“I remind you of this, Athenians, because I want you to know and realize that, as no danger can assail you while you are on your guard, so if you are remiss no success can attend you.”
Demosthenes stated these words standing on the Speakers’ staircase of the Pnyx Hill 2400 years ago when he harangued the people of the city with his Philippics.
The place was mythical since his time.
On this sacred Hill Pericles, Aristides and Alcibiades, all spoke during the golden age of Athens. A small rocky place, right outside the city wall, facing the ancient Acropolis and the Agora as well, so that whoever was addressing to the people was also giving his word to the Gods.
Although only a handful of rocks is what remains of that forgotten arena, there you can still feel a deep sense of reverence and fealty. The old heroes are alive on the Pnyx: their presence lingers around the steps of the speakers’ stairs, into the veining of the ancient stones, among the thick branches of the olives trees that follow down the slope of the pike. They wait to be remembered or to be dismissed, while they attend the life of their city, yesterday as today as well, hidden in the shadows stretching slowly when the sun sets behind a glimpse of the shimmering Aegean Sea, peaking out in the distance.
Surrounded by parks, enclosed in the ring of the Classic Ancient Ruins of Athens, the Pnyx today is mostly reached by the locals climbing up there to admire the sunset far away from the hordes of tourists crowding together on the most known hill of Mars.
Still, if you reach the peak of the Pnyx at sunset, you will always meet some small groups of people sitting in silence with their back at the Acropolis, waiting for the dusk. A metaphor, maybe, of the place itself: where men in those ancient times were speaking to the city and to gods while facing the city as saying they were living their present and honoring their duties, but after all the harangues and the discussions, they were silently looking West, at the sea on which shores Athens made its fortune, built its past and hopefully will find its future.