Greece is often considered one of the cradles of modern civilization. Crumbling temples, ruins, and artefacts pepper the country’s landscape, giving us just a glimpse at what life was like in this bygone era. Once filled with powerful warriors and scheming gods, Greece is steeped in a rich and fascinating history that permeates many aspects of modern life there. Entwined between the white-washed villas in Greece with a private pool and luxurious furnishings are relics that remind you of the country’s glory days.
Believe it or not, many ideas we hold to be true nowadays stem from ancient Greece. Modern philosophy, medicine, and cartography were all brought into existence in this era – the ancient Greeks even invented the alarm clock. Whether you are a history buff or not, it is impossible to be awestruck by Greece’s magnificent past.
In ancient Greece, mythology and reality blended seamlessly into one, with gods playing an active role in daily life – even bearing the children of mortals. If you want to learn more about Greece’s mystical history, here are some historical highlights you cannot miss while you’re there.
1. The Parthenon
Sitting atop the Acropolis of Athens is the immense Parthenon, which was first completed in 438 BC. The Acropolis was the name given to the highest point of a city. The Parthenon was dedicated to Athena, the goddess or war and the patron of Athens. Simply looking at it is enough to make your jaw hit the floor. How was something so staggeringly large and intricate built at a time without electricity or machinery? It is an engineering masterpiece to say the least.
The archaeological site of Olympia, situated in mainland Greece, is the home of the multi-discipline sporting games that inspired the Olympic Games. Today, the crumbling, sprawling complex reveals secrets about Greece’s history. Primarily dedicated to Zeus, the king of the gods, the main temple within the complex has been reduced to mere rubble over the years. Nevertheless, there are a number of other edifices that are more intact, plus two museums onsite. Getting to Olympia involves some travelling but it is well worth the time it takes.
The landscape at Meteora is often described as something from a different planet. The region comprises huge sandstone rock pillars that rise up to over 1000ft. Some of these pillars sport ancient monasteries and while there were once dozens, only six still remain. If you are looking for some hiking and exercise while you get your historical fix, a trip to Meteora will do the trick. Just make sure you avoid coming in the midday summer sun – this would be a big mistake.
One of the most popular Greek Islands, Rhodes is the perfect destination for those who want to combine history with natural beauty and a spot of nightlife. Among the island’s numerous historical sites are the Temple of Apollo, the Acropolis of Rhodes, and the ancient city of Kamiros. After a day of absorbing culture and history, you can wander down to the beach for an afternoon of leisurely swimming and sunbathing. What could be better?
5. The Palace of Knossos
Located on the beautiful island of Crete, the Palace of Knossos is featured heavily in Greek mythology. It is here that the King Minos lived, according to Greek mythology, and here that the labyrinth was built, guarded by a fearsome minotaur. Wandering through the complex, you will see so much bull imagery and symbolism that you might just leave wondering if there is some truth in the myths. Was there really a minotaur? No-one will ever truly know.
In ancient Greece, Delphi was considered the centre of the world. According to the myths, Zeus once released one eagle from the East and one from the West and told them to fly to the centrepoint of the world. They landed in Delphi and the site was called the ‘navel’. This spot was then encompassed within the Temple of Apollo. Today, there are vast expanses of ruins in Delphi that you can explore, including what were once magnificent theatres and stadia.
You might have seen Gerald Butler’s rippling abs as he portrayed King Leonidas on the big screen, but nothing will prepare you for seeing Sparta in the flesh. Toppling ruins spread out as far as the eye can see in this vast archaeological site. The Acropolis houses a temple, theatre and basilica, while the Archaeological Museum of Sparta gives a more in-depth look at what life was like in Sparta’s ancient days.
An ancient town in the Peloponnese peninsula, Corinth is most famous for its canal, which carves through the land and connects the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Aside from the canal, the ancient city also boasts an impressive archaeological site, which is home to the Acrocorinth, Corinth’s Acropolis, and the Apollo Temple. Give yourself at least a few hours to explore the numerous sites and ruins in Acrocorinth. And, be sure to wear sturdy footwear as there is a lot of hiking on offer here.
Last, but my no means least, is the spectacular site of Epidaurus. This ancient city revolves around a shrine built to Asklepios, the god of medicine. Pilgrims once travelled from all over to bathe in the natural springs and bring gifts to Asklepios in the hopes he would heal their ailments. The most impressive part of Epidaurus is the well-preserved theatre that sits at its centre and is famed for its incredible acoustics. In fact, the acoustics are so strong that a mere whisper on stage could be heard by an audience of over 10,000 people.
Greece is without a doubt one of the most historically fascinating countries on the planet. This list barely scratches the surface of what is on offer across the nation and its thousands of islands. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and don’t forget your camera! This will be the trip of a lifetime.