Emil Nolde: At the Night Club (1911)

Σάββατο, 13 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2014

During my recent visit to Oslo’s National Gallery, I found time to “break” my complete and undivided attention to Edvard Munch, as I saw Emil Nolde’s “At the Night Club”. This post is about this benign infidelity.

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery.

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery.

I will not discuss of course whether an infidelity can be benign or not. This is not for this post. In any case, I claim it is, therefore it is, until we discuss it again.

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (detail)

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (detail)

I love the interplay between the cold and warm colors that Nolde has created in the picture. The woman’s blue dress contrasts with her red hair and the background to the picture, a dark glowing orange.

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (detail)

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (detail)

There is also a “wavy” aspect in the paint, that gives the picture a peculiar 3D quality. Typical example is the man’s shirt. A most difficult part, because it is white and (theoretically) boring.

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (Detail)

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (Detail)

The merging of colors is another unique aspect of the picture. In the detail above, it is not only (or primarily) the hands that join, it is the colors.

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (detail)

Emil Nolde: At the Night Club, 1911. Oslo National Gallery. (detail)

The man and woman in the picture do not look like a man and a woman, they are distorted in many ways, but there is nothing wrong with this.

If you want to read more about Nolde’s pictures, I have written about his seascapes, flowers, and the area near his hometwon, Husum.




Edvard Munch: Alpha og (and) Omega

Δευτέρα, 8 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2014


“Sickness and insanity were the black angels that guarded my cradle”

Edvard Munch, personal manuscript.


Edvard Munch is one of my painting idols.

Back in 2009 I wrote about his “Madonna“. In 2013 I wrote a piece on “Death and the Maiden“, a journey from Munch to Abramovich.

Today I continue the Munch stories with “Alpha and Omega”, which I saw a few days ago at the Munch Museum in Oslo. It was a revelation for me to see these pictures.

Alpha and Omega is a fable written by Edvard Munch.

In addition to the text, there is a series of lithographs depicting the story.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait in Front of the House Wall (1926), Munch Museet, Oslo

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait in Front of the House Wall (1926), Munch Museet, Oslo

It is possible that Munch first created the pictures and then he wrote the text.

As we read in Christie’s website, presenting one of the lithographs for sale, “lithograph, 1908-9, on stiff wove paper, signed in pencil, from the total edition of approximately 80 or 90 impressions”.

At first the title was “The First Human Beings”, but then Munch changes it to “Alpha and Omega”.

Before I present the fable itself, I would like to give some background relevant to Munch’s life at the time of writting and illustrating the fable.

In the period 1908 – 1909, Munch suffered a psychotic incident. He was 46 years old at the time.

Edvard Munch, Dr. Jacobsen, and Nurse Schacke

Edvard Munch, Dr. Jacobsen, and Nurse Schacke

In the fall of 1908, Munch collapsed in Copenhagen. Hearing hallucinatory voices and suffering paralysis on his left side, he was persuaded by his old roommate from the Saint-Cloud apartment, Emanuel Goldstein, to check himself into Dr. Jacobson’s clinic at Frederiksberg in Copenhagen for detoxification. It was during his stay there, 1908–09, that he created Alpha and Omega.

The sketch shown above, drafted by Munch himself, reads:

“Professor Jacobsen is electrifying the famous painter Munch, and is bringing a positive masculine force and a negative feminine force to his fragile brain.”

Munch made progress following his treatment, which included “tobacco-free cigars, alcohol-free drinks, and poison-free women.”

Edvard Munch: Moonrise

Edvard Munch: Moonrise

The fable

Let us now go back to Alpha and Omega.

Omega's Eyes

Omega’s Eyes

Alpha is the first man and Omega is the first woman.

They live on an island and fall in love.

ALPHA AND OMEGA were the first Humans
on the Island. Alpha lay in the Grass and slept
and dreamed, Omega approached him, looked at
him and became curious. Omega broke off a
Fern branch and tickled him, so he awoke.

Alpha loved Omega; they sat in the Evenings
leaning into one another and gazing at the golden
pillar of the Moon, which swayed and rocked in
the Ocean surrounding the Island.

The couple lives a paradiselike existence, surrounded by animals and plants.

Omega and the Pig

Omega and the Pig

Omega becomes bored and allows herself to be seduced first by the Serpent, and then in turn by the Bear, the Poet Hyena, the Tiger and the Donkey, in addition to the Pig and other animals.

After a time she leaves the island on the back of a Doe and travels across the ocean to “the light green Land, that lay beneath the Moon”. Stenersen, quoted by Steinberg and Weiss, notes that the tubelike reflection of the moon on the water resembles the artist’s characteristic drawing of male genitalia.  “Thus it appears that the image of the full moon (breast – penis) was to Munch a protection against castration anxiety.

Omega's Flight

Omega’s Flight

Alpha remains on the island together with Omega’s offspring – a whole new generation of children – “little Pigs, little Serpents, little Monkeys and little Predatory animals and other Human Bastards”.

One day Omega returns. Suddenly the landscape turns to blood and Alpha closes his ears to the “cries of nature”. He then drowns Omega. According to Steinberg and Weiss, the bloody landscape represents the shocking sight of Munch’s dying mother, which could not be avoided or shut out. Munch experienced his mother’s death at the age of five.

Omega's Death

Omega’s Death

He is in turn torn asunder by her small mixed offspring, who finally take over the island.

It is a story of an archetypal man and woman as they progress from love and passion, to jealousy and melancholy, to anxiety and death.



Short Ride in a Fast Machine

Κυριακή, 31 Αυγούστου, 2014


“You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”

This is what the American composer John Adams said about the experience behind the fanfare he wrote in 1986.


With all respect to John Adams, I beg to differ.

When a new world opens up in front of you, why not enjoy it  for as long as you have access to it?


Having said that, the fanfare is one of the most ebullient short pieces of music that I have heard, and it suits the short ride in the fast red beauty perfectly.

No matter what you were thinking, no matter what you were doing, this piece is magic.


It draws you into its world, like the red beauty does, and you are a new person, even for the 4 minutes it lasts. Not bad I would say!

In this sense, the music and the car have a lot in common.

The red beauty to begin with, is a stunning piece of sculpture. I would not mind parking it in the middle of my living room.

And then the engine starts, and you have this eerie feeling that behind you there is something special.

You lift the clutch and get going.

And you feel that car and driver are one. In “cart” terminology, “you wear the car”.

The rest is not for publishing.

Thank you red beauty, thank you John Adams!




The battle of Marathon, 490 BC

Κυριακή, 17 Αυγούστου, 2014

The mountains look on Marathon,
And Marathon looks on the sea.
And musing there an hour alone,
I dreamed that Greece might still be free,
For standing on the Persian’s grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
(Lord Byron, The Isles of Greece)

Marathon - Tumulus

Marathon – Tumulus

In his 1846 review of Grote’s “History of Greece”, John Stuart Mill wrote:

“The interest of Grecian history is unexhausted and inexhaustible. As a mere story, hardly any other portion of authentic history can compete with it. Its characters, its situations, the very march of its incidents, are epic. It is an heroic poem, of which the personages are peoples. It is also, of all histories of which we know so much, the most abounding in consequences to us who now live. The true ancestors of the European nations (it has been well said) are not those from whose blood they are sprung, but those from whom they derive the richest portion of their inheritance. The battle of Marathon, even as an event in English history, is more important than the battle of Hastings. If the issue of that day had been different, the Britons and the Saxons might still have been wandering in the woods.”

Remnants of the Tropaion erected on the plain of Marathon after the battle.

Remnants of the Tropaion erected on the plain of Marathon after the battle. Archaelogical Museum of Marathon


The Battle of Marathon is important for many reasons. Lord Byron and John Stuart Mill stated some of the them in the passages quated above.

It also has many layers.

The military layer is one of them.

The other is Persians against Greeks.

There is also one though that is not apparent at first sight. Democracy against oligarchy and aristocracy.


The Pnyx in Athens

Democracy in Athens

One clarification is required at the outset. The Athenian Polis included all of Attica, not only the geographic area of Athens.

Marathon is one of the areas of Attica, and thus was part of the Athenian Polis.

Most historians agree that Democracy in Athens was established by Cleisthenes in 508/507.

In 510 BC, with the help of the Spartans, Cleisthenes overthrew Hippias, the ruler of Athens, son of tyrant Peisistratos, who ruled the City until 528 BC.

But he did not rule straight away, because the Spartans favoured his rival, Isagoras, and they expelled Cleisthenes from the city.

After returning to power, Cleisthenes made some significant reforms that strengthened democratic rule (8):

  • He established legislative bodies run by individuals chosen by lottery, a true test of real democracy, rather than kinship or heredity.
  • He reorganized the Boule, created with 400 members under Solon, so that it had 500 members, 50 from each tribe.
  • He also introduced the bouletic oath, “To advise according to the laws what was best for the people”.
  • The court system (Dikasteria — law courts) was reorganized and had from 201–5001 jurors selected each day, up to 500 from each tribe.

It was the role of the Boule to propose laws to the assembly of voters, who convened in Athens around forty times a year for this purpose. The bills proposed could be rejected, passed or returned for amendments by the assembly.

It is important to stress that Democracy did not arrive in Athens suddenly. The wheels were set in motion in the 7th century. It just so happens that it all came together when Cleisthenes ruled.

Given the nature of direct democratic rule in Athens, it comes as no surprise that Hippias did not fit in. It was nothing personal. Athenian democracy was incompatible with oligarchy and monarchy. Hippias had no chance to rule Athens again, if this was left to the Athenians to decide.

For this reason during the Ionian Revolt, which I will briefly discuss in the next section, he decided to join the Persians and return to Athens as a victor with the Persian army and navy.

The Old Bouleuterion, about SOO B.C. Model by Fetros Demetriades and Kostas Papoulias. Athens, Agora Museum. Excavations have revealed the foundations of a nearly square building (23.30 m. X 23.80 m.), with a cross wall dividing the structure into a main chamber and entrance vestibule. The main room probably had five supports, although the foundations for only three have been found. There is no trace of seats, but they might be restored as rectilinear tiers of wooden benches on three sides.

The Old Bouleuterion, about 500 B.C. Model by Fetros Demetriades and Kostas Papoulias. Athens, Agora Museum. Excavations have revealed the foundations of a nearly square building (23.30 m. X 23.80 m.), with a cross wall dividing the structure into a main chamber and entrance vestibule. The main room probably had five supports, although the foundations for only three have been found. There is no trace of seats, but they might be restored as rectilinear tiers of wooden benches on three sides. (www.agathe.gr)

The Ionian Revolt (499-493 BC)

The Ionian Revolt is the precursor of the Greek-Persian Wars on Greek soil and sea.

By the time of Darius I, the Persian empire covered most of southwest Asia and Asia Minor, reaching as far as the easternmost boundaries of Europe. The Persians demanded tribute and respect from all they dominated. (7)

The Ionian revolt started at 499, when the Ionian cities of Minor Asia rebelled against the Persian King Darius.

The Athenians and Eretrians sent a task force of 25 triremes to Asia Minor to aid the revolt. (5)

From 499 to 494 there were a lot of campaigns without any decisive effect.

By 494, the Persian army and navy had regrouped and made straight for the rebellion epicentre at Miletus. (6)


Miletus Bay and Lade

The decisive confrontation took place at sea, off the small island of Lade. The Persians convinced the Samians to defect, leaving the Ionian navy exposed. Although the Ionians and their allies fought bravely, they lost to the Persians. This was the beginning of the end of the Ionian revolt.

During the revolt, the deposed tyrant of Athens Hippias, fled to the Persian Palace and became an “advisor” to the Persian King Darius I.

We will meet Hippias again in the battle of Marathon.

When it all ended, in 493, one thing was certain. Darius wanted revenge. The Athenians and Eretrians had to pay for their role in the Ionian Revolt.


The first Persian invasion of Greece (492 – 490 BC)

The Persians invaded Greece because they wanted to punish Athens and Eretria for their role in the Ionian Revolt. Darius I also wanted to expand his control of the Eastern Mediterranean.

There were two campaigns in the first Persian invasion of Greece.

The first in 492 under Mardonius, saw the Persians take over Thrace and Macedon. In 491, Darius sent ambassadors to all Greek Cities, demanding their submission. Almost all cities submitted, except Athens and Sparta. Darius knew that he had to proceed to the next campaign.

In 490, under the command of his nephew Artaphernes and the Median admiral Datis, this Persian armada allegedly consisted of 600 ships (troop and transport, provided and manned by subject allies) and an unspecified number of Persian infantry and cavalry, described by Herodotus as ‘powerful and well-equipped’.

Starting from the island of Naxos, the Persians captured a number of other Greek cities and islands en route, and besieged Eretria which succumbed after six days, weakened from within by party political strife and a pro-Persian faction which betrayed the city. A few days later, the Persians sailed for Attica, ‘in high spirits and confident’ (Herodotus). Marathon was selected as the best spot to invade, being closest to Eretria and also the most suitable for cavalry manoeuvres. At least, such was the advice of Hippias who was with this Persian force which he hoped would restore him to power. It was here that his father Pisistratus had landed in 546 for his successful bid for the tyranny in Athens. (1)

Greek hoplite and Persian warrior fighting each other. Depiction in ancient kylix. 5th c. B.C. National Archaelogical Museum, Athens

Greek hoplite and Persian warrior fighting each other. Depiction in ancient kylix. 5th c. B.C. National Archaelogical Museum, Athens

Liberty and Equality of civic rights are brave spirit stirring things, and they who, while under the yoke of a despot, had been no better men of war than any of their neighbours, as soon as they were free, became the foremost men of all. For each felt that in fighting for a free commonwealth, he fought for himself and whatever he took in hand he was willing to do the work thoroughly. Herodotus

Marathon - Tumulus

Marathon – Tumulus

The Athenian Army 

The army was managed by the polemarch, together with ten generals, one elected from each of the tribes. Starting with Kleisthenes, there were ten tribes in the Polis of Athens, therefore there were 10 generals, one elected from each tribe. In their attempt to ensure equality, the Athenians by the 5th century allotted most offices, even the highest archonships. Some positions, however, such as treasurers and the water commissioner, required “technical” knowledge and could not be left to the luck of the draw; these remained elective.

The generalships are the clearest example of this practice, of electing rather than allotting, and many of the leading statesmen of Athens held the position. Perikles, for instance, never served as eponymous archon-nominally the highest post in the state-but he was elected general of his tribe year after year, and from that position he guided Athenian affairs for decades.

The army was made of oplites (men bearing arms), who were Athenian citizens. All oplites were volunteers, and were providing for their arms and equipment. It was considered one of the highest honors to be able to fight for the Polis, as became known to the world with Pericles’ Funeral Oration.

At the time of the Marathon Battle, each tribe (phyle) nominated 1,000 oplites.

Contrary to the Athenian Army, the Persian Army consisted mostly of people who were conscripted from various occupied territories, including Ionia. Only the officers were Persians.

From a technical perspective, the Athenian Army had two major disadvantages compared to the Persian. The Athenians had no cavalry and no arch men.

Fragment of an Athenian (Attic) red-figure bell-krater (mixing bowl), Stb century B.C. H.: 0.12 7 m. Athens, Agora Museum P 15837. A warrior with helmet, sword in scabbard, spear and shield (device: snake) attacks an opponent to the left (now missing). (9)

Fragment of an Athenian (Attic) red-figure bell-krater (mixing bowl), Stb century B.C. H.: 0.12 7 m. Athens, Agora Museum P 15837. A warrior with helmet, sword in scabbard, spear and shield (device: snake) attacks an opponent to the left (now missing). (9)

The Battle

In overall charge of the Athenian Army was the War-Archon (polemarch), Callimachus, who had been elected by the whole citizen body. (5)

Initially there was a big disagreement among the generals. Should they go to Marathon and battle the Persians, or should they stay in Athens and protect the city?

The argument was won by Miltiades, who convinced Callimachus that they should battle the Persians in Marathon.

Militiades was one of the ten generals under the polemarch, but after the crucial decision was made, by the consensus of the generals he was placed in command. The win in Marathon is attributed to Miltiades’ genius by many historians.

The forces of the Athenians and the Plataeans totaled only 11,000 men (the column of the Plataeans was 1,000 strong) – the Persian force was perhaps 20-25,000 strong. (11)

While the two armies were facing each other on the Marathon plain, the Spartans were celebrating a period of peace and could not move to the aid of the Athenians before the pweriod was over, somewhere around the  middle of August 490.

Therefore, it appears to have been to the benefit of the Athenians to wait.

We do not know who attacked first. But the battle bagan before the Spartans even left their city to march to Athens.

Early in the morning of the batle, the Persians followed Hippias’ advice and sent most of their ships and cavalry to Phaleron, the port of Athens. They thus thought that after the battle in Marathon they could easily capture the city that was not defended, as all armed units were in Marathon. This journey from Marathon to Phaleron would take 6 to 8 hours.

The Athenians were informed by Ionian soldiers in the Persian Army that the fleet had sailed and Miltiades decidd to attack.

The battle started at arounf 05:30 in the morning and it was over in three hours.

At the time of the battle commencing there was only around one mile (1.5 kilometres) separating both armies.

The formation of the Greek army was one with the central armed forces having soldiers in rank of 4 while the flanking forces had soldiers in rank of 8. This formation then either marched or ran (most likely marched) the distance to the Persian forces and stopped some 200 metres short of the Persian army.

At this point the Greek army went into a mad run to the enemy. Upon battle commencing the Greek middle ranks of four were pushed back slightly, but the flanks routed the Persians flanks that then fled back to their ships.

After the battle was over, and decidely won by the Athenians, Miltiades left a small contingent to guard the area so that the Persians would not be able to land again in Marathon, and with the rest of the Army marched back to Athens. They made it on time, so that when the PErsian navy arrived in Phaleron, they found the Athenian Army ready to welcome them.

After an assessment of the situation, the Persians decided to abort the mission to conquer Athens and sailed back to their land.

Hippias is said to have died at Lemnos, on the journey back “home”.


Herodotus on the Battle of Marathon (10)

112.  The lines were drawn up, and the sacrifices were favorable; so the Athenians were permitted to charge, and they advanced on the Persians at a run. There was not less than eight stades in the no man’s-land between the two armies. The Persians, seeing them coming at a run, made ready to receive them; but they believed that the Athenians were possessed by some very desperate madness, seeing their small numbers and their running to meet their enemies without support of cavalry or archers. That was what the barbarians thought; but the Athenians, when they came to hand-to-hand fighting, fought right worthily. They were the first Greeks we know of to charge their enemy at a run and the first to face the sight of the Median dress and the men who wore it. For till then the Greeks were terrified even to hear the names of the Medes.

113.  The fight at Marathon went on for a long time, and in the center the barbarians won, where the Persians themselves and the Sacae were stationed. At this point they won, and broke the Greeks, and pursued them inland. But on each wing the Athenians and the Plataeans were victorious, and, as they conquered, they let flee the part of the barbarian army they had routed, and, joining their two wings together, they fought the Persians who had broken their center; and then the Athenians won the day. As the Persians fled, the Greeks followed them, hacking at them, until they came to the sea. Then the Greeks called for fire and laid hold of the ships.


Helmet of Miltiades, Archaelogical Museum of Olympia, Greece

114.  At this point of the struggle the polemarch [Callimachus] was killed, having proved himself a good man and true, and, of the generals, there died Stesilaus, son of Thrasylaus. And Cynegirus, the son of Euphorion, gripped with his hand the poop of one of the ships and had his hand chopped off with an axe and so died, and many renowned Athenians also.

115.  In this fashion the Athenians captured seven of the ships. With the rest of the fleet, the barbarians, backing water, and taking from the island where they had left them the slaves from Eretria, rounded Cape Sunium, because they wished to get to Athens before the Athenians could reach it. There was a slander prevalent in Athens that they got this idea from a contrivance of the Alcmaeonidae, in accord with a covenant they had made with the Persians, showed a signal, the holding-up of a shield, for those barbarians who were on shipboard.

116.  They rounded Sunium, all right; but the Athenians, rushing with all speed to defend their city, reached it first, before the barbarians came, and encamped, moving from one sanctuary of Heracles – the one at Marathon – to another, the one at Cynosarges. The barbarians anchored off Phalerum – for in those days that was the harbor of Athens – and, after riding at anchor there for a while, they sailed back, off to Asia.

117.  In this battle of Marathon there died, of the barbarians, about six thousand four hundred men, and, of the Athenians, one hundred and ninety-two. Those were the numbers of the fallen on both sides. . . .

Marathon - Memorial Stele

Marathon – Memorial Stele

Aeschylus and Cavafy

One of Marathon’s more renowned combatants, the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, who ultimately was recognized as the ‘Father of Tragedy’ purportedly composed his own epitaph. An indication of the battle’s significance is that he did not mention any of the great works in his distinguished oeuvre, only of his exploits on this highly venerated battlefield.

Beneath this stone lies Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, the Athenian,
who perished in the wheat-bearing land of Gela;
of his noble prowess the grove of Marathon can speak,
or the long-haired Persian who knows it well

Αἰσχύλον Εὐφορίωνος Ἀθηναῖον τόδε κεύθει
μνῆμα καταφθίμενον πυροφόροιο Γέλας·
ἀλκὴν δ’ εὐδόκιμον Μαραθώνιον ἄλσος ἂν εἴποι
καὶ βαθυχαιτήεις Μῆδος ἐπιστάμενος

Bust of Aeschylus

Bust of Aeschylus

Ο Αισχύλος, ο Αθηναίος γιός του Ευφορίωνα βρισκεται σε τουτο το μνημα

Έκλεισε τα μάτια στη Γέλα, την εύφορη σε δημητριακά

Τη δοκιμασμένη του γενναιότητα μαρτυρεί το δάσος του Μαραθώνα

και ο πυκνόμαλλος Μήδος που τη γνώρισε καλά

The inscription on his graveyard signifies according to Castoriadis (4) the primary importance of “belonging to the City”, of the solidarity that existed within the collective body of soldiers – citizens.

Castoriadis (4) also mentions the actor in Cavafy’s “The yound men of Sidon” who protests that the inscription on Aeschylus’ grave is unacceptable:

“…to set down for your memorial
merely that as an ordinary soldier, one of the herd,
you too fought against Datis and Artaphernis.”

(translation Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard)

Marathon Memorial Stele - Epigram by Simonides of Ceos

Marathon Memorial Stele – Epigram by Simonides of Ceos

Marathon Memorial Stele – Epigram by Simonides of Ceos

Ἑλλήνων προμαχοῦντες Ἀθηναῖοι Μαραθῶνι
χρυσοφόρων Μήδων ἐστόρεσαν δύναμιν
Fighting in the forefront of the Hellenes, the Athenians at Marathon
destroyed the might of the gold-bearing Medes.


(1) Re-running Marathon, Bruce Baldwin, History Today, 1998

(2) THE FIFTEEN DECISIVE BATTLES OF THE WORLD by Edward Shepherd Creasy 1851

(3) The Battle of Marathon, Written by Peter Fitzgerald

(4) Castoriadis, Cornelius. “What Makes Greece, 1. From Homer to Heraclitus.” (2004)

(5) Battle of Marathon,  Wikipedia

(6) Battle of Lade, Wikipedia

(7) Battle of Marathon, Historynet

(8) Cleisthenes. Wikipedia

(9) The Athenian Army

(10) The History of Herodotus, trans. David Grene, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp.454-456 (sourced from the “History Guide“).

(11) Lectures on Ancient and Medieval History. Lecture 7. The History Guild.


Η ταξη στην αυλη του Βενετοκλειου.

Εισαγωγη – Introduction

Σημερα κλεινω εξι χρονια απο την ημερα που αρχισα αυτο το μπλογκ, και ανασυρω απο την μνημη την μαθητεια μου στο Βενετοκλειο Γυμνασιο Ροδου, απο το 1968 εως το 1973.

Today is my sixth WordPress anniversary. I started this blog six years ago, and I felt necessary to reminisce about my Gymnasium in Rhodes, where I grew up. Its name is Venetokleion and is still operational. This post features photos I took in excursion with the teachers and the class.

Εχω υπεροχες αναμνησεις απο το Βενετοκλειο για δυο λογους.

This is a time and space specific post, and language is crucial. The post  must be in Greek. So I stop here with the English part, and wish the visitor a happy visit.

Ο πρωτος ειναι οτι γνωρισα εξαιρετικους ανθρωπους, συμμαθητες, συμμαθητριες, καθηγητες και καθηγητριες.

Ο δευτερος ειναι οτι πηρα τις πρωτες συγκινησεις της μαθησης, μαζι με καποιες αλλες.

Θα αναφερθω στους συμμαθητες και τις συμμαθητριες με τα μικρα τους ονοματα, ενω στους καθηγητες και τις καθηγητριες και με τα επιθετα τους. Οσοι διαβασουν αυτο το κειμενο και δουν τις φωτογραφιες θα αναγνωρισουν τους συμμαθητες και τις συμμαθητριες.


Ο Μανωλης Παπαμανωλης, Γυμνασιαρχης του Βενετοκλειου

Η αναφορα σε επιλεγμενους καθηγητες και καθηγητριες με τα πληρη ονοματα τους οφειλεται κυριως στο οτι θελω να υπαρχει καπου στο διαδικτυο γραπτα και επιφατικα το υπεροχο εργο που επιτελεσαν οι ανθρωποι αυτοι. Ετσι απλα.

Ζητω προκαταβολικα συγγνωμη, αλλα καποιους απο τους απεικονιζομενους δεν τους ενθυμουμαι με τα ονοματα τους.

Μια αλλη διασταση που επιβαλλει ο χρονος ειναι η χρηση του παρελθοντος στην αφηγηση και τα ρηματα. Αυτο βεβαια δεν σημαινει οτι καποιος δεν ζει πια. Απλα αναφερομαι στο παρελθον και σε αυτα που θυμαμαι απο τοτε.

Οι φωτογραφιες ειναι ολες απο το αρχειο μου, οι περισσοτερες παρμενες σε σχολικες εκδρομες.

Βενετοκλειο: Αρρενων αλλα και Θηλεων

Βενετοκλειο: Αρρενων αλλα και Θηλεων. Κατω σειρα απο δεξια: Λεωνιδας, Ανθουλα, Τετα, ?, Γιωργος. Επανω σειρα απο δεξια: Κλεανθης, ?, Γιωργος, Νικος

Αρρενων, αλλα και … ολιγον θηλεων

Την εποχη εκεινη το Βενετοκλειο ητανε Γυμνασιο Αρρενων. Επειδη ομως η πρακτικη κατευθυνση σπουδων (το πρακτικο) υπηρχε μονο στο Βενετοκλειο, στις τρεις τελευταιες ταξεις (Τεταρτη, Πεμπτη και Εκτη) ερχοντουσαν να φοιτησουν στο Βενετοκλιεο και μαθητριες, απο το Καζουλειο Γυμνασιο Θηλεων. Θυμαμαι οτι η πρωτη φουρνια απο το θηλεων ητανε η ταξη της αδελφης μου. Ακολουθησαμε εμεις.

Ετσι λοιπον στην φωτογραφια που βλεπετε παραπανω, απεικονιζονται ορισμενοι νεοι με ορισμενες νεες.

Οι σχεσεις μας ητανε πολυ καλες. Τις ειχαμε τις κοπελλες στα οπα οπα. Ομολογω δε οτι ουδεποτε καταλαβα για ποιον λογο χωριζανε τα παιδια σε αρρενες και θηλεις στα σχολεια.


Οι καθηγητες.  Απο δεξια καθιστοι: Γιωργος Μανδραγος, Νικος Βολονακης, ?, Κωνσταντινιδης.


Οι  καθηγητες

Μεσα σε μια περιοδο εξι χρονων, ειναι επομενο να εχει κανεις πολλους καθηγητες, και ολιγες καθηγητριες. Τωρα που το αναπολω, οι καθηγητριες ητανε πολυ λιγοτερες.

Καποιο ομως ξεχωρισαν και παραμενουν στην μνημη μου εντονα και με σεβασμο και αγαπη.

Ξεκινω λοιπον απο τον Γιωργο Μανδραγο, Φυσικο, που παρολον οτι δεν τον ειχαμε για πολυ στην ταξη, τον αγαπησα πολυ. Ημουνα και συμμαθητης με τον γυιο του τον Μιχαλη Μανδραγο, που χαθηκε προωρα το 2012. Ο Γιωργος Μανδραγος ητανε αυθορμητος, απλος, και αξιαγαπητος. Πηγαινα πολλες φορες στο σπιτι του, γιατι παιζαμε με τον Μιχαλη. Με τον Μιχαλη πηγαιναμε μαζι και στον Ναυτικο Ομιλο Ροδου, Ν.Ο.Ρ. στην ΕΛΛΗ, οπου ιστιοπλοουσε με σκαφη τυπου “Οπτιμιστ”. Μετειχε και σε αγωνες, και πηγαινε πολυ καλα.


Ο μαθηματικος Γιωργος Μανιατακης (αριστερα)

Συνεχιζω με την μεγαλη μου αδυναμια, τον Μαθηματικο Γιωργο Μανιατακη. Ισως ενας απο τους λογους που αγαπησα τα μαθηματικα ητανε ο Μανιατακης. Εξαιρετικος δασκαλος, με οξυτατη αισθηση του χιουμορ και σεβασμο προς ολους τους μαθητες. Με τη χαρα της ζωης, σοβαροτητα και μετρο. Εξαιρετικος ανθρωπος και δασκαλος.

Τωρα ενθυμουμαι και τον αλλον αγαπημενο μου μαθηματικο, τον Αντωνη Μπαϊραμη απο την Καλυμνο, που χαθηκε προωρα. Ειμασταν στην ιδια ταξη με την αδελφη του την Ποπη, που εικονιζεται στην φωτογραφια της εισαγωγης.


Ο Φιλολογος Σεβαστιανος Πολιτης

Ενας αλλος αξεχαστος δασκαλος, ητανε ο Σεβαστιανος Πολιτης, Φιλολογος. Ο,τι εμαθα στα αρχια το χρωσταω στον Πολιτη και την μητερα μου. Ο Πολιτης ητανε ανθρωπος χαμηλων τονων, και δημιουργουσε την περιεργεια να μαθεις τι κρυβεται πισω απο τις λεξεις. Εξοχος! Περναγε η ωρα και δεν το καταλαβαινα.

Και μια και ζουμε σε κοσμο αντιθεσεων, δεν μπορω να μην αναφερω εναν αλλο φιλολογο, που ητανε μαλλον κακολογος. Το τι φωνες ακουγαμε δεν περιγραφεται. Και ειχε πει και το απαραμιλλο “τι νομιζετε οτι ειναι ο ανθρωπος; μια λεκανη εντερα”.


Ο θεολογος Κωνσταντινιδης

Ο θεολογος Κωνσταντινιδης θα μου μεινει αξεχαστος για την ευγενεια και την προσχαρη φυση του. Και το λεγω αυτο επειδη ειχαμε και εναν αλλο θεολογο που μας ειχε τρελανει στις φαπες. Εκρηκτικος τυπος, ξεσπουσε ξαφνικα και οποιον παρει ο … χαρος. Σε αντιθεση λοιπον με τον ευεξαπτο αλλον, ο Κωνσταντινιδης ητανε οαση. Παντα με το χαμογελο. Και μαθαμε και ολιγα θρησκευτικα.


Ο Φυσικος Γιωργος Μανδραγος (δεξια)

Πολλες φορες οταν θυμομαστε κατι απο την νεοτητα μας, εχομε την ταση να υποθετομε ή και να δηλωνουμε ευθεως οτι τοτε ητανε καλα τα πραγματα, ενω σημερα… Δεν ξερω πως ειναι σημερα τα πραγματα, αλλα τοτε που ημουνα στο Βενετοκλειο, χωρις να ειναι ολα τελεια, μαθαιναμε. Ολοι μαθαιναμε. Και δεν παπαγαλιζαμε. Και μπορουσε ο καθενας να τα βγαλει περα χωρις φροντιστηρια. Και οι καθηγητες νοιαζοντουσαν. Υπηρχανε βεβαια και εξαιρεσεις, ολιγες ομως.

Παρολο που δεν τον εχω σε φωτογραφια, ο Βασιλης Λεβεντης, Γυμναστης, ητανε απο τους ανθρωπους που με τον ενθουσιασμο και την καλη καρδια του με ειχε εμπνευσει. Δεν ημουνα ποτε καλος στη Γυμναστικη. Ομως προσπαθουσα. Ο Βασιλης Λεβεντης υποστηριξε την προσπαθεια μου. Και οχι μονο τη δικη μου. Ολων των παιδιων που δεν ημασταν αστερια. Πριν μερικα χρονια μιλησαμε σοτ τηλεφωνο, βρισκοτανε στις Καλυθιες και τα ειπαμε για λιγο.

Θεωρω επισης απαραιτητη την μνεια στον Έξαρχο των Γυμναστων, τον Χρηστο Παλαιολογο. Που με την βραχνη, μπασα φωνη του μας εβαζε στη σειρα.


Ο Μαθηματικος Αντωνης Μανιατακης (δεξια)

Θα ητανε παραλειψη να μην αναφερθω και στον εξαιρετο Μανωλη Παπαμανωλη, που τον θυμαμαι ως Γυμνασιαρχη. Εξαιρετικος ανθρωπος, χαμηλων τονων, παντοτε με εγνοια για τους μαθητες και το σχολειο.

Οι καθηγητριες

Σε συγκριση με τους αντρες, οι γυναικες στο Γυμνασιο ητανε πολυ λιγοτερες.

Περιττο να αναφερω οτι  η συγκινηση των αγοριων ανεβαινε σε υψηλα επιπεδα οταν η καθηγητρια ητανε νεα και ωραια.

Ειχαμε βεβαια ολον τον σεβασμο στις αλλες καθηγητριες, ομως η προτιμηση μας ητανε σαφως στις νεες.

Θυμαμαι στη δευτερα γυμνασιου ειχε ελθει μια νεαρα καθηγητρια γαλλικων. Ολοι θελαμε να μαθουμε γαλλικα.

Βεβαια εκεινη την εποχη οι ξενες γλωσσες στο γυμνασιο ητανε ανεκδοτο. Οι καθηγητες και καθηγητριες ελαχιστες, που μετετιθεντο συνεχως.

Με την καθηγητρια μας των γαλλικων δεν θυμαμαι καν αν κλεισαμε ολοκκληρη τη χρονια.

Ομως η συγκινηση θα παραμειενει αξεχαστη στο υποσυνειδητο των 14 ετων.


Απο δεξια: Γιωργος, Νικος, Κλεοβουλος, Γιωργος

Οι συμμαθητες

Οπως ειναι φυσικο, με καποιους απο τους συμμαθητες ειμασταν πιο κοντα, μια παρεα ας πουμε.

Ανακαλω πρωτο τον Μιχαλη Σταματιου, ενα χρυσο παιδι που χαθηκε προωρα και αυτος.

Ο Μιχαλης Σταματιου ητανε ενας υπεραθλητης και ενας υπεροχος ανθρωπος. Μεσα σε ολα, και καλος μαθητης. Παντα με το χαμογελο. Τον θυμαμαι σα να ειμασταν μαζυ εχθες. Πριν απο μερικα χρονια συναντησα στην Αθηνα ολως τυχαιως εναν συγγενη του και τιμησαμε την μνημη του.

Το γυμνασιο της εποχης εκεινης ειχε και μια ιδιομορφια γεωγραφικου τυπου. Πολλα παιδια ερχοντουσαν απο τα χωρια με λεωφορειο το πρωι και γυρναγανε στο χωριο τους το απογευμα.


Απο δεξια: Γιωργος, Λεωνιδας, Νικος (καπου στην Κω)

Ειχαμε λοιπον ενα εξαιρετικο μιγμα απο παιδια της πολης και των χωριων.

Η μεγαλη ομαδα απο τα χωρια ητανε οι Αρχαγγελιτες. Ερχοντουσαν συντεταγμενοι και παντα χαρουμενοι.

Το Αρχαγγελιτικο χιουμορ ειναι αξεπεραστο. Δωρικο αλλα και Ιωνικο μαζυ.

Το τι ιστοριες εχω ακουσει δεν λεγεται.

Ο Κλεοβουλος ερχοτανε απο τη Σορωνη. Τον συναντησα προσφατα και τα ειπαμε. Παντα με ευγενεια και μετρημενος.

Ειχαμε βεβαια και τις συναγωνιστικες μας διαδικασιες, παντα στα πλαισια του “ευ αγωνιζεσαθι”.

Ενας συναγωνιστης ητανε ο Λεωνιδας, σοβαρος και μετρημενος, και ταλαντουχος.


Απονομη βραβειων το 1969

Παντα τον θυμαμαι με αγαπη. Ειχαμε μιλησει και στο τηλεφωνο πριν μερικα χρονια.

Ομως αυτος που εχει παραμεινει παντα κοντα, παρολη την γεωγραφικη αποσταση, ειναι ο παιδικος φιλος, συμμαθητης και υπεροχος ανθρωπος, ο Γιωργος. Συναντηθηκαμε προσφατα στην Αθηνα και περασαμε πολλες ωρες μαζι.

Το 2005 ειχα κατεβει στη Ροδο και με πρωτοβουλια του Γιωργου συναντηθηκαμε παρα πολλοι απο την ταξη του Βενετοκλειου.

Η συναντηση αυτη θα μου μεινει αξεχαστη.

Κι αν κατι θελω κασι το εκφραζω και απο εδω, ειναι να ξαναβρεθουμε οι συμμαθητες του Βενετοκλειου που αποφοιτησαμε το 1973.

Θα ειναι μεγαλη χαρα και τιμη μου.

Ευχαριστω σε Βενετοκλειο, ευχαριστω σε Ροδο!


Αν καπου η μνημη μου επαιξε παιχνιδια, προσκαλω την ευγενικη αναγνωστρια να με βοηθησει, υποδεικνυοντας την αστοχια, και – αν μπορει – προτεινοντας και την επανορθωση.









“Only ruins remain and the beauty of the natural environment.” Lord Byron

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece


Γύρισα στα ξανθά παιδιάτικα λημέρια,
γύρισα στο λευκό της νιότης μονοπάτι,
γύρισα για να ιδώ το θαυμαστό παλάτι,
για με χτισμένο απ’ τών Ερώτων τ’ άγια χέρια.
Το μονοπάτι το ‘πνιξαν οι αρκουδοβάτοι,
και τα λημέρια τα ‘καψαν τα μεσημέρια,
κ’ ένας σεισμός το ‘ρριξε κάτου το παλάτι,
και μέσ’ στα ερείπια τώρα και στ’ αποκαΐδια
απομένω παράλυτος· σαύρες και φίδια
μαζί μου αδερφοζούν οι λύπες και τα μίση·
και το παλάτι ένας σεισμός το ‘χει γκρεμίσει.


Ασάλευτη ζωή, 1904
‘Απαντα, τομ. Γ´, σελ. 72

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece



Costis Palamas
Translated by A. Moskios


Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece

On the question of the Greek poet’s relation to his tradition, it has always seemed to me that the Greek poet has an advantage over his Anglo-Saxon counterpart who makes use of Greek mythology and sometimes even of Greek landscape. I remember years ago when I was writing a thesis on what I thought were English influences in the poetry of Cavafy and Seferis, I asked you about certain images that crop up in your landscape, for example, the symbolic meaning of the statues that appear in your work. You turned to me and said: “But those are real statues. They existed in a landscape I had seen.” What I think you were saying is that you always start with the fact of a living, actual setting and move from there to any universal meaning that might be contained in it.

An illustration of that from someone who is a specialist in classical statues came the other day from an English scholar who was lecturing about the statuary of the Parthenon. I went up to congratulate him after his lecture, and he said to me, as I remember: “But you have a line which expresses something of what I meant when you say ‘the statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins.’” I mean I was astonished that a scholar of his caliber was using a line from me to illustrate a point.

George Seferis
The statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins

From an Interview to “The Paris Review”, 2005 (epopteia)

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece


“Unless we can relate it to ourselves personally, history will always be more or less an abstraction and its content the clash of impersonal forces and ideas. Although generalizations are necessary to order this vast, chaotic material, they kill the individual detail that tends to stray from the schema. . . . Afterwards all that remains of entire centuries is a kind of popular digest.”

Czesław Miłosz, Native Realm


Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Ruins come out of ruins. The story of the Acropolis is a good example. The original temple of Athena has been destroyed at least nine times in its two-and-a-half-thousand-year history. Burned by Heruli barbarians in ad 267, it was restored by Julian in ad 360, and then in 438 Christian priests hacked away at the nude sculptures and crowned the temple with a cross. The Ottoman Turks in 1456 replaced the cross with a minaret. There are still-bitter feelings about the damage done by the Venetians in 1687 when they bombed the Parthenon on September 26 under Francesco Morosini. Then there was also the sale of seventy-five sculptures by the Ottomans to Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to Greece, in 1802.

Adrianne Kalfopoulou, Ruin


Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece

You said: “…Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
The City

C.P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard



Today’s post is based on an answer I gave to an assignment in Professor Youngman’s online course “Understanding Media by Understanding Google.” The question had to do with a person who “instinctively and repeatedly picks up a mobile device to consume media (or conduct Google searches) while engaged in another activity”. Is this person using the mobile device to enhance/deepen the first activity, or be distracted from it?


I claim that the person is bored, and seeking to escape from the first activity.
My argument is structured in two parts.
The first part deals with the mobile (smart) phone (or tablet) as the device of the escape.
The second part deals with the rationalization of the escape.
As Nicholas Carr (citation 1) points out, the smart phone is a boredom-eradication device. The person has an objective, and the device to achieve this objective. This works in two ways. Many a times, having the device, makes you adopt relevant objectives. One day I was hanging some pictures on the walls, and had to use a hammer. Once I finished with the pictures, I kept the hammer in my hand, and started going around looking for things to do aith a hammer. All of a sudden, the world had been transformed to nail-like objects and other-objects. Device is the result of technology. People were bored also in medieval times. They had to use other devices. Technology makes a difference. In this sense, technology also creates (and destroys) civilizations. I say this, because the right to be bored and remain bored for a while, is part of what I consider civilization. Bored results in innovation, in poetry, in drama, and so on. If I am right, the mobile phone is a massive killer of contributors to our civilization.

Having dealt with the device, and its inexorable power, I proceed to the second part of my argument, which has to do with the rationalization of the escape. This rationalization rests on the premise of “available information”. A rationalization is needed whenever the actor of the escape claims that he/she is doing something worthwhile. A person playing games has no reason for rationalization. Likewise for a person watching a cartoon clip. These persons escape boredom, by having raw unadulterated fun. But rationalization is a necessary premise for people who escape and seek to present this escape as an act of “doing something worthwhile”. This being information. I am searching for something, I am watching a documentary on something, I am reading something. All this happens at a fraction of the time the same actions were taken thirty years ago. Here is where the second citation becomes relevant. Information overload, instantly available information, overload, spreading everything thin, is not just a rationalization. It also creates a new way of conceiving of reality, of information, of life. And in this sense it radically changes life.


Citation 1
As many have pointed out, one thing that networked computers are supremely good at is preventing their users from experiencing boredom. A smartphone is the most perfect boredom-eradication device ever created. (Some might argue that smartphones don’t so much eradicate boredom as lend to boredom an illusion of excitement, but that’s probably just semantics.)
Nicholas Carr, “A post on the occasion of Facebook’s billionth member”
Citation 2
I come from a tradition of Western culture, in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and “cathedral-like” structure of the highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West. [But now] I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self—evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available.”
Playwright Richard Foreman, quoted in Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”


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