Things To Do In Athens, Greece

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Athens is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and this means that there are ample places to see and visit in the city. The home of famous philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato has many things to offer visitors.

Acropolis is the considered to be one of the biggest attractions in the city. It is the site where ancient Athens was situated and home to temples dedicated in the honor of Athena, the patron goddess of the city. The main buildings in this ancient city were designed by Pericles, and most of them were constructed between the years 460 BC and 430 BC. The most popular attractions are Parthenon, Erechtheion, the Temple of Nike and Propylea. At the very foothills of the Acropolis is Plaka, where you can visit numerous museums. The Jewish Museum, the Greek Folk Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Paintings are located here.

You should not miss a chance to visit the ancient agora in the city. Marketplaces played an important role in ancient Greece, and when visiting modern-day Athens, you will have a chance to see the ruins of the ancient marketplace in the city. There is an entrance fee levied, but it is worth it. You can also visit the Ancient Agora Museum to see the exhibits and also admire the marvelous architecture of the building.

If you are not a fan of history, then modern-day Athens will not disappoint you. The main square in the city is known as Syntagma Square and this where all the hot spots of the city are located. Here you will find restaurants, shops, hotels and bars situated around a huge water fountain. To the north and south of the square are some great gardens that house a number of cafes where you can sit down to sip a cool drink or take a quick bite. The square is also close to the Greek parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Kolonaki District is located close to Syntagma Square where you can visit designer stores and boutiques to purchase branded labels. The District also has posh eating places. It is considered to be one of the richest suburbs of the city.

If you are in Athens, you should not miss a trip to the local flea market situated at Monastiraki. You can get good bargains and souvenirs to take home. Finally, take the metro to get some information about this city. While the metro was being constructed, many ancient artifacts were found which are now displayed in some of the stations.

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A Quick Course in Public Speaking

You would think that I would be an expert at public speaking, considering my profession. I have been a lawyer for nearly 12 years. Normally, a lawyer is an expert public speaker since the vast majority appear in the courtroom on a regular basis. It wouldn’t do a legal expert much good if he stumbled and got flustered while talking. For me though, I was a behind the scenes lawyer. I worked mostly on contracts and corporate taxes. I knew that I needed to get some help, and I found it in the way of verkooptraining.

It all started when one of my clients was facing a very serious audit. Continue reading

The Cautionary Tale of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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William Shakespeare’s Macbeth contains a lot of life lessons. Number one: Don’t listen to stranger bearded women when wandering through a fog. Number two: Never let anyone bully you into doing something you don’t want to, even if it’s your wife. And Number 3? If you want to become king, the kill-everything-in-your-path strategy, while seemingly effective, is bound to backfire.

Macbeth is indeed a cautionary tale of greed, power and ambition. At the play’s core, it is about humanity’s tendency for evil and ruthlessness, particularly when fueled by the desire for ascension. Macbeth, a Scottish nobleman fresh from a ruthlessly victorious battle, stumbles upon a pack of prophesizing witches who imply that kinghood is in his future, effectively messing with his head and ego. Just a few little words set Macbeth in motion to achieve his fate of being king, instead of letting things unfold naturally.

Looking at Macbeth summary, Macbeth stands somewhat as a tragic hero and a villain in the play, as he is a man whose ambitious ego and thirst for power sets him on a path of destruction that inevitably arrives at a grisly destination with his head on a spike. Violent is as violent does for Macbeth.

What we learn from Macbeth, aside from the whole downside in embarking on a murderous rampage, is that our desires and our emotions control us much more than we think. It also highlights how easily swayed humanity can be at times, when all it takes is some eerie women to plant a seed of power in our impressionable egos. At its basic level, Macbeth is about the power and drive of man, and how that power and drive can effortlessly steer us off course. Take, for example, a selection from Macbeth quotes featuring the hallucinations of Macbeth that finally convinces him to kill the king. A floating mirage of a dagger, “a dagger of the mind” he calls it, seals the deal for Macbeth, reading it as something to “marshal’st” him on his way to power. Note the level of agency he ascribes to this image, which could either be a manifestation of the witches or of his “heat-oppressed” brain. The image is both a sign and a usher of sorts for Macbeth, suggesting his own lack of agency and self-determination that allows him to be easily swayed. A helpful comparison in understanding Macbeth’s craziness can found in another famous Shakespearean play where a tragic hero is conflicted with inaction, uncertainty and of course, impressionability when it comes to the supernatural. In the Hamlet summary, Hamlet is directed on a path to avenging his late father by his father’s ghost. He wavers and flip-flops on what to do-much like Macbeth-until finally committing the first murder (Poor Polonius!) that gets the ball rolling. For him, as for Macbeth, the first murder is always the hardest, but it gets easier with next few. For Macbeth, it gets excessively easier.

The tendency to be impressionable-either by one’s own mind tricks or the biting word from Lady Macbeth or the witches-makes Macbeth vulnerable to his own impulses of greed and power and the subsequent implication for evil. It’s also what makes him appear partly as a tragic hero, someone whose flaws of initial weak sense of self allows him to be a plaything of fates and witches. Those reading Macbeth as a tale of power and greed must also take into consideration how such ambitions are essentially weaknesses for Macbeth, as he fails prey to his own flaws. A cautionary tale indeed.

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Athens – Church of Agioi Theodoroi

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Crossing Odos Dragatsaniou, in the end stands the attractive medieval church of Agioi Theodoroi (St. Theodore), built on the site of a church founded in the ninth century, but in its present form dating from between 1050 and 1075. This small cruciform church with its high narrow dome, multiple roofs that lend it an air of rhythmic grace, narrow mullioned windows and decorated central door surmounted by arches, is a precious gem of eleventh century Byzantine architecture.

The earliest form of Byzantine churches was that of the basilica, a long rectangle divided by two or four ranges of columns into three or five naves. Later, during the 11th and 12th centuries, the plan changed to that of a Greek cross within a square, dominated by a dome constructed in brick and often combined with one or more subsidiary domes. The exterior walls consist of square-cut stone with thin brick surrounds and are enriched by bands of decoration, carving and the use of color. Few of these churches were large. Apart from St. Theodore, typical examples are the churches of Kapnikarea and St. Eleutherios.

The glory of the Byzantine church lies not so much in the architecture as to the ethereal beauty of its mosaics or frescoes. From the center of the principal dome Christ looks down upon the faithful and below Him are the Apostles. The Virgin appears in the half dome, while around the sanctuary are symbolic figures and emblems connected with the Eucharist. On the West wall opposite the chancel is the Last Judgement. Colored marble and similar material in the lower walls add to the resplendent beauty of the interior.

The liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church requires separation of the altar from the laity. The altar is placed in a chancel screened from the congregation by the iconostasis, i.e. the screen dividing the sanctuary from the church proper. This is adorned with pictures of Christ, the Virgin, and Saints, and generally has three doors, the curtains of which are lowered while Mass is being celebrated. The chancel is flanked by the Prothesis, where the bread and wine for the Eucharist are prepared, and by the Diakonikon, or vestry.

In St. Theodore one can also notice the influence of the East on Byzantine art, which was prominent in the period from the mid-9th to mid-11th centuries, when Byzantine artists used a variety of Oriental motifs in their designs. It is probable that the design of pseudo-kufic characters (the script perfected during the 7th century by calligraphers in the city of Kafa, in present-day Iraq) that decorate the terracotta panel below the windows of the facade was inspired by the work of Arab craftsmen.

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6 Facts About Oil Paint

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1. The earliest known paintings that were done in oils date back to the 7th century BC. These paintings were Buddhist murals that were discovered in caves in Western Afghanistan. Oil paint didn’t become widespread for use in art works until the 15th century, when it became popular throughout Europe. Jan van Eyck, a 15th century Flemish painter, is widely believed to have invented it, though in reality he did not invent it, instead he developed it.

2. Oil paint is credited with revolutionising art. One of its key properties is that it’s very slow to dry. It gave artists a lot more time to work on their paintings and it allowed them to correct any mistakes they might have made. Oil paints allowed for artists’ creativity to flourish more because artists could devote more time to each painting. Many of the most widely praised paintings were done in oils.

3. For a few centuries artists had to store their oil paints in animal bladders. This was because the paint tube wasn’t invented until 1841. It was invented by John Goffe Rand, an American painter. Before the tube was invented, artists would have to mix their paints themselves before painting. They would have to grind the pigment up themselves, then carefully mix in the binder and thinner.

4. The most basic type of oil paint is made up of ground-up pigment, a binder and a thinner, which is usually turpentine. For the binder there are lots of different substances that can be used, including linseed oil, walnut oil and poppy seed oil; each of these gives the paint different effects and has different drying times.

5. There are modern versions of oil paint that can dry a lot more quickly than the standard version. The way that it dries is not by evaporation, but by oxidation, the process where substances gain oxygen. It is generally accepted that the typical painting done in oils will be dry to touch after about two weeks, though it can take six months to a year before the painting’s actually dry enough to be varnished.

6. Oil paint is very durable and tough, so it’s used as a finish and protector. It can be used on wood and metal and in both cases, it can be used internally as well as externally. It’s often applied to wood during building construction and can be found on metallic surfaces on things like planes, bridges and ships.

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Ancient History – Athens

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Archaeologists have found evidence that Athens has been inhabited from at least the fifth millennium BC. The site would have been attractive to early settlers for a number of reasons: its location in the midst of productive agricultural terrain; its closeness to the coast and the natural safe harbour of Piraeus; the existence of defensible high ground, the Acropolis (from akron and polis, or ‘city on the high ground’); and the proximity of a natural source of water on the north-west side of the Acropolis.

Traces of Mycenaean fortifications from the thirteenth century AC can still be seen on the Acropolis, including some foundations belonging to what must have been a palatial structure. The fortifications, known as the ‘Pelasgian’ walls (after the indigenous people believed to have built them before the arrival of the Greeks around 2000 BC), remained in use until the Persian Wars of 490-480 BC. One stretch behind the temple of Athena Nike appears to have been deliberately preserved in the Classical period.

There was a decline of Mycenaean society across the Greek world around the end of the twelfth century BC. Whether this was directly connected with the Trojan War (around 1184 BC), or the so-called Dorian Invasion thought to have taken place soon after this conflict, Athens does not appear to have succumbed to an attack. The Mycenaean royal family of Pylos is said to have taken refuge in Athens after their city’s fall to the Dorians. One of its members, Codros, became king of his adoptive city.

The collapse of Mycenaean civilization left Greece in political, economic and social decline, accompanied by loss of artistic skills, literacy and trade networks. The Mycenaean form of writing, known as Linear B, was completely forgotten, and the Greek alphabet did not emerge until the late eighth century BC as the new form of writing. At this time city states began to emerge throughout the Greek world, governed by oligarchies, or aristocratic councils. Thirteen kings ruled in Athens after Codros, until in 753 BC they were replaced by officials with a ten-year term, known as decennial archons, and in 683 BC by annually appointed eponymous archons.

Conflict between the oligarchs and the lower classes, many of whom had been reduced to slavery, led to a series of reforms that paved the way for the emergence of the world’s first true democracy. Around 620 BC the lawmaker Dracon set up wooden tablets on the Acropolis known as axones. These were inscribed with civil laws and punishments so harsh that the death penalty was prescribed even for minor crimes, giving rise to the term `draconian’ which is still used today. Dracon’s intervention did little to ensure order, prompting representatives of the nobles and lower classes in 594 BC to appoint the statesman and poet Solon as archon.

Solon terminated aristocratic rule, setting up a representational government where participation was determined not by lineage or bloodline, but wealth. He eliminated slavery based on debt, and restituted freedom and land to those who had been enslaved. Solon created a `Council of Four Hundred’ from equal numbers of representatives of the Ionian tribes to which the Athenians claimed to belong, and instituted four classes of citizenry.

Peisistratos, Solon’s younger cousin, became tyrant (tyrannos) of Athens in 545 BC. He ensured the Solonian constitution was respected and governed benevolently. After Peisistratos’ death, however, things took a negative turn and anti-Peisistratid sentiment grew. By 510 BC King Cleomenes of Sparta was asked to assist in deposing Peisistratos’ son Hippias. Hippias sought refuge in Persia at the court of King Darius.

Soon after, the aristocrat Cleisthenes promised to institute further reforms giving a more direct role to citizens in government. His reforms were passed in 508 BC, and democracy was established in Athens. A new `Council of Five Hundred’ (the Boule) replaced the ‘Council of Four Hundred’, with equal representation from the various tribes. Cleisthenes is also credited with instituting the system of ostracism, which ‘voted’ an individual considered dangerous to democracy into exile for ten years.

It is uncertain when the former Mycenaean citadel was transformed into a sacred precinct but by the late eighth century BC a modest temple (or perhaps more than one) stood on the plateau. The oldest and holiest cult image on the Acropolis was the statue of Athena Polias (Protectress of the City), a crude olive-wood figure, so old that Athenians of the Classical period believed it had either fallen from heaven or been made by Cecrops or Erichthonios. This sacred image of Athena was ritually ‘dressed’ every year in a peplos, a sacred robe, as part of the Panathenaic festival.

A temple is thought to have been built around 700 BC to the south of the later, Classical Erechtheion, to house the statue of Athena Polias. The first major building of which there are significant remains on the Acropolis was the so-called ‘Bluebeard Temple’, built in the Archaic period around 560 BC. The ‘Bluebeard Temple’ is thought by some to have stood to the south of the later Erechtheion. Ancient texts mention a mysterious building or precinct contemporary to the ‘Bluebeard Temple’, called the Hecatompedon, or ‘Hundred-footer’. Whatever this structure or place was, it gave its name to the principal room of the Classical Parthenon, perhaps because the later building occupies the same site.

With the expulsion of Hippias a new temple was built on the Acropolis, its foundations still visible to the south of the later Erechtheion. This building, the Archaios Naos, or ‘ancient temple’, is likely to have been deliberately commissioned around 506 BC as a replacement for the ‘Bluebeard Temple’.

The first Persian invasion of 490 BC saw the victory of the Athenians at the battle of Marathon against the forces of King Darius of Persia. The following year the elated Athenians leveled an area on the south side of the Acropolis and began construction of the Old Parthenon. A new gateway to the Acropolis was also commenced, known as the Old Propylaia.

This post-Marathonian building program on the Acropolis came to a violent end in 480 BC when Xerxes, son of King Darius, led a second Persian invasion of Greece. Athens had to be evacuated and Xerxes razed the city and buildings on the Acropolis. Under the command of Themistocles, the Athenians destroyed the Persian fleet in the battle of Salamis. Victory over the Persians was ensured after the battle of Plataea (479 BC), to the northwest of Athens, when a combined Greek army annihilated the Persians.

In the aftermath of the battle of Plataea, a vow was made by the victors never to rebuild the shrines that were destroyed in the war, preserving them instead as memorials for later generations.

Pericles, who was a general and statesman, came to power in Athens around 461 BC. He considered the oath of Plataea to have been fulfilled, as thirty years had elapsed from the Persian invasion, and proceeded to reconstruct the temples on the Acropolis. He gathered together the best architects and artists in the city and plans were drawn up to erect new buildings that would outshine those torn down by the Persians. The Periclean building programme enhanced the lower city with new monuments, such as the Temple of Hephaestus, also known as the Theseion, and the Painted Stoa or Poikile situated near the Agora (marketplace).

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