Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Pebbles from the Greek island of Anafi - part 2

Born sometime in the early 3th century BC in Alexandria, Apollonius of Rhodes (Apollonius Rhodius) is best known for his epic poem Argonautica, which tells the story of Jason and the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. At some point of their journey the Argonauts find themselves amidst stormy seas and turn to Apollo pleading with him for help. Apollo darts from the skies with his golden bow and makes an island emerge from the Aegean Sea and it is there that the exhausted adventurers find shelter. The island is called Anafi coming from the Greek ἀναφαίνω anafeno: to spring up.
Then darting upon one of the twin peaks,thou raisedst aloft in thy right hand thy golden bow;and the bow flashed a dazzling gleam all round.And to their sight appeared a small island of the Sporades,over against the island of Hippuris, and there they cast anchor and stayed;and straight away dawn arose and gave them light; and they made for Apollo a glorious abode in a shady wood, and a shady altar, calling on Phoebus the "Gleamer", because of the gleam far seen;and that bare island they called Anaphe, for that Phoebus had revealed it to men sore bewildered.
Argonautica, Book 4 

It was appropriate then that the pebbles sent to me from Anafi's Kleisidi beach are graced with that passage from Apollonius where Anafi emerges from sea. That same Aegean island was "revealed" and was to become central to the life of a young British anthropologist in the 1960s and 1970s. She was to return to it again and again and one day to pick up the four pebbles which she went on to send me.

The ancient Greek text handwritten on transparent and antique paper layered on the pebbles and gleaming with lacquer captures the mythological moment when the island was first glimpsed. The veins of the pebbles are worked on with graphite, the paper is marked with pencil - marks upon marks of time and words. Above the foamy white band of the smallest pebble there is a 16th century map of the island and underneath:

Ἀνάφην δέ τε λισσάδα νῆσον 

 ἴσκον, ὃ δὴ Φοῖβός μιν ἀτυζομένοις ἀνέφηνεν. 

And that bare island they called Anaphe, for that
Phoebus had revealed it to men sore bewildered.

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