Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Heart Of Greece

It may be a vacation, I may be in Athens, last night may have been spent sitting on the upper patio of my hotel looking at the Parthenon, but I still have those nights where sleep escapes me; last night was one of them. I don't know if it was over-stimulation, a bed where I could not get comfortable, or just the perversity of ALS. It's most likely a combination of all three. Here I am with one day in a city that I regard as the cradle of modern western civilization, almost too tired to get out of bed.

I will get out of bed. I want to go to the Parthenon. I want to walk, or rather roll, in the Acropolis, to stand on the ground where Sophocles stood, to imagine myself listening to the declaration of democracy by Solon, to think of Pericles and his massive building program that made this city a wonder of the ancient world. It will take a bit of extra effort; I'll get there.

A lot of people don't realize that in many ways, Athens is almost the city that disappeared, as have so many other great cities. This is the city that was savaged by the Persians some 500 years before the birth of Christ. This is the city that was dominated, ruled over, controlled by the Ottoman Turks for hundreds of years, years which saw the destruction of many of its great monuments and the outright theft of so many others. Until the Greek Ware of Liberation ended in Greek victory in 1833, this was a city beaten down.

It was only the combination of victory in war and the philhellenic movement sweeping through intellectualist Europe that brought this city back from the edge of sinking into the mists of time. When chosen as capital after their war for independence, the Greek residents of this city numbered only a few thousand. it was only the granting of the first modern Olympics to Athens in 1896 that Athens once again truly returned to the world stage. Since then the city has recovered much of its stature, if not all of its stolen treasures.

The heart of Athens is the Acropolis. It is not the heart of Greece. This small country still cherishes its history of independent city-states, now seen as provinces. This country cherishes its heritage its wily, crafty, battle scarred climb and recovery from subjugation to freedom. The history of Greece is the stuff of legends, both modern and ancient. A city is not the heart of this nation; it's history is.

1 comment:

  1. You are so knowledgeable Rick . All that history seems to hang about in your head. Amazing. We are leaving tomorrow. So will see you soon.