Discover The Port Guide To: Athens
Ever since sophists used to stand on street corners and rantabout governmental corruption, Athens has been a beleaguered yet beloved city—oftenseemingly on the verge of ruin, but never really losing its grace. It is the heartof epic Greece: over-crowded, turbulent, scandal-prone but with amazing stayingpower. Check out three former news headlines (now legends taught in primaryschool) that shook this city thousands of years before Greece’s most recent troubles.
1) Conquering Armies Loot, Burn City
When the Persians burned Athens during the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, they left nothing but ruin in their wake…or so it would seem. But the people had been evacuated, and the Greeks eventually won the battle on the sea. Shortly thereafter, Athens entered one the most productive and prosperous time periods of the Classical era. They rebuilt the city completely, including the Parthenon, temple of Athena.
The Parthenon is of the most famous structures in the world—in fact even at first viewing it looks familiar, since so many buildings since then have borrowed from it. Students of design will appreciate how it combines elements of classic Doric and Ionic architecture—everyone else merely appreciates that it’s still standing.
2) Rival State Wins Control of Greece
No Senate race or even Super Bowl can compare with the rivalry between city-states in ancient Greece. When the Spartans beat Athens in the Peloponnesian War, they literally took over the city, forcing the Athenians to tear down their city walls and hand over many of their remaining ships. With their resources depleted and their morale crushed, Athens went into a major economic recession.
Visit the ancient cemetery site ofKerameikos, where some of the first Peloponnesian casualties were buried. A small onsite archaeological museum contains tombstone remnants, pottery
3) King’s Suicide Darkens Son’s Triumphant Return
Think communication breakdowns are bad in the Internet age? You have no idea. When Theseus, the hero prince of Athens, returned home after conquering the monstrous Minotaur of Crete, he forgot to put triumphant white sails on his boat. His father King Aegeus saw black sails from afar, assumed his son had died fighting the beast, and drowned himself before Theseus could put into port.
Bus out to Cape Sounion, which is at the southern tip of Attica, and see where King Aegeus allegedly leaped to his doom. This is also the site of the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon.
Looking for a different type of trip? Check out our The Family-Friendly Port Guide To: London