I last wrote from my glass-topped desk in the American Research Institute/Turkey. It was my last day in Istanbul, and I was as apprehensive about returning to the States as one might normally feel before setting out on a new adventure.
My journey then was new, and it was an adventure because I was celebrating a homecoming without a home to come to. Within a few weeks, I had begun hunting for a new house in Charleston. I bunked at my daughter’s house, and I rapidly became a fixture in my four and two-year-old granddaughters’ minds. The progress from Professor to Poppy was more effortless than I’d imagined.
By the end of January I had my own new house in the same Zip Code. The storage facility in Philadelphia produced my worldly goods and I became a Southern boy. In quick time, I acclimated myself to warnings that alligators might live in the ponds that dot my subdivision. Neither the Philadelphian nor the Oresteian in me had contemplated a reptilian future.
Still, returning to the Orestes persona today is more complicated than dodging alligators or mastering a Low Country accent. In Aeschylus, Orestes’ tale ends when Athena deems him innocent of murdering his mother. She does so atop the Athenian Acropolis where I will stand in 36 hours or so. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Orestes, and Aeschylus sees no reason to carry his story any further. But those bloody Romans picked up the story and added complications that would make Nero proud: Orestes was plighted to marry Hermione, the daughter of his uncle Menelaus and his aunt Helen (no longer of Troy). But Hermione was shunted off into a marriage with Neoptolemus whom Orestes then murdered. In legends, it seems, Roman blood runs thicker than even Greek blood.
I am determined to steer clear of Hermione.
My itinerary calls for some days in Athens and its environs (I think Naxos beckons so that I can see the cave where Zeus was born), Vienna (to revisit the Ephesus Museum), and Berlin (to see the great staircase and altar of the Temple to Zeus that German archeologists dismantled in Pergamon, erected in Berlin, and surrounded within a purpose-built museum.
As we move through these landscapes, I’ll reveal the oh-so-scholarly reasons for this enterprise.
For the moment, I’m just gathering my air and sea legs. But you should have some pictures, so here are some of the fruits of life in Charleston. I’ve joined the Magnolia Plantation supporters, keeping alive the splendid gardens of the Drayton family. One of the gardens, the Swamp Garden, houses hundreds of alligators, trees full of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Blue and Brown Herons. Match that, oh Naxos!