During the last week of October, seventeen students from the Fourth and Sixth Forms and three members of staff visited the ancient sites of Greece. In the three full days available to us (with a day of migration on the Friday), we travelled from Delphi, to Athens, across the Isthmus of Corinth and to the Peloponnese, taking in views and locations that have informed our study of democracy, politics, philosophy, history, literature and theatre for millennia. Following are the reflections of some of the party:
After many hours of travelling, we woke up to picturesque views of the misty mountains encircling Delphi. We walked up to the monumental sanctuary of the awe-inspiring temple of Apollo. It was surprising to see how much had survived after centuries of erosion and pillaging. We learnt about the cultural significance of this site, with its many treasuries from states and colonies all around the Greek world, and from even as far off as ancient Marseilles. This site provided context not only for our understanding of Greek history and the role of the Delphic oracle in fact, but also the mythical travails of such notorious tragic characters as Oedipus, whose visit to this place laid the foundation for his inimitable downfall. We have sampled fantastic cuisine, with kebabs and monster doughnuts providing much needed sustenance for the five hour trek back to Athens. Once in situ, in the Greek capital, we walked to see a late-night changing of the guard, with which those outside Buckingham Palace suffer in comparison.
Our first Ancient Athenian stop was at the Theatre of Dionysus, at the foot of the Acropolis. As a Drama student it was impossible to misunderstand the magnitude of the influence the place had on the evolution of theatre. With the marble thrones for the rich and influential lining the tiled orchestra, it remains a spectacle 2500 years after its construction, and the view from the top of the seating was really incredible, not only looking out at the stage, but over Athens itself. One could not help imagining the view in its Classical prime.
We moved on to the Acropolis and saw the breath-taking scale of the Parthenon for ourselves. It is an immense feat of engineering, and that was clearer than ever when seeing it in person. Just as with the theatre earlier in the day, it was not only amazing to look at, but also to contemplate what it must have looked like thousands of years ago.
There is so much to say about the incredible theatre at Epidavros. I was given the opportunity to perform something of my own on the orchestra here, and the experience was truly like no other. Hearing your own voice, whispers, and even footsteps bouncing back at you instantly was awesome, in every sense of the word. The impact this had on me as a Drama student was immeasurable in its force, and I think it would be akin to a Herculean Labour to try to achieve another experience like it, as a tourist, as a performer, or as a member of an audience.
Our final destination was the Bronze Age kingdom of Agamemnon, whose capital was located at Mycenae, a world away from the marble and pillars of democratic Athens. The sun shone as we visited the hill-top site, and it really made a difference here. The city itself looked majestic. Fewer structures are fully intact than on most other sites we visited, a result of an extra millennium exposed to the elements, but many elements have miraculously survived. Something that was really special about this place however, was the view once you reached the top of the hill. You looked to your right, and saw undulating mountains. To the left a valley, receding dozens of miles into the distance, with the Aegean Sea beyond. Right behind you, you could see plains and towns until the horizon. It was unique, and positively breathtaking.'
Caleb Fleming (Upper Sixth, Vanbrugh), Alex Billing (Upper Sixth, Vanbrugh) Charlie Hodges (Upper Sixth, Queen Anne) and Arthur Blake (Upper Sixth, Gascoigne)