The Bents – Great Friends of Samos

Panagia tou Potamiou, Samos, near where the Bents camped while looking for antiquities in 1886.

For Greek islomanes, two recent Bent posts have washed up on the Friends of Tilos and Friends of Samos FB pages – you can see the Tilos one on another post, but here is the Samos post in case you have a spare moment:

Anyone in the group heard of the Bents? Got a moment? Englishman J. Theodore Bent (1852-1897) and his wife Mabel (1847-1929) were among the most widely travelled of British explorer/antiquarian duos of the second half of the 19th century – their expeditions covered Africa, Arabia, the eastern Mediterranean, and, of course Samos!

The Bents had made their first visit, a brief one, to the island, then Turkish, over the winter of 1882/3, arriving on the lovely Austrian/Lloyd vessel the ‘Niobe’. This was as part of a trip, touristic really, that took in the great sights of the East Mediterranean. Theodore had read History at Wadham and was engaged in Italian/Genoese studies. He wrote three monographs on things Italian, but focussed on Chios and Samos for two articles penned following his first visit there: ‘A Visit to Samos’ (‘Academy’, Issue 579 (1883: June), p. 408) and ‘Two Turkish Islands To-day’ (Macmillan’s Magazine (Issue: 48 (1883: May/Oct.) pp. 299-309). These are well worth tracking down, the latter being highly critical of Turkish rule – and the taxing conditions the islanders faced after a devasting earthquake – and raising letters to the ‘Times’ and questions in the ‘House’, both grist to the mill for the young Bent (although, unsurprisingly, the Turkish authorities were suspicious of him ever after).

But that was three years ago, as it were, in terms of Theodore and Mabel’s next visit to Samos, now arriving at the end of February 1886, in Mabel’s words, ‘on a… little Greek steamer, the Anatoli’; Mabel was a snob at times. By the end of 1885, Theodore’s professional career had turned a corner – he had transformed himself into a budding archaeologist/explorer (today he would be fronting the cameras). In 1883/4 he had famously circled the Cyclades, digging on Antiparos and writing a bestseller on the eponymous isles. A year later, with his wife by his side as always (and by now the expedition chronicler and photographer), he had ‘excavated’ in the Dodecanese, removing – there is no other word for it – some lovely things from Karpathos, now in the British Museum.

Following the successes of their 1885 programme, the Bents decide the next season to cruise down through Turkish waters, revisiting Samos along the way. Theodore, now a member of the council of the Hellenic Society, had obtained a grant of £50 to equip his expedition. Once on Samos, however, he encountered problems with the authorities, repercussions from his undiplomatic behaviour three years previously; the Hellenic Society’s journal of 1886 reports that, ‘owing to unexpected difficulty in obtaining permission to dig in the island, Mr. Bent has not been so successful as he had hoped. He has, however, spent only half the amount.’ The £25 was returned to the Society. Mabel informs us: ‘Truly the balmy days of excavators are over’.

Theodore sketched out his Samos experience in the ‘Athenaeum’ (June 12, 1886), but his longer article was for the ‘Journal of Hellenic Studies’ (Vol. 7, 1886, pp. 143-153), under the title ‘An Archaeological Visit to Samos’. It’s not so hard to find online. He begins his introduction: ‘English enterprise in excavation has been considerably checked of late years by the impossibility of obtaining anything like fair terms from the Greek or Turkish governments… Con-sequently if English archaeologists wish to prosecute re-searches on the actual soil of Hellas, it remains for them to decide whether they are sufficiently remunerated for their trouble and outlay by the bare honour of discovering statues, inscriptions, and other treasures to be placed in the museum of Athens, or, as is the case in Turkey, for the inhabitants to make chalk of, or build into their houses.’ Theodore was piqued: ‘[Though] I tried hard to obtain a concession for taking away one half or one third of the things found I was eventually obliged to sign the same agreement which the French excavator M. Clerk had signed two years before, and which stipulated that everything found should belong to Samos.’ And quite right too of course.

Apart from an important inscription, found by Mabel (and published by Percy Gardner also in the ‘JHS’, Vol. 7, 1886, pp. 143–153), the couple make no major discoveries and leave Samos early and disappointed. They brought home to London a few every-day items they bought, now in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, including a pair of pigskin shoes (no accession number) and two eagle-bone pipes (1888.37.6 and 1903.130.17). Mabel had a life-long interest in fabrics and embroidery: returning from Tigani with two ‘towels’ she exhibited them at one of Theodore’s lectures, labelled as ‘Two towels from Samos with deep lace ends, partly needle and partly pillow.’ [On Insular Greek Customs’, ‘Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland’, Vol. 15 (1886), p. 402]

The British Museum also has ten or so of Theodore’s Samian finds, which it seems he must have smuggled out. He presented a fine terracotta Satyr mask dated c. 500 BC (1886, 1204.2) (illustrated here) and a glass aryballos (1886, 1204.1), but it seems the other material wasn’t sufficiently interesting to the museum and remained in Mabel’s possession until she donated the items in 1926, a few years before her death. Most of them are not on show but details of them are easily seen in the BM database – just search under ‘Theodore Bent’, for hundreds of his items from the E Med, Arabia and Africa.

The Satyr mask collected by the Bents from Samos and now in the BM.

All in all, Theodore and Mabel (ably assisted by their long-suffering dragoman, one Matthew Simos from Anafi), spent about eight weeks on Samos and around; after a few days on the island they took themselves off to Fourni, Patmos, Kalymnos, Ikaria and elsewhere, before returning to Samos to more or less circumambulate the island (the trip to feature in detail in a second post) in search of items archaeological, ethnographical, and other things generally ending in ‘cal’, including ‘gastronomical’, as Mabel notes once in Tigani: ‘We had coffee and jam first and then a splendid luncheon: soup of rice, whipped eggs and lemon juice, really good, a chicken and some lamb out of the same, Yaprakia, rice and meat in little balls boiled in vine leaves, very good rissoles, yaourt (curdled milk), cheese and fruit. I have not had so good a meal for a long time.’ [‘The Travel Chronicles of Mrs J. Theodore Bent. Volume I: Greece’, 2006, p. 84].

Mabel jotted most of these reminiscences in her ‘Chronicles’, a twenty-year series of notebooks now archived in the Hellenic Society in London and published in three volumes. Here is bucolic entry for April 1886: ‘I spent the afternoon on the bed with my work and book… while Theodore went an hour and a half to inspect a place for digging at Panagia tou Potamiou, or ‘of the river’. He decided it was such a lovely place that we must try there, so on the morning of April 16th [1886] we embarked in a boat and in half an hour reached the mouth of a river and soon pitched the tent on a flat place under some olive trees by a rushing river in a most lovely gorge… Just above our tent is the old church with some old pillars in it; not fine work. Here Matthew made a little stone table and it was our dining room and pantry, but not a very good pantry as the church mice, having plenty of candles to eat, are a thriving race… There is a water mill near, shut up at night. The digging was, I grieve to say, not successful. Theodore thought he had got among some Hellenic cottages; temples, palaces and statues were not to be found, only a large smashed marble pan of unknown use, so after 2 most delightful days in every way but the archaeological, we struck our tent and departed…’ [‘The Travel Chronicles of Mrs J. Theodore Bent. Volume I: Greece’, 2006, pp. 162-3].

The church is illustrated above and Theodore wrote up the same scene for his ‘Journal of Hellenic Studies’ piece (p. 146): ‘At Potamos, a lovely gorge to the north of the island, we found traces of a town, close to which was a ruined Byzantine church, with four Corinthian pillars, huge blocks of stone and cut jasper, probably from some ancient temple. In digging on a tiny plain beneath this we came across the remains of Hellenic buildings, in one of which was a marble slab, rounded at one end, 2 feet 8 inches by 2 feet 9; this marble was very neatly worked with a rim round the edge, and a lip at one end from which the juice of something pressed on the slab was evidently intended to run. Underneath the marble was most carefully worked with slight ornamentation.’

Among the characters encountered on this tour was fellow Oxfordian Henry Fanshawe Tozer. Tozer (in ‘The Islands of the Aegean’, 1890, p. 165) recalls their meeting and that they shared the same lodgings at Tigani: ‘We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Bent, who occupied other rooms in the same building; they were engaged in excavating some of the tombs that lie outside the city walls’. Elsewhere in his book (p. 302) Tozer refers to ‘the indefatigable spade of Mr. Bent’ – no under-statement.

The Bents, following trouble with pirates (also to feature in a later post, if you’ve stuck with us this far), leave the island from Vathi in early May 1886, arriving home to their Marble Arch townhouse by the end of the same month. Theodore has a fever he thinks he contracted in the marshes of Samos: a cautionary reminder of the risks to health present in the Mediterranean and further east; that spring there was cholera and death in Brindisi, Trieste, and, of course, Venice.

But anyway – all this was just to introduce the group to the Bents, and hopefully inspire one or two to look them up online over the dark, Samian, winter-winey evenings to come, and maybe, who knows, go listen for their voices among the ghosts of Panagia tou Potamiou. καλό χειμώνα

The Bents – Great Friends of Tilos

A recent post on the ‘Friends of Tilos’ (Dodecanese, Greece) Facebook page is very much worth re-posting here! Read on!

“Anyone heard of the Bents? J. Theodore Bent (1852-1897) and his wife Mabel (1847-1929) were among the most widely travelled explorer/antiquarian duos of the second half of the 19th century – their expeditions covered Africa, Arabia, the eastern Mediterranean, and, of course Tilos!

“The couple arrived at Agios Andonios on 24 February 1885, on a hired boat from Nisiros, and set sail for Karpathos (from Livadia) on 5 March. Having landed safely, the party took the old kalderimi to Megalo Chorio, and for the whole of their stay on the island they were accommodated in the the little monastery complex of the Apostles/Ag Panteleimon below Megalo Chorio. (Most of what follows is taken from ‘The Dodecanese: Further Travels Among the Insular Greeks‘. Selected Writings of J. Theodore & Mabel V.A. Bent, 1885-1888: Archaeopress, 2015.)

“Mabel noted the arrival in her diary: ‘We saw a good many people on the shore as we approached, but by the time we landed not one was in sight. The boatman then holloed out ‘Come near, fear not! We are from Nisiros, you may come safely!’ So out they came and we went to meet them and they said, ‘What people are you? From The Town?’ We said we were not from Constantinople but from England, but this did not enlighten them much.’ (Mabel Bent, ‘World Enough, and Time: The Travel Chronicles of Mrs J Theodore Bent Volume I: Greece and the Levantine Littoral‘, p. 74)

“Theodore, in his later article ‘A Protracted Wedding’ (‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’, Issue 265:1894 (1888:Oct), pp. 331-341) is more the travel-writer: ‘On the eve of a fine February day we reached Telos in a small sailing craft, thankful enough to have escaped the treacheries of a winter’s sail in these dangerous waters, and, as we approached, some few inhabitants came down to stare at us, prior to beating a hasty retreat, and for some time after we landed we could not induce them to approach. ‘They take you for pirates,’ said our sailors… These first acquaintances of ours on Telos were all women, dressed oddly enough; on their heads they wore a red-peaked cap, like those Phrygian helmets one sees on old vases, tied on with a red handkerchief round the forehead; from their ears hung down immense silver rings or bangles, five or six in each ear… They had on dark-brown coats of coarse home-spun material, which came below the knee, and they were girt with a red girdle; beneath this coat peeped their white shirt, rich at the edge with many-coloured embroidery; as for their feet, they were bare just now, and their long yellow leather shoes, with pointed ends, were cast on one side, for the women down here were washerwomen, engaged in treading flannel clothes and other things on boards; for the Teliote women wash in this fashion with their feet, like Nausicaa and her maidens, who “bore the clothes to the black water, and briskly trod them down in the trenches in busy rivalry.”’

“Bent went on to write that the objective of their stay was to record an imminent wedding (very unlike the French one witnessed the other month by the present writer, and many thanks to Ian Smith for the raki by the way – a pleasure to meet him and his dog walking in Megalo Chorio), but actually Bent was there to see what he might dig up. He excavated at a couple of unspecified cemeteries but left with very little, the best of the finds had been removed decades before by men like Charles Newton (a search under ‘Telos’ in the British Museum’s database will show some of the magnificent vases that once graced the island, indicating its prestige in the centuries before Christ). Bent’s account, for those interested, and worth the tracking down, was published as ‘The Islands of Telos and Karpathos’, ‘Journal of Hellenic Studies’, 1885, Vol. VI, pp. 233-242.

“Anyway – this was just to introduce the group to the Bents, and hopefully inspire one or two to look them up online over the dark Tilos winter evenings to come, and maybe go listen for their voices in the little monastery below Megalo Horio. καλό χειμώνα.”

 

Incidentally V: Margaret Kenna, and the Bents on Anáfi in 1884

The fifth in Professor Margaret Kenna’s Theodore and Mabel Bent-related series of ‘incidentals’ covering the Cycladic island of Anáfi is all to do with the great monastery site at the western end of the island; that celebrated monument built on the foundations of an ancient temple that perhaps sanctified the locale where Jason and Medea sported – having landed safely in a terrible storm from Crete. But Prof Kenna will fill you in… Margaret is a retired social anthropologist from Swansea University who has been carrying out research on Anáfi, and among Anáfiot migrants in Athens, since 1966. She has written two books and many articles in English about her research: Greek Island Life: Fieldwork on Anafi (2nd edition 2017, Sean Kingston Publishing), and The Social Organisation of Exile: Greek Political Dissidents in the 1930s (2001, Routledge). A Greek translation of the second book was published in 2004 by Alexandreia Press. Many of her articles, in English and in Greek translation, can be found on the websites: academia.edu and ResearchGate. She has also written several booklets which can be found in tourist shops on the island: Anafi: a Brief Guide; Anafi: Island of Exile; The Folklore and Traditions of Anafi, and The Traditional Embroideries of Anafi. She was made an Honorary Citizen of the island in 2006.

This fifth ‘talk’ in Professor Kenna’s thyme-scented series happily coincides with one of Margaret’s regular trips to the island (early June 2018). Go search her out if you are there!

We very much hope you enjoy it and will look out for forthcoming Anáfi ‘talks’ soon on our site; by all means send in your comments to the Bent Archive!

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The Bents visit the Lower Monastery/ Temple of Apollo: earlier, and later, visitors

“On January 10th 1884, the Bents went by boat along the south coast of the island with their host, the ‘demarch’ Chalaris, and their guide Matthaios, to the Lower Monastery ‘of Kalamiotissa, on a promontory’, as Mabel writes. She does not mention the huge peak (1476 feet/ 459 metres) of Mount Kalamos above it, although Theodore does: ‘a gigantic mountain rock’ (1885: 50).

Fig. 1: Mount Kalamos, in the distance, at the eastern end of the south coast of Anafi (M. Kenna).

“A bit of dynamite fishing from rocks along the south coast took place during the boat trip. Mabel writes the initial of the person involved, Theodore tactfully says ‘one of our men’, for then, as now, dynamite fishing is illegal and extremely dangerous. In the 1960s many male villagers had missing fingers or limbs (dynamite was not mentioned to me in the explanations I was given for these injuries), and in the 1980s, two Anafiot men, a father and son, were killed while using it.

“All that Mabel says of their visit at the monastery is this: ‘The Monastery is a very curious place, built on the site and with the stones, and using much of the old building of a temple of Apollo’ (for the diary references, see Bent, M. 2006: 32-34).

“The church of the Lower Monastery and the monks’ cells are indeed built inside the ruins of an ancient temple of Apollo. The myth is that Jason and the Argonauts were caught in a storm and saved by a flash of light thrown by Apollo, revealing the island to them (one derivation of the island’s name is ‘Revelation’, a parallel to another island sacred to Apollo, Delos, a name which also means ‘to reveal’). Anafi was later a place of pilgrimage to the temple of Apollo, and to other temples built on the site, and became rich enough to have its own coinage.

Fig 2: The Lower Monastery church visible over the wall of Apollo’s temple, summer 1966 (M. Kenna).

“The Monastery is called ‘Lower’ because there is another very small one, founded in 1715, on the peak of Mount Kalamos. Until 1887 the ikon of the island’s patron saint, Panayia Kalamiotissa (the Virgin of the Reed), was housed in the Upper Monastery chapel, and it was then brought down to the Lower Monastery. The Lower Monastery had been visited by Ludwig Ross in the 1830s (probably on the same visit as the one on which he sketched the sarcophagus described in another blog entry) and a decade later the archaeologist and epigrapher Hiller von Gaertringen would not only visit the Lower Monastery (because of his interest in the temple) but also photograph it, and the Upper Monastery chapel as well. He published the Anafi inscriptions in Inscriptiones Graecae Vol XII, 3: 54-68, numbers 247-319 (referred to here as I.G.). A photocopy can be found in the museum in the village.

Fig. 3: Hiller von Gaertringen’s photo of the Lower Monastery during his visit, c. 1898.

Fig. 4: A ‘measured drawing’ by Laurits Winstrup, Danish architect, of the layout of the temple and monastery buildings. The wall in the photo above is at the top of this drawing (from Margit Bendtsen ‘Sketches and Measurings: Danish Architects in Greece, 1818:1862’. Copenhagen, 1993: 361).

“At the time of the Bents’ visit, the three monks there were mourning the death of their Abbot the previous day (how Chalaris had not heard of this is not mentioned), so the Bents did not stay long. Theodore does however mention that ‘the monastery now belongs to one at Santorin’ (1885: 50). Later events make it clear that another Abbot was appointed, and, indeed, there was one during my own time on the island (when there no monks at the Lower Monastery) who also acted as village priest. It was only after this Abbot’s death in the 1990s that the Lower and Upper Monasteries became ‘holdings’ of the Monastery of Profitis Ilias on Santorini, and renovations were carried out and other changes made.

Fig. 5: The Lower Monastery in 2016. Part of the ancient wall can just be seen bottom left (M. Kenna).

Fig. 6: Inside the Lower Monastery, showing the wall of one of the temple buildings, summer 1966 (M. Kenna).

Fig. 7: The temple building in the photo above, summer 1988 (M. Kenna).

Fig. 8: The temple building ‘secured’ by the regional archaeological service (21st Ephorate), 2015 (M. Kenna).

Fig. 9: Hiller von Gaertringen’s Greek foreman (Angelos Kosmopoulos from the Peloponnese, wearing a fustanella), in the doorway of the remaining temple building, 1898.

“Theodore refers to Apollo in the god’s manifestation as ‘Aeglites’ (‘radiant’ ‘shining’). However, Apollo on Anafi had an epithet that is unique to that location, which appears in some of inscriptions which Hiller recorded. This epithet is ‘Asgelatas’. Some scholars say this is a variant of ‘aigletes’, radiant, and others relate it to Asclepios/ Aesculapius, god of healing, son of Apollo – so would the epithet mean ‘father of Asclepios’? There are other more controversial interpretations, see ‘Apollo and the Virgin’ in History and Anthropology 2009, available on the websites: academia.edu and ResearchGate. Theodore would surely have known about this epithet as Ludwig Ross had described it (see line 3 of the text in I.G. XII, 248, below).

Fig. 10: One of the inscriptions referring to Apollo as ‘Asgelatas’ (I.G. 248, line 8).

“In the summer of 1966, Richard McNeal visited the island and discovered another such inscription, not recorded by Hiller. It is a dedication of an altar and reads, in translation, ‘To Apollo Asgelatas, on behalf of (my) son Aristogenes’. He asked me to take a photograph of it and to make a ‘squeeze’ (papier-maché impression). The Greek word ‘Asgelatas’ is in the third (last) line.

Fig. 11: The ‘Asgelatas’ altar, summer 1966 (M. Kenna).

“Another of the inscriptions recorded by Hiller refers to celebrating the rituals of the ‘Asgelaia’

Fig. 12: An inscription recorded by Hiller, mentioning the ‘Asgelaia’. I.G. 249, line 22.

“And what they were, we don’t really know – although they could be an occasion at which men and women traded insults, repeating what is said to have taken place on Anafi when Jason and the Argonauts were insulted by Medea and her women. The women derided the men for only having water (instead of wine or oil) to pour on the sacrificial fire offered to Apollo in thanks for their safe arrival on the island (as reported by Apollonios Rhodios in Argonuatica Book IV, line 1730).

“Theodore notes that at the Lower Monastery, ‘In every direction are to be seen inscriptions let into the walls…. It would appear from the inscriptions that this ground was once covered with temples, the principal one being dedicated to Apollo Aeglites, another to Aphrodite, another to Aesculapius, etc.’ (Bent 1885: 50). His work on the inscriptions appears in another ‘blog’ entry (‘Incidentally II’) .

“Of course, and as ever, far the best thing to do is go see for yourselves! The road there is excellent – you can hire a car, scooter, or bike, but the joy is in the walking – there is a coastal path – and in front of you all the way is the tempting and high Kalamiotissa church in the distance. Go on, you can do it!

References

* Bent, Mabel and Brisch, Gerald (ed.) 2006. The Travel Chronicles of Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, Vol I: Greece and the Levantine Littoral. Oxford, Archaeopress.
* Bent, Theodore 1885 (2002). The Cyclades, or Life Among the Insular Greeks. Oxford, Archaeopress.
* Ross, Ludwig 1840-1852. Reisen auf den griechischen Inseln des ägäischen Meeres (1840-45). Stuttgart, Tübingen, Cotta [https://archive.org/details/reisenundreiser00rossgoog].

Websites
For the Greek Epigraphical Society, see https://greekepigraphicsociety.org.gr/august-2011/#more-440 (accessed 17/03/2018).

Incidentally IV: Margaret Kenna, and the Bents on Anáfi in 1884

The fourth in Professor Margaret Kenna’s Theodore and Mabel Bent-related series of ‘incidentals’ covering the Cycladic island of Anáfi, centres around a well-known landmark you can easily find on the way to Kastelli, the hill on which the Hellenistic city ruins can be found. Thus Margaret’s third short ‘talk’ in her thyme-scented series is called: ‘“The sarcophagus” at the Bents’ time, earlier, and more recently’.

Margaret is a retired social anthropologist from Swansea University who has been carrying out research on Anáfi, and among Anáfiot migrants in Athens, since 1966. She has written two books and many articles in English about her research: Greek Island Life: Fieldwork on Anafi (2nd edition 2017, Sean Kingston Publishing), and The Social Organisation of Exile: Greek Political Dissidents in the 1930s (2001, Routledge). A Greek translation of the second book was published in 2004 by Alexandreia Press. Many of her articles, in English and in Greek translation, can be found on the websites: academia.edu and ResearchGate. She has also written several booklets which can be found in tourist shops on the island: Anafi: a Brief Guide; Anafi: Island of Exile; The Folklore and Traditions of Anafi, and The Traditional Embroideries of Anafi. She was made an Honorary Citizen of the island in 2006.

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“The sarcophagus” at the Bents’ time, earlier, and more recently

“On the way to Kastelli, the hill on which the Hellenistic city ruins can be found, the Bents came to ‘a little church’ (the chapel of Panayia tou Dokari), next to which is a marble sarcophagus. As Bent records, there is on one side, ‘a beautifully executed representation of children bringing sacrifices to Bacchus…. On the other side are Bellerophon and Pegasus, and on the two narrow sides are Sphinxes.’ (Bent 1885: 47). Actually, not quite correct, as these photos will show…..

Figure 1: The sarcophagus outside the chapel of Panayia tou Dokari in summer 1967 – Sphinx on short side (east-facing), jolly cherubs on long side (south-facing) (M. Kenna).

Figure 2: The jolly cherubs in late afternoon sunshine (M. Kenna).

Figure 3: Hiller von Gaertringen’s photo of the jolly cherubs, 1898 (IG XII/3).

Figure 4: In summer 1973, Bellerophon and Pegasus on short side (west-facing), jolly cherubs still jolly (M. Kenna).

Figure 5: Bellerophon and Pegasus in late afternoon sunshine (M. Kenna).

Figure 6:…easier to see in Ross’s early C19 drawing of the west-facing side of the sarcophagus (Ross 1840-1852).

Figure 7: Not a sphinx, but winged griffins either side of a pillar, on the north-facing side (M. Kenna).

“Oh, well, the Bents were walking in the January rain, so maybe Theodore can be forgiven for confusing sphinxes and griffins…

“Another sarcophagus was probably in the same location, as fragments of the decorated ‘roof’ can be found built into the wall of the chapel. Bent writes that this other one ‘appears to have been even richer in execution’ (Bent 1885:47).

Figure 8: Fragment of the roof of ‘the other sarcophagus’ (to the right of the headless statue), built into the chapel wall, spring 1967 (M. Kenna).

“There is a sarcophagus (Figure 8) of a similar type in the National Archaeological Museum found in Patras in the Peloponnese, dated around 150 A.D./ C.E., which gives an idea of what the Anafi sarcophagus might have looked like. The scene depicted is a boar hunt.

Figure 9: Item 1186, National Archaeological Museum, Athens (M. Kenna).

“But go see for yourself! Let’s hope all this tempts you to get out from underneath the tamarisks of Roúkouna this summer and stroll Kastelli-wards to snap it. Wear your hat tho!”

References
Bent, Mabel and Brisch, Gerald (ed.) 2006. The Travel Chronicles of Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, Vol I: Greece and the Levantine Littoral. Oxford, Archaeopress.

Bent, Theodore 1885 (2002). The Cyclades, or Life Among the Insular Greeks. Oxford, Archaeopress.

Hiller von Gaertringen, F. 1898. Inscriptiones: IG XII/3.

Ross, Ludwig 1840-1852. Reisen auf den griechischen Inseln des ägäischen Meeres (1840-45). Stuttgart, Tübingen, Cotta [https://archive.org/details/reisenundreiser00rossgoog].

Incidentally II: Margaret Kenna, and the Bents on Anáfi in 1884

We are delighted to post the second in Professor Margaret Kenna’s Theodore and Mabel Bent-related series of ‘incidentals’ covering the Cycladic island of Anáfi. Margaret is a retired social anthropologist from Swansea University who has been carrying out research on Anáfi, and among Anáfiot migrants in Athens, since 1966. She has written two books and many articles in English about her research: Greek Island Life: Fieldwork on Anafi (2nd edition 2017, Sean Kingston Publishing), and The Social Organisation of Exile: Greek Political Dissidents in the 1930s (2001, Routledge). A Greek translation of the second book was published in 2004 by Alexandreia Press. Many of her articles, in English and in Greek translation, can be found on the websites: academia.edu and ResearchGate. She has also written several booklets which can be found in tourist shops on the island: Anafi: a Brief Guide; Anafi: Island of Exile; The Folklore and Traditions of Anafi, and The Traditional Embroideries of Anafi. She was made an Honorary Citizen of the island in 2006.

This second ‘talk’ in Professor Kenna’s thyme-scented series involves ‘Antiquities and Inscriptions of Anafi in the Bents’ time, later, and more recently’, presenting, perhaps for the first time, a fascinating introductory synthesis of the antiquities and inscriptions touching on the Bents, through a lens of 100 years. We very much hope you enjoy it and will look out for forthcoming Anáfi ‘talks’ soon on our site; by all means send in your comments to the Bent Archive!

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Antiquities and Inscriptions of Anafi in the Bents’ time, later, and more recently

“During their stay on Anafi in early January 1884, the Bents visited some of the antiquities of the island and noted some of the inscriptions. These were to be recorded later in detail by Hiller von Gaertringen, the famous archaeologist and epigrapher, who visited Anafi in 1898 when he was excavating on Santorini.

“The inscriptions can be found (with details in Latin as to their location and condition) in Inscriptiones Graecae vol XII, fascicle iii (referred to here as I.G.). A photocopy of the section on Anafi was given by me to the island Museum, where headless statues from the Hellenistic city, known locally as Kastelli, are stored.

Figure 1: Headless statue on Kastelli, summer 1967 (photo: M. Kenna).

“Theodore reports visiting the house of an elderly man, surnamed Chalaris (the same surname as the ‘demarch’) who had assisted in the excavations of Ludwig Ross on the island in 1836 (nearly fifty years earlier). The house of this ninety-year old consisted of one room (like most of the village’s barrel-vaulted houses) and had ‘endless archaeological trophies scattered around. With pride he pointed out the various objects he had collected – the torso of a statue let in over his door, an inscription let into his well before the house’ (Bent 1885:45). This must surely be I.G. 280, which is described as being located in ‘the back wall of a cistern in the village house of Sophocles Syrigus’.

Figure 2: Excerpt from I.G.XII, iii: page 64, recording what is probably the inscription at the back of Chalaris’s well (source: I.G.XII, iii: 64).

“Another inscription recorded by Hiller (I.G. 256) is described in Latin as ‘murus gallinario tectus est’ (‘now the wall of a hen-house’).

Figure 3: Excerpt from I.G.XII, iii, page 60. The whereabouts of the henhouse have not been discovered! (source: I.G.XII, iii, 60).

Twentieth-century finds

“Some of the school-teachers posted to the island when a secondary school and high-school were created in the 1980s and 1990s were interested in archaeology and the history of the island. One of them showed us some finds.

Figure 4: Summer 1988: pottery shards found in the village (photo: M. Kenna).

“He showed us the places in the village where he had found the pottery pieces (usually on top of the heaps of soil from the lower levels when cisterns were being dug. The fact that some of the pieces were of geometric pottery – pottery that can be dated to 900-700 BCE – indicates that the village site has been occupied for much longer than various sources state – some of them say it dates from ‘medieval times’). As we looked, one of the villagers ran up and said ‘If you’re interested in that kind of thing, I’ve got something in my shed you might like to see’. And…

Figure 5: Summer 1988 ‘in a shed at the house of…’ (photo: M. Kenna).

“In case it had not been recorded before, we not only photographed it, and tried to copy the inscription, but also improvised a way of indicating its measurements – a Papastratos #1 cigarette packet!

Figure 6: Summer 1988: maybe an unrecorded inscription? – but no…. (photo: M. Kenna).

“It was later identified by an epigrapher who has worked on the island, Angelos Matthaiou, as I.G. XII, iii, 318, page 68 (see the Greek Epigraphical Society website). Angelos and his colleagues have discovered, or re-discovered, many of the inscriptions recorded in I.G. One he found was at the Lower Monastery’s former grape-treading building (patitiri). His discoveries can be found in Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (SEG) and in the journal Horos. Hiller notes that this stele is ‘in today’s village, in the wall below the window of the house of Perulis Drossos’.

Figure 7: I.G XII, 3, number 318.

“Theodore recorded some inscriptions in the village and at the Lower Monastery (knowing that most of them had already been collected by Ross). One of these, which must have been near the Lower Monastery (because he writes ‘before returning to our boat’) was at ‘a ruined house’ and gave a list of ‘seven consuls from different parts of Greece, resident at Anaphi – one from Thessaly, others from Mykonos, Cnidos, Paros, Chios, Lacedaemon, and Siphnos’ (Bent 1885: 50). This must be I.G. 251. Hiller’s entry for it states that it is in the Monastery ‘in cella torcularia’ (in the pressing room, either an olive press or a wine press – in this case, wine-press).

Figure 8: I.G XII, 3: 251, the seven ‘consuls’.

“Theodore also took some ‘squeezes’ (papier-maché impressions) of inscriptions he thought might be unknown; one of them was published in the The Journal of Hellenic Studies (1888), and also referred to by Hiller.

Figure 9: Reference to Bent’s ‘find’ in an article by E. L. Hicks in The Journal of Hellenic Studies 1888 (9): 90-90.

“A decade later, this inscription was published by Hiller, with acknowledgement of Bent’s ‘ectypo’ (squeeze) and Hick’s recording of it in JHS:

Figure 10: I.G. XII, 3: 257, Bent’s work on an inscription is acknowledged (source: I.G. XII, 3: 257).


Figure 11: In context. A Google Map showing the tiny island of Anafi in the Cyclades. Sites shown are Prassa on the north-west, where the Bents landed in January 1884, the Classical and Medieval site of Kastelli, and the Kalamiotissa Monastery to the east of the island.

“I really hope this has inspired you to go search out your own Cycladic inscriptions this summer! See you again soon for the third in my series of Incidentals!”

References:
* Bent, Mabel and Brisch, Gerald (ed.) 2006. The Travel Chronicles of Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, Vol I: Greece and the Levantine Littoral. Oxford, Archaeopress.
* Bent, Theodore 1885 (2002). The Cyclades, or Life Among the Insular Greeks. Oxford, Archaeopress.
* Ross, Ludwig 1840-1852. Reisen auf den griechischen Inseln des ägäischen Meeres (1840-45). Stuttgart, Tübingen, Cotta [https://archive.org/details/reisenundreiser00rossgoog].

Websites
For the Greek Epigraphical Society, see https://greekepigraphicsociety.org.gr/august-2011/#more-440 (accessed 17/03/2018).

Incidentally I: Margaret Kenna, and the Bents on Anáfi in 1884

We are delighted to announce for our site over the coming months a short, Theodore and Mabel Bent-related series of ‘incidentals’ covering the Cycladic island of Anáfi, presented by anthropologist and Anáfi expert Professor Margaret Kenna. Margaret is a retired social anthropologist from Swansea University who has been carrying out research on Anáfi, and among Anáfiot migrants in Athens, since 1966. She has written two books and many articles in English about her research: Greek Island Life: Fieldwork on Anafi (2nd edition 2017, Sean Kingston Publishing), and The Social Organisation of Exile: Greek Political Dissidents in the 1930s (2001, Routledge). A Greek translation of the second book was published in 2004 by Alexandreia Press. Many of her articles, in English and in Greek translation, can be found on the websites: academia.edu and ResearchGate. She has also written several booklets which can be found in tourist shops on the island: Anafi: a Brief Guide; Anafi: Island of Exile; The Folklore and Traditions of Anafi, and The Traditional Embroideries of Anafi. She was made an Honorary Citizen of the island in 2006.

We begin Professor Kenna’s thyme-scented series with ‘Adventures getting to, and leaving, Anafi: 1884 and 1983’, comparing Margaret’s own reminiscences on the island’s (in)accessibility with those of Theodore and Mabel, through a lens of 100 years. We very much hope you enjoy what follows and decide to look out for forthcoming Anáfi ‘talks’ soon on our site; by all means send in your comments to the Bent Archive!

ανάφηανάφηανάφηανάφη

Adventures getting to, and leaving, Anafi: 1884 and 1983

by Margaret Kenna

“In early January 1884, Theodore and Mabel Bent spent sixteen hours on a caïque travelling from Santorini to Anafi. They landed at around two o’clock in the morning, at a little inlet about two hours away from the village (Theodore describes it as on ‘the north side of the island’, but it is, more accurately, on the north-west coast, north of the fertile western area known as Vayia). This inlet, identified as Prassa, was until a few decades ago used whenever adverse winds and bad weather prevented vessels from getting to the main harbour of Ayios Nikolaos on the south coast of the island.

“Being opposite Santorini, and thus likely to have received stones, rocks and lava from its volcanic eruptions, the inlet has some very striking rock formations:

Pebble from Prassa, commemorating the Bents’ arrival there (art-work by Lito Apostolakou, inklinks.etsy.com)

“While Mabel’s diary (courtesy of Gerry Brisch (Bent 2006: 33)) notes that, once landed, they scrambled over ‘thorns, stones, rocks, and streams’ for an hour before they found a chapel where they could take shelter and spend the rest of the night, Theodore omits all the scrambling and notes his appreciation of ‘those churches, which are dotted everywhere over the islands for benighted wayfarers like ourselves’ (Bent 1885: 44). After this very ethnocentric observation, he comments on the small size of the chapel and its mud floor on which they slept with stones for pillows and their travelling rugs as blankets (also noted by Mabel). No mention at all is made by Theodore of the ‘old man whose son-in-law had died on Anaphe’ who was on the caïque with them, according to Mabel, and had come over ‘to fetch his daughter’. This human interest story is omitted by Theodore, who simply tells us that in the morning they sent their ‘manservant’ (and guide and translator), identified by Gerry Brisch as Matthaios Simos (himself from Anafi), to the village to get mules. While waiting for him to return, they breakfasted on some bacon they had with them, cooked over a brushwood fire. They set off for the village, taking with them mail for the villagers, for which the island had been waiting for two months.

“Almost one hundred years after the Bents arrived at Prassa, when bad weather in April 1983 prevented the steamer from approaching Ayios Nikolaos, five of us, four adults and a four-year old child, had to cross the island on foot to Prassa. Our luggage was on donkeys, for in those days, as in the Bents’ time, there were no roads and no wheeled vehicles (although there was electricity in the village, and a few telephones). Having hurried along rocky paths and across country for several hours, we arrived at Prassa. There, while the steamer waited out at sea, we jumped from a flat rock, which served as a landing stage, into a dinghy, which rowed us out to the steamer, and then collected supplies and a mail bag. Luckily, not an adventure to be repeated as now there is a more-or-less wind-and-weather-withstanding jetty at Ayios Nikolaos harbour.

Prassa in May 2016: the ‘landing stage/embarkation’ platform is the large, sunlit, pale grey, rock sticking out from the cliff in the centre of the picture (photo: Margaret Kenna)

Spring 1983: on Anafi, some of the party, with local friend (in black) just before the cross-country trek to Prassa (photo: Margaret Kenna)

“The Bents had to cut short their stay as the weather was fine and the caïque was waiting, so they were only on the island for two days (9th to 11th January). They collected mail to take to Santorini, and Mabel reports that they were accompanied by the old man, his widowed daughter and her baby (so we do know a little bit more about that human interest story), and Matthaios Simos’s cousin, Margarita.”

The harbour of Ayios Nikolaos in summer 1966. It is likely that only the very short jetty would have existed when the Bents left the island on 11 January 1884 (photo: Margaret Kenna)

An isle in context. Map showing the tiny island of Anafi in the Cyclades. Prassa is on the north-west (map: Google)

References

Bent, Mabel and Brisch, Gerald (ed.) 2006. The Travel Chronicles of Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, Vol I: Greece and the Levantine Littoral. Oxford, Archaeopress.

Bent, Theodore 1885 (2002). The Cyclades, or Life Among the Insular Greeks. Oxford, Archaeopress.

Mabel’s Menus: the culinary notes of an archaeologist (1880-1900)

There is little evidence, one way or the other, for Mabel Virginia Anna Hall-Dare (later Bent) being much of a cook. Born in 1847, into the comfortably-off, Anglo-Irish, minor aristocratic milieu, she dwelled as a girl in three wealthy and populated homes (Counties Meath, Sligo, and Wexford), including servants, before marrying the young, would-be explorer, Theodore Bent (later FSA, FRGS) in 1877. The couple then began a notable series of travels over the next twenty years to extensive regions of the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa and Arabia, in search of finds both archaeological and ethnographical.

The explorers travelled with fairly large amounts of gear, including of course cooking wherewithal, and, mostly, with an enterprising assistant from the isle of Anáfi in the Cyclades (a Cyclops’ stone’s through south-east of Santoríni), one of whose duties was to put food on the camp-table for the hungry couple, following days spent negotiating difficult terrain, assorted dangers, and looking for treasures. (Hospitality tantamount to religion in many of the lands they found themselves in, the Bents could also often rely on bed-and/or-board with eager-to-please hosts.)

These appetising adventures are all covered in Mabel’s travel diaries (her ‘Chronicles’, published in three volumes by Archaeopress, Oxford), and the pages of the chronicler’s notebooks are peppered with reminiscences of what they had to eat – and the very occasional meals prepared by Mabel herself, when she had the inclination, time, or a special event in mind.

Thus, prior to publication in 2018 of ‘Mabel’s Menus’, selected tidbits of dishes from, inter alia, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, Yemen, Iran, and Zimbabwe, will appear, που και που, on the Bent website blog (www.tambent.com) and Facebook. (Of course, if you would like to be notified when the book appears, do please contact info@tambent.com at any time.)

As a taster, Mabel would like to describe to you some meals they shared on Íos (23-25 January 1884) with their hosts, the family Lorenziades, descendants of whom still reside on the island today, and introduce you to one of her favourite cheeses:

“Breakfasted at a kafeneion and sent our letter up to the Demarch Lorenziades, who at once came down from the town and told us he had no rooms for us to sleep in but we were to feed with him. The baggage and I were put on mules and we went up to the Chora. The family consisted chiefly of the Demarch, who has a little common 2nd wife very inferior to the rest but a kind little thing. I should have thought it unnecessary to marry her when there are so many other women in the world; his elder brother and 3 very pretty jolly girls Marousa, Aikaterena and Kaleroe, all tall and fat. A 3rd brother is the schoolmaster. All were quite like gentlemen and all in black frock-coats. There were at least 6 more people.

Mesithra is a sort of curd made of sheep’s milk in a basket, just like 'brocciu' of Corsica
‘Mesithra is a sort of curd made of sheep’s milk in a basket, just like “brocciu” of Corsica’

“They received us most kindly and were really the most congenial people we have met. We took a house consisting of bedroom, pantry and sitting room, where Matthew [the Bents’ assistant, M. Símos] slept, and a kitchen, and went for our meals to the Demarch’s. They did everything they possibly could to please and amuse us. The dinner party consisted of the three brothers, the wife, Marousa and we 3. The first day we had chicken soup boiled, and roast chicken; 2nd ditto kid, 3rd ditto fish, and 3 times a day did we get mesithra and honey. Mesithra is a sort of curd made of sheep’s milk in a basket, just like ‘brocciu’ of Corsica. After dinner some of them dressed up in old costumes, of most splendid gold brocade and gold lace and embroidery. Such is the power of dress that we did not know where they had got the wonderfully beautiful woman in green and gold, and never found out till next day it was Aikaterene:

“Next morning, Friday [January] 25th, the Demarch came to fetch us to breakfast, and, M having evidently informed about the English customs, we had 2 eggs, a glass of milk and some mesithra and honey. Afterwards we and the Demarch started to Plaketos at the other side of the island: 3 hours. We saw the supposed tomb of Homer who died here on his way from Samos to Athens and then went to a little hut of an old man where we lunched in a very rough way; wine in a large wooden basin and scooped and drunk out of a little gourd. The hut was very low, door 4 feet high and a bed built of stones with twigs and straw 4 feet square. Even in better houses the doors are often too low. We had cold fish and cold soft eggs and they are hard, whether hot or cold, to eat without a spoon.” (from the Travel ‘Chronicles’ of Mabel Bent, Vol 1, pp. 38-9)

Mabel’s Chronicles: April 3rd 1885 (Easter) – Karpathos

The Dodecanese
The Dodecanese showing the island of Kárpathos, where the Bents spent Easter 1885. (c) Glyn Griffiths

Easter time (April) 1885 found the Bents ‘excavating’ around Vroukoúnda on the Greek island of Kárpathos (Dodecanese). For the festivities, the couple (and their dragomános of choice, Matthew Símos) rode up to the major village of Ólymbos, then, as now, a preferred Easter destination for those in the know.

As usual, full details of their travels, travails and finds on this island can be read in Mabel’s relevant Chronicles and the many papers Theodore wrote (see bibliography). For a Cycladic Easter, a comprehensive good read is Theodore’s 1884 article ‘Easter Week in Amorgos’ first published in Macmillan’s Magazine (May/October issue) and included in his later book ‘The Cyclades – or Life Among the Insular Greeks‘.

Ólymbos, Kárpathos
Ólymbos, Kárpathos, at Easter (c) Nikos Kasseris

Good Friday [April 3, 1885] was a fine sunny day and we unpacked the panniers, for we were quite too tired to look at anything on our arrival. It is very exciting work digging, first finding something, then is it whole? Then have we all the pieces? The men grind the edges trying to fit them and any metal they cut with their knife. Fortunately they never saw the little boxes. Theodore found and pocketed them…. These two days before Easter are employed making bread and cakes with red eggs stuck into them and every oven is smoking. Elymbo [Ólymbos, Kárpathos] is rather a disappointment to us; we think Méso Chório was a quainter place. This Saturday is a rainy day. Now here I must I think make a few remarks about the Greeks founded upon my 3 journeys amongst them and staying in the houses of high and low and seeing them in town and country.

Though they have a king, surely never were more true republicans than the Greeks. There appears to be perfect equality among them and a complete mingling of classes, neither dirt, poverty not want of education seems to make any difference… Mr. Philemon, who is the Greek Consul at Rhodes, and who is quite a gentleman and whose wife is quite a lady and very well dressed, has a most ragged and dirty old father-in-law, Dr. Klados, and no one would take Mrs. Klados for a lady… He lives with a mud floor. His daughter of 17 with bare legs carried our luggage about a mile for 6d on her head and one of his little boys I saw running about with only a tattered frock open all down the front and bare feet. He is quite one of the chief men of Karpathos and Mr. Sakolarides’s children also have bare legs. But these people are not like us in keeping up a good establishment in the country, for though they are as smart as possible in Athens, Syra, or Smyrna, once they get to the country they cast off their civilization with their collars and seem content with any kind of an untidy picnic for any length of time. Mr. Manolakakis has a cousin, a bricklayer, and one of our friends here is a bricklayer that Theodore met at Mr. Manolakakis’s house. He gave us letters of introduction to all kinds of peasants, some very dirty, but they all seem quite equal and we always noticed in the Cyclades that our muleteers used to sit down in any house and help themselves to tobacco. Certainly whatever their education is, they all seem to have good manners, if not quite according to our notion. We are expected to know any English engineer on any steamer, etc.; in fact they do not seem to recognize difference of rank at all. As to our being ‘a nation of shopkeepers’ the Greeks cannot understand our buying anything for ourselves and think every bit of embroidery and everything else is bought for sale, and they often ask us if we have different things with us to sell…

Every man but a priest or two and a few old men leaves the island every summer for 6 months or more, chiefly as bricklayers, and every field labour, wine making, etc., is done by the women. There are no girls’ schools and few of my sex can read.

Here the women’s dress consists of a pair of full white trousers and a white nightgown flowing open to the waist. When cold they wear a blue wadded-cotton coat, rather shorter, and then both men and women have a coat of brown goats’ hair with a hood. Sometimes they wear brown leather top boots, sometimes not…

Easter Sunday, April 5th 1885. This morning was sunny after the first two hours so we opened all our windows and the door and tried to dry our things. Though Theodore forgot to put out the brazier for the night and though it was still burning in the morning, some clean clothes hung over it on 2 chairs in the morning. We hung out the Union Jack in honour of the day. We had a visit from the schoolmaster, who is being doctored by us and is the better for our treatment, and took a walk with him. By the bye, one of Theodore’s patients (cold tea for the eyes) brought 2 eggs as a thank offering.

A little while after our return Manthaios came to say luncheon was ready if we were, for he thought it must be noon. Theodore looked at his watch and found it to be half past 10; however we agreed our appetites were ready, so to our amusement we found we had everything cleared away by 11.30.

We spoke over the difference we observed between the inhabitants of Karpathos and Tilos and the Cyclades and the other islands we have visited, i.e. Niseros, Rhodes, Chios, Samos, and Mytelene, in their not offering coffee, etc. to visitors. In the other islands we were always at once brought coffee, or jam and water, or raki, or almonds, oranges, or pomegranates, but here the only one who had offered us coffee was the Kaïmakan and the wicked owner of the plates who is a Greek from Syra. I agree with Theodore in thinking it a Turkish fashion, but it is odd they never have offered us any thing till about an hour or two after this conversation when we were asked into a house, which we entered, and very soon a large dish of sheep’s cream was placed before us and a kouloúri, that is one of the wound-up serpent-like cakes they make in great numbers for Easter, generally with coloured eggs in them. I could hardly get any down so soon and my horror was great when she said, ‘now you must eat some lamb!’

Such cooking is going on these 3 days. First bread and kouloúris, then yesterday and today lambs, and we see the lambs come out of the oven in every imaginable shape in which they may have been flung in. Well! She fetched the family lamb and tore us off bits. She handed me a whole leg, but I cried for mercy and was let off with a smaller bit. It was very tender and I gnawed away industriously till the kind woman took my bit and rubbed salt into it with her thumbs, having been to fetch a handful of salt. I managed to continue eating inside bits till, when everyone was excited over my gloves, I squeezed up my lamb and bread into a tight ball and pocketed it.

Since this we have been to church. Only men and little boys go into the church, the women remain in the outer room where the parliament was, but as I count as a man, sitting at meals, etc., they invited me in. In I went. All the little boys stood in front, some very small and very pretty – indeed there are lots of pretty children here, though their elders are not handsome.

Everyone but we had a candle, but just before the time for lighting them came a man with two very large ones, hot and newly made so that we were glad to have them in the tray in which they lay, they were so soft. Of course, when they were so kind we lit up like the rest and I consoled myself by remembering that it was in honour of a truly Christian feast in which we could take part, in fact we recognized many parts of our own service.

There were 5 priests with such dirty rough-shock heads of uncombed hair. Their poor robes were made of printed calico. People chatted a good deal and we often heard a loud ‘shsh!’ It was very odd seeing the priests dressing and undressing inside the tembelon or screen. They walked about a good deal in a way I could not understand and 2 or 3 young men stepped about with large prayer books and repeated ‘Christ is risen from the dead’ and wherever they went the bystanders looked over and raised their voices.

The gospel was read on this wise: one papas read a verse or two in Greek, then each of the other 4, and then a young man read them in French! We did not discover this till the very last set of verses, as the French was very bad, but the last set but one I began to suspect. Manthaios tells us each of the priests ought to have read in a different language if he could, Turkish, Arabic, etc., that all the world might understand. A very good idea I think.

After the service was over all the papas came out and, clearing away the candlesticks, etc. which stood in the way, and holding up a silver-bound gospel, cross, and other things, they stood in a row and the men who wished passed before them kissing each object in hand once, and the papas once on each cheek and on the mouth. We did not perform this ceremony.

When we got out there was a wonderful sort of a ‘guy’ set up over the gateway of the church to represent a Jew. His head was an earthen jar and he had a child in his arms. This the men shot at, getting nearer and nearer till he got on fire. I was sitting among the women who constantly begged me not to fear and thought I must be cold as I had on gloves, but I answered, ‘It is our custom’, which finishes off all discussions…

I think we have got to the end of our 7 days here and are no longer great wonders, but every Sunday we always are one of the amusements of the day…

Mabel’s Chronicles: January 23rd 1884 – Ios

It can be safely said that today’s visitors to Íos are unlikely to be looking to the Bents for travel guidance; nor will they be visiting in the months of winter, when the great natural harbour (where your ferry’s tender would have taken you to shore as late as the 1970s) is slate blue-grey and disorientating.

Towards the end of January 1884, Theodore and Mabel were finishing their little tour of Santoríni and getting ready for the steam north, a few hours, to Íos, where they intend to explore the antiquities before heading east for Síkinos and Folégandhros. We will join them in a minute, but first a few notes on the following passage of Mabel’s Chronicles.

As usual, the three main characters are Theodore, Mabel, and their long-suffering dragomános from Anáfi, Manthaios Simos.

The Panellénion
The Panellénion runs the Cretan blockade in 1867 (Wikipedia image)

A (Greek) Wikipedia search under Πανελλήνιον (ατμόπλοιο) will tell you all need to know about the feisty Panellénion (1855, 310 tons), which ran the Cretan blockade in 1867. In his Cyclades (Chapter VII), Theodore adds: ‘Though we had the very worst steamer of the Hellenic Company to take us to Ios, yet it was a steamer that all who travel thereon treat with respect, for it was none other than the Panhellenion, which ran the blockade in the late Cretan revolution, and carried assistance to the Greeks struggling for freedom. A very little sentiment of this kind goes a long way on a rolling sea, and, despite the celebrity of our craft, we were thankful to leave her when she entered the capacious harbour of Ios . . .’

The light, refreshing cheese (she varies between mesithra, mesethra and mesythra, but never from her relish of it) is to become a favourite of Mabel’s. The couple bring home a primitive cheese strainer; it is in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (2005.68.1). To explain her reference to the Corsican brand, the Bents visited there in the late 1870s, soon after their marriage, with Theodore covering the island’s story in his Genoa, how the Republic Rose and Fell (London 1881).

The little church at Paleokastro
The little church at Paleokastro

The walk up to the deserted (Venetian) castle/hamlet of Paleokastro on Íos is a fine one. The chapel is usually locked however; inside, the stone tembelon is now whitewashed and if Mabel did sign her name then the signature awaits some fortuitous pentimento. Mabel’s behaviour in this church is sharply at odds with her protestations in Kárpathos the following year: ‘In the little church at Kyriá Panagía, which is quite good and not ruined, there were lots of scribbled names and one of the Greeks said, “Now we will write up your name” and I said “Oh, not my name please”, they said “Why?” and I said it was not our custom in England to write our name in churches… “Because it is a sin?” So I said “Yes, for it is the house of God”. And he said, “Yes” and I really felt glad he should see that some Christians have a little reverence’.

The Bents included ethnographical/anthropological researches in their spheres of interest and the many games they witnessed at the little chapel of Ay Theodóti and elsewhere found their way into Bent’s later essays and articles (e.g. ‘Some Games played by Modern Greeks’, 1884, The Folk-Lore Journal 2: 57–59). The white-washed chapel remains, but the laughs and shouts of the players are, presumably, only memories: visitors to the chapel’s festivities on 7-8 September may be able to update us.

The church at Agia Theodóti where the panegyris is held on September 8th
The church at Agia Theodóti where the panegyris is held on September 8th

We went then down to Agia Theodote near the sea and lunched on the grass, and afterwards went to see the church, which is a very rough Byzantine building. One aisle was filled up with stone-built benches and table where they eat at the pilgrimages. In one corner was a heap of immense pots and some large wooden spoons stuck in the wall. Everyone brings a contribution of food which is thrown into the common pots and cooked. The better class play all sorts of games in the church.”

As well as customs, costumes, embroideries, and fabrics were passions for the Bents. They would without fail have tried to acquire the beautiful dress worn by Aikaterina, which survived in the family and is now on display in the National Historical Museum, Athens (for illustrations and moving background information visit the website for V. C. Scott O’Connor’s book ‘Isles of the Aegean’). Mabel did, however, manage to obtain on Íos a fine bed valence she displayed in 1886 at the Anthropological Institute in London to accompany a talk given by Theodore. Perhaps it was even the ‘magnificent piece of red silk’ given to her by Marousa ‘to remember them by’. Mabel describes it as ‘a silk embroidered border 6 feet long and a narrower border 10 inches up the sides sewn to a piece of line, tucked in to the edge of the bed’ in the Appendix to Theodore’s article (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 15 (1886): 391–403). We don’t know where this valence – let’s imagine the very one given to Mabel by Marousa – ended up, but some fascinating recent research on dresses bought by the Bents on Kárpathos in 1885 is to be published shortly and will be made available in some form on this site!

At last, we can join now Mabel and Theodore waiting for the Panellénion to take them to Íos; they are making a few last-minute social calls:

[Wednesday] January 23rd [1884]. This is the 2nd day we are in waiting for the steamer. It is a lovely day but still so cold that I can hardly write. Yesterday we went to see the Eparchos Markos Mavrojenes (or ‘Black Beard’) and wandered about. The Eparch came to see us before dinner and the family da Corogna of Italian origin after. They are pleasant people and wished us to receive the son of 18 when he comes to England in May.Today we have been to pay a visit to the Alexakis’, he very large and rich, though a tasteless house, and the Dekigallas’. Mr. Dekigallas a very learned old man with whom T has made friends. This island is very damp, or rather so dry that it does not absorb wet and everything, boots, bread, silk, etc. gets mouldy quickly. The Dekigallas’ or really de Cigalas’, spent the evening with us and we were called at 1/4 to 6 for the steamer ΠΑΝΕΛΛΗΝΙΟΝ, the smallest and worst. (The Panellenion ran the blockade in Crete.)

Very rough passage about 2 hours to Ios. Breakfasted at a [harbour-side] kafeneion and sent our letter up to the Demarch Lorenziades, who at once came down from the town and told us he had no rooms for us to sleep in but we were to feed with him. The baggage and I were put on mules and we went up to the Khora. The family consisted chiefly of the Demarch, who has a little common 2nd wife very inferior to the rest but a kind little thing. I should have thought it unnecessary to marry her when there are so many other women in the world; his elder brother and 3 very pretty jolly girls Marousa, Aikaterina and Kaliroe, all tall and fat. A 3rd brother is the schoolmaster. All were quite like gentlemen and all in black frockcoats. There were at least 6 more people. They received us most kindly and were really the most congenial people we have met.

We took a house consisting of bedroom, pantry and sitting room, where Manthaios slept, and a kitchen, and went for our meals to the Demarch’s. They did everything they possibly could to please and amuse us. The dinner party consisted of the three brothers, the wife, Marousa and we 3. The first day we had chicken soup boiled, and roast chicken; 2nd ditto kid, 3rd ditto fish, and 3 times a day did we get mesithra and honey. Mesithra is a sort of curd made of sheep’s milk in a basket, just like broccio of Corsica. After dinner some of them dressed up in old costumes, of most splendid gold brocade and gold lace and embroidery. Such is the power of dress that we did not know where they had got the wonderfully beautiful woman in green and gold, and never found out till next day it was Aikaterina.

Next morning, Friday [January] 25th [1884], the Demarch came to fetch us to breakfast, and, Manthaios having evidently informed about the English customs, we had 2 eggs, a glass of milk and some mesithra and honey. Afterwards we and the Demarch started to Plaketos at the other side of the island: 3 hours. We saw the supposed tomb of Homer who died here on his way from Samos to Athens and then went to a little hut of an old man where we lunched in a very rough way; wine in a large wooden basin and scooped and drunk out of a little gourd. The hut was very low, door 4 feet high and a bed built of stones with twigs and straw 4 feet square. Even in better houses the doors are often too low. We had cold fish and cold soft eggs and they are hard, whether hot or cold, to eat without a spoon. The 5 muleteers got very gay and led by the Demarch played a lot of games, all of which we had seen elsewhere. We got home at 4 and retired home soon after dinner.

On Saturday [January 26th 1884] we had Marousa as a companion in our ride to Palaó Kástro, a mass of Italian ruins on a white marble mountain over the sea. It was very steep and Marousa was surprised I dared not to dismount, but I don’t care to walk as my leg is not well yet. At the top is a very shabby rough little chapel where Marousa incensed the pictures very gaily amid crossing and chattering and I was made to scribble my name on the wall and the tembelon, or screen, both in Greek and English: Μάιμπελ Βιργινία Άννα Μπένθος, which I thought irreverent and vulgar. By the way, I go by the name of Virginia now as they cannot say Mabel, it is if they had something sticky in their mouths as they cannot say B. ‘Maimpr’.

We went then down to Agia Theodote near the sea and lunched on the grass, and afterwards went to see the church, which is a very rough Byzantine building. One aisle was filled up with stone-built benches and table where they eat at the pilgrimages. In one corner was a heap of immense pots and some large wooden spoons stuck in the wall. Everyone brings a contribution of food which is thrown into the common pots and cooked. The better class play all sorts of games in the church.

We had a delightful evening, about 30 people came, including a priest, and we had a constant succession of games in which I took part, also T. We actually stayed up till 1/2 past 10. First ‘Blind Man’s Buff ’. Then a ‘Blind Man in the Middle’ and every one dancing around singing till he stopped us and put out a stick and touched one. That one having taken up the end of the stick and put it to his lips made some little whistle or buzz. If the name was guessed by the blind man he was released. Then 3 sat on pillows on a rug, side by side with legs out straight. The middle one had string put round under his feet and kept working about pulling this up and giving unexpected bangs with the back of his hands to the legs of the others who defended themselves with each a slipper, and if they hit they got the middle place. 2 people lay down on a rug with their heads on pillows and were covered all over with a quilt. Everyone went and gave them a bang with a knotted handkerchief on the most exalted part of them. They had to guess who. A person kneels on a pillow on the rug and is covered with a quilt; one after another people come and kneel in front of him with head also under the quilt and the confessor asks questions and imposes penance and at last when one comes who has never played this before the rug is lifted by the corners, the confessor slips off and the penitent is lifted in the air. These are a few of the most amusing, but there were many more.

Next morning, Sunday [January] 27th [1884], Marousa came early to bring me a magnificent piece of red silk embroidered ‘to remember them by’, also her pocket-handkerchief with her name worked and some pine nuts. We were really sorry to leave these kind people and they pressed us to stay but ‘the ship was ready and the wind blew fair and we were bound for the sea’. So after breakfast, and giving them a few of the little presents we have with us, but nothing half as valuable as they had given me, we went down to the harbour with 2 mules and the 3 brothers and 3 girls. We sat in the kafeneion and drank coffee and ate sweetmeats and were given Kaliroe’s pocket-handkerchief full of sesame seeds that we might remember Kaliroe, or Callirhoe I think is the English way of spelling the stream she is called after.

After an affectionate parting we set sail and after much tacking got out of the deep and safe bay and made straight for Sikinos…