Thursday, February 26, 2015

The sacred mountains of Hellas

The imposing mountains of the Greek nature have always played an important part in the life of Greeks, who incorporated them in their myths and legends as sacred places full of spiritual energy.
Since ancient times, the mysterious rocky peaks of the Greek landscape were thought of as the abode of Gods and mythical creatures that drew their power from the clear sky, the rocks and the lush vegetation covering them. Protothema recently posted the following list of the most beautiful Greek mountains featured in Hellenic mythology.


Nowadays, the Greek mountains are popular destinations among outdoor enthusiasts, as they offer the ideal environment for hiking, fishing, four wheeling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, canoeing, climbing and camping. However, their spiritual energy can still be felt by those who visit them with an open mind and a desire to escape from the hectic life of the city.

Mount Olympus
The highest mountain peak in Greece, it was regarded in ancient times as the home of the Hellenic Gods. It was also considered the site of the War of the Titans, where Zeus and his siblings defeated the Titans.

Mount Othrys
This beautiful mountain in Central Greece was believed to be the home of the Titans during the ten-year war with the Gods of Mount Olympus.

Mount Ida
Located in the Rethymno regional unit in Crete, this mountain was sacred to the Hellenic Titaness Rhea, and on its slopes lies one of the caves, Idaion Andron, in which, according to legend, Zeus was born.

Mount Parnassus
This mountain of limestone in central Greece towers above Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth, and offers stunning views of the surrounding olive groves. According to Greek mythology, this mountain was sacred to Dionysus and the Dionysian mysteries; it was also sacred to Apollo and the Corycian nymphs, and it was the home of the Muses.

Mount Pelion
Located at the south-eastern part of Thessaly in central Greece, it forms a hook-like peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea. In Hellenic mythology, Mount Pelion was the homeland of Kheiron the Centaur, tutor of many ancient Greek heroes, such as Iásōn, Achilles, Theseus and Hēraklēs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On the 'Deus Ex Machina'

Every writer, movie buff, theatre lover, and game connoisseur knows the term: deus ex machina; 'God from a machine'. The term (pronounced as 'Day-oos eks MAH-kee-nah') is a calque from the Hellenic ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός (apò mēkhanês theós), which has roughly the same meaning. The term has evolved into a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has stuffed up and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or as a comedic device.

The term was coined in Hellenic tragedy, where a machine was (and still is) used to bring actors playing Gods onto the stage. The machine could be either a crane (mechane) used to lower actors from above or a riser that brought actors up through a trapdoor. The idea was introduced by Aeschylus and was used often to resolve the conflict and conclude the drama. Although the device is associated most with Hellenic tragedy, it also appeared in comedies.

Aeschylus used the device in his 'Eumenides', but it was with Euripides that it became an established stage machine. More than half of Euripides' extant tragedies employ a deus ex machina in their resolution, and some critics claim that Euripides, not Aeschylus, invented it.

In Aristophanes' play 'Thesmophoriazusae', the playwright parodies Euripides' frequent use of the crane by making Euripides himself a character in the play and bringing him on stage by way of the mechane. Aristotle was the first to use deus ex machina as a term to describe the technique as a device to resolve the plot of tragedies. Antiphanes believed that the use of the deus ex machina was a sign that the playwright was unable to properly manage the complications of their plot:

"When they don't know what to say, and have completely given up on the play, just like a finger they lift the machine, and the spectators are satisfied. Here is none of this for us."
Aristotle also wasn't a fan and he criticized the device in his Poetics:
"As in the structure of the plot, so too in the portraiture of character, the poet should always aim either at the necessary or the probable. Thus a person of a given character should speak or act in a given way, by the rule either of necessity or of probability; just as this event should follow that by necessary or probable sequence. It is therefore evident that the unraveling of the plot, no less than the complication, must arise out of the plot itself, it must not be brought about by the Deus ex Machina- as in the Medea, or in the return of the Greeks in the Iliad. The Deus ex Machina should be employed only for events external to the drama- for antecedent or subsequent events, which lie beyond the range of human knowledge, and which require to be reported or foretold; for to the gods we ascribe the power of seeing all things. Within the action there must be nothing irrational. If the irrational cannot be excluded, it should be outside the scope of the tragedy. Such is the irrational element the Oedipus of Sophocles."

Despite that, the effect of the device on Hellenic audiences was attested as a direct and immediate emotional response. Audiences would have feeling of wonder and astonishment at the appearance of the gods and often adds to the moral effect of the drama. Even in modern plays, books, and movies, the deus ex machina can have this effect. How about the Hulk showing up near the end of The Avengers to punch that alien battleship/whale on the nose? Or the Eagles showing up at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to carry our near-dead heroes home? I, for one, felt extreme elation and excitement at both. When used too much, or too obviously, the deus ex machina can be a cheap trick, but when done well, it can be quite brilliant.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Competition to redesign the entrance to the Acropolis

In an effort to make the Acropolis more accessible for disabled people, the culture ministry is ready to announce an international architectural competition for proposals to solve the problem, thus reports Protothema.

The goal of the competition is to restore iconic Greek architect Dimitris Pikionis’ original vision, in the 1950s, which aimed to allow visitors to gain a panoramic view from all angles. Unfortunately, overcrowding at the main entrance--on the hill’s west side--has created problems for contemporary visitors. Architects are invited to redesign the area leading up to the Acropolis--from the Propylea--to ensure they are more user-friendly, particularly for people with mobility problems.

As part of this initiative, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has already approved a change of location for the ancient site’s gift shop, while it plans to eliminate the Herod Atticus Odeon and the Dionysiou Areopagitou (Dionysus the Areopagite) pedestrian way entrances.

Plans are also underway to create a new facility at the site where the old Acropolis museum building remains on the hill’s SW corner--the only structure built in the modern era amid the temples that form the quintessence of classical antiquity.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Greece's new strategy for Parthenon Marbles repatriation

The Greek Reporter headlined recently that Greece is set to follow a different strategy on Parthenon Marbles repatriation. This new course will likely mean the Greek government stops cooperating with Amal Alamuddin-Clooney and her law firm.

The new Minister of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs Aristides Baltas told foreign reporters that Greece is seeking a new strategy to bring back the sculptures. He was quoted by The Times as saying

“Our campaign will continue, but the strategy and how we go about that may be tweaked, if required. We’ll be looking over these details in the coming weeks and if we see a need to alter them, we will.”

Deputy Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis told the Greek Press that the marbles issue has gained good publicity after the involvement of Mrs. Clooney, who is a lawyer for London’s Doughty Street Chambers law firm. According to The Times report, the new leftist government of Greece wants to cancel Greece’s contract with Amal Alamuddin-Clooney and the firm for financial reasons.

According to the report, the team of lawyers were working for the Greek government. In reality, the three lawyers had visited Greece to advise the government of legal options available. There was no talk of an exchange of money or any binding agreements. In such cases, it is usually the case that contracts are reviewed by legal departments before signed by government officials.

However, the cost of lawyers is unlikely to be a major concern bearing in mind the high cultural stakes for Greece. The new government has already made clear that it will continue efforts to reclaim the Parthenon sculptures legally. Even if funding were a problem, there are wealthy Greek foundations that have already stated they would be happy to assist in funding the initiative. Former Culture Minister Constantinos Tasoulas told the Press that there is no signed contract between the previous Greek government and the law firm. He also said that Greece can only benefit from Amal Alamuddin-Clooney’s involvement.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pandora's Kharis $75,- raised for Meals On Wheels

Elaion is proud to announce that the Pandora's Kharis members have raised $75,- for our democratically decided upon cause the Meals On Wheels. I am once more very happy to say you have all given generously, and in the spirit of the Gods!

The Meals On Wheels Association of America is the oldest and largest national organization composed of and representing local, community-based Senior Nutrition Programs in all 50 U.S. states, as well as the U.S. Territories. All told, there are some 5,000 local Senior Nutrition Programs in the United States. These programs provide well over one million meals to seniors who need them each day. Some programs serve meals at congregate locations like senior centers, some programs deliver meals directly to the homes of seniors whose mobility is limited, and many programs provide both services.

While remarkable, the one million meals per day figure underestimates the size and shape of the Meals On Wheels network and its reach and influence in communities across America. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of seniors who receive meals, there are many thousands of professionals employed at the various local Senior Nutrition Programs across the U.S. More notable than that is the virtual army of two million volunteers who also "work" for these programs.
From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community.

On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving. Thank you for your generosity!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Micromeria acropolitana, the little plant that could

I came upon a story today that I found quite amusing, It's about the micromeria acropolitana, a small phenomenal plant that remains a mystery of the Greece's botanology. The quirky plant can only be found on the Acropolis, and is reportedly unable to grow anywhere else.

The twenty centimetre tall plant that blooms from May to June with little pink blossoms was first discovered by French botanologists Rene C.J.E Maire and Marcel G. C. Petitmengin on August 30, 1906, as they were touring Greece. It was officially entered into botanology books by Austrian botanologist Halacsy who named it Micromeria athenae.

Forgotten from 1908 onwards, it was later noticed again by professor Artemis Yiannitsaros from the Botanology School of the University of Athens in 1998. She spoke of a plant that is fast disappearing. In 2004, Grigoris Tsounis studied the ecosystem atop the Acropolis and identified the plant, keeping its exact location secret in order to protect it from prying tourists.

Micromeria is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, widespread across Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, with a centre of diversity in the Mediterranean region and the Canary Islands. There are almost eighty sub-species. The name is derived from the Greek words μῑκρος (mīkros), meaning 'small', and μερίς (meris), meaning 'portion', referring to the leaves and flowers.

I have no idea if the ancient Hellenes knew of this plant as well, or if it's a far more recent species, but  it sure is tied to the sacred area now.

Friday, February 20, 2015

'Olympus: The Greco-Roman Collections of Berlin' comes to Canada

Canadians, rejoice! The Winnipeg Art Galley is set to host a very remarkable exposition of ancient Hellenic art. 'Olympus: The Greco-Roman Collections of Berlin' is the first major exhibition of classical antiquities in Winnipeg in over half a century. The WAG is one of only two venues in North America to present this monumental exhibition of ancient Greek and Roman art dating from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century AD, through a partnership with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums).

The show features over 160 works, including marble statues and reliefs, bronze statuettes, terracotta vases, and jewelry from the Berlin State Museum’s classical antiquities collection, drawn from the Altes Museum and the Pergamonmuseum. Originating in the 17th century with the Electors of Brandenburg, the collection was built over three centuries from archaeological excavations in Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor from such sites as Olympia in 1845, Vulci in 1852, and Pergamon in 1878. Rarely seen outside of Europe, the collection survived the Napoleonic Wars, two World Wars, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This is a unique opportunity to see an astonishing number of representations of Hellenic and Roman Gods and other classical personalities in artworks of exceedingly high quality, known for their historic, cultural, and aesthetic merit. Olympus explores the fascinating world of mythology and religion, reflecting the universal preoccupation with creation, the nature of god and humankind, the afterlife, and other spiritual concepts. From the times of Homer and Hesiod, intriguing myths and legends have remained constant because of their beauty and power. A longstanding source of inspiration for the world, these stories have been renewed and interpreted with infinite variations, expressed in exciting and challenging new ways through literature, visual art, music, dance, and film. The show will run from April 26, 2015 to March 31, 2016.