Friday, January 7, 2011

Siren Landing

When my friend and I took our walk along the sea yesterday, we passed Castel dell'Ovo (Egg Castle...I'll explain another day, once I've actually visited the castle). More interesting than the castle was the adorable marina at it's base (Borgo Marina) and the fun restaurants lining it. Today, I learned that the marina is on the site of a crucial piece of Neopolitan legend. Odysseus wanted to hear the song of the Sirens, but had been warned of the danger, so he had his sailors fill their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast of the boat. As they passed by the island of Nisida (now connected to Naples by a short causeway which takes one to either the prison or the Joint Forces Command Yacht Club), Odysseus could hear the songs of the Sirens, but was restrained from giving in. This rejection caused one of the Sirens, Parthenope, to jump off a cliff in despair. Her drowned body washed ashore at the very spot where modern yachties play.
Now Greek colonists had come to this area between the 9th-7th centuries B.C. (making Napoli one of the oldest cities in the world). Some of these early settlers found Parthenope's body and buried her here, thus the city became known as Parthenope, and by the 6th century B.C., it was a bustling city along the trade route. Around the 5th century B.C., some of the Cumean settlers (Cuma is the settlement very near where we live) moved about 13 miles away, just beyond Parthenope, and formed Neapolis (New City). In only 300 years, Parthenope and Neapolis grew together into one city, which just goes to show that even the Ancients couldn't get a handle on urban sprawl.

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