – is so named because it is a city of learning, as Athens was once with the teachings of philosophers Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and many others; still popular material in curriculum today. The Massachusetts capital, Boston, is known as the ‘Athens of America’ and Colombia’s capital, Bogota, is the ‘Athens of South America’ for similar reasons. Edinburgh – the Scottish capital and the ‘Athens of the North’ – was a major center during the Enlightenment in the 18th century – while another American city (Nashville, Tennessee) is known as the ‘Athens of the South’ because of an abundance of colleges and universities in the area.
The Russian city of Tomsk had a high emphasis on education and by the outbreak of World War II every 12th citizen was a student – causing it to be dubbed the Siberian Athens.
The Italian city of Florence holds the title of the ‘Athens of the Middle Ages’ as it is considered to be the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance – a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe from the end of the 1200s to the start of the 17th century.
Other Athenian cities with cultural significance include the Indian city of Madurai (the Athens of the East), Sarospatak in Hungary (the Athens of the Bodrog – a river that runs through Hungary and Slovakia) and Lexington, Kentucky (Athens of the West).
With all this attention and willingness to be associated with the Greek capital, it’s clear to see the reason why so many flights to Athens are jam-packed with tourists wishing to see the sights that have inspired so many places around the world.
The information contained within this article is the opinion of the author and is intended purely for information and interest purposes only. It should not be used to make any decisions or take any actions. Any links are included for information purposes only.