Wagner and Aeschylus

“In any serious investigation of the essence of our art of the day, we cannot make one step forward without being brought face to face with its intimate connection with the art of ancient Greece. For, in point of fact, our modern art is but one link in the artistic development of the whole of Europe; and this development found its starting point with the Greeks”.

 That was Richard Wagner in his essay ‘Art And Revolution’ (‘Die Kunst und die Revolution’), published in 1849. Interestingly enough, Wagner’s work was influenced on many levels by Aeschylus. Let’s see how:

Axial Age (Achsenzeit)

The period of ancient history from about the 8th to the 3rd century BCE, is when humans began to conceive and develop theologies of religion and philosophy. The famous German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers called this period of unprecedented religious and philosophical creativity “The Axial Age”.

Those thinkers that emerged from this “Axial Age” included Classical Greek dramatists and philosophers,  Lao Tze, the Buddha, the Upanishads, Confucius and Hebrew prophets. Aeschylus belongs to this group of thinkers. His theater plays, never ceased to have a profound influence not only to ancient thinkers but also to intellectuals of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Aeschylus: the innovator

Did you know that Aeschylus introduced the concept of trilogies? Think of “Lord Of The Rings”, “Star Wars” or any other set of three theater plays or movies that are connected and can be seen either as a single movie or as three individual movies.

He introduced ‘stochasmos’ and ‘logos’, transforming the plot into a vehicle to explore other concepts and ideas! (The term ‘stochasmos’ can be translated in English as ‘conjecture’. while the Latin term is ‘status coniecturalis’.)

Aeschylus (523-456 BCE)

Influence on Wagner

One of the most loyal fans of Aeschylus was Richard Wagner. On the last day of his life, the great German composer and theatre director said of Aeschylus, ‘my admiration for him never ceases to grow’.

Wagner records in his autobiography, “Mein Leben“, that he then:

‘for the first time . . . mastered Aeschylus with real feeling and understanding’,

and goes on to say that the impact on him of the Orestes trilogy was so great that:

‘I could see the Oresteia with my mind’s eye, as though it were actually being performed; and its effect on me was indescribable.

Nothing could equal the sublime emotion with which the Agamemnon inspired me, and to the last word of the Eumenides I remained in an atmosphere so far removed from the present day that I have never since been really able to reconcile myself with modern literature.

My ideas about the whole significance of the drama and of the theater were, without a doubt, molded by these impressions’ …(!)

Seven Hills Of Athens

Athens is full of hills! They offer spectacular views of the city and the surrounding area  and 3 of them are actually archaeological sites of major importance!

So, here’s  seven of the most exciting hills of Athens:

Lycabettus

A favorite for both locals and tourists. Towering 300 meters (almost 1000 ft)  above Athens it offers a unique panoramic view of a large part of the whole region of Attica. Hey… You can even see a couple of islands far away in the distance. If you’re too lazy to walk all the way to the top (it’s give or take 25′ hiking uphill) you can always use the Lycabettus Funicular. Owning  a telephoto zoom lens to capture the city from above is ideal.

Areopagus

The big piece of rock rock that stands out on the north-east side of the Acropolis. Areios Pagos in ancient Greek means the Rock of Ares and  is well known to Christians all over the world as this is where Apostle Paul stood to address the Athenians back in 60 AD. Climbing up the slippery steps gets you in a position where you are directly above the Agora (Forum) of Athens. During the day it’s full of tourists that were up or just came down from the Acropolis. During the night it’s full of high-school kids enjoying a warm night under the stars with a six-pack and a guitar. Sounds a bit like a movie? The city lights look pretty cool from up there and it’s only 10′ away from Monastiraki square so many friends and couples find their way up there after sunset.

Hill of Pnyx

That was one the most important hill for the ancient Athenians (second to importance only to the Acropolis maybe) because this is where the body of citizens used to meet to discuss, vote and decide about affairs of the State. This is where direct democracy was actually happening. That was the first real (open-air) parliament. You can actually stand where Democracy was born! Some really important decisions -that influenced the history of the West- were taken there. You also have a solemn and imposing view of the Acropolis herself from up there.

Philopapus Hill

Yes. This is my personal favorite. You’re going to thank me for making you go up there… All photographs you’ve seen of the Acropolis on postcards, magazines, documentaries etc. they’ve been shot from the top of this hill. You get to the top and you have in front of you the perfect view of the Acropolis. It really is an unforgettable sight. Strike a pose for some of the most classic shots of your holidays. If you turn your back, the Saronic gulf spreads in front of you and the sun sets in the Aegean sea. What a view!

Lofos Strefi

If you’re looking for a location off the beaten track, you should be heading towards the bohemian, urban neighborhood of Exarchia and a hike up to the hill of Strefi. Frequented mostly by leftist, locals, anarchists and curious or bored students, the whole area is full of bars, small tavernas, rock-joints, a few junkies and too many bookstores. Exarchia lies on the gentle slopes of the hill of Strefi. A hike up there will offer you a much different view of Athens and the other six hills of this list.

Ardettos Hill

This is probably the shortest hill of Athens, quiet and full of pine trees. It’s famous for the highly impressive Panathenaic stadium that is built on the slope of that hill and the tiny hill of Agra. The biggest (and actually the only) marble stadium in the world. Home of the first modern Olympic games back in 1896.

The Acropolis

As everyone knows, the most important hill of Athens was and always be her acropolis. This word means citadel, fortress. Almost all cities had one. The acropolis of Athens is famous for one main reason: because of the Parthenon. This huge temple dedicated to Athena that the Athenians decided to construct entirely out of marble and what many scholars have described as the symbol of Western Civilization.

Martin King shot to death: R. Kennedy’s dramatic address

April 4th 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr was shot and killed.

New York’s senator Robert Kennedy, wanted to deliver the devastating news to the people of Indianapolis.

Robert Kennedy
In his improvised speech, he informed the gathered crowd of the assassination, adding:

‘… But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black’.