I was fortunate enough to visit Athens on a work trip last September and I could not resist sneaking in one little tour of the City. If you love traveling and you love history, then you really must visit Athens. It was my first visit to Athens (and Greece for that matter) and despite being busy with work for most of my time there, I truly enjoyed my time in that city. I hope to go back though, this time to soak in the unbelievable views and culture of the Greek Islands. Athens, was also the most “touristy” place I’d ever been in my life! There were hundreds of people around the Acropolis on the day that I visited.
Like most of the structures in the Acropolis, the original had been destroyed and this was originally rebuilt around 4AD. The theatre or odeon was built in the memory of Aspasia Annia Regilla, the deceased wife of Herodes Atticus.
The Hill of Areopagus is often associated with St. Paul, who in 52 AD supposedly preached the Christian message to the Athenians from atop the rock. Upon arriving in Athens, Paul had noticed that the Athenian people seemed to have an array of gods, and that they worshiped false idols. The Athenians had even erected an altar to an Unknown God, just in case they had left the possible true god out. St. Paul, having witnessed this altar, referenced it as a false god in his speech. His attempt to convert the masses to Christianity that day predominantly failed. But, St. Paul did manage to convert two souls that day, one being a woman by the name of Damaris, the other being Dionysios Aereopagitis. Dionysios Aereopagitis would eventually be named the patron saint of Athens, and his name could well be the origin of the rock’s name.
The Areopagus Athens rock is often referred to as the Hill of Ares, as it was the Greek god of war who is believed to have been the first tried at Aereopagus Hill. Ares was put on trial for killing the son of Poseidon, who had attacked and violated his sister. Poseidon, obviously angered at the murder of his son, called for a murder trial for Ares at Areopagus in Athens. A tribunal was formed by fellow Olympian gods who eventually would rule in favor of Ares. Thus the name, Hill of Ares. Regardless of legends and tall tales, there was an actual court held at Areopagus Hill that lasted from around the 7th century BC until Roman times. Primarily, those who were put on trial on the hill had been convicted of murder.
I did not actually see the exact spot where the statute of Athena had been as the entire place was in ruins…literally! 🙂 Nevertheless, the statutes around the area where the most preserved in the area around the Parthenon. They truly looked magnificent.
Below is information about some of the other structures found within the Acropolis. It was so crowded that this was the best bet for pictures and information!
The Parthenon was beautiful and very, very impressive. To think that people built this without modern tools many centuries ago is just mind blowing. It was dedicated to Athena Parthenos (the Virgin), the patron goddess of Athens. It was built between 447 and 438 BC and its sculptural decoration was completed in 432 BC. The temple is built in the Doric order and almost exclusively of Pentelic marble. It has eight columns on each of the narrow sides and seventeen columns on each of the long ones. The central part of the temple, called the cella, sheltered the famous chryselephantine cult statue of Athena, made by Pheidas. The rest of the sculptural decoration were completed by Pheidas by 432 BC. The sculptural decoration f the Parthenon is a unique combination of the Doric metopes and triglyphs of the entablature, and the Ionic frieze on the walls of the cella. The metopes depict the Gigantomachy on the east side, the Amazonomachy on the west, the Centauromachy on the south, and scenes from the Trojan war on the north. (Source)
For me, seeing the Parthenon was worth all the jostling from the crowds and the heat! I had seen some of the statutes mentioned above that had been removed from the Parthenon at the British Museum and couldn’t help but be amazed at how grand the Parthenon must have looked to visitors to Athens when it was still intact and in its architectural glory.
The pictures below were from the Acropolis Museum and depict the Parthenon in its full glory.
All of the city of Athens is a giant archeological dig! Below is the dig beneath the Acropolis Museum. In fact, my cab driver while in Athens remarked that people were often afraid to plant trees or dig up their yards for gardening for fear that they would discover something ancient which would mean that the land would be taken over by the government!
Below are streets paved in marble! Yep, marble! Apparently marble is so cheap and available that it is used to build roads. In contrast, wood is very expensive and harder to come by. Go figure! Imagine high end Athenian homes with hard wood floors and wood counter tops in contrast to the Nigerian high end homes with their marble floors and kitchen counter tops!
This is the Hilton Athens….a very mod building that was straight from the 60s! It was like stepping into the set of the Mad Men 🙂 The restaurant on the top floor is amazing and I recommend it if only for the super views of Athens at night!