Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Translucent roof to illuminate Zeus’ face inside his temple at Olympia

What will they come up next, you’ll ask. Yet the theory is not as crazy as it may seem.

[Reconstruction of the statue of Zeus at the Hermitage Museum, Credit: George Shuklin/WikiCommons]

Descriptions from antiquity give us details about the eyes and the hair of the 12-meters-high statue of Zeus that occupied the temple at Olympia after Phidias completed it in 432 BC. We know that the statue was an acrolith, i.e. a wooden frame covered with ivory and gold (see also my earlier blog: The ladies of Morgantina), but its beauty and uniqueness made it one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

The Temple of Olympia has no windows and the door was not of exceptional size but still people were able to describe Zeus’ looks. There must have been a trick, right?

In a recent study, a team of researchers have concentrate on the marble roof of the temple testing the translucency of different types of marble. It turns out that slabs of 2.8 to 3 cm thick Pentelic marble, the kind found in the mountains behind Athens, let true more light than marble from Paros and probably just enough to discover Zeus’ features once the visitor’s eyesight became accustomed to the darkness inside the temple. Special light meters and a spectrophotometer have revealed a high transparency level in the yellow-red of the spectrum, meaning that the thin slabs of Pentelic marble were capable of illuminating objects made of ivory and gold. In a natural way the roof could have let enough light through to discern the face (especially the eyes) and the head of this tall Zeus.

An additional argument to support this theory of using Pentelic marble may be found in the fact that the Greeks replaced the original Paros marble plates of the temple by plates of Pentelic marble – a coincidence or a preference for cheaper construction material, we’ll never know for nothing has remained of the great sculpture. After the temple of Olympia was destroyed by repetitive earthquakes, the statue was moved to Constantinople (now Istanbul) where it went up in flames in 475 AD.

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