Greece – The Cradle of Western Civilization


(Image Courtesy Google)

Greece was our destination in the Summer of 2018.  Greece is a country in South-Eastern-Europe with thousands of islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas with Athens as its Capital.

First traces of human habitation in Greece appeared during the Paleolithic Age (120000 – 10000 BC). During the Neolithic Age that followed (7000 – 3000 BC), many buildings spread throughout the country.  The beginning of the Bronze Age (3000-1100 BC) is marked by the appearance of the first urban centers in Greece.


Conquest of Greece in 146 BC by Romans ended Greek dominance.  Christianity was propagated in Greece by Apostle Paul during the First Century.  By the Third Century, Greece became part of the Byzantine Empire.

The Ottomans empire expanded to engulf Greece from the Fourteenth Century.  Around four centuries of Ottoman domination ended with the Greek War of Independence in 1821.  The Greek State took its current form after the end of World War II.  In 1974, after the seven-year dictatorship, a referendum was held and the government changed from a Constitutional Monarchy to a Presidential Parliamentary Democracy, and in 1981 Greece became a member of the European Union.


We landed at Athens on June 09 and drove straight to our hotel.  We were briefed by our Tour Coordinator at the hotel


After completing our  check-in formalities at the hotel, we walked to ‘I Kriti’ Restaurant nearby as recommended by our Tour Coordinator.  The restaurant served a sumptuous Cretan food consisting of fish, lamb in a pan, pork ribs and Greek salad.   Crete is the largest island of Greece and every Cretan village has its own signature cheese, which form part of every Cretan cuisine. They are usually made from sheep or goat’s milk, or a combination of both and each cheese variety has its local interpretation.  We were also entertained by a local musician playing his accordion.


After lunch we walked to National Archeological Museum housed in the old parliament building.  It is an imposing neoclassical building of the nineteenth century which earlier served as the Greek Parliament.  It houses over 20,000 exhibits, providing  a panoramic view of the great Greek civilization.

Some of the museum exhibits of extraordinary splendour  that caught our attention are:-

 
Dipylon Amphora
. This is a large Ancient Greek painted vase, made around 750 BC.  Such large sized painted vases were used as grave markers.  The vase was made on a potter’s wheel in three sections that were joined together to form a single large vessel,  over five feet high. The base has a hole to allow offerings to be poured for the dead.


Kauros
. A marble statue of a naked youth (530 BC), erected on the grave of Kroisos, who fell in battle, according to the epigram carved on the front of the pedestal.  He is represented standing frontally with his left leg forward and fists clenched.  He symbolises youthfulness, beauty, power and hope.


Kore (Maiden)
. This marble statue of a maiden (550-540 BC), stood on the grave of Phrasikleia. The Kore is depicted by the sculptor wearing a wreath on the head, jewellery and a long gown.

Statues depicting men had their left foot forward and women were depicted standing with their feet together.  This could also prove my observation of ‘Left Foot First’.  Please click here to read my earlier post.


Sphinx
. This marble statue of a Sphinx (570-550 BC) is one of the earliest known Archaic Sphinxes and it was set above a grave.  Sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion.


Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon. This statue (460 BC) was recovered for the seabed is still debated as to whether it represented Zeus or Poseidon.  The statue is over two meter tall.  The God is depicted with left leg forward in a  great stride, with His left arm forward, while throwing the thunderbolt or the trident held in His right hand.  Notable feature is  the exquisite rendering of motion and anatomy.


Funerary Stele
. This marble piece (400 BC) was found in 1870 in an ancient cemetery. It shows a lady seated on a chair, looks at a piece of jewellery held in her raised right hand. Opposite her, a sorrowful standing attendant holds an open jewellery box belonging to a dead woman.  The sorrowful expressions on the face of the two ladies, their hairstyles and rendering of their jewellery and dress is all very impressive.


Artemision Jockey
. Bronze statue of a horse and a young jockey (140 BC) retrieved in 1928 and 1937 in pieces from the seafloor. The word Artemision comes from Cape Artemision, the site of the shipwreck. The young jockey, probably of African origin, holds the reins of the galloping horse in his left hand and a whip in his right. The contractions and furrows in his face, especially on the forehead, reveal agony and passion.


Statue of Hermes
. This marble statue (27 BC-AD 14), is probably a funerary and was found in 1860. Hermes was the  Greek God of trade, wealth, luck, fertility, animal husbandry, sleep, language, thieves, and travel.  He is depicted standing, wearing a short cloak that is wound around his left arm. In his right hand he is holding  a purse and in his left the Caduceus, his staff.


Bronze Statue of a Youth
. A bronze statue (340-330 BC), recovered in 1990 from  an ancient shipwreck on the sea floor.  It depicts either Perseus, who would have been holding the head of Medusa, or, more probably, Paris, with the ‘apple of Strife’, ready to award it to the most beautiful Goddess, Aphrodite.  Outstanding feature of this statue is the strongly modeled muscles and the expressive face.

National Archeological Museum with its numerous and outstanding exhibits give the visitor a peep into Greek history.   Unique treasures displayed with detailed captions and signboards will mesmerise you and it is really worth a visit.  The sculpture collection depicts the evolution of ancient Greek sculpture from 700 BC to the Fifth Century AD.  It requires plenty of time to read through various information boards and enjoy the artistic value of the statues and artifacts displayed.


We returned to our hotel rooms by dusk.  We had dinner at the roof-top restaurant of the hotel which offered a stunning view of illuminated Acropolis.

I felt a fleeting sense of awe and humility. Looking at the brilliance of what is left of a more than 2000 year old structure, i couldn’t help but feel that despite the ravages of time, here is where history stands tall, with elegance and poise.

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