Crazy times! So I’d like to invite you to join me on my stroll this afternoon along the Pineos river, which runs through Larisa.
This moment a terrible hurricane is approaching Miami, reminding us all just how violent nature with phenomena like typhoons, volcanoes and earthquakes can be. Let’s pray the path of Hurricane Irma swerves away.
Let’s pause for a second on the bridge, and think about the incredible beauty of nature. The river’s greeny waters were mentioned in the Iliad. Homer’s epic poem is almost three thousand year old. Let’s also think about the incredible magnificence of the human spirit that can write poetry as powerful as that which endures for so long.
Iliad – book 2, line 857 – … “[the river] Titaressus that runs her pure crystal currents into Peneus—never mixed with Peneus’ eddies glistening silt but gliding over the surface smooth as olive oil, branching, breaking away from the river Styx, the dark and terrible oath-stream of the gods.”
Wikipedia tells us the river is 185 kilometres long.
It flows from the Pindus mountains and empties into the Aegean Sea, northeast of Vale of Tempe, near Stomio… Its total length is 185 km… The Meteora region and the city of Larissa lie along the Peneiós. Trikala lies on its tributary, the Lethaios.
Achilles mother dipped him in the legendary Styx river, which Homer mentions as a branch of the Pineos, to make him invulnerable.
The Styx river was the bridge between the world of the living and the dead, according to Greek myth. As we walk over a Pineos bridge, we can linger to think about all the bridges, transition points in our lives and in the period of history we are living through.
Achilles’ mother came from Larisa according to local legend. Achilles is the name of the city’s patron saint.
St Achilles is also the name of the Larisa’s main church, perched just above the river behind the ancient theatre.
And as we stroll through the park, we come across one of the famous horses of Larisa. This one is so black, I had to put a red circle around it so you can see it in the shade of the trees.
Horses are the emblem of Larisa city as well as of the football club, AEL. These ones seem to be tied by an owner to allow them to graze.
But usually they can be found roaming free, mixing with the locals as in these pictures from spring when there is plenty of lush grass for them beside the river.
Achilles’ horses came from this part of Greece, Phtia, were immortal and could even speak.
Iliad 2. 760 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
“Tell me then, Mousa (Muse), who of them all [of the Greeks at Troy] was the best and bravest of the men, and the men’s horses . . . Akhilleus (Achilles) was far best of all of them, and the horses also, who carried the blameless son of Peleus.”
Xanthus and Balios were divine horses, and Xanthus was even able to speak in the Illiad.
Cavafy turned the episode into a poem.
When they saw Patroklos dead
—so brave and strong, so young—
the horses of Achilles began to weep;
their immortal nature was upset deeply
by this work of death they had to look at.
They reared their heads, tossed their long manes,
beat the ground with their hooves, and mourned
Patroklos, seeing him lifeless, destroyed,
now mere flesh only, his spirit gone,
defenseless, without breath,
turned back from life to the great Nothingness.
Zeus saw the tears of those immortal horses and felt sorry.
“At the wedding of Peleus,” he said,
“I should not have acted so thoughtlessly.
Better if we hadn’t given you as a gift,
my unhappy horses. What business did you have down there,
among pathetic human beings, the toys of fate.
You are free of death, you will not get old,
yet ephemeral disasters torment you.
Men have caught you up in their misery.”
But it was for the eternal disaster of death
that those two gallant horses shed their tears.
And now as we turn into the shady park, we can enjoy a cool breeze. Larisa is the hottest city in Greece in the summer, and today is very hot too. Enjoy a cool breeze and glorious sight of sunlit leaves.
And the company of a little kitten, which is surprisingly adept at climbing up trees to avoid the dogs in spite of its young age…
Leaving the park, we can marvel at the amazing row of pine trees.
And enjoy the variety of trees lining a path.
As we reach some steps to walk back over the river into the centre of the city, we see a free roaming horse like Xanthus or Balios after all.
In front of St Achilles church, a statue of a horse…
I hope you enjoyed our little walk along the beautiful and ancient river, a short break in nature in our mad world.