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Experience Greece Like an Ancient Greek

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It’s one thing to visit Greece as a tourist—but have you ever wanted to experience Greece like an ancient Greek? Luckily, Greece prides itself on preserving its ancient history to such an extent that you can experience the country like a true native—from three thousand years ago!

If you’re going to Greece, don’t leave without visiting the Parthenon! A temple dedicated to Athena, ancient Athenians visited yearly to pay devotion to their patron goddess. Just like tourists today, the average Athenian wasn’t allowed inside the temple—even Pericles himself was only allowed on the second step! That honor was reserved for a handful of priests who had devoted their lives to Athena.

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While you’re there, take advantage of the view from the Acropolis hill to get a great view of the sprawling city of Athens. Pay special attention to the old town area you entered from, which houses the Agora! A gathering place for ancient philosophers, thinkers, and politicians, the Agora was the heart of ancient Athens: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were frequent visitors and instructors in the square. Bring a friend and ponder these ancient teachers; and perhaps the Agora will serve as a birthplace of new ideas for you as well.

Many ancient philosophers were also playwrights. They used theater as a way to explore ideas about the world, their governing system, and the gods. Many pieces were performed on the Acropolis itself at the Theatre of Dionysus, which still hosts events—attend a performance of an ancient Greek play for the most authentic experience! If you’re looking to attend a performance with English subtitles available, pay a visit to the Theatre of Epidaurus.

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While you’re at the theater, be sure to visit the Temple of Asclepius—the ancient Greek god of healing and medicine—at Epidaurus. (It’s within walking distance!) ancient Greeks who were plagued by health conditions would make pilgrimages to the temple, where they would sleep overnight and receive visions from the god himself in which he would cure them or direct them to what could. Although pilgrims can no longer sleep at the temple, they can explore the entire site, including a small museum.

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If visiting the Temple of Asclepius puts you in the mood for a religious pilgrimage, be sure to visit the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. This shrine to Apollo, the ancient Greek god of prophecy and the sun, was the home of the Oracle at Delphi—a woman blessed by Apollo with prophetic abilities. Every ancient Greek citystate, but especially Sparta, sent representatives to the Oracle at Delphi to seek Apollo’s guidance in matters of state and warfare. Join the ranks of these ancient pilgrims by visiting the temple today. While you’re at Delphi, don’t miss your chance to visit the Omphalos—the stone Rhea fed to Kronos instead of newborn baby Zeus in Greek legend.

And speaking of religious sites—remember that the Ancient Greeks made visiting temples a yearly pilgrimage. If you start planning now, you’ll be ready for your next visit to a Greek temple!
—Marlee Jeppsen

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