Donaldus. Catherine and I went to Pylos on the west coast of the Peloponnese. I’ve always wanted to see the site associated with the great old man of Homeric poetry, Nestor. The palace was excavated in 1939 by University of Cincinnati archaeologist Carl Blegen. Among the things he discovered was a broken wall fresco (on the palace floor) that appears to depict an epic poet or roadside, with a lyre, in front of a bright red wall. Historian Adam Nicholson has called the fresco “one of the most extraordinary visualizations of poetry ever created.” It is not too wild to suggest that it depicts Homer or an epic bard very much in the tradition of Homer.
It was an astonishing discovery.
Every encounter I have with Homer deepens my love of Greek culture, my love of the Homeric epics, my joy that I have given my life to te humanities–and not to all the x’s (money, power, NASCAR, etc.) that can be the focus of a good adult life. I’m on book five of the Iliad now, moving forward slowly, reading books around the epic, including now Nicholson’s Why Homer Matters. Also, here but not yet begun, Robin Lane Fox’s Traveling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer.
We had a very long day getting to Pylos. When we got there, after a daylong journey that involved precipitous mountain roads, herds of goats and sheep on the highways, a long stop at the ancient site of the Olympic games, we finally got to the Pylos archeological site at about 6:45 p.m. It was closed! It as not just closed, but it had been closed for many months, because the site is being improved with a new gatehouse, interpretive signs, a hood over things of great fragility.
I wanted to jump the fence, and Catherine was tempted to do it too, but in the end we decided that getting caught probably would lead to prison time! We took photographs through the fence, read the Blue Guide account of Pylos, and stumbled on to Sparta.
I know I will be back. Just in the last week I have made a list of a dozen other places I want to visit in Greece, and that’s just next time. This time I’ll be certain to make sure Pylos is open for visitors.