A Walk through Athens, Then and Now

By Darrell HartmanD. H. Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 25, 2004 | Go to article overview

A Walk through Athens, Then and Now


Darrell HartmanD. H. Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


More than 5,000 years ago, the Acropolis began as a fortress designed to keep foreigners out. But with the Olympic Games expected to effectively double Greek tourism this year, the "Sacred Rock" and other architectural achievements of classical Athens will attract visitors as never before.

Wedged between the two peaks of Arditos Hill, the Panathenaic Stadium sits at an angle to Vassileos Constantinou, the main thoroughfare east of downtown. A shallow, oblong structure ribbed like corduroy with rows of long white benches, it seats more than 60,000 spectators.

The sliver of playing surface (223 yards long by 36 yards wide) distinguishes this facility from its modern counterparts. Built in 330 BC, the Panathenaic Stadium was a venue of the ancient Panhellenic Games and hosted events such as wrestling matches and chariot races.

Over centuries, though, the stadium fell into ruin. It was fully restored at the end of the 19th century and, in 1896, Athens hosted the first Olympic Games of the modern era.

The simple, sinewy design of the reconstruction evokes an age when sports weren't such a flashy affair. Stripped down for a new multimillion-dollar Olympic renovation, the stadium looks as naked as the athletes of its ancient competitions.

A 15-minute walk to the west lies the Sanctuary of Zeus. Also called the Olympeion, the original temple, with more than 100 columns, was the largest on the Greek mainland.

Today, tall, muscular supports in the southeast corner prop up chunks of the architrave, or lower entablature. The other end of the foundation is a tragicsight: Two lonely shafts stand over a fallen comrade whose marble drums are splayed like tipped dominoes.

Construction began under Pisistratus the Younger in 515 BC, and continued for more than 600 years. In AD 132, the Roman emperor Hadrian arrived in Athens to dedicate the finished temple and promptly filled the holy building with statues of himself.

Just outside the sanctuary site, the emperor also erected a marble gate, marking his territory. The inscription on the side facing the Acropolis and the rest of old Athens reads: THIS IS ATHENS, THE ANCIENT CITY OF THESEUS. But the side facing the Olympeion declares: THIS IS THE CITY OF HADRIAN AND NOT OF THESEUS.

Since all that's left of his city is a few scattered stones, Hadrian's Arch actually helps glorify the Athens of his Greek predecessors. Walking through it does provide a ceremonious entrance to "the ancient city of Theseus," and when the gate is not hidden (as it is now) behind a mask of temporary metal scaffolding, it offers a nicely framed view of the Acropolis emerging from its rock like a giant wisdom tooth.

Quiet, narrow streets lead to the southeast entrance of the Acropolis site. From there the path up to the ancient city's highest and most sacred point is literally strewn with ancient remains.

Embedded in the steep southern slope is the Theater of Dionysus, where Western drama first came to life. At spring festivals in 5th- century Athens, paragons Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, and Sophocles all presented their plays on this stage - in competition, no less.

Overall, the theater is in a state of elegant decay. Tufts of grass push their way up between the flagstones of the lumpy floor, backed by an altar featuring shrines to Dionysus. The front-row seating is a line of now-battered thrones that were reserved for the VIPs of ancient Greece. There is no sign, however, of the imperial box that Hadrian had installed for himself.

What remains of the peripatos, the road that encircled the Acropolis in antiquity, leads to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an impressive Roman theater still in use today.

Above the Odeon, however, all the glory belongs to the Greeks, even if the star-studded Sacred Rock is going through a bit of a transitional stage. Two of the four structures - the monumental entrance to the Acropolis, called the Propylaea, and the petite Temple of Athena Nike - are caged in scaffolding, as is the north side of the prized Parthenon. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Walk through Athens, Then and Now
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.