An Architectural Survey

An astute reader may have noticed that my posts will more or less end, trickle off indistinctly, or just stop. Yesterday’s slammed shut.

The effort got grittier than I’d expected and then real life called. It made sense to just stop. Otherwise our heroine was about to get a drinking problem, get fired, from her weekday job, and lose the kids. Fortunately for her, I don’t have experience with either of the three. I wasn’t enthusiastic about conjuring some thoughts on the topics. I would like to explain the title.

My second major was Architecture. One of the most enjoyable of the required courses surveyed architecture from early Minoan structures up to and including some building in DC by I.M. Pei. The current faculty wrote the text for the class and often their European vacation slides made it into the curriculum. Since it covered so much history no one teacher taught the class. As a result, it doubled as a survey of the staff. All these personal elements blended into what might be called ‘homestyle’ if the class had been a meal instead.

I can easily pull up four or five memes for immediate discussion. If given a moment longer I might be able to define another ten. Given time I could probably share two or more items from every chapter in the short book. Some of my college coursework indelibly stamped me. The ink from this class is still distinct and bright.

Everyone knows the Parthenon, but it’s not the only building atop the Acropolis of Athens. It’s not even the only temple. Two other popular structures are the Propylaea, a gateway serving as an entrance to the hilltop even now, and the Erechtheion with its Caryatid Porch, an ancient example of the exception to the rule. The fourth building that comes to mind for me is the Temple of Athena Nike.

The statue in this temple, which barely qualifies as being on the Acropolis since it lies outside the Propylaea, displays Nike Apteros or ‘victory without wings’. As I recall Nike, the goddess of victory, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, were separate entities, but Nike’s individuality got co-opted by Athena. In any case, the name for the statue and temple is of quite a practical sort. The way we might say ‘doctor without stethoscope’ or ‘cowboy without horse’. I’ve always interpreted it more conceptually, more poetically.

To me ‘victory without wings’ means success with a handicap. Or having achieved greatness in the face of an unbalanced aggressor. To me Nike Apteros and Underdog are synonymous.

Word count: 422
Day 198