Visiting ancient Greece in Second Life

Delos, November 2021

In October, I visited ancient Alexandria, a two-region build by Kleopatra T. Philopator (Kleopatra Alpha) and Elio Donat, and which offers an historical / role-play environment set in the reign of Cleopatra VII Philopator (69 BC – 10 August 30 BC) – see Cleopatra’s Alexandria in Second Life. However, adjoining the two regions representing Alexandria is a third, offering settings from ancient Greece within the same period (centred on around 43-42 BCE). At the time I covered Alexandria, I had intended to include the settings from ancient Greece; however, in talking to their creator (and holder of the region where they sit), Ellen of Sparta (ellenharriet) it became apparent they should be covered separately – hence this article.

As their joint name suggest, Sparta and Delos offer setting representative of the famous Greek city-state and of the the island said to be one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. In addition, the region also offers the opportunity to visit ancient Crete. All three locations stand separately on their own sky platforms, but are interlinked via a teleport system. In addition, both Sparta and Delos can be reached from the “Library” landing point above Alexandria.

Sparta is today probably best known for its connection with the mythology of Helen of Troy and the Trojan War, and its military might, most notably enshrined in the reign of Leonidas I and the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BCE) during the second Persian invasion of Greece, led by Xerxes I. However, the city-state’s entire history is rooted in legend and mythology, which states it was founded by Lacedaemon, son of the god Zeus (by way of the nymph Taygete), and later became the seat of descendants of Heracles.

Sparta, November 2021

Regarded as less sophisticated than the likes of Athens, Sparta rose to become the dominant land-based power in Ancient Greece, largely due to the system of education imposed by the laws of semi-mythical legislator Lycurgus (c.820 BCE). And whilst seen as “less sophisticated”, it wasn’t in any way backward. For example, Sparta was very much ahead of the rest of ancient Greece in terms of gender equality – women, (at least those classed as citizens of the city) enjoyed a status, power, and respect that was unknown in the rest of the classical world, being seen from birth as near-equals to male offspring and offered the same freedoms, up to and including education and competing in sports. As such, many women played significant roles in the city-state’s history, such as Queen Gorgo, heiress to the throne and the wife of Leonidas I.

As represented by Ellen, Sparta in Second Life sits at a time well past its heyday as an independent city-state (that having been lost in 192 BCE, when Alexander the Great forced it to join the League of Corinth), but when it was nevertheless enjoying a curious renaissance. Whilst subject to the rule of Rome, it was seen as a Free City, allowing at least some of the institutions of Lycurgus to be restored – a fact that lent it to becoming a “tourist attraction” for wealthy Roman citizens wishing to learn about it culture and ways. Hence why, within Ellen’s setting, we find a Romanesque colosseum rising up on one side of the city.

The core of Ellen’s build is laid out along Afetais Avenue, regarded as the major thoroughfare of Sparta. Here can be found a number of buildings that help represent something of Sparta’s long history and its roots in mythology. First among these, just beyond the training arena for those wishing to participate in combat RP and the tournaments that regularly take place at the  colosseum, is a temple dedicated to he mythical Helen of Sparta, daughter of Zeus and wife of King Menelaus of Sparta (and perhaps better known as Helen of Troy), as well as temples to the Muses and Heracles, the legendary hero of ancient Greece. He was said to have conquered Sparta two centuries after the Trojan war, causing the rules lines of the Agiad and Eurypontid kings claiming to be his descendants. Red plinths outside of these temples and the other buildings lining the avenue will provide brief note cards on the buildings and the roles of those they honour in the history of Sparta.

Sparta, November 2021

At its northern end, Afetais Avenue opens out into a broad square sitting before a representation of the main courtyard from the massive Mycenaean palace discovered at Aghios Vassilios Hill close to Sparta, a structure thought to have once covered some 35 acres. Here the palace courtyard looks towards the Sparta Acropolis, home to a reproduction of the Sanctuary of Athena Chalkioikos, and the city’s civic amphitheatre.

Delos, meanwhile, transports us to the historic island of the same name. Located near the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, it is home to some of the most extensive archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean. These show the island has been inhabited since around the 3rd millennium BCE, with Thucydides claiming the original inhabitants were driven from the island by King Minos of Crete (he of the Minotaur infamy). By the time of Homer, the island was reputedly the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis (although Ortygia is also given as the birthplace of the latter), a legend that led to the island undergoing several “purifications” by  Athens in an attempt to render it fit for the proper worship of the gods.

By around 42 BCE, the importance of Delos had waned. Under Roman rule, the island has rises to the heights of being the premier trading centre of Greece after the Romans has soundly stomped on Corinth, but the Mithridatic Wars brought an end to this, such that by the 1st Century BCE, Delos as a centre of trade and culture. Even so, it did remain a centre of population through until the 1st Century CE (after which things get spotty), so Delos as seen here is perhaps representative of the island as it sat during Roman rule, and when its sanctuaries and temples  were sill very much maintained.

Delos, the Temple of Apollo, November 2021

Dominating the island is a temple celebrating Apollo, sitting on a hill overlooking the rest of the island, a tall statue of Hebe situated on one shoulder of the hill. Also to be found here is a sanctuary to Dionysus  – Delos was the centre of a cult that revered both him and Leto, mother of Athena and Apollo, and an Erechtheion dedicated to Athena. The later stands to one side and slightly below the temple of Apollo in a manner that is mindful of the way the Erechtheion in Athens sits to one side of the Parthenon. Also to be found within the setting is a further grand temple and the palace of Queen Ellen, together with a small wharf, open fields, a marketplace a landowner’s villas, and assorted points of interest, all of which offer a more relaxed environment for potential role-play when compared to the possibly more combat-centric Sparta.

Sitting within its own sky platform, Crete is the work of Ellen with the help of Delia Kleopatra (Naburita), and appears to take us to the Minoan era. It centres on a great palace, seemingly inspires by the Knossos, and within which can be found a tripartite shrine of the kind discovered during excavations at Knossos, and reproductions of frescoes of the kind that may have once decorated the walls of buildings at Knossos.

And role-play (and combat) environments, these settings (notably Delos and Sparta) are home to a wide range of events, which are detailed at the landing points. Dress code for visitors is not strictly enforced, but those wishing to blend into the settings can join the local group and obtain free outfits from the vendors at the Delos and Sparta landing points. When exploring Sparta and Crete in particular, do not that there are private residences to one side of each setting, some of which are available for rent by interested parties – contact Ellen of Sparta (ellenharriet) for information.

Delos, November 2021

Taken on their own, collective and or / with Alexandria, Sparta, Delos, Crete make for an engaging and historically rich visit.

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Note Starr is rated Adult.

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