Homer and King Nestor

nestorAt school I studied Latin and as part of the literature module I had to read the 1st century BC “Aeneid” by Virgil. The story has many similarities to Homer’s 12th century BC “Iliad” and tells the tale of the Trojan Aeneas who travelled to Italy and founded Rome. It also refers to the Trojan War and the heroes who took part in it.

Nestor was the son of King Neleus who inherited the Kingdom of Pylos after his father was killed by Hercules. He fought in the Trojan War and frequently gave advice to others such as Agamemnon and Achilles. His life ended when he was killed by an arrow shot by Paris.

dscf3466I decide to go in search of Nestor’s legacy, starting at Voidokilia Beach, on the far side of the Gialova Lagoon and beneath the Paleokastro of Pylos, the old castle, built in 1278 by the Frankish Nicholas II of Omer. All over Greece, ancient sites are marked by small brown signs and I follow one now, fording a small stream and scrambling up a rocky slope to find what I hope is a cave, once used by Nestor to shelter his cattle. When I finally arrive at the site, it’s not a cave at all but a ruined tholos tomb that is thought to have been for Thrasymedes, Nestor’s son. It’s surrounded by a high fence but someone has helpfully removed the gate from its hinges so I am able to access it easily.

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dscf3475As I look across to the Paleokastro, I spot the cave in the cliffs below it. There’s is just one problem. There’s a lot of water between me and it. I backtrack down to the beach and see that it’s possible to reach the cave by walking along the beach, across the dunes and up the cliff face but it’s a long way, so I settle for a zoomed photo instead.

dscf3495A few kilometres inland is a palace complex, excavated in 1938 and attributed to King Nestor. The site has recently been covered by a huge domed roof and is now viewed from a raised platform to protect the ruins. All of the removable artefacts, including 600 Linear B tablets, have been transferred to museums.

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However, one key feature remains – a carefully sculpted and decorated bathtub. Could this have been the place where Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor, bathed Telemachus who was visiting the king while searching for his father Odysseus?

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