I just arrived on the Greek island of Kea, where Simonides of Ceos was from. Read more
I arrived in Athens and spent the afternoon at the Acropolis. I don’t like spending time in Athens, but the Acropolis is absolutely spectacular. I wanted to make a memory journey there, but there were herds of distracting tourists and much of the restoration is incomplete. I took many photos and plan to create an Acropolis memory journey using photos, models, paintings, floor plans, and Wikipedia.
I’ve been experimenting with methods for memorizing poetry. Here are examples of the mnemonic images I used to memorize Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.
The Method of Loci
The method of loci is a mnemonic technique that goes back at least 2,500 years to the ancient Greeks. If you aren’t familiar with the method of loci yet, this post might not make a lot of sense. I recommend reading one of the memory books on my reading list or asking questions about it in the memory forum. A great book to start with is Dominic O’Brien’s How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week.
To quickly summarize the method: a mental journey is created, and the data to be memorized is converted into bizarre, exaggerated, visual images that are then placed along the imaginary journey, fooling the mind into believing that it has traveled along the journey. To recall the information, one mentally walks back through the journey, converting the visual images back into the original information that was memorized.
If you’ve never tried the method of loci, it may sound strange, but it’s the same basic concept that people use to memorize thousands of random digits. The key is to convert everything to visual images. Visual memory is incredibly powerful.
The Text to Be Memorized (from Hamlet)
The author of the blog post uses a video game to store some of his personal memories:
After spending some time looking at the memory palace for memorizing historic dates, I started thinking about how it might work in practice. I quickly sketched out a floorplan using Inkscape. Read more
I’ve re-posted the illustration here: Read more
I first heard about memory techniques from the book Mind Performance Hacks by Ron Hale-Evans. Hack #4 is called Stash Things in Nooks and Crannies and describes how to make a memory journey through a single room. The hack can be read online here.
Roman legend claims that Simonides of Ceos was the inventor of the method of loci where large amounts of data can be remembered in order by placing images that represent the data into mental locations or journeys. (The actual origin of the technique goes far back into prehistory though — read The Memory Code for the full story.)
I was in the Greek Islands last summer and tried to visit his birthplace on Kea, but due to a Greek holiday I couldn’t find a ferry from Athens. I’m planning on visiting Kea next summer to make a memory journey in his hometown of Ioulis.