This photograph was taken in 1927 when Robert Byron was aged 22, and still an Oxford History undergraduate. Robert traveled with three friends to Mt Athos,Greece, the last station of Byzantium”. ‘The Station’ was a reappraisal of “the Holy Mountain” and made Robert Byron’s reputation as a major “new talent’. It is still in print and a great read.
David Talbot Rice (who went on to become a Professor of Byzantine studies, was the party’s official photographer. This photo shows Robert and another “pilgrim” , probably Mark Ogilvie-Grant, relaxing in a monastic guest house.
About the pig: Sows (and females) are forbidden on Mt Athos. Its spotted hide shows it is a young wild boar. It was probably a gift from a layman hunter to the monks. It would not have been a pet – the monk’s diet being mainly vegetarian made it a necessity to guard their gardens from wild boar. Hence it must have been an orphan being fattened for a feast.
Robert Byron mentions the wild boar, writing that they were so numerous along with other game that he would like to return with a pack of hounds and even go “pig-sticking”. Robert rode to hounds at home in Saverake Forest, and he had travelled to India where pig-sticking was still a horseback sport.