Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cruising the Greek Isles

On the fifth day of our sojourn in Greece we spent the morning wandering about Athens, particularly the Plaka area (built on top of the ancient town of Athens, known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods) where shops and tavernas abound.   

We visited Hadrian’s Arch. “Hadrian’s Arch was constructed in 131 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian,” who built arches everywhere he went, “as part of a wall (he believed in walls) separating the old and new cities of Athens.” On the side of the arch facing the Acropolis is the inscription, "This is Athens, the former city of Theseus" while the other side reads, "This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus”.  There were narcissistic personalities then as there are now, and Hadrian was certainly one of them!  

We also visited The Temple of Olympian Zeus.  Construction of this colossal temple began in the 6th century BC, but was not completed until Emperor Hadrian came along in the 2nd century AD (638 years after the project had begun) to make Athens or himself  “Great Again.” Hadrian built one huge gold and ivory statue of Zeus for the inner chamber of this temple and another, only slightly smaller, of himself.  During the Roman period the temple of Olympian Zeus had 104 colossal columns and was the largest temple in Greece.  Today only 15 of the original Corinthian columns remain.

After a leisurely lunch at a taverna (I love Greek tavernas) we went to the Athens’ port of Piraeus to board our yacht.  I’ve been on a cruise ship, a riverboat, a sailboat, a rowboat, a motorboat, a paddle-wheeler boat and a paddle boat, a fishing boat, a replica of a clipper ship, a submarine, a destroyer, and an aircraft carrier, but never on a yacht! I now like yachts and prefer them above all other boats and ships! (The difference is similar to that of flying economy class or first class on an airplane).  We were to sail to the Island of Kea that evening, a tiny island known as a regular stop for pirate looting back in the 19th century, but our yacht was delayed due to a mechanical issue.  By the time this issue was resolved, it was too late for us to visit Kea.  I wanted so much to check out this island, for legend has it that Kea was home to many beautiful water nymphs (minor deities) and the jealous gods sent a large lion down from the heavens to scare them away and take away their beauty.  I wanted to see if some of these nymphs had survived.  I have never seen a water nymph and I guess, now, I never will.  

The United States of America has existed for a brief two hundred and some years. The construction of the Temple of Zeus began 600 years before Christ—and was completed 638 years later. Part of the wall around the Acropolis in Athens was constructed in the 13th century BC!  Hadrian-type personalities were around then and are still hanging around now.  The writer of Ecclesiastes just may have it right:  “What has happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say, Look, this is new?  No, it has already existed, long ago before our time.  The men of old are not remembered, and those who follow will not be remembered by those who follow them.”  What a shame!

Hadrian's Arch

The Temple of Olympian Zeus

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