We had some friends come and visit us for a week at our house in Greece. Dr. Rob Morrissey completed his PhD at Purdue last year and his family moved to the Czech Republic in early spring for a post-doc in Prague in Dr. Miro Svoboda’s tree-ring lab (see a later post on this lab). Rob and Jen Miley have a girl (whom I will call E1) and a baby boy (whom I will call E2) that are very close to our kids’ ages (L1 and L2). It was great to have them come and visit, which encouraged us to explore some more sites around Greece. Our first trip was back to Athens to check out some new neighborhoods and to head back up the Acropolis.
One of the new things that I focused on this time was the Theater of Dionysus which is thought to have been the origin of Athenian theater. This site was first used in 500 BC and was later developed as a monument and theater to Dionysus. The full development of this theater is attested to the Athenian statesman Lycurgus (ca. 390-325 BC).
The dark building behind the theater is the Acropolis Museum which was completed in 2009. This is a modern climate controlled museum that houses over 4,000 objects. Part of the motivation for the museum was to provide high quality display space for the Parthenon Marbles (also known as the Elgin Marbles). They were excavated and removed by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin who had obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities. This was during his service as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803. The British Parliament reviewed the case and decided that Elgin’s actions where just. At that time (1816) the British Government purchased the artifacts and installed them at the British Museum where they remain today, although the debate on whether the marbles should be returned to Greece is ongoing.
The Parthenon is always an amazing site to visit. As I mentioned in a previous post, the white stones are the newly quarried stones from the same quarry as the originals. They should yellow to the color of the older stones over time. Much time and work is going into reconstructing the Parthenon, but the technical level of skill that went in to fitting the individual stones is amazing. Also, the dimensions of the Parthenon are interesting where the center of the span is a little bit higher than the ends to give the optical illusion of being straight. Much detail and expertise went into the original construction of the Parthenon so that the renovation of the building is a challenge to modern architects, engineers, and construction workers. Jen Miley is an architect so it was interesting to travel with her to get some more details on the construction of the buildings. We also had the opportunity to tour some of Athens sites with Dr. Nick Rauh who is a Professor of Classics from Purdue University. He is on sabbatical in Athens completing a book on the amphora of ancient Greece and analyzing them to better understand trade with other civilizations of the time.
The Juxtaposition of different time periods is always evident throughout Athens (and most of Greece). This is a ca 16th century church viewed through the entrance columns to the Roman Agora.
I always find the graffiti throughout Greece and every country that I visited to be interesting. Especially in Athens, it is often directly next to ancient architecture which creates an interesting mixture of the old and new.