Photo-Op: The Sites of Ancient Greece

Gorgeous picture of a spectacular monastery in Greece – from

The Sites of Ancient Greece

Height made might in the ancient world, especially in Greece, where steep, rocky terrain amplified the advantage of commanding the high ground. Athens, like other Greek cities, grew from a fortified nucleus known as an acropolis (‘high city’); the top of Mount Olympus was the stronghold of the gods; Icarus’ fatal hubris was his presumption to soar as high as they did. Aerial views like the 100 images in Georg Gerster’s ‘The Sites of Ancient Greece’ (Phaidon, 160 pages, $69.95)achieve a perspective even those immortals can envy. Crisscrossing Greece in a Cessna, Mr. Gerster captured structures ranging from the labyrinthine palace of Knossos, built in 2000 B.C., to the medieval monasteries (above) at Meteora—the name means ‘suspended in midair’—where monks hoping to draw closer to the divine retreated to prongs of rock that tower hundreds of feet above the plain of Thessaly. The grooves eroded in the sandstone echo the fluting of classical columns, such as those of the Parthenon, which in Mr. Gerstner’s photograph cast long shadows across the Acropolis. The Olympian perspective often magnifies traces that are indistinct on the ground. From directly overhead, the walls and streets of the fifth-century B.C. ‘New Town’ in Olynthos are as sharp as a blueprint, and in Arcadia the patchwork fields of modern farmers are interrupted by an oval ring nearly a mile across—the outline of the ancient town of Mantineia, now plowed under. But Mr. Gerster’s method can also humble. The magnificent temple of Poseidon perched on Cape Sounion at the southern tip of the Attic peninsula was once a conspicuous landmark for sailors on the sea below. From a few thousand feet up, it looks like a brittle toy.

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