When it comes to accessing a plethora of knowledge, civilization & cultural cross-references at once, it seems that our ancient cities are the right places to dwell in and excavate. So, a trigger for your curiosity!
How many stories can be collected from the ruins and deformed constructions of the ancient cities? Is that the right place where we can seek and discover more about the foundations of our own civilization?
If for instance you travel to Ephesus, Turkey, allow yourself to get lost in the old stories and be moved by the different cultural influences that mingle in the ancient Anatolian realm. What’s the echo of the past, the figures and ideas that can fuse today in our collective memory through looking at something that is there? How important – a meeting point of intellectuals, merchants and travelers from the East and the West – it was?
Our ability to remember as a collective can be sometimes so weak, but the memory is like all else in life – “panta rei”. At least, that’s what the great Heraclitus of Ephesus had thought.
Ephesus has the largest Ancient Theater in Anatolia, with capacity of 25,000 seats; it is the city that in 356BC the Greeks built the Artemesium, a colossal Ionic temple which worshiped the Greek goddess of fertility, Artemis; and is also a home to one of our favourite ancient buildings ever – the Library of Celsus. And exactly there, we ask you to be an ancient explorer, as nested in the columns of the library, you can observe the sculptures of SOPHIA – wisdom, EPISTEME – knowledge, ENNOIA – intelligence and ARETE – valor. All four relate to numerous significant narratives, and bellow, we will just give you hints, to point out on their grandeur, and hopefully, to inspire you to discover and read more.
Probably the most familiar of all four figures – SOPHIA – today embodies the name of the Bulgarian capital, and crafts the word “philosophy”. The origin of Sophia can be tracked, naturally, if we seek first deeply in the Hellenistic philosophy and religion.
She appears as the central idea of wisdom, or the Wisdom of Deity, moreover, she is worshiped as the Queen of Wisdom and War – Athena, after which the Greek capital collects its name.
Through exploring the Greek myths you can stumble upon vivid stories of the inception of Athena. Her births follows after the major Greek god, Zeus, swallows one of his wives – Metis, a daughter of Ocean, and primeval symbol of wisdom. After he swallows Metis, Zeus suffers from a huge headache, and from his head, Athena is born.
In earlier readings, Athena is praised as the goddess of crafts, arts and war. Her symbol is the owl, and she appeared in the form of that bird [Roman: Minerva]. In the later readings [Classic period], the figure of Athena is being regarded as the one of wisdom.
In later narrative configurations, Sophia is the Wise Bride of Solomon [by the readings of Jew], and the Holy Spirit of Wisdom [according to the Christians]; In Hebrew, she is known as Chokmah, and in Latin also as Sapientia. Sophia is much present in the wisdom books of the Bible – she is the incarnation of Wisdom [viable reference to the Greek myth], and the Goddess of all those who resemble wisdom.
Episteme is the “justified true belief”, it means knowledge, and according to Plato it is the opposite of “doxa” that connotes the common belief or opinion. “ἐπίσταμαι” [to know] is derived from the Greek word for knowledge or science. It is also distinguished from “techne”, which would mean the knowledge of the crafts and the arts (the ability to practice them).
So, there you go! You have probably heard of the word epistemology, that connotes the study of knowledge. It is derived exactly from “episteme”, and as it was a large concept in the ancient days, multiple number of philosophers gave their definitions.
Episteme is personified as a feminine figure in the Library of Celsus in Ephesus.
“ἔννοια” stands for thinking, thoughtfulness or the moral understanding. Ennoia is the thought, the intention and the purpose; the “engaged mind”, or, what a person exactly had “in mind”. For Xenophon and Plato, it is the act of thinking; something that is to be taken in consideration; meditation.
According to Euripides, it is again the mind, the understanding, the will and manner of thinking and feeling. Today, close to such meaning could be the word “mindfulness” and its broad usage when doing a business.
Ennoia contrasts with the object or act without. It associates to aeons or emanations. More precisely, there is a connection to be found between Ennoia and Epinoia, which is the first passive aeon. To give just a brief hint – in Gnosticism, Aeon could both refer to a period of time, and to a spiritual entity that takes part in the formation of the cosmic hierarchy.
Ennoia goes with Ophis, the serpent of the divine wisdom – they constitute the creative Logos. Another story connects with Simon Magus, a Samaritan magus, who was a religious figure of the first century.
Finally, the figure of Ennoia is also sometimes associated to Sophia, but the hints will stop here, as it is time that we moved to the final sculpture.
Last but not least, Arete as a figure / concept also have a Greek origin. In its more modern meaning it refers to “excellence of any kind”, however it also connotes “moral virtue”, or the fulfillment of purpose or function, to live up to your own full potential.
If you were looking for a story, there is one that relates to Queen Arete, who in Greek mythology, along with her husband Alcinous were both descendants of Poseidon. They were the queen and king of the Phaecians, which in the Odyssey story is the last destination of Odysseus in his ten year long journey. Her narrative is also connected with Medea, the Argonauts, the mythological hero Jason, and in earlier myths also to Hercules. In general, her figure is known as one of virtue and knowledge.
Four sculptures and four different universes. Upon them are laid some of the foundations of our modern civilization.
“You can’t go home again. Your childhood is lost. The friends of your youth are gone. Your present is slipping away from you. Nothing is ever the same,” will echo the words of Heraclitus of Ephesus in your mind, as you move from one point to another.