Thursday, November 3, 2016

Greek Inspiration

History is something that permeates Greece. Every town and city seems to be built upon the past, and there are often points where the ground has been peeled back to expose fragments of mosaics or marble pillars. Sometimes tiny Orthodox chapels are composed of the remnants of previous eras. Around ancient sites shards of pottery are scattered, some dating back to the Mycenaean and Roman eras - the painting still vibrant and colourful.

My love of Greece began in 1999, when I first visited the country. I went overland through Europe, taking a train from Marseilles to Ancona, and from there a night ferry to Patras. I made my way down the coast of the Peloponnese, cutting inland to visit Olympus and Mystra. In Athens I took a trip to the Cycladic Islands. Since then I have visited often and I even lived in Santorini for 3 years.

Chapel in the North-west of Crete with Hellenic blocks
So, this week I thought I post some pictures of some Grecian pieces that I've photographed throughout the years. In my own stone and  illustrative work I am deeply influenced by numerous artistic and historical periods. The Mycenaean is one of those - though I've grown to appreciate the Classical work I much prefer the primacy of earlier epochs (such as the Cycaldic 'goddess' figurines).

This one is from Ephesus in Turkey

The above photo is from the famous ruined city of Ephesus in Turkey. I went there in 2012, part of a three month sojourn. The ruins there are well worth a visit, there are paved avenues and the remains of the ancient library are pretty impressive. Of course much of the ruins are Roman, and this piece is most likely of that era. Who or what it is I'm not sure yet... perhaps when I get around to  Roman symbology!

Pottery from Athens National Museum 

Athens National Archaeological  Museum is another place well worth a visit. They have many of the Mycenaean artefacts, such as the so-called Agamemnon death mask.  I make the pilgrimage there every time I go to Athens. Each time I discover some new treasure.

This simple motif (above), painted on a vase from Mycenae, portrays a design familiar to anyone with the faintest knowledge of Celtic Myth or art (see my Triskele posts, one and two). This doesn't automatically signify that the triskele originated in Greece, or even that the Celtic and Grecian motifs bear any similar significance, but it's intriguing none-the-less... especially when we see the slab below.

Almost looks Celtic doesn't it? Actually it's Mycenaean

 The Stelae above is also from Mycenae. It could very well be mistaken for a later period funerary stone. In fact it wouldn't seem out of place amongst the Pictish stones displayed in the Edinburgh Museum (and it's only one of a series of slabs with similar decorations). However, this one pre-dates the Pictish stones by about a thousand years... so what was going on? Common themes? Transference of ideas, mutations of notions and symbology possibly identified with myth and religion? Migration? Who knows but perhaps I will take the slabs to task and investigate at a later date.

Mosaic, Rhodes
 The mosaic above is housed in the Palace of the Grand Master in the medieval castle of Rhodes. Many of the mosaics housed there were transported from archaeological sites on other islands, such as Symi. The old town is impressive, housed as it is behind massive medieval towers and curtain walls. It was the site of a major siege back in the 16th century and  is built upon the ruins of older civilisations, which can be evidenced by a walk along the old moat, from where you can spot ancient passages cut into the rock. Much of the restoration work of the castle was done in the late 1930's by Mussolini.

Stunning limestone corner piece from Myrna, Lycia.

Myrna is another Lycian site in Turkey. It is part of the Lycian Way, a walking route that traces the Lycian coast and passes several amazing Lycian sites. The piece pictured lays outside the ruins of the ancient amphitheatre there. It indicates the common (Hellenic) culture (in artistic and religious forms though every region had its own tribal identity)  once widespread across the Mediterranean.

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