Off to the Goddess of Love?
Plans for this summer in my neck of the woods come down to two things only: reading and writing. That's not to say that I am not going away (we have a few little foreign breaks planned). Bit when I get there I am hoping to get a bit of uninterrupted time for the life of the mind, with a sea view, some swimming breaks and a nice cocktail or three. And most important I guess with a good alibi for not getting distracted from all the things that distract when you spend the whole summer in Cambridge.
But it always seems a wasted opportunity not to use part of the summer to see some bit of the classical world you havent seem before (rule of thumb, so far unbroken: when you actually visit a place, you always discover more than you did by just the library work). So this year we have a visit planned to Knidos in Southern Turkey, south of Bodrum.
There are all kind of reasons a Classicist might make for Knidos (including the inscribed text of a famous Roman law against pirates of 100BC). But our reason for going is to see the even more famous temple of the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
For this temple contained the famous early fourth-century BCE sculpture of the goddess by Praxiteles, often said to be the first nude statue in the Greek world. Whether this is strictly true is quite another matter, but the Elder Pliny hypes a story that suggests it was at least a rarity. Praxiteles, he explains, had made two versions of the goddess (one clothed, one naked) and put them on sale for the same price. Two places were after them. The people of the island of Kos quickly chose the clothed version, leaving the people of Knidos to take the naked -- which turned out to be hugely to their advantage because tourists for the rest of antiquity flocked to see it.
We have a wonderful ancient (Roman date) account of one group of tourists from a little essay preserved among the works of Lucian (though almost certainly not by him); it's called Erotes ("sex") and you can read it in English on-line here. The framing narrative is a discussion between a celibate and a bi-sexual on the best type of sex, and in the middle of this we are taken back to an earlier discussion between the celibate and an Athenian and a Corinthian. The men had put in at Knidos and went straight to the temple and started to argue about the statue and how it contributed to their argument.
I'm keen to get a sense of the lay out of the place (what did "putting in" at Knidos mean? and how would they have got to the temple from the harbour?). Sadly, the statue itself no longer survives, but we do get a great account of it in Pseudo-Lucian, who has one of his characters point to the stain in the marble on the back of the statue's thigh, and then be told by the woman on the staff that it was mark left by a young man who was so besotted with the marble goddess that he contrived to get locked up in the temple with her at night... and eave the indelible mark of his semen behind (and indeed on her behind).
So there's some footstep tracing to be done here and I'll let you know. But there's also two wry jokes about the whole enterprise. First, so far as I can tell from what I read, the remains of the temple of Aphrodite were re-excavated in the late 60s and early 70s by an American archaeologist Iris Love -- yes the uncoverer of the temple was actually called "love" (surely no coincidence, or at least the cause of many digside jokes... nomen et omen and all that). If you can get JSTOR, her articles are in the American Journal of Archaeology from 1969 to the early 70s.
But perhaps even more curiously, the reason that she identified the remains she found as the temple in question (given the statue was no longer there), was partly through the ancient descriptions in Pliny and Lucian (but they are to be honest a bit hard to make fit exactly). But it was more thanks the repro temple that the Roman emperor Hadrian had erected in his "villa" at Tivoli in the second century CE, complete with a repro statue (pic above). It's a nice indication of the imbrication (or maybe dependence) of classical Greek art and culture with its Roman version.