May 22nd, 2007
|10:11 am - Wondering Why We Ever Go Home: Greece, 2007|
Journal Entry 7
You inspire me.I stood on the burial mound where two hundred and ninety-eight Spartans (and many other Greeks, forgotten in time and multi-million dollar films) lie buried, surveying the landscape.
I remember you.
I know your story.
Sleep in blessed rest.
Your duty is done.
A lot has changed in 2,500 years: the sea is now over a mile from the Hot Gates, and a road runs a bare 30 meters from the edge of the wall that once ended in the Aegean.
But the topography is unmistakable.
The mountains to the left are obviously impassable, and it is obvious why the God-King Xerxes himself felt so powerless against them that he did not force his army to march over them before the traitor revealed the trail.
Looking out across the same view the Greeks must have seen, it is easy to understand why this pass seemed like an ideal place to meet the Persians (and years later the Romans and the Germans). To men as tough as the Spartans, trained from age 7 (or before), this was obviously the best place to kill the troops of the Eastern God-Emperor: there was nowhere for the enemy to hide.
View from the burial mound
to the north and west along the coast
The modern site does not have many maps: initially, we could find none. From the top of the Greek burial-mound, though, there was a trail. Hoping to find the old wall, I started down it with zylch.
While we could no wall (only a flower truly caught my eye), we did get a startling view of the mountains as they must have looked so many years ago: the road and the roofs of houses were gone from our sight, and even the sound of traffic was dampened.
We later discovered that we had traveled for a short time on the traitorous goat path, left ingloriously undefended by the Phoicans.
When we returned to the burial mound, I was disappointed to have not found the wall. Still, I look some time to offer and pray to the dead buried beneath me.
And on my descent, there it was.
In what appeared to be a construction site, 100 meters from the base of the mound, I saw the wall. As I wondered how I could possibly have walked by it, I pointed it out with excitement to zylch, and convinced her to come with me.
I came up to it, stood on it, and looked around it. The wall is obviously reconstructed, but its position is obviously correct, as are its formation and size.
Here stood the men who I have held in awe and reverence for twelve years. Here they brushed out their long hair, singing as they were surrounded by certain death. Here, they fought over the body of a king descended from Herakles, fated to die that Sparta may live. Here, at this wall, Western warfare was defined.
Here, the Spartans were obedient to their laws.
And now, we had to go. Next stop: the oracle that doomed either a city or one of her kings. Delphi.
The Phocian Wall
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: chipper
Current Music: "Wonder Why We Ever Go Home", -JB
I just had to say - I enjoy reading your take on trips we've done together. You are able to express the things you see and feel in such a way that I am taken back to the place. It augments my own experience.
That being said - Thermopylae was wonderfully peaceful to have been the site of such carnage. It really made clear to me that there but for the grace of god, I could have been born at a point such as that - and that I must be cognizant of the speed with which beauty can run to blood.
(and, of course, the 'i could have been born at another time' is only valid if the exact genetic conditions that combined to cause me to exist, through milenia of breeding, managed to occur in Ancient Greece - but you know what I mean, right? ;-)
Thanks. I enjoyed taking a journal, because then I could get the raw feeling of the place, instead of remembrances of it. And I agree fully on your assessment of the odd disconnect between the carnage and the way the place felt. It was similar to how I experienced Eleusis (an upcoming entry, of course).
Well, I look forward to reading about Eleusis, then. I had a weird experience at Eleusis. I probably won't blog about it.
Reading this gave me goosebumps. :) I need to go to Thermopylae sometime, I think.
|Date:||April 4th, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)|| |
|Date:||June 30th, 2014 03:36 am (UTC)|| |
the Phocian Wall
How can that be a picture of the Phocian Wall, considering the original pass has been covered by 21 meters of earth due to erosion?
|Date:||June 30th, 2014 07:10 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: the Phocian Wall
That particular wall was built and is a reconstruction (1960's, I think?). I don't think it's particularly accurate, but I'm generally okay with a bit of inaccuracy here and there. It's the closest one would come to the wall.