Sunken Alexandria sees daylight

Topics should range on anything like Shroud of Turin, Noahs Ark, Ark of the Covenant, Exodus Red Sea crossing, locations of newly found digs, Dead Sea Scrolls etc...
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Sunken Alexandria sees daylight

Post#1 » Tue May 16, 2006 6:30 pm

idiots have to bring up an unusable term for the time of ANTISEMITISM BS...
other then that it is an interesting article, check out the pics by going to the original site.
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Ancient Alexandria Exhibit

Murder, Mayhem and Mystery on Display

By Matthias Schulz

Treasure hunter Franck Goddio has spent years bringing the sunken city of Alexandria to the surface. The results of his labors, now premiering in Berlin, reveal incest, fratricide and iniquity. And breathtaking beauty.

It's a good thing that the Martin Gropius Building has such high ceilings. It'll need them. The exhibit at the Berlin museum includes 15-ton statues sculpted from rose-colored granite that have spent millennia on the ocean floor.

The pieces that will be on display in the exhibit entitled "Egypt's Sunken Treasure," opening to the public on May 13, but ceremoniously unveiled by German President Horst Köhler and visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday, were flown directly to Germany on board a "Beluga" cargo plane provided by Airbus. The aircraft's unusual cargo also includes astronomic calendars, jewels, gold coins, penises made of lead and the spout of a baby's bottle. The statue of Hapi, more than five meters (16.4 feet) tall, is considered the largest freestanding sculpture of an Egyptian god in existence.

Christoph Gerigk / Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation Christoph Gerigk / Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation Christoph Gerigk / Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (13 Photos).
The man who discovered all of these ancient artifacts is marine expert Franck Goddio, 58. The Frenchman has spent more than 10 years uncovering the remains of ancient Alexandria off the sunken coast of North Africa. Over the years, Goddio and his team have used hot-air balloons to extract algae-encrusted sphinxes from the waters of the Mediterranean and cranes to lift steles and decaying door hinges, coated with barnacles, from the ancient site.

The artifacts pulled to the surface are the remains of the most astonishing city of the ancient world -- a city dubbed the Pearl of the Mediterranean with a population of almost 600,000. It was a magnificent world as much as it was a setting for bloody royal dramas. The lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, rose 130 meters (426 feet) into the sky, its wood fires, amplified by mirrors, shining far out into the Mediterranean. In the first century B.C., the writer Diodor raved about Alexandria, whose "beauty, size and riches far surpassed those of all other cities." The city's diverse population included Jews and Egyptians, Gallic mercenaries, Nubians and Persians.

"Enormous cultural undertaking"

All of this has been re-created in the Gropius exhibit, which uses wood and paper maché to replicate scenes from the ancient city. Screens above the display cases depict Goddio's divers at the excavation site.

Ancient Alexandria.
Ancient Alexandria.
Museum Director Gereon Sievernich calls the recovery effort an "enormous cultural undertaking." "In the past, many finds have gathered dust in protected storage rooms," he explains, "we are proud to be able to celebrate a world premier."

Portions of the exhibit are not for the squeamish. Some of the objects on display bear witness to a gruesome chapter in history. The city's royal quarter, the "Bruckeion," was home to a dynasty of pleasure-seeking god-kings with bizarre lifestyles. The Berlin exhibit, for example, includes:

* a stele of Ptolemy VIII. The king had his own sons hacked to pieces and sent a trunk containing the remains to his wife.

* King Ptolemy XII in the shape of a sphinx. The monarch, known to be homosexual, murdered his eldest daughter.

Cups of poison and daggers were de rigueur in this powerful city in the Nile delta. Even Cleopatra had blood on her hands. She had her brother murdered and devoted herself to sorcery in her boudoir.

Historians have portrayed the queen as an empty-headed flirt with a penchant for luxury. Legend has it that Cleopatra, wearing a jewel-encrusted tanga, bewitched Roman general Marc Antony, drinking a cocktail of pearls dissolved in vinegar. Close to 60 films, most notably the Hollywood classic starring Liz Taylor, have been devoted to a woman Horatio called the "demon of doom." But the ancient original wasn't nearly as beautiful as many of the modern-day divas who have portrayed her on the silver screen. Goddio's divers recovered more than 30 coins with Cleopatra's likeness and reconstructed her face using computer technology. The resulting image shows a woman with a hooked nose and flabby cheeks.

Heading for the deep

It's the sort of conclusion that only state-of-the-art technology can deliver. Goddio's exploration craft, outfitted with Side Scan Sonar and Echolot, pulls "radar sleds" along the ocean floor. Whenever the sleds encounter promising sites, his team drops buoys and the divers head for the deep.

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The "Pearl of the Mediterranean," shattered into glittering fragments of its ancient glory, is finally returning to light. The province of Euclid and Archimedes and the site of the largest library of antiquity, Alexandria was also a monster of greed and moral decrepitude, a hotbed of racism and anti-Semitism.

Though in Africa, the city was dominated by the Greeks. After Alexander the Great subjugated the land of the pharaohs in 332 B.C., the country came into the hands of business-minded colonialists. Jewish author Philo called the city with its throngs a "city of many faces." A comedy of the day belittles its inhabitants as "people crowded together like pigs." Egyptians and Jews lived in separate neighborhoods. The Greeks, who lived in the "Royal Quarter," were barred from entering into mixed marriages. There were arenas where athletes hurled spears and discuses and boxing matches were staged for public entertainment. Giant cities of the dead were built outside the city's walls, places where the embalmers lived, surrounded by the stench of death.

One hundred and twenty scholars worked at the "Museion," the archetype of all universities. They included physicians who performed dissections of human corpses, philologists who translated the bible and the works of Zarathustra -- all 2 million verses. Pleasure seekers ventured out to Kanopos, a suburb linked to the capital by a canal lined with brothels. Strabon describes the town as a place of lasciviously dancing woman, of bars "filled with licentiousness and indulgence."
Jérôme Delafosse / Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation Christoph Gerigk / Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation Christoph Gerigk / Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (7 Photos).

A city full of contradictions

Goddio's divers recovered most of their finds in Herakleion, a nearby temple city, where they also found Christian artifacts. Alexandria, of all places, was also the birthplace of a new morality. By as early as the Third Century A.D., Herakleion was home to monks living on monastery-like estates. Goddio found 1,500-year-old crosses on the ocean floor, some made of gold, others of lead. The foundation of a church his team excavated in Herakleion is one of the world's earliest.

These are all relics of a city full of deep contradictions. Alexandria produced some of the most advanced technology of its day. Horizontal looms -- a hint of industrial production -- rattled away in its factories. But as advanced as it was in some respects, life in this ancient city, spoiled and given to the pleasures of the flesh, lacked inner strength.

But most of all Alexandria was the kind of place New York is today -- the center of a globalized world.

It all began with Alexander the Great (356 to 323 B.C.) who, with his military campaign all the way to the banks of the Indus River, brought together many previously isolated cultures in a single realm. Fortune-hunters from the Greek Islands migrated to the Nile delta in droves, joined by Jews and slaves.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, archaeologist Franck Goddio and German President Horst Köhler opened the Alexandria exhibit at the Martin Gropius Building in Berlin on Thursday.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, archaeologist Franck Goddio and German President Horst Köhler opened the Alexandria exhibit at the Martin Gropius Building in Berlin on Thursday.
The first ruler, Ptolemy I, one of Alexander's former generals, still valued discipline and order. Instrumental in the expansion of the city's large harbor, he lived by the motto: "No one has the right to do as he wishes, but everything is completely under control." His subjects included about 7 million Egyptians.

His successor, Ptolemy II, was also viewed as a "successful statesman." He warded off four attacks by foreign armies and led his own forces into Arabia. From a technical standpoint, his was an era of expansion in an old-fashioned Egypt. About 40 new towns were built in the Faijum oasis, where Greek architects built a reservoir, an engineering marvel that supplied enough water for a second harvest in the spring. It almost seemed as though Plato's legacy of the levelheaded state was coming to fruition, as the rational spirit of the Greeks merged with Egypt's piousness to form a new, magnificent union.

But it was a fatal mixture. The Ptolemies, backed by pugnacious mercenary armies, were soon as arrogant as the pharaohs and, like the pharaohs, they pursued an appalling cult of personality. Even worse, the dynasty worshipped the club-footed wood gnome Dionysus. The deity, which Alexander (who drank up to five liters of wine at banquets and presumably succumbed to an inflammation of the pancreas caused by alcohol) had brought along from the East, became popular in the Nile delta and eventually developed into the central figure of a new state religion. The Ptolemies adorned themselves with garlands of ivy and horns of Ammon and carried around the "Thyros," a rod wrapped in ivy and grape leaves, with a pinecone at its tip.

Mass pleasure

In 275 B.C., the Alexandrians gave the god of wine a parade, the likes of which the world had never seen -- a procession attended by crowds from as far away as Athens, Thebes, Crete and Ionia. Some 57,000 soldiers and 1,600 boys carrying costly vessels marched at the head of the procession, followed by 24 elephant-drawn carts and an assortment of exotic animals. At the center of the caravan, 180 men carried a statue of the god Dionysus wrapped in a purple embroidered coat. Bringing up the rear was a rolling wine press where 60 satyrs pressed grapes and served wine to the masses through a giant hose.

It was a display of pure joie de vivre, or what historian Michael Grant calls an "escape from earthly cares."

Unhampered by inhibitions, the cult of Dionysus was an expression of mass pleasure, the dissolution of the self and large-scale sex orgies. The kings hoped to use the universal power of Eros to forge unity among their jumbled and religiously confused, multicultural subjects.

But the plan failed just as miserably as did the dynasty's effort to make itself unassailable through deification. The sacred fog with which these rulers enveloped themselves soon appeared inane and vulgar. But a third innovation was even worse. In 278 B.C., Ptolemy II married his sister Arsinoe II, who was eight years his senior. It was incest, a scandal of the highest order. "You are pushing the prong into an unholy fleshpot," wrote sharp-tongued poet Sotades. As punishment, the poet was encased in lead box and thrown into the sea.

As repulsive as this incestuous alliance may seem, Grant believes the ruler's intentions were in fact praiseworthy. "He wanted to keep the number of heirs to the throne as low as possible," the historian says -- a strategy aimed at averting infighting. Only brothers and sisters could produce full-blooded princes. This policy of self-fertilization resulted in bizarre familial relations in the royal quarter. Eventually this merging of the blood of the Walsungs released an unhindered aggression -- as the taboo against incest waned, so too did other taboos, including that against murder.

"It's like diving into coffee"

But despite the fact that they are portrayed with sheep-like eyes on coins, these monarchs were not genetically marred. The last of their offspring, Cleopatra -- "the product of more than a generation of unrelenting incest," as Grant calls her -- was the picture of health. Indeed, perhaps the dynasty's only real shortcoming when it came to matters of physical well-being was a tendency toward obesity.

Ptolemy III Euergetes ("the Benefactor"), whose began his reign in 246 B.C., embarked on another military campaign, sending his army all the way to India. Sources write that the 265 warships lay at anchor in the harbor of the capital at the time, as Alexandria rose to prominence as a leading seafaring power.

Nowadays the waters off the Corniche, modern-day Alexandria's harbor promenade, are the color of murky sewage. "It's like diving into coffee," says team photographer Christoph Gerigk. But the harbor once sheltered a commercial fleet flying a rainbow of flags. Workers dragged sacks and amphorae into storage bins. The king held the global monopoly on papyrus and imposed a 300 percent tax on bitter cucumber oil.

Confident of his powers, Ptolemy III became increasingly convinced of his divine connections, even decreeing that he was descended from Hercules and Dionysus. A statue found in the mud depicting Ptolemy III in the form of powerful god Hermes-Thot is on display in the glass-covered atrium at the Gropius Building.

When this last great dynasty, the self-proclaimed "Conquerors of the World," died out in 221 B.C., the country had reached its most expansive borders. But the dynasty went downhill from there. The dead father had hardly been committed to the earth in his gilded coffin before his successor, Ptolemy IV, had his own mother, brother and an uncle killed. Sosibios, an artful courtier, assumed control of the state's business. Ancient texts refer to him as a "killing machine."

Before long, the court's heavy-handedness resulted in a national revolt with the Egyptian priesthood launching a partisan war. Between 206 and 186 B.C., the high priest of Thebes even anointed a pharaoh as a rival king.

Anti-Semitism in ancient Alexandria

Tensions also mounted along the coast, as the fourth Ptolemy found himself embroiled in recurring clashes with the Jews. Accustomed to a lavish lifestyle, the moral rigor of the Hebrews irritated him. When they refused to worship him as the "new Dionysus," he threatened the Jews with forced tattooing, ordering the image of an ivy leaf, a symbol of his cult, etched into their skin.

The themes of Alexandrian anti-Semitism are already clearly evident in the works of historian Manetho, an Egyptian priest who lived around 250 B.C. He described Jews as foreigners with absurd religious convictions and bizarre customs. Most of all, the Jews were accused of arrogance. To preserve their kosher dietary habits, the chosen people isolated themselves from their supposedly impure environment -- so much so that sharing a meal with non-Jews was practically inconceivable.

The Bible's portrayal of Egypt only made matters worse. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek in around 250 B.C., everyone could read about how the land of the Pyramids was no "gift of the Nile," as Herodotus had once pleasantly noted, but a region cursed by locust plagues and fed by the stinking waters of the Nile. To add insult to injury, Jewish scholar Philo described the Egyptians as "wicked, worthless men, who had imprinted the venom and evil disposition of their native asps and crocodiles on their own souls."

The differences led to unrest. The people from the Egyptian quarter, Rhakotis, parodied the holy Sabbath of Moses's disciples as "sabbatosis" -- an expression that, in their language, referred to a tumor in the groin region. The Greeks, who were widely viewed as drinkers, were just as unpopular. And then there were the bearded Persians who allowed their dead to be eaten by vultures, the Syrians, considered born slaves, and the supposedly lazy Bedouins from Libya. All of these hatreds soon developed into a power keg of contempt, held together by greed and the profits gleaned from trade in the city's large harbor.

Things finally came to a head in the summer of 145 B.C. After the death of Ptolemy VI, his widow tried to place her underage son onto the throne. But her younger brother objected and forced her to marry him. Ancient author Justin writes that the usurper had the young heir to the throne murdered during his wedding and then, his body smeared with blood, married his sister. The people called the man, who was fond of wrapping his bloated body in shrouds, Physkon ("Potbelly").

"Carnal, bloody and unnatural acts"

When Cleopatra's father mounted the throne, the country had long since declined into a plaything for the Romans -- a land of misery. Ptolemy XII sought to forget his country's dismal prospects by immersing himself in dazzling banquets, where he would invite beautiful transvestites to perform erotic dances in rooms lined in purple stone. He himself was master of the Aulos, a sort of flute. This powerless twit preferred to be addressed as "our God and Master, the King" -- only a few kilometers from the Jewish quarter, where any form of religious idolatry was frowned upon.

The exhibition in Berlin shows the "flute player" as a sphinx with the body of a lion and a soft, friendly face. The figure was buried deep in the mud and covered with chunks of lime. It took restorers weeks working laboriously with toothbrushes and scalpels to clean the sculpture.

Cleopatra was born into this den of iniquity in 69 B.C. She spoke seven languages, including Arabic, and wrote books about cosmetics and gynecology. Unlike her father, who had bowed to the Romans, Cleopatra was defiant. Historians describing her first encounter with Caesar, write that the 21-year-old had herself smuggled into the palace of the then 52-year-old general in a laundry sack while he was staying in Alexandria. Suddenly she emerged from the sack, her eyes shining and her eyelids lined with lampblack. He named her "Queen of Egypt."

A short time later, she ingratiated herself with Marc Antony, who soon moved to Egypt, where the couple had three children. Before long, she became a true threat to Rome -- "Boundlessly, hoping for everything, drunk with sweet happiness," Horatio wrote. Cleopatra convinced her new friend to support a bold idea. She wanted to create an "Athens of the South," a greater Greek empire with its capital at Alexandria.

But her dream went up in smoke. At the sea battle of Actium, in 31 B.C., Octavian (the later Emperor Augustus) crushed his opponents. Many of Marc Antony's soldiers had switched sides, and the losers committed suicide.

The underwater ruins that are now on display in Berlin are reminders of all this bloody turmoil. The cases hold gold rings and pearls, side-by-side with the severed heads of statues -- silent witnesses "of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts," to quote Shakespeare's "Hamlet." A visit is well worthwhile -- the exhibit breathes life into the dramas stage by history so long ago.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

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