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How The Olympic Originated

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This week we began on our study of the ancient world officially, but not without a tour of our library first! Monmouth College has a vast collection of books, journals, magazine, etc. Some I bet haven’t seen daylight or the touch of a human hand in years. But within this collection, there are many sources relating to classics. In fact, classics can be found in almost every category number given by the congressional library. We quickly learned how to read these call numbers and interpret them to find books more efficiently. After a quick rundown, we then were assigned a certain section, and released to return a book relating to classics within that section. I was assigned to G, which refers back to geography as well as other topics. Luckily, Sports and Recreation was under that also, and what better than the Olympics for a classical topic. Although I had an easy find, I believe that I can easily find any source in not only our library, but any other library I ever visit.

After our little tour and expedition, class was over for that day, but our assignment was to look at an ancient classical site; the temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. This was our homework over Wednesday; to look at the site given in the email and to ponder the importance, area, and the history of the find itself. I had a few thoughts over this and decided what was the most important; the area and geography. The temple was magnificently preserved when it was founded in the early 1800’s. The temple itself was not in the center of some city or near an important site (that we know). The temple of Apollo was actually pretty isolated to the rest of the world. This may be a huge factor in its preservation. A painting was shown on that Thursday of a depiction of the finding of the site, and even still, it was depicted as isolated, with simple sheep herders grazing nearby. Because of this, we can learn many things about these people.

Thursday came around and my predictions were confirmed, as we did talk about the geographical area of this site. The Temple of Apollo was founded in the Arcadias, which was dense forest at the time. It was founded in the early 1800’s by Charles Cockerell. At this time, Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire, who were primarily Muslim. The center of this empire was Constantinople, which is now present day Istanbul. Charles Cockerell was taking a “grand tour” of his lifetime. Wealthy, and presumably educated, men would take world trips to go see the most important classical sites in the world. This would establish them as educated and cultured men.

During the time of the temples founding, a huge world war was raging on between many European nations, as well as even the United States. These nations may have been gritted up against each other, but for archaeology’s sake, many archaeologists from Pan-Europe took interest in the Bassae site. In fact, the Greeks never really took much interest in preserving their own history. Because of this, the Parthenon was blown up when the Ottomans stored gun powder inside of it, not recognizing it significance in history. Europeans, including the French, the Germans, the Danish, and the British, all came together to learn about this site.

Over the weekend we were asked to fill out a blank map and list important facts about the ancient and modern day locations. We are diving into the geography of the ancient world and the effects it has on the present day. I love maps, especially the ancient ones so this didn’t take too long, but was very meticulous. This is just one part to the broad study of classics.

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