Ancient World Now: Santorini (ancient Thera)

Our last stop on this magical tour of Greece is the island of Santorini, or as it was known in ancient times, Thera. We hiked to the top of a mountain peak and found an ancient settlement for the elite, where slaves delivered water and food because the rugged landscape could not be farmed. At the peak was a temple. We ended the day at Akrotiri, the town that was preserved under thick layers of ash after the volcanic eruption in 1628 B.C. Like Pompeii, it is as it was left nearly 4,000 years ago! Our hotel looks out on the caldera,
which was the top of the volcano that blew off to create the crater.imageimageimage

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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:The Greek Dark Ages

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #37.

Click here for previous episodes.

How can writing disappear from a culture? Incredible! But that’s just what happened to the Greek world in their very own “Dark Age”. After doing some research, it made perfect sense. The only use for written language at that time was royal record-keeping by the Mycenaean rulers. So, when the palaces were destroyed across the Aegean world, the skill vanished.

The same goes for the potter’s skill. The whimsical octopus vase above is Minoan, while the representational drawing of a string of warriors is an example of Mycenaean pottery. Contrast those two vases, so full of character and charm, with this Dark Age’s Proto-geometric Style vase.

For a time, Greece was plunged into poverty and despair, and images to delight were not to reappear until a new structure for civilization emerged. Check out today’s podcast…

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