The Acropolis

The views of the Acropolis from The Plaka really are spectacular. Our first night, we were overwhelmed with its beauty, but the next morning, we were more impressed with how imposing the site is from below. It's definitely understandable that the Greeks chose this site to honour their patron goddess, Athena.

The hike up to the Acropolis was a bit more grueling than it probably should have been. What can we say... we're out of shape and not used to nice weather. ;) We took the route past the Roman Agora, which is actually a fairly hefty site (more on that in a bit). We also passed the Church of the Metamorphosis, or "Transfiguration", a 14th-century Byzantine chapel. The rear grotto is actually carved into the Acropolis, which is cool. At the top of our initial climb, we sat and enjoyed a strawberry slushy (9EUR for ice!?!?!?!) and we were on our way to the Final Climb.

The first site to see when making your way up the steep-ish path to the top is the Theatre of Herod Atticus, originally from 161AD. They still pack the seats for special events every once in a while, including Jethro Tull and Pavarotti (not at the same time, but can you imagine?!?). A bit farther down the other side is the Theatre of Dionysus, with many colorful figures ringing the stage. We could just imagine the upper class sitting in the front row, members of the senate, priests/priestesses, etc, listening to the howling chorus during one of Euripedes' plays and sympathizing with Atlas, who shared their heaviness by having to 'support the arts' each night.

After passing the theatres, we wound our way up the short path to be greeted by the Temple of Athena Nike ("Athena who brings victory"). It's said that the idea of Athena Nike is spawned from the Egyptian goddess Nit, who stood by the Egyptian king during battle. The temple was the first to be built after the Peruvian invasion in the 400's BC and essentially invited her to the city. It stood for "Athens' ambitions as a world power in opposition to Persia"1.

After passing the Temple of Athena Nike, we were hit head-on with the mass of the Parthenon. But it's not just the sheer size of the building that's so impressive. Its columns are incredibly hefty, but the craftsmanship on them is equally arresting. The detail of the reliefs is also incredible. It really is mind-boggling how resourceful and talented the Athenians must have been! Unfortunately, the restoration on the building was a bit ugly, but that's the price you pay for being that old. You can see the progress the workmen are making on a daily basis- even with the thousands of people who throng to the site every week. There are pieces of history in what first appears to be a strewn-about fashion. But look again and you realize that they're piecing it together, bit by bit. The Athenians were amazing folks. They even created the world's first legos!

The Erechtheion, or Temple of Athena, is also located on the Acropolis, along with a small museum filled with artifacts, etc. It really does seem like the Athenians figured that "more equals better" when it comes to erecting temples/shrines to their patron goddess. She's everywhere! The museum contains beautiful, well-preserved artifacts from the Acropolis, including a decent-sized portion of "Athena vs. A Giant", which remains from the Old Temple of Athena, dating back to at least 480 BC. Steph's favourite picture is a portion of 'Lion Devouring A Horse', but we like to call it Fallen Horse (right). There are also sections of the relief from the Old Temple of Athena, which are very well-preserved.

But not only are the sites of the Acropolis amazing. The views from the top (left) are extraordinary. It's the best way to get your bearings in the city, as everything seems to be visible. Climbing up the Rock of Areios Pagos (Supreme Court), situated just outside the entrance to the Acropolis, will afford you a stellar view of the Ancient Agora and of western Athens. The rock was the ancient Athenian supreme court seat; Mycenaean kings are buried along the side of the hill. There is also a table embedded n the stone containing the words of the Apostle Paul, who spoke there in 50 AD.

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