Sunday, 23 August 2009


“A spark neglected makes a mighty fire.” - Robert Herrick

The devastating fires in Attica, Greece, just to the north of Athens have been burning since Friday evening and have reduced to ash forests and gutted properties. The fire broke out late on Friday in a village about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of the Greek capital and, fanned by strong winds, spread to neighbouring villages and northern suburbs of Athens. Greek authorities declared a state of emergency in eastern Attica on Saturday where the flames seared about 12,140 hectares of forest, farming fields and olive groves.

The fire brought back memories of 2007, when Greece's deadliest wildfires in living memory raged for more than 10 days on the Peloponnese peninsula and Evoia island, killing 65 people. Fortunately, until now, there have been no deaths with these fires, but authorities fear for the worst as residents are frantically trying to stop the flames from reaching their houses with garden hoses and tree branches.

A detail from Bosch’s central part of the “Triptych of The Temptation of St Anthony” (painted 1505-06), Oil on panel (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon) is apt for this fiery Sunday. A burning village illuminates the dusky background, probably a reference to the disease of ergotism or "St Anthony's Fire", whose victims invoked the name of St Anthony for relief.

Hieronymus Bosch (ca 1450-1516) was Netherlandish painter, named after the town of 's-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) in northern Brabant, where he seems to have lived throughout his life. His real name was Jerome van Aken (perhaps indicating family origins in Aachen, Germany). Bosch married well and was successful in his career (although his town was fairly isolated, it was prosperous and culturally stimulating). He was an orthodox Catholic and a prominent member of a local religious brotherhood, but his most characteristic paintings are so bizarre that in the 17th century he was reputed to have been a heretic. About forty genuine examples of Bosch's work survive, but none is dated and no accurate chronology can be made.


  1. I admit to being totally out of touch with the news until last night when I could not sleep. That was my first exposure to the horror in Greece.So very sad. And as our growing populations on earth live closer and closer to forests and wooded areas and exploit more and more of the resources on this planet I cannot help but believe we will see more and more such headlines.

    We have been lucky here thus far. But due to the lack of rain in the last month our forests are getting drier and more flammable. And it seems weather patterns produce more dry winds like the Santa Annas that plague California.

    I would love to hear some talking heads explore workable alternatives to fire after fire.

  2. I have been following this on the international news. I saw people this morning asking what sort of country they were living in when they had to try to control the fires coursing toward their homes because the fire services could not get through.

    I recalled the fires two years ago and could not believe this was happening all over again.

    How very sad. One English reporter from the BBC was recording as he fled with his family, leaving everything behind. He aid that not only had homes been destroyed but that it would take years for the vegetation to recover if at all.

    A sign of the times I fear.

  3. This is a terrible situation. After the horrific fires they had a couple of years ago I think the government should have been preparing themselves for future similar situations. Obviously didn't happen. I heard on the news that ancient sites are being threatened as well as the museum of Marathon...

  4. Wildfires are a problem here in California too so I feel for all those poor people that have lost their homes. The environment damage is great too and might not recover.

  5. not again! I remember you blogging about bushfires in Greece before. here in Victoria, of course, we are all digesting the results of the enquiry into the bushfires here earlier this year and gearing up for another long hot and potentially fiery summer.

    Bosch was a remarkable and unique painter.