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First written in Greek in 1994 Translated into English in 2002

PREAMBLE Very early, while spending my summer holidays on the western coast of the Peloponnese, I became interested in a group of two small, remote, being at the end of the geographical area of Greece, and of unusual morphology, islands that are covered by the mist of the legend and the endless roar of the sea. Strophades is the name of these two low lying island, south of Zakynthos, in the middle of the open sea. Winds and big waves whip them. Zephyrs breathing expels the summer heat. Adequate wells water their few meadows and make them productive. In the ancient times, the islands were the abode of the winged Harpies, demons of the storm. After that, monks came, drove away the legends, built a monastery and cultivated the land; and since then, the place was blessed. Discussions with old friends, but also an urge for acquiring a better knowledge of the subject have prompted me to search for more information on the islands, to compile it in an orderly way and write it down. This undertaking, though it is a simple geographical and historical description of the Strophades, it is nevertheless the materialization of childhood memories of my mothers narratives of strange islands, dream lands and fairy tale places, that nostalgically occupy my mind forever. Therefore, I dedicate this to the memory of my mother. A.N.K.

PROLOGUE The Strophades Islands, though not of a large size, have nevertheless an enviable position in the Greek mythology, as well as in the monastic history and hagiology. But also, their very nature, despite its limited space, is remarkable. Strophades are called two small islands in the Ionian Sea, having rocky shores, being very near one another and connected with an underwater isthmus, from which pops up a cluster of reefs, above and under the water. They are situated at northern latitude 37 15 and longitude 21 00. The largest of them, stretched in the shape of a rectangular, to the south, is called Stamphanion, while the small one is named Harpyia (i.e., Harpy). Their surface covers about 3 square kilometres. The islands, being at a distance of about 45 kilometres south of Zakynthos, emerge quite remote in the middle of the open sea at a site of great depths. They are low lying and flat, having highest point of about 11 metres on the largest of them. Therefore, they are not visible from the continental land or from a certain distance, in particular when their presence is covered by clouds, waves and foam of a rough sea; but they are only seen, in a way of floating, if someone draws near them. This is the reason why in the antiquity they were vividly called Plotae (i.e., the floating ones). The list of the names given to the islands in the modern times is extensive. The larger island was known to the seamen of the period of the Ottoman domination under the name Stamfani. In Dantes Divine Comedy, the islands are mentioned as le Strofade. In the Venetian texts we find the names Strivali, Striphali, Stinfali and Stanfane. Elsewhere there are also the names Trivali, Stribali, Strovathi, Strafadi, Strophadhia and Stamphani. Today, the name of

the islands is Strophades in English and French, after the Greek, Strophaden in German and Strofadi in Italian; and also, in common Greek ta Strofadia. The geology of the islands is peculiar. The islands are the top of an underwater cone rising precipitously from the sea depths of more than 1,500 metres; not being volcanic, in spite of this morphology. They are considered as having being created in the Pliocene Period. Limestone and clay are the main elements of the soil, through which water, coming under the bed of the sea, wells up on the major island, fertilizing its surface. In older times, a spring of the island used to spout adequate quantity of water sweeping occasionally leaves of plane tree. This led to the conclusion that the water of that spring was coming from the river Alpheius in the Peloponnese, given the fact that the region around its estuary, at a distance of about 60 kilometres from the islands, is the nearest place where one can find plane trees. Phenomena such as this tend to confirm the opinion of the ancients that the waters of Alpheius flew under the sea to come up on Sicily. Anyway, the water of this spring was reduced to a minimum after the earthquakes of 1886. The Strophades, being part of the Municipality of Zakynthos, are not inhabited in the sense of the existence of a permanent settlement. The only buildings worth mentioning are the old fortified monastery of Panaghia ton Panton Chara (Our Lady of All Joy) and the lighthouse, as well as some small secondary buildings. In the past, it is said that the number of the monks was nearing one hundred. These monks, in full activity, were cultivating the land and, having two boats, were fishing at sea, and traded the products of their labour. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the population of the islands totalled 18 persons, that is, 15 monks and 3 lighthouse keepers.

Today, being no monks on the islands, the sacred relics of the monastery are watched over by a priest sent there by the Metropolitan of Zakynthos. There are also various visitors, depending on the circumstances, that is, people to whom part of the land has been leased, craftsmen repairing the damages of the building of the monastery, poachers, pilgrims and travellers. The presence of the monastery is impressive and imposing. It is situated on the eastern part of the north coast of Stamphanion. The main part of the building is a conspicuous rectangular tower, being about 26 metres high and enlarged at its base. The southern part of the tower, as well as the northern one, is long, forming the southern wall of the enclosure of the monastery. On each broad side of the tower, there is a line of three large arched windows, as well as some smaller ones. Through the gate of the monastery, on the west side, which has two small cannons on its sides, we enter the courtyard, which is shadowed by the huge tower. In the middle of the courtyard there is a well; and around that there are outbuildings of cells and other room. From the courtyard a staircase leads to the first floor of the tower. On this floor, we find the church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour and of Our Lady of All Joy. In the old days, the monastery was throbbing with life and decorum; study and spirituality were reigning in its rich library; the industry of the Strophadian monastic brotherhood was present. Today, the desertion, the desolation and the decay are evident and depressing. Other buildings are the small dockyard, near the monastery, the lighthouse at the north-west end and, towards the north-east, we find the cemetery and the ossuary, where, kept in piles, are the bones of the brothers who passed away into the eternal sleep. We mention, also, the existence of a cross in a grove, on the spot where Saint

Dionysius used to pray, to study and to meditate. There, in a small trench, the body of Saint Dionysius was hidden by some surviving monks, after the Turks raided and sacked the monastery in 1717. There is also the very small church of Saint Onuphrius on the small island of Harpyia. The vital space of the islands appears small and limited, but the fertility of the earth is relatively rich. Nature and the cultivation of the soil are expressed in an harmonious equilibrium. On the Stamphanion Island, there are a few orchards, where lemon trees, fig trees, mulberry trees, vines and vegetables are planted, and some wheat fields. Clusters of reeds protect the gardens and the fields from the salinity of the sea. On the rest of the land, mainly to the west, wooded stretches of Mediterranean short trees and bushes of hard leaves, interrupted by scanty and meagre meadows, prevail. In the island groves, the cedar and the kerm oak are dominant. There is no lack of flowery meadows. One could also come upon the palm tree, the pine tree, the wild olive tree, as well as other common species of plans. Clusters of bushes grow also on the smaller island. In general, we see a rich variety of flora on the islands; but, being of low ground, the islands are exposed to the violence of the winds that affect the development of the vegetation, restraining the increase of its height. A small flock of sheep and a minimal number of other domestic animals, depending on the circumstances, are included in the fauna of the Strophades. Beyond these, we have to mention the breeding of other non domestic animals, such as the pheasants. Yet, the birds are the real indigenous fauna of the Strophades. The islands are a pass and a resting place of migratory birds, turtle-doves and quails. This fact, in our times, in spite of the prohibition of hunting there during the season of migration of birds,

attracts a multitude of poachers. However, the connection of the Strophades of today with the legend of the Harpies is a bird of the puffin family, Puffinus Kuhli, known to the locals as artina. The squawks of these birds, resembling the wailing cries and the moaning of human beings, as well as their ravenous appetite, characteristics of the mythological Harpies, were considered by some researchers as the reason why these islands were attached to the ancient myth. In the Greek mythology, the Harpies were monsters personifying the storms. In the Lexicon by Hesychius, these creatures are defined as being twists of the winds, storms. In the Lexicon by Suidas, they are described as rapacious demons. They are the violent stormy winds of the sea that carry away everything. The unlucky travellers and the sailors, who did not returned home, like the much afflicted king of Ithaca, Odysseus (Odyssey, 1, 241), were believed to have been taken by the Harpies. This is why their name was etymologized as being derived from the verb harpazein (i.e., to catch, to seize, to snatch, to carry off, to abduct, to plunder). Later, the pirates, the plunderers of the sea, used for themselves the mythological hideouts of the Harpies. Thus, the Strophades, traditional den of the Harpies, had been a station of rest and supply with fresh drinking water for the pirate ships. The appearance of the Harpies varies in details after the descriptions of the ancient writers and their surviving depiction in the works of ancient sculptors, potters and engravers. In any case, the basic aspects of their presence are the head of a woman, having the pale face of a virgin, and the body of a bird, having a vultures strong wings and sharp hooked nails on the feet. Maiden faced birds (virgineas volucres), are called by Ovid (Metamorphoses, VII, 4) and by Virgil (Aeneid, III, 216).

The number and names of the Harpies vary in the sources. Hesiod in his Theogony, providing their genealogy, says that Thaumas married Electra, daughter of the deep-flowing Ocean, and to him she bare swift Iris and the long-haired Harpies, Allo and Ocypode, who with their swift wings keep pace with the blasts of the winds and the birds; for quick as time they dart along (verses 262-269). Homer, too, names Podarge, one of the Harpies, mother of Xanthus and Balius, the swift horses of Achilles. That Podarge conceived these horses to the west wind Zephyr, while she grazed on the meadow beside the stream of Ocean (Iliad 16, 148-151). If we examine the names of the Harpies given by the classical literature, we observe that they mean characteristics and qualities of storm. And the names are the following: Allo that means the stormy, Ocypode the swift feet, Ocypete the swift flyer, Nicotho the winner in the running, Allopous the stormy feet, Podarge the white (or quick) feet and Celaeno the personification of the dark cloud. The Harpies were deities of death and punishment. According to Servius Maurus Honoratus (4th century A.D.), author of a celebrated commentary on Virgil, these deities are called Harpyiae only on earth. In the underworld they become the Furies and in heaven they change into the Dirae, the spirit of revenge. As instruments of divine punishment, even for sins committed by parents, the Harpies appear in the story of the daughters of Pandareus. Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, being in despair, prayed to have the fate of those unfortunate girls and to vanish from the face of the earth as the storm winds (i.e., the Harpies) once took away the daughters of Pandareus. Their parents had been slain by the gods, and they were left orphans in the halls, and divine Aphrodite tended them with cheese and sweet

wine. Hera gave them beauty and wisdom above all women, and chaste Artemis gave them stature, and Athena taught them skill in glorious handiwork. But while divine Aphrodite was going to high Olympus to ask for the maidens the accomplishment of a joyful marriage - going to Zeus, who hurls the thunderbolt, for well he knows all things, both the fortune and the misfortune of mortal men meanwhile the Harpies snatched away the maidens and gave them to the hateful Furies to be their servants (Homers Odyssey, 20, 66-78). However, more interesting - and being connected with the etymology of the name of the islands - is the story of the seer Phineus, where the Harpies were assigned as executors of his torment. According to the narrative primarily of Apollonius the Rhodian in his Argonautica and of Apollodorus in his Library, Phineus, in Thrace, had been punished by the gods to an everlasting old age and a perpetual hunger, for the assaulting Harpies were snatching incessantly his food. The Argonauts, passing by the house of Phineus, on their way to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece, took pity on the old man and decided to help him. Two of them, the sons of the north wind Boreas and Oreithyia, Zetes and Calas, having winged feet, rushed with their drawn swords in hand against the Harpies and put them to flight. At this point, we may say that it is obvious that the meaning of this myth is that the favourable winds (sons of Boreas) chase away the gale winds (Harpies). Moreover, the appearance of the sons of Boreas - long hair tied behind, long beard, short tunic and boots - resembles that of the winds in ancient portrayals, such as, for instance, that on the walls of the Hellenistic lock building Tower of the Wind of Andronicus of Kyrrha in Athens. Anyway, returning to our account, the flight of the Harpies in the sky was long, persistent and

obstinate, till it ceased after the divine intervention, when the pursuers and the pursued ones reached the islands that were named since then Strophades (i.e., Turning ones), because it was there that the heroes sons of Boreas turned back; and this is the etymological interpretation of the origin of the name of the islands. In this way, the Harpies made their nests on the Strophades islands and from there they scared the minds of simple people, they embellished the stories of old people and they filled pages of books on strange creatures. The Harpies of the ancient Greek mythology have survived in the modern Greek folklore, which is the continuity of the ancient traditions, transformed into aerika, that is, evil doing spirits or air demons, whose appearance sometimes, with signs of noise and lightning, carries away everything, like the whirlwind. Aspects of character and qualities of the Harpies are to be found in other fantastic beings, too, such as the stringles (i.e., old and ugly women of wicked nature), the neraides (i.e., fairies) and the telonia (i.e., vicious spirits) of the popular myth making. Furthermore, we should note that the existence of the representation of the Harpies in the European heraldry - especially in the German speaking lands under the term Jungfrauenadler (i.e., the virgineagle) of Nuremberg - is not really the survival of the ancient myths, but it is the evolution of the presentation of the German imperial eagle having the face of the emperor. This face, in the 14th century, acquired obvious feminine features so that it turned out, with the help of the Renaissance humanists educated in the classical letters, to become the heraldic Harpy. In the following pages, we quote passages of texts of classical authors, relating to the Strophades. The texts come from works of ancient Greek and Latin geographers,

poets and lexicographers. These texts give us information of two types. In the first one, we call it the geographical one, the object is defined and its position is set; and in the second one, the mythological one, the tissue of myths on the Strophades is exposed in detail. After the main part of the work, comes the epilogue. The epilogue contains the history of the islands in the mediaeval and modern times; and it is mainly the history of the monastery. Next come three appendixes. These appendixes contain short reviews of the chapters on the Strophades of three old books by Italian authors; the first one is written in Latin.

ALPHABETICAL CATALOGUE OF CLASSICAL WRITERS, WHO HAVE WRITTEN ON THE STROPHADES - Antoninus, Emperor, see Itinerary. - Apollodorus, The Library. - Apollonius the Rhodian, Argonautica. - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy. - Flaccus, Valerius, Argonautica. - Harpocration, Valerius, On the Words of the Ten Orators. - Hesiod, Theogony. - Hesychius, Lexicon. - Hierocles the Grammarian, Synecdemus. In Mignes Patrologia Graeca, vol. 113. - Homer, The Iliad & The Odyssey. - Itinerary of the Provinces and Sea-routes of Emperor Antoninus. - Mela, Pomponius, Chorography. - Ovid, Metamorphoses. - Pliny the Elder, Natural History. - Ptolemy, Claudius, Geographic Description. - Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica. - Strabo, Geography. - Suidas, Lexicon. - Virgil, Aeneid.

THE STROPHADES ISLANDS IN THE TEXTS OF THE ANCIENT WRITERS The islands bear the name Strophades in almost all the ancient texts, Greek and Latin. In a few cases that we find a corrupted form of the name, this must be considered an error made by an ancient copyist. The only exception is the name Strophadia by Hierocles the Grammarian, which is the first mention of the modern colloquial name. The lexicographer Stephanus of Byzantium defines briefly the number f the islands, their position and the name of the inhabitant: Strophades, are two islands towards Zakynthos. The name of the inhabitant is Stophadeus. Strabo (1st century B.C.), stoic philosopher, historian and famous geographer, in his Geography (8, 4, 2) gives us the distance, measured in stades, of the islands from the coast of Messenia opposite them. It should be noted that the stade is an ancient Greek unit of length equal to 600 Greek feet or 606.75 English feet. He says: Opposite this coast of the Cyparissians, out in the high sea, lie two islands called Strophades; and they are distant, at that, about four hundred stades from the mainland, in the Libyan and Southern Sea. Claudius Ptolemy (2 nd century A.D.), one of the greatest astronomers and at the same time the greatest geographer of antiquity, in his monumental work Geographic Description (3, 16, 23), defines the geographical co-ordinates of the Strophades: And these are the islands that lie next to the Peloponnese, Strophades 47 3 (=47 20 longitude) 36 (=36 north latitude).

The accuracy of the calculations of Ptolemy shows that the geographical latitude measured by him is not far away from that measured today by using modern instruments. There is the form Stromphides in the book On the Words of the Ten Orators by Valerius Harpocration (probably 2nd century A.D.): Stromphides Islands, in the Tyrrhenian speech by Dinarch. They are some islands that lie between Zakynthos and Elis. This is a fragment of the public speech Tyrrhenian of the Attic orator Dinarch (about 361 - after 292 B.C.). The form Stromphides is not correct; it should have been written Strophades. But the error goes on. The Lexicon by Suidas (11 th century), based on Harpocration, perpetuated the Stromphides in its own entry: The Stromphides Islands lie between Zakynthos and Elis. The Latin geographer Pomponius Mela (1 st century A.D.), in his second book of Chorography (II, 110), listing the islands around the Peloponnese, writes that towards Epirus are found the Echinades and the formerly Plotae, but now Strophades. The eminent scholar Pliny, the so-called the Elder, in his extant and diligent Natural History (IV, xii, 55) defines the position of the Strophades as being in front of Zakynthos at a distance of 35 miles to the Eurus (i.e., south-east) wind; and further, he adds that there lie the two Strophades, called Plotae by others. The Strophades are mentioned in the Itinerary of the Provinces and Sea-routes of Emperor Antoninus, compiled in the end of the 2nd century A.D. this is what is reported on them (523-524):

The Strophades Islands, which are also called Plotae, are in the Ionian Sea that washes Greece; the Harpies used to dwell on these. After the geographers and the lexicographers, it comes the turn of the poets, whose muse unfolds the thread of the legends of the Strophades and the Harpies. The remarkable Alexandrian scholar Apollonius the Rhodian (3rd - 2nd century B.C.), in his admirable epic poem Argonautica, was the first to outline thoroughly with lyrical inspiration the figures of Phineus and the Argonauts and the chase of the Harpies as far as the Strophades. His narrative (2, 176-300) comes as follows: And on the next day they (i.e., the Argonauts) fastened the mooring cables opposite the Bithynian land. There Phineus, son of Agenor, had his house by the sea, Phineus who above all men endured most bitter woes because of the gift of prophecy which Letos son (i.e., Apollo) had granted him in time past. And he did not reverence at all even Zeus himself, for he foretold unerringly to men his sacred will. Thus, Zeus sent upon him a lingering old age, and took from his eyes the pleasant light, and caused hi not to have joy of the innumerable dishes of food that those living around ever brought to his house, when they came to ask for the divine will. But suddenly, swooping through the clouds, the Harpies with their crooked beaks incessantly snatched the food away from his mouth and hands. And at times not a morsel of food was left, at others but a little, in order that he might live and be tormented. And they poured forth over all a loathsome stench; and no one dared not merely to carry food to his mouth, but even to stand at a distance; so foully reeked the remnants of the meal. But at one, when he heard the voice and the tramp of the band, he knew that they were the men passing by, at whose coming

Zeus oracle had declared to him that he should have joy of his food. And he rose to his couch, like a lifeless dream, bowed over his staff and crept to the door on his withered feet, feeling the walls; and as he moved, his limbs trembled for weakness and age; and his parched skin was caked with dirt, and only the skin held his bones together. And he came forth from the hall with wearied knees and sat on the threshold of the courtyard; and a dark stupor covered him, and it seemed that the earth reeled round beneath his feet, and he lay in a strengthless trance, speechless. But when they saw him they gathered round and marvelled. And he at last drew laboured breath from the depths of his chest and spoke to them with prophetic utterance: Listen, bravest of all the Greeks, if it be truly you, whom by a kings ruthless command Jason is leading you on the ship Argo in quest of the fleece. It is truly you. Even yet my soul by its divination knows everything. I render thanks to you, O great god, son of Leto, although I am plunged in bitter affliction. I beseech you by Zeus the god of suppliants, the sternest foe to sinful men, and for the sake of Phoebus and Hera herself, under whose especial care you travel, help me, save an ill-fated man from misery, and depart not uncaring and leaving me in this condition. For not only has the Fury set her foot on my eyes and I drag on the end a weary old age; but besides my other woes a woe, the bitterest of all, hands over me. The Harpies, swooping down from some unseen den of destruction, eve snatch the food from my mouth. And I have no device to aid me. But it wee easier, when I long for a meal, to escape my thoughts than them, so swiftly do they fly through the air. But, if by chance they leave me a morsel of food, it reeks of decay and the stench is unendurable; and not could any mortal bear to draw near,

even for a moment, not even if his heart were wrought of diamond. But bitter and insatiate necessity compels me to abide and abiding to put food in my miserable belly. An oracle says that these pests will be refrained by the sons of Boreas. And they are not strangers those who will expel them, if indeed I am Phineus who was once renowned among men for wealth and the gift of prophecy, and Agenor was my father; and, when I ruled among the Thracians, I brought home, with bridal gifts, their sister to be my wife. In this way the son of Agenor spoke; and deep sorrow seized each of the heroes, and especially the sons of Boreas. And, brushing away a tear, they drew near. And Zetes, taking in his hand the hand of the much-afflicted old man, said these words: Oh unhappy one, I think that no other man is more wretched than you. Why is the burden of so many sorrows laid upon you? Have you sinned against the gods with harmful folly by using your skill of prophecy? Are they angry with you for this? Yet our spirit inside is dismayed, despite our desire to help you. Because the reproofs of the immortals are discernible to men on earth. And we will not check the oncoming Harpies, for all our desire, if you will not swear that for this we ill not draw the anger of the gods. So he spoke; and to him the old man lifted his sightless eyes and replied with these words: Be silent; do not put such thoughts in your heart, my child. Let the son of Leto be my witness, he who of his gracious will taught me the lore of prophecy, and be my witness the implacable fate which possess me and the dark cloud upon my eyes that the gods of the underworld, whose curse may be upon me if I die swearing lies, that no wrath from heaven will fall upon you for helping me.

Then, after the oath, those two were eager to help him. And quickly the younger heroes prepared a feast for the old man, a last prey for the Harpies; and both stood near him, to smite with the sword those pests when they swooped down. Scarcely had the old man touched the food when they immediately, like severe storms or flashes of lightning, darted suddenly from the clouds, and swooped down with a yell, fiercely craving for food; and the heroes beheld them and shouted in their midst; but, at the cry, they devoured everything and left away over the sea afar; and an intolerable stench remained. And behind them the two sons of Boreas raising their swords rushed in pursuit. For Zeus imparted to them tireless strength; but without Zeus they could not have followed, for he Harpies ever used to pass over the west wind when they came to Phineus and when they left him. And as when, upon the mountain-side, hounds skilful in chase, run in the track of horned goats or deer, and, as they strain a little behind, gnash their teeth upon the edge of their jaws in vain; so Zetes and Calas, rushing very near, just grazed the Harpies with their finger-tips. And assuredly they would have torn them to pieces, despite the will of the gods, when they had overtaken them far off at the Plotae, had not swift Iris seen them and leapt down through the sky from heaven above, and checked them with these words: It is not lawful, O sons of Boreas, to strike with your swords the Harpies, the hounds of mighty Zeus; and myself will give you a pledge, that hereafter they shall not draw near to Phineus. With these words she took an oath by the waters of Styx, which to all the gods is most dread and awful, that the Harpies would never thereafter again approach the home of Phineus, son of Agenor, for so it was fated. And the heroes, yielding to the oath, turned back their flight to

the ship. And, on account of this, men called these islands the Strophades (i.e., the Islands of Turning). While formerly they used to call them the Plotae Islands (i.e., the Floating Islands). And the Harpies and Iris parted. They entered their den in Minoan Crete; but she sped up to Olympus, soaring aloft on her swift wings. The same story is related by Apollodorus (2 nd century B.C.) in his Library, which contains in a concise manner the ancient myths. This is what he says (1, 9, 21-22): From there they put to sea and came to land at Salmydessus in Thrace, where lived Phineus, a seer who had lot the sight of both eyes. Some say that he was a son of Agenor, but others that he was a son of Poseidon, and variously alleged to have been blinded by the gods for foretelling men the future; or by Boreas and the Argonauts because he blinded his own sons at the instigation of their stepmother; or by Poseidon, because he revealed to the children of Phrixus how they could sail from Colchis to Greece. The gods also sent the Harpies to him. These were winged female creatures, and when a table was laid for Phineus, they flew down from the sky and snatched up most of the food, and what little they left stank so that nobody could touch it. When the Argonauts would have consulted him about the voyage, he said that he would advise them about it if they would rid him of the Harpies. So the Argonauts laid a table of food beside him, and the Harpies with a shriek suddenly pounced down and snatched away the food. When Zetes and Calas, the sons of Boreas, saw that, they drew their swords and, being winged, pursued them through the air. Now it was fated that the Harpies should die when they could not catch up a fugitive. So the Harpies were pursued and one of them fell into the river Tigris in the Peloponnese, the river that is now called Harpys after her; some call her Nicotho, but

others Allopous. But the other, named Ocypete or, according to others, Ocytho (but Hesiod calls her Ocypode) fled by the Propontis till she came to the Echinades Islands, which are now called Strophades after her; for when she came to them she made a turn (strophe in Greek) and being at the shore fell for very weariness with her pursuer. But Apollonius in the Argonautica says that the Harpies were pursued to the Strophades Islands and suffered no harm, having sworn an oath that they would wrong Phineus no more. And being rid of the Harpies, Phineus revealed to the Argonauts the course of their voyage. The Latin writer Valerius Flaccus (1 st century A.D.), with eager desire to pursue the poetical glory of Apollonius the Rhodian, followed, too, in verses, the course of Jason and his companions. In his own Argonautica (IV, 12-13), he refers to the Ionian Sea and the rocks in its midst that the dweller of this mighty sea calls them now Strophades. The great Latin poet Ovid (43 B.C. - A.D. 17) in his celebrated work Metamorphoses, relating the voyage of Aeneas, makes a short mention of his visit to the Strophades (XIII, 709-710): But wintry waves tossed the comrades and at the treacherous coves of the Strophades came, where Allo frightened them away. A splendid description of the incident between the Harpies and Aeneas and his comrades is given by the greatest Roman poet Virgil (70 - 19 B.C.) in his masterpiece, the epic poem Aeneid (III, 209-269): Saved from the waves, I am received first by the shores of the Strophades. Strophades is the Greek name these islands are called and are set in the great Ionian Sea, where dread Celaeno and the other Harpies live, since

Phineus house was closed on them, and in fear they left their former tables. No monster more baneful than these, no fiercer plague or wrath of the gods ever rose from the Stygian waves. These birds have maiden faces, they drop foulest filth from their bellies, their hands are clawed, and faces ever gaunt with hunger. When, coming to this place, we entered the harbour and saw goodly herds of cattle scattered over the plains and flocks of goats untended on the grass. We rush upon them with the sword, calling the gods and Jove himself to share our spoil; then on the windy shore we build couches and banquet on the rich food. But suddenly, with fearful swoop from the mountains the Harpies are upon us, and with loud clanging shake their wings, plunder the feast, and with unclean touch mire every dish; then amid the foul stench comes a hideous scream. Once more, in a deep recess under a caved rock, closely encircled by trees and quivering shade, we spread the tables and renew the fire on the altars; once more, from an opposite quarter of the sky and from a hidden lair, the noisy crowd with clawed feet hovers round the prey, tainted the dishes with their lips. Then I bid my comrades to seize the arms and declare war on the terrible race. They lay their swords, as ordered, in hiding in the grass, and bury their shields out of sight. So when, swooping down, the birds screamed along the windy shore, Misenus on his hollow brass gave the signal from his high watch. My comrades charge and attempt in a strange combat to wound with the swords those filthy birds of the ocean. Yet they feel no lows on heir feather, nor wounds on their backs, but, soaring skyward with rapid flight, leave the half-eaten prey and their foul traces. Only one, Celaeno, ominous seer, alights on a lofty rock, and breaks forth with this cry:

Is it even war, for slaughtered cows and slain bullocks, is it war you are ready to bring upon us, you sons of Laomedon, and would you drive the guiltless Harpies from their fathers realm? Take then to your heart and set these words of mine. I, eldest of the Furies, reveal to you what the omnipotent Father foretold to Phoebus and Phoebus Apollo to me. Italy is the goal you seek; invoking the winds, you shall go to Italy and entered her harbours freely; but you shall not surround with walls your promised city until dread hunger and the wrong of violence towards us force you to gnaw with your teeth and devour your very tables! She spoke and, borne away on her wings, fled back to the forest. But my companions blood chilled and froze with sudden fear; their spirit fell, and no longer with arms, but with vows and prayers they now beg me to sue for peace, whether these be goddesses or dread and ill-omened birds. And my father Anchises, with outstretched hands, on the shore calls upon the mighty gods, and proclaims the due sacrifices: Gods, avert their threats! Gods, turn such a happening away and graciously save the pious! Then he orders us to haul the cables from the shore, uncoil and loose the sheets. Notus (i.e., the south wind) stretches the sails; we flee over foaming waves, where the wind and pilot called our course. Next to the chorus of the classical writers, Greek and Latin, who mentioned the Harpies and the Strophades, we include Dante (1265 - 1321), founder, so to say, of the Italian literature and the greatest poet of Italy. And this, because Dante, although does not belong to antiquity in terms of time, is, however, a true heir of Virgil and in fact a classical writer. From Dantes poetical masterpiece The Divine Comedy, we quote the relevant passage (Inferno,

canto XII, verses 2-15). In this, Dante, going about the seventh circle of Inferno (i.e., Hell), enters the forest of those who have committed suicide: We entered a forest, where there was no trace of a path. The foliage was not verdant, but it had a dark colour. The boughs were not smooth, but crooked and stinking. There were not any fruits, but thorns with poison. No wild animals live in such rough and thick wood as those that hate the cultured fields, between the town of Corneto and the stream of Cecina. Here the brute Harpies make their nest, the same who drove the Trojans away from the Strophades with a sad announcement of their future woe. They have broad wings, and human necks and faces, feet with claws, and a large feathered belly. They sit and wail on their strange trees. And Dante closes the circle of the classical authors on the Strophades.

EPILOGUE Archaeological remains have not been found in the Strophades. Undoubtedly, the islands have not been inhabited permanently in the ancient times, but by chance and temporarily by seafarers, who dropped anchor, or by castaways, who were rescued there. The fact that the islands have not been a habitable place is owed to the remoteness of their position, in regard to the continental coast, and to the very limited resources of the ground to support a certain number of inhabitants, but a few hermits content with little. Therefore, having all these in mind, we presume that the appellation Strophadeus (i.e., the inhabitant of the Strophades), which is registered by Stephanus of Byzantium (around the year 500 A.D.) in his famous geographical lexicon Ethnica, does not prove that the islands were ever inhabited, but rather portrays the desire of the conscientious lexicographer to reserve the appellation of the native of this place-name. Synecdemus is a list of cities in the eastern Roman Empire, recorded by province, which was compiled by Hierocles the Grammarian (before the year 535). In the section on the province of Hellas, where 79 cities are registered, the islands appear under their contemporary common name Strophadia. This statistical handbook mentions Strophadia, together with other islands, in this order: Island Zakynthos, island Cytheria, island Mycon (i.e., Mykonos), island Strophadia. Actually, the fact that the rest of the places mentioned in that list were inhabited, leads us to the conclusion that there was in some way a permanent human presence on the Strophades and therefore the appellation Strophadeus is justified, but maybe this has something to do with the legend of the

existence of a military guard post on the lager island in order to keep an eye on the sea in that border of he empire. A single find of the mediaeval age has been discovered on the smaller island. It is a golden coin of the last Byzantine period. The origin of this coin should be considered purely coincidental; and it is a lost object of an unlucky seafarer or, probably, a part of loot of pirates. The existence of the monastery is connected with the story of the rescue from the tempest of the empress Irene, wife of Emperor Theodorus I Lascaris (1204 - 1222). The imperial ship, according to the tradition, was sailing in the Ionian Sea, when a storm broke out. The ship was tossed about on the stormy sea, battling against huge waves. At those critical moments the prayers and the minds were turned devoutly to Virgin Mary. And, behold the miracle! The Strophades appeared in the middle of the waves and the ship was saved. The imperial gratitude on the deliverance was shown in the year 1241 with the foundation of a coenobitic monastery for men, laid on the site of the old guard post. The system of coenobites is a strict form of monastic life. The monastery was established to venerate the name of Our Lady of All Joy and the Transfiguration of the Saviour. The establishment of the monastery gave a new life to the islands. Hard working monks cleared the wild place, cultivated gardens, bred domestic animals and with their own boats did off-shore fishing or transported and traded their products. Despite the limited vital conditions, the fame of the monastery was increasing, as well as its wealth, by acquiring dependencies in other places. The fortified monastery was standing as a vigilant guard of the Orthodox Church in the vastness of the sea, protecting with walls its prosperity and its faith from the rapacious inclinations of its enemies and the pirates.

The mariners of the Christian ships passing by, as well as the pilgrims bound for the Holy Land, used to greet devoutly the sacred abode of the monks and to provide to them any assistance they could. In 1568 an event happened, which was destined to have a great significance in the history of the monastery. Draganigo Siguro, coming of an aristocratic family of Zakynthos, son of Nuzio Siguro and of Paolina Balbi, decided by his own will to take holy orders and to devote his life to the service of the Almighty God. The young man, who became later, for a brief period, Archbishop of Aegina, took the name Dionysius and became a monk in the monastery of Theotokos Anaphonetria (i.e., Our Lady the Exclaimer) in Zakynthos. Dionysius, despite his noble descent, always displayed the Christian virtues of humility and love. According to a tradition, he sheltered and provided refuge to the man who had killed his brother. He died on the 17th of December 1624, requesting his body to be buried in the Strophades; and this happened. The body of the holy man was brought to the imperial monastery of the islands and was buried in the small chapel of Saint George. After the removal of his relics, in conformity with the monastic order, the undecayed body of the holy man was placed standing on the Episcopal throne of the monastery. In 1703, with a synodical act by the Patriarch of Constantinople Gabriel III, Dionysius was canonized and placed in the official list of the saints of the Orthodox Church; and the 17th of December was assigned as the day of veneration of his memory. After that, in 1724 the city of Zakynthos solemnly recognized him as its patron saint and protector. Except of Saint Dionysius, occasionally, several former Ecumenical Patriarchs, such as Methodius III, came to the Strophades to live a monastic life; and it was in this

monastery that the later Ecumenical Patriarch and Greek national martyr Gregory V became monk. The monks were leading a life of hardships and tests of their souls, walking through the sorrows to the eternal life. They were engaged in a hard struggle not only against the difficult conditions of life, but also against the enemy raids and against the elements of nature, which, too, caused great damages. Thus, for instance, we read in the relation of Hierotheus Abbatius of Cephallenia on the great earthquake, which occurred in the year 1637, that it happened also on the small islands of the Strophades; and the tower of the monastery and the church cracked. Almost all the tremors of this region of high seismicity in the Ionian Sea hit also the Strophades, causing damages to the building of the monastery and changes in the underground of the islands, such as the earthquake of the 15th of august 1886, which reduced notably the flow of spring waters. The last great earthquake to case serious damage to the monastery was that of the 18th of November 1997. The Latins have been among the enemies, who wanted to seize this Orthodox monastery. Benedictine monks are mentioned, during the first period of its establishment, as well as the appointment by the Pope of a prior of Our Lady of Stropharia. But in vain the Catholics had tried to replace this solitary guard of the Orthodox faith. The monastery, renovated in the middle of the 14th century by Emperor John VI Cantacuzenus, remained in Greek hands. The Turks and the Berber pirates were the greatest scourge of the tranquillity of the islands and the most deadly danger for the monks. The monastery was threatened repeatedly by their fearful raids; but three of them were the most destructive. During the first raid, which occurred on the 29th of April 1537, Algerian pirates,

despite the determined resistance f the monks, burst into the monastery, slaughtered mercilessly the monks and set the building on fire. The Ottomans commemorated the slaughter of innocent monks and the setting of monastery on fire as a war exploit, being the first attack on Venetian territory during the then Veneto-Turkish War. The erudite Pachomius Rusanus (1510 - 1553) of Zakynthos, on the martyrdom of those hermits, composed a Mass in Memory of the Blessed Fathers, who were killed in the Strophades. The next devastation of the monastery was carried out on the 21st of May 1571 by Turks and Berbers, who dragged away the surviving monks and novices as slaves. The third capture of the monastery, on the 19th of August 1717, was painful, too. This time, the pride of the monastery, the holy relics of Saint Dionysius, was in peril. Two monks, who survived, hid the miraculous relics with them, and, later, after attracting a passing ship, transported the relics to Zakynthos, for safety. And ever since, the holy relics became the palladium of the island of Zakynthos. The date of transport of the relics of Saint Dionysius, on the 24th of August 1717, as well as the day of his memory on the 17th of December, is solemnly celebrated in Zakynthos with a splendid litany. Strong emotions seize the devout pilgrims that come to bow before the holy relics of the Saint of the Forgiveness. In front of the uncorrupted relics of the Holy Father and Comforter of those in distress, the heart of the faithful quivers, tears well up in the eyes and the knees bend in supplication. Then, the hymn of the Saint is heard. Its verses are as follows: Let us, all the faithful, honour, in one voice, Dionysius, the offspring of Zakynthos, The Bishop of Aegina, The Guardian of the Monastery of the Strophades.

Let us entreat him in sincerity, By your prayers, save those who celebrate your memory And cry out to you: Glory to Christ, who glorified you, Glory to Him, who has made you miraculous, Glory to Him, who has granted us you, Our unsleeping intercessor . Along with the holy relics of the Saint, the library of the monastery, the sacred vessels and some holy icons have been moved to Zakynthos. Part of the library went to the Marcian Library of Venice. Among the icons from the monastery of the Strophades, the most celebrated are the following: (a) Panaghia Thalassomahousa (i.e., Our Lady the Sea-Fighting), a masterpiece from Constantinople, was painted in the beginning of the 13th century. According to the tradition, during the period of iconoclasm (the breaking of images), the icon had been thrown to the sea in order to be saved. Ultimately, the icon reached the Strophades floating, standing up over the waves. The monks, who were to sail away, wishing to encounter a calm sea, used to put some oil drops in its suspended oil-lamp. (b) Panaghia ton Panton Chara (Our Lady of All Joy), the household icon, was painted in the 15 th century, in the Cretan style. This icon was looted in 1717 by the Turks, who sold it later on to the monastery of Saint John the Divine of Patmos. From there, it was returned to the monastery of the Strophades. (c) Saint Theodorus the Stratelates, in a splendid Roman military uniform, was made in the 15 th century by the Cretan painter Angelus.

In the old times, the access of women was not permitted in the Strophades; nor was permitted the existence of female animals on the islands. In fact, the natural inaccessibility kept the women away. Because of the remoteness of the islands, during the period of the English protection of the Ionian State in the 19th century, the monastery was used as a place of exile for priests, who were politically undesirables. In 1849, a lighthouse, necessary for guiding the ships, was built at the north-west end of the larger island. In 1887 the lighthouse was renovated with equipment that gave an invariable white light with a red gleam, visible at a distance of 16 miles. Today, because of the complete automation of the lighthouse, there is no need for any lighthouse-keeper. In our times, the natural environment of the Strophades is protected by law, but occasionally, the presence of poachers becomes one of the major problems of the islands. Today, the monastic installation of the Strophades is itself a dependency of the new Holy Monastery of the Strophades and of Saint Dionysius, which is built in the city of Zakynthos. The venerable relics of the Saint are the greatest treasure of the church of Saint Dionysius in the new monastery. The dependency of the Strophades was abandoned by its last two elderly monks. The Metropolitan of Zakynthos sends a priest in turns to look after the sanctities of the Strophades.

APPENDIX I ON THE STROPHADES FROM LIBER INSULARUM ARCHIPELAGI BY CRISTOPHER BUONDELMONTI Christopher Buondelmonti of Florence was an ecclesiastic with a notable taste for antiquities. During the years 1414 to 1420, he travelled in the Aegean Sea. His journeys provided material for a remarkable book he wrote in Latin 1420 on the Greek islands. The book Liber insularum Archipelagi (i.e., Book on the Islands of the Greek Sea) was dedicated to Cardinal Jordan Orsini. There is a very early translation in Greek found in Constantinople in the nineteenth century. The Greek translation, known as the Seraglio manuscript, was published, along with the maps, by mile Legrand in 1897. In the text, there is an account of the mythological history of the Strophades. It also mentions the monastery, which numbered, at that time, fifty monks, who were on a hard diet of fishes and water. Then, it says that the monks disdain the eating of meat and they just eat fishes, dried in the sun, and dry bread, so that each of them should be able to render his soul impeccable to the Almighty.

APPENDIX II ON THE STROPHADES FROM THE BOOK OF ALL THE ISLANDS OF THE WORLD BY BENEDETTO BORDONE This is an isolario or book of islands or travellers guide to the islands descended ultimately from Buondelmontis Liber insularum Archipelagi. Benedetto Bordone was a Paduan illuminator and wood-engraver, who lived at Venice. In 1528, he published in Venice his work Libro de Benedetto Bordone nel qual si ragiona de tutte lisole del mondo (i.e., Book of All the Islands of the World), provided with important woodcut maps. In the section of the book dealing with the Strophades, Bordone, after a rather long consideration of the mythological background of the islands, says that the inhabitants are caloieri (i.e., monks), who subsist on barley bread, fishes and water; they live in a castle, on account of the Turks, and they are given alms by the seafarers. The maps of the book are drawn with eight wind rays giving orientation. The map of the Strophades, one of the first of its kind, shows the island of Harpyia, situated to the south-west instead of the north-west, to be a little larger than the island of Stamphanion; but in the following map, showing the southern part of the Morea (i.e., the Peloponnese), the size is corrected while the wrong position of the islands remains. Anyway, on another general map of Greece and Asia Minor, the position of the Strophades is improved, not only between themselves, but also regarding the west coast of the Peloponnese.

APPENDIX III ON THE STROPHADES FROM THE HISTORIOGRAPHIC MEMORIES OF THE KINGDOM OF MOREA BY CORONELLI Here we have an edition of the book Memorie istoriografiche de regni della Morea, Negroponte, e Littorali fin Salonichi, which was published in 1680s in the workshop of Vincent Maria Coronelli, who was the official cosmographer of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The Strophades of the Historiographic Memories are called Strivli; and so they are allegedly called by Pausanias. The book also says that the islands are called Stamfane by the mariners, Strophades by Strabo, Pliny and Apollonius, Stromphides by Suidas and Calydnes by the German scholar Joachim Camerarius (1500-1574). Further, it mentions the produced excellent wine and the water springs, in which in great frequency sprigs of plane trees are found, although the nearest of these exist in the Morea, at a distance of 30 miles. The Calogeri (i.e., the monks) are referred to as the only inhabitants, living in the fortified monastery equipped with cannons and a portcullis gateway. And in the end, there is talk on the mythological past of the islands.




A FEW THINGS ON THE DOUBLE-HEADED EAGLE WITH MAN-FACED WINGS Eagles are considered as the most powerful of the birds of prey. A pair of strong wings helps them to move quickly to long distances and great heights. Therefore, the eagle has been a very old emblem of gods in most peoples of the East and the West. It is considered the symbol of power and grandeur, par excellence. This quality s intensified sometimes by the existence of two eagles, a double eagle. Two eagles appeared in the temples of zees in Greece; even on the coins of the Ptolemies, rulers of Egypt. The Ptolemies had been successors of Alexander the Great, who was scion of the royal dynasty of the Heraklids, who claimed to be descended from Zeus. Since the ancient times, the double eagle appeared as one with two heads, that is, the double-headed eagle. Early representations of the double-headed eagle were found on a cylindrical seal in Mesopotamia, on a sculptured relief in Asia Minor and on an ivory buckle in Sparta. A very unusual sort of a double-headed eagle in Asia is that with man-faced wings. This is a double-headed eagle with human faces on the upper part of the forearms of its wings; and the primary feathers on the lower part of the forearms form the beards of these figures. But, let us examine the depiction of this strange double-headed eagle. The normal double-headed eagle with man-faced wings appears on a copper coin of Nasir al-din Mahmud (1201-1222), of the Turkish dynasty of the Ortukids, ruler of Upper Mesopotamian cities of Hisn-Keifa (ancient Kiphas) and Amid (ancient Amida, modern Diyarbakir) on the Tigris river. The same type of eagle has been seen marked on bricks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Another

type of this peculiar eagle, this time with one head, was found on a clay tessera from Palmyra in Syria, dated in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. In this case, only one of the human heads is found on a wing of the bird, while the other head seems to be part of the birds body. Finally, in a third type, we see an one-headed bird with man-faced wings carved on a seal made of spotted jasper during the time of the Persian dynasty of the Sassanids (226-651). But this bird is barely taken for an eagle; it resembles more to the mythical simourgh of the Iranian legends, in which characteristics of the peacock and the dragon are combined. The significance of this curious being is not known. The man-faced wings probably signify heavenly messengers ready to carry the divine commands, as the angels of the Christian tradition, who appear sometimes as bodiless heads girdled by wings. The double face reminds us of Janus, the indigenous god of Italy, keeper of the gates, who controls the way in and the way out. In this matter, the double face and the double head of this being, found in Asiatic lands, leads us to the conclusion that it possibly symbolizes the dual nature of some Asiatic religious concepts, especially that of the religion of Zoroaster, in which the good and the evil fight eternally one another in order to dominate upon the earth. In the end, a safe conclusion is to say that the double-headed eagle is the god himself, while the man-faced wings symbolize the gods dreadful attendants, who are portrayed in other ancient representations as demon-like guards.