There couldn’t be any place more off the beaten track than Greece’s Salamina Island when it comes to finding archaeological sites. Nothing is properly marked on maps so one must be an explorer and detective to find these unique well-hidden locations. Although it’s just off-shore from the Greek mainland, the island doesn’t encourage tourism so many archaeological sites are left unexplored. Salamina is best known for the Battle of Salamina, a decisive navel victory by Greece over the Persians in 480 BC and is now a major base of the Greek navy and NATO. It’s only a half-hour.
The Hideaways of Greece’s Salamina Island
From the island’s main port of Paloukia there is bus service to the various villages. But to really see the sights, you need your own transportation as many of these well-hidden sites are on the mountainside or in remote areas of the island.
My friend lives on Salamina, and whenever I visit her she leads me to a new secretive hideaway. One year we hunted for and found a site where renown archaeologist Yannos Lolos and his team were excavating in search of a monument to Ajax, hero of the Troy Wars whose kingdom was on Salamina. Prof. Lolos was happy to show us around the site and he explained that they knew the monument would be in that location because the acropolis of Ajax’s city is on a mound by the sea near the village of Kanakia below the hill from this excavation.
I’d heard my friend speak about a cave high on the mountainside that at one time was the home of the famous dramatist Euripides. She’d been up to see it but said it was a good hike to get there. I was curious, and determined that I would make the trek myself.
We set off by car on a scenic drive through the pine-forested mountains of the island to the coastal village of Kolonos on the Bay of Peristeria. From there a gravel road leads up the hill to a narrow but well-trodden path that winds up the mountainside.
As it turned out, it wasn’t as difficult a climb as I’d anticipated because it’s a switch-back trail, well marked, up the mountainside from the main road. On the way up we stopped to rest in the shade by a the ruins of a sanctuary to Dionysos. The sanctuary is fenced but there are a few remains of what must have been a lovely place with a glimpse of the sea over the treetops. I imagined what may have gone on there in ancient times and wondered if Euripides would have been part of the Dionysian orgies.
It only took us about half an hour to reach the cave entrance. It’s on the rocky face of the mountainside, with a spectacular view of the sea below. It certainly must have been an inspiring place for the dramatist to live, so secluded from everyone. The Cave was excavated by archaeologist Yannos Lolos in 1996. You aren’t allowed entrance into the cave because there has been a rock-fall, but evidently there were ten rooms, a well for water and many artifacts dating to the Neolithic era were found inside. One of the items found inside the cave was a pottery wine-cup (skyplos) inscribed with Euripides’ name.
I was curious about why the dramatist chose to isolate himself. The reason was, because of Euripides’ two unhappy, failed marriages. Both wives allegedly cheated on him, though the last wife gave him two sons. Disillusioned with marriage, and bitter toward women, Euripides decided to retreat to a place where he could be with his Muse. It was here in this cave that he wrote many of his dramas.
Euripides lived in the cave for several years. By then his fame as a tragedian and poet became known throughout Greece. In 408 he was invited to the royal court of Macedon by King Archelaos who had built a spectacular palace in the royal city of Pella and encouraged artists, dramatists and philosophers from all over the country to come there. So Euripides abandoned his self-exile and went north where he became even more popular in the court of the Macedonian king. He died in Pella in 406 but his dramatic works including The Bacchae, Medea and The Trojan Women are still performed in today’s world. His cave, on the mountainside of Salamina Island, remains as a monument to this great man.
Written by and photos by W. Ruth Kozak for EuropeUpClose.com