Travel

Crossroads of the ancients

Situated strategically in the dead-center of land and sea routes between Western Europe and the Fertile Crescent, right in the middle of the Roman Empire and right on the edge of the Persian Empire, Greece (or at that time, Thessaly, Peloponnesus, Epirus, and Macedonia) was the crossroads of the ancient world.

When we visited Greece we expected to see Greek and Roman antiquities, and perhaps some Ottoman and Byzantine ruins and relics, but one thing that caught us off guard was the proliferation of Egyptian mythological figures.

At Marathon we found remains of Temples shared by Egyptian Isis, Greek Demeter, and Greek Aphrodite. The real surprise came when we found that the Egyptian temples at Marathon were set up by the Romans, possibly Herodes Atticus as late as 2nd century AD. I don’t suppose that should surprise anyone because the Romans liked to hedge their bets by setting up temples to every God and Goddess they could find out about (consider the Unknown God in Acts Chapter 17).

We also found temples to Isis set up in the holy city of Dion far to the north of Marathon, west of Mount Olympus near the border between Macedon and Thessaly.

Dion was an ancient Mecca of sorts, a destination city for religious pilgrims from all over. This was the city that Alexander of Macedon came to in order to offer sacrifices to Olympian Zeus before heading out to conquer the world.

At Dion there are prominent sanctuaries to Demeter and Zeus, and as pilgrims and supplicants came and went, the city grew up with houses, merchants, and all the auxiliary things needed by residents of a city.

Here is a temple of Asclepius and Hygeia – what we would call a hospital or infirmary these days.

Dion had a long lifespan, as witnessed by it being a destination apparently far earlier than Alexander (400BC) and still active during Roman times, when the Roman Theater and Temple of Isis were built.

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