The Acropolis Dialogue

  1. Once the “Sacred Rock” lit up the world. Sofia Ellinon – Wisdom of the Hellenes would be the first great message of an incomparable culture into the world. Phidias, commissioned by Pericles, assembled the best sculptors Greek could offer and Ictinus’ and Callicrates’ design grew from the stone toward the skies in a new creative way: Columns that embedded the human figure and the saturated chromatic painting to the temple’s frieze set of a vibrant contrast as a background and where along the outer temple walls sculptured friezes formed an integral part.

 

   And all the ‘Persian debris’ from vile destructions has been miraculously saved by the Athenians in buried layers of shards and rubble.  The hewn stones had rolled down from the polis on the rock, to be picked up two thousand years later, when the world still marvelled about the ‘Golden Age’ of Athens, the culture that paved the way for the Western civilisation. As many who honoured these arts with all their connected sciences, as many had wantonly destroyed like primitive men afraid of the unknown, beyond their mental grasp. Forcing layers of an intolerant culture upon the civilisation of a society that moved towards a democratic state would be demanding from people happiness enforced through constant violence. Knowledge and enlightenment have been the invincible powers against which blind desecrating anger waged wars: Useless, as if physical forces could have been wielded as the weapon to destroy the minds of art’s greatest creators. As if the destruction of their sacred precincts would change the world in favour of the vile Barbarian and merciless conqueror, uttering unrecognizable words.

  

   The spirit, unfailing and moving forward, would build anew on the desecrated sacrifices, as the great temples, greater than before would rise. All the dedicated veneration, as well as the brutal destruction of all sacred precincts were embedded in those splinters of stone and shards of shaped Pentelic marble, hastily picked up by a throng of nations to become the focal point of veneration in major museums of the Western world that had inherited the Hellenic culture. In this sense all are Greek and all think alike about those torn pieces of marble and fragments , whose splinters and sculpted body parts have rolled down Cecropia, vanishing from the pilfered Acropolis.

Not enough cold be picked up, but from the rich layers of the buried statues and artefacts, Athenians saved their cultural inheritance. And yet still after more than fifteen hundred years a visitor would pick up a stone, warmed up by the glowing sun, and place it into his pocket, expressing the need to own a souvenir. Everybody wants a piece of Greek Classical Art, everybody venerates the greatest achievements of mankind in art, through an endless chain of humans that palimpsest the polished paths in their varied footwear like ants returning to the source of their spiritual food. It brings on the millions of curious, the ecotourist, the admirers and travelling conquerors, but also the quiet art- appreciators, besides the young and hip as well as art deniers who vent their anger. Yet all will in time venerate high art, the greatest spiritual unifier.

 

   In one carving, the whole Greek spirit embodied, carries the veneration of the world, the deepening of knowledge through art. It unites the minds and hearts like music. The nations have not stopped to continue their visits, observe, see and admire. Great Art will touch the mind and grab the soul with a flash, as if one has laid eyes upon a beautiful woman for the first time.

As the 21st Century is on its unstoppable way, with great technological advancements, the body of the spirit that lay dull and defeated along the rocks of the Acropolis has risen again like a shining Phoenix. It has created a contemporary echo, opposite the Great Temple that embodies an unusual set of ideas, not embodied in any other temple in the whole of Greece.

 

   Down the precipice and the steep hills the myriad of shards has risen, assembling by magic. Men has employed his ingenuity above thorny issues of emotions, but arrive at a world unifying solution rather than continual acts of confrontation and mere politics. Therefore the best minds had assembled and the digging up of all the valued cultural inheritance meant to set an example to the world about the best way to preserve it. Finally the day arrived to present a contemporary answer to the world for a greater appreciation of art with a highpoint on the Classical art of the Parthenon with all its richness of sculptures and friezes that caused so much heartache and continued calls of goodwill to finally display all in the place of their belonging.  The whole world has agreed and as the light of the spirit sets the columns alight with its morning’s glow, the rising sun at midday throws its stark shadows on the sculpted architecture and enhances the flutes of the columns, its newborn crystal space just below the Parthenon temple, experiences the great dialogue of art and its continual messages since 1549 years. In the musings of day’s twilight the buildings glow like a jewel lit up by man’s best known lighting that enhances the magical spaces. The spot, where democracy has been founded and where layers of pre-Christian cultural finds have been excavated, has been successfully incorporated into the new museum, despite the difficulties of construction to honour also other layers of the past.

 

   Giant slide shows will send the messages of the surviving sculptures across the city and the world, the medium has assisted to bypass all frontiers that still divide many nations and the message is loud and clear. The new structure is a screen as well as protection, transparent and a ‘shield of the sunbearer’. It’s cool glazed top the 21st Century’s shrine of the jewels of the Parthenon temple. As all pieces of the Panatheneian procession have once united the Greek nation, re-assembled as in its original spot on the temples outer wall, it may well reunite the world. It floats to us as tactile as a thought to see and marvel about them. Piece by piece they are assembled in their new place above the city roofs. Good will is in dire need by all to join and complete the world’s procession to its completed assembly, and attune to the eternal dialogue of the Acropolis with its brothers and sisters in their contemporary home.

 2.

“Iktinos and Kallikrates are related to Phidias in their well-coordinated creation of Classical art,” I nodded. “Of course you’d know that?” Myrto smiled.

“Indeed, let me discuss with you this wonder of architecture and art,” I said as we walked up the marble steps to the Propylaea, where millions of visitors and ecotourists have walked before us and polished the stones and the access paths with their tired feet. We paused for a moment at the entrance hall. Myrto kissed my cheek. “I love to be here with you today and enjoy this moment of a wondrous morning.” I kissed her back. The scaffolding for the restoration on the temple of Athena Nike hid the delicious building for the time being, but Myrto commented on the temple as being a part of the expression to venerate the goddess Athena in one of her appearances.

We continued to climb the slippery rock path where visitors, processions, artists and wise men, conquerors and thieves have moved along for many thousands of years.

“What are you thinking about Zsolty?” I held Myrto’s hand.

“Besides being careful where to step, I am listening to the tale of the ‘Sacred Rock’ that these stones tell us if we listen carefully.” Myrto smiled.

“You make it a happening of a different nature for me,” she said.

“Stop here,” I said “and look back.” Myrto stood next to me her hand anchored in mine. “Behind us the dainty Athena Nile temple’s facade that will be like a precious jewel on a woman’s wrist, once it has been fully restored. “ Myrto liked my metaphor and she mentioned the sculpture of the sandal-binding Nike. We talked about Kallikrates and his design in the Ionian order, the sculpted decorations on a continual frieze with different themes the great battles between Greeks and Persians and between Greeks themselves, except for the east gable that featured an assembly of the Olympian gods .  While the pediment featured mythological battles of gods and giants and Greeks and amazons. “When the NAM has been opened, we have to return and view the Parthenon friezes and metopes in the museum, besides also the sculptures and friezes from the Athena-Nike temple and the Erechtheion. It will be exciting to see and hear and admire it’s greater dialogue.” Myrto nodded “Agreed, but for now we can do that at the old museum.”

I turned around facing the northwest corner of the Parthenon with its west gable, enjoying these contrasts of art and architectural magnificence.

“It’s a great temple, so masculine -” Myrto uttered.

“Indeed most impressive in its voluminous structure.” I recalled Le Corbusier’s exclamation as he saw the temple for the first time: …the temple appears as if carved from the rock… and with his feverish strokes of his pencil he sketched his first impression of the Parthenon, from this spot where we were standing at.

I explained to Myrto the columns fine deviation from the vertical on all sides, shaped to a pyramid, if one extended their outlines.

“The proportions are gigantic, yet a certain order makes it pleasing to the eye.”

“Indeed, Myrto and you have heard of the gable ends designed to the principles of the ‘Golden Section’”.  She nodded.

“Yes, great art is considered to me based on principals of geometry, especially during the golden age of Classical art in Greece.”

For some time we discussed the curvature and viewed the temple from all sides, walking around the northern side, where most of the visitors stood around in groups, photographing each other in front of the temple. 

“Why would they have done these corrections to the vertical on columns and pediments,” Myrto mused.  

“I have thought about that for a long time,” I replied, “besides that it might aide perspective vision and render the view to be as close to perfection as possible, some genial code has been built into the temple that way.” I smiled and Myrto reflected on my theory.

“You opened up a new door for me to find more questions awaiting to be answered about the Parthenon.”

“Well, I was asking myself, why would have special features been built into this temple, but not in any other temple in Greece?” Myrto nodded.

“I see your point and it made me thinking. Why ere perspective corrections built in here, but nowhere else?”

“Great we’ll have more than one secret to resolve,” I smiled and Myrto laughed.

“Of course we are taught some standards that might be not entirely correct.” She replied and I nodded.

“We were all taught standards on Classical Greek art and architecture, but few scholars have questioned the teachings.”

“You must write it down Zsolty.” Myrto hugged me.

“Let’s walk slowly around the perimeter,” I said “and listen to the temple’s talk.” The majestic columns rose like giants from the base, founded on rock at the highest point of the Acropolis and reflected their splendour in the sun that bounced off the perfectly chiselled flutes from Pentelic marble. We stopped at the east gable, where the talk appeared to be gentle. The birth of Athena had been depicted here and could be viewed in pieces of original marble and white reconstruction at the museum. I had to think of Anne, who sprang from the seventh column to be my muse, reflecting Phidias’ work of the goddess Athena, who sprang from the head of Zeus, split open by Poseidon’s axe.

The building appeared higher as we walked down the slope towards the south and turned at the corner, where many tourists decided to take a rest. Seated on the low balustrade walling that surrounded the southern area of the temple, most people preferred to cast their eyes over the city of Athens. I listened to the lyrics of a song that the temple evoked in me, transferring it to Myrto holding her hand and squeezing it slightly “Ugh!” Myrto cried out, “see Zsolty?” pointing to a deep ravine at the side of the closed off area at the foot of the temple’s crepidoma. It opened up wider with a path leading down. “This looks like the entrance gate to the underworld.” I joked, knowing from Myrto’s survey drawing that it might be well an access to the underground cistern system. I took a snapshot from Myrto in front of the ravine.

“Indeed,” Myrto reflected, “this might be an entrance connection to the cave system below the Acropolis.” Myrto retrieved her personal map from her knapsack and she looked for the location of the spot on it.

“As you research the Parthenon temple for its celestial positioning, so do I research the underworld below in order to map the findings.” She smiled and I tried to figure out her colourful map.

“I am impressed with your detailed map, Myrto,” pointing to the subterranean lines, she had distinguished by colouring in the confirmed surveying data. The ball of interwoven patterns intrigued me. “It looks like Ariadne’s yarn,” I joked.

“You are right Zsolty, this is as symbolic for the underworld as Zeus’ split head from which goddess Athena sprang.” I listened intently to her side of approach and nodded.

“I am amazed Myrto.” She tucked the map into the transparent vinyl cover and closed her knapsack. We continued to the west gable of the Parthenon temple, where the noises of the historic event about the dispute between Athena and Poseidon shouted towards us from the few left over shards of sculpture that had not been destroyed or pilfered. The remainder of the fallen sculptures were kept in their impeded state in the old museum, which soon would be replaced by a splendorous new museum at the foot of the Acropolis to the south.

Walking towards the Erechtheion, the lovely and elegant, feminine and Ionian, where the columns at the north porch had transformed into beautiful Korai – maidens – holding up the roof above the grave of Cecrops. I sensed the sounds of a dialogue between the temples.

“Do you know about the legend of Cecrops?”

“You tell me and refresh my memory.” Myrto told me about the first mythical kind of Athens, entombed below the Porch of the Korai. I listened to her and replied: “Just as you have now an enticed dialogue with the historic events around the Erechtheion, so does the temple with the Parthenon, can you hear it?”

“You Zsolty, my artistic friend, bring out the sounds in me, so I can hear it!” Myrto smiled.

“How wonderful this is.” I felt a wave of emotion inside me I wished to transform into her, holding her hand. Our reflective time subsided and fortunately the rush of eco-tourists dispersed with taking snapshots or videos from each other in front of the temples, we walked down the steep eastern steps to the temple’s entrance. Myrto elaborated on the contest between Athena and Poseidon, pointing toward the spot where the olive tree grew, as she lanced the rock. In spite of the destructions and the trampling down of the sanctuary of goddess Athena, the olive tree has always carried on emerging with branches of new life. The spot where Poseidon hit the rock with his trident, water had spurted out during the contest, but the water was salty and therefore judged by Cecrops as inconsumable. Perhaps Poseidon meant it as a metaphor, Myrto continued, that Greece would become a mighty sea power.

More historic elements followed and Myrto told me about a statue of Athena, carved from olive wood that stood in the naos of the temple and about the peplos that had been placed on the statue every year during the Panathenian festival.