Before the Covid-19 pandemic all but put a halt to international tourism, Greece was one of the most popular destinations for visitors from around the world. In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic hit, some 23 million people from around the world visited Greece, lured by the beaches, the scenery, the food and yes, the memories of its ancient civilization.
We may not be so familiar with their myths these days, but the ancient Greeks have bequeathed much that we take for granted. Athens hosted the world’s first democracy for example. Our alphabet also traces its roots back to Ancient Greece as indeed does the very word, alpha and beta being the first two letters of the Greek version. Doric, Ionic and Corinthian are building styles which originated in Greece while even the Olympic Games were first held in the 8th century BC.
That legacy has transitioned into pop culture with Jason & The Argonauts and Spartacus still considered classic movies despite appearing dated compared to modern film making techniques. The link has also been brought thoroughly up to date in the 21st century world of gaming with games like Assassin Creed Odyssey leaning heavily on Greek mythology. Such is the fascination with the Greek myths that even non-traditional gaming platforms use them to draw in new players. The Cheeky Bingo online slots include titles related to Greek mythology, including Wild Links Zeus and Zeus III. Both use imagery connected with stories of the Gods, in the same way as the app game Olympus Rising does.
The enduring popularity of those tales of ancient gods and mythical beings ensure people keep returning to Greece to experience for themselves the sites where legends were formed. In this article we’re going to look at a few of them.
Geographically, Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and that is reason enough for many to visit. Mythologically speaking it was home to the 12 major deities of the time including Zeus, Poseidon, Athena and Appolo. The spiritual connection continued after Greece became a Christian country with a number of monasteries to be found on the mountain’s slopes. Today Olympus is a popular mountain to climb and as a National Park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife including deer, boar, snakes, and lizards. Visitors will be relieved to know the lions and bears which once roamed the forests have now gone!
It seems almost unfair to reduce Athens’ centuries of history into a single paragraph, but suffice to say the history buff will not leave Greece’s capital city feeling disappointed. The Acropolis, located on a rocky outcrop, dominates Athens today as it has done for almost 2,000 years. Its history has seen it used as a treasury, a place of worship, and an armaments dump, but today it attracts tourists from all over the world keen to soak up the atmosphere of its Doric columns and Ionic friezes. Not far from the Acropolis is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an amphitheater used for concerts then and now – indeed Elton John performed there in 2000! Today Athens is a thoroughly modern city with lots to see and do, as well as a wonderful variety of restaurants to tempt the palate. And always lying beneath the surface is the knowledge that you are literally following in the footsteps of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato.
The ancient Greeks considered Delphi to be the centre of the known world. They would travel to Delphi to consult with Pythia, a major oracle which was reputed to be a funnel through which the gods could communicate with mere earthbound mortals. Today the complex lies in ruins but visitors still flock to follow in the footsteps of Hadrian and Constantine the Great. Another heroic figure of the time, Alexander the Great, didn’t enjoy his visit. Before he set off to conquer the world, he went to Delphi to hear whether he would be successful. Unfortunately for him the oracle asked him to come back later! After visiting the ruins and the attached museum, modern day visitors need not be so disappointed!
Legend has it the city state of Thebes was founded by a Phoenician king named Cadmus. After meeting the oracle at Delphi, he was told to follow a cow and build a city when it stopped. Later a dragon killed most of his men, but Cadmus built Thebes with the few remaining! It would later grow to be a rival of Athens and once joined forces with the Persians before being destroyed by Alexander the Great. Another mythical figure, Heracles, son of Zeus, all round strong man and known as Hercules in Roman mythology, is thought to have been born there. Today it is home to an archaeological museum and nearby is the Lion of Chaeronea, which marks the site where the Macedonian army defeated an army of elite Theban soldiers.