There is music in Athens, but the hills are mainly alive with the echoes of history, and those echoes rang clear May 23 for folks traveling with Campbell University Divinity School and Nurturing Faith Experiences.
From the Divani Hotel Acropolis, we had just a short bus ride to the famed Acropolis, where we were among the first to climb the slippery steps and sally through the massive and never-quite-finished gateway called the Propylion, where we passed the small Temple of Nike Athena on the right and the proud caryatid columns of the Erechthion to stand before the Parthenon, the emblematic temple to Athena that has stood for 2400 years. The structure has been undergoing painstaking preservation efforts for decades, with no end in sight. The sight of large modern cranes and complex scaffolding leaves one amazed at how the massive materials were transported and how such a structure could have been erected more than two millennia ago.
From the Acropolis we could see the towering columns remaining from the Temple of Zeus and a smaller but better preserved temple to the blacksmith god Haphaestus, along with the large agora (marketplace) where philosophers like Socrates and evangelists like Paul conversed with all who cared to think and to learn.
Just east of the Acropolis is the rocky knob known as Mars Hill, where elders collectively known as the Areopagus gathered during an early period to hear legal cases, and later to discuss whatever new or pressing matters were deemed worthy of attention.
It was on Mars Hill, in the shadow of the Parthenon’s massive temples to the Roman gods, that Paul spoke to such a gathering, preaching his famous sermon concerning an altar he had seen to the “unknown god.” Paul declared that the true God was no mystery, but had been made known in Christ.
As the morning turned hot we made our way to the National Archaeological Museum, where we could see with our own eyes ancient statuary, pottery, inscriptions, and other treasures known mostly from textbooks or TV documentaries. As with many museum experiences, it doesn’t take long for one’s eyes to glaze over at the embarrassment of riches.
No amount of time would have been enough, but we were tired, and a few hours of free time at the end of the day was a welcome opportunity to find an appealing restaurant for a late lunch, and to explore the city (or the hotel pool) on our own.