Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Stalked by the Shades of Ancient Athens?

You can't see them. I can't see them. But with a little imagination, I could feel the Shades of the Ancients on this visit to Athens ...

I dropped by the New Acropolis Museum, and there they were, in their ancient houses under the glass floor at the entrance. (The restaurant is wonderful - check it out on the website!)

I visited friends in Egaleo, a municipality west of the centre. At the metro station I found the Sacred Way (Iera Odos). It ran from the great gates of the Acropolis (the Propylaea) to the religious sanctuary of Elefsis. It runs parallel to the present street of the same name. I could almost see the ghosts walking into the shadows under the station forecourt.

And as I shopped I felt I was being watched ... by myriad naked gods and heroes. (And Michaelangelo's David! I'm not sure why he was there. Perhaps the modern creator of these copies enjoys making a sculpture with no missing arms or legs.)

And of course, I couldn't escape Hadrian. No one can escape the Roman Emperor who was so taken with Athens that he made many modern additions, including finishing a huge temple to Zeus, building a library, reservoirs, and his new gate to the city ... He visited Athens many times from AD 124 to 130 or so. 
He's near my home in the north of England, too, with his great Wall, the most northerly extent of the Roman Empire in his time.

The one time I went looking for Shades was to see if I could find again the place I remembered where the music teacher's house is in The Boy with Two Heads:
   The city was full of builders and people and wagons, hurrying along the streets.
   The music teacher’s house was quite small, and near enough to the Akropolis to hear the rumble of the wagons and the hammering and creaking of the builders and their machinery.
   ‘The Great Gates are only half-finished,’ Frog told Themis ...

And here it is! But I was aware of no Shades, ancient or modern, just the warm sunshine and distant midday buzz of traffic. Mind you, if the mighty bronze Athena were still standing in front of the Parthenon, she would have been able to wink at me ...

I'm back in UK now and snow is forecast for Friday. But I went out looking for a different set of ghosts yesterday in Greenwich Park - more in next posting.

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