I try not to think about the future, because it depresses me - on a personal level, and on an ecological one. But it turns out that being away from home gives me plenty of time to think. And it's paralysing.
I'll try to do less thinking about me, and more about ancient Greece.
Yesterday I walked up to the Asklepieion on the South Slope of the Athenian acropolis and tried to imaginatively reconstruct as much as possible what an ancient visitor might have felt. My thesis is concerned with experience, and that means striving as much as possible to reconstruct whole worlds.
So let's take as our example a citizen man of Athens of the mid-2nd-century CE, but not a Roman citizen; a man in the prime of his life, perhaps thirty, married in the last few years. Someone who owns a small bit of farmland but rents it out, whose father apprenticed him to an artisan and who is now a fairly respectable carpenter or potter or something of that sort, who has some education but (unlike Lucian of Samosata) didn't throw over a career as an artisan to make one as an orator and satirist. A man who participates in the duties of a citizen but not at the highest level, who has served as a juror and maybe for a term as a very minor magistrate and/or priest in his deme, who pays his taxes and whose family probably turned out to cheer the emperor Hadrian when he was a child. He has apprentices and owns at least one male slave and more than one female slave for his household; he is prosperous enough to afford to pay doctors and traditional enough to use the amulets and remedies that Lucian satirises in [dialogue whose name I cannot remember but will look up on Monday].
Let us assume he lives on the far side of the agora from the acropolis. Let us further assume that recently he has been much troubled with his digestion and, although having consulted with a doctor and used magical remedies, he has a dream which he interprets to mean he should supplicate the god Asklepios. So let's say he gets up one day and sets out to walk up to the sanctuary, perhaps in company with a friend or neighbour, and attended by his male slave, to sacrifice a cock to Asklepios and arrange to spend the night in the sanctuary as an incubant.
First he must walk across the agora
. (Another image
.) Let us suggest he lives near the Kerameikos. So he will walk up along the Panathenaic Way, passing the boundary stones of the agora, with the acropolis and the rock of the Areopagus always looming up ahead. It is the middle of the 2nd century CE, so the old agora is no longer quite so solidly the commercial heart of the city. Many shops are now to be found in the Roman agora instead, but the Classical agora is still fairly full of business: fishmongers, hawkers of dubiously edible foodstuffs, greengrocers, buskers, men selling meat from the public sacrifices and men selling live animals for sacrifice - roosters and pigeons in wicker cages; perhaps a few pigs or a handful of goats or sheep roped in a string for the big spenders - sellers of wheatcakes and flour and unmilled grain; the smell of urine and offal and rotten fruit and maybe worse things wafting from the Great Drain; a whiff of smoke and burning meat from a sacrifice at the Altar of the Twelve Gods, perhaps, or one from a private sacrifice at the Altar of Ares beside the Panathenaic Way; a clamour from metalworkers with workshops in the lee of the Hephaisteion; an orator or a philosopher who's attracted a crowd or boys practising their rhetoric under the stoas; stonemasons working on repairs or new construction; dedicatory statues painted all sorts of colours; perhaps a funerary procession going by or a Roman citizen of senatorial rank surrounded by clients and slaves clearing a path or market officials going around inspecting permits or a doctor disputing with a rival over who is best at vivisecting a live monkey.
So our Athenian citizen man - let's call him Alexandros, for the sake of hanging a name on him - sends his slave to buy and carry the cock, and carries on up the Panathenaic Way to the acropolis proper, past the Stoa of Attalos and the Library of Pantainos (probably filled with students of the philosophical schools) and the fountain house and the road to the Roman agora. He goes up the Panathenaic Way under the shadow of the Propylaia, where smoke from the sacrificial altars drifts in the air with the smell of burning meat, and incense or myrrh. Perhaps there is yellow-flowered broom growing in the cracks of the acropolis rock, or white deadnettle or red poppy growing where the road joins a temple wall. Perhaps there is the odd olive tree or laurel or fragrant bay. Anyway, Alexandros doesn't go up to the top of the acropolis rock (plan
; Travlos' plan
), where the temples of Athena and Artemis are, and the Erechtheion, but he follows the path (the Peripatos) that leads around to the south side of the acropolis slope, under the walls of the temple of Athena Nike and the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, behind the top tiers of the fairly new Odeion of Herodes Atticus, past a temple of Isis and a temple of Themis and a fountain house, with the top part of the Stoa of Eumenes on his right and the top tiers of the Theatre of Dionysos ahead, until he comes to the west end of the sanctuary of Asklepios, on the far side of the acropolis from the agora. From here Alexandros can look south to the Piraeus, down past the remains of the Long Walls and see Aegina on a clear day, and beyond the straits of Salamis, and the coming and going of squat merchant ships and lean galleys of the Roman fleet from the harbour.
The Asklepieion is a small sanctuary. Its long axis runs west to east. The temple faces east, with the altar in front of it: built up against the acropolis rock is a stoa of the Doric order, now more than three centuries old, and backing on to the Peripatos is the rear wall of a stoa of the Corinthian order, perhaps about a hundred years old now and only recently remodelled. The east end of the Doric stoa incorporates access to a well cut into the acropolis rock. There is a very modest monumental entrance, possibly including wooden elements, at the southwest corner.
So when Alexandros goes through this entryway... that's when the important bit starts, the bit about which I have the least information.
To be continued in part two.