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CorinthCanal-sAll good things must come to an end, at least on this world, and study tours are no exception. Though travelers in Greece with Campbell University Divinity School and Nurturing Faith Experiences learned much and grew close during our time together, most were ready for the last day of touring to arrive.

Students, faculty, and staff from Campbell University  at the Temple of Apollo in Corinth.

Students, faculty, and staff from Campbell University at the Temple of Apollo in Corinth.

We began with a look at a canal dug through a narrow isthmus between the Attic mainland and the Peloppenesian peninsula. A remarkable feat of engineering for the late nineteenth century, the canal allows ships to travel between the Aegean Sea to the south and ports on the Ionian Sea to the north, thus avoiding a much longer and sometimes treacherous journey around. The canal is four miles long but only 70 feet wide at the base, making it too narrow for most modern ships, so it’s used mainly for recreational traffic these days.

The main road leading from  the Ionian Sea to Corinth featured a public bathhouse, a fountain, and shops. Here, the group was leaving town.

The main road leading from the Ionian Sea to Corinth featured a public bathhouse, a fountain, and shops. Here, the group was leaving town.

In ancient times, the city of Corinth grew up near that very spot, with ports on both sides of the isthmus and a thriving business in ferrying both cargoes and small ships across it on specially constructed wagons.

Sara Adcock leads a devotion near the spot where Paul preached in Corinth.

Sara Adcock leads a devotion near the spot where Paul preached in Corinth.

The Apostle Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth, developing a relationship that continued through an exchange of letters and a “painful visit” to deal with aberrant theology and conflict within the church.

The bema, a center for public speaking, in Corinth.

The bema, a center for public speaking, in Corinth.

As usual, Paul’s visit began with a visit to the Jewish synagogue, but also included speeches in the public square from a raised platform known as the “bema.”

MycenaeLionGate-sFrom Corinth we drove to the Bronze Age city of Mycenae, whose culture contributed greatly to the later development of Greek civilization. It was at Mycenae that Agamemnon ruled, known from Homer’s epic poem, The Illiad, as the leader of a coalition army who battled against the city of Troy.

The 16th century royal grave circle at Mycenae.

The 16th century royal grave circle at Mycenae.

The city was surrounded by an early wall of large boulders and a later construction of ashlars (shaped stones). An imposing gate was topped by two lions facing a column that may have represented the palace.

The so-called "Mask of Agamemnon" was among many rich treasures found at Myceane.

The so-called “Mask of Agamemnon” was among many rich treasures found at Myceane.

Those who first dug at the site, working inside and to the right of the gate, uncovered a circular structure containing deep shaft graves from the sixteenth century BCE. The burials included both adults and children, and was clearly intended for the royal family, as the dead were surrounded by rich treasures and wore masks and body coverings made of pure gold. The first excavator thought he had discovered the tomb of Agamemnon, but the tomb preceded him by more than two centuries and would have belonged to earlier rulers.

The "Treasury of Atrius" was actually a tomb.

The “Treasury of Atrius” was actually a tomb.

Outside of the city, the so-called “Treasury of Atrius” (Atrius was reportedly Agamemnon’s father) is the best preserved “tholos” type tomb in all of Greece. The tomb was built of carefully hewn blocks fitted together igloo-style in the shape of a beehive forty feet high, then covered with two layers of waterproof clay and covered over with dirt so that it looks like a hill.

The craftsmanship of the tools style tomb remains impressive.

The craftsmanship of the tools style tomb remains impressive. The ceiling is only 40 feet high, but looks much taller.

It is likely that royals were cremated on a pyre in the middle of the tomb: it was robbed in antiquity, and none of the tomb’s contents have been found.

Yet another drive took us about 20 miles south and 2,000 years forward, to the classical Greek city of Epidaurus, where the healing god Asclepius was worshiped. Persons seeking health came from far away to the city’s “asclepion” (healing center), many staying in a guest house with 160 rooms. Sick persons would spend a night in a large room within the sanctuary called the enkoimeteria, where it was believed the god would reveal to them the needed cure.

The theater at Epidaurus.

The theater at Epidaurus.

Epidaurus is also home to the best preserved theater in Greece from that period. The lower level was built in the fourth century BCE, while the upper section was added in Roman times.The theater’s acoustics are so exceptional that our guide encouraged us to scatter in the large theater while she read a poem in a normal voice, and we all could hear it.

Costas, our faithful bus driver, took us along a different route on the way back, driving with forested mountains to our left and the Aegean to our right on the two-hour trip to Athens. There we gathered for a final dinner together before turning in early before a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call and a long day of traveling home, which was looking better all the time — one of the many benefits of traveling and studying abroad.

Tony Cartledge

About Tony Cartledge

Tony W. Cartledge is contributing editor of Baptists Today, in addition to teaching Old Testament studies and various ministry courses at Campbell University Divinity School. He formerly served as editor of the Biblical Recorder, newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and as a pastor for 26 years. Tony is a graduate of the University of Georgia, Southeastern Seminary and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. He is the author of several books including the Smyth & Helwys commentary on First and Second Samuel and Telling Stories: Tall Tales and Deep Truths and several Bible study books for Nurturing Faith.