Rigas' Charta AR (Augmented Reality) app
An augmented reality (AR) application inspired by the heroic life of Rigas Velestinlis and the story behind the creation of his Charta of Greece, aiming at highlighting in 3D form 15 hidden symbols of the map. The Charta of Greece was printed in Vienna (1796-7) in 1220 copies by Rigas Velestinlis, a revolutionary figure of the Greek Enlightenment. It consists of 12 sheets (each ~50X70 cm.) which, if joined, form a large map with a total dimension of 2m x 2m. It is widely considered the most important example of Greek cartography that inspired the Greek Revolution for Independence in 1821. Besides the traditional depiction of a map of the Balkan Peninsula, it includes an extensive array of symbols, figures, and pictures and is considered the “multimedia” of its time. In an attempt to transfer these maps from Vienna to Trieste, Rigas was betrayed and was arrested by the Austrian police. He was accused of going to start a revolution inside the Ottoman Empire through his radical ideas inside his maps, books, and poems. Consequently, he was handed over to the Ottomans, held in captivity, and martyred together with seven of his companions near Belgrade. Today, there are only 59 surviving copies of Rigas’ Charta. The Onassis Library accumulates a full copy of the 12-sheet map and organizes many educational programs giving prominence to this important historical document. The pedagogical goal of this AR app is to motivate the new generation to decode the iconographic wealth of the Charta by using new technology tools. Through this application, children and adults alike have the opportunity to interact with a historical document in a playful and creative way. They are motivated to search for the secret symbols that Rigas printed on the map, to recognize them, and to learn their meaning. At the same time, this game of hidden treasure is an entertaining experience that creates images and emotions that can remain for a long time after the end of the educational activity. The application initially focuses on over fifteen symbols depicted on the Rigas’ Charta that are presented in the form of 2D and 3D animated visualizations. The app can be used with all copies and versions of the map, both physical and digital. The user is triggered to explore this historical document, to discover the 3D animated stories, and unveil the hidden symbolisms of the following icons: 1) The 162 ancient and medieval coins: They stand for the riches and the glory of the free cities in antiquity, as well as the prosperity coming with freedom and independence. Each coin represents a story about the people, the city, the god, or the hero they depict. 2) Jason and the Argo: They symbolize the adventurous nature of the Greeks, their love for traveling, trading, meeting with other peoples, and learning new things. They represent also the spirit of modernism and the mobility, characteristics of the late 18th c. 3) Heracles and the Amazon: The battle between aka Hercules and the Queen of Amazons refers to the contrast between the ancient Greek democratic spirit and, in this case, the Asian despotism. 4) The ancient Greek theatre: It symbolizes the ancient Greek civilization and its continuity through the ages, focusing on intellectual culture, arts, and literature. The theatre is among the greatest gifts of the Greek civilization to humankind. 5) Ancient Olympia and the Olympic games: They represent the Olympic Spirit and its global reach, associated with the values and ideals of Olympism, e.g. mutual understanding between people, solidarity, fair play and peace. 6) Delphi: There stood the most celebrated oracle of the ancient Greek world, and Delphi was regarded as the center (omphalos, e.g. navel) of the Earth. The Delphic spirit represents the most beautiful and glorious aspect of the ancient Greek civilization. The oracle was consulted by the Greek city-states, but also by rulers throughout the ancient classical world, in case they wished to resolve disputes or make important decisions with fair solutions. It was decorated with words of wisdom engraved on its walls, the “Delphic Maxims”, which inspired visitors all through their lives. 7) Colossus of Rhodes: One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, it symbolizes the wealth, beauty, and prosperity of the ancient city-states, but also the power of People, that whenever united, could prove miraculous, even facing strong attacks from enemies. 8) Pyrrha and Deucalion: They represent the power of life and creation, the freedom fire, the justified good, and the rebirth following a great natural disaster or war. They also explain the birth of humankind as a brotherhood, with the same origin, thanks to the actions of the famous couple. 9) The female figure on the forehead: She either stands for Greece, future Hellenic Republic, Liberty, Justice, or even Science. On the one hand, she holds a pen to write history and a wreath to crown winners; on her other hand, she holds a caduceus (the staff held by the god Hermes), symbolizing the news brought to Greeks about the European Enlightenment, but also trade, favorite employment of Greeks. At her feet, there are two books, one for geometry and the Odyssey, representing Science and Humanities respectively, as well as the education’s role on succeeding freedom. 10) Hero and Leander: A popular in the era of Romanticism love story coming from the classical tradition. The tragic end of the two lovers reminds us of the importance to claim our personal freedom in life, at any cost, even questioning social contracts. 11-12-13) The battle of Plataea / the naval battle of Salamis / the battle of Thermopylae: These were three emblematic battles during the Persian invasion against Greece, concluding to two victories and a heroic defeat, that changed the flow of History not only for Greeks but for all European antiquity. They remind us of the benefits of solidarity and understanding, overcoming civil conflicts and much superior enemies’ forces. 14) The sleeping lion: It symbolizes the enslaved Greeks who lie dormant, despite having so much power inside of them. They must rebel and free themselves from Ottoman despotism. The lion could also represent the sleeping Ottoman Sultan, while the bat at his feet, Heracles’ weapon of choice, waits for someone to wield it and confront him. 15) The wind rose: A wind rose is a basic element of a map. Rigas’ chose to engrave a 32-point compass rose used to display the orientation of the cardinal directions and the wind names in ancient Greek, Italian and Turkish language. The Rigas’ Charta AR application strengthens the emotional involvement of people with a historical document and cultivates a positive attitude and enthusiasm towards the learning process, enriching history and geography lessons, promoting cartographic cultural heritage through the use of innovative technology tools in education. It manages to bring out of the obscurity a significant cultural wealth, to enrich and animate it, and to motivate students and teachers to rediscover the treasures of Greek spiritual tradition, to unlock hidden secrets, and to highlight historical sources and rare works, with the help of technology, storytelling, iconography, and visual art creation. Furthermore, the creative engagement of people with the original map leads to a deeper understanding of its significance and its connection with the vision and the other publishing works of Rigas Velestinlis. Instructions for use: Download the Augmented Reality (AR) app for the Rigas Velestinlis’ Charta on your android device (smartphone/tablet). Open the application and place the camera of your device in front of a copy (digital or physical) of the map in order to search for the 15 hidden symbols. As soon as you spot them they will come alive in 3D form before your eyes. The children's book “Young Rigas and the secret symbols of Charta” (see extra url), published in 2021 by the Onassis Foundation (only in Greek) can be also combined with the AR application.