Category Archives: Places in Greece

Ancient Picture of the Trojan Horse!

In light of the 2005 movie Troy many people are interested in the events surrounding the Trojan War—especially the “Trojan Horse” that was used by the Greeks to gain access to Troy and eventually to capture and destroy the city—ca. 1200 B.C.

As surprising as it may seem, we actually have a graphic representation of the Trojan Horse from around 670 B.C.!

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The “neck” of a burial jar on which there is a clear depiction of what the potter/artist thought the Trojan Horse looked like—670 B.C.
Click on Image to see Details—And the Commentary Below

This representation is from a huge burial jar (pithos) that was found on Mykonos in 1961.  It dates to around 670 B.C. and is about 5 ft. [1.5 m.] tall!  In this close up of the Trojan Horse on the pithos  note the detail of  the head, ears, eye, nose, mane, body, tail, and four legs of the horse are clearly visible.  In the seven windows are the heads of Greek soldiers hiding in the horse and there are weapons in the arms of several of them.  Note also the four wheels by the four hoofs of the horse.  In addition there are four standing warriors with spears and shields (I assume from Troy).

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One of the panels of a battle scene from the Trojan War
Warrior on the left, woman on the right, and a child being killed by a large sword!
Click on Image to Enlarge

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The 5 ft. tall burial jar on which there are representations of the battle for Troy
Including a depiction of the Trojan Horse used by the Greeks
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

To view more images of Mykonos Click Here.

New Testament Inscriptions — Erastus of Corinth (Acts 19:22; Romans 16:13; 2 Timothy 4:20)

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“Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download (free).

Part of a pavement found near the theater of Corinth which mentions “Erastus” who was the aedile of the city.  An “aedile” was in charge of the financial matters of the city — and was very wealthy. The pavement was laid about A.D. 50.

The New Testament book of Romans was written by Paul from Corinth to the church in Rome in the spring of A.D. 57—on his third journey. In Romans 16:23 Paul says that “Erastus, the city treasurer [Ἕραστος ὸ οἰκονόμς] greets you . . . .”   It is very probable that the “Erastus” mentioned in Romans is the very same person who is mentioned in this inscription.

The two lines on the Latin inscription have been transcribed by John McRay in the following way:

ERASTVS PRO AEDILIT E
S P STRAVIT

McRay suggests that the full transcription can be translated as “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.”

From the following passages it is evident that Erastus was very involved in Paul’s ministry:

On his third journey, prior to the writing of the NT book of Romans, Paul wrote:

Acts 19:22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia [at Ephesus] a little longer.

and then in Paul’s final letter while imprisoned in Rome Paul wrote:

2Tim. 4:20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus

For an extensive discussion of this inscription and the various options that the various Latin and (NT) Greek terms suggest, see John McRay Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991: 331–33.   To examine or  purchase Click Here.

For a brief description of the biblical and historical significance of Corinth and a Map of the region Click Here.

Special Diolkos Remains Near Corinth

Long Section of the Diolkos located on a Greek Army Base north of the Corinthian Canal

On one of our visits to the area of Corinth we had a chance to explore a seldom-visited portion of the ancient diolkos that is located on the isthmus that connects the Greek mainland with the Peloponnese.  This portion has been excavated and is very well preserved.

Map of the Peloponnese and Location of Corinth and the Diolkos

The Diolkos [Greek meaning “haul across”] was a paved “road” that connected the Corinthian and Saronic Gulfs before the Corinthian Canal was dug.  It was built because sailing around the southern tip of the Peloponnese was very treacherous.  Strabo, for example, writes ‘But when you sail around Cape Malea, forget your home” (= “you’ll never return!”; viii 6, 20).  The ancients offloaded their cargo, dragged it on wheeled carts across the isthmus from one gulf to the other to the other side of the isthmus, and then loaded it on to another ship.  Small to medium size ships could be transported from gulf to gulf by this method also.

Detail of the Tracks/Ruts that guided the path of the wheels of the vehicles that carried ships and cargo from one gulf to another.

The Diolkos was constructed during the sixth century B.C.  and was in use for over 1,000 years!  It was made of large paving stones and was about 11 to 20 ft. [3.4 to 6 m.] wide. It followed a circuitous route, avoiding high ground if possible, from one side of the isthmus to another.

It is probable that some of the wealth of the nearby Corinth was derived from tolls, tariffs, and servicing the personnel associated with the shipping industry and servicing and maintaining the “road.”

To view additional photos of the diolkos plus additional commentary and a detailed map of its route — Click Here.

Politarchs (Acts 17:6, 8): Luke gets it right—as usual!

Acts 17 describes the arrival of Paul and Silas in Thessalonica, on Paul’s Second Journey, and how that after preaching in the synagogue on three Sabbath days that

4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

Acts 17:5     But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.  6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials [politarchs], shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here,  7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”  8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials [politarchs] were thrown into turmoil.  9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (NIV)

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This inscription, dated to the second century A.D., lists six Politarchs (“Rulers of the Citizens”) among other officials. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This term, “politarch,” is used (correctly!) by Luke in Acts 17:6, 8 of officials in Thessalonica.

These “ruler of the citizens” were the chief magistrates of the city and were appointed annually.  “They performed administrative and executive functions, as well as exercising judicial authority . . . of the more than sixty known inscriptions that mention politarchs, three–fourths of them are from the Macedonian area of Greece, with approximately half being from Thessalonica itself.”

The inscription is from an old Roman arch that was part of the old Vardar Gate that was torn down in 1876.  The inscription was given to the British Consulate and eventually presented to the British Museum.

Explanatory information from Fant, Clyde E., and Mitchell G. Reddish, “Politarch Inscription at Thessalonica,” pp. 366–70.   Lost Treasures of the Bible — Understanding the Bible Through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.  They also have provided a translation of the inscription on page 367.

To view/download 12 high resolution photos of Thessalonica Click Here.

Gortyna and Paul’s Fourth Journey

GortynaGortyna was the capital of a Roman province and the seat of the first Christian bishop of Crete.  During the Roman period it was the chief city of Crete—its population may have reached 100,000 people.  The site is huge—its city walls are about 6 mi. long!

Many believe that Paul made a Fourth Journey (not recorded in scripture) after his first Roman imprisonment and in the process visited Crete.  According to Titus 1:5 Paul left Titus on Crete to deal with some church affairs that were still outstanding.

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The Basilica of St. Titus at Gortyna
View of the Nave and the Apse of the Basilica
According to tradition St. Titus was martyred here
Click on Image to Enlarge

The Basilica of St. Titus at Gortyna preserves the memory of Titus’ ministry on the island (Titus 1:5).

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Details of the Fifth Century B.C. Law Code at Gortyna
It is read from “right to left” and then “left to right” — as an ox plows a field (boustrophedon)
Click on Image to View Details

At Gortyna there is also a famous well-preserved Greek law code called “The Twelve Tablets” that dates to the fifth century B.C.  It is written in “boustrophedon” style—(“as the ox plows”) namely from “right to left” and then “left to right.”

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Outer Corridor of the Odeon at Gortyna that uses stones from the Fifth Century B.C. Law Code for its walls!
Click on Image to Enlarge

Many of the original stones are now reused in a wall of the second century Odeon at Gortyna.  At the times of Paul’s and Titus’ visits the code would have been in its original format.

To view additional images of Gortyna Click Here.

For introductory information on Paul’s Fourth Journey see the map and commentary by 1 Timothy 2 in The NIV Study Bible and the Introduction to Titus.

The Tumulus at Amphipolis

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Tumulus of Amphipolis

The above is a view of the tumulus that is located to the northeast of the actual site of Amphipolis.  For a recent summary of the discoveries  and a 3-D model of the tomb Click Here (19 January, 2015) and for a series of articles on the on-going excavations Click Here.

There is a great BBC article on the excavation of the Amphipolis Tomb including photos and a sketch of the tomb—very similar to the ones found at Vergina!!  The site is protected 24 hours a day by two police officers!

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In a report dated 21 August Discovery News reports that the bodies of two sphinxes, 4.8 ft. high(!) have been found in connection with this tomb (10 times larger than the spectacular tomb of Philip II at Vergina!!).  The report also states that this is the LARGEST tomb ever uncovered in Greece.

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Two Sphinxes from Large Macedonian Tomb in Northern Greece (Amphipolis), each 4.8 feet high! — Image from Discovery News

Katerina Peristeri, the archaeologist in charge of the dig hopes to “. . . fully explore the burial by the end of the month to decide who was laid to rest there.”  Speculation: high military official of Alexander the Great?  Or possibly Alexander’s wife Roxana and/or his son Alexander IV who were killed at Amphipolis in 311 B.C. on the orders of King Cassander?  FWIW – the tomb is 3 miles from the famous lion statue (picture below).


Original blog from 13 August, 2014 follows.

A tomb has been discovered near the ancient city of Amphipolis in northern Greece—ancient Macedonia from whence Alexander the Great was from.  The circular mound is about 1,630 ft in circumference.  [for samples of treasures that might be found and why I am excited about this site—see below].  According to the press release a famous marble lion is located near the burial mound and may have actually topped the mound.

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The Lion of Amphipolis — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View of the funerary monument, possibly that of Laomedon, a naval officer of Alexander the Great, that is dated to the late fourth century B.C. Although destroyed, it was rebuilt from fragments found in the area in the first half of the 20th century.   It is sited close to the large ancient city of Amphipolis — on the east bank of the Strymon River.

Amphipolis was situated on the Via Egnatia on which Paul traveled several times. This monument would have been 350 years old by the time Paul would have seen it.

For news stories on this find click Here and Here.

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View of the lower portion of the tomb — note the encircling wall — Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/AP

If this burial mound is undisturbed, it could contain magnificent treasures—like those from the tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great.

The following are samples of items found in the area of Amphipolis — who knows what this mound (tumulus) may contain?!!

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View of a Golden Oak Wreath from a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the delicate metal work and even the acorn just left of center. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a detail of a gold necklace found in a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the fine delicate craftsmanship. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a box that probably contained the ashes of the cremated person and a golden wreath above it. This type of box is called a larynx. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

 

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)

Continue reading

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.

Thermopylae

On a recent trip to Greece we had a chance to revisit the site of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians slowed the advance of the Persian army towards Athens (see below for description and map).  Thermopylae actually means “hot gateway”  and for the first time we actually visited the hot springs still exist in the area!

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The Hot Water Springs of Thermopylae (“hot gateway”) — Note the modern aqueduct that diverts water to this area — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

In ancient times Thermopylae guarded a narrow, sea level, “pass” between mountains on the southwest and the sea on the northeast.

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View from top of Kolonos Hill—where the Spartans and Thespians made their last stand—looking northwest towards the area of the hot water springs — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Here in 480 B.C., 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians (temporarily) held off about 300,000 invading Persians led by Xerxes.  The stalled Persians eventually sent a force of men around Leonidas’ forces, through the mountains to the west of the pass thus encircling the Spartans from in front and behind in the pass.

The Spartans and Thespians fought valiantly, but eventually all, save two, were killed in battle.  The Persians continued their advance on Athens and burned the city.  But in pursuit of the Athenians, by land and by sea, they were defeated that year off the island of Salamis.  Their final defeat came the next year at the battle of Plataea and the (brief) era of peace that followed ushered in the classical period of Greek history.

Modern monument honoring Leonidas and his three hundred warriors — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Modern monument honoring Leonidas and his three hundred warriors — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

To View 11 High Resolution Images of Thermopylae Click Here

Actually, because of its strategic location a number of battles have been fought at Thermopylae, but the above was the “signature” event.

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Thermopylae is located 85 mi. northwest of Athens

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