Acropolis at sunriseOdeonTemple of PosidenAncient OlympiaDelphi

Our sojourn begins in Athens—birthplace of the philosophers, Plato and Aristotle; home of the great tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; and home of Pericles, Phidias, and the Parthenon.  Here we explore the Acropolis and marvel at the Parthenon itself as well as at the many dazzling works enshrined in the new Acropolis Museum.  We also visit the National Museum, passing through the Agora and Pnyx, the birthplace of Athenian democracy.   Mid-week we depart Athens and proceed through the Peloponnese stopping to visit the ruins of Mycenae – legendary home of the Homeric warlord Agamemnon – on our way to Sparta.  There we explore the Spartan Acropolis, the temple of Artemis Orthia, the ancient shrine to Menelaus and Helen—whom the Spartans celebrated as goddess—and the Spartan museum.  From  Sparta we travel to Archea Olympia to visit the ruins where the first Olympics were held some 2000 years ago.  Crossing back to mainland Greece, we continue to the famous shrine of the oracle at Delphi on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, in ancient Greek eyes the very center of the cosmos.  From there we skirt Mt. Cithairon to see where in 479 the Greek coalition led by Sparta defeated the invading Persian army once and for all at Plataea.  On our return to Athens we pass the Salamis narrows, site of Themistocles’ great victory, on our way to nearby Eleusis, home of the famed Eleusinian mysteries.

Our endeavor is to understand more deeply the enduring cultural revolution that was ancient Greece, the effects of which, in so many ways, shape our own thoughts and actions to this very day.   And, for the record, it will not do to minimize the effect of that revolution.   In our recent eagerness to treat with respect the contributions and distinctive merits of all cultures, the contributions of ancient Greece are often minimized—and for understandable, if not entirely justifiable reasons.  Their contributions however are so immense, so far-reaching, and so unprecedented, that truth be told, they more or less eclipse the contributions of virtually all other contenders, worthy as they may be, worthy as, in fact they are.   The Greek legacy, simply put, is a genuinely staggering legacy.

Throughout the Sojourn, we explore many of the works which defined the genius of the Greeks, among them the histories of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon and the epochal events which they chronicled—the heroic defense of Greece from Persia, the glorious age of Pericles, and the fratricidal destructiveness of the later Peloponnesian War.   We thoughtfully explore the works of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which more clearly than any other reflected—and, indeed, shaped—the heart and mind of ancient Greek culture.   And we will attend as well to the works of the Athenian tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and of their great comic contemporary, Aristophanes.   We will likewise consider the Greek philosophical tradition as exemplified in Plato’s (and Xenophon’s) evocation of Socrates, and in the works of Aristotle and, of course, the works of Plato himself.   Finally, we  explore the rich visual legacy of Greek art and culture, as expressed in art and architecture, in temples like the Parthenon, in ancient sacred sites like Delphi, and in historical sites like Mycenae—and in, of course, a wide array of surviving works of sculpture and humbler modes of visual art, such as metalwork and— that most instructive Hellenic specialty—vase painting.

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