The crowning experience of our short visit to Athens was, of course, the Acropolis and Parthenon. We could see this architectural and historical gem from the roof of our hotel. Amazing!
The outstanding Acropolis Museum sits at the base of the Acropolis. It is designed to showcase the artifacts in a way resembling how they were found and originally displayed on the Acropolis. The museum begins the exhibits outside.
Athens is an ancient city. The city has layer on layer of settlement. Glass floors allow visitors to walk over and look down on the walls and foundations of those ancient buildings.
The sculptures in the museum are beautiful. We were with a guided tour getting fantastic insight into the figures we saw and the changes in style over time. We learned the history of the Parthenon and gazed upon some exquisite art.
Many people imagine the Parthenon, or any ancient Greek city, in white marble. That is because it is what we see in the ruins today and how the neo-classical movement presented the style in revival. However, anciently most of the sculptures were painted with bright colors. The dresses of the women had lovely designs and patterns. Some of the sculptures are preserved with subtle clues to this vibrant past. I think it would be amazing to see them all in colors, but most people think that would be strange. Photography was only allowed in the upper Parthenon Gallery and with the Caryatids. Here are some links to images with colored sculptures: http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/11/dazzlers-html, http://io9.gizmodo.com/5616498/ultraviolet-light-reveals-how-ancient-greek-statues-really-looked, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/true-colors-17888/.
The Parthenon Gallery
The top floor of the museum is slightly twisted to line up parallel to the actual Parthenon. It is also laid out in the same dimensions. The purpose of this is to give visitors the experience of walking up close and understanding the artifacts in relation to their true position. That’s because many of the architecture pieces were removed from the actual Parthenon and taken to the British Museum. This is a sore spot for the Greeks, and a sad chapter in history.
Anyway, the friezes and sculptures that were left, the Greeks replaced with replicas and put on display in the museum to be cleaned and protected. They are arranged exactly as found in the actual building and accompanied by reproductions of the ones taken by Elgin. I did enjoy being able to see the sculptures, including the pediment friezes, up close, but I would have preferred seeing them on the ancient edifice where they had stood miraculously for thousands of years.
Another great aspect of this museum and this exhibit are the views of the Acropolis.
In addition to the Parthenon, on the Acropolis there are other buildings. One of the most famous has a side portico with very unique columns supporting the roof. These are the caryatids. They are columns in the form of women. They are beautiful! Elgin only took one, leaving the others in their proper place. However, they were moved to this museum in the name of conservation.
To me, this is a sad situation. They remained in their place on that hill top for thousands of years, and yet, we think we can preserve them better than they have over time without much help. And now, the actual temple on the Acropolis has fake, reproductions in the originals’ place.
The Acropolis and Parthenon
From the museum, we strolled around the Acropolis to the main entrance. We ascended, passing the lovely theater that clings to the hillside. My heart was pumping. I was so excited! I couldn’t believe that I was about to walk around the Parthenon. We walked up the steps that Greeks and Romans climbed. We passed through the gates that guarded this sacred place. And there it was.
For some, you may think, what is so special about these ruins. They look like all of the neo-classical buildings on college campuses and housing governments around America and the world. Well, if it weren’t for this building, you wouldn’t have that style.
This was one of the largest buildings of its kind, and it was perfect. Mathematically speaking, the Parthenon was perfect. Its design was unparalleled. And, it stood, pretty much intact for a couple thousand years. Most of the damage came in the last couple hundred years.
I was thrilled to finally experience this. I marveled at the beauty of simplicity. I also wondered why they were trying to restore it. I want them to just let it be.
The views from the Acropolis were pretty great too.
Just outside the gate of the Acropolis, is Mars Hill. This was a place where people were ridiculed and judgements were cast. It is also famed as the site of Paul’s speech to the Athenians. Again, I was walking in the steps of the ancient apostles. I pulled out my Gospel Library app. and read from Acts chapter 17 Paul’s words including verse 26: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
I enjoyed my time in Athens. I will probably return one day to experience the marvelous Parthenon and its surrounds again. I would love to watch a performance in the ancient theater at the foot of the Acropolis.
This ended our trip. The next morning, Aaron and I returned to Beijing via Istanbul and Kiev while our friend continued on to Israel for a week. I can’t state enough how much I loved Turkey. I encourage everyone to visit that magnificent place sometime in their life.