Many centuries have come and gone since the Athenians ascended the Acropolis to seek the guidance and protection of Athena, the maiden goddess of wisdom, war and divine intelligence. Her status as the favorite daughter of Zeus, and powerful patron deity of the city of Athens, remains evident to this day. Expecting to be mostly drawn to the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, when I visited the Acropolis of Athens in Greece, I was instead keenly aware of the omnipresence of Athena’s legacy.
My undergraduate education in literature and drama afforded me a reasonably good understanding of the role of the god Dionysus in ancient Greek culture. I knew about the festivals and plays, and as a student I often imagined visiting the remains of those historic open-air auditoriums.
A sacred landscape is not simply a backdrop for action, but rather a place filled with names, associations and memories that link together everything present there. Humans become linked to the rocks, trees, animals, rivers, mountains and these bonds guide future human interaction with that place.
Pagan tradition has it that places and objects are charged with magical, transformative energy through focused ritual, belief, thought and prayer. This ancient sacred energy bestowed upon Athena by so many devotees is vividly palpable on the Acropolis. This sacred historical site remains imbued with her electric strength, her infinite wisdom and her feminine charm. The prayers and offerings of every man, woman and child who over the centuries reached out to her for guidance and protection are still whispered by the winds around the marble columns. Her name is perceptibly hummed by the birds in the olive trees on the way up the steep slope.
A visit to the new Acropolis Museum is highly recommended when you visit Athens and the Acropolis. Athena’s presence is also very much dominant here and I especially appreciated the close-up view of the original Koira (maidens) from the Erechtheion. Statues of Athena are everywhere in the museum in various shapes and sizes. Many of them reminded me of the Virgin Mary. One cannot help but notice the similarities in her depiction, right down to her headdress resembling a halo.
© 2013 Anthon St Maarten