Traveling to Greece, I imagine, is like traveling to Jerusalem–it has an infinite history that seems impossible. This is especially hard to grasp being American and comparing our short countries history to that of mesopotamia.
When I was younger, the only thing that held my attention (besides world history) was Roman/Greek mythology. A tie between real life and that of a fantasy world, it comes to life in the ruins amongst the city of Athens and surrounding villages and islands.
The renowned Parthenon is the highest point in the city of Athens. Late every evening, it paints a backdrop to a metropolitan city that has seen its series of uprisings, and change in political thought, yet it reminds us of its foundation to the western world. It took 9 years to build and at the height of Greek & Roman power, and had nearly 50 tons of gold adorning its pillars. With an average of 10-12K visitors a day, the area surrounding this centrepiece is exactly what you would expect from a European tourist hub. Cheap vendors peddle their ‘one of a kind’ old Greek style pottery, lines of stalls sell Greek food and crafts of wine (which is fairly amazing) and locals hurry through the crowds being no stranger to either crowd or ancient ruins.
Athens itself is hot, crowded and fairly touristy. Yet, even among the throngs of foreign travellers, you can view the first theatre in the world, the ancient temple of Zeus and hop to surrounding islands and inland cities.
One such place, and probably the most memorable of the trip, was the town of Delphi; home of the temple of Apollo. Built originally in 7 BC, the columns you see today are remnants of its 3rd rebuilding in 300BC following a fire in 6BC and earthquake 373 BC.
The temple was home to some of the first Olympic trials. It attracted travellers and visitors from all around the old world seeking blessings from the Gods and guidance from the oracle.
My image of an ancient oracle is fairly tainted by the film 300. Portraying a beautiful (nearly naked) women trapped in a temple surrounded by priests who guard her and interpret her visions.
Indeed, this is fairly similar to how it actually worked, with some slight scientific additions.
The location for the Temple of Apollo was thought to have been selected because of a chasm in the earth that emitted vapours upon which the oracle would inhale and profess its visions. What was emmitted? It is thought to be natural gas vapours that the oracle would inhale periodically. So in fact, the unintelgable visions of the Gods she would have that ‘only’ the priests could interpret were most likely professions of a person extremely high on gas chemicals.
So was life in the ancient world – full of mystery and the Gods. It is hard not to let your imagination run away with how the common people must of interpreted their everyday life’s walking in between reality and that of an other reality. One were temples, sacrifices and oracles filled the world.
It makes you wonder – how will the world view our ancient pillars constructed today to worship our current Gods? Will they laugh at the idea of our oracles thinking their most current interpretation of the world more accurate than those who built modern western belief systems nearly 2,500 years prior?