Greece – 10 euro silver, MATHEMATICIANS – EUCLID, 2023
Euclid is considered the father of geometry. He lived in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I and must have flourished about 300 BC. His central work was the Elements, where he presented the fundamental concepts and principles of geometry and, based on five indemonstrable postulates or axioms (e.g. two points determine one and only one straight line), managed to summarise the geometric wisdom of the time in a comprehensible and coherent system, named Euclidean geometry in his honour.
His influence was so immense that it was not until the 19th century that a non-Euclidean geometry was developed. He also wrote Optics, Catoptrics, Conics, etc. They say that when Ptolemy once asked him if there was in geometry any shorter way than that of the Elements, he replied that there was no royal road to geometry.
GREEK CULTURE – ANCIENT GREEK TECHNOLOGY – THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM. The Antikythera mechanism was recovered from a shipwreck found in 1900 by sponge divers off the island of Antikythera.
Built in Hellenistic times, this intricate device was used for astronomical calculations and has been described as the oldest analogue computer. Its more than 30 bronze gearwheels rotated pointers over different dials. Thus, manually selecting a date on the main dial – which represented the zodiac, as well as the solar and lunar years – shifted the smaller gears, so that the pointers on the other dials indicated the position of the selected date in the four-year cycle of the Panhellenic games (Olympia, Pythia, Isthmia, Nemea), the positions of the five then-known planets and the correlation with astronomy cycles that were of particular interest to the ancient Greeks.
The mechanism also predicted solar and lunar eclipses. Research on the mechanism, which has fascinated scholars for decades, is still ongoing under the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, which, using advanced imaging technologies, continues to provide impressive new insights into the mechanism’s complex inner workings.
CULTURAL HERITAGE – THE ANCIENT THEATRE OF EPIDAURUS.
The ancient theatre of Epidaurus, one of the best preserved of antiquity, is located on the grounds of a sanctuary to the healing god Asclepius. Attributed to the architect Polykleitos, it was constructed in the late 4th century BC, with subsequent additions. The cavea of the theatre, built into the natural hillside, comprises an upper and lower tier, separated by a walkway. The circular orchestra, 19.54 m. in diameter, was where the chorus performed, while the actors moved about the proscenium of a two-storey stage building, of which only the foundations survive.
Excavated by Panagiotis Kavvadias in 1881-83, the theatre required only limited restoration. The first modern-day revival of Greek drama at Epidaurus was directed by Dimitris Rontiris in 1938. Since 1954, the theatre has become the venue of the Epidaurus Festival, hosting mainly ancient tragedy and comedy productions. Thousands of spectators thus have an opportunity every summer to admire the theatre’s renowned acoustics and enjoy the unique experience of ancient drama in its natural setting.
Commemorative 2 euro coin dedicated to the anniversary of 200 years since the Greek revolution in 1821. The design features the Greek flag at centre, encircled by laurel branches. Inscribed along the inner edge is the wording “1821-2021 200 YEARS SINCE THE GREEK REVOLUTION” and “HELLENIC REPUBLIC”. Visible, at bottom, between two laurel branches, are a palmette (the mintmark of the Greek mint) and the monogram of the artist.
The obverse represents the archaeological site of Olympia with its columns made from the remains of ancient monuments. The birthplace of the Olympic Games is translated by the flame that gushes out of the basin. An Olympian goddess tries to light her torch with this Olympic flame. The geometric shapes at the back of the coin evoke the famous Greek amphitheatres and therefore the first Olympic stadiums that hosted the Games in antiquity.
Hermes was the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, daughter of Atlas. Born on Mt Kyllene, Hermes immediately showed signs of cunning resourcefulness, stealing Apollo’s cattle and promptly crafting the first lyre to appease him. Known as dolios, i.e. the schemer, Hermes was the divine trickster and patron of thieves. But, above all, he was the herald of the gods, which is why he was traditionally depicted wearing winged shoes, sporting a petasos (a broad-brimmed hat worn by travellers) and holding a caduceus. As psychopompos (i.e. conveyor of souls), he guided the souls of the deceased to the underworld. He was the protector of shepherds, tradesmen, as well as travellers. In fact, the road markers of the ancient Greeks were called herms, i.e. rectangular shafts topped by the head of hodios Hermes (i.e. Hermes of the roads). Given his additional status as patron of athletes, statues of him often adorned gymnasiums and stadiums. His varied roles, together with his playfulness, made Hermes the friendliest of the Olympian gods.
The ancient city of Messene was built in 369 BC at the foot of mount Ithomi, sacred to the Messenians, after the Spartans had suffered a crushing defeat to the Thebans under Epameinondas at the battle of Leuktra (371 BC), which led to the Messenians’ liberation. The city was surrounded by a 9.5 km-long fortification wall, with two gates, the Laconian and the Arcadian. Although the former no longer stands, the latter is now the site’s emblematic monument, winning a Europa Nostra Diploma in 2005 for its excellent restoration. Archaeological excavations, first launched in the late 19th century and resumed since 1986 under Professor Petros Themelis, include a vast programme of impressive restorations. These allow the visitor to form a vivid and accurate picture of the most important public buildings, including the Arsinoe fountain, the Asclepieion building complex, the stadium with the mausoleum of the Saithidae family, the gymnasium, the theatre and the odeon (also called ecclesiasterion, i.e. assembly hall).