Travel News

The Thrills of Rediscovering Ancient Greece While Touring Modern Athens | Travel

Panos Profitis

Visual artist Panos Profitis models one of his prop masks.

Myrto Papadopoulos

The first golden age of Athenian tourism occurred around 435 B.C., when culture-lovers from around the Greek world flocked to the city at the peak of its glory. It was an unforgettable travel experience: After arriving by sea at the port of Piraeus, wide-eyed ancient sightseers would walk the four miles along defensive walls to the central Agora, the market square where illustrious philosophers like Socrates debated, young athletes worked out beneath marble colonnades, mathematicians drew their geometric theorems in the sand, and splendid temples were crowded with ravishing artworks by the world’s most talented sculptors. Travelers rushed to the houses of historical celebrities, the grave of lawgiver Solon and the supposed resting place of the mythic hero Oedipus. The main attraction, however, was to ascend on foot the Panathenaic Way up the steep flanks of the Acropolis, the soaring “sacred rock,” which was crowned with the newly completed Parthenon, considered the most perfectly proportioned structure on earth.

There, they might attend one of the theatrical performances for which Athens was justly famous, for its dramatists had invented tragedy, comedy and choral poetry.

In Athens today, centuries can dissolve in the blink of an eye, as I found on a recent summer’s evening when I set off on foot along the same Panathenaic Way with a stream of modern Greek-culture-lovers. Every step was an echo of ancient tradition: Climbing to the Acropolis, I passed serene olive groves with sweeping views of the Agora, where the near-intact Temple of Hephaestus still rises; thanks to blasts of the etesian winds, I could see the blue Aegean sparkling on the horizon. My destination was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a majestic 4,680-seat amphitheater on the Acropolis’ southwest side named after the arts patron who funded its construction. The audience members all edged along narrow rows of the steep semicircle to take their limestone seats, which were thankfully softened by thin pillows. On the night’s playbill was…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Travel |…