Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 1617 JULY 10, 2010 MINI-TOUR OF GREECE: NAFPLIO by Russ Limited in their expansion by dry climates and mountainous terrain, the Greeks left their homelands to colonize other regions and originated many of today’s port cities in the Mediter- ranean. However their population was soon dwarfed by larger nations and they have been under foreign rule for much of their history. After resisting the Persians in 480BC and flowering, they spread Greek culture across the world under Alexander the Great in 300BC but were conquered by the Romans in 150BC and remained part of the Byzantium part of the Roman Empire through about 500AD. The 600s through 1200s were marked by various invasions and the Crusades. In 1453 they were brought under the Ottoman Empire and the Greeks lived under Turkish rule for the next four centuries. In 1821, the Greeks revolted against the Turks. After four years without conclusion, they received diplomatic aid from surrounding empires (including a friendly voice from poet Lord Byron, who later died fighting for Greek independence) and gained independence in 1829. The new capital of Greece was not Athens – it was Nafplio, our next destination. Nafplio had a long prior history and was fortified by the Venetians in the 1700s during an unsuccessful attempt to carve off a port for their own use and defend it against the Ottomans. An imposing castle and fortified harbor are now romantic land- marks decorating a pretty harbor town that sees plenty of Greeks visiting on summer weekends. We walked the town and as evening cooled the air, enjoyed watching the town come alive in a marble-floored market square that dates back centuries and has been polished by countless feet – and even impromptu soccer games. The next morning was our last day in Greece and ironically we saw the oldest site of the tour at Mycenae. The oldest known civilization in Greece was the Minoans, a trading people living 2000 to 1500 BC who disappeared leaving few traces. The Mycenaens were warriors who came after and it is these Greeks who are believed to the ones who fought in the Trojan War. Mycenae is built around a large hilltop near the coastline with a 360-degree view and access to water – just like Athens. The hilltop fort where we walked is believed to be the home castle of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. After acknowledging a superb view, the trophy of this site is actually hidden under a neighboring hill and only discovered in modern times – a burial tomb for the royal family that is older than the pyramids of Egypt. The most fascinating part of Mycanae is early evidence of the developmet of the arch. The Mycenaens built their castle with giant blocks of riverbed, compacted pebbles and shells and sand that could be cut in blocks yet retained strength similar to concrete. This material was not strong enough to hold a wide arch however. They figured out how to build a “relieving triangle” above the archway and to fill this triangle in with a piece of stronger stone. It is an early primitive arch – and the arch in front of the castle gates is the ancient arch of the two lions. Cut away to the last night… The sun is setting behind distant hills of cedar and olive groves and further back, towering mountain ranges. The air smells sweet, fresh and cool. We are seated on marble benches still warm from the sun in an amphitheater dating back to 300BC. The stage below is perfectly circular. Although there is room here for 14,000 people, we can hear an actor’s cough or even a footstep from any seat. This is the famed theatre of Epidaurus – the finest and best ancient theatre remaining in Greece. We are here for a live performance of Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, and staged by one of Greek’s best thespian directors who is returning to public life