My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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ATHENS, Greece—On Monday evening Dr. Gurewitsch joined us, coming by plane from Paris and arriving an hour and a half late.

Tuesday morning Miss Corr, Dr. Gurewitsch and I started with Miss Alison Frantz, an archaeologist working with the American excavation group here, to see the Acropolis.

One should see the Parthenon not only in the morning as we did, when everything stands out clear and rather hard and when one's mind turns more easily to the historical background one is looking at, but also one should see these ancient monuments in the soft light of the setting sun when the marble takes on a rosy hue and somehow the whole effect is different.

In the morning it was easy to think of the numerous wars and continuous destructions which had passed over this hill, since, primarily, it has always been a fortress. As one listened to what was done by the Persians and by the barbarians, one could not help wondering if human beings ever really took in the meaning of history, ever really looked at an excavation and at the remnants of glory and beauty from the past and realized how often the hand of other human beings had destroyed beauty and in destroying beauty had destroyed other human beings. Still we go on and are doing practically the same thing today as we did 2000 years ago!

For an archaeologist to be unearthing and gradually rebuilding the market square of Athens as it was in the days of the great Athenians must be at times disturbing.

It was interesting to have the archaeologist show us in a museum case the bits of clay which the Athenians used in the vote when every private citizen put down the name of a citizen whom he felt might become a dictator. If as many as 6000 voters felt that this same man was dangerous, he was exiled for ten years from Athens, after which time he could return, I suppose on the theory that he would have lost his interest in stirring up trouble in that length of time. I wonder if the archaeologist is discouraged to see how history has repeated itself year in and year out over many centuries and whether he wonders if it is the destiny of human beings always to be destroying something and then spending ages in rebuilding it again.

When we went back to the Acropolis in the late afternoon, none of these thoughts on history bothered us much. In the soft and beautiful sunset light we could just enjoy the beauty and be grateful that so much of it was still there to give us pleasure.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Athens (Greece) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 6, 1953

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.