imomus (imomus) wrote,

In Athena's city

Ah, Athens. It's still in the eurozone -- no passports, no currency exchange -- and yet it's as oriental and strange as Europe gets. Up on the roof terrace of my old friend Babis' house in the warm night, I'm gazing at the most amazing sight: the skull-like stones of the Parthenon, with the skull-like hulk of a hollow moon looming above it. I'm here for the Athens art biennial and its funky spinoff ReMap2, but I'm wondering about the Greek religion.

How come it doesn't have a name, that religion? We just call it "Greek mythology", but of course no active religion ever admits it's a mythology. Religions in general don't tend to give themselves names -- it's a little too relativistic, and a religion is a cosmology, an account of everything that is. It would prefer to be totalitarian -- to be the account of the origins of everything rather than another account of the origins of everything.

But the Greek religion was a religion, and on the Acropolis stood a magnificent temple to Pallas Athena in her role of Athena Parthenos, Athena the virgin. There was a gigantic golden statue of this virgin, born by parthenogenesis (springing fully-grown and armed from the forehead of Zeus) inside the pillared main hall of the temple. As for Athena's origins, thousands of years BC, people say she originated in the ancient Egyptian religion (there isn't a name for that either) and came to Greece via Libya and the Minoan culture of Crete.

Athens is the virgin's city, and her temple still looms over it. I was a virgin when I first came to live here, but the orgasmic cries drifting up to the roof terrace and the couple dramas being enacted on the narrow, vibrant, orange tree-lined streets below suggest that Athenians don't stay virgins long.

Later in the week we'll take a 7 euro, one-hour ferry to the island of Aegina, to see the mysterious house -- itself containing the symbols of the cosmology of an unnamed religion -- I blogged about a couple of months back. Aegina too is Athena's island. The virgin seems to be flirting with us.
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