Athens: Atop the Akrópoli

June 29, 2019

 

June 26, 2019, Athens, Greece — Before a mid-afternoon rehearsal, we sightsaw, visiting the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. I would advise all of you to plan your visit for the off-off season, it was that crowded. Except if there was a chance of rain (or even snow), you could break your neck walking on the marble ground that surrounds the monuments. Not marble paths, the ground — it’s lumpy marble.​

Walking up the hill, you pass the Theatre of Herodes Atticus...

​...then wait in line among the well-swaddled, sun-fearing Asian tourists...

 

...before joining the hordes to pass through the Propylaia (437-432 BCE), the gateway to the temples.

​The gateway from the other side...

Begun in 447 BCE during Greece’s Golden Age, it took only 9 years to complete the Doric temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos — the Parthenón. It was built to house a large statue of the goddess, who is celebrated as the founder of the eponymous city. Since I saw only one workman onsite, that explains why it will take 50 years to complete the current renovation, begun in 1983. The goddess’s ’last name’ refers to her status as an unmarried virgin, and to her ‘birth’ by parthenogenesis — she sprang from the head of Zeus, fully clothed and armed with a shield!​ This is a portion of a recreation of one of the Parthenon pediments, in the Acropolis Museum.

 

In the sixth century AD, the temple was converted into a Christian church then, in 1400, into a mosque. It was significantly damaged in 1687, when the Venetians attacked Athens. Stick with me and I guarantee, every major world monument we visit will be covered in scaffolding when you see it: St. Peter’s, the Doge’s Palace, etc.

 

Early temples dating from the 8th century BCE were made of wood and sun-dried brick. Starting in the 6th century BCE, marble was the material of choice. Stone blocks were fitted together and secured with metal clamps and dowels — no mortar. The first metal they used was lead, which did not last. During the 1900-1930 restoration, the lead was replaced with iron, which rusted and broke. The current restoration uses a much more stable metal to hold the marble blocks together: titanium. Very pricey. The lighter, almost white, marble is new, filling in where the original pieces could not be found.

 

The Parthenon has no straight lines — the columns have slight curves ‘to create the illusion of perfection.’ 

 

Another temple atop the Akrópoli, the Erechtheion, is famous for the ‘porch ladies’, four Caryatids used instead of columns.​ ​Sorry I’m far away: Since 1975 access inside the temple ruins has been prohibited. The site is 2,500 years old, after all. Those 14 funny white things are lights — the entire site is lit at night.

 

It was very windy atop the Acropolis, and this woman had a hard time keeping her dress from billowing up around her waist, à la Marilyn Monroe — I was a few seconds too late to get that shot.

 

After our visit to the site itself, we had a brief tour and lunch at the Acropolis Museum. ​

 

​Very few of the original reliefs remains — Lord Elgin took them to England, where you can see them in the British Museum. ​The Greeks have not forgiven him. This is one of the cast copies. 

​I couldn’t avoid the glare. This is part of an animated recreation (courtesy of Samsung) of what the original friezes looked like: there were metal add-ons such as horses’ reins, and they were all brightly painted. ​Some of the figures had hair extensions! 

​Next up: Much music making, and a trip to a refugee camp.#

 

 

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