SANTORINI



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Santorini - The South of the Island - History - Gymnopaidiai

Gymnopaidiai
In a famous incident recounted by Herodotus (Histories, VII, 208–9), Spartan soldiers, on the eve of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 bc, were observed by a Persian spy, ‘stripped for exercise and dressing and combing their hair’: both the spy and his master found the behaviour astonishing. It was later ex plained to Xerxes by Demaratus—himself a Spartan aristocrat—that ‘the Spartans pay careful attention to their hair when they are about to risk their lives.’ We, too, share Xerxes’s bewilderment: we would not have expected soldiers to have been seen setting their hair before departing for the Battle of Britain (some thing that suggests that attitudes to warfare have changed out of all recognition between the ancient and modern worlds). The observation is yet more significant because, of all the soldiers of history, the Spartans have the reputation of being the most seriously martial of all.
In a way that recalls aspects of Japanese culture, war fare in the Spartan mind was a sacred art in which the cult and perfection of the male body—its symmetry, its endurance and its performance—were part of a divine calling. This ‘cult’ meant more than doing physical jerks and running assault courses: it meant ritualising martial actions and physical discipline, and exalting organised movement in a group, which led to a vital subordination of the individual will to the larger unit. It also meant more than seeing the body as a machine—an accusation often made in ignorance against Spartan culture—it meant exalting the strength and endurance of a well-trained body as a divine gift, as an emulation of the most beautiful of gods, Apollo. The Greeks never sacrificed an animal that was not perfect and properly prepared: the Spartans at Thermopylae were not blind to the probability of their imminent self-sacrifice, and accordingly they prepared themselves to be fit for such a divine calling, by attending carefully to their hair on the eve of the battle.
Thera was a Spartan colony, and at the main feast in honour of its presiding divinity, Apollo Karneios, in the month of August, it organised sacred spectacles which, like those in Sparta itself, lasted several days. These were known as the Gymnopaidi­ai, which as their name implies (γυμνός, ‘naked’ or ‘unarmed’; παίζω, ‘I play or disport’) were performed, probably naked, by boys who were passing from childhood into adulthood. They performed what appear to have been dances and martial sequences combining both musical grace and martial skill with the impressive endurance demanded by performing, as Plato points out (Laws, I, p. 633 b&c), under the heat of the August sun. only males performed and only men watched. This was part of a cultural phenomenon in Sparta, in which it was expected, even insisted on, by tradition that a young man have an older, male lover who was his instructor and role model, and that every adult man be the mentor of an adolescent. Such a relationship was considered necessary for the proper formation of a young person. Pederasty and military training are inseparably connected in Lace daemonian culture. Commentators have tradition ally sought to underline the chaste and ‘Platonic’ nature of this kind of relationship, and in Sparta itself this was probably the case if we believe what Plutarch and Xenophon tell us. Perhaps in Thera it was different, because of a strong influence from neighbouring Crete, whose attitudes to the body were very different from those in Laconia. The Theran inscriptions, scratched into the rocks beside the terrace where the Gymnopaidi­ai took place, occasionally point to something explicitly physical. one often cited ex ample says bluntly: Ἀμο[τ]ίωνα ὦιπ[φ]ε Κρίμων [τ]ε(î) δ[ε]. The use of the Laconian dialectal variant, ‘ὦιπε’, normally used for animals copulating, suggests that the pleasure taken between Amotion and Krimon was not particularly chaste. The reality of the festival was probably a much more complex one, in which, as always in life, there were baser fringes on the edge of what was a sacred ritual of martial arts. Looking at the elemental setting at Thera for these youthful displays—the exposed terrace with nothing but sea below, sky above, the massive rock mountain behind, and the blazing August sun—it is clear that the Gymnopaidi­ai had a symbolism and significance that resonated far beyond the ephemeral passions of Krimon and his friends.


Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.


access

Santorini Island, Greece.

By air: Santorini is wellconnected with four daily flights to Athens with both Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, and three to Thessaloniki with Aegean. Aegean also operates a once-weekly direct flight to and from Milan and Rome, from July to September. The airport takes large aircraft, and is four and a half kilometres from Chora.
By boat: At Santorini the (new) ferry port (Athiniós) is seven and a half kilometres from Chora. There are generally two or three daily boat connections to Piraeus, taking nine hours by car-ferry and five hours by high-speed vessel; most stop at Paros and/or Naxos en route.
There are links to Anaphi, Folegandros, Sikinos and Ios , and with Crete, five or six times weekly (these drop to twice-weekly in the winter).
There are direct links to Milos twice-weekly throughout the year.
Boats for Therasia leave from the port of Oia at Amoudi (12 km from Chora), daily at 8 am and midday, to Riva. A connecting local bus to Potamos and Manolas (Chora) – 10 mins. Sometimes the boat route includes Korfos harbour, directly below Manolas, in addition to Riva

Santorini Travel Guide

eating

Santorini Island, Greece.

Between the twin traps of the expensively pretentious and the indifferently touristic, there are still a few good places to eat on Santorini.
Ta Delphinia the water’s edge in the Bay of Akrotiri is a family run fish-taverna, which largely serves its own catch of fish accompanied by its own local wine (from March to August), and an array of traditional mezés, which include a delicious Santorinian fava and tomatokeftedes. The taverna Aktaion (often known as ‘Roussos’) at the very beginning of Firostefáni (as you arrive by foot from Chora), though small, serves local food, including a good prassopitta – a pie made with mixed greens and leeks.
50m north of it, is the best and most genuine Italian eatery in the Aegean (run by Italians), called Il Cantuccio. For a more highly-wrought cuisine, still based on Greek ingredients, Selene at the southern extremity of Chora offers peace and a beautiful view in addition to some interesting dishes.
Franco’s Bar in Chora merits mention as a historic institution: one of the first bars of the 1970’s on Santorini, it still serves (expensive, but wellprepared) cocktails to the accompaniment of classical music, in front of one of the most dramatic sunsets in Europe.
On Therasia, Taverna Panorama in Manolas, at the top of the steps from the harbour of Korfos, has an excellent view, passable food, but wayward prices.

Santorini Travel Guide

further reading

Santorini Island, Greece.

Ferdinand Fouqué, whose book Santorini et Ses Eruptions was first published in French in 1879, and reissued in an English translation by Alexander McBirney in 1999 by Johns Hopkins university Press, is the first comprehensive study of the island’s geology and volcanic history. J.V. Luce, The End of Atlantis (first published by Thames & Hudson, London, 1969; reprinted by Efstathiadis & Sons, Athens, 1982) is indebted to Fouqué, but follows the theme of Plato’s legend of Atlantis and its relation to Santorini. Nanno Marinatos, in Art & Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society (Athens, 1984) lays out a clear and cogent explanation of the paintings from Akrotiri. The Wall Paintings of Thera (Athens, 1992) by Christos Doumas,the current head of excavations at Akrotiri, is also authoritative and clear on the subject – as are all his many excellent articles and writings on Theran matters. For the lat est debate on the dating of the eruption of Thera, see: Acts of the Minoan Eruption Chronology Workshop in Sandjberg, Denmark in november 2007, published by the Danish Institute in Athens in 2009 as Time’s Up! Dating the Minoan Eruption of Santorini.

Santorini Travel Guide

lodging

Santorini Island, Greece.

On Santorini, the Kavalari Hotel (T.22860 22347, fax 22603, www.kavalari.com) is one of the older hotels on the island, centrally placed, with magnificent views, created from traditional Santorinian houses cut into the native lava at the top of the cliff above the caldera. It is simple, friendly, unpretentious, and beautiful: there is no elevator, however, and the rooms are reached down precipitous flights of steps.
For greater ease of access (also near the Metropolitan Church) is the Theoxenia Hotel (T.22860 22740, fax 22950, www.theoxenia.net): panoramic and very pleasant, with a good breakfast served in the rooms. The island’s oldest hotel, the Atlantis (T.22860 22111, fax 22821, www.atlantishotel. gr) is practical, straightforward, welcoming and superbly sited; it is one of Santorini: practical informati on 97 the few hotels open all year round.
The Aressana Hotel (T.22860 22860, fax 23902, www.aressana.gr), opposite the Atlantis, is also comfortably appointed and convenient. On one of the highest points of the cliff, with views directly over the caldera, Anteliz Apartments Hotel (T.22860 28842, fax 28843, www. anteliz.gr) is modern and attractive, with spacious rooms and a pool. For ‘boutique chic’, Homeric Poems (T.22860 24661, fax 24660; www.homericpoems. gr) offers a luxurious and rarified atmosphere.Oia is generally more tranquil than Chora; it also has the most delightful place to stay on the island – Chelidonia Villas (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com),which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com), which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position. On Therasia there are rooms to rent at Zacharo, just above Manolas to the south, T.22860 29102.

Santorini Travel Guide

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