Eleven Fourth Formers and eleven Sixth Formers had a somewhat sleepy 2am start for Heathrow to begin a mammoth tour of the classical sites of Greece during Half Term. With an itinerary based largely on the theatre and religion modules of the A level Classical Civilisation course, we started off at the oldest known stone theatre at Thorikos before driving down to the southernmost tip of Attica and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. This was a breath-takingly beautiful site and a great introduction to temple architecture.
The next day in Athens saw us at the Agora, exploring the Temple of Hephaistos, and then at the hearth of democracy, the Pnyx, to enjoy its outstanding view across to the Acropolis, with many stops for ice cream along the way. One of many long coach drives took us to what was for many, the highlight of the trip, the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. Our hotel there clung to the cliff, and the views across to the Gulf of Corinth were amazing. Miss Hodgson’s Oedipus was easily heard by all in the theatre, and the sculptures in the museum fully lived up to expectations.
Matteo Torriati and Ben Groom excelled on the Olympic track, and we saw the wonderful pediments which once stood over this centre of athletic prowess. Saturday was a very early start, but it guaranteed an empty theatre at Epidauros, and every pupil was stunned by the acoustic effects when standing at the centre of the orchestra to practice Medea’s verbal attack on Jason, which could be heard at every level.
Mycenae was much busier, and took us the furthest back archaeologically in our historical journey, but Eleusis wins the prize for the longest lasting site – over 2500 years celebrating Demeter and Persephone. Pomegranates are still placed in the crack in the rock where Hades is believed to have abducted Persephone. Sadly the Eleusinian mysteries have lived up to their name, and we still don’t know what happened at the great festival, but it is a hugely impressive site.
Our final day we went back to Athens to climb the Acropolis to see the Parthenon in all its glory, the Erechtheon, and Athene’s sacred olive tree, and then down into the Theatre of Duonysus, home of all the plays we study.
Fortunately, on the day before we had been able to nip into the National Archaeological Museum to explore free-standing sculpture, so the brief trip to the Acropolis Museum to see the Parthenon in the context of what remains of its wonderful sculptures was a superb way to round off the trip.