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“With style, intelligence, and personal anecdotes gleaned from years of working in Greece, archaeologist and award-winning writer Amanda Summer is your personal guide to the best of Greece. In crisp and often humorous storytelling she introduces you to the temples, shrines, grottoes, and churches of this magnificent country, intricately weaving in stories of the women—from goddesses of mythology Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite to goddesses of cinema and the arts Melina Mercouri, Irini Papas, and Maria Callas—who have molded the history and culture of Greece itself.
Come along on a Greek odyssey to uncover the unexpected charms of Athens, float down the real River Styx, and travel to the holy sites of Kefalonia, Tinos, and Mount Olympus to learn of miraculous healing involving snakes, saintly relics, and women’s underwear. Find out why Corinth’s ancient temple prostitution gives new meaning to the term Sex and the City and discover an ancient mystery cult on Lesbos that rivals “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Sail to Leros, birthplace of Artemis and an island known as a destination for the insane, and make a stop on Skopelos to see that fantastic cliff top church where Meryl Streep belted out Abba tunes in the hit film Mamma Mia.”
Sample chapter (www.travelerstales.com) :
Tower of the Winds
An Ancient Water Clock in Athens’s Roman Agora
As you wander through the Plaka neighborhood of Athens, you will eventually turn a corner and come across an ancient, four-story, eight-sided edifice that will immediately capture your attention. Not a temple or a statue base, this elegant, octagonal structure will stop you in your tracks with its sheer beauty and make you wonder, what was it used for? Located in the Roman Agora, this creamy white marble confection was properly known as the horologion Andronikus—but more simply, it is a clock. Today we rely upon our watches, or more likely our smart phones, to tell the time, but in ancient Greece, shoppers, politicians, and all Athenian citizens used this splendid timepiece.
Made with the same Pentelic marble that fashioned the Parthenon, this elegant structure was designed by the Greek astronomer Andronikus of Cyrrhus in 50 b.c. The octagonal tower stands on a base of three steps and has a pyramidal roof made of marble slabs fixed with a circular keystone.
Standing forty-two feet high and twenty-six feet in diameter, each of the structure’s eight faces is decorated with a frieze depicting the winds that blow from that direction. Boreas, or north, blows into a twisted shell and wears a sleeved coat with billowing folds; Kaikias, northeast, carries a shield full of hailstones. Apeliotes, or east, is shown as a young man bearing flowers and fruit; Evros, or southeast, is an old man wrapped tightly in a coat fending off a hurricane. Notos, or south, is a man emptying an urn and producing a shower of water, while Lips, southwest, is depicted as a boy driving the stern of a ship and promising good sailing weather. Zephyros, or west, is a youth throwing a lapful of flowers into the air, whereas Skiron, or northwest, shows a bearded man carrying a bronze vessel of charcoal in his hands, which he uses to dry up rivers.
While all the wind gods are male, known as anemoi, the aurai, or winged nymphs of the breezes, are feminine. Romans believed the direction that the wind was blowing could foretell the future and the aurai often brought news from far away. From Quintus Smyrnaeus’s Fall of Troy,
The Tower was a multi-tasking feat of engineering, offering the triple information of being a sundial, a weather vane, and a clock. A sundial was used to tell the time during daylights hours, but to mark the time at night a water clock was employed; known as a clepsydra, it functioned with water that flowed down from the Acropolis hill. The Roman architect, Vitruvius, who visited Athens in the 1st century b.c., described a revolving bronze weather vane atop the building, depicting Triton holding a wand, which pointed to the corresponding face of the prevailing wind.
Vitruvius was so captivated by the tower that he drew the structure, influencing later architects such as Christopher Wren in the 17th century, who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The structure has inspired designs of other similar clock towers around the world, including Sevastopol, Russia and Livorno, Italy.
The Tower was not only replicated throughout the world, its space was used by a variety of different cultures and purposes throughout the ages. The Christians converted the building into a bell tower for a Byzantine church. During the Ottoman period when the city was under Turkish domination, the building was used as a tekke, or spiritual lodge for Sufi worshippers. The interior space became a meeting space and venue for the famous whirling dervishes to perform their sacred dance.
As you stand and look at this delicate, yet enduring edifice, recall the layers of history this small building has seen. Conceived as a scientific tool, it’s fascinating to imagine its transformation from functional object into a Christian house of worship and later a place for Sufi rituals. The light streaming in through the cuts in the walls has shone upon the golden age of rationality, gold crucifixes of Byzantium, and ultimately, mystical Sufi priests in their flowing gowns and white turbans, performing their sacred whirling dance to a frenzied mix of voices and drums.”
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