Saturday, September 1: I descend from the Acropolis and make my way along the circular path called the Peripatos that goes around its slopes and intersects the Panathenaic Way at the western approach. These slopes were home to many sanctuaries that played important roles in the religious lives of the ancient Athenians. It’s likely that most of the north slope was part of the sacred area at the foot of the Acropolis known as the Palargikon.
At this point in the day, it’s starting to get hot, and my clothes are starting to get quite soggy and smelly. I have checked my phone all through the morning for word from Egypt Air, but not a soul has called. I feel a little bedraggled and even a little defeated.
I head first to the north slope, which holds the more simple shrines, the ones that are sometimes called “rustic.” These were places where divinities of nature, fertility and healing were worshiped on a more personal level. Some shrines are nestled along the steep cliffs and pathways. I come across a group of shallow caves at the northwest corner of the north slope where Apollo, Pan, and (probably) the Nymphs were worshiped.
The cult places on the south slope received monumental, architectural embellishments, such as the Theatre of Dionysos. The first theatre here was built during the 6th century BC and during the golden age in the 5th century, politicians sponsored dramas by writers such as Sophocles and Euripides, with some light relief provided by the comedies of Aristophanes. The theatre was reconstructed in stone and marble by Lycurgus between 342 BC and 326 BC, with the capacity to seat 17,000 spread over 64 tiers. Today only 20 tiers remain. Sixty-seven thrones in the front row were reserved for festival officials and priests. Reliefs at the back of the stage depict the exploits of Dionysos and date from the 2nd century BC.
After finishing my walk along the slopes of the Acropolis, I run into a Canadian couple from Alberta who I chat with for a while as I drink a fresh squeezed orange juice. Then I head back to the Hop on Hop off bus, where I continue on the tour of the city…