Part One can be read here.
Ayia Sofia, the Big Church, inevitably became the paramount symbol of toxic nationalism and Nazi-type racism. Symbol of the chosen-people syndrome. It was compared to the Parthenon and it was claimed that even Alexander-the -‘Great’ did not have the “Kosmokratoric” potential as Ayia Sofia, that the Church of Justinian and Theodora had! [Kosmos: Greek for “World”, krator: Greek for “Ruler”]. It is important to realize that at that point in time the Emperor was also the Christian Archbishop of the people. Of course, after Justinian and Theodora other rulers of the planet appeared. The Present being … Donald Trump.
The basic reason that the Greeks were associating Ayia Sofia to the Parthenon was to extol the exceptionalism of the Greek race. Yet, there was a problem. As one could expect, the Parthenon and Ayia Sofia resulted in a curious ‘contest of the virgins’! In high school (in the 1940s) all we were taught about the Partheon was details about the great statue of the Goddess Athena made of gold and ivory. Not a single word about the word ‘Parthenon’, given that “parthenos’ in Greek means ‘virgin’.
[Nostalgic Note: I was born in Athens in 1930 not very far from the Parthenon. The first time I walked up to the Acropolis and the Parthenon was when I was 20 or 21 years old, in 1950 or 1951. A friend of my brother’s who was interested in track and field and the Olympics asked me to help with a Swedish writer who was writing about the first Olympics of modern time in Athens in 1896. So for about a week I made the round of all the important libraries of Athens researching old newspapers and translating into English for the Swedish writer. So, as a ‘polite’ Greek, I accompanied the Swede and his wife , both in their late seventies, to the Acropolis. End of Note]
So it came to pass that the two most important ‘churches’ of the world were dedicated to two virgins. The Parthenon dedicated to the virgin Goddess Athena and the Ayia Sofia dedicated to the virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. However, the Emperors of Konstantinople and their pious Christian populace considered the Virgin of the Parthenon of Athens as a … fake Virgin!
Nevertheless, the Emperor Basil II, known as the ‘Killer of the Bulgarians’, probably one of the most important Emperors of Konstantinople, decided, in 1,018 AD to make a tour of the mainland of Greece and visit Athens and the Parthenon, of the fake Virgin. The only important information from this visit in Athens, is that in 1,018 AD, almost 15 centuries after the construction of the Parthenon, it was still almost intact. Then, unfortunately, the French, the Venetians, and the British visited the Parthenon.
It is historically very important to know how the coronation (or the inauguration) of an Emperor used to take place, at those blessed times, in Ayia Sofia. Fortunately we have the description of the event by a … Russian tourist in 1391 AD. The Emperor entered Ayia Sofia from the front gate (or how that door is called). Says the pious Russian, admiringly: “It took the Emperor three hours to walk from the gate to the throne.” I think that an ‘ordinary’ person can walk about 15 kilometers (9.31 miles) in three hours. Compared to that the inauguration of Trump was rather ‘poor’. Maybe it will be better next time.
Ayia Sofia as a structure
To emphasize the divinity of the church of Ayia Sofia the Orthodox clergy, the deeply religious (?), the Nazified conservatives et al, insist that while the Palace of the Emperors and the Hippodrome in Istanbul have turned into dust, the Ayia Sofia stays intact for almost two thousand years.
Not so fast! Here is why:
The drawings for the construction:
As usually happens on our planet, the Almighty communicates with Emperors, US Presidents (e.g. Dubya), even with us mere mortals, through a dream while the Emperors, the Presidents or we mortals are asleep.Thus, the drawings for the construction of Ayia Sofia were made known to Justinian the Great through a dream and the intervention of the usual Angel.
It so happened that in the 530s AD that Justinian and Theodora started building the Ayia Sofia there were no technical universities, e. g. the MIT, no civil engineers or architects (?) that had graduated from them, who could build the ‘Big Church’. Then who built the ‘Big Church?
Given that the human brain was ‘constructed’ by the Almighty, during the Genesis, to think technologically and not scientifically it was natural for some laborers (repeat; laborers) to be able to solve some technical problems that grew during the construction of the Big Church. The very numerous Cathedrals, all over the religiously ‘rich’ and pious Europe consist of individual stones chiseled by illiterate laborers who had to chisel on each stone their personal mark and the position that the stone had in the building, so that they could be paid (by whom?!) for their work. These millions of stones bear the real history of humanity. As a civil engineer, in all my life I had the honesty to accept the truth of the above remark about the.modest laborers.
So what did the laborers that worked for Justinian and Theodora have to do in order to build the Big Church for their bosses?
First they had to check the soil on which the church would be founded. A difficult job for their epoch. Proof: the Tower of ‘Pisa’!
Here is an interesting story! Up to 1924 (!) humanity did not have a scientific method to study and design the foundations of buildings. Then in 1924 an individual named Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963), of Italian origin on his father’s side and of Germanic (?) on his mother’s side, invented, essentially from scratch, a new science in engineering; which he named Erdbaumechanic in German and Soil Mechanics in English. The place where Terzaghi did this was … Istanbul! To understand the importance of Terzaghi’s work suffice to say that no skyscraper would be possible to be constructed without the help of Soil Mechanics. In 1935 Terzaghi met Hitler to discuss the foundation of Hitler’s insane architectural “monsters”. I wonder if Donald’s father sought the advice of Terzaghi, when erecting his ‘Tall’ Buildings.
[Personal Note:The craze of building skyscrapers etc, is discussed in my ZNet Commentary of September 3, 2001 with the title “Of Pyramids and Skyscrapers”.]
Then the laborers had to build masonry walls.for the vertical part of the building. A rather easy job. But before we go on we have to introduce the most.important factor in our story; the earthquake.
Delphi is as famous as the Parthenon of Athens. So, for the last 90 years, since about 1930, millions of people have visited Delfi. Quite close to Delfi there are 6 small villages whose houses, as well as those of Delfi, were built centuries ago with masonry vertical walls. In July 1870.Delfi and the neighboring villages were hit by a quake and destroyed to the ground. The King of Greece, at the time a German prince named George, who was vacationing on the island of Corfu., sent the following telegram to the survivors: “‘Tis true God subjected Greece to many trials in a short time. May his mercy change into blessings this excessive suffering.” .
There is a very important rule concerning quakes: “The damage caused by a quake is site specific” Thus a building may be hit while the one next to it remains unscathed.
The existing data show that from 100 AD up to 500 AD Istanbul was hit by 4 destructive quakes and 15 not so destructive ones. From 100 AD to 1900 AD it was hit by 27 destructive quakes and 98 not so destructive ones. [Ambraseys N. N., ‘Values of Historical Records of Earthquakes’, NATURE, Vol. 232, August 6, 1971, pp.375-379]
Finally the laborers had to “create” and position the crown of the church, the heavy dome! The diameter of the dome ‘Ayia Sofia’ is 31 meters (101,7 feet).
[Note of Sadness: Of what I know there is only one more Orthodox church in the world with so big a dome as that of Ayia Sofia. The name of the church: ‘Saint Panteleimon’ (‘Pan’ means all, ‘eleimon’ means charitable, in Greek). The diameter of its dome is only 2 meters (6.56 feet) less than that of ‘Ayia Sofia’, of Istanbul. That is, it is 29 meters (95.12 feet). This church is located about 12 city blocks from the place I was born in Athens and only 6 blocks from my Grandfather’s home in Athens. Its dome is of steel-reinforced concrete and was designed, as a shell, by a man named Kokotsakis, who was Assistant-Professor for Descriptive Geometry in the famous Polytechnic of Athens. Kokotsakis was a mathematical genius. The Professor, to whom he was an assistant, was an aristocratic gentleman of not as high a level as that of his assistant. Kokotsakis was short, stocky, and with a bit protruding eyeballs. The generations of students before my generation had the kindness to uter behind his back, in a not so loud voice, the word ‘Boobees’, which the Greeks use to call a dog. Once, in my class, the offspring of an aristocratic family from Salonica, carried a toy-gun in the class and as Kokotsakis was writing on the blackboard, with his back towards us, he hit Kokotsakis on the back of his head with some kind of a little spherical projectile.
Kokotsakis turned towards us and he almost cried.
As I was very much interested in Euclidean Geometry, there were a few times that I had the chance to strike a conversation with Kokotsakis.
Kokotsakis was educated in Nazi Germany. During the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941 to 1944). Kokotsakis proposed to Hitler to build ships out of steel-reinforced concrete designed by Kokotsakis. It seems that Kokotsakis’ effort was not successful.
My estimate: Kokotsakis was a kind and modest person. If I were to have a conversation with him today, I am sure that I would have an interesting one with him and maybe we would have agreed about Trump, ZNet, Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Howard Zinn, and all the others. End of Note of Sadness.]
After the work on the dome was finished , Ayia Sofia, the Big Church of Justinian and of Theodora, was inaugurated on December 27, of 537 AD. Theodora was 37 years old and Justinian 54. It took 5 years, 11 months and 10 days to built Ayia Sofia.
Then, as it happens with us mortals, the problems for Justinian and Theodora started to pile up. For quite a long time the Almighty sent repeated quakes which gave Ayia Sofia a lot of trouble.(Theologians tell us that He does that to test our faith).
So, on May 7, 558 AD, a quake sent the heavy dome crushing on the floor of Ayia Sofia. A fall of 54 meters (177 feet). We are not told at what time of the day this happened and if there were people in the church. However, we are told that the fallen dome crushed the ‘Holy Table’ (‘Ayia Trapeza’, in Greek, altar in English). This event, about the ‘Holy Table’, spread panic among the ordinary people of this remnant of the Roman Empire, probably taken as divine anger.
[ Simple Note: I do not know what the Catholics, the Protestants, et cetera do with their ‘Holy Table’, but I do know (partly) what my Greek progenitors did and do with the Orthodox ‘Holy Table’. At the age of about ten I had to attend the Mass at the local church of the ‘Holy Belt’ in which I was also baptized by my godmother, a 14-year-old girl (!!!). (The ‘belt’ belonged to the mother of Jesus). The orthodox churches have a part of the interior of their churches separated from the herd of the faithful with a flimsy wall. There are three doors in this wall. The middle door is wider than those on each side, the lower half of which consists of two wooden parts with hinges to close and open, while the upper part closes with a sliding painting of Jesus kneeling and praying to his Father in heaven. Every Sunday I had to stand at the same spot, close to the wall and follow the Mass. Through the middle door I could see what the priests were doing at the ‘Holy Table’. However, close to the ending of the Mass, one of the priests slid the painting and we, the faithful, could not see what was going on at the ‘Hory Table’. (That is why I used the word ‘partly’ above.) However, that sliding painting and the ‘Holy Table’, is not so important as is that of the ‘Holy Light’ (‘Ayio Fos’, in Greek). There is a little cave or something in Israel with a door in which each year in Easter a Greek priest enters the cave closes the door and after a little while the priest comes out having a lighted candle that the Almighty ignites for him and us. Then the light (i.e. the burning thing) is put in a ‘strange device”, put on a plane full of humans and is brought to Athens and then dispersed all over the country. My question: was that ‘strange device’, designed and constructed by Siemens of Germany, as it already had happened in the 1936 Olympics of Hitler and Goebels with the ‘Olympic Torch’? End of Simple Note]
It took another 5 years to repair the damage of Ayia Sofia by the quake. Finally on December 24 of 563 AD there was inauguration of the church for a second time!
But then in 867 AD a rather destructive quake hit not only the masonry walls with cracks all over, but half of the dome crushed on the floor once more, as the arch that was supporting it failed. This probably was due also to a settlement of the soil in that part of the foundation [which could have been avoided by running a “consolidation test” as devised by Karl Terzaghi, more than one thousand years later!]. These damages were repaired one hundred years later by Basil II, who was and is considered to be the greatest Emperor of Konstantinople, as already mentioned.
[Frightening Note: 1. Vassileeos II, (known to the scholars as Basil II) had a nickname: “The Killer of the Bulgarians”. In 1014 AD he defeated the Bulgarian army led by Samuel, their king. To complete his triumph Vassileeos II gouged the eyes of the 15,000 Bulgarian soldiers he had captured as prisoners, blinding them. At the sight of the blinded soldiers Samuel was so shocked that he died two days later.
2. The biblical advice “eye for an eye” is interpreted as a warning to us to gouge only one eye for one eye, because humans use to gouge two eyes for one eye.
3. In Part I of this text it is mentioned that General Belissarious saved the Empire for Justinian and Theodora by drowning in blood a popular revolt in Konstantinople. There is contested information that Justinian gouged both eyes of the aged Belissarious, “for reasons of state”.
The word “tragic” in the title of this text is too weak to describe us. End (?) of Frightening Note]
Finally in !345 AD, Ayia Sofia, the Big church, was so damaged that the rain and the snow were getting into the interior of the building. It took 10 years to repair the damage.
Conclusion: It was not the Almighty that prevented Ayia Sofia from turning into dust, as it happened with the Palace of the Emperor and the Hippodrome of the rabble. It was the taxes paid by the “rabble’ for centuries that saved the Ayia Sofia so that in 2020 Erdogan could use this building to win the next round of parliamentary elections in Turkey.
Before closing this ZNet Commentary there are two items, Quakes and Rationality, on which we have to add some more comments:
– Quakes: The thickness of ice in Greenland is 2 miles. The increase in temperature on the planet could cause a landslide-type breaking of this ice of such a monstrous thickness and cause a resultant faster melting of the ice-products of the slides, in contrast to the usual melting of the ice. Also, the Glaciers in the Himalayas and in other parts of the planet are almost disappearing. These and the already melting of ice at the poles could lead one to think that there is going to be a change in the geographic distribution of the superimposed loads on the plates of the Earth that cause the Earthquakes
So, There are two questions to be answered by the experts: 1. Is this change marginal, or is it significant enough to affect the innards of our planet? 2. If it is significant, can they predict in what ways could the earthquakes be also affected? I think that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is one of the most important organizations in the world that can answer these questions.
A few years ago in Italy there was a quake that hit a church. In the news we all witnessed a group of about five or six persons, priests and others, standing under a hole in the roof and pointing towards it. At that moment there was a secondary quake that sent the remaining part of the masonry roof crushing downwards. This resulted in a little mound of stones under which these persons were buried alive. There are thousands of churches built with very tall masonry walls and heavy roofs.The history of Ayia Sofia in relation to quakes, as presented above, demands that we do something about it. I think that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) can be the originator of an international organization that could examine and solve this problem.
– Rationality: Assuming that humans innately have the potential to think rationally, that is they have the potential to use their innate ‘Sofia’, we can solve the following problem: We, the ordinary humans, are in the billions.They, the Emperors, are only a few dozen plus a few hundred thousand of Nazi or crypyo-Nazi thugs. If we use our rationality we can save ourselves and the planet.
The solution: Nurembergs
Trump (USA) Alexander the Great (Greece)
Putin (Russia) Leopold (Belgium)
Bolsonaro (Basile) Hitler (Germany)
Orban (Hungary) Mussolini (Italy)
The Saudi Prince ………………………………..
Erdogan (Turkey) and all the others
and all the others
[Note: The only way to ‘punish” a dead defendant is to ask the artists of the world to create statues and paintings of their victims and fill the parks, the squares,and the museums of the world.]