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Mercury Gatorade

Has it been a week already?!

Well you’d think I would know, given how much I’ve had to battle Mercury Gatorade this week. Every email had to be sent 3x. The car came back from the shop, and then had to return to the shop, and then came back again (and you know the stereo was wonky and took forever to get it back online). And our travel plans keep changing by the minute. (I’m dizzy!)

We’ve managed to get out and have fun in spite of all the weather and frustrations. On Wednesday we followed our nose and stumbled into a big area of catacombs at Mountain Fabrica (aka Fabrica Hill). The term Fábrika comes from the Italian word fabbrica, “a place of manufacture.”

Most of Mount Fabrica is a quarry—the Fabrica Hill Caves—containing different interesting slopes and passageways. Due to the cut of some of the large shapes, works were probably carved initially in this place and then used for construction of other important facilities in Paphos and the surrounding area. It is said much of its stone was taken for building the Suez Canal.

The only thing known for certain is that the earliest elements here can be traced to around the 3rd century BC, considered the Hellenistic-Roman period.

Up above ground we encountered a pebble mosaic floor depicting two dolphins holding tridents in their mouths—can you make them out? This is the largest excavated pebble floor in Cyprus.

Check out my new pal in the picture! He glommed onto us down in the catacombs, so we decided to include him in some pictures, coaxing him with a few strokes of petting. Now he's our new best friend!

We delved back down into the catacombs... This small hill (which is actually a limestone mountain), is a complex archeological site containing a number of ancient objects said to be largely still unexcavated or undefined, and for this reason part of the chambers and passages still remain buried underneath rubble and are considered impassable while others allow free entrance. Only recently they discovered an ancient banqueting site carved into the bedrock near the dolphin mosaic that was used for open-air religious banquets, probably in the name of Aphrodite.

My new friend is sticking to me like glue!

Next we came upon an ancient amphitheatre, which we initially saw from the round viewing platform seen above. This is the second amphitheatre we encountered in Paphos—you may remember the odeon we described several weeks ago.

Clearly in ruins, this venue was constructed during the 4th century BC and destroyed during the 5th century AD. It was positioned so those sitting in the auditorium could look across town to the harbor and beyond. They calculate that in its developed phase, it held over 8,000 people. Current excavations of the site are being managed by a specialist team from (get this!) Australia.

As a former theater major, I am duty-bound to explain that the value of theaters in the ancient world cannot be overestimated. Drama festivals were rare times when the community came together as a whole, providing social opportunities to be with one’s extended family, friends, and acquaintances. Theaters were also the site of important community events when one would observe city ceremonies conducted by various officials.

Theater festivals were usually religious occasions, when plays were presented in honor of a god—most often Dionysos—and we know his reputation. Festivals typically involved religious processions with displays of remarkable excess.

But let us not overlook the basic simple human enjoyment of viewing drama being played out, with the vicarious pleasure of witnessing other people’s lives in action—whether in comic or serious mode—in the same way we today ourselves experience books, television, and cinema (especially during our current pandemic). For ancient people, theater was the only way to have such an experience.

It is difficult, in the absence of definitive records, to describe the sort of performances staged in ancient theaters. Tastes changed enormously through time. In its earliest years, this theater would have presented the works of Euripides, and playwrights like Menander would have mounted works of Greek comedy. Leading actors enjoyed star status that earned them sums of money equivalent to what we nowadays award pop stars and sports celebrities. Staged water spectacles were popular, with girls playing water-nymphs in musicals, choreographed mock naval battles, or even combats with crocodiles imported from Egypt as animal combats and gladiatorial battles infiltrated Greek culture from the Roman world. Musicians traveled widely and achieved considerable fame.

Another genre was pantomime, by which a single male actor played a series of roles (changing his mask appropriately)—not speaking or singing, but miming to music with gestures to convey the meaning and emotions involved (an ancient form of lip-synch!). Ancient sources suggest this attracted large audiences, to the point where Christian writers condemned it for corrupting the young and complaining that far too many of their flock found it attractive. (Does that sound familiar?)

Eventually, Christians and pagans developed a prude morality that drove shifting attitudes about what constituted acceptable public behavior. A view was propagated that any public display of emotions—especially false emotions such as one might see on stage—were to be deplored. (Does that also sound familiar?! Perhaps even a reflection of some of today's attitudes in the USA?) The Paphos theater essentially died over that priggishness, and prevented the theater from being rebuilt after disaster struck.

On the morning of August 8, 1303, an earthquake devastated buildings in Paphos and left the town in ruins. It caused widespread destruction and triggered a tsunami which caused extensive damage all the way along the Mediterranean coast. Traveler’s accounts from the 15th and 16th centuries describe Paphos as a scene of desolation with unhealthy conditions. It’s unnerving to imagine this disaster occurring in our age, especially following last week’s 6.6 quake.

On a happier note, I have been notified that the latest copy of Psychological Perspectives was printed and mailed off a few days ago, so we are celebrating the second publication of the journal for which I’ve been the senior editor (with Robin’s help).

This issue can be purchased through the Institute using the following link:

I recently gave a snappy little 30-minute interview on Instagram on Friday with Lisa Dare—if you’re following me (Dr Vicky Jo) on Instagram, you’ll be able to listen.

We’re still enjoying glorious sunsets when it’s not raining (check out the Mediterranean stretching off into the distance). I’m going to miss these glorious views when it’s time to depart. They are so magnificently soul-satisfying…

See you later, gator!

warmly, -Dr. Vicky Jo BFA Theatre Arts, Stephens College

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