If you’re thinking of taking that dream trip this summer to Europe, to see the many architectural splendors of the west, you might want to consider visiting the place where it all began for western man, Athens, Greece.
It was in a distant past, starting around 479 before Christ, in a little city state called Athens, a golder race of people set forth a vision of architecture that would entrance and awe the hearts and minds of the people of the western world, a vision of architecture that would provide the west’s distinctive image to all the rest of the world for ages, even to our present day.
Born in Athens in that distant past during what we today call Athens’ “Golden Age”, ancient Greek architecture, in a space of fifty years, sprung to life as an adventure in mind and stone. Having defeated the Persians, Greece then stood a formidable empire, rich and vivacious, ready to build the city to suit its new won status in the Mediterranean world.
This was initiated by Pericles, an Athenian statesman of mythical proportions, when he took the wealth gained from the Persian wars, along with war taxes not expended, and invested these in Athens’ Acropolis. From this impetus, In the space of fifty years, the beauty of ancient Greek architecture would flourish and proclaim the grand stature of the human mind.
The Acropolis, this beacon of ancient Greek architecture, is a fortress hill converted to a hill of temples. Ancient Greek architecture is represented here by buildings constructed to be temples of the Grecian gods. Here, Athens’ defender, the goddess Athena, towers high.
She is a colossal statue in bronze, visible from the sea, the tip of her spear reflecting the sun. You can feel the reverence they held for this goddess as you go up the sixty marble steps leading to the Propylaes, a covered entrance hall, with colonnades and porticoes. Even from a distance, the buildings further on project the love of form these ancient people celebrated as the truest reality man can apprehend.
They held that man, because he is a rational being, a homo sapien, is the very height of beauty itself, that man it is who brings order and harmony to the flurry of indefinite becoming that the cosmos is.
The mind of man, they urged, his insight into ideals, into abstract, mathematical forms, gave him access to the eternal forms, ideas, ideals, of which the things in the world are but shadows.
This love of the abstract is especially evident in the Acropolis’ ancient Greek architecture. The temples of the Acropolis, the temple of Athena Nike, then beyond, the Parthenon and the Erechteum, each with statues of white Pantellic marble, breathe perfection, balance, unity, the ideals of beauty. Standing before these buildings, you feel you stand before the mind of a people captured in stone.
Don’t go to Europe without visiting Athens. There, on that high hill overlooking the ancient city, the gifts of a golden people are waiting for you to claim.