Name an ancient Greek god — chances are you can name quite a few, or at least recognize the names once you see them. In fact the early history of Athens was shaped by belief in a fascinating cast of gods and goddesses over the centuries. Don organized our stay in a small apartment within walking distance of many of the most famous archaeological sites in the city; we took the metro (subway) to sites a bit further out. Almost every day we visited at least one ancient site and learned more about life in the early days of Athens.
Our first day in, we visited the Temple of the Olympian Zeus… it was a massive building but only a few columns remain standing. We were quite intrigued on how they were constructed. No tongue and groove or rebar, just very heavy round discs set on top of each other.
We spent a whole day in the Acropolis Museum which exhibits all the significant finds from the Sacred Rock and its foothills. It was quite amazing with magnificent sculptures that were in the first temples on the Acropolis. There were horse riders, statues of the Goddess Athena, many male figures, etc.
The next day we entered the Acropolis winding our way up the south slope. We passed the remnants of the Theatre of Dionysus, the Odeon of Herod the Atticus (the walls are mostly gone but the stage and seating area are used for live events), the Temple of Nike (Goddess of Victory) and the iconic Parthenon… Greece is working at carefully restoring this amazing space.
My favourite Temple was the Erechtheion built between 421 and 406 BCE. On the north side, there is a large porch with six Ionic columns, and on the south, the famous “Porch of the Maidens”, with six draped female figures (caryatids) as supporting columns. Stunning.
We visited numerous other ancient temples, city walls, cemeteries, and museums in Athens — most of the photos below are from various locations around the city — and we enjoyed it all.
We also joined a tour out to the Oracle of Delphi. The world’s most famous (and powerful) oracle resided here in the Temple of Apollo (photo above), high up the slopes of Mount Parnassus. In ancient times, people would work their way up the mountainside, and patiently hope for words of wisdom from the priestess (called the Pythia).
Our tour guide told us that in those days there was gas (vapour) seeping from deep within the rock into the chamber where the Pythia sat and shared her insights. This vapour would send her into a somewhat stoned state and she would often speak in dreamlike phrases that the wisdom-seekers would have to decipher for themselves.
As you can imagine, lengthy or repeated exposure to the gas was not healthy, so the Pythia would work short periods of time. There were many Pythia over the years, sometimes more than one at a time… but they had the job for life (however long that might be).
We really enjoyed Athens and all its history.
Much happiness to you all!