Nov 282015
 
All Aboard!

All Aboard!

On Day Two we were scheduled to visit Lerna, the Argos Museum and the Skouras Winery.  I’d heard of Lerna with respect to Mycenaean artifacts, but didn’t know anything about it other than the name.  Mythologically Lerna was the location of the Hydra who guarded one of the entrances to the underworld, slain by Heracles as the second of his labors.  Mysteries, sacred to Demeter, were celebrated there.

There are Neolithic and Bronze Age ruins at Lerna, notably the House of Tiles, an administrative center with a fortification wall.  It is a “corridor house,” with four central rooms sided by two corridors used for storage and to let on to stairways to the upper story.  It isn’t considered to be a domestic dwelling because there was no hearth, according to Sandy, and because it was left alone after destruction, except to raise a tumulus over it and sink shaft graves into it, which suggests it had some sort of sacred significance.

The House of Tiles in Lerna

The House of Tiles in Lerna

It is thought to have some administrative function because of the number of stamp seals found here.

Diagram of the House of Tiles

Diagram of the House of Tiles

The stamp seals used within the precinct were identical to those in central Anatolia.

Stamp Seal, House of Tiles, Lerna

Stamp Seal, House of Tiles, Lerna

Stamp Seal from Lerna -- This one has a swastika in it

Stamp Seal from Lerna — This one has a swastika in it

Interestingly, Sargon of Akkad in his Geography claimed “the Land Beyond the Land of Lead” to be his.  Sandy suggested that Lerna was in this Land Beyond.  I’ve tried to find more about this Geography of Sargon, but wasn’t able to substantiate the suggestion.

There are other buildings like the House of Tiles in Messenia and  Attica.  The House was burnt around 2600.  The Tumulus was created on top of it around 2000 and the shaft graves were sunk around 1500.  It’s hard to show how interesting this site is, because there are not poetic looking remains, but one of the interesting things was the juxtaposition of a house with a Megaron and Apsidal houses from the Middle Helladic Period.  An Apsidal House is one with a semicircular wall at one end.

A Megaron is a structure built around a Great Room, featuring a central hearth, a vented clerestory and colonnade.  It is the absolute hallmark of a Mycenaean building and all the great Myceanean fortresses feature a megaron in the main building.

Prior to the Myceanean Period (1600-1200 BC roughly), apsidal houses were the typical model and afterwards they continued so.  In fact Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic churches all take their design from the Greek apsidal house.

The basic configuration of a Cathedral

Yesterday, Sandy told us that Poseidon means “lord of the earth;” don or dan meaning earth in Indo-European.  In the Iliad, the Achaeans are called Argives and Danaans interchangeably.

According to Egyptian records, the Danaia became mercenaries for Thutmose III when the new political organization, the Mycenaean, rose at Lerna and elsewhere in the Argive plain around 1500.  The Greeks must have been astounded by the sophistication of the Egyptians and the Minoans of Crete.  Greek religious ideas were borrowed from Egypt: Makaretes, the land of the dead, and the idea of the Elysian Fields, to be specific.  (I have always found it notable that the shades of the dead in the Odyssey Book Eleven are unconscious and unable to speak until they have been given blood to drink, showing that an earlier Greek idea of the soul was not of a conscious one.)  These Danaia would have been Hellene.  The former population, called Pelasgian, were probably the same kin as the Cycladic islanders.

The Mycenaeans adopted sea-fairing from the Cyclades. There were large, coarse (only in comparison to the Minoan pithoi), ceramic jars half buried in the ground for storage.  Potteries of the bronze age world needed to be located near a source of water and a large supply of firewood.  They weren’t to be found just anywhere, so archaeologists can often trace ceramics to a certain pottery or workshop.  There are, of course, stylistic similarities to help identify them.  Potters, however, also traveled and made pithoi from local clays, but with Cycladic designs.  These very large jars were sent by ship all over the Mediterranean world.  On the Uluburun wreck, one large pithos was filled with small, fine ceramic vases, a trade item in themselves.

The Pyramid at Helliniko

The Pyramid at Helliniko

From Lerna, we drove to an ancient pyramid that has not been successfully dated.  It may have been a watch tower; it may have been meant for sacred activities.  It’s very odd, but apparently there were a number of them in Pausanias’ day.  A Second Century AD traveler and geographer, Pausanias was told, while traveling in Argos, that it was a memorial for Argive soldiers who died in war.  That is as good an explanation as any.  Apparently, Argos sort of declined during the Geometric (1050-700 BCE) and Archaic (800-480 BCE) periods, after having been quite important in the Mycenaean.  The Argives remained neutral in both the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars.

Pyramid of Hellinikos

Pyramid of Hellinikos

Anyway, the pyramid was made with large stones and was two stories high.  Whether it tapered to a peak or had any windows, it is impossible to tell.  The depressions for the second story floor joists are clearly visible inside, cut into the stone.

Depression for Floor Joist, Pyramid at Helliniko

Depression for Floor Joist, Pyramid at Helliniko

The building stones on the interior are large and square cut, but on the outside they are sheared off to create a smooth incline on the exterior side.  There is an imitation (?) Mycenaean triangle-topped doorway on one side of the Eastern face, set back by a foot or so from the rest of the wall.   It lets onto a corridor running along the Southern interior.  At the end of the corridor is a door to enter the one room interior opening on the North side end of the corridor.  If there was a closable door, it would have been utterly dark inside, without lamps, a good place for mysteries.  It was curious.  Sandy thinks it’s a piece of archaizing from the Geometric Period, but there’s no way of knowing for sure.  Other scholar think it is Mycenaean.

Lindsay and Leslie framed in the Pyramid's doorway

Lindsay and Leslie framed in the Pyramid’s doorway

Inside the Pyramid

Inside the Pyramid

Honestly, it would make the greatest fort!

After the Pyramid, stopped to look at some old trains while Miranda organized snacks to tide us through our next stop.

1-IMG_20321-IMG_20391-IMG_4722This Train Station and these tracks date from the modern beginning of the Greek Democracy, when Nauplion was the capital.

Sandy with his constant companion, Pausanias, in his hand

Sandy with his constant companion, Pausanias, in his hand

Sandy and Leslie entering the Theatre of Argos

Sandy, Leslie and Richard I entering the Theatre of Argos

After lunch we visited the Greek Theater in Argos.  It was built to accommodate 20,000.  There was a Roman schema added in front, providing a floodable, sealed semi-circle that could accommodate mock sea battles.  Sandy stood on the speaker’s stone and read from Pausanias.  Pausanias mentioned a famous woman poet named Telesilla, whom I’ve looked up.  She’d make a great protagonist in a novel (which I of course should write…..).

She was considered to be one of the nine, great, female Lyric poets of Greece and was responsible for a metrical innovation that was named after he.  As a child, she was sickly, so she went to the Pythia to consult about her health. Pythia told her to “serve the Muses” – that would be a great motto on a family crest — and Telesilla devoted herself to poetry.  When Cleomenes, the King of Sparta, invaded the land of the Argives in 510 BC, he defeated and killed all the hoplites of Argos in the Battle of Sepeia and massacred the survivors. Thus when Cleomenes led his troops to Argos there were no warriors left to defend it.  According to Pausanias, Telesilla stationed on the wall all the slaves and all the males normally exempt from military service owing to their youth or old age. Also, she collected the arms from sanctuaries and homes, armed the women and put them in battle position.   When the Spartans appeared, they made a battle cry to scare Telesilla and the other women, but Telesilla’s army didn’t scare, stood their ground and fought valiantly. The Lacedaemonians, realizing that to destroy the women would be an invidious success while defeat would mean a shameful disaster, left the city.  Would this make a good movie, or what!

According to Pausanias at Argos there was a statue in front of the temple of Aphrodite dedicated to Telesilla. The statues depicted a woman who holds in her hand a helmet, which she is looking at and is about to place on her head and books lying at her feet (although it would equally represent Aphrodite, in her character as wife of Ares and a warlike goddess  — the books, however, seem out of place).[ The festival Hybristica or Endymatia, in which men and women exchanged clothes, also celebrated the heroism of her female compatriots.

Theatre at Argos

Theatre at Argos

We’d had only snacks thus far that day, because we were going to the Skouras Winery for a tour and tasting and lunch as well.  Our guide was thin as a rake, had long bushy hair contained in a ponytail and was a total showman; we all thought him over the top, but engagingly so.  It called forth a response and we needed to play along.

1-IMG_4812

He proudly described their latest prize winner.  We tasted two whites and two reds.  I wanted to buy the best red and have it shipped to my friend, Andrea, as a surprise, but the showman discouraged me, saying it would be too expensive — this actually turned out to be true, as I found out when I left a new and unused hair dryer at the hotel and it would have cost $140 to send to the USA.  Now that’s inflation! —  so I bought a bottle to drink and share on the trip.  I knew Olivier was going to show us his video of the Santorini and Crete Tour, so I thought I’d offer it as refreshment when we did that.

1-IMG_4814Skouras Winery

Wine Tasting and Lunch

Wine Tasting and Lunch

That night after dinner, we eschewed the nightcap and headed back to the hotel so I could type up some notes before I forgot them and to go to bed early.  I wrote a long entry about Lerna and Epidauros as an e-mail to myself, but when I went to send it, my “session had timed out” and it disappeared.  I was so annoyed.  After that, however, whenever I wanted to send myself a message about what we’d done that day, I sent notes in shorter installments.  I must say, apart from that experience, I did love having an iPad with a keyboard along with me on the trip.

 Posted by at 10:53 pm
Nov 262015
 

 

 

Guard's Cubbie at Mycenae

Guard’s Cubbie at Mycenae

First of all, Nafplio (Nauplion):

Nafplio is the loveliest town and it’s where we arrived on the first evening of our Tour and stayed throughout.  It’s situated on a gulf, with restaurants facing the sea, narrow pedestrian streets — such a relief after noisy Athens — balconies, French doors and spectacular fortresses crowning the heights.

Arriving In Nafplio

Arriving In Nafplio

Stairway up to the Acro-nauplion

Stairway up to the Acro-nauplion

Fortification Tower of the Acro-nauplion

Fortification Tower of the Acro-nauplion

Venetian Cannon on the Acro-nauplion

Venetian Cannon on the Acro-nauplion

Street Cafes along every street in Nafplio

Street Cafes along every street in Nafplio

Second Day:  Troezen and Epidauros

We had an early morning in store, driving first to Troezen to see what had been identified to Pausanias, in his travels in the second century AD, as the Theseus Stone.  According to the legend, Aethra, Theseus’ mother, had slept with both the god and King Aigeus of Athens at the temple of Poseidon in a single night, later giving birth to the hero.  Aigeus left his sword and his sandals under a great stone with a firm command that his identity not be revealed until the day that their child could lift it and find what lay beneath.  We had a good laugh as Sandy and Jean-Pierre lifted it in charade and Olivier filmed.

The Theseus Stone

The Theseus Stone

Troezen was one of Poseidon’s earliest cult centers, which syncs perfectly with Mary Renault’s portrayal in The King Must Die.  (The city contributed ships to the Greek invasion of Asia in the Iliad.   In the 6th Century, Themistocles sent the Athenian women and children there for protection from the Persians, when they abandoned Athens to be sacked and instead defeated the Phoenician fleet at sea.  The oracle at Delphi had revealed that Athens would be protected by “wooden walls.”)

From the Stone, we walked up to a Hellenistic watchtower, identifiable by the drafted margins on its corners, on which a Byzantine top had been added.  At least that’s what I understood at the time.  Since then I’ve read that the Diateichisma Tower  was originally built in the 5th century BC, but the superstructure is medieval.  In any case, it didn’t exist in Theseus ‘ day.

Tower of Diateichisma or "Palace of Theseus"

Tower of Diateichisma or “Palace of Theseus”

We continued on along a mountain path to reach the Devil’s (daimon’s) Bridge over a narrow gorge, an ancient construction and one of the last remaining intact bridges in Greece.

Continuing on from the Diateichisma Tower

Continuing on from the Diateichisma Tower

Mountain path leading to the Devil's BridgeSandy said it was exactly the sort of place that the Greeks would have believed inhabited by a local spirit or daimon.

The Devil's Bridge, Troezen

The Devil’s Bridge, Troezen

There is a small aqueduct running along one side of the bridge.  The path we were on leads along the stream to a town on the other side of the mountain.   I could imagine Theseus traveling towards his fateful meeting with Gerkyon and afterwards hunting bandits along just such a path.  I imagine it’s the reason The King Must Die was on our Tour reading list.  I’m glad I’d just reread it.  (Geneia had read The Last of the Wine instead – she’s read The King Must Die before – according to my instructions, so she had a feel for Classical Athens.)  Interestingly, Troezen’s deity, Poseidon, predates Zeus, and his name means Lord of the Earth in Indo-European.  In The King Must Die,Mary Renault makes much of the sky god that is displacing the older, earth-mother religion of mainland Greece, and portrays Crete as a stronghold of the old religion.  The novel was written in 1958, and  there is much material to consider in understanding the religion of Bronze Age Greece, many threads, but the greater antiquity of an earth-shaker, perhaps chthonic (within the earth) god is interesting.

From Troezen we stopped for a seaside lunch next to a large bay.  We were served fresh cucumber, tomato, feta, onion and lettuce salad, fresh steamed broccoli, green beans with lemon and grilled Dorada fish, all with the most luscious Tzaziki Sauce, full of garlic and dill, I’ve ever tasted.  It was all local and terrific.

Dorada for Lunch

Dorada for Lunch

It began to rain when we reached Epidauros and we walked up to the theater in a sprinkle.  It held off long enough for us to have a thorough look at it and climb to the top.

The Theatre at Epidauros

The Theatre at Epidauros

Theatre at Epidauros

To demonstrate the acoustics, we were invited to declaim something from the center stone.  The Brits and Belgians had no trouble quoting Shakespeare and Jean-Paul began to recite the Iliad in Greek.  He recited about three lines and I would have loved to pick up exactly where he left off — that would have been so cool — but by the time it was my turn, I had to recite all seven of my lines in order to remember any of them.  (My obscure party trick finally came in handy.)  A number of our party had seen Greek plays performed live in this theatre.  (How handy it is to live in Britain or some other European country!  The USA is a very long way away.)  They are a very well-traveled lot.  I learned over lunch that Jeremy and Linda are Sibelius fans and had just spent a week at a Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland, where a new concert hall has so perfected the acoustics; they heard parts of his music which they’d never heard before.

I can’t make sense of the map we were given now,  but will relate the order in which we saw things in the compound of Asklepios.  First of all we were shown a hotel, which was composed of a square of adjacent rooms, where visitors could stay in Roman times.  Then there is a Greek bath house, where cold water was used for their ablutions.  The Romans later built another luxury model for themselves, as they didn’t appreciate the Spartan values of their originators.

Odeon, Epidauros

Odeon, Epidauros

After that we walked past the very large Temple of Asklepios wherein a Roman Odeon was added in the center.  (Sandy challenged us to each write an Ode to be recited at the end of the tour.)  There was a Tholos under reconstruction.  (I like reconstruction, because it helps the imagination, makes sense of the remains and it appears to me, protects them as well.)  The Tholos was built between 360 and 300 BC.  It was the center of the chthonic (underworld) mystery cult of Asklepios, once a Homeric hero and later a god.  Sculptures there were credited to the Argive architect and sculptor, Polykleitos, who is also credited with the magnificent theater.

There was a building, the Enkoimeterion, a dormatory where patients who had come to the Temple of Asklepios could stay while they waited to be healed.

Descending into the Enkometerion, Epidauros

Descending into the Enkometerion, Epidauros

I knew I have seen a painting in the style of Tadema of suppliants sleeping in the Temple, waiting to receive a dream from the god with a course of treatment.  It turns out that it is by Waterhouse and I saw it in Montreal!

A Sick Child Brought to the Temple of Aescapulius, John Waterhouse 1877

Sandy told us about how the Greeks had discovered the meridians of the body along which Chinese Acupuncture is practiced.  Hippocrates of Kos had asserted that the blood vessels ran along these meridians.

The Greek approach to healing:  First they had to confess what moral wrong had brought on the illness.  Once that was cleared up, they became partners in their own cure.  There seem to have been any number of sacred (white) snakes about the precinct (Greek name, Ophis), who might come out and lick a wound, for example, but be remembered in the dream as a handsome young man who performed the act, then spoke to the sufferer, giving them advice.  These snakes were shipped all over the Mediterranean for use at other Asklepions.  One is wrapped around the symbolic Staff of Asklepios to this day the symbol of medicine. We made it to the Museum before it began to rain again.  There were many statues of Hygiena, Asklepios’ daughter, Athena and Asklepios himself.  The thing I liked most were the Roman rain gutters, which were formed of terracotta acanthus leaves, punctuated with lion’s heads through which water spouted.

Terracotta Rain Gutters, Epidauros

Terracotta Rain Gutters, Epidauros

All the terracotta pieces were elegantly painted with designs in black, white and red.   As soon as we reentered the coach, it began to pour in earnest.  Incidentally, Asklepios is not a Greek name.  Sandy said there was some discussion on the part of etymologists that the name might come from “assili-peha,” a Hittite word meaning”well-being.”  I enjoyed that connection.

The Mycenaean Bridge at Kazarma

The Mycenaean Bridge at Kazarma

On the bus ride home we passed a Mycenaean Bridge.  The bridge belonged in Mycenaean times to a highway between the two cities, which formed part of a wider military road network.  The structure is 72 ft long, 18.4 ft wide at the base and 13 ft high. The width of the roadway atop is about 8 ft.  The sophisticated layout of the bridge and the road indicate that they were specifically constructed for use by chariots.   Built ca. 1300–1190 BCE, the bridge is still used by the local populace.  Imagine!  It is certainly over three thousand years old.

Mycenaean Chariot Road

Mycenaean Chariot Road

This archaeology business really takes it out of young people

This archaeology business really takes it out of young people

Miranda took us for a short walk to show us the city-center of Nauplion, Syntagma (Constitution) Square, but we didn’t continue because of the weather.  Nauplion was the first capital of independent Greece.  More about that tomorrow.  There is a Venetian building, now the Archaeological Museum, but I don’t know its original purpose.

Nafplio

Restaurant in Nafplio

Restaurant in Nafplio

The Archaeological Museum, Nafplio, Venetian Structure

The Archaeological Museum, Nafplio, Venetian Structure

In the evening I visited with Dominique.  I found out she hosts concerts for 100 people in her salon.  Her daughter plays the harp, I think, and is marrying a man who plays the Turkish lute.  Their honeymoon plans involve gypsying around Europe with a horse and caravan!

We left dinner last night following Bernard and Lindsay out to find a cocktail.  Bernard had noticed a restaurant/bar, where he was sure he could find a good Manhattan, which we repaired to.  There was loud music playing inside, but we situated ourselves outside around the corner, where we could hear ourselves think.  I ordered a Manhattan, Lindsay a G & T, Geneia a Tequila Sunrise, Jean-Paul a Famous Grouse and John, a Napoleon brandy.  (John is 89 years old and gamely visiting all the sites with us, walking up hills and clambering over rocks in spite of being bent over.  I can’t imagine my mother doing the same on her own at his age.  Something to aspire to.)    Later we were joined by Olivier and Dominique.  We ended up talking about the upcoming last season of Downton Abbey with interest all around.  What fun!  It just goes to show you how the BBC brings people together!

 

 

 

 Posted by at 10:48 pm