As urban Athens expanded in the 19th and, even worse, in early 20th centuries, the river became a source of pollution and was gradually converted into a rainwater runoff conduit, covered with streets that track its original, twisting route, along the lay of the land.
The River Ilissos bed flows under Mesogeion Avenue at the Old Gendarmerie Academy, runs under Michalakopoulou (the modern-day suburb of Ilissia) and Vassileos Constantinou Avenues, and passes in front of the Panathinaiko Olympic Stadium, where it was bridged in the 19th century. The river used to flow along the fortification walls of Athens. Its banks -in the busy intersection that today features the Hilton Hotel and the National Gallery- were grassy and shaded by plane trees, and were considered idyllic in antiquity. The temple of Pankrátēs, a local hero, was located there, giving its name to the modern suburb of Pankrati.
By Hera! What a fine place for rest! How large and tall this platanus tree is! And, this chestnut tree, how magnificent is its shade and majestic its branches! These places are all in bloom and balmy. A delicious spring ripples at the roots of this platanus and by dipping our feet we may feel the coolness if its waters. To judge by these figurines and statues one might say that this abode is consecrated to Nymphs and to the Acheloos river. How the air that we breathe here is sweet and agreeable! It is like the perfume of Summer, harmonious with the chorus of grasshoppers. But, what I like best, is this soft turf, thick enough to rest our heads comfortably, stretching ourselves on this gently inclined ground. My dear Phaedros, thou could have not lead me to a better place!
Ilisos was also a semi-god, the son of Poseidon and Demetra, and was worshiped in a sanctuary on the Ardittos Hill, next to the current Panathinaiko Olympic Stadium. This area was called Cynosarges in antiquity, and the spring of Kallirrhóē was located there. Among the many legends and stories that are supposed to have taken place by the banks of Ilissos, this is where King Kodros sacrificed himself to save Athens from the invading Dorians.
Ilissos River then flows to the southeastern flank of the ruined Temple of Olympian Zeus, where it is still visible amidst reed beds, next to the church of Agia Foteini "of Ilissos". As is the case for the majority of the Christian churches in Greece, the church of Agia Foteini, established in 1872, is built on the ruins of an ancient temple, dedicated to Hecate.
Ilissos then flows under Thesseos Avenue, in the suburb of Kallithea, its original course turning sharply northwest to join the Kifissos River, of which it was once a tributary. The Ilissos is now routed straight to sea, coming to surface and running into the Saronic Gulf in the middle of Faleron Bay.
In the vicinity of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the church of Agia Foteini and the course of Ilissos River, we recommend The Athenian Callirhoe Exclusive Hotel, a 4-star boutique hotel combining the ultimate in style and luxury and an ideal choice for both business and leisure travelers.
It features free Wi-Fi, a Fitness Center, Babysitting/Child Services, Non-Smoking Rooms, Room Service, a Restaurant, and American Breakfast. The hotel is located next to the Syngrou-Fix Metro and tram stations, and offers easy accessibility on foot to Athens' major points of interest.
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A Journey in Mythical Athens
Through this tour you will visit ancient sanctuaries dedicated to mystery gods, Christian churches that replaced the ancient temples, caves and Roman baths. You will learn of urban myths, you will see the remains of ancient Athenian neighborhoods and visit Pnyx Hill, Philoppapos Hill and Ilissos riverside