Monday, September 19, 2005

Another Day . . . Another Delight

Susan and I disembarked from the Brilliance of the Seas on Friday to tour Athens (named after Athena the goddess of wisdom). Almost one half of Greece lives in this sprawling metropolis of 4 million.

Winding through busy streets down the Posidon (god of the sea) Road we finally reached the Acropolis (extremity of the city). History in Athens dates back to 3000 BC, but this marvellous structure was built in their hayday of city/state power in the 4th century BC. The Parthenon, sitting centre place is considered to be one of the most beautifully preserved ancient sites. It was first built as a temple for Athena in 438 BC.

When the ancient sages came up with a new system of government called democracy (power of the people), the rulers, who lived in the acropolis overlooking the city, were forced to live below with the people. The acropolis was then kept for the home of the gods.

From earliest history, the gods reigned in Athens. Greece was at first a matriarchal society, because the men went to sea, so the queen of all was mother earth. From her womb came fire, water, war, power, wisdom, etc. The 12 gods and goddesses all came from her. Everyone of their gods were kind, loving and happy. There was no fear in their worship because their gods were as fallible as humans were.

Zeus for example, had a weakness for pretty girls. He was often depicted as chasing a beautiful maiden and his wife Hera chasing after him (even on the Greek 2 euro coin Zeus in portrayed as a bull and sitting on his shoulder is Euro, a young girlfriend). Of course because Zeus was so promiscuous, that gave permission for every man to behave likewise.

No wonder when the Apostle Paul came to introduce Christianity to the Athenians in 50 AD, his message was largely rejected. Susan and I walked up the path that Paul walked from the Agora (marketplace) to the Acropolis where he preached his sermon about the unknown God. "I want to introduce Him to you," the apostle declared.

They listened for a while because they loved to hear new ideas but ultimately said no because Paul's God had standards and virtues which would limit their fun and freedom. Paul's God was to be feared. Their gods could be laughed at. When Christians finally began to proliferate they zealously tore down all the statues of gods on the acropolis, and made it a church. Ultimately icons of the Greek orthodox saints took their places.

The Acropolis was a lot larger than I had pictured it. The Parthenon and it both stand boldly overlooking the great city of Athens. Over the last 2,500 years it may have lost its power, but it still has a certain human glory to it. One story that impressed me about Greek history comes from the time when Greek leaders fought off the Persian army of about 2 million men. Persians had already burned Athens and stolen her treasures, but in 480 BC they were strategically routed by a comparatively small army.

That victory, which changed the course of history (Europe today would have been Asian rather than Greek influenced), led to a sense of we can do anything. Their feel-good position introduced the golden age of the great thinkers, artesians and builders of history.

And of course as it always does, their pride in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC led to their failure and defeat in the Roman times that followed. From the valley of the shadow of death comes success and power; from the dizzying heights of success comes pride and ultimate failure.

It is hard to believe we are nearing the end of our cruise and will be returning to Barcelona in two days. I hope you are enjoying my travelblog!


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