Thursday, September 17, 2009

The old poets and the sea

Some people say that Ernest Hemingway found inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea, when he lived at an albergo in Acciaroli and associated with the old fishermen on the Cilento coast in the period around 1950. I have no idea whether this is true, but the sea may well have pressed on the author's mind, for the simple reason that the small fishing villages surrounded by Macchia Mediterranea do not offer that many other distractions. Unless, of course, you are a classic student and know Homer and Virgil by heart.

Acciaroli I situated half way between Capo Palinuro and Punto Licosa, a beautiful and varied coastline, where rocks alternate with soft, sandy beaches. According to Virgil Capo Palinuro was the place where Aeneas mate Palinurus had to sacrifice himself in order to save the remaining crew a calm passage. Palinurus fell overboard, drifted ashore, and died without getting a proper burial. Therefore his soul could not rest in peace but was forced to wander around restlessly until Aeneas met him in the underworld, and got the matter fixed.

Further north at the westernmost point of Cilento Odysseus encountered the sea goddess Licosa or Leukothea, as we say in Greek. His ship was about to go down in a storm, but Leukothea lend him a scarf, so he could swim ashore, as if that was supposed to help.

The point is that the entire area is littered with ancient stories, myths and traditions of people struggle with each another, with the gods and the sea, and the locals still have great respect for the sea. This can be seen at the harbour of Santa Maria di Castellabate, where people still donate their rosary to a small statue of the Madonna with child. While German, English, Dutch and Danish tourists wander aimlessly around among chairs and cafe tables the waterfront.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails