Friday, September 21, 2007


The next morning we set out from Nauplio for Athens, where we had an appointment to return the rental car that afternoon. We drove leisurely eastward toward Epidauros, stopping to see the remains of a few Mycenaean bridges, and enjoyed the winding road, through tight gullies and over small hills. There were several apricot orchards along the way, and, of course, the ever-present olive trees. Perhaps we were a bit too relaxed, because we made more than one wrong turn on the way to Epidauros, although, the road signs throughout Greece, with inaccurate mileage, can be terribly confusing. There was no thought, however, of missing the famed theater, even if it meant paying a late fee on the car. And it was a lovely detour.

When we finally arrived at the site, there were just a few cars in the parking lot, and some buses lined up. The theater isn't immediately visible; we walked along a shaded path, passing a youthful group on its way out. As we neared the top of the gentle incline, the sunshine let us know that we were approaching a clearing; and finally there it was: the enormous grandeur of a perfectly preserved Greek amphitheater. It was larger and more impressive than I had imagined. There were visitors scattered sparsely in the seats, and young French school children were taking turns at the center of the orchestra, giving speeches with gentle voices which easily reached their schoolmates in the stands.

We climbed one of the staircases nearly to the top row and sat quietly for several minutes. In my mind, I was suddenly among a throng of Greek speakers, bustling to their seats through the narrow walkways, ready to watch a play of no particular title (though it was certainly one of the lost tragedies). After that fantasy, we followed the top row around to the middle, and sat again, looking out at the vast landscape, and I wondered if this spectacular view, with the excitement of a performance, just faded completely from the attention of the crowd.

I sat for as long as I could in the hot sun, and then descended to the orchestra level once again. There was lighting equipment set up all around for the events that are still staged at the theater. A few carved pieces stood nearby, including this one with an inscription ending with the word ΓΥΝΑΙΚΑ.

One theme of my whirlwind Greek tour was the agonizing decision of what to see and what to skip, and, with our pressing appointment, and the promise of travel on the wine-dark sea to the Greek Isles, we pressed on without exploring the site thoroughly.


Blogger Wm said...

It seems like the line above ΓΥΝΑΙΚΑ ends with Caesar Augustus, "ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΥ". Funky.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Good eye Will, that's very interesting. I searched for inscriptions and Augustus, and found just one, brief, vague reference that might be related, but I'm going to look into it further when I have time. Thanks, N.

7:17 PM  
Blogger jim said...

The LEIBIA probably has an N at the end and may be a transliteration of LIVIA(M) - or "LIVIA (acc.) wife of Caesar Augustus". The N has the left bottom visible and it seems the chipped stone aligns along the diagonal. I wonder whether Livia was the donor or had been cured there?

BTW, I've really enjoyed reading about your tour. Excellent photographs, too.

8:50 AM  

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