The Aegean

View of the Aegean from Cape Sounion

The Ship with Black Sails: How the Aegean Got Its Name

After King Aegeus of Athens lost a war to King Minos of Crete, Athens had to send seven young men and seven maidens to Crete every nine years to feed the Minotaur – the half man-half bull monster kept in the labyrinth at Knossos. Eventually, Aegius’ son, Theseus, volunteered to go to Crete and slay the monster. With the help of King Minos’ daughter Ariadne, who fell in love with him, Theseus succeeded in killing the Minotaur and escaping from the labyrinth.

When Theseus left Athens, he departed in a ship with black sails. His father told him to change those to white on his return. Theseus, however, forgot to change the sails. Upon seeing the black sails, Aegeus concluded that his son was dead and threw himself into the sea from the cliffs at Cape Sounion, thus giving his name to the sea.

The Aegean

This music has lasted since the world began.
 A rock was born among the waters
 while tiny waves chatted in a soft universal tongue.
 The shell of a sea-turtle
 would not have foretold the guitar.
 Your music has always risen to the sky,
 green taproot, Mother Sea,
 first of all firsts. You enfold us,
 nurturing us with music - threat,
 fable, hypnosis, lullaby, roar,
 omen, myth,
                         little agonies
 of grit, of wreckages, of joys -


Dal principio del mondo dura questa musica.
Nacque fra acque un sasso,
chiacchieravano ondine in morbido esperanto.
Non avrebbe previsto la chitarra
un guscio di testuggine marina.
Da sempre sale al cielo la tua musica,
verde radice prima, mamma-mare,
prima di tutti i prima. Ci avviluppi
nutrendoci di musica - minaccia,
favola, ipnosi, ninnananna, rombo,
presagio, mito,
                             piccole agonie
di graniglie, relitti, di allegrie -

(Maria Luisa Spaziani, translated by Beverly Allen)

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