The image accompanying this chapter portrays Gilbert Bagnani as an observer on a ship sailing eastward through the four-mile long canal at Corinth, Greece. It was completed in 1893 in hopes of facilitating faster passage though Greece but at its narrowest it is only seventy feet wide, too narrow for large freighters but still popular with modern tourist ships.

Four-mile long canal at Corinth, Greece

When I chose “Back in Time” as the title for Chapter 2, it was for two reasons. First, the destruction of Smyrna described in Chapter 1 occurred in September 1922, and I wanted to emphasise that Chapter 2 begins the story when Gilbert Bagnani sails to Greece in December 1921.

Second, by chance Greece was still using a different calendar than the rest of western Europe in 1921. After Julius Caesar ordered the adoption of the solar year as the official calendar of the Roman Empire in 46 BC, eventually all Christian countries adhered to it, but it was about eleven minutes out of synchronization with the actual length of the rotation of the earth around the sun. By 1582 the spring equinoxes were occurring ten calendar days before they should. The Catholic Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar by advancing the date ten days and decreed that only century years divisible by 400 would be leap years. Protestant countries generally resisted the Gregorian calendar reform until 1700 and the British Empire until 1752, but Eastern Orthodox countries like Greece continued using the Julian Calendar until the early twentieth century, by which time the calendar in Greece was thirteen days behind the West. So it was actually possible for Gilbert to travel thirteen days back in time when he sailed from Italy to Greece and he would sometimes date his letters in both the ‘Old Style’ Eastern Orthodox used in Greece and ‘New Style’ western Roman Catholic dates used in Italy.