A Virtual Tour of Ancient Athens: Fly Over Classical Greek Civilization in All Its Glory

If we seek to under­stand West­ern civ­i­liza­tion, we must look back not just to Rome, but also to Athens. And today, thanks to com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed imagery informed by his­tor­i­cal research, we can look not just to those cities, but at them — or at least at con­vinc­ing dig­i­tal recon­struc­tions, but from angles their actu­al inhab­i­tants could scarce­ly have imag­ined. A few years ago, we fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture the Youtube chan­nel Ancient Athens 3D for its recon­struc­tions of indi­vid­ual struc­tures like the Tem­ples of Ilis­sos and Hep­haes­tus. Its more recent video above offers a twelve-minute vir­tu­al tour of all clas­si­cal Athens in the fifth cen­tu­ry BC, the height of ancient Greek civ­i­liza­tion.

In that peri­od, accord­ing to the video, Athens “was the cen­ter of the arts, the­ater, phi­los­o­phy, and democ­ra­cy.” In the city “great mon­u­ments of archi­tec­ture were built and were large­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the Athen­ian gen­er­al Per­i­cles.”

It was Per­i­cles who led the city-state dur­ing the first two years of the Pelo­pon­nesian War, the con­flict in which Athens would even­tu­al­ly fall to Spar­ta in 404 BC — a defeat that had almost, but not quite come to the city at the moment Ancient Athens 3D cre­ator Dim­itris Tsalka­nis brings it back to life. He includes every­thing from the Acrop­o­lis and the Ago­ra to the Olympieion and the Sacred Gate, all look­ing as if they’ll stand for­ev­er.

Nor does Tsalka­nis ignore even bet­ter-known clas­si­cal Greek build­ings like the Parthenon, whose detailed recon­struc­tion, inside and out, also appears in its own video just above. Com­mis­sioned by Per­i­cles, built on the Acrop­o­lis, and ded­i­cat­ed to the god­dess Athena, “patroness of the city of Athens,” the build­ing remains “a sym­bol of ancient Greece, democ­ra­cy, and West­ern civ­i­liza­tion” near­ly two and half mil­len­nia after its con­struc­tion, and more than two cen­turies after the Earl of Elgin had its mythol­o­gy-depict­ing mar­bles sent off to Eng­land. You can still see them at the British Muse­um (at least for now), and for that mat­ter you can still vis­it the Parthenon itself in Athens — or at least the ruins there­of, whol­ly untouched by dig­i­tal mag­ic.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Explore Ancient Athens 3D, a Dig­i­tal Recon­struc­tion of the Greek City-State at the Height of Its Influ­ence

What Ancient Greece Real­ly Looked Like: See Recon­struc­tions of the Tem­ple of Hadri­an, Curetes Street & the Foun­tain of Tra­jan

How Ancient Greek Stat­ues Real­ly Looked: Research Reveals Their Bold, Bright Col­ors and Pat­terns

Watch Art on Ancient Greek Vas­es Come to Life with 21st Cen­tu­ry Ani­ma­tion

What Did Ancient Greek Music Sound Like?: Lis­ten to a Recon­struc­tion That’s ‘100% Accu­rate’

An 8‑Minute Ani­mat­ed Flight Over Ancient Rome

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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