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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Chaliakopoulos, MSc

A Brief History of Omonia Square in Athens

What is Omonia Square?

Omonia Square is a large public square built in 1846 and named to commemorate the reconciliation of two rival political factions.

Omonia Square Fountain

Omonia Square History

Omonia dates back to the mid-19th century. Its name, which has changed a few times since its founding, translates to ‘Concord Square’ and commemorates a historical event that came to symbolise Greek unity. The country had just gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830 when the European superpowers of the time forced the newly formed state to become a kingdom under a monarch of their choosing. The candidate was Otto, a Bavarian prince who was just 17 years old when he was sent to Athens in 1832.

Within 10 years, Otto had lost a significant amount of power, after giving in to strenuous demands for a constitution that almost amounted to revolution. In 1862, after 30 years of being ruled by him, the Greeks finally deposed their Bavarian monarch. This led to tension between opposing political parties who had different visions of how the country should be governed henceforth. Violence broke out and civil war would have resulted if the majority of the Greek Parliament had not maintained their calm. Eventually, a large group of armed people from both sides gathered here, pressing for a ceasefire. The leaders of the opposing parties swore an oath of concord, putting an end to the threat of violence and leading to a fitting choice of name for the square.

Today, it’s a reminder that the Greeks were not always united. In fact, modern Greek history has been plagued by civil wars and internal conflicts that were not averted. Only a few months after the oath of concord had taken place, a new round of violence erupted and almost 200 people lost their lives. But even if lasting concord was not reached, Omonia remained a symbol of peace and unity; a valuable lesson that it’s never too late to stop the violence.

Ironically, the square itself has been a divisive topic over the years. In the 1960s, Omonia was remodelled to include a large circular fountain. At that time, the square was considered one of the most beautiful places in Athens and was immortalised numerous times in Greek films of the 1960s and ‘70s. As further decades passed, the architecture of the city became increasingly modern and many of the Neoclassical buildings that once surrounded the square were replaced. When Greece hosted the Olympic Games in 2004, Omonia was redesigned once more. However, the new square was highly unpopular with the locals, who were nostalgic for the meeting place that they loved to watch in old movies. Since then, Omonia has undergone a series of changes until a 2020 intervention partially restored the layout it had in the 1960s, complete with a large circular central fountain.

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