School history trips bring students into contact with the past, showing them what their texts refer to. In Athens, where ancient monuments still stand, the distant past can be better appreciated: students can know how it felt to stand on the Akropolis beside the imposing Parthenon, or leave the city to visit the nearby Oracle at Delphi. Any school student taking History or Classics classes will benefit from visits to the great city of Athens.
The Akropolis of Athens
The most famous site in Athens is undoubtedly its Akropolis, a citadel on a rocky outcrop rising approximately 150 metres above the centre of the city. It was in use by human habitants of the region for thousands of years before the city of Athens developed and thrived in the Archaic and Classical periods. What stands on the Akropolis today dates to those periods: the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, the Theatre of Dionysos Eleuthereus, and more.
Visiting the Akropolis of Athens on school history trips, students will first be awed by the marble steps and monumental gateway — the Propylaia — that take them onto the top of the hill. The massive structure of the Parthenon, the temple to the city’s patron goddess Athena, dominates the hilltop and draws all visitors to it. It is a staggering work of ancient architecture and the centre of Athenian celebrations in Athena’s name. Other surviving structures, such as the Erechtheion on the top of the Akropolis — with its porch held up by Caryatids — and the Theatre of Dionysos on the hill’s side, where many of the famous tragedies and comedies of ancient Athens were performed, complete this sensory introduction into the scale and shape of Athenian public life.
The nearby Akropolis Museum is an excellent next stop for students on school history trips, as it provides a wealth of material culture associated with and found on the Akropolis – from spindle whorls to statues. Elsewhere in Athens, sites such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Andrian’s Arch are beautiful, well-preserved monuments.
The Oracle at Delphi
Young visitors can trace the steps of many famed people in the ancient world by leaving Athens to visit the Oracle at Delphi. The Athenian tragedian Aeschylus wrote that the significance of Delphi began in prehistory with worship of Gaea, and certainly the site has long been in use, with a wealth of Mycenaean remains found there. Most of the ruins visible on the mountainside today date to the 6th century CE, including the reconstructed Temple of Athens (dedicated at Delphi in honour of the Athenians’ victory at the battle of Marathon) and the remains of the Temple of Apollo, a theatre and a stadium for the Pythian games held at the site. The rock on which the Oracle sat and prophesied is still in situ. Young learners on school history trips can stand beside it and contemplate the role of prophecy in the ancient world.