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
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 great sculpture! You can find links below for the group’s posts this month. The summer heat has got me thinking about Sicily and so I’m going to introduce you to a phenomenal, ancient piece that I happened to stumbled across on a secluded island (really!).
The sacred way to the Ascelpium, just outside Pergamon, Turkey.
Even without the advantage of modern MRI’s and antibiotics, the Ancient Greeks understood something about health. Just outside many of the largest ruins from the ancient world, you will find a Sanctuary to Asclepius, God of Health. Taking in sick locals and travelers alike, most of these centers included steam-rooms, baths, theaters and doctors ready to interpret the patient’s dreams. Seemingly the best cures resulted from a little relaxation and spa time. And since near death patients were secreted out of the facility, it appeared the no one died at the Ascelpium under the care of the priests.
While this practice seems unthinkable today, across the Mediterranean, ancient Greek and Roman structures were salvaged for building materials in subsequent centuries. Given the prevalence of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, pagan buildings were at best a curiosity. The Parthenon in Rome is said to have only survived because it was converted into a church.
The Pentelic marble used to construct ancient Athens proved to be too alluring for Byzantine builders. You can see blatant example of stone theft in the piece-meal construction of the 13th century Panagia Gorgoepikoos Church in Athens. While the materials were stolen, the care with which pieces were selected and incorporated suggests some appreciation for classical art.
13th Century Panagia Gorgoepikoos (The Madonna who Quickly Hears) Church, Athens (Image adapted from the web)