(21) Chapter I cont.

Bird calls and burial mounds mark a long-lost major character’s return to the story.

Rodosto aka Tekirdağ

Another travelogue, this one among the ravishing landscapes that lie between Athens and present-day Turkey, gives Mary Shelley a chance to include an aziolo in the novel—the title bird of a poem by Percy Shelley, a posthumous one she published several years after his drowning. Where the two of them got the idea that Italians, or anyone, call it an aziolo, is still unknown, but the species has been identified. As “Mary” observes in the poem, it’s an owl—a Eurasian Scops Owl, to be precise. Here is its call, recorded in nearby Bulgaria:

via Cornell Lab of Ornithology

At the end of the march lies port city on the Sea of Marmara long known as Rodosto. Its name today is Tekirdağ. Mary Shelley would have known it as an Eastern place with a large Greek and Western presence; its very eventful history includes a refugee experiment in the 1920s that ended sadly. Its allure for travelers is evident in vintage photographs; the open ground visible beyond the settlement in the second view looks like it might have been where the battle takes place.

The tumuli where the Greek forces place their cannon in the novel are true to life—they’ve made the Tekirdağ area famous among archaeologists. The ancient Thracians (among others) buried their honored dead under mounds outfitted with hidden tunnels and banquet chambers full of marble furniture and wealth. It’s possible that Lionel is standing on top of the Naip tumulus, whose occupant died sometime in the 4th century BC, when he views the battlefield covered with that day’s corpses. Not far outside Tekirdağ, a few tumuli remain to watch over the place where poor Evadne Zaimi breathes her last.

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