“Give me the cassette or I’ll call the police,” said an irate curator.
How did I ever get into this mess?
The May Term Greece group left Richmond on May 12, oddly enough encountering Professors Dubroff and Kagan, headed off on a skiing trip. After an exhausting flight to New York and then to Athens, we met up with Dr. Arieti, who had gone ahead to get our affairs in order. Our group consisted of Dr. Roger Barrus, his wife Diane, Dr. James Arieti, and (back row, left to right) Christian Davidson ’05, Brandon Chiesa ’05, Stephen Abbitt ’06, Austin Stracke ’03, John Axsom ’05, me, and Blake Tucker ’04. Front Row (left to right) Lex Rickenbaker ’05, Evan Osborn ’06, Rusty Foster ’04, J. B. Billings ’05, Clint Askins ’06, Diego Almeida ’06. Ty Blount ’05, Cam Bowdren ’05, and Yousef Jabri ’04 were also part of the group as was Professor Bronwyn O’Grady who was along for the ride.
We began with a tour of Athens, visiting the usual sites such as the Agora and the Acropolis. That is most of us did. Steven Abbitt fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital. Along for the ride were Dr. Barrus and John Axsom. The hospital itself was an experience, more akin to a Felliniesque madhouse than a medical ward. While waiting at the hospital, John Axsom saw one patient with a slash across his throat get into a fight with a nurse.
As for the rest of us, we explored the city on our own before having class. Our classes generally met in the evenings. For Dr. Arieti’s “Humanism in Antiquity” class, we read Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, a good summation of ancient philosophical thought. For “Classical Political Philosophy,” taught by Dr. Barrus, we read Plato’s Republic, the book that preserved the philosophical tradition in the western world.
During our stay in Athens, our group took a one-day excursion to Aegina, a lovely little island a few miles out to sea and home of the oldest, and perhaps the most charming, Doric temple. From Athens we took an overnight ferry to Crete. There we toured ancient Minoan ruins at Knossos and Phaistos, remnants of Europe?s oldest civilization. One of the highlights of our trip was the 11-mile hike down Samaria Gorge. From the mountains of Crete’s southern coast we trekked through one of Europe’s most beautiful trails to a small beachside town at the mouth of the river.
From Crete we took a ferry to Santorini, an exceedingly beautiful ring-shaped island. Thought to be the site of the lost city of Atlantis, Santorini now boasts picturesque towns and black sand beaches.
Our next stop was Mykonos, one of the hottest party spots in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, we arrived before the summer vacation season began and the island served us only as a jumping off point to the nearby island of Delos. Delos was one of the most sacred sites in ancient Greece. During the fifth century it served as the treasury for the Delian League, an alliance of Greek cities that soon became the Athenian Empire. We stayed on Mykonos just long enough for Clint Askins and Austin Stracke to rent and subsequently wreck two mopeds.
Returning to the mainland, we visited such notable sites as the temple of Poseidon at Sounion and Marathon, where the Athenians defeated a force of Persian invaders, thus saving western civilization. After stopping at Eretria and Chalkis, ancient rivals in the first panhellinic war, we moved on to Delphi. Delphi, located at the navel of the world, was the home of the most famous oracle in ancient Greece. At the site of the Pythian Games we held a footrace between J. B. Billings and Bill Taylor, which ended in a tie. The Pythian games were one of the most important sporting events in ancient Greece, aside from the Olympics.
At Olympia we had our own version of the Olympics right on the field where the ancient Greeks would have competed. Diego Almeida emerged victorious in the long awaited footrace against Dr. Arieti.
One of the biggest highlights of the trip occurred at Mycenae, the home of King Agamemnon. Brandon Chiesa, Clint Askins, and myself ventured into a pitch-black, 99-step cistern (entrance at left) with nothing but a cigarette lighter to guide our path. As another group of tourists left, we crept deeper into the tunnel, searching for the bottom, where water is collected. A loud splash followed.
“I found it,” exclaimed a soaked Chiesa.
On our last day, a few of us went back to the Acropolis to say farewell and take a few last minute photos. The trouble began when a student, who wished to go unnamed, tried to take some photos in front of the Parthenon with a stuffed animal. This, as we later found out, is forbidden. Several curators yelled at us and tried to confiscate the offending animal. Then one of them noticed that I had John Axsom’s video camera.
“Give me the cassette or I’ll call the police,” he said.
Unwilling to give up someone else’s video memories, I refused. After some strained negotiations, we ended up with a compromise: the footage of the incident would be taped over. With the situation diffused, we decided we’d better leave before infuriating more touchy Athenians. Despite the sour farewell, we left with fond memories of one of the greatest experiences of our lives.