Ancient Greece
Our visit to ancient Greece began in Athens.  The Parthenon on top of the Acropolis is visible from much of the city.  All you need to do is find an unobstructed vantage point, though the narrow streets can make that difficult.  Our hotel wasn't far away and we could see it out the bedroom window of our suite.

More views of it.

The restoration work was interesting in itself and gave us a chance to see some of the features close up.

From the top of the Acropolis we could see the part of the hill where the early Athenian citizens met to discuss the affairs of the day.  We also  saw the Erechtheum with its porch of the maidens. And looking down from it we could see the theater of Dioceses which had seats for 15,000 spectators.

As we walked around Athens we were constantly amazed to turn a corner and find that we were again looking at history.

This Roman Bath, along a major city street, was discovered during excavation for a ventilation shaft for the subway.  Upon discovery construction was stopped and the shaft was relocated. 

A visit to the subway is a history lesson as well.  The station at Syntagma Square holds these and many other artifacts.  Some, like this aqueduct from 2500 years ago, are displayed as though they were just uncovered.

Elsewhere around the city we saw evidence of the Turkish period and the Tower of the Winds which was designed by the astronomer Andronikos of Kyrrhos.  It served as a sundial, and weather observatory and held a complicated water clock.

The Folk Art Museum was an unexpected find and held some interesting works. The lead flask would have been used to hold raki, a strong alcoholic beverage. 

Our travels took us on to Delphi on the slopes of mount Parnasus.  There I touched the Sacred Stone that marks the navel of the world.  According to legend Zeus released two eagles, one from the East, and one from the West, and where they met, he threw this stone to mark the center of the world. The second picture is the stone where the Oracle of Delphi sat when she made her prophecy.  This stone was originally part of the floor of an underground room in the main temple.  The triangle of holes were where the base the tripod upon which she rested.  Water from the sacred spring flowed through the grove and gases from deep underground came through the hole and (along with laurel leaves she would chew) helped her go into a trance so she could utter her prophecies.  Visitors would bring gifts to her so that she would favor them with her view of their future. 
One famous prophecy was given to Croesus of Lydia (circa 546 BCE) who asked if he should invade Persia. Her reply was that if he did invade a mighty empire would be destroyed. Croesus thought this meant he would be victorious and invaded leading to the fall of his own empire.  Clearly her prophecy could be interpreted more than one way.

While we were there a rainbow appeared that seemed to end in the Treasury of Athens, one of the gifts to the Oracle. 
We took this as a good omen and hurried down to it but the rainbow vanished before we got there and we didn't find any gold.

Gifts were in all sizes and types.  Here is another picture of Treasury of Athens which was one of the largest but there were many alcoves along the road to the Oracle's temple that held statues and other offerings.

The next stop was Athena's temple.  There again we saw a rainbow, stronger than the last and this time it was double. 
Athena is the goddess of wisdom so I am really looking forward to this treasure.

On to Olympia.  This model shows the temples of Zeus (at the center) and Hera (to the left).  The other buildings were mostly where the dignitaries stayed and the athletes prepared themselves as well as a few more temples to various gods.  The brown rectangle at the top was where the games were actually held.

This is the oldest of the religious sites we saw there.  It is just in front of the temple of Zeus and predates it by many hundreds of years according to our guide.
It is where the gods Gaea (earth) and Uranus (sky) were worshiped.

The first picture is of area the Olympic flame is lighted every 4 years.  The bases of a few of the columns of the Temple of Zeus are on the left.  A  shrine honoring Athena is to the right and the gravel area and stones in the foreground are where the ceremony is held.  The second picture shows a little more of  Zeus's temple and the three columns in the background honor Apollo.  We seem to have visited at the peak of the spring flowers.  They were everywhere among the ruins.  When you walk through the gate in the last picture you are following the footsteps of the Greek athletes onto the original Olympic field.  We had a chance to compete there.  Unfortunately we couldn't bring home a laurel wreath.

These helmets (one Persian, one Greek) were found here.  The markings indicate that they were those of opposing generals who met in battle on this site.

The tiny sculptures aren't toys but offerings to the gods brought by visitors as are the other statues.  The last one in this set is of Apollo with baby Dionysus.

Epidaurus, where a competition of another sort was held.  Here individuals and groups presented plays, musical performances, poetry and other performing arts. The theater would seat about 12,000 and would often be filled.  This was even more remarkable since it was remote from the major cities of the day.   Like the Olympics these were a time for people from the cities of Greece to put aside their differences and challenge the others in a peaceful rivalry.  The theater is still used for both ancient and modern works.  It is famed for its acoustics.  Our guide demonstrated by standing at the center of the stage and talking in a normal voice which we could hear more than 50 meters (164 ft.) away.  She then tore paper and dropped coins on the stone at the center of the orchestra (stage).  Not only could these be heard but you could distinguish the large and small coins.

The museum nearby held this statue of  Asclepius the god of healing.  In ancient times this was the place to come for medical treatment.  This was given not just by offerings and prayer at the Sanctuary of Asclepius but they also knew some of what was needed to maintain health.  Hygieia, one of  Asclepius's daughters, was the goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation. Panaceia was another of his daughters.

Mycenae was occupied from neolithic times, at least 8000 years ago. Its peak was during the bronze age more than 3000 years ago. The first picture shows the Lions Gate.  The heads of the lions are missing but the size and workmanship are a testimony to the skills of these people.  The blocks of stone are so big that they are known as the Cyclopean wall.  Ancient Greeks thought these were so large that the builders must have had help from the mythical one eyed giant Cyclops to erect them.  The lintel over the entrance is estimated to weigh  more than 200 tons. Heinrich Schliemann was convinced that Homer's epics were based in fact and set out to prove it.  In an incredible stroke of luck his first excavation looking for Mycenae revealed the grave circle.  The treasures it contained convinced him that it was the graves of Agamemnon, Cassandra, Eurymedon and their companions.  Later discoveries demonstrated that these graves were too old by several hundred years but they gave the impetus for further excavation.


These pictures will give you some idea of what was there.  In addition beads, pottery, clay figures and tablets and other artifacts were found.

It is hard to visualize the size of the "Treasury" at Atreus from a picture but I hope that you can get some idea.  It is a buried stone structure shaped like an old fashioned beehive.  The second picture was taken from the inside looking up at the triangular opening over the door.  You can see the size of the stone blocks that were used and how accurately they fit together.
This monument was erected to commemorate the battle of Marathon

Are these toys?  Well the first one is but despite the resemblance to Legos the second is stonework that originally decorated the soffits of  a temple.

Some more pictures from our trip to Greece and Turkey.
Click on these links for  Modern Greece, Ancient Greece, the Greek Islands, our Greek Eclipse, Greek Eclipse AttireGreek Flowers, and Turkey.

See other places we have visited here.

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