Background distinctive silver, warm still sun. Old flaking dirty buildings, the 40’s and 60’s, and then modern construction, unexpected avenue angles—the world’s cities are divisible on whether the center is a grid, this one isn’t—give views of the lit Acropolis. The anachronism of it, majesty and fantasy, catch glimpses at unexpected times, turning onto an alleyway, a break in bushes, the inevitable rooftop drink. Climbing closer on one of the less touristed approaches graffiti and trash whitewashed walls prickly pear. Urban waves radiate below this origin, maybe somehow it was the center of the invention of rationality, not that other cultures were irrational, but here where bounded angular structure from the architecture or sculpture boomeranged back to language and conscious thought until it seemed the native format of mind itself. At least the origins of democracy, also here, are better understood and now so much on everyone’s café debates.
There is a museum integral to Syntagma subway station, history unearthed during its construction, mosaics and votives, crumbled pieces of an anatomical form. Looking up, then, at the Parthenon, held reassured from the tremble of time by construction scaffolding contracted from the same heavy industry that launches our towers.
The stark linear appearance fixes Classic in our imaginations, we’d likely be offended by the genuine thing, painted and with colorful terra cotta trim, prefer the dry clarity of the skeleton over the complicated aesthetically partisan flesh as it was. Over the next weeks more famous sites of the Peloponnese: Olympia, the Temple of Apollo, the ruins at Corinth. Each layer an untidy involuted recollection of functional divinity, what was a specific conception of harmony, reuse decay conquest rebuild. Two thousand five hundred years of it.
The theater at Epidaurus. The acoustics allow a normal spoken voice from the stage to be heard in every seat.
The Temple of Apollo, standing for most of history without a protective tent, enclosured now as if to emphasize its precarious preciousness. Pillars lay bare, are emphatic with respect to where strength originates, in what holds up the majesty so that nothing is left hidden to magic. Pillars like an essential unmasking of occult power so that instead there is unabashed load force vectors, order that is the ur source. But then quaking winter’s decay, the fires of invaders, the pillaging of museums, voices of Dionysus reminding his brother that their best work is collaborative.
Or the home of the first centuries of Olympic games, purity of striving elevated against everything other than the explosive thunder rain heat of our essence. Picture Plato, a fan of these games, here.
Delphi, home of seers,
channeling the Homeric voice of even older places, themselves peans to permanence. Phaestos, Gortys on Crete,
A road to inevitable distortions of fragmentary reconstruction at Knossos.
In these places the implication of ascent, lift limitward. For me this is the shard that cracks the cryptography of Ancient Greece, that we leap, maybe in a protestful denial that we’re fragile, maybe in a realization of an authentic transcendence. Maybe (and this is the more exciting possibility) neither, and so in between the lived sweat flux of body and the fixity of hedral built place, bold combustible equipollence.