Page images
PDF
EPUB

literally the pinnacle of Greek architecture already fills volumes. I do not think Lykabettos was altogether just to Pericles, however, or to Lord Elgin, for that matter. True, Pericles did complete the Parthenon and otherwise beautify the Acropolis, and in a general way he was for architecture rather than war.

But I do not find that he ever exhausted the public treasury on those temples, and I do find where his war policy was disregarded when disregard meant defeat.' Still, if there had been more money and fewer temples on the Acropolis, the result of any policy might have been different, and there is something pathetically gratifying in the thought that in the end Athens laid down military supremacy as the price of her marble crown.

As for Lord Elgin, it may be, as is said, that he did carry off a carload or so of the beautiful things when he had obtained from the Government (it was Turkish then) permission to remove a few pieces. But it may be added that the things he removed were wholly uncared for at that time and were being mutilated and appropriated by vandals who, but for Elgin, might have robbed the world of them altogether. As it is, they are safe in the British Museum, though I think they should be restored to Greece in this her day of reincarnation.

We stood before the Temple of Victory and gazed out on the Bay of Salamis, where victory was won. · We entered the Erechtheum, built on the sacred spot where Athena victoriously battled with Poseidon for the possession of Athens, and we stood in reverential awe before the marble women that have upheld her portico so long. We crossed the relic-strewn space and visited the Acropolis museum, but it was chilly and lifeless, and I did not care for the classified, fragmentary things. Then we entered the little enclosure known as Belvedere and gazed down on the Athens of to-day.

If anybody doubts that modern Athens is beautiful, let him go to that spot and look down through the evening light and behold a marble vision such as the world nowhere else presents. Whatever ancient Athens may have been, it would hardly surpass this in beauty, and if Pericles could stand here to-day and gaze down upon the new city which has arisen to preserve his treasures, I think he would be satisfied.

When the others had gone to visit the Hill of Mars, Laura and I wandered back to the Parthenon, followed its silent corridors, and saw it all again to our hearts' content. And when our eyes were tired, we rested them by looking out between the columns to the hills, Hymettus and Pentelicus, glorified in the evening light, wearing always their “violet crown."

They are unchanged. Races may come and go, temples may rise and totter and crumble into dust. The old, old days that we so prize and honor-they are only yesterdays to the hills. The last fragment of these temples will be gone by and by-the last memory of their glory—but the hills will be still young and wearing their violet crown, still turning green in the breath of a Grecian spring.

Down through that splendid entrance, the Propylæa, at last, for it was growing late. We had intended climbing the Hill of Mars, where St. Paul preached, but we could see it plainly in the sunset light and there was no need to labor up the stairs. I think it was about this time of the day when St. Paul preached there. He had been wandering about Athens, among the temples, on a sort of tour of observation, making a remark occasionally-of criticism, perhapsdisputing with the Jews in the synagogue, and now and again in the market-place. The story, told in the seventeenth chapter of Acts, begins:

“Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoicks encountered him. And some said, 'What will this babbler say?' Other some, 'He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods,' because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection.”

They brought St. Paul here to the Areopagus, that is, to Mars Hill, where in ancient days an open-air court was held, a court of supreme jurisdiction in cases of life and death. But it would seem that the court had degenerated in St. Paul's time to a place of gossip and wrangle. “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or hear some new thing."

Paul rose up before the assembly and made his famous utterance beginning, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.” It was a fearless, wonderful sermon he delivered, and I like to think that it was just at the hour when we saw the hill; just at the evening-time, with the sunset glory on his face. Paul closed his remarks with a reference to the resurrection, a doctrine new to them: “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of the matter.'”

Which they did, for that was nineteen hundred years ago, and the churches of Greece to-day still ring with St. Paul's doctrine. We climbed into our waiting carriages, and turning saw the Acropolis in the sunset, as we had seen it in the sunrise that now seemed ages ago—which indeed it was, for we had been travelling backward and forward since then through the long millennial years.

I wanted to see Athens by night, and after dinner I slipped away and bribed a couple of boatmen who were hovering about the ship to take me ashore. It was not so far, but the wind and tide had kicked up a heavy sea and I confess I was sorry I started. Every time we slid down one wave I was certain we were going straight through the next, and I think the boatmen had some such idea, for they prayed steadily and crossed themselves whenever safety permitted.

We arrived, however, and I took the little train for the Theseus station. I wanted to get a near view of the temple and I thought night would be a good time. I would have walked there but I did not quite know the way. So I got into a carriage and said “Theseum,” and the driver took me to a beer-saloon. It was a cheerful enough temple, but it was not classic. When I had seen it sufficiently, I got into the carriage and said “Theseum” again, and he took me to a theatre. The theatre was not classic, either, being of about the average Bowery type. So I got into the carriage and said “Theseum” again, and he took me to a graveyard. It didn't seem a good time to visit graveyards. I only looked through the gate a little and got back into the carriage and said the magic word once more and was hauled off to a blazing hotel.

That wouldn't do either. These might be, and doubtless were, all Theseums, but they were that in name only. What I wanted was the sure-enough, only original Theseum, set down in the guide-book as the best-preserved temple of the ancient Greek world. I explained this to a man in the hotel who explained it to my driver and we were off, down a beautiful marble business street, all closed and shuttered, for Athens being a capital is a quiet place after nightfall—as quiet as Washington, almost.

We were in front of the old temple soon. It was fairly dark there and nobody about. There was a dog barking somewhere, but I did not mind that. Dogs are not especially modern, and this one might be the three-headed Cerberus for all I knew or cared. What I wanted was to see the old temple when other people had gone to bed and the shadows had shut away the less-fortunate near-by architecture. They had done that now; the old temple might be amidst its earliest surroundings so far as I could see.

I walked up and down among its graceful Doric columns and stepped its measurements, and found it over a hundred feet long and nearly fifty wide; then I sat down on the step and listened to Cerberus barkhe had all three heads going at once now—and tried

« PreviousContinue »