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This article is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

The Gardens of Kolymbetra Marius Kociejowski
A woman with a Medusa's head of hair sells tickets at the entrance to the Giardino della Kolymbetra, the sunken gardens adjacent to, and a hundred steps or so further down from, the Valley of the Temples outside Agrigento. She strikes me as the tutelary spirit of the place, she with her solid grasp of five languages of which, yes, Walloon's the surprise. She was born in Belgium but returned to what her blood had always dictated was home. It is easy to imagine that the small lake constructed here in 480 BC to commemorate victory over the Carthaginians at the battle of Himera was actually for her. It is only one's wilful ignorance of another person's life that allows for such fancies, of course - the poetical mind prefers ten facts rather than a thousand upon which to build a theme - but she really does seem to have stepped from a black-figure Greek vase. She squeezes fresh orange juice. She does so not as some comforting angel or to drive one to yet deeper romantic reverie but, at a euro a pop, to increase the garden's revenue.

Downwards I go, brushing past broom, pistacia lentiscus, tamarisk, terebinth, euphorbia, myrtle, almond and mulberry trees, a scent of orange blossom in the air, the distant hum of a swarm of bees. Empedocles would have known these gardens, Pindar too. The inhabitants of the ancient city of Akragas were much given to pleasure. Plato who visited the city says of ...


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