Category Archives: Museums

Hagia Sophia and Loeb Classical Series

Two items that struck me of interest.  The first is that the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey—one of the most historic/grandest churches of Christendom—now a “museum”—is being “eyed” to be converted back to a mosque!  Recently the Koran was read within the “museum” and this may be the “nose of the camel inside of the tent!”

The current “Hagia Sophia” is the third structure to stand on this spot.  The first church was built by the son of Constantine the Great,Constantius.  It was burnt down in 404.  The second was built by Theodosius II, and it was burnt down in 532.

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View of the exterior of the Hagia Sophia. The minarets were 1,000 years after the first church was built here! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The present building was built by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was dedicated on December 26, 537.  It took six years to build and over 10,000 men worked on it.  Although the dome has been repaired (rebuilt) a number of times, the church built by Justinian served as a Christian place of worship until Constantinople was captured by the Turk, Mehmet II on May 29, 1453.

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Interior of the Hagia Sophia—without scaffolding!! The roundels were added by the Muslims over 1,000 years after the church was built. The contain the names of Allah, Mohamed, and early Califs. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Mehmet II immediately turned the building into a mosque and it served as one of the major mosques of Istanbul until the reforms of Atatürk.  It reopened in 1934 as a museum.

Harvard Loeb Classical Series — 60 Volumes!

Good news, the authoritative Loeb Classical series is now ON LINE.  Bad news, it is expensive!  For individuals $150 for the first year, and $65 for subsequent consecutive years.  However, some of you may be able to have your Institution subscribe to the Institutional version—Free 60 Trial Here.

Key features include:

  • Single- and dual-language reading modes
  • Sophisticated Bookmarking and Annotation features
  • Tools for sharing Bookmarks and Annotations
  • Greek keyboard
  • User account and My Loeb content saved in perpetuity
  • Intuitive Search and Browse
  • Inclusion of every Loeb volume in print
  • Regular uploading of new and revised volumes

Please note that some of the site’s most useful tools are features of “My Loebs,” the personal accounts available to all authorized users. We’d encourage you and your patrons to create your own accounts (via the “Sign up” link at the top of each page on the site) so as to utilize the digital Loeb Classical Library’s full capabilities.

Many of the questions about the digital Loeb Classical Library’s functionality, for example, or its relation to the print books of the series—are answered at http://www.loebclassics.com/page/faq/frequently-asked-questions

Ennion — The Master Roman Glassmaker

Haaretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, has a wonderful article in its English edition describing  the exhibition at the N.Y. Metropolitan Museum that showcases over 20 Roman glass masterpieces—most by the famous Ennion of Sidon.  In this article there are images of 5 of Ennion’s creations.

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A Glass Goblet produced by Ennion and found in one of the palatial structures excavated by Nahum Avigad in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

A “jug”/goblet  found in the excavations of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem—the wealthy Upper City quarter of Second Temple Jerusalem.  It dates to the first century A.D. and was “blown” by the famous artisan from Sidon—Ennion.  The first two letters (in Greek) of Ennion are visible just right of center.

The small goblet (a drinking cup with a stem and base), along with other glass objects indicates the “sophistication” of the inhabitants of the Upper City of Jerusalem (= on the western hill).

“Artisans eventually discovered that fashionable tableware could be produced with relative ease by blowing glass directly into molds similar to those employed for casting metal objects.  The technique, called mold–blowing, was developed in the 1at century CE in Sidon, an important glassworking center on the Eastern Mediterranean coast.  Similar vessels were also manufactured in Italy, possibly by Sidonian expatriates.  Using this technique artisans could produce a series of vessels bearing the same motifs with a single mold.” (from the description in the Israel Museum).

The Ephesus Museum in Seljuk is Open

Good news!  The Ephesus Museum in nearby Seljuk is again open—after having been closed for several years!#$@!

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The first gallery of the newly re-opened Ephesus Museum in Seljuk Turkey.

The layout of the museum is very “fresh” and appealing.  All the familiar items are there and in many instances are better lit.  They all are well-displayed with clear, extensive explanations in Turkish and English.

Hercules Farnese of Perge and . . . .

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Hercules Farnese From the Baths at Perge
Second Century A.D. — Antalya Museum

A beautiful second century A.D. statue of Hercules was found in the baths of Perge.  The Boston Museum of Fine Arts returned the top portion of the statue to Turkey in September 2011.  Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erogan personally brought the important portion to Turkey himself.  Portions of over 60 such statues are known and are called the “Hercules Farnese” (named after a famous Italian collection now housed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum).  This is a Roman copy of a bronze original.  Note the positioning of the head, arms, and legs, and especially the body muscles.  The skin of conquered Nemean Lion flows down on his left side as it tumbles to the ground.

Antlaya Museum Deities and Emperors

It has now been reunited with its body and is on display in the wonderful Antalya Museum.

Below is THE Hercules Farnese that is displayed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Below is a five (5) in. high image of a “Hercules Farnese” found at Pergamum and displayed in the museum in Bergama.

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A Bronze Five (5!) Inch High “statue” of Hercules
From Pergamum — In the Museum at Bergama

Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and a mortal Alcmene. Although originally a mortal, he eventually attained divine status and was widely worshiped throughout Greece. As punishment for killing six of his children he had to perform 12 “labors” (= very difficult tasks). The first of which was to kill the Nemean Lion. He wrestled with the lion, strangled it, and subsequently used its pelt as a cloak. (Nemea is a site in the Peloponnese region of Greece).

The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.

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Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

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Athens: Acropolis Maidens Glow Anew

On Tuesday, July 7, The New York Times published an article entitled “Acropolis Maidens Glow Anew — Caryatid Statues, Restored Are Stars at Athens Museum.”  A “caryatid” is a column in the shape of a female and there were six of them that supported the roof of a porch on the Erechtheion.

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View of 5 of the 6 Caryatids on the southern porch of the Erechtheion — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The Times article has brief videos showing how the “maidens” were cleaned—hint, laser like technology.  It also describes that history of the Erechtheion and the Caryatids in particular.

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One of the Caryatids when it was on display in the “old” Acropolis Museum — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A caryatid is a sculpted draped female figure that serves as a column that supports an entablature (beam for the roof). The, less frequently found, male counterpart is an “atlante.” Note the draped garment and the flexed inside leg — lending lightness and grace to the figures.

Five of the Caryatids have now been cleaned and are on display in the new “Acropolis Museum”—that is located south of the acropolis.

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View from the acropolis of Athens looking down on the new “Acropolis Museum” where artifacts found on the acropolis are on magnificent display — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

One of the caryatids was taken to England by Lord Elgin (see the Times article for a description of the context.

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The Caryatid the Lord Elgin brought to England and that is it now in the British Museum — It is said that she weeps to be with her 5 “sisters” in Athens — Hmm — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

For a brief description of the Erechtheion Click Here.

Rare Ancient Bronze Statues — Part 2 of 2 — Athena

I previously posted images and commentary on two of the very well–preserved bronze statues of Artemis that are in the Piraeus Museum (port of Athens).    People often wonder “what did the statue of Athena in the Parthenon look like?”  Well, one of the bronzes from Piraeus is a larger than life-size statue of Athena that was made when the one in the Parthenon was less that 100 years old!

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Piraeus Athena in Bronze — This statue was crafted while the original statue of Athena in the Parthenon still stood! — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

This bronze(!) statue of Athena is larger than life size—almost 8 ft. [2.35 m.] tall.  It may have originally been from Delos.  Two owls and two griffins adorn her Corinthian helmet.  The statue dates to ca. 360 B.C. — at that time the Athena statue in the Parthenon was less that 100 years old!   She held a spear in her left hand and a libation bowl—or an owl or a Nike—in her right.  Note the diagonal belt bordered by snakes that contains a Gorgon’s head.

Her weight is resting on her right foot and her left leg is slightly flexed.  This statue, along with three others, was found in 1959 during building excavations in Piraeus.  They were found as a group and although deposited at the same time, they were crafted at different periods.  They were probably deposited in the first century B.C.

Compare the “Varvakeion Athena” (below) that is in the National Museum in Athens.  This statuette is 1/12 the size of the Athena in the Parthenon.  It dates to the third century A.D.!

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The “Varvakeion Athena” from Athens — Third century A.D. — one twelfth the size of the Athena in the Parthenon — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download