Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Latter-Day Odyssey Volume 52 Number 4, July/August 1999
by Andrew L. Slayman

October 14, 1998--Set sail from Piraeus on a bright but rainy afternoon. Sad to bid Athens farewell, but glad to board the Sea Cloud, a 360-foot, four-masted bark built in 1931. Clear night sky as we glide southward across the Saronic Gulf for Mycenae.

October 15--Anchored in Nauplion, tender to shore, and from there to Mycenae, once the foremost citadel in Greece, now a crumbling hilltop ruin encircled by its Cyclopean walls. Back to the ship and off, south along the coast of Lakonia.

October 16--Olympia, Zeus' holiest sanctuary and home of the original Olympics. Shattered columns litter the grass, their shell-pocked limestone drums eroded and blackened with lichens.

October 17--Kephallonia, largest of the Ionian Islands. Across the channel to the east is Ithaka, Odysseus' home.

October 18--Today the Ionian Sea, no land in sight, a brisk breeze, and sails at last, 30 towering sheets of canvas (32,000 square feet), crew members scurrying up the ratlines to set them in place, the deck raked to starboard as we clip along.

October 19--Landfall. We drop anchor in Taormina's bay a few yards from the ruins of Naxos, Sicily's first Greek colony. The hill town of Taormina, ancient Tauromenium, overlooks the bay, and on the western horizon Mt. Etna's brooding plume of smoke admonishes us to take her seriously. That night we sail north through the Strait of Messina, or the Strait of Sicily as the Romans called it, which separates the island from the Italian mainland. On either side were cliffs where the mythical monsters Scylla and Charybdis lived.

October 20--Our course has taken us through the Strait of Messina; we have docked for a few hours at Lipari, colonized by the Greeks in 580 B.C. Now we are circling Stromboli, from the Greek strongyle for round, a perfect volcanic cone rising from the sea, most famous of the Aeolian Islands.

October 21--Farewell to Sea Cloud. Day's end brings me to the seaside village of Selinunte, ancient Selinus, a Greek colony named for the wild celery (Greek celinon) that grows there even today.

Andrew L. Slayman is a senior editor of ARCHAEOLOGY. The author would like to thank Abercrombie & Kent (1-800-323-7308) and Sea Cloud, Inc. (1-888-732-2568) for their assistance with this article.

© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America