Page Created 10-18-98
TO PAD, RENDER LARGER, EXPAND, EXTEND, AGGRANDIZE, DISTEND, DEVELOP, AMPLIFY, SPREAD OUT, WIDEN, MAGNIFY, INFLATE, PUFF, BLOW UP, STUFF, PAD, EXAGGERATE...
Beyond the sea a coastline, Greek coastline. Rugged, rocky, tortuous. A coastline as strong and as forthright as the nation who lived beyond it. The brilliant cunning of the Greek mind-as twisted as the inlets of their coastline, with its promontories, its peninsulas and its gulfs. Beyond the coastline fields. Cultivated fields; beyond the fields, mountains-high, forbidding, frightening, dangerous, and in the fields and the mountains, men . . . Men in the cities too. Men in the cities and in the towns. Men of Athens, men of Corinth, men of Medara, men of the Peloponnesus, men of the great northern mainland, men of Naxos, men of the islands, men of Greece. Farmers, artificers, craftsmen, sailors, politicians, democrats, oligarchs, tyrants; living together in a great tangled heap of humanity. A heap of humanity that led the world in its own time, and whose influence extended for five millennia into the future. The World of ancient Greece. A world of gladness and beauty. A world of pain, and savagery, and death. A world very much like our own, a mixed world, a perplexing world. A world in which everything was different except basic human emotions. A world where there were secrets.
Time for Dad to chill out...
"Because I have the vision of a god." said the megalomaniac. "And you are the son of a god! I am Daedalus god of destruction, and you are Icarus my son. My son," he repeated. "You are the son of destruction. You are the son of the Hammer of Minos. It is time for the hammer to strike. Have you ever seen -" his voice held a strange, frightening, faraway note, "Have you ever seen a great rock balanced on a tiny point? And have you ever thought, my boy, that you had but to give it one little push and it will overbalance and destroy all in its path. Given a prop that was strong enough, and a pole that was long enough, and the ability to travel out into the stars, with my own weight I could lift the world. It is all a matter of the science of mathematics, of knowing where to apply the pressure, of knowing where the weakness is, of knowing where the point of overbalance is, and one man can destroy a continent. But he must have a brain that is larger than a universe, he must have a brain like Daedalus the god of destruction!"
Crete, the glorious island, which ranks fourth to Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus in the magnitude of Mediterranean land dots. In modern reckoning it lies between 34 degrees north and 23 east. Its north-eastern extremity, known as Cape Sidero, is a hundred and ten miles from Cape Krio in Asia Minor. The hundred and ten miles of blue Mediterranean water between the two points are broken up by the islands of Carpathos and Rhodes. In the north-west, Cape Grabusa is only sixty miles from Cape Malea situated in Morea. Its location, therefore, makes Crete the limit between the Mediterranean itself and the Archipelago. In square miles the island exceeds the 3,000 mark, and its population-taken at the last census-was getting on for half a million. Crete is a long island. From east to west it measures over a hundred and fifty miles. From north to south it varies considerably, nearly forty at its widest, just under eight at its narrowest. To the west of the island a pair of narrow mountainous promontories are the main features that catch the eye of the visitor. The westernmost of these ends in Cape Grabusa, or, as it was known in the days of the ancients, Corycus. The eastern promontory terminates at Cape Spada, which is shut in the bay of Kisamo. To the east, the rocky peninsula of Akrotiri forms the guardian of a glorious natural harbour, Suda, which has always been the finest and the most perfectly protected haven for vessels of any draught from the days of Knossos in its prime, up to the days of the 20th century. To the east, Candia and Mallia lie beside the deep Mirabella bay and the neighbouring bay of Sitia The greatest part of the island is filled with mountain ranges in four principal groups. The massive white mountains in the west, the detached mass of Ida, or, as it is more recently termed, Psiloriti, to the east the Lassithi mountains rise, and the Kophino mountains separate the central plain from the southern coast. Mountains, and snow which remains in the deeper clefts ever throughout the summer; mountains which are connected by chains which sometimes themselves are three thousand feet . . . There are fertile tracts and wide plains like the Plain of Monofatsi.
One of the strange things about Crete is the level upland basin, a feature which is repeated more than once in the island's structure The Platanos, or, as it was known to the ancients, Iardanos, flows through a beautiful valley, the valley of Aliakianu, and crops flourish mightily along those verdant slopes. Even in January, temperature rarely drops below fifty degrees, while on the plain the summer is so hot as to be malarious. But the sharp relief of the island produces many strange contrasts. Goats abound in great numerical strength all over the island, particularly in the mountains. The Moufflon, the primeval ancestor of all domestic sheep, and the porcupine are also there in abundance. Strangely, Crete is immune from dangerous serpents. This immunity has sometimes been attributed to the intercession of Titus, the companion of St. Paul, who was traditionally the island's first bishop, long after Daedalus, Icarus, and the great king had passed into the black abyss. The forests which, from time immemorial, covered the mountains, waned slowly year by year. What were once thickly-wooded slopes are now barren wastes. Wild cyprus grows to greater heights, while olives cluster, mingled with carobs, on the lower, fertile slopes. Citrus fruits there are in plenty, and the chestnut woods of Selino vie with the Valonia forests, and with the oaks of Rhethymnon. Pears, quinces, mulberries, apples, vines and other lush vegetation fill the island, making it a natural paradise. The soil, too, is rich in mineral wealth. Iron, lead, manganese, sulphur and lignite are there in abundance. So too, are zinc and copper. Such is the island of Crete, today and yesterday something unique in the Mediterranean; something beautiful and yet at the same time frightening, mysterious. An island whose beauty is marred by the dark shadow of strange forbidden history.
excerpts from The Last Valkyrie © R. Lionel Fanthorpe.
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