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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Throne of Satan

The Altar of Zeus in Pergamon

   While not literally the throne of Satan, this famous structure in the greek city-state of Pergamum was mentioned in the Christian Bible.  Revelations 2:12 reflects on "Pergamos.  Where Satan's throne is" due to its inscriptions and clear pagan ties, praising Zeus in the highest.  Like the Parthenon in Athens, the first attempt at this altar in "Greece" (referred to as such during the period, actually modern day Turkey) was taken apart once war broke out in order to fortify the city and prevent valuables from falling into the hands of the enemy.  An incredibly famous altar, to which many traveled far and wide to dedicate their offerings to Zeus, this structure could very well be called the epicenter of pagan worship, clearly believed to be such to Saint John the Apostle.  Like many magnificent structures of the time, this was called for by the victorious Eumenes II after a great war.  After proving victory in combat over the Galatians, he called for this giant marble structure to be built.  It is common belief that was the main sculptor.  However, a project so large and detailed required an army of workers to make such a particular goal come to life.
     Marble figures are still visible along the ridge of this work.  Similar to pieces like the Chryselephantine, this structure was expected to tell a story to the illiterate population.  A common motif in architecture, a frieze depicting Gigantomachy is again shown.  However, we begin to witness a change in the very culture of the people, as giants are no longer anthropomorphic, or in the same form as a common human, as the gods of the time were expected to be.  Since these beings were considered innocent sons of the goddess Gaia, the people felt uncomfortable in praising certain gods while approving of the suffering of others.  For this reason, giants were no longer gods as the gods are; these beings were changed in shape.  While commonly depicted as large men, the giants now had snakes growing out under their torsos.  This proved to be an argument against paganism, which seemed to credit these "demons" and the gods as uncannily similar in nature.  In fact, one group defeated the other only by chance.  Through this logic, every god from this mythology was indeed a demon.  Many came to sacrifice at the feet of the greatest god, or possibly the king of demons, the Satanic Zeus.
  After an incredible excavation project, the actual temple was transported out of Turkey by German archaeologists.  The marvelous altar now lies in the heart of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.  However, the foundations of the region give us hints of the layout and importance of such a structure.  During this period, many talented artists and laborers alike were commissioned in order to create an acropolis similar to that in Athens in this "greek" city-state.  Furthermore, the altar was meant to be heart of the acropolis.  Built on a hill, this sculpture would project itself on the city, and all occurrences would be public.  The fact that this would be the altar to the greatest god, unlike that of Athens which was to their patron god, was meant to inspire many to travel from far and wide, therefore proclaiming the greatness of Pergamon.  Sacrifices, Jewish as Greek and Roman, can consist of different victims depending
on the request to the gods.  Certain animals could be used as penance, while other materials are used in praising the god for providence.  These sacrifices are meant to be expensive and dear.  This commonly involves cattle, valuable fluids, such as expensive oils, edible plants, and incense.  A city with such a great altar could make a fortune for holding these sacrificial goods, selling them at tripple the price to a weary traveler.  This altar, like most other structures built of the time, was created for more than gratefulness to a god.  The ability to look upon a city and see such gradeur raises the stature of such place and promotes synergy of a people.

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