The Curious Case of a Doctored 19th Century Photo of Ruins in Athens
Researchers, academics and those with tireless curiosity will know the thrill of chasing down the details of something mysterious or unexplained. In this tweet thread from 2017, Paul Cooper noticed a difference in a nearly 100-year-old photo that led him to uncover the real story behind a strange “appendage” on the top of the Temple of Athenian Zeus. What follows is the Twitter equivalent of an architectural thriller. What is it? Why were depictions of the temple altered? Mr. Cooper takes us on a rollercoaster 18-tweet journey that uncovers the mystery.
It’s always interesting to see how ruins are used politically, & how they construct & reinforce ideas of identity. – Paul Cooper
I fell down a bit of a ruins research rabbithole today, thought I’d share some of my weird journey.
At some point since the ruination of the temple in the 3rd century & archaeologists examining it in the 19th, stylites had laboriously built a small stone hut on top of the ruined temple’s pillars pic.twitter.com/DYKRvUWSZQ
In his 1922 article “the glory the was Greece”, Alexander Wilbourne describes hearing locals tell of a long line of stylites who lived on top of the ruined temple & had food and water brought up to them with ropes & buckets pic.twitter.com/EvIfGEuUM4
He even describes meeting an old Athenian who remembered taking offerings of loaves and fruit to send up to the Zeus temple stylites, who would send down a basket to receive them pic.twitter.com/Qto0piuxbW