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Photos

The Changing Faces of Apollo

Apollo was considered an epitome of youth and beauty, source of life and healing, patron of the civilized arts, and as bright and powerful as the sun itself. He was, arguably, the most loved of all the Greek gods.

Although he was associated with many positive aspects of the human condition such as music, poetry, and medicine, the god also had his darker side as the bringer of plague and divine retribution. Most famously as the remorseless slayer of Niobe’s six sons as punishment for her boasting and as the flayer of Marsyas after his presumptuous claim to be more musically gifted than Apollo himself.

Objects traditionally associated with the god include: a silver bow, a Kithara or a lyre, a laurel branch, the omphalos of Delphi, and a palm tree. These can be variously seen in the many depictions of Apollo from Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greece and through to Roman times.

Greek Apollo

5th century BCE Apollo from the west pediment of the temple of Zeus, Olympia (Olympia Archaeological Museum).
5th century BCE Apollo from the west pediment of the temple of Zeus, Olympia (Olympia Archaeological Museum).
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Travel

Greece’s Top Ten Stops

Vathia by Rick Steves
The fortified ghost town of Vathia, on Greece’s Mani Peninsula, was once as wild as our Wild West. (photo: Rick Steves)

I was in Athens, on a rooftop restaurant under a floodlit Acropolis, marveling at how a Greek salad never gets boring. It was the last day of a long trip. I was reviewing, as I always do after completing an itinerary, how effectively our time was spent. We had kept our focus more on seeing historic sights on the mainland rather than luxuriating on Aegean Islands. Given that focus, here are the top ten stops — in itinerary order — that make what I consider the best two weeks Greece has to offer:

Athens, a big ugly city, has obligatory ancient sights (the hilltop temple of the Acropolis, and the ruined forum of the Agora); an extremely touristy old quarter (the Plaka); and fine museums — the best in the country. Its four million people sprawl where no tourist ventures, including new immigrant zones with poor yet thriving communities. The joy of Greece is outside of Athens. See it and scram.