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Education Interviews Photos

The Ancient Minoans of Crete

dolphins
A detail of the dolphin fresco, the Minoan palace of Knossos, Crete, (c. 1700-1450 BCE). Photograph taken by Mark Cartwright for Ancient History Encyclopedia. Uploaded by Mark Cartwright, published on 26 April 2012 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

The Minoan civilization flourished on the Mediterranean island of Crete during the height of the Bronze Age (c. 2000-c. 1500 BCE). By virtue of their unique art and architecture, the ancient Minoans made significant contributions to the subsequent development of Western civilization. However, we still know less about the Minoans than the civilizations of Egypt or Mesopotamia. Professor Louise Hitchcock, an archaeologist specializing in Aegean archaeology at Melbourne University, introduces us to the world of the ancient Minoans and the importance of Aegean archaeology in this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE).

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Travel

In the Footsteps of Xerxes: Following the Remains of the Persian Wars in Today’s Greece

Today we have another contribution from Time Travels Magazine in which Ben Churcher writes about the remains that can be found of the Persian wars in Greece.

View of the Acropolis, Athens.
View of the Acropolis, Athens.

The road from the Plain of Marathon to downtown Athens is, as we all know, around 40 km due to the length of the modern marathon that supposedly commemorates a run undertaken in 490 BCE to announce to the Athenians that they had defeated the Persians. First, to put one thing straight, the runner was not, as the eminent scholar tells me, made by a Greek soldier Pheidippides. Pheidippides was not a soldier but a professional long-distance runner who, a few days before the Battle of Marathon, made a run from Athens to Sparta where he reached Sparta the day after he left Athens. Secondly, common belief has it that when the runner reached Athens to announce the victory that he collapsed and died after delivering his message. Again this is wrong.

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Exhibitions Interviews

The Power and Pathos of Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture

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Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World underscores the power, prestige, and pre-eminence of ancient sculpture during the Hellenistic Era. This blockbuster show, which opened at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy this spring, is the first major international exhibition to assemble nearly 50 ancient bronzes from the Mediterranean region and beyond in a single venue. Prized over the centuries for their innovative, realistic displays of physical power and emotional intensity, the sculptures of the Hellenistic world mark a key and important transition in art history.

In this interview, Dr. James Bradburne, the recently departed Director General at the Palazzo Strozzi, introduces James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) to the finer points of the exhibition.

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Exhibitions Travel

Visiting the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens can effortlessly lay claim to being one of the very greatest museums in the world. It can do that because it is literally jam-packed with most of the most famous art objects from ancient Greece, so much so, a first-time visit here is a strangely familiar experience. From the towering bronze Poseidon to the shimmering gold mask of Agamemnon, the antiquities on display here provide the staple images of ancient Greece; adorning guidebooks, calendars, and travel agents’ windows around the world. Familiar many of these works might be but the wow-factor is certainly no less for it. Wandering around the museum one has a constant urge to re-trace one’s steps for just one more glimpse of a stunning piece before moving on. As everything is arranged in chronological order, your tour of the museum gives you a perfect vision of the evolution of Greek art and there is even an Egyptian section as an added bonus if your senses have not already been blown away by everything on the ground floor.

The bronze Antikythera Youth c. 340 BCE.
The bronze Antikythera Youth c. 340 BCE.

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Travel

Greece’s Top Ten Stops

Vathia by Rick Steves
The fortified ghost town of Vathia, on Greece’s Mani Peninsula, was once as wild as our Wild West. (photo: Rick Steves)

I was in Athens, on a rooftop restaurant under a floodlit Acropolis, marveling at how a Greek salad never gets boring. It was the last day of a long trip. I was reviewing, as I always do after completing an itinerary, how effectively our time was spent. We had kept our focus more on seeing historic sights on the mainland rather than luxuriating on Aegean Islands. Given that focus, here are the top ten stops — in itinerary order — that make what I consider the best two weeks Greece has to offer:

Athens, a big ugly city, has obligatory ancient sights (the hilltop temple of the Acropolis, and the ruined forum of the Agora); an extremely touristy old quarter (the Plaka); and fine museums — the best in the country. Its four million people sprawl where no tourist ventures, including new immigrant zones with poor yet thriving communities. The joy of Greece is outside of Athens. See it and scram.