by Rossella Lorenzi
The gentle female sculptures found in the massive burial complex at the Kasta Hill site at Amphipolis, Greece, might depict priestess who took part in orgies and ecstatic rites while scaring men away with snake-filled baskets, according to a new interpretation of the finely carved statues.
If true, some scholars argue the tomb would belong to the mother of Alexander the Great.
The sculptures represent Orphic revelers and priestesses of Dionysus, says Andrew Chugg, author of "The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great."
Imagine a cave filled with the oldest known human-painted images, dating back over 32,000 years.
Technically known as caryatids -- pillars formed from sculptures of female figures common in Greek and Roman architecture -- the statues were unearthed in a mysterious massive burial mound in Greece's northeastern Macedonia region after archaeologists had already entered a chamber guarded by two colossal headless and wingless sphinxes.
According to team leader Katerina Peristeri, the structure dates to between 325 B.C. -- two years before Alexander the Great's death -- and 300 B.C.
Flanking a marble doorway, the curly haired female statues stand more than seven feet tall on a marble pedestal wearing thick soled shoes, their alternated arms outstretched as if to symbolically bar intruders from entering the chamber.
"These female sculptures may specifically be Klodones, priestesses of Dionysus with whom Olympias, Alexander the Great's mother, consorted," Chugg told Discovery News. "This is because the baskets they wear on their heads are sacred to Dionysus."
Chugg considers Olympias as the person most likely buried in the magnificent tomb.
"In his 'Life of Alexander,' the Greek historian Plutarch wrote how Olympias used to participate in Dionysiac rites and orgies with these Klodones," Chugg said.
Specifically, the Greek historian and biographer recounted that the mystical baskets were used to hold Olympias' pet snakes, which would rear their heads out of the baskets, terrifying the male participants in the Dionysiac rites and orgies.
"I have discovered there are Roman copies of a 4th-Century B.C. statue of Dionysus in both the Hermitage and Metropolitan museums with an accompanying figure of a priestess, who is dressed very similarly to the Amphipolis caryatids, including the 'platform shoes,'" Chugg said.
Sphinxes Emerge From Huge Ancient Greek Tomb
On the assumption that the Amphipolis tomb is that of Olympias, "the explanation for the caryatids would be they represent those Klodones that shared in Dionysiac orgies with the queen whose tomb they guard," Chugg said.
At 1,600 feet wide, the Kasta Hill mound is regarded as the largest burial site ever discovered in Greece. Hopes in the country are now high for an extraordinary find that might boost the country's economy after six years of recession and austerity.
"We are watching in awe and with deep emotion the excavation in Amphipolis," Greek Culture Minister Konstantinos Tasoulas told the BBC.
"The most beautiful secrets are hidden right underneath our feet," he said.
As the excavation began, basically revealing a long vaulted corridor, hopes grew the mysterious mound could be this century's tomb of Tutankhamun.
It emerged the structure, which originally was crowned by an impressive 16-foot-tall marble lion statue, was embellished in its underground space with colossal sculptures.
Two headless and wingless seated sphinxes, standing nearly 5 feet high and weighting about 1.5 tons each, guard the entrance, while two magnificent caryatids flank a second marble doorway.
So, who were these colossal sentinel statues protecting? Who is buried in the Amphipolis tomb?
By John Black
In the Peloponnesus region of southern Greece there is a small village called Pavlopetri, where a nearby ancient city dating back 5,000 years resides. However, this is not an ordinary archaeological site – the city can be found about 4 meters underwater and is believed to be the oldest known submerged city in the world.
The city is incredibly well designed with roads, two storey houses with gardens, temples, a cemetery, and a complex water management system including channels and water pipes. In the center of the city, was a square or plaza measuring about 40×20 meters and most of the buildings have been found with up to 12 rooms inside. The design of this city surpasses the design of many cities today.
The city is so old that it existed in the period that the famed ancient Greek epic poem ‘Iliad’ was set in. Research in 2009 revealed that the site extends for about 9 acres and evidence shows that it had been inhabited prior to 2800 BC.
Scientists estimate that the city was sunk in around 1000 BC due to earthquakes that shifted the land. However, despite this and even after 5,000 years, the arrangement of the city is still clearly visible and at least 15 buildings have been found. The city’s arrangement is so clear that the head of the archaeological team, John Henderson of the University of Nottingham, and his team, have been able to create what they believe is an extremely accurate 3D reconstruction of the city.
Historians believe that the ancient city had been a center for commerce for the Minoan Civilization and the Mycenaean civilization. Scattered all over the place there are large storage containers made from clay, statues, everyday tools and other artifacts. The name of the city is currently unknown as well as its exact role in the ancient world.
Amazon Warriors' Names Revealed Amid "Gibberish" on Ancient Greek Vases Translations reveal Amazons' names such as Don't Fail and Hot Flanks hidden in ancient "nonsense" inscriptions.
In the forthcoming study of pottery dating from 550 B.C. to 450 B.C., study lead author Adrienne Mayor and J. Paul Getty Museum assistant curator David Saunders translated Greek inscriptions into their phonetic sounds for 12 ancient vases from Athens. The inscriptions appear next to scenes of Amazons fighting, hunting, or shooting arrows.
They next submitted just the phonetic transcriptions without explanation to linguist John Colarusso of Canada's McMaster University in Hamilton, who is an expert on rare languages of the Caucasus. He translated the inscriptions into names—such as Princess, Don't Fail, and Hot Flanks—without knowing the details of the pictures of Amazons.
The report in the journal Hesperia gives linguists unparalleled insight into languages last spoken more than 2,500 years ago around the Black Sea. This area was the realm of Scythian nomads, who fought and traded with the Greeks.
Essentially, the ancient Greeks seem to have been trying to re-create the sounds of Scythian names and words on the Amazon vases by writing them out phonetically, the study authors suggest. In doing so, the Greeks may have preserved the roots of ancient languages, showing scholars how these people sounded on the steppes long ago.
"I am impressed, and I find the conclusions quite plausible," says archaeologist Ann Steiner, an expert on ancient Greek vases at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by email. The results give weight to the suggestion that well-traveled Athenians first learned of Amazon legends and names from foreigners in their midst, she says.
Amazons were thought to be solely mythological until archaeologists unearthed Scythian burials of real women warriors, says Mayor, a visiting scholar at Stanford University and author of the just-released The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World.
"Amazons were clearly exotic and exciting to the Greeks. Clearly there is respect and admiration mixed with ambivalence," says Mayor. "Women lived much more separate and unequal lives in the Greek world, so the notion of women who dressed like men and fought like them was pretty exciting to them."
On the Amazon vases, Colarusso found an archer named Battle-Cry, a horsewoman named Worthy of Armor, and others with names such as Hot Flanks that probably had erotic connotations. On one vase, a scene of two Amazons hunting with a dog appears with a Greek transliteration for the Abkhazian word meaning "set the dog loose."
The other figures shown, such as Hercules and Achilles, were also named on the vases, leading the researchers to think the Amazon labels were meant as names, not descriptions.
The names were probably nicknames or heroic appellations given to Amazons, rather than real family names. Even today, Colarusso says, speakers of modern-day languages in the Caucasus region often use public, descriptive nicknames rather than reveal their real names.
Vases from Athens were a hot commodity in the fifth and sixth centuries B.C., traded across the Mediterranean. Often they held wine or were used as decanters during symposia, celebratory drinking parties for men. The vases were often painted with legendary scenes intended to provoke debate at the event, and a minority were inscribed with words.
More than 1,500 vases preserved from the era contain "nonsense" inscriptions that mostly use combinations of Greek letters but don't form words in ancient Greek (an analogy in English would be "dosud" or "hisme," which use the Latin alphabet but don't form meaningful words). Some of these also include depictions of women warriors.
Athenians had a long-running fascination with Amazons and began depicting them in art before 550 B.C., says the Getty's Saunders, a study author. After a Scythian incursion into Thrace, the region north of Greece, Amazons were more often shown wearing Scythian tunics, trousers, and hats, sitting on horses and carrying bows and axes.
Mayor realized the images on the vases matched clothes found in Scythian burials. "It all started from a hunch," she says. "What if these illiterate gibberish scribbles on ancient Greek vases depicting Amazons and Scythians meant something?"
Game of the Goose
To find out, Mayor first asked Colarusso, an expert on rare languages such as Circassian, Abkhazian, Ossetian, and Ubykh, to translate nonsense inscriptions on a vase that didn't have images of Amazons.
"I had goosebumps when I realized we were really deciphering sounds perhaps 3,000 years old," Colarusso says now.
The goosebumps came, in fact, from the New York Goose Play Vase, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The vase, dating to 400 B.C., depicts a scene involving a policeman and a dead goose in a basket.
On the vase, some characters speak decipherable Greek phrases, but the policeman says something that sounds like "noraretteblo," meaningless in Greek. Colarusso, blind to the scene on the vase, translated the phrase into "This sneak thief steals from the man over there" in ancient Circassian.
Remarkably, Athens is thought to have employed Scythian constables in the era of the lost play depicted on the vase, suggesting the Greeks depicted foreigners they were familiar with.
"Deciphering that very exact phrase told me we had something," Colarusso says. The languages of the Caucasus region still contain words with repeated hard, friction-filled sounds, such as "kh," he says, making them diagnosable as archaic Scythian sounds rendered phonetically in Greek phrases on the vases.
Making Sense of Nonsense
To test the translations, Mayor also sent Colarusso true Greek-inflected gibberish, which he couldn't translate.
In other instances, Colarusso translated words that are nonsense in Greek into phrases from other, archaic dialects. For example, without seeing the image on a vase depicting a Scythian archer next to a dog, he translated the inscribed words into "the dog is sitting by him."
"They've taken a great deal of trouble to make it a really convincing case," says classicist Anthony Snodgrass of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not on the study team.
The only limitation of the study, Snodgrass says, is the small number of vases used in the research, a dozen of the 1,500 known.
"It all raises a lot of questions: Why would the Athenians want these phrases on their vases?" Saunders says. Many of the vases were exported to northern Italy, where Scythians must have been quite rare, and were found in Etruscan burials there.
All in all, the translations point to the wide interconnection of the ancient world, he says, where Bronze Age trade routes were used to carry goods from Iberia to Siberia.
"It certainly has made me a lot more careful about what I call nonsense," Saunders adds.
Could another ancient computer lie beneath the sea? Archaeologists return to shipwreck where mysterious 2,200-year-old Antikythera mechanism was found
Antikythera Mechanism was recovered in 1900 from a shipwreck in Greece
It was created in 100BC, and is believed to be the world’s oldest calculator
Scans revealed it was used to chart the movement of planets and the passing of days and years
Divers are now using a revolutionary suit to further explore the wreckage
The Exosuit lets them more than double the depth they can dive at
It also means they can grasp, clench and dig for ‘several hours’ at a time
Archaeologists are hoping to find other artefacts in and around the wreck - as well as a second shipwreck
By VICTORIA WOOLLASTON FOR MAILONLINE
More than a century since one of the most remarkable scientific objects of antiquity was discovered, experts are hoping to reveal more secrets of the deep using the latest in diving technology.
Greek and American archaeologists are returning to the ancient shipwreck of Antikythera using the Exosuit - a state-of-the art, deep sea diving suit - that will let them dive to more than double the depths of previous expeditions.
Here, the so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device dubbed the world's oldest computer, was discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off the remote Greek island.
Archaeologists, including Brendan Foley (pictured) are returning to the ancient shipwreck of Antikythera using the Exosuit, which lets them dive to more than double the depths of previous expeditions. It was the site of the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device dubbed the world's oldest computer, found in 1900
The highly complex mechanism consisting of up to 40 bronze cogs and gears was used by the ancient Greeks to track the cycles of the solar system.
It was so advanced, it took another 1,500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe.
THE EXOSUIT'S SPECIFICATIONS
The Exosuit, built in Canada by Nuytco Research, lets divers reach depths of 492ft (150 metres).
It is made of aluminium, with 18 joints in the arms and legs.
The suit is able to supply oxygen for up to 50 hours, and maintains communication with the surface via an optical cable.
It also has four 1.6 horsepower thrusters on the back to help the diver move around underwater at relatively high speeds.
Each suit weighs between 35 (226kg) and 42 stone (272kg).
Prices start at around £360,000 ($588,000).
Now archaeologists returning to the wreck will be able to use the Exosuit to more than double the depth they can dive at, and stay safely at the bottom for longer.
The Exosuit, built in Canada by Nuytco Research, lets divers reach depths of 492ft (150 metres), while still performing delicate tasks, said archaeologist Theotokis Theodoulou.
Up until now, divers had only been able to operate at a depth of 196ft (60 metres).
The suit, which makes the wearer resemble Buzz Lightyear, ‘expands our capabilities’, continued Mr Theodoulou, and ‘I'll be able to grasp, pluck, clench and dig... for several hours,’ he added.
Archaeologists believe many other artefacts are yet to be discovered in and around the wreck.
The Mechanism was found with a bronze statue of a youth in the wreck of a cargo ship apparently carrying booty to Rome, and researchers are certain that other items on board still remain to be discovered.
‘We have good signs that there are other objects present,’ said Angeliki Simosi, head of Greece's directorate of underwater antiquities, after exploratory dives in the area in 2012 and 2013.
‘There are dozens of items left, this was a ship bearing immense riches from Asia Minor,’ added Dimitris Kourkoumelis, another archaeologist on the team.
The Mechanism was recovered from a Roman cargo shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. Previous studies have shown it was used to chart the movement of planets and the passing of days and years. Scans in 2008 found that it may also have been used to predict eclipses
The Exosuit built in Canada by Nuytco Research, lets divers reach depths of 492ft (150 metres). It is made of aluminium, with 18 joints in the arms and legs. It also has four 1.6 horsepower thrusters on the back to help the diver move around underwater at relatively high speeds
The archaeologists also hope to confirm the presence of a second ship, some 820ft (250 metres) away from the original discovery site.
Antikythera, which now has a population of only 44, was on one of antiquity's busiest trade routes, and a base for Cilician pirates, some of whom once captured and held the young Julius Caesar for ransom.
He later had them all captured and crucified.
The Greek team is assisted by Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Massachusetts, which was involved in a dive to the wreck of the Titanic.
Foley has helped in outings to identify ancient shipwrecks over the last five years.
Antikythera which now has a population of only 44, was on one of antiquity's busiest trade routes, and a base for Cilician pirates, some of whom once captured and held the young Julius Caesar for ransom. He later had them all captured and crucified
WHAT IS THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM?
The Mechanism was recovered in 1900 from the Antikythera wreck - a Roman cargo shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera.
It was discovered in a wooden box measuring 13 inchesx7 inchesx3.5 inches (340×180×90mm) and consists of bronze dials, gears and cogs.
A further 81 fragments have since been found containing a total of 40 hand-cut bronze gears.
The mechanism is said to have been created in around 100BC, and is believed to be the world’s oldest calculator.
Previous studies have shown that it was used to chart the movement of planets and the passing of days and years.
More than 80 fragments of the Mechanism have been found, containing a total of 40 hand-cut bronze gears
Scans of the mechanism in 2008 found that it may also have been used to predict eclipses, and record important events in the Greek calendar, such as the Olympic Games.
Astronomer Professor Mike Edmunds of Cardiff University said at the time: 'It is more complex than any other known device for the next 1,000 years.'
The scans also revealed the mechanism was originally housed in a rectangular wooden frame with two doors, covered in instructions for its use.
At the front was a single dial showing the Greek zodiac and an Egyptian calendar.
On the back were two further dials displaying information about lunar cycles and eclipses.
The calculator would have been driven by a hand crank.
The mechanism recorded several important astronomical cycles known to the Babylonians hundreds of years before that help predict eclipses.
These include the Saros cycle - a period of around 18 years separating the return of the moon, Earth and sun to the same relative positions.
The device could track the movements of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - the only planets known at the time, the position of the sun, and the location and phases of the moon.
The researchers have been able to read all the month names on a 19-year calendar on the back of the mechanism.
The month names are Corinthian - suggest that it may have been built in the Corinthian colonies in north-western Greece or Syracuse in Sicily.
The device was created at a time when the Romans had gained control of much of Greece.
The Mechanism is on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
‘We may find one or more monumental statues that were left behind in 1901, in the mistaken belief that they were rocks,’ Foley said.
As well as the new Exosuit, the Antikythera expedition will also use robot mapping equipment and new advanced closed-circuit ‘rebreathers’, which will allow divers much more time underwater.
‘We will have more bottom time than any previous human visitors to the site, because we dive with mixed gas rebreathers,’ the expedition's website said.
‘Each diver will have more than 30 minutes of bottom time per day, and will enjoy greater mental acuity and a larger safety margin than that of previous divers at Antikythera.’
By Megan Gannon
Let these ancient statues be an inspiration to tall girls who want to wear heels: A pair of caryatids revealed in a tomb in Greece stand more than 7 feet tall, and they have a little extra height from their platform sandals .
Archaeologists recently uncovered the feet of the wavy-haired female statues standing guard at the entrance of a huge burial complex in Amphipolis. The stone statues' delicately carved toes have survived for more than 2,300 years, and their thick-soled shoes , known as kothornoi, have even retained traces of red and yellow paint, new photos show.
Called caryatids, the ancient sculptures were discovered earlier this month at the Kasta Hill site in Amphipolis, about 65 miles (104 kilometers) east of Thessaloniki in the Central Macedonia region of Greece. The massive tomb is thought to date back to the era of Alexander the Great, in the fourth century B.C. [See Photos of the Alexander-Era Tomb's Excavation]
With the feet revealed, excavators could finally measure the full height of the larger-than-life caryatids: 7.45 feet, or 2.27 meters, according to the latest update on the excavation from the Greek Ministry of Culture.
While removing soil from around the statues, archaeologists also discovered parts of the caryatids' broken hands and arms.
Caryatids are statues that take the place of columns or pillars in Greek architecture. Perhaps the most famous examples are the six caryatids supporting the porch of the Erechtheion, an ancient temple at the Acropolis in Athens.
The caryatids at Amphipolis flank the second doorway inside the tomb, and their bodies had been partially covered up by a wall of stones. When excavators revealed the statues' torsos, they found that the right arm of the western caryatid and the left arm of the eastern one were both outstretched, "as if to symbolically prevent anyone attempting to enter the grave," a statement from the Greek Ministry of Culture said.
Archaeologists still aren't sure who's buried inside. The head of the Greek Ministry of Culture, Kostas Tasoulas, told Mega TV Monday (Sept. 22) it is "impossible" for the grave of Alexander the Great to be at Amphipolis, according to the Greek Reporter. Historical texts indicate Alexander's body was ultimately laid to rest in Alexandria.
But if the tomb at Amphipolis proves to be intact, the excavators might find someone from Alexander's inner circle. The archaeologists have said they believe the monumental tomb bears the design fingerprints of Dinocrates, Alexander's chief architect. The burial complex is surrounded by a wall measuring some 1,600 feet (490 meters) in perimeter; two headless sphinxes sit on top of the first doorway.
The Mish Mosh Blog: Stonehenge Was Merely the Focal Point of a Bigger ...: There’s more to Stonehenge than we’d ever imagined. A team of researchers, working together under the “Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Pro...
By JOHN HADOULIS,
ATHENS - Archaeologists began Monday using a revolutionary new deep sea diving suit to explore the ancient shipwreck where one of the most remarkable scientific objects of antiquity was found.
The so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device known as the world's oldest computer, was discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off a remote Greek island in the Aegean.
The highly complex mechanism of up to 40 bronze cogs and gears was used by the ancient Greeks to track the cycles of the solar system. It took another 1,500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe.
Now archaeologists returning to the wreck will be able to use a new diving suit which will allow them to more than double the depth they can dive at, and stay safely at the bottom for longer.
Double the diving depth
The Exosuit, built in Canada by Nuytco Research, will permit divers to reach depths of 150 metres (492 feet) and still perform delicate tasks, says archaeologist Theotokis Theodoulou.
The suit, which resembles a puffy space suit, "expands our capabilities," Theodoulou told AFP as the team set off for a month-long expedition to Antikythera, which lies between Crete and the Peloponnese.
"I'll be able to grasp, pluck, clench and dig... for several hours," he said.
Archaeologists believe many other artefacts are yet to be discovered in and around the wreck. Up to now they had only been able to operate at a depth of 60 meters.
The mechanism was found with a spectacular bronze statue of a youth in the wreck of a cargo ship apparently carrying booty to Rome, and researchers are certain that other items on board still remain to be discovered.
"We have good signs that there are other objects present," said Angeliki Simosi, head of Greece's directorate of underwater antiquities, after exploratory dives in the area in 2012 and 2013.
"There are dozens of items left, this was a ship bearing immense riches from Asia Minor," added Dimitris Kourkoumelis, another archaeologist on the team.
The archaeologists also hope to confirm the presence of a second ship, some 250 meters away from the original discovery site.
Antikythera, which now has a population of only 44, was on one of antiquity's busiest trade routes, and a base for Cilician pirates, some of whom once captured and held the young Julius Caesar for ransom. He later had them all captured and crucified.
The Greek team is assisted by Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from the renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Massachusetts, which was involved in a dive to the wreck of the Titanic.
Foley has helped in outings to identify ancient shipwrecks over the last five years.
"We may find one or more monumental statues that were left behind in 1901, in the mistaken belief that they were rocks," Foley said.
As well as the new Exosuit, the Antikythera expedition will also use robot mapping equipment and new advanced closed-circuit "rebreathers," which will allow divers much more time underwater.
"We will have more bottom time than any previous human visitors to the site, because we dive with mixed gas rebreathers," the expedition's website said.
"Each diver will have more than 30 minutes of bottom time per day, and will enjoy greater mental acuity and a larger safety margin than that of previous divers at Antikythera." — AFP
The Eleatics refers to the pre-Socratic school of philosophy founded by Parmenides in the early fifth century BC in the ancient town of Elea. The school took its name from Elea a Greek city of lower Italy, the home of its chief exponents, Parmenides and Zeno.
Xenophanes espoused a belief that "God is one, supreme among gods and men, and not like mortals in body or in mind."
Parmenides developed some of Xenophanes's metaphysical ideas. Subsequently the school debated the possibility of motion and other such fundamental questions. The work of the school was influential upon Platonic metaphysics.
The Eleatics rejected the epistemological validity of sense experience, and instead took logical standards of clarity and necessity to be the criteria of truth. Of the members, Parmenides and Melissus built arguments starting from indubitably sound premises. Zeno, on the other hand, primarily employed the reductio ad absurdum, attempting to destroy the arguments of others by showing that their premises led to contradictions (Zeno's paradoxes).
The main doctrines of the Eleatics were evolved in opposition to the theories of the early physicalist philosophers, who explained all existence in terms of primary matter, and to the theory of Heraclitus, which declared that all existence may be summed up as perpetual change.
The Eleatics maintained that the true explanation of things lies in the conception of a universal unity of being. According to their doctrine, the senses cannot cognize this unity, because their reports are inconsistent; it is by thought alone that we can pass beyond the false appearances of sense and arrive at the knowledge of being, at the fundamental truth that the "All is One".
Furthermore, there can be no creation, for being cannot come from non-being, because a thing cannot arise from that which is different from it. They argued that errors on this point commonly arise from the ambiguous use of the verb to be, which may imply actual physical existence or be merely the linguistic copula which connects subject and predicate.
Though the conclusions of the Eleatics were rejected by the later Presocratics and Aristotle, their arguments were taken seriously, and they are generally credited with improving the standards of discourse and argument in their time. Their influence was likewise longlasting; Gorgias, a Sophist, argued in the style of the Eleatics in On Nature or What Is Not, and Plato acknowledged them in the Parmenides, the Sophist and the Statesman. Furthermore, much of the later philosophy of the ancient period borrowed from the methods and principles of the Eleatics.
One of biggest mysteries of modern archaeology might be solved in the coming days—and all eyes are on a huge circular structure that lies beneath an ancient Greek mound.
Its entrances are guarded first by a pair of sphinxes, then by columns in the form of women—each stretching out an arm to ward off intruders. Beyond them lies one of the greatest mysteries of modern archaeology, one that might be solved in the next few days—or might trouble the sleep of scholars for decades, as the last great find in the territory of the ancient Macedonians, the nation once ruled by Alexander the Great, has done.
The structure that now holds much of Greece and Hellenists around the world in suspense stands at the site of ancient Amphipolis, about a hundred miles east of Thessalonica, on territory conquered by Alexander’s father Philip in the 4th century B.C. Amphipolis was a major Greek city and a stronghold of the vast Macedonian empire, but today the site is all but deserted. On grasslands where goatherds graze their flocks, under a hill called Kasta—now protected by a military cordon from throngs of onlookers—lies one of the most puzzling finds ever unearthed in the Aegean region.
Round in shape and vast in size, the building beneath the hill has been called a tomb for lack of a better label. Circular buildings, though rare in antiquity, were sometimes used for royal burials, but no other known tombs approach the scale of this one: 500 meters in circumference (half again larger than Stonehenge) and surrounded by a superbly built marble wall. Atop the center of the building’s roof once stood a crouching stone lion, long ago removed from the site but still intact—a sign that the tomb, if such it is, probably held a great soldier or ruler. The structure’s date, fixed by analysis of the lion and the stonework, seems to be the last quarter of the 4th century B.C., the decades just after Alexander’s death in 323.
Only Alexander himself, it would seem, could have merited such an enormous and expensive resting place, yet Alexander’s remains are known to have gone elsewhere—stolen by Ptolemy, the Macedonian ruler of Egypt, for interment in Alexandria and later visited by thousands. So unless an ancient legend is true, that Ptolemy swapped a dummy Alexander for the real one, the greatest corpse in the ancient world is already accounted for (at least until its unexplained disappearance many centuries later). So too, apparently, are the bodies of Alexander’s father and son, widely believed to be the occupants of two sumptuous tombs discovered, totally intact, in the late 1970s, near Vergina, on the site of what was once the Macedonian royal capital.
Unless an ancient legend is true, that Ptolemy swapped a dummy Alexander for the real one, the greatest corpse in the ancient world is already accounted for (at least until its unexplained disappearance many centuries later).
But those two identifications are still subjects of debate, a problem that adds to the suspense now mounting at Amphipolis. No inscriptions were found in the Vergina tombs, so a complex—and sometimes controversial—mass of evidence had to be analyzed before conclusions could be drawn. The Amphipolis site, even if its contents have remained undisturbed by robbers, could also yield a body or bodies that cannot be identified easily or with certainty. More troubling still is the prospect that, as some expect, Alexander’s son lies inside—a young prince killed at Amphipolis around 308 B.C. That finding would throw the hard-won and still contested analysis of the Vergina tombs into total disarray.
So who else might lie inside the great circle of the Amphipolis tomb? The betting at local tavernas, and Internet chatter worldwide, has focused on the so-called Successors, the Macedonian generals who carved up Alexander’s empire and made themselves kings of its pieces. Lysimachus and Cassander are the leading candidates among this crew, kings of the regions east and west of Amphipolis, though there are good reasons to eliminate both of them. Alexander’s mother, Olympias, has also been proposed, but the regime that tried and executed her in 317 B.C. had no reason to bury her so grandly. That leaves Roxane, Alexander’s famously beautiful Asian wife, who became a political prisoner shortly after Alexander’s death. Poisoned at Amphipolis by a ruler who wanted no rivals, Roxane was reportedly sent to the Vergina complex for burial, but no sign of her tomb has been found there.
The Amphipolis tomb may hold the remains of hundreds of bodies, or none at all. Some speculate it was a kind of war memorial, dedicated to the Macedonian soldiers killed during Alexander’s 13-year campaign of conquest. That theory would explain the sculpted lion that once crowned the building, a statue closely resembling one set up by the Macedonians on a battlefield in northern Greece. Others think it may be a cenotaph, built to house Alexander himself but then left empty after Ptolemy made off with his body. Either of these hypotheses would account for the size and magnificence of the building, which seem inexplicable under any of the other scenarios.
The drumbeat of anticipation keeps growing louder in the reports and photos streaming from Amphipolis. The pair of sphinxes atop the tomb’s main entrance were uncovered last month; after the chamber behind them was cleared of earth, a second gateway, flanked by the female-shaped caryatid columns, came to light only days ago. Behind this inner gate lies yet another antechamber and a third portal, presumably the entrance to one of the tomb’s main chambers. A small opening found in the interior wall has had experts worried that intruders may have plundered the tomb, but the aperture may also have been an exit route for those who interred the body, and then sealed the structure, some 2,400 years ago.
An announcement that archaeologists have entered a main chamber at Amphipolis may come at any time. Whatever is learned of what lies inside is certain to cause a sensation, because no one knows what to expect. Scholars at least know what they are hoping for—decisive evidence and clear answers. It’s what they didn’t get from the headache-filled finds at Vergina, still under dispute 37 years later.
by: Christopher Allen
THE Greeks were the first to conceive of the body as beautiful — something we tend to take for granted, having inher¬ited the idea through its rediscovery in the Renaissance.
But, as a new and illuminating exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery on loan from The British Museum shows, the Greek perception of the human body is different to ours, which can mostly be divided into sexually desirable undesirable and even repellent.
The Greeks were just as sexually responsive to bodies as anyone else, but they conceived of something above and beyond that animal level of appetite: they saw that the beauty and harmony of the body could be the visible manifestation of a deeper moral beauty and equilibrium. Beauty became the symbol of everything we mean by humanism: belief in the capacity of man to be autonomous, virtuous and harmonious.
The training of the body, gymnastike, was an integral part of the Greek conception of education, the other two being grammata (reading and writing) and mousike, including literature and music. All of these were part of the culture of a good citizen, who had to be fit and strong as well as intelligent and wise. And all this was subsumed under a conception of beauty summed up by the word kalokagathia, a fusion of the ideas of goodness and beauty.
The earliest pieces in the exhibition illustrate the Greeks becoming aware of the torso. It is here that the ideal of beauty begins to be formed. The Strangford Apollo (above) shows an understanding of the pelvic girdle as a horizontal axis that could be tilted with the dropping of weight on to one leg.
From there, a new conception emerged of the torso as a single strong and yet flexible form from shoulders to hips, uniting the shoulder girdle, rib cage and pelvic girdle.
In most cases, at least in freestanding sculpture, the classical torso bends or tilts to a moderate degree, dynamic yet graceful and poised.
The Greek diet, which was devoid of sugar, helped. Without sugar, it is nearly impossible to get fat. And the Greeks were free of more pernicious imports from the Americas: syphilis returned with Columbus’s sailors at the end of the 15th century, putting an end to the Renaissance rediscovery of the joy of sex and underscoring the Christian message of guilt and sin.
(Reuters) - Archaeologists have unearthed two sculpted female figures, known as Caryatids, as they slowly make their way into an ancient tomb recently discovered in Greece's northeast, the country's culture ministry said on Sunday.They mark a significant new finding in the tomb on the Amphipolis site, about 100 km (65 miles) from Greece's second-biggest city Thessaloniki, which archaeologists have hailed as a major discovery from the era of Alexander the Great.
The figures made of Greek marble were unearthed on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement. The Caryatids, with thick curls covering their shoulders, support an inner entrance into the tomb and feature the same sculpting technique used for the heads and wings of two sphinxes found guarding the main entrance of the tomb in August, according to the statement."The structure of the second entrance with the Caryatids is an important finding, which supports the view that it is a prominent monument of great importance," the Culture Ministry said.The face of one of the Caryatids is missing, while both figures have one hand outstretched in a symbolic move to push away anyone who would try to violate the tomb.Archaeologists have said that the Amphipolis site appeared to be the largest ancient tomb to have been discovered in Greece.Excavations, which began in 2012, have not yet determined who was buried in the tomb but culture ministry officials have said that the monument appeared to belong to a prominent Macedonian from the 300-325 B.C. era.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Rosalind Russell)
Archeologists have unearthed two sculpted female figures, known as Caryatids, as they slowly make their way into an ancient tomb recently discovered in Greece's northeast, the country's culture ministry said on Sunday.
They mark a significant new finding in the tomb on the Amphipolis site, about 100 km (65 miles) from Greece's second-biggest city Thessaloniki, which archeologists have hailed as a major discovery from the era of Alexander the Great.
The figures made of Greek marble were unearthed on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.
The Caryatids, with thick curls covering their shoulders, support an inner entrance into the tomb and feature the same sculpting technique used for the heads and wings of two sphinxes found guarding the main entrance of the tomb in August, according to the statement.
“The structure of the second entrance with the Caryatids is an important finding, which supports the view that it is a prominent monument of great importance,” the Culture Ministry said.
The face of one of the Caryatids is missing, while both figures have one hand outstretched in a symbolic move to push away anyone who would try to violate the tomb.
Archeologists have said that the Amphipolis site appeared to be the largest ancient tomb to have been discovered in Greece.
Excavations, which began in 2012, have not yet determined who was buried in the tomb, but culture ministry officials have said that the monument appeared to belong to a prominent Macedonian from the 300-325 B.C. era
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop, The Lion and the Mouse
Aesop was an Ancient Greek fabulist or story teller credited with a number of fables now collectively known as Aesop's Fables.
Although his existence remains uncertain and (if he ever existed) no writings by him survive, numerous tales credited to him were gathered across the centuries and in many languages in a storytelling tradition that continues to this day.
Many of the tales are characterized by animals and inanimate objects that speak, solve problems, and generally have human characteristics.
Scattered details of Aesop's life can be found in ancient sources, including Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. An ancient literary work called The Aesop Romance tells an episodic, probably highly fictional version of his life, including the traditional description of him as a strikingly ugly slave (δοῦλος) who by his cleverness acquires freedom and becomes an adviser to kings and city-states.
The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology. The first extant account of the successive ages of humanity comes from the Greek poet Hesiod's Works and Days:
Golden Age – The Golden Age is the only age that falls within the rule of Cronus. Created by the immortals who live on Olympus, these humans were said to live among the gods, and freely mingled with them. Peace and harmony prevailed during this age. Humans did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age but with a youthful appearance and eventually died peacefully. Their spirits live on as "guardians".
Silver Age – The Silver Age and every age that follows fall within the rule of Cronus' successor and son, Zeus. Men in the Silver age lived for one hundred years under the dominion of their mothers. They lived only a short time as grown adults, and spent that time in strife with one another. During this Age men refused to worship the gods and Zeus destroyed them for their impiety. After death, humans of this age became "blessed spirits" of the underworld.
Bronze Age – Men of the Bronze Age were hardened and tough, as war was their purpose and passion. Zeus created these humans out of the ash tree. Their armor was forged of bronze, as were their homes, and tools. The men of this Age were undone by their own violent ways and left no named spirits; instead, they dwell in the "dank house of Hades". This Age came to an end with the flood of Deucalion.
Heroic Age – The Heroic Age is the one age that does not correspond with any metal. It is also the only age that improves upon the age it follows. These humans were created from the bones of the earth (stones) through the actions of Deucalion and Pyrrha. In this period men lived with noble demigods and heroes. It was the heroes of this Age who fought at Thebes and Troy. This race of humans died and went to Elysium.
Iron Age – Hesiod finds himself in the Iron Age. During this age humans live an existence of toil and misery. Children dishonor their parents, brother fights with brother and the social contract between guest and host (xenia) is forgotten. During this age might makes right, and bad men use lies to be thought good. At the height of this age, humans no longer feel shame or indignation at wrongdoing; babies will be born with gray hair and the gods will have completely forsaken humanity: "there will be no help against evil."