Athens Adventures

Before I continue chronicling our trip, I wanted to report that The Beverly Review published an article about our trip while we were away: “Woman Makes Great Connections for Area Students.”

Last week I showed our Great Connections Travelers at the Parthenon of the Athenian Acropolis. This temple to Athena, goddess of the city, is but one of the magnificent structures, such as the theater shown above, on this rocky outcropping, high above Athens.

We learned from The Life of Greece by Will Durant and from our guide, that this was the original site of the city where the Bronze Age inhabitants created a highly defensible fortress. The difficulty of scaling the height, and a spring, which allowed inhabitants to stay in the fortress, enabled the development of the city. The Acropolis also had a secret passage down through the rock and out at the bottom that Theseus, the mythical king and founder of unified Attica, used to defend against attackers.

I can’t recommend The Life of Greece more – it is an immensely informative history, in which the historical, cultural, military, philosophical, and artistic aspects of the ancient world are remarkably integrated. Reading it is more like reading a fiction story than a history – and I recommend the version on Audible, because it is so beautifully written it’s great to hear as a story.

Unbeknown to us, Greece had been geographically isolated from the rest of Europe by the Eastern Block countries during the Cold War and the communist pressure was intense. Now, a former part of the Eastern Block has renamed itself The Republic of Macedonia — and Greece objects. Macedonia has long been part of Greece. The two countries are attempting to resolve the issue with a new name, the Republic of Northern Macedonia. But not all the Greeks were happy about it, as you can see above. This was something we learned while we were in Athens, when we visited the headquarters of – the Greek Center for Liberal Studies. This organization is fighting to expand individual rights and free markets throughout Greece. Its members are highly aware of Greece’s fundamental role in the development of free societies.

All that remains of Plato’s school is gardens and a few stone foundations, outlining the Palestra (wrestling arena), swimming pool (pysna), and  a small house-like structure for discussions. Traveler Bill Rein contemplates the wonder of it above.

Findings under the Acropolis Museum.

Traveler Bob Balocca enjoys the diggings visible under the museum. Fabulous artwork is housed here. Lucky for us, a traveling bust of Aristotle was on display that day.

Aristotle’s school, the Lyceum (named after the temple to Apollo Lyceus, the wolf-god) was only rediscovered in 1996 in a park! Now it’s behind a Byzantine Museum (buildings in the background). It existed from 335 BC until the Roman general Sulla destroyed it in 86 BC in an assault on Athens. However, the organization of the school was revived under Roman rule until the 3rd century AD.

Containing a swimming pool and other athletic facilities, it had garden walks around which Aristotle lectured to his students. This gave the school the name Peripatetic – walkers. Aristotle established the school as the first research institute, continuing his work of collecting, examining , describing and analyzing living organisms from around the world, which he started in his time on Lesvos (I’ll talk about the exotic animals and plants we saw on that island in the next post).

Ancient writers reported that his pupil, Alexander the Great, enthusiastically helped with this project by sending specimens from the worlds that he conquered, all the way to India.

In the picture above, from the left, David Kelley, our guide Varvara, Ray Raad, Marsha Enright, Nimish Adhia and Matt Faherty in the front row, and Ricardo Mihura, Ian Mihura, Vickie Oddino, Bill Rein, and Scott Barton in the back, read over a map of the ruins. There’s considerable active work going on, excavating even more of the school.

Day two of our explorations ended in a downpour at the Ancient Agora!

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