Tours in Greece

 

ATHENS " THE CITY OF THE GODDESS ATHENA"

Athens capital of Greece is a place of great cultural interest, as well as a vivid and modern city. The harmonious and perfectly balanced fitting between the old and the new age makes this city unique. Both sides of Athens are extremely appealing to tourists. There are many interesting museums to visit and various cultural activities to attend , that cater for all tastes. Travelers attracted to Athens by an interest in the history of the ancient world's cultural capital have many choices to make.

The Acropolis, consisting of the words Akron (edge, summit) and Polis (city), means "the highest point of a city", is certainly the focal point of any visit and every archaeological tour undoubtedly starts with the Parthenon , the temple that symbolizes Greek architecture and represents the very core of Greek civilization. Built in 448-438 B.C. from a design by Phidias, Ictinus and Callicrates, the temple is a classic example of the Doric order, with a colonnade of eight columns at each end. Its structural and decorative elements were based on complex mathematical calculations, successfully expressing in architecture the harmony of proportions already experimented with and codified by Polyclitus in his sculpture. The underlying principles are probably to be found in the philosophical debates of the Pythagoreans and Anaxagoras regarding universal harmony. Athens Tour

The peristyle, comprised of 8 x 17 columns and still virtually intact, stands on an imposing stylobate approximately 70m (230 ft) long and 31m (102 ft) wide. Inside, the pronaos and opisthodomos seem to have been reduced to a minimum, to the advantage of the cella, on the east side,

 

and the smaller "Chamber of the Virgins"  the Parthenon proper - on the west. In the cella, a double row of Doric columns framed the cult statue of Athena Parthenos on three sides. This colossal chryselephantine masterpiece by Phidias stood around 12m (40 ft) high.The effects of perspective, the play of light and shadow dimensions, the relationship between solids and voids and so on, tend to produce a slightly deformed picture of reality to the human eye. And so Ictinus made some astounding "optical corrections". For instance, an upward curvature - by as much as 6 cm -of the stylobate, and the almost gradual convexity of fhe columns which-especially at the corners - were also very slightly bowed towards the cella.

 Co to Top So for today's visitors, too, the traditional heaviness of the Doric order is transformed by the austere elegance and harmony of forms and proportions, while the white Pentelic marble enhances the in play of light and shadow on the temple's majestic structures. The sculptures were entirely designed and perhaps also executed by Phidias, assisted by some of Attica's finest emerging artistic talents. Works that survived the fury of Christian fundamentalists after the Edict of Theodosius II (of AD 395), Muslim iconoclasm after the Turkish conquest of 1456 and Venetian cannon-fire in 1687 * can be seen still in situ, in the Acropolis Museum nearby....

The Acropolis of Athens was both a fortress and a sanctuary mainly for the worship of the goddess protecting the city, goddess Athena, after whom the city was named. Light is the word that comes to mind when one looks up at the holy rock of the Acropolis. The Parthenon is dedicated to goddess Athena Parthenos (virgin).    Athens Tour

* The Venetians under leader Captain Mourozini besieged the Acropolis. The disaster happened on 26 of September in 1687 when a cannon ball hit the Parthenon. Due to the ammunition stored there by the Turks the cannon ball exploded and the Parthenon was destroyed. Many years later the English  Ambassador in Constantinople received permission from the Turkish authorities to remove sculptures from the metopes of the temple. Neither invasions, fires explosions nor the ravages of Britain's Lord Elgin have destroyed the majesty of the Parthenon, now undergoing reconstruction Co to Top

The Propylaea, by Mnesicles (437-433 B.C.), forms the architectural threshold between the city and its sanctuary, and provides a glorious entrance to the Acropolis. The structure was combined with the famous Picture Gallery, where paintings by the greatest masters of the time were kept.

The Ionic temple of Apteros Nike stood at the side of the Propylaea on the southwest bastion, which had been faced in Pentelic marble in previous decades. It was built between 430 and 410 B.C. with frequent interruptions caused by war, to a plan of thirty years earlier by Callicrates and then used for a temple of Demeter and Kore on the banks of the Ilissus river. Beautifully harmonious in its proportions and built of Pentelic marble, the temple was enhanced by slender Ionic columns only at the front and rear, surmounted by a running frieze with scenes of the war between Greeks and Trojans.  One interesting aspect is the change in the building's political message, designed in 460-450 B.C. to celebrate Athenian victory over the Persians, the temple was actually built much later, during the Peloponnesian War and so it became essentially a tribute to Athenian successes over their new enemy - the Spartans.

The elegant small temple of Apteros Nike ( Wingless Victory ), stands on the SW bastion of the Propylaea. The goddess whose wings were cut off so she could never leave the city of Athens.

The last addition to the Acropolis before the end of the 5th century B.C. was the new temple of Athena Polias, known throughout history as the Erechtheum, after the Attic name for Poseidon (the old patron of the city). It was built north of the Parthenon, between 421 and 405 B.C, to a plan by Philocles or according to some Callicrates or Mnesicles. The Ionic portico with six columns on the east gives access to the cella, where the ancient wooden cult icon of Athena Polias was devotedly kept. On the west side, on different levels, were spaces for the cults of Poseidon Erechtheum, Hephaestus, the hero Butte and the serpent - boy Erichthonius, particularly dear to Athena. Also visible in this view is a descendant of the legendary sacred olive tree, the gift of Athena
The Erectheum seen here from southwest was the last building erected on the Acropolis before the end of 5th century BC. It replayed an ancient temple of Athena Polias, which was destroyed during the Persian Wars.  The famous porch with the Caryatids marked the legendary tomb of Cecrops. The six beautiful statues of young women wearing Ionic costumes are perhaps the work of one of the best disciples of Phidias, Alcamenes. Outside the building on the west side grew the sacred olive tree traditionally believed to be the gift of Athena in her dispute with Poseidon. On the north side a high Ionic portico protected the mark left by the trident thrown by Poseidon to make a sea -water spring gush from the rock.  Co to Top
The only decorative feature of the entire temple was a long frieze in Eleusinian black stone on which relief figures in Pentelic marble were mounted, portraying scenes of Attic ceremonies and episodes involving Erichthonius. As the architect clearly intended, the viewer's gaze is immediately drawn to the south side and the porch which protected the tomb of  the mythical king Cecrops.

The Agora, with the nearby hill of the Areopagus, is Athens' other main area of archaeological interest. Originally an open space crossed by the Panathenaic Way, the Agora was quickly flanked by large numbers of public buildings and adorned with temples and altars, stoas and fountains. It acquired its final form in the 2nd c. AD. Its most prominent structures today are the modern reconstruction of the Stoa built by Attalos II of Pergamum in the 2nd century B.C. now housing the Agora Museum and the Doric Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion), still miraculously intact. Built in Pentelic marble in the same period as the Parthenon, the temple is still an important landmark in the lower part of Athens. It is about 32m (105 ft) long and 14m (46 ft) wide, with 6 columns at the ends and 13 at the sides. Its plans appears conventional Doric, but its cella resembles the larger one in the Parthenon. Co to Top

The Agora, which extends over the north-west slopes of Acropolis, was the heart of ancient Athens from the late 6th c. BC onwards. It was a place for political gatherings and debate, for elections, religious occasions and trading activities, theatrical performances and athletic competitions. The word “Agora” drives from the word “ageiro” meaning “I gather”. In the beginning somebody spoke in an open space and people gathered around. He came back and they came back to listen. Another orator took his place and people went on gathering around the speakers. Peddlers came with their goods, and gradually shops were built around this open space, and the orator’s stand finds its permanent place. The Agora – market place – is born.    Athens Tour Athens Guide   Athens Museums

THE PANATHENAIC GAMES

The Panathenaic festival was the most splendid event in the ancient city of Athens. It was a very ancient celebration in which were amalgamated rituals from a variety of religious ceremonies honoring Athena, the patron goddess of the city. From the time of their reorganization in the middle of the 6th c. BG. two different versions of the Panathenaic festival were held: the Lesser Panathenaia, which took place every year I and the Great Panathenaia, which were organized every four years. For the ancient Athenians. this religious festival was an opportunity to show their pride in the political and intellectual superiority of their city. It was an event with a strongly political character that was evident in the various religious and recreational activities. The festival of the Great Panathenaia was illustrated in an unprecedented manner in the frieze of the Parthenon a monument that was the symbol of the Athenian democracy. In the sculptural composition on this frieze, Pheidias and his colleagues immortalized the events and ideology of the Panthenaic festival, making it accessible and comprehensible to later generations, down to the present day.
The culminating event in the Panathenaic festival was the procession of Athenian citizens that set out from the Kerameikos (Dipylon Gate), crossed the ancient Agora and ended on the Acropolis, where sacrifices were offered and the goddess's statue was dressed in a new robe. The procession and the sacrifices were held on the last day of the celebrations, on the 28th of HekaIombaion. The festival lasted for about a week. and during the preceding days a variety of events of an agonistic nature were organized, including athletic competitions and music and poetry contests.
The athletic contests consisted of Olympic events and events derived from local competitions. The former included equestrian events, running, various forms of wrestling, and the pentathlon, and the javelin-throwing from horseback, the pyrthichios dance, the race. and rowing.
The music events were contests in playing the kithara and Lira, and the poetry competitions were devoted to the reciting of the Homeric poems to the accompaniment of the flute or kithara. The prizes awarded to the winners were money, amphora fun of oil, gold wreaths and oxen.  The expense of organizing the games was met by the Male and earthy citizens.

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