Myths – History – Reality, Corfu, Greece

And there was mythical Uranus in a battle with his sons, the Titans, and with Cronus castrating his father and throwing over his shoulder those parts that would fall and petrify into the two large rock formations between which the old Venetian fortress of the town of Corfu now sits, and which I could now see, lit up, from my balcony.

And there, too, was Ulysses, weary from all the trials and tribulations he’ d endured. Poseidon’ s fury washed him up on a sandy beach of the very civilized Phaeacians, and Nausicaa sees him and is not repulsed by his nakedness and filth, as her friends are. She sends him to her father’ s palace, with its exquisite gardens that bloom and bear fruit throughout the year, and it is there that King Alcinous, deeply moved to be meeting a hero of Troy, decides to send him home to Ithaca on one of his ships, so that his Odyssey may be ended.

Scenic view of Corfu

Scenic view of Corfu

Dark myths. Turbulent. Depicting those epic years where Corfu was portrayed as a mythic paradise, known to the world for its high level of civilization and its naval strength; a commercial stronghold of the Phoenicians or King Minos of Crete, who had the most highly-organized fleet in the eastern Mediterranean and had greatly constrained piracy.

And that’ s where Thucydides comes in to remove me from the myth and throw me into the depths of History where the ancient world literally danced before my eyes. The Corfiots beat out the Corinthians in the first sea battle that is referenced in the History of the Mediterranean in 660 B.C. with their magnificent fleet and their even more magnificent relations with the tyrants of Sicily, which was then part of Magna Graecia. The one island helped the other and, together, they created the trireme, the most state-of-the-art ship of its time, which sailed quickly and aggressively through the waters and became the largest naval force. The Athenians followed.

Both dance and History charm me. The lightness of the one, the weight of the other, and the perfectly formed 2 of my hands joining them in one harmonious movement. Even the stars, shining like tiny diamonds over the Ionian Sea, share their light and allow the aeons to unfold before us in a story containing pirates, merchants and galleys, sea battles and raids, fortresses and castles, which today are reflected in elegant yachts and sailboats, luxurious hotels and gastronomy. This is Corfu and, as it would appear, this is what the gods intended. Sometimes lit violently by the lightning bolts of Zeus, and other times gently caressed by the sun of Apollo.

An excerpt from the book: GREECE, The Dance of the Seas

Barbara Athanassiadis