Much is being said recently about the voting which elected the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Placed amongst the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World are the Colossus of Rhodes, the gigantic statue of the sun God which was placed at the pier of Rhodes port, the statue of Olympian Zeus, a majestic statue of 12 meters, created by Pheidias, and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which in accordance to the Antipater, was the most impressive of all the wonders.
Let us take a look however, from a different angle, the seven Greek wonders from an architectural point of view as well as from a cultural, innovative, creative and artistic perspective.
Seven Greek Architectural Wonders
- Knossos Palace: It comprises of a magnificent Minoan architectural monument, constructed from various types of stone. The palace was multi-leveled and widespread, a Daedalic complex which expanded around a large courtyard. This housed temples, the Royal family’s residence quarters, officers’ quarters, baths, kitchens, dining rooms, workshops, storage rooms, etc. Many chambers were decorated with frescoes which depicted events of Minoan life. Furthermore, it provided an excellent drainage and sewerage system.
- Mycenaean Walls: The ancient Greeks attributed the construction of them to the Cyclops, because of their vast dimensions. They were built with boulders of great width and height. The walls were over 8 m high and with an average width of 5 meters. Wondrous is the Lion’s Gate, the gateway to Mycenae in other words, where on top of the lintel, the lion’s sculptures are decorated. The two lions, which were symbols of the protectors of the earth, were carved on the so called “relieving triangle”
- The Parthenon; This is a monument depicting all the majesty of Athens in the 5th century. B.C. It is located on the highest point of the Acropolis outcrop, and it exemplifies the perfect achievement of Doric order architecture. The construction of the temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena, the virgin, was completed in 432 B.C. Of exceptional interest, from an architectural point of view, is the fact that no one straight line exists, for the temple is dominated by curves, as well as the fact that the kiones are not vertical, but if mentally extended arithmetically, meet at 1852 m. In the Classical era, the temple housed the marble sculpture of unique dimensions and beauty, of the goddess, constructed by Pheidias. The Ionic frieze [Zoforos] represents the Panathenaic procession, the grand celebration of the city, whilst the pediments narrate the birth of the goddess and her conflicts with Poseidon over the protection of the city. The metopes portray the battle of the Greeks with the Amazons, the fall of Troy, Centauromachy, and the battle between the Gods and the Giants. The temple was stripped of its décor during the Turkish occupation of Greece, and its sculptures, objects of long lasting claims of the country, are found in London, in the British Museum.
- The Erechtheum: The Erechtheum takes its name from Erechtheus, to whom it is dedicated. The temple is also dedicated to Poseidon and Athena Polias. It is located north of the Parthenon, and built in the Ionian order. It was completed at the end of the 5th century B.C. and was distinguished for its peculiar design and decorations. Its peculiarity is owed in part to the morphology of the terrain, which resulted in the elevation of one section of it. The temple is more renowned for its female figures, the Caryatids, which instead of kiones, support the temple.
- Temple of Epicurean Apollo in Arcadia: It is also known as the “rotating temple” and constitutes an excellent architectural achievement. It was constructed after the Parthenon by Iktino under the supervision of the Delphi Oracle. The temple, which is dedicated to Apollo, is Doric order in its exterior and Ionic order with Corinthian styled kiones in its interior. It is located in a north-south position, on a horizontally leveled base which shifts approximately 0, 52 seconds of a degree each year. Just as most of the ancient temples, it has been pillaged. Some of its sculptures are found in London, in the British Museum.
- The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus: The Theater of Epidaurus, a monument of beauty and symmetry, constitutes a work of perfection of the skilful construction of theaters of the Ancient Greeks. Its unique acoustics is one of the elements which establish it as a highlight attraction for visitors from all over the world. Its construction began at the end of the 4th century B.C. although it acquired its final form in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. The monument was discovered in 1881. It consisted of the typical parts of a theater, the cavea, the orchestra and the stage. The cavea and the orchestra are preserved in good condition, in comparison with the once majestic stage building which is now in ruins.
- Sacred Monastery of Simonos Petra: It has been characterized as the boldest building of Mount Athos. The monastery, built on a sheer cliff, is dedicated to the birth of Christ. It provides 15 chapels as well as heirlooms and human relics of Saints. It is dated back to the 14th century, and has been re-built many times due to the destruction caused by fires.
Seven Greek Cultural Wonders
- The Metro: The Metro constitutes a precept and way of life for the Greeks. It is affiliated with the harmony within human relations and with the harmony corresponding to man’s relationship with nature. It has integrated with one’s need to see things in their true proportions, free of prejudices and fear. In art, it has bonded with analogy, symmetry and elegance, whilst in politics, with democracy.
- Filoxenia: Filoxenia was instituted as the highest principle as early as antiquity, and it was placed under the protection of Zeus. The sacredness of the institution of filoxenia consisted of a primary step towards the socialization of man and the creation of the first community. It is of prime importance to this very day, to the lives and relationships of the Greek people.
- Democracy: Democracy was conceived in Athens. It is considered that the father of democracy was Kleisthenis, who, with the reforms he introduced in 508 B.C. took the decisive step towards the qualitative turnabout of the political system of the city-state. Essentially, democracy was defined after the political changes which Efialtis and Periklis brought about. Democracy in the 5th century B.C. is a new word which embodies within it, all the literal sense of its meaning, it is a true democracy, and power is genuinely executed by the people, the council of Athens. It is worth noting that the idealism of democracy was preserved in the spirits of the Greek people throughout the centuries and is demonstrated again in the 19th century in a monarchial Europe, through the revolutionary constitutions which are considered the most democratic of that era.
- Music: Throughout history, every nation has created its own music. In Greece, however, music does not signify only rhythm, melody, harmony and expression. It includes, apart from the melody, geometry and philosophy, and it combines with other forms of art such as poetry and drama. Music is guarded by the Muses and it constitutes an integral part of Greek education.
- Literature and Historiography: Initially, poetry was developed [epical, lyrical, iambic, elegiac, and erotic, dramatic, mimical] that is, dialogue with rhythm. Prosaic speech was later cultivated, with rhetoric, philosophy and history. As a result of the wide varieties of topics, the conception of literature has been segmented into 70 categories. As it has been said, there is nothing in ancient Greek dialogue which does not enlighten modern civilization.
- Theater: Drama was created in stages, through the expression of Dionysus worship. The first person to combine music, dance and speech in the teachings of dithyramb was Thesbis. However, drama was transformed and realized its highest from of perfection through the innovations and creations of the three great dramatists, Aishilou, Sophocles, and Euripides. Their contribution is not limited to the famous works which were bequeathed to mankind, but extends to the evolution of theatrical stage-designing.
- Philosophy: Philosophy, as love for knowledge and the quest for the truth for man and his world, was conceived in the Greek cities of Ionia and developed on mainland Greece. Ancient Greek philosophers concentrated on semantics, nomenclature, mathematics, physics, astrology, sociology, education, metaphysics, and other branches of philosophy which later divided and became independent fields of science. Their ideas deeply influenced the progress of philosophy.
Seven Greek Wondrous Creations
- Phaistos Disc: It is a clay disc with hieroglyphic script dating back to the 17th century B.C. The symbols, which in total number 242 and are separated in 61 groups, are found on both sides of the disc.
They have been imprinted spirally from the perimeter to the center, each separately with the use of seals portraying human and animal forms, tools, weapons etc., This object, which comprises of the oldest example of a printer in the world, is guarded in the Archaeological museum in Heraklion
- Cycladic Idols: The Cycladic idols are statuettes dating back to the era of 3000 B.C. and were found mainly on graves as well as in settlements. It is presumed that their main purpose was to keep company the dead. They were built from Parian marble, and they height varies from a few centimeters to 1,52m. The figures were male and female, either standing or sitting. One may admire Cycladic idols in the museums of the Cycladic islands, as well as in the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens.
- Sculptural décor of the Parthenon: The sculptural décor of the Parthenon, work of Pheidia and his pupils, encompass one of the most representative examples of Classical plastic art in the 5th century B.C. It is distinguished for its emphasis in detail to the shapes, which by means of the processing of the plastic, has lead them to perfection. The sculptures are carved from Pentelic marble and depict scenes from Greek mythology as well as the mythology and life of Athena. They are presently found in London.
- Nike of Samothrace: This is one of the most renowned and inspiring artworks of Hellenistic plastics. It portrays the goddess Nike, standing on the bow of a ship with open wings, whilst it moves forward. This work of art, which unfortunately is preserved headless, dates back to the 2nd century B.C. It is currently in the Louvre, in Paris.
- Aphrodite of Milos [Venus de Milo]: An equally famous work of art of the Hellenistic period is the statue of Aphrodite of Milos. The goddess is portrayed in a calm pose and is semi-nude. The hands have not been preserved. The statue, which is found in the Louvre in Paris, is dated back to approximately 140 B.C.
- The Antikythera Mechanism: It is considered to be one of the most impressive finds of antiquity. Initially it was defined as an astrolabe, that is, an instrument for observing the stars and determining their height from the horizon.
Detailed study however proved that it is essentially an astronomy computer, < a miniature solar system>. It consists of 4 metal discs and 30-40 metal gears constructed so as to fit in a very small box. The discs are used to calculate the movements of the sun and the moon, to calculate the lunar cycle and the eclipse of the moon.
At the same time, the gears placed so as to move simultaneously around many axes, simulate the movements of the planets. The complexity of the mechanism, the accuracy of its calculation and its ingenuity establish it as unique for its time, as such a similar complex device will not be produced until the 19th century. (Read the related interview with Xenofon Moussa, associate professor in Space Physics)
- The Burial of the Count of Orgaz by D. Theotokopoulos [El Greco]. This work of art was created during the mature period of the artist. It was completed in 1588 during Greco’s stay in Spain and it encompasses an important turning point in his artistic creativity. The painting portrays two levels, the level of the earth with the burial of Count Orgaz, and the level of heaven with the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist requesting that the soul of this great philanthropist be accepted in heaven.
Photo: University of Illinois, http://www.math.ilstu.edu/
This vision is presented through the eyes of a small child, Greco’s own son, Jorge Manuel, whilst amongst the figures there is also a self-personification of the artist. In this work of art, all of Theotokopoulos’ influences and achievements are reviewed, such as the Byzantine schematization, Venetian colouring, Mannerist style, Spanish ecstatic vision and Dutch group portrait. It is located in the church of Santo Tome in Spain.