IAXS Research Project #103
By Nusi P. Dekker
Copyright © 1997 held by author
Headless statue of an Amazon Queen, most
c. 400 B.C., Museum of Ancient Corinth.
The Peloponese (06-08)
Near Athens (13-17)
A Trip to Greece:
Ruminations on Xena: Warrior Princess
 I am a devotee of Xena: Warrior
Princess, a show set during the time of ancient
Greeks, but filmed on the other side of the world in New
Zealand. I am also a traveler and always wanted to see
Greece, but the show gave me the extra push. Having gone to
Greece twice in the space of only nine months, I was
astounded to learn how this country has embraced the
One of a series of marble pediments from a
building in Ancient Corinth
depicting the Battle of the Amazons
against the Greeks. This was the best preserved.
c. 350 B.C., Museum
of Ancient Corinth.
Ruins of Ancient Corinth with Acrocorinth
Foreground: Temple of Apollo (Doric c. before 800
B.C.), Ancient Corinth.
 Greece is not a third world country, but its
technology and media access are somewhat behind the United
States. The country has only eleven TV channels, with most
of the programming in Greek. That means the imported shows
that are found to be unpopular with the populace are quickly
replaced. In July of 1996, Star Trek: The Next
Generation (Paramount, 1987-1994), Star Trek:
Deep Space Nine (Paramount, 1993- ), Babylon
5 (Warner Brothers, 1993- ), and The
X-Files (Fox, 1993- ), were the four Sci-Fi/Fantasy
shows airing, all on the STAR channel. By May 1997, these
shows had all been dropped from programming, save for
The X-Files. They were replaced by
Tarzan: The Epic Adventures (Keller Siegel,
1996- ), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (MCA,
1995- ), and Xena: Warrior Princess (MCA, 1995-
). The X-Files has always been extremely
popular among the Greeks, but the other shows have taken off
like skyrockets, especially Xena: Warrior
 What do the Greeks find compelling in a
character that never was part of their mythology, who was a
woman who defeated mighty warlords, and defied the concept
of what a Greek woman is to a Greek man? Part of the answer
lies in the character makeup and attitude of the Greeks,
especially in their history which is evident by the ruins of
castles and temples which are literally spread over the
countryside, and also in their incredible ancient artwork
shown in the museums of each of their ancient cities.
 My latest journey, taken during the first
three weeks of May 1997, took me by bicycle to many of the
historical and mythological sites of the Peloponese:
Corinth, Nemea, Mycenae, Epidauros, and Olympia. I also rode
on a ferry to Zakynthos, of the four Ionian islands (the
others being Ithaca, Cephalonia, and Lefkada), then spent
time exploring Attica and Boeotia to the Thessalonian
 The Greek people learn of Greek mythology as
well as ancient history in grade school. Figures such as
Hercules are believed by many Greeks to have actually
existed, with their feats exaggerated by centuries of
retellings and embellishments. It seemed that the three most
important events in Greek mythological history as depicted
on hundreds of temple pediments and vases were: (1) The
twelve labors of Hercules, (2) the life of Theseus, and (3)
the battle between the Amazons and the Greeks.
Acrocorinth, medieval castle walls,
c. 500-1300 A.D.
 In a small museum in Ancient Corinth (not to
be confused with modern day Corinth, a large town several
miles away) are lovingly carved marble statues of Amazons,
both standing and on horseback (they rode bareback). They
wore sleeveless dresses as short as Xena's (mid-thigh), and
boots like those of Gabrielle. A series of carved pediments
show the Amazons in single-hand combat with men. Their
weapon of choice was the axe (like the Horde!), but they
also used spears and the bow and arrow, and, rarely, swords.
These were made between 700 and 300 B.C., of the finest
marble instead of cheaper terra cotta or wood, attesting to
their great importance as a subject to ancient historians
and artists. These brutal but heroic women may be seen by
modern Greeks as the models for Xena: Warrior
Acrocorinth, medieval castle walls,
c. 500-1300 A.D.
 The ruins themselves are mixtures of many
eras. There are classic Greek ruins of temples next to Roman
baths and marketplaces, next to medieval castles, next to
Turkish mosques, and next to Byzantine shrines. Of the Greek
ruins, the only things left standing are the foundations and
the columns. The stone walls were long ago assimilated into
the walls of the medieval castles. At the very top of the
Acrocorinth, a massive rock which rises 1500 feet above
Ancient Corinth, stands the foundation stones of the once
majestic Temple of Aphrodite, the largest temple to this
Goddess in Greece and once home to 200 slaves of Aphrodite,
who served the men of the Corinthian armies. The remains of
this temple are now part of the castle walls. This
hodgepodge of architecture is very reminiscent of the sets
seen in Xena: Warrior Princess, from the ruins
seen in A NECESSARY EVIL (#38) to the fortress
in THE PRICE (#44).
 The interior of the Peloponese is every bit
as lush and green as New Zealand, especially during spring
(apart from the tree ferns seen in Xena: Warrior
Princess). The hilly terrain was very similar, as
well as the rocky coastline and dark sand beaches.
Tomb of Mycenaen king, also known as
"Treasury of Atreus",
c. 1600 B.C., Mycenae.
 I spent four days on the island of
Zakynthos, one of the four islands of the Ionian Sea. The
island is only a one-hour sail by car ferry from the
Peloponese mainland. On the day we went over, Poseidon was
at work, producing stormy weather with 20 foot swells.
Everyone was inside the boat to avoid getting soaked, and we
could not even walk without getting tossed around. My male
tourguide did a "Gabrielle", becoming violently seasick.
 Ithaca, the subject of so many heroic tales,
is actually quite a tiny island nestled in the shadow of its
huge mountainous neighbor, Cephalonia. It is only about two
hours by sailboat from Zakynthos, hidden from view.
Zakynthos itself may be the famed "island of the sirens"
mentioned in ULYSSES (#43). On the west side of
the island are the Keri Caves, which consist of arches,
goblins, and other rock formations, along with caves which
can be entered by a small boat. When the wind blows through
the formations just right, an eerie, high-pitched sound is
produced. Fortunately, it was not happening that day. Since
I was on a boat crewed by men, I was not eager to find out
if there was any truth to the myths.
Keri Caves, "Island of the Sirens", Zakynthos.
 Zakynthos is not an American vacation spot,
but one frequented by the Europeans, mostly the British and
Germans. So I was surprised when walking through Zakynthos
town, to see Xena dolls dangling from doorways and outdoor
display racks of four or five stores. The town itself has a
population of about 5,000 and was almost entirely rebuilt
after a devastating 1953 earthquake which destroyed most of
the villages in the four-island chain. It is also off the
beaten path for most tourism, so it was interesting to see
the dolls being snapped up as popular Greek souvenirs (along
with sponges, prayer beads, and Hercules and Iolaus dolls).
The quality of the dolls, as compared to the ones sold
stateside by Toy Biz, Inc., was horrible, but they were
available, and people were buying them. I could only imagine
how the dolls were selling on the Cycladic island of
Mykonos, reputedly the Gay Mecca of Greece (not Lesbos, or
so I was told by the natives).
 After Zakynthos we rode to Olympia, a huge
archeological site next to a very small village in a remote,
heavily forested river valley. This place deserves mention
here, because I happened to be wearing a Xena T-shirt. As I
walked through the museum at Olympia, several security
guards pointed at my shirt, then cheered, and yelled "Xena!"
Needless to say, the shirt attracted much attention in an
area where many of the people do not even own a TV, but
somehow they still knew about Xena (probably their social
life includes visiting their friends who have cable TV!).
Typical Greek beach, Ionian Sea, Zakynthos.
 After the bike trip, I spent five days with
a friend and her family in a mountain village near Athens.
Her ten-year-old son Giorgios has to watch
Xena: Warrior Princess every Friday night, and
likes to call himself Xenos. His father, a physician, likes
the moral aspect of the story, although he frowns at the
prospect of a strong Greek female figure, having been raised
in a country where men have the ultimate power and women
provide the supporting foundations.
 We all settled down to watch Xena:
Warrior Princess one evening in mid-May . The
show, which was supposed to begin at 9:30 p.m., did not come
on until almost 10:00 p.m., from the previous show running
late. The show abruptly started without warning with the
opening scene from THE EXECUTION (#41). I was
surprised that Greece is behind the U.S. in episodes by only
about a month, when every other country (including New
Zealand) is still only in the first season. The show was in
English with Greek subtitles. There were only two commercial
breaks, one after fifteen minutes and the other about ten
minutes before the end of the show. The credits at the end
were cut off, and the next show, in Greek, started
 Giorgios, reflecting the attitude of
generations of Greeks before him, admires the character of
Xena because she so closely resembles the heroes of the
ancient Greek world. These male heroes all had certain
traits in common. They were all skilled and brave warriors.
They all went through periods of violent behavior. They all
had a companion whom they trusted and loved more than
anything else on earth, a bond that lasted through marriage
and children of each partner, and was kept separate and
sacred. The intensity of the Xena-Gabrielle friendship
follows this pattern as part of the Greek way, and still
seems to be a part of the social structure of modern Greece,
most notably among men.
Greeks vs. Amazons.
 Wherever I went, the mythological lands were
intact (I visited many "entrances to Hades", caves,
sinkholes, etc., the Alconian Lake notwithstanding) and
every village had people wanting to practice their English
with me and tell me stories of what the Gods or heroes did
in their town. This Greek love for storytelling is another
reason why Xena: Warrior Princess is so
popular. The interpretations of the myths presented in
Xena: Warrior Princess are welcomed as part of
the many versions invented by the Greeks themselves. I
visited the Stymphalian Lake, the birthplace of Zeus, the
cliff of Sounion where King Aegeus of Attica met his death,
the cave of the Delphic Oracle, and the Valley of Thebes
(the ancient city was totally destroyed, only the modern
town is left). In all of these places I could feel the magic
of the timeless myths.
 I never made it to Amphipolis, but I did not
have to. Just traveling through the land in the imaginary
footsteps of Xena and Gabrielle was enough. I found the
Greek connection to Xena: Warrior Princess from
both the contemporary and mythological viewpoints. It made
me appreciate what the show is doing in interpreting the
myths and creating its own, much more than ever. It was well
Amazons vs. Greeks.
 Both of the Greek trips were arranged by the
travel company Classic Adventures, operated by Dale and
Dianne Hart of Brockport, N.Y. Family members lead
mostly bicycle trips, but also run hiking trips (the
Crete Hike was the best trip of my life!). They will
also lead custom bike or hike tours in Greece for
groups of eight to twenty-four people. I would go again
in a minute and will help to organize a tour if there
is any interest. For more information on what the tours
are like, including cost, contact:
P.O. Box 153
Hamlin, N.Y. 14464-0153
Phone: (800) 777-8090