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