Travels in Greece
Time-Weathered Faces of the Caryatids,
Guardians of the Tomb of King Cecrops

The Acropolis in Black and White

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My friend Jim Rioux, who also enjoys taking pictures, enjoys the developing and printing aspects of photography as well, and has built himself a nice photo lab. He gave me some rolls of black and white film to take on the trip, and volunteered to process them. I'll admit to doing a good job of pointing the camera and focusing the lens, and the subjects speak for themselves, but his work on sizing, 'dodging', adjusting contrast, and developing the prints is the main reason these came out so well.

Two Caryatids, from the Eréchtheion

These are only cast replicas of the original statues, five of which are now on display in the Acropolis Museum, out of harm's way. The origials stood here for twenty-four centuries, supporting the elaborate stonework above their heads. The Caryatids are named for the women of Karyai, near Sparta. I like this picture because it shows two of the figures in parallel, and because it gives an impression of the mass of the pediment their slender necks hold aloft. Look also at how the creases in their dresses mirror the flutes in the temple columns behind them. (Since visitors are not allowed to get close to the Caryatids, this picture was taken with about 300 mm worth of lenses while I held my breath.)

The Parthanon, Western Face

I mentioned that there is an incredible amount of 'extra' material on top of the Acropolis - and the area in front of the Parthenon is a field of stone slabs, column segments, pedestals, and orphaned stairsteps. This picture also shows the weathered faces of the columns, the interior scaffold, and the few intact fragments of the pediment. These and other decorative elements of the Pathenon and the other temples of the Acropolis were originlly painted in deep, vivid colors - a contrast to the pale, honeyed hue the aged marble has now.

Crossing through the Gateway of the Propylaea

Here is a view of the forest of scaffolding visitors pass through as they enter the Acropolis. This is one of the few shots where I made an effort to get people into the picture (generally, I made a painstaking effort to keep them out). They help give a scale of size to the space, otherwise difficult to grasp. Between the columns and the scaffolds, there is a play of light and shadow here that was difficult for a picture-taker to pass up.

Through a Window of the Eréchtheion

The Eréchtheion is a complex structure, and in its current state, a myriad of shades and textures are visible in the layers of exposed stone. This view, through a window at the back of the temple, shows the outer wall, its inner structure, a slendor column from the opposite side, and the sky beyond. Look at the carved and weathered patterns in the marble, some created by the hands of stone masons in the fifth century B.C., and some by the hand of nature over the centuries since.

A Wider View of the Caryatids

Another view of the maidens from Karyai, this one showing the subtle differences in the statues, and showing some detail from the roof above. One of the neat photographic aspects of this picture is how detail was brought out in the deeply shadowed wall behind the statues, without washing out areas of bright sunlight. Credit Jim's printing techniques.

The Eréchtheion

Here is a medium-focus picture of the southwest corner of the Eréchtheion, Showing the ceremonial porch at left, the central chamber in which Athena's olive-wood statue was kept, and the Porch of the Maidens at right. The Panathenaic procession began every four years in the Keramikós graveyard, wound through the Agora, and climbed up to the Acropolis. A key part of the procession was bringing a new robe for Athena's statue to wear.

Columns of the Parthenon

This is a side-on view of the eight columns across the west face of the Parthenon. If you look closely you can even see the cracks, veins, and shadings of the marble. The altar of the temple, where ceremonies were held and sacrifices were made, was actually somewhere in front of the temple, its location obscured by a sea of scattered marble blocks.

The Parthenon, from a Distance

This is a different print of the photograph the second image was taken from, cropped portrait instead of landscape. It gives an even better idea of the jumble of history that lies on this plateau. In addition to the original Greek statues and temples, there were Roman statues and a small temple, a Byzantine church, a Mosque, and a tall, slim minaret. There were also Greek temples that pre-dated the Parthenon.

A Wide-Angle View

This picture probably shows the restoration scaffolding as much as anything else--how it circles the inner walls, and envelops some of the outer columns. It also shows the many layers of marble which make up the base of the temple. The Parthenon is built on the foundation of an older temple, burnt to the ground under the armies of Xerxes during a Persian invasion of Athens in the fifth century B.C.. I was told that if you know what to look for, you can still see the scars of those flames on the marble. foundation.

Another Wide-Angle View

This picture, from the southwest corner, lets you see that there are some partial columns along the south face of the Parthenon. Accounts by some sources say that as many as twenty-eight of the columns were toppled by the explosion of a Turkish gunpowder magazine within the temple, detonated by the shells of Venetians laying seige to the city in 1687. That gives an idea of just how much has been reconstructed over the years. On a sadder note, restorers in past years used steel pins to hold the marble blocks and columns together. The steel pins have been corroding over the years, and are causing discoloration, and in some cases fractures in the marble. (The greeks used iron pins coated with lead to prevent corrosion). Some of the ongoing restoration work now is a process of re-stacking the temple components with corrosion-proof titanium pins.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The Odeon is a Roman construction, as is the arched wall before it, the Stoa of Eumenes. The Odeon seats about 5,000 for plays, dances, and music performances. Beyond the Stoa, in a diagonal line running across the photo, is Dionisiou Areopagitou, a street lined with tourist busses on a sunny Saturday afternoon. To the left is the wooded Filopáppou Hill.

©1997 Stephen L. Spanoudis; All Rights Reserved

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