The title of this post comes from Pericles’ Funeral Oration as recounted by Thucydides in History of the Peloponnesian War. My very patient traveling companion read it aloud to me today in the Kerameikos District, the Classical-era cemetery where Pericles gave that oration after the first dead had been returned to Athens at the start of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides remembers Pericles speaking thus: They [the dead] gave their lives to her [Athens] and to all of us, and for their own selves they won praises that never grow old, the most splendid of sepulchres–not the sepulchre in which their bodies are laid, but where their glory remains eternal in men’s minds, always there on the right occasion to stir others to speech or action. Read more
Yesterday, we went up to the Acropolis. Most people know that the Parthenon is on the Acropolis. The Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaia, and the Erechtheion, which stands on the site of the Old Temple of Athena and is a shrine to Athena and Erechtheus, are there too. Alongside a number of support buildings like the Pinakotheke, the Acropolis in the time these buildings were built mostly in the sixth and fifth centuries was a thriving place of ritual sacrifice and worship of the gods.
Today when you walk around the Acropolis, it’s well-nigh impossible to have any sense of the space as a sacred site. Throngs of people taking selfies of themselves with the ruins, or finding some fellow traveller to be a photographer for a moment. Some people are even taking video of the buildings. I found this appalling not only because the sign at the entrance strictly forbids videoing the site, but also because it seems preposterous. Are you videoing because you expect the building to get up and move? Who will you actually subject to this footage? Are you really so afraid of having an unmediated experience of something that you must position a camera between yourself and the world? These are my thoughts. But to be fair, it’s only May, so the crowds aren’t even that overwhelming. Read more