Monday, September 15, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Melina Mercouri and Never on Sunday

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

On a corner of the Athenian pedestrian mall Ermou Street, I spied this graffito of the iconic Greek movie legend Melina Mercouri, pumping a tattooed arm beneath (and above) the name of her film: Never on Sunday. Melina Mercouri, born in Athens in 1925 to a prominent political family, was a goddess of cinema. 

Most famous for her role in  Never on Sunday, directed by and costarring her husband Jules Dassin, Mercouri played a free-spirited prostitute named Ilya who falls in love with a classical scholar named Homer in the seaside port of Piraeus. 

Mercouri received an Oscar nomination for this role and went on to star in numerous films, but her deep interest in politics led her become one of the founding members of Greece's socialist party. When the party, called PASOK, won the election in the early 1980s, Mercouri was appointed to the cabinet at Minister of Culture. Under her leadership, she lobbied for the return of the Acropolis marbles (also known as the Elgin marbles) which were taken from the Parthenon in the early 19th century and are now in the British Museum. Mercouri held an international competition to design a new museum which would house the marbles once returned. 

Mercouri died in 1994, long before the new Acropolis Museum was opened in 2009. Greece still awaits the return of the Parthenon marbles to their rightful place, for which Mercouri fought so hard, yet visitors can enjoy Mercouri's legacy in the beautiful museum she helped to envision. They can also feel her spirit mingling with that of Athena's in this iconic shot of her atop the Acropolis itself, which is visible all over the city

including the gorgeous subway system

in which people pass by her image every day.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Questions from the Greek Landscape

For some time now it has seemed to me that the two questions we should ask of any strong landscape are these: firstly, what do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else? And then, vainly, what does this place know of me that I cannot know myself?

Robert at The Solitary Walker

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Hadrian and the Headless Nike

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

The comedian Jim Carrey is credited for changing the phrase: "Behind every great man is a great woman," to: "Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes."

In Athens I came upon a case where - behind a great man - was a woman who lost her head.

Hadrian's Library, a massive building constructed by the famous Roman emperor in 132 A.D., sits in the middle of the Roman agora of ancient Athens. But hidden somewhere within its towering, fluted Corinthian columns...

lies another treasure I stumbled upon quite by accident. Roaming the remains of this magnificent structure, which once housed thousands of papyrus scrolls stored in niches, surrounded by reading rooms and outdoor discussion areas around reflecting pools, I happened upon a small, nondescript building. Inside I saw this glorious sculpture. Carved of a single block of Pentelic marble, this Nike figure - whose name means victory - is shown at the moment when her foot touches the earth, personified by a globe.

I was awestruck to by the delicate carving of her fingers, not to mention the fact of her ignominious discovery in the bottom of an Ottoman well, from which she was excavated in 1988. 

As most Nike statues, her erection was probably in honor of a man's battle. But the true victory is her survival, being moved over millennia from place to place, then dumped, headless, wingless and armless, into a well to be forgotten for centuries. A true victory of feminine strength, she lives up to her name, surviving battles that have been fought, won and lost around her, buildings that have been erected and felled, and civilizations that have reached their zenith and crumbled within her sight. 

So take my advice and don't pass by this small nondescript building in the midst of these hot and dusty ruins in central Athens. You will not be disappointed....

for Victory will be yours. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Seen in Athens - Fish Pedicure?

Things that make you go hmmm...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Asleep in an Ancient Greek Graveyard

Seen in the museum courtyard of the Kerameikos, the ancient cemetery of Athens, exhausted tourists resting on the surface of Persephone's lair...