Sabratha Libya

Magnificently sited on the water’s edge of the palm fringed white sandy west coast of Libya and North Africa, the ancient seaport city of Sabratha shines majestically as one of the most beautiful and spectacular Roman cities of the ancient Mediterranean.

Originally founded as a trading post by the Carthaginians around 500 BC, Sabratha’s importance and wealth attracted settlement by Hellenistic Greeks around the second century BC. With the rise of the Roman Empire, Sabratha continued to prosper and grow under the Empire’s influence and most of the ruins seen today are a legacy of that period.

The ancient theatre is perhaps the most graceful and spectacular of the ancient Roman world and the mosaics of the Roman and later Byzantine eras are also very impressive. Sabratha is one of the three cities of ancient Tripolis, which included Leptis Magna and Oea (Tripoli) and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The complete Sabratha image gallery.

Apamea Syria.

The majestic Hellenistic ancient city of Apamea is in the Orontes Valley, west-central Syria.

Apamea was founded by Alexander the Great, who had named it Pella after his own hometown and birthplace in the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon.

After the death of Alexander (323 BCE), his vast empire was divided amongst his Generals and officers. Seleucus I Nicator -an army officer of Alexander the Great, founded the Seleucid kingdom, which was an empire which included modern day Syria and Iran.

Around 300 BCE, the city that Alexander founded (Pella) was renamed to Apamea by Seleucus I Nicator. Apame was the name of his Persian Wife. As part of the powerful Seleucid kingdom, Apamea flourished and became an important military base and Hellenistic provincial centre. It was part of the Syrian Tetrapolis (Antioch, Seleucia, Laodicea, Apamea) which comprised the four largest cities founded by Seleucus I Nicator.

The city eventually fell to the Roman Empire around 64 BCE, taken by the great Roman military and political leader Pompey. Apamea suffered serious damage after a severe earthquake in AD 115 and was largely rebuilt after this period. All the archaeological remains seen today are from the second century AD.

The former splendour of the ancient city is showcased by the Grand colonnaded avenue or cardo maximus, which is one of the longest and widest in the ancient world, running nearly two kilometres long and was lined with tall columns capped with decorative entablature.

The celebrated ancient city was notable enough to be visited by Cleopatra and Mark Anthony and Hannibal and, at its height, had a population of 500,000. The past splendours of vast windswept, lonely archaeological site of Apamea cover over two hundred and fifty acres, with a considerable amount yet to be excavated.

Apamea is on the UNESCO Tentative List, which is a list of properties considered being cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List.

The site of Apamea was heavily looted at an industrial level during the Syrian War.

The complete Apamea image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

William Ricketts Sanctuary, Victoria Australia.

On the outskirts of Melbourne, the William Ricketts Sanctuary is a serene, mystical haven set in the verdant forest of the Dandenong Ranges. 

William Ricketts (1898–1993) was a potter, sculptor and Aboriginal and ecological spiritualist. Described by Ricketts as “The Forest of Love” the Sanctuary represents his profound kinship with Aboriginal Australians, his reverence of the natural environment and disgust of the destructive attitude of white colonists towards Australian flora and fauna. 

Life is Love. All you to all me, for being part of nature, we are all brothers to the birds and trees.

William Ricketts.

Meandering paths bordered by soaring Mountain Ash Trees and green ferny rainforest gently take visitors on a sacred, uplifting journey through an open-air gallery of roughly 100 sculptures of Australian Aboriginal people and wildlife lovingly crafted by Ricketts into the natural landscape. 

Aboriginal people represented in his sculptures are attributed to his experiences living in central Australia during the 1950s in which he spent time with the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte nations.

 Opened in 1964, the sanctuary is free to enter and is one of the key attractions of the Dandenong Ranges, which a set of low mountain ranges roughly 600 metres above sea level. 

The complete William Ricketts Sanctuary image gallery.

Aphrodisias Turkey.

The ancient city of Aphrodisias is one of the most rewarding and atmospheric Greco-Roman archaeological sites in Turkey.

Aphrodisias lies in the Maeander river basin, near the modern village of Geyre in the South Western Turkish province of Aydin. Heavily influenced in antiquity by Hellenistic culture, the city’s patron deity was Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and fertility.

It is believed that the site was a sacred sanctuary to Aphrodite prior to it being founded as a Greek polis (city-state) during the Hellenistic period around 3rd century BC.

The city was celebrated in antiquity for its schools of sculpture and art. Its artwork was in demand, including sculptures, reliefs, portraits, sarcophagi and decorative elements. The city’s sculptors were commissioned for work all around the Mediterranean and several of its sculptors were appointed by Roman Emperor Hadrian to work at his Villa in Tivoli, Italy. 

Aphrodisias’s prosperity did not suffer at the end of the Hellenistic period. The city continued to flourish under Roman control from the 1st century BC to the 4th century AD.

It was the favourite Asia minor city of Roman Emperor Augustus who reigned for 40 years between 27 BC – AD 14. However, the city was never the same after several disastrous earthquakes 4th and 7th centuries. Crumbling building and infrastructure and the continued Arab invasions forced the once glorious city to be abandoned.

The ancient site has many highlights, including the Ionic Temple of Aphrodite, the Tetrapylon ceremonial gate, the stadium, which rivals the stadium at Delphi as the best preserved in the ancient world, the theatre used by Romans for gladiatorial spectacles, the marble Sebasteion (Greek for Augusteum), complex and a vast number of superbly crafted reliefs depicting Greek myths and Roman themes.

In 2017, the ancient city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

The complete Aphrodisias image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Pompeii Italy.

Providing a breathtaking illusion of antiquity, the ancient city of Pompeii is near the bay of Naples in the southern Italian region of Campania and is still and forever shadowed by its tormentor, Mount Vesuvius.

According to myth, the Greek hero Herakles bestowed upon Pompeii its name whilst passing through Italy after defeating the three-headed monster giant Geryon. The name Pompeii derives from the word Pompe/Pompa, the Ancient Greek word for the procession in honour of Herakles’s triumph over the giants as one of his twelve labours.

The Campanian Oscan, a local italic population, established Pompeii on the end of ancient lava flow sometime around the 8th century BC. It was only a small site. Pompeii’s foundation, as we know of today, is attributed to the ancient Greeks, who took full control of the region and transformed Pompeii (and nearby city of Herculaneum) into an important trading centre and port.

The city developed and grew especially under the powerful influence of the nearby ancient Greek coastal colonies of Cumae and Neapolis (Naples). The beginnings of the city planning and buildings were established during this period. 

The Greek political influence diminished when Pompeii fell under the control of the Etruscans and then the Samnites and in 290 BC the city became a subject ally of Rome. However, Greek (Hellenistic) culture continued to be the leading influence, especially in art, architecture, religion and way of life.

Pompeii became a Roman colony in 80 BC and by now was the largest trading centre in the southern portion of the coast.

The city was bursting with wealth and was transformed with new public buildings and monuments. Many large villas with mosaic floors, Greek art and garden courtyards were built for its wealthy citizens.

The city became a favourite resort of the opulent Romans and model place for families to settle.

It all sounded too good to be true when In AD 62, Mount Vesuvius, now stirring, gave warning of its destructive power when Pompeii was devastated by a major earthquake. However, warning signs were mostly ignored and Pompeii, now with a booming population of about 20,000 inhabitants, choose to rise above the ruins and continued to grow and prosper whilst rebuilding and restoring its damaged buildings and infrastructure. 

The reconstruction of the city was in full swing when the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius occurred in AD 79 (August 24, according to some historians). 

In just over two days, Pompeii was buried under volcanic debris (lapilli, ash and red-hot scoria) between 5  to 7 metres deep. At least 2000 people who choose to stay in Pompeii and see it out were trapped and died. Poisonous gases killed some others who escaped the city whilst trying to reach safe ground.

Pompeii was lost to the world for around 1500 years, when rediscovered accidentally around 1600. Small-scale excavations started around 1748 and then finally, in 1860, large-scale scientific and systematic excavations organised by the Italian government were underway. Today, around three-fifths of Pompeii have been excavated.

Pompeii is a vast site and even at the peak of the summer tourist season, I could capture images with no people in the vicinity. I highly recommended you visit it if you get the chance. Ideally, you will set aside a full day for it. Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The complete Pompeii image gallery.

All Images, Text and Content Are Copyright Steven Sklifas.

Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria Australia.

Otherworldly and awe-inspiring, Wilsons Promontory National Park represents Mother Nature in all her splendour, a magnificent reminder of how fortunate we are to living on this absolutely unique Planet, Earth.

Wilsons Promontory is a peninsula that forms the southernmost part of the Australian mainland and is a long but scenic three hours’ drive east from Melbourne in the state of Victoria, Australia.

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.

– Albert Einstein

Home to abundant native wildlife, the Park size stretches to over 50,000 hectares (125,000-acres) and has a maze of walkway and hiking trails that provide a magical journey through a pristine and rugged wilderness including white sandy beaches, secludes coves, dramatic rock formations and verdant native forests.

Sweeping views of Wilsons Promontory and its rugged coastline are offered via a 3.4km trek up to the granite rocky summit of Mount Oberon, which rises to an elevation of 558 metres. Further information about Wilsons Promontory–Parks Victoria Website.

The complete Wilsons Promontory image gallery.

All Text, Images and Content are copyright Steven Sklifas

Delphi Greece

Zeus released two eagles from the opposites ends of the world and proclaimed that where those eagles met would be forever known as the centre of the earth. Those eagles met at Delphi.

Delphi, the mystical Oracle of Apollo, is magnificently situated on the slopes of the towering limestone Mount Parnassus and overlooks the olive tree abundant deep valley of the River Pleistos in the provincial unit of Phocis in upper central Greece. Delphi was first occupied in late Mycenaean times, probably around the 15th century BC, and that the Earth Goddess Gaia, the ancestral mother of all life, was venerated at the site. The cult of the Greek God Apollo was established at Delphi in the 8th century BC.

For over 1000 years from 800 BC onwards, Delphi was the spiritual, psychological and geographical centre and symbol of unity of the Ancient Greek world.

Delphi became a focal point for intellectual enquiry as well. A social networking and meeting place where ideas, innovations, inventions, discoveries, activities, and stories were shared. Rulers, Kings, Emperors, Tyrants, Statesmen and Politicians. The who’s who of the Ancient World and Greeks, seeking guidance for establishing new settlements, made the arduous trek to consult the Oracle of Apollo.

The Temple of Apollo is the most important building of Delphi and had been rebuilt several times in ancient times.

The existing ruins belong to the 4th century BC Temple of Apollo, which was the last rebuild of the Temple. The temple has six re-erected columns and originally had 6 Doric columns at each end and 15 Doric columns at each side. The walls of the pronaos or forecourt had approximately 147 inscriptions of aphorisms from the seven sages of Ancient Greece. Known as the Delphic maxims, the aphorisms were between 2 and 5 words and are philosophical and moral messages that are still as relevant today.

Two of the most famous Delphic maxims are “know Thyself and ‘Nothing in Excess”.

The interior of the Temple of Apollo included the inner sanctum or Adyton, which was a sunken area of the temple where the oracles were given by the Pythia (High Priestess). The Pythia was seated on a tripod above a fracture in the earth where 2 fault lines crossed from which hydrocarbon gases, possibly ethylene, were released. Once in a trance-like state, she would voice prophecies by Apollo, which then would have been noted and conveyed to the visitor by the priests.

One of antiquity’s most famous men, Alexander the Great, consulted the Oracle prior to him embarking on his legendary conquests. Unfortunately, the Pythia’s answer to Alexander’s enquiry was considered vague by him and left him incensed. So, in a fit of rage, Alexander stormed into the sacred chamber and dragged the Priestess by the hair out of the temple. He did not let up until she provided him with an appropriate reply. He released her when she screamed “You are invincible my son!”

One of the very last messages (362 AD) was directed to Pagan Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate who wanted to restore the Temple of Apollo. the message is read:

“Go Tell the emperor that my hall has fallen to the ground. Phoebus Apollo no longer has his house, nor his mantic bay. Even the talkative spring has dried up and is no more.”

Delphi as an influence ended in the 4th century AD when it was closed by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius. The city was abandoned to constant earthquakes and gradually fell into ruins.

Delphi was also famous for being one of the 4 major religious sites in Ancient Greece to hold the Panhellenic games. The other sites were Nemea, Isthmia and Olympia. The Delphi games were known as the Pythian games, in honour of Apollo and were held in the summer every four years (2 years after each Olympic Games). Besides athletic contests and chariot races, music and poetry competitions were held in honour of Apollo, who was the Greek God of the arts.

Delphi was designated in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The complete Delphi image gallery.

All Text, Images and Content are copyright Steven Sklifas.