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The most enjoyable excursion outside of Athens is a trip around the history-rich peninsula called the Peloponnese, which rests off the southwestern edge of Greece. Our circuit included Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae (say My-cen-aye), Arcadia, Sparta, Olympia, and back across the Gulf of Corinth to the stunning temple complex at Delphi. Troy is not located on the Peloponnese. It is not even in Greece, but it is inextricably linked to Mycenae by the events of the Trojan War.

The ruins of Mycenae on the Peloponnese retain their majesty even though the kingdom declined and fell more than 3000 years ago. From the walls of the commanding fortress where Agamemnon ruled, there is a splendid view of the valley below and the roads that led to the fortifications of his allies. One of these roads led to Sparta where it is told in the myths that the beautiful Helen was abducted and taken to Asian Troy. This is the reverse abduction from that of Europa. Helen’s distraught husband sought the help of Agamemnon and the Trojan War began.

It strikes me that the playwrights of Greece were not strong on original story ideas. They drew most of their material from the two great poets of Greek antiquity, Homer and Hesiod. These two men together recorded the bible of Greek beliefs. They were recalling the epic allegories of their burgeoning culture. In the process, the poets became the scribes of the gods, committing to collective memory the deeds and misdeeds of the Olympian pantheon.

The magnificently restored theater at Epidaurus, completed in circa 340 BCE, is on the east coast of the Peloponnese. It was buried by an earthquake in ancient times and only returned to use in the 20th century. The content of the dramas that played in this theater were drawn in large part from themes of the Trojan War. Olympia, the place of origin for the Olympic Games, is on the west coast.


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