Athens, part 3: in the shadow of the Acropolis

(This is the third post about my trip to Athens. Read part 1 and part 2.)

Although the top of the Acropolis was the first stop, it is a much larger site than just the well-known temples on the top. At the base of the Acropolis next to the footpath up to the entry gate is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Although it originally had a wooden roof, all that remains is the restored stone seating and front wall, shown here with the Parthenon in the background:

The seating area is quite steeply sloped. Towards the top, the seating is high enough that it has a view of Athens. With the position that Athens occupies today as a cradle of western culture, it is hard to imagine that it was a fairly small town throughout much of “modern” European history (to pick a date, from 1650 until today). Many of the buildings in Athens were built in the post-war period, which leads to interesting contrasts between the older structures and the more modern buildings shown in the background here:

A brief walk from the Odeon is the oldest theater in Athens. The Dionysis Theater is dedicated to the god of plays and wine, and hosted drama competitions. As the “original” prototype of a theater in Greece, the structure is possibly the oldest theater everywhere, and the template for every theater I’ve ever been to. Originally, seating was probably wooden benches, but stone benches were put in during the Roman period:

Front-row seats had backs, though, to be quite honest, they are not very comfortable.

The stage itself is a simple affair. Seats are built in a semi-circle around a half-circle stage:

Not far from the Acropolis is the massive Temple of Olympian Zeus. Building the temple was a multi-generational project that took over 600 years. Athenian democrats apparently considered it a flight of hubris to build on such a scale. Hadrian, the Roman emperor, suffered no such illusions, and finally completed the temple. After the fall of the Roman empire, such a high-quality cache of stone was rare, and the temple was plundered for other building works. Several substantial columns remain, as seen here in this view looking towards the Acropolis. (Note the huge crane in the background, which I’ll return to.)

Looking from the west, all that remains is the approximately dozen columns. The collapsed column in the foreground fell in a storm in 1852.

In the background of the first picture, there is a massive crane at the Acropolis. Due to the danger of such a large construction machine, several footpaths on the slope of the Acropolis are closed. The crane is transferring objects from the small Acropolis museum at the top to the new Acropolis museum being built at the foot of the fortress that I described in part 2. Here’s a closer look at the crane, from the wall at the south edge:

Leave a Reply