Saturday May 2nd
Sites Visited: Eleusis (Attic sanctuary), Osios Loukas (Byzantine monastery)
Where did we stay tonight?: Delphi
Leaders: Joe Indvik and Alex Assaf
Today, we braved the depths of Hades and returned unscathed to the mortal world. We ventured where the uninitiated were prohibited, on pain of death, for centuries. We scoured the ancient ruins of Eleusis, the site of a mystery cult whose secrets have remained shrouded in darkness since its foundation in 725 B.C. We entered the Telesterion, a large convention hall where the high-priest performed the rites of initiation in front of 3000 spectators. We quickly shuffled past the Ploutonion, a dark and damp cave where the God of the Underworld was said to have come forth to abduct Persephone. Out of grief, her mother, the goddess Demeter, stopped all living things on Earth from growing. It was only after Zeus persuaded Hades to return the maiden that Demeter taught mankind the art of agriculture. That first wheat crop must have been quite a surprise (see simulated reaction of villagers below). Finally, we emerged changed men and women: initiated and wise. As Cicero wrote, “We learn in [the Mysteries] the principles of life, and from them acquire not only a way of living in happiness, but also a way of dying with greater hope.”
We then ventured west to Osios Loukas, a Byzantine monastery established in 946 A.D. After a lucid introductory lecture about Byzantine architecture—you would be surprised how much debate can ensue over the difference between a “squinch” and “pendentive”—we embarked on a project. The task: compare and contrast a Byzantine painting on the roof of the church with the Classical aesthetic, then discuss which artistic tradition we prefer. It was a wonderful opportunity to release the snobby art critic within us all.
We sit now near the famous site of Delphi, itching to see what is in store for us tomorrow. Oh yeah, that’s right. We’re all giving presentations. All-nighters on an FSP? There’s a first time for everything.
Lunch RUSH at Osios Loukas:
Day 42 Photo Gallery: