History. Sometimes it is unfathomable when your mind has to wrap itself around the ancient history of some areas of the world. Gytheio or Gythion, Greece, is one of those places. At one time it was the main port for Sparta. And yes, there is lots of mythology tied to it.
As the myths go, Gytheio came into being after a squabble between Apollo and Hercules over the Dephic tripod which Hercules had stolen when Xenocleia, the priestess of the Delphi oracle, refused to give him a divination on how he could be cured of his illness. She thought his illness had something to do with the slaughter of Iphitos. Apollo rushed to get the tripod back and a terrible fight broke out between the two of them. Zeus put an end to the fight with one of his famous thunderbolts. The place where the two gods settled their differences was named “Gy Theon” (Land of Gods) which later gave rise to the name Gytheio.
Gytheio was a Phoenician trading port in ancient times and the port of Sparta. The Athenians destroyed the port in 445 B.C. but the Spartans rebuilt the fortifications and held it until 195 B.C. when it was conquered by the Romans. Luxurious homes with mosaic floors and baths were built and a huge aqueduct brought water to the area from far away.
There is a lot more history mixed with mythology that goes with the area but today, it is a quaint fishing town, still a gateway for tourists to visit Sparta. We wandered its streets, visited the lighthouse on a small island that is now connected to the mainland with a road and drank in the view of green hillsides and colorful homes built into them. The water in the harbor was sparkling clean and teeming with small fish. We paused for a moment to watch a fisherman as he sat in the back of his boat and mended one of his nets.
The boardwalk was lined with open air restaurants offering a varied menu of fresh fish and delicacies to enjoy under a large umbrella-covered table. The proprietors were just beginning to start their day as we passed. Sidewalks were being swept and washed for the day ahead. We sat for a time in the park near a large enclosure filled with all sorts of birds including chickens, pheasants and small turkeys. Were they for display? Or for restaurant supply?
Our time was short in Gytheio but it was a delightful stop in the Mediterranean just before our entering the Dardanelles for our trek into the Black Sea. Like Paris, we set sail from the harbor toward Troy.