Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Ruined and Alone with Cynisca and Milo

Ruined and Alone with Cynisca and Milo

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

For 1,115 years, the place I wandered through had been a constant in the ancient world. From centuries before ‘The 300’ stood against Xerxes, past Socrates, Alexander, Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, athletes met here every four years to test their skills against the best.

Now, the tumbled ruins are silent. I and my bride stray where our whims take us—sometimes together, often well-apart, but never out of each other’s sight.

This, happily, is another one of those days that we so treasure, when others must have something else more important to do, leaving we two almost alone to explore one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites. This day, we’re in Olympia, Greece, with just the autumnal silence, each other and two special spirits from the past.

Across the whole site, there are fewer than a dozen other visitors. And, most of those are Germans, who tend to move in snug clusters. Until we end our day, at the excellent museum, we glimpsed another person, usually far off, less than once every half-hour or so.

That leaves us precisely where we love to be, mentally transporting ourselves back in time to get the past’s true feel. In Olympia, we have two particular favorites among the ancient winners: Cynisca of Sparta and Milo of Croton. We like them most because who they were and what they did somehow seems to command more of our respect.

And, in the case of Cynisca, there is a strong thread of the romantic as well—beautiful Princess makes good and all that sort of thing. In 396 BC, she (she!) won the four-horse chariot race here, competing against great, male charioteers from Greece, Sicily, Africa and Asia. Her father, King Archidamos, watched proudly from his stone seat as she beat “those stinky boys” (as we tell our oldest granddaughter). And, just for good measure, she came back in 392 and did it again. My bride and I thought of her as we walked the very ground over which she drove. Cynisca was our kind of gal.

Milo is a favorite of ours from a different place and for different reasons. He came from Croton, a great, Greek colony city on the southern coast of Italy, which will be the subject of at least one other post here at some point.

Before the Persians failed to conquer the Greeks, Milo won six wrestling titles over 20 years. As you may know, the kind of real wrestling done at the ancient Olympic Games was among the most intense and demanding competitions ever devised. For a man to best the top youths half his age at it was unheard of, before or since.

Perhaps Milo’s achievement is the source of the saying about old age and cunning versus youth and skill. I like to think so.

Eventually, a young wrestler named Timasitheus kept Milo from winning his seventh title in 24 years. But, many more people over the millennia have remembered the man from Croton than that capable lad.

Unlike with Cynisca’s victories, we were never sure that we’d stood in the exact spot where Milo had won. But, we console ourselves with the knowledge that, with few exceptions, we explored most every spot there was that day.

Surely one of them was Milo’s.

  1. September 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for that !!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: