This morning we visited the spectacular site of Mystras, a city founded by the Franks in 1249 to replace medieval Sparta, and which developed into a large Byzantine township before becoming the seat of the Despots of Morea. By the 15th century it had become the last major Byzantine cultural centre before, in turn, succumbing to the Ottomans. Mystras was built on a soaringly high rocky spur and consisted of a castle at the top, a walled upper town, a walled lower town, and undefended settlements sprawling at its feet. The town’s last inhabitant left only in 1952 but most of Mystras is already in ruins. The exceptions are the church and monastery complexes and the former despots’ palace. The latter is currently being restored, whilst the former have been ‘saved’ and several are still in working condition. Truth be told, though, the restoration work came too late to save most of the precious frescoes. One of the exceptions is the Metropolis, founded in 1291. The last Byzantine emperor, Konstantinos Palaiologos, was crowned there in 1449, and a marble plaque set into the floor displaying a double-eagle marks the spot. Looking out from here over the plains of ancient Sparta, the lines of Shelley’s Ozymandias once again came to me. Oh, and one last literary link: Goethe had his Faustus (not Marlow’s) see Helen of Troy at the top of the castle ruins. (Later) And here is how Patrick Leigh Fermor (see subsequent posts) described its frescos: ‘one can see a miraculous surviving glow of the radiance that gave life to this last comet as it shot glittering and sinking across the sunset sky of Byzantium.’