Thursday, August 20, 2009

Recap of Athens

Athens, Greece was the place I most wanted to visit on the cruise, and it’s in a toss-up with Pompeii when it comes to which I enjoyed most on the trip.

First off, what set of pictures from Athens, Greece would be complete without a picture of a Greek sex shop (the Greeks invented sex, right?):

Our first stop was the Acropolis. Acropolis means “high city.” No, this is not where Socrates and his students went to get high. It has the same suffix as “acrobat.” Most Greek cities had one, but the one in Athens is the most famous, and is sometimes simply called “The Acropolis,” even though there are quite a few others around the Mediterranean.

The acropolis of a city would be built on an easily defensible hill, around which the city proper would build up. Populated by temples of the most influential religious cults in that particular area, they were often the site of the city-state’s treasury. The Parthenon served this function in ancient Athens.

The trek up to the Acropolis was not as arduous as I was led to believe. Instead, what struck me was how crowded it was. The incline was nothing when taken at such a slow pace, as hundreds of people bottlenecked at the narrow entrance and exit.

Upon entering, the first thing I noticed was the back of the Parthenon. You can see the crowd in this picture:

I next noticed the Erechtheum, with the Caryatid statues supporting the roof of the porch on the north side:

There were originally six, but for a while there were only five because some British jackass named Lord Elgin took one of them to Scotland to decorate one of his mansions. He even had the balls to try to take another, but when the attempt failed, he had the statue sawed apart for transport, then just abandoned it in pieces.

The five original statues still in Greece are currently in the Acropolis Museum for restoration; the Caryatids in my picture are replicas put in place for structural and tourist purposes.

In fact, Elgin took many marble sculptures from the Acropolis, damaging them and the structures they were attached to in the process. At the time, Greece was under Ottoman control, and Elgin had their “permission” (though this has been disputed). I wonder if they would have permitted him to loot Turkish sites…

The statues he stole eventually ended up in the British Museum in London, which refuses to part with them (despite the pleas of the Greek government to return them). Perhaps someday Chinese troops will demolish Westminster and carry off Big Ben to be re-erected in Beijing. What is it Christians are always saying? “Treat other as you would like to be treated.”

That’s enough complaining about colonialism… for now. Here are some pictures of the front entrance to the Parthenon:

One sad (but necessary) thing about our visit was seeing all the scaffolding and cranes. The second picture below is the temple of Athena Nike, which was completely dismantled before being reconstructed:

The buildings at the Acropolis have certainly seen better days, but hopefully the work being done to restore them will ensure that even my distant descendants will one day be able to visit and gaze upon the same buildings I saw.

The other great thing about the Acropolis is the amazing panoramic views of downtown Athens, because the Acropolis literally rises up right in the middle of the city:

Before making our way down, I got some photos of John Bolton:

We then made our way by bus to the National Archaeological Museum:

Here, we saw a lot of gold stuff:

In the top-middle of the first picture is the “golden mask of Agamemnon.” Unlike most inaccurately attributed artifacts, this piece is actually too old to be the mask of the mythological king.

The gold held up really well over time, much better than any of the other metals (bronze and iron, mostly). However, gold is very soft, and one can see on many of the thin gold pieces that some of the details are worn away through handling. If you want something that will last forever, you really have to go with stone:

The above is a chronological progression through the history of Greek sculpture, from early emulation of the Egyptian style, to their profound, natural realism which came to be known as Classical.

Of course, I make a comment about metal being inferior, and the best, most complete example that has endured (though it had to be put back together after being found in pieces) is a bronze statue recovered from the ocean floor:

The eyes would have originally with inlaid with bone or ivory, and his lips and nipples were likely copper. In his right hand would have been a trident, if this is a sculpture of Poseidon, or a lightning bolt, if it is Zeus.

Scholars initially thought it may have been a random athlete throwing a javelin, but the figure depicted is much too old to be a classical Greek athlete. Most believe it is Zeus, because a trident would likely obscure the face of the god, and many depictions of Zeus in a similar pose have been found on things from coins to pottery.

Behind this, one can see the Minotaur:

We went through the museum and saw plenty of other stuff, including some harpies:

Another famous piece in the museum is the Antikythera Ephebe:

Also recovered from a shipwreck in pieces and put back together, it is a remarkably realistic depiction of an unidentified youth. It’s so real, I almost yelled at him to put some damn pants on.

This statue of a stoic philosopher (unnamed; don't ask me how they think they know it's a stoic) was also found in the same shipwreck in Antikythera, remarkably with eyes intact:

Perhaps my biggest regret was not realizing that I was in the same building as another artifact found in this shipwreck, which has become known as the Antikythera mechanism. It is a technological marvel whose significance was not understood until decades after its 1901 discovery. The device is thought to have been built in the second half of the 2nd century BCE, and has been linked to designs and models made by Archimedes.

It is the first evidence of a working calculator, and has been called the first computer (but I think that is pushing it). It is a small, handheld device with over 30 intricately constructed and assembled gears which accurately performs astronomical calculations when dials are turned to indicate the current day. Technology of this complexity does not reappear until over a thousand years later (common trend… add it to the great things that didn’t survive Christianization).

It’s hard to believe this was the only one of its kind when it was made. However, it’s not surprising that no others survived. After all, if it took someone years to make it, they may only make a few dozen in their lifetime, of which very few will likely survive into the modern era. What surprises me is that the technology for this kind of device disappeared for some reason.

So that’s about it for Athens. We went to eat lunch and talked with an Australian couple about politics for some time. They seemed relieved by the notion that young people like us will be taking over in the US soon, but I had to inform them we’re really an ignored minority. Besides, there’s still plenty of time for young ideologues to fail at the hands of stubborn ignorance just enough to make cynics of us all.

While I was stopped from taking pictures of cigarette warnings in Turkey, I noticed similar warnings on cigarettes in Greece, so I stealthily took out my camera and captured a shot:

“Smoking Kills,” “Smoking Can Kill,” “Smoking Causes Fatal Lung Cancer,” “Smokers Die Younger.”

Yeah, we get it. People still want to smoke, get over it! I’m not surprised that even when taxed over 100%, people would rather buy a product that makes them feel happier than to simply be healthier. It’s a cool and a fun thing for people to do on breaks besides stuff their faces with processed chemicals from the vending machine.

I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I’m asthmatic, but I really cannot stand all the whining about smoking.

“But I’m allergic to cigarette smoke.”

Really? I didn’t realize they had started medically diagnosing “being a bitch” as a condition. No one is allergic to cigarette smoke the way people are allergic to peanuts or shell fish. In fact, it’s not even as bad as lactose intolerance. People are “allergic” to smoke the way all human beings are: it’s not great for your health, we get it! You know what else isn’t good for you? Stressing out about what other people do with their lives.

“But second hand smoke kills.”

Well hurry up and die already. Besides, if everyone who smokes cigarettes is doomed, leave them the fuck alone. Have some fucking respect for the dying!

Do these folks give fat people dirty looks while they’re eating? Probably not, because most of the people who complain about this shit are fat. Maybe they should take up smoking, I heard it makes you thinner. Anyone else notice a sharp increase in obesity right when Americans started getting all uppity about smoking?

Again, I don’t smoke cigarettes because I personally don’t like them, but I’m what is called a “political smoker,” which means I don’t let the fact that I am a non-smoker jade me to the abuses suffered by smokers at the hands of intrusive assholes.

I especially cannot believe they banned smoking in bars. I never thought of bars as places of health. “Uh, excuse me, I’m trying to get drunk so I can drive home with some chick I just met so I can have unprotected sex with her and then not call her ever again, and someone’s blowing smoke near me!” Yeah, we have to save these poor victims from the evils of smoking…

Rather than ban people from smoking in bars, why don’t we allow fighting? Maybe then these jerkoffs who can’t get over the fact that they’re inhaling fumes almost half as dangerous as those spewing from every car being driven on the road will get what’s coming to them.

It’s also slowly progressing towards downright intolerance. First they partitioned smokers off in little rooms. Then they had to smoke outside. Then, because the steps of every building became the most convenient place to smoke, and non-smokers had to walk through it and see how fucking uncool they were by comparison, they are starting to make smokers walk X number of yards away from the entrance.

Why not just take the next step and make them wear tobacco leaf insignias on their clothing so we can all identify them and spit on them as they pass. We need to end smoking segregation before they’re all rounded up in Socialized Medicine Concentration Camps, where they’ll be executed for the increased aggregate cost to public health care they impose.

See, liberals can have crazy ideas about Nazis and the US government.

I know what some of you are thinking, “Liberals would do that.” Not really; American liberals are wasteful spenders who don’t care about going over budget. It would be Conservatives who want to cut costs, and would do so by getting rid of the most expensive people (probably by pulling the plug on grandma… the one thing they pretend to fear so badly right now). So liberals will lay the tracks, but Republicans will run the train off the rails. Mark my words…

Odd tangent there. For my next and final recap: Sicily.

1 comment:

  1. Wow I did a post some time back about the horned moses even had a discussion at a New Age shop this past week with an Egyptian "know it all" Sunday school teacher about the horned Moses. But I have never seen the second statue! Thanks I love your pictures.

    Peace TQO


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