We live to explore here at No Kids, Will Travel. Amanda and I always want to soak up some of the culture of a place we visit. We usually do that by visiting a museum or an archaeological park or taking a walking tour. We visit the past as often as we can because it’s one of the best ways to understand a people. The sights we’ve seen on those travels through time have been some of the most amazing trips we’ve been on.
We’ve seen the massive structures of ancient peoples like the pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens. They give us a sense of awe and wonder and insight into a national identity. We know that most cultures derive much of their identity from their past and, in my humble opinion, no culture draws as much of their identity from the works of their ancestors as the Greeks.
You can ask any Greek, no matter how many generations have passed since their family left Greece, what they think of classical western architecture, democracy, philosophy, and art and they will say “the Greeks invented that.” Here in the west and around the world we’ve felt the impact of that ancient culture and see it all around us every day. But I digress; to study the west and its many cultures you need to look at one first, the one that gave birth to them all. You need to look at the Greeks.
We have been given an amazing opportunity in the last month to do that without the eight-hour plane ride to Athens, not that it isn’t tempting. The National Geographic Society is hosting an exhibit at their museum in Washington, DC called The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great. The 5,000-year adventure takes a in-depth look at the kings, scholars, poets and philosophers whose impact that is still felt today. The 5,000 precious treasures on loan from museums all over the world, many that hadn’t left Greece since their creation, fill the rooms of Explorers Hall. A team of expert scholars have constructed a narrative in the exhibit to directly tie the Greek creation of democracy, philosophy, theater and sports to our modern western society.
We are also lucky to have an even more convenient way to see the exhibit and learn the lessons in the National Geographic documentary series they are airing on PBS titled The Greeks. In many ways the documentary parallels the exhibit in Washington, taking a close look at the rise of the Greeks from scratching out an existence living in caves to a civilization that’s impact it is still felt today. The Greeks began airing June 21st (Check your local listings).
The exhibit runs from June 1st to October 10th and costs $15 per person. I promise when you step out of the museum, turn left and look down at the White House in the distance you won’t think of the architecture or democracy the same way again.