Yesterday we drove to Larissa and took the old highway for a portion of the trip. Now there’s a new highway linking Athens and Thessaloniki, part of the E75.
The old road is more interesting – we passed here through some of the fertile farmlands of the Thessalian plain – but the new road is faster and more convenient, and a great deal more expensive what with all the tolls that are springing up more swiftly, it seems, than the poppies.
Alexander the Great must surely have seen mile upon mile upon mile of these bold blooms when he marched his men through Thessaly, astride his horse, Bucephalus, bred on Thessaly’s great plains.
It thrills me to drive along a route that Alexander himself was familiar with, though he’d not recognize it now. But then again, he surely would, for the mountains still rise as they did between Macedonia and Thessaly.
And Olympus, its snow-capped peak often draped in a cape of cloud, would have been given particular attention by him, for Alexander revered Zeus and the rest of the Olympian gods. They must have followed his progress far below their legendary home, as they lay about sipping the wine Dionysus took such great care of.
Enough of the history lessons! Feast your eyes on the poppies whose ancestors flourished unseen for aeons before Man ever came to Thessaly.
The burial mound at Amphipolis, near Thessaloniki in Greece, has been very much in the news recently but now that an ancient skeleton has been found the excitement has reached peak levels. Thanks to modern science we’re accustomed to the fact that age, sex, height of skeletal remains can be determined, but it’s astonishing that scientists fully expect to learn details such as colour of hair and eyes of the person buried in this tomb. He or she was certainly of great importance as indicated by the splendour of the burial chambers, though the tomb has unfortunately long since been looted.
The mosaic floor is of superb quality. Only imagine the skill and expertise required to carry out the back-breaking work of assembling the scene. I wonder if the pebbles were collected and sorted for the artist by helpers? One would think so. This National Geographic article gives a brief description of the mosaic.
Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, featured prominently in Greek mythology, though the concept of a goddess responsible for the rebirth of plant growth in the spring has a history which predates the latest versions of the Greek myths; birth and death have always preoccupied Man’s mind.
Needless to say, after all the skulduggery and trauma of being dragged underground, Persephone was more than a little anxious to return to her mother from the Underworld. In one version of the Greek myth, Hades agreed to free her if she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything while in his underground kingdom.
But he tricked her, of course – Greek myths are big on tricks and treachery!
He fooled her into eating some pomegranate seeds, with the result that her freedom came with certain conditions: six months on Earth, six months with him as Queen of the Underworld. Thus did the ancient Greeks explain the seasons.
Some years ago I knitted my friend a shawl in what has become my signature style, using many colours and textures of yarn; the original shawl is featured in my first book (2000).
We were photographing this one in late Fall before Aeolus, that normally nimble god of the wind, had dispersed all the Bougainvillea blooms, and together with a bowl of pomegranates on the table – the colours were irresistible. So much fun setting up the pictures!
Persephone is a lovely classical name, not often heard nowadays; Persa is the common pet name. Persephone, a favourite subject of artists and sculptors, is frequently depicted delicately draped in floating wraps and shawls.
Did she knit brightly coloured shawls to cheer her through the dark dismal days in Hades?