Almost 7 years ago after travelling the islands of the Cyclades alone, all mobile means of communication destroyed by the sea on the first day, I finally found land and headed towards my grandfather’s house in Galakseidi.
Sadly it was my first time there since my grandfather had passed away and it was time to go through his books, a fortune I claimed without challenge or debate. In the piles of 1960s travel guides, National Geographics, 10 kg thesauri and translations of ancient Greek tragedies, I found a newspaper issue that gruncle George had kept for around 50 years. The massive illustration on the front page was a map of the island of Santorini known to the ancients as Thira and the bold claim:
Professor Agg. Galanopoulos reveals that the island of Santorini is the “Lost Continent”, Atlantis.
I was transfixed. The myth of Atlantis had become one of my favourites courtesy of my other uncle George who always bought me books about Greece. I’ve been eating up every piece of literature, movie and computer game about it since (…in case you haven’t played that Indiana Jones adventure). So I grabbed it and obviously scanned it in a4 pieces, for the all of you who can read the one third of the Rosetta Stone (that is the Greek third).
Was this a valid claim? Was there any basis in believing the allegory of Atlantis in Plato’s Dialogues was based on the island of Thira and it’s tragic destruction?
I had to find some answers.
At the time I had no idea I would be working for the BBC in about 4 months. I hadn’t even applied for the job. Cue the BBC Timewatch Special - Atlantis: The Evidence. In it, historian Bettany Hughes talks about the same claim which on an old illustrated newspaper from the 60s seemed ludicrous. If Atlantis was indeed ancient Thira, how did it become such a potent myth?
Of course, all of us who have visited Santorini time and time again, and all of you who crave but are content with pictures of it, have seen the results of the devastating earthquake. It was apparently one of the greatest earthquakes that the ancient world had faced. The Aegean Sea was filled with pumice and ash and smoke reached all the way to Ireland (!).
Closer at home though a great island was stading in the way of the aftermath, Crete. Home of the Minotaur and King Minos’ Labyrinth, the jail that Icarus fled on wax wings.
The Minoan society was devasted by the disastrous waves that reached their shores and some contribute this to the destruction of their civilisation, although money, power and politics are way more effective in doing that. But Minoans clearly believed that the Gods where punishing them for their evil deeds.
And there, in the Palace of Knossos in Crete, etched in stone I first saw this symbol. It depicts the Minoan mason’s double axe hit by Poseidon’s trident, illustrating the destruction of the Minoans by the wrath of the Sea God. I drew it quickly in my skecthbook failing of course to note down anything about the documentary. Seven years later, this year, we finished the first chapter of our graphic novel, iland. After the first pages of Chapter 0: Clouds, I spent a whole day looking for that screenshot.
The danger sign on the top of the cliff is inspired by that etching found in the Palace of Knossos, linked to one of mine and my grandfather’s favourite islands in the Cyclades, two of the greatest civilisations of the ancient Aegean world and somehow to the mystical Atlantean myth.
Meet Marko, Simo and Ioanna in Clouds, the first out of seventeen odd chapters from the graphic novel iland by Rob Morgan and Nikos Tsouknidas.
Our first chapter is dedicated to all the girls and boys that climbed up a cliff and found the view way more frightening than they expected, and to everyone who has learned that you cannot leap a chasm in two steps.
Next time you see these three kids they will look quite different.