Returning from Kythera, my husband and I spent a night in Sparta (“Sparti,” as the modern town is designated on most maps and signs nowadays, is Ionian; I prefer to use Doric, which shows up now and again on local signs). The modern city, full of students, traffic clogging the main street and disco music filling the night air, is not always the best place to evoke ancient Sparta, but it has charm of its own. The palms of the main avenue remind one of the more trendy cities on the Riviera, but the backdrop of snowy Taygetos is more beautiful. There are good restaurants, good hotels, a pretty square with a monument to the Three Hundred, and a charming little museum with some excellent pieces of Lacedaemonian sculpture. The ancient acropolis is far enough away from the heart of the modern town to allow a stroll in contemplative silence, and I am always pleased to see the Leonidas standing guard in front of the soccer stadium. In short, I always enjoy a stop in Sparta on our way to or from Kythera.
Particularly interesting this trip was that the Eurotas was running black. Usually, when I have been in Sparta, it has been muddy and lazy. This trip is was running fast and deep. This suggests that in ancient Sparta as well the river ran deep and fast at least some of the time. Indeed, I’ve heard theories that the climate of Greece was generally cooler and wetter in the archaic and classical periods. Certainly, the population density was lower and so the consumption of water less. Less water consumption nearer the source of the Eurotas would have meant greater volumes of water flushing down through Sparta. Certainly, it looked more inviting this time around, and I could easily imagine the boys of the agoge cavorting around in it and young citizens plunging in to refresh themselves after drill.
Since pictures are worth a thousand words, however, I think I’ll stop writing here and just upload some of the pictures I took this year. I end with a picture of me at Leonidas feet.
If you look hard you can read the “Μολαν Λαβε” on the base of the statue.
In other news, I submitted the manuscript for the third book of the Leonidas Trilogy, Leonidas of Sparta: A Heroic King to the publisher today. If all goes well, the book will be released on schedule in early September.