“Because Delos was sacred, as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, no births or deaths occured here. The sick were not permitted entry, nor were pregnant women. That island,” Tassos pointed to Reinia, “the sick went there to die and that is where the women gave birth.” “Didn’t thousands of people live here? What happened to all of the people?” Susannah Fontaine-Williams asked. “Ah,” Tassos replied. “I assume you mean after the invasion. 20,000 people lived here – all were either killed or enslaved. But the interesting thing is, no human remains have been found on the island to this day.” The late afternoon sun burned and SFW clinged to the slowly lengthening shadows. She leaned against a shaded wall startling a lizard, sending it scampering over the rocks. “We call them ‘crocodelos,'” he said.
“Try to envision it as it was found more than a century ago,” he went on. “Rubble everwhere. Much was covered by vegetation, like over there on that hillside. Only a third of Delos has been excavated and recovered. It is very slow going. Most of these buildings were three stories high. It’s hard to picture, isn’t it?” She nodded yes, closed her eyes, and her TV mind played a documentary of toga’d people conducting their affairs and discussing philosophy on the crowded narrow streets as warships filled the harbor on the eve of Delos’s destruction.
The afternoon heat radiated from the stone, marble, and rubble. Susannah Fontaine-Williams felt just a touch faint and longed for a glass of cold water, chased by that sublime Cuban rum cocktail they served at the pool bar in Mykonos.
Tassos proved to be a thorough guide, walking her through the enormous agora, to the theatre, to the Temple of Apollo and finally to the museum and the little refreshment store. He showed her elaborate tile floors, translated the Greek inscriptions for her, and described the many cisterns and wells and other clever ways the Delosians gathered, saved and used the scarce fresh water. “Let me show you the hidden cistern,” he said. “Very few people get to see this.”
A ship’s horn sounded and she peered over a wall to see the 5:00 ferry pulling in to dock. They came to what may have been a courtyard surrounded by walls with a large cistern to one side in the shadows. “Look,” he waved her over. “The water’s such a bright green,” she said. “It’s the minerals,” he said. “Mostly limestone. Very acidic.” He put an arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. She thought she would have to endure a kiss, but instead, she felt his hands gently on her neck and she tried to take a step back. He pressed his thumbs on her windpipe and she gasped for air. “You’re my first American celebrity,” he said, squeezing just a little bit tighter.
Want to know why this post’s title is immensely clever? Check out “Love in the Ruins” by Walker Percy.