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Athens, Day 3

September 23, 2006

Today the plan was to finish seeing the local archaeological sites and head over to the National Archaeological Museum which I’ve heard rave reviews about.

We started off towards the Roman Agora which was on the way to the Acropolis. It wasn’t such a huge place so we didn’t spend too much time there. The only thing worth seeing seemed to be the Tower of the Winds; it is octagonal in shape with carvings of the eight wind gods on the very top. Adjacent to the tower was a small stage, nothing like the theaters of Dionysus or Herodes Atticus, but more like a middle school stage kind of thing. And that was about it.

tower of the winds

When we came out of the Roman Agora we were greeted by this strange looking yet quite charming man who was lounging around a bench with some cats. We started talking (he spoke English quite well as did many people in Athens), and it turns out he collects charity to help feed and take care of stray cats. I played with his two buddies there for a little (I forget their names!), put down a little money for the guy, and off we went to our next site, the Ancient Agora.

man with cats

The Ancient Agora was THE place to be during the heyday of Athens it seemed, the equivalent of 5th Avenue in NYC or something. There was a main street (the Panathenaic Way) which was central to the Athenians’ commute, and along the street were shops, temples, statues, etc. Turn a corner in one of the side streets and you encounter government buildings, a gymnasium, etc etc.

On the East side of the Ancient Agora was a structure called the Stoa where people used to hang out and do business. Now it has been completely restored to make it look like what it must have when first built. Within the Stoa now however there is a small museum with really neat statues and artifacts, like a small version of the National Archaeological Museum. There were statues of Nike, Triton, the Iliad and the Odyssey (below), and a few others.

the odyssey (left) and iliad (right)

bust portrait of antonius pius

Within the museum was a really interesting display, that of the Stele of Democracy. Although the inscriptions are somewhat worn, the information plaque at the base of it says the following: “The stele records a law against tyranny. The relief representation depicts the personified Demos being crowned by Democracy. About 336 B.C.” This was truly a turning point in history!

stele of democracy

We walked around the ruins a little bit, examining houses, offices, and such, and went over to the West side where we saw the Temple of Hephaistos, which is apparently the most well preserved temple in Athens.

temple of hephaistos

After finishing our tour of the Ancient Agora, we went a little farther to Kerameikos which used to be the potter’s section of the city, but more importantly also housed a cemetary.

kerameikos

In that site also is a small museum mostly with artifacts relating to tombs and tombstones, some of which were insanely ornate, for example the tombstone below for two dead sisters, Demetria and Pamphile. Apparently the government subsequently outlawed such “luxurious grave monuments”

grave relief of two dead sisters, demetria and pamphile

It was getting late in the afternoon, and we still needed to visit the National Archaegological Museum which could easily take half the day, so we quickly made our rounds through the museum and cemetary and headed out to the Museum.

national archaeological museum

The National Archaeological Museum certainly lived up to its expectations (well, for me at least!) ; in it were hundreds of statues and artifacts from the ancient times, and walking through the museum was like reading a who’s who of Greek History!!!! Homer, Marcus Aurelius, Emperor Hadrian, Emperor Augustus, Athena, Nike, Poseidon, Emperor Claudius, Aphrodite, Zeus, and many many others.

portrait bust of man, found at theater of dionysus

statue of goddess themis

Not much really to say about the museum itself, I ended up spending quite a while there looking at things and taking pictures (it’s really difficult to take pictures without people in the way!). Here is my man Asklepios, god of medicine/healing:

statue of asklepios

When we were done, we were exhausted… we walked home and rested for a little bit, then went out again to check out Monastiraki and the shops that open in the evenings. Most of them seemed like touristy shops, and nothing really exciting. Lots of T-shirts. Funny thing was that many of the small souveniers were identical to those that we saw in Turkey, for example the keychains of Nazr, or the evil eye. They were also selling these boxed sweets that we saw all over Istanbul as well, known there as Turkish Delights, and here as Greek Delights! Unfortunately the people working in the shops were not nearly as nice as the ones in Istanbul, and for some reason seemed to have some kind of an attidude; maybe we got unlucky, and it would be unfair to generalize based on our limited experiences I guess.

The shops didn’t stay open too long so we decided to head back home to get some rest, tomorrow the plan is to visit Aegina, hoping it will be better than Princes Islands….

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