Sunday, 29 June 2014

Sailing to Lemnos Island, part 1

Sailing to Lemnos Island, part 1.

Myrina Harbour Today

Odysseus’ boat

An early settler on the coast of the Mediterranean would see the chain of nearby island and been tempted to sail from one to the next. They might be merely thirteen miles away and a boatful of men could easily row from one to the next in half a day. Around 4000BC there were sail-propelled boats on Euphrates some of these could reach Egypt.


Odysseus setting out (my painting)
Odysseus returning home (my painting)

Aronauts Searching for Gold


The Black Sea was the main destination for island traders. They went to settlements around the Black Sea to barter, taking pottery, oil and wine and bringing back copper and gold.

Now the sea is the Argonauts’ sea, and in the dawn
Odysseus calls the commands, as he steers past those foamy island;
Wait, wait, don’t bring the coffee yet, nor the pain grille.
The dawn is not off the sea, and Odysseus’ ships
Have not yet passed the islands, I must watch them still.
The Argonauts by D.H. Lawrence

The Argonauts is a name given to a group of young men who set off to in their boat the Argo to find gold on the coast of the Black Sea. Their first landfall was Lemnos.

A Lemian Myth

At this time the island was said to be populated entirely by women. The story is that when their husbands turned away from them in favour of slave girls from the Thracian mainland, the Lemian women had taken murderous revenge upon their husbands and the slave-girls. When the Argonauts arrived they were happy to have the Argonauts stay with them. The men, following Jason’s example married these women– his choice naturally being their leader, Hypsipyle.

 Passing Greek and Roman Battle Ships


Long before boats had guns wars were fought at sea between wooden and sail boats. The aim then was to ram the other boat and cause it to sink. One of the largest war ships of ancient times was the Greek trireme with fifty rowers, placed in three rows, one above the other.


 And Often There were Pirate Ships

An embroidery of an old boat in the house.


I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep

Beyond the village which men still call Tyre,

With leaden age o’er cargoed, dipping deep

For Famagusta and the hidden sun

That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;

And all those ships were certainly so old

Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,

Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,

The pirate Genoese

Hell-raked them till they rolled

Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold.

Old Ships by James Elroy Flecker

A strange ship might be bringing goods to the island, but also it might be a pirate ship, and so strange ships were not always welcome.


Pirate Hideaways

The story of one Lemnian village attacted by pirates



At one time the pirates used the island’s large bays as bases from which to go out into the Aegean waters and attack passing craft. The pirates caused a lot of destruction to the island. It was fear of the pirates that caused the people to build fortresses, and also the reason many villages were transferred from places near the sea to the interior of the island, to higher, hidden and safer places. The pirates were often more feared than the Venetian or Turkish overlords. At least the Venetians improved the agricultural production and the Turks ensured stability, helping rid the waters of the pirates.

It was during periods when pirates attacked often, or brutal overlords demanded slaves and goods, the people left the island and immigrated to other sites such as Thessaloniki, Crete or settlements around the Black Sea.


Things don't change!!!


Unfortunately even today we still have pirates



 Somalia has the longest coastline in mainland Africa and piracy flourishes. The young men have probably been dispatched by a local warlord to bring back loot. In roving gangs of perhaps 10 men they take to sea with just drinking water, gasoline for their outboards, grappling hooks, ladders, knives, assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and they live on raw fish.


No comments:

Post a Comment