Spotlight on Athens, Greece


            The Acropolis, in Athens, Greece, dates back to the 5th century B.C. It positively stirs the imagination since it represents the origins of democracy and Western Civilization.  This was the home of Demosthenes, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  The plays of Aeschylus, Aristophanes and Euripides were performed here. 

            The Propylea was the entryway to the Acropolis and one can still imagine its splendor.  The Erechthyon, on the north side, is also impressive with its Karyatids (sculpted maidens) instead of columns (the real Karyatids are in the Acropolis Museum to preserve them; the ones outside are reproductions).  Also visible from the Acropolis is the Odeon of Herodotus-Atticus, an amphitheater still used during the summer months for the performance of Greek plays. 

            But the most impressive sight is certainly the Parthenon — Phidias’ masterpiece is regal, graceful, and beautiful, although much-changed from its 5th century grandeur.  It dominates the Acropolis and remains a clear cut symbol of Ancient Greece, despite its ubiquitous scaffolding and seemingly perpetual restoration.

            From here there are also great views of the Agora (the marketplace/gathering place), the Temple of Hephaistus, the Theater of Dionysus (the oldest theater in the world), the Areopagus (Hill of Curses) which is associated with St Paul’s first visit to Athens, the Plaka (an old area of the city beneath the Acropolis which contains many shops, hotels, and restaurants), and Likavitos Hill, with St George’s Church at its summit.

            The Acropolis Museum is a treasure trove of original sculpture rescued from the damaging air pollution of Athens and also displays reproductions of what some areas of the Acropolis looked like before they became ruins.

            There are a number of vestiges of the time when Greece was under Roman rule in the city. These include the Roman Agora, near the original and similar to a Roman Forum. Noteworthy here is the Tower of the Winds. Also of Roman origin are the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, in a park not far from the Plaka.

            Elsewhere in Athens is Syntagma (Constitution) Square, which is anchored by the Parliament Building (and former Royal Palace). In front of the building is Greece’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where visitors can watch a Changing of the Guard Ceremony (most elaborate on Sundays). 


            Gary’s Gem:

                        1. Be sure to see the Acropolis at night — the soft-lighting enhances its symmetry.

                        2. A popular excursion from the city involves a 70 kilometer (40 mile) drive southeast to the tip of the peninsula at Sounion to see the beautiful Temple of Poseidon, overlooking the Aegean Sea.
                        3. My walking tour of Athens was posted on 9-15-08.


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