some photos from the town and the surrounding area.
November 16, 2014
November 14, 2014
while on crete, one has to visit knossos, to see the ruins of the palace of king minos, where – according to the greek myth – the minotaur lived in the labyrinth under the palace.
king minos of crete – the one of myth – was the son of zeus and europa, whom zeus had kidnapped and, presumably, also lain with while in the form of a bull. one day, minos wanted to honor his uncle poseidon, so he asked poseidon to send him a bull to sacrifice. poseidon caused a bull to emerge from the sea, but it was so beautiful that minos couldn’t bear to kill it. this angered poseidon, and perhaps for that reason, minos’ wife, pasiphae, developed an unreasonable passion for the bull. daedalus, the palace architect and resident genius, constructed a wooden cow for pasiphae to climb inside, and she mated with it. pasiphae subsequently bore the minotaur, a human with the head of a bull. not too pleased, minos locked the minotaur in the labyrinth, a giant maze under the palace.
later, minos’ son was killed while visiting athens. in retaliation, minos led an expedition against athens, sacked the city, and in a further act of revenge, he required the athenians to send seven boys and seven girls to knossos every year to feed to the minotaur. this went on until theseus, the son of king aegeus, killed the minotaur with the help of minos’ daughter.
|the ruins of knossos.|
the reality is different, but close to the myth. king minos did sack athens in revenge for his son’s death, and he did require the athenians to send seven boys and seven girls each year to knossos. the tribute was a combination of the hunger games and jallikattu, however: the youth had to enter the ring with a bull and vault over its back, as depicted in the mural shown below. the labyrinth doesn’t refer to a maze beneath the palace – the only thing below the palace is a series of storerooms – but instead to the god “labyros” whose symbol was a two-headed axe. one can see the axe, a symbol of the king’s power, carved into the palace walls at various points.
the myth therefore tracks closely with the reality of the situation: there was no minotaur, but the children of athens were sacrificed to a bull every year. and with regard to the rumor about pasiphae and the bull, snopes.com has debunked the more contemporary version of that one.
November 13, 2014
this past weekend, we visited crete and saw the imbros gorge. crete has many gorges, including samaria, which (the cretans claim), at 18 km, is the longest gorge in europe (although the 18 km includes the distance to the two villages at either end). imbros is only 11 km – still a respectable hike.
November 4, 2014
November 3, 2014
on saturday, more than 900 groups (allegedly) convened on syntagma square, in front of the parliament building, for an anti-austerity demonstration. demonstrators called for increased employment, a living wage, income support, and free education, among other issues. i went down to take photographs with the expectation that there would be a sense of electricity and maybe danger in the air, tens of thousands of protesters just one provocation away from starting a massive brawl in the city center. my initial impressions didn’t disappoint me: certainly, the students’ union group promised a high degree of theater as they mustered outside the square.
|top, the student fighting front (rough translation) on the march; bottom, the panhellenic musicians’ union prepare to play “of struggle”, and the marchers’ flags were on staves thick enough to beat someone’s head in.|
some of the other groups also had an ominous cast to them, such as the infrastructure workers’ union:
soon, however, i got the sense that despite the size, this protest was not going to be particularly confrontational. yes, it was crowded, and yes, there was political theater (including the folk singers and che guevera posters) that you expect at demonstrations …
… but the marchers included the press and social media professionals’ union, who just didn’t seem like the rock-throwing types, and also the old age pensioners (who might have been rock-throwing types at one point, but weren’t now). throughout the morning, the crowds grew thicker, but the energy didn’t grow to match: the demonstration leaders on the stage began calling out slogans in between snippets of protest songs, but the response was pretty tepid.
play the video
|for the first hour, the dogs couldn’t even bother to move themselves out of the square.|
in the end, the local new york times affiliate only gave it two paragraphs, which suggests to me that for a lot of people, after seven years of crisis, this was nothing new.
October 27, 2014
“another old place” – this old place is the quarry in the psychiko neighborhood. i haven’t been able to find any information on its history – when it was mined, where the stone was used – so i don’t have much to say about it except that, in a way, it reminds me of paleochora.
October 14, 2014
when we visited aegina the first time, and stopped by the monastery of agios (saint) nektarios, we noticed some small churches on the adjacent hill. on our second visit, we again saw the churches from the side of the road, sitting above the groves of pistachio trees, so we decided to climb up and see what was there.
paleochora (literally, “old town”) was the capitol of aegina for about a millennium, from the ninth to the 19th century. the residents of aegina island retreated up the hill to avoid centuries of repeated pirate raids, including an attack in 1537 by the famed pirate barbarossa, interspersed with attacks by ottoman forces. it is said that there were 365 churches in all – one for each day of the year – but today you can see only the remains of 35, five of which are still in use. (in contrast, none of the original houses remain.)
September 27, 2014
it’s a romantic notion, but despite what we’ve read in history books or in george r.r. martin’s a feast for crows, there was never a colossus of rhodes that straddled the entrance to the harbor of rhodes. instead, the colossus – a bronze statue of helios, the sun god, which reportedly stood 98 feet tall – probably stood alongside the harbor. construction begun in 292 bc, and the colossus stood until the earthquake of 226 bc, when it collapsed, and the pieces were stolen or sold off.
the statues at the mouth of the harbor are, instead, a stag (a symbol of rhodes) and a deer. originally, the pairing was of a stag and a wolf, the symbol of rome, but when the greeks took possession of rhodes from the italians, they replaced it with a deer. when we took our harbor cruise, however, the guide on the boat told us all about the colossus of rhodes straddling the harbor mouth. the tour operator also told us that if we were even “one percent” dissatisfied with the cruise, we could have double our money back. and while it was a nice enough cruise around the harbor, we didn’t go as far out as promised, and the underwater show of their diver feeding the fish (which we could see through the glass panels in the hull) went on a little long – but when we expressed our one percent to the tour operator, he howled about how everyone else was happy, what was our problem? in other words, it was the colossal b.s. of rhodes.
|the real colossus of rhodes – these ships are enormous; and a tugboat, because i like tugboats.|
the next day, we went to lindos, a town on rhodes. the town had been controlled at one point or another by greeks, romans, byzantines, the knights of st. john, and the ottomans, as well as the italians and then the greeks again in modern times. the acropolis of lindos contains both the temple of artemis lindia – which has been rebuilt using modern construction materials(!) – as well as the fortress that the knights of st. john built to defend against the ottomans.
|the view below, and the view above.|
|portico columns, 200 bc, and the view to the harbor.|
|the temple of artemis lindia, dating back to 300 bc, and i have no idea what this says.|
one of the notable sights on the way up is a relief of a rhodian trireme warship carved into the rock, which served as the base of a statue honoring hagesandros, who won a great naval battle for lindos, which was carved by the famous sculptor pythokritos … our guide explained the statue and its history in detail, but i was fiddling with my camera, so i have nothing more than that.
next: the colossus of rhodes.
September 4, 2014
outside the main city, on the acropolis, stands the temple of apollo. “acropolis” means “edge of the city,” so there are other acropoli (acropoleese?) than just the one in athens. this temple dates back to the 5th-3rd century b.c. and was excavated from 1912-1945.
below the temple are the stadium and the odeon. according to our guide, the stadium is 600 feet long because hercules paced out the length with 600 steps. the stadium was where the young men, after training since childhood, displayed their athletic and battle prowess. eventually, however, the ancient rhodians decided that men had to be able to defend themselves mentally as well as physically, so they built the odeon to hold debates and speeches.
next: out to lindos.