“Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity” — Aristotle
Athens illustrates the identity of modern Greece and how it aligns directly with their ancient past. Urban Athens brings a sharp contrast to our perception of Greece as a Western nation, yet their capital is truly an equal combination of Middle Eastern and European culture. We were able to explore these contradictions by visiting the Acropolis and other prominent sites while ending our time with a discussion investigating Modern Greek anthropology.
The next stop was Delphi where we saw the Temple of Athena Pronaia, Temple of Apollo, and the ancient theater. The sanctuary required us to hike the mountain from the temple to the ancient track at the top, resulting in a change of over 700 feet.
Ancient Delphi was known for its oracle whose powerful predictions inspired it to be known as the “naval of the universe” to Ancient Greeks. Greeks from all over the Mediterranean, along with other people in the Ancient World, used this Panhellenic sanctuary to make political, military, social, and personal decisions.
Nafplio, a town sitting on a harbor of the Mediterranean Sea, has a quaint vacation aesthetic. We were able to use Nafplio as a launching point to explore other archaeological sites like Nemea, Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Heraion. This town contrasts Athens as its identity is a blend of Venetian and Greek due to Venetian occupations throughout the town’s history. A notable aspect of its history is a Venetian fortress that overlooks the town and harbor and requires 999 steps up steep marble stairs but reveals some of the most gorgeous views in Greece.
Ancient Corinth led us to another hike to its acropolis, deemed Acrocorinth. Corinth was a massively powerful city state which was evident through the extensive ruins, buildings, and pottery. Its strategic importance was only challenged by Isthmia, a nearby Isthmus that connected Corinth to Athens. Corinth shaped Ancient Greek identity through its creation of other city states and economic domination. As we learned about Ancient Greece, our understanding of their identities were often shaped by the influence of Athens and Corinth over others.
We were led by Timothy Gregory, a pivotal archaeologist at the site for several decades, in a behind the scenes tour through the ruins and field house. From dirt to history, we saw the extensive process archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians must employ to turn these ruins into understandable history.
“Nature does nothing uselessly” — Aristotle
After the conclusion of the field study, I was able to travel onto Ios independently. This island demonstrated the beauty of the Aegean Sea and difference between Greek island culture and my experience in the Peloponnese or Athens. They are notable for their 365 churches—one for each day of the year—and the Skarkos settlement. This prehistoric site is built in a Cycladic structure and is the most intact example of this settlement in the world.