Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

A blog post by Greg

When we were touring shows in Italy in February 2018, and I realised that we had a weekend free for Valentine’s Day (our last Valentine’s Day before our wedding) I decided to take Felicity somewhere special. Venice was ruled out as we had already been there for the carnival, and so the city of Firenze, or Florence as it is known in English, sprung immediately to mind!

I had been there once before for a brief visit, and knew that it was a lovely looking place, and I also knew that there were several museums based on the work of Leonardo da Vinci (who I have long been interested in) which I was sure that Felicity wouldn’t mind me looking round while we were there – not that I had anything other than a romantic motive for choosing Florence as a destination, of course! I did, however, feel that it gives me the perfect excuse to do a blog post about Da Vinci!

For those of you who have never heard of Leonardo da Vinci (if such a person exists), or more likely if you have a vague idea that he was an artist, an inventor, and that one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was named after him, I will take a moment to give you a quick overview of who he was. This, as a rarity, is something I am actually highly qualified for, as Leonardo da Vinci was the subject of a minor module in my Open University History BA nearly fifteen years ago, so I can probably legitimately count myself as a Da Vincian (definitely a word) Scholar.

Greg enjoying a romantic Valentine with Da Vinci’s machines.

Da Vinci was born in 1452, in or close to the town of Vinci, which was at that time part of the Republic of Florence, Tuscany. At that time there was no unified country of Italy – what we would now call Italy was at that time divided into a series of independent city states, such as Florence, Venice, and the Kingdom of Naples to name a few. His father, Ser Piero da Vinci, was a legal notary while his mother, Caterina, was from the lower classes, and so were not destined to be married, and so Leonardo was born out of wedlock, and his parents each married other people the year after his birth.

Despite their class differences, Leonardo’s illegitimacy, and the fact that they had married other people, Leonardo seems, from what little we know of his childhood, to have been raised by both sides of his family. It is likely that his mother raised him in his earliest years, but by the time he was five he was living with his grandfather on his father’s side, where he had a basic education in writing, reading and maths.

His story really takes off when, at the age of 14, he found a position as a ‘studio boy’ in the workshop of the sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio (who himself had worked under Donatello, another master sculptor, who also gave his name to one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Leonardo worked his way up to apprentice by the time he was seventeen, and spent seven years learning a huge range of technical and artistic skills. In those times a painting or sculpture would be attributed to the ‘master’ whose studio produced it, and so there is much interest amongst art historians about which parts of Verrocchio’s works would have been painted by a young Leonardo, and it is even believed that Leonardo was the model for some of Verrocchio’s works at the time.

When Leonardo was twenty years old, in 1472, having qualified to become a ‘master’ himself, Leonardo’s father set the young artist up with his own studio, from which time Leonardo would get his own name on his artwork, and, through working on commissions for great families such as the Medici family in Florence, the Sforza family in Milan, and other patrons, he would create some of the most famous artwork in the world today, such as ‘The Last Supper’ and, of course, ‘The Mona Lisa’.

I must admit, however, that it is not Leonardo’s artistic works that particularly interest me, but rather it is when the art drifted into science. He gained permission, for example, to dissect human bodies, and made many detailed drawings of different parts of the body, the muscles, and skeletons, and showed interest in how these worked together, and how they allowed for movement.

He also studied and drew other animals as well, including cows, monkeys and bears, but to me the most important of these was his study of birds, because here we link to another string in Leonardo’s bow, engineering and invention!

In 1482 he had written a letter to Ludovico il Moro of Milan, offering to design machines to protect the city as well as machines to assist in a battle against another city, and he continued this work when he moved to Venice in 1499.

A model of one of Da Vinci’s war machines in a museum in Florence

In Da Vinci’s surviving journals there are a lot of inventions drawn, including the horse-drawn bladed chariot shown above. Of course, the term ‘invention’ may be slightly misleading for a lot of these drawings, for while much of what he invented worked and indeed proved useful, other drawings might be most kindly described as works in progress. Realistically these were concept designs, ideas which he had drawn which were either impractical in the real world, or that he just didn’t have the technology, time, or resources to fully work out.

It may seem rude to suggest that the great Leonardo da Vinci would just give up on an idea due to a lack of patience, and perhaps this is unfair. Perhaps it was more that he just lost interest in things when some new idea came along, or that he took too long over the details so that he never got around to completion. A prime example of this would have to be the ‘Gran Cavallo’, the ‘Great Horse’ in Milan.

As mentioned, Leonardo at one point went to work for Ludovico il Moro in Milan, and had offered his services as an engineer as well as an artist, and these two skills would be combined in the creation of the ‘Gran Cavallo’, which was intended to be the largest statue of a horse ever created as a monument to Ludovico’s father, Francesco Sforza.

The aim was to build a bronze sculpture of a horse, with Da Vinci’s usual realism, but standing nearly twenty-six feet high! There were few people who could even begin to take on this challenge, but Da Vinci faced it head on, and went to work with his usual scientific focus. He studied horses intently, making many sketches and producing writings on their anatomy to make sure that every detail of the horse would be correct. He figured out how they could cast such a vast statue, producing another work detailing how the separate pieces would be cast, and the form of the iron supports which would be needed inside the hollow structure to keep it from collapse.

A full eleven years after receiving the commission, Da Vinci produced a full size clay model of the horse, but a month later the Duke of Milan, Ludovico, had to use the bronze which had originally been gathered to make the statue to make cannons instead to defend the city, and the clay model was destroyed at the end of the century by French soldiers who invaded the city, and by rain and cold.

For centuries it was unknown whether Da Vinci’s design would, in fact, have worked, or whether the reason he had gone so long without starting to cast the statue was because he hadn’t really figured out a way to do it. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that an attempt was made to go back through Leonardo’s works and to finally cast the horse, and in 1997, over five hundred years after the clay model was created, ‘Leonardo’s Horse’ was finally placed into position in front of the Milan Hippodrome, which we got to go and see earlier in our tour in Italy!

Leonardo’s Horse outside the Milan Hippodrome

All of this brings us back to Florence, and to Da Vinci’s study of birds, all moving together to the reason why I was so keen to get to see one of the Da Vinci museums in town. Of all the studies that Da Vinci ever undertook, the one that has always fascinated me most are the studies which led to him preparing his ‘Codex On The Flight Of Birds’, and his fascination with the possibility of allowing people to fly!

According to Da Vinci, his interest in birds was linked to his earliest memory being related to a bird landing on his pram as a baby.

 “In the first recollection of my infancy it seemed to me that, while I was in my cradle a kite came to me and opened my mouth with its tail.”

Whether this story was true or not, Da Vinci showed a lot of interest in flying creatures, making numerous sketches and studies of both birds and bats to try to understand what gave them the ability to fly.

There are some who claim that he invented a forerunner to the helicopter, and it is true that one of his early designs for a flying machine, the Aerial Screw, would have used rotation in the same way as a helicopter. It was actually based on the water screw, which was used for drawing water upwards, and although it certainly has the concept of using rotation to move upwards through the air, it was manpowered and so would not have rotated fast enough, even had the concept been perfect.

In fact, despite all of his studies and designs, and even though he wrote about concepts for a flying machine in the Codex On The Flight Of Birds, Da Vinci never actually achieved flight, however I do find it incredible how much his other invention, Leonardo’s Ornithopter, resembles a plane. There is also something wonderful about the way it looks, the idea behind it, and the details he went into, and it was this that I most wanted to see in the museum.

Da Vinci’s Flying Machine

He obviously didn’t understand aerodynamics as we do today, and therefore didn’t have a wing shape which would allow his flying machine to work as a modern aeroplane does. Actually, that sentence is inaccurate because I used the word ‘we’. I’ll be honest, I don’t entirely understand how the aerodynamics work, I just know that they do. Were I to find myself having to invent a flying machine from scratch I would probably do what Da Vinci did – look at birds and conclude that the wings of the plane should flap, and so that is what he designed.

In the Codex he discussed what material it should be made of (not any metal apparently because it would break under stress!), and even goes so far as to give instructions for flying the machine, and how to keep it flying, all with accompanying diagrams of birds in flight to show how they work.

This is why I wanted to see the Da Vinci museum, and why I have long been interested in Da Vinci.

He always strikes me as a practical dreamer, something which I also strive to be in my life. He looked at things which many thought were impossible, and wanted to achieve them, even if he didn’t know how it could be achieved when he set out.

He didn’t however, just hope that things would work, he didn’t wait around for an answer to suddenly drop into his lap or spring into his mind, but rather he set to work studying, examining, enquiring, and trying to find a way to achieve what he wanted!

When I first told Felicity that we could make travel documentaries our lives, I really had no idea how – but I took Da Vinci’s example, and am constantly studying, looking into new ways of doing things, and learning from others, to find practical ways to make our dream work!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

The Ruins Of El Tajin

The Ruins of El Tajin

A blog post by Greg

First View Of The Buildings Of El Tajin

When we chose Mexico as our honeymoon destination (and unknowingly made it the first country which we would make a travel documentary about – Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty) I was particularly excited about seeing some of the ruins from the ancient civilisations across the country.

Our adventure had begun just outside of Mexico City at the ruins of Teotihuacan, which had been a high altitude desert ruin, following which we had driven down to the city of Poza Rica, Veracruz, where an early start got us to the ruins of El Tajin in time for the opening of the site. We had read while preparing for our journey that opening was the best time to get to almost any of the ancient sites in Mexico – not only can you beat the heat of the day, but you also find the site much quieter as the coach groups and organised tours don’t arrive until later in the day (this actually worked everywhere except for Chichen Itza when even arriving at opening had us standing in a long queue outside!).

At the entrance to the site, there are a few modern buildings – a couple of shops, a small museum and a ticket office. There is also a round courtyard space with a pole rising up into the air in the centre. Later in the day this would become the site of the ‘Flight of the Voladores’, a performance piece and ritual performed by some of the local Totonac people, in which they ascend the pole and then gently ‘fly’ back to the ground on the end of ropes which slowly unravel from the pole as it spins around.

Once we got through the entrance and walked along a small path we found ourselves among the ruins of El Tajin, and, as you can hear me remark in the documentary, if fulfilled my hopes of a ‘proper jungle ruin’. I knew that we were still planning to get deeper into jungle ruins in Palenque and Calakmul, but this was our first time seeing an ancient site surrounded by the Mexican Rainforests.

To briefly compare El Tajin with the sites at Palenque and Calakmul which we have previously written blog posts about, El Tajin feels a lot more like a museum site than the other two, which can be seen as both positive and negative. The main site which you can walk around has been fairly well cleared, with the jungle left surrounding it, which meant to me that it had an almost ‘park-like’ feel to it.

The temples are, for the most part, roped off and there are signs asking you not to climb them. After we had sat atop the pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Teotihuacan the day before, and looking back now on being able to climb to the top of structures in Calakmul and Palenque, we really missed the view from the top of these structures which gave an overview of the whole site in the other places.

Put together, the three actually give three different levels of clearance and conservation – El Tajin is very well cleared, very clean, and as I have said it is presented as more of an open-air museum.

Palenque is also largely cleared in the centre, giving a wonderful view of the site from atop the tallest structure (which you are allowed to climb, along with most of the buildings). The main buildings have been uncovered and some partially restored there, but in the main site there are still paths through the jungle, and there are many guides in the car park who can take you into the jungle around the site to see some of the structures still buried deep amongst the trees.

Palenque from atop the Temple of the Cross

Calakmul is far away from the main tourist areas, and staying there requires a drive well off the main road. Three temple structures protrude above the trees, and so when you climb to the top of those you see nothing but treetops and the other two structures poking out above the trees. Many of the structures around the site still have trees protruding from them.

The View Across The Calakmul Site

I would personally recommend that you visit all three of these sites if you get a chance to visit Mexico (along with Teotihuacan, Uxmal for the birds, Yaxchilan for the boat and as many other sites as you can fit in). I would, however, recommend that you visit the three sites in the order that we did, El Tajin, then Palenque, then Calakmul, as this is the perfect way to allow the remoteness and adventurousness of the sites to build as you go along.

One big difference to immediately note between Palenque, Calakmul and El Tajin is that while the other two cities were built by the ancient Maya people, it is still a matter of historical debate who first settled the site, and who built the city at El Tajin. Who constructed the site is not just a question of academic interest between historians and archaeologists, it also matters to the local people, the Totonac people (those who perform the ‘Flight of the Voladores’, who lay claim to the site as part of their communal history.

Archaeological evidence actually shows that there were hunter-gatherers in the area over seven thousand years ago, some of whom would eventually settle in the area as agriculture developed. In the 1100s BC the Olmec Civilisation, the earliest major Mesoamerican civilisation was on the rise in the Veracruz area, and so some make the argument that they are likely to have been behind the rise and building of El Tajin, however, there does not seem to have been evidence that they were in the area in large enough numbers to conclude that they were responsible for the city.

When the city itself was founded in the First Century AD a lot of evidence suggests that the area was populated not by the Olmec or the Totonac people, but by the Huastec people. Like the Totonac people, the Huastec people are still around today, and there are still upwards of sixty-thousand Huastec speakers today, of which a third live in the Veracruz area. The city reached its peak from about 600CE to 1200CE, so there is every possibility that the Huastec people may have founded the city but the Totonac people had continued it at some later point, or that one or other of these two peoples is responsible for the entire founding and building of the city, but at the moment there is not enough evidence to be sure which of these competing claims is correct.

Whoever was responsible, the site is truly impressive with a number of pyramids, and twenty ballcourts, including one with engravings showing how the games would have been played, and some of the rituals around them. The site speaks of a civilisation that was powerful, and had a great deal of knowledge about the world around them, and indeed the Sun and Moon above them, which seem to have been central to them.

Inscriptions On The Ball Court AT El Tajin

One of the most interesting buildings on the site is the Temple of the Niches. This is a seven story structure, and what makes it special are the niches which cover it, of which there are exactly three hundred and sixty-five, matching with the number of days in a year. This meant that not only did the people of El Tajin have the astronomical knowledge to understand that the yearly cycle was three hundred and sixty five days, but also that they had the engineering and architectural skills to design and build a structure with exactly the right number of equally spaces niches, built of stones weighing up to eight metric tons! The amount of knowledge and skill that this would require today would make this impressive, but the idea that this was built well over a thousand years ago in a pre-industrial society just shows how amazing this site is, and why it is so worth a visit!

The Temple Of Niches

We are lucky to be able to visit the site today, because it was only discovered by the outside world by chance when a government inspector in 1785 was in the area searching for any tobacco plantings which would have gone against the royal monopoly laws at the time came across the Temple of Niches, although the inspector did note that the local people knew of the site.

It was in 1831 that a German architect visiting the site first gave a full description of the Temple of Niches, and just over a hundred years later in the mid 1930s the first mapping of the area and clearance of the site began, work which from 1938 was overseen by Jose Garcia Payon, who spent 39 years until his death working to uncover the site!

His work to discover and preserve this site has led to a wonderful place to visit, so if you are heading to Mexico be sure to visit if you can!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

The Temple Of Artemis & The Seven Wonders Of The World

The Temple Of Artemis & The Seven Wonders Of The World

A Blog Post By Greg

Over 2,000 years ago, in the year 225 B.C., Philo of Byzantium wrote a work entitled ‘On The Seven Wonders’, which was the first known list of the ‘Seven Wonders Of The World’. Of course, exactly what should be included on a list of the seven wonders is open to a lot of debate, and because of where and when it was written the list of ‘world’ wonders is focused on the Ancient Greek world and Egypt.

The seven wonders originally listed are:

  1. The Great Pyramid Of Giza
  2. The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon
  3. The Statue Of Zeus At Olympia
  4. The Mausoleum At Halicarnassus
  5. The Colossus Of Rhodes
  6. The Lighthouse Of Alexandria
  7. The Temple Of Artemis

Of these, the only one still actually standing intact is The Great Pyramid, the pyramid built for the Pharaoh Khufu. Considering that it was built in around 2,600 B.C, that also makes it the oldest of the wonders, which just goes to show that the Ancient Egyptians certainly knew how to build a pyramid!

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, at the other end of the spectrum, may never have existed at all! It is not mentioned in any Babylonian texts which have survived, which leads some to believe that the gardens never existed, and were actually a mythical place that Roman and Greek writers wrote about to show an ideal of an eastern garden. It is also possible that the gardens existed but we have no contemporary records of them.

The rest of the wonders have all since been destroyed, but we do know where most of them were sited, and for some of them some of the remains are still available to be seen.

One of these sites is the subject of this post, the Temple of Artemis, which was built on a site near the Greek port city of Ephesus in the Izmir Province of Turkey, and which we had the opportunity to visit during the filming of ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities‘.

We didn’t really know what to expect from the site before we went, although we had by that point in time visited a number of historic sites in Turkey, including the Ancient Greek and Roman Ruins of Hierapolis and Laodicea. At all of the sites we had visited so far we had been impressed with how well cared for the sites were, and the efforts which had gone into their preservation. We expected to see the same at the Temple of Artemis.

I’m going to pause at this point in the blog to say that we visited the site of the Temple of Artemis in November 2019 and that what we saw of the ruins then may have changed now. I also want to point out that in general this is a positive blog, and I try to write about places which I can speak positively about. In this case, however, we were disappointed by this site in comparison to all of the others we had seen.

As one of the ‘Seven Wonders’, we had high hopes for seeing the Temple of Artemis as we left the hotel. We were aware that the temple had been destroyed by Ostrogoths in the 3rd Century A.D., and that archaeologists hadn’t begun to uncover the ruined columns until the 1860s, and that there wasn’t much of the temple still remaining, and we were interested to see how what they had found would be presented.

The ruins which we were going to see weren’t actually the first ruins of the Temple of Artemis. Several temple structures dating back to the Bronze Age had been built on the site throughout its history. The structure which stood on the site leading into the 7th Century B.C. was destroyed by a flood, which meant that a rebuild was necessary.

In 550 B.C. work on a new temple began on the site, and the work took ten years for them to complete. It may have been the first of the Ancient Greek temples to be made in marble, and was dedicated to the goddess Artemis (known to the Romans as Diana), daughter of Zeus, God of Thunder, and Leto. Artemis is probably best known as the ‘Goddess of the Hunt’, although she was also the goddess of wild animals, the moon, the wilderness and chastity.

This version of the temple survived for a little under 200 years, until in 356 B.C. it burned to the ground.

A lot of people these days talk about ‘Reality TV Stars’ and other people who seem to just want to be ‘famous’, and it is clear that there are some people who seek fame at almost any cost. This isn’t, however, a new phenomenon, and it seems that it dated back at least as far as the second Temple of Artemis, and to a man named Herostratus.

According to some sources, Herostratus was a man of low social standing who wanted to be famous at any cost, and would risk the anger of one of the most widely worshipped goddesses in the Ancient Greek world, as he decided to burn down her major temple at Ephesus. This gives rise to the term ‘Herostratic Fame’, meaning fame sought at any cost, particularly referring to people who commit crimes in order to become famous. It didn’t really work for him as he was executed before he could know whether he became famous, and a law was passed making it illegal to write or say his name (a law which clearly some people chose to break as we know of him today).

You might be wondering how the worshippers of Artemis explained the fact that someone could burn down her temple without her stopping them. The answer is that the temple is said to have burned down on the 21st July 356 B.C., the day that Alexander the Great was born, and that Artemis was busy attending that birth and so was distracted while her temple burned down.

Finally, in the year 323 B.C. construction began on the final Temple of Artemis, and was the largest temple built on the site, standing 450ft by 225ft, and 60 ft high, with 127 columns, each approximately 4ft wide. So impressive was the temple that one description of the temple at the time compared it very favourably to some of the other wonders:

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”

This temple stood longer than its immediate predecessor, surviving until the year 268 A.D. when a raid by an East Germanic tribe, the Goths, set fire to it as part of a campaign of raids upon various cities. We don’t know for sure how extensive the damage was, as then the history of the Temple of Artemis becomes a little murky as there is some suggestion in 5th Century works that the temple was finally closed due to the spread of Christianity leading to Pagan Temples being closed down or destroyed.

Either way, the temple was lost until an expedition sent by The British Museum in 1869 found the site, and began a series of excavations lasting five years, with some of the fragments of the most recent two temples still on display in the museum today, along with more found in excavations in 1904-1906.

As a result of the destruction, along with the fact that the late-19th and early 20th Century excavations removed a lot of what was left at the site and took it back to The British Museum in London to be preserved and displayed there, there really isn’t a lot left on the site of the Temple of Artemis. The photograph above basically shows what is left on the site (sat below St. John’s Basilica in the background). There is one roughly reconstructed column out of the original 127, and part of another, and then various stones and fragments scattered around the site.

There has clearly been some care shown to the site, because of the restoration of these columns. While we were visiting Laodicea on the same trip to Turkey we had seen two of the team there starting the process of restoring one of the columns there, and the amount of time and effort which it was taking just to get the first few pieces into place.

The site itself, however, looked sad. It was clearly in a park used for walking dogs, and some of the owners had not cleaned up after their dogs. Around the outside were overgrown hedges, and a pool of green water amid the ruins filled with frogs which was nothing like the beautiful crystal clear pool which we had seen people swimming in while we were at the ruins of Hierapolis.

Standing on the site, I couldn’t help but think about the weight of history on the spot. How for over a thousand years people had worshipped in temples on this site, rebuilding them when they were destroyed by floods or fire. People would have travelled just to see the site, and ancient writers thought it an important and impressive enough site to include it in their writings about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. More recently, the time had been taken to restore what they could of the columns remaining on the site, and this echoed through history back to each of the successive groups of people who had tried to rebuild the temple each time it was destroyed.

There is also something poignant, considering that it was the spread of Christianity, and the Christian persecution of Paganism, which had led to the final closure, abandonment and ruin of the Temple of Artemis that these ruins sit below the site and ruins of the Christian ‘Basilica of St John’, visible from the site of the Temple of Artemis, and much better restored, staffed, sign-posted, and generally cared for.

Overall, I am glad we visited the site of the temple, and if you visit the site then be sure to also visit the nearby Ephesus Museum, where some of the relics and statues from the site can be seen, as well as a model showing what the final temple would have looked like.

I hope that in the future it will be possible to improve the site, and present what remains at the Temple of Artemis in a way more fitting of its status in history!

Thank you for reading, and please take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

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There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

Laodicea on the Lycus

Laodicea on the Lycus

A blog post by Greg

We got to visit several historical sites during our travels in Turkey. The Underground Cities and Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia, and the Ancient Greek ruins of Hierapolis and Ephesus, as well as St John’s Basilica and the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’.

Watch ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities’ – Free on Plex

Of all the sites which we visited, however, none had quite the same impact on me as Laodicea on the Lycus in Denizli, and it was one of those wonderful moments which travelling presents where we nearly never saw it at all, and a last-minute decision led to a very special experience.

I ought to point out, from the start, that we took this visit in late 2019, and so I don’t know as I write this at the start of 2022 how much the site has changed from what we saw. I mention this because it was very much the point in time at which we visited Laodicea that made the visit so special.

Part of my interest in history, and historical sites around the world, comes from a class in primary school. One day we sat down to a history lesson, and we were in the heart of studying the Ancient Egyptians. Of course, we had already learned about building the pyramids, about mummification and the River Nile, but the story we were to learn about in that lesson was more important to me than any other I can remember hearing in a history lesson throughout my time in school.

In 1922 Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. The story of the discovery and excavation of the tomb (which perhaps I will go into in another blog post in the future), and the ‘wonderful things’ which his team discovered, combined with watching Indiana Jones, inspired my interest in history, and a desire to visit ancient sites around the world.

The day before we visited Laodicea we had spent a day looking around Hierapolis and the Cotton Castles of Pamukkale. The ancient city of Hierapolis is amazing, and so much of it has been restored to give a good idea of how it would have appeared back when it was inhabited. It is also a tourist centre, with gift shops and kiosks throughout the site, and museum buildings and displays filled with information. It is a wonderful site to go and visit as part of a trip to the area.

The Entrance of Hierapolis

After our trip to Hierapolis our plan had been to get up the next morning and make the drive to Izmir ready to visit Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis, but looking at the map we had time to visit another site on our way. The hotel had provided us with a welcome pack with ‘things to do in the local area’, and Laodicea was one of several ruins listed. I’m not sure what made us pick that one above the others, but I’m glad we did!

Laodicea on the Lycus, is something completely different from what we had seen at Hierapolis, which we realised as we drove up a small road towards the entrance to the site, stopping briefly at a security checkpoint where mirrors on sticks were used to check underneath our car, security sadly needed due to the importance of the site to Christian people (it was one of seven churches that Jesus tells John to write a message to in the Book of Revelation in the Bible – more on that later) putting it at increased risk of terrorist incidents.

Arriving at the carpark, which is just an open area beside a small ticket office with a few souvenirs for sale, we found only a couple more cars there, compared with several buses which had been arriving at Hierapolis at the same time as us the day before, and as we looked around Laodicea it didn’t get much busier. To one side of the carpark there were a couple of signs giving information about the site.

The city was first built (and I say first built as it was destroyed by earthquakes several times, as I discovered to my slight confusion from the sign at the entrance to the car park) in around about 260BC, although there is evidence of people living in the area three thousand years earlier than that as flint and obsidian tools have been discovered from that time.

According to the sign I read at the city (as shown in the clip above from ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities), the city was abandoned after a ‘devastating earthquake’ at the start of the 7th Century AD, meaning that as a city it stood for just under nine hundred years. This is contested, as Byzantine sources mention it throughout the 11th and 12th Centuries, and have it finally being abandoned in the 13th Century. Which of these is correct will, I’m sure, only be confirmed through further research and study of finds on the site.

This is, in a way, the entire point of this blog, and what I enjoyed most about our visit to Laodicea. It is, currently, a working excavation! They seem to be planning to one day make it a big tourist site like Hierapolis, and it will be an amazing place to visit, but right now it is history in progress! There is a team working there who are uncovering new finds, and also seeking to restore a lot of the site. They were excited about their work and (although we had to leave the camera switched off) took us into the area which they were currently working on, and, despite the language barrier, tried to show us everything that they were discovering and uncovering in that building. Imagine going to any major historic site you have ever visited, but being there as it is being worked on, meeting the people carrying out the excavations.

In a few years this will be a major tourist site. They are restoring it in a big way and there are some amazing sites there – in fact, we even got to see some of the processes of restoring a beautiful theatre, moving large rocks in wheelbarrows on cranes as they try to get the right pieces back in the right places, as you can see in this footage below from ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities’.

One of the reasons why I’m sure that it will become a major tourist site once it has been restored (as well as the scale and quality of the site, of course), is its connection to the Book of Revelation in The Bible, and the fact that it is mentioned multiple times in the book. Religious travellers and pilgrims already head to St John’s Basilica near Ephesus, a little over a hundred miles from Laodicea. St John wrote the Book of Revelation, which includes seven letters to churches in the area which Christians believe were written by St John at Jesus’ request. One of these was the church at Ephesus, and another the church at Laodicea, and so it is fair to assume that when Laodicea is complete as a tourist site that it will join Ephesus as a centre of religious travel.

This is interesting, because in 363AD a council of clerics from across Asia Minor gathered at Laodicea, presumably in the church which was discovered by radar in 2010, and opened to the public in a restored state in 2016.

This council was to decide on a number of issues of church doctrine, and finished up with 60 canons, rules for the followers of the churches involved. Among these canons, canon 59 and 60 deal with The Bible itself. Canon 59 made it forbidden to read any of the books of The Bible which the council decreed ‘uncanonical’, any of the books which featured in some versions of the Bible at that time, or in some teachings, which they decided were not to be part of the ‘official’ Bible going forwards.

It may come as a surprise to some (I know it did to me when I first discovered it in my late teens) that The Bible as we know it is the product of debates and agreements over hundreds of years, and during that time books were added and removed from the ‘canonical’ version of various churches until the ‘modern’ versions of The Bible came into being (and even then there are some differences in which books are contained depending on the denomination!).

At the Council of Laodicea, the canonical books of The Bible were listed in Canon 60, and included most of the books which would be recognised in The Bible today, with one notable exception. The Book of Revelation was not included in the canonical Bible agreed at the Council of Laodicea, that book which had the main mention of both the city and its church. There could be many reasons for this. Perhaps it was decided that the book was too different in style from the remainder of the books, perhaps they raised questions about its authenticity or its holy provenance.

Personally, I can’t help thinking that it may have been left out because of what it said about the Church of Laodicea. That’s right, I’m about to quote scripture!

Today’s reading comes from the Book of Revelation, chapter three, verses 14-18:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich, and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

I can’t help thinking that if I were sat at the Council of Laodicea, in the Church of Laodicea, and I found that one of the books which we were considering making canonical called the people of Laodicea wretched, pitiful, poor, naked – and not just naked but shamefully naked – then perhaps I might decide that particular book might be left out!

This is, of course, pure conjecture on my part based on human nature – Biblical scholars are more than welcome to disagree!

Whatever draws people to Laodicea some years in the future when work is complete, I am sure that they are going to find an example of an ancient Greek and Roman city which will be incredible to look around. I am, however, glad that we visited at this stage. Yes, not everything has been uncovered yet, and yes a large part of the site is shielded from view where it is being worked on (unless you are lucky enough to be invited in by the team working there). If you get a chance to go and see it while it is still in the excavation stage, however, I would very strongly recommend it – the chance to see a site of this scale and quality in mid-excavation is not one you are going to have too many chances to experience!

We are always looking for incredible ancient sites to visit while on our travels – so please leave a comment below to let us know where the best sites you have ever visited are!

Thank you for reading, and please take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg