National Geographic : 1967 Apr
Tower of the Winds. A small red sports car parked near the Agora's east gate told me that photographer David Beal and his wife Dawn, Australian residents of Athens, had arrived early for our appointment. Only George Stuart, draftsman on the National Geo graphic staff, was missing. He soon appeared from the ruins of the Agora colonnade, laden with measuring instruments and notebooks. Our meeting here sealed acquaintances begun through letters written months before, when the National Geographic Society had agreed to support our research project at the Tower of the Winds. We would spend this first day inspecting the Agora and the unusual eight-sided building that had brought us here. Whirling Dervishes Left Their Mark The Tower of the Winds stands like a large, ornate canister, a blatant non-ruin yellowed with the patina of 2,000 years (pages 586-7). A Macedonian astronomer, Andronikos of Kyrrhos, fashioned it around 50 B.C. as an astronomical wonder as well as a timepiece for the marketplace. On each wall, just under a sculptured demi god representing one of the eight winds, a sundial spread its web of lines. An early text tells of a bronze wind vane in the form of Triton, son of the sea god Poseidon, that turned on the roof and pointed to the image of the wind that was blowing. Paradoxically, the true wonder of this build ing lies in its missing furnishing: Inside the octagonal chamber, scholars believe, an ingen ious water clock once rested. We had come to try to puzzle out the details of this lost device. By the second morning the Director of An tiquities, Dr. Nicholas Platon, had approved our research permits. The four of us, quiet with anticipation, gathered at the northwest entrance. I unlocked the metal-grille door and swung it open. We crossed a well-worn thresh old to the interior of the tower. Inside, piles of broken sculpture-staring marble heads, robed torsos, and architectural ornaments from the nearby ruins-gave silent hint of the once proud aspect of the Agora (page 594). The age-stained walls told later history: Early Christians had scratched a small cross on one stone. During Turkish rule of Greece in the 18th century, whirling dervishes had carved a prayer niche in the angle at the left of the south wall, in the direction of Mecca. It was during Turkish rule, also, that pio neer British archeologists James Stuart and Nicholas Revett excavated the rubble fill (Continued on page 595) 588 Showcase for the ancient clock rises from a stepped marble base on a sunny morning 2,000 years ago. Surveyor at left sights toward his chainman, while astronomer Andronikos care fully lays out a sundial for the exterior. Slender columns, collared with transport rollers, await raising, then fluting. Workman ladles molten lead over bronze clamps that bind the stones. A block and tackle creaks a stone aloft, and a gesturing city official discusses the project with a foreman. Beyond this busy scene, merchants begin to crowd the Agora. Authorities on the ancient marketplace suggest that the east gate at this time-about 50 B.C.-bore the simple Doric columns shown and not the Ionic capitals that later graced it (page 595). Stonemason's grooves may still be seen in the tower floor (right). The author inserts afragment of guardrail, found amid ruins of the Agora, in a trench marked by yellow chalk. Channels dusted with blue chalk led to three fountains, the author believes, that played around the completed horologion (following pages).