Dawn G.

About Dawn G.

I am an Associate Professor of Humanities at Northwest Missouri State University. My specializations are in ancient Greek and Roman history, specifically Alexander the Great.

Tour of Attica: March 14-18

My apologies all for the long delay in posting. I had to go back to the US for a bit for a family thing and then I was on an archaeological tour of Attica.  Below are some of the pictures from that tour. The tour is part of a collaborative class with both ACG students and Duke students participating. They have various digital history projects that they are creating which require them to have a fairly extensive knowledge of the terrain in and around Athens. So the tour took them (and me) to the major points and across major roads around Attica.

View from Penteli (480x640) View from Mt. Penteli looking over Athens. Mt. Penteli is the mountain from where the Parthenon marble was extracted.
Quarry Road_Penteli (480x640)The remains of the quarry road that the workers would have hauled the large marble stones down.
The memorial of the turning point in the battle at Marathon (Persians vs. Greeks). The monument (a sin269 (2) (480x640)gle Ionic column) was erected in the 460s to coincide with the establishment of an annual funeral for the Marathonian dead.
Athenian Tumulus_Marathon (640x480)The tumulus where the Athenians who died in the battle of Marathon (490 BCE) would have been buried. A more elaborate monument to the war dead was erected in Athens proper.
Also at Marathon is a sanctuary to the Egyptian gods, who were a regular part of Greek cult practice. Not much of this site remains but the base of what was presumaSanctuary of the Egyptian Gods_Maratho (640x480)bly an Egyptian style pyramid and several entrance statues like you see here. There was also an extensive Roman bath complex built by Herodes Atticus, who was sort of the Bill Gates of his day. He is also known to have put up the funding for the Herodion, a theater that sits at the base of the Acropolis in Athens proper.
These are the remains of an extensive complex to Demeter at Eleusis. In the center of the image is the telesterion where the mysteries of Demeter (Eleusinian Mysteries) were practiced in secret. Demeter was a goddess of agriculture so the thinking is that the secret rituals had to do with agriculture in some way.View of Telesterion_Eleusis (640x480)

Demeter_Eleusis (480x640)I think this has become my new favorite statue. It is a statue of Demeter which seems to function almost as a column and was found in the Eleusinian complex.  You’ll notice the basket on her head and the iconography on the side of the basket which has the symbols of agriculture.

 

 

 

Fortification Bastion at ErythraiFortification walls and the bastions at Erythrai. This particular site in antiquity was frequently fought over by both the Thebans and the Athenians. It sits at the top of a mountain giving it views to the south which in antiquity would have been mostly Athenian farmland. To the north are the mountains leading into Boeotian territory.
Fortification wall and reconstructed bastions at Agosthina. This particular set of fortifications was meant to protect the interior from attack by sea as Agosthina was a coastal town. Today, it is a seaside resort for Athenians in the summer.Fortifications_Agosthina (480x640)
The stoa (the remains of which you see here) at Brauron is unique as it contained mostly dining rooms rather than storefronts.  It is part of a larger complex which includes a temple to Artemis and the ‘grave’ of the mythological figure Iphigenia.Stoa at Brauron (480x640)
This is the deme theater at Thorikos, which was a mining site for Athens. Here they mined for silDeme Theater at Thorikos (640x480)ver with which Athenian coinage was made.  This particular theater shows how the ancient Athenians used the terrain for their needs. It also is evidence that perhaps early orchestras (the floor area at center of theater) were not circular or semi-circular but rather polygonal. If you look in the distance across the water, you can see an island. This island was a prison island where the military junta which ran Greece from 1967-1974 imprisoned their political enemies, most notably those who were politically liberal.

 

There is something positively breathtaking about the temple of Poseidon at Sounion.  It sits literally on the edge of a cliff at the southernmost point of Attica. Temple of Poseidon_Sounion (640x480)
View at Sounion (480x640)The view from the temple of Poseidon at sunset.

 

 

More on Athens

My apologies for the delay in posting. The weather the last two weeks has not been all that conducive to getting around and about.

American School of Classical Studies in Athens & the Wiener Laboratory

The American School of Classical Studies in Athens is just about as close to a mecca as Classicists get.  It has two substantial libraries: one dedicated to the ancient world (Blegen) and one dedicated to the early modern and modern (Gennadius).  They are amazing facilities. But in the last two weeks I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Wiener Laboratory of Archaeology.  It was an amazing experience. I was able to hold the bones of a young child from an excavation in Boeotia dating to the Byzantine era. The tour included an introduction to all the newest methods and technologies available in the field. It also included discussions with some of the Fellows there including one who does archaeo-volcanology, specifically the super-volcano that lies in the eastern mediterranean beneath the island of Thera (Santorini). As the fellow was explaining his research he talked a bit about why it was relevant to a contemporary audience: climate change.  His research deals with volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago and tracing the impact of those eruptions.  His research does prove that climate change is not just a modern phenomenon; it has been happening for a very, very long time.

ACG at Wiener Lab s2017 (1) (800x549)

National Archaeological Museum

002 (600x800)

I also visited the National Archaeological museum.  Under ordinary circumstances, this museum is phenomenal but because it is off season and because of the economic situation, a good half of the museum was closed. This 009 (600x800)unfortunate circumstance meant that I did not get to see some of my favorite statues, notable the Leonine Alexander.   The museum was, however, having two special exhibits, one on the Odyssey and one on the hidden holdings of the museum, which included a piece dating to 7000 BCE (image on the right).

 

Here are just a few of the more famous holdings:

013 (600x800)  010 (600x800)  007 (600x800)  003 (600x800)

On a more mundane note, I opted to take the bus down to the museum rather than the metro so I could see more of the city and its northern suburbs.  Athens’ buses are actually kind of awesome. They are clean and have video screens of the route so you can kind of follow along.  On a sunny 60 degree day,  traffic was…interesting.  Cars, trucks, bikes, motorcycles do not seem to follow any particular set of rules. The only rule seems to be “do what you have to do but don’t hit anyone else.” It can make being a pedestrian a rather challenging feat. I am not familiar with Athens’ traffic laws, but I do not get the impression that pedestrians have the right of way. So if you are ever in Athens and you are walking about, yield to traffic and look both ways (even on a one way street) more than once.

Week 2

This week’s images:

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IMG_3102Just your average sidewalk on campus here. The campus sits on the side of what amounts to a mountain (more of a large foothill by US standards though).

 

 

IMG_3101

Soccer practice on the field, which is in the middle of campus. And, yes, they do call it soccer here. I made the mistake of assuming they called it football like in the UK and was promptly corrected: “Only the snobbish Brits call it football.” (Greeks here are not at all happy about Brexit by the way).

 

 

So I have now been through two full weeks of classes and one major historical event.

The DEREE Classroom.  The classroom experience here is actually not all that different from Northwest.  Students show up late, do not read the syllabus, have their cell phones out, etc.  However, they do appear for the most part to be more engaged.  I have a class of 19 in Western Civ I this semester. And of those 19, I would say a good half actively ask questions and provide responses. Granted, this could be an anomaly here and could simply be the particular group of students that I have.

The students here do not typically use laptops to take notes so I have been told. I asked some colleagues because none of my students do, which surprised me.  It raises an interesting question for me about Northwest since we provide laptops. What if the reason that NWMSU students take notes on the laptops is because they are provided in the first place?  Would we still see as many students taking notes electronically, if we did not provide laptops?  While at NW, I did not typically see that many students using a non-university issued computer, but that may be because I tend to stay in the Valk bubble.  It’s just a question and by no means a condemnation of the policy because, for me, the benefits of students having a laptop outside the classroom far exceeds any criticisms or I may have about the policy or about in-class electronic note-taking.

I’ve had enough conversations with various faculty here to know that they are experiencing some of the same challenges that we in the states do. One in particular struck me: faculty have to pay for their own printing costs. Yes, you read that right. Faculty here have to put out their own $$ to print/copy their exams, handouts, etc. Boy, was that an eye-opener. I will concede that the class sizes here are nowhere near as large as some of ours can get. I think the largest is 60, but I will have to double check on that.  Here, faculty are required to consider an eBook before a print text and if they reject the eBook, they have to have solid pedagogical grounds (which from what I gather is a great deal of work to show).  All faculty here are also required to serve on their version of Faculty Senate–all faculty not just elected representatives from departments.  So, my dear colleagues experiencing massive budgetary constraints at Northwest, be grateful.

I will be experiencing my first full faculty meeting this week, which I am not required to attend. My colleague here, Liz, says it will simply be the faculty nodding and smiling at the administration and then complaining (I had to clean up her language here) on the way back to their various offices. But, in an effort to experience everything possible here, I am going.

Food For Thought.  DEREE, the school I’m at here in Athens, has an interesting scheduling system that generates quite a bit of student and faculty engagement. They have what is known as Activity Hour which is actually 2 hours every day, from 1:30-3:30 where no classes or office hours are scheduled.  Instead, the university uses the time for interesting lectures (kind of like our Distinguished Lecture Series) as well as departmental meetings and faculty development. In fact, I am going to a lecture on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in the classroom next week.  There is another speaker, the Greek ambassador to Israel, coming soon to talk about the state of politics in the Middle East. From what I can tell, there are on average, about 10-20 special events like this a week and they are highly attended.  I went to one on Bronze Age Hellenic pottery this week that easily had about 50-60 people there–both students and faculty and even a few community members.

I’m interested in what my colleagues, administrators, and students think of this. So if you have a though, shoot me an email or post a comment.  Something like this at NW would not necessarily need to be two hours or even every day as it is here, but it is thought-provoking since every fall we parcel out time solely for University Seminar. Thus, we already have a mechanism that has blocked off time.

Major Historical Event.  I do not plan to get too partisan on here as it really is not the place.  But in this one instance, it is relevant to my experience abroad.  I attended the Women’s March on Washington-Athens last Saturday as so many did around the world. There were not as many people there as other places but there were about a thousand, I would guess, of all ages, gender identities, ethnicities, etc..  There were the usual speeches and some glorious signs, the subjects of which ranged from general human rights to women’s rights to immigration rights (a big deal in Greece right now since they are absorbing a good many Syrian refugees). There was a point when I realized that the march was perhaps not appropriately named; though, I do realize the origins of the whole thing stemmed from the women’s movement. (I would post pictures but my camera on my phone went wacky, so my apologies.) The march, for me, was not about the current US President at all. Instead, for me, it was about camaraderie and hope. The men and the women in attendance told stories of oppression which elicited sadness, despair. These were particularly heartbreaking because of the current economic struggles here. I would tell you a few but I don’t think I could get through it emotionally to type it right now as it is still a bit raw, but maybe when I get back home I can share.  There were also those that reminded us that the fact that so many showed up–in Athens and around the globe–meant that we were not alone in that oppression.  There was a particular moment that stuck with me and it was a moment in silence with only the sounds of traffic passing by.  At sunset-already glorious with the Parthenon lit up in the distance–everyone raised their cellphones (and for some their cigarette lighters) skyward, each individual cellphone light merging with the ones around it creating a glow. It was symbolic. It was beautiful. It was light victorious over darkness.  It was hope.

 

Week 1

January 19, 2017

So, I have been here in Athens (Agia Paraskevi, to be precise) for a full week now. I’ve spent the week getting my bearings in this delightful neighborhood which is roughly the size of Marvyille but with a distinct urban feel.  You certainly know when you are here that you are in the capital due to the city buses and tons more cars (and their honking horns, oh the horns!) than I ever see in Maryville on an average day.

The people in this middle class neighborhood are friendly, wanting to talk about all kinds of things. Although, I must say I have had more conversations about gun control and American politics than I thought I would have.  The Greeks I have talked to do NOT support the current direction of American politics.  And, I can see why. One of the residence hall directors told me that the kind of thinking that is pervading the current American discourse is what led to the decisions that were made in the 1980s and 1990s which ultimately led to the Greek economic collapse in 2004 and 2008.  [A layman’s summary of the situation can be found in a 2016 New York Times article: Here]

IMG_3071Speaking of that collapse, evidence of struggle is prevalent along the main street leading to the ACG campus (Agiou Ioannou). There are empty store fronts and empty restaurants. On Saturdays, there is the occasional pan-handler which so far has only been elderly women.  But the one thing that clearly has endured the economic struggle: coffee shops.  I counted no less than 20 coffee shops within a 6 block radius of my apartment. And, yes, there is a Starbuck’s on campus. The typical Greek breakfast is a coffee or two and cigarettes. Not healthy, I know.  As I partake in neither, I am sticking to fresh baked tyropita (cheese pie) and frosted flakes.

Despite the evidence of decline, there is though a sense of recovery here. There is new construction going up and new businesses opening.  The neighborhood instituted a discount day at some of the local stores which is really not all that different from our Maryville Chamber bucks program. I’ve been informed that I really need to attend those sales because you can get designer fashion for about 75% off.  Since I already went through a pair of running shoes while here, I’m clearly going to have to “suffer” through this shopping experience. The sales extravaganza is meant to keep money circulating in Greece so that taxes drawn from it can be used for local needs like infrastructure, healthcare, education, etc. It’s the Greek equivalent of the “Buy American” slogan we have all heard before. And in this neighborhood, it seems to be working. There are signs of hope. [Granted the EU is talking about giving more bailout money to Greece so that helps]

IMG_3072For the presidential inauguration tomorrow, I plan to go down to the city center and spend time on the Acropolis to reflect on the evolution of democratic principles.  Saturday, Athenian women are participating in the Women’s March on Washington movement by marching from the US embassy to the Acropolis.  I think I will go down and be a part of history.

 

Coming Soon….

I am not scheduled to arrive in Athens, Greece until January 12, 2017.  Check back in the new year for accounts of my experiences.

Until then, here is a picture from my last trip to Athens.Parthenon