Ancient World Now: Crete II

CAVE OF ZEUS peak with snow
Yesterday we hiked five miles to the top of Mount Ida, the highest peak on Crete, where Zeus, in some stories, was born, and in other stories, was raised. It was also called the Philosophers Cave & it is said to have inspired Plato to write his Allegory of the Cave. We carried a couple of oak branches up the mountain because the oak is a symbol of Zeus. Our professor read from the ancient historians and told us the Seven Sages of Greece, Pythagoras, Plato, Epimenides (who, while tending his father’s sheep, fell asleep in the cave for 57 years!), and many other ancient seekers of wisdom were said to have visited the cave. photo 7 thecaveI saw a goat up in a tree browsing on the leaves, and the sky was dramatic with heavy black clouds, shafts of light, and fluffy cumulus. There was snow in patches close to the peak, and hail fell from the sky when we stood at the mouth of the cave. Earlier in the day after a stop along the road, we met a Greek Orthodox priest of a village church who said, “The place where you are going is sacred.” The gate was locked, so we couldn’t go into the cave, but this image is what I imagine it looks like inside.

AMNISOS
At day’s end we visited the Minoan port of Amnisos. The Karteros River, which begins on Mt. Ida, meets the sea here. The volcanic eruption of Thera in 1620/8 B.C. sent a 50-foot tidal wave to Crete and destroyed the Minoan fleet, the compression force from the wave being so great it left the imprint of each ship in the sand. Finally, just before leaving the site, I got to dip my feet into the same water in which the Greek ships sailed on their way to Troy—and the same waves that tossed Odysseus up onto Nausicaa’s beach. Another magical day in this enchanted land. question

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VATHYPETRO
Today, we visited a Minoan site called Vathypetro that holds the distinction of having one of the oldest vineyards, olive orchards, and winepresses in the world. siteThe site dates back to at least 3,500 years ago. Later, we visited a Greek Orthodox monastery where I met a new friend I wanted to bring home to California. view of kingsphoto 1photo 2photo 1a

Ancient World Now: Crete I

photo 2(1)photo(5)photo(4)Listen to my podcast on the
Minoan world:
Episode #35: Minoan Crete

Yesterday we flew into Crete, the island of the Palace of King Minos and his Labyrinth. After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, which looks out over the sea, we visited Anemospilia (“cave of the winds”) on Mt. Juktas, the site of a temple, thought to have been destroyed by the volcanic eruption on Thera in 1620/8 B.C. At the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, we saw the finds that were found on the site and the famous frescoes and objects from the palace at Knossos. And finally, this morning we went to King Minos’s palace, discovered and excavated by Sir Arthur Evans, The “Throne Room” with its griffin fresco is one of the most well-known images in archaeology. What an “amazing” experience to walk through the halls and across the courtyard of this iconic palace. Strangely enough, the site was closed suddenly when gale-force winds of 50 miles per hour caused injuries to visitors. We lunched at a new restaurant called Pasiphae, named after the queen of Knossos and wife of King Minos. Professor Hunt & his team had arranged for a Minoan feast with foods from the ancient island. The food was delicious and fresh, with island ingredients such as dill, barley, coriander, olives, sesame seeds, honey, and mint. The pottery from which we ate and drank had Linear B inscriptions (Linear A and Cretan Hieroglyphs haven’t been deciphered yet!) and was especially made for us. imagePainted on the chairs were Linear B words for various occupations like goatherd, charioteer, and assistant to the temple. The beautiful placemats had the family tree of King Minos and the Linear B translations for the occupations.image My chair inscription read “local leader.” The crowning glory of this extraordinary experience was a translation of all of our names into Linear B by a professor who joined us just for the occasion! Our day ended with wine tasting and a tour at Boutari, for wine-making on Crete dates back nearly five thousand years!

theseus and the minotaur
ariadne and theseusphoto(7)HELLO ROOM 5! This section is addressed to you!
The Labyrinth, where King Minos kept the the half-man, half-bull Minotaur, was built by the great craftsman Daedalus, who was also famous for making a pair of wings for himself and his young son, Icarus. Icarus, in his excitement, disregarded his father’s instructions, flew close enough to the sun to melt the wax that held the feathers together, and plummeted into the sea.

1936 --- A book illustration from Trails of Adventure. --- Image by © Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis

Food I Ate Today:
A garbanzo bean salad with barley, sesame seeds, coriander, tomatoes, feta, and sardines.

I Wonder: I wonder what the sesame plant looks like.

Lesson and Activity: Do you see the street sign? It has the hero’s name on it: Theseus. What do the street signs in your neighborhood say? Talk to your family about what they mean?
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Ancient World Now:Theories of Mycenaean Collapse

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #38.

Click here for previous episodes.

Migration and movements of peoples has been a constant ever since Australopithecus set up camp in a more advantageous spot one day four million years ago. This photo by Christian Sinibaldi, posted on the Guardian U.K. website, shows the boat graveyard on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where North African migrants abandon their vessels on their flight to more advantageous spots in Europe. In my constant quest to see the ancient world in our everyday modern lives, I encourage you to consider the current explosive uprisings throughout North Africa & the Middle East as an overlay onto your understanding of the events that precipitated the Greek Dark Ages.

Award ceremony and podcast and taxes, oh my! An overwhelming number of factors contributed to my missing our last podcast. Hope you can forgive me! To make up for it, in today’s podcast I am trotting out a new theory on the destruction of Mycenaean civilization. Michael Shanks and Gary Devore, archaeology professors at Stanford University, discussed their own theory in last week’s Archaeology of Greece class.

For many years now I have been on the children’s book committee for the Northern California Book Awards. Each year for the past 30 years, committees have gathered together from October to April to review the year’s published books from Northern California’s authors. There are dozens and dozens of books to read for each category: fiction, general non-fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, children’s literature, and translation for poetry & fiction. In the spring I do NCBA work and in the fall I do work for Litquake, the annual literary festival in San Francisco. I am honored to be a part of these organizations and my volunteer work is one of the many ways I contribute my creative energy to the Bay Area writer’s community. As I was writing this, we had a little earthquake! Felt like a truck hit the building. It disturbed the cats (including Achilles, my tuxedo warrior) and we all fled to different parts of the house! And today is the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake! Yet another ancient world connection: ancient earthquakes. Think Crete, Delphi, Sicily, and Alexandria, to name a few.

Ancient World Now:Minoan Crete

Click here for direct link to audio Episode #35.

Click here for previous episodes.

Some tech difficulties after an “upgrade” made us miss last week! With this temporary fix we are back on track, and as promised, here is Minoan Crete.

Upon her discovery, this lovely lady was nicknamed “La Parisienne”, and she is a major icon of Minoan civilization.

Who were these amazingly artistic people? The jury is still out. Their civilization flourished between 2200 BC and 1450 BC, long before the Golden Age of Athens. In fact, that’s 1,000-2,000 years before Pericles and his fabulously enduring monument, the Parthenon. Consider the events and world changes that have happened within the past 2,000 years! The Knossos palace finds of Sir Arthur Evans in 1899 AD shook the archaeological world! This ancient Bronze Age civilization existed only in the dim distant memory of legends. They are referenced in Homer and the stories of the ancient heroes, but until Evans’ excavations between 1899 AD and 1935 AD, the magnitude of their power and prestige was unknown. This is the land of King Minos and the Labyrinth of Daedalus. Of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur. This is the land of the bull dancers and the snake goddesses. And their story is still unclear!

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford houses the Sir Arthur Evans finds. I was there in 2006 and remarked to myself how antiquated it looked for such an important collection. Lo & behold, the museum was renovated in 2009. I will definitely visit in the future.

Enjoy the podcast! Next week, the Mycenaeans. Bring it on, Clytemnestra!

Ancient World Now:Technical Difficulties!

Some tech problems this week. Minoan Crete is on its way….

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