Saturday, March 22, 2008


According to the old legends, Ephesus was founded by the female warriors known as the Amazons. The name of the city is thought to have been derived from “APASAS”, the name of a city in the “KINGDOM OF ARZAWA” meaning the “city of the Mother Goodness”. Ephesus was inhabited from the end of the Bronze Age onwards, but changed its location several times in the course of its long history in accordance with habits and requirements. Carians and Lelegians are to be having been among the city’s first inhabitants. Ionian migrations are said to have begun in around 1200 BC. According to legend, the city was founded for the second time by Androclus, the son of Codrus, king of Athens, on the shore at the point where the Cayster empties into the sea, a location to which they had been guided by a fish and a wild boar on the advice of the soothsayers. The Ionian cities that grew up in the wake of the Ionian migrations joined in a confederacy under the leadership of Ephesus. The region was devastated during the Cimmerian invasion at the beginning of the 7th century BC. Under the rule of the Lydian kings, Ephesus became one of the wealthiest cities in the Mediterranean world. The defeat of the Lydian King Croesus by Cyrus, the King of Persia, prepared the way for the extension of Persian hegemony over the whole of the Aegean coastal region. At the beginning of the 5th century, when the Ionian cities rebelled against Persia, Ephesus quickly dissociated itself from the others, thus escaping destruction.
Ephesus remained under Persian rule until the arrival of Alexander the Great in 334 BC, when it entered upon a fifty year period f peace and tranquility. Lysimachus, who had been one of the twelve generals of Alexander the Great and became ruler of the region on Alexander’s death, decided to embark upon the development of the city, which he called Arsineia after his wife Arsinoe. He constructed a new harbor and built defense walls, moving him whole city 2.5 km to the southwest. Realizing, however, that the Ephesian were unwilling to leave their old city, he had the whole sewage system blocked up during a great storm, making the houses uninhabitable and forcing the inhabitants to move. In 281 BC the city was re-founded under the old name of Ephesus and became one of the most important of the commercial ports in the Mediterranean.
In 129 BC the Romans took advantage of the terms of the will left by Attalos, King of Pergamon, by which they were bequeathed his kingdom, to incorporate the whole region into the Roman Empire as the province of Asia. Ancient sources show that at this time the city had a population of 200.000. In the 1st century BC the heavy taxes imposed by the Roman government led the population to embrace Mithridates as their savior and to support him in his mutiny against Roman authority and in 88 BC a massacre was carried out of all the Latin speaking inhabitants of the city, which was then stormed and sacked by a Roman army under Sulla. It was from the reign of Augustus onwards that the buildings we admire today were constructed. According to documentary sources, the city suffered severe damage in an earthquake in 17 AD. After that, however, Ephesus became a very important centre of trade and commerce. The historian Aristio describes Ephesus as being recognized by all the inhabitants of the region as the most important trading centre in Asia. It was also the leading political and intellectual centre, with the second school of philosophy in the Aegean. From the 1st century onwards, Ephesus was visited by Christian disciples attempting to spread the Christian belief in a single God and thus forced to seek refuge from Roman persecution. Besides enjoying a privileged position between East and West coupled with an exceptionally fine climate, the city owed its importance to its being the centre of the cult of Artemis.
For the Christians, the city, with its highly advanced way of life, its high standard of living, the variety of its demographic composition and its firmly rooted polytheistic culture, must have presented itself as an ideal pilot region. From written sources we learn that St. Paul remained in the city for three years from 65 to 68, and that it was here that he preached his famous sermons calling upon the hearers to embrace the faith in one God. He taught that God had no need of a house made with human hands and that he was present in all places at all times. This was all greatly resented by the craftsmen who had amassed great wealth from their production of statues of Artemis in gold, silver or other materials. A silversmith by name of Demetrius stirred up the people and led a crowd of thousands of Ephesians to the theatre, where they booed and stoned Paul and his two colleagues, chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So turbulent was the crowd that the Paul and his companions escaped only with great difficulty. From his Epistles to the communities it would appear that Paul spent some time as a prisoner in Ephesus.
Legend has it that St. Paul the Evangelist came to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary in his care. Some also say that it was here that he wrote his Gospel and was finally buried. In 269 Ephesus and the surrounding country was devastated by Goths. At that time there was still a temple in which the cult of Artemis was practiced. In 381, by order of the Emperor Theodosius, the temple was closed down, and in the following centuries it lay completely abandoned, serving as a quarry for building materials.
The situation of the city, which had given it its privileged geographical position, was also the cause of its decline and fall. The prosperity of the city had been based on its possession of a sheltered natural harbor, but by the Roman period ships reached the harbor to the west of Mt Pion 1.5km from the temple of Artemis through a very narrow and difficult channel. The cause of this was the Meander River, which emptied Aegean a little to the west of the city of Ephesus, where it created a delta formed by the alluvium carried down by the river over thousands of years. By the late Byzantine era the channel had been so silted up as to be no longer usable. The sea gradually receded farther and farther, while the marshy lands around the harbor gave rise to a number of diseases, such as malaria. The new outlook that had arisen with the spread of Christianity led to the gradual abandonment of all buildings bearing witness to the existence of polytheistic cults and the construction in their place of Christian churches. In the year 431 the third Ecumenical council took place in Ephesus.
Emperor Theodosius convoked another council in Ephesus in 449, which came to be known as the “robber council”. From the 6th century onwards the Church of St. John was an important place of pilgrimage, and Justinian took measures to protect it by having the whole hill on which it stood surrounded by defense walls. Shortly afterwards, the Church of the Virgin and other places of worship were destroyed and pillaged in Arab raids. In the 7th century the city was transferred to the site now occupied by the town of Seljuk and during the Byzantine era Ephesus grew up around the summit of Mt Ayasulug. The city enjoyed its last years of prosperity under the Seljuk Emirate of the Aydinogullari. During the middle ages the city ceased to function as a port. By the 21st century the silt carried down by the Meander had extended the plain for a distance of 5 km.

Excavations at Ephesus

The first excavations were carried out in 1859-74 on the Odeon and the theatre by J. T. Wood under the auspices of the British Museum. Excavations were carried out on the Temple of Artemis in May 1869. Regular excavations began in 1895 under the direction of Otto Bendore, a member of the Viennese Academy. The excavations directed by R. Heberg on behalf of the Austrian Archaeological Institute uncovered the Agora, the Theatre, the Arcadiane and the Library of Celsius. Operations were suspended during the First World War, but work was resumed in 1926. Excavations were conducted by a large team under the direction of Hermann Vetters on behalf of the Austrian Archaeological Institute. Owing to the dense and continuous nature of the Roman settlement it was only in 1960 that the Hellenistic layers were reached.


Present-day visitors wishing to visit the Hellenistic and Roman remains at Ephesus have a choice between two entrances. If they arrive form the direction of Kusadasi they will enter Ephesus from the harbor gate. In that case the first building the visitor encounters will be:

The gymnasium of Vedius

This gymnasium was built in 150 AD by Vedius Antonius, a wealthy citizen of Ephesus. According to an inscription discovered during excavations on the eastern façade of the building. The gymnasium was dedicated to Artemis and Consul Antonius Pius. The most important of the chambers opening off the palaestra contained a cult statue of the emperor. A large number of statues were found, among them two sculptures of the river god now exhibited in the Izmir Archaeological Museum. The latrine is in very good state of preservation.


The stadium, which is located immediately to the south of the gymnasium, was built by the Emperor Nero (56 – 68 AD). The whole measures 228 x 38 m, with the tiers of seats resting against the slope of Mt Panayir and the northern section of the cave supported by vaults. The finds include a number of column capitals and roughly carved marble slabs. The building was later used as a quarry for building materials for use in the construction of the Byzantine castle; with the result that very little now remains. The stadium was used for chariot races, athletic displays and gladiatorial combats and marble relief’s depicting gladiators are displayed along the Marble Way. In the hilly terrain opposite the stadium a number of buildings of uncertain date have been unearthed. These include a fish market, a Byzantine fountain and a funeral chamber thought to be that of Androcles, the legendary founder of the city, passed by here. The stadium is now used for the camel wrestling competitions which have gradually become a traditional feature. Every year, in spring, visitors come from all over the country for the festivities taking place during the annual fair.

Roman bourse (Church of the Virgin Mary)

This Roman building is dated to the 2nd century AD. It is a three-aisled church measuring 265 x 90 m. Until its conversion into a church in the 4th century AD it performed a secular function. Its proximity to the harbor allowed important commercial goods to be marketed here without the necessity of transporting them into the city itself. The Byzantine church was added to the western side. Austrian archaeologists are engaged here in endeavors to locate the site of bishop’s palace. The church itself housed the third Ecumenical council at which the divine character of Christ and the Virgin Mary was discussed. Nestorius (380 – 451), the founder of the school of Antioch and the Patriarchate of Istanbul, put forward the view opposing the divine nature of Christ and regarding Mary not as the mother of God but as the mother of a human being. The Alexandrian school, on the other hand, put forward the more mystical, more traditional view that Mary was the mother of God and in the end Nestorius was exiled. Ephesus thus became one of most important centers of the Christian world and the reverence for the Virgin Mary at Ephesus was greatly increased. The so called Robber Council of 449 accepted the thesis of the purely divine nature of Christ in which his human character was completely ignored. This doctrine was later known in the East as Monophysitism.

The Arcadiane

This street, 600 m long and 1 m wide, was given this name after its restoration by the Emperor Arcadius (395 – 408). The main street of the city connecting the theatre and the surrounding area to the port, it was flanked by stoats with mosaic floors. These colonnades, which included a row of shops, served to protect the inhabitants of the city from wind and rain in the winter and from the sun in the summer. Inscriptions on four imposing Corinthian columns erected by the Emperor Justinian (525 – 566) indicate the existence of sculptures of the four Evangelists. An inscription in the theatre informs us that the street was illuminated by two rows of torches.

The Theatre

The theatre is built against the slope of Mt Panayir. It has now lost most of its imposing decoration. It was one of the largest theatres in the Aegean world, measuring 60 m from the floor of the stage to the top of the galleries. The caveat consists of three sections. The auditorium held 24.000 spectators with another thousand in the vaulted galleries, making up a total capacity of over 25.000. Massive alterations to the original auditorium would appear to have been undertaken during the reign of Claudius and completed under the Emperor Trajan. The tiers of seats were later used as spoil in the construction of other buildings. The first and second storey of the stage building was constructed during the reign of Nero (54 – 68), while the third storey was constructed during the reign of Septimus Severus (193 – 211). The stage façade was adorned with niches, columns, reliefs and statues. The stage was at height of 2.70m above the orchestra and was reached by ramps on the left and right.

The Marble Way

The Marble Way connects the theatre to the Library of Celsius. It assumed its present-day appearance during the 5th century AD. Drains were installed throughout the whole length of the street in the form of lower galleries. A few reliefs on the ground on the right hand side indicate the city brothel. The reliefs include a left foot, the portrait of a woman and a heart decorated with perforations. They are surrounded by an iron railing.

The gate of Mazaeus and Mithridates

This gate, built almost entirely of marble, was dedicated in 3rd century BC to Augustus and his son-in-love Agrippa by two rich freedmen of the city Mazeus and Mithridates. These two imposing gates leading into the agora constitute the finest example of restoration work carried out in recent years.


Originally built in the 1st century BC it was in the form of an open-air marketplace measuring 110 x 110 m. Repaired by the Emperor Caracalla at the beginning of the 3rd century, it was reduced to more or less the state we see it in today by a great earthquake in the 4th century. The largest centre of commerce in the city, foodstuffs and all sorts of manufactured goods were bought and sold here. The shops were arranged along the colonnades and opened into vaulted storerooms at the back. A water clock and sundial were placed in the middle of the agora.

Library of Celsus

Although the building is of a mainly cultural character it is also a funerary monument. After the death of Celsus Polemaneus, a former consul who had been appointed governor of Ephesus, his son erected a magnificent reading room over his tomb. The building, which dates from the 2nd century, was attacked by fire in 260 but the façade suffered no damage. It is 21m wide and 16m high. Equestrian statues stood on pedestals on each side of the main staircases and there are also indications that statues were placed in the niches on the upper floor. The main room measures 16 x 10m. The burial chamber under the ground floor contains a sarcophagus in an excellent state of preservation. Excavations carried out by Austrian archaeologists at the beginning of the 20th century revealed a 4th century fountain in the front courtyard and very valuable carvings in high relief depicting the wars waged by Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus against Parthians. Advantage was taken of legal loopholes existing at the time of the excavations to transfer these relief’s, together with four female statues from façade of the library, to the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna. The monumental façade as it stands today is the result of restoration work begun in the 1970s. Lead plates are placed at the top and bottom of the columns and the whole given a play of 50cm capable of withstanding a 9 degree earthquake on the east-west axis. A perforation of 10cm has been made in each of the columns and iron inserted. While work was in progress on the front façade an unknown aspect of Roman architecture was discovered in the form of a curve starting from zero at the bottom of the stairs and reaching 4.5cm at the bases of the columns. This curve reaches 10cm in converse fashion, a feature which until now was thought to have existed only in Greek architecture. This expedient is known to have been employed in order to increase the monumental effect over an area 21m in width. Restoration of the building was completed and the whole opened to the public in 1978.

Temple of Serapis

This temple dates from the 2nd century and was dedicated to Serapis, one of the Egyptian gods. It is of considerable importance as evidence of the atmosphere of tolerance that existed in Ephesus, the cosmopolitan character of whose population allowed the proliferation of a number of different religious beliefs. It is built in the Corinthian order, with marble of very high quality, and is remarkable for the size of its monolithic columns, some of them rising to a height of 12m. A door opening on rollers gives access to a long cult chamber in which a statue of Egyptian granite is thought to have stood. Some of the monolithic blocks weigh over 50 t. It would appear to have been left unfinished. There are no inscriptions.


The whole of the present-day complex dates from the 4th century. Situated immediately opposite the Library of Celsus, it consists of rooms and salons grouped around a courtyard measuring 20 x 20m. A narrow section gives access to the rooms and salons. On the left hand side of the entrance there was a section in which visitors wiped the mud and dust from their clothes. The houses are adorned with rich and interesting mosaics. The beautiful women are known to have been intellectual and well-educated and, besides enjoying privileges unknown to the ordinary Roman woman, such as being able to own their own houses and take part in demonstrations and elections, they also had the right to choose their own costumers.


This is in a very good state of preservation. It originally consisted of a semi-covered rectangular area surrounded by columns with marble and bronze statues in the centre and a pool affording ventilation. The room is surrounded by a row of marble seats with a marble conduit below it allowing a flow of water. The floor was covered with mosaics and the walls with marble panels. Use of the latrine was restricted to men, who paid a fee on entrance. Public latrines were built in order to obtain the uric acid used in tanning sheep and goatskins in the tanneries opened by the Emperor Vespasian.

Terrace houses

Some of these houses were first opened to the public in 1985, when restoration work was completed. It has been proved that this sector was used for urban development from the 1st century BC onwards. The houses were the property of various owners until the 7th century. The district enjoyed its peak of prosperity between the 2nd and 4th centuries. These were one-storey houses occupied by wealthy citizens or priests of noble lineage and composed of spacious rooms grouped around an open-air courtyard, the largest being used as reception and dining-rooms. It addition to kitchens and cellars a large number of bed-rooms have been unearthed. Water was supplied by fountains surrounded by mosaics. Some of the walls reach a height of 4m. Stairs leading to the upper storey have also been unearthed. For flooring, mosaics were preferred to marble pavements but marble was frequently employed in the thresholds. Wall decorations consist mainly of painting on plaster. A visit to the terrace houses should be supplemented by a visit to the Archaeological Museum in Selcuk in which a very rich collection of murals, furniture and utensils are exhibited.

Scholasticia baths

These baths date from the 1st century AD but were restored and enlarged in the 5th century by a wealthy woman by the name of Scholasticia. The hot room remains in a fairly good state of preservation and the well-preserved statue of the wealthy founder stands on the entrance terrace.

The street of the Curettes

This street runs from the Library of Celsus to the Gate of Hercules and thence to the Odeon. On the right, work is in progress on the Gate of Hadrian. In the same road a burial chamber, known as the “Octagon” has been discovered containing the bones of a young woman of about twenty years of age. The building itself has been dated to the 1st century, but marble slabs dating from the 4th century contain inscriptions recording the repairs carried out by the administrators Eutropius and Festus between the years 358 and 368.

The Temple of Hadrian

This Corinthian temple dates from the 2nd century but underwent repairs in the 4th and has recently been re-erected from the surviving architectural fragments. The reliefs in the upper section are casts, the originals being now exhibited in the Selcuk Archaeological Museum. The temple is a veritable miracle, a peerless specimen of Roman architecture. A number of interesting figures are depicted in the reliefs, including the Emperor Theodosius I, his wife and eldest son, the Emperor Arcadius accompanied by the goddess Athena (depicted at both ends of the block), Artemis of Ephesus and Androcles stalking a wild boar. In front of the façade stood statues of four important emperors (Diocletian, Constantine, Maximilian and Galerius). The pediment with its lacelike carving is adorned with a relief bust of the goddess Tyche. The entrance door is surrounded by an egg design and surmounted by a large Medusa relief.

Fountain of Trajan

Erected in the 2nd century, it has undergone partial repair. On the front façade there was a life-size statue of Trajan of which only the right foot and a portion of the torso has survived. A sculpture depicting two reclining satyrs and a statue of Aphrodite discovered here is now exhibited in the local museum. It is a two-storey structure 12m height surrounding the pool in front on three sides.

Gate of Hercules

This is dated to the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th century. A block adorned with a relief of Nike, the goddess of victory, now located a little further on, and originally stood at this gate, which consist of two blocks of stone with a relief depicting the combat of Hercules and the Nemaean lion. On the terrace immediately to the left of the gate there is a four-columned Hellenistic fountain.

Monument of Memmius

This monument was erected by the dictator Sulla in 86 BC as a symbol of Roman authority in Ephesus. The Ephesians lent support to Mithridates, king of Pontus, in his attempt to conquer the region in defiance of Rome. Having achieved his aim, he ordered a massacre of all Roman citizens in the region, in which, according to some sources, as many as 80.000 perished in a single night. This monument was erected as a memorial of this event.

Fountain of Pollio

This fountain, which dates from the 1st century AD, was dedicated to Sextilius Pollio, who was responsible for the constructor of the Marnas aqueduct. It has a concave façade. A sculpture group depicting one of the adventures of Ulysses discovered here was repaired and is now exhibited in the local museum.

Temple of Domitian

A member of the Flavian dynasty, Domitian became Emperor in 81 AD. At first an honest administrator he later became a tyrannical despot, proclaiming himself “Lord and God”. Assassinated with the connivance of his wife Domitia, his memory was damned by decree of the senate and all his statues destroyed. Erected on a pseudo dipteral plan with 8x13 columns, it was one of the largest temples in the city. A colossal statue was discovered here consisting of an arm with clenched fist made from a single piece of marble and a very well-preserved head. The temple and statue in Ephesus are of particularly great importance in view of the very few remains connected with Domitian.


Known as a place of worship dedicated to Artemis Boulaea, the Prytaneion was built during the reign of the Emperor Augustus, underwent repairs in the 3rd century and was destroyed at the end of the 4th. Here was to be found an urban sanctuary consisting of a square chamber paved with black and white marble containing an altar in a niche in front of which stood a figurine of the goddess Hestia, while the courtyard contained a statue of Athena. Here, too, burned the eternal flame symbolizing the life of the city.
The large building consisted of a courtyard surrounded by porticos containing rooms and chambers, the colonnaded courtyard opening into a rectangular chamber with a roof supported by four Corinthian columns, three of which have survived. The building also had a secular function. The city administrators, foreign guests and local philanthropists would gather here to dine together. The famous statue of Artemis as goddess of plenty now exhibited in the museum was discovered here in absolutely perfect condition.


This building in the form of a small theatre was built in the 2nd century at around the same time and by the same people, namely Varius Antonius and his wife Flavia Papiona, as the baths beside it. It differs from the theatre in function, being used for meetings of the municipal council and concerts. It also differed from the theatre in being roofed by a wooden awning providing protection from sun and rain. It had seating for between 1500 and 2000. The first five tiers above the orchestra are original, with the stairs adorned with lion’s paws in a very good state of preservation. An extraordinarily beautiful head of Eros found in the orchestra area is now exhibited in the Selcuk Museum.

State agora

Investigations have shown that until the 4th century AD the site of the agora, where it was the custom to hold all types of political activity (election, meetings, demonstrations, etc), was occupied by a cemetery through which ran the sacred way. In the western section of this rectangular structure, three sides of which are surrounded by rows of columns, excavations have revealed the foundation of a 1st century temple dedicated to the cult of Isis. Between the state agora and the odeum lies a three-aisled roofed structure, 160m in length, known as the Basilica. This is surrounded by three rows of columns with Corinthian and Ionic capitals adorned with bull’s heads. This was used as the city bourse where money-lenders and bankers would meet to exchange money. It was completely destroyed at the end of the 6th century. Beyond the state agora stands the Magnesian Gate, by which one leaves the ruins of Ephesus. Erected during the reign of Vespasian (69 – 79), in the form of a victory arch, this marks the beginning of the city walls surrounding the Panayir and Bulbul hills. On the left as you leave the gate you will see the eastern gymnasium, generally known as the women’s gymnasium built by the Sophist Domianus and his wife Faetrina in the 3rd century AD. Excavations yielded a number of statues of young women providing very important evidence regarding the education of girls in ancient times. This is further corroborated by the inclusion of the name of a woman among the founders.

Cave of the seven sleepers

The inscriptions in this cave date from the 1st century, making them the earliest known Christian documents. According to Mecdelli, the Virgin Mary resided in Ephesus and was buried there. An inscription in ancient Greek to the effect that the famous believer known as St Feotini was buried in this cave was observed during excavations carried out by the Austrian team. It was in this cave that seven young men are said to have gone to sleep during the reign of the Emperor Decius and wakened under the Christian Emperor Theodosius. The cave is located in Mt Panayir at a point outside the defense walls erected by Lysimachus. The place seems to have been concealed. A different version of the legend appears in the Qur’an.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Monasteries of Serbia

A Serbian monastery presents some of the most precious sacral monuments of Serbian Orthodox culture. The monasteries we have selected are but a portion of Serbian rich heritage, and came into being over a long period stretching from the 12th to the 20th centuries. Among the monasteries are some that have already become part of world cultural heritage in terms of their beauty and artistic merit, and some that have yet to be revealed to the world.
Monasteries are the fruit of a specific monastic spirit, rooted in medieval religiosity. They were – and remain today – small social communities profoundly devoted to the quest for God, and to special Christian aims. The center of Orthodox Christian monastery is the church (known as the “temple”), where religious services are performed. The most beautiful works of architecture, painting and applied arts are generally associated with the church area, as it is the focal point of daily life. However, it is the beauty of the monastery facilities – too frequently surrounded by massive walls – which invite admiration as well. Monasteries were built on the most picturesque sites, on mayor routes, and almost always near rivers and springs, so that pilgrimage to these holy sites offers travelers the unique pleasure of enjoying nature. The church, quest quarters, library, treasury, and refectory all form a circle within this mystical and divinely-inspired world.
The story about Serbian monasteries begins with the oldest Christian church – St Peter’s Church, in what is today southwestern Serbia. It is believed that the church was built sometime in the 6th or 7th centuries, and it is an established fact that it was an important spiritual center at the time of Stefan Nemanja (12th century), the founder of the illustrious Serbian Nemanjic dynasty. The most beautiful and precious monasteries were built while this dynasty was in power, so that these stylistically specific monasteries and the region in which most of them are located bear a common name – they are known as monuments of the Raska School. The most significant endowment of Stefan Nemanja is the Studenica monastery. In terms of architecture, this monastery – like the majority of others from this area – has features of the Adriatic Littoral Building School. Serbian monasteries bear witness to the interlacing of the distinctly beautiful Eastern and Western styles, and they also reflect the harmony of Byzantine and Western Christian art. The architecture of the Studenica Monastery Church is one of the most beautiful examples of this congruity. Paintings in the interior of the Church of the Mother of God also bear witness to supreme artistic achievements. One of the most famous frescoes is the Crucifixion – a monumental and moving composition. The Studenica monastery is a magnificent example of Serbian building and painting mastery, resulting in the fact that it has been listed as one of UNESCO’s monuments of World Heritage.
Medieval Serbian monasteries are an extraordinary example of the synthesis of the Byzantine and Mediterranean religious cultures. Nonetheless, the Byzantine culture had a decisive influence, which continued on as part of Serbian culture even after the decline and definitive fall of the Byzantine State. The chief spiritual source of medieval Serbian culture is Chilandar Monastery (dating from 12th century) located on Mt Athos in modern day Greece. The founders of Chilandar exerted a crucial influence on all areas of religious, political and cultural life in medieval Serbia.
The period between the 12th century and the latter half of the 14th century was an age in which the Serbian state flourished and became strong. The reigning Nemanjic family, and later patrician families, devoted great attention to setting up endowments. Deeply devoted to Christianity, and by way of building churches and monasteries, they spread the faith among the people, encouraged literacy and learning, enhanced Church organization, and eventually found their eternal resting-place in the endowments they themselves had built. One of the most treasured sacral buildings of the Nemanjic era is the Sopocani Monastery, and endowment of King Uros, who reigned in the 13th century. The mural at Sopocani ranks among the most magnificent and beautiful in European medieval art. The monumentality of Sopocani frescoes, the harmony of colors present, and the refinement of expression on the faces of the figures all contributed to its being granted a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The most famous frescoes of the central section of the church are those of the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Descent into Hades, and the individual figures of the Saints. Apart from the architecture, painting and applied arts, book publishing was perhaps the most significant – albeit today less visible – thread running through and decisively influencing the spirit of medieval art and culture.
Medieval Serbian books reflect the development of Byzantine greatest culture. All mayor authors of Christian Orthodox books since the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches of 1054 are represented in great number, as are some original texts. Works of the greatest Byzantine Christian authors were translated into Church Slavic. To mention but a few: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius the Great, Maxim the Confessor, John the Scholastic, etc. Serbian cultural heritage is best represented by books from the collections at the Chilandar Monastery, the Decani Monastery, and the Pec Patriarchate. Written by a master’s hand, these books were also the proving ground of Orthodox Christianity’s lofty achievements in miniature painting.
Mileseva Monastery is another jewel of the Nemanjic period. It was built by King Vladislav in the early 13th century. The church is dedicated to the Ascension of Our Lord, and is one of the most beautiful and gracious sacral buildings. Mileseva’s mural is world-renowned. This church boasts Serbian best-known fresco – a masterpiece of late medieval painting – the White Angel from the scene of the Holy Chrism Bearers at the Tomb of Christ. The figure of the Mother of God, which is part of the composition named “The Annunciation”, stands apart due to its beauty.
The monasteries in the region Kosovo and Metohija are of exceptional value. During the late middle Ages, this region was the center of the Serbian Church and State. The most monumental building in medieval Serbia is the church devoted to Christ the Pantocrator at Decani Monastery, whose construction was initiated by King Stefan Decanski. It was his son, the famous Emperor Stefan Dusan who completed his father’s work during the 13th century. The Decani Church boasts the richest and best-preserved sculpture in the Romanesque-Gothic style: a lavish portal, sculptures, and decorative windows. In addition, the Decani Church frescoes bear witness to the royal origins of the Nemanjic dynasty, and of the founding families. What makes this monastery exceptional is also its treasury, which is the keeper of precious old icons and other objects of superb craftsmanship.
Also noteworthy from among the Kosovo and Metohija monasteries is Gracanica – the monastery church devoted to the Annunciation. It was built by King Milutin in the early 14th century, as an endowment. Gracanica’s architectural structure represents the peak of building mastery in Serbia, following the spirit of Byzantine tradition. However, it also stands apart as a work of harmonious proportions and of extraordinary beauty. Furthermore, the complex of the Pec Patriarchate holds its own too, with its four wonderful churches. The oldest, dedicated to the Holy Apostles, was built in the mid 13th century, while the last, devoted to St. Nicholas, dates back to the first half of the 14th century. The Pec Patriarchate plays a mayor role in the history of Church and State in Serbia. In the very center of Prizren is another pearl of medieval Serbian building mastery – the Church of the Mother of God of Ljevisa. The great builder, King Milutin, had it constructed as an endowment in the early 14th century. The church was designed in the Byzantine style, while its murals belong to the Byzantine Renaissance. Of the frescoes from the oldest layer, The Feasts in Canaan and The Healing of the Blind are particularly noteworthy.
Art historians and medieval art aesthetics specialists have ruled that Russian icons, Byzantine mosaics and Serbian frescoes stand unrivalled in Christian Orthodox art. The renowned, and less known Serbian frescoes are also of outstanding value, not only to Eastern Orthodoxy, but also to European and world art in general. At the root of this beauty lies the artist’s ethic and aesthetic ideal to bring into this world the splendor of the Son of God – Christ.
The beginning of the end of the Serbian medieval state commenced in 1371, when the Serbian army suffered defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the Battle of the Marica. It was in this battle that the last ruler of the Nemanjic dynasty was killed – Emperor Stefan Uros I. A regional lord, Lazar Hrebeljanovic succeeded in consolidating parts of the Serbian empire. He, like his successors – Despot Stefan Lazarevic and Despot Djuradj Brankovic – continued the thriving tradition of Serbian rulers and noblemen of setting up endowments. The center of the Serbian State shifted to the central and northern parts of the country. Despite facing an unrelenting Turkish military threat, the country developed culturally and spiritually. It was during this era – which lasted for almost a century – that many original works of exceptional quality were created. The style of this epoch has some common characteristics, and was termed the Morava School. Morava style architecture had elements of the Greek trefoil base, specific facades were built alternately of stone and brick, and it boasted examples of Romanesque decorative plastics. Churches in the Morava style were pronouncedly decorative and vivid, while at the same time revealing an undisturbed harmony. One of the first edifices of the new Morava style architecture is the Lazarica Church, built in Krusevac, the new capital of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic. The most beautiful monasteries of this epoch and style are Ravanica, Kalenic, Ljubostinja, Manasija and Naupara.
A decisive spiritual influence during this period was exerted by Hesychasm, pointing out prayer as the road to sanctity. For hesychasts, the motive of Christ’s mystical Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and the motive of Holy Warriors were of singular importance. The essence and climax of Orthodox Christian religious mystique is transfiguration by way of the Divine Light. The frescoes of this period strongly advocate these ideas, which also reflected on both the motives and on the specific style, characterized by a unique transparency and an uncanny mystique of colors. It was under the influence of hesychasm that the frescoes of the Kalenic Monastery were painted, representing the highest achievement in wall painting of this period. Of the frescoes from this period, we single out that form the Monastery of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Manasija. This period, in which people lived and worked under conditions that were out of the ordinary, immediately precedes the definitive fall of the Serbian medieval state in 1456. It appears that this epoch – although under continual threat and unrelenting pressure form the Turkish military – accumulated the old and created new values that served as the driving force, lending vitality to Serbian culture so that it would survive the long period of Turkish occupation in the centuries follow. A conquered people, without a state or a military, drew its strength from its faith and its Church, as this was the sole remaining organized institution. This is the reason why monasteries were of singular importance, as they sustained the spark of spirituality that enabled the Serbian people to definitively rid itself of Turkish occupation in the 19th century. Time spent under the Turkish occupation was unequaled in its hardship. Even in such circumstances, new churches and monasteries were built, and those destroyed were restored. A large number of them were built in the second half of the 16th century, and in the early 17th century. The founders of these monasteries were no longer rulers or the nobility, but priests and ordinary people – mostly craftsmen and merchants. Tronosa Monastery, and Blagovestenja Monastery, located in the Ovcar-Kablar Canyon, is both examples of such monasteries. In memory of the golden age of Serbian building monastery, the monastery churches were built using as examples the oldest churches of the Raska School.
There is literally not a single monastery that has not suffered minor or extensive devastation. Orthodox Christian churches were frequently turned into Moslem houses of prayer. For example, the Church of the Mother of God of Ljevise in Prizren was converted into a mosque, and its frescoes covered with plaster for centuries. Churches were turned into stables and storerooms for gunpowder. Roofless, they were exposed to the elements, torched, their most valuable items looted and lost forever. The cult of holy relics – the veneration of the earthly remains of rulers and saints – is very strong in Serbian tradition. One of the greatest cults was the cult of the relics of St. Sava, and undoubtedly the most tragic loss occurred in the late 16th century when the Ottoman conquerors burned this holiest of Serbian holies. During the centuries of occupation, a part of the Serbian population migrated northward in waves. Their destination was the Pannonian plain. Imbued with strong religious spirit, the fleeing monks, priests and Serbian refugees built a large number of monasteries and churches in this region. An Orthodox Christian missionary center was set up in what is today the northern province of Vojvodina, to preserve religion and strengthen the national spirit. The monasteries and churches of Vojvodina are a specific world that transmitted old patterns, blending them with the styles of the new age. The most numerous colonies were created on Mt. Fruska Gora, where, according to some records, there were as many as 35 monasteries. A total of 17 are still standing in this region.
Uprooted from their ancestral lands, the Serbian people began creating lore about the founding of the monasteries on Mt. Fruska Gora. In these legends, the illustrious Serbian rulers of old were identified as monastery founders. There is a tradition, according to which the Vrdnik Monastery was founded by Serbian Prince Lazar. Despot Djuradj Brankovic – the last of the Serbian rulers – was said to have founded the Staro and Novo Hopovo Monasteries., as well as Fenek and Krusedol. As tradition has it, there actually may be some traces of historical proof to support these claims, but all these romanticized stories testify more to an overwhelming desire to establish connections with a distant and glorious past, thus enhancing the spirit of an exiled and conquered Serbian people. Documented history offers evidence of the existence of a large number of Orthodox Christian monasteries in Vojvodina in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. As regards architectural style, it is not easy to pick out all the influences contributing to the present day appearance of monasteries in Vojvodina and on Fruska Gora. In the beginning, most of the monasteries were built after models of the Morava and Raska Schools, but the spirit of the Baroque effected a strong influence in the 18th century, resulting in a blend that may best be seen in the tall Baroque church steeples subsequently built next to the original churches. A strong impact on church paintings and applied arts was also made by the Baroque and Neo-classicist styles.
Pokajnica Church, which was built as a token of repentance for the assassination of Karadjordje – the leader of the First Serbian Uprising – is of historical interest. It is an extraordinary example of the style of log-cabin churches, of which there are many throughout Serbia. The St. George Church at Oplenac was the endowment and mausoleum of the Karadjordjevic dynasty. Copies of all the most beautiful frescoes of Serbian medieval painting are displayed as mosaics in this church. From the artistic point of few, the most significant monasteries and churches were built during the time of the Nemanjic dynasty (12th – 14th centuries), while the other important period was the reign Prince Lazar and his descries. Up until the 19th century, monasteries – both old and new – were the only educational institutions. During the Ottoman occupation, it was they who safeguarded the spirit and memory essential to preserving the Serbian religious heritage, as well as meeting the challenges of the new age. Despite the occupation, most monasteries functioned in continuity, and today there are in excess of 200 of them in Serbia. By presenting the monasteries of Serbia, Serbia present most precious cultural monuments, as well as the turbulent history of the Serbian people.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Artemisia - The Mother Goddess, Artemis of the Ephesians

Artemis is the name given to a divinity worshipped for centuries in the Mediterranean world. Kubala, recognized as Mother Goddess throughout the whole of Mesopotamia, was referred to in the Phrygian language as Kybele. The cult of the goddess had spread from Anatolia to Mesopotamia, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, thence to Egypt and from the Aegean Island to Crete. It can also be traced in Greece and Italy as well as in the northern countries. This goddess, who symbolized the soil and its fruitfulness and the fertility of nature, was worshipped under various names at various times and in various places. Although there is no definite information regarding the development of this cult in Ephesus, Artemis is clearly regarded in Homeric eulogy as an Ionian goddess.
One of the constant attributes of the goddess is the number three. Artemis is regarded as virgin, wife and mother. “The whole of nature was subject to this primitive goddess. It is by her orders that the earth brings forth fruit and flowers. She rules the elements, the air, the earth and the sea. She governs the life of the animals; she tames the wild beasts and prevents their extinction… She assists in birth. Homer calls her “the goddess of wild animals”. Artemis became the tutelary goddess of Marsilia, Carthage, and the cities of the Near East. As the ruler of civilization she wore a head-dress crowned with city towers. Each year, she was celebrated almost everywhere in great festivals as the fertility goddess and granted innumerable prayers. She was described as the “bee goddess” and on one side of the Ephesus coins was to be found the queen bee as the symbol of Artemis. The hymn written by Callimachos to Artemis ends with a sentence describing Amazon dance. “Let no one refrain from the annual dance of Artemis”. The annual festival of Artemis lasted for a month, during which time people came pouring into Ephesus from the four corners of the known world to take part in the entertainments, dances and commercial activities.”
The first temple dedicated to Artemis was completed in 625 BC and destroyed during the Cimmerian invasions. According to Pliny, this imposing building was destroyed and rebuilt nine times. This archaic building possessed marble columns, some of which were donated by Croesus, King of Lydia. An older building was unearthed with the same plan and dimensions, remains from which are now preserved in the British Museum. Three other floors belonging to the old building were unearthed by David George Hogarth, who was in charge of the excavations carried out here in 1904 – 1906 on behalf of the same museum. The coins discovered in the lowest floor date from the 6th century BC. The later Artemisia was built in 564 – 540 BC. The most distinguished artist and architects of the day, Scopas, Praxiteles, Polycleitos, Phidias, Cresilas, Cydon and Apellas combined to produce a magnificent building four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. Appeles was responsible for the picture “Aphrodite Anadiomene” within the temple. According to Pliny’s Naturalis Historia, this was an Ionic temple measuring 200 x 425 m with 127 columns reaching a height of 20 m.
Regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the building is said to have been destroyed by a madman by the name Herostratos who burned down the temple in order to immortalize his name. Alexander the Great, on his way to the Persian campaign, offered to defray the expenses of the restoration of the building provided he might be permitted to make the dedicatory inscription in his own name, but the Ephesians declined the offer on the grounds that it was not fitting for a temple to be dedicated to two gods, thus refusing the offer without hurting his pride. The new temple, built in the years 334 – 260 BC, was the largest Greek temple then in existence.
It was erected on the foundations of the older temple and was thus exactly the same size, but owing to the marshy nature of the land it was raised on a crepidoma of sixteen steps. It lay on an east-west axis on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the sea with sacred harbors, allowing ships to be moored directly to the steps of the temple. The architects of the first building built by Croesus were Chersiphron and Metesenes, while Critocrates and Oritocrates are said to have been the architects responsible for the 4th century BC building. The temple was destroyed by the invading Goths in 262 AD and never rebuilt. The Temple of Artemis was a prototype of the Ionic style. The Artemisia was first and foremost a religious institution. A large number of priests and priestesses lived in the temple. Coins were minted there, credit given and a type of banking carried out.
Festivities were held in May each year to celebrate the birthday of the goddess. Until the spread of Christianity and monotheism, Ephesus was a place of pilgrimage. Moreover, all sorts of criminals and wrong-doers found sanctuary in the temple, whose sanctity was respected by all the rulers of Western Anatolia. When St Paul arrived in Ephesus preaching a belief in one god, he was confronted by the Ephesians chanting their slogan “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”, but when, in the Christian era, the worship of their goddess was finally prohibited, they transferred some of the attributes of Artemis to the Virgin Mary.


The first temple was unearthed in excavations carried out on behalf of the British Museum in 1869 – 1874 by J.T. Wood, who was employed at that time on the construction of the railroad. A corner of the temple was discovered in 1869. The finds were transported first to Izmir then via Venice to London. At the present day the most important of the finds from the temple are preserved in the British Museum. According to old sources some of the architectural elements from the temple were employed in the construction of the basilica of Ayasofya.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Forming extensions off Northern Greece into the Aegean Sea, Halkidiki proudly boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, and long spectacular coastlines overlooked by mountains with rich, colorful and lush vegetation.
Halkidiki is surrounded by water on three sides and to the south it juts out three peninsulas of similar size and orientation (Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos). It is famous for its natural beauty which can offer a memorable holiday for those seeking bustling resorts or settings of relaxed and captivating scenery.
The northern region, adjacent to central Macedonia, is dominated by the mountain range of Holomondas (115 m height). The peaceful and fresh uplands are covered by dense forests while the lower slopes are set against a beautiful backdrop of meadows, pine, and cypress and olive trees.
The rest of the countryside comprises rolling hills of farmland and a coastline of sandy beaches with crystal clear waters. Beaches are long and gentle in the west while more secluded in the south and east. Important ancient sites not to be missed are the spectacular cave of Petralona, the excavated town of Olynthos, the museum of Poligiros, the birth place of philosopher Aristotle, and a number of towers. The larger towns and ports of Halkidiki are also to be found here.

Kassandra is the most western prong and practically an island as it is separated from the mainland by the Channel of Potidea. The top part of this prong is rolling farmland while moving south the landscape changes to higher hills covered with lush pine forests. Along the coastline lie numerous excellent long sandy beaches and popular resorts providing a wide range of facilities and entertainment. The western coast is less developed and even less is the inland countryside which is an especially attractive hilly area covered by forests and typical Mediterranean shrub vegetation.

Sithonia is the middle prong. It is famous for its natural beauty and dramatic views. Its backbone is a mountain range reaching a height of 750 m. Most of the slopes are covered with lush Mediterranean forests which reach the twisting, idyllic seashore with its numerous sheltered sandy beaches. The eastern side is particularly rich in vegetation while the western side is relished with vineyards and rocky outcrops of unusual shape. Preserved inland villages provide an extra interest to the area.

Athos (Holy Mountain)
Is a mountainous area dominated by the peak of Mt Athos (2000m). It s been an area devoted to monastic life and worshipping since the 10th c. Nowadays, it hosts 20 monasteries of remarkable architecture located in spectacular settings. Female visitors are not allowed in this area while Male visitors have to apply for a visit.
Resorts and towns
Along coastline of verdant landscapes and magnificent sandy beaches have made Halkidiki a very popular holiday destination. Small fishing villages have grown into resorts in the last twenty years. These memorable settings can now cater for a large number of visitors, providing ample accommodation (from luxury hotels to camping sites), an abundance of eating places (Greek and international cuisine), shopping, lively entertainment and sports. The large number of resorts and villages makes the choice wider and gives the possibility of finding quiet places, even in the high season.
Other than the main resorts there are smaller resorts suitable for a quiet holiday, in picturesque settings by the sea or inland. These are peaceful hideaway places except from mid July to mid August when they tend to attract a higher numbers of visitors. Halkidiki has a number of interesting towns, most of them to be round in the northern part. Poligiros (population 5.000) is the capital of Halkidiki and lies on a southern slope of Mt. Holomondas. Arnea (38 km from Poligiros) is a small market town famous for its well preserved architecture and handicrafts. Nea Moudania (population 6.000) and Nea Moudania (population 4.000) are two modern towns on the west coats. They are important commercial centers and fishing ports. Agios Nikolaos (population 3.000) and Kasandria (population 4.000) are smaller towns with well preserved old houses and alleyways. Neos Marmaras (population 2.500) is a small seaside town and busy resort with scenic surroundings. Ierissos (population 3.000), a small seaside town and resort and a busy fishing port.

Stretching over 850km, the coastline of Halkidiki has an abundance of unspoiled beaches varying in size and shape from long open stretches to small cove-like hideaways. In many parts the beaches are overlooked by trees and shrub vegetation making it easier to provide shade from the hot sun, while many large resorts have water sports facilities. For the busier beaches, head to the east side of the Kassandra peninsula, to the south-western coast of the northern part and the beaches near Neos Marmaras on Sithonia. On the other hand, for those seeking quieter and less crowded settings, these are to be found in the west side of Kassandra, on most of Sithonia and the south-eastern coast of the northern part of Halkidiki.

Greek Cuisine
Greek food has a long history and has developed a lot through morals and traditions of the Greek people. Examples of such an influence can be seen in the number of special dishes prepared on certain days all over Greece: the meals according to fasting before Easter, fried cod and garlic dip on the day of Annunciation, sweet bread and colored eggs on Maundy Thursday, lamb on the spit and lamb soup on Easter Sunday, the biscuits and pudding from grape juice in September. Lunch is from 1pm to 3pm while dinner is normally late in the evening from 9pm to midnight.
Meals are served in taverns and restaurants. The distinction between the two is not very clear but the former tends to have a more relaxed atmosphere and service can be cheaper than the latter. Pizzerias serve a wide range of pizzas and a selection of pasta dishes. Service charge is always included in the price of the menu. Ordering and eating a meal in the Greek way can be a unique experience as it is common for the food and particularly the starters to be shared by all around the table. A full meal would consist of starters which can be a very filling part and a difficult task to choose from the big range of dips, pies, fried vegetables, salads, salted fish and fried seafood. The main course can be meat, fish, poultry, cooked vegetables, all accompanied by salads. Desserts and coffee of a better quality can be found in one of the many pastry shops which stay open from morning to around 2am. For a snack, there are take away shops serving bread, pita or pancakes with various fillings, pizza slices and burgers. There is a wide range of fish to choose from. Small are usually fried, while large ones are barbequed and served with oil and lemon as a dressing. Fish can be chosen from the kitchen, its freshness can be checked by its eyes which should be clear but not cloudy, and the body firm to touch. The Greek breakfast consist of fresh bread with honey or jam, cheese on toast, cheese and ham sandwich, and a range of pies and fruits. It is often served in sweet shops and some take-away shops. The ones in resort are likely to serve omelets and fried breakfast too.
There are different styles of wine to try which are produced locally and throughout the rest of the country. Wine can be ordered with a meal at a tavern, restaurant or at a bar. It is also possible to order the house wine or retsina wine at a tavern. It is popular to accompany starters with strong drinks such as ouzo or tsipouro. Greek people drink mainly herbal tea. Black tea is not a common drink but can be found in cafes in resorts or big towns. You need to order fresh milk if you want to add it to your tea. You can find all types of coffee ranging from instant, filtered, ice coffee, the famous Greek coffee, and recently expresso.

Traveling through time
For visitors who wish to experience the history of Halkidiki there are many sites dating from the recent or ancient past. Churches and monasteries have always been places of particular importance in the life of Greek people and so many have been preserved for centuries. Some of the oldest churches in the area are:

- Panagia (Virgin Mary)(19th c.) on the road from Megali Panagia to Gomati
- Agia Paraskevi (19th c.) in Galatista
- Panagia Faneromeni (17th c.) 2 km south of Nea Skioni
- Panagia (17th c.) 1 km west of Kalandra
- Taxiarhon (19th c.) 1 km south of Potidea
- Agios Dimitros (19th c.) in Athitos
- Agios Athanasios (18th c.) in Sikia
- Agios Pavlos (19th c.) 10 km south of Nikiti

Other old structures include towers, castles and remains of ancient towns. The best excavated town is Olinthos which in ancient times played a significant role. Today one can appreciate and see the well organized layout of the town in a rectangular pattern, the well-preserved mosaics and paving. The ancient town of Stagira is located in the north-east of Halkidiki and is famous as the birth place of the philosopher Aristotle (4th c BC). The castle of Lecythus dates from the Byzantine period and stands on a small peninsula at the southern end at the bay of Toroni. In Nea Potidea there are remains of the fortification which used to separate the peninsula of Kassandra from the rest of Halkidiki. The channel of Potidea was mentioned from the 1st c. AD. The shape of the channel as seen today was constructed in the 1930s.
There are a large number of towers scattered all over Halkidiki that were built to protect land that was owned by monasteries on Mount Athos. Such towers are:
Phosphorion (14th c.) is the biggest and best preserved tower standing on the sea front of Ouranoupolis, Krouna (height 15m) 2 km north of Ierissos, Agios Nikolaos (height 15m) dating from the 14th c., 4 km north of Olintos, Zografou (14th c.), Galatista (14th c.), Agios Pavlos (height 17m) dating from the 14th c. in Nea Fokea, Stavronikita (height 8m) dating from the 16th c. in Sani. The lighthouse of Possidi was built in the late 19th c. and stands on a wide sandy beach.
There are villages and small towns which have maintained their local character and even today one can admire the architecture of the houses and beauty of their location.
The cave of Petralona is famous for its stalagmite formations and findings which prove that human life existed 700.000 years ago.
Local fairs and religious celebrations are excellent opportunities for visitors to mingle with locals, join in Greek dances and taste the local cuisine. Every year on last Sunday of July brave Greek and other origin swimmers take part in the crossing of the Toroneos gulf.