Tuesday we began with the Temple of the Olympian Zeus! In its day it would have been a very impressive temple and monument to the leader of the gods and even today when there is little left you could still imagine what it was like.
The temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympieion, is a classical Greek temple in a similar vein to the Parthenon though construction began around 70 years prior to the Parthenon’s construction and just before the introduction of democracy to Athens. Construction of a temple was started by the tyrant Pisistratus in 510AD. It was halted 5 years later when his son was overthrown and democracy came to Athens. This marked the classical period of Athenian history. Athens quickly grew and became increasingly prominent and powerful within the Delphic league. The rich silver mines enabled Athens to build her mighty fleet and ensure defeat of the Persian invaders.
The temple was left unfinished as the newly democratic society felt it was undemocratic to build on such a scale. In the second century AD Athens came under the rule of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Hadrian was a great admirer of both Greek culture and architecture and also wanted to assert his influence over Athens. One way was to finish construction of the Temple of Zeus and add a structure at the entrance, Hadrian’s gate.
There are two inscriptions, on on each face of the arch. One reads “This is Athens, the former city of Theseus” (Theseus being the founder of Athens). The other reads “This is the city of Hadrian, not of Theseus”.
Afterwards we took a lovely walk through the Plaka area of Athens, Stopping for a nice lunch, heading towards the Roman Agora and larger (older) Ancient Agora. An Agora was the center of city life in ancient Greece. Literally it meant assembly place. It was a place to a gather, to see and be seen. The Agora was where commerce, politics, athletics, art and religion happened. The remains of the Roman Agora are quite small today when compared to the older Classical Agora.
The Roman Agora was built during the end of the 1st century BC during the rein of Hadrian. It was built within the Roman fortified walls. Eventually after 200 years the administrative center of Athens migrated here.
I thought the Ancient or classical Agora was far more impressive. Firstly it is much larger in size and scale than its later Roman counterpart. There were stoa for meetings, areas for athletics and politics as well as burial areas. This was the birthplace of Athenian democracy where citizens would meet to discuss new laws.
There are several temples within the Agora, the most impressive of which is the Temple of Hephaestus, God of metal working and craftsmanship.
By the end of the day I had absorbed about as much new knowledge and history as my brain could take and it was time for some food. We had dinner in a little restaurant near to the Acropolis. It was nothing too fancy but really good food, as we had through out our stay in Greece.
I tried proper Baklava this evening for the first time and fell in love. The sweetness of the honey is to die for!
And the rest of the meal + other photos,