Part of the ruins of Knossos on a 1961 Greek stamp. Knossos is widely thought to be the oldest discovered city in Europe. In Greek mythology it was the site of the palace of King Minos, and where Theseus killed the minotaur. Many of the Minoan settlements were destroyed in early 15th century BC (historians and archaeologists speculate that this was by there Mycenaeans) but Knossos survived another 100 years or so, until it was ravaged by fire. The site was discovered by a Cretan merchant interested in antiquities in about 1877. The main excavation was undertaken under Sir Arthur Evans at the start of the 20th century, with controversial restoration work being undertaken under his oversight in the 1920s.
Ruins at Olympia on another 1961 Greek stamp. The site is in the Peloponnese, and was where the Olympic games were held in ancient times, until they were banned by the Christian emperor Theodosius II in 426 CE. There is a complex of temples. For me, it is one of the most magical sites in Greece: I visited it in my teens, being taken by bus at worryingly high speed along a winding mountain road. It was spring, and there were magnolia trees in full blossom, adding to the magic. Olympia was badly damaged by earthquakes in the third to sixth centuries CE and settlement was abandoned in the early 7th century. The remains were covered by layers of mud, now thought to be due to a succession of tsunamis, and excavation did not begin until 1829. The flame for the modern Olympic games is lit by the heat of reflected sunlight in front of a temple that is believed to have been dedicated to the goddess Hera.
A statue of winged Victory from Samothrace, on display in the Louvre in Paris, on French semi-postals of 1937. Dating back to probably the early third century BC, it is one of the most renowned ancient Greek statues, and may have been commissioned to celebrate a naval victory by the then ruler of Macedon. These stamps were sold at above face value in several French museums. As with the Parthenon marbles in the British Museum, there has for years been pressure from Greece for the statue to be returned to its place of origin.
Issued by New Caledonia for the 1964 Olympics, this stamp shows some ancient Greek wrestlers in action. In the Homeric epics, wrestling was an important part of funeral and other games - and almost anything was allowed, so life-threatening or life-changing injuries were common.
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