From the Caravan Journals: April 1996. We arrived in Athens late in the evening and took a cab from the airport through darkened streets to our hotel. As we dropped our bags in our room, we noticed a window high on the outside wall. Pulling back the curtains, as if in a theater of the mind, we were met with a memorable spectacle. It was the Parthenon, sitting in floodlit splendor, up on the mesa known as the Acropolis. In the morning, we went to the hotel roof for breakfast in their glass-enclosed café. Again, we had a splendid view of the Parthenon across the nearby rooftops. This ravaged temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena, has become the foremost cultural icon of the birth and ruined glory of classic Greece.
The rise of Greece and Rome as bedrock for the West came only in the 500 years before the Common Era. Greece boasts many of the milestones of foundational Western culture, yet you would not know it from the movies. The historical Golden Age of Greece can be put in the 5th century BCE with the flourishing of Athens under Pericles, who built the Parthenon. Yet what do we know of this man? Has he ever been played by Richard Burton, Charlton Heston, or Anthony Hopkins? There is no movie record of one of the great building booms of the ancient world.
Only two Greek historical events have been honored with movies. The Trojan War, though it is now thought to be historical, was reported almost entirely by Homer in the language of myth (see Peloponnese: Mycenae / Troy). The Battle of Thermopylae, in which the 300 Spartans died, has been handed down in the language of history, no doubt embellished. Only the later conquests of Alexander the Great, in lands far beyond Greece, would burnish the Greek military record before the Romans took it all away (see Northern Greece: Alexander) .