Edinburgh World Heritage

Calton Hill - Athens of the North

Edinburgh re-branded itself 'Athens of North' to express its sense of achievement.

Edinburgh had started to build its New Town in the 1770s, although there were few public buildings. As the confidence of the city grew, so did calls for suitable grand monuments to show its achievements.

At first the architecture of Rome was the inspiration for architects, but by 1800 the ruins of ancient Athens were seen as the model to follow. Ancient Greek styles came to influence everything from hair-dressing to tea sets.

The artist Hugh William Williams even held an exhibition of pictures of Athens displayed alongside views of Edinburgh, inviting visitors to see the likeness in the two cities.

In the following years several grand buildings were constructed, copying ancient Greek monuments and temples. Just further up the road are two of the most important - the Burns Monument modelled on the Monument of Lysicrates and the Royal High School inspired by the Temple of Hepaestus.

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