The meaning of street names in Athens.

Othonos street, Οδός Όθωνος, Otto King of Greece.


For such an important figure of the modern history of Greece the street with his name is rather short. The street is very central just below the greek parliament. It isn’t commercialized a lot. Just a Bank and one or two shops. It is closed for the general car drivers and only buses and taxi cars are permitted. I would prefer it pedestrianized since it serves only as bypass road for certain types of vehicles.

King Otto wasn’t at all greek. He was the second son of the king of Bavaria Ludwig. The choice of a german prince for the newly born modern greek nation wasn’t accidental. After the Convention o London in 1932, the greek nation was established. From the start of the greek war of independence 1821-1932, the liberated part of Greece was plunged into small civil wars. So the great powers (England, France and Russia) decided to create an artificial greek King who could enforce stability.

Of course the king couldn’t be english, neither french, neither russian. The first choice was the Leopold son of the Franz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. In general the german speaking states were neutral to the great powers for a long time. So the choice of a german king was a convenient one. Leopold wisely refused the throne of Greece and became later the first king of Belgium. The second choice was the second son of the great admirer of ancient Greece and philhellene Ludwig I of Bavaria Otto.

Prince Otto was born in 1815 and in 1832 was just an adolescent 17 years old. That didn’t matter for the great power as long as they could pull the strings and for some years Greece was ruled by a bavarian regency.

Like his father Otto had great respect for the ancient greek culture but not necessarily for the modern greek one. Modern greeks especially those from the rural areas were in a great degree influenced by the christianism and the ottoman’s traditions. The bavarian regency was rough and indifferent for the local

traditions and habits. Their autocracy led many greek warriors of the greek revolution to jails or unbearable poverty. When Otto grew up and came to the power, he elbowed the the regency and showed a more tolerant attitude. Nevertheless he never succeeded to be adorable by most of greeks. He preferred to be the king of the Greece rather the king of the greeks. The vast majority of greeks were living in the ottoman empire. So the title of King of Greece was more diplomatic.

Also the Royal Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Greece had in the middle the bavarian flag. Both the title and the coat of arms were wisely changed by the next king. Despite the prominent Eastern Orthodox Church in Greece he remained loyal to the catholic church. That wasn’t perceived well. On the other hand he learned fast the greek language and adopted the greek clothes for his officials appearances. He married the german noble Amalia of Oldenburg from the Saxony. Amalia soon tried to blend into the greek society. She was a benevolent and very popular. Maybe for that reason a much bigger avenue than the Othonos street has its name. She didn’t succeeded to give a heir and that was very negative for her popularity and that of his husband. In 1844 after a revolt he was forced to accept the first constitution of modern Greece. He agreed to lower the number of bavarian soldiers and to replace them with greeks. That was a mistake and the beginning of the end for his reign. In 1862 at the age of 47 after thirty years as king he was exiled after a successful revolt. The great powers that brought him to power, ensured him his safe and permanent transportation to his homeland Bavaria. That had devastated effects for his health and psychology. After five years in 1867 at the age of 52 he died.

Beside being a puppet of the great powers the legacy of Otto is that he created the foundations of a modern european country to the devastated little liberated Greece. Some notable buildings of the Bavarian rule are the greek parliament (ex Royal Palace) above Syntagma square and the metropolitan cathedral church of Athens on Mitropoleos street. After the sudden exile of king Otto some of the few remaining bavarians didn’t left Greece. Some famous descentants of them was the actor Dimitris Horn, the actress Marika Nezer, the politician Miltiadis Evert and the Fix family which had created the famous Fix beer brewery.

Images source


Athens Othonos street, right of the Syntagma Square. In front is at the end of Othonos street is the Amalias avenue.
Athens Syntagma square closer view. Right is the Filellininon street.


Use the mouse or your finger to view a 360 degrees view of Athens Syntagma square Othonos and Filellinon street..  View Panorama in larger size.

View the map in larger size. The position in Athens of Othonos street-Οδός Όθωνος.