Sheila Spire Travelling Scholarship: Athens Trip 21/08/10 By Robert Harland



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Sheila Spire Travelling Scholarship: Athens Trip 21/08/10

By Robert Harland

Using the funds provided by the Sheila Spire Travelling Scholarship I was able to visit the ancient city of Athens, Greece, the cradle of European civilization. Studying Ancient History and History at Leicester, Athens encompassed all of my historical interests in its vast culture and architecture. I thought that Athens would be the perfect place to enrich my knowledge of the ancient world, specifically in two of the modules I was undertaking in the second semester of my second year. These were the Social History of the Hellenistic World and Theories and Methods for Ancient History. For the latter I was involved in a project analysing the Parthenon Frieze for which I had to write an essay and participate in a group presentation focusing on a certain area of this Athenian monument. Our group visited the British Museum where there is around half of the Frieze marbles from the Parthenon but I thought that observing the monument on the Acropolis in all its glory would really allow me a deeper understanding of the Frieze. The recently built New Acropolis Museum would incorporate all of the historical elements, along with the countless other ancient sites and museums around the city. Unfortunately, my original flight was cancelled due to the Icelandic Volcanic ash cloud that harrowed European skies for weeks in late April. This being in the Easter break I had no other choice but to postpone until the summer. Of course it would have been better to have gone before my essay and presentation to reap the full academic benefits but the trip was educational and enjoyable nonetheless and definitely promoted my knowledge of the ancient world for my degree and myself.



After arriving late on 21st August, I left the hostel early on Thursday 22nd to take to the sites of the city. I wandered to the Agora, the whole way being utterly amazed by the colossal height and centrality of the Acropolis. Impatient to get up to the dizzying heights I was told that late afternoon is the time of day to visit due to the light and a less bustling atmosphere. The Agora lies to the northwest of the Acropolis and holds many buildings of great importance to ancient Greek culture and politics. It is a good place to aimlessly wander, viewing temples, stoas and even excavations currently going on. The Temple of Hephaestus and the Stoa of Attalos were definitely the main highlights. Inside the Stoa is the Agora museum, which I took some notes on the history of the grounds. After lunch I headed up to the Acropolis, the High city that polarises the rest of Athens in its orbit. Walking with the crowds through the Propylaea you are immediately stunned by the power of this sacred ground. The main focus for me, as for most of the visitors was the Parthenon. After studying the building and its history it was marvellous to just stand there and appreciate its amazing architecture. Just looking at it you can feel its deep past through the ages and experience something that you cannot get from any book. I took photographs and took in the magnificent views from the East part of the Acropolis. I stayed until closing time viewing the magnetic Parthenon in all its ancient glory.


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