It’s a bit overwhelming to begin describing all the ancient sites in Greece. From Athens to Delphi to Olympia and more, there is so much history here. It’s hard to know where or how to begin. And how to keep all the stories straight. Honestly, I’m not or wasn’t that familiar with ancient history before coming here. It was one thing to explore the ancient Roman sites in France, now we’re looking at remains even older and some even thousands of years before Greece’s Golden Age. Whew!
I’ll start with Athens where we began this journey, and take you along the roads we traveled. We had a very basic little hotel in the heart of the Plaka, the area just below the Acropolis in Athens. However, we had a great view of the Acropolis from our balcony. In the other direction were the mountains of Greece. After several gorgeous, sunny days, we awoke one morning to a chill in the air and snow atop the mountains.
Across from the entrance to the Acropolis is a huge, craggy Boulder called Mars Hill. Standing here gives you a good view of the Acropolis. This Boulder is where The Apostle Paul preached and converted many Athenians.
The Acropolis is set on a high hill rising above the sprawling city of Athens. As a European city, Athens itself has little to offer, the architecture is lacking and the city is a bit messy, much like many cities in Mexico. However, the Acropolis rises above it all with its own historic and artistic significance. Athens now boasts a state of the art museum that houses many pieces of art and architecture from the Golden Age and before.
The Mycenaeans ruled this area from around 1400 B.C. and had a palace atop this hill. These people had an empire in Greece and beyond about 1000+ years before the ancient Greeks. If you think about it, they existed about the same amount of time before the Golden Age of Greece as between the Golden Age and now! We’ll see more from them later.
By 450 BC, after withstanding attacks and destruction from the Persians, Athens was once again at its peak. The leader, Pericles, led a massive building project transforming the Acropolis into a supersized complex devoted to the goddess Athena who was believed to be the city’s protector. There were four major buildings or monuments; the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike. One thing we know of this great site was it was started and finished within fifty years (450-400 B.C.).
There is a lot of information in the museum that tells visitors about the geometry of the columns and buildings. There was so much life-sized statuary built onto the buildings. It is truly amazing to see these structures and imagine how they were constructed without the technology and tools we have today. Just the massive size was impressive.
Also in Athens, at the base of the Acropolis, were ruins of the old city including the Ancient Agora. This is where the people would shop and meet and philosophize. Walking these streets and considering some of those who went before, Socrates, Plato, and others can be awe inspiring. Almost anywhere people begin to dig in Greece ruins are found. When the construction began for the Metro prior to the 2004 Olympics more ruins were unearthed and are now displayed in the Metro entrance.
I’ll finish up this post with a few more pictures from Athens. The Byzantine churches are seen everywhere in Greece. They are always built in the shape of a cross and furnished similarly inside. Now it’s common to see more modern versions throughout the villages.
One morning on our walk we were lucky to watch a changing of the guard outside a government building.
Now, we’re off to see the oracle of Delphi. I hope you’ll come along.