Gems from Athens

You can enter the Acropolis only from the west after a steady climb from the neighborhood below. Descending from the Parthenon, you come to a tree-shaded level space between the loftiness of the Acropolis and the lower promontory of the Areopagus, the hill beneath which the Furies lived and upon which Orestes was tried for murdering his mum. And far beneath the Areopagus, you’ll come to the Agora where the daily business of daily Athens noisily took place.

On this pleasant, level space breezes swirl from hill to hill, down into the valley, through the rustling of the green-on-green olive leaves. Park benches here are irresistible to one who has spent some hours trooping around the Parthenon and the lesser attending temples. So I hunkered down on a shaded bench, listened to the bird song, declined the offer of ten postcards for one euro from a gentleman who no longer disguised the absence of a larynx and the necessity of croaking out words through his tracheotomy slit, and I nodded off. And very bliss it was, and how redolent of centuries of sustaining naps under the protection of Athena and her Kindly Ones, those tamed Furies who traded blood lust for justice and let us sleep soundly despite our many sins.

And then a stab in the shoulder woke me. Postcard Man loomed there, poking and gesticulating toward the strollers gliding down the long avenues to the Agora side, the Hill of the Nymphs side, the side where the bells of gyros and ice cream vendors summoned all. He reflexively yanked the pale scarf from his blow hole so that he could be heard more clearly. He spoke with the sneering disdain of a  deacon who knows just how much you put in the collection plate. And the croaking words, MacBeth’s witches’ words, the harpies’ words came out in this anti-human rasp: “You snore too loud.”

A small gem, but mine own, and I do hope to be so reminded from time to time.

The better gems you’ll find below: favorites from the Archeological Museum of Athens. In a seemingly inexhaustible treasure house, these favorites are my keepers.

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