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Historical pages
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Γράφει ο/η paris   
26.07.09

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Τελευταία ανανέωση ( 20.07.10 )
 
IN THE TRACES OF LOST OICHALIA (ΟΙΧΑΛΙΑ)
Γράφει ο/η paris   
24.07.09

 

                     BY NIKOS ADAMOPOULOS, Doctor of History

(This project was presented, by the researcher, in a historical and archaeological conference in Steni of Euboea at November 2005 and was published for the very first time in the book Dirfiaka/edition: Dirfis news/2007).

Euboea (Evoia) is justly considered the paradise of paleontology and archeology. The island of the great Avantes, wherein flourished important cities like Chalcis and Eretria, hides secrets from which very few have come to the surface. Most of them are waiting to be unburied by the archeological pickax and they are ready to reveal us a past that will enrich our knowledge and in addition can easily reverse historical facts and theories which stand until nowadays.

Kampia, an alpine village at the incorporated town Dirfion just before Steni, which proudly looks over the rich champaign and the endless sea, is a typical case that proves all the previous. Until the summer of 2004 I had absolute ignorance about this small village with the rich founts and the prolific vegetation, pasture that in older times magnetized drifter shepherds (vlachs)  from Epirus and Thessaly.

That June of 2004 I was passing along with my friends from the provincial road Artaki-Steni, in order to arrive at Chiliadou coast. Close enough to Kato Steni I noticed a mountain chain, characterized by an impressive rock. Few moments later the alarm was clear and strong, typical example of the fact that the things our senses observe and process get isolated and from incoherent icons transform into concrete schemas. An “Acropolis” was standing in front of us. An Acropolis of an ancient city with indefinable characteristic and I couldn’t even imagine which was.

The next move was predictable. Change of direction and destination. Right turn on the sign Kampia and a few kilometers later the tight snaky asphalt with the steep turns, which was finishing next to the rich water fountains with the age-long planes and close beside the green patches of the village. The curious community president, Giannis Pavlou, did not take forever to discover us, to “interrogate” us, to “estimate our intents and in the next half hour he had set a table with local wine and appetizers in the tavern of Elias, next to the beautiful chapel of Santa Kiriaki. And that moment started that unforgettable summer. Since then, Kampia and the villages around became “ours” as nobody considers us strangers anymore.

It seems that this area, very soon will challenge the interest of those two scientists, paleontologist and archeologist, with the purpose to locate and date the numerous fossils and the archeological findings of the place. (Note: these paleontologist findings were discovered by Lazarus Pavlou, father of the community president, when he was ploughing his field. The poor farmer remained breathless as he had no idea of what those huge bones and teeth he had unburied were. He thought they were archeological finds and the fear to lose his field made him burry them again and do not reveal he secret for many years.

Afterwards, when he was hit by serious stroke, long and important “pages” of his memory were cancelled and with them also his big secret. Sometime later, in a coruscation of his dark mind the sick old man remembered. He immediately called his son and narrated in details what he had found and where was buried again the “treasure”. Now it was Gianni’s turn to feel the threat of losing his property and that is why he kept silence about the fact, while he was waiting the advice of a trusty person. I asked him to let me see the findings and take some photos. A few days later he dug them out; he cleaned them and put them in front of my eyes. Only the ones who have the luck-experience to touch with their own hands the inheritance of distant human past, ready to speak and reveal the history of thousands or millions years ago, can comprehend how it feels. Numerous outsize numb teeth, jaws, calfs and other bones, which were glowing in front of my wonder-stricken eyes. Apparently they were parts of huge prehistoric animals, who lived many years before us in a total different ambient. The first thought that crosses the mind is if all this is real or the fantasy plays games with brain.

After two days we notified the paleontologists in Athens and the Athenian university sent to Kampia a team of researchers, who remained truly surprised from the miracle that was happening in front of them. The old farmer, Lazarus Pavlou had changed without knowing it, with the “treasure” he had discovered, not only the paleontological map of Euboea but also the one of Greece and Europe in a certain sense).

However, this is the one tail. On the other hand we have a chain of superficial archeological findings which connote the existence of a great archaic civilization in this area. And when those findings will multiply, after the excavations, like we already said the knowledge we hold about ancient Euboea will be changed and enriched.

Those findings will be presented on transparences and will be commented later. In parallel, today we will tempt to support a view-theory that concerns the temporal, historical and territorial arrangement of a famous ancient city, which name is often seen in historical sources but since now we haven’t been capable to confirm its exact geographical position. Assuredly, it is natural that the enouncement of a new theory, not only an historical one, is exposed to skepticism, distrust and even more to rejection, because is just a theory. All of these are common and acceptable consequences. Even so, this fact should not block the researcher from formularize it.

Even more difficult seems to be the attempt to define the geographical and temporal settlement of this city failing satisfactory information about the exact position, the civilization and its history in general. For these reasons we are asking for your clemency and your comprehension. You should also consider the scarce time that did not allow us to effectuate a deeper research and the poorness of the finds that puts a spoke in our try to determine the historical and cultural position of the specific city.

After these clarifications and with the clues we have, we are ready to start our effort to validate this theory. Furthermore, we would like to assure you that the attempt to collect more accurate evidence will be continued. For first thing we wish to mention that the fossils of Kampia are a very important clue. According to the evaluations of the paleontological section of the Athenian Geological University, these fossils send us back, at the Pliocene period of the Cenozoic century, which started 10 million years ago and finished 3 or 1 million years ago. At the time the clime was tropical. Thick forests and vegetation and abundant water used to cover the area the fossils were discovered. One of the most important findings that seem to amazed the paleontologists team, the day that me and Mr. Pavlou presented the fossils to them, is the one of Tapir. This animal is almost inexistent in the European area. Lives in places with abundance of waters and despite its volume is capable to swim and enjoy the water. Consequently, the existence of such an animal in Kampia the specific period presumes the existence of an area with loads of water. That period Mesogios had a different aspect than the one we know today, in fact its surface was considerably larger. Characteristic of that period is the progressive recession of the waters and the complete configuration of the big mountain chains. So, we must presume that the level of the sea, which extends from Artaki to Chalcis that period, was much higher than it is now and its water used to cover the champaign, that today lies down on Kampia and also the roots of the mountain that extend over the village. The discovery of the Tapir fossils in the fields that stand under the plateau of Malwn, lead us to the conclusion that this adorer of the water used to enjoy his bath exactly there. As the time passed, the waters pulled back gradually. The clime changed and became colder. After this alteration, the Tapir, the rest of the animals and the tropical vegetation disappeared.

However, it is not only the Tapir that makes us conclude the sea was outstretched over its actual position, reaching the roots of the village. A very important clue is also the fine-crafted boasting of the local rocks and especially of that rock chain, which is located before the village entrance, by the sea water. The rock chain is abrupt and it is very fastidious to arrive at the top. This huge rock, we are talking about, is cropped in two pieces and in the middle we can see a gorge that after quick calculations, we can presume it is around 35-40 meters with two meters amplitude and 200-250 meters length. The first impression we get by looking the shape of the gorge, is that its sides were cut and carved by human hands. If someone touches the surface won’t feel the minimum aberration. It feels like the rock has been worked by a professional plane. In a big ambit the walls of the gorge are papery like marble. Like they have been chipped by an artist craftsman. A remarkable flawlessness of a carved rock. The village habitants are pretty sure about one thing: only human hand could have done such work! Most of them also believe that the purpose of the chop was to create an acequia. The legends about how it was cut and how it was chopped this gorge-channel, are very usual in the area. The existence of perfect tools and techniques, during the ancientry, or the concoction and the application of acid liquids are the most popular theories. But even if the legends are pleasant to hear the truth is that the rock was crafted by the vehemence and the power of the greedy sea. It s the sea that gashed the rock and created the gorge. And then, with patient of million years, gradually chopped its sides. (Of course, nature’s masterpiece that later on was developed by the humans in order to create a channel for the passage of the source waters is a theory we cannot exclude).

Still, the sea did not “worked up” only the big gorge, but also all the other smaller rocks of the area. Smooth and flush, like the water in time of calmness. There is no place for other explanation. Besides, the conches, the shells and the nummular black stones that until nowadays are distributed on the fields, attest exactly this theory. That the sea water was covering for million years the whole area, until the sea reached its contemporaneous countenance.

Later on, people will come to occupy the dried surface with the water sources, the rich land and the dense vegetation. And they will create a community as soon as they will learn to coexist. As the time pass the need for permanent placement will encourage them to build here their own country. They do not want and they have not learn yet to live by the sea. They do not love the sea; contrariwise they are afraid of it. They feel much safer living in the alpine areas, in the dense forests, where they also have the opportunity to assure the essential for living. At this point we should not forget that still their main occupations are hunting, cultivation and farming. A lot of time will pass before they will decide to go down to the sea.

The Tapir of Kampia, the storm-tossed and the sculpted rocks of the village, the morphology and the composition of the earth are the approved witnesses that the sea by the time was present up here. Gradually, pulled back and disappeared from the map. Although, its memories still remained on the minds of the people who settled down at this area after sea’s recession.

The memory of the sea, that is called ALS (ΑΛΣ) in their language, passes by the means of oral speech from generation to generation. But they also realize her antecedent existence as they live over the ground of an ALIA (ΑΛΙΑ), word that connotes a place with salt and products of the sea bottom. So ALS absconded, disappeared and left behind ALIA. In their language, this missing sea would ne called “OICHOMENI ALS”(ΟΙΧΟΜΕΝΗ ΑΛΣ). The participle oichomeni (οιχόμενη) comes of the verb Oichomai (οίχομαι), which means disappear, dissolve, die. If we remove the catalexis –omai (ομαι) remains the root oich- (οιχ-)-. And if we add in the word OICH the word ALIA (derivative of the word ALS-sea) we arrive at the word OICHALIA (OICH-ALIA,OICHALIA.ΟΙΧ-ΑΛΙΑ, ΟΙΧΑΛΙΑ), which the name of this mythical country. Here, in the area of Kampia, was built and culminated the noted Oichalia, country of the king Evritos, the “Hercules” of Euboea.

Someone could sustain that the etymology of the word is not enough to lead us on our effort to place Oichalia in the geographical area of Kampia. But we do not base our theory only on the etymology. A series of other attestations will encourage us to found our opinion that the lost Oichalia is the one we believe. To conclude with the name and its etymology I would like to remind that we affronted a similar case with the name of another ancient Greek country. At my homeland, the province of ancient Olympia, 16 kilometers far from Andritsaina, there is the famous templar of Apollo of Fygalia, almost equal to Parthenon and made by the same architecture. The geologists presume that also here existed sea that gradually gave place, a few kilometers away at the town of Kiparissia. At the place that was set free by the sea, it was built the ancient Fygalia. The earth here has the same morphological composition. Chopped and storm-tossed rocks, round black pebbles, shells and sea bottom products. The etymology of the name Fygalia has plenty possible options. Today as i am certain for the etymology Oichalia, i believe the name Fygalia has the same origin. Comes of the aorist B’ of the verb “disappear-leave” (φεύγω-έφυγον) and again the word Alia (Alia). And the word Fygalia wants to denote a city that was built in a place that was covered by the sea time ago. It seems that this verbal was very common during the antiquity.

The mentions on the written sources about the country of Oichalia are the second arbor, where our theory is going to base. That the primeval Oichalia is the one we located at Kampia. SOPHOCLES at the tragedy Trachinies (Tραχίνιες) makes very clear the concept that the city of Oichalia, whose king was Evritos, is placed in Euboea and not in Messenia or Thessaly like the writers sustain. In the lyrics 74 and 75 we can read: “It is said that (Hercules) is setting out on the country of Evritos, at Euboea” ( «Ευβοϊδα  χώραν φασίν, Ευρύτου πόλιν/επιστρατεύειν αυτόν).

In another written source Stravon, becomes even more specific about the area that the ancient city was located. At the chapter 10/448, the geologist and historian characterize Oichalia as “earth of the Eretrian city”. But Stravon is around 4 centuries posterior to Sophocles and talks about the administrative being of Oichalia, when the city had lost its brilliance and was under the Eretrian administration. Other cities, besides Oichalia, that belonged to Eretria are: Amarinthos, Tamina, and the not found yet ancient Kimi. Moreover, the epigraph ΙG.XII,9,241, assures that those cities Oichalia and Amarinthos appertained at the geographical area of Eretria.

So, after these affirmations we can conclude three basic things that concern the geographical position of Oichalia. The city was situated next to Euboea, at the geographical area of Eretria. But exactly where in Eretria? By the sea, left or right of the ancient city, over the hills or somewhere far? Three very important mentions at Trachinies resolve that problem. The first is on the lyric 327, where Oichalia is characterized “country wind-sept”("πάτρα διήνεμοs"). At the lyric 354 we have an even more detailed description. Sophocles calls Oichalia “city with tall towers “("υψίπυργον Οιχαλία». Now the approach of the ancient city becomes easier and the geographical position more clear. So, the city is located at Eretria, it is not by the sea, is rammed by the wind and it is embattled with tall towers. But exactly where? The poet will become more specific. It’s the lyric 860 that says: “at the alpine, the abrupt Oichalia”("τανδ΄ Οιχαλίας αιχμά»). The word “aixmh-αιχμή” means alpine, abrupt, with rocks. And where is that area at Eretria? On the right and on the left no, the mountains over Amarinthos are not so steep and tall. The same happens at the side of Chalkis. There are not so tall and breezy mountains. The only location that corresponds at this description is the mountain chain of Kampia, especially the plateau Mala(Μαλά) over the village, which is very windy even the summer.

It is here that we should look for the Acropolis of Oichalia. Probably a Mycenaean Acropolis, built over a tall mountain, with champaign on the roots, far from the sea but not too far. It is very similar to the one of Tirintha and Mycenae. However, it is embattled better as the high and abrupt rocks rend Oichalia impenetrable. The tall towers keep her inaccessible to the invaders. A forceful king like Evritos, strong as Hercules, the one with who will race at archery, would pick only a place like this to emplace his kingdom. So, distrustful Sagittarius, the king, hunts predators like it’s behooved to a gallant king.

That the area of Kampia and more specific the centre of Mala and the area that spreads out to the villages Skouteri, Vouni, Amfithea, Katheni, Paliouras, St.Athanasios , Loutsa, must be the archeological and historical area we are looking for, it seems clear from the archeological findings on the surface of the earth. The most important of them are: 1. Big fragments of ceramics and other hammer-dressed stones that we can find outstretched in the afore-mentioned villages, but also in the top of the plateau and in the slope of the mountain, over the location Tsagious. 2. The wall of the construction at the position Tsagious, that probably is a templar or the part of a wall. The build stones that have been transported from that point to other adjacent fields in order to construct farms and sheep pens are bulky and chopped. The habitants are alleged that in the past existed a serious inscription with a word. We think that this structure must be a templar dedicated to Apollo. We are led to this conclusion by the following clues: the location where it was built (the big and shadowy planes, rich vegetation, a river next to it, that used to procure more water, a right place to build a templar of Apollo and Artemis. The name “Tsagious” (In to the Saints) lead us to the conclusion that a Christian church was built over the ruins of Apollo’s templar like the Christians used to do. To build churches not far from the ancient templars with rubbles they used to borrow from them. 3. Over the built and on the side of the mountain until the top are detectable fragments of ceramics and the rock cut in two pieces, probably with the purpose to be used as a water channel. 4. The stone sarcophagus. We can find it in the surface of the ground, on the left of the temple and it is in good condition. Its length is impressive. Over 2 meters and 40 centimeters, only the part that is not covered by the earth. The dead man should be huge. In this side must be located the cemetery of the ancient city and maybe dome-shaped tombs, if we are talking about a Mycenaean centre.

The elements we put forward are comfortable to convince us that the ancient Oichalia must be searched out at the area of Kampia. Its Acropolis at the plateau Mala and its cemetery over the location Tsagious. Maybe those elements are not enough for some people. At this point we should mention that others begun excavations with less or no results. Although, in the case of Kampia the clues are certificated. All the rest is up to the archeological pickax to contradict or to affirm the theory we elaborated. Until then, we can do nothing else but wait to be confirmed or to be certified.

Τελευταία ανανέωση ( 24.07.09 )
 
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