Statue of Hercules from the Jezreel Valley

From the IAA:

A Rare Statue of Hercules was exposed at Horvat Tarbenet in the Jezreel Valley in excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority, within the framework of the Jezreel Valley Railway project, directed by the Israel National Roads Company.

A marble statue of Hercules from the second century CE was uncovered in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at Horvat Tarbenet, within the framework of the Jezreel Valley Railway project, directed by the Israel National Roads Company

According to Dr. Walid Atrash of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a rare discovery. The statue, which probably stood in a niche, was part of the decoration of a bathhouse pool that was exposed during the course of the excavations. It is c. 0.5 m tall, is made of smoothed white marble and is of exceptional artistic quality. Hercules is depicted in three dimension, as a naked figure standing on a base. His bulging muscles stand out prominently, he is leaning on a club to his left, on the upper part of which hangs the skin of the Nemean lion, which according to Greek mythology Hercules slew as the first of his twelve labors”.

The hero Hercules, of Greek and Roman mythology, was born in Thebes. He is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Alcmene, a woman from Electryon. Hercules is considered the strongest man in the world, a symbol of power, courage and superhuman strength; one of the most famous legendary heroes of ancient Greece who battled the forces of the netherworld on behalf of the Olympian gods. Hercules is described as hot tempered, and he often times acted impetuously and with uncontrollable rage. Greek mythology has it that Zeus’ wife, Hera, expressed her jealousy and fierce hatred of Hercules from the day he was born because he was the product of her husband’s infidelity. While he was just a baby Hera placed two poisonous snakes in his bed, but he managed to overpower them. Later, in a fit of madness brought on by Hera, Hercules killed his three sons and his wife Megara, whilst she attempted to protect the smallest of them. In order to atone for his terrible sin, the Oracle of Delphi ordered Hercules to go to Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, and perform whatever the king commanded him to do. Among the king’s commands were twelve superhuman feats known as the ‘Labors of Hercules’. Depictions of the labors of Hercules are among the most common themes in ancient art and the statue that was discovered portrays Hercules’ first task.

Horvat Tarbenet is located in the Jezreel Valley, three kilometers northeast of Kefar Barukh, and four kilometers northwest of Afula. Tarbenet was a Jewish settlement in the third century CE, which is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud (Megilla 4, 5). The story is told of a local teacher who would teach the Ten Commandments very quickly, so rapidly that his students could not understand him. The townspeople asked the teacher to take a break between each passage so they could follow him. The teacher refused because “the sages forbade one from stopping while reading the words of Moses”. The teacher’s refusal even received the backing of Rabbi Hanina. The teacher continued to teach as he did until the residents fired him.

In an archaeological excavation conducted at the site remains were discovered, among them dwellings, a built well and an installation that included a large pool which was probably part of a Roman bathhouse. Benches were found on two sides of the pools. The well, which is 2.90 m in diameter and in excess of 4 m deep, had a saqiye type pumping installation constructed above its opening. A drainage channel that extended as far as the pool was built alongside the well. It seems that the well and channel were meant to supply water for the pool. After the pool was no longer being used it was filled in with a layer of earth that contained numerous potsherds, an abundance of broken glass vessels and the marble fragment of the statue of Hercules. The complex that was discovered apparently underwent a number of changes and it is dated to the Roman and Byzantine periods, until the beginning of the Early Islamic period.

At the beginning of the last century the legendary Valley Railway linked Haifa with Damascus. Recently the Israel National Roads Company commenced work renewing the rail line with the necessary changes in its route. The new Valley Railway, which is c. 60 kilometers long, will carry passengers and freight between Haifa, Afula and Bet She’an. In certain places the new track will pass alongside the route of the historic Valley Railway.

Here’s one of the IAA’s photos:

Not quite sure what to make of the phrase “rare discovery” … the ‘vertical pose’ of the photo is a bit misleading because this seems to be another version of the ‘Weary Hercules’/Farnese type of the same sort that the Boston MFA was recently in the news for because, among other things, there are over 100 copies of this thing (see: Weary Hercules to be Returned) …

Eridanos, Ilissos, and Kifissos

Very interesting feature from Kathimerini:

Archaeologists have many tools at their disposal these days, from handpicks and sharp triangular trowels for excavation to sophisticated computer-graphic software and high-tech laboratory processes for virtual reconstruction and date determination. But the most basic, powerful equipment in the diverse archaeological toolkit remains the imagination. With the ancient landscape in Athens now buried beneath asphalt streets and massive modern buildings, the imagination is more important than ever for both archaeologists and laymen alike when considering the physical setting in which past Athenians once pursued their daily lives. The huge disparity between the former, comparatively natural landscape that lay around the Athenian Acropolis – once the center of the ancient city – and today’s starkly unnatural, paved-over urban environment makes it difficult to comprehend just how different Athens once was but small topographical clues survive on and under the ground, in the Acropolis Museum and among the words of ancient authors.

Open, free-flowing watercourses and freshwater springs are one of the most conspicuous natural features of the ancient landscape missing in today’s central Athenian environment. Two perennial rivers flowed through ancient Athens – the Eridanos and the Ilissos. The Eridanos, rising from beneath Mount Lycabettus, followed a course north of the Acropolis, past the Athenian Agora and the gates and cemetery of the Kerameikos. The Ilissos, streaming down from Mt Hymettus, where its headwaters included a spring still to be seen at Kaisariani Monastery, ran south of the Acropolis along a route today delineated in part by sections of Vassileos Constantinou, Ardittou and Kallirrois streets. These two rivers (actually streams) came together west of the Acropolis, flowed into the larger Kifissos, and eventually emptied into the sea at Faliro Bay.
The Eridanos and Ilissos rivers were vital sources of fresh water in antiquity for drinking, washing, cooking, religious purification, industry and waste removal. Portions of the Eridanos, running through the heart of the ancient city, were already lined with built walls by 478 BC and its waters appear from historical accounts to have been occasionally less pure than those of the further outlying Ilissos. The geographer Strabo (9.1.19) reports in the early 1st century AD that although the Eridanos had previously been reputed to be unfit even for animal consumption, it was now “pure and potable water… outside the Gates of Diochares… near the Lyceum.” Pollution in antiquity, like today, was a problem that required monitoring and occasional regulation. An inscribed 420 BC decree discovered near the Lysicrates Monument forbids the softening of animal hides in the Ilissos River upstream of the Sanctuary of Hercules (a spot south of the Olympieion, where today Vouliagmenis Avenue intersects Ardittou and Kallirrois streets).

The riverbanks of ancient Athens were areas where city dwellers could find not only water but also cool, shady retreats in which to socialize, worship, practice military and athletic skills or pursue their studies. To imagine the relative lushness that once characterized these areas, one might extrapolate from the delightful microenvironment still preserved in the Kerameikos, where the Eridanos’ now-tiny channel continues to be lined with tall reeds and seasonally inhabited by croaking frogs. The Ilissos, too, until the late 19th century, was abundantly reedy, frequently flooded and known locally as a haven for frogs. Unlike today, however, trees grew sparsely in ancient Athens. The slopes and plains surrounding the Acropolis were probably quite barren of trees – just as they still appear to be in early modern paintings and archival 19th- and early 20th-century photographs. But along riverbanks, trees and bushes were a more common feature. Plato (“Phaedrus” 229) describes Socrates and Phaedrus strolling along the northern bank of the Ilissos, crossing the stream bed, then finding a large plane tree (platanos) under which to rest – probably located, according to archaeologist John Travlos, at the foot of Ardittos Hill where the Panathenaic Stadium was later built. Phaedrus remarks, “I am fortunate, it seems, in being barefoot; you are so always. It is easiest then for us to go along the brook with our feet in the water and it is not unpleasant, especially at this time of the year and the day.” Then he asks Socrates, “Do you see that very tall plane tree?… There is shade there and a moderate breeze and grass to sit on…”

Three gymnasia were erected in the 6th century BC beside Athens’ rivers: the Academy near the Kifissos, the Lyceum near the Eridanos and the Kynosarges near the Ilissos. Shrines and temples were also familiar riverside features – especially along the Ilissos. The area of the Kallirroe Spring, which once spilled into the Ilissos just south of the Olympieion, was a particular focus of worship. Participants in the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries may have purified themselves there. Nearby, altars, shrines and temples were dedicated to various divinities including Boreas, the Ilissian Muses, Cronus and Rhea, Zeus and Hera, Apollo Delphinios, Artemis Agrotera, Pan, Acheloos and the Nymphs. Athenian brides on their wedding day bathed in sacred water drawn from the Kallirroe Spring in special vessels (loutrophoroi), then made offerings of these vessels at the shrine of the Nymphe on the south slope of the Acropolis. Painted loutrophoroi recovered from the shrine, depicting these premarital purification rites, are displayed in the Acropolis Museum. Natural springs and fountain houses also existed around the Acropolis itself, including one within a cave at the back of the Asclepius sanctuary on the south slope and another hidden within a deep fissure (the Klepsydra) on the northwest slope.

The importance of local water resources, especially rivers, to the ancient Athenians was visually demonstrated by two sculpted figures of river gods accompanied by two water nymphs at each end of the Parthenon’s Western Pediment (as reconstructed by specialist Olga Palagia), which represented the Eridanos and Ilissos rivers and provided a geographical framework for the pediment’s main scene – just as the real rivers similarly framed the city of Athens. The Ilissos finally disappeared during street development in the 1950s but the Eridanos can still be seen, and heard, in the Kerameikos and beneath Monastiraki Square (see below).

Flowing freely
Three members of the former architectural team responsible for the now-completed renovation of Monastiraki Square, Nikos Kazeros, Christina Parakente and Eleni Tzirtzilaki, once eloquently protested a plan to fully encapsulate the Eridanos River within a glass cover inside the Monastiraki metro station – where its ancient, stone-built channel has been incorporated as an open-air archaeological exhibit.
In a blog dated Wednesday, August 27, 2008, they wrote: “We feel that everybody has the right to see and hear the Eridanos stream; such contact is another way of experiencing history and civilization, along with the hidden natural landscape of the city.”

New from Didaskalia 8

I’m kind of confused about how Didaskalia operates … a while back, we posted their ‘latest issue’s’ TOC, but it appears that some things have been added in the meantime … here’s one set of new items (their description):

We are pleased to present a collection of pieces (8.07–8.11), organized by former Didaskalia editor Jane Montgomery Griffiths, on the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2008 production of The Women of Troy, adapted by Tom Wright and Barrie Kosky and directed by Kosky. Elizabeth Hale, guest editor for the collection, introduces the production and the articles, which include essays from Helen Slaney, Michael Halliwell, Michael Ewans, and Marguerite Johnson.

… which I became aware of because my spiders brought back these:

Socrates opens the Edinburgh Book Festival (sort of)

From an item in the Scotsman:

WHEN westen civilisation began, it was in the Agora, or marketplace, of Athens. There, in the Golden Age of Athenian democracy, about 450 years before the birth of Christ, Socrates – the man who, remember, thought the unexamined life not worth living – would contribute his pennyworth to discussions of ethics.

We know of him, said the wonderful Bettany Hughes, on the opening day of the book festival that wisely doesn’t call itself the Agora of the North, only through the works of three people – Plato, Aristophanes and Xenephon. Socrates wrote nothing himself – or at least nothing that we know about.

So why start a book festival by mentioning him? Because of this one fact.When Socrates was born, in 469BC, the population of Athens was about 200,000. When he died, 70 years later, it was 20,000.

Now this was a man who would have bumped into Euripides, who had Plato as a student, who would have gone to the first nights of Aristophanes’s plays and heard Pericles speak. The best of us, in other words. But through war (his democracy voted for war every other year, Hughes pointed out), disease and state-sanctioned “disappearances”, look at how heavily death weighed on that city, that civilisation, that first democracy.

I’d never realised that. It’s the sort of fact you might pick up at Charlotte Square, that well-known northern marketplace of ideas, which starts to put other ideas into focus. How, for example, did Socrates believe the examined life should be lived? “He is always saying that we need to look to the good in people,” said Hughes. “The world can only be good if we are our best possible selves.”

Forget, in other words, all those images from last week’s news, of people carrying off looted plasma screen TVs back to their unexamined lives and streets such as the one Hughes herself lives on in Ealing, where neighbours were threatened by men with knives and cars were set on fire. Civilisation stands firmer than that. It stands so firm that it survives even when 90 per cent of your city’s population is wiped out.

Yet Socrates, Hughes added, would have had a lot to say on mindless materialism. He would certainly have known that new trainers, looted or not, wouldn’t have made us happy. He was suspicious of the written word “because onceit goes out into the world it can be twisted, so he wouldn’t have been surprised at looters messaging”, but he believed in human beings meeting, in discussions, in questions and answers. Socrates would have hated books, in other words, but loved book festivals.

via Book festival: Do you fear the breakdown of society? Ancient Greece has lessons for us | Scotsman.

Circumundique – August 14, 2011

Yesterday’s posts: