Photos from Crete
There is a land called Crete…
handsome country, fertile, thronged with people
well past counting, boasting ninety cities
the Odyssey, Book 19, line 194
One such city was Tylissos, not far from the palace of Knossos, where Odysseus found shelter when he was blown ashore by a fierce storm on his way to Troy.
But the place in Crete that has drawn me back repeatedly is Ancient Eleftherna, site of one of the island’s most important ancient city-states. It lies on the slopes of Mount Ida, the birthplace of Zeus, amongst swathes of olive trees, carobs and oaks, its high ridge looking over the distant sea.
Here excavation is still on-going. Recent finds include a tomb housing the cremated remains of warriors from Homeric times, brimming with opulent grave gifts of jewellery and weapons. And a cremation site with funerary pyres, which conform in every detail to Homer’s description of the pyre built for Patroclus in the Iliad.
The archaeologists plan to eventually return the warrior’s remains to their place of rest in the sheltered valley where they had lain in peace for so many centuries.