The Parnassian-raised goat’s intestines showed something extremely favourable when we cut away its stomach. Owing to the instructions granted to us by …. at our hotel yesterday we boarded the bus at 7.00am which ran from Amfikleia to Kato Tithorea, a staging post between our residence and Elateia. Although we had to run to catch (J: to the applause of some encouraging locals) the bus we were soon being whisked along some bumpy roads to Kato Tithorea. Pausanias says something of this route:
“Elateia is the biggest city in Phokis after Delphi. It lies opposite Amphikleia; the road between them is twenty or twenty-five miles mostly across a plain”
Not extremely clear as always Pausanias, and no mention of Kato Tithorea. Then again, KT (as I would like to think of it), appeared to be a very modern construction when we reached it, and the bus driver had the local nous to make do without our guide, Pausanias. There, in KT, when we had alighted, we walked north and after crossing the railway line made our way on a country road which led into Elateia. Modern Elateia itself was something of a strange sight- built in a square like an ideal Ancient Greek city, but lacking any communal hub or centre, which had characterised Lilaia and Amfikleia. This unnerved us somewhat. Therefore we barely rested after having walked 10 kilometres, and set off into the farming pathways which we thought would bring us to the original site of Elateia. We climbed gently for 45mins on a gentle slope enjoying the fact that what we were seeing Pausanias had described as:
“[the land rose] a little close to Elateia”
Yet by this time it became more and more unclear whether the city actually stood in this area for several different reasons: firstly, that there were no obvious remains in the areas that Pausanias and Google Maps had implied there was. Secondly, that the only man-made ‘ancient’ features which could be discerned in the region was a barrow-like mound on top of a nearby steep hill. And thirdly, Pausanias had mentioned that bustards had proliferated in this region around the city; here there were none.
The hill seemed to be our safest bet for a city, and so we climbed to the top of it. Huffing and puffing I reread Pausanias to discover the truth. Pausanias, in his description, showed Elateia not only as large, but as containing a large theatre, market-place, and important shrine to Asklepios. This hillside could have been an acropolis containing the shrine, and with a theatre built into it, but there was no evidence for these. Nor was there space for market-place or a proper space for housing. Another negative point against this being the location of the city was due to the fact that the land around the hill did not lend itself for fortification being close to a mountain on one side, and with very broken land on the other. Ancient Elateia had withstood several sieges.
Slightly worried that this journey had been a wild goose chase for nothing, and yet annoyed that the clearly ancient wall here (it matched the design of those at Lilaia), was not seemingly given a description by Pausanias, I flicked a few pages on. Coming across the account of Elateia’s sanctuary I stopped and stared:
“The sanctuary of Athene of the spring-head is about two and a half miles from Elateia; the road rises so gradually that climbing means nothing and you forget the slope. At the end of the road is a mound of no great size or height but almost completely precipitous. The sanctuary was built on the mound, with colonnades…”
This matched the setting of the hill we were standing completely. Our impression was reinforced by Levi’s notes saying that Elateia’s ruins were poor, but the sanctuary was relatively well preserved with a wall of grey limestone, and it had painted terracotta (I stumbled across a piece). What is more, Diogenes Gough found a marble piece, showing white against the yellow grass, whose general shape resembled that of column. This was the site of the sanctuary. Having rotated round the hill, avoiding the inevitable thistles, our worry and thought turned to delight and happiness. We on the basis of an ancient text, and only our eyes had worked out both that this site was different from the city, and that this site was the sanctuary. Pausanias would have been pleased due to his interest in local religious practises, and we praised him for his more in-depth account of the setting and geography of the site, giving us as travellers a better chance of finding it. Pausanias had held an ambivalent place in our minds’ up till that point- clearly a respected recorder of sites, not clearly one of routes- his audience had been in the past and distant, but suddenly he was writing for us.
After an hour-and-a-half exploring and working out the site, we turned back to KT I’m order to catch the only bus that ran to Amfikleia that day (the one that left at 2.00pm). Taking a short-cut across some sadly thistled fields we, however, stumbled on a rivelet running down the hillside. It stemmed from a large farm tank that clearly a spring bubbled up in. Was this Athena’s spring head which the whole sanctuary had originally been raised near to? It seemed likely it was close, and the water gushed out with such force that it looked like something miraculous. This discovery, even more than the other, cheered us as it gave us ideas (just as in the Korykian Cave), on how local belief and custom appeared.
The rest of our march to KT (some 11 kilometres in total), resembled a grand heroic trek as shown in something like Xenophon’s ‘March of the Ten-Thousand’. With heat beating down, and in danger of losing our life to some of the cars almost clipping us as they zoomed past, we walked more quickly than we had this far. We accomplished the journey in a time half-an-hour shorter than when we had previously done it, and while waiting for the bus (which was late), the day seemed to shine with heat and our own achievement.
Joe: “I briefly felt like a real archeologist under Thomas and Pausanias’ joint guidance as we sat working out where in Ancient Elateia we were, and got far more excited by an abnormally white boulder than I would have ever have guessed when setting out”
David: “One of the most exciting things about finding the spring described in Pausanias’ work was that though Elateia has moved the water source has a continuing importance in local life – though for more mundane agricultural rather than religious purposes”
Tomorrow we head back to Delphi around the other side of Parnassos.