1: Touring the Cradle of Western Civilization
In setting sail for the ancient world, contemplate the dynamic civilizations that emerged in the Aegean and the scope of the human drama that was played out there. Preview some of the towering figures and remarkable sites you'll encounter, and hear Professor Hale's recommendations for traveling this world as the ancients did.
2: Athens-Around the Acropolis and Parthenon
Enter the Acropolis, symbol of Athens, following the path of the ancient annual procession honoring Athena. Investigate the history and meanings of the site's iconic buildings, including the grand Propylaea (gatehouse) and the Erechtheum (Temple of Athena). Learn about the superlative architectural features of the Parthenon and its surprising original uses.
3: In the Footsteps of Socrates-Historic Athens
Among treasures surrounding the Acropolis, discover the Theater of Dionysos, where you ponder the rituals of early dramatic festivals, and the grand Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a venue of music and recitations. Enjoy dramatic viewing places, including the Pnyx, an ancient hilltop assembly point, and finally the vibrant agora market, where Socrates walked.
4: Around Attica-Temples and Mysteries
This lecture takes you to sacred monuments of Greece's beautiful Attica region. At the picturesque Amphiareion, shrine of a prophet deity, learn about ancient oracle and healing practices. Visit imposing shrines to Artemis and Poseidon, finishing at Eleusis, sanctuary to the goddess Demeter and the site of mystical religious rituals.
5: Seeking the Good Life-Corinth to Epidauros
Your journey continues to the Peloponnese, Greece's southern half. From the impressive Corinth Canal, travel to Greece's most important sanctuary to Poseidon, where ancient athletes competed to honor the god. Visit Corinth's massive acropolis and agora (civic center) and the great healing center of Epidauros, highlighting the best-preserved theater of the ancient world.
6: Mycenae-Where Kings Planned the Trojan War
Next, visit the great citadel of Mycenae, made famous in Homer's Iliad. Entering through the imposing Lion Gate, learn about the rulers of Mycenae and ancient life in the citadel as you explore key monuments: the extraordinary "shaft" graves of an early dynasty, the Megaron palace, and the tomb of King Atreus.
7: Around Nafplio-Greek History at a Glance
In Greece's Argolid region, walk the mighty fortress of Tiryns, and learn about Mycenaean and classical-age warrior culture. Visit the Heraion, picturesque sanctuary to the goddess Hera, the imposing Roman villa of Herodes Atticus, and the port of Nafplio, with its remnants of Venetian, Byzantine, and Ottoman culture.
8: Ancient Olympia-Gods, Games, and Temples
Investigate the practices and culture of the original Olympic games at sites including the palaestra, where important athletes trained; the stadium; and the unusual Temple of Hera. Sense the heat and drama of the contests, as you contemplate the mind-set of the competitors and the significance of athletic competition as worship.
9: Quest for Wisdom at Apollo's Oracle-Delphi
At this legendary site, reconstruct the sequence and rituals of a visit to the oracle in ancient times. Enter the lower sanctuary, making offerings en route to the temple, with its dual warnings to the pilgrim, where the Pythia (priestess) speaks for the god in answer to each seeker's question.
10: Byzantine Outposts-Monemvasia and Mistra
The port town of Monemvasia, once a coveted trading center, offers a rich slice of Byzantine history. Discover its mazelike streets, Byzantine buildings, and its mystical, cliffside Hagia Sophia church. Then explore Mistra's majestic Frankish castle and Byzantine palace, and contemplate the soul of Byzantium in religious architecture here and at Meteora and Mount Athos.
11: Cruising the Islands-Mykonos and Delos
This lecture introduces Greece's glorious Aegean Islands in an overview of their scenic and cultural riches. Taste the pleasures of the popular Mykonos before crossing to Delos, birthplace of Apollo and a later trading mecca. Enjoy remnants of important sacred sites and spectacular island views from Mount Kynthos.
12: Aegean Ring of Fire-Milos and Santorini
On the lesser-known Milos, learn about the striking volcanic and geological features of the island before visiting its richly endowed archaeological museum, ancient classical theater, and extraordinary early Christian catacombs. Contemplate the breathtaking scenery of Santorini, as well as the intriguing remains of its principal historical site, the buried Minoan town of Akrotiri.
13: Exploring Crete-Realm of Ancient Minoans
On this greatest of Aegean islands, you encounter the very origins of European civilization. Here, take three memorable excursions: first, to the elaborate Minoan palace of Malia, then to Gortyn, Roman capital of Crete-which boasts Europe's first written law code-and finally, to Crete's Venetian capital and the massive Samaria Gorge.
14: Lure of the Labyrinth-Palace at Knossos
The great palace at Knossos offers dramatic glimpses of the Minoan civilization. Investigate the palace's structure of labyrinthine rooms and its grand courtyards, site of the death-defying bull dance. Ponder the flamboyant ceremonies, court rituals, and sumptuous luxury of the Minoan rulers, recorded in masterful frescoes and tablets memorializing the palace accounts.
15: The Dodecanese-Kos, Patmos, and Rhodes
On the beautiful island of Kos, reflect on the life and contribution of the physician Hippocrates at the ancient medical sanctuary honoring him. Discover Patmos, where Saint John famously wrote the book of Revelation, and finally Rhodes, renowned for the legendary Colossus and the majestic fortifications of the Knights of Saint John.
16: Welcome to Turkey-The Turquoise Coast
Turkey's Turquoise Coast reveals a fabulous array of destinations, highlighting treasures of history, nature, and the pleasures of travel. Begin at Bodrum, site of the vibrant civilization of Helicarnassus. Learn about Lykian culture and representative government; visit submerged cities, cliff tombs, wildlife habitats, and the fire-spouting mountain at Olympos.
17: Central Turkey-Ankara, Konya, Cappadocia
In Ankara, learn about ancient capitals of the great Anatolian civilizations, including the complex culture of Çatalhöyük. Continue to Konya, home of the Sufi poet Rumi and of the mystic whirling dervishes. Linger in the magical geologic landscapes of Cappadocia, with its "fairy chimneys," ancient cave dwellings, and astounding underground cities.
18: Up the Meander River-Priene to Pamukkale
Travel to three extraordinary ancient cities: In Priene, explore one of the ancient world's most spectacular classical ruins, with its remarkable council hall, sacred sites, and superb theater. Then study the sumptuous sarcophagi, bathhouses, and amazingly preserved stadium at Aphrodisias. Finish at Pamukkale, site of imposing mausoleums, healing waters, and cliffside "hanging pools."
19: A Wonder of the World-Ephesus
The metropolis of Ephesus stands as one of the greatest cities of the classical world. Here, focus on highly unusual features that distinguish the site: the magnificent "terrace houses" of the wealthy, the Library of Celsus with its stunning facade, the enormous theater, and the Cemetery of the Gladiators.
20: Royal Cities of Asia-Pergamon and Sardis
At the citadel of Sardis, learn about the luxurious culture of the Lydian people, credited with inventing monetary currency. Investigate the site's standout monuments, including the extensive gymnasium and monumental synagogue. At Pergamon, bequeathed by its last ruler to Rome, contemplate its great healing sanctuary, astonishing hydraulic system, and legendary library.
21: Troy-Beyond Homer and the Trojan Horse
The archaeological site of ancient Troy reveals numerous distinct historical phases. Explore the majestic remains of the different epochs of the citadel, from its beginnings in 2900 B.C. to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Trace interconnections between the site's monuments and the lives of the historical King Priam and Alexander the Great.
22: Istanbul-Capital of the Byzantine Emperors
In this first lecture on the wonders of Istanbul, study the history of the Byzantine Empire and the establishment of Byzantium as a new Rome. Encounter imposing elements of this culture in the cathedral-like Basilica Cistern, the Theodosian Walls, and the impassioned rituals of the Hippodrome, nerve center of Byzantine life.
23: The Pearl of Constantinople-Hagia Sophia
Imagine the sights and sounds of a visit to this magical edifice in Byzantine times, and learn the history of the emperor Justinian's plans for a church that would surpass all others. Contemplate the stunning columns, stonework, mosaics, and the architecture of the massive dome in this "place where God dwells."
24: Ottoman Istanbul-Mosques, Palaces, Bazaars
Finally, ponder the origins and planning of the Topkapi Palace, jeweled seat of the Ottoman sultans. Penetrate the layers of the palace, from the grand courts to the royal kitchens and harem. Conclude with visits to the Blue Mosque, hammams (baths), Grand Bazaar, and vistas of the mystic city from the Bosphorus.
The most important record of religious history resides not in books and sacred texts but buried in the earth.