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Photo of the week: the Tower of the Winds

To the north of the Acropolis, in the heart of the historic district of Plaka, is a small monument known as the “Tower of the winds,” a name appropriately given, since each side bears a relief of a winged male form, representing one of the principal winds. Its proper name is the Horologion of Cyrrhestes, so named after the man who designed it, astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus, in Macedonia.

tower of the winds, Athens, Greece

Inside the building, time was measured by means of a water clock and by sundials on each of its eight sides on the outside. It was topped by a weathervane in the form of a Triton, so that people looking up could see both the time of day and the prevailing wind.

As the Tower lies next to the Roman forum, built in the 1st century BCE, it was thought that the Tower dated from the same time. Now the scholarly consensus is that the Horologion was built in the mid-2nd century BCE.

In Christian times, the Tower was used as a church or the baptistery of a nearby church. Much later, in Ottoman times, it became a tekke, a gathering place for whirling dervishes, a Muslim order.

For ancient Greeks, the most important aspect of measuring time was not accuracy to the second (there were no train timetables nor Olympic records back then). Instead people were more concerned with the passage of the seasons, the change of weather, the right time to plant crops and put ships to sea, and, of course, the proper timing of religious holidays. That is the reason why the building’s frieze bears winds instead of some mythological scene – each wind represents the particular season during which it is most prevalent.

This will be a very long post if I describe each wind and teach you how to recognize them by the symbols they carry, but you can read more about them in my next post.

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3 comments on “Photo of the week: the Tower of the Winds

  1. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog.
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  2. Pingback: The winds of the Greeks | Aristotle, guide in Greece

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