Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace ofdemocracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC in later centuries on the rest of the then known European continent. Today a cosmopolitan metropolis, modern Athens is central to economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece. In 2008, Athens was ranked the world’s 32nd richest city by purchasing power and the 25th most expensive in a UBS study.
The city of Athens has a population of 655,780 (796,442 back in 2004) within its administrative limits and a land area of 39 km2 (15 sq mi). The urban area of Athens (Greater Athens and Greater Piraeus) extends beyond the administrative municipal city limits, with a population of 3,074,160 (in 2011), over an area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi). According to Eurostat, the Athens Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) is the 7th most populous LUZ in the European Union (the 4th most populous capital city of the EU) with a population of 4,013,368 (in 2004). Athens is also the southernmost capital on the European mainland.