KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Essay: 690 words

The Antikythera Shipwreck

by Angie Athanassiades

I cannot imagine what it must have been like to dive into waters strong with currents, in an unwieldy suit that offered little protection, looking for sponges, tired from the journey back from the north African coast. And in that water, heavy with time and murky with the approaching storm, to see death, limbs of men and beasts; to doubt your sight, your sanity, to feel the panic spread within you, but, drawn by the macabre beauty, to proceed, spellbound, despite yourself; to approach, to touch, to move what has been still for two thousand years; to tug at the line and be pulled to the surface cradling the bronze arm of a mutilated giant. To climb onto the deck, safe, but chilled by the haunting vision, to have to tell, to be doubted, comforted. To sit, anxious and breathless, to watch as limb after giant limb is hauled out of the water and brought onto the deck, into the light of day. To know, without knowing, that what has been found, had once been lost, perhaps, they had thought then, forever. To know that you have uncovered a hidden treasure, have revealed a secret, have broken a spell. I cannot imagine what it was like to be that diver on that stormy October day in 1900. Elias Stadiatis was his name, but few know of him.

When I stepped into the exhibition rooms of the Archaeological Museum, I entered a world haunted by the past and the ramifications of discovery. The curation was impeccable. The lighting dark blue and fluid, the findings displayed so that the viewer had the sense that they were in that same water, were seeing the time-lost items for the first time. A stone mill for grains, a large round stone dish for grinding seeds and pulping fruit and vegetables, remnants of olives and snails. Food never eaten, by people who were destined never to complete the journey they had embarked on. Glass-ware, perfectly preserved, the sand and mud that had corroded the marble and bronze protecting its own; and the statues, the young man, “ephebe” they call him, eternal youth trapped in bronze; Heracles, they think, immense, standing at almost two meters tall, beautiful, powerful, unsurprisingly unscathed; the “philosopher,” glass buttons for eyes, looking into the future and the universe with the eternal look of wonder; and Achilles and Odysseus, standing in the second room, so life-like in their worn bodies, you expected the walls of Troy to appear in the background, could hear the deafening sound of war.

Leaving those rooms, full of wonder and unexplainable sadness, I remembered a night, two years earlier, when we had gathered at the site of the ancient harbour of Anthidona, where the fleet had waited for the wind to change before sailing for Troy. It was the August full moon, round and deep yellow, and my father had read from Alice Oswald’s poem Memorial, a tribute to the fallen of the Trojan war. We could hear the tide move gently, as my father, having read the poem, spoke of Leitos, the Boiotian, whom Oswald does not mention, his voice speaking Homer’s words, deep with respect:

Then Hector wounded in the hand by the wrist Leitos,
The son of great-hearted Alektryon, and halted his warcraft,
And he drew back staring about him since his spirit had hope no longer
Of holding a spear steady in his hand to fight with the Trojans.

We sat quietly for a while, silenced by the force of the past, the magnitude of what had been before. And then my husband, Pericles, stood up and walked towards the car. I remember thinking he would do something inappropriate and shatter the moment, but then, ever so softly, the sound of Theodorakis’s song “Sto Perigiali to Kryfo” filled the night, with its words of nostalgia and sweet regret, of a secret beach and a name written in sand; and just like that, the past joined the present, and for those few moments it felt like Greece was intact, and we were a natural part of it.

1 Lines 601–604 are from page 391 of The Iliad of Homer, Book 17 by Richmond Lattimore (University of Chicago Press, 2011), and are republished here by arrangement with the University of Chicago Press.

[Note: The rendition of Sto Perigiali to Kryfo (ΣTο Περιγιάλι To Κρuφό) sung by Grigoris Bithikotsis is the author’s favorite.]

Angie Athanassiades
Issue 1, Fall 2014

Hails from Greece, England, and Egypt. She attended Greek school and has a BA in English Literature & Politics (University of York) and an MA in Life Writing (University of East Anglia). She has had one short work published, which received a favourable review in the TLS: The Times Literary Supplement. She writes creative nonfiction about people, nature, and time, how its passage affects perception and the material and notional nature of things. She is currently writing essays on belonging and displacement and on women from ancient Greek mythology and drama.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Deepwater Search for the Antikythera Mechanism, the World’s First Computer by Alyssa Bereznak in Yahoo! Tech (16 September 2014); includes images from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The Antikythera Mechanism: Decoding an Ancient Greek Mystery, a 14-minute streaming video at the video archive (Volume 454, 31 July 2008):

The fascinating story of the indepth, 3-D examination of a most sophisticated artifact, which had waited nearly a century since its discovery for the development of technology advanced enough to examine such artifacts properly. Results of studies by Tony Freeth and other researchers with The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project have profoundly altered our understanding of the history of astronomy and technology.

The mechanism’s “design of pure genius” may be all the more remarkable in its incorporation alongside the calculations of astronomical events one of great social significance to Hellenistic society: the four-year cycle of the Olympic games.

Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡