Sunday, February 22, 2009

BSA Carnival

So last night was the annual Carnival party at the British School at Athens. The BSA and us go way back, to the 1880s in fact. The American School was founded in 1881 and the BSA in 1886. When we moved to our new digs here in Kolonaki a while back, the ASCSA and the BSA decided to be neighbors. In fact, when it came time to buy the land for Loring Hall, we split the cost (and the land) with the Brits. Of course, when we got hot water in 1930, they were just getting electricity - booyah!

Nowadays, we're virtually on the same land, sharing the gardens and the tennis courts. When I look out my window, I look directly at the British School. There's a long tradition of people strolling back and forth across the street from the BSA to ASCSA, whether for tea, ouzo, lectures, or other social/work occasions (Piet de Jong being a prime example). We also have access to each other's library (even sharing the same library catalogue), which is really handy, given that I'm always looking for books that only the BSA library has. For a while I found their library terrifying, since I always got lost in it, but now that I have (finally!) figured out where the little library maps are, I feel like I'm straight out of London.

I don't know when the tradition began, but at some point in time we started the alternating party thing - we do Halloween, they do Carnival. Last night was the BSA's much anticipated party, which had the theme of 'Down Under.' I didn't hang around too long, since I had Harry Potter to read and went home a little after midnight. Apparently the festivities lasted well into the nighttime, and there were several surly looking people shuffling around Loring at noon today, having just gotten out of bed.

So thanks to the British School for throwing a great party (with great decorations)! Here's how a few of us Americans participated in the theme:

Fosters - Australian for Beer, Boxing Kangaroo, and Dreya with some boingy flowerythings.

Crikey and Criminal.
Dingo a la Elaine from Seinfeld.
Any guesses?

Friday, February 20, 2009

ASCSA Art 1: Dinner Table Art in Loring by Piet de Jong

It is a generally held belief that art is used by people and groups to define themselves. After all, what you’ve got hanging on your walls says a lot about you. From the wall-paintings of the Romans to the posters plastered on freshman dorm-room walls, art is often meant to convey something about its owner, to ooze class, taste, hippness or to be cutting edge. So what, I wondered, does the art of the American School say?

Today begins my new feature on the Art of the American School. I’ll try to post on this topic as regularly as I can, but I won’t pretend that I won’t get side-tracked by other things as well. Especially as we get to the end of the semester and I have four more reports to research (Jane Harrison! Plato’s Academy! Underwater archaeology! Aphrodisias!), I’m running out of time, with a quickness.

Mostly I’ll be addressing the paintings/prints hung on the walls of the Blegen Library and Loring Hall. As I’ve wandered about I have mentally categorized this art into four groups:

1) Portraits – mostly of American School celebrities
2) Landscapes of Greece – showing either idyllic scenes with traditional Greek stuff or
depicting ruins
3) Replicas of ancient works – enlarged versions of ancient artifacts, such as pottery, mosaics, etc.
4) Items of Erudition – stuff that you put on your office wall to show your smartness, like Ye Olde Maps, Renaissance-looking philosophers, engravings of personifications, etc.

I wanted to start with a room that I sit in everyday, Loring Hall’s dining room.

A series of watercolors hang on all four walls, by Piet de Jong.
Piet de Jong, Porch of the Parthenon

By whom, you ask? Piet de Jong, the most influential artist working for the American School (and British School) in the 20th century. Hmmm, that still may not be overly helpful. If any of you have been to Knossos on Crete, then you are well-versed in his work, as he reconstructed the wall-paintings there. And of course, if you have ever studied Mycenaean Greece, then you will have seen his most famous reconstruction of all:
Reconstruction of the megaron at Pylos.

He actually did a whole array of work, from caricatures to site plans, to pottery sketches, to beautiful illustrations of ancient artifacts (see Papadopoulos 2007; Hood 1998, Faces of archaeology in Greece). I’ve been staring at his landscapes while I eat dinner for a while now, but to me, they were rather vague pictures of trees and rocks from the 1920s and that was all. But yesterday we went to the South Slope of the Acropolis, and when I came back and looked at his paintings again, I was in for shock.

You see, while we were walking towards the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, I stopped and looked up at this really amazing image of the Parthenon, one corner of the building just barely peeking out at us. I remarked on it to Margie, and she was impressed by the very blueness of the sky. Thirty minutes later, just about to eat lunch, I realized that Piet de Jong had stood in that very exact spot in the late 1920s and had also recognized what a fantastic picture it might be:
The very tippy edge of the parthenon above the Stoa of Eumenes. Piet de Jong.

I’d looked at that picture, close up, on several occasions, and never realized what it was until I came back from standing in the same place as the artist.

Then there was the matter of the Theatre of Dionysos. Just above the theatre a guy named Thrasyllos built a gigantic monument in the bedrock of the Acropolis. He cut into a cave already present on the slope, added some statues, and threw in some enormous columns. The monument is currently being restored, but it played a big part in our morning escapade. And lo! Piet de Jong painted it not once, but twice, from two different directions.

His watercolors, I admit, are not my favorites; I like a lot of his other work far better and may address some of it here in the future. But it’s nice to know that the paintings on the wall, hung from fishing line, are those of an archaeologist at the School. It’s even better to see the angles and views of the sites we’re seeing every day, there in watercolors. It’s also slightly creepy, for some reason that I haven’t quite figured out. At least I’ll now always have some strange obsessive fascination with that one view of the Parthenon, sticking its head up over the Stoa's broken arches.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ta-da! The Theatre of Dionysos

If you like ancient tragedy, this is where it happened. You know, Euripides, Sophocles, those sorts of dudes. I'm sure you remember: the gouging of eyes, mothers ripping off the heads of their sons, corpses left to rot, crazed and wandering souls, bath tubs full of blood, soups made from children...all the good stuff, the original horror movies. 

Well, it happened right here, folks, at that one line of rocks. So they think. Those four blocks may very well be all that's left of the original version of Athens' Theatre of Dionysos.

Alright then. Carry on.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Pose! Photographic Dialogues with Artifacts, People, and Places

Today we went to the National Museum, where Olga Palagia talked to us about 4th- 3rd century BCE sculpture. I got in trouble with a guard because I hadn’t checked my backpack; as we haven’t been visiting many museums these days, I had forgotten about the Dreaded Museum Guard.

Museum Gaurd in Crete, hard at work. He may look relaxed and comfy in that chair, but he's waiting to pounce on unsuspecting tourists.

There is a rule here in Greece: you are not allowed to pose with objects in museums, unlike in the States, where I guess in some cases it's encouraged. This rule is fairly new and, if I recall correctly, was not in place the first time I came to Greece in 2000; I have asked around and Jack Davis told me that the rule is only a few years old.

My bad, Mr. Museum Guard! Some person who I won’t name standing (not posing!) with a statue of Caesar that looks just like him.

Museums naturally need lots of rules, to keep morons from rubbing their hands all over David and breathing all over Mona Lisa. I’m okay with this, of course. Here in Greece, museum guards must always be present with you when antiquities are around, and if you're the only person in the museum, they will follow you from room to room in a very disconcerting manner. They have learned to say their most important phrases in multiple languages; they admonish ‘No Touch!’ and ‘No Flash!,’ glowering with angry faces that say quite plainly that you've wronged them as seriously as if you'd just run over their grandmothers.

You know what, Museum Guard? Sometimes my flash goes off on accident. I know that flashes harm antiquities, especially painted ones, but sometimes a button gets pushed unintentionally as I race from object to object, and whoops, there went the flash. But before I can even get out a sheepish apology, you’re up in my face. Gawd. Okay, I know most tourists are hellacious and annoying, and obviously museum guards are at their wits end, but I still don’t like being yelled at.
I tried to take a picture of Eric with the Nike of Paionias at Olympia. Not only did the Guard yell at me, but he rushed me as well. That's his hand blocking the photo.

But nothing baffles me more than the 'no posing' rule. Although I don't know if this is true, the going explanation is that this rule was instigated in order to ensure proper decorum in museums and, most importantly, proper respect for the antiquities. Theoretically, this should give people a greater sense of reverence for these objects, so much so that they might reach the symbolic heights of the Acropolis, which is called, in modern Greece, ‘the Sacred Rock.’

Of course, you’re allowed to pose with the Parthenon. I wonder: if they could, would they stop allowing people to pose with buildings? (For more on modern Greece and its relationship with antiquity, see this.)

Whoops. Kiersten 'accidentally' got in the way of my photo, I promise.

What I find interesting about this rule lies not in the act of posing with the object, whether its done proudly, derisively, or goofily, but rather the photograph that is left behind. People travel to places to see things, and once they’ve made it there, they want their picture taken. It's thought, perhaps, that there’s something more powerful and permanent about photographs. They are solid proof that, yes, you were there. Telling stories about visiting a place just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore; you’ve got to have that slide show when you get back, or pass around the photo album, or post them on Flickr.

In fact, given the ease of the internet and digital photography, many tourists engage in a photographic dialogue with other picture takers. We’ve become so used to seeing people in front of certain landmarks and monuments that when it’s our turn, we want to do it, too. Perhaps there’s even something (dare I say it) ritualistic about the whole process. For some, if they don’t get that photo op, the trip hasn't gone right, they’re disappointed, everything gets jostled and upset. I have seen people walk right up to a monument, get their picture taken, and leave. Immediately. Without having actually looked at the thing!

But for some, the tourist picture is much more self-conscious and is a way to link oneself to a photographic tradition, to share in a long-standing experiential continuum. It’s part pilgrimage, part play and part nostalgia.

My Uncle Jim got his picture taken at the Eiffel Tower in 1964. The picture hung on the wall in the hallway for years, so when my cousin Joel went in 1995, he made sure to get his own picture to put on the wall, too. (All other Eiffel Tower shots from Google search.)

But in Greece the museum policies have made this impossible. It may be that they’ve destroyed that sense of satisfaction a person gets from showing their friends and family pictures with the Mask of Agamemnon, or the Artemisian Zeus, or Athens 804. There will never be a photographic tradition built up around the objects in Greek museums, with pictures collecting and pooling on thousands of Flickr and Facebook accounts. Visually, the objects will never develop a relationship with people. The authorities have completely removed Greek antiquities from the dialogue. Sure, you can still post pics of famous statues and vases, as long as there are no people in them. In other words, this policy has ensured that the antiquities will remain works of ‘art,’ existing on their own, divorced from humanity and the pilgrims that come to see them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Back in the Agora Storage Rooms

Okay, I'm back now I think. I've spent the last few days either moping in bed, writing a paper, or reading feel-good books like Harry Potter. But we have some interesting things to look forward to this week, like Eretria. Plus I have a new theme to introduce to the blog in a few days, once it's been cooked up properly and ready to go. So let the archaeological fun resume.

Storage amphorae in the store rooms of the Agora excavations.

John Camp shows some osteological evidence. Every one of those wooden drawers represents a layer excavated by the Agora diggers since the 1930s, each full of context pottery to help future generations re-date the material accurately.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Passing of a Titan

Yesterday my friend Kirk Lawrence passed away, after a long battle with a brain tumour.

Kirk and I met in Tallahassee, when I was doing my Master’s at FSU. The second year I was there, I decided not to get a student loan and instead to augment my TA salary with some part-time jobs. One of those part-time jobs was at Vinyl Fever. Working at the Feve was a really awesome time in my life that I’ll remember very fondly, mostly because (in addition to lots of free music) my fellow emps ruled.

Yes, that's right: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kirk, and Questlove!
Kirk is inextricably linked to my memories there; we spent hours and hours talking about music, and movies, and ninjas, and zombies, and relationships, and BBQ, and pizza, and music some more. I remember like it was yesterday the way he did his little hand thing every time he pushed the button to open the cash register, and how he was able to stay cheerful even when mopping the floor.

The day some random person drove a DeLorean to Vinyl Fever.

Kirk was a very special dude, and it’s impossible to get that across unless you knew him. He had this way of talking with his hands, what one of his friends called “doing the shrug/head turn/hands out thing that made him famous.” He really did give the best hugs ever, and even when you were cranky and feeling like you hated everyone, you always knew that Kirk still loved you, best of all. He had this absolutely amazing smile: it just lit up his whole face and was totally infectious. It was like magic, beautiful and bright.
The essence of Beast.

Kirk was also a best-nerd friend. That is, you could talk to him about any geeky thing you liked and he would still dominate you in the enthusiasm department. He liked what he liked, and he liked it a lot. His friends loved him for it. John Jarvis wrote, just the other day after Kirk’s massive group of seizures, that he thought Kirk was hanging on so long in order to see a couple's here-any-day-baby come into the world. Someone responded, “don't tell Tiffany this, but I suspect his hanging in there is equal parts "waiting for baby" and "waiting for Watchmen." And John responded, “Hahaha, I was talking about Watchmen the other day...maybe Sunday?...and Kirk opened his eyes real wide. So you might be on to something.”

He had this creative streak that never ended, whether he was being a ninja or writing movie-scripts about zombie love stories.

After I moved from Tallahassee, we didn’t talk on the phone much, and the last time we hung out when he was relatively healthy was in December of 2007. But we did for a long time keep up a very active AOL IM/Myspace/Text Message relationship. Turning on my computer was always a treat, since up would pop a message from ‘Bottlerockit’ that usually contained my name with lots of exclamation points after it. And he truly was the Master of Myspace Testimonials. Every one he ever left me was part-funny, part-loving-goodness.

I remember the fateful day when the brain tumor started causing him trouble. I think it was a Saturday, and we were working at the Feve. I was especially irritable that day and probably had a hangover. We were pretty busy customer-wise, and I was starting to get annoyed that Kirk wasn’t checking anyone out, just standing behind the counter doing nothing. Then he started feeling really sick to his stomach, so I felt a little guilty for being angry at him. Then he started feeling so terrible that he had to go home. Imagine how bad I felt then. But it got worse. Imagine how really, truly terrible I felt a few days later when Kirk announced that he’d gone to the doctor and it turned out he had a brain tumor.

Our boy went through something like four brain surgeries, with the outlook switching from happy to grim and back again over the next several years. Finally, a few months ago, John Jarvis, Kirk’s best friend, got the word out that things were rapidly going downhill. The doctors had decided that nothing could be done anymore, so they sent him home to spend his last days with his family. He surprised them all by rallying and holding on for several months. Thanks to John, his friends were able to come in from all over to see Kirk one last time. I was fortunate to spend the afternoon with him on January 12th, just before returning to Greece and one month exactly before he died.

Since it ended, there’s been a flurry of emails going around, with all his friends reminiscing about what an amazing dude he was. It’s helped a lot, having a full inbox to get me through while stuck here on the other side of the world. Still, I can’t stop myself from checking his Myspace and Facebook, and AIM, even though that little ‘Online now’ message will never show up again.

Kirk Lawrence, 7.24.81 - 2.12.09
Others on Kirk: Zach Powers

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Birthday Party to Loring Hall!

Today is February 11, 2009. Loring Hall has officially been open for 79 years. I say officially, but not in practice, because in the fall of 1929, after the Fall Trips had ended, people began slowing trickling in to the brand-new building, some in December and some in January of 1930. Lucy Shoe Merrit was one of those. I’ve already reported some of her thoughts on Loring Hall, but my favorite of her descriptions was the one about the ‘Grand Opening’ of Loring, which occurred on February 11, 1930, from 5-7pm. She’d apparently kept a diary while at the School, so her letter in 1981 contained a lot of wonderful details.

Apparently over 300 people came, and it wasn’t just members of the School community, but dignitaries, some of the leading families in Greece, archaeologists and foreign diplomats. There was a huge spread and the students were in charge of showing the guests around; the things that were most popular among the guests were the metal furniture, the bathrooms and the kitchen. The guests kept opening all the drawers and playing with the aluminum utensils in the kitchen (which annoyed the cook; he preferred his copper stuff and was unimpressed by the aluminum). It seems that the bathtubs were extremely popular as well; in Greece in 1930, being able to turn on a tap and get hot water at any time of the day or night was entirely miraculous. Funny that hot water is still an issue in Loring today. You can get wonderful scalding showers at certain times of the day, but if it’s a bit cold outside, prepare yourself for pain.

The day after the Grand Opening, because it was such a special occasion, Lucy Shoe and her compatriots ‘dressed’ for dinner. That is, they wore evening dresses and tuxes. To dinner in Loring Hall. Fancy. Shoe commented that back in the day you actually ‘dressed’ for special occasions. There’s some very revealing information about the School population in that statement: most School members were wealthy enough to own a tux, and to bring it to Greece with them. This can be contrasted with the situations of other people at the School whose letters I have read. For one man, in the early 1900s, the topic of money was a frequent one in letters home to his family. He would constantly refer to how much he spent on lunch, how much it cost to get his clothes cleaned, and when he was able to get a great deal on various meals.

Anyways, Happy 79th Birthday to Loring Hall. May there be many more to come.

Exercisable Weekend In Athens

This was the weekend of good health. We had a 12 hour day out in the field on Friday, traveling to Rhamnous, Oropos, and Dekeleia. There were significant amounts of hills to climb, and some actual hiking in the woods.
Inspecting the royal cemetery atop Dekeleia, the site of a Spartan encampment and the palace of the Greek dynasty.

This is the point where Jason and I got lost. The site of this collapsing church is a five-way crossroads. Eventually they had to send out a search party for us. Thanks, Denver, Karl and Dan.

On Saturday I went on a 7-mile hike to a monastery on Mt. Hymettos. The most striking thing about the walk was that there was a lovely part of Athens so close to where I live, and I had no idea.
There was a place by the University for jogging and tossing around the football.

The monastery.

Then on Sunday there was another game of football. I QBed for the first time in my life, and who would have guessed, actually made completions and several touchdown passes. We’ve given up on the Embassy field; our other field was totally soaked and muddy, so we were all filthy in the end.
It sucks covering Karl. He’s like twice my size. Somehow he managed to fall in the swamp about 10 times more than the rest of us. I only fell when I almost slid over the side of the cliff at the edge of the field but was stopped by a metal pole to the shin.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dudes: Stay Out! Loring Hall and the Hostel-For-Women in Lucy Shoe Merrit's Letters

On Thursday I spent another hour or so in the School’s archive, finally returning to my research-for-fun project on the School’s history. I haven’t been able to address the topic much (which, actually, was one of the main reasons for this blog’s existence), simply because we have been so busy here on the Regular Year Program. Now that things have calmed down a bit, I have been getting some good work done on my Etruscan sacrifice projects; when I’m in the research-zone, it’s pretty hard for me to break away and explore other subjects, like ASCSA history. So I’m not the best at multi-tasking. I admit it. But I’ve been slightly obsessed with the issue of Prince George’s Palace, where the School’s women lived in the 1920s before Loring Hall opened. While I was researching that, I got a little side-tracked by some letters written by Lucy Shoe Merritt, so I’ll deal with Prince George later.

Lucy Taxis Shoe came to the School in 1929. She was born in 1906 to Mary Dunning Shoe and W. Bonaparte Shoe, an engineer.
Lucy Taxis Shoe and her Aunt Lina on the porch. (Photo from the Dunning Family Photograph archive.)
Lucy Taxis Shoe at age 16, school pic from the Philadelphia High School for Girls. (Photo from the Dunning Family Photograph archive.)

Lucy eventually got together with Benjamin Merritt, a specialist in 5th c. BCE epigraphy; he'd been a professor at Michigan (1928–1932), then Princeton (1935-1969) and then UTexas, Austin. One of his better known works was The Athenian Tribute Lists. Benjamin and Lucy were married at Princeton in 1964.
Lucy marries Benjamin Merritt, 1964. (Photo from the Dunning Family Photograph archive.)

Lucy was an incredibly active member of the American School community. She was a big fan of mouldings, and her first publication, Profiles of Greek Mouldings, came out in 1936. She also worked on Italian examples; we can surely call her one of the early American Etruscologists because of her 1965 Etruscan and Roman Republican Mouldings (and the 2000 version with Ingrid Edlund-Berry). Following in the footsteps of L.E. Lord, she wrote a history of the ASCSA, covering the period from 1939-1980. But she first came to Athens and the American School in 1929, just a few months before the Great Depression.

So we have some things in common, Lucy Shoe and I. She was a student at the School; so am I. She was at the School when the Market crashed back home; I am here during the Lesser Depression: Part 2. She liked School history; so do I. She liked Etruscan things; me, too! And of course, when she was here, she lived on the second floor of Loring Hall’s main building, from the day it opened to 1933, and at various times thereafter.

As I’ve mentioned, Loring Hall was initially supposed to be the Women’s Hostel. So when it was constructed, part of the agreement was that the upper floor of the main building was reserved for women, ONLY. Up there it’s got about 7 bedrooms and a small apartment that nowadays is referred to as the Queen’s Megaron (called after the mis-named room at Knossos; Lucy lived here in 1932). When Loring opened, those rules were far stricter than they are now.

As an example, in 1981 Lucy sent a letter and some notes to Joan Connelly, now housed in the Loring Hall box in the School Archives (Box 329/1, Folder 3). Her letter makes clear how different things were then. She mentions specifically about the time she had malaria (!), and she was bed-ridden upstairs. (That’s a nice thought, I wonder if she was in my room.) Her friend Homer Thompson, obviously very concerned about her malaria, came to her bedside to visit her. Apparently this created a gi-normous crisis. At that time, the woman living in the upstairs apartment was a member of the Managing Committee, and she’d been especially active in trying to bring about the Women’s Hostel (which had been scrapped in the late 20s when a bunch of money came in for the construction of Loring Hall). This woman was extremely upset, since she thought that the ‘Women’s Megaron’ (as they dubbed it then), should be ‘sacred’ in honor of the lost and mourned Women’s Hostel that never was to be. The agreement the School had made was that the upper floor of Loring was to be the mini-Women’s hostel, with no man allowed, EVER. Apparently Homer Thompson’s sin caused a clamp down, and no man ever braved those stairs again except for the doctor (Dr. Lorendo) in case of illness.

A lot of interesting things to be said about what was going on at the School, politics-wise, at the time. I’d love to do some serious work on it, but I guess that will have to wait until I actually have a job. I just hope that when I get malaria, my friends will come and visit me.

Incidentally, Lucy also described the housing arrangements usually made in Loring: women lived on the second floor of the main building, men lived on the second floor of the Annex, older men or women, or married couples lived on the lower floor of the Annex, and the visiting professor got the whole West House. This is pretty much how it still works today.
Loring Hall, a la Google Earth. From left to right: the West House and the Annex, then Loring's main building with the two porches on either side.

Over dinner last quarter, Pierre MacKay told me that when he came to his Regular Year in 1959 (more on this year to come), it was pounded into his head to never EVER go up the main staircase: that was the women’s area, and there were dire consequences for those who broke the rule. At some point in time, however, the Queen’s Megaron opened up for visiting male professors as well. Pierre, it turns out, was one of those. He told me that, even when he lived on the second floor in that apartment, he felt VERY awkward and uncomfortable climbing those stairs, having been warned against it for so many years before.
Pierre MacKay discusses Greek history with Regular Member Mark Hammond.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

US Embassy Guard Shot

U.S. embassy security guard shot by police officer
February 5, 2009, 11:45

A policeman shot and seriously wounded a security guard outside the U.S. ambassador’s home on Wednesday in Athens. After a shooting two months ago touched off Greece’s worst riots in decades, authorities moved quickly to quell any public anger by announcing the suspension of the head of the local police station and a senior Athens policeman.

A 38-year-old police officer, detained standing over the victim, also was suspended and faces a disciplinary inquiry. December’s shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos prompted weeks of demonstrations across Greece, fed by economic hardship, and gun attacks on police by left-wing guerrillas.The 31-year-old embasssy guard was in serious condition in hospital after being shot through the neck in broad daylight in central Athens.

"I want to express my sympathy for what this young guard and his family are going through and wish him a speedy recovery,“ U.S. Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard said in a statement.
The chief of the police station in the Athens district of Ambelokipi told investigators the policeman had no disciplinary record.

However, police sources said the officer in the past had been reprimanded for urinating in his guard booth and being naked except for his underwear on duty. He previously threatened another security guard with his weapon, the sources said. "The officer has given 10 different explanations for the incident,“ one police official, who asked not to be identified, said. "It looks like he may have psychological problems."

The shooting followed a gun-and-grenade attack on an Athens police station on Tuesday, in which no one was injured. A previously unknown group calling itself Rebel Sect claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the raid in a CD found by police after an anonymous call to a local evening newspaper. Police could not immediately verify the authenticity of the claim. The statement described guns used in Tuesday’s attack and made threats against police. It also hinted politicians and journalists could be targeted, sources at the newspaper said.

(Article from here.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Morning Walk: Street Art and Graffiti in Athens

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have excursions within the city of Athens, in contrast to our Friday trips to various parts of Attica.

Regular Members climb the hillside at ancient Koroni on last week's Friday Trip.

Most of our Tuesday/Thursday events start out in the ancient center of the city, either on the Acropolis, at the Agora, or at the Kerameikos. We tend to meet at these locations at 9am, and there are two options for getting there: 1) walk 2) take the Metro. I have been avoiding the Metro, in an effort to maintain at least a minimal amount of exercise.

When I go to the Acropolis, I tend to wander around the south side through the Plaka. I do this in order to avoid the horrible hill on the north side, which must be climbed on your way past the Agora. Now, granted, there is a big hill to climb on the south side as well, but I don’t think it is quite as big. Maybe it is – I’m thinking it’s purely psychological, but I don’t care.

Approaching the south slope of the Acropolis, in the vicinity of the Theatre of Dionysos, where all those famous Greek playwrights put on their ancient tragedies and comedies.

Getting to the Agora requires following the north side of the Acropolis, along Ermou St.

Regular Members, this past Tuesday. Any group of more than three people attracts escorts of dogs.

And then there is the street art, always interesting for how it shapes urban space.

‘Love me madly’ by Alexandros Vasmoulakis, October 2005. For a long time, I thought this was a three-story high picture of a man looking up a girl’s skirt.

But then I checked online and realized that originally it was a guy giving a flower to his sweetheart. Funny how the elements have completely changed the artist's original vision, into something that can be interpreted as creepy rather than romantic. Check out the artist’s work here; his site is

The Athenian Agora. Visible in the foreground are the blocks of the Royal Stoa, where the King Archon of Athens went about his business, indicting Socrates and other such fun things.

Behind the stoa, you can see the work of Pete, one of the most prolific street artists in the city. Dimitris Plantzos calls him "Athens’ dark prince." His work is here modeled by John Camp, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations.

Since I received so much positive feed back on my original Athens graffiti art post, I thought I would post some links for those interested in following up on it. My post can be considered part of a growing upsurge in grafitti art interest among Classicists working in Athens. In fact, there is a dialogue going on in the Classics Blogosphere about what Kostis Kourelis has called 'Punk Archaeology.' The back and forth between Bill Caraher and Kourelis has turned into a blog called, you guessed it, Punk Archaeology.

The Flickr collection of Athens street art, here.
Artastica's blog 'Street Culture - Athens.'
Flickr page of Pete's work, here.
Gregos and Goldstein's book, Athens Street Art.
SpirosK's Flickr collection, 'Street Art in Greece.'
Zofka's photoblog about Athens, 'Street art.'