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The Astrolabe of Antikithyra January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Science.
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One of the most impressive things found in this period was the Astrolabe of Antikithyra.

Some sponge collectors found it in 1901 near the Antikithyra island. In the Greek Research Centre ‘Demokritos’ professor Derek de Solla Piere, from Yale University, and Har. Karakalos examined it with X-rays and found an amazingly complex construction. It is the most complex mechanical construction until 1200 A.D.

antikithcomp.jpg  The function of a common astrolabe is to measure the altitudes of celestial bodies, from which time the observer’s latitude could be determined, too. The measurement of the altitude of the North Star yields the latitude and the altitude of the Sun and stars yields the time.

The instrument fount at Antikithyra has a lot of metal wheels arranged in a way that simulates the movement of the stars and does the required calculations. Who designed it and who made it with such accuracy remains a mystery. But it is clear enough that is not an astrolabe but a kind of astrological calculator.

In the astrolabe there were 27 different circular gears that were connected all together and were put into movement by a hand shaft. Everything was inside a wooden box with possible dimensions of 35 x 17 x 10 cm. On the front face there were two disks with indications about the date of the month according the sun, and the date according the moon. On the back face there were two other disks, one showing the moon month and the other the moon eclipses. Maybe these things seem simple but if you want to calculate them be prepared for calculations with six-decimal-digit accuracy.

antikithcomp2.jpg  Reconstruction of the mechanism by professor Derek de Solla Piere

Another technique appeared on the astrolabe for the first time in the history of engineering was the use of the differential gear. The rotation speed of the in shaft equals to the difference of the speed of the two output shafts. Nothing like that reappeared in any known machinery until 19th century. The differential gear was used on that Astrolabe in order to allow the connection of sun to solar eclipses.

The astrolabe was probably first used by the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus.* Some people say that Archimedes has used some things like this, but a lot different from what it is found.

*Hipparchus discovered the precession of the equinoxes. His calculation of the length of the year measured by the sun was within 6.5 minutes of modern measurements. Hipparchus devised a method of locating geographic positions by means of latitudes and longitudes. He catalogued, charted, and calculated the brightness of perhaps as many as 1000 stars. Hipparchus also compiled a table of trigonometric chords that became the basis for modern trigonometry.


Ancient Greek Technology January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Science.
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Who said that the robots, the automatic doors and the locomotive are technological advances of the second millennium? Definitely not!

The pieces of information that keep surfacing prove what has been, for some decades, common knowledge among researchers: in Ancient Greece, people like Daedalus and Gods like Hephaestus developed techniques and operated inventions that a lot of inventors of our days would have been proud of.

Talos > The famous Talos, in the ancient Cretan dialect it means sun, was a fully operational robot, built by Hephaestus as a gift for Minos, King of Crete. Talos was made of copper and was huge. It protected Crete from her enemies and supervised the application of laws. It could move very fast and was capable of touring Crete 3 times in a single day, medium speed 250 km/h! It had the power to throw enormous rocks against his opponents or to burn them with his boiling hot breath. In this way it drove back the hostile boats, protecting the island.

According to tradition, when the Argonauts returned from Kolhida, they managed to destroy Talos with the help of Medea, the witch.  Medea used her forces to confuse Talos and the Argonauts wounded his leg. The blood pumped out of his one and only vein as melted metal. An other version of same story reports that Poias, father of Filoktitis, aimed an arrow to Talos’ heel, a screw came off and the blood of Gods streamed from the metal body. Many coins, picturing Talos were found in the city of Phaistos.

Automatic doors > Ancient technology was naturally placed in the service of religion. When a believer was making an offertory to a God, the God should thank him, no matter the hour of the day. Otherwise, perhaps the believer would turn to another God, there were many at those days, and some priests would loose the “benefits” of servicing their God. So, with the help of technology, certain doors opened automatically when the fire was lit on the altar and even certain statues began moving.

It is said that Heronas and Ktisivios had constructed mechanisms that sounded the trumpets of a temple when the altars were lit. The interior of temple was sprayed with scented water, metallic birds began singing and some statues began flying. It is also said that the lighting conditions in and around the temple were regulated, creating artificial fog, when necessary.

Heronas’ steam engine > Heronas of Alexandria was a Greek mathematician, engineer and inventor of the first century BC. He initially worked as shoemaker but he eventually decided to explore his ideas. He is better known as an engineer for his hydraulic mechanisms, simple machines and automations, but he was also an important mathematician of his time. He served as a director of the famous Technical School of Alexandria, maybe the world’s first polytechnic university.

He presented and operated the world’s first steam engine, consisted of a closed, spherical container, filled with water. When the water was heated and began to boil, the stream was relieved by two nozzles, configured in a polar alignment. The container was fixed in such a way that was allowed to rotate. The steam release caused a rotating motion of the container that could be used as a steam motor for various applications. The principle of this simple configuration is the same used today for jet propulsion.

Air and water pumps > Ctesibius (fl. 2nd century B.C.), a Greek Alexandrian, was described as a mechanical genius whose inventiveness was limited only by the restrictions of the world he lived in. He was the son of a barber but the highly technical environment of Alexandria of this time helped him to leave the barbershop soon.

Using the power of water and air, he devised a number of ingenious mechanisms: a water organ, whose air pipes were operated by the weight of falling water, an air-powered catapult and a force pump. Another useful invention was a portable double water pump used by the firemen to put off the fires on the big buildings of his city.

Ctesibius is perhaps best remembered for the clepsydra, or water clock. Although he did not actually invent it, he greatly improved it. Ctesibius liked music and had an idea of using waterpower for his music creations. He made the first ‘armonion’. This was pumping air through pipes.

Talking about musical instruments, it would be an omission to not mention Pythagoras. He meditated the relation of the music to the mathematics and found some rules that make the making of musical instruments much easier. He managed to express the musical harmony with mathematic rules through his philosophical and scientific approach.

The piston pub was also used by Ctesibius to pump water or air. He used it mainly for his prototype ‘armonion’ but also to other machines. These pubs were used in many constructions since then. They can pump water or air depending on the accuracy of the construction. In many applications we can find them in use until today, because of their simplicity and their reliability.

The Greek Lighthouses January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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One of the most important and up to date monuments that stands at as a characteristic of Greece and the notable position Greece had from the beginning of World Naval history is fading out due to wear and tear and abandonment.

The Lighthouse Network of Greece has 120 Traditional lighthouses today, which are approximately two centuries old. Only 20 of them are in very good condition, where as 30 are in medium condition, and the marks of wear and tear are visible to the naked eye in the other structures.

In 1988, Greek Hydrographic and Lighthouses Services that belongs to the Naval HeadQuarters which has the responsibility of the network’s management, initiated a total conservation and restoration program for all lighthouses and in addition propelled this plan to be supported by the 2nd Community Support Department.

The Ministry of Culture and the Services of historical monuments took the responsibility to inspect and evaluate the lighthouses one by one. Twenty of them have been visited and have been considered as historical monuments with the need to be conserved. Nevertheless the plan has not been funded and the renovation remained aside. The Services of lighthouses has the financial ability to repair 3 to 4 structures annually. But with such rate the plan will be completed 40 years of time.

The 3rd Community Support Department has revived the hopes to those people who are occupied with the conservation of those historical monuments. Their persistence has obtained a financial support of approximately 4,5 million euros in order to initiate a pilot program of the network’s restoration. With these funds the Services of the Naval Headquarters can repair approximately 40 Lighthouses due to the fact that they offer the knowledge, specialized mechanics and architects.

The largest destruction to the Greek lighthouse network occurred during the 2nd World War and specifically during the German’s Armed Forces departure from Greece. In 1940, there were 206 store lighthouses while till the end of the War only 19 remained functional.

The first attempt of restoration of the network had been made in 1945, and continued till the mid 50s . Approximately 80 lighthouses were rebuilt the rest were left to their own demise.

Light beacons took their place. They were much more cheaper, easier to be placed and maintained. Due to these facts 1.188 of light beacons are used in all the important Ocean areas.

The development of telecommunications and especially Statelite communications was the final blow to the lighthouse monuments. Until 1980 the Service of Lighthouse network occupied 320 lighthouse keepers, who took care of the conservation and the damages of the structures. The number of lighthouse keepers was reducing slowly and today there are not more than 70.

In the beginning of summer 2001 the Lighthouses Service of the Greek Navy hosted a convention for the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) in the island of Spetses, in order to discuss about the alternative uses of the lighthouse network. Greece is the founding member of the Organization and participates in all its activities from 1970. The problem of the lighthouse network conservation concerns all countries and since 1996 there are 3 work groups who are occupied with the registration and the description of the lighthouses condition. In addition the groups work out the common initiative for their preservation and how to make the lighthouses useful.

A common idea is to convert the lighthouses into museums. From the Lighthouses Service an alternative plan has been considered. This plan indicated the fact to selfund the conservation program with a lighthouse tax. The Annual earnings from the taxes will be 3 million euros which will be rended to the Department of Finance. The Ministry of Marine Affairs studied the proposal of the tax increase as well as its return to the Lighthouse Department, so as to deal with the problems of the Greek Lighthouse network.

Apart from the pilot program, the Lighthouse service initiated an ambitious plan in order to attract visitors. In the year 2000 for the first time 50 members of the Navy spent a part of their vacation in the lighthouses. They made a list of their observations in order to adapt this program for people who are interested to visit and stay a few days in the lighthouses. From last year till today 3 boy scout excursions were also organized and had positive results. Next year these kind of excursions will be more organized and systematic.

All in all, in the island of Ios the lighthouse was restored and remains open to the public with the initiative of the local authorities. Likewise, there was another initiative of the Municipality of Gytheio for the Kraneas lighthouse, which lighthouse will be repaired in cooperation with the Greek National Tourism Organizationin order to host the Naval Museum of Mani.

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The final odyssey for Greek treasures January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Auctions.
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That Royalty sells has never been in doubt, but the intensity of interest in pieces that once graced Royal Palaces was indicated by last year’s spectacularly successful auction of the property of Princess Margaret.

On January 24 and 25 more regal-related excitement is expected to be generated when property once belonging to King George I of the Hellenes (1845-1913) is on the block at Christie’s. The sale contains myriad pieces, from household trinkets, accessible to even modest purses, to spectacular items with prices to match.

“The items were in storage in Greece until 1991, when they were brought to the UK, and have now been put up for sale,” says Henry Williams-Bulkeley, of Christie’s. “There are 900 lots, two thirds of which are silver, and there is also jade, Fabergé pieces, furniture and paintings.”

For anyone wishing to furnish their home like a castle, there is plenty to choose from. Lots 179 to 184 are sets of chairs and sofas that once graced the ballroom of the Royal Palace at Athens, with estimates starting at only a few thousand pounds.

At the heart of the sale, however, is the silverware, although George I was not a collector as such. “As a monarch, he bought or was given silver to be used for private dining and banquets, as well as pieces to be displayed in the Palaces,” says Mr Williams-Bulkeley. “Lots 1 to 42 are items made by Robert Garrard, which George acquired on acceding to the throne in 1863.”

Many of these pieces, sets of salt cellars, for example, are estimated at only a few hundred pounds, although their provenance means that they could fetch considerably more. But at the other end of the scale are magnificent showpieces, the most important of which is probably Lot 303, a pair of massive silver pilgrim flasks by Garrard, the crown jeweller, presented to King Christian IX of Denmark as a wedding present. They are inscribed: “From Albert Edward Prince of Wales. Alexandra Princess of Wales. And George King of the Hellenes 26th May 1867.” The first two of these were, of course, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, epitomising the close relationship between European Royal families. These are estimated at £80,000 to £120,000.

Mr Williams-Bulkeley says: “The flasks are an historical revival form. The shape came from Germany in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, as the leather flasks taken on pilgrimages. In the 19th century Garrards and others revived the form and transformed them into display pieces for grand occasions.”

Another highlight of the sale is Lot 506, a pair of Danish soup tureens that also bear regal inscriptions. They have an estimate of £30,000 to £50,000.

These and many other important items are expected to attract intense interest from Greek and Danish buyers, but there is much to excite the more modest collector, too. Lot 335, a Russian silver christening set made up of an egg cup, egg spoon, salt cellar and salt spoon, is expected to fetch between £500 and £700.

Nor should the Fabergé content of the sale be overlooked. Although commonly assumed to be out of reach for all but the deepest pockets, lots 363 onwards all merit examination. Some are expensive, such as Lot 370, a sparrow in the form of a Japanese netsuke. a button-like toggle, at £10,000 to £12,000. However, others have estimates between £1,000 and £1,500. One such piece is Lot 378, a little seal ornament.

A word of caution, however: these estimates are based on the intrinsic value of the pieces, but their regal ownership mean that some are expected to go for at least three times their estimates. After all, how often does one have the chance to buy an item that really was fit for a King?

Related Links > http://www.formerkingofgreece.org and http://www.greekroyalfamily.org/el/index.cfm

Christie’s: 020-7839 9060

Greek Royals’ Fabergé collection on sale January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Auctions.
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A collection of art, silver and works by the legendary Russian jeweller Fabergé illustrating the vast interlocking network of European Royal families in the 19th century is to be sold at auction for an estimated £1.5m.

More than 850 lots of property formerly belonging to King George I of the Hellenes, a Danish prince who was elected King by the Greek National Assembly in 1863, are being offered at Christie’s next week.

The collection, which has been in storage for more than 30 years, offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of 19th century Royals, according to Harry Williams-Buckeley, the auctioneer’s head of silver. “It really does give us an insight into their lives,” he said. “It’s something I think so many people are not aware of; how international they were as a family.”

King George I, from whom the current Greek Royals are descended, married a Russian arch-duchess, his sister was married to Tsar Alexander III and another married King Edward VII while his elder brother eventually became King of Denmark.

Mr Williams-Buckeley said the collection of property, much of which originally adorned the King’s private country house outside Athens, was a fitting testimony to such a cosmopolitan monarch. The house, called Tatoi, at the foot of Mount Parnitha, was built in the style of an English cottage and it was where he played host to many Royal visitors.

The bulk of the sale next Wednesday and Thursday is a collection of English, Danish, Russian, French, Italian, Portuguese and German silver dating from the 18th to the early 20th century, with many items demonstrating the dynastic relations of the Greek Royals.

A pair of large silver pilgrim flasks by Robert Garrard, the British Royal goldsmith, are hailed as the finest Royal silver to come to market. They were a wedding gift to King Christian IX of Denmark from George I and other family members but were later inherited by him. They are estimated to make up to £120,000. Similar flasks were exchanged between other Royals, such as those given to Tsar Alexander II of Russia on his marriage to King George’s sister, Maria Feodorovna, and now in the Kremlin. And there are important items by Michelsen, the Royal jeweller to the Danish family, including a silver wedding anniversary present to the King from members of the European Royals.

It is the Greek Royals’ Russian connection that leads to the inclusion of around 100 items by Fabergé, including boxes, scent bottles and cigarette cases. One of the highlights is a striking gold-mounted Fabergé clock estimated at up to £250,000 and there is also a wide selection of miniature jewelled animals including kangaroos, dogs, rabbits, a frog and numerous elephants. The Order of the White Elephant is the Danish order of chivalry.

Mr Williams-Buckeley said the Royal connection made a huge difference to many collectors. “The pieces themselves are very nice and there are things for serious silver collectors but with a smaller budget,” he said. “The lowest estimate is £50 to £80 for a little silver mug. But then there is the historical aspect of it. Here are possessions from one of the most well-connected 19th century Kings.”

Related Links > http://www.formerkingofgreece.org and http://www.greekroyalfamily.org/el/index.cfm


A world of wrath just like Homer’s January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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Alexander the Great slept with a copy of the Iliad when on campaign.

This made more sense than it might seem to modern mankind. The Greek world, the culture of Hellas, its gods and state of mind, was first fashioned by Homer’s epic poem “Iliad” of Troy and the Achaean progenitors of the Hellenes. Centuries later, the greatest Greek playwrights, Aeschylus and Sophocles, based their tragic dramas on the Homeric legends, placing modern men and women and the eternal quandaries and their fates within that world. And the world had not changed all that much in Alexander’s time: It was still a world of blood and iron.

During the last great war, 1939-45, British officers often carried a copy of the Athenian historian Thucydides, especially when they served in the Mediterranean region. Thucydides built on Herodotus’ inquiries, the Greek word Herodotus used for inquiry was “historia”, to try to show posterity what happened during the Peloponnesian War, an Aegean conflict that convulsed all Greek communities and decisively damaged that whole civilization.

The Athenian, a cashiered general, put forth clear observations of why the participants acted as they did, the pride, ambition, hope of hegemony and gain, cheating, blood lust, strained ideologies that devolved into sheer hatreds and how the Greeks rationalized massacres of other Greeks. He observed sadly that there was always some state or nation that became a terror to its neighbors and evoked horrendous conflict.

With some history beneath their belts, Brits could believe the world was not all that much changed.

If Alexander had read more Thucydides than Homer, he might have realized that his dream of a cosmopolitan world, Cosmopolis, was impossible. For Alexander himself, conqueror of his world, lost his own identity. But then Alexander was right on with Homer and the Iliad. Men were moved not by reason but pride, lust, desire for loot, love and loyalty to culture, race or clan.

When I first read the Iliad I recognized my own: tetchy, belligerent people, prideful as the Argives, concerned with honor, in which goods or property plays a part, bound by custom, decent according to their view of what is right, orderly until their cork is pulled.

The reason we still peruse Homer is that his heroes who both prayed to and defied the gods, lived in mud-floored palaces and oared swift black ships to distant shores suffused by the roar of battle, preferring death to dishonor or disgrace and or doing no great thing, debated moral issues and fought against their fate, are not all that different from us, the modern mankind. Or any race or creed of man who will not be demeaned or swallow harm. The first word in the Iliad is “wrath,” and this is still a world of wrath.

The Greeks were not without their thinkers, sociologists and even psychologists, notice that the words we still use come from Greek, who explored the rational universe.

The problem is that all the wisdom of Socrates, the enthronement of rational achievement by Plato and explanation of the universe by Aristotle never stopped a Greek war. Plato, in fact, took wars for granted, because he lived in a cosmos that had never known peace.

We moderns do not take war for granted, but I think we search for causes in the wrong places. Shakespeare wrote that our fates lie not with the stars but within ourselves, and Christians used to believe that we cannot hope to change the world, no laws, edicts, proclamations or restraints will do, unless we first change ourselves. And, perhaps, war and poverty persist because there is war and poverty in our hearts.

Poets work more from inspiration than perceived wisdom. But I suspect that Socrates was right, no man is wise, because wisdom lies alone with God, a glimmering of impious truth that gets men killed, in his world or ours.

The Greek activist who also makes films January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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The politically charged movies of director Costa-Gavras come straight from his personal history and from his heart.

The Greek activist who also makes films Costa Gavras is a master of politically charged cinema, with films that are often thinly disguised fictionalized versions of ripped-from-the-headline stories with a strong liberal bent. Over the last four decades, he’s taken on conservative regimes in his native Greece, as well as in Uruguay and Chile. He’s explored Nazi war criminals living a covert existence in America and the white separatist movement.

His political activism comes easy to him. His father was a Greek resistance hero who fought against the Nazis during World War II, only to be labeled a communist by the Greek postwar government for his outspoken views.

The Paris-based writer-director, 73, is visiting Los Angeles to participate in “On Set With French Cinema,” a program, begun in 2003, that brings noted French directors to teach master classes at UCLA, the American Film Institute, USC and Cal Arts, as well as giving them a chance to discuss their films during a retrospective at the American Cinemathque’s Egyptian Theatre.

Costa-Gavras’ retrospective starts Friday, with a screening of his best-known film, the Oscar-winning 1969 thriller, “Z,” as well as his first American film, 1982’s “Missing,” for which he won a screenplay Oscar. The director is scheduled to appear between the films. Saturday, the Cinematheque is offering his 1989 drama “Music Box,” as well as 1983’s “Hanna K.”

During a recent interview from Paris, the affable director, who was born Constantinos Gavras, admitted he was looking forward to revisiting his films with a new generation of Americans. “I was there several years ago,” he says. “The situation is different, and I am very curious to experience it.” In the early 1950s, Costa-Gavras wanted to attend film school in the United States but wasn’t admitted because of his father’s communist leanings.

“It was the Cold War, and it was very difficult for a young man from Greece whose father and family had particular political ideas,” he says. “You know director Penelope Spheeris? She is my first cousin. I had some uncles in Milwaukee and they invited me and I couldn’t come. But I finally came to France, that wasn’t bad.”

In Paris, he worked as an assistant with such noted directors as René Clair, René Clement and Jacques Demy before making his directorial debut with 1965’s fast-paced thriller “The Sleeping Car Murders,” starring Yves Montand and his wife, Simone Signoret.

It was 1969’s political thriller “Z” that put Costa-Gavras on the international map. Montand plays a left-wing political candidate in an unnamed country who is assassinated by killers from the fascist government. A young prosecutor (Jean-Louis Trintignant) uncovers a vast political conspiracy during his investigation.

“It was an amazing adventure,” the director recalls. “No one was willing to produce the movie, even with all the stars ready to play in it.”

The film finally found a home in Algeria. “Jacques Perrin, the actor who is in the film, said he knew the Algerians and said why don’t we go shoot it in Algeria? The Algerians helped us with a crew and we had a small amount of money …. We did the movie for something like $400,000.”

“Z,” based on the events surrounding the assassination of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963, became the first foreign-language film to be nominated for the best film Oscar since 1938’s “Grand Illusion.” The film won the Academy Award for foreign-language film and editing.

Later in his career, Costa-Gavras enjoyed making films in America. “Working in Hollywood is everybody’s dream,” he says. When he did “Missing,” which was based on a true story of the disappearance of an American journalist during a coup in Chile in 1973, he had two caveats: He wanted to work with his French crew and do the post-production in France. “I didn’t have any problems,” he says. “I had quite a bit of freedom.”

He also had good producers in America, especially Edward Lewis on “Missing.” Lewis went to bat for him when he wanted Jack Lemmon to play the conservative father of the missing American journalist.

“Everybody said, ‘Jack Lemmon? Are we doing a comedy?’ We had discussions and discussions. After a while Eddie said, ‘Is this the person you really want to get?’ I said yes. So he went to the company, Universal, and said he would like to have Jack Lemmon. And they let me do it.”

Costa-Gavras admits audiences aren’t as interested in political films as they once were. “They are very suspicious,” he says. “They don’t trust our political leaders … and that reflects in the reactions of producers and film companies. The other problem is the young generation goes to more special-effects movies.”

But he’s still very much a political animal. He has just finished a script for a new film he hopes to shoot in Europe this year. “It’s difficult to talk about,” he says. “It’s an actual story, a very, very today story.”

On Set With French Cinema > Two Nights with Costa-Gavras
Where: American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, When: Friday and Saturday, Price: $8 and $10, Schedule: Friday: “Missing” “Z” 7:30 p.m. Saturday: “Music Box” “Hanna K” 7:30 p.m.
Contact: (323) 466-FILM or go to www.americancinematheque.com