Emma on Day Twelve: Epidaurus and Corinth

Bright sunlight, long windy roads that stretch far into the distance, and more mountains than you can count. The bus ride through mainland Greece feels like a vacation while staring out at a green screen…the views cannot be possible. Today will be the last day of touring on the bus and enjoying the landscape because tonight we reach our last location which is Athens. However first we will visit two famous and exciting sites: Epidaurus and Corinth – two popular sites in the ancient world. I’m very excited.

Epidaurus was a small city state in ancient Greece on the Argolid Peninsula in the Saronic Gulf. The Asklepieion at Epidaurus was the most celebrated healing centre of the Greek world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. It was so cool to see such a place that held such significance for so many people. The site also features the most well preserved theatre in all of Greece! Visitors are allowed to fully interact with the site and are encouraged to try out the theatre’s excellent acoustics. The group took turns performing at the theatre however many of us were distracted because we found two very playful, very cute kittens. How could we not be distracted??

On the way to Corinth the group stopped for lunch at a small cafe beside the Isthmus Canal. The word ‘isthmus’ comes from the ancient greek word meaning “neck”. It is a narrow canal that connects the Peloponnese with the rest of mainland Greece. Simply because of that the canal has always been very important. The Isthmus Canal is a wonder within itself.  It is an extremely high, 6,343 metres long, canal that also seems too narrow to fit the massive ships that pass through it. I met a man named Kostos who worked at the cafe and he told me that the canal was used in the tv show The Amazing Race, and the participants had to bungee jump off of it. Would you bungee jump off of it?

We got to Corinth around 2 pm and I almost immediately went into the museum. The museum currently is featuring two graves recently found near the site. The skeletons are of two adult males both who died around the age of 35. One of the skeletons had osteoarthritis due to repeating an action with his right arm over and over his whole life. I personally love the work that science can do with ancient bones these days. I love knowing what people ate and how they lived. I think that it adds a certain concrete knowledge to the life of the ancients.

The actual site of Corinth is very well preserved, I was happy to see. It features a stoa and a famous road named the Lechaion Road which was the first road that connected Corinth to its port. The road still exists and is amazing. The feeling of walking down the road which once would have been bustling with people and shops is a wondrous feeling.  Today was an amazing day.

If anyone reading this wants to travel to mainland Greece I highly recommend visiting Epidaurus and Corinth. The two sites are well preserved similar to how they would have been in the ancient world. It was a magical and fun day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Keegan on Day Eleven: Racing at Nemea

I’m a competitive person. Ask anyone. I’m the most competitive. Put me against any other competitive person and I’ll be the most competitive every time times infinity. I’ll trash talk anyone. I’ll trash talk my own mother. I’ll trash talk the competition into the GROUND.

This is the attitude with which I entered the site of Nemea. I was in the place where thousands of athletes had walked before, cheered by even more spectators. The changing rooms, mostly in ruin, stand before the entrance to the tunnel where the athletes walked into the stadium. Dr. Glazebrook herded us, rowdy as we were, into the tunnel. Around us were kalos inscriptions, praising one man or another. The walls reminded us that we were retracing two thousand year old steps.

The few of us who were competing today ran out to the sound of “We Will Rock You”, pushing each other as we ran for the best spots on the starting line. Everyone else gathered along the sides and at the finish line, the guard blew the whistle, and we were off. Running in 30 Celsius is not easy and Will runs like Hermes’ sandals are on his feet, so I came in second. We posed for victory pictures, with Will crowned as he deserved.

We walked to the Nemea sanctuary next and wound between the fallen column drums. Nemea was a nice site because we were allowed to walk on the old temple of Zeus. Usually, the guards blow whistles at you if you touch the temples, but here we were allowed to stand on the temple. Three of the columns survived upright to the modern day and they reconstructed several more so I really got an impression of the height and majesty of the place. I tried to catch several lizards and skinned my knee but it was worth it. I mean, I didn’t catch a lizard, but I was close. People were impressed. I was definitely the closest to catching a lizard.

We were back at the hotel by noon, a true rarity, and our bus driver offered to drive some of us to the beach at 2 if we wanted to go. We quickly ate, changed, and eight of us headed to the bus and Panos, our super cool driver, took us to a beach on the other side of the mountain.

The water was warm and clear. It became an intense competition to drag everyone under the water and an hour and a half passed without us noticing. We went back to the hotel covered in salt and tired.

Later, my friend and I explored the city of Napflion and went in a very cool small bar called Lathos full of interactive art made by the owner. The two of us were the only ones in the bar and we danced to the records the owner played and talked to him about his bar.

This day summed up my favourite parts of this trip. We had fun living history and also exploring the culture of modern Greece. We learned about the past through physical experience and I had a time to bond with the amazing people I’ve spent the past two weeks with. The beauty of Greece is in its history and in the people you see it with.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Shealin on Day Fourteen: The End of a Journey

Well, the day has come. Today (June 18th) was our last day exploring sites together. It was very bittersweet, as most of us are exhausted and missing our families, but still loving every minute of the trip and not being quite ready to give it up.

We started our day off leaving the hotel to get onto a bus that would take us out of Athens to see our final round of sites. Throughout most of our trip, it was a daily bus journey across Greece, and we all bonded with our amazing bus driver, and were sad to say goodbye when we arrived back in Athens. To our surprise and excitement, we lucked out and got him as our driver for the final day as well!

After reuniting with our driver, we boarded the bus and headed out to our first stop of the day, Brauron. Our peer, Rick Castle (Personal blog: https://troystory3blog.wordpress.com/ ), gave us some information about the history of the sites, its uses, the mythology behind it, and also helped orient us to the different buildings located around us. The site was a rural location dedicated to the goddess Artemis Brauronia. Every four years a festival was held that was representative of the maturation of young girls into a marriageable age. The girls would wear robes and walk through a ceremonial procession, then shed their robes and dedicate locks of hair and childhood toys to Artemis.

Figure 1: Rick presenting to the group at Brauron.
Figure 4: Side view of Temple to Artemis at the site of Brauron.
Figure 3: Bridge into Sanctuary at Brauron. Only example of a classical age bridge. Wheel tracks visible on the stone.
Figure 2: Pillars ahead of excavated dining halls at site of Brauron.

Our next stop was Thorikos. This area was different than others we had seen, as it was part of the industrial area on the coast rather than the urban. This was the site of many mines for the Ancient Athenians. We spent awhile jumping around and exploring all the levels of rock, and found one mine shaft (with a grate over it) that we got to look down into. I found the levels of stratification in the rock to be especially interesting.

Figure 5: Students exploring the site of Thorikos on a very overcast day.

After Thorikos we stopped by the Archaeological Museum of Laurion. This museum was smaller than most of the ones we’d seen previously, but it still had some lovely sculptures, and was very airy and light inside.

Before our last stop of the day we took a break at a little seaside café, and some of us went exploring on the shore while we waited for our food. Keegan and I discovered this little hidden cave, that we enjoyed sitting in while admiring the view.

Figure 8: Bonus picture of the adorable dog that greeted us when we got the cafe.
Figure 7: Keegan exploring on the rocks. Temple to Poseidon visible on hill in background.
Figure 6: View from the hidden cave.

We continued on to the VERY LAST SITE OF OUR ENTIRE TRIP! A very sad realization we had on the bus up the hill to the site of Sounion, Temple to Poseidon. This temple was uniquely positioned on top of an outcropping of rocks, with the sea on three sides. Although it was pouring rain and absolutely freezing (a dramatic change from the intense heat we had grown accustomed to)  we stuck it out on top of the cliff and took some pictures while examining the temple.

Figure 9: Temple to Poseidon at the site of Sounion.

In the evening we met up again and headed out to our final ‘family’ dinner. We had traditional Greek foods of tzatziki, saganki, souvlaki, and moussaka. After dinner, we took our last official group photo together.  Everyone was feeling a little sad, while still enjoying each others company, and I might have a cried at the table. We split up afterwards since some people needed to pack and others finished off some souvenir shopping.

Figure 10: The last group photo of our odyssey.

For the last time, too many of us crowded into one hotel room for a late-night hangout. We had the goal of pulling an all nighter so we would sleep on the plane (that didn’t work out) but we did say goodbye to the people who had middle of the night flights to their next destination.

The friendship and experiences gained on this trip are invaluable, and I hope my classmates know how much they mean to me. We’ve been through a lot together, and whether laughing or crying, or trying not to yell at each other out of hunger and exhaustion, this trip would not have been as amazing as it was without each of them.

Our professor Dr. Glazebrook, and TA Stephanie, did a phenomenal job of guiding us through Greece, and were always there for us no matter what or when we needed something.

A final thanks to all of you for following along on our journey. With that, the Brock Odyssey of 2017 comes to a close. Safe travels everyone.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Michael on Day Ten: Tiryns, Mycenae, and the Argive Heraion

June 14

We left in the morning for Mycenae the great fortress of King Agamemnon with its gigantic cyclopean walls and imposing lions gate but first we stopped at the acropolis of Tiryns built with huge walls and considered the birthplace of Herakles in Greek myth.

The acropolis at Tiryns dates back to the Mycenaean period which ranged from 1,600 – 1,050 BC. The acropolis was fortified with walls made of huge stones. The stones were so big that later Greeks didn’t think it was possible for humans to move them and so said that they were built by cyclops which are giants with one eye and thus these types of walls received the name cyclopean walls. On top of the acropolis little more remains than the base of the various buildings that once stood there. We left the site by 10:00 am, but it was already very hot and everyone was feeling it.

We made one more stop before Mycenae at the treasury of Atreus. The treasury is a tholos tomb which means that it is basically a giant stone beehive shaped chamber buried underground. The treasury also has a small room off to the side of the main burial room. The treasury is attributed to belonging to Atreus who was the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus who were two important characters in the story of the Trojan war.

Finally we arrived at Mycenae with its daunting cyclopean walls and lions’ gate. Same as the acropolis of Tryns, Mycenae is from the Mycenaean period and was one of the most powerful cities in Greece during that time. The city was excavated in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann who is infamous for the way he tore through sites to find treasure often destroying other artifacts in the process. There were also graves found inside the city walls which is unusual for the Greeks in this time period. There were also a number of houses and storerooms found in the city as well as a palace and a cistern. Although the walls and gate are pretty well intact most of the buildings are just the foundation and bottom of the walls surviving.

After we finished exploring the ruins of Mycenae we visited the small museum they had on site which included various pottery and figures as well as a replica of the mask of Agamemnon. The mask of Agamemnon was given that name when Heinrich Schliemann found it during his excavation of Mycenae and he said it was the death mask of Agamemnon, but we know now that it is not since Agamemnon is a legendary figure.

After Mycenae we went to the Argive Heraion which is the remains of a temple of Hera. While on site Dr. Dimitri Nakassis talked to us about his work and archaeological surveys. Archeological surveys allow for a much broader sweep of an area by searching the surface for large concentrations of old pottery and other artifacts instead of digging small trenches to try and find ruins. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for the evening.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Adelina on Day Seven: Bassae and Messene

June 11

We started our day in the Neda hotel in Olympia. We packed up and headed out to the bus to take a trip to the temple of Apollo  at Bassae. The trip was a two hour long bus ride which allowed some of us to enjoy the scenery where we saw more Mountainous range, goats and other types of nature that we did not see in places such as Athens. It also allowed some of us to catch up on sleep.
Driving through the mountains was a very different and overwhelming experience. To be on a very small road on the side of a mountain did not feel all too safe, however, our bus driver Panos was fantastic getting us to the temple. The views we were able to witness from driving along the mountains were incredible.  Once we had arrived, The temple  was explained by Dr. Glazebrook and Teagan that it is one of the only temples that is still standing with most of its original limestone and marble.  Dr. Glazebrook had mentioned that it is the first world heritage site designation in Greece because of how well preserved the temple is.
While discussing  we learned that the temple has been covered by a protective tent and any reconstruction the temple has gone through it is primarily to preserve the existing architecture. They had done this through beams and other scaffolds in order to keep the temple from shifting or breaking any further.  The temple was very overwhelming to see because this was the first temple we have seen mostly intact and which did not have large pieces of new marble fixing the temple to show visitors its original form.
While at the temple we encountered very interesting background music that made me feel a little uncomfortable because it made the ambiance of the temple very creepy. While looking at the temple I thought one very interesting feature was the use of all three orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) throughout the temple.
After the temple we were back on the bus and drove a few more hours to the site of Messene.
The site of Messene was a very interesting site to visit because it was one of the first sites that was very interactive.  While walking through the site there were a few areas that I found extremely interesting.  First off, the bath house that was located in the Agora of Messene still had most of its heat stones intact.  Next at the site of Messene another aspect that I found very interesting to see was the stadium.
Walking through the stadium was overwhelming because of how large the stadium is  and how intact the seats and stadium are.  Sitting in the stadium I felt that I truly was a part of history watching games and athletes show their strengths.  Later on in the day after the site at Messene we went to the location of the gates at Messene, where we had Mike present on the gates and he explained how the gates were used as a well made fortification and had many different watch towers. Today when going to the site most of the gate is no longer intact, but what is still standing is a sight to see.
Overall as the day went on it was really interesting to see both the temple of Apollo and the site of Messene.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Mosaic of Bacchus in Corinth

Within the walls of a Roman villa in the Greek city of Corinth lies an intricate and stunning mosaic. The head of the god Bacchus is centered in a series of overlapping petals made from triangles; near-hypnotic in their layout. The work is precise; each tile cut and placed with extreme care. Dating from the second century CE, the mosaic exemplifies Roman craftsmanship and their enduring interest in Greek culture, despite their distrust of it.

Bachus Mosaic from Corinth, copyright I. Sh.

By the 2nd-3rd century CE, the art of mosaic had been mastered by the Romans. Small tiles of stone and glass, called tesserae, were hand-cut to specific sizes and laid out by hand by the artist. In this mosaic, Bacchus is clearly defined; his hair is full and his eyes heavy-lidded, adding an air of thoughtfulness and detachment to the god of revelry and fertility. The garland on his head, colourful and vibrant, contrasts with the darker tones of his face and hair. This contrast showcases the duality of Bacchus; he could be full of joy and life one moment, but have the detachment needed to make mothers kill their sons in the next.

The god’s face is neither happy nor angry, but holds the potential for either. Radiating out from him are petals made from triangles and negative space that are difficult to ever focus fully on. They, quite simply, confuse and marvel, just as the god himself is meant to. This layout was common in the second century CE, as seem by this Medusa mosaic.

Mosaic with head of Medusa, copyright J. Paul Getty Museum

Mosaics were quite common in the Roman era, yet the choice of Bacchus is curious as his cults were often looked at with suspicion. As a god who promoted ekstasis, the state of being outside ones’ self, Bacchus was everything the Romans feared of the Greeks. They saw his followers as overindulgent, unrestrained, and very dangerous to the strict social boundaries of Rome. In fact, a few hundred years earlier the cult of Bacchus had been banned from Rome and a tamer ritual set up in its place.

Did the interlocking lines of the mosaic remind the audience of the dizzying effects of wine? Was the god’s averted gaze and uninterested eyes serve as a warning of the dangers of excess, or as an invitation to his less-hectic world? Were the bells framing the piece joyful music or a loud warning? There is no inscription to offer any insight.

Some of these questions can be answered with an examination of the site. I would love to see if it is in a temple of Bacchus or someone’s home.  If it was part of state religion, it could be a warning. As a god, Bacchus still had to be worshipped and honoured, but perhaps the mosaic suggests caution and the danger of excess. If personal, it could be a celebration of the duality of the god and the embracing of that message. It could also suggest a love of Greek culture and ideals with an interest in displaying them. As it is most likely in a villa, the room in which it is placed could be interesting; was it in a dining room or a private room?

I am very excited to see this mosaic in person and learn more about the site in which it was found.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mycenaean Warrior Vase, 12th Century BCE

Myceanean Warrior Vase From 12th Century BCE

Warrior vase also known as ‘House of the Warrior Krater’ found in the Mycenaean Acropolis 12th century BCE.

This vase was found in the Mycenaean period around the acropolis and was known as the ‘Warrior Krater’. Kraters were large vessels that were used to mix and dilute wine with water.  This krater is well known because of the figures that are depicted along the side; the large krater depicts men in full armour.  The men in the depiction are wearing helmets, cuirass, greaves, shields and spears as they are departing for battle. The men have a sack of supplies that are hanging from their spears.

Along with the men walking into battle on the side of the vessel there is a woman who is raising her hand to gesture to the men.  According to the National Museum, the woman is either raising her hand as a farewell or as a mourning gesture.  On the back of the vessel there are five men also walking into battle, however, again according to the National Museum, the men seem to be dressed in similar attire.  The differences you see with these men are that they are wearing a different looking helmet and are raising their spears.  The last depictions that can be found on the vessel are on its handles.  There is a relief bovine head and pairs of painted birds upon each.

This vessel can be dated back to the 12th century BCE and was made with clay.  Mycenaean Clay is well known to have been wheel made and are the best examples of being fine- textured buff clay.  The pottery that was created by the Mycenaean’s such as the warrior Krater that is being discussed, were often self-slipped with different types of red and  black paint. These Kraters and other types of pottery that was being produced during the Mycenaean period were often made by full time craftsmen in specialized workshops.

The kraters were often a typical item that was produced during this time and periods that followed, especially when we see the symposium developing in the Archaic and Classical periods. Wine  as well as drinking wine was a clear past time of the ancient world so it made sense as to why Kraters which were made to mix the water and wine was a typical item found.

The Warrior Krater is a good example of what the Mycenaean’s found important in their society.  The depictions of the warriors demonstrate how they viewed war and their warriors.  According to Louise Schofield, when looking at these remains there is an overwhelming impression that the Mycenaean’s were fierce warlike people and they were glorified in battle. (The Mycenaeans, 2007) This is important because we see the depiction of men going into battle on different types of pottery for example the Warrior Vase.

Not only does the Krater give a glimpse into how they viewed war, it also gives a better understanding of how their warriors were expected to be dressed.  The depiction shows the warriors wearing kilts which according to Rodney Castleden meant these warriors were of a higher status.  It is argued that higher status warriors wear kilts with chequered braid and a fringe around them, which we see on the warrior vase.

I think if we look at the object more closely in person we can ask the question why did they choose to depict the warriors and what else can the warriors tell us about the Mycenaean culture?  I am most looking forward to being able to see the handles of the vase in person to see a closer look at the bovine relief and the birds, in hopes to learn more about why the artist chose to paint both the birds and bovine and what the symbolism behind them are.

Reference list

National Museum

http://www.namuseum.gr/collections/prehistorical/mycenian/mycenian08-en.html

Castle, Rodeney. Mycenaeans; New York: Routledge, 2005

Schofield, Louise. The Mycenaeans. 2007

Feuer, Bryan. Mycenaean Civilization. 2004

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Artemision Bronze Object Analysis

The Greeks had many artistic works developed in the 5th c. BCE such as the 460-450 BEC bronze Poseidon/Zeus. The Artemision bronze statue of Poseidon or Zeus (Fig. 1) was discovered in the sea. The statue was pulled out of the sea close to Cape Artemision. The statue is made almost completely from bronze and is over six and a half feet in height, and the arm span of the statue measures almost identical in length at six feet and three-quarters inches long. The smaller details such as lips and nipples are copper, while the eyes were ivory or bone. The statue is unique in its godly content, but there were other bronzes that resembled it in texture and nudity, such as the Riace Warriors made within the same decade as the Poseidon/Zeus figure. The figure would have been an offering to whichever god, whether it be Zeus or Poseidon. Offerings would have been given for numerous reasons, whether it be for a blessing or giving thanks to the gods.

(Figure 1, image found at: http://ancientrome.ru/art/artwork/sculp/gr/bronze/bro036.jpg)

The statue is of a muscular man presumably representing an Olympian god. The statue is completely nude and is yet another depiction of the ideal male figure that the Greeks were so interested in. His long and curly beard suggests either Poseidon or Zeus as well as his broad stature. His expression is subtle, but it is clear that he is focused. He is positioned in such a way that presents him as hunting, either an animal, or an enemy. Right arm outstretched to balance himself, one foot facing forward towards his target, the other tilted out in the same direction of his muscular torso. His left arm is held over his head, muscles flexing, holding the weapon he would have been holding had it survived with him. His hand is clenched as he readies himself to use the weapon to strike.
One of the key issues surrounding this bronze statue is the controversial debate about who the subject is. The body features and the facial details suggest that the statue is of an Olympian god, but it is difficult to determine which one. The two most common theories are that it is either Poseidon or Zeus. His musculature could be an identifying feature to either of the proposed gods. His stance, however, resembles that of Zeus. His outstretched arm makes him appear to be throwing a weapon. Poseidon’s typical weapon is a trident, but if the statue was holding a trident, in order for it to be being used as a weapon proportionately, the trident would be stabbing him in the back of the head. The reason why Zeus seems more plausible is because of his signature lightning bolt. The proportions of the statue suggest that whatever he is holding would be a small weapon such as a lightning bolt and not a lengthy one like a trident. I am hopeful that when I see it on-site in Athens at the National Museum that I can get a better sense of the statues nature and be able to make my own assumptions about which of the gods it is meant to represent.

Sources consulted:
http://ancientrome.ru/art/artwork/sculp/gr/bronze/bro036.jpg
Greek Art and Archaeology, Pedley. 2012

-Kait Hall

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Justin on Day Nine: The Miracle of Water

June 13

In “The Crying Of Lot 49”, which I finished as we made our way up mountains, Thomas Pynchon defines a miracle as “an intrusion from another world,” and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Back in Pylos: lying in bed, not sleeping—deathless; a mummy in a tomb of starchy linen—the alarm goes off, and I don’t move. I wait for the kinetic force of history to dam up and carry me along to the next point on the timeline without any personal effort, for events to build up and wash me away to the bathroom so I can get ready. This is dream logic; eventually I’m going to have to drip out of bed on my own.

History, which we’ve been studying so extensively through architecture—ruined, covered in graffiti—is a sort of dream. Like waking up and trying to remember every detail, but only having that bit about the beluga and your mother, we reconstruct entire lives, fathers, sons, civilizations. History exists in another world, below your feet, beneath Greece’s thin topsoil, on the top of Mount Lykaoin, somewhere in the Middle East. The ruins are firmly here, in the same universe as us, but history is only guesses, artifacts, rebuilt temples and tantalizing, nearly invisible glimpses at a past subconscious.

And, paradoxically, history (or rather, the causal relationships between events that make up history) appears rigid, inevitable. Our hindsight plays tricks on us, making it difficult to imagine the uncertainty, for example, of an Athenian at Salamis. They had no idea they were going to win, except the words of an oracle, which some Athenians interpreted in a completely different direction. For us, the Greeks were always going to win. X leads to Y which leads to Z.

History, or our understanding of history, is somewhere between a dream and carved in stone. History—and Thales would love this—is water.

For one, it’s everywhere. It’s easier to find history in Greece than it is to find potable water. Just look down while you walk and it’s inevitable that you’ll find a potsherd. But more than that, history is mutable. Each new piece of evidence alters our understanding, even if only slightly (okay, maybe not potsherds at this point, but for an archaeological virgin like me they’re still fascinating).

I lost my water bottle yesterday. I think about that as I force myself out of bed, reliving the dream I just had about the dead cockroach we saw in Delphi transposed (as if carried along by water) into the corner of our Pylos hotel room. In that dream I was running to the bathroom, obviously to get away from the roach. In the dream I had my water bottle.

But is it actually obvious? I only interpreted my dream movement from the bed to the bathroom as avoidance because it makes sense. In the dream there wasn’t any fear or disgust. I’ve applied waking logic to a dream, made a shortcut between two images, two pieces of evidence, two potsherds. How much do I not remember? How much is buried under Freudian stratigraphy? Does it matter that the dream was a repetition of the five or so times I got up during the night to cough out my lungs into the sink? How much history did Schliemann destroy when he dug for treasure, how much information was washed away? How much doubt am I adding through hindsight? How can I ignore the obvious castration symbolism of my water bottle, clutched close to my chest so the cockroach (obviously the Laius to my Oedipus) can’t get it?

So history is dreams which are potsherds which are history which is water. Good, glad we cleared that up. In the bathroom, I drown awful yellow phlegm and toothpaste down the drain. Just like my water bottle, gone. Swirling into Pylos’ sewers, through the pipes, dark and dirty, out of sight, out of mind; into another world, rats and who-knows-whats, a place you wouldn’t want a miracle from; the sea at Methoni, hammered gold; the sink, white and clean.

The thing about water in Greece is that, like history, it’s everywhere, and yet elusive. There are potsherds on the ground, and water stations at every site, but without a water bottle, without the knowledge to interpret bits of clay two thousand years old (another way the metaphor almost works; education helps bottle liquid history), you’re going to be left with nothing but dirt and thirst. Don’t even get me started about the way water interacts with history, how it erodes sites and influences the building of settlements.

Down old marble stairs that twist, into the land of bread and wi-fi, Panos stands, miracle in his own right—Did you see him avoid that building by two inches? Can you believe he bought us oranges? And where did that round of tequila come from? He holds my water bottle, tells me it was “magic” when I ask him how he got it. All he does it snap his fingers and smile, disappearing down the stairs.

He gets us up Mount Lykaion. He catches junebugs in mid air. I was sure, in that way we’re sure about the course of history, that I’d have to go out and buy another bottle. That is, until Panos intruded on my world—and I use intruded in the nicest possible way. Of course he knows the owner of the restaurant I left it in. Of course he does.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Miltiades Helmet

The Miltiades Helmet

​In the collection of battle memorabilia in the museum at Olympia in Greece is the Miltiades Helmet. It looks battered and the crown is missing, and the surface is dull, without the slightest hint of the burnished gold finish it boasted when it graced the head of the man who wore it into battle over two millennia ago. Yet it warrants its own display case in a museum that has many other helmets in far better shape. What distinguishes this helmet from others of a similar type is the inscription indicating that the helmet was dedicated to Zeus by Miltiades, the general who commanded the combined Athenian and Plataian forces against the Persians at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.E.
​This helmet is made of bronze, and it would have been a part of the armour of elite Athenian soldiers, as only the wealthier citizens of Athens could afford bronze armour and the weapons of a hoplite or citizen soldier. When a soldier was wearing all of his armour he would have looked rather like a Spartan warrior from the movie 300, and, standing shield to shield against the enemy Persians, they would have made an impressive sight.
The Miltiades Helmet
The Miltiades Helmet. Rozen, 2011.
​When it was worn, the helmet would have been topped with a large crest, which would have been attached to metal loops located on the crown and at the back of the neck (which are not visible on this helmet as the crown has not survived) (Weiss 1977, 196). When it was new, the helmet would have gleamed in the sun and the crest on top would have made the man wearing it appear tall and intimidating. We know what these warriors would have looked like from the images on Greek pottery of the time, which were often decorated with battle scenes.
​If you look closely at the side of the helmet, you will see a small rivet hole just below ear level where a chin-strap may have been attached to hold the helmet in place (Weiss 1977, 196). A chin-strap would have been needed to keep the helmet on, because the thickness of the bronze and the crest on top would have made it very heavy. Even with a felt liner on the inside to cushion the soldier’s head it must still have been uncomfortable (and hot as well).

A Helmet Depicted on Greek Pottery. Saint-Pol 2008.
A helmet depicted on Greek pottery. Saint-Pol, 2008.

​The letters along the front edge of the helmet say that “Miltiades dedicated [it] to Zeus,” and this would surely have been done to thank the god for military success (Mee and Spawforth 2004, 286). Since the name on the helmet is ‘Miltiades,’ it is fairly likely that the dedication was in gratitude for the Athenian victory at the battle of Marathon, since Miltiades was the general responsible for convincing the other Athenian generals to fight the Persians instead of giving in It was Miltiades who led the Athenians into battle (Hdt. 6.110). Against all odds, Miltiades and his men won that battle at Marathon, much to the surprise of the Persians. That victory was the first of several that eventually eliminated the Persian threat, and this battered helmet that Miltiades chose to honour Zeus is a symbol of that hard won victory; one which was remembered as a pivotal event in the history of Athenian democracy. Marathon was not the biggest battle fought by the Greeks, but it was one that they never forgot. Like Waterloo and Vimy Ridge, the name Marathon still resonates in Western history.
​Look at this battered helmet and try to imagine what the man who wore it felt like in that long ago battle. Did he and his brothers in arms feel invincible in their bronze armour as they stood in the heat of the September sun? As he looked out through the narrowed field of vision at the Persian forces, did the knowledge that the future of Athens rested upon his shoulders weigh as heavily upon Miltiades as his helmet and armour?
​Only one hundred and ninety-two Athenians died on the battlefield that day, compared to 6,400 Persians, which helped to make Miltiades and his men the heroes of Athens (Hdt. 6.117). Of the men who died, some must have remained conscious as a result of their helmets’ protection. Bleeding from throat or leg wounds, their vision limited by their helmets and their movement hampered by the weight of their armour, they may have had time to contemplate their fate as they died surrounded by the sounds of the battle. Small wonder then, that Miltiades was grateful to Zeus…he survived.

Sources
Primary
Herodotus. The History of Herodotus—Volume 2. Translated by G.C. Macaulay. 1914. E-book. ​London: MacMillan and Co.
Secondary
Darvill, Timothy. 2008. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford ​University Press. www.oxfordreference.com.
Evans, J. A. S. 1993. “Herodotus and the Battle of Marathon.” Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte ​Geschichte 42, no. 3: 279-307.
Mee, Christopher and Antony Spawforth. 2004. Oxford Archaeological Guides: Greece. Oxford: ​Oxford University Press.
Rozen, Oren. 2011. “Helmet of Miltiades the Younger, Archaeological Museum of Olympia.” ​(image) Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org.
Saint-Pol, Bibi. 2008. “Hephaistus Hands Thetis the Weapons for Achilles.” (image) Wikimedia ​Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org.
Weiss, Caroline. 1977. “An Unusual Corinthian Helmet.” California Studies in Classical ​Antiquity 10: 195-207.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment