News from Somewhere
The “somewhere” is Nafpaktos (which the Venetians, when they acquired the town, renamed Lepanto) on the Corinthian Gulf. We have been in Greece for a week but have been so busy showing friends around that I have not had a moment to spare. We’ve spent the past two days gawking at the magnificent scraps that time has spared in Olympia and tomorrow we are off to “sandy Pylos.”
Pylos has more visitors, mostly Greek, than I remembered, but it is still very pleasant. A few miles away in the country is the site of Nestor’s Palace, one of the most interesting remains of Mycenaean Greece, while here in Navarino Bay is the location of the battle that partly determined the liberation of Greece from the Ottomans. It was one of those rare occasions when the Brits actually assisted the victims of Islamic oppression and worked together with the French and Russians.
I am sitting on the balcony of our hotel room, smoking a cigar and looking out at a sailing boat in the harbor.
We spent yesterday walking all over the ancient “Altis” of Olympia. These Greek holy places are strange to modern men and women. Olympia is first and foremost dedicated to Zeus, and the one fine column the Germans re-erected about 18 years ago suggests both the magnificence of their conception and the excellence of the architect and workmen from nearby Elis.
For moderns of course it is the games that interest them, but the games are best recalled in the epinician odes (choral songs in praise of the victors) composed by Pindar in the early fifth century. We have nothing comparable in modern European literature though I sometimes think the music of Bach might express some of the formal power. I was about 19 when I was captivated by Pindar and for his Olympian and Pythian odes used Gildersleeve’s commentary. Pindar’s home city of Thebes refused to support the Greek struggle against Persia, largely because of her long running feud with Athens, and the great southern classicist who rode with Stuart could not help sympathizing with the “traitors” to the cause of union and democracy.
Watch this space for updates