The Olympic trip of Pytheas: Accompanying the Olympic Flame to France

The Olympic Flame will light in Ancient Olympia, Greece on April 16, 2024. The torch with the Olympic Flame will be travelling for eleven days, passing through the main Greek cities, before being delivered on April 26 to the French delegation in Athens, to travel to Marseille via Piraeus port. The torch will board the French 128-years-old three masted barque Belem, and will arrive on May 8 in the port the ancient Greek colony of Massalia (Marseille), where two days of cultural events are planned to welcome it in the presence of top officials of the French government.

A smaller sailing vessel, the keeler Pytheas from Greece (named after the ancient Greek explorer), will follow the same sea route as Belem, departing from the port of Piraeus to the port of Marseille. There, Pytheas will wait for Belem to accompany her when will be arriving in the port of Marseille. Pytheas will carry the flags of Greece, Olympic Games, and the Municipalities of Ancient Olympia and Piraeus on her mast.

Upon completion of the Marseille events, and the departure of the Olympic Flame for Paris on May 9, Pytheas will depart for her return to Greece. During the return journey, she will stop at the ports of some of the most important ancient Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean, Nice, Cargese, Napoli, and Reggio Calabria, before entering the waters of Greece where it will stop briefly in Ithaca and then head to its destination Katakolo, the port of Ancient Olympia.

Cymothoe Initiative has proudly undertaken the planning and organization of this project, in close cooperation with Mr. George Kesses, captain of Pytheas.

Pytheas of Massalia, an ancient Greek explorer (born in Marseille in c. 300 BC)

Navigator, geographer, astronomer, and the first known scientist who visited and described the Atlantic coast of Europe, the British Isles, the Celtic and German tribes, the polar ice, and the midnight sun. Although “In the Ocean”, his major work, has been lost, big part of his ventures remained known through the writings of Greek historian Polybius (c. 200 – c. 118 BC). Sailing from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, Pytheas stopped at the Phoenician city of Gades (now called Cadiz, Spain), probably following the European coastline to the edge of Bretagne. He eventually reached Belerium (“The End of the Land”) in Cornwall, where he visited the famous in the ancient world tin mines. He claimed to have explored much of Britain on foot, having accurately estimated its circumference at 4000 miles. He also estimated the distance from Scotland to Marseilles at 1050 miles while the actual distance is 1120 miles. He visited some northern European countries and may have reached the mouth of the Vistula river in the Baltic Sea. He also spoke of Thule , the northernmost inhabited island, which is six days from Scotland and extends at least to the Arctic Circle. The area he visited may have been Iceland or Norway.