October 1, 2015

Seven Wonders of Ancient World: Great Lighthouse of Alexandria

In the fall of 1994 a team of archaeological divers leaded by the archeologist Jean Yves Empereur donned scuba equipment and entered the waters off of Alexandria, Egypt. Working beneath the surface, they searched the bottom of the sea for artifacts.
Ironically, these scientists were using some of the most high-tech devices available at the end of the 20th century to try and sort out the ruins of one of the most advanced technological achievements of the 3rd century, B.C... It was the Pharos, the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria worked by 15 centuries and it was the last of the six lost wonders of the ancient world that disappeared. It was one of the greatest architectural feats of the antiquity.
Besides, the Lighthouse was the only wonder that was constructed with practical purposes; since it helped seafaring ships to find the harbor safely. The lighthouse served also as a military lookout for approaching enemy ships and a tourist balcony, because it had two observation platforms.

Founding of Alexandria

The story of the Pharos starts with the founding of the city of Alexandria by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in 332 B.C... Alexander started at least 17 cities named Alexandria at different locations in his vast domain (big ego huh?). Most of them disappeared, but Alexandria in Egypt thrived for many centuries, served as Egypt’s capital for Ptolemy Dynasty, and is prosperous even today.
Alexander the Great chose the location of his new city carefully. Instead of building it on the Nile delta, he selected a site some twenty miles to the west, so that the silt and mud carried by the river would not block the city harbor. South of the city was the marshy Lake Mareotis. After a canal was constructed between the lake and the Nile, the city had two harbors: one for Nile River traffic, and the other for Mediterranean Sea trade. Both harbors would remain deep and clear and the activity they allowed made the city very wealthy.

Alexander died in 323 B.C. and the city was completed by Ptolemy Soter, the new ruler of Egypt. Under Ptolemy the city became rich and prosperous. However, it needed both a symbol and a mechanism to guide the many trade ships into its busy harbor. Ptolemy authorized the building of the Pharos in 290 B.C. The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired that name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word "Pharos" became the root of the word "lighthouse" in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages.
The design was unlike the slim single column of most modern lighthouses, but more like the structure of an early twentieth century skyscraper. There were three stages, each built on top of one other. The building material was stone faced with white marble blocks cemented together with lead mortar. The lowest level of the building, which sat on a 20 foot (6m) high stone platform, was probably about 240 feet (73m) in height and 100 feet (30m) square at the base, shaped like a massive box. The door to this section of the building wasn't at the bottom of the structure, but part way up and reached by a 600 foot (183m) long ramp supported by massive arches. Inside this portion of the structure was a large spiral ramp that allowed materials to be pulled to the top in animal-drawn carts.
On top of that first section was an eight-sided tower which was probably about 115 feet (35m) in height. On top of the tower was a cylinder that extended up another 60 feet (18m) to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light burned. On the roof of the cupola was a large statue, probably of the god of the sea, Poseidon.
When it was completed some twenty years later, it was the first lighthouse in the world and the tallest building in existence, with the exception of the Great Pyramid. The construction cost was said to have been 800 talents, an amount equal today to about three million dollars.

Destruction of the Lighthouse

During its three first centuries the Lighthouse was used mainly with practical purposes. By the first century AD in the Roman time the Lighthouse served mainly as a landmark or day beacon.
In 796 the Lighthouse would have lost its upper storey and 100 years later the sultan Toulun (868-884) built a domed mosque on the summit. By 950 several cracks began to appear in the walls of the tower.
The Lighthouse dominated the Harbor during many centuries, in 1183 the Muslim traveler Ibn Jubayr visited Alexandria and described the Lighthouse thus: “Description of it falls short, the eyes fail to comprehend it, and words are inadequate, so vast is the spectacle”.
Unfortunately two major earthquakes in 1303 and 1323 damaged seriously the tower; according to the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta, in this time, it could not enter into the ruins of the Lighthouse. In 1480 the remains of the Lighthouse finally disappeared, since the Sultan of Egypt Qaitbay, used several stones of the Pharos to build a fort, therefore several stone blocks of the Lighthouse can be seen in the walls of the Fort Qaitbey, these stone blocks are clearly visible because of their big size compare to the other blocks of the walls.

September 24, 2015

Seven Wonders of the World: Colossus of Rhodes

Travelers to the New York City harbor see a marvelous sight. Standing on a small island in the harbor is an immense statue of a robed woman, holding a book and lifting a torch to the sky. It is sometimes referred to as the "Modern Colossus," but more often called the Statue of Liberty. This awe-inspiring statue was a gift from France to America and is easily recognized by people around the world. What many visitors to this shrine to freedom don't know is that the statue, the "Modern Colossus," is the echo of another statue, the original colossus, which stood over two thousand years ago at the entrance to another busy harbor on the Island of Rhodes.
In the late 4th century BC, Rhodes, allied with Ptolemy I of Egypt, prevented a massive invasion staged by their common enemy, Antigonus I Monophthalmus and his son Demetrius. In 304 BC a relief force of ships sent by Ptolemy arrived, and Antigonus's army abandoned the siege, leaving most of their siege equipment. The siege of Rhodes lasted a year and ended in 304 BC when Demetrius, meeting with obstinate resistance, was obliged to make a peace treaty upon the terms that the people of Rhodes would build ships for Antigonus and aid him against any enemy except for Ptolemy, on whom they bestowed the title Soter (savior) for his aid during the lengthy siege.
The people of Rhodes saw the end of conflict differently, however. To celebrate their victory and freedom, the people of Rhodes decided to build a giant statue of their patron god Helios.
Helios: God of the Sun 
Helios is the Titan God of the Sun.  Helios‘s duty of driving the sun chariot and shine sunlight to the world. Helios is the son of Hyperion and Theia, brother of Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn. He is married to Rhodes, a nymph daughter of Poseidon. His Roman counterpart is Sol.

The chief seat of the worship of Helios was the island of Rhodes, which according to the following myth was his special territory. At the time of the Titanomachy, when the gods were dividing the world by lot, Helios happened to be absent, and consequently received no share. He therefore complained to Zeus, who proposed to have a new allotment, but Helios would not allow this, saying that as he pursued his daily journey, his penetrating eye had beheld a lovely, fertile island lying beneath the waves of the ocean, and that if the immortals would swear to give him the undisturbed possession of this spot, he would be content to accept it as his share of the universe. The gods took the oath, whereupon the island of Rhodes immediately rose above the surface of the waters.
The people of Rhodes melted down bronze from the many war machines Demetrius left behind for the exterior of the figure and the super siege tower became the scaffolding for the project. Although some reportedly place the start of construction as early as 304 BC it is more likely the work started in 292 BC. According to Pliny, a historian who lived several centuries after the Colossus was built, construction took 12 years.
The statue was one hundred and ten feet high and stood upon a fifty-foot pedestal near the harbor entrance perhaps on a breakwater. Although the statue has sometimes been popularly depicted with its legs spanning the harbor entrance so that ships could pass beneath, it was actually posed in a more traditional Greek manner. Historians believe the figure was nude or semi-nude with a cloak over its left arm or shoulder. Some think it was wearing a spiked crown, shading its eyes from the rising sun with its right hand, or possibly using that hand to hold a torch aloft in a pose similar to one later given to the Statue of Liberty.
No ancient account mentions the harbor-spanning pose and it seems unlikely the Greeks would have depicted one of their gods in such an awkward manner. In addition, such a pose would mean shutting down the harbor during the construction, something not economically feasible.
The Colossus stood proudly at the harbor entrance for some fifty-six years. Each morning the sun must have caught its polished bronze surface and made the god's figure shine. Then an earthquake hit Rhodes in 226 BC and the statue collapsed. Huge pieces of the figure lay along the harbor for centuries. It is said that the Egyptian king, Ptolemy III, offered to pay for its reconstruction, but the people of Rhodes refused his help. They had consulted the Oracle of Delphi and feared that somehow the statue had offended the god Helios, who used the earthquake to throw it down. This make it the shortest time for the wonder.

September 20, 2015

Seven Wonders of Ancient World: Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

In 377 B.C., the city of Halicarnassus was the capitol of a small kingdom along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor. It was in that year the ruler of this land, Hecatomnus of Mylasa, died and left control of the kingdom to his son, Mausolus. Hecatomnus, a local satrap (vassal king) to the Persians, had been ambitious and had taken control of several of the neighboring cities and districts. Then Mausolus during his reign extended the territory even further so that it eventually included most of southwestern Asia Minor.
Mausolus, with his queen Artemisia, ruled over Halicarnassus and the surrounding territory for 24 years. Though he was descended from the local people, Mausolus spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. He founded many cities of Greek design along the coast and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.

Mausolus's Death
Then in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen Artemisia, who was also his sister, broken-hearted (It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters). As a tribute to him, she decided to build him the most splendid tomb in the known world. It became a structure so famous that Mausolus's name is now associated with all stately tombs throughout the world through the word mausoleum. The building, rich with statuary and carvings in relief, was so beautiful and unique it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Artemisia decided that no expense was to be spared in the building of the tomb. She sent messengers to Greece to find the most talented artists of the time. These included architects Satyros and Pytheos who designed the overall shape of the tomb. Other famous sculptors invited to contribute to the project were Bryaxis, Leochares, Timotheus and Scopas of Paros (who was responsible for rebuilding the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, another of the wonders). According to the historian Pliny Bryaxis, Leochares, Timotheus and Scopas each took one side of the tomb to decorate. Joining these sculptors were also hundreds of other workmen and craftsmen. Together they finished the building in the styles of three different cultures: Egyptian, Greek and Lycian.

The tomb was erected on a hill overlooking the city. The whole structure sat in the center of an enclosed courtyard on a stone platform. A staircase, flanked by stone lions, led to the top of this platform. Along the outer wall of the courtyard were many statues depicting gods and goddesses. At each corner stone warriors, mounted on horseback, guarded the tomb.
At the center of the platform was the tomb itself. Made mostly of marble, the structure rose as a square, tapering block to about one-third of the Mausoleum's 140 foot height. This section was covered with relief sculpture showing action scenes from Greek myth/history. One part showed the battle of the Centaurs with the Lapiths. Another depicted Greeks in combat with the Amazons, a race of warrior women. On top of this section of the tomb thirty-six slim columns rose for another third of the height. Standing in between each column was another statue. Behind the columns was a solid block that carried the weight of the tomb's massive roof.
The roof, which comprised most of the final third of the height, was in the form of a stepped pyramid with 24 levels. Perched on top was the tomb's penultimate work of sculpture craved by Pytheos: Four massive horses pulling a chariot in which images of Mausolus and Artemisia rode.
Artemisia lived for only two years after the death of her husband. Both would be buried in the yet unfinished tomb. According to Pliny, the craftsmen decided to stay and finish the work after their patron died "considering that it was at once a memorial of their own fame and of the sculptor's art."
The Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for many centuries. It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and was still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 B.C. It stood above the city ruins for some 17 centuries. Then a series of earthquakes in the 13th century shattered the columns and sent the stone chariot crashing to the ground. By 1404 A.D. only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable.

Destruction by the Crusaders

Crusaders, who had little respect for ancient culture, occupied the city from the thirteen century onward and recycled much of the building stone into their own structures. In 1522 rumors of a Turkish invasion caused Crusaders to strengthen the castle at Halicarnassus (which was by then known as Bodrum) and some of the remaining portions of the tomb were broken up and used within the castle walls. Indeed, sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today.
At this time a party of knights entered the base of the monument and discovered the room containing a great coffin. Deciding it was too late to open it that day, the party returned the next morning to find the tomb, and any treasure it may have contained, plundered. The bodies of Mausolus and Artemisia were missing, too. The Knights claimed that Moslem villagers were responsible for the theft, but it is more likely that some of the Crusaders themselves plundered the graves.
Before grounding much of the remaining sculpture of the Mausoleum into lime for plaster, the Knights removed several of the best works and mounted them in the Bodrum castle. There they stayed for three centuries. At that time the British ambassador obtained several of the statutes from the castle, which now reside in the British Museum.

September 18, 2015

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Temple of Artemis

The temple of Artemis is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. It has been built in the areas of Ephesus on a flat area which has over the centuries turned into a swamp. If you visit Ephesus today, you can only see the ruins of the foundations of this marvelous construction of the Hellenistic Age, entirely made of marble and full of sculptured columns' capitals and shafts. The most beautiful remaining of this temple is today exhibited in the London British Museum.
The Temple of Artemis was located near the ancient city of Ephesus, about 75 km south from the modern port city of İzmir, in Turkey. Today the site lies on the edge of the modern town of Selcuk.
The sacred site at Ephesus was far older than the Artemision itself. Pausanias was certain that it antedated the Ionic immigration by many years, being older even than the oracular shrine of Apollo at Didyma. He said that the pre-Ionic inhabitants of the city were Leleges and Lydians. Callimachus, in his Hymn to Artemis attributed the earliest temple at Ephesus to the Amazons, whose worship he imagines already centered upon an image of Artemis, their matron goddess. She would look like the Great Mother Cybele.
Artemis: Goddess of the Moon and Hunt
In the 7th century BC, a flood destroyed the temple, depositing over half a meter of sand and flotsam over the original clay floor. Among the flood debris were the remains of a carved ivory plaque of a griffin and the Tree of Life, apparently North Syrian, and a number of drilled tear-shaped amber drops of elliptical cross-section. These probably once dressed a wooden effigy of the Lady of Ephesus, which must have been destroyed or recovered from the flood. Bammer notes that though the site was prone to flooding, and rose by silt deposits about two meters between the eighth and 6th centuries, and a further 2.4 m between the sixth and the fourth, its continued use "indicates that maintaining the identity of the actual location played an important role in the sacred organization".
The archaic shrine beneath the later Temples clearly housed some form of "Great Goddess" but nothing is known of her cult. The literary accounts that describe it as "Amazonian" refer to the later founder-myths of Amazons who developed the cult and temple of Artemis Ephesia. The wealth and splendor of temple and city were taken as evidence of Artemis Ephesia's power, and were the basis for her local and international prestige: despite the successive traumas of Temple destruction, each rebuilding – a gift and honor to the goddess – brought further prosperity.

Construction of the Great Temple
Shortly after the fire, a new temple was commissioned. The architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day. By this point Ephesus was one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor and no expense was spared in the reconstruction. According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, the new temple was a "wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration."
The temple was built in the same wet location as before. To prepare the ground, Pliny recorded that "layers of trodden charcoal were placed beneath, with fleeces covered with wool upon the top of them." Pliny also noted that one of the reasons the builders kept the temple on its original marshy location was that they reasoned it would help protect the structure from the earthquakes which plagued the region.
Amazons: Founder of Ephesus
The great temple is thought to be the first building completely constructed with marble. Like its predecessor, the temple had 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief. The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. The Amazons, according to myth, took refuge at Ephesus from Heracles, the Greek demigod, and founded the city. After Heracles killed their queen, Hippolyta, and Theseus kidnapped Antiope.
The great temple is thought to be the first building completely constructed with marble. Like its predecessor, the temple had 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief. The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. The Amazons, according to myth, took refuge at Ephesus from Heracles, the Greek demigod, and founded the city.

Artemis' shrines, temples and festivals (Artemisia) could be found throughout the Greek world, but Ephesian Artemis was unique. The Ephesians considered her theirs, and resented any foreign claims to her protection. Once Persia ousted and replaced their Lydian overlord Croesus, the Ephesians played down his contribution to the Temple's restoration. On the whole, the Persians dealt fairly with Ephesus, but removed some religious artifacts from Artemis' Temple to Sardis and brought Persian priests into her Ephesian cult; this was not forgiven. When Alexander conquered the Persians, his offer to finance the Temple's second rebuilding was politely but firmly refused. Ephesian Artemis lent her city's diplomacy a powerful religious edge.
Under Hellenic rule, and later, under Roman rule, the Ephesian Artemisia festival was increasingly promoted as a key element in the Pan-Hellenic festival circuit. It was part of a definitively Greek political and cultural identity, essential to the economic life of the region, and an excellent opportunity for young, unmarried Greeks of both sexes to seek out marriage partners. Games, contests and theatrical performances were held in the goddess' name, and Pliny describes her procession as a magnificent crowd-puller; it was shown in one of Apelles' best paintings, which depicted the goddess' image carried through the streets and surrounded by maidens. In the Roman Imperial era, the emperor Commodus lent his name to the festival games, and might have sponsored them.

Christianity Brings an End to Artemis Worship

The city continued to prosper over the next few hundred years and was the destination for many pilgrims coming to view the temple. A souvenir business in miniature Artemis idols, perhaps similar to a statue of her in the temple, grew up around the shrine. It was one of these business proprietors, a man named Demetrius that gave St. Paul a difficult time when he visited the city in 57 A.D.
St. Paul came to the city to win converts to the then new religion of Christianity. He was so successful that Demetrius feared the people would turn away from Artemis and he would lose his livelihood. He called others of his trade together with him and gave a rousing speech ending with "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" They then seized two of Paul's companions and a near riot followed during a meeting at the city theater. Eventually, however, the city was quieted, the men released and Paul left for Macedonia.
It was Paul's Christianity that won out in the end, though. By the time the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 268 A.D., both the city and the religion of Artemis were in decline. The temple was rebuilt again, but in 391 it was closed by the Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great after he made Christianity the state religion. The temple itself was destroyed by a Christian mob in 401 and the stoned was recycled into other buildings. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. He too had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan religions.

September 17, 2015

Seven Wonder of the Ancient World: Statue of Zeus Edition

In the ancient world, there were many temples dedicated to Zeus, God of Gods and the King of the Gods. But there was only one temple to Zeus that housed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was home to one of greatest sculptural achievements of ancient history. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia represented the pinnacle of Classical sculptural design. A sculpture of ivory plates and gold panels over a wooden framework, it represented the god Zeus sitting on an elaborate cedar wood throne ornamented with ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones. No copy of the statue has ever been found, and details of its form are known only from ancient Greek descriptions and representations on coins. The great seated statue as fashioned by Phidias occupied half the width of the aisle of the temple built to house it.
The city-state of Olympia was a center of religious worship, and was also the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Believed to have begun in 776 BC, the Olympic Games demonstrated the physical prowess as well as the political strength of the participating Greek city-states. The Olympic Games were considered to be a part of religious rituals that revolved around the King of the Gods, Zeus.
In ancient times one of the Greeks most important festivals, The Olympic Games, was held every four years in honor of the King of their gods, Zeus. Like our modern Olympics, athletes traveled from distant lands, including Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Sicily, to compete. The Olympics were first started in 776 B.C. and held at a shrine to Zeus located on the western coast of Greece in a region called Peloponnesus. The games helped to unify the Greek city-states and a sacred truce was declared. Safe passage was given to all traveling to the site, called Olympia, for the season of the games. So it was only fitting that a grand temple and an even grander cult representation were constructed for the many Greeks who made pilgrimages there in order to worship their father god.

According to accounts, the statue when finished was located at the western end of the temple. It was 22 feet wide and more than 40 feet tall. The figure of Zeus was seated on an elaborate throne. His head nearly grazed the roof. The historian Strabo wrote, "...although the temple itself is very large, the sculptor is criticized for not having appreciated the correct proportions. He has depicted Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would unroof the temple..." Phidias would take the next 12 years to complete the project.

It was damaged in an earthquake in 170 B.C. and repaired. According to Suetonius, the Roman Emperor Caligula "gave orders that such statues of the gods as were especially famous for their sanctity or for their artistic merit, including that of Zeus at Olympia, should be brought from Greece, in order to remove their heads and put his own in their place." Before this could happen, the emperor was assassinated (AD 41); his "approaching murder was foretold by many prodigies. The statue of Jupiter at Olympia, which he had ordered to be taken to pieces and moved to Rome, suddenly uttered such a peal of laughter that the scaffolding collapsed and the workmen took to their heels."

However, much of its grandeur was probably lost after Emperor Constantine decreed that gold be stripped from all pagan shrines after he converted to Christianity in the early fourth century A.D.. Then in 392 A.D. the Olympics were abolished by Emperor Theodosius I of Rome, a Christian who saw the games as a pagan rite. After that according to the Byzantine historian Georgios Kedrenos, the statue was moved by a wealthy Greek named Lausus to the city of Constantinople where it became part of his private collection of classical art. It is believed that the remains of the statue were destroyed by a fire that swept the city in 475 A.D. However, other sources say the statue was still at the Olympic Temple when it burned down in 425 A.D.

Now, there are several statues that maintain the spirit of the Zeus at Olympia, one of the most famous of them is the statue in honor to Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. In this statue Lincoln is depicted seated on a huge throne as well as Zeus in the legendary statue of Olympia 

The statue of the Zeus at Olympia and its history has been from 2500 years ago, a great source of inspiration for artists of all times for the face of God and it is still now one of the most famous works of art of the history. 

Do remember next year the Olympic is held in beautiful Brazil!!!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...