Grass and weed had grown all over the sanctuary of Dionysus. A brown-eyed vagrant in his tabby coat surveyed a group of varied jacketed brigands from a stone podium. The audience sat, perhaps spellbound by some speech that was Greek to me. They sat enthralled till they found an unsuspecting passer-by in me and rushed to tackle me. Well, I had called out to them.
Dionysus was the God of wine and patron of drama; his sanctuary held the amphitheatre dedicated to him. By six hundred B.C, the theatre was functional and it held thousands of people. The original wooden benches had been changed into stone ones by the Romans. The backdrop of the Cyclopean walls highlighted the fact that the amphitheatre was the birthplace of Greek tragedies.
The whole complex used to be abuzz during the festival of Dionysia. The first winner of performance had got a goat as prize. The reward could suggest the origin of the term ‘Tragedy’ which means “goat’s song.”
With time, the nearby Odeon of Herodes Atticus that is on the southern slope of the Acropolis hill became the centre of performing arts. Till date it hosts numerous events.
Besides the theatre, the ancient Athenians loved their Agora. Too bad that the Agora of Athens was under renovation. So instead of exploring the former city centre, we decided to explore the nearby neighbourhood of Plaka. We sauntered among numerous narrow alleyways running up and then down the gradient. Cobblestones paved our paths through houses that could have been centuries old. Due to its proximity to the Acropolis, Plaka is known as the ‘Neighbourhood of the Gods’. Well, I did not see any benevolent Gods, but I did see many purring cats.
One of the houses we encountered was lined with bitter oranges. We had seen bitter orange trees line the streets of Athens, but fruits were mainly eye candies hanging enticingly from the trees. The thick foliage of the trees perfect for the sizzling summer months. At a glance, one might think that the fruits are ideal for children or even for the homeless, but then like life, these oranges can be deceptive. Years ago, Athenians used these oranges to make sweets and marmalade. Due to the effort that goes into the process, the act has become another thing that Grandma-used-to-do!
Getting back to the theatre of Dionysus, the feline orator who had sat in the shade addressing the assembly was not impressed with the loss of his audience. With a tilted head, he glanced at me. Soon the clowder left me alone; they realised that I held no riches for them and they ran back to their slice of paradise.
(Read about the Acropolis – https://biswadarshan.com/2017/03/15/the-soul-of-athens)