The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme. This month we are discussing Folklore! Take a look at all the great stories at the bottom of the page.
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, “The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy”, 1773, National Gallery, London (Photo)
Whether it was reading through the Iliad and Odyssey in school or seeing Brad Pitt as Achilles, we all know about Troy. This mythical fortress city conjures up images of fierce battle, epic warriors, beautiful Helen herself, and of course, one of the greatest tricks of all time, the magnificent Trojan Horse. Sometimes its easy to lump Troy in with Atlantis, the island of the Minotaur, or the lands of the Amazons – just fantasy places that serve as a setting for Greek mythology. But what do we really know about Troy? Along the northwest coast of Turkey are the archaeological remains of a city with walls that just might have been great enough to hold back the Athenian army and Achilles himself.
The ancient city of Pergamon, just outside modern Bergama, is not necessarily on the “tourist trail” in Turkey, so I made a special point to visit. From the garden behind my guesthouse, I shared a bottle of Raki with the other travelers and watched the fading sunset and twilight dance across the ancient ruins on the mountain above us. My mind wandered back and forth between imagining this once magnificent capitol city and contemplating the quiet, emptied ruins present today. That ancient Pergamon exists at all today in Bergama, Turkey is a wonder and a testament to its phenomenal and multi-layered history.
Part of the Temple of Trajan, Pergamon
In the heart of ancient Corinth, between the extensive market and the main road to the sea, there was an Imperial Roman monument that was designed to be unforgettable. The Prisoner’s Facade was constructed by Septimius Severus (145-211 CE) to celebrate his victory over the Parthians. The elaborate two-story tapestry in marble depicted vanquished, captured soldiers and the victorious Roman army. Perhaps the boldest element of the prisoner facade were four sculptural columns that each included a statue of a docile, captured youth in oriental costumes.
An enigmatic Parthian slave from the ancient Roman “Prisoner’s Facade” in Corinth
This exotic sculpture and fantastic architecture was typical of Corinth – the Roman capital of the Greek province. Lively, international, and wealthy, ancient Corinth figures into Greek, Roman, and early Christian history. While today there are only neglected embers of its former glory, you can still picture the excitement of ancient Corinth in the expansive but slumbering ruins and in the unique museum pieces like this beautiful column of a captured man.
You may never have heard of Sepphoris but this former Roman city has some fantastic mosaics. Also known as Tzippori or Zippori , this archaeological site in the Western Galilee has been excavated over the last 30 years revealing wonderful treasures. Ignored by tour buses, I had the site to myself and could enjoy the best and most extensive collection of ancient mosaic art in Israel.
This Roman mosaic Venus is known as “The Mona Lisa of Galilee” for her beauty and enigmatic smile.
Terrific view of old city from the roof deck of the Akko Knights Youth Hostel (Photo from hostel)
I wrote recently about the old historic core of Acre (or Akko), Israel which is packed with Crusader era ruins. Since Acre is mostly a day-tripper’s destination, we stayed a night in the only accommodations in the old city – a youth hostel. Apparently you can’t dig anywhere in the Acre without discovering an archaeological site! I was surprised to find that our youth hostel had its own set of ruins on site and did an excellent job exhibiting them as natural elements of the hostel premise.