Dion Travel Blog

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2008 Μάρτιος 3, Δευτέρα


Today I was slightly more conscious of myself and my surroundings, so I may be able to make a few more observations. One thing I did neglect to mention from yesterday was that Christian and I have started playing a game which involves speaking two words of a song, and then the other sings a song involving those two words. It doesn't matter if it's the same song or not. Anyway, we've been doing that since the airport in Malpensa.

Today we awoke, packed, ate breakfast, packed a little more, and headed to the bus. It did not take long before we got to the sight of Dion, but on the way we caught sight of Mt. Olympus, the seat of the gods of antiquity. I could hardly say it was awe inspiring, but from its geographical location, I could see how they thought it magnificent. It stood as part of a range, but leading from the sea to its base was all perfectly flat land. It really is inspiring to think that those coming into port could see it from still a long way off and view it as a symbol of their faith.

When we got to Dion, a place dedicated to the gods, Mt. Olympus was still in view. Dion is a sight of ruins where temples of the four distinct eras of Greece still stand. We visited them in reverse chronological order.

We accidentally walked over the Roman Baths first, but we quickly found the Roman Basilica dedicated to early Christianity. At this site, we saw a baptismal font of brick. The distinguishing factor, that I noticed only later in comparison, was that this building did not have mosaics (although we did not get to see very many mosaics except for a corner here or there, one may notice where the mosaics are by where there is a tarp covered in sand over an area; if I recall correctly, the Basilica did not have any of these defining tarps). Perhaps this was due to the severity observed in the Christian faith at the time.

From there, we back-tracked to the Roman road running straight down a long ways with the grooves of the wagon-wheels still evident in the cracked and now uneven rock that used to be typical Roman perfection. Lining the road was a stretch of soldiers' torsos and alternating round shields. On the other side of the road from the Basilica (which, I might add, was on elevated ground to the Roman Baths, perhaps in an effort to stress the Christian significance), we returned t the Roman Baths with greater curiosity as Professor McCormick was willing to tell us something about them, this time. What I knew and what he reiterated about Roman Baths was that they were very complex and engineered particularly carefully to get different temperatures in different rooms. Some of the floors were heated by elevating them on short columns and running hot water underneath. There were some smaller areas that were embedded in the ground with little shelves on which people could sit. What was new to me was a little half-circle forum area where people could come and go to voice their opinions on political or political themes, as was the fashion at the time; I had just never heard of this sort of thing going on in a Bath House.

After our short rejoindre with the Roman Baths, we continued back into Grecian antiquity and visited the famous "villa" of Dionysus, the god of drunken revelry and loose women (a quote from my High School Latin teacher; really better known as the god of wine). Unfortunately, the thing it was most known for in this modern era, the mosaics, was covered up by those accursed tarps. Despite the extra roof over the most well-known area, they still felt the need to put a tarp and sand over it. I was sad because I was anticipating that vision, but I was also just glad to be in that house of Dionysus/Bacchus as he has always been my favorite of the Roman/Greek gods. I was still able to discover the only corner of mosaic still visible where the tarp had torn and draw a quick sketch (c.f. Mosaiced crack).

We moved on past the baths and down the road (which, I neglected to mention, was also lined, in places with walls made out of old columns in the Roman fashion of recycling materials) again to another Greek temple (described on the nearby sign as a sanctuary) this time dedicated to the goddess Demeter. While there, Professor McCormick told a story:

Way back, in the time of the gods, Hades took a liking to the daughter (Persephone) of Demeter, the goddess of fertility and the earth. So, he stole Persephone and took her to his realm in the underworld. When Demeter discovered the theft, she became very sad, and the earth experienced a long winter, and the pregnant aborted, and the women would not conceive. Finally, Zeus heard the pleas of the people and came to parlay with the mourning Demeter and his thieving brother, Hades. Eventually, they came to the compromise that Hades would allow Persephone to return to her mother for half of the year, which would give Demeter pleasure, causing the earth to be bathed in warmth and full of life, while the rest of the time Persephone would remain below, resulting in a cold blanket of lifeless white to be draped over the earth, which would cause the death of many things. So were born the seasons.

At this temple were a couple statues of ladies, one of which had its head at its feet and a snaking rod on its shoulders. The other had no head at all.

The next site was a long walk away through land wet from another site we will come to later. As we advanced, we fell farther back into Helenistic views and the time of Philip of Macedon. We arrived at the namesake of Dion, the temple that Philip had built in honor of Zeus below the mountain of the gods, where Alexander came to pray before embarking on his great campaign against the Persian Empire. In the Helenistic/Macedonian style, it was a small helf-circle with a surrounding slope where once there were made tiers for the faithful to stand or sit. In the middle of the round, I believe there was once an altar on which sacrifices were made, and where flowers now grow. We sat there for a time continuing our game, but I could feel the remnants of the old gods lingering in that place, indicating where old walls and columns should be, but which were probably the ones used by the Romans to build new walls. When we left to go even further back, I felt it was the end of those gods. Once I had seen where they lived, fallen down and unadorned, they were truly no more.

The only thing left alive in that place was the running water, older even than the greek gods, although it was given a Greek myth. The famous Greek minstrel known for his enchanting music, Orpheus, who once went down to the underworld in search of his wife only to lose her in the end to his doubt, after his hope for happiness had been lost forever, angered the raving group of women known as the Bacchae, who tore his head from his body and threw it in the sea. When the Bacchae discovered the blood on their hands, they went to the river to wash, but the river did not wish to be soiled, so it went underground. After following the increasingly corpulent stream back to its source, we found where the river emerged, bubbling up from the ground in the midst of the temple dedicated to this phenomena and the temple of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of magic and life, in whose sanctuary dwelt fish and frogs, offering up their praises to a statue of Hera, intended to steal the site away from the Egyptian faith. We could see where the water bled out of the earth, and I could feel the presence of Isis still alive and keeping the heart of Dion alive.

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1,275 km (792 miles) traveled
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photo by: xaroula