Tuesday Travels: My Greek Lesson

When we first arrived in Europe, we toured the city with big eyes and high expectations on all the sites we planned to see.  We had tickets to visit the Vatican Museums, the Forum and Colosseum, the Louvre, Palace of Versailles, and the Tower of London.  We had days scheduled to tour the Olympic Ruins, the Acropolis, and the Duomo of Florence.  For each, we knew exactly what we would see, and we thought we knew the history that supported the site.
A lesson learned while traveling through Greece
Tower of London. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
To start off our visit to each new city, we took Big Bus tours.  These helped us get the layout of the destination and led us to the locations we most wanted to see.  Some offered commentary, live or recorded, and this is where the lessons started to come into play.

Through London and Paris, we heard the terms "reconstructed" and "rebuilt" a number of times.  We understood this description; after all, these cities had been involved in world wars that had ravaged, not only the land, but also the landscape.  As we arrived in Frankfort and Munich, we saw that these cities were very modern, and the evidence of the nation's history was evident in what we did not see.
A lesson learned while traveling through Greece
Munich, Germany.  Photo (c) by Michele Luck
But then we got to Greece.  At the site of the ancient Olympics and at the Acropolis, we started to learn the lesson in a whole new way... And that's when we learned to look a bit closer at everything we saw.  More importantly, we learned to question everything we heard, and learned, when we were being seduced by the stories of the past.

Our true lesson started off at the Olympic Ruins as we walked down the hill from our tour bus.  Our guide explained that the river had run through the region, flooding out the ancient cities, but in recent times, the ruins had been dug up and replaced on what archeologists believed to be the actual sites.  She explained that the stadium was "probably" over the hill just through the gate, but that the valley where the athletes ran was set below the gods for their entertainment (and worship).
A lesson learned while traveling through Greece
"Probably" the Olympic Stadium. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
After this very thorough (and shattering) explanation, we went into the ruins where we continued to see further evidence of the "rebuilding" and "restructuring" of the ruins.  Modern cement could be seen where cracks had taken over columns or other structures.  Screws were drilled into platforms and stabilizer bars were attached, but discreetly placed for less visibility.

Now I understand that this is a necessity to preserve the ruins and to maintain the structures to give us a glimpse of the past, but here's where I start to have the problem...

We started seeing this evidence everywhere.  We saw it in Athens at the Acropolis.  We saw it at the Colosseum in Rome.  We saw it with the churches in Florence.
A lesson learned while traveling through Greece
At Acropolis while under repair (Look at white repair cement in columns).  Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
A lesson learned while traveling through Greece
Colosseum in Rome with "reconstructed" levels. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
While I cannot make a blanket statement about what all teachers teach their students when it comes to ancient history and ancient ruins, but I now know that I lied to my students for many years.  I taught them that these were the actual sites, the actual stones, and the edifices as they were built and lived in thousands of years ago.

So, with this great Greek lesson, I want to make a suggestion to all of my teacher friends... Teach your students to look at the evidence.  Teach them to question what they are taught.  And teach them to trust only what they see and experience for themselves.  In reality, that is the only truth!

Happy Travels,

Michele Luck

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