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Ancient theatre on Limnos opens after 2,500 years

The ancient theatre of Hephaistia, on the eastern Aegean island of Limnos, opened for the first time after 2,500 years on Aug. 11, with a performance of ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles' play "Oedipus the King" directed by Spyros Evangelatos. The theatre has a seating capacity of 200 in its main area, while other 1,000 people can be seated outside where they will be able to watch the performance through a giant screen. The ancient theatre of Hephaistia, the city of the ancient Greek god Hephaestus, underwent reconstruction in 2000-2004 and is regarded as one of the most important ancient Greek theatres dating back to the late 5th and early 4th century BC, while certain additions have been made in the Hellenistic and Roman Times.

Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera (the King and Queen of the Gods). He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. Like other mythic smiths but unlike most other gods, Hephaestus was lame, which gave him a grotesque appearance in Greek eyes. He served as the blacksmith of the gods, and he was worshiped in the manufacturing and industrial centers of Greece, particularly in Athens. The center of his cult was in Lemnos. Hephaestus's symbols are a smith's hammer, an anvil and a pair of tongs, although sometimes he is portrayed holding an axe.
In one tradition clearly attested in Homer's Odyssey and perhaps also in the Iliad, Hephaestus was born of the union of Zeus and Hera. In another tradition, which was only unambiguously recorded in late texts, but which may be an archaic survival of an autonomous Hera, she bore Hephaestus parthenogenetically; she is given the motivation in Hesiod's Zeus-centered cosmology that she was engaged in a competitive quarrel with Zeus for his "birthing" of Athena, but Attic vase-painters illustrated the mainstream tradition that Hephaestus was already present at the birth of Athena, seen to be wielding the hammer with which he had split Zeus' head to free her. 
Fall from Olympus
Because he was lame, Hera threw him out of heaven in disgust; alternatively, he was lamed by the fall. Or, he was flung by Zeus, because he came to his mother’s rescue when Zeus had her in fetters for opposing him. He fell into the sea, where Thetis and the Oceanid Eurynome cared for him in a sea cave. Or he fell for an entire day and landed on the island of Lemnos, where he was cared for by the Sintians, an ancient Lemnian tribe. In every case, he remained forever lame.

Limnos with one of the prettiest harbours in Greece, beautiful beaches and picturesque, traditional villages untouched by modern-day tourism, hardly fits with any Greek Island stereotypes. It lies low with gently rolling hills, a lush green carpet in the spring that becomes cracling yellow-brown in the summer. The landscape is dotted with fields of grain, quirky scarerows and beehives.

Limnos was famous since antiquity for its vineyiards; Aristotle wrote about the traditional red wine of the island, produced from a very ancient and unique variety of grape that he called Limnio (locally referred as Kalambaki).

It was the holy island of the smithy god Hephaistos (Vulcan), who was worshipped on Mount Moschylus, which in ancient times emitted a fiery jet of asphaltic gas. Today Limnos' volcanic past is manifest in its astringent hot springs and the highly sulphuric Limnian Earth, found near Repanidi, used from ancient times until Turkish occupation for healing wounds and stomach aches

Thursday, August 12, 2010