History of Athens
By Aaron Korf
Athens is a city that has history imbedded into its everyday life today. The city is about 3500 years old but has a history of over 5000 years and possibly is the oldest inhabited city in Europe. Its history is very rich in content and has been studied by historians and archeologists for decades. Athens is known as the birthplace of democracy. The minds and personalities that came through Athens in history adds to its tourist appeal today.
Early in history, Athens was a small village that was independent to other villages in that area of Greece. Towards the end of the Bronze Age (around 1500 BC) Athens and neighboring villages had started to come together and the beginning of the Mycenaean period of Athens history began. It was named after King Minos. Minos was a legendary Crete king to the Greeks who was the son of Zeus. At this time, Athens began to grow with the influences of Crete culture. It was during this time period that the city took on the official name Athens. Legends say that it was named after the Greek Goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom in Greek mythology, after she beat Poseidon in a contest. Some other historians believe that Athena could have been named after the city itself, and that she personifies the city as a whole. Not much else is known about this time period but one story that has been passed down is the Trojan War.
After the Mycenaean period, Athens went through what historians call a Dark Age. With wars from a northern village (The Dorians) villages around Athens were destroyed. However, Athens was spared from being totally over run and destroyed. Towards the end of the Dark Age, Athens and numerous more distant villages banded together to extend the cities power further into the country. In the years to follow, Athens changed “rulers” many times. One of the notably rulers was Draco and his Draconian Laws. Draco put in place very strict laws that had punishments ranging up to death. It wasn’t long before he was overthrown by another one of Athens rulers Solon. There were many rulers after Solon and it is said that it was during this period of changes that the groundwork for the future Athenian Empire was laid. In 494 BC, a Persian army sent by King Darius invaded parts of Greece and eventually came upon Athens. For the next few decades there were many altercations between the Athenians and Persians. One of the more famous battles was at Marathon and then a navel conflict at Salamis. The final victory for Athens over the Persians was at the Battle of Plataies. After the conflicts with Persia were done, Athens rulers spent time strengthening the city. The democracy of the city was the first thing to be strengthened with the Athenian army and navy being strengthened shortly after. At this time, 440 B.C, the construction of the Parthenon was commissioned by Pericles. For the last 30 years of the 5th century B.C., the Peloponnesian wars broke out in Greece resulting in the destruction of Athens and Sparta when it was all over. However, the Athenian people were able to rebound and rebuild their city. It was at this time that some of the great minds from this era (Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle) lived in Athens. The city continued to grow and change rulers for the next few centuries. A few of the more notable rulers to control Athens in history are Alexander the Great as well as Demetrius.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s when Athens wasn’t under the rule of other countries. In 1821, Greece started to fight for their independence as a nation and won it in 1829. The city of Athens has been it’s official capital since this time but the country has be invaded and ruined numerous times, including the World Wars, but has been able to rebuild to become a vibrant city today. When walking around Athens, there are the footprints of many structures from the cities seasoned past that can be seen with in the ever expanding city.
The following are a few of the notable sites that may be of interest to us on our trek through Athens.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Construction began in the 6th century BC but wasn’t complete till the 2nd century AD. It is located roughly a quarter mile southeast from the Acropolis. It was dedicated to the Greek god of Zeus (the king of the Gods). Only a few of the columns still stand today.
Temple of Hephaestus
Constructed in 499 BC, it is the best preserved Greek temple and is still fully intact. It is sometimes referred to as the Theseion because of the legend that the bones of the legendary hero Theseus where buried here.
Central Athens surrounded by the extensive National Gardens. Because the square is located just west of the Greek parliament it is a popular site for political demonstrations. Every hour, the Changing of the Guard ceremony, performed by the Presidential Guard is conducted in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the area between the Square and Parliament.
Located in downtown Athens, it is fully made of white marble mined from Mount Penteli. It was used in ancient times to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games held in honor of the Greek Goddess Athena. It was fully rebuilt in 1895 to host the first modern Olympic Games, held in 1896.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
It was built in 161 AB by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife. It is a Stone theater structure located on the south slope of the Acropolis of Athens. The Odeon has traditionally been used as a venue for music concerts. However, since restoration in the 1950s, the Odeon has hosted the theatrical, musical, and dance events of the Athens Festival.
Athens Olympic Stadium
Originally built in 1980, it was the host of the 2004 Summer Olympic games. It was the host for many European Athletic championships but was renovated after Athens lost the bid for the 1996 (100th year anniversary) summer games to Atlanta, GA. Its unique design and roof make it a stunning site for engineers.
Tolo is a small fishing village that is popular among tourists. It is located in the south-eastern Peloponnesian region of Greece. Its convenient location too many of the historical sites in the region make it a great place to stay when visiting for a few days. It is known for its picturesque beaches and surrounding mountains. The cities history goes as far back as Homer’s Iliad. It has been a navel port for many different countries. It offers many opportunities for shopping as well as food.
The Acropolis in Athens
In Athens we will be visiting the Acropolis. The Acropolis in Athens, also called the “Sacred Rock”, is one of the most fascinating sites in Athens. In Greek ‘Acropolis’ literally means “the highest point in town.” At the “highest point in town” we will be on a rock that rises about 70 meters from the basin, and the surface measures about 300 meters by 150 meters. We will be seeing many ruins that date back to the 4th century BC.
The first structure we will see when going to the Acropolis is The Propylaia. The Propylaia was built around 432 BC right before the Peloponnesian wars. When entering the Propylaia it will be divided into 2 wings, one to the east and one to the west. Part of the reason why the Propylaia looks the way it does now is because it was struck by lightning in 1645.
A few interesting math facts about the Propylaia:
The ratio of 3:7 was used in the construction of the Propylaia.
The width of the Propylaia is equal to the length of the Parthenon
The Parthenon is pretty much the main attraction at the Acropolis and was constructed between 447-432 BCE. The Parthenon was built as a temple for the goddess Athena Pallas or Parthenos. Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill as well as the favorite daughter of Zeus.
The main purpose of the Parthenon is it used to shelter a large statue of Athena made out of gold and ivory. However even though the Parthenon housed a great statue of Athena it was only designed to be seen from the outside. When visitors came to the Parthenon could not enter the temple. Over the years the temple has been used as a church, a mosque, and an arsenal.
The Dimensions of The Parthenon:
The outside is 8 columns wide by 17 columns long
Interesting tidbits about the Parthenon:
The ratio of 9:4 was commonly used in the construction of the Parthenon.
8 columns wide by 17 columns long (9:4)
9:4 ratio also seen in the vertical and horizontal construction
Illusions at the Parthenon:
When looking at columns that are set up next to each other they naturally tend to look narrower in the middle than at the top and bottom. To counteract this, the architects of the Parthenon used a technique called Entasis, which means that that there is a bulge in the middle of each column to make them look straight. Also when looking at columns that are set up next to each other they naturally appear to contract at the top. So to counteract this, the architects made the base of each column a little thicker. Also, the top part of the columns would naturally appear to slant outwards because of the triangular outline of the roof, but to counteract this each column leans inward slightly so that they would meet if they were extended one mile into the sky. Another illusion deals with the construction of the steps. Since horizontal lines appear to dip in the middle the steps are raised slightly upwards at the center to make them appear level from a distance.
Fibonacci and the Parthenon:
Fibonacci’s Phi can be seen in many of the dimensions of the Parthenon. The width is Phi times the height, as well as many other sections that can be seen in the diagram. However, no original plans from the Parthenon remain, so it is unsure whether the golden ratio was used intentionally or not.
Pythagoras and The Parthenon:
Along with Fibonacci there were also elements used in the construction of the Parthenon that came from Pythagoras. With the ratio used of 2:3 and it’s square 4:9 the Parthenon can be broken up into 3 equal rectangles with sides of 3 and 4, with a diagonal of 5. To ensure that the right angles of the temple the 3:4:5 Pythagorean triangle could be used.
Now, some of you may be asking, “How come the Parthenon is the way it is??” Well in 1687, during the Venetian siege of the Acropolis, General Francesco Morosini attacked the Parthenon with cannon fire. During this time the Turks were using the Parthenon as an arsenal and when the Parthenon was hit, it went…BOOM! The explosion took out the roof and much of the inner structure along with 14 of the outer columns.
The Erechtheion is situated on the most sacred site of the Acropolis. The Erechtheion is said to be the place where Poseidon left his trident marks in a rock, and where Athena’s olive tree sprouted during their epic battle for possession of the city. It was built between 421 and 406 BCE and named after Erechtheus, one of the mythical kings of Athens. However the Erechtheion was almost completely destroyed by the Turks in 1827. The building uses Ionic architecture.
The Temple of Athena Nike:
The temple was built between 426-421 BCE to commemorate the Athenian’s victories over the Persians. It is also believed to be the place from which King Aegues threw himself into the sea after hearing that his son Theseus had been killed in Crete by the Minotaur. The temple contains 4 Ionic columns that stand 13 ft. high. The Temple of Athena Nike was reconstructed in 1834 after being destroyed by the Turks in 1686.
The Acropolis Museum:
There is a museum located below the level of the Parthenon at the southeast corner of the Acropolis that contains many relics from the Acropolis. Here is a list of interesting things that the rooms in the museum contain:
Contains pieces of the Parthenon frieze.
Rooms 1-3 contain:
Statues of mythological scenes
Room 5 contains:
Pediment from the Old Temple of Athena that shows Athena and Zeus battling giants. Represents the Greek triumph over primitive forces.
Rooms 4 & 6:
Contains a collection of korai.
Korai were statues of maidens offered to Athena.
Rooms 7 & 8 contain:
A metope from the south side of the Parthenon that shows the battle between the Lapiths and centaurs.
Room 9 contains:
4 Caryatids from the Erechtheion south porch.
The Caryatids are the only ones displayed in Athens and are kept in a temperature controlled environment.
Ionic & Doric Columns:
As you are looking at the different buildings at the Acropolis it might be helpful to know a bit about the difference between Ionic and Doric columns. Ionic and Doric are two of the orders of columns. The order refers to the column and it’s top. A Doric Column is the simplest kind of column that rests on the bare floor and is topped by a single piece of marble. An Ionic Column normally stands on a base and consists of a more elaborate design than Doric Columns. Ionic columns are more slender than Doric.
Corinth was a major Greek city in the 6th-8th century BCE. It was one of the most advanced cities and had quite a bit of power. One reason that Corinth was such a powerful city was that they are located in a great position to be a port city. Because of their great position on the sea Corinth had one of the leading naval powers as well as a rich commercial city helped them to be able to establish colonies in Syracuse on the island of Sicily and on Corcyra. Another reason that they were so powerful was the fact that they had control of the diolkos. The Diolkos was the stone-paved roadway that connected the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. It could be said that Corinth isn’t as great of city as it used to be, but it still contains quite a bit of interesting history.
Because of many things like the Diolkos and the great location of Corinth it was a highly sought after city by large military powers. It was conquered by Philip II of Macedon in 338 BCE. However, Philip was assassinated and Alexander the Great took over the leadership of the city. In 336 BCE Alexander the Great was chosen to lead the Greeks in battle against the Persians. The city was mostly destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC. Then in 44 BCE Julius Caesar rebuilt Corinth as a Roman city.
Temple of Apollo:
The temple was constructed for Apollo in 550 BCE which was a time of great wealth for Corinth. The building itself is not very impressive due to the fact that only 7 of the 38 original doric columns are still standing.
The Apostle Paul & Corinth
The Apostle Paul visited Corinth two times during the 50s AD. Throughout his visits he worked as a tentmaker converting as many Jews and pagans as possible. During his first visit to Corinth Paul stayed for 18 months. At this time he became acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla, who became partners in Paul’s ministry in the city. During Paul’s second visit to Corinth he stayed for only three months. After Paul’s visits to Corinth he wrote two letters to the Christian community there (1st and 2nd Corinthians). It is also believed that during Paul’s second visit to Corinth he wrote his letter to the Romans which is the book of Romans in the Bible.
The Corinth Canal:
One of the most fascinating landmarks in the city of Corinth is the Corinth Canal. The Canal links the Ionian and Aegean Seas and separates the Peloponnese from mainland Greece. Before the canal ships had to be lifted out of the water and put on wheels and rolled down the diolkos. It took many years to build the canal and took huge amounts of work to finish.
Many people including Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar wanted to build the canal, however there were too many obstacles in their way. One myth about why Caesar didn’t build the canal was that Poseidon, god of the sea, stopped him from building it because he opposed the canal. The first actual attempt to build the canal came from Nero in 67 AD. To start off the construction of the canal Nero himself used a gold shovel for the groundbreaking. He had approximately 6,000 slaves working on the project. However even after great determination the canal was never finished by Nero.
After many years and many failed attempts to build it, the Corinth Canal was finally completed in 1893 by the Greeks and the French. The canal is 4 miles (6-km) long and is still used today. However, many newer boats are too large to fit through the canal.
Today Corinth is still used as a port city. It is also a major transportation center. A few of the major exports of Corinth are olives, tobacco, raisins, and wine. The current population is around 35,000 which is likely smaller than it was around the fifth century BC.
The Weather in Corinth:
The average range for temperature in Corinth in May is 52-74 F.
Generally there is not much precipitation in the month of May.
Many people say that Archimedes was one of the most influential mathematicians of all time. Over his life he came up with numerous inventions and war machines. Many of his formulas were groundbreaking and way ahead of their time.
Archimedes was born sometime around 287 BCE in Syracuse, Sicily. He studied at Euclid's school in Alexandria. Archimedes lived in Syracuse until 211 or 212 BC when he was killed by a Roman soldier who didn’t know who Archimedes was.
Here is a list of just a few of Archimedes Achievements:
Defined pi between 3.1408450704 and 3.141592654
Discovered the Law of Hydrostatics:
any object immersed in fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displayed by the object.
Durbin, Marc. Greece: Athens & The Mainland. 2007. DK Eyewitness Travel. New York. 94-99.
The Agora, Nafplio and the Palamidi Fortress, and Greece Info
By Hannah Stevens
Agora means a place of meeting. The area was first used around 3000 BC as a private residential area before becoming a public area in the early 6th Century BC when Athens was ruled by Solon. At this time, fountains and a drainage system were constructed; the pipes from this system are still visible today. During the Byzantine Era the area became residential again. The agora was discovered during the construction of a trench for the Athens-Peiraeus Railway. Restoration began in 1834 and is ongoing even today. The restoration involved the destruction of 400 modern buildings. The pathway running diagonally through part of the Agora is the Panathenaic Road, a sacred path followed by processions of people honoring Athena.
Temple of Hephaistos - 1
Constructed in 449 BC, it sits atop the hill of Kolonos Agoraios. It was dedicated to the gods Hephaistos and Athena with bronze statues of them formerly standing in the center of the temple. It was a richly decorated temple and was at one time fully landscaped. It is the most prominent and best preserved temple in all of Greece, it is the only one that still has it’s original roof.
Stoa of Zues Eleutherios – 6
Stoa means a covered walkway or portico with a columned entrance. Constructed at the end of the 5th Century BC, it was built in honor of those who fought for the freedom and safety of the city. Socrates and Plato are said to have frequented here.
Temple of Apollo Patroos – 7
Erected around 340-320 BC, this temple honors Apollo, the Father of the Ionian race. The Ionian race is one of the Greek tribes. A statue of Apollo used to stand in the center.
Metroos - 8
Constructed in the 5th Century BC. The Boule (Council of 500, kind of like a modern day city council) held their meetings here. When replaced by the Bouleuterian, it was used as a sanctuary of the Mother of the Gods. The state archives were stored here under her protection.
Bouleuterian - 9
Erected 2nd Century BC to replace the metroos as the meeting place for the Boule.
Tholos – 10
Built in 460 BC, this circular building was where the chairmen of the Boule dined and slept. A set of standard weights and measures were also stored here.
Monument of Eponymous Heroes - 14
Constructed during the second half of the 4th Century BC, it is comprised of an oblong pedestal enclosed by a fence. Ten bronze statues stood on the pedestal. Each statue was a hero for one of the tribes of Attica, the peninsula Athens lies on. This place was also used as a notice board of sorts for the city.
Altar of 12 Gods - 17
Erected in 520-521 BC, this fenced-in altar was the heart of the city. All distances were measured from this milestone. The majority of the area is now covered by they Athens-Peiraeus Railway, which lies just to the north.
Odeion of Agrippa - 18
Built in 15 BC by Agrippa, this auditorium with a two-storied portico originally seated 1000. It was destroyed in 267 AD and a gymnasium was built in its place in 400 AD. The north side is adorned with 4 huge tritons, which are half god/half fish mythical creatures.
Stoa Basileios (Royal Stoa) –
Constructed in 460 BC, a statue of either Themis or Democracy formerly stood in front of the building. The Laws of Solon were displayed here, and it was the headquarters of the Royal Archon, the ruler and kong of religious affairs (such as murder). It was in this building that Socrates was charged with impiety. It is said that if you were in the Agora when a case was being heard in the court of law, you were eligible to be a juror. The police frequently wandered the Agora looking for jurors.
Stoa of Attalos – 19
Currently houses the Ancient Agora Museum, with exhibits that directly relate to the functioning of Athenian life. There are models of the Agora, and the statue from Apollo Patroos.
Some artifacts that can be seen here:
Clepsydra: a water clock measure time as water flows from a clay pot
Ostraca: Stones used to ostracize politicians
Bronze ballots: used when making decisions for the city
Other objects that can be seen:
A marble kleroterion used when vesting plots of land.
A relief of Democracy crowning the people over and inscribed stele. It symbolized law vs. tyranny.
Arbylllos: a vase of an athletic boy kneeling and tying a ribbon/award around his head.
Some of the constructions are newer, having been erected while Greece was ruled by the Roman Empire. Two of the more prominent structures are the East Propylon from 19-11 BC and the Gate of Athena Archegetis from 11 BC.
Nafplio and the Palamidi Fortress
Control of the city of Nafplio went back and forth between the Turks and the Venetians for many years. The city was key in the War of Independence in which the Greeks fought for independence from the Turks. After a 15 month long siege led by Kolokotronis, the city was liberated in 1821. Nafplio then became the center for the revolution. In 1829, the Greeks won their independence and named Nafplio the capital of their country. This changed in 1834, when the capital was moved to Athens. Bourtzi, a fort built by the Venetians in the 15th Century and now stand empty, can be seen in the harbor.
The Palamidi fortress lies on a hill east of Akronafplia, the oldest part of the city. It was constructed in 1714 by the Venetian engineers Giaxich and Lasalle. There are 999 steps leading up the fortress, or you can take a bus up a back road. The castle is comprised of eight bastions surrounded by walls. St. Andrews church occupies one of the bastions, while the Prison of Kolokotronis is occupies another. He was imprisoned in 1834 for treason. Greece was ruled at the time by King Otto I and his Bavarian ministers, who Kolokotronis disagreed with. He was pardoned in 1835.
Basic Info on Greece
Greece’s government is a presidential parliamentary democracy. The president, who serves as chief of state which is basically a figurehead, is Karolos Papoulias, and the prime minister, who serves as the head of the government, is Konstandinos Karamanlis. The population of Greece is 10.7 million, of which 3.2 million live in Athens. The geographic area of Greece is slightly smaller than the state of Alabama. Greece has been an EU member since 1981, and uses the Euro as its currency. The economy is a capitalist, with tourism as its number one industry. The unemployment rate there is 9.2%, compared to 4.8% in the US. 98% of the populations religion is Greek Orthodox. While we are in Greece, we should expect tempertures to be in the 70’s with very little rainfall. Greece is 8 hours ahead of Central Time Zone.
Good morning ……………Kalimera 1: meea
Good afternoon………......Kalispera 2: deeo
Do you speak English?......Milate Anglika? 3: treea
I don’t understand..............Den milo. 4: tettera
Please.................................Parakalo 5: panda
Thank you………………..Efkaristo 6: ex
Miss……………………...Despeena 7: eptah
Madam……….…………..Kiria 8: octo
Sir………………………..Kirie 9: ennaa
Yes…………………….....Neh 10: deka
Where is…the bathroom?..Pee eeneh… toalett?
I need a doctor………..….Hraazomeh eeatro.
Getting Around in Athens
There are several ways you can travel around in Athens: metro, tram, bus, or taxi. Here is some info for each mode of transportation.
Closed from midnight to 5 am
A one way ticket is € 0.80 (possibly € 0.40 with student ID)
A one-way ticket is € 0.60 (possibly € 0.30)
You can buy tickets that are good for more than just one way:
€ 1 for 90 minutes on all modes of transportation
€ 3 for one day on all modes of transportation
There is a minimum fee for taxi’s. In Athens this is € 2.50, and elsewhere in Greece it is € 2.70. Within the Athens city limits, you will be charged € 0.34/km, and outside the city limits it is € 0.64/km. There is also a fee of € 0.65 for traveling by taxi between midnight and 5 am.
You want to stay away from the National Gardens at night. If possible, try to avoid being directly in Omonia Square at night (This may be difficult since our hotel is one block away from it, just be aware).
Dr. Ed Schmoll recommends the gyro’s that you can be from the Petros Café at 28 Kidathenaron St. in the Plaka. It is best if you don’t go inside and just order from the street window. According to him, they are tasty as well as cheap!
National Archaeological Museum
By Amy Hintermeyer
Construction on the National Archaeological museum was started in 1866 and was completed in 1889 after the West addition in 1874, the North addition in 1881, the South addition in 1885, and the East addition in 1889. The original architect was Ludwig Lange, and Panages Kalkos, Harmodios Vlachos and Earnst Ziller made modifications. The most recent remodeling of the museum was in 1999 due to an earthquake and preparation for the tourism fueled by the 2004 Olympics.
This museum is Greece’s most important archeological museum and it ranks in the top 10 museums in the world! It contains prehistoric items, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, bronzes, Egyptian art, along with other temporary exhibits. There are many famous artifacts at the museum that you should watch for, including the Mask of Agamemnon, the Jockey of Artemision, Kouros statues, the sculpture of Aphrodite and Pan, along with the Antikythera Mechanism.
The mask of Agamemnon is a gold funerary mask that was found in a grave circle at Mycenae. It was excavated by Heinrich Schliemann, and is dated around the 16th century B.C.
Spencer P.M. Harrington once said, “The Mask of Agamemnon from grave V is the most famous. ‘I have gazed on the face of Agamemnon,’ Schliemann is said to have telegrammed a Greek newspaper on first seeing the mask. In fact, he himself never identified it as belonging to Agamemnon, but since it was the finest of the specimens it became associated with the hero […] the masks and gold jewelry Schliemann found at Mycenae brought him world fame; he was henceforth known as the Father of Mycenaean Archaeology.”
The Jockey of Artemision is made of Bronze and is estimated to be from around 140 B.C. during the Hellenistic Period. The work was found in a shipwreck off of Cape Artemision and is assumed to have had reigns in his left hand and a whip in his right hand at one time.
The national archaeological museum also houses some kouros statues. This one is a votive statue that stands 3.05 meters tall (approximately 10 feet). It was found in the Sanctuary of Poseidon in Sounin and is from around 600 B.C. There are certain characteristics that statues must possess to be classified as a kouros statue. They always are in a frontal pose with the left leg forward. They are sculpted symmetrically and are always nude. This is one difference from many Egyptian statues. Some Egyptian statues may look similar, but they are often wearing clothes. Kouros statues are also usually pretty close to life size. The proportions of the bodies tend to have a 1:7 ratio with the body being 7 times the size of the body.
The sculpture of the group of Aphrodite and pan is a marble sculpture from 100 B.C. that was found on Delos, which is considered the island of Apollo. It depicts Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, threatening pan, the god of fertility, with her sandal. Above the two, the viewer can see Eros flying. Eros is a winged cherub that is known for crazed, blind love. The word “erotic” stemmed from his name. Most know him better in Roman mythology, where he is called cupid. Pan is known for attempting to seduce nymphs; in fact, the word “panic” stemmed from his name, so we can see why Aphrodite would react in such a way.
One of the most cherished treasures of the National archeological museum is the Antikythera Mechanism. Sponge divers found this mechanism on a ship near Antikythera. The wreck was discovered in 1900, but the artifact actually wasn’t found until 1901 because it was buried with sediment . The date of the shipwreck is estimated to have occurred between 85 and 60 B.C. The artifact itself is believed to originate from around 100 to 150 B.C and is considered to be the first artifact of underwater archaeology. It is a bronze mechanism with a complex arrangement of around 30 gears, and the inscriptions on it relate to the months and the zodiac. It is described as a sophisticated mechanism that “operates as a complex mechanical ‘computer’ which tracks the cycles of the solar system”. This “astronomical phenomenon” helps us to understand what the ancient Greeks and ancient Babylonians were capable of and is proof of their math and engineering competencies. This mechanism is truly ahead of its time, in fact, other mechanisms with similar standards are not seen again for another millennium!
At the museum:
•Large bags must be checked into the coatroom
•Photography is ok, but turn off the flash
•Maps can be found at the admissions desk
•Suggested length of time – 2 hours
Greeks and the Irrationals
By Amy Hintermeyer
While in Greece, it is good to keep in mind some of the remarkable mathematical discoveries that have been made over its history. Look around. Do you see it in use? The Pythagoreans were group of intellectuals that formed the Pythagorean Brotherhood at the end of the 6th century B.C. basing their beliefs off of their founder, Pythagoras. The brotherhood’s inner circle made vows of secrecy to protect their findings and so that the Pythagorean brotherhood as a whole would get credit, not just the individual that made the discovery. They took oaths of commitment to the brotherhood and they also promised to have a strict vegetarian diet. This brotherhood founded their beliefs in Mathematics, meaning they believed that mathematics was the cornerstone of life. Their perception of the universe, their religion, and their traditions were based off of their mathematical mysticism. In fact, they believed that all quantities could be explained with whole numbers and their ratios. Their number mysticism is still being studied today. They classified the number system into different kinds, for example, friendly numbers are number pairs in which the sum of the proper divisors is the other number, and perfect numbers are numbers where the sum of the proper divisors returns the original number.
The phythagoreans made gains in terms of the study of music in relation to mathematics. They discovered that when strings have an equal tension, an octave can be heard when the ratios of the two strings are 2:1, a fifth can be heard when the ratios are 3:2, and a fourth can be heard when the ratio is 4:3. The most famous discovery that the Pythagoreans were known for, of course, is the Pythagorean theorem. The originator of this theorem is not known because of the Pythagoreans vow of silence, but it is believed that Hippasus is a probable person to give the credit. This theorem states that given a triangle with sides A, B, and C where C is the hypotenuse The square of the hypotenuse on a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the two legs. In other words, A2+B2=C2.
This rocked the boat for the Pythagoreans! If this was true, then their belief that all quantities could be explained with whole numbers and their ratios was false. One example is that if the 2 legs of a triangle have a length of 1, then the hypotenuse has a length of √2, which is an irrational number. The Pythagoreans called irrational numbers “unutterable numbers” because they did not fit into their belief system. In fact, when one of the members of the Pythagorean brotherhood wanted to tell the public of this finding, he was immediately put to death! Once word got out, this discovery changed the math world forever.
Mycenae is an archeological site south of Athens. It was once thought to only exist in ancient Greek legend and in the poetry of Homer. In 1870, Heinrich Schliemann found the fabled city using landmarks from Homer’s Iliad; this caused many to believe that Homer’s works were more than just myths.
In the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the major centers of Greek civilization. It was a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece. Mycenae reached its height around the sixteenth century BC, but was abandoned around 1200 BC for unknown reasons.
The acropolis at Mycenae was surrounded by massive Cyclopean walls. These walls received their name as a result of their size. The blocks were so massive they were thought to have been the work of the one-eyed giants, the Cyclops.
The main entrance into the citadel at Mycenae is known as the Lion Gate. It is a stone carving of two lions that stand on an alter as sentries. The lions are built in the form of a ‘relieving triangle’ to support the weight of the stones over the entrance. Although many people have always assumed that the stone carvings at the Lion Gate are lions, further investigation has led scholars to believe that they might actually be griffins, creatures that have the body of a lion, but the head and wings of an eagle. Both of these creatures, however, symbolize authority, power, and the domination of the Mycenaean people.
Other famous sites at Mycenae are the Tomb of Clytemnestra, the wife of King Agamemnon, and the Treasure of Atreus (also know as the Tomb of Agamemnon). Both of these tombs are good examples of the architectural type know as tholos, an alternative name for the Beehive tomb typical of the late Bronze Age. The Treasure of Atreus was constructed around 1250 BC and was the tallest dome in the world until the Pantheon was constructed.
The grave circles found at Mycenae are also an impressive sight. There are two grave circles, Grave Circle A and Grave Circle B (outside the citadel). Grave Circle A revealed impressive wealth. It was here that Schliemann discovered the Mask of Agamemnon on what he thought was the remains of the body of Agamemnon. The mask is currently displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Epidaurus is presumed to be the birthplace Apollo’s son, Asklepios, the healer. The Sanctuary of Asklepios, also known as the asclepieion, was the most celebrated healing center of the classical world. People from all over would travel to the asclepieion to find a cure for their ailments. They would spend the night in a big sleeping room and in their dreams the gods would give them advice as to what to do to regain health. Since snakes were regarded as sacred to Asklepios, they were often used in healing rituals. Non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor of the great sleeping hall.
The prosperity of the asclepieion enabled the construction of famous Theater at Asklepieion. The theater was built around the fourth century and can hold 15,000 spectators. As usual for Greek theaters, the view of the lush landscape is an integral part of the theater itself. The theater is also known for its exceptional acoustics, it provides almost perfect intelligibility to all of the spectators, even those in the back rows!
For centuries the theater was covered by thick layers of dirt. Excavations began in 1881 by P. Kavvadias. From 1954 to 1963 there was a large-scale reconstruction of the destroyed sections and a partial restoration of the monument. The Theater at Asklepieion is one of the best preserved structures from ancient Greece and still hosts Greek dramas today.
By Amy Hintermeyer
“The Center of the World”
“Where Heaven and Earth Met”
“The Place where Man is Closest to the gods”
“The Most Beautiful Place on Earth”
Sounds good, right? Delphi has been called all these things… along with “The navel of the world”. Why would it be called that? Well according to Greek mythology Delphi was the sacred land of the earth goddess Gaia and was guarded by Python. In the meantime, Zeus wants to find where the center of the world is, so he releases two eagles from the ends of the earth (the East and the West) and the meet at the exact spot of Delphi, where the omphalos stone marked it. Being the center, this spot became “the navel of the world”. The story continues that Zeus’ son Apollo leaves Mount Olympus and comes to Mount Parnassus to slay Python. He accomplishes his task, but then repents of his sin and goes to Crete to purify himself. When he was purified, he returned to Delphi to build his temple. He placed the Omphalos stone on the place where Python was killed. He went to Crete and took the form of a dolphin so he could bring sailors back to become priests in his temple. The Greek word for dolphin is Delphis, which is where the name Delphi originated.
While at Delphi, there are many sites that are available to see. The first is the temple of Apollo. It was built in the 7th century BC and construction continued throughout 330 BC because of damage and reconstruction. There were six columns on the front and 15 columns on the sides. Visitors will be able to see the outer colonnade foundations and it is said that there is a chamber for the oracle and the omphalos stone under the back room. Another site that can be seen is the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, The older temple was built in 510 BC, the newer temple was built in the 4th century BC, and the Tholos was built in the 3rd century BC. There are a couple treasuries at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. One is the Ionic Treasury of Massilia which was built in 530 BC, and the other is the Doric treasury built in the 5th century BC.
Visitors can also go see the ancient theater. It was built in the 4th century BC. It faces the valley, giving the audience a scenic backdrop. It is made of Parnassus limestone and holds 5000 people in its 35 rows. The lower tiers were built in the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
The stadium is a favorite of visitors. It was built in 5th century BC, but the stone seating and arched entrance were added in the 2nd century AD. The stadium holds 6500 people and the track is 177.55 meters long and 25.5 meters wide. The stadium was home of the pythian games. Since Apollo is the god of music, the first event included singing a hymn to the god. The other events in the games were the typical running, riding and chariot racing, joined by singing, dancing, flute playing, and lyre playing. It is said that even Homer attended these games, although he did not participate. According to Greek mythology, Apollo once tried to seduce Daphne, but before he could make his sexual advances Daphne’s father turned her into a laurel tree. So the winner of the game received the prize of a crown of Laurel leaves.
Delphi is also known for its museum, which holds statues and artifacts from the different treasuries and temples around the sanctuary of Apollo. Many of the sculptures are celebrating victorious battles, but one of the most famous sculptures is called the “Bronze Charioteer”. It is from 470 BC and was made in honor of a prince who won the chariot races. When you see it, look for the great detail and lifelike characteristics, especially the veins in his hand and feet.