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The mythology of Kalamata
In the region of contemporary Kalamata there was the ancient community of Pharae. According to Hellenic mythology, Pharae was one of the seven cities that Agamemnon promised to give to Achilles once the Trojan War was over. The Achae, descendants of Aiolos, who came from Thessaly, found themselves in the area in around 1600 B.C. Pereiris, son of Aiolos.
Ruled the area and got married to the daughter of Perseus, Gorgophone, and had two sons Leykepous and Afareas. Leykepous ruled the eastern part of Messinia and Afareas the western part. In his kingdom, Leykepous got married to Filodeke and had three daughters; Koronida, Ialeia and Phoebe.
The myth of Koronida
God Apollo fell in love with Koronis according to local legend, and had a son with her, Asklipius. While carrying God Apollo’s child, Koronis cheated on him with Inos. The news of her unfaithfulness was brought to the God by a crow. God Apollo punished the crow for the bad news by changing its color from white to black. He burnt the unfaithful woman but saved the child and sent it to Centaurus Chiron, in Pilion, to raise him. Messinia was the place where Asklipius’ son, Machaon, who became the doctor of Achaoi during the campaign to Troy, was born.
God Asklipius was the god-doctor of ancient Greeks with a plethora of prescriptions based on the use of olive oil. There was even a kind of practice he had set up in the Peloponnese near the theatre of Epidaurus from the ancient times. His descendants, the Asklipiads, spread to Ithomi, Trikki and Ichalia. These cities belonged to Messinia. Ithomi took its name from the citadel close to Messini and Ichalia was none other than the ancient Andania of Polyakonas. Trikki’s ruins, on the other hand, were historically located at the north of the prefecture of Messinia.
Finally, it is mentioned that Koronis gave birth to Asklipius in the Peloponnese where she had followed her father on a campaign of his (specifically Trikki of Messinia or Epidaurus or Arkadia). In the Circle of Dionysus, Koronis appeared as a nymph, one of the Iades sisters, who raised Dionysus with her sisters Filia and Kleidi under Zeus’ orders. Later, when Voutis kidnapped Koronis and forced her to marry him, he was punished by Dionysus by making him crazy. The asteroid 158Koronis, discovered in 1876, was named after this mythical person.
Myths for the olive oil (Inotropes)
According to another local legend from “Apo to Stari sto Psomi Dionysus kai Krasi , O Politismos tis Elias to ladi” (from wheat to bread, Dionysus and wine, the culture of the olive tree and the oil) Spermo, Ino and Elais, daughters of Anios and Dorippis, had inherited a gift from their grandfather Dionysus “…ποιείν εκ γης σίτον, οίνον και έλαιον. Ότε θελήσουσι καρπόν τρυγώσι και η μεν Οινώ τον οίνον εποίει, η δε Σπερμώ τα σπέρματα , το έλαιον δε η Ελαΐς” (getting wheat, wine and oil from the Earth, when they need crops they harvest and Ino makes wine, Spermo makes seeds and Elais produces the oil).
Who were the Inotropes of antiquity? Their name literally means ‘those who turn from water to wine. But as we’ll see further down this didn’t hold true for all of them; just Ino. Called Inotres or Inotrofes according to Apollodorus (Epit. III,10) they were the daughters of the king of Dilos Anias and Dorippis and answered to the names of Ino, Spermo and Elais.
Let’s take things from the beginning. Anios, according to mythology was the son of God Apollo and Rios. Her father was Stafylos (meaning ‘grape’) and her grandfather was Dionysus himself. After falling in love with Zeus she had a baby boy, Ainio. Her father, without knowing that his grandson was the son of a God, put his daughter in a container and let her drift to the sea. The container, with Rio in it, reached the coast of Evia (or even Dilos) where Anios was born. When he grew up though, the God brought him to Dilos crowning him as king. At some point, some pirates who had captivated Dorippi in Thrace were passing by the island of Dilos.
There, they sold her to Anios in exchange for a horse. Anios and Dorippi had three daughters together; the ones mentioned before. Their grandfather, Dionysus, gave them magical powers; Ino could produce wine from the Earth, Spermo could produce seeds and Elais could produce olive oil. Another myth from Antiquity wants Agamemnon along with his Achaioi to have passed by Dilos. There, the king, knowing of a riddle which said that they’d manage to conquer Troy after a 10-year siege, asked them to stay there for nine years feeding on oil, seeds and wine and leave on the 10th year. The Achaioi didn’t accept that but tried to leave taking Ainios’ daughters with them but Dionysus intervened turning his granddaughters into doves or grapevines in order to save them.
The myth of olive oil tree
The myth about the competition between Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, god of the sea, about who’s going to give his name to the new city built by king Kekrops on the land of Attica says that the king of gods Zeus intervened in order to give a solution and decided that the city would get the name of the god who’d give its citizens the most valuable gift. Poseidon cracked open a huge rock and in that place appeared a well with salty water “when you prepare for a long trip listen to the well, if you hear the sound of the sea don’t set out because the sea will be very rough” Poseidon said.
Athena banged the rock with her stick and there appeared an olive tree loaded with olives. The competition was won by Athena who brought the olive tree to the citizens and promised them that olive tree will feed them, heal them and enlighten them and that the olive branch will serve as the symbol of peace. So, the olive tree was declared the holy tree of the city which was therefore named Athena (Athens).
In 433 B.C., the completion of the Parthenon, the frieze depicts the procession of the Panathinea and the western side depicts the conflict between Athena and Poseidon with the holy olive tree in the middle.
On the Acropolis of Athens there was the holy olive tree, the first olive tree that the goddess offered to the Greeks. In the Academia (Academy) there were twelve holy olive trees, the Moriai, and an olive grove where the oil that was given as reward to the winners of Panathinea came from. It is indicative of the importance of the olive tree for the city of Athens that their coins depicted goddess Athena with an olive branch on her helmet and a vase with oil or an olive branch on one side.
The meaning of Koronida's myth
So, according to mythology and Pindarus, Apollo, God of the Sun, and Koronida have a son Asclepius, who was a historical figure and is classified among the demigods for his splendid offers to mankind which embody the high ideal of Medicine and, consequently, the power that Nature always gave to Man in order to combat diseases.
Asclepius’ father, Apollo, trusted Centaur Chiron with his son who trained him in the plains and the groves of Pelion in Thessaly. From him, Asclepius was taught the principals of the art of healing and learnt a lot about herbs as well as the beneficial characteristics of the olive oil. This knowledge he passed on to his own sons, Machaona and Podaleirio who were Homeric characters who became eminent generals-doctors in the Greek Camp.
Asclepius himself acted before Homer and died contemporary with Hercules, 53 years before the Fall of Troy.
The fact that the God of Light and the Sun is Asclepius’ father shows the importance that is placed on Sunlight in terms of hygiene from Antiquity. Moreover, the fact that the God of Medicine was born of a mortal mother and a God shows that Medicine was not exactly divine, therefore flawless, but rather participates in human weakness.
It is derived, by nature, from God, and is perfected with skill (Chiron) and is found devoutly in the middle. It is necessary to keep both characteristics and if someone forgets its divine origin –like his mother who fouled-up the divine status by sleeping with Ino- then punishment follows.
If Medicine is to forget its human nature and looks into labors greater than their strengths –therefore belonging to the Gods- (Chiron and Asclepius resurrected dead people) then punishment follows- Asclepius himself was burnt up. Although Medicine is indeed a divine skill, its functionaries are humans, and therefore unable to go up against the Laws of Nature.
This rule was observed by the Asclipiads and in the Asclepium of Epidaurus, one of the 320 Asclepiums all over Hellas, was written “God brings all the gifts, the remedies provided by Asclepius and Apollo”.
Even the practical doctors admit the influence of religion and considered it to be a great ally, as is seen on the sign which the association of Doctors dedicated to the Asclepium of Athens. It invokes pure luck, Health and Asclepius.
Hospice in ancient Greece
Asclepia, where healing took place, medical care was secretive and was passed on from generation to generation. Lucian mentions that the participants in the healing process took a vow of silence that they would never reveal their medical or other secrets. Surely, it was only the elders who were initiated into the secrets and the younger ones did not even have the right to ask about them.
Only the high ranking people in the hierarchy practiced medicine and the rest confined themselves to religious treatments which bore great resemblance to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The people who were initiated, communicated, corresponded and worked together and, many times, priests from one Asclepium went to another to help deal with difficult diseases.
Prothiereas or High Priest was in charge of the whole procedure and he was helped by the Pyroforoi, who acted as deacons and helpers in the medicinal procedures, the Ieromnimones and the nurses called Asclepiads. Among them there were women who belonged to the ranks of Nakoron or Zakoron. Galinos says that, before Asclepius, medicine was “completely empirical and people were treated only with plants, while he elevated it to a divine science”.
In Asclepia, which prevailed after the 5th century B.C., they healed people with whatever means they had and with secret prescriptions based on holistic medicine. The priests believed that Man should seek help from nature either through sanitation or technical healing. Asclepius devolved his prescriptions to them by letting them use different medicines and surgical practices which remained a secret. Hippocrates derived many practical lessons for his science from sources hidden in the Asclepia and from the studying of the tables and signs there.
There were a lot of different temples-healing places of God Asclepius scattered, the most famous of which being the Temple of Asclepius in Epidaurus. It was for Asclepius what Delphi was for Apollo. Legend has it that Asclepius was born in Epidaurus in the “sweet smelling temple” and that this is where he got his famous powers as God “Iatir” (=healer).
One treatment was followed by another until, according to the myth, he resurrected dead people, like Ippolypus from Trizina.
After sunset, having fasted from wine and certain foods and having taken a purifying bath in Tholo, the patient, wearing a white robe, offered a sacrifice to Asclepius and entered the Avaton, where the prolonged slumber took place. During the night the priest-doctor dressed as Asclepius, visited and healed the semi-conscious patients accompanied by his daughters, helpers, servants and a dog or snake which participated in the healing process by, for example, licking the wounds of the patient.