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)
I found these blocks tucked in a corner at the Ephesus Museum. The figure on the right looks to me like an Eques gladiator (medium round shield and short sword) although the helmet is small. I imagine that this fragment was part of a celebrity fighter’s tomb, now broken and nestled in some overgrown plants.
Aphrodisias Agora theater frieze (Photo: Daydream Tourist)
I just returned from two incredible weeks in Turkey! I’m still processing the experience and my impressions of the country. But on a more practical matter, I’ve only just started looking at my 1300 photographs!
I’ll start with a detail from the Agora at Aphrodisias. The ancient Roman market there was encircled with this Theater Frieze depicting known mythological characters and dramatic masks linked with a floral and fruit garland. The blocks are stacked near the entrance to the site forming a wall of quirky and unique faces. Aphrodisias itself was one of the most impressive archaeological sites I have ever seen and we had it almost completely to ourselves.