Stoa of Attalos

Stoa of Attalos in the ancient Athenian Agora in modern-day Athens, Greece.

We had a discussion on the reconstruction of ancient ruins in order to experience them in their former glory. My notes on the topic read:

“Original ruins vs reconstruction

-value of space vs value of building

-Buddhism/Taoism-constant rebuilding

Agora-change of occupation; cultural change Greek>Roman>Modern Greek

-What is the most important artifact?

-digging through stratigraphy of historical layers

-reconstruct Greek ruins? Byzantine?

Notes on ancient ruins and cities: Corinth vs Delphi vs Mycenae

Notes on ancient ruins and cities: Corinth vs Delphi vs Mycenae.

My ramblings comparing the ancient cities of Corinth, Pompeii, Delphi, and Mycenae. I don’t know how interesting this is, but I’m posting anyway!

It reads:

“Corinth vs Delphi vs Mycenae

-‘apples to oranges’ argument of comparison.

-clear procession up hill (Mycenae) / flat of Corinth

-Corinth as Nolli map-great piazza!

-layers of history

-Delphi, Mycenae, & Pompeii “frozen in time” vs Corinth & Athens which were continuously inhabited

Athens, Rome, Venice, London

-keep historical cities from becoming museums

notion of ground plane

-small changes in section can have a big impact

-plane of ground, water

-anything on Delphi’s site would be good

Athens-history of city is walled off from locals (Acropolis museum, the Acropolis itself, etc)

-Temple of Herculean Zeus walled off-could be great park

The Pantheon

The Pantheon, built by Marcus Agrippa (and rebuilt by Domitian, Trajan, and Hadrian), in Rome, Italy. Today known as “Santa Maria dei Martiri” (“St. Mary and the Martyrs” or “Santa Maria Rotonda”.

The inscription on the front of the building reads, “M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT” (“Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, having been consul three times, built it”). Agrippa’s house-for-every-god is home to only one these days, but fewer ethereal tenants has not diminished its splendor. Septimius Severus and Caracalla repaired the Pantheon and left another inscription “Pantheum vetustate corruptum cum omni cultu restituerunt” (With every refinement they restored the Pantheon worn by age) for a good reason.

It is absolutely amazing.

Our hotel was just around the corner from the Pantheon (down the alley from Santa Maria sopra Minerva), though we didn’t see it when we arrived. It was only later when we were out exploring that we popped around and suddenly were in Piazza della Rotonda. I instantly got goosebumps, and without any conscious volition, began to weep. It was an incredible, genuine somatic experience. This incredible building, which you’ve heard about, read about, studied, watched documentaries on the History channel, and seen in pictures your entire life was suddenly real; standing right in front of you. Full of people, birds flying around, musicians, cafes, street vendors selling squashy rubber tomatoes; the Pantheon is alive and well.

The interior was equally, if not more, impressive. You can’t help but be humbled by that dome. You’re happy to get a crick in your neck from staring upwards for far longer than you should, just to examine every cranny of coffering and of course, the oculus. You feel kind of bad for the people that attend church service there. It must be basically impossible with the gawkers milling about, bringing their pagan-respecting awe filth in your holy space.

When you’re in an intact building which has been around for nearly 2000 years, it’s hard not to be filled with a little awe.

The Colosseum

‘Il Colosseo’, The Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

My God, the Colosseum. Largest elliptical amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, smack-dab in the center of Rome. Vespasian’s baby must have been a beauty in her day, and is still a sight to see. Another major checkmark on my life-list, and another site begging for an augmented reality application; we want to see this thing in its heyday! As ruins go, this one is a little easier to imagine fully constructed, simply because there’s a lot of it left. Even though the place was as packed with tourists as any site in Rome, I never felt herded along like I did at the Vatican. I would love to return here one day on the off-season and get the deluxe tour, or even just wander around aimlessly for awhile and imagine the cheers of 50,000 gladiatorial spectators.

The Roman Forum

foro romano

‘Foro Romano’, The Roman Forum in Rome, Italy.

We saw so many ruins at the beginning of our most recent trip to Europe. So much rubble can start to get a little boring. Minus a few exceptions, when you’ve seen one toppled column and pottery fragment-you’ve seen them all. However, the Roman Forum was one of those exceptions. It’s hard not to be impressed when you’re standing in the thick of it. You just yearn for some way to see it in its former splendor. C’mon geeks-put out some kind of augmented reality rig so I can see these ruins rebuild themselves. Better yet, give me an iPhone app. Personally, I have a totally inflated and unrealistically romantic ~idea~ of history, so I couldn’t help but be in awe by the fragments of human achievement I was surrounded by. The old saying, “They just don’t build ’em like they used to,” is appropriate. I wonder how many of our modern glass and steel boxes will still be around a couple hundred years from now. And I wonder if they’ll look this good.