We like our gods to have a touch of humanity. The Greek gods had more than their share. They would party on Olympus, chase after the opposite sex, and constantly intervene in human affairs. They could be jealous, revengeful and petty but they could also be generous and protective. It was good to have one on your side.
Each Greek city-state would choose a god to be its special protector. With Athens, it was Athena. Both the Parthenon and the Erechtheion on the Acropolis (featured on my last blog) were built in her honor. Athena, according to Greek mythology, sprang fully grown and armed from the head of Zeus. Not surprisingly, Zeus had a massive headache prior to her birth. You might call it a splitting headache. His son, Hephaestus, god of the forge and blacksmiths, took his mighty chisel and split opened Zeus’s head, thus releasing Athena and relieving Zeus.
Zeus was also honored in Athens with a massive temple located near the base of the Acropolis. In addition to being the king of the gods and father of Athena, he was a notorious womanizer. He married his sister Hera, who was constantly trying to thwart his womanizing ways. One of Zeus’s more famous trysts was with the renowned beauty Leda. Zeus seduced her in the guise of a swan, so the story goes. It was a favorite subject of Renaissance Painters. One result of the seduction was that Leda went home and laid an egg, from which the even more beautiful Helen of Troy was hatched.
Our guides took us to see the Zeus temple and then on to visit site of the 2004 Summer Olympics. We stopped off to watch the changing of the guards in front of the Prime Minister’s official seat of government and hurried on to a very expensive restaurant that our guides had selected. I assume they received a handsome kickback. Sadly, our time was running out and we returned to the ship. Other sites would have to wait for another time.
NEXT BLOG: We journey to the enchanting Greek Island of Corfu on our Mediterranean Cruise adventure.