Ethan, have you considered Getty's Thesaurus of Geographic Names? It does provide a geographic hierarchy, although the data for Athens they provide isn't quite the one you've described:
This vocabulary is available in XML here:
I have looked at it but not used it; it's a big tangled mess of XML.
MODS mimics a hierarchy (the subject/hierarchicalGeographic element has these children: continent, country, province, region, state, territory, county, city, island, area, extraterrestrialArea, citySection). The VRA Core location element provides a similar mapping.
I try to stay away from Dublin Core, but I did venture onto the DC Terms page just now and saw TGN listed in the vocabulary encoding schemes there, so probably someone has implemented it.
Karen D. Miller
Monographic/Digital Projects Cataloger
Bibliographic Services Dept.
Northwestern University Library
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From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ethan Gruber
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2012 12:49 PM
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Subject: [CODE4LIB] Representing geographic hiearchy in linked data
I have a dilemma that needs to be sorted out. I'm looking for an ontology that can describe geographic hierarchy, and hopefully someone on the list has experience with this. For example, if I have an RDF record that describes Athens, I want to point Athens to Attica, and Attica to Greece, and so on. The current proposal is to use dcterms:partOf, but the problem with this is that our records will also use dcterms:partOf to describe a completely different type of relational concept, and it will be almost impossible for scripts to recognize the difference between these two uses of the same DC term.