Athens: Part 2… Armchair Travel in the Age of Coronavirus

I continue my exploration of Athens today as part of my armchair travel series, dipping back into my hundreds of archived posts. You will learn what gave Zeus a splitting headache. Hint: It wasn’t Covid-19.

The massive Temple of Zeus located near the base of the Acropolis.

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.

The replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee has a replica of what the statue of Athena located in the historic Parthenon may have looked like.
The replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee has a fully sized model of what the statue of Athena located in the historic Parthenon may have looked like. I think the spear alone would have given Zeus a headache.

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.

A side view of the Temple of Zeus in Athens looking grey against grey skies.
A side view of the Temple of Zeus in Athens looking grey against grey skies.
Another photo of the Zeus Temple in Athens. This one features the upper part of the columns with their Corinthian tops.
Another photo of the Zeus Temple in Athens. This one features the upper part of the columns with their tops decorated in the Corinthian style.
In 1852 a storm topped one of the massive columns from the Temple of Zeus and it has remained there ever since.
In 1852 a storm topped one of the massive columns from the Temple of Zeus and it has remained there ever since.
We watched as guards high stepped their way through the Changing of the Guards at the Prime Ministers seat of government.
We watched as guards high stepped their way through the Changing of the Guards at the Prime Minister’s seat of government. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
I found the choice of shoes, um, interesting.
I found the choice of shoes, um, interesting. At least the guards were guaranteed warm toes on a cold night.
The site of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens features a statue of a discus thrower winding up to throw.
The site of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens features a statue of a discus thrower winding up to throw.
One of several courses from our expensive Greek lunch.
One of several courses from our expensive Greek lunch.
Peggy and I and pose with our two Greek guides.
Peggy and I and pose with our two Greek guides. As I recall, their cousins owned the restaurant.

On Monday I will feature ten activities to keep away the blues during home-sheltering. They may not all be for you— such as capturing ground squirrels or searching for trees that might fit into Lord of the Rings or some other fantasy. (We have a whole forest of them.) Other’s might strike a chord. For example, most parents are now learning a lot more about home-schooling than they ever wanted to learn. But how about home-schooling for adults?

18 thoughts on “Athens: Part 2… Armchair Travel in the Age of Coronavirus

  1. 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.

    Having a painfully literal and analytic mind, I am giving myself a headache wondering how all that worked.

  2. Such a nice break from the constant depressing/irritating virus noise.
    Had to laugh as the first pix’s column reminds me of an elephant’s leg and foot. They always say human building methods are inspired by nature…so elephants? HAHA…oh OK big reeds that needed a footing. Always enjoy good pictures of architecture – even the fall of it is intriguing. Great Corinthians there. Such detail after so long. Skill gone perhaps, but a standing tribute to the artist. Take care and dream

    • Thanks, Phil. There is certainly enough negativity out there. I understand it but don’t feel a need to add to it. I think beauty, and the type of humor I almost always find in your posts are always important and even more so now. –Curt

  3. Curt, to me this series about Greek culture and Gods is exciting.
    I did travel Greece and its islands a lot and felt how exciting their sagas, songs
    and culture was.
    The story about Zeus and his splitting headache when Athena was born is
    rather fascinating. Wherever did that idea come from.

    Altogether, you both seem to have a real good time.

    Miriam

    • I think I mentioned I am a bit jealous about all your travel to Greece and the Greek Islands, Miriam. 🙂 And I loved the story about Zeus which I believe came from one of my books on mythology, perhaps Edith Hamilton but I don’t remember. –Curt

  4. It is always so pleasant coming here to view the sights you and Peggy have seen. No complaining, no whining and no yelling about – well, everything!
    Thanks, Curt, for being you!

    • The first time I visited Athens was in August, Andrew, so the heat would have been similar to what you described in your post. It was in 1967 and I was on a whirlwind tour of Europe after I finished my Peace Corps experience in Africa and before I had to report to work in the US, There was no time to lolligag since a delightful tour of Vietnam was waiting for me if I didn’t get to my job of teaching in the slums of Philadelphia. As I recall, Greece was in the midst of one of it’s frequent rebellions and soldiers were driving up and down the streets with their machine guns out. –Curt

  5. This is amazing, Curt. I am absolutely obsessed with learning about other cultures and Greek mythology has a special place in my heart. This post beautifully captured how Greece holds true to history with how they never moved that column that fell at Zeus’ temple. I love how they cherished what others would perceive as a flaw. Thank you for allowing us to take a trip to another land in this very solitary time.

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