A Day in Mystras

By Preston Thym and Mary Daley

Today we said farewell to the hotel in Pylos and headed to the archeological site of Mystras. This site was originally built around 1249 by William of Villehardouin and was later conquered by the Byzantines, then occupied by the Turks, and then the Venetians. The site has been pretty much abandoned since 1832, leaving these gorgeous stone ruins. There are a few churches still standing, and the church of St. Maria is still occupied by a few nuns and has an active sanctuary.

Outside of the sanctuary, we got to meet some new furry friends.

Early Christian monasteries were mostly built on the countryside. It was a practice for monks to be separate from the noise and distractions of the main city spaces. Emperor Theodosios the first passed a legislation banning monasteries from cities. The founding of monasteries within urban areas began in the 6th century.

Professor Salowey described the mosaics on the ceilings and walls depicting biblical narratives that were well known and also relatable stories visually presented in consideration for those who visited the church but could not read.

Going to this Byzantine site helped connect to our academic theme of “East Meets West” as the influences here were most definitely eastern.

After visiting the site, we went to a wonderful cafe in Mystras where we experienced some local food and the crop of the area: Oranges.

After settling in at the hotel, Zoe James led us in an engaging presentation on heteronormativity and gender roles in ancient writings and ancient times.

Pylos

By Faith Herrington and Valerie Sargeant

We began our day with an early start, as we left the seaside town of Kyparssissia and headed to the ancient site of Pylos. Despite the rain everyone was in good spirits as we headed to explore a new site. Lucky for us the “Palace of Nestor” an ancient Mycenaean administrative building that sits in a prime location on top of a hill, is a covered site so everyone stayed nice and dry. We had the chance to learn about the architecture and history of the structure, with its central megaron and muiltipe story design it was incredibly architecturally advanced. We also learned about how the destruction of the palace was purposeful and that they used the olive oil store rooms to fule the fire and destruction of the complex. Although we are unsure of the reason for the collapse of the Mycanean civilization it was probably due to the culmination of events including: invading sea peoples, civil unrest, drought, and famine.


There was also an education center on the site that allowed us to explore what the rooms at Nestor would have felt like in antiquity which was very interesting. In the exhibit we discussed more about archeological excavation processes and how they have changed throughout the years to try to protect the artifacts. We walked to the Tholos tomb which was just a few meters away from the site of the palace. This beehive shaped tomb was raided in antiquity but serves as a good representation of Tholos tombs that were commonly used by the Mycenaean people. Despite the muddy ground we were able to explore the structure and a near by active dig site of a shaft grave. Which really gave us a good idea of how modern day excavations are run.


After visiting the Tholos tomb and shaft grave we went to the nearby museum of Pylos which had items that were excavated from the palace of Nestor and other nearby Mycenaean sites. The museum used the pattern of the megaron in its rooms and in the floor in order to echo the site that the objects came from. It was a small museum but had a great collection of very significant objects including Linear B tablets and large Mycenaean storage vessels. We had an excellent presentation from Elizabeth Lauderdale on Linear B, the language the Mycenaeans used to record administrative information. Elizabeth gave us worksheets so we could figure out how to write our names in Linear B which was a fun interactive way to learn about the script. We continued to walk through the museum and explore the collection of pottery and wall paintings until we had to leave.

We drove to the modern city of Pylos where we will spend the night. It a cute city on the bay of Navarinon.

After having some time for lunch we regrouped to learn about some of the significant battles that have occurred in the bay of Navarinon. Professor Richter told the story of the battle during the Greek war of independence between the British, French and Russians and the ottomans. In which the British forces defeated the ottomans and helped Greece win independence. We also learned about the battle of Sphacteria during the Peloponnesian war in 425 BCE in which the Spartans were defeated by the Athenians. After visiting the Tholos tomb and shaft grave we went to the nearby museum of Pylos which had items that were excavated from the palace of Nestor and other nearby Mycenaean sites. The museum used the pattern of the megaron in its rooms and in the floor in order to echo the site that the objects came from. It was a small museum but had a great collection of very significant objects including Linear B tablets and large Mycenaean storage vessels. We had an excellent presentation from Elizabeth Lauderdale on Linear B, the language the Mycenaeans used to record administrative information. Elizabeth gave us worksheets so we could figure out how to write our names in Linear B which was a fun interactive way to learn about the script. We continued to walk through the museum and explore the collection of pottery and wall paintings until we had to leave. We drove to the modern city of Pylos where we will spend the night. It a cute city on the bay of Navarinon. After having some time for lunch we regrouped to learn about some of the significant battles that have occurred in the bay of Navarinon. Professor richter told the story of the battle during the Greek war of independence between the British, French and Russians and the ottomans. In which the British forces defeated the ottomans and helped Greece win independence. We also learned about the battle of Sphacteria during the Peloponnesian war in 425 BCE in which the Spartans were defeated by the Athenians. After the discussion we walked to a local cafe and reflected on the time we have spent in Greece so far. We look forward to visiting Sparta tomorrow and are grateful for the wonderful time we had in Pylos.



The Great Greek Road Trip

By Kate and Jules

We were sent off from Delphi with a gorgeous fiery sunrise, which made up for the early wake up call. It would be about four and a half hours to our next site, with a stop at a delicious, off the beaten path bakery mid-way. We stocked up on tiropita and sweets for a lunch out on the plateia at Olympia. Much to our delight, Olympia hosted us with upwards of seven furry friends who were excited to show us around. I suspect they were happy to have the group of us treat them with pastries and pets. They even enjoyed Pria’s presentation on wildfires in Greece, sitting near the Olympic stadium looking out at the hill of Kronos. We learned much about the kinds of festival activities and games that took place her for a millennia of ancient history. We even had a footrace of our own (congrats to our victorious winner, sorry we didn’t have an olive wreath to give you)!

We also saw on sight the old temple to Hera and the magnificent doric temple to Zeus, amongst a garden of column drums and statue bases. Inside the museum we saw some of the most discussed works in art history classes at Hollins with Professor Salowey. This included the temple pediments depicting the moment before the chariot race between Pelops and Oenomaus on the east, and a centauromachy on the west; as well as metopes of the 12 labors of Herakles that became canonical here. Also, the kind image of Hermes with the baby Dionysus, which may be the original or a roman copy, the argument continues!

After this stimulating experience, we’ve checked into our hotel in Kyparissia and looking forward to sunset by the sea.

A Visit to the Oracle

By Elizabeth Lauderdale and Christina Mashishi

We started our day in Delphi by making our way to the Kastalian Spring where Emma gave us some background on how one would prepare for a visit to the oracle.

People hoping to ask the oracle for guidance would ritually cleanse themselves at the Kastalian spring before proceeding through the sacred way in the sanctuary of Apollo.

Along the sacred way are many monuments that were set up in antiquity to commemorate victories in battle, athletic and musical competitions, and tithes to the oracle. Professor Salowey mentioned how the walls in several parts of the site were a perfect example of polygonal masonry. One piece of irregular stone was cut and a piece of lead was fitted to it and used to cut the next piece so that the many pieces all fit together.

Example of polygonal masonry

Emma continued her presentation on the oracle Pythia at Apollo’s sanctuary. She explained its mythical origins as well as the probable scientific reasonings behind the Pythia’s visions. We also had a reenactment of what a visit to the oracle might have been like.

Besides being a religious site Delphi was also a highly political site. Rulers would often consult the oracle on new laws or about going to war. Since they relied on it so much it is likely that the priests that interpreted the oracle’s words may have engaged in corrupt behavior or been bribed by certain powerful people to interpret them a certain way.

Next, we identified some of the monuments along the sacred way using our guidebooks and the spolia, the remains that are still on the site. These identifications rely heavily of the writings of the Roman traveler Pausanias, who visited Delphi in the second century CE and left detailed descriptions of the things he saw on his travels.

Finally, we made our way up to the temple of Apollo and the theatre above it, where we could look out over the entire sanctuary.

We also met some furry friends along the way! : )

After lunch we visited the archeological museum of Delphi. The works below are some of the pieces we saw that were particularly interesting.

The Sphinx at Naxos would have been at the top of a huge column in the Sanctuary, looking down on those who neared the temple.
The Charioteer is remarkable as an example of a full, nearly untouched, bronze statue. Up close you can still see his implanted glass eyes and his eyelashes.
This Kylix of Apollo depicts him with a lyre and pouring libations from a kylix while a crow, possibly a representation of one of his lovers, looks on.
This is a statue of Antinous, the lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who was greatly honored by the emperor after his death.

After visiting the museum we met up again in the evening for a lovely dinner at a restaurant in Arachova. Tomorrow our road trip continues and we will be going to Olympia!

From Chalcis to Delphi

By Claire and Amanda

Our morning view as we left Chalcis

Today we checked out of our hotel in Chalcis bright and early to catch the bus to Eretria, a town sacred sacred Apollo Daphnephoros, a version of Apollo associated with the laurel trees. Our first stop in Eretria was the Archeological Museum where we saw one of the earliest representations of the centaur, a sculpture from the geometric period. In the museum, we also saw prizes that victors of the Panathenaic games won, large vases painted with the event the victor won. They would have been filled with olive oil-yum!

The group standing onto of housing ruins

Then we walked right across the street to visit the ruins of housing and a theatre. We got to explore the ruins, seeing where drainage channels and a gateway would have stood. We also could see the remains of a wall that went all the way up the acropolis of Eretria. 

After this quick visit in Eretria, we took a ferry across the Evian Gulf to Oropos. Braving the cold winds, we all came up to the deck to enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful views.

We then took a quick bus ride to the Amphiareieon, where Christina presented on the Myth of Amphiraus, a seer who was favored by Zeus and granted immortality after he and his chariot were swallowed by the earth.





The Amphiareieon was a sanctuary where the sick came for healing. They would buy a ticket, purchase a ram’s skin, and then fall asleep in the stoa where they would dream. Priests at the site would help them interpret their dreams to discover the medical cure they required. The site continues to have great biodiversity. The plain is filled with healing herbs and plants. We were thankful to visit a healing site since some of our group is recovering from being sick in Athens. Some even laid down on the ancient benches for a minute, like they were taking part in the ancient healing ritual. Others picked anemones and wild geraniums. 

Wildflowers at The Amphiareieon

A larnax for a child, in The Archeological Museum of Thebes

After a quick lunch on the road, we stopped in Thebes, the city where Dionysus and Herakles were born and where Oedipus had to solve the Sphinx’s riddle. The entire city was built on Mycenaean ruins that have yet to be excavated as they sit under homes and businesses.  In Thebes, we quickly toured the Archeological Museum. Some of the most notable exhibits were the larnakes, the Christian floor mosaic that depicted the seasons, and the lapis lazuli- a gem that was imported from Afghanistan, giving a perfect example of how Greece is a cultural crossroads between East and West. 

View from the highway

Once we were done touring the museum, we rode the bus to Delphi. We stopped at a vista to admire the amazing views of the valley and the snowcapped mountains. At sunset, we checked into the Hotel Acropole, ready to settle in for the night after a busy day.

On the Road: Day 1

By Zoey James and Elizabeth McCulley

Living, learning, and exploring Athens was an experience like no other; but after a solid week, it was time for us to move on. Yet, we had one more site to squeeze in before our 11 day trip around the Greek coast.

Professor Salowey counting us off.

Our first stop of the day was the Monastery of Daphni, an 11th century Byzantine monastery known for its beautiful mosaics and rich history. The monastery is found along a holy road which is a direct route out of Attica. It shares its name with Daphne, the nymph who was turned into a laurel tree to escape Apollo’s advances.

Front of the Monastery of Daphni
Inside Daphni

As you enter the monastery, one of the first things you notice is the high vaulted ceiling which holds the iconic Pantokrator, the Jesus Christ figure. In this depiction, the face of Jesus is slightly distressed, and with his eyes he beckons the parishioners inside. Some art historians would say that his gaze depicts a history of pain and guilt, of one who’s spent their life on the run. Others would say that’s a bit of a stretch. We’ll let you decide.

Mosaic of Jesus Christ

Although no longer in regular use by traditional parishioners, you will find some very friendly and welcoming residents as you tour the monastery.

Guardian of Daphni

From the monastery we traveled far and wide, and arrived at our next stop: The Sanctuary of Artemis at Aulis. There we learned about the sacrifice of Iphigenia from Mary. The story, by Euripedes, details how King Agemmeom was forced to sacrficice his daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis in order for his fleet to make it to Troy. The work itself focuses a lot on the concept of changing minds; from Agamemmon’s moral decision to Iphengeia’s ultimate physical form, we see this mottif played out again and again over the course of the play.

Mary delivering on the myth of Iphigenia
Hollins at the Sanctuary

Finally, we arrived. Chalcis is a picturesque seaside town brimming with restaurants, clear waters, and the intermingling of the East and West. Before we set off to explore, Kate gave us some information on Captain Sarika Yehoushua, a female freedom fighter during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

“She’s a badass”
-Kate

One prime example of the ways the East and West meet in Greece is the synagogue and mosque we visited. Although neither are natives of Greece, they both represent what happens when a nation opens its borders, the opportunities that arise to cultural exchange. They represent what can be.

Local mosque
Local synagogue

After a long yet rewarding day, we settled down with some hot drinks to warm our hands and friends to warm our hearts.

Hot drinks and friends!

Your Athens, My Athens

By Pria Jackson and Emma Moore

We kicked off the day at Hadrian’s Arch. Hadrian was a Roman Emperor in the second century who was nicknamed “little Greek” for his immense love of Greek culture. Professor Richter lead us in a discussion of the multicultural influences on its architecture, as well as its significance as a boundary between the Athens of Theseus (the mythological founder of Greece) and the Roman Athens of Hadrian.

Hadrian’s Arch
Next we went to the Jewish Museum of Greece. Professor Richter provided a brief historical overview to us and a few curious cats before we went in. Anastasia, an archeologist with the museum, guided us on a tour of the 9-story building. Each level took us forward through the history of Judaism and Jewish culture in Greece. The Jewish people have been in the area for over 2,000 years, starting with a group called the Romaniotes. In 1492, the Sefhardic Jews arrived in Greece as refugees after being expelled from Spain. Despite their shared religion, the two ethnic groups differed in language, custom, and culture. Over time the groups came together through cultural exchange, intermarriage, and ultimately the tragedy of World War II and the Holocaust.
entranceway to the Jewish Museum of Greece

The museum showcases many cultural and historical artifacts, which have survived despite the attempted eradication by the Nazi party. These items stand preserved as witness of the terrible atrocities of history and as testiments to the resilience of the Jewish nation in Greece and throughout the world.

Following the museum we made our way back through Hadrian’s Arch to the Olympieion–the Temple of Zeus. It is the largest temple on mainland Greece. Finished by the Emperor Hadrian, this site had taken nearly 600 years to build! It’s completion was a marker of Hadrian’s love and commitment to this city.

the class in front of the Olympieion

While there, we met some of the most beautiful stray cats of Athens (maybe the most beautiful cats in the world??). Lulu is the mascot of the Olympieion as a worker informed us. She loves baked pastries and long naps under the colonade.

Lulu

Marble was a friendly girl that Pria has declared to be the official mascot for our trip. This kitty enjoys basking in the glory of Apollo and receiving the well deserved adoration of large troops of American tourists.

the aptly named Marble
Nearing the end of our day, we were able to visit the Khora free store, an association that provides free clothing to refugees in Athens. We met a long term volunteer, Maria. A Californian native, she moved to Greece to fully dedicate her time to helping refugees trapped in Greece due to the closed EU borders. We were able to make a small contribution of needed supplies.

Though neither of the writers attended the cooking class that ended this long and educational day, we did hear that the group made tatsiki as well as chicken and potatoes. This hearty meal was the perfect send off from Athens. Tomorrow, we’ll be on the road again! Where are we going might you ask? Well, just check your syllabus or stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to find out!