Thassos is a beautiful Greek holiday island, situated at the northern part of the Aegean Sea. It is famous for its strikingly clean beaches and the cave of Pan, which is a place to visit. A superb main road rings around the island, making it very convenient for tourists to easily reach the several great beaches, lining its pretty coastline.
There are many roads emerging from this main road and all go inwards towards pleasant villages and scenic forests. The forests are mainly composed of dense pine trees, which give a greenish emerald color to the island, and hence Thassos Island is also known as the “Emerald Island”.
Cave of Pan – place to visit
No visit to the Thassos Island is complete without visiting the cave of Pan. As the name signifies, the cave is dedicated to Pan, who in Greek mythology is as a god of wilderness and shepherds. Having horns, legs and haunches similar to a goat but with a manlike torso, Pan is also known as the goat-god. Being associated with the wild, he is worshiped in natural wild surroundings like caves. One such cave is within the old village of Thassos, near to Limenas, in Thassos Island.
On the inside wall of the cave there is an engraving showing Pan stretched lazily and playing on his Pan flute. It is generally known that the engraving was made in 4 B.C., as archaeologists have found images of Pan on Pantikapaion gold and silver coins belonging to 4 B.C. Even after all these years, the engraving is still very much evident and the cave of Pan is a most favored tourist destination.
The word “Pan” originates from the Greek word “paein”, meaning “pasture”, hence he is known as the god of open and wide fields, woods, forests, goats, animals and wilderness. Being so closely associated with nature, Pan is also associated with fertility, reproduction and particularly the spring season.
Being associated with fertility, Pan is naturally erotic in nature and Greek mythology has numerous tales of his amorous adventures. He practiced uninhibited sexual activity and is well known for his sexual prowess. Many people come to visit the cave of Pan to worship him so that they may gain greater sexual prowess.
It is believed by many locals that if childless couples worship Pan at his cave on Thassos Island, then they will be blessed with children. Several pregnant women also worship at this cave of Pan, believing that their worship will enable them to deliver a healthy child without any complications. Male tourists also flock the cave in the hope of seducing their desired women, as Pan had successfully seduced Selene, the goddess of the moon. Mythology states that Pan brought Selene down from the sky into the woods, where he seduced her by hiding his lower goat body with sheepskin.
Pan also represents music as he was the inventor of the pan flute or pan pipe. A myth states that the river god Landon had a beautiful daughter named Syrinx. One day, Syrinx was returning from a hunt, when Pan met her at Mount Lycaeum. Pan fell in love with her and started to praise her beauty. However, Syrinx did not fall in love with Pan and thus, ran away from him. Pan pursued her relentlessly and finally, Syrinx approached her sisters, who immediately transformed her to a reed.
As the air blew, the reeds produced a soulful melody. Being unable to find out which reed was his beautiful Syrinx, Pan collected several reeds and went away. He joined those reeds and made a musical instrument known as the Pan flute. Playing on the flute, Pan remembered his love for Syrinx and always carried the flute with him.
The music of Pan was extremely sweet and legend states that Pan once challenged Apollo. Pan played on his flute while Apollo played on his lyre. The competition ends with the winner being undecided, while some myths say Apollo won and other myths say Pan emerged victorious. However, Pan as the musician is accepted universally and due to this, the cave of Pan is famous amongst musicians.
The popularity of the cave has not faded with time and even nowadays, musicians from all over the world regularly visit it. It is generally understood that musicians experience the pathos, sweetness and the soulful nature of music much better, if they visit the cave of Pan.
With the passage of time, the following of Pan increased and Western Europe’s movement of the Romantics was greatly inspired by him. Similarly, he also influenced the Neopagan movement of the 20th century. Nowadays, people have been more frequently visiting the cave of Pan at the Thassos Island.
This is most evident in couples desiring children, pregnant women desiring a healthy baby, people desiring to increase their sexual powers, and musicians desiring to gain greater understanding of their music. They attempt to fulfill their respective desires by visiting the cave of Pan and paying their respects to it, in their own individual ways.
Tourists enjoy the trek toward the cave. From the ancient harbor at Thassos village, they start walking up the hillside on a path that snakes alongside an ancient wall. As they travel up the path, they reach the ancient amphitheater. It has stone seats in several tiers and an accommodation capacity of about three thousand people. High stone slabs surrounding the edge of the amphitheater suggests that the Romans used the theater to hold contests between gladiators and animals. Nowadays, it is used to hold musical and cultural shows.
Tourists rest by sitting on the stone seats of the amphitheater, with some imagining themselves as spectators witnessing some gladiatorial contest. They also have an excellent view of the old harbor and the Thassos village lying below. Having rested for sometime, they continue their trek upwards and reach the ruins of a Byzantine medieval castle having broken walls of a fortress, a church and two towers.
Proceeding forward, the tourists arrive at the ruins of a temple dedicated to Athena. Above it is a natural cave, which is the cave of Pan. When they reach the cave, they are at about 140 meters above the level of the sea, which provides them with extraordinary views of the town, the sea, and the lush green surroundings.
Other places to visit
Besides the cave of Pan, the other attractions at Thassos Island include the ancient marketplace or old Agora, the archaeological museum, the Archangelos monastry, the Alyki ruins, and the hospitable villages. In addition, the gorgeous sandy beaches, unpolluted environment and tranquil surroundings, are major draws with tourists from all around the world. However, the cave of Pan is a favorite and a necessary place to visit for every tourist visiting Thassos Island.