A normal childhood requires a great many stories, and demands that at least some of those stories have a little bit of magic thrown into them. For my sister and I, led by my sister’s obsession with all things Ancient, and with our young imaginations rather firmly captured by a particularly wonderful book, this childhood magic filtered in through the escapades of the Greek Gods.
The Gods of Ancient Greece are great and powerful (as gods should be), but also have great weaknesses, in the form of human vices (pride, vanity, anger etc.). They are diverse, have distinct personalities, and, unlike in much of our modern and ancient fantasy, the female Gods are granted near-equal power as their male counterparts.
My sister chose Artemis: Goddess of the Wilderness, the Hunt, Virginity and (as a bit of an oxymoron perhaps) Childbirth. In one of her stories, The Goddess is seen, naked in a pool, by her long time friend and hunting companion, who then tries to force himself on her. She turns him into a stag, and he is hunted to death by his own hounds, who no longer recognise him.
If you’ve met me, you can probably guess my choice.
Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom, War and the Arts. She sprang fully formed from her father, Zeus’ skull (after he ate her mother), gifted Greece with the Olive and thus won the capital against her powerful uncle, Poseidon (Lord of the seas), and generally ran around being badass and feisty.
One of her stories? When Arachne dared to suggest that she was a better weaver than the Goddess (and it turned out to be true), she turned the young woman into a spider.
So, also a little competitive.
All of this is simply to say, that it shouldn’t really surprise you that our travels in Europe eventually landed us in Athens.
We traveled over the Christmas-New Year period, with Andy’s near-entire family.
Meet Andrew, Mari-Anne, (Andy), David and Michael:
When we arrived, we headed straight up to the Acropolis. Acropolis basically means ‘hill settlement’ and, as a warning for anyone heading to Athens, the city has a lot of hills. (I actually have a conspiracy theory that Andy is aiming to make me walk up as many hills, mountains, sand dunes, church towers and lookouts as he possibly can, probably as some sort of secret fitness regime).
So, you climb up some hill for a bit, and then enter through the Propylaea- a huge gate. For those of you who are playing at home, the Propylaea of Athens is actually what the based the Brandenburg Gate of Berlin on!
This is not it:
For some reason, at this point I became distracted by all the sights, and failed to take any front-on shots including the centre of the gate itself. Mostly, I think, because it was covered in scaffolding (almost all of the buildings at the Acropolis are under some kind of semi-continuous repair).
But also because: WOW!
^Again, not a gate! Instead, this is the Temple of Athena Nike (that is, Athena in her form as victor and warrior).
That ‘little’ thing at the front there is the Monument to Agrippa. Originally, there would have been a statue up there.
And this is me going through the gate. All drama and columns an bright blue skies.
As mentioned, the Acropolis is up a big hill. Which means that we should take a brief moment to ignore all the other amazing buildings all around, and instead check out that view!
From one side, the Parthenon didn’t really have it’s game face on. It’s the largest and main attraction of the Acropolis, so it will be exciting to go back sometime in the future when they’ve finished the reconstructions (which they are now doing to basically ‘undo’ the terrible job at reconstructing that was done previously).
Fun fact, Parthenon comes from the Greek word meaning ‘Virgin’, in reference to Athena’s Virginal state. Think parthenogenesis.
Luckily, from the other side, the Virgin Beauty is quite spectacular.
We gazed in wonder.
After that, we needed a bit of a break.
Seriously, it was hot up there! I cannot even imagine what it must be like in Summer, with 20 more degrees C and 20 times the tourists. From our limited experience, it seems like a lot of the Greek Island activities are not available in the off season, however, if you’re thinking of a long-weekend getaway to the capital, I would strongly encourage a visit in late Autumn or early Spring.
This now is the side of the Erechtheion, which, for reasons that I don’t understand, Athena had to share with Poseidon.
I guess at least she got to have another couple of temples all of her own…
Anyway, apparently Athena’s sacred snake lived in the Erechtheion, was fed honey cakes by a high priestess, and, according to wiki: ‘The snake’s occasional refusal to eat the cakes was thought a disastrous omen”.
We at a LOT of honey cakes in Greece- or at least a lot of the honeyed biscuits that are Christmas specific and were offered by all of our hosts.
I can kind of see where the snake was coming from there.
The porch of the caryatids (female column statues). Wiki informs me that some Scottish Lord decided to take one home with him (it’s now in the British Museum), and the remaining five can sometimes be heard crying for their lost sister.
The slopes of the Acropolis also host two ancient theatres. The first, to the south, is the Theatre of Dionysus, believed to be one of the word’s first.
The second is the slightly more modern Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
What do you think? Ready to head over to Athens to visit the Acropolis?
It is all pretty spectacular.
Personally, however, I think it’s missing a very small detail.
I think the whole thing could be elevated by the replacement of a replica Athena Promachos.
The Promachos was a 9 metre high bronze statue of the Goddess, that glared down from the Acropolis. It was built nearly 500 years BCE, was stolen away to Constantinople by the Romans, and eventually destroyed in fear and superstition in 1200 AD.
Here, from wiki, is how the site would look with her in her proper place.
What do you think- shall we start a Kickstarter?