Friday, 9 June 2017

Kos Past and Present

This article (without the images) on Kos past and present appears in full in Scottish Review

Spending a few days on the Greek island of Kos has involved seeing a lot of ruins. The main one was the Asklepeion, a temple dating from the fourth century BC where healing and medicine were practised by Hippocrates among others. There are several Asklepeia in Greece, named after Asklepios the God (or demi-god to be precise) of healing dreams, and this is one of the largest ones. People would travel long distances to these temples and after ablutions, fasting and prayer to Asklepios, would spend the night there, hoping for a dream that would indicate a cure for their illness.
Steps up to the Asklepeion
Other ruins and mosaics were in the Western Excavations near the Odeon. 

And the ruins of the Ancient Agora, in Kos town centre, close to the harbour. This is a vast excavation area, including a lot more than a marketplace. The oldest parts date from the 3rd century BC and there are the remains of a shrine to Aphrodite and a later Christian Basilica dating from the 5th century. 

Once again, lying on the ground are massive stone pillars broken into pieces, and beautifully carved capitals. What is more startling is to come across mosaics, half hidden by the long grass. These are mostly fragments but there is one complete one of a rather pensive looking bird. 

What strikes me about these stone ruins is that they don’t seem to have aged at all. Perhaps it’s the quality of the stone or the dryness of the atmosphere or both, but these stones look as though they could have been thrown there just a few years ago. They’re surrounded by long dried grasses and prickly plants that scratch your legs as you walk through them – though some paths have been worn by numerous feet – and colourful wild flowers dotted among the grass. The dense growth of these fearsomely sharp and spiny yellow stalks are nothing like the feathery soft green vegetation that we call grass.

After admiring all these broken and scattered stone remains and braving the scratchy undergrowth, all in hot sunshine, I felt it was time to increase my knowledge in the cool interior of the Archaeological Museum in Plateia Eleftherias in Kos town centre.

platia Eleftherias, Kos town

But when I reached the outer gates of this building there was a handwritten note pinned to them, in Greek and English, saying that it was closed today (17th May) because of a national strike. As I walked away I noticed a small crowd gathering in the square just opposite the Museum....

You can read the rest of this article here