Ancient Greek Statues, Now in Color!

Painted StatueThey’re iconic.  Stark white statues, busts, and ruins of the ancient Greeks have symbolized the purity and elegant simplicity of the ancient world to us for thousands of years.  They have left an impression on our collective consciousness, appearing in countless images from Renaissance paintings to modern film and television.

Yet recent technological advancements have revealed a secret lost to the wear and tear of time.

Those classic statues were actually brightly colored in their time.

A lamp is positioned carefully enough that the path of the light is almost parallel to the surface of the object…Brush-strokes are impossible to see, but because different paints wear off at different rates, the stone is raised in some places – protected from erosion by its cap of paint – and lowered in others. Elaborate patterns become visible.

Ultraviolet is also used to discern patterns. UV light makes many organic compounds fluoresce…On ancient Greek statues, tiny fragments of pigment still left on the surface glow bright, illuminating more detailed patterns…A series of dark blues will create a very different effect than gold and pink.

Ultraviolet Light Reveals How Ancient Greek Statues Really Looked

Painted Bust

The ancient world was vividly colored.

What do you think about the ancient statues having been colored?  If you have your own statues, will you paint them?

Zeus’ Altar of Ashes Rediscovered

A view from the summit of Mt. Lykaion, Arkadia...

View from Mt. Lykaion via Wikipedia

News from the Archaeological Institute of America‘s annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
By Bruce Bower January 30th, 2010; Vol.177 #3 (p. 14)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Excavations at the Sanctuary of Zeus atop Greece’s Mount Lykaion have revealed that ritual activities occurred there for roughly 1,500 years, from the height of classic Greek civilization around 3,400 years ago until just before Roman conquest in 146.

“We may have the first documented mountaintop shrine from the ancient Greek world,” says project director David Romano of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
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Temple of Nemisis Unearthed

Nemesis holding the wheel of fortune, her righ...

Nemesis holding the Wheel of Fortune Image via Wikipedia

From here:

Archaeologists have found traces of a temple built for the Greek goddess of divine retribution, Nemesis, during excavations in the ancient city of Agora in the Aegean port city of İzmir. Akın Ersoy of Dokuz Eylül University‘s archaeology department and heading the archaeological excavations in the ancient city, told the Anatolia news agency on Monday that they speculated there might be a temple built for Nemesis in the area.

“We found traces of such a temple during our excavations in Agora,” he said.

“We want to concentrate our work to unearth the temple in the future.”

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Modern Views on Pre-Hellenics

1. How do your own practices relate to those of the pre-Hellenics?

The more I learn, the better I can answer this question. I give sponde in spontaneous thanks, made in good faith as part of a prayer and promise of more sacrifice if the god(s) answer my prayer, or as part of a routine ritual or celebration. I also resonate with the ancient practice of sacrificing artwork to one or more deities. I find natural settings moving in the same way the pre-Hellenics did, I imagine. I might witness a clear day after the rain, smell the clean air, see the sun lighting vibrant leaves, and feel truly alive. At times like this, I pause and acknowledge it – with a kiss on my fingertips, a drink-offering, and perhaps say out loud, “Oh, you are beautiful.” or “Thank you for this beautiful day.” I also have erected an altar to Gaea and Zeus in our home, as well as an image of above the stove/hearth which itself I consider both an embodiment of her and an altar itself.

Ambrosian Iliad, Achilles sacrificing to Zeus

Ambrosian Iliad, Achilles sacrificing to Zeus Image via Wikipedia

2. What is the relationship between deity and the natural world? Do the gods control physical phenomena, do they personify it, or do they have some other relationship?

It depends on the deity. Chaos, Nyx, Gaea, Uranus, the Titans and some of the gods after them like I think are embodiments of the ‘natural world’ and concepts. Mnemeosyne can’t be anything but Memory, for example; compared to Apollon who is light, music, archery, and plague. I think it would be a stretch to say that Chronos literally ‘controls’ time if He was subdued by His son. Rather, I think that because Zeus overtook Time and exiled Him, the gods became time-less or ‘distanced from time’ and thus unaffected by Him directly.

However, with each generation of the gods Their spheres of influence become more complex and overlapping. As Yvonne so eloquently says, “Poisidon is the horse and Athena is the bridle.”, there is more control involved with each successive generation, and in a way of speaking, more consciousness that rises out of that realm (at least, that which we can relate to). That is why it’s easier to pray to Asklepios than it is to Apollon, and Apollon compared to Zeus, and Zeus compared to Uranus, etc. They become more personable and thus more like personifications.

3. What is the significance (if any) of the origin and history of a deity?

The origin and history of a deity is a lot like the origin and history of a word. For example, in Old English a ‘reeve’ was a royal official responsible for keeping the peace. A reeve of a shire (county) was a ‘shire reeve‘ or Sheriff. Knowing the roots of a word deepens our understanding of the word. It is so with the gods. Understanding Their roots enables us to understand Them more deeply. By understanding Their origins, we can also understand what They might embody or personify in the modern world.

Which god should I pray to when my computer breaks down? Should it be Hephestos for His realm of all things metal-work? Or should it be Hermes for His realm of speed, commerce, and communication? Examining Their roots enlightens us as to Their root meaning or root concerns, and therefore, how They apply to us today (or how we can apply to Them).