With the Olympics happening in Japan this summer, I decided to do towns name Athens, where the Olympics began.
The so-called town experts will tell you that there are at least 23 towns in the United States named Athens, but a lot of them are just unincorporated bumps in the road. There are really only a few important Athens in the United States, and most of them are college towns with not many tourist attractions other than campuses.
Ruth and I went to the Athens in Georgia not too long ago and toured the campus. The only other place of interest in town was a visitors’ center in a historic home.
One year I took Ruth to the Athens in Greece for her birthday. We had a great time but found dirty streets, a lot of ethnic troubles usually involving Bulgarians, and a very depressed economy. The only crowded places in this city of close to 3 million were the bars and cafes. The citizens of the largest Athens in the world situated among many ancient ruins seemed to have an attitude to enjoy life before things got worse.
What does make towns named Athens different in North America is the fact that there are many of them with populations of about 1000. This tells me that an early inhabitant was Grecian and homesick, so he or she named their new town after the city in Greece where they likely came from. There are Athens of about 1000 people in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and in the only town in Canada with the name Athens in Ontario. We have also found a large Greek community in Melbourne, Australia, but no towns named Athens. Aussie Grecians tend to be city dwellers. The US city with the most Greek citizens seems to be Chicago.
The 2nd largest Athens in the world is the city in Georgia close to Atlanta. Its population now exceeds 125,000. Ruth ran over an object in the road shortly before we arrived in Athens, so we spent a lot of our time at a repair facility having a car part reattached. Other than that, we spent some time on the huge campus of the University of Georgia, where we were often lost. There are other fairly large towns named Athens in Alabama, Ohio, and Tennessee. The Alabama Athens was originally called Athenson before it was decided to name it after the city in Greece. Athens State University is there but not much else for travelers. The Athens in Ohio is home to Ohio University, and I know one of its published professors. He does not rave about his town’s tourist potential. The Tennessee Athens is known for Tennessee Wesleyan University and a couple of colleges. It is understandable that the home of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates would export the name Athens.
The Athens in Nevada has been deserted since 1939. It once produced $20,000 worth of gold. The most interesting artifact I saw in Athens, Greece, which has many fine museums of ancient treasures, was the gold mask of Agamemnon below. It’s considered a national treasure.