Messene – A Dream come True
2005 LYSO-Publishing Company, Kalamata
Eva-Maria Lang, Waltraud Sperlich
Paperback, 111 pages, 71 pictures
The wind is getting stronger and Thelxippa draws her shawl closer around herself. Not because she is cold. The southerly storm is warm, but carries a lot of sand from the African desert with it, stinging like needles. It obscures the view of the coast, where a wilderness of fig trees reaches down almost to the water. The sand spray engulfs the fishermen cottages on the north coast of the bay, which will one day develop into Kalamata.
Thelxippa rubs her eyes. To the east the peaks of the Taygetus are steeply silhouetted, still snow-covered at this time of the year.Once a fitting backdrop to Sparta, which is now reduced to insignificance behind them. High time for peace. And yet the peaceloving Messenians mourn a war.
A war they missed out on. The war against the Persians which for once united the Greeks and gave them an identity. When, for the first time, the Greeks felt themselves to be one nation, the Messenians had already been expelled.
Other ships emerge from the haze, all heading for the north shore of the bay. Shouted orders grow louder, as do greetings exchanged between ships. Thelxippa’s son is crying too.
Their sailing ship lunges roughly into the port, where there is the rustling of a forest of masts.
Large barges are just unloading their cargo: slaves, trotting down the gangplanks in an unending line and unbroken silence. Deep-black ones from central Africa, lanky Sudanese, desert sons from the Sahara, Scythians from the Black Sea, Illyrians from the Balkans, Orientals from Asia Minor.
At the moment the Messenians are buying up all the slaves the markets can offer.
A human chain 20 km long is moving on foot towards the capital. Alongside the great congestion of slaves countless carriages inch forward, not necessarily providing more comfort to the free women of Messenia seated on top of them. Thelxippa, too, is squeezed into one of these shared coaches and would give almost anything for a horse right now. The men ride on horseback, even the elderly.
In addition to the slave merchants it is the horse dealers who are doing a roaring trade in horse-rich Messene during the founding years.
Thelxippa and her family are approaching their new capital from the south. Having learned from their mistakes, the Messenians’ first priority has been their security. After only one year of building the enormous city wall is almost ready. It is a proud nine kilometres long, its giant ashlars, cut night and day from the quarries on the northern slopes of Mt Ithome, perfectly fitted all along.
These walls, already strong, are further strengthened by fortified towers at hundred metre intervals.