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    Then a coworker and I made a three-day trip to the region, flying into Izmir, Turkey, where we rented a car and drove to find the seven churches.

    In the end, we saw a lot of rocks. Don't get me wrong. They were beautiful rocks. But they were rocks, ruins of ancient cities once teeming with people long gone. In the apostle John's vision of Revelation, Jesus spoke to the Christians in these cities, commending some but warning most. In reading Jesus' words to the seven churches and learning about each location, I wondered how these rocks should change my life. In recent times, it has been the venue for concerts by Sting, Elton John and Diana Ross, among others.

    Photo by Karrie Sparrow. The amphitheater in Ephesus, which could hold up to 25, people, was the venue of the angry riot against Christians in Acts Ephesus was the fourth-largest city of the Roman empire in the first century. A thriving commercial center and port city, Ephesus also was the home of a temple to the goddess Artemis. This amphitheater also has been the venue for rallies and concerts. Sting, Elton John, and Diana Ross are among those who have performed there. In Revelation, Jesus commended the Ephesian church for enduring hardships and hating the heresy of the Nicolaitans -- early Gnostics who wanted to blend Christianity with pagan practices like sexual immorality.

    But others in Ephesus had fallen from their first love of Christ and received a sober warning: Some scholars think these Christians may have caved to pressure to worship at the cult temple of Emperor Domitian. Honeysuckle perfumed the air around the shops and streets I visited. The town is Muslim -- as is 99 percent of Turkey. Smyrna -- Izmir Vertical columns that hemmed in a marketplace at ancient Smyrna contrast with the horizontal lines of a current-day parking garage in Izmir, Turkey, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world, now with 4 million people.

    Vertical columns that hemmed in a marketplace at ancient Smyrna contrast with the horizontal lines of a current-day parking garage in Izmir, Turkey, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world, now with 4 million people.

    The ruins of Smyrna's marketplace are nestled in a city block of the thriving seaport city Izmir. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world, Izmir is now home to more than 4 million people.

    When we pulled up to the ruins of ancient Smyrna's marketplace, high school students spilled out from their school. They seemed ambivalent to the millennia-old city ruins across the street from them. Jesus' words to the believers in Smyrna encouraged them in the face of coming persecution.

    Indeed, not just in Smyrna but across the entire region, first-century believers who resisted the pressure of imperial cult worship endured persecution. Some scholars think this persecution was often economic, like the loss of a job or financial wealth 1. Probably for this reason, Jesus reminded them they are spiritually rich even though materially poor. The early church father Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the apostle John.

    At the age of 86, he was burned at the stake for refusing to renounce his faith in Christ. Some of Polycarp's last words were, "For 86 years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? The modern city of Izmir is filled with secular modernists -- officially Muslim by name but sincerely disillusioned with Islam and the current political climate. They may know that Christians "used to" live in Izmir but most are unaware of the thriving Christian community of up to believers scattered among at least 12 churches.

    Although many of these churches are historically Catholic or Orthodox, there is a growing number of evangelical Protestant believers as well. Pergamum -- Bergama The acropolis and an ancient amphitheater that seated 10, people overlook the city of Pergamum, now modern-day Bergama. The acropolis and an ancient amphitheater that seated 10, people overlook the city of Pergamum, now modern-day Bergama. The ruins of Pergamum sit atop a hill overlooking the modern-day city of Bergama.

    A state-of-the-art cable car carried us to the top of the hill where we viewed extensively excavated ruins. Pergamum was a principal city of the Roman Empire in the first century. The most striking remnant is the steep theater built into the side of the hill that seated 10, people. But it was the ruins of the temple to Zeus that sobered me. Some think this temple is why Jesus called Pergamum the place where Satan has his throne.

    Jesus had some serious warnings toward Christians in Pergamum who had fallen away from His teaching to embrace sinful behaviors. If they did not repent, Jesus Himself would come and fight against them.

    Jesus did, however, commend the few in Pergamum who stood strong and didn't renounce their faith even when their friend Antipas was killed Revelation 2: Today, Bergama is made up of an "old city" of narrow cobbled streets and a more modern city. The locals I interacted with didn't disappoint as they extended their famous Turkish hospitality. Happy to offer information, one man told me Christians visit the seven churches like Muslims visit Mecca -- to earn merit before God.

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    My heart dropped to hear his misunderstanding of Christianity. Today, there are a few known believers around Bergama, but no churches. Thyatira -- Akhisar An apartment building overlooks the crumbled walls of ancient Thyatira, now modern-day Akhisar with more thanpeople. The ancient coins of Thyatira show a multitude of guilds including linen weavers, bronze workers, potters and bakers. An apartment building overlooks the crumbled walls of ancient Thyatira, now modern-day Akhisar with more thanpeople.

    In the book of Acts, Lydia was a wealthy benefactress and convert to Christianity.

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    A seller of purple cloth, Lydia's original home was the city of Thyatira. Thyatira was the only city of the Seven Churches built on flat ground without natural defenses, making it vulnerable to attack. In John's vision, Jesus is described with feet like burnished bronze -- a metaphor Thyatira citizens would have easily grasped because of its bronze workers.

    Jesus warned those in Thyatira who were tolerating the deceptive teaching of "Jezebel," an unrepentant influencer or perhaps a symbol for the licentiousness that led people into Satan's "deep secrets" Revelation 2: Few in Thyatira had remained true to the faith, and Jesus encouraged them to "hold on" Revelation. He promised authority over nations to those who persevere until the end. The scant ruins of Thyatira are unearthed in the modern city of Akhisar with more thanpeople.

    Contemporary apartment buildings line streets teeming with busses and cars. There is no church in Akhisar and no known believers. Sardis -- Sart The Jewish synagogue in ancient Sardis was in use for up to years. Today, the town of Sart has nearly 5, residents -- with no known followers of Christ.

    The Jewish synagogue in ancient Sardis was in use for up to years. We parked our car -- the only vehicle in the gravel lot at the ruins of Sardis -- and climbed out to view the extensive excavations.

    The legendary wealthy King Croesus, who amassed gold from a nearby river, reigned from Sardis in the s BC. Ruins from the Temple of Artemis -- originally dating from the fifth century BC and rebuilt by Alexander the Great years later -- still stand today.

    A stadium, shops and ruins of the largest ancient Jewish synagogue in the world, which was in use for up to years, were a short jaunt from the temple.

    At the time of John's vision in Revelation, Sardis was one of the wealthiest Roman cities despite having been rebuilt multiple times after devastating earthquakes. Jesus's words in Revelation sliced through Sardis's thriving "health" to the church's spiritual realities.

    Although there were a faithful few, most people in the Sardis church were spiritually dead and dying. Christ summoned them to "wake up," "remember," and "repent" Revelation 3: Ruins from a small, fourth-century Byzantine church stand on the grounds of the Temple of Artemis. I found the crumbling church -- built a few hundred years after John's letter -- to be a hopeful sign that some in Sardis took the warning to repent.

    The modern town of Sart -- only a mile from the ruins -- has just over 5, inhabitants. A nearby village, adjacent to the ruins, carries on with rural life. Children run in the dusty streets. Farmers drive tractors into the surrounding fields. There are no known Christians in Sart today. You have to look carefully to find any signs of the city's former life.

    Crumbling Byzantine walls blend into its cityscape. One neighborhood has preserved the arches and sarcophagi decorated stone coffins from a sixth-century church. The call to prayer from the adjacent mosque interrupted our perusal of the sparse ruins.

    I tried to reconcile that feeling with the knowledge that this is where faithful believers were praised by Jesus, who said, "I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name" Revelation 3: Jesus also told the church in Philadelphia He would keep them from the hour of trial.

    Whatever that refers to, it did not mean they would be spared persecution. Laodicea — Denizli The church of Laodicea is still under excavation. Today known as Denizli, it is a city of more than a half-million people. The church of Laodicea is still under excavation. Ongoing excavations of the city of Laodicea began only recently, in The work continues to uncover an expansive wealthy city.

    Laodicea was built on a major highway and became a commercial and banking center. It was known for ear and eye medicine and for its black wool. The water was tepid and unpleasant, but nearby Hierapolis gushed hot thermal springs. Also nearby, Colossae was the home of pure cold water.
    It supplied cult figures of gods, dedications in sanctuaries, monuments to stand above graves, architectural decorations, and eventually statues and reliefs for wealthy private houses.

    Of all this relatively little remains: The reason was not usually religious zeal, but the value of marble as raw material for lime and of bronze for scrap, so that in order to survive, sculpture had to be out of sight and reach.

    Thus, what we now have is a sample unevenly distributed in time, type and quality. Architectural sculpture, while still in place, was not likely to be removed and, when the building collapsed, might be buried under a mass of masonry. Independent reliefs, especially gravestones, were liable to fall down and, if covered over, be forgotten; and any slab carved in low relief could be reused as a structural block.

    Free-standing statues had poorer chances, since they were less likely to be hidden sufficiently by debris, especially in populous places. Metal, of course, was worth digging for and so less than a score of Greek bronzes have turned up that are reasonably complete, several of them dredged up from the sea.

    As for marble, works from the Archaic period survived best; being less admired it was less carefully conserved by later Greeks and Romans and so could be lost before the period of destruction set in, and there is also the big cache from the Acropolis of Athens where much of the statuary which the Persians broke in was used as in-fill during the restoration that followed.

    At the other end, Roman art provides us with a surfeit of copies of popular Greek sculptures from both the Classical and Hellenistic eras. These copies, some Late Hellenistic but more of them Roman, hinder as well as help the enjoyment and study of Greek sculpture.

    Though the copyists fixed points by measurement, the points were much sparser than those used in modern practice and the intervening spaces and the details were carved freehand and usually without much care, as can be seen when comparing different reproductions of the same original.

    In general copies are fairly reliable for pose, but mostly so harsh and insensitive in their treatment of surface that they more often repel than interest the unprejudiced viewer; and with the finer examples there is the problem whether the copyists may not also have been creative. Unfortunately very few first-rate Classical stautues or ones from the Hellenistic period of Greek sculpture have survived in the original and those that are known through copies are far more numerous, so that copies are an essential reference in any stylistic survey of Greek sculpture.

    Besides the surviving originals and copies there is another source of information in the remains of Greek and Latin literature. Pliny the Elder the Roman author, CE includes a continuous account of Greek sculpture in the Naturalis Historia he compiled around the middle of the first century CE, while Pausanias a century later mentions many of the works he saw when travelling round for his Description of Greece.

    In addition, there are casual references to sculptors and sculptures by other authors. Pausanias was quite uncritical, reporting faithfully what was told him but he was more interested in mythology than in art.

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    Pliny's account, mainly second-hand, is compounded of colourful but untrustworthy anecdotes, lists of sculptors and their most famous works, and a series of stylistic judgments that were probably taken from a Greek critic of the third century with a good and sensitive knowledge of Classical sculpture c.

    In practice our understanding of the development of Greek sculpture depends on the stylistic analysis of surviving works, supported by a miscellany of dates from historical records and inscriptions.

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    The most important of these dates are the Persian capture of the Acropolis of Athens inwhich gives a lower limit for the works they damaged; the completion of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia not later than ; the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon, carried out in sequence from to ; the Nike of Paionios, commissioned about ; the gravestone of Dexileos, killed at Corinth in ; the building of the Mausoleum, which was going on in the s; the embellishment of the Great Altar at Pergamum, which is very probably of the early 2nd century; the destruction of Delos in 69; and the dedication of the Ara Pacis Augustae at Rome in 9 BCE.

    The present state of knowledge of ancient art in Greece is very uneven. For the Archaic period, where there are no lists in Pliny to distract students, the examination of style has produced a reasonably credible evolution, as it has too - in spite of Pliny - for the Classical period till near the end of the fifth century; but even here, experts are liable to disagree by as much as twenty years over the dating of particular works.

    The fourth century is obscure, whatever the text-books say, and the Hellenistic period still more so, except perhaps towards its end. Though in time there should be more precision about trends, it does not seem that we shall ever have enough material to understand the personalities of Greek sculpture, not that that will deter the many students who remain devoted to their Natural History.

    For more about the influence of Greek sculpture on 20th century artists, see: Classical Revival in modern art Sculptural Materials in Ancient Greece The principal materials for Greek sculpture were stone especially marble and bronze - limestone, terracotta and wood being much inferior - and there were several famous examples of ivory carving, notably the chryselephantine statues made by Phidias from gold sheeting and ivory mounted on a wooden core.

    Marble, which was used from the beginning, occurs in several places in and around the Aegean, though not in South Italy and Sicily. The Greeks liked white, medium to fine-grained varieties, with much more sparkle than the Carrara or Luna later exploited by the Romans and still familiar in the cemeteries of Western Europe.

    Limestone, which Classical archaeologists often call 'poras', is plentiful in most Greek lands and some of it is of very fine quality; it was the commonest stone for statues in the seventh century, but afterwards passed as reputable only for architectural sculpture in places like Sicily, where marble was too expensive. Terracotta too was an economical material for architectural work, particularly antefixes and acroteria.

    Wood, of course, had little chance of surviving, and to judge by ancient records was never in regular use for finished sculpture, though possibly the molds for bronze statues were formed on wooden figures. Bronze was not important till the second half of the sixth century, when the hammering of sheet metal was replaced by hollow casting, but by the early fifth century it was the preferred medium for most types of free-standing statue though not for reliefs and architectural sculpture.

    Chryselephantine statues, which were too expensive and perhaps also too easily damaged to be common, go back at least to the middle years of the sixth century: There are other instances, also infrequent, of combinations of materials: Greek sculpture was coloured, as was most sculpture till the Renaissanceand indeed if the ancient marble statues which were found and admired at that time had kept their paint, the more conservative of us would probably still expect colouring on sculpture.

    Of the details of the Greek painting of marble, as well as limestone and wood, our information is patchy. For the sixth century, the finds on the Acropolis of Athens give good samples and there are later sarcophagi from Sidon and Etruria where the colours are well preserved, but usually we are lucky if we have traces even of the boundaries of painted areas.

    On terracotta the paint has survived much better, since it was fired on, but unfortunately because of the firing the range of colours was limited and rather crude. There is the difficulty too that through chemical action some colours may have changed - in particular blues have sometimes turned into greens - and red, which is the most persistent pigment, may sometimes have served as an undercoat. Still one may assert that eyes, hair, lips and nipples were regularly and cheeks sometimes painted, that female flesh was left in the natural white of the marble or only tinted lightly, that male flesh was often coloured a warm brown, and that drapery was usually painted over completely unless for a garment was left white for contrast.

    Generally, until the fourth century, there was a continuous progress towards subtler and more natural colouring, though later it became commoner for hair to be gilded.

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    For more about painting techniques in Ancient Greece, please see: Classical Greek Painting c. With this taste for polychromy it is not surprising that the Greeks were ready to add such accessories as earrings and weapons in metal - how extensively may be judged by the holes drilled for their attachment.

    The result of all this was to make ancient sculpture much more vivacious, most obviously in giving sight to the eyes. It is harder to calculate the effects in drapery, but sometimes the composition must have been clarified or strengthened by contrasting colour, as on the Nike of Paionios c. On reliefs, the background was painted red or blue, and on pediments, blue.

    As for bronze, Greek taste preferred to keep it shiny, and patination green or brown sheen was a sign of neglect, although in the Roman period some collectors considered patina a certificate of antiquity. Eyes were regularly filled with paste or some other substance, and lips and nipples were often inlaid with copper or silver, but experts still dispute whether hair and other areas were darkened artificially or even painted.

    So when one looks at Greek sculpture it is worth making the effort to remember that there was more to it than form.

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    Greek Sculptural Methods For reliefs it is natural to sketch the subject on the prepared surface and to work from that sketch, but until well into the Hellenistic period Greek marble sculptors did not use detailed models when carving statues, or so it can reasonably be inferred from finished and unfinished works. First, it is not till the last century BCE that there are traces of any system of pointing - the method by which positions determined on a model are transferred precisely to the block from which the final statue is to be carved - and even then the points were far enough apart for large areas to be left to freehand carving.

    Secondly, in pedimental sculpture, where at least the relationship of the figures had to be planned accurately before-hand, the various sculptors of the team could develop the drapery of their figures as they chose; this is very clear in the west pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, where on some figures the treatment of folds is old-fashioned and on others discordantly progressive.

    From the identity of style with that of marble statues, bronze statues too must usually have depended on carving, presumably here of the preliminary figure, and it is hardly before the second century that there is any suggestion in finished work of that fluid kind of modelling which is encouraged by soft clay or wax.

    More surprisingly there is no such plastic modelling in terracottas either. Evidently the Greek sculptural tradition was founded on and fixed by carving.

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    Surviving originals which were abandoned at various stages of progress show that the normal procedure of carving a marble statue was not to finish one part at a time as usually happens with pointing from a scale modelbut to work round the figure stage by stage.

    This meant that there was not much that the sculptor-could delegate safely to an assistant and that he was continually reminded of the effect of the whole as he dealt with the detail.

    Presumably he began by drawing the outlines of his figure on all four sides of the block. This would have been practicable enough with the uncomplicated, four-square poses that were regular for statuary till the fourth century. Next he removed the surplus stone to within an inch or so of the intended final surface, using first the pick-hammer and the drill and then increasingly the punch.

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    There followed the rough shaping of the figure with the point, a fine punch which can be recognized by the pitting it leaves, and awkward cavities such as the space between an arm and the body or deep folds of drapery were partly hollowed out by the drill. The drill, which had a round chisel for its bit, was used in two ways, either to bore single holes or series of holes, or as a 'running' drill travelling obliquely forward to cut a furrow. The method of the running drill seems to have been invented little, if at all, earlier than the s BCE and, since it saved labour, soon became very popular.

    The next and most decisive stage of the carving was the detailed modelling of the surface by chisels of various types - the claw chisel which seems to have been invented around BCEthe flat chisel and the round chisel. These chisels were used both obliquely and vertically, as was the point, and normally with short, gentle strokes.

    After the modelling the surface was smoothed with rasps of suitable shapes and gauge, and then came a finer smoothing with abrasives, probably emery chips and powder followed by powdered pumice.

    This smoothing did not produce the high gloss of much Roman and recent sculpture. For a gloss finish, the surface needs to be polished with finer abrasives, such as putty powder or rouge. Finally the statue was painted - from BCE onwards, in the encaustic technique - and any metal accessories were attached.

    For reliefs the procedure was much the same. First the subject must have been sketched on the prepared block. Then the outline was cut out, on deeper reliefs often by a drill, and after that the point, chisel, rasp and abrasives were used in sequence. Generally Greek sculptors of reliefs carved no part much further back from the front plane than was required by the effective modelling of that part.

    So the background tends not to be level and the depth at which figures and parts of figures are set is governed more by optical than natural relationships. For pedimental figures practice varied. Sometimes the procedure was that used for free-standing statues, though often the back was unfinished, but sometimes - as with the bodies of the Centaurs at 0lympia - they were treated much like high relief. The standard of finish was very high and all visible tool marks of one stage were expected to be cleared away in the next, though there were awkward places where abrasives or the rasp could not be used properly and very occasionally a tool dug too deep on an open surface.

    Taste in finishing varied, but was less exacting as time went on. On reliefs, backgrounds and large neutral areas like seats were often rasped, but not smoothed further by abrasives. In the fourth century, some sculptors chose to leave drapery only rasped, for contrast of texture with the fully smoothed flesh; and in lesser pieces there was an increasing tendency to negligence.

    Even so, the difference between even mediocre Greek carving and the average Roman copy is obvious; the copyists only occasionally took trouble over the chisel work. Incidentally, a Greek sculptor typically took from six to nine months to carve a full-size marble statue.

    Bronze statues are rare, so it is much more difficult to deduce the methods by which they were made, compared with marble statues. Thus the summary account that follows may be wrong in parts. During the seventh and the early sixth centuries some sizable statues were constructed in the 'sphyrelaton' technique - that is, thin sheets of bronze hammered into shape and fastened with nails to a wooden frame or core - but the results were not satisfactory; and though small figurines were cast solid in molds, solid casting was too expensive even if practicable for large figures.

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    Then, probably about the middle of the sixth century, a process of hollow casting, which had been used for some time for smallish objects, was borrowed and developed for full-size statues. The Greeks were not advanced enough in their metallurgy to construct large frames as rigid as is needed for sand-box casting and so they must have depended on a 'lost wax' process.

    The regular sequence of work seems to have been something like this. First the sculptor prepared his preliminary figure in full and precise detail; the material is likely to have been wax, or perhaps clay or wood, but anyhow the effect suggests carving rather than modelling of the surface.

    Then this figure was coated with clay or possibly plaster to make a mold. Next the mold and the preliminary figure had to be separated, and here more uncertainty intrudes. The following stage required the mold to have been slit open, and also it was usual to cast large statues in several parts.

    If then the material of the preliminary figure was soft - that is wax or clay - it could be prised or dug away or perhaps run or washed out; or else the figure was removed intact and, since under-cutting was frequent, especially in folds of drapery, this means either that the figure had already been dissected into many separable pieces or that an equally complex dissection was now performed on the mold; although if the mold was so dissected, most of the smaller pieces must have been reassembled before the next stage.

    In this, the open mold was lined with wax to whatever thickness was wanted for the bronze wall of the finished statue. In turn the wax lining was lined with clay to form a core, which was connected to the mold by metal pegs chapletsso that mold and core would keep their relative positions when the wax was melted out.

    This clay core may have been slapped on moist, or poured in liquid, and depending on the process used the mold was reassembled in its complete parts after or before the making of the core.

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