In February 2018, the Classics Society travelled to Athens making use of the university’s accumulated air miles. Below is an account of what they did.
After what felt like a long flight out of Edinburgh, the students all arrived safely in Athens. The weather was improving from the days before arrival which was quite dreary! We took the Metro to the hostel where the check-in process went (mostly) smoothly, although three people had lost their padlocks within minutes.
We woke up at 9am and had a group meeting in the morning to outline exactly where we were going and when. The first item on the agenda was the Athenian Agora. There was so much to see here that one visit was hardly enough!
People preferred to go at their own pace around the Agora, so we split up into smaller groups. It was an opportunity for many to utilise their knowledge of the Agora – lots of people were interested in particular by the Centauromachy scene on the Temple of Hephaestus, which would of course feature on almost every other temple visited on this trip.
Some people then chose to go to the Roman Agora, but most people went as a large group up Mount Lycabettus. This mountain, the cable-car attendant explained to us, had its mythological origin as a rock hurled away from the Acropolis by Athena. This certainly gave us the best view of Athens and the Acropolis possible! We were also able to spot Mount Pentelikon, where the marble for some of the finest sculptures and buildings in Athens was quarried.
Today was the day that most people had been looking forward to for months: a visit to the Acropolis. During the morning briefing, we made sure that everybody knew exactly what the functions for each building were so that they would have a general idea of what they were seeing even if they hadn’t taken the Greek World/Greek Art and Archaeology course, as the plaques at the Acropolis are sometimes hit-and-miss as to whether they will be legible.
Starting at the South Slope, we examined the Theatre of Dionysus and noted its history first as a Greek theatre and then adaptation as a Roman theatre. We were also able to identify the Cave of Pan, and the columns upon which the choragic monuments would have once stood.
After around two hours on the Acropolis, we headed back down to visit the Acropolis Museum which houses parts of the Parthenon Frieze on its top floor.
Today we convened in the morning to walk to the National Archaeological Museum, which (relative to the Acropolis) was a long walk. The first thing to greet us was an exhibition on Mycenae, and a selection of artefacts uncovered in its grave shafts (several students on the trip had gone to Berlin with the Classics Society last year where they would have seen the rest of Schliemann’s uncovered gold!).
The temporary exhibition in the museum was entitled Odysseys, and we were able to see the Phrasikleia Kore up close. Having studied this Kore in our Greek World and Greek Art & Archaeology lectures, it was a moment that many were very excited about. The rest of the exhibition was loosely based on the Odyssey and its stories, with vases depicting Sirens and statues of figures like Odysseus recovered from the sea in varying conditions.
There was a huge collection of amphorae and lekythoi on the second floor of the museum. These were useful for visualising the wealth of extant Greek pottery that we have, and how much of it there must still be to uncover! The collection was fairly random other than this, but there were many hidden treasures from a range of time periods to stumble across.
This was the final day, and we had some time before we caught our flight to go up the Hill of the Muses to see the Prison of Socrates and the Philopappos Monument. An unexpected bonus was the amazing view of the Acropolis from the other side of we had seen on Mount Lycabettus!