Italy #4: The Kourous

Josephine ’24, recounts a day visiting the ancient sites of Syracuse.

The Kouros were ancient Greek statues which stood solemnly alone, one foot ahead of the other, looking with a slight smile into the distance. Throughout our visit today to the Syracuse Archeological Museum, we viewed many many Kouros, surrounded by an expansive collection of artifacts from across the Prehistoric, Bronze Age, and Hellenistic Eras. While surrounded by pots used for ancient burials, pottery of every possible kind, bronze shin guards, clasps, tools, the Kouros stood out to our group for their unique stature and abundance within the museum. Inspired by their presence, we decided to each document our own interpretation of the ancient Kouros statue (including our trip leaders!) and worked to master the minimalist smile and elaborate foot placement. Attached below are our photos!!

However today, not only did we physically imitate the Kouros, but we also mentally embodied their solemn nature through personal reflection during our visit to the Syracuse Greek Theatre and Archeological Site. The sight was truly beautiful, a rock quarry dating all the way back to the Ancient Greek control of Syracuse, surrounded by bounding vibrant nature. The walls of the quarry felt miles long and miles wide as our group explored and walked within the hollow caverns left behind. Personally, it really struck me to see how nature had broken its way back into a site filled with human encroachment. Plants were hanging hundreds of feet from the ground from small damp areas, while roots began to grow within cracks in the mud below our feet. We focused inward while within the cavern, each taking the time to silently reflect on our way out about the exploitation of enslaved persons used to carve out the rock formation we stood within.

Next we explored another cavern called the Ear of Dionysus, where your voice is supposed to be able to be heard in at least 16 echoes. Deciding to put this to the test, we stood in the center of the cave, and chanted three lines from Ovid’s Metamorphoses which spoke about the story of Persephone and Demeter. Earlier in the day, we had worked through the Latin text in groups, translating, scanning, and analyzing the text within the context of the sites we had visited. Continuing to have some fun, some members of the group sang the evensong at the end of the cave, its words responding through the echoing walls.

Finally, we once again embodied the individual nature of the Kouros through personal self reflection in the hills of the Greek Theater. While the ancient theater was hidden by rows of wooden seats because a modern play was in production, the vast hills and rock caverns stood strong. After the security people whistled at us a few times for sitting on rocks that were very unclearly off limits…we all sat individually and journaled about the site, our surroundings, and the trip as a whole. In a trip filled with constant social community interaction, it was powerful to take a moment to self-reflect. While my first spot was oddly interrupted by the security people taking a smoke break, my final sitting place, a rock overlooking the landscape, allowed me to sit peacefully with the wind in my face.

However, through all of our self reflection, we continued to bond as a group and collect our funny moments to make a trip we will never forget.