Tag Archives: Athens (Greece)

Icon Redux: Saint Christopher

Byzantine & Christian Museum (2013-05-28 220In the post on my visit to the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, I took a photograph of an icon with a dog’s head. At the time I merely commented on how bizarre this icon seemed to me. At the time, I did not think much about it.

In volume 2 of his book Orthodox Saints, George Poulos discusses St. Christopher Cynocephalus. The only St. Christopher I knew was the one who is depicted on medals carrying a child with the caption, “St. Christopher Protect Us.” Well, this is the same St. Christopher. Poulos explains that Christopher, whose original name was Reprobos, was ugly and repulsive. He was so ugly that his comrades called him Dogface. (Cynocephalus means “dog-head.”) His inner spiritual beauty was hidden by a hideous face. Actually painting a person with a dog’s head seems just a wee bit extreme.

Anyway, Christopher is known as the patron saint of travelers, but this is the Roman Catholic tradition. The Eastern Orthodox have no stories relating to Christopher as a traveler. However, the story of him carrying the child–who is actually the Christ Child–is known in the East. Christopher finds that he is actually carrying the weight of the world when he carries Jesus. Christopher lived during the reign of Emperor Decius, who had him executed on May 9, 255.

The explanation of why the saint is painted with a dog’s head still doesn’t warm me to the work. To me, a dog-headed icon is more kitsch than holy.

Bibliography
Poulos, George. Orthodox Saints: Spiritual Profiles for Modern Man, April 1 to June 30 (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1991), p. 101-102.

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Museums, Travel

Parthenon (Athens, Greece) vs. Parthenon (Nashville, Tennessee)

The "front" of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, as it currently appears. It is through these doors that the Athenian treasury was accessed. The opposite side of the building was where the colossal statue of Athena was accessed. There's not much left of the pediment.

The “front” of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, as it currently appears. It is through these doors that the Athenian treasury was accessed. The opposite side of the building was where the colossal statue of Athena was accessed. There’s not much left of the pediment.

Okay, there really is no contest between the real Parthenon and its imitation in the United States. Nonetheless, it’s fun to compare them.

I never wrote an entry about my trip to visit my cousin in Nashville in September, 2012. I was there for a few days, and I had gone down there specifically to study the Parthenon, and to see the huge statue of Athena Parthenos, built by Alan LeQuire in the spirit of Phidias, the sculptor of the original statue. More on that later.

The "front" of the Nashville Parthenon. The entrance is downstairs and into the art gallery. The Athenian Parthenon had no "cellar."

The front of the Nashville Parthenon, which compares to the entrance in the Parthenon to the statue side. (Compare to the next picture of the Parthenon.) However, the entrance to the building is downstairs and into the art gallery. The Athenian Parthenon had no “cellar.”

This trip was a warm-up to my trip to Greece at the beginning of the year. She had just gotten married in 2012 to another ex-Pittsburgher who loved the Steelers. I had never been to Tennessee, and I was looking forward to seeing this Parthenon that captured the  look of the original when it was first built.

I had seen the Parthenon in Athens when I was on Semester at Sea and had photos of it from my first trip. The Parthenon is on top of the Acropolis, which towers high over the city of Athens. In contrast, the Nashville Parthenon is on a slight “hill” (more like a mound) in Centennial Park.

The entrance to where the cult statue of Athena once stood. Notice in the left and right corners of the pediment that still have the horses heads.

The entrance to where the cult statue of Athena once stood. Notice in the left and right corners of the pediment that still have the horses heads.

The art gallery is only the size of the building, and part of it is dedicated to the history of the Nashville Centennial, when a wood and plaster Parthenon was built to celebrate Nashville’s moniker as the “Athens of the South” because of the number of universities in the city. It’s the only building left from the Centennial still standing or, rather, a replica of the original in stone which replaced the first Parthenon at the end of the 19th century.

I heard people complaining about Athens, that there wasn’t much left of the ruins and that “there was nothing to see.” These ignoramuses did not seem to understand that Athens is a living city; it has been inhabited since ancient times. Every succeeding city was built upon the ruins of the previous. I told one woman that she needed to visit Nashville to see what the Parthenon originally looked like. Of course this really isn’t true, as the sculptures decorating the Nashville building are not painted different colors, which we know the Greeks did with their marble statues. Also, the Nashville Parthenon was not built of marble.

Unlike the Parthenon, the Nashville Parthenon never had a cult statue–until 1982. It was at that time LeQuire had been commissioned to create a statue of Athena in the spirit of the original work of Phidias. The statue was completed in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2002 that the statue was gilded in gold and painted, bringing it closer to the original statue’s look.

The LeQuire statue in the Nashville Parthenon. Impressive, isn't it?

The LeQuire statue in the Nashville Parthenon. Impressive, isn’t it?

The statue is truly remarkable. The six foot statue of victory that Athena held in her right hand had no pillar under it, which is what the surviving copies of the statue show. LeQuire closely studied Greek art and knew that the Greeks knew about counterbalancing weight, so he believes that the statue did not have a support pillar–at least originally. It is possible that, after several centuries, gravity finally took its toll and the arm began to fall, which would have called for a support–such as a pillar–being added.

My cousin, who had lived in Tennessee for years, had never visited the building. She was completely mesmerized by the eyes of the statue, which seemed to sparkle. She intended to bring her parents to see it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, History, Museums, Travel

Who was Titus Flavius Pantainos?

There is no statue or relief of Titus Flavius Pantainos known to exist, so this is a photo of his library. The curvy area is all that is left of the original floor of the atrium where people would read.

There is no statue or relief of Titus Flavius Pantainos known to exist, so this is a photo of his library’s ruins. The curvy area at the right is all that is left of the original floor of the atrium where people would read.

The Library of Pantainos was built by Titus Flavius Pantainos. It really was a library complex, which included the library proper as well as the two attached stoas running along the front and side of the building. These stoas contained small shops and a cult room dedicated to Trajan, who was emperor at the time Pantainos built the library.

There is no known reference to this library in any of the surviving Greek texts. The strangely-shaped building is known to be a library because of two things. One, the library’s rules were found in situ. Two, the lintel with the library’s dedication was found in the Herulian Wall, built from the spoila from the agora and the library itself. The Herulian Wall rests on part of the library, the portico facing the agora.

It is from the inscription on the door lintel that we know what we know about Pantainos. The building, the porticos and the books were given to the city of Athens in the name of the emperor Trajan and Athena; the gift was from Titus Flavius Pantainos, his son, Flavius Menandros (named after his grandfather) and his daughter, Flavia Secundille.

Research has identified a Pantainos of Gargettos as having served as eponymous archon after 102, which was around the time the library was built. Since “Pantainos” is an uncommon name, it has been assumed that this archon was the same person who built the library. Therefore, he was either a citizen or made a citizen of the city, perhaps for his donation of the library. He and his family probably also had Roman citizenship, and they were wealthy. Only wealthy men could serve in the eponymous archon position. Also, Pantainos was a philosopher like his father, Flavius Menandros. However, it is not known if Pantainos headed a philosophical school, or was an amateur philosopher.

According to Arthur W. Parsons, “Pantainos” appears only twice in Attic prosopography. The first Pantainos is of interest. He was the father of Thucydides of Gargettos, who was an adversary of Perikles. He is probably an ancestor of the library’s donors.

Seventy-five years later in Alexandria, a Pantainos again appears. He is mentioned by Eusebius and Clement; they talk of him and his great influence. He had been a Stoic but by the time of Commodus, he was heading the Catechetical School there. Philip says that he was an Athenian, but neither Eusebius nor Clement mention where he is from; Parsons tentatively assumes Philip’s statement as true and therefore concludes that this Pantainos, who headed the first Christian school in Alexandria, was the grandson of the Pantainos who gifted Athens with a library.

Bibliography
Parsons, Arthur W. “A Family of Philosophers at Athens and Alexandria.” Hesperia Supplements, v. 8: Commemorative Studies in Honor of Theodore Leslie Shear (1949), p. 268-272, 462.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Libraries (Ancient)

The Metroon

Plan of the Metroon

Plan of the Metroon

The old Bouleterion, where the city’s Boule met, was expanded and converted into the Metroon; the new Bouleterion building is behind the Metroon. The Metroon housed a cult statue of the Mother of the Gods, where the name Metroon is derived, as well as rooms that held the city’s archives and an atrium.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Libraries (Ancient)

Library of Hadrian

Image

Plan of the Library of Hadrian complex. This is from the kiosk on the library site.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Libraries (Ancient)

Library of Pantainos

Library of Celsus (Plan of the Library of Pantainos AD 100 2011-04)

Plan of the Library of Pantainos, built ca. 100

On top of the Road Between the Roman and Greek Agoras is the present Poikilas, which gives the only real accessible view of the library ruins. The only library stoa still in existence parallels this road.

2 Comments

Filed under History, Libraries (Ancient)