Plato said that the Greeks lived around the Aegean Sea “like frogs around a pond”. It is a striking image, conjuring up an articulate people living in communities linked by sea routes. In the ancient world, the sea united and the land divided. Land routes were slow, difficult and dangerous; island-hopping across the Aegean Sea was as common then as it is now, but rarely in the style and comfort afforded by the small expedition shipPanorama. Our Greek Islands voyages offer a perfect way to explore the Aegean and to engage with its extraordinary history.
The Aegean Sea, a great bay of the Eastern Mediterranean situated between the Greek mainland to the west and Turkey to the east, lying north of Crete, is nothing less than the cradle of western culture. The Aegean is the setting for the world of Odysseus as described in The Iliad and The Odyssey, the two great epic poems by Homer that are the point of departure for all subsequent Western literature. It was here that Aegean Civilization arose in the Bronze Age: Minoan culture in Crete and Mycenaean culture in the Peloponnese. The Aegean is also the birthplace of western democracy as developed by the Hellenistic city-states, of which Athens was pre-eminent. Hellenistic culture spread out by sea, as far west as modern Sicily and the south of France. From Massali (modern Marseilles), Pytheas the Greek ventured as far north as Britain and Iceland, for the Aegean has ever been a nursery of sailors.
The Aegean Sea is also indescribably beautiful as well as being culturally fascinating. Alternate bands of granite and limestone produce dazzling island landscapes, with characteristic white-cubed dwellings and blue-domed churches. The rugged islands set in this azure sea are more or less arid depending on their aspect and rain showers will produce a riot of flowers on the hillsides. Introduced species like bougainvillea and hibiscus decorate the villages and made the air with scent as do the orange and lemon groves in season. Small, irregular fields of wheat, olives, and vines make up an Aegean gastronomic trinity that has been the foundation of the good life on the islands for millennia. It's a heady cultural mix and a voyage on Panorama is the ideal way to enjoy it.
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