After our hike through the Enipeas Gorge (read here) and the climbing of the giants of the Olympus, now follow me on the rest of the path. We ride to the Oracle of Delphi and to Athens. This is the story about the Acropolis - one of the world wonders.
They had their own gods, the ancient Greeks, and they had many, many of them. Anyone traveling through the country on the Mediterranean Sea will see traces of this classical antiquity everywhere. Temples and pantheons, holy sites and ruins. Instead of one god, the ancient Greeks worshipped a whole landscape of gods, whose members had different significance depending on the place.
For example, the Athenians took the goddess Athena as their city goddess and created a sense of community, through cults honoring her. Other cities also had their city deities: in the Peloponnese all was believed to belong entirely to Poseidon; the island of Ortygia off Syracuse had been given by the gods to Artemis; on the Trojan and Aeolian coasts Apollo was the chief and the temple of the Carians were dedicated to Zeus.
All of them were omnipotent, which today hardly play a role. Today's Greeks no longer believe in the old gods from the sagas of antiquity know. But as a traveler between Thessaloniki and the deep south, one notices: Less is not believed, but rather much more and much more more firmly.
It's the state religion
For today most Greeks belong to Orthodox Christianity, which is also enshrined in the Greek constitution as the state religion. Their church is the Greek Orthodox Church. 97 out of 100 Greeks profess it - a landslide success for the Apostle Paul, who is said to have brought the Orthodox faith to Greece.
That was ages ago, but Greece is so old that you don't even notice it when you visit churches and tombs. The houses of worship are huge, incredibly old, and especially magnificent. Where the ravages of time gnaw at them, the greeks from today are build and renovate and repair as best they can. And faith is also alive here, because everywhere you see women and men praying or lighting candles or silently pausing in front of the altar.
The Greek Orthodox Church is a world power here, clearly in charge. Although Greece was originally under the control of the Western Roman Patriarchate, in 733 it was given to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The opportunity to get out
But the stubborn Greeks took the conquest of Constantinople and the end of Byzantine rule in 1453 as an opportunity to get out. True, the Ottomans also overran all of Greece. Many monks and churchmen had to flee to inaccessible regions such as Mount Athos and the magical Meteora monasteries. But it was this that strengthened the faith and firmly anchored Orthodox Christianity in the Greek soul.
It is impossible to overlook this to this day. Even if the Greeks are not doing well financially, the churches are all in the best condition. And they are not empty as elsewhere. Since 1975, the Orthodox faith has been enshrined in the Basic Law of Greece as the state religion, and both young and old live by it.
Although independent only since the departure of the Ottomans in 1833, the Greek Orthodox Church is today the undisputed leader in Greece. Apart from Armenia, which also swears by its own Christianity, no other church can count on such faithful followers. The number of believers in the Greek Orthodox Church pretty much matches the population of Greece, plus Greeks living abroad.
For all of them, faith plays a much more important role than in other European countries. At Easter or other church festivals, everyone from teenagers to workers, their bosses and their grandmothers attend, even fervently. In normal everyday life, you also see churchmen and monks in their robes everywhere. Their advantage: There has never been a complete separation between church and state as elsewhere. The state, the church and the faithful share the idea that professing the faith of the prophets, the apostles, the church fathers and the seven ecumenical synods of the first millennium through the same rite and a common canon law makes them children of God for whom heaven awaits.
No wonder, because according to the history of Orthodoxy, the first to come to Greece to preach Christianity was St. Paul in 49 A.D. He converted the Emperor Constantine the Great to Christianity with a vision of the Cross. Differences are maintained by the Greeks until today: for them the Holy Spirit comes "from the Father" while the Catholics add "and the Son". Agnostics are irritaded, or are you not?
Orthodox Church of the Greeks, Russians and Armenians and the Roman Catholic Church today go their own ways, but by now all have become accustomed to it. The Orthodox Church takes great care of the Greek language, culture, traditions, as well as the Orthodox faith, the faith evokes in Greeks the feeling of belonging. This is important, because in order to work in public service in this country, you have to belong to the Orthodox Church.
A few more pictures for you: