Some people travel to Greece for the splendor and nightlife of the islands: Santorini and Mykonos especially draw vacationers to their white, sandy beaches and famous nightclubs.
BUT, we journeyed to Greece in the off-season and explored the archeology of the place, which is one reason the only island we visited was Crete, home of the ancient Minoan Civilization (2,600-1100 BC).To hear locals tell the story, all the good things about Western Civilization came from Knossos and there is evidence for that. What is true is the sense of wonder we felt standing in the ruins of the great hall where Minoan kings ruled the Mediterranean more than 5,000 years ago.
WE also visited the ruins of the palace in Mycenae where Clytemnestra assassinated Agamemnon after he took so long to return from the Trojan Wars. In fact, that’s her grave right there, and that’s HIS grave!That great pile of rock sits on a tall hill and controls the natural route from Athens to the sea. One could forgive Mycenaean rulers a bit of hubris — the view is magnificent and all encompassing.
WHILE in the area, we visited ancient Corinth and Eleusis. It’s interesting to note that, in Corinth, one can stand near the Temple of Zeus and see both the place where Pegasus is reported to first set hoof on earth and the Apostle Paul was tried for sedition.
Eleusis is the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries and where Demeter finally rescued her daughter, Persephone, from Hades.We couldn’t leave for Olympia until we saw Epidaurus. It is said the son of Apollo settled there, where he built a great amphitheater that still exists. The acoustics are tremendous. At Olympia, we toured the site of the ancient games and learned that those caught cheating in the games had their names inscribed on the walls leading to the Olympic fields.
From Olympia, we travelled north to Kalambaka to see the monasteries perched on fingers of rock overlooking the plain below before climbing another mountain range to visit the Oracle at Delphi.
Thereís a type of tree found at Delphi that smells like honeysuckle and attracts honeybees. The trees literally hum. We learned that the Oracle often spoke through bees. Indeed, priestesses of the era were called Melissae — literally, bees! — and, the Oracle at Delphi was referred to as the Delphic Bee.
Finally, we landed in Athens and spent two days crawling all over the Acropolis and the ruins around that ancient site.
Itís interesting to note that nearly every ancient site showed evidence of both Greek and Roman construction — so, even though Greek civilization fell with the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC), it’s plain to see the Romans contributed mightily to the stories we’re told today.
Story & photos by Richard Stone
Stone is the editor and publisher of the Taylor Press. He attended Crain Junior High School in the late 1960s while his father was the Youth Minister at the First Presbyterian Church.