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A Rough Map of Greece

A member of the editorial staff of The Atlantic and a Connecticut Yankee, Phoebe-Lou Adams has conducted a one-woman exploration of the Greek mainland and the islands, with findings that will make others wish to go and do likewise. Miss Adams is a graduate of Radcliffe and a student of the classics


by Phoebe-Lou Adams

RENTING a car in Athens is no more complicated than renting one in Miami Beach. The only requirements are an American driver's license and fifty dollars down. The rental fee is less than three dollars a day, to which is added a mileage fee and the cost of the gasoline. I hired a Volkswagen, and the expense worked out to a neat ten dollars per hundred kilometers. It would have been less, no doubt, if I had adopted the Greek habit of turning off the engine on downgrades.

A Greek highway is a two-lane macadam affair which proceeds by a series of short, steep grades and hairpin turns, for the country is extremely hilly. The hills are trivial compared with the Andes, but when four or five ridges of them are crammed into a fifteen-mile square, the result is a succession of spectacularly precipitous slopes. In fact the territory stands on edge like plates in a dish drainer. Except in the neighborhood of large towns and during the height of the tourist season, one vehicle every two miles is about all a driver need expect to meet.

Because of these conditions, Greeks drive in the old-fashioned style -- straight down the middle and toot on the turns.

The system works well most of the time. Its weakness is that it makes no allowance for mountain winds and foreigners who don't understand it. Occasionally a stiff breeze will carry the blast of the horn off in the wrong direction, and if the car coming the other way happens to be driven by a tourist who doesn't sound his horn at all, in the misguided belief that it is sufficient merely to stay on his own side of the road, fenders are bashed.

An Athenian friend kindly offered to guide me out of the city. I was very grateful because Athens has a rich collection of one-way streets, and they are something that only a local resident can foresee. At nine o'clock in the morning we proceeded through a busy market district. The street was thick with bicycles, motor scooters, pedestrians leaping for their lives, trucks unloading in the traffic lane, buses letting out passengers who were either very late for work or very eager for it, pushcarts, trolleys, and a donkey who had stopped in the middle of everything to tell the world that he was the poor, abused, overloaded servant of a wicked scoundrel. The wicked scoundrel alternately consoled his animal and shrugged helplessly at the traffic jam.

The further end of this gauntlet landed us in a reasonably quiet rotary where my friend announced, grinning, that he had "selected the worst way because, after that, you can drive through anything." It was true. Memories of edging between the tailgate of a truck and the teeth of the indignant donkey encouraged me all the way to Andritsana, over a road that is internationally infamous.

The old inland route from Athens to Korinth, which I foolishly took instead of the shore route, is wide, flat, dotted with factory districts, and in the process of being improved. The road builders had naturally taken down a couple of signs, and I became convinced that I had missed the turn and was on the way to Delphi. A policeman appeared, presumably by magic, standing under an umbrella waiting for some traffic to direct. He drew a magnificent map in the air, putting in all the landmarks surrounding the Delphi-Korinth junction, which I had not passed at all.

Once this turn is made, it is impossible to get lost in the Peloponnese unless one has a real genius for such things. The highway is well marked, in English as Well as Greek, and it runs in a great loop connecting the principal cities. Most villages lie off to the side, usually on dirt roads. Those that straddle the highway are one-street affairs giving no temptation to wander. Besides, there are perfectly good maps available.

BEYOND Korinth, the hills began, the traffic thinned away, and I discovered the conversational character of Greek driving. It goes like this: Coming around a turn so narrow that I run through the engine noise the Volks just left behind it, I find myself in back of a truck. The truck is in the middle of the road, cutting off the view ahead, and it is waddling along briskly but not briskly enough for me. So I poke the horn moderately, meaning, "Gentlemen, I want to pass."

The truck bleats hideously in reply, a long and obviously negative blast. Nothing else happens. I become impatient and sound the horn again, somewhat louder, asking, "Why not?"

The truck produces a series of frantic bellows, clearly meaning, "Do nothing of the sort, absolutely out of the question," and at the same time scoots into the right lane to permit the passage of a bus which is traveling like one well behind schedule. When the bus is out of the way, a brown hand appears from the truck cab to make courteous beckoning gestures and the horn sounds, "All clear ahead." I pass, tooting thank you; the truck toots you're welcome. A couple of turns farther up the mountain, a truck coming down toots a greeting, apparently out of sheer garrulous good humor. I then hear the two of them below me on the road, braying back and forth like donkeys at sundown. Since the fellow coming up has first right to the turn, they must be just chatting.

Near the top of the first ridge I came on a soft-drink stand consisting of a table with a red-and-white checked cloth, four chairs, a tree, and room to pull off the road. The tree overhung a seventy-degree slope, where the road I had just traveled snaked down in even, narrow loops through low brush, gold grass, and boulders until it faded into dusty green plush at the base of the hills. This green had been a belt of trees when I drove through it. The Gulf of Korinth glittered like silver beyond the shrunken trees, and across it to the north higher hills rolled up into a clear sky. A ship bound for the canal dragged a slow scratch across the shining water.

Two cheerful, dusty children, a boy about nine and his tagalong sister, popped out of the house across the road to take my order. The little girl ran to fetch the lemonade, and her brother, after wiping his nose on the back of his wrist, opened the bottle with the flourish of a wine steward. The gesture was somewhat marred by his mother, who glanced out the door in time to see the nose-wiping and spoke strongly about it.

Greek bottled soda is tart enough to satisfy a thirst instead of merely aggravating it. I sat in the breeze, hung my feet over the Gulf of Korinth, and began to feel cool. The children wanted to know if I spoke Greek. Well, truthfully, no. They were not defeated. The boy pointed to the car. Athenas? Yes. Korinthos? Yes. He turned and pointed south, where the great cloud castles of the Peloponnese already floated high beyond the hills. Naufplion? No, Mycenae. Both children were scandalized. Naufplion and Epidaurus were much better. There is a theater at Epidaurus, they explained, very old, very wonderful. "You can hear everything -- everything -- even a falling leaf." The boy whisked one off the tree and dropped it, gesturing graciously toward the back row. A large car came down the road and drove right through the orchestra, shocking all of us.

In spite of the good advice, I went to Mycenae. The Peloponnese is rather like a misshapen hand, almost cut off at the wrist by the Gulf of Korinth. The stubby thumb points east, a peninsula lying between the gulfs of Saronikos and Argolikos. The three surviving fingers point south toward Crete. Mycenae lies on the southeastern side of the pass (it appeared as a plain on my map) which cuts north and south across the base of the thumb. It is the obvious route connecting the Peloponnese with Attica and all the northern continent. Atreus' old citadel was placed to control that pass, by the look of it, for the country is too steep for good farming and the water supply is poor even by Greek standards. The staff at Mycenae can see a corner of the Bay of Naufplion, at the head of Argolikos, but it is too far away to go swimming. When I asked if there was any possible way to make an artificial pool, they groaned. "Last summer we had to bring in drinking water." But a little energy with runners and beacons would have kept the kings of Mycenae well informed of what was going on in all three gulfs.

THERE is no modern town of Mycenae. A well-marked side road ambles east across the railroad tracks and climbs in easy curves to a bevy of small hotels and restaurants. The first one has a harmless title on the order of the Mycenae Arms. The second is called La Belle Hélène. The back of the Arms sign, placed where customers in the garden of the Hélène can enjoy it, is labeled "Iphigenia auf Aulis."

Beyond this cultural battleground the road is new and beautiful and flanked by pink oleander hedges. It curlicues up to the parking lot and the government tourist pavilion and stops, facing a wall of mountains which run down, at road level, into a peculiar salient of lion-yellow rock.

A path leads to the salient, and a ticket collector's little booth perches on the path. It is clearly an enterprise doing nothing in the midst of nowhere. There is no room on that cliff for a decent ruin. Then the eye adjusts to the Cyclopean scale. The cliff is the ruin. That pile of dull yellow stone, shimmering in the treeless heat, has been cut and shaped and rises out of the yellow hills like part of them. It is enormous and alarming, as though the mountain had moved of its own will.

Ruins ought to be merely various styles of rock carving, but they have oddly definite characters of their own. The Acropolis at Athens swaggers with triumph and gaiety, although, to be sure, it swaggers in a well-bred way. Poseidon's Temple crouches on the salt-swept Cape of Sounion, dogged, wary, and dutiful. There is something drunken in the high, sharp air of Delphi. Mycenae, bald as only a well-dug archaeological site can be, lies empty under the antiseptic sun and smells of blood and fear.

The lion gate is on the southwest side of the fortress, but faces north northwest, maddening amateur photographers. Dust has settled in the hollows where the great doors pivoted on their boss hinges, and wispy grass rustles at the threshold. The whole place is dry as an old bone. To the right beyond the gate a double row of low stone slabs marks the edge of the great oval pit where Schliemann found what he thought was the gold death mask of Agamemnon.

The remains of the citadel, stairs, terraces, floors, broken walls, muddle their way to the top of the hill which is the actual base of all this mammoth masonry. The spring which once supposedly provided water for Mycenae lay at the bottom of a long rock shaft. The steps are dusty, and the spring, like everything else, is dry. Beyond the commoner's gate in the north wall is the narrow, rough-walled, ankle-twisting tunnel through which local legend says Orestes crept on his way to murder Clytemnestra.

Local legend is a matter of general interest at Mycenae. Official guides are at hand to do the thing formally with dates, authorities, and references, but anybody who happens to be doing nothing much at one of the restaurants is likely to trail along with the tourist simply for the fun of showing off the local marvel. These young fellows all have antique names Menelaus, Diomede, Laertes - and talk about Homeric wars as though their own grandfathers had sailed for Troy with Agamemnon. They also know the weak spots in the fence designed to keep visitors from pocketing potsherds and happily connive at minor pilfering. Mycenae is far from completely dug out even now.

The only breeze on that boiling day blew straight through the lion gate. I sat down in the shadow -- the lintel is some six feet thick -- and panted. A silent man in shirt sleeves, evidently some sort of caretaker, panted on the other end of the threshold. Outside, in the shade of the western wall, a long, thin wooden bench was occupied by a very long, very thin, very old gentleman whose Panama hat kept falling off because the owner's head nodded. Each time the hat fell, the man snapped awake and retrieved it. Finally the hat rolled, and in catching it, which he did very deftly with his cane, he noticed me. He bowed, settled hat and cane on the bench, sat down, and opened a conversation in good English.

"You must be American." Perfectly true.

"Why are you here?" To see Greece, naturally.

"Have you seen all of America?" Not yet.

"Have you seen the Grand Canyon?" No.

"I have. Have you been to Yellowstone? No? I have. Have you been to New Orleans? San Francisco? Carlsbad Caverns? No? What are you doing here, then? Why don't you see your own country instead of coming all the way to Greece to look at old stones?"

I protested that I like old stones, and anyway, what was he doing in the Grand Canyon? Taking a holiday from his job in a copper-smelting plant. He had worked in Colorado and in various other places about the United States, and had seen a startling amount of the country. This adventure had taken place, I gathered, about 1900; some of the landmarks he asked after are long gone, and others have been mutilated. "Is it true that they drive cars into Yellowstone Park and throw picnic papers into Old Faithful? That's terrible. Beer cans too?" He lamented like any park ranger.

The silent fellow in shirt sleeves now spoke. He stretched, sighed, and said it was very, very hot. There is a hole in the wall just inside the lion gate, an opening that gives on a shallow, triangular space cut out of the stonework and floored by the rock of the hillside. Idly, I said that it would be cooler inside that hole if only it were big enough to get into.

"That hole is not a hole," said the old gentleman. "That is the watchdog's house." He explained the work of a watchdog in the days when the high king ruled at Mycenae. "They had sentries on the walls; high up, but they couldn't see in the dark. When the enemy came by night, silent, creeping up to the gate with a vattering ram" -- he snapped his fingers, disgusted with his solitary mistake in English -- "You know, battering ram, the sentries couldn't see them but the dog could smell. He barked before they reached the gates -- you see there, where the holes are, they stood on pivot hinges, great bronze and wooden doors. Then the people came, threw down torches into this place between the walls, and spears, and drove the enemy away." It had not occurred to me that the walls extending outward beyond the gate were for anything but show. The old man's conjured-up raiding party, however, was having a hard time with them. Not much room to dodge and impossible to run if the comrades behind stood firm. A mean little trap there below the somber lions, full of screams and clattering bronze and falling fire.

A retired guide, I thought, and a good one. I asked if the pit inside was where Schliemann found the shaft graves with all the gold and the wonderful masks, and the question set off a tornado of information. How many graves, where in the pit, how many kilos of gold, a positive inventory of jewelry. "But he was wrong about one thing," concluded the old man, "that king was not Agamemnon. The graves are too early for him. You know what they did with all that gold?"

It was a schoolmaster's question, and I answered it. "It's in the museum at Athens. The gold mask with the sharp nose and eyes that look at you is mounted in the center of the main entrance. The first thing you see as you go in. In the afternoon, the sunset strikes it and turns it rose-colored. It looks alive. It's beautiful."

"Ah," he sighed, "they took away all the beautiful things, but we still have the city. Can't move that to Athens. Have you seen the beehive tombs? That's where Agamemnon was buried -- outside the walls." He directed me to the beehive just outside the gate, at the bottom of a narrow gully.

I was at the edge of this gully when a man arrived at a trot. He spoke no English at all, but explained in pantomime that he had been sent by my friend with the hat. He was a stone specialist who had worked on the restoration, and he pointed out, carefully and proudly, which were the old blocks and which he had helped replace. He called attention to the holes drilled in the stone and drew in air the patterns of the bronze rosettes that had originally been set in them. He was halfway between an artist showing his work and an antiquarian displaying the family Sheraton.

This kind of proprietary love for a ruin on the part of the modern inhabitants of the site seems to be peculiar to Mycenae. In other places, the guides do their job well and the officials attend soberly to their duties, their peace of mind continually menaced by picnics, portable radios, and dogs. They work at a ruin. The Mycenaeans own a ruin, and no visitor is going to miss a single feature of the splendid thing if they can help it.

At the restaurant down the road, I told the waiter that I had met a wonderful old man up at the citadel. "That's Mr. Aristotle," said the waiter. "He's a very clever man. Could have lived anywhere, done well, got rich maybe, but he came back to Mycenae because he loves it."

Could he possibly be old enough to have hung around Schliemann's diggings as a small boy? It would make him almost a hundred. The waiter didn't know. "He certainly saw the later excavations. He is very old. He's been old as long as I remember. Maybe he did. My grandfather worked up there." Everybody worked up there, it seems, full of astonished excitement at what was found and perhaps a tinge of piratical regret. All that gold just lying around, and it took a foreigner to dig it up. But no, protested the waiter, the excavation did not start the fashion for Homeric names. "We have always been called Menelaus and Helen and Ajax in this district."

It was too good a story to doubt.

SOUTH of Mycenae and the flat country around Argos, the road took to the hills again, whooping down to Tripolis like a roller coaster. It is well paved, well graded, and virtually devoid of fences. The drops are giddy but beautiful, for each turn around a spur of the hills reveals a new pattern of yellow fields and dusty green olive orchards. Threads of darker green mark invisible small watercourses, and the wind draws long silver stripes across the olives like finger marks on velvet. In the roadside villages, children wave and shout, "Yasou," a most useful word which seems to mean hello, good-bye, good luck, your health, and possibly, how's your Aunt Susie?

At Tripolis the road led into a square with two solid-looking small hotels on one corner. I picked the one without lace curtains, since one must decide somehow, and was given a room with a balcony overhanging the street. The town was hot and dusty, but the center of the square contained a miniature park thick with flower gardens and ornamental trees. A couple of horse-drawn cabs, full of small boys for want of paying customers slowly circled the square. Nothing else moved.

I closed the shutters and went to sleep, waking at nine in the evening from, of all things, cold. Tripolis, is flat but not low, and sundown had brought a fine cidery chill and a smell of burning charcoal, hot olive oil, garlic, flowers, leaves, and horse.

The hotel restaurant had moved out on the sidewalk. There was no reading in the waver of dim green light that fell from lamps among the trees, so the waiter carried the menu in his head. He advised veal chop, which turned out to be very young steak and excellent, allowing for the necessity of cooking all meat thoroughly because Greece lacks facilities for hanging it. Dessert was red cherries in a pewter bowl of ice water.

"Do you have cherries in America?" asked the waiter. He seemed surprised to learn that we do, and encouraged as well, since like so many other Greeks, he wants to come to the United States.

The ambition to emigrate can take unexpected forms. I met one young man who sought respectable employment as gigolo to a rich American, although gravely handicapped by his inability to tell a rich American from a poor one or to recognize a potential employer of either type. The Tripolis waiter was more orthodox. He wanted to know about New York restaurants, and we discussed them until half past eleven, when the whole town went to bed.

The sensible route to Pylos turns off through a town called Messini, the only place where a Greek road marker ever deceived me. It was a pretty little blue arrow with "Pylos" printed on it very neat and correct, and it pointed up a road that looked no worse than anything else available. Messini is a town large enough to be held responsible for the upkeep of the highway within its territory, with the result that there is no highway, a condition not peculiar to Greece.

The blue arrow led me into an alley full of ditches and potholes, where a large pig and two goats were plainly entrenched residents. They were tethered in opposite gardens but chose to gossip in the street, and no mere wheeled vehicle was going to move them. either. Calculating that this could not be the main road, I retreated and consulted an aged and kindly Messinian. He called in his son, a friend, two passing schoolgirls, and untold urchins. They all recommended the next alley. It landed me in a washout.

While I considered the gully, a sunburned woman came out of a nearby house and wished me good day. She observed that the road did not please the little car. I agreed. She asked if I wanted to go to Pylos. I did. She explained that the good road was over there, south, beyond that row of houses, to be reached by the first lane to the right. All this was spoken in slow, careful, simple Greek, with none of the magnificent contractions that ordinarily enliven the language. She had estimated her audience perfectly, that noble woman. I found the road on the first try.

Actually, I suspect that all westbound streets in Messini wind somewhere to the Pylos road, and the difficulties of the motorist arise from a local assumption that a car can go anywhere that a horse can. My farmer's wife fortunately knew better.

Another three ridges, more or less, and the road plunged abruptly down to Pylos and the Bay of Navarino, along garden walls overhung by clematis, roses, and orange trees drooping with fruit. On the east side, cellars overlook the road, and on the west, the road overlooks roofs and treetops. The bay, a great jewel-blue oval, stretches north and west in a fringe of hills. The sea side is almost closed by a string of rocks and islands, coppery-brown stone reflecting in the still water. The inevitable Turko-Franco-Venetian fortifications, which once held the ship channels under their guns, lie at opposite ends of this immense natural defense work.

THE modern town of Pylos was built yesterday, 1829 to be exact, after the battle of Navarino ended Turkish power in Greece. The French-British-Russian alliance had sent down a fleet of twenty-seven warships to reason with Ibrahim Pasha, who was holed up in Navarino with eighty nine warships and using the place as a base for widespread and bloody depredations. The disparity in guns was by no means as large as that in ships, a mere matter of two to one, and through what His Britannic Majesty later described as a deplorable misunderstanding, the allied fleet utterly demolished the Turks. This piece of carelessness deprived London and Paris of a long and interesting diplomatic hassle, but it also left Greece independent. The boatman who takes visitors out to view the island breakwater, the fine swimming beach, and the cavern full of stalactites happily points out, on the way, the Turkish hulks rotting in the depths of the clear bay.

The French Army built modern Pylos in a bathtub-shaped scoop in the hills behind the fortification at the southeast harbor mouth. What would be the vertical end of the tub opens on the bay, and what would be the bottom is occupied by a pleasant, tree-shaded square surrounded by arcaded shops and scattered with overflow tables from the cafés and restaurants. A large platform at one end of the seawall serves as a turnaround for buses.

When I arrived in Pylos, one of these buses had managed to back over the wall. It was resting on its undercarriage, with the rear wheels hanging ludicrously in space, and all Pylos was drifting down to the square to observe it. Since nothing was being done, the crowd drifted off again, for Greeks are not inclined to stand about in the noonday sun on the chance that something will happen. Something did happen, however, for when I came by there again three hours later, the bus was back on all fours.

The town is charming, the bay is magnificent, but the reason for going to Pylos is Nestor's palace, lately excavated under the direction of Dr. Carl Blegen of the University of Cincinnati. The site was located, after a certain amount of study and consideration, by asking the present inhabitants of Pylos if they knew of any really strange ruins, and the answer was, in effect, "You must mean that old stuff up on So-and-so's place. The poor man is always catching pots when he plows." The pots were the real thing, and years of expert digging have brought up Nestor's capital, which proves to be the most comprehensible and delightful of the Mycenaean remains.

Nestor's town lay about halfway around the bay, some ten miles north of the present Pylos. The road to it runs through thickly planted farm country where olives, wheat, immense lemons, squash, tomatoes, and bananas scramble lushly together. A huge black sow was tethered to a tree, and across the road her six black piglets were also tethered, each to his own smaller tree. Despite the sleek pigs and the thriving crops, the houses were generally disheveled and seemed held together by makeshift repairs.

An unromantic corrugated iron roof on stilts identifies the diggings, which are located at the top of a rather mean little hill. The little hill is the last of a series -- the place is on a plateau -- commanding a view of the whole bay of Navarino, the encircling hills, and the open sea beyond the breakwater. Standing at his own door, Nestor could count cattle on the hillsides, shipwrights at the docks, warships and merchantmen in the bay, and finally, looking out through the channel, he could observe that the galleys coming in flew no known signal, and order out his patrol boats.

Construction of the iron roof has prevented the weather from getting at the remains of the palace which, although reduced to the lower two feet of its walls, presents a perfectly understandable design with bits of painted floor and the lower borders of frescoes still intact. Nestor's family, the Neleids, evidently liked space, and, having plenty of it on their airy plateau, they never developed the habit, interesting to archaeologists but villainously confusing to everyone else, of putting new buildings on top of old ones. There is an old palace to the left, storage rooms and workshops to the right and rear, and the main palace marching unmistakably down the middle.

The young Greek in charge of the place had no English and needed none. He indicated, graciously, the main door. He placed himself on one of the low square slabs that flank it, snapped to attention, and saluted an imaginary dignitary. Beyond a square court with four columns and two more sentry boxes was a narrow, crosswise room with benches. This was evidently where people awaited audience with the king, and they did so in comfort, for the little room to the left was a bar. The caretaker dived into it, drank an imaginary glass, opened an imaginary hatch, and called for orders, but the act, although hilarious, was unnecessary. The place could be nothing else in the world but a bar. There was an arrangement for cooling jugs of wine, and on the floor, exactly where they had fallen when the shelf burned out from under them, lay the fused remains of an astounding number of clay goblets. Dr. Blegen is rumored to have advised a visitor who marveled at the inventory of Nestor's drinking vessels to spend an evening in a Greek tavern and watch the glasses go. The man who told the story added, grinning, "They haven't changed a bit."

In the throne room, the round, raised hearth stands intact. Its sides are painted with a pattern of formal flames, and parts of the floor still show a giddy blue-and-red stippled pattern. There is a square marked out for the throne, and I think a tall man could have sat on it and cocked his heels on the rim of the hearth. Perhaps Nestor was too dignified for this, but he cannot have been too short. The benches outside were not constructed for little people.

The palace must have been a brilliantly handsome structure, for the fresco fragments retrieved and carried off to the local museum indicate that all the principal rooms were painted with animals, birds, people, and fish interspersed with flowers and mythical beasts, and that the building was several stories high. It was also well laid out, with rooms of a reasonable size, corridors proceeding logically from one spot to another, elaborate water and drainage systems, and a general effect of foursquare common sense. The style and subject matter of the frescoes resemble what was found at Knossos, but the clear ground plan is the absolute antithesis of the muddleheaded ramblings of Minoan buildings.

It is easy to imagine living people at Pylos -- servants pattering soft-footed through the corridors, the barkeep rattling goblets, a lady-in-waiting poking her elegantly coiffured head out of the queen's doorway to ask the name, and rank of the latest guest, the distant chink of metal from the armorer's quarters. The pleasant but interminable baritone rumble from the throne room would be Nestor, telling the latest promising young war chief about the siege engine Odysseus concocted at Troy. By Artemis, mourns the lady-in-waiting retreating in a tinkle of gold bracelets, he's told it hundreds of times, and I shall never understand the thing. Madame, it's that horse again.

Played at Pylos, this silly game involves no visions of domestic murder or slave gangs sweating to move a twenty-ton lintel. Nestor's foundations consist of neat, manageable stones, and the superstructure, which began close to ground level, was carried on wood. The storage jars still lined up in the magazines are of a readily maneuverable size, about like small hogsheads. In addition to liking space, order, comfort, and a good view, Nestor did not burden his people with awkwardly outsize objects. At least, he didn't do it regularly. The museum in Athens has a wine cup from Pylos that is Gargantuan, but it is also unique.

Like Mycenae, Pylos has a defensive encircling wall, but it is not noticeable, being well away from the palace and not yet completely dug out. What can be seen of it has an odd look, somehow frivolous, as though its construction was a matter of convention rather than caution. The defense wall -- this season's indispensable accessory for the truly chic stronghold. So the Neleids, nothing if not chic, had a wall which they never intended to hide behind or to defend, being sea people who expected to meet sea raiders outside the harbor and beat them, if worst came to worst, on the beach. Land defense must have been the business of Mycenae and Tiryns, those great grim piles of stone overhanging the route across the Isthmus of Korinth.

When the Dorian horde came down from the north and took Mycenae, there was no hope of holding Pylos. Perhaps the Neleids did not try, for tradition has it that despite the destruction of the other royal houses of the Mycenaean confederacy, they survived. Nestor's descendants escaped by ship to Athens, which never fell to the invaders because the Athenians withdrew to their wickedly unscalable acrop


Copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; January 1963; A Rough Map of Greece - 63.01; Volume 211, No. 1; page 27-33.