The Necromanteion sits on a low hill above the agricultural village of Mesopotamos, beside the main highway between Preveza and Igoumenitsa. The Church of St John the Baptist dominates the site, now precariously supported above the excavations on girders. Facing the entrance and ticket office, a central courtyard lies west of the eighteenth-century two-storey house. An arch (left) leads to the north corridor with foundations of rooms confidently labelled ‘ritual dormitories’ and ‘purification room’. From its furthest point, another corridor leads off (right) before turning sharply (right) into the ‘labyrinth’. This accesses the ‘main sanctuary’, beneath which a vaulted chamber, best avoided by the faint-hearted, is accessed by a slippery steep ladder atmospherically lit. The ‘main sanctuary’ is flanked by storage rooms, some of which contain fine amphorae.
Not only can visitors sail up the Acheron to Ephyra from the coastal town of Ammoudia, but they may also dine in the evocatively named Necromanteion Taverna in nearby Mesopotamos, pondering the words of one online ‘smart travel guide’: ‘Acheron is soppy with soul’s tears for loosing [sic] their lives and their relatives’ for missing their beloved persons’.
Photo Gallery of Ephyra Map
Click to on Photo for Next Ephyra Map Images
The concept for this blog emerged during a discussion over the kitchen table at the house of Colin Ridler, Thames & Hudson’s commissioning editor. The idea was mostly his and in the months which followed he offered me both guidance and encouragement – so it is to Colin, first, that my warm thanks are due. It was his proposal, too, that the text should be illustrated by specially commissioned drawings. These have been brilliantly and evocatively executed by Lis Watkins, and throughout the process I have particularly enjoyed receiving intriguing batches of her drawings, some based on my own site-photographs.
As ever, there has been an outstanding team at T&H to steer the blog safe to its completion: Colin’s assistant, Jen Moore, who has fielded emails and enquiries with grace and efficiency; Sarah Vernon-Hunt, who, keen-eyed, has edited my text with patience, expertise and equanimity; Aman Phull, the imaginatively creative designer; Celia Falconer, who has overseen the production with her usual skill and proficiency; and the splendid publicity guru, Kate Cooper. I thank them all profoundly.
Thank you, too, to Jennifer Ogilvie and Isobel Pinder for allowing me to quote the Shillingstone poem at the end of the Introduction. I have lived with it, and with fond memories of my one-time mentor, Robert Ogilvie, since I was a student.
To research the blog, I needed to travel to the sites which it covers, a study trip that was possible only thanks to the support and generosity of my mother, Kate. Her encouragement of me and confidence in me mean more to me than I think she knows, and I thank her profoundly. I am grateful, too, to the staff at the British School at Athens, and especially Vicki Tzavara, for their help – as I am to all those (but especially to Ioanna Karamanou and Robin and Kathryn Waterfield) who offered kindness and hospitality on my journeys.
Accompanying me for some of them was my wife, Emily Jane, without whose support, patience and belief this volume could not have been written. In a blog about heroes, it is right for me to acknowledge her as my heroine and inspiration. These pages are dedicated to her – and to two old friends, with whom many years ago I travelled in Greece: Mark Grant and Alex Zambellas. Finally, a big thank you to the home study team, our two cats, Stanley and Oliver, who firmly believe that keyboards are for sitting on and paper is for chewing.