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Monday, May 23, 2022

The odyssey of my Greek Virtual Tour was the journey.

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“Boarders, though, are rarely as definite as they appear on maps.” [1]

Place is as much about mythology as it is about the past, present and the future. Where you come from defines your journey. I am interested in the mythology that sits behind place, specifically that of Ancient Greece and the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime. In the Greek Study Tour I am seeking a virtual essence of place that goes beyond the world that we have built. All of what we ‘construct’ in life is based on myth and myth remains to tell us about what is lost. The essence of being human is to rationalise our existence through myth. Myth is carried, not via structure, but via Aerides the Greek word for wind, a force that is changeable.

As a student of Art I looked at defining and identifying eras, technique and innovation but little time was spent on the drivers or motivation that sit behind these monuments to the past. So much of Western Civilization can be defined by the brief Golden Era of Athens 408 to 404 BCE and the tangible Acropolis, man’s attempt to tame the natural world for the ‘polis.’ The evidence of Greek Civilisation is therefore, in the vanity of man, to believe the natural order of things can be conquered and understood via a false sense of righteousness, ritual and monument. The Ancients developed complex stories in order to understand the universe and mans place in it. It is my belief that stories are carried via the wind and made legible by sound, feeling and emotion, also a characteristic of the Dreamtime, the Australian Aboriginal spiritual belief.

The wind carried ships across the sea, the kingdom of Poseidon, allowing the movement of thought via colonisation and confrontation. Nowadays aeronautical flight transports us via the wind as does the virtual qualities of the internet via acoustic, visual and written telecommunication. The Ancient Greeks developed amphitheatres to spread myth via oral tradition reciting beautifully rehearsed poems that told the story of their civilization though clever akoustic design using the sound concept of echo. Myth is a way of telling without a measurement of time that is linear. When time became regular and universal (311 BCE), post Alexander the Great (Babylon 323 BCE), it changed history.[2] At this time aeonas 2022, after anni horribiles (two horrible years), the world continues to struggle with an airborne virus, a nemesis known as Covid_19 with variants dubbed Delta and Omicron, various letters of the Greek Alphabet, highlighting the Greekness of our world and that monsters still exist.

My family on my maternal side come from the Aeolian Islands, part of Sicily, a remote refuge where the artefacts are that of natural world of volcanos, tidal waves and the wind. There are few noteworthy Greek ruins on the Islands only a common mythology that links directly to the Greek Creation Story of chaos, chasm, heroes and monsters. Volcanic Stromboli can be likened to Uluru as a natural spiritual place to view but not trample on. Visited by Odysseus (Book 10)[3] the Aeolian Islands remain indigenous to nature and connected to the gods of Greek Myth. The archipelago, consisting of seven islands of volcanic origin, struggled with beauty and hardship. This hardship lead the inhabitancy, who migrated to Australia, at the turn of last century, to refer to ‘Terra Nullius’ as its eighth island thus encompassing the Great Southern Island into Aeolian folk-law and that of journey.[4] The people of the Eoli had an innate understanding of a dry climate and barren land, their paradise lost in an advancing world of change and innovation. Australia offered a structure that the Eoli could not. That of civilization rather than problematic subsistence. Greek colonisation gave the Aeolian People its base and a point of spiritual awareness via the cult of Aeolus.

The Aeolian Islands are a monument to Greek Myth, consistent and raw. The wind kept blowing Odysseus back to the Aeolus’ Island. Stories of shipwrecks and refuge permeate. Aeolus was the son of Hippotes (or Hellen) and the eponymous founder of the Aeolian race.[5] The ‘Eolie’ owe their origin to the Greek Civilization, a cultural odyssey for me to contemplate and therefore the impetus to embark on a ‘virtual tour’ of Greece. It was my belief that my heritage was simply Italian, but the ‘Aeolis’ was part of Magna Graecia, claimed by the Hellenic Race for it precious obsidian, a trade dating back to prehistory.[6]

Dignity and respect for nature pervade the islands that have maintained their rustic beauty along with a foreboding terror. Home to seamanship and poetry the majesty of the Aeolus’ wind is described by Homer in the Odyssey and also in Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, which is about a hidden controlling pattern, power, forgiveness and regeneration (“Into something rich and strange”).[7] In Homer’s Odyssey, Aeolus kept the most destructive winds hidden in the cavernous interior and only released their destructiveness on command of the gods displeasure with mankind.[8] According to the myth of the third Aeolus, the monster Strongyle housed the ill tempered winds, Strongyle being the Greek name for the Aeolian Island of Stromboli and its volcano. The volcano led to the kingdom of Hades, in Greek myth, Hades the receiver of the dead, was also the giver of precious metals that are mined from the ground. Aeolian metal contributed to the bronze statues of athletes in Olympia.[9]

The Jules Verne novel (1864), Voyage au Centre de la Terre, is a science fiction time travel that brings three explorers to the earths interior, via Iceland’s inactive Snaefell volcano, eventually spitting them out via the active volcano Stromboli.[10] The journey explores the kingdom of Hades during the Mesozoic [11] (Greek for middle-life) period and defies the Greek Myth that a human/s can visit and return from the underworld. Odysseus visits the house of death in Homer’s Odyssey, Book Eleven, The Kingdom of the Dead, which is described as a sorrowful place of grief, unearthly cries, wretched souls and precious metals.[12] Both Odysseus and Verne’s explorers encounter perils and monsters beneath the earth. Science fiction is a phenomena of mythological origin and mans fascination with Hero’s and Monsters the middle-life (mesozoic era) of the Greek Creation Story. Literature owes so much to Homer and his epic verse.

Shakespeare’s ‘Much a Do About Nothing,’ set on the Aeolian Island of Salina (Provence of Messina, (Messene/Zankle), Sicily),[13] cumulates in a Masked Ball in Messina. The plot adequately describes the idolatry one would associate with Dionysus, the god of wine, merriment, frivolity and gossip.[14] Shakespeare demonstrates an awareness of the epic theatre of Homer and the legend of the wind associated with demigod Aeolus;

PEDRO

Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks!

Notes, notes forsooth, and nothing!

   [Music]

BENEDICK    [Aside] Now divide air. Now is his soul ravished! Is it not strange that a sheep’s gut should hale souls out of men’s bodies? Well a horn for my money when all is done.[15]

Shakespeare’s dialog is a direct reference to Aeolus (air), Hades, the receiver of the dead, and horn of plenty of associated with Dionysus demonstrating a reverence and respect for Greek Mythology, the elements and the human condition. Oral tradition gave theatre, hymn and performance arts to the world and thus the power of pathos appealing to emotions and sympathies. Hellenised gods, heroes and mythic beings are very much linked to the landscape of the Aeolian story via Greek civilization.

The Aeolian Islands and in particular the Island of Salina, (Dydime (Greek) meaning twins because of the distinct extinct volcanic twin peaks that shape the island), is known for its wine, Malvasia, also for capers, olive oil and salt production.[16] Salina means salt in Italian. Vulcan, the Greco-Roman god of fire and forge lends its name to another of the island’s in the archipelago, Vulcano in myth referred is to as ‘the mouth of hell.’[17] A consensus has been reached among scholars that the Isola Lipari, (the Aeolian Islands are also known as the Lipari Islands), stands for ‘the bright and shining island’ coming from the Greek ‘Lypara’ and ‘Meligulis.’[18] A library in Lipari, (Biblioteke Historike) of Diodorus Siculus (97 -27 BCE) is the main centre of historical sources about the settlement of the Aeolian Islands.[19]

The only tangible monument to Aeolus remains in Athens’s Roman Agora, a ‘time piece’ considered the worlds first meteorological station combines the measurement of light, water and wind. The Temple of Aeolus, is the only significant monument to the minor god of the winds, believed to be built around 50 BCE,[20] during the late Hellenistic period,[21] the structure is also considered an early example of a clock tower. I have had to look beyond ruins to literature to discover the Aeolian place in the Greek World and that place is in its timeless mythology and geography of the seven islands, and lives on in the culture of the people who have been layered by occupation, hardship and refuge. The story of the Aeolian Race is that of poetry and its monument’ is landscape and movement. Wind plays a significant role in climatology as it does in weather patterns and motion.[22] The Ancient Greek’s found the Island’s the ideal spot to watch the Straights of Messina and to control shipping. The Aeolian Race were considered the best seamen and masters of the wind [23] (Aerides) as expressed in the Odyssey, Book Ten;

“Zeus had made that king (Aeolus) the master of all the winds with the power to calm them down or rouse them as he pleased.” [24]

Sadly the development of rail made the movement of goods via barge obsolete and for a time the Eoli lost its way as did many Greek Islands, especially those smaller, who suffered the same hardship and fate from a failure to connect to the modern world. At this point in time the Aeolian Islands join with the fate of Naples and Sicily ultimately becoming part of unified Italy.[25] Aeolian’s are known as Aeolian Italians.

Today hospitality via tourism has been its saviour of the Eoli, as is the case with many of the Greek Islands enjoying a travel renaissance. Larger islands such as Sicily and Crete are better able to support the mainland and small islands of Italy and Greece. Homer’s Odyssey describes hospitality and the dangers of offending the host in Book Ten as such;

(Odysseus) “Aeolus hosted me for one month, he pressed me for news of Troy and the Argive ships and how we sailed for home.” [26]

‘Open hearted Aeolus’ sent Odysseus away with a ‘favourable north wind’ and a bag containing the unfavourable winds, when his crew opened the bag terrible winds forced them back to the Aeolian Island’ and an angered Aeolus declared;

“Away from my island – fast – most cursed man alive.” [27]

The concept of hospitality and not offending the host is a bedrock of Greek culture and superstition. Hospitality is rarely understood by the coloniser as was the case with the ‘settlement’ of Australia by the British Empire. Aboriginal people were robbed of personhood and therefore subsequently oppressed. The British denied the Aboriginal Races hospitality, a curse for which we all must take responsibility.

The Aeolian Islands, World heritage site, full of modest homes sort after by the wealthy elite, who consider themselves present day Aristocrats in the mode of Aristotle. The tangible temples are not omnipotent, only natures magnanimous forces, that do not stand side by side with human monuments due to a supreme sovereignty of intersecting volatility and beauty. A connection to nature, the creation of man in the human form and place, underpins Greek Myth and binds all myth, including the Aboriginal Dreamtime, on a spiritual level. The true benefit of my Greek Virtual Tour was my endeavour to understand the marriage of Greek Mythology with a universal concept of man via Aeolus the god of the winds.

The Eoli is still a timeless place of the gods.

The odyssey of my Greek Virtual Tour was the journey.

[1] Jamie Mackay, 2021 The Invention of Sicily Publisher Verso P. 2

[2] Paul J. Kosmin, A Revolution in Time – Aeon Newsletter 7 May 2019 > http://aoen.co/essays/ > accessed 5th January 2022

[3] Richard Fagles, 1996 Homer – The Odyssey The Bewitching Queen of Aeaea – Book Ten, Publisher Penguin Books

[4] Terra Nullius at term used to describe Australia as a barren land unoccupied by human inhabitancy.

[5] Greek Gods >> Sky Gods >> Aeolus (Aiolos) – Theoi Project – Greek Mythology https://theoi.com > accessed 3rd January 2022

[6] The History of the Aeolian Islands http://infoeolie.com > accessed 3rd January 2022

[7] William Shakespeare, The Tempest edited by Martin Butler, Publisher Penguin Books (2015) Introduction xxxii (I.2.400-401)

[8] Greek Gods >> Sky Gods >> Aeolus (Aiolos) – Theoi Project – Greek Mythology https://theoi.com > accessed 3rd January 2022

[9] Francesca Valdinoci, Dario Castaldo, ‘Australia? It’s the Eighth Aeolian Island, Marco Giorgianni, the mayor of Lipari, meets the Aeolian community of Australia’ S.B.S. Italian (Australia; Radio 14th February 2020) [radio program]. https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/audio/australia-it-s-the-eighth-aeolian-island > accessed 6th January 2022

[10] Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_Center_of_the_Earth > accessed 6th January 2022

[11] Mesozoic – Wikipedia – Age of Reptiles and the Age of Conifers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesozoic > accessed 6th January 2022

[12] Richard Fagles, 1996 Homer – The Odyssey The Kingdom of the Dead – Book Eleven, Publisher Penguin Books, Book 11 – P 249 – 270

[13] Messina 1 Italy 1 Britannica https://www.britannica.com/place/Messina > accessed 6th January 2022

[14] The Aeolian Islands belong to the Provence of Messina, it is my understanding that Salina is the humble home setting with the Mask Ball taking place in Messina (Salina belongs to Messina, Messina was colonised by the Ancient Greeks, 5th century BCE).

[15] William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing edited by John Holland, Publisher Penguin Books (2017) Act 11.3 54-58

[16] Salina, Sicily – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salina,_Sicily > accessed 3rd January 2022

[17] The History of the Aeolian Islands http://infoeolie.com > accessed 3rd January 2022

[18] History of Lipari https://italythisway.com > accessed 4th January 2022

[19] History of Lipari https://www.italythisway.com/places/articales/lipari-history.php > accessed 6th January 2022

[20] Tower of the Winds 1 building, Athens, Greece 1 Britannica https://www.britannica.com./topic/Tower-of-the-Winds-building-Athens-Greeece

[21] UNESCO Astronomy and World Heritage Webportal – Show entity https://www3.astronomicalheritage.net/index.php/show-enity? Identity=90&idsubentity=1 > accessed 6th January 2022

[22] Aeolus 1 Homeric character 1 Britannica – Wind https://www.brinannica.com/topic/Aeolus-Homeric-character > accessed 6th January 2022

[23] Richard Fagles, 1996 Homer – The Odyssey The Bewitching Queen of Aeaea – Publisher Penguin Book 10

[24] Richard Fagles, 1996 Homer – The Odyssey The Bewitching Queen of Aeaea – Publisher Penguin Book 10 – 24 -25

[25] The History of the Aeolian Islands http://infoeolie.com > accessed 3rd January 2022

[26] Richard Fagles, 1996 Homer – The Odyssey The Bewitching Queen of Aeaea – Publisher Penguin Books, 10 – L 15 -16

[27] Richard Fagles, 1996 Homer – The Odyssey The Bewitching Queen of Aeaea – Publisher Penguin Books, 10 – L 79

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