The Fateful Shipwreck of Antikythera

“All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.”

Ecclesiastes 1:7

I have had the opportunity recently to see a splendid exhibition that arrived in Basel, Switzerland from Athens. Its subject matter was the most important ancient shipwreck ever recovered: the Antikythera wreck. Most media attention was captured by the most famous artifact recovered from the wreck – a highly sophisticated mechanism, which was a precise astrolabe (an astronomical computer) used for calculating the position of planets, timing of the eclipses, casting astrological charts, etc.  Its significance, which stunned scientists, has been well documented both by esoteric (astrological) (http://www.demetra-george.com/resources/articles/164-the-antikythera-mechanism-revealed-a-2000-year-old-astro-computer) and mainstream sources (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q124C7W0WYA). My focus, however, was mainly on the collection of the marble and bronze masterpieces recovered from the wreck. Two statues startled me most: the marble Odysseus and the bronze Apollo.

The corroded, horror-like appearance of the marble statues on display was a testimony that this material does not withstand salt water well. Centuries spent on the sea bed led to their gradual disintegration. The parts that were buried in the sand withstood the cruelty of salt water. Marble is very fragile (Venus of Milo comes to mind), yet even the crippled, chipped, maimed fragments of Greek sculptures that survived until our times have an aura of stunning, perfect beauty about them. As if Father Time cannot claim them, because they are mightier than him. The weathered, corroded look of Odysseus was extremely becoming, I thought. It made him lifelike, human, and incarnate. I imagine the polished marble Odysseus would not be happy as an objet d’art in a Roman villa (the ship is believed to have been sailing from Greece to the territory of the Roman Empire). Doesn’t his decrepit look reveal more of his years of wearisome suffering?

Bronze, as opposed to marble, withstands the ravages of salt water very well. In classical antiquity, there were some bronze alloys, notably the Corinthian bronze, which were considered to be very precious. The main composites of bronze are tin and copper, which correspond symbolically to Jupiter and Venus, the ancient benefic planets. Copper, the metal of Venus, is soft and pliable, but when combined with tin to create bronze it does not lose its beautiful reddish hue, yet it gets hard and resistant. Bronze statues are created for eternity. The perfectly preserved statue of Apollo (a copy of a Pompeii statue) had a supernatural, spine-chilling aspect to it.  I could not look away, though it was a haunting, disconcerting experience.

Apollo

Apollo

The exhibition made me also ponder the symbolism of ships and navigation. Perhaps in symbolic terms, the Greek ship’s cargo, destined to decorate the villas and palaces of the Roman Empire, found its more fitting abode on the bottom of the sea. For many ancient cultures, especially the Vikings, the sea was both the cradle and the coffin. By sinking the ship before it left the Greek waters, the Aegean Sea Mother seemed to have claimed her due from ancient Romans.  In her Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara Walker traces back the etymology of the Teutonic Schiff (ship) to the word fate. A strong feeling of fateful necessity accompanied me during my whole trip to Basel. The ship sank, its whole crew drowned, yet the Sea Goddess chose to cradle its treasures over long centuries. There is fatedness in the ship getting so much attention only now. Perhaps we are finally ready to fully comprehend how much ancient wisdom has been lost and needs to be retrieved from the depths of the collective unconscious.

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17 Responses to The Fateful Shipwreck of Antikythera

  1. equinoxio21 says:

    I learned something new. (Eupharisto) I didn’t know marble resisted less than Bronze. Amazing. 🙂

  2. Cnawan Fahey says:

    Fantastic article. Love your reflections that give soul to these statues. How fitting that we get to see the aged and weathered Odysseus, and yet the God is as immortal as ever. And to bring the Antikythera mechanism under your musings – perhaps this too was meant to be captured, preserved, and revealed for a later age.

    • Thank you very much. I felt too humble to write about the mechanism, since so many great minds already have to greater effect. I agree with you that it is fortunate it got sealed in the wreck’s time capsule.

      • Cnawan Fahey says:

        I’ve also always been in awe of the mechanism. Watched the video that you linked. So astonishing that they’ve been able to understand it so well – with the right people and the right technology!

      • Another proof we have been grossly underestimating ancient civilizations.

      • Cnawan Fahey says:

        Yes. I’ve been pondering that very thing myself. Have probably said it before, but let me say again – you really have an awesome blog and have such a lucid and engaging writing style.

  3. geokalpataru says:

    so happy we both saw the same exhibition Monica!-but in different cities..haha. lovely post. i do hope if you ever visit Athens to let me know, so we can stroll around my favorite bronze statues in the national archeological museum..just beauty!
    all the best

  4. Amy Campion says:

    Wonderful post, thanks. I so can share your sense of the humanity of Odysseus, which contrasts so strikingly with Apollo. I can only imagine how disconcerting it must have been to gaze upon him in real life, he brings to mind the phrase that we are all created in “god’s” image… and yet how so not!

  5. Thanks, Monika, I loved this post and images and will share it on my Astrology: Questions and Answers Page. I would have re-blogged it, but there is no button to do so. The manifestations of the current Jupiter/Saturn/Neptune square continue to build, layer by layer, each day. How apt it is, to have those ancient artefacts, those man-made statues, retrieved for our inspiration from the bottom of the sea at this very time…I too, found it fascinating that the human figure of Odysseus was so corroded by the sea – yet the god Apollo has surfaced barely changed….

    • Thank you for reminding us of the astrological transits correlating with the discoveries. I am thankful that you like the post and want to share it. I have disabled reblogging for now but maybe I will turn it on again.

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