A Hellenic Adventure – Mary Neville at College Year in Athens

It was hard to imagine the acropolis before I saw it for the first time. I knew the architecture, the facades, the processional ways, the history, and the rituals that took place there. It was weird to know a place so well yet at the same time not know a thing about it; I had not once seen the soil or known the feeling of the sun from all the way up there or felt the wind blow up the hill or gaze upon the city strewn out below.

So I made a date for the first free Saturday I had in Athens with my new friend Shelbie to go to the acropolis, Melissino’s (the poet sandal maker!) and hang out around Monastiraki and Syntagma. We had a plan to go out early Saturday before the tourists get there, stand tall in the center of it all and imagine the buildings and sculptures in their entirety, as we always studied it, gilded and marble polished, towering over our heads with such breathtaking and exonerating power.

But in reality I was like a little girl again, going to Disney World for the first time.

I couldn’t believe I was actually there, and I ached to keep seeing more. As soon as I fixed my eye on the propylaea I couldn’t help but be absorbed by the wonder of it all. The sun streamed through at the perfect angle, as if Zeus himself was welcoming us into the home of his daughter, Athena.  And by the time we got all the way to the top, the unanticipated amount of tourists did make it feel like Disney World!

I love that so many people get excited by history and trek up the same procession as the ancients. I hope that people come to places like the acropolis to learn more and be interested in things and realize that there are things in Greece that matter and that have always and will always matter.

This is only a hope. Maybe most people go there just to take facebook pictures.

This high, rocky outcrop of the Hellenic mountains has been a part of human history since the Neolithic (and maybe even earlier!), and endlessly continued to be a pervasive aspect of the Mediterranean world. It has been around since before christianity, diplomacy, even language. I consider it to be one of the most significant architectures which we can learn from. The earliest artifacts found there date to nearly eight thousand years ago! But that also means that there must be a way to protect these fortifications for all of time and it takes more than just archaeologists and historians to do that, I really think it takes everyone working toward preserving things that are more than contemporary. To preserve the things on the precipice of humanity and western consciousness. It is a key part of both Greece’s Legacy and the dawn of what is considered ‘western civilization’ which we live in to this day. Thankfully, there is the Acropolis Restoration Project, aiming to reverse the thousands of years of decay, war, pollution, as well as other past impacts.

But I have the faith that there are others out there like me, millions more ‘nerds’ or as I like to call them: enthusiasts … people that actually dearly appreciate this stuff–as well as other things in this world. I hope that there are people that are more than just ironic about liking things. I aspire for everyone to go to the acropolis and LOVE all 46 intricately cut columns that trick the eye into thinking that the building in grander and straighter than any Persian architect could imagine possible and can’t control their excitement when they imagine where Athena stood (honestly, I could go on about the elaborate, wonderful and exactness of the Periklean Building Project, but I’ll spare you the ‘boring’ details and just tell you IT IS AWE INSPIRING!) But really, it’s hard to not get excited when thinking of the history and impact of this one place measuring a meager three hectares.

But in order for this to be truly significant, for anyone to see the miracle of the current acropolis, you have to be excited for learning too. You have to want to be a conscious member of the universe to find pleasure in understanding the physics and strength and creativity and history behind Perikles’ Building Project. Okay, so maybe classical studies or history aren’t really your ‘thing.’ But find your thing and hold onto it, the world can take anything from you but it can never take away your education. You need to do it for yourself as well as the future of the world. It would be barbaric not to!

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