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10 of the Best Roman Ruins in Greece

10 of the Best Roman Ruins in Greece


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1. Theatre of Herodes Atticus

The Theatre of Herodes Atticus is stunning Roman theatre built in 161 AD. Built by an rich Greek-born Roman senator in the mid-second century AD, it was constructed it in commemoration of his wife, Regilia. Able to seat up to 5,000 people, the theatre was mostly used for music shows and festivals, a function it still performs today. For visitors to the site today, this ancient theatre is startlingly photogenic and offers some great shots of the city.


10 of the World's Greatest Ruins

The Maya left its imprint all over Central America, but Tikal might be the most impressive example of what life was like for pre-Colombian society. The onetime capital is a complex network of temples, palaces, and other societal structures for the roughly 120,000 inhabitants that lived there at its peak (around A.D. 800). These days, the tops of the temples offer incredible views of the surrounding rainforest.


Acropolis

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Acropolis of Athens, is the most important historical site in Greece and its ancient ruins are among the most treasured in the world.

UNESCO describes the Acropolis as “the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world.” Beginning in the fifth century BCE, the rocky hill towering over Athens became home to the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike.

Whilst the main Acropolis buildings date back to the 5th century BCE, the ancient citadel has been fortified by steep walls for over 3300 years and is a memorial to the thought and art of classical western civilization including Democracy and Athenian philosophy.

Make sure that when you stay in Athens you wake up with a spectacular view of the Acropolis! See where in Best Athens Hotels near the Acropolis

PROPYLAEA

A Propylaea is an ancient Greek entranceway and the Acropolis Propylaea is the grandest in all of Greece. The central gateway was the end fo the Sacred Way which ran from Eleusis to the Acropolis.

The building is made from marble and plans had been made for northern and southern wings. The outbreak of war between Athens and Sparta (the Peloponnesian War) in 431 BCE meant that the Proplyaea was never finished.

PARTHENON

I was so excited to see the Parthenon, I almost ran along the great marble slabs of the Propylaea and up the slight slope to its imposing form.

This Parthenon was constructed from 447 to 438 BCE and has been blown up, fired upon, looted, and turned into a site for the worship of Hagia Sophia, then the Virgin Mary, and then made into a mosque.

It is the third Parthenon to exist on the site but it is perhaps the most magnificent. Commissioned by Pericles and designed by Iktinos, the Parthenon is a double Doric column pavilion. The large wing has eight columns across its narrow side and 17 on its longest side.

Pheidias was the sculptor of the Parthenon’s treasures. This would have included the ivory statue of Athena the virgin, clad in armor, that once existed within the Parthenon. It was stolen to Constantinople and eventually destroyed.

It’s not possible to enter the Parthenon but it is possible to see the friezes and pediments and to walk around the monument.

ERECHTHEION

The Erechtheion is, for me, as incredible as the Parthenon. It doesn’t have the scale of the Parthenon but it is the most significant in terms of the mythology of Ancient Greece.

The Erectheion is dedicated to the god and goddess that fought for the hearts and minds of the people who became known as Athenians. The goddess Athena was chosen over the god of the sea, Poseidon.

The Erechtheion bears the scars of the mythological battle between the two gods. The hole in the roof of the Erechtheion is where Poseidon’ts trident flew to earth, striking the ground creating scratches on the ground and a saltware well to appear. The sacred olive tree beside the Erectheion grew to symbolise the goddess Athena’s victory over Poseidon.

The Erechtheion also contains the “Porch of the Maidens,” the six Caryatids or draped female figures which are the columns supporting the roof.

TEMPLE OF ATHENA NIKE

The Temple of Athena Nike is devoted to one of the three forms of the goddess Athena, all of which can be seen at the Acropolis. (The other two are Athena Polonia, the goddess of the City, and Athena Promachos, the goddess of war).

The initial Temple of Athena Nike was demolished by the Turks in 1686 and later rebuilt. It is a four-column (tetra style) Ionic building. At the Acropolis Museum you can see a wonderful frieze from the pediment of the Temple showing Nike pausing to adjust her sandal.

It’s disappointing that it’s not possible to get close to the Temple of Athena Nike because it perches on the Propylaea, jutting out from the southeast entrance. To enter the Temple of Victory (Nike means victory), you need to use a narrow stairway on the north of the Propylaea.

ODEON OF HERODOTUS ATTICUS

Like the Arch of Hadrian, The ruins of the Odeon of Herodotus Atticus are not an ancient Greek monument, but in fact a Roman one. It was built during the Roman period in 161 AD and is on the southwestern slope of the Acropolis. Originally it had a cedar roof. It had been built by Herodotus (or Herodes) Atticus in memory of his wife. in 267 AD it was destroyed by the Heruli and finally renovated in the 1950s.

THEATRE OF DIONYSUS

The Theater of Dionysus is a must-see part of any visit to the Acropolis. It is part of a Sanctuary of Dionysus on the southern slope of the Acropolis and was built in the sixth century BC. This Theater is the birthplace of western theater and was enormously important to Greek culture. It was the performance space for great Ancient Greek tragedians and dramatists such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and Euripides.


Morocco is the quaint home of three incredibly stunning Roman sites. The best places to explore Roman ruins in Morocco are Volubilis, Lixus and Sala Colonia. In these locations, tourists are free to roam around and be transported through the flavor of ancient Italian ruins.

Visiting these three destinations doesn’t require many detours for most travelers, and definitely offers something unique. It is very much worth the short journey out of the city to experience this unusual but delicately placed subculture within Morocco’s history.

In fact, these ruins are often completely overlooked by travelers and probably even Moroccan locals. These three ancient cities don’t get as much attention as other Roman sites scattered around the world, which is arguably what allows them to keep their charm.

You’re considered to have found some unusual treasure if you find yourself visiting one of the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis, Lixus and Sala Colonia.

Volubilis

Situated about 2 hours from Rabat, or much closer to the city of Mekenes (about 45 minutes) makes this site entirely worth the day trip if you’re just passing through one of these places. Where these ruins lie was once considered the capital city of the Kingdom of Mauretania. It was under Roman rule for a long time during which the Romans expanded it from 12 hectares to over 40.

Volubilis was discovered an excavated by the French during their rule in Morocco between 1912 and 1956. The Arch of Caracalla shows where the old and new part of the cities meet, and the feeling of ancient Rome comes flooding into the Moroccan landscape. Baths, pillars, archways, and footways are just some of the architectural designs that give away the Roman flavor.

All over Volubilis, a traveler can experience the ancient culture of Greece and Rome. Scattered over the city are depictions of ancient Greek and Roman gods, mosaics telling ancient stories, sacred geometry and statues suggesting that only royalty were the inhabitants of this city.

The history is just one of the reasons to explore Volubilis, but its beauty and feeling are the reason it makes it one of the best places to see Roman ruins in Morocco.

Lixus

This ancient Roman site is located a little further up the coast, which means it requires a little bit more traveling. However, don’t let that deter you from making your way over there. What you find over there is probably one of the most underrated and under-visited historical sites in the world.

Lixus is at the heart of one of the most famous myths about Hercules, where he is required to steal golden apples from the Garden of Hesperides. Within the winding and narrow walls of this city, you can find Churches, a natural amphitheater that suggests some kind of combat sport went on there and beautiful Roma buildings.

What make Lixus one of the best places to see Roman runs in Morocco is the stunning views that surround this city. Summits, hilltops and winding rivers mean that even the surrounding area is a beautiful thing to experience. It is also free to roam around and enjoy this site! Travelers who visit Lixus might also want to visit the colonial Spanish town of Larache, only four kilometers away!

Sala Colonia

Of all the places to see Roman ruins in Morocco, Sala Colonia is probably the most popular and easily the most visited. It is a convenient place to visit because it is located in the city of Rabat itself.

The Sala Colonia sits on top of a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is accompanied by beautiful gardens. This makes it a popular place for tourists and families alike to visit on the weekends, so if you’re looking for a quiet afternoon out, pick a weekday!

The Sala Colonia is not quite as elaborate as the other two places to see Roman ruins in Morocco. More is left to the imagination in terms of putting the ruins back together to get a picture of what this ancient city might look like.

There is a statue of a figure in a toga somewhere in this port city, probably one of the clearest ways to identify that you are in fact, inside of a Roman city. Having said all of this, the increased tourist appeal to Sala Colonia means that the whole set-up is much better organized that what you could expect at the other two locations.

Pro Tip: If you love ruins, we recommend visiting Copan Ruinas in Honduras!


The Erechtheum (Erechtheion)

Located on the north side of the Acropolis, this temple is dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.

Additionally, the olive tree planted on the side of the Erechtheum represents hundreds of years of dedication and reverence.

The tree established the dominance of the goddess Athena within the city that would take her name.

Psst, I took all these photos with my Sony a5000! It’s something I NEVER travel without, as it helps me capture both incredible photos and beautiful memories! Get your own here.


7. Halkidiki

flickr/someone10x

Halkidiki is a trident-like peninsula near the city of Thessaloniki, sporting excellent beaches. The three separate peninsulas can be roughly summarized as follows: Kassandra has the nightlife, Sithonia has the beaches and Athos has the monks.

Being closest to Thessaloniki, Kassandra is more built-up, while the more quiet Sithonia has campgrounds, hidden coves and clear waters. Both are popular with Greek and Eastern European tourists. Much of the easternmost peninsula belongs to the Mount Athos monastic community. It’s accessible by boat and open to male pilgrims only.


Tel Beersheba

Current Location: Israel (Negev desert) 

Located in the Negev desert in southern Israel, this site is thought to be the remains of the biblical town of Beersheba it lies a few miles east of the modern city by that name. According to the Old Testament, the Hebrew patriarch Abraham negotiated a deal with the Philistine king Abimelech over a well here, and planted a tamarisk tree. The site’s well-preserved water system of cisterns dates to the Iron Age.


THE SACRED ISLAND OF DELOS

Delos is a small island next to its better-known sibling, Mykonos. Unlike Mykonos, Delos is not known for its parties and nightlife but it is one of the most important mythological sites of the ancient world.

Delos is so old it was a sacred sanctuary island for 1000 years before the Greeks believed it to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. The Terrace of the Lions has seven remaining lions lining the Sacred Way. The Delian Temple, the remains of the colossus of Apollo, and temples and structure to Dionysius and Zeus are just some of many archaeological treasures remaining on this island. It’s no wonder UNESCO describes Delos as “exceptionally extensive and rich.”


10 Places You Need To Visit In Greece This Summer

Making friends in the healing waters of Greece's Lake Vouliagmeni.

As the birthplace of democracy and vibrant capital of Greece, Athens is a world unto itself and probably the first place you'll see on your trip. And you could easily spend all your time in Athens, but that would mean missing out on many other great things to see in the country. With just two or three days though you can take in the highlights such as the Acropolis, ancient Agora and National Archaeological Museum. That will also leave you with time to wander the colorful streets of the Plaka and Monastiraki neighborhoods, as well as soak up the atmosphere of the hilly district of Kolonaki and more.

A view of the Acropolis from the Areopagus hill.

2. Lake Vouliagmeni

The waters of Lake Vouliagmeni have therapeutic value due to the high concentration in salts and . [+] minerals.

3. Thessaloniki

Greece's seaside second city was established in 316 BCE and was named after a half-sister of Alexander the Great. There is a mountain of history in this soulful metropolis: Roman and Byzantine ruins, Christian heritage (Apostle Paul brought the first message of Christianity here) and a rich and fascinating Jewish history, too. On a lighter note, there are so many good restaurants and cafes that putting Thessaloniki on your itinerary is almost an imperative. You can check out the city's official travel page here . There are several flights a day between Athens and Thessaloniki the flight time is about an hour.

Summers can be hot and humid in Thessaloniki, but don't worry: there are outdoor fans for that.

4. Milos Island

Okay, so Milos is most famous for something that isn't even there—the Venus de Milo statue sits in the Louvre—but I'm going to tell you a secret: this Cycladic island stunner is where many Greeks go on their honeymoons or just to get away from it all for a few days. And with good reason: like the celebrated and in summer overcrowded island of Santorini, Milos is volcanic in origin. The unique geology has endowed the island with a wealth of gorgeous beaches, including Sarakiniko with its surreal white landscapes. Milos is about a three-hour ferry ride from Piraeus (check Seajets for schedules).

White volcanic landscapes sculpted by the sea on the north coast of Milos

If you're looking for great beaches, good food, a hint of glamor and great value for money then look no further than the Greek island of Paros. It's located south of the more famous (and much more expensive) Mykonos, but is a favorite vacation spot for the Greeks themselves. The cosmopolitan town of Naoussa has loads of great seafood restaurants and tavernas and is near an array of fine, uncrowded beaches. A quick ten-minute ferry ride takes you to tiny Antiparos, which has more great beaches (and where Tom Hanks has a h0use).

6. Crete (north side)

Long a popular destination for Europeans seeking beach weather for six months out of the year or more, Crete is not only the largest of the Greek islands but in many respects the most spectacular. Its mountainous terrain makes it a bit of a tough cookie to navigate on a short time frame, but if you think of it in terms of northern and southern sections it becomes easier. The north is where you'll find some of the most interesting cities, such as Heraklion and the nearby Minoan ruins of Knossos as well as Rethymno and Chania. The latter two have retained many fine architectural details from Crete's Venetian era.

25th of August Street in central Heraklion, Crete.

7. Crete (south side)

The south side of Crete is far less developed than the north, which is good news for those who appreciate dramatic landscapes and beaches. I recommend starting out in Heraklion, the Cretan capital. Have an authentic lunch at Peskesi and then rent a car from a solid local company like Auto Candia . Then take Route 97 due south, stopping to see the impressive Minoan ruins at Phaistos along the way. Follow the signs to Matala, once a hippie colony but nowadays a very lively beach town.

Enjoying a delicious seafood lunch at Scala in Matala, on Crete's south coast.

8. Karpathos Island

While Rhodes is the biggest and most popular of Greece's Dodecanese Islands, it's also the most touristy. Unless you're a big fan of medieval history (its main town is exceptionally well-preserved), I would say skip it in favor of the second largest island of the Dodecanese, Karpathos. While Patmos, another island in this Aegean archipelago, has attained more of a following as an in spot in recent years, slender Karpathos is arguably more authentic and has better beaches, too.

I like to think of Corfu as Greece's more northerly answer to Crete, because both islands have such rich histories and compelling geography. For the record, Corfu is one of the Ionian islands and is called Kerkyra in Greek. Unlike many islands in the Aegean, Corfu is very green. Its old town is one of the most picturesque in the Mediterranean. If you stay at the Grecotel Corfu Imperial , you'll be within easy reach of the replica village where scenes from the movie For Your Eyes Only and more recently the series The Durrells were filmed.

View of the Grecotel Corfu Imperial hotel on the Greek island of Corfu.

Attica is the region that surrounds Athens and it would be a mistake to think that all it has to offer is the international airport. The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, for one, beckons in any season. The Attica peninsula is where Athenians go when they need a beach fix but don't have time for the islands. There's luscious swimming to be had at Limanakia and Varkiza and the entire coast is chiseled with inviting sea views and hidden coves. The best part? Even in the height of summer, with the exception of Sounion, it's never very touristy here.


10. Apamea – SYRIA

Apamea, on the banks of the Orontes River, was a city of the Seleucid kings founded in 300 B.C., fortified and expanded by King Seleucus I Nicator in 300 B.C. It was destroyed by Khosrau I (the 22nd Sasanian Emperor of Persia) in the 6th century, then partially rebuilt, but finally destroyed by an earthquake in 1152.

Located 120 km (75 mi) north of Homs, it is next to the village of Qala’at al-Mudiq. See the Great Colonnade (Cardo Maximus), Agora, and the Votive Column.

Article in Globerovers Magazine, July 2014.

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Blog post and photos by Peter who has been travelling almost full-time since 2005 and has been to over 122 countries. He visited several countries, such as Japan, more than 20 times. Peter is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of GlobeRovers Magazine, an independent travel magazine focused on intrepid destinations.



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