Unreal Acropolis

Freud and Acropolis

Athens offers a unique feeling of being at home, since it fulls anyone with childhood memories. Even Sigmund Freud’s feelings were so strong when he visited Acropolis, on September 1904.

 ” in the themes of Athens and the Acropolis as such a reference to the superiority of the sons is contained. Our father was a merchant, he had no secondary education, Athens would have meant little to him. What disturbed the pleasure of our journey was therefore a movement of piety. And now you will no longer be surprised that the memory of the experience on the Acropolis haunts me so often since I have become old myself and require nursing and can no longer travel.”

Freud wrote a letter to his wife from his Agora walk “Martha – as Alex sat nearby on an archon’s throne – that it `surpasses everything that we’ve ever seen and that one can imagine”. But that was not just it. He described his Acropolis’ experience as `disturbance of memory’ (Erinnerungsstorung). He also define his emotional reaction to being on the Acropolis as a feeling expressible in the words: `So all this really does exist, just as we learnt at school!!”. Athens was simply put inside a European’s mind as a school so deep, that Freud’s reaction was both excused and understood a century ago, but not quite today. He claimed also `by the evidence of my senses, I am now standing on the Acropolis, only I don’t believe it’.

Freud’s experience was furter discussed in research papers and articles, relating also his jewish ancestry and the role of his father, Jacob, but also Freud’s personal admiration for Heinrich Schliemann, who was conducting excavations in Athens and Troy during that period.

Carl Jung and Acropolis

It was not only Freud who was inspired from his Acropolis visit and its sacred energy. Carl Jung relates the temenos

to the spellbinding or magic circle, which acts as a ‘square space’ or ‘safe spot’ where mental ‘work’ can take place. This temenos resembles among others a ‘symmetrical rose garden with a fountain in the middle’ (the ‘squared circle’) in which an encounter with the unconscious can be had and where these unconscious contents can safely be brought into the light of consciousness. In this manner one can meet one’s own Shadow, Animus/Anima, Wise Old Wo/Man (Senex) and finally the Self, names that Jung gave to archetypal personifications of (unpersonal) unconscious contents which seem to span all cultures. 

Even if you are not a fan of psycologists, nobody can deny the vast acceptance that these scientists had from human societies one hundrednd years ago. But all artists feel something up there.


Hans Christian Andersen at Acropolis

Some decades before Jung and Freud, famous Andersen visited Acropolis hill as well. This is how he narrated his experience

One can almost say that Athens grows hour by hour; houses and streets shoot up from the gravel; several streets look exactly like the booths we see on a fair-ground: tents are put up, all sorts of goods are displayed, and the selling is done by handsome, squatting Greek boys. […]  

I walk up the Acropolis every day. The view is marvellous and the place itself a ruined fairy world; wild cucumbers grow over the steps of the Parthenon; scattered round are unburied skulls of Turks and Greeks; here and there are whole bombs from the time of the Venetians.

I have been to Socrates’ prison: two small holes in a rock near Athens; at the entrance grew lovely red flowers, I picked one of them, thinking of Oehlenschlager —will you give him this flower from me?
What else can anybody say about Acropolis?