On Monday I went to the Acropolis, to see where the ancient Greeks and later the Romans used to go to pray and offer gifts to the Gods.
Walking through the entrance of the museum, I couldn’t help but notice the beauty in the building itself, of sprawling glass to give natural light to exhibits inside, and to show the dig sights underneath the walkways. I think that museum was one of the better ones I have been to, over my entire life. Everything was well laid out, and there was lots of plaques giving plenty of information about what I was looking at, but also putting it in the context of history and what was going on in Greece at the time of it’s construction. I found the educational portion of the 1st floor about the pigment very interesting, because previously to this trip, I had always thought that Greek sculpture was only white and marble or stone, but I’ve come to learn that they used a special method to color the eyes on many statues (even bronze ones), and as I learned in this museum, used colored paints with pigments from nature to intricately color patterns on many of the statues that were found in and around the acropolis.
My two favorite parts of the museum were on the third floor. The first was two giant sections of the wall from the outside of the temples dedicated to Athena. Athena is one of my favorite goddesses in Greek mythology, and I really loved listening to stories about her as a child. I thought she was great because she was the goddess of wisdom and quick wit, and so she embodied the value of knowledge and being wise, and in many stories she uses her clever mind to solve problems. The two relieves depict two stories of Athena.
The first is the story of how she was born. It is right after Hephaestus has cracked open Zeus’s head with an axe and Athena has burst out with her spear and her helmet (one of her symbols) and her shield, and she’s standing before all of her fellow gods and goddesses. The other wall depicted the story of how Athena became the patron God of Athens. Poseidon also wanted to be the patron God, and so they went up onto the mountain where the Acropolis stands and they offered gifts to the Athenians (who I guess at the time had a different collective name). Poseidon hit his trident on the ground and salt water burst out in a geyser. Athena grew a olive tree out of the ground and showed the Athenians how to make olive oil. They liked her gift better and so she became the patron of Athens. I think it’s also fitting because Greece is known for its high quality olive oil now, and Athens is the capital city and it is named for the goddess who gave the Athenians the olive tree. However, Athens wasn’t named the capital until the 1800s, so it’s like it came full circle in a funny coincidence.
My second favorite part about the museum was that there was a bookstore selling books in all different languages, and around the corner there was a reading nook with little benches to sit and read your new book and watch people look at the statues on the first floor. Maybe it explains why Athena was my favorite goddess, because I was quite in to reading as a child, and I still am but I have less time now, so any museum with a dedicated spot to sitting and reading is a good one in my book.
After we finished with the museum, we wandered up to the mountainside to start our trek to the Acropolis. We walked past the ruins of other temples to nymphs and to other gods, such as Dionysus, who was very prominent as well, and we walked past the Dionysus Amphitheater to see that on our way up. As we climbed higher we overlooked the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which is the Roman Theater. It’s currently updated now and fit with electricity, sound, and updated stage equipment, because it is used for current performances. Although it was built during the time of Roman occupation in Greece, and therefore didn’t stand when the Acropolis was originally being built and used, the theater is being used throughout the annual Athens and Epidaurus Festival. This week the performance is a showcase of the National Opera, in their performances of Madame Butterfly.
We continued upwards, finally reaching a flight of stairs that led us through many columns to the summit of the hilltop. There we walked along the ancient pathways between temples built to Athena, and then the Acropolis itself. Despite having been finished with construction since 2004, the Acropolis was still covered in scaffolding and had support beams everywhere, I guess because it’s old and needs the help.
From the top of the mountain you could see in every direction for many miles. It was gorgeous and it also put in perspective for me quite how large the city is. Coming from Thessaloniki, I knew Athens was much bigger, but I didn’t realize quite how sprawling and immense it would be. The perspective I was given from an upper view was very enlightening.