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Ancient Asine

Ancient Asine Walls

If you have read the Collected Poems of George Seferis then you probably know the poem The King Of Asine written between summer of 1938 and January of 1940 when the poet visited the ancient site which had been excavated in the 1920s by Swedish Archaeologists directed by Axel Persson and Otto Frodin.

All morning long we looked around the citadel
starting from the shaded side there where the sea
green and without lustre — breast of a slain peacock —
received us like time without an opening in it.
Veins of rock dropped down from high above,
twisted vines, naked, many-branched, coming alive
at the water’s touch, while the eye following them
struggled to escape the monotonous see-saw motion,
growing weaker and weaker.

On the sunny side a long empty beach
and the light striking diamonds on the huge walls.
No living thing, the wild doves gone
and the king of Asini, whom we’ve been trying to find for two years now,
unknown, forgotten by all, even by Homer,
only one word in the Iliad and that uncertain,
thrown here like the gold burial mask.
You touched it, remember its sound? Hollow in the light
like a dry jar in dug earth:
the same sound that our oars make in the sea.

The king of Asini a void under the mask
everywhere with us everywhere with us, under a name:
‘’Ασíνην τε. . .’Ασíνην τε. . .’

and his children statues
and his desires the fluttering of birds, and the wind
in the gaps between his thoughts, and his ships
anchored in a vanished port:
under the mask a void.


Located near the resort town of Tolon, the Archaeological Site of Ancient Asine sits on a large rock promontory that juts into the sea between two beautiful beaches and overlooks a lush agricultural valley of oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits. Ancient Asini is known mostly from the Seferis poem which has made it a place of sojourn for his fans, though its location and the impressive stone walls make it one of the under appreciated sites of the Argolis. Probably because there was just not that much written about it. The only mention in Homer is in the list of ships that Diomedes, the King of Argos sent to Troy in Book II of the Illiad and Pausanias mentioned it during his second century travels. It is known that around 700 BC the city was attacked by the city state of nearby Argos and its inhabitants left the area and settled in what is now Koroni in Messenia. The enormous walls were built in the Hellenistic Period by those who remained or were resettled there and reinforced from time to time. Even in the Second World War the Italians used it, digging defensive works that destroyed many of the ancient walls and buildings, many of which had been intact until then. You can see their pillboxes and observation posts as you make your way through that is left of the ancient site.

Ancient Asine Beach

On either side of the archaeological site are two beautiful beaches. The first one you come to is Mikri Parilia Asini and sits in front of the Ασíνην τε Taverna just a hundred meters or so from the entrance to the site.

Asine Plaka Beach

The second beach is called Plaka and you can reach it by driving past the entrance. The most impressive of the Hellenistic walls are at these two beaches. OK, it is not the most exciting archaeological site in the world but if you are in Nafplion or Tolon and looking for something to do besides shop and eat this is a good option. The views are pretty amazing and so are the beaches and on the site itself there are signs that explain what you are seeing and the history of Ancient Asine amd there are also some exhibits and beautiful wildflowers.

Hellenistic Walls Ancient Asine

Behind the large eyes the curved lips the curls
carved in relief on the gold cover of our existence
a dark spot that you see traveling like a fish
in the dawn calm of the sea:
a void everywhere with us.

And the bird, a wing broken,
that flew away last winter
— tabernacle of life —
and the young woman who left to play
with the dog-teeth of summer
and the soul that sought the lower world gibbering
and the country like a large plane-leaf swept along by the torrent of the sun
with the ancient monuments and the contemporary sorrow.

And the poet lingers, looking at the stones, and asks himself
does there really exist
among these ruined lines, edges, points, hollows and curves
does there really exist
here where one meets the path of rain, wind and ruin
does there exist the movement of the face, shape of the tenderness
of those who’ve waned so strangely in our lives,
those who remained the shadow of waves and thoughts with the sea’s boundlessness
or perhaps no, nothing is left but the weight
the nostalgia for the weight of a living existence
there where we now remain unsubstantial, bending
like the branches of a terrible willow tree heaped in unremitting despair
while the yellow current slowly carries down rushes uprooted in the mud
image of a form that the sentence to everlasting bitterness has turned to stone:
the poet a void.

Shieldbearer, the sun climbed warring,
and from the depths of the cave a startled bat
hit the light as an arrow hits a shield:
’Ασíνην τε. . .’Ασíνην τε. . .’. If only that could be the king of Asini
we’ve been searching for so carefully on this acropolis
sometimes touching with our fingers his touch upon the stones.

 Asini, summer ’38—Athens, Jan. ’40

Ancient Asine
To get to Ancient Asine follow the signs from Nafplion towards Tolon and eventually you will come to the modern town of Asini. Go through the town towards Tolon and keep your eyes open for the brown signs that direct you to the many archaeological sites in the Argolis.

Tolon Beach Hotel

Hotels and Holiday Homes

There are several hotels and holiday homes right around the archaeological site and beaches as well as in the town of Asini which is right up the road. Porto Assini is a newly built studio and apartment complex, which is located on the Plaka beach, right below the ancient fortress. Villa Christina provides self-catered studios with free WiFi, BBQ facilities, a garden and free private parking. A short walk from Plakas Beach Villa Konari is a 3 bedroom house with a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a shared lounge, a garden and free WiFi. The Tolon Beach Hotel is a short walk from Asini Beach and the archaeological site and has some self-catering rooms and some rooms without kitchen. The pet-friendly Xenicamp and Bungalows are air conditioned and have a TV, a kitchenette, with a refrigerator. Each unit features a private bathroom with bath robes. There are also lots of hotels in Tolon. You can use the map to find those closest to Asini. You can also find hotels on Matt's Hotels of Greece Argolis Page.

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