Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Travel Project: Greece Day 2

Okay okay I know I've been lax in updating this. It's strange to think that a year ago today I was in Crete. I can't tell you how much I miss Greece, how I wish I was there, eating their food, enjoying their warm temperatures, salivating over their landscapes and ancient ruins.

But you have to understand, when you have more than 2000 photos to plow through and label, it's easy to find other things to occupy your time. Yes, 2000 photos. I like taking pictures of things okay. I'm just not very good with lighting or focus or not putting my thumb over the lens.

Day 2 we hiked up to the top of the Acropolis. Let me warn you now, go early before it gets too hot. There's no way to avoid crowds and you must check all bags before entering the Acropolis. This is to discourage theft. There are also people everywhere with whistles who won't hesitate to blow them if you even think about bending down, even if it's just to tie your shoe. Fellow students joked that they were stealing Acropolis dust on their shoes and that no one, not even the whistle-blowers would ever know.;

The Parthenon

This has been on my "Must See" list for a while and I was so happy to check it off. I expected to feel this sense of awe and amazement when we first walked up through the Propylaia and came upon the temple but I didn't. Instead there was this incredible moment of calmness amongst the throngs of tourists, all jostling with their cameras and tripods.

The Parthenon

When you first walk up to the Parthenon you see the back of the temple. Most people think it's the front, but trust me, they're misinformed. You enter near the left corner so by this shot I'd almost finished the circuit of the Acropolis. There's also an Acropolis Museum of artifacts that have never left the hill but all my shots are dark and blurry in there. It's worth taking a look though. The entrance boasts the only bust of Alexander to be created within his lifetime and therefore is thought to be an accurate representation. There's also some of the original Caryatids in another room, along with Kore (archaic female statuary) and other architectural statuary.

The Erectheion

Another misconception about the Acropolis is that Parthenon is the only building up there. Wrong. The Erectheion is another temple to multiple gods. Supposedly before Athens received its name, both Poseidon and Athena wanted to be the sole patron of the city. The only way to settle this was with a competition. Whoever gave the city the best gift would become its patron. Poseidon struck the ground on the Acropolis with his trident, (supposedly you can still see the marks) producing a spring. Athena created the olive tree and if you know anything about Greece, you know that Athena became the city's patron. The city was named after her and the Parthenon was built in her honour (Athena Parthenos). There's an olive tree planted there today but as one of the other students pointed out, no, it's not the original. The Erectheion is dedicated to Athena and Erectheus-Poseidon. Erectheus was supposedly the first king of Athens. It used Ionic instead of Doric columns. This area is known as the Porch of the Caryatids. The carved women serve as columns but keep in mind these are only reproductions.

The Theseum/Hephaisteion

This temple is located in the Ancient Agora along with some other ruins and the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos which is also worth checking out. The Theseum is one of the best preserved temples of its kind. Its name comes from the fact that the hill its built on used to be the location of bronzeworking pits and Hephaestus was the god of metalworking. It's also sometimes known as the Theseum because the metopes (decorative carvings above the columns) depict the exploits of Theseus. The labours of Herakles are also on the metopes but for both depictions you really need a great zoom lens. The metopes are worn away and high up.

The National Archaeological Museum

This is where we went after lunch. There are some really weird statues out front but don't let that scare you. Something to watch out for inside is yourself. A lot of these artifacts are gigantic and not behind glass. I was really surprised by this and it made me wonder how many of these pieces are just replicas on display. But, there are employees in every room to yell "No Flash!" at you so they probably are the real deal. Get a map of the place before you wander off and give yourself the whole afternoon to explore. Trust me, the place is huge and I looked at everything, missing only the reproduction of the Statue of Athena that used to sit in the Parthenon. I'm still kicking myself over that because its the one thing I really wanted a picture of.


Statue of Zeus?/Poseidon?

I got into an interesting discussion with other students about this. Very few bronze originals survive because they were usually melted down. The ones that survive were involved in shipwrecks and spent a lot of time underwater. This statue was retrieved off Cape Arthemision. The problem comes in identifying him. Was he holding a trident or a lightning bolt in his hand? No one knows but the weapon probably wasn't made of bronze and that's why we no longer have it with us. What do you think? Something else kind of weird is the length of his arms. The missing link? Time on the rack? Who knows.

Gold Crown

This was really amazing. Imagine being the person who found this. 2000 years old and it looks brand spanking new. And it's so delicate-looking with its vegetal motif of flowers and leaves. How did it ever survive? How was it not crushed under rocks in an earthquake or melted down for coins or stolen by thieves? It's these kind of artifacts that boggle my mind. And can you imagine wearing it? I'd be afraid of breaking it in half.

Bronze of Octavian Augustus

This is the only preserved life-size equestrian statue of Augustus. You can't see it but the first emperor was riding a horse. I say was because the horse is nowhere to be found. This is another bronze that survived though I can't say it was my favourite piece in the museum. His eyes followed me around the room and it didn't help that his eyes happened to be hollow. I kept expecting him to open his mouth like something out of a horror movie. I mean, doesn't he look like he wants to say something? His eyes would have been inlaid with glass/ivory or shell to make them stand out. They've long since worn away or disappeared so all we have left is this creepy hollow man look.


This man with the baby face was Emperor Hadrian's lover and was deiified after his death. He "drowned" in the Nile. By "drowned" of course I mean pushed. Some say he jumped in, some say he was a sacrifice, who knows. All we know is that he was a victim of the political machine of Rome and Hadrian went all out for his funeral.

Agamemnon's Death Mask

Now, this title is a bit misleading. If you've read Homer's "The Iliad" then you know that Agamemnon was supposedly a big cheese back in the day. He was also supposedly the king of Mycenae where this gold death mask was found. The problem was the place was excavated by a man named Heinrich Schliemann. He was not an archaeologist. Instead he was a rich man who liked to pretend at archaeology. He bought sites and was then able to excavate how he liked to, meaning he didn't ascribe to the proper procedures. Therefore, when he found the death mask he attached Agamemnon's name to it without any proof that the man had ever existed. In essence he was really more of a treasure hunter and ended up doing more damage to the profession of archaeology than contributing.

The issue of artifacts and proper procedure is more important today than ever. This news article is about the return of a piece of the Erectheion more than 100 years after it was stolen from the site. Another issue in Greek archaeology is the Elgin Marbles. They were sold while Greece was under Ottoman occupation. They're currently held by the British Museum and were promised to be returned if Greece provided a proper place to store and show them. While I was in Greece the finishing touches were being put on the new Acropolis Museum with space for the Marbles. As far as I know, they still haven't been returned as I believe they should be. What do you think? Was the deal to sell them to England legitimate and should they return them?

1 comment:

teflonjedi said...

2000 photos??? Sounds like a job for flickr!