Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Expecto Patronum (or, Oh How I Wish).

I am a bit tired tonight, and no longer in Lebanon (more on that later!) but finally have internet that works, so I have to take advantage. I will finish up relating the Lebanon leg of my journey. It will provide welcome respite from the BBC's sports coverage (Thank God there were no cricket test matches!) and today's "Keep the Kids Walking So They Don't Realize How Far the Metro Station Is" activity: Twenty Questions (Harry Potter Edition).

So, about the first photo: I love this! I had recently been talking to my brother about Magritte and his painting, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", which is one of my favorite pieces of art. (I can't explain why; it makes me smile.) I came across this in the gift shop of Lebanon's National Museum, and it instantly reminded me of that painting. Granted, I need another empty, unlined notebook like I need a bushel of bunions, but I could not resist. I also bought one that actually says "ceci n'est pas une pipe" with a graphic of a hookah pipe, but in my efforts to promote non-smoking, I have refrained from posting the photo.

Sarcophagus depicting Priam begging Achilles for the body of Hector. National Museum, Beirut.

"Honor the gods, Achilles; pity him.
Think of your father; I'm more pitiful;
I've suffered what no other mortal has..."

I know I am partial to The Odyssey, but there are parts of The Iliad that brought hot tears of sorrow to my eyes. This is one of them. (Along, of course, with the actual death of Hector.)

The Kidnapping of Europa. Mosaic. National Museum, Beirut.

Ah, Europa, you Phoenician hussy! Climbing on to the back of a bull like that! That bull, of course, was Zeus, who had a fondness for fondling and for luring unsuspecting maidens into petting him (in various animal forms.) In this case, he turned into a bull, kidnapped Europa, and whisked her off. At least she got a continent named after her. (Much better than, say, "Stockholm Syndrome".)

The Birth of Alexander. Mosaic. National Museum, Beirut.

Now, call me crazy, but this should probably be called, oh, "The Toddlerhood of Alexander." Maybe he was a big baby, being The Great and all. Or maybe babies are hard to depict in mosaic. In any case, this was probably done after he was in power, because otherwise it would have just been a very time-consuming piece of art created for a random baby. (Ok, a random ROYAL baby.) Still, royal or not, I doubt anyone could have predicted how powerful he would become.

The National Museum, Beirut.

It is a tiny museum, probably the size of an exhibit at The British Museum, but lovingly restored and well-kept. It was sad that it was mostly full of tourists - the Lebanese are probably too concerned about the present to ponder the very distant past at the moment. That's actually a bit of a luxury, come to think of it. I was in a shop in the suburbs the other day, and the young woman helping me had a severe disfiguring burn covering half of her face. I saw quite a few people on the streets who had been injured in the latest war (2006): chemical weapons or cluster bombs, bullets or rockets. Does it really matter? They are thinking how to make their lives better today, for tomorrow. They could care less about crumbling Roman ruins when their own houses are in shambles, without proper electricity or water.

The 'Jealousy' Mosaic. Byzantine Period. National Museum, Beirut.

There was nothing too remarkable about this mosaic upon viewing, but then I saw the translation of the text:

Envy is a great evil; however, it has some beauty
for it consumes the eyes and the heart of the jealous.

I guess the more things change, the more they really stay the same.


  1. I enjoyed looking at these pictures. I was a history buff back in college and someone even suggested I become a history major, which didn't happen. But at times like these I remember how I loved studying world civilizations.

  2. Hello Maggie:
    Of course, one can easily appreciate that the minds of most Lebanese are firmly entrenched in the difficulties of everyday life, but how wonderful this museum and its contents are. As daily burdens become less significant, then one can hope that the local people will also appreciate this museum as a omst important asset and its place in the development of civilisation.

  3. I am just in awe of the interior of the National Museum of Beirut. I could feast my eyes on that one photo, all day. Thank you so much for posting these!

    Europa also had a Galilean satellite named after her, so that, too, is fairly cool.

    'hot tears of sorrow to my eyes'
    I loved this, Maggie.

  4. Great pictures! The Achilles/Priam scene is a favorite of mine as well.

  5. Oh gosh, these photos are so beautiful! It is so sad about the reminders of war, physical scars. I've been told about them so as not to be shocked when I see them :/

    And I'm totally with you about the notebooks! I have so many that I just love so much I don't even write in them, haha!

    - Kimmy

  6. Hi,

    France has issued in 1999 a stamp with a partial image of "The Kidnapping of Europa. Mosaic. National Museum, Beirut." do you have some idea ... what was the event that led them to issue this stamp

    I am a stamp collector and came across a cover with this stamp & I was curious about it