Whoosh! Issue 13 - October 1997


IAXS Research Project #103
By Nusi P. Dekker
Copyright © 1997 held by author
2004 words

Historical proof of the chakram's power.

Headless statue of an Amazon Queen, most likely Hippolyta,
c. 400 B.C., Museum of Ancient Corinth.

Greece (02-05)
The Peloponese (06-08)
Zakynthos (09-12)
Near Athens (13-17)
Note (18)

A Trip to Greece:
Ruminations on Xena: Warrior Princess

Look! No underarm white mess!

One of a series of marble pediments from a building in Ancient Corinth
depicting the Battle of the Amazons against the Greeks. This was the best preserved.
c. 350 B.C., Museum of Ancient Corinth.

[01] I am a devotee of Xena: Warrior Princess, a show set during the time of ancient Greeks, but filmed on the other side of the world in New Zealand. I am also a traveler and always wanted to see Greece, but the show gave me the extra push. Having gone to Greece twice in the space of only nine months, I was astounded to learn how this country has embraced the warrior princess.


Handyman special. Owner relocating.

Ruins of Ancient Corinth with Acrocorinth in background.
Foreground: Temple of Apollo (Doric c. before 800 B.C.), Ancient Corinth.

[02] Greece is not a third world country, but its technology and media access are somewhat behind the United States. The country has only eleven TV channels, with most of the programming in Greek. That means the imported shows that are found to be unpopular with the populace are quickly replaced. In July of 1996, Star Trek: The Next Generation (Paramount, 1987-1994), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Paramount, 1993- ), Babylon 5 (Warner Brothers, 1993- ), and The X-Files (Fox, 1993- ), were the four Sci-Fi/Fantasy shows airing, all on the STAR channel. By May 1997, these shows had all been dropped from programming, save for The X-Files. They were replaced by Tarzan: The Epic Adventures (Keller Siegel, 1996- ), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (MCA, 1995- ), and Xena: Warrior Princess (MCA, 1995- ). The X-Files has always been extremely popular among the Greeks, but the other shows have taken off like skyrockets, especially Xena: Warrior Princess.

[03] What do the Greeks find compelling in a character that never was part of their mythology, who was a woman who defeated mighty warlords, and defied the concept of what a Greek woman is to a Greek man? Part of the answer lies in the character makeup and attitude of the Greeks, especially in their history which is evident by the ruins of castles and temples which are literally spread over the countryside, and also in their incredible ancient artwork shown in the museums of each of their ancient cities.

[04] My latest journey, taken during the first three weeks of May 1997, took me by bicycle to many of the historical and mythological sites of the Peloponese: Corinth, Nemea, Mycenae, Epidauros, and Olympia. I also rode on a ferry to Zakynthos, of the four Ionian islands (the others being Ithaca, Cephalonia, and Lefkada), then spent time exploring Attica and Boeotia to the Thessalonian border.

[05] The Greek people learn of Greek mythology as well as ancient history in grade school. Figures such as Hercules are believed by many Greeks to have actually existed, with their feats exaggerated by centuries of retellings and embellishments. It seemed that the three most important events in Greek mythological history as depicted on hundreds of temple pediments and vases were: (1) The twelve labors of Hercules, (2) the life of Theseus, and (3) the battle between the Amazons and the Greeks.

The Peloponese

The still air broke with the haunting sound of 'Ayiyiyiyi!'

Acrocorinth, medieval castle walls, c. 500-1300 A.D.

[06] In a small museum in Ancient Corinth (not to be confused with modern day Corinth, a large town several miles away) are lovingly carved marble statues of Amazons, both standing and on horseback (they rode bareback). They wore sleeveless dresses as short as Xena's (mid-thigh), and boots like those of Gabrielle. A series of carved pediments show the Amazons in single-hand combat with men. Their weapon of choice was the axe (like the Horde!), but they also used spears and the bow and arrow, and, rarely, swords. These were made between 700 and 300 B.C., of the finest marble instead of cheaper terra cotta or wood, attesting to their great importance as a subject to ancient historians and artists. These brutal but heroic women may be seen by modern Greeks as the models for Xena: Warrior Princess.

Behind the walls, falafel vendors prepared for the day.

Acrocorinth, medieval castle walls, c. 500-1300 A.D.

[07] The ruins themselves are mixtures of many eras. There are classic Greek ruins of temples next to Roman baths and marketplaces, next to medieval castles, next to Turkish mosques, and next to Byzantine shrines. Of the Greek ruins, the only things left standing are the foundations and the columns. The stone walls were long ago assimilated into the walls of the medieval castles. At the very top of the Acrocorinth, a massive rock which rises 1500 feet above Ancient Corinth, stands the foundation stones of the once majestic Temple of Aphrodite, the largest temple to this Goddess in Greece and once home to 200 slaves of Aphrodite, who served the men of the Corinthian armies. The remains of this temple are now part of the castle walls. This hodgepodge of architecture is very reminiscent of the sets seen in Xena: Warrior Princess, from the ruins seen in A NECESSARY EVIL (#38) to the fortress in THE PRICE (#44).

[08] The interior of the Peloponese is every bit as lush and green as New Zealand, especially during spring (apart from the tree ferns seen in Xena: Warrior Princess). The hilly terrain was very similar, as well as the rocky coastline and dark sand beaches.


Anatomic symbolic architecture.

Tomb of Mycenaen king, also known as "Treasury of Atreus",
c. 1600 B.C., Mycenae.

[09] I spent four days on the island of Zakynthos, one of the four islands of the Ionian Sea. The island is only a one-hour sail by car ferry from the Peloponese mainland. On the day we went over, Poseidon was at work, producing stormy weather with 20 foot swells. Everyone was inside the boat to avoid getting soaked, and we could not even walk without getting tossed around. My male tourguide did a "Gabrielle", becoming violently seasick.

[10] Ithaca, the subject of so many heroic tales, is actually quite a tiny island nestled in the shadow of its huge mountainous neighbor, Cephalonia. It is only about two hours by sailboat from Zakynthos, hidden from view. Zakynthos itself may be the famed "island of the sirens" mentioned in ULYSSES (#43). On the west side of the island are the Keri Caves, which consist of arches, goblins, and other rock formations, along with caves which can be entered by a small boat. When the wind blows through the formations just right, an eerie, high-pitched sound is produced. Fortunately, it was not happening that day. Since I was on a boat crewed by men, I was not eager to find out if there was any truth to the myths.

The tour passes the site of 'The Bathing Scene.'

Keri Caves, "Island of the Sirens", Zakynthos.

[11] Zakynthos is not an American vacation spot, but one frequented by the Europeans, mostly the British and Germans. So I was surprised when walking through Zakynthos town, to see Xena dolls dangling from doorways and outdoor display racks of four or five stores. The town itself has a population of about 5,000 and was almost entirely rebuilt after a devastating 1953 earthquake which destroyed most of the villages in the four-island chain. It is also off the beaten path for most tourism, so it was interesting to see the dolls being snapped up as popular Greek souvenirs (along with sponges, prayer beads, and Hercules and Iolaus dolls). The quality of the dolls, as compared to the ones sold stateside by Toy Biz, Inc., was horrible, but they were available, and people were buying them. I could only imagine how the dolls were selling on the Cycladic island of Mykonos, reputedly the Gay Mecca of Greece (not Lesbos, or so I was told by the natives).

[12] After Zakynthos we rode to Olympia, a huge archeological site next to a very small village in a remote, heavily forested river valley. This place deserves mention here, because I happened to be wearing a Xena T-shirt. As I walked through the museum at Olympia, several security guards pointed at my shirt, then cheered, and yelled "Xena!" Needless to say, the shirt attracted much attention in an area where many of the people do not even own a TV, but somehow they still knew about Xena (probably their social life includes visiting their friends who have cable TV!).

Near Athens

Metal detectors once found Joxer's 'little knife' here.

Typical Greek beach, Ionian Sea, Zakynthos.

[13] After the bike trip, I spent five days with a friend and her family in a mountain village near Athens. Her ten-year-old son Giorgios has to watch Xena: Warrior Princess every Friday night, and likes to call himself Xenos. His father, a physician, likes the moral aspect of the story, although he frowns at the prospect of a strong Greek female figure, having been raised in a country where men have the ultimate power and women provide the supporting foundations.

[14] We all settled down to watch Xena: Warrior Princess one evening in mid-May [1997]. The show, which was supposed to begin at 9:30 p.m., did not come on until almost 10:00 p.m., from the previous show running late. The show abruptly started without warning with the opening scene from THE EXECUTION (#41). I was surprised that Greece is behind the U.S. in episodes by only about a month, when every other country (including New Zealand) is still only in the first season. The show was in English with Greek subtitles. There were only two commercial breaks, one after fifteen minutes and the other about ten minutes before the end of the show. The credits at the end were cut off, and the next show, in Greek, started immediately after.

[15] Giorgios, reflecting the attitude of generations of Greeks before him, admires the character of Xena because she so closely resembles the heroes of the ancient Greek world. These male heroes all had certain traits in common. They were all skilled and brave warriors. They all went through periods of violent behavior. They all had a companion whom they trusted and loved more than anything else on earth, a bond that lasted through marriage and children of each partner, and was kept separate and sacred. The intensity of the Xena-Gabrielle friendship follows this pattern as part of the Greek way, and still seems to be a part of the social structure of modern Greece, most notably among men.

Ambush or cowering? You decide.

Greeks vs. Amazons.

[16] Wherever I went, the mythological lands were intact (I visited many "entrances to Hades", caves, sinkholes, etc., the Alconian Lake notwithstanding) and every village had people wanting to practice their English with me and tell me stories of what the Gods or heroes did in their town. This Greek love for storytelling is another reason why Xena: Warrior Princess is so popular. The interpretations of the myths presented in Xena: Warrior Princess are welcomed as part of the many versions invented by the Greeks themselves. I visited the Stymphalian Lake, the birthplace of Zeus, the cliff of Sounion where King Aegeus of Attica met his death, the cave of the Delphic Oracle, and the Valley of Thebes (the ancient city was totally destroyed, only the modern town is left). In all of these places I could feel the magic of the timeless myths.

[17] I never made it to Amphipolis, but I did not have to. Just traveling through the land in the imaginary footsteps of Xena and Gabrielle was enough. I found the Greek connection to Xena: Warrior Princess from both the contemporary and mythological viewpoints. It made me appreciate what the show is doing in interpreting the myths and creating its own, much more than ever. It was well worth it.

She flung her fist hard at his manly prize.

Amazons vs. Greeks.


[18] Both of the Greek trips were arranged by the travel company Classic Adventures, operated by Dale and Dianne Hart of Brockport, N.Y. Family members lead mostly bicycle trips, but also run hiking trips (the Crete Hike was the best trip of my life!). They will also lead custom bike or hike tours in Greece for groups of eight to twenty-four people. I would go again in a minute and will help to organize a tour if there is any interest. For more information on what the tours are like, including cost, contact:

Classic Adventures
P.O. Box 153
Hamlin, N.Y. 14464-0153
Phone: (800) 777-8090
e-mail: classadv@frontiernet.net

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