Page images
PDF
EPUB

Perhaps it may be doubted whether, in any part of Greece, there could be found a nobler association of sublime and dignified objects than was here collected into one view: the living fountain--the speaking sepulchre-the Cadmean citadel-the Ogygian plain-overwhelming the mind with every recollection that has been made powerful by genius, and consecrated by inspiratio; where every zephyr, breathing from Helicon, and Parnassus, over the mouldering fabrics of Thebes, seems to whisper, as it passes, the names of Epaminondas and Pindar, and Homer and Orpheus.'

The ruins of Platea, Leucira, and perhaps Thespia, were visited on the way to Mount Helicon, where the Traveller's exemplary inquisitiveness, enterprise, and careful study of the Greek geographers, were rewarded in a very gratif ing manner. The usual modern route has been round the base of the mountain to Lebadéa; but he was confident there must have been in ancient times, a road across the moutain itself by Ascra to Lebadéa. He therefore brought under interrogation a number of the Albanian peasants, whose character, manners, domestic habits, and comparative intelligence, he takes this among many other occasions of describing with much commendation; and he was delighted to receive from them information of the existence of an old, partly destroyed, and quite deserted road, ascending through the elevated passes of the mountain. This was eagerly entered upon, and it led to the most romantic and interesting solitary scenes, in which it is every thing but an absolute certainty that the adventurer found the fountains Aganippe and Hippocrene, and the precise spot where the games sacred to the Muses were celebrated. Proceeding forward, he entered a deep valley surrounded by walls of lofty rugged rocks, and containing a village called Zagara, which he accumulates a great number and force of reasons for assuming to be the modern representative of the native town of Hesiod.

The halt at Lebadéa gives occasion for a minute and curious description of the social customs, especially at meals, in the houses of the Greeks of distinction; and truly it tends to shew how much in vain it is to pretend to speculate, beforehand, on what can, or cannot, be compatible with a state claiming to be called civilization, and enforcing that claim by a most com.. plicated, punctilious, and aristocratical etiquette, in which the important concern of precedency is regulated with a scrupulous formality, not to be excelled by the most polished courts. It is a matter of earnest study and ambition, to display the costliest habiliments; and dirt and vermin form no deduction from the effect of the show. Music is indispensable to the repasts of ceremony; and so little of the spirit of ancient Greece has descended, that the Greek music is pronounced by Dr. C. to be the worst in Europe, excepting perhaps that of Lapland.

Lebadéa was not to be quitted without an earnest though unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the udytum of Trophonius; every sign and circumstance, however, in whose precincts was severely scrutinized, and with all the aid of the Author's learning, and of his remarkable facility and ingenuity of explanation and conjecture.

An excursion was made to Chæronea and Orchomenus, before setting forward to encounter the enchantments of Delphi, and all Parnassus, the sublimities of which were continually hunting the sight, and with an effect on the imagination so much more commanding than that of the infinitely grander object, the luminary whose radiance those proud and snow-crowned eminences reflected;-but an object beheld without emotion, because it may be beheld every day and every where,

In descending towards Delphi, through some of the defiles of Parnassus, after having surmounted the highest part of the road, the Traveller felt how admirably adapted such an avenue must have been, to make the previous impressions on the minds, already dismayed, of the pilgrims of superstition.

This descent continues uninterruptedly for four hours, through the boldest scenery in the world. The rocks are tremendous in magnitude and height. Precipices every where surround the traveller, except where the view extends through valleys and broken cliffs towards Delphi; giving that powerful solemnity to those scenes of nature, which formerly impressed with religious fear the minds of votaries journeying from the most distant parts of Greece, and here approaching the awful precincts of the Pythian God.'

It would be quite in vain to attempt, in our now diminutive remainder of room, any kind of abstract or account of this eminently interesting portion of the Fourth Volume. It is full of bold description and classical ardour. Our Author investigated all the principal remains of the ancient city, placed in a grand theatrical semicircle hollowed out by nature in the side of the mountain, amid a transcendently noble combination of scenery; and he then ascended to the summit of Parnassus, to contemplate in one vast panorama the greatest part of all Greece.

The next lofty position was the summit of a part of Mount, Eta, passed on the way to the Straits of Thermopyle; the first remarkable object at the entrance of which was a Tumulus. After a few remarks on the appearance and situation of this. monument, Dr. C. proceeds,

'It is hardly necessary to allege any additional facts to prove to whom this tomb belonged. being the only one that occurs in the whole of this defile, and corresponding precisely, as to its situation, by the military way, with the accounts given by ancient authors,

[ocr errors]

there can be no doubt that this was the place of burial alluded to by Herodotus, where those heroes were interred who fell in the action of Thermopylae; and that the Tumulus itself is the Polyandrium mentioned by Strabo, whereon were placed the five Stela; one of which contained that thrilling Epitaph, yet speaking to the hearts of all who love their country.'

The whole of this defile is minutely and luminously described, with constant and most gratifying ret rences of identification to the particulars of its ever-memorable history; and with intermingled expressions of emotion and enthusiasm in which it will be admitted on all hands it is hardly possible to be extravagant. No other instance probably, within the compass of pagan history, combines so illustrious a fact with such precisely ascertainable localities. From our Author's observations it would seem that, besides the necessary general certainty of the ground in the unchangeable narrow track in a very strait rocky defile, there are several points where some of the circumstances of the history can be connected with the spot to a rood, to a foot.

The physical character of the place, within the pass and about its outlet, is described as in the highest degree loathsome and noxious.

• We looked back towards the passage with regret, marvelling, at the same time, that we should quit with reluctance a place which, without the interest thrown over it by ancient history, would be one of the most disagreeable on earth. Unwholesome air, mephitic exhalations bursting through the rifted and rotten surface of a corrupted soil, as if all the land around were diseased; a filthy and fetid quagmire; "a heaven fat with fogs;" stagnant but reeking pools; hot and sulphureous springs; in short, such a scene of morbid nature, as sugges.e .ed to the fertile imagination of ancient poets, their ideas of a land poisoned by the "blood of Nessus," and that calls to mind their descriptions of Tartarus; can only become delightful from the most powerful circumstances of association.'

It may be gratifying to some better principle than pride, that the mind is thus capable of feeling from a kind of moral character ideally left upon a place by a transaction of a few hours duration several thousands of years since, an impression so powerfully delightful as to set at nought and repel the force of such an assault, from real and immediate objects, on the physical part of the sentient nature.

After any scene of less concentrated moral power and heroic association, it would have been a matter of no ordinary interest to traverse the plain of Pharsalia, where a large sepulchral Tumulus was reasonably assumed by our Author, to be an indication of the exact field of another mortal strife between despotism and liberty, though with a far less simplicity of principle on the part of the champion of the better cause.

[ocr errors]

6

Thessaly is denominated by Dr. C. the "Yorkshire of An"cient Greece," in allusion to the current pleasantries on the honesty of the people of that county: the ancient Thessalians were the subjects of similar compliments; and the country has not forfeited,' says our Author, its archaic character.' The people, however, might have the conscience to varnish their knavery towards strangers with a little complaisance, and decency of accommodation; whereas, there is not a dog-kennel in England, says Dr. C., where a traveller might not lodge more commodiously than in one of their khans; and the cara'vanserais are yet worse.' He cannot however much mend himself in the other parts of the Turkish empire; for the generality of its places of shelter and refreshment, are fairly and even favourably represented by the alluring picture of the hotel at Pharsalus. Receptacles considerably less tolerable awaited our adventurer at some later stages.

[ocr errors]

A dirty square room, the floor covered with dust, and full of holes for rats, without even a vestige of furniture, is all the traveller finds as the place of his repose If unprovided, there is not the smallest chance of his getting any thing to eat, or even straw to lie upon. In such an apartment we were permitted to pass the night;— unable even to kindle a fire; for they brought us green wood, and we were almost suffocated with smoke;-not to mention the quantity of vermin with which such places always abound, and the chance of plague infection from their filthy walls. This subject is merely touched upon, that persons who have not visited Turkey, may know what they ought to expect before they take a journey thither. Yet, even to all this, weariness, and watchfulness, and shivering cold, and other privations, will at last fully reconcile travellers, and make them long for such a housing. In these places there is no separation of company ;-masters and servants, cattle-drivers and guides, and every casual passenger of the road, lie down together.'

Occasions occurred in this and several other parts of the journey, for admiring the unmatchable speed, perseverance, and hardihood of the Tartar couriers, passing between Constantinople and the distant parts of the empire.

Larissa was found to be a rich town, full of ill-disposed people. From this place the route was through the Valley of Tempe, the minute and picturesque description of which is intermingled with historical references and philosophical conjecture; and illustrated with a fine view and a most beautiful topographical chart. There is a variety of curious information concerning the industrious and comparatively free inhabitants of the mountain village of Ampelâkia, and their manufacture of red cotton thread, and concerning the vast quantity of the Verde-antico marble found there, an indication which Dr. C. combines with the other local circumstances, to identify an earlier and somewhat

lower site of Ampelâkia with the ancient Atrakia, celebrated for its inexhaustible quarries of this beautiful stone.

But the grant predominating feature and wonder of all this region, is Olympus, with its satellites, Ossa and Pelion. This sublime chief of the mountains of Greece, and of Grecian poetry, had commanded the attention and the reverence of our classical traveller long and often before he reached its precincts, as it is seen from each of the more southern eminences; and it continued a splendid and imposing vision during many long stages of his recession towards the north. Its utmost magnificence is displayed to the spectator contemplating it from a small town in the narrow plain between it and the sea, and upon the very roots of the mountain,

[ocr errors]

whose summits tower above it in the highest degree of grandeur which it is possible to conceive. There is no place where the whole outline formed by the many tops of Olympus may be seen to so much advantage as from Katarina. Perhaps they were rendered more distinct in consequence of the snows whereby the mountain was at this time invested. It appeared like one vast glacier:'-But after having left this station behind, Dr. C says, We then beheld Olympus, not only in undiminished glory, but seeming of greater magnitude than ever, being without a cloud to obscure any part either of its summit or sides; all its vast masses and deep chasms being displayed, so that the eye might range from its broad base upwards to its craggy tops, now radiant with bright and shining light, reflected from accumulated snows, and contrasted with the dark shadows of its awful bosom.' At about half an hour's distance, ascending a hill, we had another noble prospect, but in an opposite direction: it commanded the whole of the Thermaan gulph; Mount Athos appearing plainly to the east.'

Information obtained of an accumulation of marble ruins at a place on the mountain, excited an earnest wish to go and examine it; but the petty Turkish tyrant, the Agha of the district, positively refused permission, in consequence of believing that some former travelling Franks, (Dr. C. surmises that Mr. Tweddell must have been one of them,) had found some treasure among those ruins ;-in resentment of which envied discovery and stealth he had ordered all the marbles that tools could master, among those ruins, to be knocked in pieces. And yet, even Dr. C. is among the most indignant of the remonstrants against the measure, with respect to another part of Greece, of removing some of the precious marble remains beyond the reach of such gentry as this Agha!

On the plain surrounding the extremity of the Gulf of Therma, our Author recognised, in an immense tumulus, an everlasting memorial of the great battle of Pydna, by which Macedon was reduced to a Roman province. He takes this occasion to remark,

« PreviousContinue »