hawkwing_lb: (Default)
The Lakonian plain is slightly fantastic. The sun comes up over the mountains in the east, all kinds of colours, and the light hits the tops of the Taygetus in the west. The Langada pass is a deep bowl in the Taygetus, and the light works its way down onto the plain - rapidly, all things considered.

Sparta's archaeological remains, apart from the theatre, are not very impressive. One goes for the myth, and to say that one has been: what remains is a scattering of blocks and bricks and some mosaics in the museum, closed on Mondays.

Mystra, on the other hand? Mystra is six kilometers from the modern town of Sparta, on a hill at the foot of the Taygetus. It is a medieval town, fortified by the Franks during their medieval domination of Byzantine Greece, during the 13th century. Retaken by the Byzantines, its cathedral was where the last Palaiologos Byzantine emperor was crowned in 1432. It was known for its silk trade. Later came Venetians, and Ottomans, and it was a living town until the 1950s, when the last inhabitants were relocated. Today it is home to several churches, most - save the cathedral and the church of the Orthodox convent of the Pantessa, where cats and kittens lie flat out in the shade of pink and orange blossoms - in ruins. The Palace of the Despots, where Byzantine lords - and an emperor or two - lived. A kastro, or castle keep on the peak, which I did not walk to, for the temperature broke 39C again.

Thence to the opposite side of modern Sparta, where in 39C the few, the brave, the proud, hiked twenty minutes up a hill to a Middle Helladic site, where also there is the Menelaion, the shrine where Helen and Menelaus received heroic cult in Classical Sparta.

And from there to Tolo in the Argolid, across more - lower - mountains. Where the internet is bouncy, and where I spent an hour in the sea with my students. I do not think I am quite capable of maintaining teacherly detachment in the middle of a waterfight - not that I'm good at it at all. They are close to my age, and wanting to be liked is one of my besetting sins.

There are several standout moments from this trip already. Drinking from the Castalian spring at Delphi. Running in the stadium at Olympia, the stade-long footrace, in a cloud of dust with the students and the baking heat. Staggering around Messene in 41C, and seeing the defensive walls while the wind blew in hot gusts. Eating fish in Itea, water-fighting in the sea right here in Tolo while the moon rose over the water and the light died.

I like this.
hawkwing_lb: (Helps if they think you're crazy)
This morning, discussion with old Greek lady, mother of hotel manager, about politics and economy. My Greek improves but is inadequate to the task.

Today we drove through olive groves. Lots of them. There were a couple of archaeological sites: I do not remember the second one real well, thanks to it being 41C and me being about ready to pass out. Even though I was guiding it. Messene. The stadium was amazing, and the fortification wall!

(The olive groves, some of them, had sheep under them. One had a sign for Polyphemos' Farm. For some reason I thought of [livejournal.com profile] stillsostrange. They were cute sheep.)

From there, long bus journey between the Messenian plain and the Lakonian. The pass through the Taygetos Mountains defies my fuzzy-brained (I did not sleep much last night: no a/c, ground floor window open onto road) ability to describe. FUCKING AWESOME might do it as an adjective.

Now in Sparta, with the miracle of working internet and working a/c. I has the sleepy. Also the sticky.

How goes the life of you?
hawkwing_lb: (Liara doing)
This morning, guiding students around Delphi. 38 degrees Celsius. This afternoon, I have off. I have washed my kit and hung it out to dry on the balcony, swum in the sea - a layer of water on the surface warm as bathwater - and am now lying on my hotel-room bed with a view of the Parnassian hills, not quite as wiped as wiped can get.

(Last night, fresh fish dinner. Gorgeous. Expensive, but worth it.)

If I were a good and virtuous human, I would be writing columns and book reviews right now. But instead, I am exhausted, so probably the most that will happen is napping.

No, really. Exhausted.
hawkwing_lb: (Helen Mirren Tempest)
I expect I'll be off-line for most of the next ten days. Due to running around Greece with a bunch of students. We started yesterday, and I'm already tired down to the bone.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I am made of failure as an adventurous traveller.

It's just embarrassing that I have such... awkwardness with buses.

So, I got it into my head that I'd take the bus to Marathon this morning, and see what the archaeological stuff out there looks like. Which, fine. But today's the Panaghia, so everything out there would be closed. Fine, sez I to myself, I'll just go have a look at the lay of the land and see if there's a beach.

I tried to forget that I'm a nervous traveller who has in the last two visits to Greece developed a paranoia concerning Jesus fuck where's the return bus-stop? Aieeee, the bus doesn't come back for five hours!

And succeeded, until I saw how far everything of archaeological interest at and around Marathon was from everything else, including the disparate bits themselves. So, sez I to myself, I'll just stay on this here bus and ride it back to Athens, having enjoyed the nice scenery.


The bus, she does not do immediate turnaround.

She goes on and on among olive groves and the red earth of Attica, along camping sites and farm villas, towards a lovely beach at Skianias... At which point I'm saying to the driver, "Er. Bus goes to Athens, yes?"

He says, in Greek - and at this point I'm the only person on the bus - "We make a circle! Marathona, Skiania, Marathona, Athena!" He looks at me. "Is there some problem?"

I say - useful phrase - "I don't speak Greek well. I don't know what I'm doing." Shrug. "I want to go back to Athens. This is okay?"

He smiles, laughs, is very understanding. The bus waits at Skianias beach for fifteen minutes - the bus driver tells me where we are, and that - as far as I manage to understand - the bus stops here three times daily. I wanted to get off and go to the beach, but I did not want to be stuck there. So the bus driver took a picture of me at my unexpected destination, a nice Greek lady and her Italian husband got on, and we turned around.

And had a three-way conversation in my broken Greek and the married lady's good English on the way back to Marathon about how the rich people who had villas at Skianias were all thieves. Who'd stolen all the money from the people. The same in Italy! the lady said. The same in Ireland! I agreed. The same the world over! the bus driver exclaimed. Bankers and politicians, no-good-very-bad people.

(And look, my friend! sez the bus driver - in Greece, everything seems to be Hello, my friend! and Ah, my friend, you're here! even when you've only just met - there's the artificial canal they built for the 2004 Olympics rowing. Not used afterwards.)

So I spent a little over four hours of my day bussing around Attica. Very nice scenery, once you get out of the industrial edges of Athens. Not really sure I want to do it again.

Next time, someone with a car should come with me. That way, less fear of stranding.
hawkwing_lb: (Ned virtue)
I went for a walk from Plataia Viktoria up to Omonia, and from Omonia on to Monastiraki. On the way I passed a "Fantasy Shop," with Game of Thrones trading cards in the window and advertising for Magic the Gathering Friday night tournaments and Warhammer 40K gaming sessions.

Geekdom is international, and so is the curiously off-putting subliminal chauvinism in the posters. (Just once, I would like woman not to equal afterthought in the advertising.)

Anyway, on my way down to Plaka, I decided to walk through Athens' covered meat market...

It's an antechamber of hell.

Okay, I exaggerate. So I'm not that squeamish. But it's about 100m long, and the space between the meat displays is three people wide. The butchers aren't behind the meat displays, but in front, hacking off cuts with cleavers the size of my head. THUNK THUNK THUNK. There are chips of bone and bits of meatflesh on the cobbles, and something flew free from a THUNK twice on my way down and a meatfleck landed on my face. There were skinned lambs' heads with the eyeballs still attached, and a lamb's skin with a butcher still taking out the legs. Halves of sheep's carcases hanging suspending on racks, the bones thinly sheathed in fat and flesh, the ribs white where a bit had been sawn off. A pair of flies buzzing over a heaped tray of fresh mince. The smell of liver - liver itself, glistening darkly beside kidneys on the metal trays - and meat and old blood didn't exactly turn my stomach - it was realising that chips of bone and meatflesh had stuck to the bottom of my shoe that did that.

Yeah, I'm not about to turn vegetarian. But I think I prefer my butchers' filled with less THUNKing. And fewer flying flecks. And with more room to avoid the men wielding their knives.

I'm too young to remember if there were ever meat markets like this in Dublin. But in conclusion: will never make an industrial butcher, me.
hawkwing_lb: (No dumping dead bodies)
...I went to the beach. I had such great plans for getting up early and day-tripping out to Marathon - but as it turned out, I slept in (again: bloody hell, body, start going to sleep at a sane hour, k?) and decided instead to go to Paralia Glyfada, instead.

Like fine wine - although I'm rather coarser than wine, I think, and not as drinkable - I don't travel well. Especially to new places on my own. (Part of me not going to Marathon is constant chickening out. I hate having panic attacks of o-shit-am-I-going-the-right-way on buses that only go once every two hours.) So getting to Glyfada was a little adventure.

The details of which bus went there which I got from the internet were out of date. I asked the nice man in the bus info kiosk at Akadimias, and eventually (after much waiting) got on bus B2. I had it in my head that there were beaches at the turn-around-point for bus B2 at Agios Kosmas, but when I got there, I could see none. Bus driver said, "Alpha Ena kai Alpha Dyo yia ti Paralia Glyfada," and pointed me at an onward bus stop.

So I caught bus A2 onwards for a couple of stops, and got off at the stop that said 2 Glyfada, where there were a couple of hotels. (It's all apartments and urban retail and minor port/marina industry along that bus route, rather lacking in personality. And the apartments on the landward side all look alike, so I was nervous of finding landmarks. Seaward side, the tramrail runs.)

Behind the hotels and across a smaller road beside a marina, turns out to be the beach. A rocky beach, at that. No sand, just the sea with a throatful of stones. The water is very blue and very salty, murky with salt, and the churn of the sea on the stones means you can't just stand - or squat - peacefully in the water. Or float, really.

In addition to being a nervous traveller-to-new-places, I also happen to be a nervous swimmer when I'm on my own. The water was a lovely temperature, and so was the day, hovering around highs of 32C. But I can't have stayed on the beach above half an hour. It's bloody boring on your own.

So I wandered along to the tram stop, because it was nearby and obvious - and easy to find, what with tramlines leading right to it. In retrospect, I may have been better off going looking for the busstop. The tram, when it came along, was uncomfortable and slightly smelly, and rather than taking 30 minutes or so to get into the centre of Athens, like the bus, took over an hour. (I read my book. It wasn't too hot, and I was still damp from the beach, which had a usefully cooling effect.)

In conclusion: public transport, wonderful. Me = scaredy-cat

Now Athens is cloudy and expecting thunder. If it cools off below 30C tomorrow at any point, I may go for a run.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Today I went out to walk around the Kerameikos, to make sure I know where everything is in advance of taking a tour around: things look rather different on the ground than on the plan (the map is not the territory) and one visit last year is insufficient for my purposes.

It was 40 degrees Celsius, and there was very little shade. Nonetheless, I survived outside for two hours, before being forced to retreat into an interior. Fear me, for I am mighty... mighty lucky I avoided heatstroke. Old-fashioned expedient of wearing a wet hat helped.

Still. 20-25C hotter than average temperature in summer back home. I think I'm doing well to be even this active.
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
I admit it, I am skipping bits of Delphi. I can't quite wrangle it well enough on my own to blog it, and in consequence I'm going to be working from someone else's really well prepared notes.


So I'm moving on to Corinth. More specifically, to Old Corinth, Palaio-Korinthos, for the site of the modern town of Korinthos (Nea Korinthos) is located on the shoreline of the Corinthian Gulf as a result of an earthquake in 1858, which caused significant damage to the town then on the site of Old Corinth. The modern town is five miles away, on the shore, adjacent to Lechaion, the site that was Old Corinth's port in antiquity.

The town itself lies approximately 100m above sea level. The Akrokorinth, which you can see rising above us, is over 500m above sea level - 575m at its highest point, I believe. In antiquity it was the acropolis of ancient city, and through the medieval period and into the Ottoman it was built into one of the most impressive fortresses in the Morea (the Morea being was the Peleponnese was known as in the middle ages and under the Ottomans). The Franks began the fortification, during their short-lived medieval dominance in the Morea; the Turks maintained the walls after they took over the Corinthia in 1498, and the Hospitaller Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta briefly - in 1612 - controlled the area around. The Venetians came in in 1687, and the Turks kicked the Venetians out again in 1715. And that's the later history of Corinth, until the Greek war of independence, when the Akrokorinth was used as a fortress by the combatants.

Early occupation and potted history

- Occupied continuously since the 5th millennium.
- Colonies at Corcyra and Syracuse (ca.734).
- 8th century ruled by the tyrants the Baccidae, who were overthrown in the mid 7th by the tyrant Kypselos. An account in Herodotos details the mythological history here. Ruled by Kypselos, Periander and Psammeticus before being overthrown by a moderate oligarchy in 6th century.
- Proto-Corinthian pottery – evidence for trade in the Geometric and Archaic periods as far away as northern Italy (the Etruscans) before being over-taken by Attica as a pottery producer.
- During the Persian Wars the city served as a sort of Greek headquarters.
- 434 BC: war between Corinth and Corcyra, which was one of the causes of the Peloponnesian war: Corinth supported the Syracusans against Sicily.
- 338 BC: garrisoned by the Macedonians who were not expelled until 224 when Corinth became part of the Achaean League
- 146BC: the Achaean league was defeated by the Romans and the defences of Corinth were razed to the ground.
- The site of Old Corinth remained unoccupied until 44BC when Julius Caesar planted a colony of veterans on the site. It then became the capital of the Roman province of Achaia.
- It was enhanced by Hadrian with an aqueduct from Lake Stymphalos and by Herodes Atticus, whose benefactions are everywhere in Greece.

The epithet of Corinth in antiquity was "well-watered," "Corinth of the many springs." This is because it is abundantly provided with sources of fresh water, most of which rise on Akrokorinth and in Classical and Roman fed fountains in the heart of the polis.

Excavations were begun by the ASCSA in 1896 and have continued to the present day. The current director of the ASCSA excavations is Dr Guy Saunders. Most of the standing remains here are Roman in date, as the Greek city was sacked by Lucius Mummius at the end of the Achaean War. Corinth was until that time a major commercial power, which probably had much to do with how vengeful the Romans were willing to be. (Suffer no rivals.) Roman settlement and land apportionment has been identified as well in the plain below and on the slopes of the Akrokorinth.

Corinth is the site at which Euripides set his Medea.

Read more... )
hawkwing_lb: (Liara doing)
A little poorer, perhaps, and full four degrees Celsius hotter, but much the same. Albanian men sitting on the steps in the evening across from the off-license, a pair of Nigerian boys in Exarcheia square hawking pirate DVDs, skinny cats lurking in the shadows of the dustbins, mosquitos whirring around like tiny bitey devils. The orange trees along the streets that were trimmed back in the spring are now a riot of green, while the dust is thick and gritty on the pot-holed paths. Athens smells of diesel and dust; Exarcheia plateia of hash and grilled meat, chips and beer and dust and fly repellant. There is no river in Athens, and we're far enough from the sea that there's no water-scent to lend a greener tinge to the air.

I notice things here that I don't notice at home, because at home my senses aren't engaged by newness. I hope when I go back this time I'll be able to see the strangeness in the familiar, though.

I haven't been outside Exarcheia yet. The monthly visitation of the Red Menace laid me out flat yesterday, although I managed to get up to the plateia yesterday evening, to eat in the taverna where they remembered me from the spring (and in the spring, they remembered me from last autumn). I spoke bad Greek to them, and English to the polyglot bloke from Algeria. There was French documentary crew inside, making a documentary on food - I learned this, because I said to the cameraman when he was shooting the doorway, "Pardon, monsieur, qu'est-ce que vous faites?"

This had an interesting effect on N., the friendly polyglot waiter. "Vous parle le francais aussi!" he said, and ended up giving me dessert on the house. I'm embarrassed for anglophones, if my pathetic attempts to make myself understood in other languages end up impressing Greek and Algerian blokes like that. Honestly, who knew that a "Je'n le parle que mal," or "Den milo kala ellenika," goes so far?

In a couple of hours, I and my Red Menace and my sweaty armpit hair will go run our errands - batteries, food, picking up some of the Institute's photocopying. And then I should spend the rest of the afternoon working on study tour notes. I'd really rather nap. Perhaps I will nap first.

Last night I dreamed that America had a emperor in a shiny pointy hat. My brain goes weird in the heat.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Delphi lies in Phokis, north across the Gulf of Corinth from the Peleponnese. From the Peloponnese it was easily accessible by sea, and from the east - Boeotia, Attica, Chalkis, Eretria - by road. It lies near the north-south route from the Peleponnese to Thessaly. It rises from the slopes of Mt Parnassus, between the cliffs. The one on the east, ancient Hyampeia, where in antiquity people who had committed sacrilege are alleged to have been thrown from the peak.

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia is the second major sacred area at Delphi. It lies southeast of the temenos of Apollo, down the slops of the hill, in the area known as Marmaria ("Marbles"). Here a terrace measuring 150m by 40m housed altars, temples, treasuries, and a tholos. Its construction postdates the first stages of cult activity on the site of the temenos of Apollo, with the earliest altar dating to the 7th century CE, though some Mycenaean figurines with evidence of burning and burnt bone were found nearby, possibly indicating early cult activity.

The Archaic temple of Athena is the largest here. Built of local porous limestone or tufa, it dates to the 6th century, using column capitals (Doric) from a 7th C predecessor. A series of altars were ranged alongside it, instead of as is more usual, in front. One of the altars is to Athena, Hygieia and Eileithyia (childbirth). There are two treasuries, one which dates to the 6th century, dedicated by the inhabitants of Massilia (today Marseilles) to celebrate a victory over the Etruscans; the other, built in the early part of the 5th century, remains anonymous. Among the offerings in front of the treasuries was a trophy erected for the Gree victory over the Persians, which Herodotos says was dedicated here. A second temple was built in the 4th century, variously identified as to Athena or to Artemis.

The circular structure of the Tholos is also 4th century in date. It was designed by the architect Theodoros of Phokaia. In shape it resembles the tholos/thymele at Epidauros, and its function is similarly contested.

This sanctuary was the first visible to a visitor approaching Delphi, and takes its name from its aspect, Athena Pronaia, "Athena in front of the sacred place."


Nearby, in the 4th century, was built a gymnasium, which was renovated in the Roman period. It consisted of running tracks, one covered (xystos) for bad weather training; a palaistra for exercising and wrestling, with rooms on its west and south sides around a peristyle court. Here also was a circular bath with cold water. One of the columns found here in the late 19th century had been vandalised by the poet Lord Byron on his visit: he'd scratched his name into the stone.

The Kastalian Spring

Noted by Pausanias, this is the spring is where Apollo allegedly planted a Bay tree. The standing remains are Hellenistic, with statue base for Ge (Gaia, mother earth)and niches for other votives.

Soon, I get to the temenos of Apollo. Soon.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Please note: much of what follows is cribbed from a colleague.

- The Sanctuary of Apollo on the slopes of Parnassus overlooks a fertile plain. Its remoteness meant it mainly remained neutral territory
- Myth: Zeus sent two eagles out from Olympus in each direction & they met at Delphi, so it became the centre/navel of the world.
-First signs of human habitation of this site date to around 1400 BC, and this Mycenaean site was destroyed in 1200.
-The site remained uninhabited until 800 BC. Aeschylus relates the story that it was originally sacred to Earth (Ge) and Poseidon and that Ge gave her share to Themis, who gave it to Apollo.
- Euripides records the story that Apollo slew a either the serpent Python posted by Earth to guard the oracle and took the site for himself. For this he was forced into an eight year purificatory exile at Tempe.
- Pausanias says that Apollo slew here a violent son of Krius of Euboea and that the name Pytho comes from the verb pythesthai ‘to rot’ since Apollo left his victim here to rot.
- The site was originally known as Pytho (Homeric), lying in the territory of Krisa.
- According to myth the cult of Apollo Delphinios was imported to Krisa from Crete, leading to the introduction of his cult at Pytho. From then on the site became known as Delphoi and Apollo gained the epithet Pythian.
- Finds from the 8th including bronze dedications show that even at this point the fame of Pythian Apollo was rapidly spreading, eg bronze horses from Thessaly, tripods from the Peloponnese and stands from Crete.
- It is not clear when this site became the site of an oracle – the oracle here is said to have played an important part in the colonization of Sicily towards the middle of the 8th century.
- Towards the end of the 7th to two divinities, Athena and Apollo, were given temples of stone with Doric colonnades. The sole remains of both these temples survives in the material reused in the foundations of later buildings.
- It became an important centre for the display of Greek poleis' wealth, with a competitive element
- Site primarily excavated by the French since 1838


- Evidence for Neolithic and Mycenaean occupation, with figurines found at the site of the temple of Athena Pronaia, perhaps evidence of cult activity: some suggest it may have even been an oracle by then. There is a Middle Helladic site in modern Itea (ancient Kirrha), a town on the coast.
- More occupation took place in 10th C by settlers from Lykorea on the plateau above the sanctuary
- By 8th C the oracle was in operation. At the same time in Greece there is a large increase in the population & the establishment of newer city states ("colonies") overseas.
- By 6th C the Amphictyony (a federation of 12 Poleis form central Greece) was in operation & a council administered the Sanctuary
- Local city Krisa and its port Kirrha (Itea) levied charges on pilgrims, which led to the First Sacred War in 595-586 BC
- The first Pythian games were held between 591-585 BC while the Sacred War was still going on.
- Its reputation continued to grow internationally. Even the kings of Lydia & Egypt set up treasuries here.
- The temple burnt in 548 BC, and was rebuilt by a wealthy Athenian family, the Alkmaionids. This was expensive. In return for their investment, the Pythia told the Spartans to restore the Athenian democracy.
-During the first Persian invasion 490 BC Delphi was attacked by the Persians & according to Herodotus was defended by Apollo himself.
- After the victories over the Persians at Salamis and Plataea, many Greek states set up commemorative statues at Delphi
- A Phokian invasion in 448 BC led to the Second Sacred War. The Phokians were defeated by the Spartans.
- The 4th C saw little building activity, only the restoration of the temple after the earthquake of 373 BC.
- In 356 BC the Phokians raided the Sanctuary and used the gold to pay their troops, leading to the Third Sacred War
- In 339 BC the Amphissians cultivated part of the Sacred Plain, leading to the Fourth Scared war, which culminated in the battle of Chaironeia and Macedonian hegemony in Greece.
- After the Roman-Syrian War (when the Romans beat the Seleucids), in 189 BC the Aetolians who had controlled the sanctuary since 279 BC made submission to Rome, and Delphi came under the aegis of Rome.
- The sanctuary had rather mixed fortunes under the Romans, being plundered by Sulla and Nero, but benefacted by Domitian and Hadrian.
- Many treasures were carried to Byzantium under Constantine, included the famous Serpent tripod dedicated by the Plataians after the battle of Plataia.
- The oracle outlawed in 391 CE by the Christian Byzantine emperor Theodosius, who issued a decree closing all pagan sanctuaries.
- A Christian Basilica was built inside the temenos in the 5th C CE

We will continue with a description of the sanctuary proper later on today.

Edited Aug 2, 2012
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Messene: a potted history

The early history of the area known as Messene or Messenia is obscure. A Linear B tablet from Mycenaean Pylos refers to an area called Mezana, and it's not too great a stretch to believe that it refers to the plain overlooked by the inaccessible Mt. Ithome. But since the history of Messenia down to 371 BC is a history of struggling with and mostly losing to their Spartan neighbours. The First Messenian War took place in the 8th century BC. The Spartans won, though according to Tyrtaeus it took them 19 years. The Messenians were made helots and perioikoi (dwellers-about) to the Spartans. When the Argives beat the Spartans in 669 BC, the Messenians rebelled. This was the Second Messenians War, and lasted about 12 years, after which the Messenians were no longer perioikoi, but entirely helots.

The helots: (Εἵλωτες / Heílôtes) were an unfree population group that formed the main population of Laconia and the whole of Messenia. Their exact status was already disputed in antiquity: according to Critias, they were "especially slaves" whereas to Pollux, they occupied a status "between free men and slaves". Tied to the land, they worked in agriculture as a majority and economically supported the Spartan citizens. They were ritually mistreated, humiliated and even slaughtered: every autumn, during the Crypteia, they could be killed by a Spartan citizen without fear of repercussion

The Third Messenian War took place in the middle of the 5th century BC, and because of an earthquake which damaged Sparta, the Spartans were a bit worried. They even asked the Athenians for help - but for fear the Athenians would side with the helots, sent them home in a hurry. After ten years, the Spartans won a victory and expelled the rebel Messenians (who were only a few holdouts), first to Naupactos, and then during the Pelepponnesian War, from Greece entirely.

Fast forward a century or so, and the Thebans have beaten the socks off the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra. (The Thebans then became the chief part of the Boeotian League.) After they and the Arcadians beat the Spartans again, the allies in the League decided to deprive Sparta of a large part of her territory. But they wanted to make it a symbolic, as well as physical deprivation, so under the aegis of the Theban general, Epaminondas, they restored and re-organised the polis of Messenia, founding its capital, Messene, here on this spot in the winter of 369 BC.

However, there are some traces of Geometric and Archaic occupation on this site, and some clay votives dating to the Archaic period suggest that there was an existing cult of Asklepios here prior to the foundation of the city. On the mountain top there was a sanctuary of Zeus.

This was most likely the site of the last stand by the Messenians who revolted against the Spartans in the Third Messenian War. Siting the city here after the battle of Leuctra was probably due to its association with Messenian heritage. In addition, it's a naturally defensible site: the city proper lies in a hollow between three hills, but the acropolis is to the north on Mt Ithome.

The city was built in local limestone on a grid system. Its 4th century fortifications feature a large encircling wall and with a system of towers, which at the time was an innovative development.

In 214 BC the Macedonian general Demetrios of Pharos attacked the city. The said general was killed in the siege. Later Nabis, tyrant of Sparta in 202BC, made an attempt. It was taken by the Achaean League in 182 BC, and finally came under Roman rule in 146 BC. At this point it became an important administrative and economic centre. Occupation continued on the site until at least the 5th century CE. There is some evidence of a later church.


Military Architecture

The city walls are 9km in length, featuring at least four gateways. They stretch between the two peaks of Ithome and Eua. They was all built in one phase entirely of stone, and encompass a large internal area - perhaps to allow for the continued growing of food during a siege, a revolutionary approach to a new city. Innovations were incorporated into the defences: a double doorway, the towers for catapults, etc. The walls are cut blocks, unmortared, coursed with a rubble core up to 2.5m thick. The towers every 30-90m (about 30 total) were to permit the use of catapults.

The Gate

The Arcadian gate: features a circular gateway with two doorways. The internal door is a double doorway. Pausanias remarks on there being a staute of Hermes in the gateway.

Outside the gate lie two mausolea, one dating from the 1st century BC and one from the 2nd century AD. We possess no information about their owners.


The theatre was one of two at the site. The other is an odeion in the Asklepion, presently unexcavated. It was used, in addition to its dramatic functions, for political meetings. Philip V of Macdeon and Aratos the Sykionian met here in 214 BC, during one of the Macedonian Wars with Rome, and an inscription records a meeting here in the 1st century BC relating to unpaid taxes owing to Rome. Unsurprisingly, the style of construction is similar to the fortification walls.

Fountain House of Arsinoe

Thus called due to its location beside a spring sacred to Arsinoe, daughter of the mythical King Leukippos of Messene, and mother of Asklepios (in one rendition of the story), It is mentioned by Pausanias, and its initial form had a Doric colonnade. It was repaired in the 1st century CE, and later in the 4th century CE, at which time the Doric colonnade was removed.

The Agora is largely unexcavated, but some architectural and sculpted fragments found in the vicinity are believed to belong to temples of Zeus, Poseidon and Aphrodite. The Doric stoa (90m long) facing the agora was begun in the 3rd century CE but never finished. Possibly due to other trouble in Greece around this time - remember, the Herulians invaded Athens in 267 CE.

The Asklepieion

The Asklepieion at Messene is a complex of several buildings. There are 140 bases for bronze statues bases of prominent locals. The interesting thing about the Asklepieion at Messene is that it appears to have been a wholly civic cult, with very little connection to healing cult, as in Asklepieia elsewhere.

The Asklepion proper has four stoas facing each other, dated to about 215-00 BC. The column capitals are Corinthian and feature a winged Nike. The frieze was decorated with bull skulls and garlands. They create a courtyard which housed the temple. A second row of columns divided these stoas internally.

It is important to remember that this was a planned city. What you're seeing is a purpose-built city centre with public and religious buildings. Unlike other cities, this was no organic accretion: like the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, they had a plan.

Unlike the Cylons, it seems to have actually made sense.

The North Side featured a monumental staircase leading from the courtyard. Here was a Sebasteion or Caesareum, a temple of the Roman imperial cult. Prior to the Roman times, this structure had been used for dining rooms during festivals.

The West Side possessed a large temple to Artemis, located northwest of the complex, replaced by a later shrine to Artemis (Artemision). Debate continues over the cult appellation of this Artemis - Orthia (upright), or Phosphorous (light bringer)? The shrine featured a colossal statue, a cultic table with lions' feet, and attendant statues, all sculpted by Damophon, a local sculptor. A JSTOR search on Damophon of Messene will bring you much of interest.

Outside this temple, now missing, was a pillar.

The structure beside the Artemision housed a shrine to Herakles.

A room with a curved base housed a shrine to nine muses, sculpted by local sculptor Damophon. We remain uncertain of the identification of other rooms in this area. Most likely they were shrines or cult buildings.


Although it is called the Asklepieion, Pausanias mentions that several deities were worshipped here. This was in fact a not uncommon practice in ancient Greek temples: you have seen an example of synnaoi theoi, temple-sharing gods, at the Erechtheum on the Athenian acropolis. Asklepios, Hygieia, Asklepios's daughter and often synnaia thea with him, and the mythical queen, Messene, from whom Messenia gets its name, are among the possibilities for the synnaoi theoi here.

The temple is fairly typical, oriented east-west with 6 and 12 Doric columns on its stylobate. Mostly made of local limestone but the colonnade uses sandstone, also used in the foundation. The antydon was screened by a wall, but featured a gold covered statue of the goddess Messene. The altar sat in front of the pronaos (porch) of the temple.

East Side

The entrance, the Propylon, is on the east side, aligned with the temple. Here too was the ekklesiasterio or pdeion, used for musical and theatrical performances during festivals. Note, if you please, the tiled floor in plain coloured squares.

Moving along, we come to the Boulouterion (or Synedrion or council chamber) with a bench on three sides where 76 elders oversaw the running of the temple complex - but not the city, don't be confused by the name! Temple only. Beside this, in the SE corner, was a room which acted as an archive.

South Side

South of the temple complex is a Hellenistic bath complex,with drainage and water system. It also features an apartment for a priest, Roman in date.

Two rectangular tombs from the 3rd century BC are located east of the baths, perhaps for a public figure. Some suggest one is for Damophon. A column dedicated to him from seven cities adds support to this claim but it would have been unusual.

Further on lies a posited sanctuary to Demeter with statues of Dioskouroi west of the Asklepieion. The building is in poor condition, and although it is mentioned by Pausanias, its identification with Demeter is not secure. Some plaques found in the Sebasteion are dedicated to the Dioskouroi.

The Stadium Area

Further south is a stadium. Only part of it has been excavated. It was framed by three Doric stoas, with a double stoa to the north. The stadium is part of the same complex as the gymnasium. Construction and upkeep was paid for by local Messenians, as we know from the inscriptions

The road from the Asklepion to the stadium joins the western stoa at a roofed propylon with a dedicatory inscription. The western stoa does not follow the entire length of the stadium. This stoa has in addition statue bases belonging to statues of gymnasium officials. It also featured a sanctuary to Herakles and Hermes.

The eastern stoa has collapsed. In front was a monument to Messenians dead in battle, with representations of shields, perhaps in an attempt to associate training with military activity. The eastern side of the stadium features seats for judges, priests and dignitaries.

Further south a building with a Doric facade has been termed an Heroon or mausoleum dated to the 1st century CE and is associated with a wealthy Messenian family.

Delphi is next up. At least I am already vaguely familiar with Delphi. Messene? New to me. It will be my first visit. (Don't tell anyone.)
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What can anyone here tell me about Marathon? (Athenians and Plataians defeated Persians here in 490 BC, the Spartans arrived too late to fight, the story of the runner who expired upon reaching Athens probably an invention since it's not mentioned by any contemporary or near-contemporary.)

The plain of Marathon lies on a broad bay with long sandy beaches, perfect for landing an ancient invasion force. The water here is shallow. In the north the Kynosoura (dog's tail) peninsula bounds the bay, where the remains of fortification walls have been identified: the hills of the Pentelikon border the plain in the west. The land has changed much here since antiquity: where once there were marshes, now there are well-drained plains.

This is what Herodotos has to say about the battle - although the scholarly consensus on Herodotos' account is that he leaves much to be desired as a war correspondent.

"112. The lines were drawn up, and the sacrifices were favorable; so the Athenians were permitted to charge, and they advanced on the Persians at a run. There was not less than eight stades in the no man's-land between the two armies. The Persians, seeing them coming at a run, made ready to receive them; but they believed that the Athenians were possessed by some very desperate madness, seeing their small numbers and their running to meet their enemies without support of cavalry or archers. That was what the barbarians thought; but the Athenians, when they came to hand-to-hand fighting, fought right worthily. They were the first Greeks we know of to charge their enemy at a run and the first to face the sight of the Median dress and the men who wore it. For till then the Greeks were terrified even to hear the names of the Medes.

113. The fight at Marathon went on for a long time, and in the center the barbarians won, where the Persians themselves and the Sacae were stationed. At this point they won, and broke the Greeks, and pursued them inland. But on each wing the Athenians and the Plataeans were victorious, and, as they conquered, they let flee the part of the barbarian army they had routed, and, joining their two wings together, they fought the Persians who had broken their center; and then the Athenians won the day. As the Persians fled, the Greeks followed them, hacking at them, until they came to the sea. Then the Greeks called for fire and laid hold of the ships.

114. At this point of the struggle the polemarch [Callimachus] was killed, having proved himself a good man and true, and, of the generals, there died Stesilaus, son of Thrasylaus. And Cynegirus, the son of Euphorion, gripped with his hand the poop of one of the ships and had his hand chopped off with an axe and so died, and many renowned Athenians also.

115. In this fashion the Athenians captured seven of the ships. With the rest of the fleet, the barbarians, backing water, and taking from the island where they had left them the slaves from Eretria, rounded Cape Sunium, because they wished to get to Athens before the Athenians could reach it. There was a slander prevalent in Athens that they got this idea from a contrivance of the Alcmaeonidae, in accord with a covenant they had made with the Persians, showed a signal, the holding-up of a shield, for those barbarians who were on shipboard.

116. They rounded Sunium, all right; but the Athenians, rushing with all speed to defend their city, reached it first, before the barbarians came, and encamped, moving from one sanctuary of Heracles – the one at Marathon – to another, the one at Cynosarges. The barbarians anchored off Phalerum – for in those days that was the harbor of Athens – and, after riding at anchor there for a while, they sailed back, off to Asia.

117. In this battle of Marathon there died, of the barbarians, about six thousand four hundred men, and, of the Athenians, one hundred and ninety-two. Those were the numbers of the fallen on both sides."

The victory of the Athenians over the Persians here played a key role in establishing Athens' position as one of the, if not the premier poleis in Classical Greece. This is what we actually understand of the battle: The Athenians held the centre and the right wing, while the Plataians anchored the left wing. The Persians, deceived by a feigned retreat of the centre of the Athenian line, were drawn out of position and flanked by the wings of the Greek line. Surprised by the speed and force of the counterattack, they broke and ran for their ships, beached in the north of the bay. We should not be surprised that a numerically inferior force overcame a larger one: throughout history, the feigned retreat followed by a rapid counterattack has been frequently successful in breaking the momentum and the spirit of an unwary attacker.

After the battle, the fallen Greeks were buried in two tumuli. The 192 Athenians were buried together with mortuary gifts in a tumulus close to where the battle-lines were joined, while the Plataians were buried further west, at the point where they anchored the left wing of the battle-line. (An aside here: the right wing on the battle field is the place of honour and greater danger, because the opposing line has a tendency to sidle left if not rigidly dressed. Why left? Because the sharp pointy things are carried in the right hand of the opposite line, and sensible people prefer not walking into them. So the weight of the enemy attack often lands on the right wing.)

Who wants to tell me about hoplite warfare? No one? Okay, go look up the works of Phillip De Souza. UCD folks, you should be familiar with him. Stand up for the honour of your college and tell me who aren't remembered at Marathon.

Right. Light troops. Lightly armoured skirmishers. Anyone who didn't wear bronze armour. You know why, right? They weren't citizens, or if they were, they weren't part of the hoplite class. They might have been here, too, but if you ain't rich, you ain't nothing.

The Plataian grave mound lies on the road to the Museum. Both grave mounds have been excavated, and the mortuary offerings mostly consisted of weapons and pottery. The Athenian mound had marble stelai on it with the names of the fallen: the stele there at present is a modern imitation of a grave stele found in Athens dating from 510 BC.

The Greeks set up a trophy, a tropaion (turning-point) at the place where the enemy broke and ran. Or as close to it as they could guess, anyway. The remains of the Marathon tropaion are built into a medieval tower, which stood roughly in the middle of the plain, by the church of Panaghia Mesosporitissa (today off the road to Rhamnous).

The Athenian grave-mound at Marathon is not one of the most fascinating pieces of architecture ever. But it is not simple in its significance. It looks forward to the citizen-centred Athenian democracy of Perikles, and at the same time, back to the elite aristocratic ethos of the Archaic period. It commemorates a battle and a burial place, and in later times was a focus for hero-cult. But it is, no less than monuments to the dead of the World Wars, the Cenotaph in London, the Washington monument, a political monument, intimately connected with Athenian self-image. As a hero-cult, it also partook of the elements of ancestor-cult and of tomb cult: the dead of Marathon - and indeed the living: it is said of the tragedian Aeschylus that he would have no other memorial inscribed on his grave-marker than the fact he served at Marathon, and the veterans of Marathon, while they lived, were objects of an extraordinary amount of respect as a class - became the beau ideal of the Athenian polis: they fought for self-determination, eleutheria, the virtues of the new democracy against the tyrannical, barbarous Persian enemy. They beat the dirty foreigner, essentially.

And from at least the 1st century BC they received heroic honours and the attendant offerings. We may see the increased attention to the heroising of the Marathon dead as a response to Athenian national trauma: in 86BC, the Roman general Sulla sacked the city, and the streets, as I told you yesterday in the Kerameikos, ran red with blood.

If you want to know more about the tombs themselves and their relationship with hero cult, I direct your attention to James Whitley's 1994 article in the American Journal of Archaeology, available on JSTOR: "The Monuments That Stood Before Marathon: Tomb Cult and Hero Cult in Archaic Attica."

But before we shuffle along to the museum exhibits, and thence to Gla and Osios Loukos, let's talk a little bit about the memory of Marathon. Anyone want to share their thoughts on that?

And please don't get Marathon confused with Thermopylae and the battle at Plataia. Those happen ten years later, in 480/479. This is the Persian emperor Darius, not Xerxes.

But Marathon is, in memory, intimately connected with those events. Its 2500-year anniversary occurred in 2010, and there was much analysing and talking and commemorating. Marathon, like Salamis, like Thermopylae, like the last days of Constantinople and the burly, moustachioed rebels of the Greek War of Independence and the fall of Mesolonghi, is part of the national self-image, the national myth of Greece. "We few, we lucky few, we band of brothers," turned back the attack of the evil empire. It is impressed into the public consciousness as a clash between the rational democratic Greek west and the superstitious, tyrannical, cruel Persian east - certainly until the latter half of the 20th century, it was consistently analysed even by scholars and academics in those terms. The Greeks won, and SO THE WEST WAS ENLIGHTENED...

That's a very rosy view of the Greeks and a very biased view of the Persians, so bear in mind, when you come across Grand Simple Historical Narratives like this, that the reality's much more complicated, and much less black-and-white. Robert Graves has a poem which probably represents the view from the Persian side of things. It's called "The Persian Version."

Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon
The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon.
As for the Greek theatrical tradition
Which represents that summer's expedition
Not as a mere reconnaisance in force
By three brigades of foot and one of horse
(Their left flank covered by some obsolete
Light craft detached from the main Persian fleet)
But as a grandiose, ill-starred attempt
To conquer Greece - they treat it with contempt;
And only incidentally refute
Major Greek claims, by stressing what repute
The Persian monarch and the Persian nation
Won by this salutary demonstration:
Despite a strong defence and adverse weather
All arms combined magnificently together.

Edited Aug 2, 2012
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The Kerameikos, or "Potters' Quarter," as you can see lies here to the north of the temple of Hephaistos, cut off from the modern agora today by the Peiraeus railway line. The railway line also cuts the line of the Panathenaic Way, which led from the gate (to the north here), south into the agora and up to the acropolis. This area takes its name from the deme of Karemeis, from which we get the word ceramic. Excavations began here in 1870, and continued from 1913 until today under the auspices of the German Institute.

It covered an area from the northwest corner from the agora to site of Plato's Academy outside the city walls, and thus covers a large amount of ground. The cemetary only covered that part of the deme outside the city walls: both Pausanias and Philostratos used the word "Kerameikos" to refer to buildings in the area we now know as the Classical agora. So it's not just a cemetary, people! It was also an industrial quarter. What did it mainly produce? Not pots, surprisingly, according to the evidence. Although during the Roman period, lamp-making was a big thing around here. But since we've mentioned pots, will someone tell me something about black and red figure pottery?

The excavated area here is only a small part of the ancient deme, which was marked by boundary stones, some of which have been preserved. You see here below us the valley of the River Eridanos, marshy and possibly malarial in antiquity. The city wall - part of which, from the time of the Persian wars, you see preserved right here - divided the area in two. Two important gates of the city have been excavated here. The larger eastern one is the Dipylon gate leading to the Academy, near which the famous Geometric Dipylon vase was discovered, which you may see tomorrow on the second floor of the Archaeological Museum. The smaller one is the so-called Sacred Gate, which leads onto the Eleusis road, and through which the River Eridanos exits the city. Between the two gates, just inside the city wall, was the Pompeion, a structure used as the starting point of the Panathenaic procession.

But before - long before - the gates or the wall, the ancient Athenians used the banks of the Eridanos as a burial ground. Single burials have been excavated from as early as the 3rd millennium BC, and from about 1200BC this area seems to have played host to an organised cemetary. We have hundreds of cist graves dating between 1200 and 600 BC. In the Archaic period, he graves were concentrated on the south side of the Eridanos. Ever-increasing grave mounds and ornaments of kouroi and korai resulted in the comparatively huge grave statue, the Dipylon Kouros, now in the NAM. During the Classical period, kouroi went out of fashion, replaced by marble relief stelai. After the Persian destruction of 480, the sculpture was built into the city wall. Two grave mounds covering graves of that time are still visible, the South Hill, which was a state grave for ambassadors of the Peisistratid area, and the burial mound opposite, which probably housed a noble family.

Somewhere in the immediate vicinity, the Classical grave for the most honoured dead - those who had died in battle - were buried at state expense, the Demosion Sema described by Thucydides. This was where Perikles' famous funeral oration was given, but we don't know the exact location. The only mass grave for war dead in Athens that we have is the grave of the Lakedaimonians who died in 403, at the last gasp of the oligarchy.

The richest graves here date from before the late 4th century BC. At this point Demetrius of Phaleron proposed a law against overly-luxurious grave monuments as part of a set of sumptuary laws relating to mourning.

Are you bored yet? A couple more things before I set you loose to look around the site on your own for fifteen minutes. I figure you'll see more on your own than you will if I drone on at you: fifteen minutes precisely, after which we're going to spend fifteen minutes in the museum, and come back to me if you have questions.

Don't run off just yet. Now, the Pompeion. In the Classical period, it consisted of a large courtyard surrounded by columns and some dining rooms in which the festival sacrificial meat for the Panathenaia was eaten by the great and good, the kalos k'agathos, of Athens. The courtyard was adorned with statues and paintings, and the dining rooms with pebble mosaics. The great unwashed masses, who also got to attend at the feast of meat from a hekatomb sacrifice, received meat in the Kerameikos and probably ate in the Dipylon courtyeard. Bones found in excavations of the wall support this.

In 86BC, Sulla's sack of Athens seriously damaged this area. The south wall of the Sacred Gate was breached and pulled dwn, and the Pompeion was destroyed. Plutarch says, "The slaughter in the Agora alone overflowed the area up to the Dipylon with blood, and much blood flowed through the gates into the outer city."

A two-storeyed storehouse with three aisles was built in the area of the Pompeion in the 2nd century CE. Later, after the Herulian invasion in 267, it was destroyed. Potters settled in this area until c.500CE. When the Slavic invasions of the 6th century took place, the Kerameikos was filled in and disappeared under the earth. In the Byzantine period, the church of Agioi Asomatoi was built adjacent: if you go look on your own bat tonight, you'll see how far it is below the modern street level. Well, you can see for yourselves we're below the modern street right now.

Right. Now bugger off and go look at graves. Meet back in front of the museum in fifteen minutes precisely. Don't get lost, don't fall in the Eridanos, and don't step on any tortoises.

We will continue this series later.
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The Theatre of Dionysos.

The Theatre of Dionysos lies within the sanctuary precinct of Dionysos Eleutherios, which dates from the Archaic period. It was first established under the Peisistratids, and it's this area that was at the heart of the celebrations of the Greater or City Dionysia, which took place around March or April yearly. During this festival, it hosted the dramatic competition. Each drama's chorus and production was sponsored by wealthy citizens or occasionally very wealthy and respected metics, resident foreigners. On the first day of the festival, there was a procession in which citizens and metics and so on carried a statue of Dionysos to the Theatre. Large wooden or phalloi were also carried on poles, and a cart pulled an even larger representation of the male genitalia. The bulls for the sacrifice were led along, and the chorus-sponsors, dressed in the richest materials. The choruses then competed in the dithyrambic competitions, and the bulls were sacrificed. After the sacrifice - meat! - a feast. Then there was another procession, most likely involving drunken revelry.

Then, the next day, the judges for the dramatic competition were chosen by lot, and the names of the plays read out. We don't know where this happened in the earliest times, but after the mid-5th-century BC, this happened in the Odeion of Perikles. Which I'm not talking about, but guess what? I wanted a volunteer to look it up and tell us about it tomorrow!

I promise, Athens is the only place where I will make you look stuff up. And I'll buy you icecream for doing so, so I think you're getting the best of this deal.

At least three days of the festival were set aside for tragic competition. Each of the three playwrights permitted to compete put on his three tragedies and one satyr-play on the successive days. Most of our extant Greek tragedies had their first performance here. Women, with the exception of a handful of priestesses, probably didn't form much of the audience - which is something to consider. After 486 BC, comic playwrights were allowed to compete - five of them were allowed to compete, but they only put on one play each. After the high point of Classical tragedy, new plays were written and performed on down to the 2nd century BC, but with frequent restagings of our surviving Classical greats. New plays, it seems, stopped being performed from the 2nd century on. Although the dramas were still produced after this, the prizes went to the sponsors and the actors instead.

The last procession and celebration was held on the final day, when the winners were crowned with ivy. Drinking, dancing, sacred revelry etc: the whole thing lasted about a week. And it had ties to the Eleusinian mysteries. Any volunteers to look up what those ties were? No? Well, we'll talk about it if we get to Eleusis, because I need to say something about the actual archaeology.

Excavations on this site started in 1836, six years after the treaty in which the Ottoman state recognised the newly independent Greek nation, and continued throughout the 19th century. The early theatre was very simple, merely a flat orchestra surrounded by a few rows of wooden benches stretching up the acropolis slope. The skene, or stage-building, was also made of wood. There was also a Peistratid-era temple.

In its present form, the theatre largely dates from the 4th century BC, although some of the wooden structures were replaced by stone before the end of the 5th century. In the 4th century, the politician Lykurgos, who had wrangled himself a job in charge of the city's finances, saw to its monumentalisation. At this time a larger, finer temple of Dionysos was also constructed to house the chryselephantine statue of the god, by the sculptor Alkamenes. This sculpture in fact predated the 4th century temple construction.

I'm not going to give you dimensions and shit like that. If you really want to know how many metres the 4th century theatre measured, you'll go look it up, or, well - look around you. The skene here is the earliest which has standing remains. The skene had projecting wings that probably helped with stage-setting, and look at the seating! Three sections!

Some minor alterations took place in the Hellenistic period, with 67 marble thrones added around the periphery of the orchestra, inscribed with dignitaries' names. It was damaged by the Sullan sack, but repaired. By the 1st century CE, the floor of the orchestra was paved with marble slabs, and an entirely new skene, stage frontage, dedicated to Dionysos and the emperor Nero, was added. Hadrian embellished it with more reliefs. It sometimes housed meetings of the Athenian assembly. In the late 2nd century, a high bema was erected around the (by now semi-circular) orchestra, and after this it was known to play host to Roman amusements like gladiatorial fights and beast-fighting. By the 7th century, it had fallen out of use and been destroyed.

Up on the sope of the acropolis above us, before we stagger onwards towards the shade, is the choregic monument of Thrasyllos, erected in 320/319BC. It enclosed a cave mouth in the natural rock of the acropolis. In Christian times, this place was host to a chapel of the Panaghia of the Cave.

And off over there is the Odeion of Perikles. Behind it, you can follow the road around to the Street of the Tripods, where the choregic and dramatic victors set up dedications to commemorate their success.

You now have five minutes to bugger off and take photographs, before we continue on down to the Acropolis Museum.

We will continue this series tomorrow, in Study tour notes for the Kerameikos.
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The South Slope of the Athenian Acropolis lies at the heart of the sacred architecture of ancient Athens, second only in importance to the top of the acropolis rock. There is evidence here for its habitation from the Late Neolithic, with finds recovered west of the Asklepieion and from a cave north of the Theatre of Dionysos. A Middle Helladic tumulus (1900-1600 BC) was excavated to the west of the Asklepieion at the end of the 19th century, and Late Helladic (1600-1050 BC) wells were uncovered north of the Stoa of Eumenes. Are you looking at your maps? Good. The area here was probably incorporated within the 13th BC fortification wall known as the Pelargikon, and the finds indication that from this point, the South Slope was continuously occupied, although we do not know the forms of its occupation until the Archaic period.

The first structures here were a springhouse and the Archaic, Peisistratid temple of Dionysos. The Peripteros, the road leading around the acropolis rock, was already in existence. Since we're following the road down from the Propylon and the temple of Athena, we won't be taking a strictly chronological approach. So before we talk about the Roman Odeion of Herodes Atticus that you see down there and that's the first stop on our list, I want to tell you about the Byzantine and Ottoman remains from the South Slope, which consist largely of fortifications. In the 13th century CE, the Byzantines fortified the area with a wall, call the Rizokastro wall. During the 14th century, during the time when Frankish crusaders had divvied up the former Byzantine possessions, the area was largely deserted, but when the Ottomans conquered Athens they resettled this area and repaired the part of the wall which enclosed the the Odeion of Herodes Atticus as far as the Theatre of Dionysos. In the 18th century, they built a new wall, called the Haseki wall, after the voivode, or governor, of Athens of that time. So it was a well-defended part of the acropolis citadel.

So, the Odeion of our favourite embellisher of Greek cities, the Athenian orator, Roman senator, and friend of the emperor Hadrian Herodes Atticus. He built it in the second half of the 2nd century CE, in memory of his wife Regilla. Mind you, Regilla's brother accused him of beating her to death and took him to court, so this might have been part of good PR for old Herodes. (He got off, of course. Friend of the emperor, remember?) As you can see, it's pretty impressive. Built to hold an audience of 5000, the seats are made of marble, the orchestra was paved with marble slabs, and the poros limestone wall of the stage building is almost completely preserved to its original height of 28m. It was partially roofed in wood, which probably burned when the Herules (barbarians from the north, oh noes!) invaded in 267 CE. Its restoration to its present state dates to the 1950s, and today it plays host to outdoor performances.

Next on our way down is the terrace of the South Slope, which played host to numerous sanctuaries. The oldest that we know of is a sanctuary to the Nymphs, established in the 7th century. It was an open air sanctuary, and women dedicated loutrophoroi to the nymphs. But! Do not be too certain that it stayed a sanctuary to the Nymphs forever, for the archaeology of the South Slope terrace is much contested, and we have evidence to suggest that the nymphs lost part of their sanctuary to a temple of Aphrodite, who was superseded by Isis by the Roman period. For the sanctuary of Isis and interesting discussion of the problems presented by this terrace, I refer you to Susan Walker's 1979 article in the Annual of the British School at Athens, "A Sanctuary of Isis on the South Slope of the Acropolis," available on JSTOR. Do I have a volunteer to look it up and give us all a summary tomorrow?

Moving along! To your right, you see the remains of the Stoa of Eumenes. Eumenes, like Attalos, was another king from Pergamon, and he donated this stoa around 160BC. It originally had two storyes, the bottom with a Doric exterior colonnade and and Ionic colonnade, and the top with Ionic pillars outside and columns with capitals in the slightly different Pergamene style inside. Interestingly enough, most of the fancy building materials were carved in Pergamon and transported to Athens. According to Vitruvius, audiences from the Odeion and the Theatre took refuge here in bad weather. In the late 3rd century CE, it was dismantled and used as building material for the Late Roman fortification wall, after the Herulian incursion.

And now for a structure very close to my heart, the city Asklepieion of Athens.It is situated between the Peripatos, the processional route which circumnavigated the acropolis, and the acropolis rock. The easternmost end of this terrace is bounded at the south by the retaining wall of the Theatre of Dionysos, and at the north by a cut-away of the facing rock of the acropolis. The terrace adjacent to the east contains the remains of a spring house originally built in the sixth century BCE, and a building of the Ionic order with four rooms behind a porch. It also contains the foundations of temples to Isis and Themis.T he early Asklepieion is defined by the bomos and the bothros, the altar and the sacred pit. The dating of the pit is disputed: its lip can be dated no earlier than 350 BCE, due to the materials and manner of its construction. The function of this pit is obscure, although care was taken to incorporate it into the plan of the later Doric stoa. It is possible that it was a reservoir. It may predate the sanctuary, but was certainly part of the sanctuary from the first quarter of the fourth century BCE, along with the peribolos, or enclosing wall.

The early sanctuary of Asklepios consisted of the altar and the bothros which may have been a water reservoir, and thus used for purification, entered from a wooden propylon and surrounded by an enclosing wall. The unbuilt area would have been planted with appropriate vegetation and very quickly it would have begun to fill up with dedications: pinakes, inscriptions, etc. This is the basic outline of the sanctuary for approximately the first hundred years of its existence. Changes to the sanctuary's plan, including the construction of a temple building and a covered stoa, would take place during the third century BCE.
On the north side of the shrine, a Doric stoa was built circa 300/299 BCE, the remains of which are still to be seen today. This stoa incorporates the bothros at its western end. It also gives access to the Round Spring House on the adjacent terrace by a shallow tunnel in the rear wall, just east of the short axis of the stoa. During the imperial period, this stoa was rebuilt with changes in plan, most probably in the 2nd century CE.

In the centre of the sanctuary are the foundations of a small temple, as well as the altar discussed above. The surviving remains of the temple are not earlier than c.300 BCE. This temple would be equidistant between the Doric stoa and the Corinthian stoa built on the south side of the sanctuary in the first century BC and dated by inscriptions to the reign of Augustus.

Bored yet, ladies and gentlemen? Want to ask me about what Asklepios did? He's a healing deity, and if you're interested in learning more (much more) catch up to me later and I will fill your ears. But it's damn hot, it's been a long day, and we still have the Theatre of Dionysos to talk about before we can flee into the blessed cool of the Acropolis Museum down over there.

Part two to arrive later.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
A few words on the stoas that cluster here, at the NW end of the agora. There were four here in close proximity, the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, the Royal Stoa, and outside the extent of the present archaeological park, to the north across the railway, the Stoa of the Hermes and the Stoa Poikile, or Painted Stoa. These date from the 5th century BC, with the exception of the Royal Stoa, which was already here in the 6th century BC. I'm going to say a few words about the Stoa Poikile, the Stoa of Z.E. and the Royal Stoa. I want a volunteer to look up the Stoa of the Hermes and report back to me tomorrow, when we visit the Kerameikos. I will buy said volunteer an icecream.

Okay, let's start with the Stoa Poikile. You can read all about the paintings in Pausanias: the building presently believed to be the Painted Stoa was uncovered in the excavations of 1981 and much of it still remains under modern buildings. It measures 12.5m in width, and must be at least 36m long, possibly more. Doric in order outside, it had a row of interior Ionic columns. Most of the building was limestone, but the Ionic capitals were marble. It dates to 475-450 BC, and has a really choice location, looking right up the Panathenaic Way to the Acropolis. This stoa, in addition to housing paintings, also housed physical reminders of military triumphs, bronze shields taken from the enemy. The SP had no fixed function, being sometimes used for official functions and legal proceedings, but the written sources make reference to sword-swallowers, beggars, jugglers, fishmongers, and it seems to have usually attracted a crowd. It is associated with the teaching of philosophy, including Cynicism, but most famously - can any tell me? Stoicism.

A volunteer to tell me who began the Stoic school in philosophy, and when? (Zeno from Kition in Cyprus, who came to Athens around 300BC. You can look him up in the writings of Diogenes Laertius.)

The Stoa of Z.E. was not a secular building, being dedicated to the cult of Zeus Eleutherios (Freedom), a cult said to have been founded after the defeat of the Persians at Plataia. A building of the Doric order with two projecting wings, its construction is dated to 430-420BC, during the Peleponnesian war. The facade was, unusually, of Pentelic marble. The building was adorned with the shields of men who'd died while fighting for Athens. Socrates is said to have his friends and pupils there. It may have had a further administrative use as the official gathering-place of the judicial archons, the Thesmothetai.

The Royal Stoa was first built in the Archaic period, towards the end of the 6th century BC. Badly damaged in the Persian sack of 480, it was extensively rebuilt later in the century. Here the king archon, the archon basileus, held office, assisted by two paredroi (assessors). He was responsible for religious matters. In front of the Royal Stoa is a large unworked block of hard limestone, and it is thought that this is the Oath Stone, upon which various magistrates had to take an oath to guard the laws, uphold the constitution of Solon, and things like that. Read your Aristotle and your Plutarch and your Plato, ladies and gentlemen, they will tell you more. Plato, in particular, will tell you that this is where Socrates was indicted for impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens.

Now let us stagger by degrees up the slope to the Hephaisteion. At the top, gather in the shade.

The Hephaisteion is contemporaneous with the buildings of the Periklean building programme, but is not, strictly speaking, part of the rebuilding after the destruction of the Persian invasion. There's no evidence of a prior structure on this site. And the Hephaisteion is one of the most complete surviving temples from the ancient world. It was long identified as the Theseion, and it has been also suggested that it was sacred to Artemis, but by far the most widely accepted identification is that of a temple sacred to Hephaistos and to Athena. The god of the forge and the goddess of crafts together overlook the commercial heart of the ancient city. Bronze- and iron-working pits and slag have been found on the slopes.

Except for the Parthenon, the Hephaisteion carries more sculptural decoration than any other temple. It owes its present state of preservation to its early (7th century CE, at best guess, dedicated to Saint Giorgos) conversion into a church. It's built largely of Pentelic marble, with the except of the limestone lower step, and sculptural decoration, which was carved of marble from the islands. The metopes of the front frieze carry the labours of Herakles, the easternmost metopes on both sides labours of Theseus. Other sculptural decoration includes the Centauromachy. Inside the temple were statues of Hephaistos and Athena in bronze by the sculptor Alkamenes.

The area around the temple was landscaped into a garden in antiquity. This has been reconstructed, insofar as possible, and the plants you see around you are as close as can be got to the contents of an ancient Greek temple garden.

A few more words before we release you to poke around on your own, visit the museum in the Stoa of Attalos - visit it! no skiving off for beer and crisps first - and have lunch. I want you to look down into the centre of the agora. No, not right now, but on your way back down. From the first century CE, it became a very busy place. The 5th century temple of Ares was taken up and moved stone by stone into the centre of the Agora in the 1st century CE. An odeion was built in front of the Middle Stoa. More temples and altars and statues were set up. A library - the library of Pantainos - was built south of the Stoa of Attalos. It became so busy, in fact, that much of the city's commercial enterprises moved off east to the Roman Forum.

In the Late Roman period, the Odeion, Middle and South Stoas were demolished and replaced by a large gynasium. It was no longer the city's beating heart, and Athens was no longer the proudest city of Greece. That honour moved north, to Constantinople, and during the Byzantine and then Ottoman period, the agora became a residential area. The 19th century, after the Greek state achieved its independence, saw renewed interest in the Greek past, and towards the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, the inhabitants were relocated and excavations began.

Now go away and for Zeus's sake remember to drink lots of water.

We will continue this endeavour in "Notes for a tour of the South Slope of the Acropolis." Later. Tomorrow later.
hawkwing_lb: (Helen Mirren Tempest)
Entering the Agora of Athens.

Enter from the gate by Adrianou. This tour is not going to be strictly chronological - in fact, we're going to hop all over. Further reading: start with JM Camp Excavations in the Athenian Agora, and move on to Volume IX in the ASCSA's Athenian Agora series, available as .pdf from JSTOR.

We enter by the Stoa of Attalos, which was reconstructed in the 1950s and now houses the Agora museum. It's a Hellenistic stoa, of a size to dwarf the stoas previously to be seen in the Agora, built in the 2nd century BC under the patronage of Attalos II, king of Pergamon (d.136 BC). (Historical note: Roman domination towards the end of the 2nd century BC.) It is contemporary with another massive stoa which was built towards the south and is known on plans as the Middle Stoa. These giant stoas changed the pre-existing function of a stoa: instead of being a discrete building with a few functions, they became the background and setting for numbers of other monuments.

The Stoa of Attalos dominates the standing remains of the Agora today. Imagine in antiquity another stoa of similar size, probably funded by a different monarch, at right-angles to it to the south, on the other side of the Panathenaic way.

Okay, so, the Stoa of Attalos. Throughout history a considerable part of it remain visible and standing. Originally it measured 116x20m, and today's is a reasonably faithful reconstruction, apart from the addition of rear windows and the fact that the lion-head spouts which drain water off the roof were made without tongues, and thus instead of throwing water clear of the building, tend to drool and drip water onto the steps below. Two storeys high, the main colonnade Doric with 45 columns, the hall of the stoa divided into two aisles with 22 Ionic columns, twenty-one rooms of varying width behind, with wooden doors, and light admitted through narrow slits in the back walls. The upper floor reached by stairways at either end of the colonnade, where the same arrangement was repeated. The rooms in this stoa were shops, probably rented out by the state to acquire revenue: in these forty-two individual shops under one roof, we see the precursor of the modern shopping centre. (There is nothing new under the sun.) It survived until it was destroyed in the 3rd century CE and the back wall incorporated into the Post-Herulian Wall.

This is a good time to digress about the Agora as a whole, its purpose and construction. Stand in the shade of the reconstructed SA. Right. What's an agora?

Right. The agora is the business and civic heart of a Greek polis. In Athens, the acropolis took religious primacy, but the Agora played host to many important civic festivals, and the Street of the Panathenaia passes through it from the South East corner to the North West, heading out towards the Dipylon Gate. The Athenian agora started life as a marshy plain, and ended life as a residential district of Ottoman and then independent Greece: at the start of the 20th century, the inhabitants were relocated, and in the 1930s large-scale excavation began under the aegis of the ASCSA.

The earliest evidence of human activity here dates from the Neolithic. A large Mycenaean cemetary, centred on the slopes of the Areopagus, covered part of this area, and burials continued into the Geometric. There was also some settlement: we have early well-shafts indicating this. But this site that we're standing on wasn't the first commercial centre of ancient Athens: in the Archaic period the administrative centre lay to the east below the citadel. Ancient sources testify to this, placing it directly in the neighbourhood of the Aglaurion [a sanctuary beneath the Erectheion], and they are supported by the find of an inscription in a cave on the east slope of the Acropolis. Up until now no archaeological remains of the Archaic agora have been found.

The partial removal of the Agora to the flat area north of the Acropolis may be connected with the beginning of Attic democracy under Kleisthenes; perhaps the Agora used earlier by the Peisistratids was integrated into the administrative centre of the new constitution. Some important functions did remain in the Archaic Agora: the Prytaneion continued to be there and the young ephebes were also sworn in there until late Antiquity, and the list of their names exhibited there engraved on marble stelai.

From the late sixth century BC the Agora developed as the centre of the city of Athens; the area was marked off with boundary stones (‘I am the boundary of the Agora’ is inscribed on them) from the public streets surrounding it, and the first civic buildings were put up for the administration of the city-state. They lay on the west side at the foot of the hill of Kolonos Agoraios, where we see the Hephaisteion.

The thing to remember about the Agora is that it's not a static site. Some of the buildings here were built early on and lasted for centuries, like the Hephaisteion, and a couple of the buildings we're going to look at, the Stoa of Zeus and the Royal Stoa. Others were dismantled and built over, and there were always buildings being erected and being taken (or falling) down. It's what makes it such a complicated site, and it's what means I get turned around here a lot.

Now, let's walk around the south edge of the agora and peer at the remains of the South Stoa. We'll walk around the south, pass under the lee of the Kolonos Agoraios, and finish up at the Hephaesteion. After which you'll have some time to poke about on your own, see the museum, and go get lunch: we will reconvene at the Stoa of Attalos after lunch to proceed to the Acropolis.

There were two South Stoas on this site. The first, SSI, dates from the Classical period. It's constructed is dated to 430-420 BC, during the Peleponnesian war. It seems to have served an official commercial function, and consisted of a double colonnade, Doric in order, with sixteen rooms behind. The lower parts were built of large squared blocks, but the upper were of mud brick covered in plaster, evidence of economising. SSI stood for about 270 years, but about 150 BC it was dismantled to be replaced by the second, Hellenistic South Stoa (SSII). Evidence from excavation suggests SSII served as a public commercial building, with a large number of bronze coins found. The doors to the rooms are offset, allowing the installation of couches for symposiastic dining. At a later date some of these rooms were fitted with simple benches instead of dining couches. It has been suggested that this is where some of the officials of some of the public boards and commissions who oversaw day-to-day civic business held office and dined at public expense. An inscription, found in 1967 close nearby, adds weight to this, since it recoards the handing over of official weights and measures to the metronomoi, the inspectors of weights and measures.

To the east of the SS very close by, is building first excavated in the 1950s and identified as the city Mint, where coinage was produced. It lies between the Panathenaic way, to its north, and an archaic fountainhouse. Inside the building were found furnaces for bronze-working, slag, water-basins, unstruck coin-blanks and other such things. From this evidence, we know that Athenian bronze coins were struck here in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, tho' the building itself is earlier, and according to pottery finds under its lowest floor, should be dated to c400 BC. This is earlier than many numismatists would prefer to date the striking of bronze coinage by the Athenians, although there are a handful of 5th century literary mentions of coins known as "chalkous," bronzes.

To the west of the SS, there stood the Heliaia, or lawcourts of the city of Athens. This building was one of the oldest constructions in the Agora, and unlike several other buildings, wasn't done away with until the Late Roman period.

Now, the first building in the lee of the Kolonos Agoraios that we're interested in is the Tholos. It's the headquarters of the prytaneis, which was essentially the executive committee of the Boule. Volunteers to explain what the boule and the prytaneis did? If I don't get volunteers, I'm going to conscript you. (Contingent of 50 men from each of 10 tribes. During the 35-36 days a tribal contingent held this presidency, 50 councillors were required to eat in the Tholos, and at least one third of them had to remain there overnight.) Essentially, it served as a dining hall.

In early times they were fed cheese, barley cakes, olives, leeks and wine, though by the late 5th century the menu also included meat and fish.

The Bouleterion, both the New Bouleterion and the Old Bouleterion, are just north of the Tholos. The Old Bouleterion dates to the 6th century BC. The New Bouleterion was built between 415 BC and 406 BC immediately west of it, and is very poorly preserved. Most likely the councillors sat on simple wooden benches. Pausanias describes it thus:

"Nearby is a bouleterion of the 500 who serve on the council of Athens for a year. In it stands a wooden image of Zeus Boulaios, an Apollo by Peisias, and a Demos by Lyson. The Thesmothetai were painted by Protogenes of Kaunos, Olbiades painted the picture of Kallippos, who led the Athenians to Thermopylai to guard against the incursion of the Gauls into Greece."

The Boule met daily except during festivals. A volunteer to explain the difference between the boule and the ekklesia? (Ekklesia all citizens, met every ten days to vote on legislation proposed by the Boule, met on the Pnyx.)

The archives of the city were kept in the Old Bouleterion even when it was in use for the Boule, and remained there after the construction of the new Boule. It became known as the Metroon, the sanctuary of Rhea, mother of the gods.

Directly in front of the New Bouleterion and intimately associated with the heart of Athenian democracy is the monument to the Eponymous Heroes. The earliest references to this altar come from Aristophanes in the 420s BC, although its present location dates only to the years around 330. Volunteer: what can you tell me about the Eponymous Heroes?

They're a result of the reforms of Kleisthenes, c.508 BC. He's credited with abolishing the old four Athenian tribes and created ten new ones, which were then associated with thirty geographical demes, ten each from city, inland, and coast. Membership in the tribes was hereditary and citizenship required tribal membership. Citizens fought in the army as part of tribal contingents, sat in the boule in tribal contingents, sacrificed to the eponymous hero and ate the resulting meat as part of tribal contingents, forming bonds of new loyalty. In order to properly sanctify this new arrangement, Kleisthenes sent the names of one hundred early Athenian heroes to Delphi, and the oracle picked out ten after whom the new tribes were named. The 4th century monument of the Epoynous Heroes was a long statue base which carried bronze statues of each of the ten heroes, with tripods at either end, standing on a high pedestal about 16mx2m, the whole base surrounded by stone fence posts with wooden railings. Notices concerning members of the tribes would be hung on the front of the base beneath the appropriate tribal hero, like lists for military conscriptions and public honours. General announcements, like the legislation to be submitted to the ekklesia, was also displayed here several days in advance.

I end part one here. Part two will complete the tour.
hawkwing_lb: (Helps if they think you're crazy)
I'm running out of things to do, though, so it's probably a good thing I'm headed back to Athens tomorrow and home on Wednesday. Since I have a four-day tolerance for sun-and-sea relxation, after which I start twitching and looking for work, either in the form of museum visits or daytrips or lengthy hikes.

And since I'm running out of money (dear god, I should not have been seduced so by the consumable souvenirs, but so pretty, so tasty, and my grandmother needs something), I'm not about to take any trips. Or hire any bikes.

(Quince and figs preserved in honey. Alcoholic stuffs. Very pretty postcards. MY MONEY WHY DO I SPEND IT?!)

Heads up: Tor.com will be running a semi-regular column by me from next week, in which I stir shit and talk about women and feminism and things. I appear to have reasonably close to carte blanche with topics. But I do not think I will spend much time reading the comments.

Now there are ringing church bells outside and I am tired and slightly hungry. So I think perhaps I will go and nap and then have some food.


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