We find ourselves at the top of the top of the Lycabettus, a well recognized pointy mount near the center of Athens. It’s nearing dusk in October, 2014 and we are looking west-southwest. In the distance one can make out the island of Salamis and sea where the Athenians trapped the Persians and altered History (far right patch of sea). The Acropolis and Agora, the ancient city of Athens, lie just behind us.
Athens is the accepted birthplace of democracy. In 480 BC Xerxes burned to the ground the buildings on this rock before accepting battle with the Greeks in the nearby bay of Salamis. The Athenians sacrificed their city to lure the commander towards their trap. The freedom they earned allowed for the creation of the Parthenon, the pagan temple of Athena that now represents the achievements of Greek Democracy to the western world.
Like our world, the Athenian world was far from perfect, even with their earned “freedom”.
Fast forward, this picture was taken in 2012 from the Astor Hotel, a place of comfort for me and my family since the early 1970’s. It’s just down the street from Syntagma Square where riots had been occurring off and on due to the austerity plans being inforced by the EU.
We are looking approximately north across the Greek plains from the ancient city of Platea. In 479 BC the Greeks defeated Xerxes and the Persian army in their third and final clash thereby setting the stage for the Golden Age and all that came afterward (In the first battle, the Greeks famously lost at Thermopylae and in the second decisively won a surprising yet painful sea victory at Salamis).
The Persians set up camp on the far ridge with the Greeks residing in the foreground. The river Asopus ran east to west in the now agricultural valley that lies between. The final confrontation saw the Athenians, Spartans and Tegeans attacking from the right, sweeping down into the valley towards the Asopus while the Persians crossed the Asopus to engage.
In 2012 Rachel and I celebrated the battle victory over a fine Greek lunch in a small village off the beaten track near Platea and on our way to Delphi.