Stories tagged ancient Greece

Nov
11
2011

On November 10, 2011, at 17:25 UTC (or 11:25am Central Standard Time), a shallow quake occured in Greece about 11.8 miles NE of the town of Patras. According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, this earthquake had a magnitude of 5.1 (later downgraded to a 4.6) and was a relatively shallow quake at 5 km (approximately 3.1 miles) below the Earth's surface.

This region is characterized by a high level of seismicity, and small tremors are continually recorded along the coast of Patras. Another interesting aspect of Patras is that in antiquity, there was an ancient oracle, over a sacred spring, dedicated to the goddess Demeter. Professor Iain Stewart from the University of Plymouth has been studying a supposed link between ancient. sacred places in Greece and Turkey and seismic fault lines. Many ancient temples and cities lie along those fault lines and this may not be merely due to chance, but they may have been placed there deliberately.The Temple of Apollo at Delphi with Mount Parnassus in the Background
The Temple of Apollo at Delphi with Mount Parnassus in the BackgroundCourtesy Wikimedia Commons

For example, the Oracle at Delphi has been given a geological explanation. The Delphi Fault (running east-west) and the Kerna Fault (running SE-NW) intersect near the oracular chamber in the Temple of Apollo. In that area, bituminous limestone (i.e. limestone containing bitumen, a tarlike deriviative of petroleum) has a petrochemical content as high as 20%. Analysis of spring water in the area showed the presence of hydrocarbon gases, such as ethylene. Geologists have hypothesized that friction from fault movement heats the limestone, causing the petrochemicals within to vaporize. It has been suggested that exposure to low levels of the sweet-smelling gas ethylene would induce a trance, or euphoric state. Could the naturally occuring ethylene account for the strange, prophetic behavior of the Pythia (the priestess at the Temple of Apollo)?

The Delphi research is certainly persuasive, and received favorable coverage in the popular press and Scientific American, but it has come under criticism. Critics argue that the concentrations of ethylene identified by the researchers would not be sufficient to induce a trance-like state, and thus the connection to the mantic behavior of the Pythia is dubious.

Report: Geomythology: Geological Origins of Myths and Legends
Article: Breaking the Vapour Barrier: What Made the Delphic Oracle Work?
Report: Oracle at Delphi May Have Been Inhaling Ethylene Gas Fumes

Related Report: Earthquake Faulting at Ancient Cnidus, SW Turkey

Apr
18
2007

The amphitheater at Epidaurus has acoustics so good you can hear a pin drop, even when the seats are packed with 15,000 people: Photo by Randy Peters from flickr.com
The amphitheater at Epidaurus has acoustics so good you can hear a pin drop, even when the seats are packed with 15,000 people: Photo by Randy Peters from flickr.com

The ancient Greek amphitheater at Epidaurus has long been famous for its marvelous sound qualities. Audience members in the back row could hear every sound, even as soft as a match being struck.

Until recently, no one has unlocked the secrets of these perfect acoustics. The Greeks themselves thought it was the shape of the amphitheater. But other theaters built on the same model could not reproduce the sound quality of Epidaurus.

Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have finally solved the problem. They found that the limestone seats work as a filter to dampen the sound of the crowd, while at the same time amplifying the sounds from the stage, . Other amphitheaters used the same design but different materials, and were never able to duplicate the results.

Archaeologist have discovered the remains of an ancient marketplace in southern Athens. The ruins date from 300 to 500 BC.