Ever since I was a young boy, I relished the opportunity to view Hollywood’s liberal take on ancient Greek and Roman history as portrayed by some of the box office stars of the day. From Richard Burton to Kirk Douglas, from Robert Taylor to Charlton Heston, from Victor Mature to Peter Ustinov.
But the actor that I enjoyed seeing the most was the usual star on one of my hometown TV channel’s Sunday Movie Spectacular: Steve Reeve, a.k.a. Hercules (“And the Cretan Bull awaits!”), an American B-list star exiled to Cinecittà in Rome.
He was the muscular guy — obviously if he was portraying Hercules — tossing around all those paper-mache boulders and Corinthian, Doric and Ionic columns — as if they were toothpicks — in a host of Italian-made “sword-and-sandal” flicks that magically made their way into the family b&w TV set each and every Sunday afternoon.
Sorry, I’m starting to veer off course. Bear with me. I’ll get us there in a moment.
In addition to my fascination with Roman and Greek period movies, I also excelled in geography and history (probably my two best subjects) in school. Since then, I’ve always wanted to visit Athens and Rome — and Cuba, too, but that’s a whole different story — to see for myself. Now that I’m all grown up (chronologically, that is), I’ve gotten to see them both — Athens only once, but the “Eternal City” multiple times as I now pay a visit there just about every month.
It was on a business trip to the Greek capitol a few years back that I finally got to lay my eyes on the “Sacred Rock” — The Acropolis of Athens — and I was BLOWN AWAY. Seeing something so historic, so iconic, for the very first time, will do that to you.
After the initial shock and awe wore off, like Hermes, one of Dodekatheon (12 mythical Olympians), I scampered around the strewn rubble (I know, priceless artifacts) surrounding the various temples, dodged workers and scaffolding, and managed to see right through all of the URBAN RENEWAL projects going on simultaneously in order to soak up the incredible scene laid out before me. I was simply amazed at the vision those Greek architects created some 2,500 years ago.
If you’ve not been to Athens, allow me to sum up The Acropolis for you. It’s an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Valley of Ilissos in the center of Athens and contains antiquities of great architectural, cultural and historical importance — the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea, the Erechthium, and the most famous of all, the Parthenon. The word acropolis comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akros) meaning “top or summit” and πόλις (polis) meaning “city.” Although there are quite a few acropolises dotting Greece, the importance of this particular “summit city” is such that it is known as The Acropolis without hesitation.
In 1975, the Greek government set in motion a massive and challenging restoration project on The Acropolis — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — to fully restore the citadel to its rightful glory for all the world to enjoy and appreciate.
Now in its 37th year, at additional costs quite difficult for the Greek Government, much less its citizenry, to afford today, the goal of the project is to reverse centuries of decay, pollution, destructions from wars, and previous misguided restoration attempts. The project includes collection and identification of all stone fragments (the “rubble” that I mentioned earlier) from the summit, and to restore the landmark site as much as possible using reassembled, original material where possible.
With the exception of the Temple of Athena Nike, now fully restored, the other three temples remain under partial wrap as the renovations continue. According to project experts on the ground in Athens, the Parthenon has approximately ten more years to go before tourists will have unfettered views of the crown jewel of the “Sacred Rock.”
If you’d like more information on The Acropolis, its restorations, educational tools and the museum, just logon to The Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments (ESMA).
Scaffolding or not, it’s never too late to pay a visit to the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of democracy. To miss out on an opportunity to actually climb that steep hill and feel the history that was made just underfoot on The Acropolis would be a real [Greek] tragedy.
Enjoy the short video up to and around the “Sacred Rock” and down to the Agorá and the Temple of Hephaestus.
Δείτε σας κατά μήκος του πλακόστρωτα να κάπου (See you along the cobblestone to somewhere…)
©The Palladian Traveler