Thursday, September 15, 2011

Greece's Top 10 Archaeological Sites

A visit to Greece allows the opportunity to go back through the corridors of time with some of the most awesome archaeological sites in the world. Greece is literally a network of the remains of civilizations that date from as far back as the prehistoric times and weaves its way through early historic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Here are 10 of the best of the archaeological sites in Greece:

1. Acropolis of Athens

 

The Parthenon - Photo: B. Paige

Sitting on the highest point and overlooking the city is the “Citadel of Athens.” One of the most significant monuments and testament to the great architectural heritage of Greece, the Acropolis was a brainchild of the statesman Pericles and built during the 5th century. This ancient religious site bears the remains of a number of temples and statues including the Propylea Gateway, the Parthenon, the Erechtheum and the Theatre of Dionysus. Most of the artifacts found during the excavations are now displayed in the Acropolis Museum.

2. Delphi

 

The Temple of Apollo - Photo: A. Pappa

Delphi is most famous for the legendary and influential oracle found in numerous ancient Greek writings and is situated in central Greece on the slope of Mount Parnassus. Legend has it that the Greek god Apollo used the oracle to speak to humans through a medium called the Pythia, or a priestess of the Delphi.  Discovered in 1893, the site today is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Greece with its spectacular remains of the Temple of Apollo, the Stadium, Athenian Treasury and the Altar of the Chians among others.

3. Sacred Island of Delos

 

Naxian Lions Terrace of Delos - Photo: A. Pippo

Also known as the Island of Apollo, this small but historically significant sanctuary is located in the heart of Cyclades just miles away from Mykonos. During the ancient times, it was the center of religion, trade, commerce and politics and its discovery in 1873 was monumental in that it bore testament to a highly advanced civilization.  Must-sees include the Agora, the Temple of the Lions, the Sanctuary and the Theatre District.

4. Olympia

 

Ruins of the Philippeion - Photo: M. Fitzpatrick

The site of the first Olympic games and an ancient sanctuary, the site was first discovered and excavated in 1829. Ancient Olympia was situated in Peloponesse and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989. Today, the town is a flourishing community of municipalities and subdivisions. Visitors to the ancient ruins can still see impressive monuments such as the Stadium, the temples dedicated to Zeus and Hera and the Palaestra.

5. Knossos

 

Knossos Minoan Palace - Photo: S. Leon

Another legendary site is Knossos, the largest and best preserved archaeological find from the Bronze Age and the remains of the great Minoan civilization. The grand Palace of Knossos was home to King Minos and the setting for many heroic tales and epics including the Minotaur in the Labyrinth and Icarus. Aside from the palace visitors can see the Royal Villa, the intricate frescoes on the walls and the Minoan Columns.

6. Vergina

 

A tomb in Vergina - Photo: B. Dirah

Also known as the Archaeological Site of Agai (or Aegae), this ancient Macedonian capital was brought to global attention in 1977 with the discovery of the burial site of the kings of Macedon including Philip II and Alexander IV. Valuable artifacts found in the site are now housed in the Great Tumulus Museum.

7. Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus

 

Theatre of Epidaurus - Photo: H. Melo

According to legend, Asklepios was a god of medicine and was worshipped in the city state of Epidaurus in Ancient Greece. A huge sanctuary was built in his honor (the “Asclepieion) and became the center of activity in Epidaurus with throngs of people coming to find healing for their conditions. Other majestic ancient monuments uncovered in the site include the theatre, palace and tombs.

8. Lindos

 

Acropolis of Lindos - Photo: A. Anna

Situated in the island of Rhodes is the citadel of Lindos, an ancient fortified area that has been in existence since the 10th century BC. It was an important trading post in the 7th to 6th centuries BC but declined in significance after the rise of Rhodes in the 5th century. The most important find is the Doric Temple of Athena along with the Propylaea and the Hellenistic wall.

9. Meteora

 

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity - Photo: D. Jarmin

From the Greek word which means “suspended in the air” the Meteora Monasteries have come to be known as one of Greece’s most impressive sites. It is a community of  six Greek Orthodox monasteries started and built during the 9th century on rock pillars and along high mountain walls at the edge of Thessaly and along the Eastern Pindus Mountains. In the old times, the only way to get to the monasteries was by hoisting up long ladders or large nets. Today, visitors can reach the place through staircases that were made from the rock formations.

10. Mycenae

 

The Lion Gate - Photo: E. Rones

The once mighty and glorious civilization of Mycenae is situated on a hill in Northeastern Peloponnese in Argolis. From the 5th to the 1st century BC, Mycenae was the political, cultural, religious and military center so much so that the period has come to be known in Greek history as Mycenaean. Vestiges if its grandeur can still be seen in the citadel ruins – the Lion Gates, Treasury of Atreus and Grave Circle A are among the impressive architecture that can be seen in the site.

 

 

 

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