Enjoy the Greek odyssey with Bettany Hughes

A Greek Odyssey with Bettany Hughes; (Channel 5, 9pm)

Thursday, 11th June 2020, 5:00 pm
Bettany sees the tradition of a warm Greek welcome is very much alive today on Chios
Bettany sees the tradition of a warm Greek welcome is very much alive today on Chios

Whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches, the turquoise Aegean Sea and delicious gyros – it’s no wonder us Brits make around three million visits to Greece each year.

Yet while the mainland holds the Acropolis and evidence of an ancient civilisation, it’s the magical islands that really draw us in.

Greece has many islands, with estimates ranging from somewhere around 1,200 to 6,000, depending on the minimum size taken into account.

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Tourism in the area is slowly getting back up and running following the coronavirus restrictions, and sadly many of us aren’t quite able to explore the rich history of Greek Islands again just yet.

However, Bettany Hughes has the next best thing.

In this new series, the historian, author and broadcaster embarks on the journey of a lifetime – travelling across the stunningly beautiful Greek Islands from the coast of Turkey – where the mythical Trojan War took place – to the island of Ithaca in the west of Greece.

Sailing through the islands, on her very own Odyssey, Bettany explores Greece from the time of the Ancients right up to the present day.

She will uncover incredible new archaeological discoveries, reveal hidden treasures and secrets, explain the truth around the myths and legends of the ancient world, and visit iconic sites.

Bettany begins in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean finding a graveyard of ancient shipwrecks.

She meets underwater archaeologist George Koutsouflakis, who takes her to the site of an incredible discovery – 58 shipwrecks dating back 2,500 years.

These ships and their crews met a watery end travelling this busy trade route.

It’s a sobering first-hand experience that shows the dangers sailors from the ancient world would have faced on these seas, just as sailors do today.

Bettany sees the tradition of a warm Greek welcome is very much alive today on Chios, fifth largest of the islands, situated in the northern Aegean Sea.

This ancient custom of hospitality and welcoming of travellers even has its own name: ‘Philoxenia’ or ‘a love of strangers’.

Next, Bettany explores the island of Lesbos, which is filled with incredible stories.

Famous as the birthplace of the ancient Greek poet Sappho, Lesbos is also known for producing anise-flavored liqueur ouzo.

She visits the ancient Greek Theatre of Mytilene, which the Romans used as a design prototype and built copies of throughout their empire, and also takes a dip in the island’s thermal waters, enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.

Finally, Bettany stops on Samos, an island known for its ancient naval power, sweet Muscat wine and its famous sixth-century BC resident, mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras.

Bettany experiences a more playful side of mathematics with a local ceramicist before seeing how mathematical engineering built the underground aqueduct the Tunnel of Eupalinos.

Torch in hand, Bettany explains how the tunnel provided a vital water supply more than 2,500 years ago before heading back to the harbour and sailing onto her next adventure.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we Brits are flocking back to these beautiful and fascinating islands.

They are thousands if not millions of years in the making, and as Bettany’s new series proves, they will be just as alluring when we do return.

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