Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shoppers, Gods, Emperors & A Bear (Oh My!)

I've received tens of thousands of e-mails from my readers asking for an update on the international incident I nearly caused - or rather, nearly caused by that little troll of a guard at the Acropolis. First of all, thank you for your concern and just to put your minds at rest, the city of Athens has officially apologized, all ambassadors are back at their respective posts, and that little troll of a guard has been reassigned as the city's dog poop cleaner. With all the stray dogs in Athens, he'll be a very busy troll - I mean, man.

My being banned from the Acropolis was extremely upsetting, but to give my bipedal attendants their due, that didn't deter them from snapping photos of me at Athens' other historic sites. Of course, having said that, the guards at the other sites weren't as zealous as that troll but we had to keep a sharp eye out, just in case.

After the debacle at the Parthenon, we descended the Acropolis and continued on our way to the Agora - which just means "market". From 3,000 b.c.e., this was the heart of the ancient city as both a place to shop as well as a meeting spot for merchants, gossips, and politicians. This was where citizens could ostracize (from the Greek word ostraka, or potsherds) their rivals, tyrants & people who looked at them the wrong way. You simply scratched a name on a potsherd and popped it into a big urn. If 5,999 other Athenians agreed with you, the unlucky fellow was exiled for 10 years with no chance of appeal. This was an important feature of that crazy new fad called democracy.

I didn't have to worry about being ostracized because that had been already taken care of at the Parthenon.

You can see me (above, left) in the stoa (Greek for "covered walkways"), a columned colon
nade under which shops and stalls stood, and which offered protection from the elements to potential shoppers. Its modern-day equivalent would be an outdoor shopping plaza. In fact, my female bipedal thought she'd be able to do some shopping here. Her ignorance astounds me some time - besides, how many fridge magnets does one person need?

Not far from the Agora stands the Hephaisteion (above, right) - probably the best preserved Greek temple in all of Greece (although it was a Greek Orthodox church for some 1200 years). It was built in the 5th century b.c.e. to honour Hephaistos, the crippled blacksmith of the gods, and a god himself. You may know him by his Roman name Vulcan (as in our word volcano: think of his fiery furnace).

Hephaistos, besides being lame, was not very attractive and there are lots of myths about his being spurned by Greece's goddesses, including Athena herself. He was said to be so ugly that when he was born, his mother Hera was so appalled at what she had given birth to that she hurled him from Mount Olympus - and it took nine days & nights for him to reach the ground.

I bet he never
sent her a card on Mother's Day.

He did eventually find a bride: the goddess of love Aphrodite (or Venus, in the Roman version). Zeus arranged the marriage so that the other gods would stop squabbling over Aphrodite. I don't think she was too pleased with the match but I doubt she was very faithful either. My female bipedal attendant tells me that there beautiful women have to bear (bear!) many trials and tribulations - although I don't know how she would know that.

It was from Hephaistos that Prometheus stole a spark of fire - thus bringing fire to humankind - and it was
he who fashioned Achilles' armour (although he forgot about the heel) and who created the box which ended up in Pandora's curious hands.

We decided to push our luck with the city's antiquities guards a little further - always keeping our eyes open - and stopped for a photo at Hadrian's Arch (bottom, right). This huge gateway bears (bears!) an inscription which states that Athens is the city of the Emperor Hadrian - the fellow that built the big wall in the north of England - but beyond that we don't know what his actual involvement was.

Hadrian was born in the 1st century and died in the 2nd: he was a Stoic, an Epicurean, Emperor of Rome, and later a god. And a Capricorn. He was born in the city of Italica which lies just outside of Seville in Spain - which gave birth to another Roman Emperor: Trajan. I love Seville. *Sigh* - I miss Spain.

Among all of his positive and not-so positive exploits (Hadrian d
eified his lover after his untimely drowning), battles (he quashed the 2nd Jewish Revolt), accomplishments (he banned circumcision, saying it was barbaric) and travels (he spent more than half his reign outside of Italy), it is believed that Hadrian popularized the beard among Romans (until then it was a Greek thing). As a former international fashion model, I know how easy it is to start a trend. In the autumn of '98, everyone (and I mean everyone) was wearing grey flannel! - but the truth is, he had lots of warts and scars on his face which he tried to hide with his beard.

Anyway, all that we have in Athens is his arch while there's an entire gate belonging to Hadrian in Antalya, here in Turkey. I guess that bears (bears!) visiting too. I wonder what the guards are like there ... hopefully I won't be ostracized from Antalya. As it is, I think I'll have to wait 10 years before I can return to Athens. No wait! - I forgot! That little troll of an antiquities guard is scooping up dog turds as I, or rather my bipedal types this. What goes around, comes around ... or maybe in his case, shit rolls downhill.


H-Face said...

Good Post GB. I always look forward to reading your posts! I'm glad that we managed to avoid those other security guards. It would have been terrible to have no photos of you in "Ancient Athens"!

Anonymous said...

One of your best posts Grey Bear.
Isn't it amazing how fast world incidents can happen. Royal heads would have rolled for lesser reasons.
I'm glad you are big enough to forgive that troll. You did forgive him didn't you?

Grey Bear said...

Well, yes ... as a freelance Goodwill Ambassador, I have forgiven him but a little part of me is thrilled that he's sweeping up dog poop from the streets of Athens. There are a LOT of dogs there and they are very very big!