Blue; the colours of Athens, Greece

With an appetite for anything historical, a visit to the Ancient World – birth of philosophy, as some will have it – is a mere pre-requisite to the ranks of ‘cultural traveller’; or ‘cultured traveller’ for that matter. Mentions of Athens would conjure images of ancient ruins and Classical monuments; it is no doubt a virtual and experiential smorgasbord for B.C.E materials.

To dish them as ‘historical’ or ‘ancient’ is temporally convenient at best; literal and blinding at worst; for as if we learn nothing about the circumstances of the wars, the courses and outcomes of battles, their repercussions and aftermath on the evolution of the city. On the contrary, these events – expansion of the Roman Empire, Persian War, the people of Dorians, etc – have become part an integral part of the social memory, which is almost taken for granted. These particular historical circumstances had faded over time with these events embedded as the collective social memory, symbols of national character.[1]

But.

Symbols can never be the things they stand for; as are these ruins only the traces of time. There is little common ground to serve as a basis for understanding or fellow empathy, and we can only pool information about the past – and specks of their experiences – but never the past experiences. I stood before some of the largest temples from yesteryears, centuries and millenniums, I thought I have had acquainted with their magnificence. But delving deeper into the intriguing temporal overlaps and intricate detailing that survived some 2500 years, emotions of awe and great respect engulfed me – how am I to begin to examine this space with methodologies or social categories?

Acknowledging my own epistemology of heightened post-coloniality and post-modernism, this trip reshuffles my concept of contemporary and ancient, modern and tradition, once again. The past, whilst not entirely at the disposal of the present, is nevertheless constantly ‘modelled, invented, reinvented and reconstructed’. [2]  Does it matter?

Maybe, not.

The place ceases to be of much interest: the mind takes over in its perceiving in terms of intensity of existence and profundity of significance. I slowed down, aligning my pace, leaving my body and my mind to the pulse of the city. I am humbled by your immensities, Athens.

 

Photo library:

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Bibliography:

[1] Steinbock, B..Social Memory in Athenian Public Discourse: Uses and Meanings of the Past. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012. Project MUSE, pp. 2

[2] Steinbock, B..Social Memory in Athenian Public Discourse: Uses and Meanings of the Past. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012. Project MUSE, pp. 3

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