Showing posts with label Ancient World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ancient World. Show all posts

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Itzá Heckúva Sight

In the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico lies the ruins of Chichén Itzá, the
elaborate city of colorful pyramids, steps, graves, plazas and temples housing murals, altars, masks, carvings and other renderings.

Chichén Itzá is believed to have been a populous community as well as military fortress and a center for worship and commerce.

Settled in circa 500 AD and developed primarily between 900 and 1200 AD, it is estimated to have been abandoned by the 1500s.

Ominously, some structures within the city served as the site of countless sacrificial ceremonies. Humans were certainly believed to have been sacrificed, along with gold and jade to Chaac, the rain god during the Cult of the Cenote.

Another marvel evident in Chichén Itzá’s dazzling remnants is the Mayans’ brilliant pursuit of astronomy. Biannually, shadows can be observed on the steps of the Temple of Kukulkan during the autumn and spring equinoxes which form the shape of a serpent that slithers downward to the bottom steps as the sun sets. The city’s observatory also allowed for the forecasting of solar eclipses.

After its excavation in the 19th Century, much of what we now know of the ruins was learned and studied by scientists and scholars who are still trying to keep up with its complex history.

But what ever became of the Mayans of the city and why did they flee? These are questions that have never been unequivocally satisfied. Perhaps it’s simply too early to know. Those answers may lie in the riddles that adorn the city’s stone walls and haunt all souls who walk their ancient paths, searching in vain for an ancient clue. Maybe Itzá just a mystery.

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Christopher Robinson

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Days of Gods and Games

Statue (image)
Continuing my examination of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this week’s post sees another great gargantuan of Greece— the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

The Greek sculptor Phidias, already renown for his earlier work, the Statue of Athena Parthenon, appropriately crafted his new 40-foot statue in the Temple of Zeus utilizing cedarwood, ivory, gold and ebony.

Seated on an opulent black marble throne, the god of sky, thunder and weather held a second statue in his hand, that of Nike, goddess of victory. In his other hand, he held a staff with a perched eagle. Allegedly, the statue had to be continually covered in olive oil as a safeguard from elemental erosion(!) The Temple of Zeus itself was located in Olympia, then controlled by the city-state of Elis, where every four years, fans congregated to witness its famed athletic games.

After eight years of construction, Phidias completed the statue in 5th Century BC which attracted awestruck onlookers from across the globe and dictated Zeus’s popular image in art, poetry and culture for centuries.

In 426 AD, the temple was destroyed in an earthquake but not before being desecrated and neglected by Roman emperor Theodosius I who banned all pagan cult activity, thus sidelining the Olympic Games for a spell.

But what became of Zeus? No longer a feature of the temple by the 6th Century, the statue of Zeus (formerly) of Olympia had seen renovation and subsequent relocation to Constantinople where anything from a tsunami, earthquake or fire may have claimed it.

That which we know of the majestic Statue of Zeus comes chiefly from its depiction in ancient art and coins. The timeline of its construction might also be a mystery were it not for the discovery of Phidias’ workshop in the 1950s. Little by little, discoveries of the such help us uncover the answers to the same age-old questions— When... where... how... and why?

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Christopher Robinson