On a crisp spring afternoon my 16-year-old son Ned and I left the Acropolis, strode through the Agora, and headed down the remains of the Panathenaic Way towards Piraeus and beyond in the footsteps of so many legendary Athenians. Every now and then modernity intervened: a railway track has long since sliced off a slither of the Agora; a few hawkers lined the upper reaches of the ancient road. But as we neared the 2,400-year-old gate leading through the still imposing walls of classical Athens the subsequent centuries disappeared — as did other tourists — and we found ourselves in a tussocky park brimming with cats, wild flowers, and the marble remnants of a monumental past.
We were in the Kerameikos, the ancient Athenian cemetery, one of the world’s great archaeological sites. It was all but deserted; our only encounter was with a tortoise enjoying the spring sun. In short it was the perfect setting for our guide to entice us back two-and-a-half millennia and remind us of the eternal relevance of Athenian history and art.
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