Ancient Greece Facts - Historical Sites of the Greek Gods
Greece is awash with ancient sites that fire the imagination, stir the soul and blow your mind with their sheer immensity. Worship of the all-powerful Olympian gods, aided by the availability of slave labour in ancient times, led to the construction of vast and magnificent temples, sanctuaries and statues on a scale that this world is unlikely to ever witness again. Wars, earthquakes and various other natural and manmade disasters have tragically led to the destruction of many of these great architectural wonders. But there are still enough remains of Classical Greece to attract eager hordes of visitors from all corners of the globe. You don't have to be a history or archaeology buff to fall under the spell of these ancient sites where mythology and mystery ooze from the ruins of once-mighty structures fit for the gods.
The Acropolis must be the most famous ancient monument in the world, towering over the Greek capital and still awesome in its majesty despite centuries of damage and the swarms of tourists who simply can't get enough of it. A trip up to the Parthenon is one of those "must do" visits on the itinerary of any self-respecting tourist passing through Athens. Amid the smog, traffic chaos and modern urban sprawl of the capital, the temple of the goddess Athena beckons irresistibly from practically every corner of this huge city.
The ruins of Apollo's temple at Delphi, 178 kilometres north west of Athens, are located in one of the most breathtaking mountain settings in Greece - a place believed by the ancient Greeks to be the navel of the earth. Kings, generals and ordinary pilgrims once journeyed here from all over the ancient world to hear the pronouncements of the mysterious Delphic oracle who spoke on behalf of Apollo from her fume-filled cavern.
Meteora in the north western corner of Thessaly has got to be the main contender for the most stunning location of all. Medieval monasteries perch impossibly on shafts of cylindrical rock - an awe-inspiring sight that graces the cover of many a Greek guidebook and wowed moviegoers in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
Mount Olympus in Thessaly was the mythical home of Zeus and his fellow gods and if you happen to be there when one of the area's frequent thunderbolts strike you might be forgiven for thinking they're still around. Each summer this beautiful national park attracts thousands of hikers hell-bent on reaching the summit of the highest peak in Greece.
Mount Olympus may have been the home of the gods but it was at Olympia in the Peloponnese that they first pitted their might against mortals in the first Olympic games. Strolling along the track where the athletes competed in the first games in 776 BC is an extraordinarily moving experience.
Popular day excursions from Athens include the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth, which was one of the most powerful cities of Classical Greece, served at one time by 450,000 slaves and 1,000 "sacred" prostitutes. Epidaurus, where Greek dramas are still performed in the remarkably well-preserved 4th century BC amphitheatre, is also within easy reach of the capital.
One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece is the island of Delos in the centre of the Aegean Sea. This was the reputed birthplace of Zeus' twin children Apollo and Artemis and the whole island is a fascinating outdoor museum of temples, shrines and sanctuaries.