Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Corruption in Ancient Greece

The phenomenon of corruption is very ancient and is one of the characteristic of the human nature. History is full of examples verifying this assumption. 
The great legislator Solon established in the 5th century BC the Seisachtheia, i.e. the debt cancellation. As Aristotle writes, just before the announcement of the debt cancellation, he informed his friends to rush and get large loans, which eventually were cleared of any debt, hence making them really rich. Themistocles claimed that it has no value to be a leader if you cannot enrich your friends. Agisilaos, King of Sparta believed exactly the same thing.  Even the monuments on the Acropolis were connected to the biggest scandal of abuse during the Golden Century of Pericles (5th century BC).  The main issues were both, using money from the treasury of the Athenian Alliance by Pericles and the suspicion that Phidias had distorted the gold in the statue of Athena. Plutarch writes that Pericles introduced the "secret funds" by taking 10 talents, an enormous sum for that period. When questioned in Pnika he answered "I gave them where they were needed", without explaining further. 

Demosthenes was exiled and imprisoned twice due to corruption charges. The first time he took money of Alexander the Great's treasurer, Arpalo, who took the funds from Babylon and fled to Athens. The second time he took money from the Amfises in order to cover a scandal at Delphi. Arpalos had escaped to Athens in order to avoid the wrath of Alexander the Great because he stole the army's finance and the treasury of Babylon, which had been entrusted to him. Finally, Demosthenes was convicted and exiled from Athens in 324 BC for choosing to work with the biggest abuser of his time, Arpalo. 
In ancient Greece, the laws and the constitution did not work by divine right but by the right of the people. That is why Pericles was given a trial date, although he was never tried, since during that time the Peloponnesian War commenced. Nevertheless, before the temple of Athena Nike began, the auditors looked thoroughly at Kalikratis' designs. As for Phidias, he achieved to demonstrate his innocence in court, however he didn't escape prison. The key reason was his arrogance in immortalizing Pericles and himself on the shield of the goddess Athena.
It is evident, through these few examples that the phenomenon of corruption is timeless, however it is not a characteristic of one people or nation, but of all of mankind, starting from Adam and Eve. Nevertheless that does not mean that regulations and laws shouldn't exist in order to prevent and minimise this bad habit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Notting Hill Carnival

One of the biggest events of the summer in London is the Notting Hill Carnival, held each August Bank Holiday since 1966, being the largest festival celebration of its kind in Europe. Every year the streets of West London come alive, with the smells, sounds and colours of Europe's biggest street festival. 
Twenty miles of vibrant colourful costumes, sound systems and hundreds of Caribbean food are to be found here. Music is at the heart of Notting Hill Carnival, with traditional and contemporary sounds filling the air for miles around. Notting Hill introduces the visitor to wonderful aromas of traditional Caribbean cuisine, providing the perfect introduction to jerk chicken, rice and peas and rum punch as well as the odd taste of other exotic food. 

The Notting Hill Carnival began as a local festival set up by the West Indian community; however now it has become a full-blooded Caribbean carnival, attracting millions of visitors form all over the world. 
There, one can observe the many astonishing floats and sounds of the traditional steel drum bands, scores of massive sound systems plus, not forgetting, the hundreds of stalls that line the streets of Notting Hill. It is considered by many as London's most exciting annual event. 
The Police was present in every street around the carnival, making sure that law and order was maintained. The carnival begins on Great Western Road, then moves along Chepstow Road, on to Westbourne Grove and then the Ladbroke Grove. As seen in this picture, this festival has no age restrictions.! It is one attraction that no one should miss!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The tallest bridge in the world

The tallest bridge in the world is located in Southern France, called bridge Millau Viaduct.Its construction took three years, being a mechanical and architectural miracle. 

Its highest point is 343 metres from the ground, which is consequently 19 metres taller that the Eiffel Tower. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Angkor Wat

The Temples of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, were built between 1220 BC to 802 BC. The impressive complex of temples of Angkor Wat have countless temples spanning in an area of 400 sq km. The most popular temples are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom which are, as many Hollywood fans would recognise, the site from the film Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.

The temple complex has recently had a massive influx of tourists, explaining why Siem Reap, a town near Angkor Wat, has many hotels, in comparison to the one that it had 15 years ago. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Digital Art

Since everything is digitalised, then why not art? Monnet Laurent an eighteen year old from France has created some work of art digitally. Some of her paintings are demonstrated here. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Saint Alexander the Great

The schismatic Orthodox church in FYROM is proclaiming Alexander the Great a Saint. Archbishop of Orhid in FYROM, Stephen, has given permission to place a hagiography of Alexander the Great on the dome of St. Nicholas Church in Stip, a place normally kept for the Pantokrator, i.e. Jesus Christ blessing the believers. They have even drawn the Macedonian symbol, the Sun of Vergina, which is not in any way a Christian symbol, introducing new pagan symbols. 

This is a blasphemous and immoral decision taken by the schismatic church in FYROM. This points out how the small Balkan nation wishes to change history, altar religion and modify the way with which a certain person is proclaimed a saint.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bobby's Bus Shelter

Bobby's Bus Shelter at Unst, one of the northernmost isle of Shetland Islands in Scotland, could be the only bus stop in the world that is visited by bus loads of tourists every day during the summer. This of course is due to the inventive decoration, some homemade fudge, a pair of resident beer-quaffing hamsters and an intriguing story. 

On a very cold winter morning in Unst, a six year old child was waiting for the school bus in the old bus shelter. Having enough of the cold weather, he wrote a letter to the local newspaper. The council felt sorry for little Bobby and installed a brand new one. Quickly after that things started to appear, first some wicker chairs, then a microwave, then a carpet, telephone and curtains, however no one knows where they came from. 
The interior is now altered on a regular basis, thanks to the "Bobby's Bus Shelter Executive Board". It has had various themes, including an underwater theme, a yellow, a space and an African theme. When Bobby eventually grew he moved to Swaziland, in Africa. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The most impressive statues in the world!

Every one of course knows and admires the Statue of Liberty in New York, however it is not the only magnificent statue in the world. Some statues are more advertised than others; that is why here we will see some not widely known, great statues. 

"Mother Motherland" is located in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. It has stood there for over 40 years and when it was built it was the tallest statue in the world, being 102 metres tall and weighing 530 tones. 

"Lord Shiva" located in Murudeshwar, India. The statue has been built out of a single stone found right there in the sea. Detail is evident, emphasising the long shapely fingers, intricately knotted hair, the serpent coiled around its neck and the tiger skin he's seated on. It is 37 metres high and needed two years for it to be completed. 

"The Motherland Calls" located in Volgograd, Russia commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad. It was declared the largest statue in the world in 1967, being the last non-religious statue to be declared the largest, every record holder since has been a Buddhism related sculpture. It is 85 metres high and weighs 8.000 tones.

"Gundam Robot" in Tokyo is the most modern looking statue in this category, being 18 meters high. It was inspired by a Japanese comic series. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

William Wallace

William Wallace is a historical figure who has intrigued me since watching Braveheart. Wallace led the Scottish rebellion against Edward I and inflicted a great defeat on the English army at Stirling Bridge. He is not only considered a patriot but also a national hero in Scotland. 

William Wallace was born in 1270 in Elderslie, Renfrewshire, into a gentry family. Unfortunately not much is known about his early years whilst many periods of his life are based on unreliable sources. In 1296 Scottish unrest was widespread after Edward I of England had taken advantage of a succession crisis in Scotland  and imposed himself as ruler with an English administration. In May 1297 Wallace attacked the town of Lanark, killing the English sheriff. This resulted in the prevalence of a full-blown rebellion. Many followed Wallace and achieved to drive the English out of Fife and Perthshire. In September of the same year Wallace defeated a much larger English force at the Battle of Stirling Bridge and due to this and other military successes the English hold on Scotland was weakened. After this William Wallace launched raids into Northern England. As a result of his actions he was knighted and appointed "guardian of the kingdom" in the name of the deposed king of Scotland, John Balliol. 
Following the defeat at Stirling the English rallied around Edward, who then marched north with an army. Wallace's strategy was to avoid confrontation and gradually withdraw. Destroying the country side as he went along, he forced Edward to march deeper into Scotland. The English and Scottish armies met near Falkirk in July 1298, where the latter were defeated. Wallace escaped, at some stage he resigned the guardianship and was eventually succeeded by Robert Bruce and John Comyn.
Wallace returned to Scotland in 1303 after visiting France, where he pursued to obtain support for the Scottish cause. Whilst he was abroad Robert Bruce had accepted a truce with Edward I and John Comyn came to terms with the English in 1304. Wallace was excluded from these terms and the English monarch offered a large sum of money to anyone who killed or captured him. Eventually the Scottish hero was seized in Glasgow and was transported to London in August 1305. He was charged and tried with treason, although denying it, claiming that he had never sworn allegiance to the English king. His execution was held on 23 August, (706 years ago) where he was hung, drawn and quartered. His head was placed on London Bridge, whilst his limbs displayed in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Monastery of Ten Thousand Buddhas

In Sha Tin, a town in the New Territories, in Hong Kong, is located the Monastery of Ten Thousand Buddhas. It isn't an actual monastery since there are no monks residing there. However it is the home place of about 13.000 statues of Buddhas of all shapes and sizes. 

In order to reach the monastery one needs to climb over 400 steps up the hillside. The Buddhas located on this path are life sized. Each statue is unique including thin, chubby, bald, hairy Buddhas; they even have walking sticks, dogs, dragons and frogs. Buddhas are found everywhere, in the garden, the pavilion, the tower and of course within the temple itself. 
This unique monastery was founded by Yuet Kai in 1951, who was a monk who preached Buddhism in a nearby monastery. Despite being an old man, the monk carried the materials needed for the building on his own, from the foot of the mountain, together with his disciples. The building was erected within 8 years and the Buddha statues took another 10 years to complete. The monk is currently venerated in the main hall of the monastery in a glass case, where he is preserved. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Solar Wind Bridge

Man was always intrigued by the future prospects of life and 'gadgets' which will exist. One future prospect could be the Solar Wind Bridge, designed by Italian designers Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino. The proposed bridge has turbines among the pillars whilst at the surface solar panels are located. The turbines will be able to produce 36 million KWh annually and the solar panels 11.2 million KWh annually. This energy will be enough to power a town of 15.000 homes a year.

Nevertheless the designers did not stop there. They thought to create a greenhouse as seen in the picture, where vegetables can grow and could eventually be sold to the drivers. However this project won second place in the competition "Solar Park Works-Solar Highway" which asked contestants to create an elevated highway which will connect the cities Bagnara and Scilla in Italy. Although being merely a proposal I think this is one excellent idea to implement where ever possible in order to promote natural resources, like the sun and the wind, which are of course free.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Annual Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius

The Annual Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius took place this week (15th-18th of August) in the High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, near London. The theme of the conference was "Priesthood and Ministry". 

In the context of the sometimes difficult path encountered within and between the different Christian traditions, the conference looked at the various ways in which the nature of priesthood, ministry and vocation feature in life, witness and struggle of the Church. The speakers were from both the Anglican and the Orthodox Worlds, from the U.K. and abroad. 

The people attending the conference had a great chance to not only visit the Orthodox Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights but also to attend a lecture by Hieromonk Nicholas Sakharov, giving a monastic view on the theme of the conference.  

Anglican Eucharist, Orthodox Liturgy, a Panikhida (i.e. Orthodox memorial service for the departed members and friends of the Fellowship) and an Anglican Evening Prayer took place during the conference. 

Another interesting moment was when, after Metropolitan Kallistos' lecture, many members of the conference had a chance to visit the Coptic Orthodox Church in Stevenage, where we had the opportunity to meet and speak to Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church. 

Countless subjects were stressed within this symposium in respect to the priesthood and ministry. What was intriguing to identify was the understanding and acceptance of the different traditions, something not seen in many  Christian Churches and communities.

The speakers spoke in reference to their traditions; however in many cases issues that interest both worlds were stressed, one key issue being the ordination of women. Although the two Churches differ on this matter, and the Anglican Church has various views on this serious issue, it was interesting to acknowledge what the Orthodox believe. Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia stated that there are three views within the Orthodox World concerning the ordination of women:
1. The majority is against it.
2. The Orthodox Church has not yet seen or disgust this matter. It could be considered as an open question. A minority supports this view.
3. An even smaller minority supports the ordination of women.
It is interesting to see that Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have been very cautious on this matter, as Metropolitan Kallistos specified. 

Interesting questions should eventually be answered by a future Panorthodox Synod when, or more realistically IF it ever takes place, such as "can't a woman represent Him?" and " what is the theological significance of Christ's maleness?".

I would like to thank Fr. Stephen Platt who is the General Secretary of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius for organising this interesting and successful conference. 

Lets hope that conferences and meetings like this one continue and prevail within the Christian World, emphasising the importance of Christianity within an ongoing secular and materialistic world. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tombs of the Kings

Since it is August, I remembered various previous holidays of mine. One archaeological site that intrigued me was the Tombs of the Kings in Paphos, Cyprus. I have never seen anything like it. 
The tombs are impressive, carved out of solid rock, some even featuring Doric pillars and frescoed walls. It acknowledges its design to Macedonian prototypes, passed down from Alexander's armies to the Ptolemies. 
However the name of this archaeological site is misleading due to the fact that there is no evidence of any royalty buried there. Instead, the site was the final resting place of about 100 Ptolemaic aristocrats who lived in Paphos during the 3rd century BC.

The reason why this site was given the name "Tombs of the Kings" was due to the impressiveness of the tombs. The name has since remained. 
The catacombs were later used by the Ancient Church and one of the tombs was even turned into a chapel. In the medieval era various tombs were used as makeshift dwellings or as workplaces. 
Unfortunately the site was systematically looted of artefacts long before excavations began in 1977. Nevertheless investigations continue till this day.
The Tombs of the Kings is declared as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO, being maintained by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our lost moon

According to a new theory, our planet may have had two moons in the past, the one we have to this day and a smaller companion. A slow motion collision between the two is believed to have created the mountainous highlands on the moon's far side, by debris from the second moon. This could explain why the side of the moon facing the Earth and the side facing away have strikingly different topographies. Scientists have proposed various theories to explain this assymetry, however this new theory, the giant impact hypothesis, explains exactly this fact. 

Many experts believe a Mars sized object collided with Earth early in the solar system's history, ejecting debris that was later drawn together by gravity to form the moon. It is a belief that the second moon was also generated by the giant impact, remaining in orbit for tens of millions of years. According to this theory, the two moons collided relatively slowly. This concluded in the formation of the mountainous region on the far side of our moon. Nevertheless this is merely a hypothesis, an interesting one if your ask me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cities, then and now!

Cities change, in many cases, rapidly. Alterations to the scenery within a big megalopolis are evident in a very small period of time. Imagine the changes which have taken place in a space of 30, 40, 50 years. Sometimes I imagine how metropolises of our epoch will be in a century, or even 500 years? I am sure we would not recognise the majority of the buildings and scenery. Some paradigms are shown here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Full train

Many of us have complained about public transport, especially when we use it during peak times. However, from my previous experience from European capitals, especially London and Athens, I am not complaining after seeing this video. The situation in Japan, especially its capital Tokyo, is much worse than any European city. 
All I can say is that if this was the case in my city, I would take the car!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Panagia Soumela

Today the Orthodox Church commemorates the Dormition of the Mother of God. Due to this feast I thought of Panagia Soumela, known mainly as the Virgin Mary of a part of the Greek world, i.e. of Pontos. The monastery is located in the Trabzon Province, known also as Pontos, in modern Northern Turkey.

The monastery of Panagia Soumela is a holy, magical and mysterious place, both for the Orthodox and the Hellenic worlds. It is the historical, cultural and religious symbol and place which unites the Pontian Greeks. Even today it is considered a pilgrimage that many Orthodox wish to make. 

A very important fact is that last year on the 15th of August, for the first time since the end of World War II and the Greek-Turkish population exchange (1922), a Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. 

This was of course done after Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government accepted the request by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on this great feast day. 

It was an important moment for the Orthodox world, but mostly for the Pontian Greeks, who venerate Panagia Soumela (the Virgnin Mary of Soumela) tremendously. This is shown emphatically through the building of a monastery in Macedonia dedicated to Panagia Soumela, where her icon was brought by a priest from Athens.
Let us hope that one day this monastery will be restored to its previous glory, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's jurisdiction, where the Divine Liturgy can be celebrated daily.