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The top sights – and sites – of ancient Greece

Ancient Greek ruinsIf the classics interest you, then a trip to Greece to see some of the ancient wonders first-hand is hard to beat as a destination. The Classical period in Greece lasted from the 5BC to 4BC and had a great influence on the Roman Empire and the Western World with art, architecture, theatre, philosophy, literature, science and politics. There’s so much to see and experience when you visit Greece that it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some key visits to help you plan your tour.

The Acropolis – Athens

This prominent plateau and ancient citadel amidst the modern city of Athens is an ideal staring point. There’s plenty to see in one area, and the views are stunning. The most iconic sight is the Parthenon, the largest temple of the Acropolis, which was built between 447-438 BC. It was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena but later became a church and a mosque.

The Acropolis, Athens, GreeceYou can also visit the Theatre of Dionysus which is located down the south-east side of the Acropolis. The Athenian tradition of theatre began here and the first person to act on stage as a character in around 530 BC is believed to be Thespis of Icaria – the word thespian actually originates from Thespis. The Theatre of Dionysus housed works of theatre by tragedians including Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes.

The Acropolis Museum is located just 300 metres from the Acropolis and centres around the discoveries from the Acropolis archaeological site. The ‘Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis’ exhibits discoveries from the sanctuaries on the slopes of the Acropolis and some everyday ancient Athenian objects.

Temple of Olympia Zeus – Athens

Temple of Olympia, AthensThe Temple of Olympia Zeus in Athens (also known as the Olympieion) is located in the centre of Athens. The temple was dedicated to Zeus and is one of the largest temples built in the ancient world originally with 104 columns at 17 metres high, although only 15 remain standing today. The temple is built of marble from Mount Pentelus. The inner chamber, or cella, originally contained a great gold and ivory state of Zeus, placed there by the Roman Emperor Hadrian (who completed the temple in 129AD). Hadrian also put an equally large statue of himself beside Zeus, although nothing remains of either statue and it is likely they were destroyed by an earthquake in mediaeval times.

Agora Museum and Site – Athens

The Agora Museum, GreeceThe Agora Museum is located to the north-west of the Acropolis and was the centre of artistic, political, spiritual and athletic life in Athens. Agora means ‘assembly or ‘gathering place’ and the exhibits at the museum centre on Athenian democracy with objects from 7th to 5th centuries BC. Exhibits include inscriptions, artefacts relating to commercial life such as coins, household equipment including pottery, glass, and bronze objects.

Ancient Corinth

Ancient Corinth, GreeceAncient Corinth is approximately 50 miles from Athens and is just a short drive from modern Corinth. It was one of the most important cities of Ancient Greece, but was destroyed in 146 BC by a Roman general, Lucius Mummius – later in 44 BC the Romans built a new city and Julius Caesar re-established it as a Roman Colony. The most prominent landmark in Ancient Corinth is the Temple of Apollo which is located on a rise north-west of the agora. Seven Doric columns remain of the temple and you can also see the remains of a theatre, villas, public baths and other temples around the site including part of the foundations and some pillars of the Temple of Octavia. At the northern edge of the forum, you can find an ancient sacred spring where there is a secret passage leading to a small shrine, thought to have been used by priests.

Mycenae and the Tomb of Agamemnon

Agamemnon tomb, GreeceMycenae is located about 90km south-west of Athens and is an archaeological site where you can see nine ancient beehive tombs constructed between 1510 BC and 1220 BC. The best preserved at the site is the Tomb of Agamemnon. The tombs have a characteristic dromos (passageway) leading to a large doorway, then inside is a tholos (a round room with domed roof).

Theatre of Epidaurus

Theatre of EpidaurasThe Ancient Theatre at the Asklepieion of Epidaurus is a wonder of ancient Greece. It’s a highlight of any visit to Greece as it is extremely well preserved and in an idyllic position. When you purchase your ticket you also gain access to the Archaeological Museum of Asklepeion Epidaurus which is at the same site. The original purpose of the site was a place of healing based on the cult of Asklepios, beginning in 6th century BC, with the theatre being added by architect Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC.

Sanctuary at Delphi

Sanctuary at DelphiThe ruins at Delphi were once a religious sanctuary on Mount Parnassus sacred to the God Apollo. It was home to the oracle of Apollo who gave guidance and predictions to ordinary people as well as politicians on both every day matters as well as those of major political importance. There are a number of different areas at the site, including the main section The Temple of Apollo, a theatre, stadium and other remains. The Archaeological Museum is situated on the wider archaeological site of the sanctuary at Delphi. It houses a rich collection of artefacts from all eras including statues, architectural sculpture, texts, sketches and maps as well as some digital reconstructions. One of the must see treasures here is the life-size bronze cast Charioteer of Delphi.

271015morepillarsThis is just a small selection of the treasures of Ancient Greece. If you happen to be a teacher of history or classics with an eager class, you can give them the chance of seeing some of the sights themselves and integrate a tour with their learning. Some travel companies will organise two or even three centre tours and plan an itinerary to suit your needs – you can view samples online to give you ideas!

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