36:25.867N 22:29.112E

Chris and Alison
Thu 30 May 2024 19:33

With strong westerlies forecast we decided we had better move on to Gythian for some shelter. We have been here before as well, but as always, another visit is not all that bad and it had the shelter we needed. As luck would have it there is a myth attached to Gythian so here goes:-

The small island of Cranae is attached to the mainland by a causeway and has become part of the port of Gythian. In ancient times Gythian was the main port of Sparta, set inland some 48km. 

It is Cranae where, according to legend, Paris and Helen of Troy consummated their relationship. Some versions say that Helen is abducted while in others she goes willingly with Paris. Helen of Troy was actually Helen of Sparta having married Menelaus, king of Sparta. She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the the daughter of the God Zeus, who, as you remember, had disguised himself as a swan and raped her mother, Leda. The result was Helen. Helen and Menelaus lived very happily in Sparta, that is until Paris turned up. 

The legend goes that’s Aphrodite had promised Helen’s hand in marriage to Paris as a bribe during a beauty constest that Poor Paris had to invigilate, Aphrodite duly won. So Paris headed to Sparta to claim his prize. As soon as Paris entered the Spartan palace, Aphrodite saw to it that Helen was struck by one of Cupid’s arrows and was soon smitten with Paris, so the couple left Sparta together. So this is how the two ended up on Cranae that first night.

Jefferson S (2022) In the Wake of the Gods. A Cruising companion to The World of The Greek Myths

The anchorage was gusty but there was no swell, unlike the previous couple of anchorages we have been in recently. We got our washing done at the local laundry and got it back washed only, so it needed to be dried. Normally not a problem, the washing dries quickly in the rigging. This day, with the gusts, the washing got dry very quickly, but we were having lunch, so I decided not to take it in until after I had finished eating. Big mistake. One of the sheets made an escape along with the pegs and ended up drifting away. I was just about to jump in to retrieve it when Chris managed to reach the sheet, and one peg using the dinghy and the boat hook. The rest of the washing was swiftly retrieved from the line along with all the pegs. 

The following day was much calmer so we moved on down the Gulf to Porto Kagio at Cape Tainaron to continue our journey following mythology.

Cape Tainaron is the southern most tip of mainland Greece. The trail to the edge of Cape Tainaron encompasses all the imposing charm of the Maniot landscape. In fact the cave we were looking for was considered by the ancient Greeks to be the entrance to the underworld as the location also housed a necromanteion (temple of necromancy) where the Greeks communicated with their dead. The Byzantine Agia Asomaton church is built with materials taken from the Temple to Poseidon at nearby Tainaron. The path passes by ruins of the ancient Roman settlement, a well-preserved Roman mosaic that local fishermen call “the start of Aria”. The landscape is dotted  with dry stone walls and low shrubs, thorny bushes, thyme and oregano. The views over Porto Sternes gulf and the sea is just stunning. The walk takes us over low level hills, heading uphill the route leads directly to Cape Tainaron Lighthouse. 

Thanks to sailors, the cape still preserves its ancient name Matapas which comes from the Doric phrase Metepea Akra (promontory between two seas) since it is located between Laconia and Messinian Mani. Many years ago this peninsula was considered the “edge of the upper world”. greece-is.com accessed 26/05/24 1000 UTC

So the myth we are following stars two gods Theseus and Perithoos, I will let Jefferson do the narration.

Myth as told by Jefferson S (2022)
Cape Tainaron is the southernmost point of continental Greece and more importantly it’s another means of getting to the underworld. This one is a cave set in the hillside just above the rugged coastline of the headland.

This is the tale of Theseus and his friend Perithoos, who decided to head down here for what sounds like a lads’ weekend. Theseus had become something of a legend after he killed the Minotaur in Crete. He had enjoyed a varied life after that famous adventure and had become king of Athens. However, a bizarre set of misadventures meant that he and his family had to go into exile for a year to atone for some heinous crime. This should have been a nice one year sabbatical, yet as is so often the case, family politics got in the way and spoiled everything. Essentially, Theseus' wife Phaedra managed to fall in love with her stepson Hippolytus and attempted to seduce him. Hippolytus, clearly a sane human being, decided this was wrong and told her to back off. Phaedra then decided to tell Theseus that Hippolytus had raped her. Enraged, Theseus asked Poseidon to punish him, that he did and as a result he died. It then came out that Phaedra had tried to seduce Hippolytus and the net result was that Phaedra decided to hang herself.

As a result, Theseus had a bit of midlife crisis and decided to get together with Perithoos who had also recently been widowed and the pair went off on a rampage in search of new wives. Being middle aged and clearly deluded they decided that they needed wives who were goddesses and promptly abducted one of Zeus daughter, Helen, yes, that Helen - Helen of Troy. They drew lots for her, which Theseus won. This left Perithoos still needing a partner and somewhat rashly he decided he wanted to marry Persephone - Queen of the underworld, wife of Hades, king of the underworld. This was probably very ambitious, but nevertheless he gave it a go.

They entered via the portal at Tainaron and strolled down to the underworld, where they were met by Hades. He was surprisingly polite and told them to take a seat. The pair made themselves comfortable and presumably sat waiting for Persephone to turn up and throw herself into the arms of Perithoos. After a while they got board of waiting but discovered that they couldn’t move. Hades had glued them to the seats. They were then further fastened in place by snakes, which wrapped themselves around their arms and legs. From this position they were able to ponder eternity. At this point Heracles blundered past on his way to a meeting with Hades. Spotting Theseus, who was a friend of his, Heracles used his immense strength to rip him out of the seat. This was a success, though his left buttock remained stuck in position. Heracles tried to free Perithoos too but when he tried, the earth shook in such an alarming manner that he got worried and eventually gave up and headed off once more in search of Hades.

So Theseus escaped and Perithoos remains there to this day. Theseus didn’t last too much longer either. He returned to Athens but found his sons had been overthrown and Helen had gone off with Paris, so now he had lost his kingdom, his best friend, the most beautiful woman in the world and his left buttock. He died on the island Skyros. 
Jefferson S (2022) In the Wake of the Gods. A Cruising companion to The World of The Greek Myths

The moon rising over Gythiron and the island where Helen and Paris spent their first night together.

The Taigeos mountains and the home of the Mani people

Porto Kagio

The cave of Hades and the entrance to the underworld

Cape Malaeos

Sent from my iPad