Around Cape Artemision

East of Istiai­a the landscape becomes hilly and verdant. A branch to the left leads to the rural chapel of the Panaghia Dinious in a setting of great tranquillity. Not far beyond the turning, the road touches the shore again at the villages of Asmi­ni (23.5km) and Artemi­sio (28km) where there are good shaded beaches. The village of Artemi­sio and the cape to the west both take their name from a shoreside temple of Artemis Proseoia, mentioned by Plutarch in his Life of Themistocles (VIII, 1)—surrounded, he says, by a wall of a kind of marble that imparted the odour and colour of saffron when rubbed. Plutarch al ways has intriguing anecdotes to relate. The ruins of the small 6th century Byzantine complex of Aghios Giorgios on an isolated spur of the hills east of Pevki and west of Gouves probably lie over the site of the ancient temple. It was here, in the bay of Pevki, that the Greek fleet based it self during the three days of crucial fighting in the straits, in which they succeeded in blocking the advance of the fleet of Xerxes, early in the second Persian invasion of 480 bc.

The villages of Asmi­ni, Artemi­sio and Gouves (29.5km) have many attractive wooden-balconied houses, similar in style to the architecture of the area of Mount Pelion across the water to the north. The idiosyncratic Ottoman castle of Gouves, built in the early 1800s by Ibrahim AgŸa, which dominates the delightful village is constructed in a similar combination of materials with particularly fine wooden raftering. For a period it belonged to the Athenian poet, Giorgios Drosinis (1859–1951); it now constitutes a small and interesting Ethnographic Museum.
   The road climbs eastwards from Gouves and turns south at Agriovotano above Cape Artemision (2km of track leads down to the point). The cape not only gives its name to the important naval battle, but also to two of Greece’s most spectacular underwater archaeological finds.

In 1926 the left arm of a bronze statue was found at the site of an underwater shipwreck which had occurred in the 2nd century bc in the waters off Cape Artemision. The site was properly examined in 1928 and the rest of the magnificent, mid-5th century bc bronze statue of Zeus hurling a thunder bolt (sometimes erroneously referred to as an image of Poseidon) was salvaged from the water. The work has since been tentatively attributed to Kalamis. In the same year, the first fragments of another of the most famous bronzes of antiquity were also salvaged—the dramatic, Hellenistic group of the Horse and Jockey. A second search in 1936 found further fragments, sufficient to attempt a valid reconstruction of the group. The piece probably dates from the early 2nd century bc. Both pieces may have been produced on the mainland— at Corinth or Sicyon—and were being transported to Pergamon when they were wrecked off the cape here: both are now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Athens.

Euboea Island, Greece

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