I’ll be heading out discovering Roman footprints once more in May. I’m very excited because this wasn’t a planned excursion but an almost last minute opportunity to go on a guided tour of the ancient sites of the Greek Islands and the Ionian coast of Turkey. It is a dream trip and perfect for discovering the ancient world with a professional archaeologist as a tour guide!
First site on the itinerary is Athens. Greece became a Roman province in 146 BC. Athens itself became a sleepy provincial university town where the young Roman elite often went for higher education in Greek rhetoric, philosophy and art. Romans were enamored with the culture of the Greeks and the most educated of Romans spoke Greek as a second language. Wealthy Romans owned Greek art and sculpture, if not originals they at least had copies.
While we’ll be looking at the classical Greek sites of the Acropolis, I am also planning to spend some leisure time at the base of the acropolis exploring the Roman footprints of Herodes Atticus, Hadrian and others. Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’ second in command, visited Athens in 15BC and built a new agora in the fashion of a Roman forum. During the second century AD, Herodes Atticus built an odeion and a stadium.
But the true Roman philhellene (lover of Greek culture) was the emperor Hadrian, who visited Athens 3 times. Hadrian built the temples of Hera and Panhellenian Zeus, the arch of Hadrian, and a library in Agrippa’s agora. Other Roman ruins around the Acropolis include the Theatre of Dionysus and a Roman bath.
I have just 3 weeks before my trip to research the Roman footprints I hope to discover on Santorini, Crete and the islands of the Dodecanese, as well as the coast of Turkey. This area is literally buried in ancient history and of course I’ll also be exploring the vestiges of the Mycenaeans, Minoans, Greeks and Ionians, as well as many more older (Persians and Phyrigians) and newer cultures (Venetians and Turks) that have put their footprints on the region. Oopa!