I was 19 years old, and studying architecture, when I began writing an essay on the Temple of Artemis Agrotera in Agrae (Panagia stin Petra). I was impressed by the elegence deriving from its harmonic Ionian structure, but neither the fragility nor the urbane proportions of the temple was what kept me keen on it..Nor its transformation to a church, Panagia tis Petras, motivated me; No one had ever seen it; all I could get from others was the mere knowledge of its possible placement. I wandered through the area of Olympieion and neighboring streets, trying to locate the monument…eventually discovering an indication sign, and seeing the enclosed space behind it. What was in there? I was familiar with the fact that the temple does not exist anymore and there is nothing exceptional to be seen within the fence….
Stewart & Revett were the last historic figures that eyewitnessed its decay on 1748, and recorded its transformation from temple (no visual existing evidence) to church (Panagia stin Petra). Their drawings serve as the last testimonies of a place that was about to be demolished by the very person seen on horseback at the bottom-left corner of the following drawing; the Turkish Voevodas of Athens, Hatzi Ali Haseki himself, who used the material of the church for the wall he constructed in 1778.
The drawing is from the famous and influencial book “The Antiquities of Athens and Other Monuments of Greece” by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett: In 1748 Stuart [architect and artist] joined Revett [nobleman and amateur architect on his Grand Tour] on a trip to Naples to study the ancient ruins and, from there, they travelled through the Balkans (stopping at Pula) to Greece. Visiting Salonica, Athens, and the Ionic temple of Artemis Agrotera on the River Ilissus among others, they made accurate measurements and drawings of the ancient ruins. Stuart and Revett returned to London in 1755 and published their work, The Antiquities of Athens and Other Monuments of Greece, in 1762. Its illustrations were among the first of their kind and the work was welcomed by antiquaries, scholars, and gentleman amateurs. There were more than five hundred subscribers to its first volume and, although few of the subscribers were architects or builders, thus limiting its impact as a design sourcebook, it later helped fuel the Greek Revival in European architecture. It is obvious the importance of the building for the regenaration of classisism and its infuence to ages of architectural cultural inheritence.
The drawings from the books are valued for their precise recording of the sites and monuments. When examining closely the particular one, a careful reader can estimate the location of the temple; Lycabettus hill is on its left and the bridge over Ilissus river near the site of the Panathenaic Stadium is on its right side. With all these details it is surprising the difficulty of making publicly known its excact location; just a label, a courtyard and a fence are visible to the contemporary viewer or random passenger. I will not go on talking about the struggle of the local community to make the temple part of the neighborhoud and city life, nor about the indeference and aggresivity of the state or its current landowners. This one can find narrated in details previously in several Microgeographies posts, click on “Temple of Agrotera” tag, or visit the blog created by the Residents of Mets Initiave.
I will go back to my quest of the space; In this photo shot during visits at the site, we can see the location of the lost monument and its connection with the actual environment. In these visits, or rather say, these wanderings, I always felt like another Gradiva*, lost around the unconcious archaeological object, lost around the fence. This feverish attitude led me gradually to a first reaction…..(to be continued)
Be part of the truth and not lose oneself.
* The Gradiva, The woman who walks, has become a modern 20th century mythological figure, from the novella Gradiva by the German writer Wilhelm Jensen, as she has sprung out of the imagination of a fictional character she may be considered unreal twice over. In the book a young archaeologist is fascinated by a female figure in an antique bas-relief and gives her the name “Gradiva” after Mars Gradivus, the Roman god of war walking into battle; later, not quite certain whether he is awake or dreaming, he meets her in the ruins of Pompeii. Sigmund Freud famously analysed the actions and dreams of this young archaeologist in his 1908 study, Der Wahn und die Träume in W. Jensens Gradiva. Through this study Freud not only saved the novella from being forgotten but caused the Gradiva to become a modern mythical figure. Gradiva, ‘the woman who walks through walls’ is the muse of Surrealism.
Whitney Chadwick, Masson’s Gradiva: The Metamorphosis of a Surrealist Myth, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Dec., 1970), pp. 415-422
**I would rather talk about my searching of the place…all started from my readings of my father’s books…Did I mention that my father is a collector of books and that he owened actuall all the volumes of Stuart and Revett? It seemed such a heroic act to my eyes of youth; to possess such an inheritence, to be the guard of this knowledge..Many years of my life I have tried hopelessly to prove myself worthy..have I failed…But reality prevails to sobbing wisper at the age of 46.