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Rediscovering Pronnoi (Kefalonia)

The murky photos of medieval remains in Klavs Randsborg’s books on Kefalonia had long lingered in my mind, as had his sense that Pronnoi was one of the great archaic cities of Greece. It belonged to the Kefalian Tetrarchy before succumbing to a Roman siege in the second century BC.

High above Poros bay, the concial crags in the hazy light seemed to defy me, and now, John Moreland and I in the sharp morning sunshine were making an assault on its north flank.

We worked our way up goat paths, uneasily picking our footing on the scree. Seeing goats high above us, it became obvious that this was a mistake. So spying a shepherd we worked our way down to him. He was on a cellphone, oblivious to his beasts’ random meanderings. Up to the church, then up, he instructed curtly. So, we followed the old road to a church, rested under an old olive, then pursued a winding path to a sheep-pen guarded by howling dogs. Avoiding this, we struck up across the hill-slope, our path puncturing the outer lower (cyclopean) wall of the sprawling archaic city. The anonymity of the old city struck us both. From then on we worked our way along paths, through thorns and briars until we came around to the south side of the conical hill. Here more paths threaded their way ever upwards until we spied the castle high above us. More than ninety minutes had passed when we slipped through the 11th-century fortification and felt the sweet balm of the breeze from two directions.

Liberated to the open hilltop, we found it hard adjusting to our bearings. Where was north? How did it correspond to Klavs’s plan? Then we realized that Poros harbour was in fact Skala harbour and beyond the hammered sea in the brilliant sunshine was the elongated outline of Zakinthos, the southernmost Ionian island.

View from Pronnoi

Dividing our efforts, John roamed the hill to seek out potsherds – especially tell-tale glazed wares, while I measured and mapped the buildings. Photographing the levelled remains of once great structures, John as a scale was reduced to a silhouette in the fierce light.

Remains of Tower 1 with John

Mid Byzantine Pronnoi appears to have possessed three sectors: one for its church with its own well, one for the hall on the highest point with two accompanying buildings, a cistern and two wells, and one screened off by a closure wall at the north end, where close to Klavs’s celebrated (archaic) stepped altar were at least two or three more levelled walls. No glazed pottery.

Occasionally a Mediterranean kestrel swept by, mewing with menace. Once a swallow glided over of us as if to gauge our well-being.

Archaic Stepped Altar

Then down we went, almost giddily re-tracing our steps, musing on how vestigial the great archaic city was, and how disciplined Klavs was to have managed his team in such rough terrain. Down we went, privileged to have enjoyed the blissful panoramic views and the adventure to re-discover a little-known part of Byzantine Greece.

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