We arrived in Athens, Greece and met our ship the Viking Sky. The Sky is a “small ship” with about 800 passengers and as many crew. They loaded us into busses for a drive around Athens and to the archaeology museum.
Several rooms were devoted to a Roman wreck from about 80 BCE found near the island of Antikythera. Since 1900 several salvage operations were found and hundreds of objects, including bronze and marble statues.
The most intriguing and famous item is the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek hand powered analog computer – orrery. The ancient civilizations used lots of metals – gold, silver, copper, tin, iron, lead. However metal artifacts are hard to find because they have been melted down to make other things.
We went up the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon. This was used as a Greek and Roman Temple, Christian church, islamic mosque, gunpowder magazine, and now a World Heritage Site.
In 1687, Venetians attacked the Ottoman magazine and pretty much destroyed the building. Restoration started in 1975. Sculptures from the area can be found in the great museums of Europe.
On the bus ride back I saw roads lined with orange trees. Our guide told us that those are Bitter Oranges and are mostly inedible.
After a night of sailing, we arrived in Crete and boarded a bus for our tour of Knossos, the capital of the Minoan civilization. Artifacts here have been dated to 7,000 BCE (or 9,000 years ago). Palaces were first built about 2,000 BCE, then destroyed in earthquakes 300 years later and rebuilt.
At its height the palace was 5 stories, with running water, sewage disposal and drainage. About 18,000 people lived there. There was a huge covered area for storage of goods.
They wrote in a system called Linear A, which hasn’t been deciphered, except for tablets used for inventory accounting. They traded throughout the Mediterranean. Eventually they were conquered by the Mycenaean empire, which eventually led to the Greek empire. When Rome took over, they moved the capital and eventually the city declined and was forgotten. It was rediscovered in 1878 and Sir Arthur Evans excavated part and rebuilt some.
Our guide told us that the Minoans used wood for columns because they withstood earthquakes.
The walls had colorful frescoes, many of bulls. Evans removed them to the museum in Heracleum and installed copies in the reconstruction. The palace was referred to as a labyrinth by ancient historians.
One room has two little (18″) statues of women, and he interpreted this as a place where the goddesses were worshipped. (I’m skeptical.)
This is a beautiful medieval city. The island was occupied since neolithic times, but the actual city was planned by Strabo and founded in 408 BCE. Conquerors and alliances came and went. Most notably, it was besieged in 395 BCE. The defenders won, and the losers left a lot of siege equipment. The Rhodians recycled it and built the Colossus of Rhodes in 280 BCE. It was about the size of the Statue of Liberty, but was toppled by an earthquake in 226 BCE. Ptolomey wanted to restore it, but the Oracle at Delphi said “no”, so the ruins sat till 653 as a tourist trap. In that year an Arab force conquered Rhodes and sold the remains. They aren’t sure where it was, but it didn’t straddle the harbor because then the harbor would have been useless.
Rhodes was a crossroads for ships, and during the Crusades the Knights Hospitallers located their headquarters there in 1309. They (re)built the walls around the city and fended off the Ottomans for 200 years, then the Knights gave up and moved to Malta. The Greeks were out and the Ottomans in until 1923 when Italians took over and erased the Ottoman influences. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The old town within the walls is focused on tourists. When they saw our ship coming, the shop owners opened up just fo us!
The streets are paved with marble. Really! Kind of slick.
Ephesus is near the west coast of Turkey. The area was occupied first at least 8000 years ago. It grew gradually until the Greeks arrived about 1,000 BCE. Eventually they built the temple of Artemis. It was destroyed and rebuilt at least three times before before early Christians “closed” it in abut 400 CE.
It’s hey day was when the Romans ruled. It had a port, mile long main road paved with marble, shops and businesses lining the streets, a 25,000 seat theater, baths, wealthy homes etc.
Our guide told us that the city had a port on the Meander river, but that it silted up and changed course causing the decline of the city. Eventually it was mined for the worked stone and metal, forgotten and covered with dirt. It was rediscovered in 1863 by Britisher John Wood, who excavated and removed artifacts to the British Museum. Excavation is continuing.
North of Ephesus is the sea of Marmara, between the Bosporus and Dardanelles. Marmara is the ancient Green name for the rock marble, and lots of it is located there, enough so the Romans could pave their streets with it, and us it on the walls of their homes. The less rich people only got frescoes.
We were shown stone walls with notches in them. Iron pegs had been located there to hold the blocks together and during later times they were scavenged to be recycled.
Did I tell you I was impressed by the marble?
The ancient “tell” of Troy is located at the entrance to the Dardanelles. Our guide told us that ships had to dock there for weeks waiting for favorable winds to proceed into the strait.
Ancient Troy was memorialized in the stories of the Odyssey and the Aeneid. It was a tourist attraction during the Greek and Roman empires. Sailing technologies improved, ships didn’t need to stop there and it was forgotten. People in later centuries thought it was a myth.
People looked for it in the 1800s and German businessman Heinrich Schliemann began excavating in 1870. He dug a trench across the mound and found a series of city ruins. He identified layer II as Troy and found treasure that was taken back to Germany, captured by the Russians in 1945 and are now is in Moscow.
He died in 1891 and excavation has continued fitfully since then. Now, archaeologists think levels I-V are from prehistory – before 1500 BCE, VI and VII are from Hittite times, VIII is Greek 500 BCE, and IX is Roman 100 BCE
Schlemann didn’t take care going through the upper layers, and didn’t describe them so a lot of good archaeology was lost. I have a picture of a vase from 675 BCE which depicts the Trojan Horse. It was legendary at that time.
Troy was a walled city, and each layer from V on built upon and improved the walls. We saw large blocks that were notched and tilted. The guide said this was done to lock them together in earthquakes.