The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Ryan Stitt
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
The Blue Monkeys Fresco from Akrotiri (in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera).
When did you first come across this fresco?
June 2010. It was the summer before my senior year as an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, and I signed up for a three week long study abroad trip to Greece. This was the first time I had ever left the United States. The first stop on our tour was the Aegean island of Santorini (Ancient Thera). Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to see Akrotiri (as it was still closed for renovations in 2010), but we did visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, as well as the acropolis of Ancient Thera. I was mesmerized with that museum (it was the first museum I had ever visited in fact), and in particular I fell in love with the Akrotiri frescoes there (and the ones I would later see in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens). The Blue Monkey Fresco was my favorite, though, and I even bought a replica of it that still hangs on my wall to this day.
Can you tell me a bit about this painting and its context?
Due to the volcanic eruption that destroyed Thera sometime between 1650-1550 BCE, the village of Akrotiri was covered with layers of pumice and volcanic ash. As a result, many of the colorful frescoes that had adorned the walls of their buildings have been remarkably well-preserved.
What is it about this fresco that appeals to you most?
Nostalgia and/or centering mostly. Every time I stop and look at this replica on my wall or come across the image in my pictures, online, or in a textbook somewhere, I think about my first trip to Greece. At that time, I liked the ancient world a lot but it didn’t dawn on me quite yet that it would be something that I would spend my life being interested in, even if it’s in a non-traditional manner. So for me the image of the blue monkeys fresco provides a sense of renewal, like I’m that excited undergraduate coming to the ancient Greeks in my formative years once again.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
I usually workout or spend time with my dog, Rex. We used to go on very long runs/walks, but he is getting older now and can’t do it much anymore. So instead when I need to think about something or center myself, I will either run alone or take Rex on a long car ride in the countryside somewhere, with the windows down and 90s Hip-Hop blaring. Rex is also a fan of 90s Hip Hop!
Ryan Stitt is an officer in the United States Air Force by day, and at night, he is the creator/host/producer of The History of Ancient Greece Podcast.
Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.