Greece – The Arrival

What a stink?

I always thought that a ‘low Nile’ or the Port of Alexandria could get quite ripe. But Piraeus, the Port of Athens, has outdone them all. What a stench? I think every sewer and chamber pot in Greece has been emptied here.

And to top it all off, are these enormous clouds of incense trying to cover it all up. Simply makes a more disgusting mix to contend with.

Why is there all this activity at what is normally a dead port city? And why wasn’t I told about it before I left Alexandria?

Today, the Emperor Nero arrives to participate in the Olympic Games. And even though the Greeks have rules against non-Greek participation, that will make little difference to our Emperor.

My timing in life is still as interesting as ever. I calmly leave Alexandria only to arrive in the nearly abandoned Port of Piraeus, with luggage, servants, wine shipment in tow, while being chased by the entire Eastern Roman War Fleet fifteen minutes from my backside and closing fast.

Because of the Emperor’s presence with the fleet, all non-fleet vessels in proximity are considered possible dangers. The Romans have a knack for acting first and asking questions later.

Since I sailed straight for a recognized harbor instead of trying to outrun them and hide, I doubt if they will bother me now when they do arrive and I’m already tied up. Maybe ask a few questions?

However, I don’t think I will bother unloading today. Whether being chased by Roman warships or not, putting thirty barrels of high quality Egyptian wine in plain sight, on the dock, in front of fifteen-hundred thirsty, Roman soldiers would be pushing my luck a bit, even with Isis watching over me. – – – And the ladies in my party also appreciate not being put in plain sight, on the docks, too.

Not that they will stay out of sight, they just don’t want to be “on the docks.” I’m sure they will make themselves plenty visible, as long as several feet of water and a removed gangplank lie between them and their quary. And, of course, my daughter will be leading the parade.

That cheap incense is getting disgusting. And it is cheap too. Smells more like burning varnish than perfume. The Emperor is not going to like that, in as much as he is used to having saffron spread on his palace floors to perfume the air and flower petals mingled with perfumes being dropped from secret compartments in his ceilings, greeting him with cheap incense will not make a good impression whatever. They have also tried to make the quay look somewhat attractive with a few garishly painted statues and free standing columns, but nobody can miss the desolation here. Piraeus used to be the main port of Athens, and one of the busiest in the world, until its destruction at the hands of the Roman Sylla more than a hundred forty years ago.

Today, other than a ship or two and a very small fishing fleet, Piraeus is now mostly a garbage dump for Athens, one of the main reasons for the stench.

Why the Emperor chooses to land here is beyond me.

I think I will go ashore while the others wait.

… … …

… … …

Now that was an interesting excursion. When the Emperor landed, he passed less than ten feet from me. He was fair-haired, with weak, watery, blue eyes, a fat neck and chins, pot belly, and he was covered with spots. His smell was terrible even at that distance. He wore a short tunic, a dressing gown without a belt, a scarf around his neck, and no shoes.

It is said he goes around in that garb, in public, in Rome. Well, so much for that. But being on those ships for a few days, in all this heat, and without the ability to bathe has left our esteemed emperor perfectly ripe enough to pick. And splashing all that perfume over himself to hide it – -maybe I understand both the cheap incense and the location for the landing a little better now.

Just last year there was a serious plot against him. It was called the “Pisonian Conspiracy” and it was led by Gaius Calpurnius Piso. When it was uncovered, nineteen executions and suicides followed along with thirteen banishments. Piso and Seneca were among those who died.

There was never anything close to a trial. Anybody Nero suspected or disliked or who merely aroused the jealousy of his advisers, was sent a note ordering them to commit suicide.

So, he left Rome in charge of the freedman Helius and came to Greece to display his artistic abilities in the theaters and compete in the Olympic Games. Who will dare beat him in those races? Or not applaud his performances?

Our agent has finally arrived and informed us that he has obtained a large traditional Greek style country house for our use. I am anxious to compare it with our spacious Egyptian villas.

He said it is on a hill and commands a wonderful view of Athens along with its Acropolis. I hope I can stand looking at that bright red temple all the time. I knew that the Parthenon was built of white marble so was surprised when I first saw it from a distance as we sailed in. It is painted bright red, with blue, white, and gold trim, while its sculptures are painted to look as natural and lifelike as possible. It seems as though the Greeks hate naked stone. Everything sports a coat of paint. In that, they are exactly like us Egyptians.

Though we Egyptians have a much more sophisticated sense of what goes best with what.

In Rome, the Temple of Jupiter was once painted purple, the marble Temple of Castor and Pollux glimmers with red columns, capitals in blue, and a yellow tile roof, while another temple, just outside the walls on the Appian way, has purple columns, red capitals, and the body of the building is lime green. This last colorful gem is in a style just getting to be popular in that city, called Corinthian. It originated here in Greece, along with Doric and Ionic styles, which have already been used extensively.

They say the color of Rome will knock your socks off. Not a piece of bare white marble to be seen anywhere.

After all, they are very close to being barbarians, which could explain their bad taste. Hellenistic culture may now dominate the world, but it is still only an upstart in the ol’ civilization game.

Well, tomorrow we will begin moving the wine and household goods and in a couple of days another ship will arrive with more wine and the rest of the staff.

What a first day in my new home country.

Now it is a lovely gentle Greek evening in the harbor of Athens. The sky above is deep blue and the stars glitter. A soft breeze gently whispers by and – – “by Osiris’ missing member, what is that stench?” – -The air stinks. The water stinks. The soldiers stink. The incense stinks, and the Emperor smells like a piece of rotten fruit.

So, take a deep breath.

The ancient and noble Trading House of Digshotep, after more than a thousand years, has arrived in Greece.

And here we will prosper.

Or my name isn’t Phillip Digsopter.

Till next time


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