Sightseeing: Archaeological Ruins in the Peloponnese


olympiaThe Peloponnese contains some of the most evocative archaeological sites in Greece. The hilltop citadel of Mycenae was at its height from 1600-1100 B.C., and its astonishing Treasury of Atreus boasted the tallest dome in the world for more than 1,000 years. Epidaurus dates from the fourth century and is the most aesthetically refined classical theater. With seating for 15,000 spectators and miraculous acoustics, it is home to an annual summer drama festival. Olympia, the site of the Games from 776 B.C. until A.D. 393, contains numerous impressive structures, including an ancient stadium that once held 50,000 spectators. And the site’s museum houses the exquisite sculpture, “Hermes and the Infant Dionysus,” by Praxiteles. More intrepid travelers should visit the astonishingly well-preserved temple at Bassae (fifth century B.C.), surrounded by the lyrically beautiful countryside of Arcadia. In contrast, little today remains of the city-state of Sparta. The story of its titanic struggle with Athens is best explored via the pages of Donald Kagan’s magisterial “The Peloponnesian War.”

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