Saturday, April 11
Sites Visited: Argos Museum, Argive Heraion (Archaic/Classical polis sanctuary), Epidauros (Classical/Hellenistic healing sanctuary)
Where did we stay tonight?: Nafplio
Leaders: Jerry Guo and Dallis Fox
A whisper….and the crowd fell silent
After a night spent browbeating rambunctious and screaming Greek teenagers, we woke up bright and early for a long day of exploring sites around the Argolid. The hotel breakfast had some of the worst coffee the group had ever experienced. It was literally grey and murky, two things which a cup of coffee should never be.
In the morning, we visited the archaeological museum at Argos, which houses impressive Bronze Age finds. Unfortunately, the modern town of Argos sits atop the ancient site, so much of the site is inaccessible. The museum contains the oldest full set of armor in Greece, the first depiction of mythology on pottery (blinding of Polyphemus), and a great deal of ceramic finds from Lerna. The group uncovered yet another addition to the catalogue of cute things for the honors thesis of one FSP’er, “Some Cute Things.”
After a brief look at the collection of Roman sculpture and mosaic from the Argos baths, we hit the road to meet David Scahill at the Argive Heraion, which has a commanding view of the agricultural plain. Mr. Scahill wore a festive hat (perhaps a fedora) and guided us through the architectural remains, beginning with the top, and oldest, terrace. We paid special attention to the methods of reconstructing ancient buildings based on the scanty remains on-site. We were also baffled by the many, many debates that scholars enter into with regard to these reconstructions.
Perhaps more interesting was the staggering wildlife that lived in the weeds. We saw many insects (grasshoppers, bees, strange beetles) and heard stories of a rabbit with two foot long ears that occasionally hops around the site. There are also rumors of giant prehistoric flies that capture other insects and “suck the life out of them.” The dangers of classical archaeology.
We had a leisurely lunch of sardines, frappes, and chocolate covered biscuits at Epidaurus and visited the museum there. There were some interesting inscriptions of “medical care” that took place at the Sanctuary of Asclepius, where people came to be treated by the ritual circuit of cleansing, offering, and healing. One lucky patient’s head was cut off, a worm was removed, and the head was sewn back on. Only the intervention of Asclepius himself saved the patient. Dogs and snakes were also popular healers; a lick on a wound from one of these creatures would surely cure any ailment.
But then, things became spooky. Nick Thompson, a lithics expert with the Ephoreia, took us on a tour of the site. He pointed out the great number of secret passageways underneath many of the buildings at the site. Archaeologists have yet to uncover where these passages lead, but Dallis and KT will surely the lead excavators after they finish uncovering the Minoan palace at Palaikastro. We heard of more bizarre fauna here as well; Nick told a story of massive, slow-moving, acid-spitting frogs that roamed around the site in antiquity.
We then visited the much-anticipated theater of Epidaurus, which is said to have perfect acoustics. Even a whisper in the orchestra can be heard in the farthest row of seats (no small feat in a theater that seats 17,000!). All the visitors took turns standing in the center of the orchestra performing songs, monologues, and harmonica. But the best performance came from the FSP group, when we stood in the center and regaled the spectators with a rousing version of the Alma Mater. Although there was no applause, two members of our group followed up our already crowd-pleasing performance with recitations of Homer and Aeschylus in ancient Greek. Needless to say, we were the nerds of the Theatre of Epidaurus.
As it started to rain, we headed back to the bus and spent a wonderful night in Nafplion, the Greek capital of komboloi (worry beads). Several FSP members visited the museum there and bought sets for themselves. Dallis is in fact flipping hers at this very moment.
At the Epidauros theater:
Alma Mater at Epidauros:
Day 21 Photo Gallery: