GODDESS ATHENA AND HER SACRED TEMPLE, THE PARTHENON

Today, I am re-issuing an old post of mine. It is about Goddess Athena and her magnificent temple on the Athens Acropolis – the Parthenon. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Goddess Athena was greatly revered by the ancient Greeks. One of her many epithets, Pallada (or Pallas), was owed to the peculiarity of her birth. According to legend, she sprang forth from the forehead of her father Zeus, fully armed and shaking her spear fiercely, making a fearsome sound. The word Pallada is derived from the Greek word ‘pallein’ which means ‘to shake’.

This divine young virgin was among other things, the goddess of wisdom and justice. Her sacred symbols include the owl and the olive tree. According to legend, she challenged Poseidon on the Athens Acropolis aiming to win the patronship of the city. The two Gods agreed to each offer a gift before king Cecrops and the witnessing Athenians; the better gift would grant the deity the greatly desired patronship status.

Poseidon went first, striking the Acropolis Rock with his trident to produce the Sea of Erechtheus; a salt spring. As the myth goes, the Athenians weren’t particularly impressed with this gift, as the water wasn’t fit to drink. Poseidon then offered a second gift, a horse, to be used for war. When Athena’s turn came, she struck the ground with her spear and an olive tree sprouted from it swiftly; a magnificent gift to be used for nourishment, beauty and light in the dark. King Cecrops and the people of Athens favored the gift of the olive tree and declared Athena the patron deity of the city that inevitably took on her name.

According to myth, Poseidon was enraged by this and stormed to western Attica, where he flooded the Thriasian Plain. His rivalry with Athena, even though she is his niece, is legendary in Greek mythology. Homer’s Odyssey illustrates it heavily, telling the world of this fearsome uncle and his cunning niece who fight over the fate of Odysseus. The cunning Greek king and his loyal crew roamed the sea for years, going through infamous trials and tribulations as they made their way back home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Although Poseidon tried to lead Odysseus to his demise, furious with him for blinding his beloved son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, Athena kept going against his will assisting Odysseus out of difficult situations, until he made it safely home back to his palace and faithful wife, Penelope.

The Athenians loved their patron Goddess like no other deity. During the Golden Age of Athens (460-430 BC), under the leadership of Pericles, they built the Parthenon atop the Acropolis hill, along with other glorious edifices; all of them famous through history in their own right as well: The Propylaea, The Erechtheion and The Temple of Athena Nike.

Famous architects Iktinos and Kallikrates took over the construction and the legendary sculptor Phidias was commissioned to create the colossal chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Athena for the interior of the Parthenon, which was named Athena Parthenos (Athena The Virgin). Phidias also sculpted the gigantic bronze statue Athena Promachos (Athena standing in the front line in battle). This statue was placed between The Parthenon and The Propylaea.

The word Parthenon is derived from the word ‘parthenos’ which means ‘virgin’ as per the epithet ‘Virgin’ for Athena. Once in four years, the Panathinaia Festival took place in honor of the Goddess. Although it also involved athletic events similar to the Olympic Games, the main event was the religious procession that made its way from The Parthenon to the town of Elefsis via Iera Odos (The Sacred Way); today, Iera Odos survives as a busy motorway between Athens and the historical town of Elefsis (also spelled Eleusis in English). This historic town is also the very site of the infamous Eleusinian Mysteries of antiquity that to this day, historians know very little about.

The archeological site in Eleusis, the seaside town west of Athens that held the infamous Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient times.

Over the millennia, The Parthenon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, has suffered devastation repeatedly and on a large scale. Other than being occupied by the Turks and turned into a mosque in the 1460s, it was also bombed by the Venetians in 1687, cruelly looted by Lord Elgin in 1806 and has even suffered substantial damage by overzealous Christian priests who destroyed the depictions on the friezes that seemed indecent in their eyes.

In order to graphically illustrate the Parthenon back in its glory days as well as its demise through the millennia, I’m including below a remarkable video by the Greek Ministry of Culture. I hope you’ll also enjoy therein, a classic poem by the legendary philhellene, Lord Byron. The great romantic poet’s imagination has captured the wrath of Athena (Minerva, in Roman) further to the merciless destruction of her sacred temple. For the benefit of poetry lovers, I’m including here a link to the whole poem, that was written in Athens in 1811 by the great British poet.

 

Note: This post was originally published on the fabulous blog of author and historian, Adam Haviaras. If you love Greek history, Greek travel articles, and historical fiction set in ancient Greece then you should really check out this author. Visit Adam’s blog here

 

Do you love Greek myths? My highly acclaimed fantasy, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, combines delightful Greek myths with compelling fantasy drama. Check out the book trailer and download a FREE excerpt here

 

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Interview with Pantelis Kodogiannis, leading actor of First Line

Hello peeps, and welcome to an interview with a difference! This time, I have a special guest from the magical world of cinema! I feel all starry-eyed with Pantelis Kodogiannis sitting across from me on the hot seat. Everyone who’s been following Effrosyni’s Blog, knows of my posts about the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles – a cause very close to my heart. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to watch the movie First Line (Greek title: Promakhos) and was astounded by the passionate performance of Pantelis Kodogiannis. In the movie, he plays a lawyer who fights this great cause in court (an imaginary scenario, of course). As serendipity would have it, Pantelis read my articles about the Marbles and friended me on Facebook. I was so delighted to meet the real man behind the role that I had to invite him here for a chat. I hope you will enjoy meeting this passionate Greek living in L.A. as much as I have!

 

 

Hello Pantelis and welcome to my blog!

Hello Effrosyni! It’s great to be here!

Pantelis, I must say, the passion of your performance in Promakhos was remarkable. It moved me beyond words as I also share the same passion where it comes to the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles – a matter that remains indelible and particularly sensitive in the Greek psyche for the past 200 years. To me, your astounding performance felt like you played the part of that fully committed lawyer with original feelings of your own… am I right to think that?

The job of every actor is to perform with passion.  An actor’s passion for acting connects him to the passions of the character that he is portraying.  In Promakhos (The First Line), I had a lot of commonalities with Andreas, the lead character of the film.  Like Andreas, I am a Greek who deeply desires to see the Parthenon Marbles repatriated to Greece and the Greek people.  Additionally, like my character, I am an attorney (I was a practicing attorney in New York for a large law firm before becoming an actor).  Andreas exhibits his desire for the return of the Parthenon Marbles and approaches the law in a manner that is very different from me as he is overly confident and in some ways arrogant; nonetheless our commitment to this cause is impregnable, passionate and potent.

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Photography by Panos Golfis

The scenes of chaos in Athens with the fires and the riot police felt very realistic. I was very impressed your production team managed to film such scenes at the heart of the metropolis! How did it feel to act in the midst of such dramatic scenes? 

Shooting the riot scenes was quite a rush because we knew that what we were doing had not, to our knowledge at least, ever been done before (meaning shooting a film during a real riot).  The production team was outstanding in making certain that everyone was safe and secure; however, I would be lying if I said that it was not stressful as we did not know what was going to happen during the shoot. We did not know if authorities or rioters would stop us and safety was a huge concern. In one of the opening scenes of the film for instance while I am walking between the rioters and the line of policemen, a rioter throws a large piece of marble at the shielded policemen.  It came pretty close to hitting me instead.

What? Oh my goodness!

Ah yes… Additionally, some rioters in that same scene thought I was a politician. and our assistant director (Maria Lainas) overheard them plotting to throw something directly at me.  Luckily, she explained to them what we were doing.  Interestingly enough, they were so interested in the film, we invited them to take part in another scene in the film.  Appropriately, they “fought” head to head with riot policeman in the scene (and the only scene depicting a riot that was staged).  I enjoyed talking with them a lot and hearing their perspective, the frustration, disappointment that motivated them to participate in the riots in the first place.

I must admit that shooting scenes among the riots in Athens also caused me much pain.  Seeing rioters and police clash, the center of Athens being destroyed, historic buildings being burned and covered with graffiti, was disconcerting, Effrosyni.  All I kept wondering, is “How did we get here? How do we put an end to all of this frustration, pain, anguish, destruction, violence?”

Indeed, Pantelis. And it’s hard work these days, even to the biggest optimist to imagine an improvement on things any time soon. How do you feel about the crisis and the political situation in Greece? Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel? 

The crisis in Greece is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.  Greece and her people have endured great hardship since the beginning of the crisis.  The most disappointing thing for me is that Greece and her people have so much untapped potential.  I lament the fact that this potential has not been seized upon, harnessed, nurtured, developed.

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Photography by Panos Golfis

You’re absolutely right there. I totally agree…

As for the political situation, I am not optimistic to be quite honest.  Too many elections, political upheaval/unrest and not enough action in my humble opinion.  I hope this will change.  Many Greeks I speak to tell me that politicians in Greece have destroyed Greece.  My answer to them is that politicians are a reflection of the electorate that votes for them.  This goes to one of the deeper messages of Promakhos (The First Line) in which we use the words Thucydides (Pericles’ Funeral Oration to be exact): “Make [Athena] your goddess and lover.”  To me, Thucydides (Pericles) is saying to the Athenians: Respect Athens (and by extension Greece, as Athens is the soul of Greece), act responsibly, civically and nobly, wipe out corruption, elect responsible and civically-minded politicians, hold elected officials accountable, etc…  When we as Greeks begin to live by these words and worship and love Athena, her land, her people, then we will begin to flourish again. Much like in the age of Thucydides, Greeks today need to live by these words.

Wise words… Do you feel that we could benefit from the crisis in some way as to build a better future? Learning from any past mistakes, for example?

I think the first step in solving any problem is to identify and recognize that there is a problem. Greece’s entry into the EU and the common currency brought considerable prosperity and security to the country and its citizens.  However, everyone, politicians and citizens alike, looked the other way and did not address systemic and endemic problems within Greece, i.e. corruption, tax-evasion, a bloated government sector, a corrupt and sluggish judiciary. While times were good, everyone turned a blind eye to these issues.  I am hoping the crisis will serve as a wake-up call to all Greeks.  Greeks must change, transform and rebuild.  Rather than looking at it as a negative I hope that Greeks rise to the challenge and see the great opportunity that lies before them to rise and rebuild.

I wonder, have you always wanted to be an actor?

Yes, since I was young.

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Photography by Panos Golfis

What other acting have you done? And are there any current or future projects you’re happy to talk about?

I have been in numerous plays in theaters in Los Angeles and have shot a few commercials, short and feature films.  Promakhos (The First Line) was my first major role in a feature film. Currently, I have several projects in pre-production.  In early spring of 2016, I will be on the Los Angeles stage again; filming for my next film is due to begin this summer.  As both projects have not been officially announced, I unfortunately cannot share more with you at this time.

I fully understand and good luck with everything! Tell us, Pantelis, how does it feel to be Greek but never having lived here full time? How Greek do you feel living in L.A.?

Being Greek is a state of mind in my opinion.  It does not matter where you live or happen to be.  I feel Greek wherever I am.  My soul is Greek.  I always think about  the words of Melina Mercouri who, when asked in an interview what her weakness was, simply responded “My country.”  I understand that sentiment entirely.  Perhaps because she was forced to leave Greece and live in exile.  When you are away from Greece, you always yearn for it.  Even if you are not in it, it is always inside of you.  Greece is my weakness too. My love. My everything.  I cannot imagine that ever changing.

Tell us a little about your part of the world. Is there a Greek community in L.A.? What do you do for fun when going out?

There is a sizable Greek community in Los Angeles.  As with other Greek communities around the world, it primarily centers around the Church.  Unlike many other Greek communities, the one in LA does not have a distinct neighborhood or area (such as Astoria in NYC or Bayswater in London).  Like LA itself, the Greek community is really spread out.  As such, Greek life centers around events held by the Church, the Greek consulate, friends, family, etc.  Sadly, there is no place where Greeks regularly congregate where you know you will definitely run into fellow Hellenes.  That being said, I see my Greek friends regularly and we make it a point of seeing each other quite often.

Do you have family in Greece and where, if I may ask?

Yes, my immediate family has repatriated to Greece and they live in Chios.  I have extended family in the US, Greece (Chios, of course, and Athens) and Australia.

Any hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your spare time?

I jog, swim, take acting classes when I am not doing theatre or film work.  I enjoy cooking.  I like to spend time with friends and go to the beach.  I am definitely a water person.

What types of movies do you enjoy mostly? Can you tell me three of your favorite movies and what you love about them?

As a cinephile, I like all kinds of movies.  That being said, I definitely prefer dramas.  It’s difficult to chose three but I will tell you that three of my favorite movies from the last ten years would be “A King’s Speech,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy.”

The performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in A King’s Speech were truly remarkable.  Their chemistry was just spot on.  I really like the message of the story – overcoming personal hardship and adversity through trust and friendship.  You see the this mutual appreciation and bond develop between theses two characters as the movie unfolds. Very inspiring.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was really eye-opening because it’s a story about a man that had everything a man could want in life: a brilliant career, fame, fortune, children, love, etc., that comes to an abrupt end.  It’s message about appreciation, not taking things for granted, enjoying the moment and living life to the fullest, these are all things that speak to me and I think about all the time.

I really enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy because of the writing and character development.  Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, etc. all delivered excellent performances.  I really enjoy movies that are dialogue and character-driven.  The Cold War/spy twist was intriguing. I enjoy watching the film several times to pick up on the clues weaved throughout the script that is supposed to aid the viewer in identifying who the spy is.  Sadly, I did not guess right the first time.

I’ve only watched A King’s Speech and loved it for the same reasons. Thanks for the recommendations of the other two. Will definitely seek them out. This is a book blog so I have to ask! Are you a reader and if so, do you have any favorite genres or authors?

I am most definitely a reader.  I like most genres and read a wide array of books.  For instance, this past summer I read Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open.”  I am currently reading Hierocles’ Commentaries on the Golden Verses by Pythagoras.  As for favorite authors, I can tell you I have read several books by Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Nikos Kazantzakis.

I’m reading Christ Recrucified by Kazantzakis these days. Although the language is very hard going in Greek, I find it absolutely magical. It transports you right there at the center of the story. On to the next question; I expect an actor needs to be in a good physical condition, always ready for active, physical roles. Do you exercise and are you into healthy eating and all that?

I certainly do attempt to exercise and much as I can and tolerate (*laughs*) As I stated before, I jog/swim roughly 3-4 times a week.  I’m pretty vigilant with what I eat as well.  Thanks to my Greek upbringing, I enjoy eating a lot of legumes.  Moreover, I try to cook and avoid eating out as much as I can when I am home in Los Angeles.  It makes eating healthier much easier.

Other than any friends or family, what are the three things that you miss the most from Greece when in the States?

The light (particularly the Attic light), Chios, hearing my name being pronounced correctly without hesitation.

Love the last one. Believe me, being there, done that, bought the t-shirt that says ‘Rosa Moschaudi’! Many people called me that when I lived in England (*laughs*) Name your three most favorite delicacies in Greece. Mine is souvlaki in any form or combo. You?

As a proud Chian, first, and foremost, would be masticha (if that counts as a delicacy).  Pasticcio and kopanisti would round out the top three.  There are at least 20-30 more though, I must admit.  Souvlaki is definitely in the top 10.

I had masticha once in its raw form – as taken off the tree; it was delicious! Definitely counts for a delicacy (*smiles*) If you could have one superpower what would it be?

The ability to fly.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in life the hard way?

That life is not a dress rehearsal.  Do everything you want to do, say everything you want to say, feel everything you want to feel.  I lost my father at a relatively young age and did not get the chance to spend enough time with him, ask him what I should have asked him, say to him half of the things that I wanted to say and should have said to him.

If you could choose another profession, what would that be?

I already have two professions – can I choose another Effrosyni?

Be my guest!

Definitely an architect.  I love architecture.

What are the things in your life that you’re most grateful for?

My parents, my sister, my nephews, my cousins, my friends, my thirst for knowledge.

Aw, lovely answer. How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a good father, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend.  A respectful, just, kind and beautiful soul.

I have the feeling you’ll get your wish, Pantelis. Have you brought any photos to show us? As you know I tend to pester my interviewees for photos of their own!

Yes, I have and it’s my pleasure (*smiles*)

Oh! I see lots of blue in the photos you’re holding…

Two of them are from Greece, of course. The first one is from a beach bar I enjoy going to in Chios, the other is a snapshot of the Aegean from the plane…

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Oh… marvelous! I bet you miss these views when away.

You don’t know! (*laughs*) And here’s one last photo…

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Love it – thank you so much for being here with us today, Pantelis. For a cinephile like me, it’s been a rare treat!

Thank you too, Effrosyni, I really enjoyed our chat!

 

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Pantelis Kodogiannis was born in Saratoga Springs, NY.  He studied Political Science and Latin at Vassar College and received his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles.  He was a corporate lawyer on Wall Street for seven years before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television.  Pantelis attended the Beverly Hills Playhouse under the direction of Milton Katselas.   He is a founding member of The Renegade Theatre and Film Group in Hollywood, California, led by his mentor Frances Vennera.  He has performed in several plays, films and commercials.  Most recently, he played the lead in the film, The First Line (Promakhos), where he portrays an attorney who sues the British Museum for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

Like Pantelis’ Facebook fan page

See more production and behind the scenes stills from First Line here

Interested to find out more about the Parthenon Marbles?

Read these popular blogposts by Effrosyni:

Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks?

What are the Parthenon Marbles to the Greeks?

 

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