Out of all things to notice when first arriving in Greece, it was the marble curbs that initially caught my eye.
In the United States, people pay large amounts of money to have marble countertops or marble floors. There, it is a luxury to be able to afford marble products. Yet, in Greece, the streets in downtown Plaka are made out of slabs of marble. The floors in Athenian buildings regardless of wealth are marble. And many staircases in Santorini are also marble.
Here, most locals probably don’t think twice about it because marble is a commodity that is so widely used in day to day art and building techniques. But, a site like this is truly spectacular for the visiting American.
αʹ-1. This is a portion of the curb that started it all! I found it fascinating that the curbing was all marble, whether the area was wealthier in fashion or an area that portrayed a lower economic status.
βʹ-2. This road is the pathway to the iconic marble Parthenon at the Acropolis of Athens. Since Greece has been a place with a “glowing” reputation dating back to the Golden Age in the 5th century B.C, marble has been a favorite construction rock because of its beauty and rigidity against the elements.
γʹ-3. The Pentelic marble steps are the focal point to the main entrance of the Acropolis in Athens. Since the marble was mined locally at two main quarries in northeast Athens, the choice to use this specific rock was ideal. Although it was a process getting marble to top of the hill, it has been documented that the ancient Greeks had better building and stronger sculpting tools than what we have today. Unfortunately, the “recipe” for the creation of those tools has been lost over time, but these tools did allow the Greeks to build the Parthenon in under 15 years.
δʹ-4. The Parthenon has stood the test of time, mostly surviving several wars and centuries of governmental use. Due to a canonball hitting the structure and exploding stored gunpowder within, most of the interior walls and some of the marble doric columns were destroyed. Today, there is a renovation process underway to bring the Parthenon and its marble back to their former glory.
εʹ-5. Just west of the Acropolis is the Acropolis Museum, which has an entrance and interior mainly consisting of grey and white marble. Marble has homogeneity (or visual uniformity) throughout, making it a popular rock for construction. It is also very resistant to extreme conditions because marble is simply metamorphosed limestone that crystallized under high heat and pressure.
ϛʹ-6. Since marble is equigranular (having equal grain sizes), the metamorphozing process creates a denser rock that voids empty spaces and results in a strong building rock. Marble, although fairly resistant, is also soft enough to be carved and does not easily shatter. This is why columns as shown above have the ability to be carved in intricate detail near the captial, or top of the column.
ζʹ-7. The word “marble” comes from the Greek root word “mármaros” which means crystalline rock or shining stone. Marble is very common in sculpting due to the low amount of refraction, meaning that when light enters the rock, it sinks down a few layers before refracting light back to the eye of the observer. This gives sculptures a dense waxy glow and makes the illusion of the sculptures very life-like.
ηʹ-8. Although less popular in Santorini than in Athens, marble is a very popular accent rock. As seen in this picture, thin sheets of marble line the stair case near the hotel lobby.
θʹ-9. Here is another example of marble being used as an asthetically pleasing accent against the polished sandstone. Notice that the marble is strategically placed at the edges of each step where the most daily wear occurs. Marble is a very versatile and physically beautiful rock, hence its artistic and architectural popularity in Greece.
ιʹ-10. Another view of those same marble steps at the Loizos Hotel with a beautiful backdrop of an iconic white and blue Greek church to remind me of where I get to call home for a short while. For the next three weeks, I’ll be walking up and down these stairs, admiring them a little more than most would.