Moving on to the next stage of Evan’s and his companions journey, and accompanied by Plato no less. We are going to one of the busiest ports in the world, and perhaps the most ancient that is still in use. Those of you have read The Labyrinthine Journey will know exactly what port I am referring to, and for those who are ancient Greekophiles like me, will know too. It is Piraeus.
Today, ship liners and cruisers as well as naval vessels fill the three harbours, and there is constant traffic, with holiday makers visiting via big ships, or those who take the ferry to one of the many islands.
at The Clarendon Press
The legend of Atlantis begins with Plato who wrote two Socratic dialogues Timaeus and Critias. These are the only two existing written records which refer to the lost continent. The fact that Plato wrote about the fabled city gives credence to the existence of such a place. Like Homer before him and the legend of Troy, Plato heard the story of Atlantis and retold it. According to a number of sources, Plato while a boy was listening to his great grandfather, Solon and other men who recounted the story. Much like the Homer’s Iliad, the legend of Atlantis has a basis in fact, and it’s a matter of washing out the dregs to get to the gold.
Plato from the School of Athens by Raphael, 1509
‘The world does not have tidy endings. The world does not have neat connections. It is not filled with epiphanies that work perfectly at the moment that you need them.’
Considered one of the greatest western literatures in the world, the Iliad still generates enthusiasm and intellectual discourse. A story which spans almost 3000 years it is a phenomenon I am sure Homer did not envision. Of course every storyteller hopes their creative scribbling’s would have such impact and be remembered long after they have left the world. Even if people haven’t read the story, they have heard of Helen, the Trojan War, Akhilleus, Hektor and Paris. What a legacy to leave behind!
‘Well behaved women rarely make history.’
Imagine yourself sitting in a magnificent citadel and outside you can hear the roar of men as they charge at each other. The ringing of swords as they clash. The thunder of hooves as horse drawn chariots race across the plain of Troy. The whistling of arrows jettisoned into the air. The cries of men as they are stabbed, slashed, pierced and hacked. The ground covered with dead bodies. The stench of blood, urine and loosened bowels suffocates and billows into the air. Ten long years you have listened and watched the decimation of human life. What could you have done? What should have you done?
Helen of Troy
Lord Frederick Leighton
‘What is left when honour is lost?’
To love and be loved is the greatest desire every person hopes to have. It is human nature, written in our DNA since the conception of people. The image of stone-age man dragging a female by her hair, whether correct hypothesis or not, is a scene a few may recognise. The point is love is an illogical emotion, it makes people do things they may not normally do. Maslow understood this as he ranked it as number 3 on his hierarchy of need:
• Social Needs – belongingness, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
He believed people are ‘motivated to achieve certain needs’ and when you succeed that level you move onto the next. So was Paris motivated by need or the desire to possess the most beautiful woman in the world?
Enrique Simonet (1866–1927)
Spanish: El juicio de Paris
The Judgement of Paris
The painting shows the Judgment of Paris, an event in Greek mythology. Figures, from left to right: The goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite, then Aphrodite’s son, Eros, and Paris.
Museum of Málaga
‘In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.’
How does one reconcile the loss of so many offspring, the destruction of their home and the death of their people? Such personal suffering could never be healed. These events litter the history books and still wars happen. Power, greed, the desire to dominate and subjugate, annihilate are the basic premises. The cost of innocent lives, homes, cultures and humanity don’t seem to be considered as long as the end result is achieved, however one gets there. For Priam, the last King of Troy, he witnessed the end.
Death of Priam
The ability to inspire and encourage others is a characteristic not many people possess. Some are born with it, a few have to work hard to develop the skill and then there are those who believe who can but have no idea how to lead. Agamemnon is the perfect example of the latter. He ruled by force and show of power. He certainly did not evoke loyalty or a harmonious union. Hektor, Troy’s greatest fighter and hero put the defence of his city and people before his own personal needs. For his bravery and virtue, he was Troy’s favoured and most respected son.
Triumphant Achilles: Achilles dragging the dead body of Hector in front of the gates of Troy. The original painting is a fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion at Corfu, Greece.
Franz von Matsch (1861–1942)
There is a terrible and nasty thread that runs throughout the history of the world—the “rape” of women and girls. Rape is in quotations as there are various definitions of the word:
• The offence of forcing a person, especially a woman, to submit to sexual intercourse against that person’s will;
• The act of despoiling a country in warfare;
• Any violation or abuse—i.e. the rape of justice;
With regards to war, whether thousands or years ago or even today’s so called “enlightened” period, the above definition stands to be true. Women are the “spoils of war”, the male need to dominate, possess and demonstrate power runs in the face of human decency. The Trojan women did try and fight but many were resigned to their fate, raped and abducted, taken to Greece as concubines and slaves. Sadly many were killed. At a recent dig at the site of Troy, a young adolescent girl’s bones have been found, buried in a shallow grave. Evidence of the bones showed trauma and suggests the girl was killed during the siege. For Hektor’s wife, Andromache, a tragic figure in the Iliad with many personal losses, managed to survive the war.
Andromache mourns Hector’s death
Jacques-Louis David (1783)
The role of women in the Iliad is the central to the story, the war precipitated by the capture of a female of royal lineage along with untold wealth. From the beginning of the story, the tenth year of the war, the Greek forces are plagued with an incurable disease. How and why did it happen? Because of a woman. Female characters do feature throughout the story in one form or another and apart from Helen, one other created such havoc in the Greek camp, their champion and stalwart warrior refused to participate any further.
The taking away of Briseis, side B of a red-figure Attic skyphos.
Ca. 480 BC
The notion of royalty being a part of the armed forces is not a new one and goes back thousands of years. Princes William and Harry are fulfilling a long line of royalty commitment to defence. Throughout history, there are written accounts of members of the royal family from the king to the prince/s that went to war. Some, as it were only in title but many did fight. It was their duty to lead. King Ramesses II led his legions of Egyptians during the most famous and propagandist battles of Kadesh, blazing across the desert on his chariot. The kings of the Greek city-states led their men and the leaders of the Trojan allies were commanded by kings and/or princes. One, however, was notable for his prowess as a warrior akin to Hektor was also the founding father of Rome.
Aeneas fleeing with Anchisis, Iulos and a fourth person from Troy, protected by Aphrodite
circa 510 BC; found in Etruria
Kestner-Museum, Hanover Germany
Picture taken by Marcus Cyron