TRULY Athens is a place to tempt the saunterer. It is not only that the very air thrills with heroic and consecrated associations; that the splendor and purity of coloring on hillside and plain and sea enchant the eye; that the grandeur of violet-crowned mountains and the spell of classic association lend their glory to enthrall the spirit; not alone that, as so vividly interpreted in song by Sir Rennell Rodd (now the Ambassador to Italy from Great Britain), in poems’ which sing themselves into companionship to the visitor in Athens, where Sir Rennell pictures
“Parnes, Hymettos, and Pentelicon Show shadowy violet in the after-rose, Cithaeron’s ridge and all the islands close The mountain ring, like sapphire o’er the sea;”
it is not only that one sees the Acropolis, as does the poet, as “A marble lily in a violet crown,” in those encircling mountains of the Attic plain; but the entire atmosphere is vocal with legend and song, and the dead centuries bloom again. There is a sense of freedom as if one were let loose in starry spaces. A first morning stroll in Athens will forever after pre-figure itself as an unique event in life, incomparable and unrivaled, one that must record itself as a definite date in the onward pilgrimage of experience. The traveler is encompassed round about by the glory that has illuminated the world. It is that radiance
“. . . of suns that have long since set, And the glory of summers that are not yet.”
The marvelous Hill is not remote from Constitution Square; a ten minutes’ stroll up Philhellenes Street, along which one fares forth as naturally, after all, as if he were taking a morning walk down Piccadilly or Fifth Avenue, he is conscious of no special dividing line between this and all the chain of former experiences, and yet a definite line is crossed, and he is in Athens!
“We cross an unseen line And lo! another zone.”
It is all natural, and yet it is all a dream. Philhellenes Street is in no way unusual; there are modest little villas, each in its own grounds; there are apartment houses that might be seen in any American town; there are a few humble shops; but in this spring of 1913 there are many soldiers to be met, and this is the first actual evidence of the war whose battle-fields are so far away.
With the first sight of the mighty ruins of the temple of Olympian Zeus, the wanderer leaves the twentieth century behind and enters upon the world of the past, as he gazes at these colossal columns that still stand, roofless, desolate, and yet invested with dim memories of scenes and occasions that have vanished with the ages; past the Zappeion, with its display of present Greek industries that contrast strangely with that mighty ruin of ancient days; leaving behind the Public Gardens, rich in flowering grace, with a memorial statue of Lord Byron gleaming white amid the greenery; and pausing only at the mighty Arch of Hadrian. The inscription arrests the eye and the footsteps. “This is Athens, the old city of Theseus,” is recorded on one side. “This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus,” meets the gaze on the reverse side. Yet it is on the former side that the city has grown, as if the gods in mockery had rebuked the vaulting ambition of the Roman emperor. Does he sleep well, after life’s fitful fever, in his splendid mausoleum on the banks of the Tiber? It was his ambition to link his own name inseparably with that of the classic city of Theseus. Surely, ambition might take a more ignoble form. In the chronicles of Pausanias the reader is surprised to find how numerous and how magnificent were the structures erected in Athens by Hadrian. One of these was a creation of Phrygian marble, with an hundred columns; another was a massive pile of architecture supported by almost numberless pillars of Libyan marble. There are tales of a library whose walls were of alabaster and whose roof was gilded, all trace of which has vanished; but the Stoa of Hadrian, a splendid colonnade, may still be traced.
The stupendous temple of Olympian Zeus, known as the Olympieion, dates from the reign of Hadrian; it was originally founded by Pisistratus, about the year 530 B.C., but it was completed in all its fabulous richness by Hadrian, and consecrated four hundred years after its first beginning. The vast temple stood on a raised terrace, approached by three steps; there were one hundred and four Corinthian columns, arranged in double rows of twenty each on the sides, and in triple rows at the ends; these columns were over fifty-six feet in height, and more than five feet in diameter. The temple contained a chryselephantine statue of Zeus, a statue of Hadrian, and is said to have held “a forest of statues” besides. Fifteen of these columns are still standing; time has transformed their marble whiteness into a glowing gold; each splendid column is elaborately carved with Corinthian capitals, and through the spaces between one gazes at Mount Hymettus, and discerns glimpses of the blue sea. This terrace is in close proximity to the Arch of Hadrian; it is at the very edge of the Zappeion Garden, with its bewildering luxuriance of palm-trees, acacias, drooping pepper-trees, and rose-hued oleanders, while in the near distance the dark cypresses that define the tomb of Dr. Schliemann are seen as a shadow against a luminous sky. Though the tide of life flows past the street, yet these remaining columns seem to stand in a solitary state, as if inaccessible to the visitor.
“In May, when oleanders bloom,”
is the time to wander in this solemn and silent ruin, which eludes all intimacy; though one may touch the huge columns, he yet feels they are afar in space. Against the brilliant sky shines the Acropolis, crowned with that ethereal Parthenon. Hills resplendent in color lure the eye towards Phaleron by the sea; Pentelicus, Hymettus, and Lycabettus lift their towering heads as if watching over the Attic plain. Is there borne on the air as of distant music an invocation of Pindar’s to the loveliness of Athens? Thus runs this chanson:
“The portals of the hours open wide, and growing plants, now nectar sweet, perceive the advent of the fragrant spring; then on earth shower the tufts of violets; then in the hair the roses are entwined.”
The love of the ancient Greeks for their city is not the least of the impressions received by the visitor. They adorned it with every form of art. They idolized its beauty; they reverenced its spirit. “Know that our city has the greatest name among all men,” said Thucydides, “because she never yields to misfortune. And even should we ever be compelled to yield a little, for it is nature’s way that all things bloom to suffer loss, there will abide a memory that we made our dwelling-place to be a city dowered with all things, and the mightiest of all.”
All these noble ruins, these temples, the Acropolis, all the museums, everything that the visitor to Athens desires to see, is entirely free. Not an entrance fee from first to last does one find. In the National Museum are notices telling the visitors that fees are forbidden. Al-though this condition in Athens was intimated in the preceding chapter, it is so unusual, so unparalleled, indeed, that it may warrant renewed emphasis.
Eleusis, the scene of the Mysteries, is within fourteen miles of Athens; Kephisia, the little station from which is reached Tatoi, the country residence of the royal family, is less than half the distance to Eleusis, and Marathon is within a five hours’ drive. The old monastery of Kaesariani, from which the ascent of Hymettus is made, in an hour’s walk, is four miles from the Acropolis. Pentelicus, not so lofty as Hymettus, yet offers more attractions in its range of view, which includes four other peaks, among which is the distant, snowy summit of Parnassus.
There is no railroad between Athens and Marathon, and unless one goes by motor-car it requires practically the entire day to make the excursion. The expense is some ten dollars, with fees added, but a carriage at this price may be shared by a party of four. If the start can be made by eight in the morning, it will be possible to be in Athens again before six, allowing an hour or two to linger in the historic scene. The Soros in Marathon is the mound in which are entombed the Athenians who fell in that never-to-be-forgotten battle in the year 490 B.C., and the excavations made there, as recently as 1890, have proved this to be the burial mound of one hundred and ninety-two soldiers. One vividly realizes where the Athenian army of ten thousand men, under the command of Miltiades, stood at the opening of the valley, to attack the Persian army. Herodotus, describing the battle in 440 B.C., nearly half a century later, notes that Callimachus led the right wing, and last of all came the Plateans, forming the left wing. “And ever since that day it has been a custom with the Athenians, he writes, “to implore the blessing of the gods on the Plateans conjointly with the Athenians. . . . The distance between the two armies was little short of eight furlongs. The Persians, therefore, when they saw the Greeks coming on at a speed, made ready to receive them, al-though it seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of their senses, and bent upon their own destruction; for they saw a mere handful of men coming at a run without either horse-men or archers. Such was the opinion of the barbarians; but the Athenians in close, array fell upon them, and fought in a manner worthy of being recorded. They were the first of the Greeks who introduced the custom of charging the enemy at a run, and they were likewise the first who dared to look upon the Median garb. Until this time the very name of the Medes had been a terror to the Greeks to hear.”
Standing on this lonely plain, where
“The mountains look on Marathon And Marathon looks on the sea,”
where only the sea and the mountains companion the visitor, does one catch the echoes of the noble words of Thucydides when he said :
“Offering up their lives collectively, they have each one gained glory which will never die, a sepulchre most illustrious; not that wherein their bones lie mouldering, but that in which their fame is treasured to be ever refreshed by every incident, either of word or deed, that stirs its remembrance. For of illustrious men the whole earth is the sepulchre; it is not only the inscription on the sepulchral slabs in their homes that record their fame, but even in a country where they were unknown, an unwritten memorial dwells in the heart of every one more durable than material monuments.”
Above the plain of Marathon is a ruined gate-way, once the entrance to the villa of Herodes Atticus, on which may still be traced the inscription: “The Gate of Immortal Unanimity.”
On the Soros there is a curious habitation. It is a one-story hut, standing on a foundation of poles, arranged after the fashion of a tripod, its roof and walls formed of boughs and sod, and it can be entered only by a ladder. From this dwelling the glittering blue waters were seen, the sea from which the Persian fleet came, and the rocky hills over which Miltiades and his men advanced in their swift onslaught.
The little hamlet of Marathon, of low, squalid houses, nestles under the hills, and to-day is peopled by Albanians.
The battle of Marathon is not only an epoch-making event in ancient history. If no such battle had ever actually occurred, it is a story splendidly typical of the historical consciousness. The heroes and gods fought side by side, and thus it is said that man is never left alone or unaided in heroic endeavor. No one can visit this plain without still fancying that he sees in the distance the god Pan meeting the courier Phidippides, on his way to Sparta, and promising his divine aid to the Athenians. Not only Pan, but the goddess, the divine Athena herself, strode through the ranks, visible to many it is said, wearing her helmet and carrying her spear and shaking her aegis, inspiring her people with renewed energy and restoring their courage. Nor is Marathon the only field upon which the gods appear to comfort the heroic heart.
An American Hellenist, Professor Denton J. Snider, sees “in the mighty Marathonian deed” the birth of a new struggle ; “a supreme necessity laid upon man to utter it worthily; to reveal it in the forms of art; to create beauty; to express its significance in sculpture and architecture. Poetry sprang at once and together with these to a height hardly ever since attained,” says Professor Snider, ” and philosophy followed, trying to express the lofty consciousness of heroic action.”
A delightful little excursion easily made in half a day is a drive to Kaesariani, a monastery under the very shadow of Mount Hymettus, where gushes the sacred spring mentioned by Ovid in the Amores. The lovely olive grove; the tall, dark, changeless cypress-trees, the subdued splendor of the coloring in the early summer, make this a visit never to be forgotten. On the road to Eleusis is the monastery of Daphni, which is not of special interest beyond making a definite point to visit. The charm of an excursion here is to go on beyond the monastery for the wonderful beauty of the view over the Bay of Eleusis, and the ruins of the sanctuary of Aphrodite. Many an initiate has wandered on this shore, listening to the message of waves and winds; and lingering amid this transcendent loveliness, one may find himself repeating some of the lines from Pindar, as translated and newly offered again by John Addington Symonds:
“For them the night all through, In that broad realm below, The splendor of the sun spreads endless light; ‘Mid rosy meadows bright, Their city of the tombs with incense-trees, And golden chalices Of flowers, and fruitage fair, Scenting the breezy air, Is laden . . .”
Lingering on this shore, “under a roof of blue Ionian weather;” the white cliffs incandescent in the intense blaze of sunlight; processions of silvery clouds, too ethereal to take form, hanging in the air and drifting negligently over summer islands, masses of transparent vapor all touched with opal and pearl; the sapphire blue of the sea dancing about the rocks that cling to the precipitous headland, how one feels the sense of all the infinite eternities ! It is poem, picture, and drama in one. It is the place to loiter and read anew from the solemn tragedies of AEschylus.
“For Jove doth teach men wisdom, sternly wins To virtue, by the tutoring of their sins.”
The saunterer about Athens will find few of the ancient monuments more interesting and suggestive than the choragic memorial of Lysicrates. The Greek drama reached the zenith of its perfection in the period of the fifth and the fourth centuries before the Christian era. Attic comedy, seen at its best as produced by Aristophanes, developed in Menander and a group of lesser poets associated with him, into a form called the “new” comedy, a kind of realism not unlike the modern movement of the past twenty years in our own literature which has been faithfully reflected on the stage, and which has invaded art to the degree of al-most revolutionizing the preconceived ideals of painting and sculpture. This “new comedy” in Athens embodied the social life of the day. The plays were staged in the Dionysian theater, at the base of one side of the Acropolis, and were often made one feature of the great Dionysian festival, which was all a magnificent spectacle of drama and of processions. In the chorus of these comedies the playwright gave free expression to his individual convictions regarding public men and public acts and events. It was a most ingenious method of permitting the poet the luxury of giving full rein to his individual preferences and of graphically depicting his own particular points of view, clothed, if not concealed, in the guise of imaginative creation. The utilization of the Greek chorus in these opening decades of the twentieth century might be a signal indulgence to many persons laden down with opinions of their fellow-beings that the restrictions of polite society forbid them to make clear. In fact, the amusing Gilbert and Sullivan light operas of a quarter of a century ago were founded on similar lines to those of the “new comedy” of the Greeks, five hundred years before the Christian era; and the authors had the felicity of satirizing whom they pleased without the penalty of being taken too seriously. The authors found, how-ever, even then, that a discreet circumlocution was essential to this indulgence, and the way was provided by means of the choragus. A man of wealth would volunteer to be the choragus of the entertainment, his obligations including the gathering together of the required number for the chorus and providing them with the necessary costumes. If the comedy proved successful, the choragus was rewarded with a prize, which usually took the form of a tripod. It was not etiquette to conserve this tripod to its normal use, but rather to make it a votive offering to the temple of Dionysus, or to set it up in close proximity. Lysicrates was a most popular choragus, his wealth and enthusiasm for the success of his chorus leading him to make lavish outlay, and he was duly rewarded by men, if not by gods, by the presentation of a choragic monument of great magnificence, as well as by a bronze tripod, which was placed as the crowning decoration of its top. This tribute to Lysicrates was erected about 330 B.C., and while the tripod that decorated the top has long since disappeared, the monument remains, and a beautiful one it is. The design is of a small circular temple, some thirty-five feet in height, including the pediment; it is built of the purest Pentelic marble, the pediment being of Piraeus stone, and the cornice of marble from Hymettus. The roof is in the form of a leaf, and is cut from one unbroken block of marble. The frieze is elaborately carved with scenes in re-lief, representing the mythological story of Dionysus. The temple was primarily designed for the special exhibition of the tripod, which was regarded as more important than the beautiful structure. This little temple is one of the earliest examples of Corinthian art. The roof culminated in a single acanthus blossom, carved in the marble, more than two feet high, on which rested the triangular slab which bore the tripod. The temple has six Corinthian columns, and bears an inscription, still partially legible, of which the translation runs: “Lysikrates, son of Lystheides, of Kikynna, was choragos when the boy chorus of the phyle Akamantis won the prize. Theon was the flute-player, Lysiades of Athens trained the choir. Euaenetos was archon.” It is the name of the archon which has enabled archaeologists to fix the date of the structure. The mythological legends whose scenes are portrayed form the sixth Homeric hymn. Between the theater of Dionysus and the city there is said to have been an entire street lined with choragic monuments; several of these are described by Pausanias, one especially as being ornamented with a satyr, the work of Praxiteles. The choragic of Lysicrates has been preserved by its having been included in a French Capuchin monastery which was built around it, the little temple being used as the library. It is said that Lord Byron once passed some time in the monastery, which was often the residence of Englishmen sojourning in Athens. The monastery was burned more than half a century ago, but fortunately the temple was preserved. Several of the letters of Lord Byron, which have been published in recent years, were written from this monastery.
One of the most fortunate things concerning the preservation of the ancient monuments in Athens is that the Athenians, like the Parisians, appreciate the importance of a vista. They do not allow modern buildings to encroach on the spaces around these monuments of the past. One of the chief beauties of Athens is this free space, everywhere, that permits vistas and views. Standing, for instance, a little way from the Arch of Hadrian and the mighty Olympieion, one may look through the colossal columns that still stand, and see between each, as a wonderful background, the deep violet shades of the slope of Hymettus. Again, at one angle of the Parthenon, the two peaks of Pentelicus and Lycabettus are seen in violet hues warmed with rose, silhouetted against a sunset sky, all aflame with such vividness of color as no painter would venture to use on his palette.
In the region of the choragic monument to Lysicrates is that wonder of all visitors, the Tower of the Winds. This marble structure is octagonal in form, forty-four feet in height and twenty-seven in circumference; the roof is of marble in cone-shaped tiles, in its center once stood the bronze Triton, with his staff, pointing to that quarter of the heavens from which the wind was blowing. On one side the tower contained a reservoir which was supplied with water from an aqueduct, remains of which can still be traced. The Greek name for this monumental structure was the “Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes,” and it dates back to the last century before Christ. It was the creation of Andronicus of Kyrrhos, in Macedonia, and was designed as a weather-vane, a sun-dial, and a water-clock. The eight sides of the tower were ornamented with reliefs, picturing the winds, and surmounting the tower were eight figures; Boreas, represented as an old man in a voluminous cloak; Kaekías, shaking hailstones out of his shield; Apeliotes, scattering corn and fruit; Euros, holding his mantle close to keep out the rain; Notos, holding a vast vessel for pouring the rain upon the earth; Lips, with portions of a ship in his hand; Zephyr, a graceful youth, with flowers falling from his garments; and Skiron, holding a vase. There were formerly two porticoes, some of the columns of which lie near, scattered on the ground. The figures on the tower still tell their story, and the complicated workings of the water-clock are partly to be traced.
The Stoa of Hadrian is a local ruin of no special interest, save that the Corinthian columns indicate the position of an old gateway in the wall. Near these is the old market-place, sunken now in the earth, and a wilderness of broken marbles. The market-place was an important center of municipal life. It was adorned with statues of Pindar and other poets; with statues of the great Athenian orators, among which was one of Demosthenes. There was a temple to the “Mother of the Gods,” and the senate-house (Bouleuterion) was also in the precincts of the market-place, which seems to have been to Athens much what the Forum was to Rome. The orchestra was on one side of the market, and bore statues of Harmodius and of Aristogiton. Quite near is a curious building that serves as a military store, but which has been a mosque, under the Turkish rule.
One short and narrow street in this old part of Athens is pre-empted by the coppersmiths, the clang of their hammers filling the air with a perpetual din. The beautiful burnished copper utensils that line the windows are a temptation to which resistance becomes the more easy in the realization of the difficulty of conveying such purchases about with one. But no woman traversing this fascinating little thoroughfare can quite divest herself of the domestic imagination; and the very ideals for fitting out a tea apparatus, and all dainty little devices for “kitchenette” use, to say nothing of the regulation kitchens and pantries of more pretentious establishments, are seen here in bewildering profusion.
Then there are one or two streets still frankly Turkish in their alluring bazaars. Rich embroideries, roses wrought in gold and silver threads, that would stand alone; wonderful slippers in qualities to tempt a princess and in quantity to supply all feminine admirers; fabrics for wall hangings, for upholstery, for bed and bureau covers, and for library tables; all manner of lovely embroideries for children’s clothes; kimonos of richest silks worked in gold and colors that charm the very heart out of femininity to the exclusion of the art of Pheidias or the tragedies of AEschylus; embroideries by the yard, by the hundred yards, to be fashioned as one will. Even the militant suffragette, bent on the ingenious placing of a bomb under the chair of the Prime Minister, could hardly leave this street without a pang. And it is by no means to be deprecated, that after one has been stimulated to the highest degree of artistic enthusiasms and classic aspirations, one is able to touch the earth again, so to speak, by means of feminine sympathies for common things. The choice of Marpessa, as told by Stephen Phillips ‘ in his poem by that title, is one typical of universal life. Marpessa was beloved by both the god, Apollo, and Idas, a mortal. Apollo assured her that if she would but choose life with him she should dwell
“In mere felicity above the world; A spirit sliding through tranquillity;”
that her life should be but as “the history of a flower in the air;” he urged that God had created her “not to suffer, merely to be sweet.” Then Idas pleaded that he loved her, not only for her beauty,
“That jar of violet wine set in the air, That palest rose sweet in the night of life,”
but also “because infinity upon thee broods.” So’ before Marpessa lay the choice to live enshrined as goddess, or to accept the common lot with Idas. The promise of Elysium did not tempt her. She chose the ordinary human destiny.
“But if I live with Idas, then we two On this low earth shall prosper hand in hand. And in the crowd I’ll take his arm and feel Him closer for the press.
Beautiful friendship tried by sun and wind And durable from the daily dust of life.
But we shall sit with luminous holy smiles Endeared by many griefs, by many a jest, And custom sweet of living side by side.”
So Marpessa chose the destiny of that prismatic blending of failure and success, of hope and defeat, of achievement and failure, of joy and sorrow, that is the life of woman and not of goddess; and the choice is a typical one. The homely details of living are vital factors that link friendships and loves in holiest bonds; and even when sojourning in classic lands one does not want to eliminate entirely the trifles that make for domestic happiness and the everyday interests of life. Even Athena has been worshiped as the goddess of industries as well as of arts, and within the Acropolis have been found five inscriptions proclaiming her divine aid in the most practical affairs.
To one enamored of Athens there is an infinite charm in sauntering about without too much method, and in coming upon some classic and famous ruin as a surprise. The temple of Theseus is not a ruin; on the contrary, its very perfection is the incredible thing; and, besides, the learned folk declare that it is not the temple of Theseus, either, too much learning being really a sad drawback to one’s enjoyments in antiquities. This temple faces the east, while the savant assures us that all well-regulated and authentic temples in honor of Theseus should face the west; only those to Olympian gods are entitled to face the rising sun. Be this as it may, whether the symmetrical and exquisite structure is in honor of Theseus or some other reputable god, it is a delight to enter it. “A rose by any other name” or a temple, what does it matter? About the felicity of entering it, however, filled as it is with débris, one may reflect; it is one of the most beautiful architectural creations in the world; lesser in proportion than the one at Paestum, but the purest example of the Doric design. It is difficult to persuade one’s self of its antiquity. It antedates the Olympieion, and is more than two thousand years old; yet the columns are apparently as perfect and complete as in the days when Pericles passed within its portals. The roof is intact, and the Pentelic marble of which it is constructed has taken on a golden-amber hue, that reminds one of what Bishop Wordsworth of England said : that this temple looked as if it had been built with marble not taken from a mountain, but quarried from the golden light of an Athenian sunset. The interior has no light save from its entrance, and it is filled with the débris of marble fragments, shattered columns, metopes, bits of statues, here a fragment of the head, or a part of hand, or arm, a confused mass of ancient ruins from the Acropolis, or elsewhere. These lie in heaps on the floor (which is only of earth) and fill various receptacles. Many Englishmen are said to have been buried in this temple during the Turkish occupation.
In the middle of a street, the Rue d’Hermès, is an old Byzantine church dating to about the ninth century, the street dividing where it stands, and the tide of modern life flowing around on either side. It is so sunken that one descends a few steps below the street level to enter it; but the interior is neatness itself, the altar, the seats, the pictures, and sculptures being free from dust. While there is nothing of any great interest within, it is a curious little interior. It is always open, and always seems to be more or less filled with people, especially with women in the peasant dress, who pass from one picture to another, kissing each with the greatest fervency.
An interesting building in Athens is the Library of Hadrian, an immense structure built around a court formerly surrounded with colonnades, which have been in part restored. In one vast hall may be traced arrangements for shelves of books; and there are still standing seven of the original monolithic columns, nearly thirty feet in height and three feet in diameter, with massive Corinthian capitals. Even the archeologists agree that there is fair, if not absolutely conclusive, evidence for believing this building to be that described by Pausanias as the library erected by Hadrian.
It was on a radiant morning, all gold and azure, that a little party of friends, recruited from Rome and from Boston, climbed the Hill of Mars, where it is believed St. Paul stood in the spring of 54 A.D. and preached to the listening multitude, as alluded to in the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. There is little to be traced on this hill, save some dozen or more steps rudely cut in the rock; from this eminence a path runs to the Hill of Philopappos, whose ascent is marked by traces of the old wall, and evident remains of channels, tombs, stairways, and one knows not what. On the summit is the striking memorial to the virtues of Julius Antiochus Philopappos, in a tower forty feet in height, with the hero himself, or his portrait statue rather, comfortably seated in the central niche, gazing tranquilly towards the Acropolis. There are many inscriptions that celebrate his noble qualities and give ample testimonial to his character as being pre-eminently eligible to good society, a fact gratifying to the Bostonians in the group. We also visited the prison of Socrates, a grating across the mouth of a cave in the rock; but Socrates had flown, as he assured Plato that he should, and we saw only a dark and empty cavern. The severest of the archaeologists hold a doubt as to whether or not it is the actual scene of the philosopher’s involuntary sojourn in close confinement; but for myself, not, alas ! being an archaeologist, or a person in any way inconveniently encumbered with learning, I eagerly accepted the possibility and transformed it, in my own mind, into a recognized certainty that I had beheld the very spot where Socrates passed his imprisonment. Tennyson has a good word to say for the possessor of “honest doubts,” but really a too great doubting capacity is eminently unsuited to extracting the greatest possible amount of pleasure and interest out of one’s transatlantic wanderings. It is so much more exhilarating to believe that you are constantly beholding the seats of the mighty.
At the very base of the Acropolis, on one side, is the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, erected in memory of his wife, Appia Annia Regilla, who departed for a better and, let us trust, a happier realm, in 160 A.D. Tiberius Claudius Herodes Atticus was a wealthy and public-spirited Roman, who, besides building this Odeion in memory of his wife, also gave to Athens the vast stadium, of Pentelic marble, erected in 140 A.D. At his death the grateful populace interred his body in the stadium. The recent restoration of this wonder of the ages is made possible by the generosity of an eminent Greek, M. Averhof, of Alexandria, who rebuilt it in 1899, making it the superb and stupendous creation it now is. This new stadium was inaugurated in 1906 with the Olympic games, and an audience of fifty thousand people tested its full seating capacity. A monument to M. Averhof has been placed near the entrance.
A pleasant drive in Athens is out to the little seaside village of Bouliagmene, where Madame Schliemann has built a large house for a summer outing for poor children. It has one of the most ideal beaches, and the transparent air, the sunlight cresting the blue waves, and the ever-changeful outlines of the background of mountains, make this one of the most attractive places in which to linger. Madame Schliemann designed and arranged this house entirely at her own expense, and she supports it unaided. As many children as the house will hold are invited for three weeks or so, from May till November; and the best of simple food, the ample playgrounds, the sea bathing, and a library make their sojourn a wonderful interlude in their lives. The benefit that this is to the poorer people of Athens can hardly be realized, for owing to the blinding clouds of white dust in the summer, few cities are so uncomfortable.
There is a house of constant and generous hospitalities in Athens which, not to mention, would be to omit allusion to some of the most beautiful chapters of Athenian life. For a great number of years the Reverend Michael Kalopothakes, an evangelistic minister, preached in the church that he founded. His character, his personality, and his self-sacrificing and eminently helpful work remind one of that of Edward Everett Hale of Boston. Both men, the Athenian and the Bostonian, seem to have been divinely commissioned to bring to the people the message of life. The Greek evangelist kept a house so hospitably open to all who wished to come, irrespective of creed or nationality, that his home was fairly a feature of Athenian life. His home and church were al-most opposite the Arch of Hadrian. Since his death his daughter, Mademoiselle Daphne Kalopothakes, continues the same beautiful ministries of hospitality to all who seek her. Another daughter of this eminent Greek has become a physician. Graduating from the University of Athens, she went to Paris and took a medical course and hospital training, and, with many degrees, she has returned to Athens to practice her profession.
The National Museum in Athens is not so interesting to the general visitor as are the great galleries of Rome, Florence, and Naples, as the collections are purely archaeological. With the exception of the museum on the Acropolis, and those at Olympia, Delhi, and one or two other points, the entire national collection of antiquities is here. The Greeks have been untiring in their preservation of the monumental remains of the past. Dr. Kavvadias, the Ephor (director) of the museum, is the supreme official authority in Greece on all problems of archaic discovery. The Greek Archaeological Society is eminently alert, and the government is swift to safeguard any territory where excavations of value seem probable. The society (whose headquarters are in the Boulevard de l’Université, next door to the Villa Ilium) has a large library, and is constantly issuing monographs and quarterly bulletins, reporting the progress made.
Dr. Schliemann’s collection of Mycenaean antiquities is, however, of the most absorbing interest to every one, these ornaments, weapons, vases, fragments of mural paintings, and other treasures from the royal tombs in the citadel of Mycenae, and from other excavations. There is one salon of Egyptian antiquities; but the vast number from the excavations in Greece, too great for adequate allusion, reveal to even the most casual visitor the wealth of the buried centuries.
Adjoining the museum is the Polytechnic Institute, a classic structure of the Pentelic marble so universally in use; and in this is the museum of the Historical and Ethnological Society, containing many relics of the War for Independence of 18211826; portraits of the heroes, native costumes, and memorials of all kinds. In the Polytechnic there is, too, one gallery of paintings, but the works are of negligible interest.
Passing on beyond these buildings one comes to the entrance of the Ceramicus the old Dipylon cemetery and the Street of Tombs. The excavations made in 1862 brought to light the old west gate of Athens, and the site of Plato’s academy was supposed to be within a mile of this entrance. It was not without faith that we should recognize the sacred grove that a little group strolled along the Via Sacra in the early days of the spring of 1913. The sunshine shone brilliantly over the violet-crowned heights of Pentelicus. Hymettus and Lycabettus and the Parthenon on the Acropolis seemed to be swimming in a golden sea, “out of the golden remote, where the sea without shore is,” and as we went on our quest the air seemed “filled as with shadow of sound with the pulse of in-visible feet.” It seemed impossible that we were in the place where Socrates, Euripides, and Menander were buried; but here is pointed out the tomb of Pericles, now in process of excavation, and of Euripides, on whose tomb Mr. Longfellow has said that these words are inscribed :
“This monument, O Euripides, doth not make thee great, but thou makest this monument great.”
This road from the Dipylon Gate to the academy was the famous burial-place of Athens, and is the Appian Way of the Greeks. In the excavations made in the early years of 18001812 hundreds of burial urns were found here, which are now placed in the National Mu seum. On this road were discovered the stele of Lysanias and also of Thersandros and of Simylos, the latter two being envoys from Corcyra who died in Athens in the fourth century before Christ.
The tomb of Hegeso (now preserved in the museum) was here, a funeral monument dating from the fifth century B.C. Hegeso is represented as examining the contents of a casket which is held before her by a female slave, whose figure is clad in a loose, straight gown, with a close cap on her head.
The grace and delicacy of this stele of Hegeso reminds one of the head of Demeter in the familiar relief.
“This intimate relation between Demeter and Hegeso is carried out,” says Sir Charles Waldstein, “not only in the general character of the head, but also in the treatment of the details, such as, for instance, the wavy line of the hair where it frees itself from its cover, the line of nose and forehead, of chin and cheek, the profile of the eye, and the straight line of the eyelid. If further we compare the drapery of Hegeso with the drapery of the Artemis seated among the gods, we discover the most complete correspondence, so great that it is physically impossible that the artist of the one should not have seen and been influenced by the sculptor of the other. To begin with, the crease, or rather the protruding angular fold of the drapery, just below the neck, caused by the weight of the drapery held up on either side the shoulder, massing and bulging out at the unsupported center, is the same in both. This pleasant break of line was first introduced by Pheidias, and is to be seen at the top of the thinner under-garment in almost every one of his figures, whether of the pediment or the frieze. It is indicated in a peculiar way in the Athene of the frieze in profile, in the Artemis in three-quarter view, in the Hera and in the figures of the pediment, and is in most of the sepulchral monuments. . The sculptor of the Hegeso relief shows himself as an artist of an essentially higher type; nevertheless, how-ever admirable be the art of the Hegeso relief, the sculptor betrays himself in a few small points as not being the full master of his art.”
The stele of Agathon and Korallion, his wife, reveals a group of four figures, two of which are in high relief ; the Greek chair of the design of that period is also seen with Korallion seated upon it. This tomb, for preservation, is covered with a wire netting which shows in the reproduction. The monument of Dexileos, a youth who fell at Corinth nearly four hundred years B.c., has been wholly excavated and represents the warrior falling under the lance of his mounted antagonist. A marble urn in low relief is the design of the stele of Pamphile, the wife of Hegitos, whose name is inscribed on the amphora.
The Chapel of Hagia Trias, in the Dipylon, with its tawdry interior, is of little interest. The mound on which it stands is supposed to be the agger raised by Sulla in 86 B.C., when he besieged and captured Athens. In Plutarch’s life of Sulla there is a story of his great massacre of victims in the inner Ceramicus, the tragedy being one of the most overwhelming in all history; and in this mound on which the chapel stands have been found masses of dislocated human skeletons and crumbling bones, indicating that an enormous number of bodies were interred there. All the monuments that are thought capable of bearing exposure are still standing, the smaller ones only having been removed to the National Museum. One curious contrast between the Appian Way on the Campagna and the Street of Tombs in Athens is that the atmosphere of hopelessness and despair is felt in the Italian memorials, and of the living hope in those of the Greeks. In the latter the hero is represented on his steed; the lady is turning over the treasures of her casket; the occupations of actual life still persist. The archaeologist is able to assign a definite period to the funeral vases found in the Dipylon, in that some are inscribed with hieroglyphics that fix them in the seventh century before Christ.
The Greek Archaeological Society has made extensive and systematic excavations that have exposed the Dipylon Gate and all the immediate surroundings. This is the region pronounced by Thucydides to be the fairest suburb of Athens. It was also its most vulnerable point. Here Philip V. of Macedon made his unsuccessful assault in 200 B.C. The foundations of the Dipylon Gate give us a very fair idea of the defense of Athens. The gate itself, as its name implies, is a double one.
Athens, like the Italian cities, has numerous feast days, the oft-recurring festas suggesting to the looker-on the assertion of Plato, that “the gods in pity for man’s life of toil, his natural inheritance, have appointed holy festivals whereby men may alternate labor with rest.” But so frequently is the usual course of events interrupted by the festa, that it is questioned as to how much time for toil there may be?
Athens is a curious mixture, a “brew” that would rival the ingredients of the witches’ caldron. The traces of Turkish domination are not entirely obliterated; there is still a Byzantine flavor to be discerned. More Oriental in a classic way than even Constantinople, Athens is yet Europeanized; and beyond, and above, and forever prevailing, is the spirit that dominated the city when the goddess Athena dwelt in the Parthenon. Flocks of goats are still seen in the streets, recalling the days of Solon. Sometimes a long procession of donkeys, each laden with great baskets of golden oranges, or bearing heavy panniers of grapes at the time of the vintage, pass through the streets, suggesting the Orient. Smyrna and Constantinople are much nearer Athens than are any of the Italian cities. It is a far cry even to Venice; and Naples and Rome seem almost as distant as Paris and London. The Greeks are travelers by temperament, as the Italians are not. The Oriental flavor of Athens, though barely discernible, is yet likely to linger for some time because of the geographical connections and influences. The fez and fustanella are very little seen in Athens, though they may still be found throughout the country. The general change to European dress was made about the time of the accession of King George. There is one division of the army, the Royal Guards, that still wears the fustanella, as do some of the attendant’s in the royal household.
While it is true, as already noted, that Athens has no fashionable drives in the sense in which London drives in Hyde Park, or Paris in the Bois, there are points to which the people go for recreation in carriages, or more rarely in motor-cars, which, though seen, are still not general in the city. King George’s favorite drive was to Phaleron, to which he went almost daily,. and many residents do the same. .The new Phaleron has an admirable beach for bathing, and a modern hotel, with hardly guests enough at any time to warrant its keeping open doors. The situation is one of great beauty, and not far from the shore lies the island of AEgina, “in purple distance fair.” A. steam-tram runs from Athens to Phaleron in half an hour; and besides the hotel there are a number of villas, which are often to be let for the summer.
Cape Sunion is six miles from Athens, a bold promontory, whose cliffs of some two hundred feet in height descend in sheer perpendicular to the water. On the highest point of the promontory is the ancient temple of Poseidon, supposed to date back to the time of Pericles. Thirteen columns are still standing, and some inscriptions dedicating the temple to the god of the sea have been discovered within the past fifteen years. When the Persian fleet, repulsed and put to rout at Marathon, were sailing away, they saw a flash in the air over Cape Sunion, as if a glittering shield were waved; this was supposed to be a treacherous signal to induce the fleet to return to besiege Athens. In the meantime Miltiades led his troops swiftly to Athens, and the fleet sailed to the Cyclades.
Turner has immortalized the ethereal beauty of Cape Sunion in one of his great works: the intense whiteness of the temple, a sea lying under sunshine till the surface is as of burnished gold, the cliffs and the islands are all in melting purple, a carnival of color. The Saronic gulf is one of the most resplendent in reflecting every condition of the atmosphere like a spectrum.
Laurion is within an easy two hours from Athens, and the shafts and galleries of the ancient silver mines may still be visited. Between the two are innumerable graves, from which modern dealers in antiquities have extracted lamps, vases, and various objects.
No city can exceed Athens in the variety and interest of the saunterings and excursions that it provides. In these excursions Greek literature and Greek history are read as if recorded on the air. Every place has its associations of legend or deed. It is entering into a remote world, wholly apart from the distractions and demands of contemporary life, in which the spirit may surrender itself to the uplifting power of meditation on all that is most heroic and noble in human experience.