Greek Fire at the Parthenon

Greek Fire at the Parthenon The illuminated Parthenon

Greek Fire at the Parthenon The illuminated Parthenon

It must be the winter’s darkness that is inspiring another post on a mysterious fire or light. This minor incident could certainly have been a hoax on the part of the guards, but the narrator does not think so.

A sentinel, who happened to be from the island of Cerigo [Cythera], perceiving that I had lingered all the day among these ruins, suggested to me that I ought not to leave the Acropolis without examining what he and his comrades conceived to be the greatest curiosity of the place. He called one of the guards, and desired him to show me the “mysterious fire,” as he called it. Upon quitting the porch of the temple, I turned under this man’s guidance to the right, and descending a few steps towards the guard-house, I reached a part of the foundations of the Parthenon, which are composed of large blocks of marble fitted together without any cement. Looking in between two of these blocks, which were separated from each other little more than the eighth of an inch, I distinctly saw in the interior of the wall a pale yellow light, resembling that of a taper in the daytime.

At first I looked about to see whether this could be the result of a contrivance to procure a little fee for the benefit of the guard; but I could discover no ground whatever for any such suspicion. Neither was the sun then shining on that part of the Acropolis; and the men assured me that the illumination was much stronger always during the night. I examined one or two other apertures in its immediate neighbourhood, and observed a similar light, which they had not discovered before, and which raised their wonder in a way that convinced me, that they at least were quite unconscious of any fraud. There was no smoke or heat about the spot; and the wall was of a thickness of at least from three to four feet, if not more. I concluded that the glow proceeded from some phosphoric substance or insect in the interior of the structure; and had only to lament that it was not known to the priests of the Parthenon of old, as it would have then been handed down to us as the divinity of some oracle, or as a fragment of the vestal [Hestial] fire which was never to be extinguished.

A Steam Voyage Down the Danube: With Sketches of Hungary, Wallachia, Servia, Turkey, etc., Michael Joseph Quin, 1836

I have never been to the Parthenon. It is my understanding that it is built on solid rock on a base of three steps. Are there tunnels? Is there an “interior” of the foundation? Given the “magical” manifestations reported in Greek religion: levitating or speaking statues, steam-operated doors to shrines, or proto-Heron-of-Alexandria mechanical toys—was there accessible space beneath the building for such purposes–or were such things not done here because it was not really Athena’s official shrine?

Other reports of this particular Greek fire (0r of luminous mosses or insects that might explain it)  to  Chriswoodyard8 AT

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.


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