Whoosh! Issue 40 - January 2000


IAXS project #744
By cr@clear.net.nz
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
12280 words

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away... (01-05)
Here be YAXIs (06-10)
The Scene of the Crime (11-16)
A Ramble Round the Scenery (17-23)
In The Beginning... (24-28)
The First Season's Campaign (29-35)
Season 2: The Saga Continues (36-44)
Season 3: World Travel (45-50)
Season 4: What a Way to Go (51-57)
Where are the Amazon and Centaur Villages? (58-68)
What's in a Name? (69-163)
Conclusion (164-165)

If It's Tuesday Then This Must Be Attica:
Xena's Travels in Greece

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

[1] Scattered throughout Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) at irregular intervals are mentions of place names, rivers, and mountains. Sometimes, these are real locations. More often though, they are places lost in the mists of time.

[2] This paper locates, where possible, the places where episodes of the first four seasons occur, and it attempts to deduce Xena's and Gabrielle's travels. What emerges is the apparent fact that Xena and Gabrielle crisscrossed ancient Greece as if the Furies were on their tails. This paper's conclusions are based on the least improbable interpretation of the records. In many cases, the scrolls are ambiguous, even contradictory. Much of this is, therefore, conjectural.

[3] This is not a history of Xena. For that, see Part 5 of the XWP FAQ on this site. Nor is this a historical account of Amphipolis or Poteidaia. Both towns had eventful histories, and were strategically significant in the conflicts between Athens and Sparta. See "Historic Amphipolis and Poteidaia" by Paul Dickson (Whoosh! #18) for the full story.

[4] The phrase "a day's journey" often occurs in XWP. I have taken this to be about 25 miles for Xena on foot, 20 miles if accompanied by Gabrielle, or 35 miles for Xena alone on Argo [Note 01]. Just to put things in perspective, to travel from Amphipolis to Athens by land (about 330 miles) would take Xena nearly two weeks.

[5] The author of this paper has never been to Greece and knows almost nothing of Greek history, so it is quite likely that, somewhere in this narrative, some place names may be misidentified. Unfortunately, this is an occupational hazard for Xenawatchers. The Xenastaff themselves have committed worse crimes. In fact there are a number of occasions where the only possible "explanation" is a YAXI [Note 02].

Here be YAXIs

[6] To the serious Xena investigator, a YAXI is your friend. It can save your sanity. When you're reaching the wall-banging stage of trying to reconcile the impossible, just say "It's a YAXI!" and you will feel much, much happier.

[7] It is not surprising that XWP, which is notorious for playing games with time, does the same with space. Some things do not fit very well - or at all. In fact, there are more YAXIs in the Xena Map than there are Angry Women from Xena's Dark Past in Hades. Some of this could be put down to difficulties in deciphering the scrolls.

[8] This is complicated by the uncertainties of transcribing spoken names onto paper, by the changes in place names over 2000 years, by the difficulties in transliterating Greek characters into our alphabet, and by the varying spellings in place names. For example, Amphipolis is also spelt on maps as Amfipolis, Amfipoli or [Greek text which I cannot reproduce here]. It is on the Strymon River, also called the Struma, StrimĒnas, or [Greek]. I have generally used the Anglicized version of names here.

[9] While some place names are positive and unmistakable (Athens, Corinth, Amphipolis, and Poteidaia for example - and who would have thought those last two were real?), many names are ambiguous or untraceable. Of course, there is a fair chance that the Xenastaff, who seem not to know quite where Amphipolis is, may have just used the first Greek place name they came upon, regardless of location. It is preferable, however, to regard them as innocent until proven guilty and take their interpretation of the scrolls as correct wherever possible.

[10] This paper ignores "scenery matching" (the fact that the same beach and the same tree-shaded track appear in many episodes) for the most part. Not only would attempting to correlate locations between episodes be impossibly complex, but the YAXIs would also multiply exponentially.

The Scene of the Crime

Argo, we just want to go from here to here, and... Argo? Argo?

Map 1. Greece and the Aegean
[11] Xena's story begins in Amphipolis, on the contemporary Macedonia-Thrace border. This is where Xena lived as a girl, and where the warlord Cortese caused her to embark on her dramatic and violent career.

[12] It appears that "cultured" Greeks such as Athenians or Corinthians regarded people from the north as uncultured "provincials" [Note 03]. Xena did her best to live up to the "wild" image by killing quite a few people, like that other great Macedonian, Alexander. Perhaps some of his spirit lived on in Xena.

[13] This part of Greece has flat river valleys separated by steep, high, forested mountains, many rising to 5000 feet. Even in summer, it can still snow in the mountains. In Xena's day, it would have been truly wild territory anywhere outside the valley bottoms.

[14] Interestingly, the largest city in the region is Seres (or Serres or Serrai, depending which map you consult), the most likely candidate for Cirra, which was razed by Xena. Seres is on the northern edge of the wide, flat, fertile Strymon valley, 25 miles inland from the coast. To the northeast rises Mount Vrontous, which forms a massif with Mounts Menikio and Falakron between the Strymon and Nestos Rivers. One of these would be the Mount Nestos of DESTINY (36/212).

OK, Argo, we just need to go up this, carrying a litter with a body on it... Argo? Argo?

Mt Falakron, in west Thrace
[15] Amphipolis, once the most important Athenian colony in the North, is now no more than a village and archaeological site. It was located in a highly strategic site, on top of a bluff on the inside of a bend of the Strymon River, where the valley narrowed just two miles inland from the coast. In military terms, it was not only easy to defend, but it would also control both east-west travel along the coast and the access from the Strymon valley to the sea. Ironically, a site named Caesaropolis is located on the coast close by, probably near the place where Caesar took his dreadful revenge on Xena in DESTINY.

Ha, hey look, Gabrielle, your hometown's not even on the map! Guess... Gabrielle? Gabrielle?

Map 2. Xena's homeland Features in green are conjectural
[16] There were abundant mineral resources on Mount Pangeon, silver on Mount Dysoron (west of the Strymon valley), and gold mines at Nigrita near Amphipolis. No wonder warlords were always trying to take over the area. This could also explain the mystery of how Xena pays her way, which is something that always worried this author far more than Xenaleaps or the magic chakram: she has her own private mine, just like the Lone Ranger used to have. It would also explain the Xena-lite episodes - while Gabrielle keeps the viewers diverted, Xena is hurrying off to her gold mine to replenish the coffers. Those "wandering-Cyclops" excuses always did sound a bit thin. It would also explain how she keeps so fit.

A Ramble Round the Scenery

This month in National Geographicus

Except in Xena's time, there wasn't a road

...and New Zealand
[17] The popular image of Greece is of a hot, dry, arid country, with olive groves sloping down to small stone-built villages at the edge of the blue Mediterranean. The popular image of New Zealand is of green, hilly, bush- clad countryside, with snow-clad mountains and rushing rivers. It would seem to be a most incongruous choice to stand in for Greece. However, popular images are misleading. Both countries have a remarkable variety of landscapes in a small area. Perhaps fortuitously, most of the New Zealand scenery seen in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and XWP has its counterpart in Greece.

[18] All of Greece is either mountainous or overshadowed by mountains. The natural barriers presented by the ranges may have been one reason why so many different city-states flourished. Even in southern Greece, the Peloponnese, the higher hillsides are still covered in bush or scrub. Northern Greece is extensively forested, with running water everywhere. In Xena's day, the forests would have been much more extensive.

[19] Greece is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Icy winds can blast down from Russia across the Balkans. It is often humid in summer, and northern Greece gets heavy snowfalls in winter. The snow around Nicklio's hut in DESTINY (36/212) was authentic. Even down in the Peloponnese, the mountains are snow-capped in winter.

[20] The green wooded countryside traversed by Xena in her adventures is, therefore, not the glaring inconsistency it might appear to be. It is probably a fair approximation to much of the Greece of Xena's day. In fact it may be easier to replicate Ancient Greece in New Zealand, with its small population, than it would be in modern Greece. Xenascenery naturally reflects those locations which Pacific Renaissance have found convenient, uncrowded, and accessible.

[21] The Greece of Xena and Hercules is full of waterfalls and woodland streams...

Yet another opportunity for a water scene!

Karekare Falls, west coast, seen in a number of episodes
.... and so is Greece itself
All the water scenes are really authentic!

Waterfall at Edessa, Macedonia
[22] The coastline may be where Xenascenery differs most from Greece, in the straight, exposed black- sand beaches of Auckland's West Coast, where the waves roll in from 1200 miles of open Tasman Sea. This is quite unlike the sheltered coves of much of the Greek coast. (The black sand, incidentally, is extremely fine and dense iron-based sand, and rapidly gets too hot to walk on in summer. It is a purplish-black color, shading through grey to dark yellow when mixed with ordinary sand. Anywhere in XWP that you see dark-colored sand hills was probably filmed on the West Coast). Should the Xenastaff feel a need to find sheltered golden beaches, however, they would need only to travel to the East Coast beaches north of Auckland.

And for the afternoon's activities, visit Scylla and Charybdis

Near Kavala, Thrace (Neapolis): the buildings and happy campers are post-Xena
And for the afternoon's activities, visit the abandoned warlord cave

A typical Xena beach: Piha, wild west coast, 20 miles west of Pacific Renaissance offices. Note the 'black' sand and the exposed location
[23] Both countries have mountains in abundance. The high snow-capped peaks in the background of many Hercules and Xena "continuity" shots could well be set in Greece in winter or spring.

There better not be any crosses up in that snow

Ruapehu (9177')
If you get out your binoculars, you'll see Aphrodite on her boogie board

Mt. Olympus (9551')
Of course, both countries also have boring flat bits, and cleared farmland, which the Xenastaff has very wisely chosen to ignore.

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