Sunday, January 27, 2013

The temple of Aphrodite at Thessaloniki, and the temple of Zeus at Olympia

Alright, today, we're looking at an assortment of archeological news items from modern Hellas. there are the temples and other sacred places of our Gods, so why not indulge in the pleasure of their reconstruction, or get saddened by their immanent demise? Lets start with a call to stop the latter from happening first.


"A strange secret, a unique monument, lies at the heart of Thessaloniki at the Square Antigonidon. Behind the construction metal fences on the northeast side of the square is a unique treasure, which was well hidden for centuries. The uniquely beautiful temple of the goddess Aphrodite was erected in the square of the Sacreds in the area which is now the square of Antigonidon. The discovery from the 6th century BC was carried to Thessaloniki by King Aineias (Founder of the city of Aineia). Today this location is the suburbs of the city of Michaniona.

[...] The architectural and artistic value of the temple is immense. The temple can be saved and honored as part of Greece's rich history if its importance is realized and respected by the government. Cultural pride and history must be preserved and valued. Only one third of the possible artifacts have been excavated from this site."

This plea comes from the website of the group trying to save this precious monument from being buried. The government is looking to build on the land again, but the excavations are far from done. Even if they were, such a precious find should not be buried again. It should become sacred once more, dedicated anew to Aphrodite. For those in Hellas, or those who speak the language, there is a Facebook group to organize the rescue effort. Anyone can spread the message, however, and there is a petition you can sign no matter where you live. It can be found here. At the bottom, press the button to the left, the other deletes your entry.

In other, much more positive, news that broke a little while ago: the temple of Zeus at Olympia has been partially reconstructed. This temple, one of the prime Doric-style temples, once housed the world famous statue of Zeus, the twelve meters (thirty-nine feet) tall, seated statue of Zeus which was the focal point of Zeus' worship while it remained intact. The Archeological News Network reports:

"Up to now, only experts could make out the construction and the dimensions of the ruined temple. This is why, in recent years the German Archaeological Institute, on the basis of a 1992 master plan, has carried out numerous conservation and reconstruction works using the original architectural members which are preserved. Visitors of the site had the chance to get an idea of the third dimension of the building already in 2004, when a column was placed back to its original position. The second phase of the restoration has been successfully completed at the end of November 2012. The objective of this phase was to present the area of the western opisthodomos to the visitors in a most comprehensive manner."

The opisthodomos (ὀπισθόδομος) of a temple, usually refers to the back room, where secret rites to the deity of the temple were performed. The extent of the reconstruction was quite severe; stone blocks and drums--parts of the pillars--were removed and placed where they would have stood before the destruction of the temple. After this, the spacial dimensions of the temple--and the opisthodomos in particular--became visible. Next, the site was completely cleared of weeds and stone blocks partly reconstructed, to help visitors imagine how the monument would have looked in ancient times. The reconstruction of the stone--with stone mixtures of various thickness, as well as titanium reinforcements--also helps to preserve the ancient blocks for the future.

While the temple of Zeus at Olympia is nowhere near a working temple, and the word 'reconstruction' should not be taken as 'rebuilding', the work that was done most certainly allows the visitor to get a feel for the opisthodomos. For more details on the reconstruction, please see visit The Archeology Network's website.

Image: view of the Temple of Zeus after the restoration works. Image credit: DAI


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