• The eastern approach up the Sacred Way to Delphi on Mt Parnassus begins in Athens. For ancient Greeks, Delphi was the center of the world and sacred to Apollo, the archetypal god of poetry, reason, and prophecy. Its seats are white marble from Mr. Parnassus.
    Sacred Way of Apollo (Delphi, Greece)
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  • The theatre appears suspended between sea and sky, its stage framing Mt. Etna and the frequently ash-filled sky. It is the second largest Greek theatre in Sicily (after Syracusa’s) and is still in use.

    Etna Speaks, Aeschylus Listens (Taormina, Sicily, Italy)
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  • In William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, residents of Athens mix with fairies from a local forest with comic results. In this ironically-titled image, the ruins of what was once the largest theatre in ancient Greece, seating some 21,000, recall a tragic outcome. Megalopolis was founded in 370 BC by the Theban leader Epaminodas to contain Sparta and was populated, sometimes forcibly, by inhabitants of some 40 villages in Arcadia. Then, in 223 BC Sparta defeated and plundered the city. Although rebuilt to some extent, Megalopolis never regained its former glory. By 200 AD, as noted by the traveler Pausanias, it was merely "a heap of rock."

    Midsummer Night's Dream (Megalopolis, Peloponnese, Greece)
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  • This most beautiful and best preserved Greek theatre has superb acoustics and a good view from every seat. The works of the ancient Greek playwrights are still performed each summer. Here, who waits for Godot?

    Waiting for Godot (Epidaurus, Peloponnese, Greece)
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  • The Cycladic island of Delos was the mythical birthplace of Apollo. It became one of the most important religious centers in Greece. In 478 BC, Athens established an alliance (the Delian League) on the island. A slow desecration of the sacred nature of the island then followed. It became a “free port” and later an active slave trading center. After God’s death (as proclaimed by Friedrich Nietzsche), man is left to confront “a heap of broken images,” according to T.S. Eliot’s existential metaphor in “The Waste Land.”

    A Heap of Broken Images (Delos, the Cyclades, Greece)
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  • Santorini is known for the excavations of its Bronze-Age Minoan city of Ancient Akrotiri, a port buried under volcanic ash in 13 BC. Earlier, in the 9th century BC, Doric colonists from Sparta established Ancient Thira on a ridge of the steep Mesa Vouno with its wide view of the sea. The island, devastated several times by volcanic activity and earthquakes, symbolizes the instability of Nature and life that “struts and frets its hour on the stage, and then is heard no more.” (Macbeth, William Shakespeare)

    And Then Is Heard No More (Ancient Thira, Santorini, Greece)
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  • A small Cycladic island of little strategic or economic importance whose inhabitants refused to submit to the Athenian hegemony and were subjugated in 416 BC. All Melian men of military age were killed, and the women and children enslaved. The incident is known because Thucydides described the negotiations before the siege in detail in the “Melian Dialogue” in his History of the Peloponnesian War. In this context the theatre, to me, symbolizes the “keeper of the stars,” whoever that may be.

    Keeper of the Stars (Melos, the Cyclades, Greece)
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  • The theatre sits on the summit of a hill on the north coast of Sicily. From the top rows there is a panoramic view of a bay of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

    All Our Yesterdays (Tyndaris, Sicily, Italy)
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  • Situated in ancient Ionia, Priene was one of the first cities built on a planned grid. Originally a port city on the now-silted Meander River, it is perched high on Mt. Mykale. The first tier seating has sculpted thrones with carved lions’ feet for important spectators.

    Front Row Seats (Priene, Turkey)
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  • Argos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is near the Bronze Age cities of Mycenae (home of Agamemnon) and Tiryn (associated with Hercules). Homer’s Iliad recounts the contribution of Argos in the Trojan War. Later, it was a rival of Sparta. The theater is one of the largest in Greece and is notable for its steep seating.

    Our Dried Voices (Argos, Peloponnese, Greece)
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  • Established in the 7th century BC, Stobi flourished under Macedonian and Roman rule. The theater is Roman.

    Stillness in the Wind (Stobi, Republic of North Macedonia)
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  • Just north of the ancient theatre is the reconstructed bouleterion (council chamber) where the Lycian League was founded. It has been called the world’s first parliament and a model for the representative government of  the United States. In contrast to the above grandeur, in Earnest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” man is an insignificant spot in a great sea of nothingness: “It was all a nothing, and man was nothing too. It was that, and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order.”

    A Clean Well-Lighted Place (Patara, Turkey)
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  • The shadows and the threatening sky evoke Aeschylus’s, The Furies, in which Orestes sees the Furies pursuing him for killing his father and marrying his mother. “Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” is a quote from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which evidently inspired, much later, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

    The Sound and the Furies (Phaselis, Turkey)
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  • In antiquity, this site was situated high in the mountains near what is now the coastal city of Antalya. It was called the Eagle’s Nest by Alexander the Great and was considered impregnable. The theatre itself sits on the edge of a sheer cliff. The original people weren’t Greek, but were native to Asia Minor (roughly present-day Turkey).

    Where Eagles Fly (Termessos, Turkey)
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  • This theatre is on the shores of Lake Ohrid, which straddles the mountainous border between the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania. Performances are still held here, as can be seen by the structures being erected—a reminder of the deus ex machina (god from the machine) used to introduce gods onto the stage from above in the ancient performances. This device provided an artificial solution for the apparently insoluble difficulty being portrayed.

    Deus ex Machina (Ohrid, Republic of North Macedonia)
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  • Ostia Antica was Rome’s ancient seaport on the mouth (ostia) of the Tiber River. The Roman theatre is near a grove of pine trees and sacred structures. The three large masks to the left of the stage can be seen in my title image, "Tongues Turned to Stone." The tongues that so eloquently spoke words of wisdom are now silent—turned to stone.

    Sacred Grove (Ostia Antica, Italy)
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  • Segesta, settled by Athenians in western Sicily, was constantly at war with its neighbor, Selinunte, settled by Doric (Spartan) Greeks. The war escalated, leading to the invasion of Syracusa, a Spartan ally in eastern Sicily, by the Athenians and then to the defeat of Athens in 413 BC. Despite these conflicts, the theatre hewn from the top of Mt. Barbaro, survived. The stage is oriented to give a panoramic view of mountains and sea. The title is an ironic reference to the limits of humanism invoked in Sophocles’s choral ode.

    Ode to Man (Segesta, Sicily, Italy)
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  • Syracusa, was a wealthy Greek city on Sicily. Expansionist Athens coveted its riches. After much discussion, Athenian troops finally landed in the Great Harbor, seen here in the distance. This eventually led to a disastrous defeat for Athens. The last performances of Aeschylus’s works that he himself produced were in this theatre. It is worth remembering that the most revered virtue to the Greeks was not philosophy or theatre, but war. Aeschylus’s epitaph records his service at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), but not his tragedies.

    The Athenians Are Coming! (Syracusa, Sicily, Italy)
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  • The area of the excavation was inhabited in 664 BC when the city was founded by the Corinthians, who had settled in eastern Sicily. Situated on an acropolis, the town of Palazzo Acreido is seen in the distance. According to Thucydides, the Syracusans defeated the Athenians here in 413 BC.

    Long Ago and Far Away (Akrai, Sicily, Italy)
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  • Morgantina was founded in 560 BC by Chalicidian colonists. The dramatic skies are the result of eruptions of Mt. Etna. The title challenges my statement on the fate of ancient theatre.

    Don't Look Back (Morgantina, Sicily, Italy)
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  • In 370 BC, the Theban army invaded the Peloponnese and threatened Sparta. Consequently, the Spartan-dominated territory of Messenia and the enslaved helots took the opportunity to revolt. The “new” city of Messene was founded on Mt. Ithome. Now, a Greek Orthodox church with its cemetery overlooks the ancient site below the present-day village of Mavrommati. Whose “brief candle” is burning now?

     

    Out, Out Brief Candle (Messene, Peloponnese, Greece)
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  • This site was a religious center dedicated to Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, who were fathered by Zeus. Jealous Hera commanded that Leto should perpetually wander, perhaps even through to the distant mountains seen through the passageway. One can imagine spectators filing into the theatre in anticipation of the performance, much like at a modern sports venue.

    Time Passes (Letoon, Turkey)
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  • Pompeii’s moment was August 24, 79 AD, when burning stone from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius rained down on it—yet another symbolic injection of Nature on Culture by the very embodiment of stability, stone. The 2nd century BC theater is carved into the lava mass on which Pompeii was built. The portico behind the stage was originally used by the audience to stroll between sets. Later it became a barracks for gladiators.

    These Places Have Their Moments (Pompeii, Italy)
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  • Pinara is in Lycia, whose people date back to the 12th century BC. They were reported by Homer to be present during the attack on Troy. The city sits high on Mt. Cracus and is towered over by a flat-topped mountain honey-combed with rock-cut tombs from the 4th century. Free-standing sarcophagi exist in Pinara itself, as seen in the image taken from above the theatre.

    Burial of the Dead (Pinara, Turkey)
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  • The ancient site that once was a mighty, vibrant city is today isolated and little explored. Set high in the Taurus mountains above a dramatic gorge, its massive theatre makes one wonder why it declined and what the last performance was like.

    Last Picture Show (Selge, Turkey)
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  • The odeon was traditionally used for musical performances, rather than theatrical. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, shown here, is Roman in origin and is still used for performances of dance, music, and drama.

    The Show Must Go On (Athens, Greece)
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  • Dating back to pre-histroy, Butrint was a Greek colony and later a Roman colony. The title refers to the dramatic sky above the theatre as well as to the comedy of Aristophanes. "The Clouds" of 423 BC famously depicts Socrates as an intellectual charlatan who taught young men to avoid their debts with unscrupulous argument.
    "The Clouds" (Butrint, Albania)
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  • The slope below the Acropolis was the birthplace of Athenian theatre. In the view of Friedrich Nietzsche, the “death of tragedy” was a result of “Socratic skepticism.” He blamed rationalism for questioning the myths that made theatre a collective rite. Others believe that Euripides was the villain and that his play, The Bacchae, promoted Dionysian irrationality. However, this period also coincided with the twilight of Athenian democracy. At any rate, the theatre is now mostly empty, the gods are dead, and tongues have turned to stone.

    The Gods Are Dead (Theatre of Dionysis, Athens, Greece)
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  • Tongues turned to Stone (Ostia Antica, Italy)
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  • A mask of Hercules is shown in-situ in my images, Sacred Grove and Tongues Turned to Stone, from Ostia Antica, Italy. He wears the head of the Nemean Lion, which made him practically invincible. In what role would he star today?

     

    Starring Hercules!
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  • Marble relief of theatre masks

    Cast of Characters
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  • The drapery above the heads suggests a festival atmosphere, particularly one dedicated to Dionysus. One of the masks is horned, indicative of a satyr, a male follower of Dionysus. The Satyr plays, the third form of Greek tragic-comedy, were burlesque-like, featuring drunkenness, sexuality, and general merriment. The female character playing the aulos, a double-reed wind instrument, is an additional clue to the this scene. In vase paintings and mosaics, typically the actors aren't shown performing but handling the masks before or after the performance. This is the liminal space between myth and reality. Liminal space, between mental states or realities, is where transcendence or transformation takes place.

    Dress Rehearsal
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  • The actor is shown in this mosaic in Dionysus’s role in rites involving agriculture and fertility. He is shown with a pine cone on the tip of his staff and a pomegranate, which symbolizes fertility and is associated with the myth of Persephone.

    Festival of Dionysus
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  • Thalia, the cheerful one, was the muse of comedy and is shown holding a drum and a comedic mask with its typical smile.

    Muse of Comedy
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  • Melpomene was one of the nine muses who gave inspiration to artists and philosophers. She is shown holding a tragic mask in one hand and another symbol tragedy, the club, in the other.
    Muse of Tragedy
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  • It is said that the word “tragedy” literally means “goat-song,” probably referring to the prize of a goat received by the winner of Athens’s Dionysian Festival theatrical competition. An alternate explanation is that it refers to the chorus of the Satyr play. Satyrs were creatures that were part man and part beast. This one is part man and part goat.

     

    Goat Song
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  • This mask evokes Electra and shows two holes near the ears for attaching it to the face. The title refers to Eugene O’Neill’s resurrection of the Electra archetype in his play cycle of the same title. Set in New England, it is a re-telling of Aeschylus’s Oresteia with the characters corresponding to the Greek characters. Like the Oresteia, it explores the theme that suffering in the present is the result of crimes of the past. 

    Mourning Becomes Electra
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  • Medusa was a Gorgon, a monster, common in Greek art. She had protruding teeth and tongue and hair of writhing snakes. In Jungian theory, she can be seen as the negative mother archetype who can immobilize the ego, leading to a halt in spontaneous flow and change. This reflects a Greek sensibility to Nietzsche’s “horror of existence” that is partially hidden beneath the surface.

    Gorgon Medusa
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  • As myth tells us, looking directly at the Medusa will turn a person into stone. Only if one views the Medusa with a mirror could one avoid being petrified. The function of the mirror is to produce images that we dare not look at too directly. Mythology itself may be seen as having  a “mirror function” for the issues that must be faced. Jung said that the theatre is a space where society solves its private complexes in public.

     

    Gorgon—The Look
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  • Onkos is Greek for load or burden. The elongated actor’s headdress, which was a physical burden, may have been intended to make the character more important. Alternatively, it may symbolize some psychic burden. These masks may have been constructed with real hair.

    Tragic Mask with Onkos
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  • Hercules, the archetypal conquering hero, was fathered by Zeus and harassed from birth by Hera. She injected him with a fit of madness, causing him to kill his wife and children. To atone, Apollo ordered Hercules to perform Twelve Labors. The first Labor was to kill the Nemean Lion and flay it. Thereafter, Hercules wore the skin with the jaws of the lion sticking up over his head.

    Slayer of the Nemean Lion
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  • Slavery in ancient Greece was accepted as normal and justified. Even Aristotle stated that “some people are born to be slaves and others born to be slave-masters.” Aristophanes in his Old Comedies often depicts master-slave relationships. In some, slaves are shown as oppressed; in others, as defiant.

     

    Impudent Slave Mask
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  • From the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece

    The Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia was one of the most significant sanctuaries in Sparta and associated with the education of Spartan children. These masks were votive offerings to the goddess.

    Old Man of Sparta
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  • From the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece

    An old man mask with missing teeth and heavily-lined face. “Almost at times, times the fool. I grow old, I grow old,” T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

    I Grow Old, I Grow Old
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  • From the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece

     “We are the hollow men. We are the stuffed men. Leaning together. Headpieces filled with straw. Alas.” T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.” The Greek theatre mask is a liminal device, trapping characters in the twilight world between lost traditional values (hollow men) and moral dilemmas that are ripe for change.

     

    Hollow Man
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  • From the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece

    A typical old man mask with snaggleteeth and deeply-incised lines in the face.

     

    The Map of Time
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  • From the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece

    In Eduard Munch’s iconic work, The Scream, the subject’s mouth and eyes are wide open with a scream of terror—or possibly a cry of Dionysian ecstasy? For Munch, the themes of love, angst, and death are implied.

     

    The Scream
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  • The sly look of inner contemplation evokes the Greek aphorism that is inscribed in stone at Delphi and later used by Sophocles in Phaedrus. The wise old man is an archetype as well as a stock character in ancient Greek theatre. In analytical psychology, the specific term is semene (Latin: old man). The negative image is either the devouring father or the doddering fool. The positive is a sage.
    Know Thyself
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  • From the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece

    The epigraph to T.S Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” is a quote from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Darkness is symbolic of evil that exists as a primordial urge. “Mistah Kurtz, He Dead” is symbolic of Tongues Turned to Stone.

     

    Mistah Kurtz, He Dead
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