The Charioteer of Delphoi

The Iniokhos (Rein-holder) or Charioteer with a whole room to itself, is one of the main highlights of the superb museum at the archaeological site in Delphoi. The statue was buried in an earthquake in 330 BC and was only discovered in 1896. It is estimated that this statue was made during the 470s BC, possibly by Pythagoras of Samos (yes, that one) and is one of the few bronzes to survive from Ancient Greece.

The statue as it stands now looks too tall, but originally it was on a chariot (now lost) and probably in that context the perspective would then have corrected this impression. Several things struck me as I walked round it. The most immediate is the hypnotic, onyx eyes that draw your attention to the face.

Then there are the delicate folds on the upper arms of his tunic, followed by the delicate rendering of the right hand holding the reins.Finally, almost in contrast to the idealisation of the rest of the figure, there are those feet, veined, a bit gnarled, bigger than expected. Sometimes statues were made to be seen only from the front and the back of them can be rough and unfinished. But this is not the case here: the sculptor has taken as much care with the detail of the Charioteer’s back and tunic as with the front.

This statue features in a poem by Nikiforos Vrettakos that I read before visiting Greece last summer. I have just been trying to translate it, but it is rather flowery and a bit too difficult to get into reasonable English, so I’ll have to work on it a bit more before I can post it.

I’m conscious that this year I have been posting a lot of translations of poems and songs which I really enjoy. I hope that in 2018 I will get back to posting on some more of my travels in Greece, France and Sicily.

Happy New Year and enjoy your own journeys in 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good morning, sadness by Odysseas Elytis


Black Square – Kasimir Malevich (1915)

In this darkest time of the year, missing the sun and long, light evenings, my mood dips and I feel like hibernating. The classic symptoms of SAD which I have had since childhood. These light deprived days and our frequent leaden skies, remind me of that couplet from one of Baudelaire’s Spleen poems:
Quand le ciel, bas et lourd, pèse comme un couvercle
Sur l’esprit gémissant, en proie aux longs ennuis.

Looking over some of the Greek poems I have studied over the past year, I came across this one by Odysseas Elytis from his collection Maria Nefeli. I find he is often obscure and difficult to understand, but this short poem has the directness of everyday language and seems to speak out of a personal experience of depression. It offers no great insight or comfort, other than his own observation of sadness. It seems to me that Elytis may also have had SAD and that is why the sun is such a potent symbol in his work, and maybe why he described himself as ‘iliopotis’, a sun drinker.   

Good morning, sadness

Hello, sadness
Good morning, sadness
the insect that nestles inside me
and watches all night long for me to open my eyes…

Initially I have forgotten you:
I look at the lines on the ceiling –
but suddenly you invade
my consciousness.

You come and make my morning coffee taste bitter
and see off the least pleasure
of my hand on the window catch
you bring troubles to the bath water
provoke the first unpleasant telephone call
you are a monster
a miniature Minotaur that demands food
and is kept alive by the least thing…

Eat, eat, Minotaur:
this is flesh, not air
if you carry on this way, there’ll be nothing left.

Hello, sadness
Good morning, sadness
you have installed yourself permanently inside us
you are worse than viruses and bacilli
philosophers examine you through a spectroscope
you have given rise to an exceptional literature.

 

 

 

Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora in Athens

Stoa of Attalos - Athens

Here’s a shot of the Stoa of Attalos that I took last summer when visiting the Ancient Agora in Athens. Although it was actually rebuilt by the American School of Classical Studies in the mid 50s, it seems to be a very authentic restoration. There’s a fascinating museum on the ground floor which I will cover in a separate post and some interesting sculptures under the portico.