RTW Timeline: 4th Century BC

After seeing so many interesting sites and learning many facts about places all around the world, we thought it would be interesting to arrange the different places and events on a timeline to provide more of a context for the different highlights.

Towards the end of the fifth century BC, Athens lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta and the classic era of Athens came to an end. However, Greece was still a major player in the events of the world, with the conquests of Alexander the Great spreading its influence far and wide.

380 BC – Butrint Fortified With a New Wall

The city of Butrint in present-day Albania was a Greek city that grew in importance during this era, enough so that a large wall was built to protect the inhabitants of the island. We walked through this wall on our visit to the ruins on a day trip from Saranda. This site was later a major Roman city, so the Greek ruins were mixed in with those from later time periods.

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375 BC – Temple to Aesclepius constructed at Epidavros

The Greek city of Epidavros was a pilgrimage site for those looking to be healed of physical ailments. Therefore, a temple to Aesclepius, the god of health, was built here. Not much is left of the temple today. We visited Epidavros as a day trip from Nafplio.

The temple

The temple

360 BC – Tholos at Delphi Built

One of the most iconic ruins at the Greek city and pilgrimage site of Delphi is the partially reconstructed ruins of a tholos, a circular temple. Archaeologists are still debating the purpose of this structure.

In front of the Tholos

In front of the Tholos

Mid 4th Century BC: Stadium at Olympia Moved to its Current Location

The city of Olympia was the site of the ancient Olympic games, a Panhellenic competition between athletes from all over Greece. We spent a nice afternoon in the ruins of this stadium.

Racing the track

Racing the track

350 BC – Tomb of Amyntas built by the Lycians in present-day Fethiye, Turkey

The Lycians were a civilization based along the “Turquoise Coast” of southwestern Turkey which existed concurrently with the Greeks and Romans. They were known for creating elaborate tombs in which the rock was carved to look like wood. A grand example of one of the tombs is carved into the hill overlooking Fethiye.

The Tomb of King Amnytas

The Tomb of King Amnytas

Sometime in the 4th Century BC – King’s Tomb built in present-day Kaş, Turkey

Another type of Lycian tomb we saw was in the style of an elaborate sarcophagus elevated off the ground on a large platform. There is an impressive example of this style of tomb called the “King’s Tomb” in the middle of the modern city of Kaş.

King's Tomb Jelfie

King’s Tomb Jelfie

340 BC – Antikythera Ephebe sculpted

This bronze sculpture was found as part of the Antikythera shipwreck, hence its name. It is considered one of the classic Greek sculptures. Since we can’t see what object the subject is holding, we aren’t sure who it is, but many people believe it is Paris holding the golden apple. We viewed this sculpture at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Paris

Paris

338 BC – Phillippeion in Olympia constructed

Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father, had a monument constructed at Olympia to celebrate his victory in the Battle of Chaeronea, in which he defeated an alliance of Greek city states including Athens.

The Phillipeon

The Phillipeon

330 BC – Temple of Apollo at Delphi rebuilt after an earthquake

The main attraction at Delphi was the Temple of Apollo from which the oracle would issue prophecies and give advice.

Jelfie in front of the entrance to the temple

Jelfie in front of the entrance to the temple

330 BC – Initial Construction of Theater at Epidavros

As mentioned earlier, Epidavros was a pilgrimage site for those looking to be healed. Its main attraction today though is its large Greek theater, which has been amazingly well-preserved. We enjoyed taking turns standing on stage while the other person ran to the top to test the amazing acoustics.

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329 BC – Panathenaic Stadium rebuilt in marble

This large stadium in Athens was the host site for the Panathenaic Games, another Panhellenic festival held every four years. It was extensively renovated and reused for the first modern Olympics as well. We stayed in an Airbnb just behind this stadium during our second visit to Athens.

The view from the end of the stadium. They were setting up for the marathon finish line

The view from the end of the stadium. They were setting up for the marathon finish line

Last Quarter of 4th Century BC – Doric Tomb built in present-day Kaş

In addition to the King’s Tomb mentioned earlier, Kaş also has another impressive Lycian tomb on a hill overlooking the city. It is called the Doric Tomb based on the shape of the column outlines carved into the wall.

Cube Tomb Jelfie

Cube Tomb Jelfie

323 BC – Alexander the Great Dies

We didn’t see any artifacts related to Alexander the Great, but his death was such a large event that we thought it was worth putting onto the timeline for context. He had stretched his empire from Greece all the way to present-day Pakistan. He died at the age of 32.

After Alexander’s death, Greece entered into what is known as the Hellenistic period. Greece’s influence remained strong, but its art and culture would not continue to make the great steps forward that it had during the classical period. In addition, a new power began to arise in the Mediterranean which would shape the next few centuries.

Nafplio, Greece

Our final stop in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece was the town of Nafplio. We chose to visit here because it made a good base to visit Mycenae and Epidavros and because it is a pretty interesting and historic town in its own right.

Where We Stayed

Since we were staying for five nights, we wanted to stay someplace that would allow us to cook a few meals on our own. So, even though it was a little more expensive than we are used to staying, we booked a nice studio apartment through Airbnb. It was nice and spacious and was located not too far from the Old Town.

Taking advantage of having our own kitchen!

Taking advantage of having our own kitchen!

What We Did

Day Trip to Mycenae

Day Trip to Epidavros

Walking Tour of Old Town – As we said, Nafplio has quite a bit of interesting history. Our first day in town, we spent a few hours following the Rick Steves self-guided walking tour. This started out near the harbor, where we could admire the small fortress outside the harbor and also the large Palamidi Fortress looming above the town, both built by the Venetians during their occupation of the town.

The tour took us through the main square, called Syntagma Square. This square is interesting for the variety of different influences you can see as reflected in the buildings: the old Venetian arsenal,a bank that is decorated like a Minoan palace, Neoclassical buildings from Nafplio’s heyday as the first capital of Greece after independence from the Ottoman Empire, and former mosques from the Ottoman period itself.

The walk continued on through the pedestrian-only streets of the Old Town. We felt a bit like we were back in Croatia, since that was the last time that we had been in cities with that feature. But, we could definitely tell we were in Greece, since we passed a few different Greek Orthodox churches. The most interesting church that was passed was noteworthy because the first president of Greece (after its independence in 1828) was assassinated outside of it in 1831.

Climb Up Palamidi Fortress – We took an afternoon to visit the largest of Nafplio’s Venetian fortresses, which doesn’t have much in it but provides excellent views of the surrounding area. You can take a taxi up to the fortress at the top of the hill, but we decided to climb the steps. We didn’t start heading up until 2:00… and were disheartened when we saw a sign at the base that the fortress was closing at 3:00! We raced up the stairs and made it at about 2:30. The good news was that admission was free since it was the first Sunday of the month. We just had time to explore one of the seven bastions, but were quite impressed with the structure. (We think they should film Game of Thrones here!) We were kicked out at 3:00, but we found a piece of the walls that was outside the gates to sit on, and read our books while looking down over the Old Town.

Coastal Walk – Another simple activity we chose to do was to walk along the coast. This was broken up into two sections: first we left from Old Town and walked along the western edge of the peninsula to the pebbly Arvanitia Beach. From this beach, we then took a gravel path another few kilometers, going further southeast along the coast. We headed back into town as the sun set.

Where We Ate

We enjoyed cooking in our Airbnb so much that we ended up just cooking for ourselves every night! We made some interesting pasta and rice dishes. We also enjoyed appetizers of tzatziki and pita bread on multiple nights.

 

Enjoying a nice meal in our apartment

Enjoying a nice meal in our apartment

Epidavros, Greece

As mentioned in our last post, we spent several days in the town of Nafplio in the Peloponnese. One of the side trips we took was to the ancient city of Epidavros.

Getting There

KTEL runs a bus from the bus station in Nafplio to the Epidavros Theater which is the entrance to the ancient site. We tried really hard to confirm the existence of all buses to and from the site and were assured that all of the buses on the schedule would run as indicated. We had also heard that bus did not actually run all the way to entrance to the site in the winter off-season but that it would stop 1.5 km away at a tavern on the road. When we arrived at that tavern, we tried to get off, but the bus driver shooed us back on saying that he would take us all the way there. Upon arriving at the entrance to the site, we confirmed with the driver that a bus would return to that exact spot to pick us up at 3:45 pm. No problem, right?

The Theater

The ancient theater is the main attraction at Epidavros. In fact, most guide books say that it is really the only reason to go there. And, it was magnificent, though we did enjoy the rest of the site as well. It is the best-preserved of all of Greece’s ancient theaters. To top that off, it is huge! And the acoustics are amazing. When you stand in the middle of the orchestra, you can hear how well your voice reverberates through the theater. Our guide book told us that you can drop a coin in the center of the orchestra, you can hear it even at the very top of the theater (which can seat around 15,000 people). We now know that is true!

 

The Sanctuary

While the theater is by far the main attraction at current day ancient Epidavros, the rest of the site was really more important in the past. The area was once a famous healing center. It started as a temple to Apollo, worshiped here even before the ancient Greeks, during the Mycenean times. Eventually, it became more of a site to worship Apollo’s son Asclepius (he was supposedly born at the site), the god of health. During its heyday it hosted full medical facilities.

We saw the ruins of what was probably an ancient hostel or hotel where patients stayed while they were getting treated. There was also the Temple to Asclepius where people prayed for his healing powers. Most interestingly, there was also the remains (partially reconstructed now) of the abaton, where patients would come to sleep, hoping to be visited in their dreams by the god Asclepius where he would tell them how to heal themselves. We debated on taking a nap there, but decided we didn’t have time!

The site also boasts many other ruins, ancient baths, a sanctuary to the Egyptian Gods of healing (demonstrating the connections in the ancient world), and a tholos (use unknown). There was even a stadium for the Festival of Asclepius which was the site of athletic competitions every 4 years (much like the sites of Delphi and Olympia).

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The Museum

As with most of the archaeological sites we have visited, there is a small museum. This one was only 3 rooms and didn’t have a ton of English signage, but it did house steles describing the healing practices in use at the site, miraculous cures due to Asclepius, ancient medical tools, and many statues which were taken from the temples of the site.

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partially reconstructed temple

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Asclepius. The snake looks familiar when you think about doctors, huh?

 

Getting Away

We had been really careful this time, confirming over and over again that there would be a bus to take us home at 3:45… We had been a little unprepared and hadn’t realized that the site closed at 3 pm. They actually ended up having to kick us out… oops. So we went back to the entrance to read and wait for the bus. We met a fellow traveler who had ridden on the bus with us that morning and chatted for awhile.

Of course, 3:45 came and went without any bus. We waited about 30 min and decided that we had been deceived by KTEL again. We were livid, and a little concerned because the site was closed and this time, there were no taxis to be found. We were just starting to try to formulate a plan, which probably would have involved walking several km back to the last town we had passed, when a car pulled up. We watched the two travelers get out and head up to the site. We didn’t really know what they were doing since the site was closed, but assumed that they did. Finally, Della decided to walk back into the site and hope that there was someone around to give us some information about how to maybe call for a taxi or where we might walk to get some transportation. She ran into the two travelers who were coming back from the entrance, disappointed that they had arrived too late to see the site. Della cut to the chase (she didn’t really feel like she had time to make friends first) and asked for a ride. Luckily, the couple was heading to Mycenae which would at least take them back in the direction of Nafplio. They took us almost all the way, dropping us off only 4 km from town. We were fortunate to have another lucky break with friendly fellow travelers… And we really want to know how we can get back at KTEL!!!!!!!!