Two thousand five hundred years ago, the rulers of men journeyed to sacred land in Central Greece, in search of answers and prophecies, a glimpse into the future through the uttered riddles of a high priestess. Steeped in mystery, Delphi not only was home to the renowned Oracle Pythia, but also a votive playground of sorts, speckled with astonishing pieces of art dedicated to Apollo.
With evolving times and cultural trends, the “new kids on the block” shut down a Delphi dwindling in popularity in 381 AD. But the glory of “Earth’s Navel” resonated throughout the ages. Fast forward to the late 19th century, Delphi’s intrigue, and the thirst for discovery had the Americans and French racing to secure rights to dig. The French win and the Great Excavation of 1892 begins, revealing some of antiquity’s most precious treasures. Remarkable finds like the bronze Charioteer are stashed in the first Museum of Delphi.
Meanwhile in America, two debutantes dream of a new world influenced by ancient ideals. Young lovers Eva Palmer and Natalie Barney Clifford meet in 1893. During their trips abroad, they exchange hundreds of handwritten love letters. Palmer then meets and marries poet Angelos Sikelianos and later moves to Greece. Entertained by her new life, she cuts ties with Barney, and on one rainy day, leaves her collection of letters on Barney’s doorstep, as a tribute to their love.
Settling in Delphi, Palmer Sikelianos weaves her own robes and dresses in ancient attire. In 1927, she and her husband host the Delphic Festivals, a three-day celebratory affair including archaeological tours, folk exhibitions, athletic games and theatrical performances attended by an international crowd.
Pouring her heart, soul and inheritance into two such events, Palmer’s story includes a divorce and move back to the US where she promotes the Delphic Idea through the arts in a period between two world wars. She visits Delphi again in 1952, where she leaves her last breath. Palmer is buried there on the very sacred grounds that inspired her life’s passions. The poet, who had passed away the year prior, was buried in the Athens First Cemetery, there along with many others who left their bold mark in the history of modern Greece...there among the likes of pioneer archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann and neoclassical architect Ernst Ziller.
As for those fancy love letters, they were scattered, making their way to various museum collections. One stash, however, was kept hidden from the eyes of the public by request of Sikelianos’ second wife until in 2009, a curious professor of Modern Greek, Dr. Artemis Leontis, managed to gain access. The result of her own 10-year journey is the first biography of Eva Palmer Sikelianos (2019), threading together the elements of the life of a woman who, through her passion, inspired a Delphic revival epitomizing Philhellenism.
And what is our existence, our wishes and efforts, if anything, but a fabric of interconnected threads woven together through the annals of time? We are tradition. We are culture. And soon enough, we are history. What we create in our lifetime is the foundation of future curiosity and discovery.
- Anthe Mitrakos
Founder & Editor
If there is one thing I love most about visiting Greece, it is the urge I get to explore, discover and create.
...trekking archaeological sites...drifting in immaculate waters...gazing at sunsets and starry night skies...listening to the stories of locals...tasting the very best of flavors...wandering around carelessly...finding something magical along the way....feeling that strange allure one cannot exactly explain with words.
With a focus on Greece, Portes Magazine celebrates the intriguing, innovative and inspirational individuals, places, history and ideas. In this issue, we tell the stories of passionate people pursuing discovery and creativity.
Over a century ago, a German businessman began his quest in Greece. An obsession for languages and a devout passion for ancient history led Heinrich Schliemann to the discovery of Troy and Mycenae. His love for Greek culture stands immortalized in the Iliou Melathron, a "Palace of Troy" now housing the coin collection of the Numismatic Museum of Athens.
Today, just blocks from Schliemann’s former residence, in the notorious neighborhood of Exarcheia, innovation takes on an entrepreneurial pace, inspired by the vision of Stavros M. and Maria C. at The Cube Athens, a co-working space hosting tech start ups, workshops, and much more.
Situated in the same Athenian neighborhood, the Hellenic Ornithological Society has dynamically joined forces with other organizations to save the migratory Asproparis (Neophron percnopterus), a rare white vulture that takes flight on a journey some 5,000 kilometers from Africa to nest in Greece every spring.
Inspired by nature and ancient artifacts, Ema R. and Aris T. use locally sourced clay to craft modern earthenware at EA Ceramic Studio. Based in the small village of Margarites, Crete, these two are dedicated to creative expression, much like Athens-based mosaicist Dimitris V., who meticulously arranges tiny pieces of glass into large-scale masterpieces...or Amaryllis T. and Makos K., two food bloggers who combine their respect for tradition with innate creativity to design unique dishes.
From beach clean ups to student mentorship luncheons, venture fairs and educational scholarship awards, the Greek community and friends in Greece and abroad strive to do great things. These are just a handful of instances illustrating where one's passion may lead. As you dive into the latest edition of Portes Magazine, we hope you will make your own exciting discoveries, much like I have.
- Anthe Mitrakos
Founder & Editor