A few thoughts about the volcanic eruption on Thera
The island in the Mediterranean nowadays called Santorini has had many names throughout the centuries. One of the oldest known names, and the one I use, is Callisti. In ancient Greek, it means “The Most Beautiful,” and is alternately spelled Kalliste.
Strongyle, another of Santorini’s ancient names, meant, “The Round One.”
Thera, yet another name long used for this volcanic island, can be translated as “Fear,” which, as it turns out, was rather prophetic, as is the name of the central mountain, rumored by some to be Alcmene, meaning “Wrath of the Moon.”
For many years, until “super” volcanoes were more clearly understood, this eruption was considered the worst in human history. It was so enormous, so destructive, (categorized as a Plinian type event) that it made the eruption of Tambora look like a tiny belch in the earth. It would have made the Mt. Saint Helen’s eruption seem like nothing more than a brief, sleeping baby’s gasp.
As scientists become more adept at studying the effects of volcanoes, (and it’s impressive how much they’ve learned about the Santorini volcano, even though it happened so very long ago), they have conjectured that the repercussions of this event went clear around the world, and probably affected the earth’s climate for many years. From the depth of the ash on the sea floor, they have determined that the worst damage done to Crete, a mere seventy miles away, was on the east side. With improved methods and the study of more recent eruptions, there are now conjectures that the pyroclastic flow (the most dangerous, murderous part of an eruption) could very well have traveled on top of the water clear to Crete. The idea that such a thing could happen is amazing, and is merely theory, not proven. But that’s how huge this eruption was. Tsunamis of course came along after, and devastated the entire coast; there are theories that the tsunami which struck the northern coast managed to flow clear into the city of Knossos. Charles Pellegrino, in his book Unearthing Atlantis, says: “Within hours of the Theran upheaval of 1628 BC., death rolled into southern Turkey on the tongue of a tsunami. Two peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea confined the wave as if between the prongs of a mighty tuning fork, building it higher and higher and ultimately funneling it thirty miles inland. To penetrate so far, it had to be eight hundred feet tall when it hit the shore.” (Pellegrino, C. Unearthing Atlantis. New York: Avon, 1991)
One small bit of positive news: recent theories state that most of the populace on Santorini actually managed to escape the island before it blew into the heavens, leaving nothing but a sliver (part of which is again beginning to send out ominous messages). The volcano gave them warning, and they apparently heeded this warning. Since Callisti is considered by many to be an outpost of Crete, it’s no leap of logic to assume most of the refugees would go there, and that’s what happens in my book.
As awful as this eruption was, it did not end Cretan society. I have no doubt many died of the aftereffects, like starvation, ash suffocation, etc. But the Cretan civilization did eventually recover. Yes, these intrepid, hardy people managed to survive and even thrive again after this indescribable event. But at some point, later, the wondrous Bronze Age society of Crete (or Kaphtor) did disappear. This segment of my series offers one possible reason why, sets the starting point for the later books, and initiates a more familiar history—one that might never have occurred had Crete survived, retaining its original power and influence.
From everything Plato said about Atlantis, there is no doubt in my mind Thera is that fabled place.
Here is an excerpt from deep within The Thinara King.
Twilight fell. Chrysaleon made a fire from dead olive branches. The last glow of the sun transformed grey clouds to scarlet and lavender, with hints of green and yellow. Beneath this magnificence he constructed a pyramid of stones and shot an unwary hawk from the sky. He burned its thighs in offering and knelt beside his cairn, clenching the necklace in his fist.
“Poseidon,” he said. “Walk with me. Lead me to Aridela. Make our bond unbreakable. Help me slay Harpalycus and bring an end to the king-sacrifice.” He peered into the heavens. “Make me this great-year-king, Horse Tamer, and I will present you with the rich island of Crete. I will cover this land with temples and fill each one with your image.”
A sudden gust of wind sent a fan of sparks into the indigo sky.
Taking it for the answer he wanted, he wrapped himself in the cloak Neoma had given him. “Bring Aridela home,” she had begged, clutching his arm. “I miss her. I don’t think she even knows I’m alive.” The stone that struck her during the worst of the Destruction had left a noticeable depression in her forehead, like a large, out-of-place dimple, and ongoing headaches forced her to spend time in darkened seclusion nearly every day.
He stared at his fire, thinking of Aridela, longing for her. A memory crept before him, one he’d forgotten, from his time near death in the cell at Labyrinthos.
In his starved, thirsty mind, he’d experienced a vision of Menoetius transforming into a black bull, the enormous bad-tempered kind Cretans used in their ring. The beast gored him and as he lay gasping, his lifeblood seeping away, Aridela came to stand beside the bull, resting her hand on his neck in an intimate manner. She had looked down upon Chrysaleon without any emotion.
“No,” he’d whispered, and he did so again now, fury raging through his blood as he gazed into the cold night sky. “Menoetius won’t defeat me.”
He fell asleep at last, but during the night’s blackest point, he was awakened by the earth shuddering. Small creatures scurried; rocks lurched and tumbled. His horse shied and nickered. Farther away, he heard ominous, eerie echoes as an avalanche of boulders crashed into one of Crete’s many precipitous gorges.
He stared into the night towards the mountains, aching to be among them.
I’m coming, Aridela. I will find you.
The Year-god’s Daughter: Book One of The Child of the Erinyes
The Thinara King: Book Two of The Child of the Erinyes
In the Moon of Asterion: The conclusion of the Bronze Age trilogy
Amazon Rebecca Lochlann page: http://tinyurl.com/73u82kg
Posted on June 1, 2012, in My thoughts: the eruption on Thera and tagged ancient beliefs, ash, crete, eruption, heroic tales, knossos, santorini, thera, tsunami, volcano. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.