François-René de Chateaubriand
Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem et de Jérusalem à Paris
(Record of a Journey from Paris to Jerusalem and Back)
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Notes in brackets in normal font, by Chateaubriand, are taken from the published text, the edition used for this translation being a French publication of 1884; notes in brackets in italics are notes by the translator providing additional information or explanation of items in the text. Where names or places are expanded to give additional details, further information will be found by using those details when searching the Internet.
Part One: Greece
‘Map of Greece’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (1819)
The British Library
I had ceased work on Les Martyrs (The Martyrs): though the majority of the chapters of the work had been drafted, I thought I ought not to put the finishing touches to them before seeing the country in which they were set; others find their resources in themselves; I find I need to supply what I lack through every kind of effort. Thus, if you fail to find in this Itinerary the description of such and such a famous place, you must seek it in Les Martyrs.
To this principal reason that made me, after so many travels, depart France once more, were joined other considerations: a trip to the Orient would complete the round of studies I had always promised myself to undertake. In the deserts of America I had contemplated the monuments of nature: among the monuments of men, I still only knew two of the realms of antiquity, namely Celtic antiquity and that of the Romans; it remained for me to traverse the ruins of Athens, Carthage and Memphis. I also wanted to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem:
Il gran Sepolcro adora, e scioglie il voto.
He worships at the Holy Sepulchre, and fulfils his vow.
Tasso: Gerusalemme Liberata (XX:144)
It may seem strange today to speak of vows and pilgrimages, but on this point I am without shame, and have long been ranked among the weak-minded and superstitious. I may be the last Frenchman to leave my country to travel to the Holy Land with the ideas, aim and sentiments of the pilgrims of old, but if I have not the virtues that once illuminated the Lords of Coucy, de Nesles, de Chatillon, and de Montfort, at least their faith remains to me: in that respect I could still liken myself to an ancient crusader.
‘And when I was ready to leave and set out on my journey,’ says the Sire de Joinville, ‘I sent for the abbot of Cheminon, to reconcile myself to him. And I bowed, and girded on my pilgrim’s knapsack, and took my staff in hand. And I speedily left Joinville, intending not to re-enter that castle till I returned from my voyage overseas (outre-mer), leaving as the first saints did, and almost as they went ... walking barefoot, and in a loincloth. And thus I went from Bleicourt to Saint-Urban, and it was necessary to pass the castle of Joinville, and I dare not turn my face ever towards Joinville for fear of feeling too great a regret, and my heart being moved.’
On leaving my homeland again, on the 13th of July, 1806, I, like that Seneschal of Champagne, dared not turn my head: almost a stranger in my country, I left behind me neither castle nor cottage.
From Paris to Milan, I knew the route. At Milan, I took the road to Venice: I saw, everywhere, much as among the Milanese, a fertile and monotonous marshland. I paused for a few moments to view the monuments of Verona, Vicenza and Padua. I arrived in Venice on the 23rd of July; I spent five days examining the remains of its past grandeur: I was shown some fine paintings by Tintoretto; by Paolo Veronese and his brother; by Bassano; and by Titian. In an abandoned church I sought the tomb of the latter painter, and had some trouble finding it: the same thing had happened to me in Rome regarding Tasso’s tomb. After all, the remains of a religious poet, a victim of misfortune, are not too misplaced in being sited in a monastery: the poet of the Gerusalemme seems to have taken refuge in that forgotten tomb, as if to escape the persecution of men; he filled the world with his fame, and himself reposes unknown, beneath the orange-tree of Sant’Onofrio.
‘The Church of San Giorgoio Maggiore’
Belgium, the Rhine, Italy, Greece, and the Shores and Islands of the Mediterranean - George Newenham Wright, Thomas Allom, Leicester Silk Buckingham (p61, 1851)
The British Library
I left Venice on the 28th of July, embarking at ten o’clock at night for terra firma. The southeast wind was blowing hard enough to fill the sails, yet not enough to disturb the sea. As the boat moved away, I saw the lights of Venice sink beneath the horizon, and I could see, like shadows on the waves, the various outlines of the islands, with which the coast is strewn. These islands, instead of being covered with forts and bastions, are occupied by churches and monasteries. The bells of the hospices and infirmaries could be heard, and alone brought to mind ideas of peace and security, in the midst of an empire of tempests and dangers. We approached near enough to one of these retreats to glimpse the monks who were watching our gondola pass, they had the air of old mariners who have returned to port after a long voyage: perhaps they blessed the traveller, because they remembered having been, like him, strangers in the land of Egypt: Fuistis enim et vos advenae in terra Aegypti (Vulgate:Leviticus 19:34) ’
I arrived on the mainland before sunrise, and took a post-carriage to carry me to Trieste. I did not delay on the way to see Aquileia; I was not tempted to visit the breach through which the Goths and Huns entered the homeland of Horace and Virgil, or to search for traces of those armies that executed the vengeance of God. I entered Trieste at midday on the 29th of July. That city, of uniform construction, is situated, beneath beautiful skies, at the foot of a chain of barren mountains: it possesses no monuments. The last breath of Italy expires here on this shore where barbarism begins.
Monsieur Séguier, the French Consul in Trieste, was kind enough to search out a boat for me; one was found ready to set sail for Smyrna. Its captain took me on board with my servant. It was agreed that he would deposit me in passing on the shores of the Morea, that I would cross the Peloponnese by land; that the ship would wait for me for a few days at the tip of Attica, after which, if I did not appear, he would continue his journey.
We set sail on the 1st of August, at one o’clock in the morning. We experienced contrary winds on leaving harbour. Istria presented its low-lying shores to the sea, backed in the interior by a chain of mountains. The Mediterranean, set in the centre of civilized countries, strewn with fortunate isles, bathing shores planted with myrtles, palms and olive trees, rendered an immediate impression of the sea where Apollo, Venus and the Nereids were born, while the ocean, delivered to the tempests, surrounded by unknown shores, was inevitably fated to be the cradle of the phantoms of Scandinavia, and the domain of those Christian peoples who formed so imposing an idea of the grandeur and omnipotence of God.
On the 2nd of August, at noon, the wind blew favourably, but the clouds that gathered at sunset announced a storm. We heard the first rumble of thunder from the coast of Croatia. At three o’clock we shortened sail, and hung a small light in the captain’s cabin, in front of an image of the Blessed Virgin. I have remarked elsewhere on the affecting nature of this cult that yields empire over the seas to a weak woman. Sailors on shore may be firm-hearted like other men, but what unsettles human wisdom is the proximity of danger; at that moment mankind becomes religious, and the torch of philosophy reassures less in the midst of the tempest than the lamp lit before the Madonna.
At seven o’clock the storm was in full force. Our Austrian captain led a prayer amongst the torrents of rain and claps of thunder. We prayed for the Emperor Francis II, for ourselves, and for the sailors in questo sacro sepolti mare: drowned in those sacred waters. The sailors, some standing and exposed to the elements, others lying prostrate on the cannons, responded to the captain.
The storm continued for a large part of the night. All the sails being furled, and the crew below decks, I remained alone but for the sailor who grasped the tiller. I have sometimes spent all night thus on stormier seas; but I was young then, and the sound of the waves, the solitude of the ocean, the winds, the reefs, the perils, were so much enjoyment for me. I found, on this last trip, that the face of things has altered. I know now what those dreams of early youth are worth; and yet such is human inconsistency that I still traversed the waves, I still gave myself up to hope, I still gathered images, searched for colours to adorn descriptions that would perhaps bring me disappointment and persecution. (This sentence is from my original notes exactly as written here: I did not consider excising it, even though it has the air of having been written after the event: what was to be directed towards me after publishing Les Martyrs is now evident.) I walked the quarterdeck, and from time to time would scribble a note by the light of the lamp that illuminated the pilot’s compass. The sailor gazed at me in astonishment; he took me, I think, for an officer of the French Navy, concerned as he was with the ship’s course: he did not know that my compass was not as good as his, and that he would find port more reliably than I.
The next day, the 3rd of August, the wind blowing from the north-west, we soon passed the islands of Pommo (off Vis) and Pelagosa (Palagruza). We left the last islands of Dalmatia to port, and we found Monte Sant’Angelo, formerly Monte Gargano, which dominates Manfredonia, to starboard near the ruins of Sipontum (Siponto), on the coast of Italy. On the 4th of August, we experienced calm seas: the mistral rose at sunset, and we continued our journey. At two o’clock the night was beautiful, I heard a ship’s boy singing the beginning of the seventh canto of the Gerusalemme:
Intanto Erminia infra l’ ombrose piante, etc.
Meanwhile Erminia beneath the shade of trees, etc.
Tasso: Gerusalemme Liberata (VII:1)
The air was a sort of recitative elevated in tone, and descending to the deepest notes at the end of the verse. This picture of rural bliss, recalled by a sailor in the midst of the sea, seemed the more enchanting. The ancients, our masters in everything, enjoyed these contrasting scenes: Theocritus has sometimes placed his shepherds at the edge of the waves, and Virgil is pleased to juxtapose the labourer’s rest and the mariner’s labour.
Invitat genialis hiems, curasque resolvit:
Ceu pressae cum jam portum tetigere carinae,
Puppibus et laeti nautae imposuere coronas:
Genial winter entices them, and soothes their cares:
Just as when loaded ships touch harbour,
And happy sailors crown the sterns with garlands:
(Virgil: Georgics I:302-304)
On the 5th of August, the wind blew violently; it brought us a greyish bird, rather like a lark. It was received hospitably. In general, sailors delight in anything that contrasts with their hectic life; they love everything bound up in their minds with their memories of country life, such as the barking of dogs, the crowing of cockerels, birds flying over the land. At eleven o’clock on the same day, we found ourselves at the gates of the Adriatic; that is to say between Cape Otranto in Italy and Cape Linguetta in Albania.
I was, there, at the frontier of Greek antiquity and the border of Latin antiquity. Pythagoras, Alcibiades, Scipio, Caesar, Pompey, Cicero, Augustus, Horace, Virgil, had crossed this sea. What diverse fates had these celebrated individuals not delivered to the inconstancy of these very waves! And I, an obscure traveller, following the vanished wake of vessels that carried the great men of Greece and Italy, I journeyed to seek the Muses in their own country; though I am no Virgil, and the gods no longer inhabit Olympus.
We approached the Island of Fano. With the reef of Merlère, it bears the name of Orthoni or Calypso in some old maps. D’Anville (Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville) seems to mention it under that name, and Monsieur Lechevalier (Jean-Baptiste Lechevalier) relies on such geographical authority to find in Fano that resting-place where Odysseus so long bemoaned his homeland. Procopius notes somewhere, in his History, that if we accept Calypso’s island to be one of the small islands surrounding Corfu, it makes Homer’s tale more credible. Indeed, a boat would then be able to sail to the island of Scheria (Corcyra or Corfu); but the identification involves great difficulties. Ulysses left with a favourable wind, and after eighteen days navigation, he saw the shores of Scheria, which rose like a shield above the waves:
εισατο δ᾽ ώς ότε ρινόν έν ήεροειδέι πόντώ.
Loomed up ahead, like a shield on the misty sea.
(Homer: Odyssey V:281)
Now if Fano is the Island of Calypso, the island is close to Scheria. Far from requiring eighteen whole days of navigation to reach the coast of Corfu, Ulysses should have been able to see it from the very forest where he built his raft. Pliny, Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, and the Anonymous Geographer of Ravenna, shed no light on the matter, but one may consult Wood (Robert Wood) and the moderns, concerning the geography of Homer, who all, with Strabo, place the island of Calypso on the African coast, in the Sea of Malta.
For the rest, I desire with all my heart that Fano might be the enchanted island of Calypso, though all I discovered there was a small mass of whitish rock: I would plant there, if you wish, with Homer (see Odyssey V:59-74), ‘a forest parched by the fires of the sun, of pine and alder, full of sea crows’ nests’ or, perhaps with Fenelon (see Les Aventures de Télémaque I) I would find ‘orange groves and mountains whose bizarre shapes form a blissful horizon to pleasure one’s eyes.’ Woe to him who sees not nature with the eyes of Fenelon or Homer!
At about eight o’clock the wind dropped, and the sea being calm, the ship remained motionless. It was there that I enjoyed my first sunset and my first night beneath the skies of Greece. To port lay the island of Fano, and that of Corcyra which stretched towards the east: beyond these islands could be seen the heights of the land of Epirus; the Acroceraunian Mountains, which we had passed, formed to the north, behind us, a circuit that terminated at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea; to starboard, that is to say to the west, the sun was setting beyond the coast of Otranto; before us was the open sea, stretching to the shores of Africa.
The colours were not bright at sunset: the sun descended among clouds, tinted with rose, it sank below the horizon, and twilight replaced it for about half an hour. During the passage of this brief twilight, the sky in the west was white, pale blue at the zenith and pearl grey in the east. One by one, the stars pierced this splendid canopy: they seemed small, barely shining; but their light was golden, and of so soft a glow, I cannot convey my impression of it. The horizon over the sea, slightly misty, blended with the heavens. At the base of the island of Fano, or Calypso, could be seen a flame lit by the fishermen: with little effort I could imagine the Nymphs clasping Telemachus’ ship. It would not have ben hard for me to hear Nausicaa also, playing among her companions, or Andromache weeping beside the false Simois, since I could glimpse far off in the transparent shadows, the mountains of Scheria and Buthrotum (regarding these Greek nights, see Les Martyrs, Bks. I, and XI).
Prodigiosa loquor veterum mendacia vatum.
Marvellous untruths told by ancient poets.
(Ovid: Amores III.6 line 17)
Climate more or less influences the tastes of a people. In Greece, for example, everything is smooth; everything is softened; everything is as full of calm in nature as in the writings of the ancients. One almost sees why the architecture of the Parthenon possesses such happy proportions, why ancient sculpture is so little troubled, so peaceful, so simple, when one has seen the clear skies and graceful landscape of Athens, Corinth and Ionia. In that land of the Muses, nature suggests no abrupt departures; she tends on the contrary to lead the mind to a love of consistent and harmonious things.
‘Corfu and Manduchio, from Mount Olivet’
Belgium, the Rhine, Italy, Greece, and the Shores and Islands of the Mediterranean - George Newenham Wright, Thomas Allom, Leicester Silk Buckingham (p173, 1851)
The British Library
The calm continued on the 6th of August, and I had plenty of time to contemplate Corfu, called in turn, in antiquity, Drepane, Macria, Scheria, Corcyra, Ephisa, Cassiopi, Ceraunia, and even Argos. It was this island onto which Odysseus was hurled after his shipwreck: would to God that the dwelling place of Alcinous had never known fame except through fictitious misfortune! I recalled, despite myself, the troubles Corcyra experienced, of which Thucydides has so eloquently spoken. It seems as if Homer, in singing of the gardens of Alcinous, had also added something poetic and marvellous to Scheria’s destiny. Aristotle went there to atone in exile for the errors of passion that philosophy cannot always overcome; and Alexander, while still young, far from Philip’s court, descended on that famous island: the Corcyreans witnessed the first steps of this armed traveller who intended to visit all the peoples of the earth. Several citizens of Corcyra brought back prizes from the Games at Olympia: their names were immortalized in the poetry of Simonides, and by the statues of Polyclitus. True to its dual destiny, the island of the Phaeacians continued, under the Romans, to be the home of glory and misfortune: Cato, after the battle of Pharsalia, met Cicero at Corcyra: what a truly beautiful painting it would make; the encounter between those two Romans! What men! What suffering! What blows of fortune! One might view Cato choosing to yield to Cicero command of the last Republican legions, because Cicero had been consul: after which they parted: one fell on his sword at Utica, the other carried his head back to the triumvirate. Shortly afterwards, Antony and Octavia celebrated, in Corcyra, the fatal marriage that cost the world so many tears; and barely half a century had elapsed, when Agrippina came to that very same place to perform the funeral rites for Germanicus (Tacitus: Annals: III.1), as if that island were intended to provide two rival historians of genius (Thucydides, and Tacitus), writing in rival languages, with the subjects of their most admirable descriptions.
Another order of things and events, men and manners, is often invoked by the name of Corkyra (then Corfu) in La Byzantine (Charles du Fresne’s: Historia byzantina), in the histories of Naples and Venice, and in the collection Gesta Dei per Francos (Guibert de Nogent’s history of the First Crusade). It was from Corfu that the army of crusaders departed that set a French nobleman on the throne of Constantinople. But if I were to speak of Apollodorus, Bishop of Corfu, who distinguished himself by his grasp of doctrine at the Council of Nicaea, and of George and Saint Arseneius, other bishops of the Christianised island; if I were to say that the Church of Corfu was the only one that escaped the persecution of Diocletian; that Helen, the mother of Constantine, began her pilgrimage to the East in Corfu, I fear to raise a smile of pity among the freethinkers. How ridiculous to mention Saint Jason and Saint Sosipater, Corcyrean apostles of the reign of Claudius, after speaking of Homer, Aristotle, Alexander, Cicero, Cato, and Germanicus! Yet is a martyr to freedom any greater than a martyr to truth? Is Cato, devoting himself to the liberation of Rome, more heroic than Sosipater, allowing himself to be burnt in a brazen bull, in order to announce to men that they are brothers; that they should love each other; help each other; and rise nearer to God through the practice of virtue?
‘Drawbridge at Corfu’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p68, 1819)
The British Library
I had time to review all these memories in my mind in sight of the shores of Corfu, before which we were becalmed during a deep lull. The reader may be hoping that a fresh wind will carry me to Greece and circumvent my digressions: that is what happened on the morning of the 7th of August. A breeze from the northwest rose, and we set our course for Cephalonia. On the 8th, we kept Leucas (Lefkada), now Sainte-Maure, to port, which merged with a tall promontory on the island of Ithaca, and the lowlands of Cephalonia. Neither the forests of Mount Neriton (Homer: Odyssey: IX.21-22) nor the thirteen pear-trees of Laertes (Homer: Odyssey: XXIV.340) were still to be seen in the homeland of Odysseus: they have disappeared, along with the three pear-trees, yet more to be revered, that Henri IV gave his army as a rallying-point when he fought at Ivry. I saluted from afar the hut of Eumaeus and the tomb of Odysseus’s faithful dog. Only one dog is famous for its ingratitude. His name was Math, and his master was, I think, a King of England of the House of Lancaster (Richard II, actually of the House of Plantagenet: the dog being his greyhound). The story is pleased to recall the name of this ungrateful dog, as it remembers the name of a man who remained constant in misfortune.
On the 9th of August we passed Cephalonia, and rapidly approached Zante, nemorosa Zacynthos (wooded Zacynthos, see Homer: Odyssey: IX.24). The inhabitants of this island in ancient times were said to be of Trojan origin; they claimed descent from Zacynthus, son of Dardanus, who led a colony to Zacynthos. They founded Sagunto, in Spain; they loved art and loved to hear the verses of Homer sung; and they often gave sanctuary to proscribed Romans; one might even have wished to have located Cicero’s ashes there. If Zante was actually a sanctuary for exiles, I would willingly devote a cult to it, and agree with its names of Isola d’Oro, and Fior di Levante (Isle of Gold, Flower of the Levant). This flowery name reminds me that the hyacinth originated on the island of Zante, and that the island received its name from the plant it bore: it is thus that, to praise the mother, in antiquity, one sometimes joined to her name the name of her daughter. During the Middle Ages, another little known tradition is associated with the island of Zante. Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, died on Zante, on his way to Palestine. It had been predicted of him that he would die in Jerusalem; whence it appears that Zacynthos was known as Jerusalem in the fourteenth century, or that there was in this island some place called Jesusalem. Besides, Zakynthos is famous today as a source of paraffin, as it was at the time of Herodotus; and its grapes rival those of Corinth.
Between the Norman pilgrim, Robert Guiscard, and I, a Breton pilgrim, there are years enough; but in the interval between our two journeys, the Seigneur de Villamont, my countryman, visited Zante (Jacques de Villamont passed Zante on the 30th of April 1589). He left the Duchy of Brittany in 1588, for Jerusalem. ‘Kind Reader,’ he announced at the head of his preface to the Voyages, ‘in receiving my little work, be pleased to excuse the faults to be encountered therein, and by receiving it in the benign spirit with which I present it, grant me the courage in advance to be lest niggardly with the more delightful descriptions I have to make regarding climate and event, in serving France according to my wishes. Adieu.’
The Seigneur de Villamont did not land on Zante. He came in sight of the island, as I did, and, like me, the wind with magisterial power, drove him towards the Morea. I looked forward with impatience to the moment when I would first see the shores of Greece; I searched for them on the horizon, and saw cloud everywhere. On the morning of the 10th of August, I was on deck before sunrise. As the sun rose above the sea, I saw a confusion of tall mountains in the distance: they were those of Elis. Glory must be something real, since it makes the heart beat in one who is only a spectator of it. At ten o’clock we passed Navarino, the ancient Pylos, hidden behind the Isle of Sphacteria: names equally celebrated, one in fable (in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey); the other in history (the Battle of Sphacteria, 425BC, during the Peloponnesian War). At noon we dropped anchor off Modon, formerly Methoni (modern Methoni) in Messenia. At one o’clock I landed; I trod the soil of Greece; I was sixty miles or so from Olympia, forty from Sparta, on the route followed by Telemachus when seeking news of Odysseus from Menelaus: it was barely a month since I had left Paris.
Our ship was moored a mile and a half from Methoni, between the channel formed by the mainland and the islands Sapientza, and Cabrera, in the Oinoussai group. Viewed from this point, the coastline of the Peloponnese towards Navarino looked bleak and barren. Behind these shores, and at some distance inland, rise hills that seem to be formed of white sand covered with withered grass: however these are the Aigaleon Mountains, at the foot of which Pylos was built. Modon presents itself to the sight as a medieval town surrounded by half-ruined Gothic fortifications. Not a boat in the harbour, not a man on the shore: everywhere silence, abandonment and neglect.
I embarked in the ship’s boat with the captain to make contact with land. We approached the coast; I was ready to launch myself onto that desert shore, and there salute the home of art and genius, when we were hailed from one of the city gates. We were obliged to turn our bow towards the castle of Methoni. We distinguished from afar, on the edge of a cliff, Janissaries (Ottoman infantry), armed at all points, and Turks, attracted by curiosity. As soon as they were within shouting distance, they called to us in Italian: Ben Venuti! (Welcome!) Like a true Greek, I took note of these first words of happy augury heard from the shores of Messenia. The Turks launched themselves into the water to pull our boat ashore, and helped us to climb the rock. They all spoke at once and asked a thousand questions of the captain, in Greek and Italian. We entered through the half-ruined city gate. We entered a street, or rather a veritable encampment, which reminded me, at once, of that beautiful expression of Monsieur de Bonald (Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald): ‘The Turks have pitched camp in Europe.’ It is amazing how true this expression is across its whole extent, and in every respect. These Tartars of Methoni were sitting at their doors, legs crossed, on an assortment of platforms or wooden tables, in the shade of vile canvas awnings stretched from one house to another. They smoked their pipes, drank coffee; and contrary to the idea I had formed of the taciturnity of the Turks, they laughed and talked together and made a vast noise.
We went to the Agha (the chief official), a poor wretch, perched on a sort of cot in a shed; he received me cordially enough. The purpose of my trip was explained to him. He told me he would find me horses, and a Janissary, to take me to Coroni, to the French Consul, Monsieur Vial; that I could easily cross the Morea, because the roads were open since they had beheaded three or four hundred robbers and nothing prevented further travel.
Here is the story of these three or four hundred brigands. Near Mount Ithome were located a troop of fifty robbers, who infested the roads. The Pasha of the Morea, Osman Pasha, took himself to the scene; he identified the villages where the robbers were accustomed to congregate. It would have been too slow and too boring for a Turk to distinguish the innocent from the guilty: they killed, with a knock on the head as one kills wild beasts, all those hunted down by the Pasha. The robbers perished, it is true, but along with three hundred Greek peasants who had nothing to do with the matter.
From the Agha’s house we went to the residence of the German Vice-Consul. France had no agent at that time in Methoni. He lived in the Greek village, outside the town. In all places where there is a military post, the Greeks live separately from the Turks. The Vice-Consul confirmed what I was told by the Agha concerning the state of the Morea; he offered me hospitality for the night: I accepted, and returned for a while to the ship, aboard a caique (a long narrow, Turkish boat with oars) which would then take me back to shore.
I left my French servant, Julien, on board, whom I sent with the vessel to wait for me at the tip of Attica, or Smyrna, if I missed its passage. I tied a belt around my waist containing what gold I possessed; I armed myself from head to foot; and I took into my service a Milanese named Joseph, a merchant from Smyrna who traded in pewter: the man spoke a little Modern Greek, and he consented for an agreed sum, to act as my interpreter. I said goodbye to the captain, and descended with Joseph into the caique. The wind was violent and contrary. It took us five hours to reach the port from which we were distant less than a mile and a half, and we were twice nearly capsized. A grey-bearded old Turk, with lively eyes sunk beneath thick eyebrows, with long extremely white teeth, sometimes silent, sometimes emitting wild cries, grasped the rudder: he made a fine likeness of Time bearing a traveller in his boat to the deserted shores of Greece. The Vice-Consul was waiting on the shore. We were to be lodged in the Greek town. Along the way I admired the Turkish tombs, shaded by tall cypress trees beneath which the sea was breaking. I saw among the tombs women, like ghosts, wrapped in white veils: that was the sole thing that reminded me even faintly of the home of the Muses. The Christian graveyard adjoins that of the Muslims: it is dilapidated, without gravestones, and without trees; watermelons which grow here and there over these tombs resemble, in their shape and pallor, human skulls that no one has taken the trouble to inter. Nothing is as sad as these two cemeteries, where we see even in the freedom and equality of death a distinction between tyrant and slave.
The Abbé Barthélemy (Jean-Jacques Barthélemy) found Methoni of so little note in antiquity, that he only mentions its bitumen pits. Inglorious, in the midst of all those cities built by the gods and celebrated by poets, Methoni’s name is not found in the verses of Pindar, which together with the works of Homer, form a shining record of ancient Greece. Demosthenes, in his oration For the Megalopolitans recalling the history of Messenia, says nothing of Methoni. Polybius, who was from Megalopolis, and advised the Messenians well, maintains a like silence. Plutarch and Diogenes Laertius cite no heroes, or philosophers of this city. Athenaeus, Aulus Gellius and Macrobius relate nothing concerning Methoni. Finally Pliny, Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, and the Anonymous Geographer of Ravenna, fail to name it in their enumerations of the cities of Messenia: though Strabo and Pausanias elect to identify Methoni with Homers’ Pedasus (Homer: Iliad IX.294). According to Pausanias (IV.35.1), the name of Methoni, or Mothone, comes from a daughter of Oeneus, a companion of Diomedes, or from a rock that creates a harbour there. Methoni reappears quite often in ancient history but never to any material purpose. Thucydides cites a body of hoplites from Methoni in the Peloponnesian War. From a fragment of Diodorus Siculus, it appears that Brasidas defended the city against the Athenians. The same Diodorus calls it a city of Laconia; because Messenia was conquered by Sparta; the latter sent a colony of Nauplians to Methoni, who were not driven out of their new home when Epaminondas liberated the Messenians. Methoni followed the fate of Greece when it came under the Roman yoke. Trajan granted privileges to Methoni. Rule over the Peloponnese being the prerogative of the Eastern Empire, Methoni suffered from the revolts in the Morea: devastated by Alaric, abused perhaps even more by Stilicho, it was extracted from the Greek Empire by the Venetians in 1124. Restored to its former masters in the following year, it fell into the hands of the Venetians again in 1204. A Genoese corsair took it from the Venetians in 1208. Doge Dandolo re-took it from the Genoese. Mahomet II (Mehmed II) captured it from the Venetians, along with the whole of Greece, in 1498. Morosini re-conquered it from the Turks in 1686, and the Turks entered it again in 1715. Three years later, Pellegrin passed through the city, and gave us a description, mingling with it all the scandalous chronicles of the French Consuls: such is, from Homer to now, the course of Methoni’s obscure history. Regarding the fate of Modon during the Russian expedition to the Morea, the first volume of the Voyage by Monsieur de Choiseul (Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste de Choiseul-Gouffier: Voyage Pittoresque en Grèce), and The History of Poland by Rulhiere (Claude-Carloman de Rulhiere), may be consulted.
The German Vice-Consul, housed in a wretched mud hut, kindly offered me a supper of watermelon, grapes and black bread: it was right not be fussy about one’s food so close to Sparta. I then retired to the room prepared for me, but was unable to close my eyes. I could hear the dogs of Laconia barking, and the sound of the winds of Elis, how could I sleep? On the 11th of August, at three in the morning, the voice of the Agha’s Janissary announced that it was time to leave for Coroni.
We mounted on the instant. I will describe our marching order, since it was the same throughout the journey.
At our head rode the guide or Greek postilion, leading another horse with a rope: the second horse was to be employed as a remount in the event that some accident happened to the traveller’s horses. Next was the Janissary, a turban on his head, two pistols and a dagger at his belt, a sword at his side, and a whip in his hand to encourage the guide’s horses. I followed, no less heavily-armed than the Janissary, and carrying a shotgun in addition; Joseph brought up the rear. This Milanese was a little fair-haired individual with a big belly, rosy complexion, and affable manner; he was dressed in blue velvet throughout; two long saddle-pistols, passed through a narrow belt, elevated his jacket in a manner so grotesque that the Janissary never saw him without laughing. My equipment consisted of a carpet to sit on, a pipe, a coffee-pot, and some shawls to wrap round my head at night. We departed, the signal being given by the guide, we climbed the mountains at a brisk trot, and descended at a gallop over precipices: one must go along with this, the Turkish military knows no other method of proceeding, and the slightest sign of fear or even of caution, exposes you to their contempt. Moreover you are astride a Mameluke saddle, whose stirrups, short and wide, constrict your legs, crush your feet, and score the sides of your horse. The slightest false move and the high pommel of the saddle crushes your chest; while if you slip backwards the upper edge of the saddle bruises your kidneys. Yet in the end these saddles are found useful, because of the stability they lend the horses, especially in the most dangerous stages.
The stages are twenty-five to thirty miles on the same horse: they are allowed a breathing space, but without being fed, about half-way; then you remount, and continue the journey. In the evening you sometimes arrive at a caravanserai, a deserted building where you sleep among various kinds of insects and reptiles on a worm-eaten floor. You are provided with nothing in the caravanserai unless you are carrying official mail: it is up to you to obtain food as best you can. My Janissary went on the hunt through the local villages, he sometimes returned with a few chickens which I insisted on paying for, and we roasted them on green olive-branches, or boiled them with rice to make a pilau. Sitting on the ground around this feast, we tore it apart with our fingers: the meal over, we would wash our hands and beard in the nearest stream. That is how one travels today in the land of Alcibiades and Aspasia.
It was still dark when we left Modon: it was like wandering through the wilds of America: the same solitude, the same silence. We passed through groves of olive-trees on our way south. At daybreak we found ourselves on the flat tops of the most arid mountains I have ever seen. We rode for two hours. These summits scarred by torrents seemed like abandoned fallows; sea-thrift (armeria maritima) and a species of thorny and withered briar grew there in clumps. Large bulbs of mountain lilies loosened by the rain, adorned the surface of the earth. We saw the sea to the east, through a sparse grove of olive-trees, and we then descended into a gorge of the valley where we saw a few fields of barley and cotton. We passed a dried-up torrent: its bed was filled with oleanders and chasteberries (vitex agnus-castus), a shrub with long pale slender leaves, and a lilac flower, rather fleecy, elongated and spindle-shaped. I mention these two shrubs because they are found throughout Greece, and they are the only adornment of those solitudes, once so cheerful and cultivated, now sad and bare. Regarding the dried-up torrent, I should say that in the home of the Ilissus, the Alpheus and the Erimanthus, I have only seen three rivers whose urn had not run dry: namely the Pamisus, Cephisus and Eurotas. You must forgive me in advance for displaying that kind of indifference and almost impiety with which I may sometimes seem to write the most famous and harmonious of names. In Greece one becomes familiar with hearing names like Themistocles, Epaminondas, Sophocles, Plato, and Thucydides, and it takes great faith not to traverse Mount Cytheron, Mount Maenalus, or Mount Lykaion as if one were crossing everyday hills.
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 02 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p416, 1819)
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At the end of the valley which I have mentioned, we began to climb a fresh range of hills: my guide repeated their names several times, which were unknown to me; but judging by their position, these mountains were part of the Mount Temathia (or Mathia, See Pausanias IV.34.4) chain. We soon entered a grove of olive-trees, oleanders, bindweed (smilax aspera), chaste-berries and dogwood. This wood was overlooked by rocky peaks. Reaching their final summit, we saw the Gulf of Messenia, bordered on all sides by mountains, among which Mount Ithome was distinguished by its isolation, and Taygetus by its two sharp spires: I saluted these mountains famous through all the fine verses I knew in praise of them.
A little below the summit of Temathia, on our descent to Coroni (Koroni), we saw a wretched Greek farm, whose inhabitants fled at our approach. As we descended, we could see below us the roads and port of Coroni, with several vessels visible at anchor, the fleet of the Kaptan-Pasha (the Commander of the Ottoman Navy) was anchored on the far side of the Gulf, towards Kalamata. On reaching the plain at the foot of the mountains which extends to the sea, we passed a village on our right, in the centre of which stood a sort of castle: the whole, that is to say the village and the castle, was surrounded by a Turkish cemetery canopied by cypress-trees of all ages. My guide, in showing me these trees, called them parissos (kyparissos). A resident of ancient Messenia would formerly have recounted to me the whole story of the young man of Amyclae of whose name the Messenian of today recalls only a part; but that name truncated as it is, pronounced at that place, in sight of a cypress-tree and the summits of Taygetos, gave me a pleasure that poets will understand. I felt some consolation in looking at the Turkish graves: they reminded me that the barbaric conquerors of Greece also met their end in this land they ravaged. Besides, the tombs were very pleasing: oleanders grew at the foot of the cypress, which resembled a large black obelisk: white turtle-doves and bluish pigeons fluttered and cooed in the trees, the grasses waved about small funeral columns surmounted by turbans, a fountain built by some sherif (noble) poured its water beside the path for the benefit of travellers: one would willingly have halted in that cemetery, where the laurel of Greece, overlooked by the cypress tree of the East, seemed to recall the memory of the two races whose dust lay in that place.
From this cemetery to Coroni is nearly a two-hour ride: we travelled through a continuous wood of olive-trees, planted with wheat half-harvested. The terrain, which from afar seems one consistent plain, is cut by deep and uneven gullies. Monsieur Vial, at that time the French Consul in Coroni, received me with the hospitality which is so noticeable in the Consuls of the Levant. I handed him one of the letters of recommendation to the French Consuls in the Eastern Ports of Call (Échelles du Levant), that Monsieur Talleyrand, at the request of Monsieur Hauterive (Alexandre Maurice Blanc de Lanautte, Comte de Hauterive) had been so polite as to grant me.
Monsieur Vial strongly desired me to stay with him. He sent my Janissary back to Modon and gave me one of his own Janissaries to cross the Morea with me, and take me to Athens. The Kaptan-Pasha being at war with the Maniots (the Greek inhabitants of the Mani Peninsula) I could not get to Sparta via Kalamata, which is the route taken, if one wishes to reach Mount Calathion, Cardamyle (Kardamyli) and Thalamae, on the coast of Laconia, almost opposite Coroni. It was therefore determined that I should make a long detour; that I should seek the gorge called the Gates of Leondari, a Hermaion (a sanctuary of Hermes denoting the boundary) of Messenia; that I should travel to Tripolitsa to obtain from the Pasha of the Morea, the firman necessary to pass the Isthmus; that I would return from Tripolitsa to Sparta, and that from Sparta I would take the mountain track to Argos, Mycenae and Corinth.
Coroni, like Messene and Megalopolis, is of no great antiquity, since it was founded by Epaminondas on the ruins of ancient Epea. Up to now, we have taken Coroni to be the ancient Coroni, following D’Anville’s opinion. I have some doubts on this point: according to Pausanias, Coroni (Korone) was located at the foot of Mount Temathia, near the mouth of the Pamisos (Pausanias: 4.34.4), now modern Coroni is quite a distance from that river. It is built on a hill almost at the very location where Pausanias sites the Temple of Apollo Corinthus, or rather on the site of Kolonides (This opinion is also that of Monsieur de Choiseul). Towards the south of the Gulf of Messenia, ruins are to be found by the sea, which may well be those of the real Coroni, unless they belong to the village of Ino. Coronelli (Vincenzo Coronelli) was wrong in taking Coroni for Pedasus, since that city must, according to Strabo and Pausanias, be identified with Methoni.
The modern history of Coroni roughly resembles that of Methoni: Coroni was by turns, and at the same time as the latter city, possessed by the Venetians, the Genoese and the Turks. The Spaniards besieged it and captured it from the infidels in 1633. The Knights of Malta distinguished themselves during this memorable siege. Vertot (René-Aubert Vertot) perpetrated a singular error in this respect, in taking Coroni for Chaeronea, the home of Plutarch, which is itself not that Chaeronea where Philip enslaved Greece. Falling into the hands of Turks, Coroni was besieged and taken back by Morosini in 1685: two of my compatriots are noted as having been at this siege. Coronelli cites only the Commander de La Tour, who died gloriously, but Giacomo Diedo also speaks of the Marquis de Courbon (see the History by Aimard). I enjoyed discovering these traces of the path of French honour, from my very first entry to the true home of glory, and to a country whose people are such good judges of worth. But where does one not find such traces! In Constantinople, Rhodes, Syria, Egypt, Carthage, wherever I touched, I was shown the French camp, the French tower, the castle of the French; the Arabs showed me the graves of our soldiers beneath the sycamores of Cairo, and the Seminoles beneath the Florida poplars.
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p261, 1819)
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It was also in that same town of Coroni that Monsieur Choiseul began his narrative (see his Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce). Thus fate led me to the same place where my compatriots had gathered the twin palm-leaves of talent and arms with which Greece loved to crown its children. If I myself have followed, without glory, though not without honour, those twin careers in which the citizens of Athens and Sparta acquired so much renown, I console myself by reflecting that other Frenchmen were more fortunate than I.
Monsieur Vial took the trouble to show me Coroni, which is a heap of modern ruins; he also showed me the place from which the Russians cannonaded the city in 1770, an epoch fatal to the Morea, whose population the Albanians have since massacred. The narrative of Pellegrin’s voyage covers 1715 to 1719: the jurisdiction of Coroni then extended, according to that traveller, over eighty villages, while I do not know if one could find five or six now in that same district. The remainder of those devastated fields belong to the Turks, who possess three or four thousand olive trees, and devour in the harem at Constantinople the legacy of Aristomenes (King of Messenia). Tears came to my eyes seeing the hands of an enslaved Greek bathed in vain by those streams of oil that brought vigour to the arms of his fore-fathers so they might triumph over tyrants.
The Consul’s house overlooked the Gulf of Coron: from my window I saw the Messenian sea coloured the deepest azure; before me, on the far side of that sea, rose the high Taygetus range covered with snow; justly compared to the Alps by Polybius, but the Alps under a more beautiful sky. To my right lay the sea, and to my left, in the depths of the Gulf, I found Mount Ithome, isolated like Vesuvius, and similarly truncated at the summit. I could not tear myself away from this spectacle: what thoughts does the sight of those deserted shores of Greece not inspire, where you hear only the whistling of the mistral and the eternal moan of the waves! Only the sound of distant cannon fire against the cliffs of the Maniots, ordered by the Kaptan-Pasha, interrupted those sad noises with its still sadder sound. On the whole extent of sea only that barbarous commander’s fleet could be seen: I recalled the memory of those American pirates who planted their blood-stained flag on an unknown shore, claiming possession of an enchanted land on behalf of death and slavery, or rather I thought I saw the ships of Alaric sailing from a Greece in flames, carrying the spoils from its temples, the trophies from Olympia, and the broken statues of Liberty and the Arts. (See the description of Messenia in Les Martyrs Bk I.)
I left Coroni on the 12th of August at two in the morning, blessed by the civilities and attentions of Monsieur Vial, who gave me a letter to the Pasha of the Morea, and another letter to a Turk at Misitra. Joseph and I embarked with my new Janissary in a caique that was to take me to the mouth of the Pamisus (Pirnatza River), on the Gulf of Messenia. A few hours of delightful travel had carried me along the course of the largest river of the Peloponnese, when our small boat ran aground in the shallows. The Janissary went off to obtain horses from Nissi, a large village three or four miles upstream from the sea. The river was covered with a multitude of wild birds whose games I amused myself in watching until the Janissary returned. Nothing would be more pleasant than natural history, if one were to relate it always to human history: we would delight in seeing the migratory birds forsake the unknown tribes of the Atlantic shores to visit the famed peoples of the Eurotas and Cephisus. Providence, to confound our vanity, permitted the creatures, long before mankind, to realise the true extent of man’s abode; and perhaps some bird of the Americas attracted Aristotle’s attention on the waters of Greece, that philosopher failing even to suspect the existence of the New World. Antiquity offers us throughout its history a host of curious parallels; and often the marches of peoples and armies followed the wanderings of a few solitary birds, or the peaceful migrations of camels and gazelles
The Janissary returned to the river-bank with a guide and five horses, two for the guide and the other three for the Janissary, Joseph and I. We went on to Nissi, which seems unknown to antiquity. I saw the vaivode (local official) for a moment; he was a very affable young Greek, who offered me wine and preserves: I did not accept his hospitality, and continued my journey to Tripolitsa.
We headed for Mount Ithome, leaving the ruins of Messene (Messini) on the left. The Abbé Fourmont, who visited the ruins seventy years ago, counted thirty-eight towers, still standing. I think that Monsieur Vial may have assured me that there were now nine entire, besides a considerable ruined stretch of containing wall. Monsieur Pouqueville (François de Pouqueville), who crossed Messenia ten years previously, did not visit Messene. We arrived, at about three in the afternoon, at the foot of Ithome, today called Mount Vulcano, according to D’Anville. I convinced myself, while examining this mountain, of the difficulty of understanding the ancient authors without seeing the places they write about. It is evident, for example, that Messene and the ancient Ithome could not have embraced the mountain in their circuit, and that the Greek particle περί must be explained just as Monsieur Lechevalier has explained the course taken by Hector and the pursuing Achilles, that is to say we must translate it as before Troy, and not around Troy.
We passed through several villages, Chafasa, Skala, Cyparissa, and others recently destroyed by the Pasha on his last expedition against the bandits. Throughout all these villages I only saw one woman: she did not belie the blood of Heracles, by her blue eyes, her height and her beauty. Messenia was almost always unfortunate: a fertile land is often a fatal advantage for a people to possess. From the desolation that reigned around me, it almost seemed as if the fierce Spartans were still ravaging the country of Aristomenes. A great man undertook to avenge a great man: Epaminondas raised the walls of Messene. Unfortunately we must blame this town for Philopoemen’s death. The Arcadians wrought vengeance for that death, and bore the ashes of their compatriot to Megalopolis. I with my little caravan traversed the very same paths along which the funeral convoy of the last of the Greeks had passed, about two thousand years previously.
After skirting Mount Ithome, we crossed a stream which flows north, and could well be one of the sources of the Valira (Mavrozoumena River). I never challenge the Muses, they have not blinded me as they did Thamyris, and if I had possessed a lyre, I should not have hurled it into the Valira, at the cost of being changed into a nightingale after my death (See Plato; Republic X, conclusion). I still wish to follow the cult of the Nine Sisters for a few more years, after which I will abandon their altars. Anacreon’s crown of roses does not tempt me: the most fitting crown for an old man is white hair and the memories of an honourable life. (The author was then at work on Les Martyrs, for the sake of which he undertook this voyage. His plan was to renounce the works of the imagination after the publication of Les Martyyrs. His farewell to the Muse may be read in the last book of that work.)
Andania should be lower down the course of the Valira. I would have liked to have seen at least the location of Merope’s palace.
J’entends des cris plaintifs. Hélas! dans ces palais
Un dieu persécuteur habite pour jamais.
I hear cries, alas, in this palace where
A god of persecution dwells forever!
(Voltaire: Mérope. Act III, Scene I: 625)
But Andania was too far from our route to try and find its ruins. An uneven plain, covered with tall grass and herds of horses, like the savannahs of Florida, led me to the depths of the basin where the high mountains of Arcadia and Laconia meet. Mount Lykaion lay ahead of us, though a little to our left, and we probably trod the soil of Stenykleros (See Pausanias IV.3.7). I failed to hear Tyrtaeus there, singing at the head of the Spartan battalions; but in his absence, I encountered a Turk, riding a decent horse and accompanied by two Greeks on foot. As soon as he recognized my French costume he spurred towards me, and shouted in French: ‘It’s a fine place for travellers, this Morea! In France, I found beds and hostelries everywhere from Paris to Marseilles. I’m very tired and I’ve come overland from Coroni, and I’m going to Leondari. Where are you going? I replied that I was going to Tripolitsa. ‘Well,’ said the Turk, ‘we can go together to the Imperial Caravanserai, but my dear sir I am extremely tired.’ This courteous Turk was a merchant from Coroni who had travelled to Marseilles, from Marseilles to Paris, and from Paris back to Marseilles (It is remarkable that Monsieur Pouqueville met, at approximately the same place, a Turk who spoke French. Perhaps it was the same man.)
It was dark when we reached the entrance to the gorge, on the borders of Messenia, Arcadia and Laconia. Two parallel mountain ranges form the Hermaion, which runs from north to south. The path rises gradually on the Messenian side, and descends by a gentle slope towards Laconia. This may be the Hermaion where, according to Pausanias, Orestes, troubled by the first appearance of the Eumenides, bit off his finger in his madness. (Pausanias VIII.34.2)
‘Pass of Bora and River Bouraikos’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 02 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p379, 1819)
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Our caravan was soon deep in this narrow gorge. We walked in complete silence and in single file. (I do not know if this is the same Hermaion that Monsieur Pouqueville and his companions in misfortune passed through in coming from Navarino. For a description of this part of Messenia, see Les Martyrs Bk. XIV.) The route, despite the swift justice meted out by the Pasha, was unsafe and we were prepared for any emergency. At midnight we arrived at the caravanserai in the midst of the gorge: the sound of water and a large tree announced that pious foundation of a servant of Mohammed to us. In Turkey all public institutions are due to individuals; the State does nothing for the State. These institutions are the result of the religious spirit, and not the love of country, since there is no country. Now, it is remarkable that all these fountains, all these caravanserais, all these bridges are crumbling, and date from the early days of the empire: I do not think I encountered one modern construction along the way: from which one must conclude that religion is enfeebled among the Muslims and, along with that religion, Turkish society is on the point of collapse.
We entered the Caravanserai via a stable; a ladder shaped like an inverted pyramid led us to a dusty attic. The Turkish merchant threw himself on a mat, exclaiming: ‘This is the best caravanserai in the Morea! Between Paris and Marseilles I found beds and hostelries everywhere.’ I tried to console him by offering him half the food I had brought from Coroni. ‘Ah, my dear sir,’ he cried: ‘I am so weary I shall die!’ And he groaned, and tugged at his beard, and wiped his brow with a shawl, and cried: ‘Allah!’ Nevertheless he ate the portion of my dinner he had at first refused, with a hearty appetite.
I left this fellow (the Turk, who was half Greek, as Monsieur Fauvel has since informed me, is forever on the road: he enjoys an uncertain reputation, through meddling, extensively to his own advantage, in army supplies.) on the 13th of August, at daybreak, and I continued my journey. Our progress was very slow: instead of the Janissary from Methoni who had one desire, to kill his horse, I had a Janissary of an altogether different species. My new guide was a thin little man, pitted by smallpox, who spoke in a low and measured voice, so possessed by the dignity of his turban that one might have taken him for some new creation. A person of such gravity could not put his horse to the gallop unless the importance of the occasion required it: for example, whenever he saw some traveller. The irreverence with which I interrupted the order of our progress, riding forward, to right or left, whenever I found some ancient ruins, displeased him greatly; but he dared not complain. For the rest, I found him loyal and unselfish enough for a Turk.
Another matter slowed our progress still further; the velvet suit in which Joseph was dressed, in the full heat of the Morea, made him very unhappy; at the slightest motion of his horse he clung to the saddle: his hat falling off on one side, his pistols on the other; it was necessary to retrieve them all, and re-seat Joseph on his horse. His excellent character shone with a new lustre amidst all these troubles, and his good humour was unfailing. It took us three mortal hours to leave the Hermaion behind, quite similar in this stretch to the passage of the Apennines between Perugia and Terni. We entered a fertile plain extending to Leondari. There, we were in Arcadia, on the border with Laconia.
It is generally accepted, despite the opinion of D’Anville, that Leondari is not the ancient Megalopolis. We rather find in the former the ancient Leuktra of Laconia, and that is the opinion held by Monsieur Barbié du Bocage (Jean-Denis Barbié du Bocage). Where then is Megalopolis? Perhaps it is the village of Sinano. I would have had to leave the route, and carry out investigations that were irrelevant to the purpose of my journey. Megalopolis, which is celebrated by no other memorable action or masterpiece of art, tempted my curiosity only as a monument to the genius of Epaminondas and as the birthplace of Philopoemen and Polybius.
Leaving Leondari, a thoroughly modern city, on the right we passed a clump of ancient oak trees, the venerable remains of some sacred grove: a huge vulture, perched there on top of a dead tree, seemed to await the imminent passage of a soothsayer. We saw the sun rise over Mount Boreion; we alighted at the foot of this mountain to climb a trail carved in the rock: these trails are called Ladder-Paths in Arcadia.
In the Morea, I found neither Greek paths nor Roman roads. Turkish paved ways two and a half feet wide serve to cross the low lying and marshy places: as there is not a single wheeled vehicle in this part of the Peloponnese, these roads are adequate for the peasant’s mule and the soldier’s horse. However, Pausanias and the Tabula Peutingeriana (the map of the Roman road network) indicate many roads in places I traversed, especially around Mantinea. Bergier (Nicolas Bergier) has documented them thoroughly in his Roads of the Empire (the Peutinger Table is unlikely to be wrong, at least as to the existence of these roads, since they appear on that curious relic, which is simply a record of the ancient post roads. The only difficulty is in calculating the distances involved, especially as regards Gaul, where the abbreviation leg may be understood as lega or legio.)
We found ourselves in the vicinity of a source of the Alpheus, I gazed avidly at the gullies that I encountered, all were dry and silent. The track leading from Boreion to Tripolitsa first passes through empty plains, and then plunges into a long stony valley. The sun devoured us; from the few sparse scorched shrubs were suspended cicadas that fell silent as we approached; they re-commenced their noise when we were gone: nothing could be heard but that monotonous sound, the hooves of our horses, and the chanting of our guide.
‘Passage of the Alpheios, Near Phrixa’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 02 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p420, 1819)
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Once a Greek postilion is in the saddle, he begins a song that continues for the whole journey. It is almost always a long tale in verse to ease the boredom of the descendants of Linus: it contains many verses to a sad tune that somewhat resembles the tunes of our old French romances. One, among others, which must be well-known, since I heard it from Coroni to Athens, recalls in a striking manner the air:
Mon coeur, charmé de sa chaîne,
My heart, delighted by its chain,
One need only stop after the first four lines, without continuing on to the refrain:
Might the Venetians have brought these songs to the Morea? Did the French, excelling in balladry, encounter the Greek spirit? Are these ancient tunes? And if they are old, do they belong to the later school of music among the Greeks, or do they go back to the days of Olympus? I leave these questions to the experts to decide. But I seem to hear the song of my wretched guides, by night, by day, at sunrise, at sunset, in the wilds of Arcadia, on the banks of the Eurotas, in the wilds of Argos, Corinth, Megara: places where the Maenad’s voice no longer sounds, where the chanting of the Muses has ceased, where the unhappy Greek alone seems to deplore in sad lament the woes of his country:
……Soli cantare periti Arcades.
……Arcadians alone are skilled in song.
(Virgil: Eclogues X:32)
(In Greece, Jacques Spon noted an air identical to the anonymous Réveillez vous, belle endormie: awake, oh lovely sleeper, and even amused himself with composing words in modern Greek to that tune.)
Nine miles from Tripolitsa, we met two officers of the Pasha’s guard, who like me were travelling post. They were beating the horses and the postilion with whips of rhinoceros hide. They halted on seeing me, and asked to inspect my weapons: I refused to hand them over. The Janissary told me through Joseph that it was merely a question of satisfying their curiosity, and I could in turn inspect the weapons of these travellers. On this condition, I was happy to satisfy the Sipahis (Ottoman cavalry): we exchanged weapons. They examined my pistols for a long time, and ended by firing them at me above my head.
I had been warned never to allow myself to be made sport of by the Turks, if I wished to avoid exposing myself to a thousand insults. I appreciated several times, during what ensued, how useful the advice was: a Turk is as pliable if he sees that you do not fear him, as he is offensive if he discovers that he has inspired fear in you. I had no need, however, of a warning on this occasion, and the pleasantry seemed to me too offensive not to render blow for blow. So pricking the flanks of my horse with my spurs, I charged the Turks, and gave them a blast of their own pistols in passing, so close to their faces that the priming scorched the youngest Sipahi’s moustache. An explanation ensued, between the officers and the Janissary, who informed them that I was a Frenchman: at the word Frenchman, there was no element of Turkish politeness that they failed to show me. They offered me a pipe, loaded my weapons, and returned them to me. I felt obliged to retain the advantage they had yielded to me, and merely had Joseph load their pistols. The two idiots wanted me to race them: I refused, and they departed. It was obvious that I was not the first Frenchman that they had heard speak, and that their Pasha knew my countrymen thoroughly.
One can read in Monsieur Pouqueville an accurate description of Tripolitsa, capital of the Morea. I had not seen a wholly Turkish town: the red roofs of the place, its minarets and domes struck me pleasantly at first glance. Tripolitsa is still located in a fairly arid part of the valley of Tegea, and beneath one of the ridges of Mount Maenalus, which seemed to me devoid of trees and greenery. My Janissary conducted me to a Greek known to Monsieur Vial. That Consul, as I said, had given me a letter to the Pasha. The day after my arrival, the 15th of August, I went to see His Excellency’s dragoman (official interpreter): I begged to be issued as soon as possible with my firman (travel permit) and the order necessary to pass the Isthmus of Corinth. This dragoman, a young man of slim and spiritual aspect, replied in Italian that firstly he was ill, then that the Pasha had just gone to visit his wives; that one did not speak so to a Pasha; one must wait; and that the French were always in a hurry.
I replied that I had only asked for the firmans out of politeness; that my French passport was sufficient for me to travel in Turkey, currently at peace with my country, and that since there was not the time to oblige me, I would leave without the firmans and without presenting the Consul’s letter to the Pasha.
I left. Two hours later the dragoman asked me to return; I found him more tractable, either because from my tone of voice he took me for a person of importance, or because he feared I should find some way to bring my complaints to his master’s attention; he told me he was going to see His Highness, and discuss my situation with him.
Indeed, two hours later a Tartar came for me and took me to the Pasha. His palace is a large square wooden house with a vast courtyard at its centre, and galleries on the four sides of the courtyard. They made me wait in a room, where I found the holy fathers and patriarch of the Morea. These priests and their patriarch spoke much, and displayed to perfection the smooth and debased manners of Greek courtiers of the late Empire. I had reason to believe, by a noticeable stir of activity, that they were preparing a brilliant reception for me; the ceremony embarrassed me. My clothes were torn, my boots dusty, my hair dishevelled, and my beard filthy like that of Hector: barba squalida (see Vergilius Cothurnus by Michael Mattaire, line 117). I was wrapped in my coat, and more like a soldier emerging from his bivouac than a foreigner attending an audience with a great lord.
Joseph, who said he was familiar with Eastern ceremonial, insisted I wear the coat: my short jacket displeased him; he himself would accompany me with the Janissary, in my honour. He walked behind me without boots, legs and feet bare, and with a red handkerchief over his hat. Unfortunately he was stopped at the palace gate in this fine garb: the guards were unwilling to let him pass: it filled me with such desire to burst into laughter, that I could never have made serious complaint. The pretension to the turban did for him, and he saw only at a distance the grandeur to which he aspired.
After two hours of delay, boredom, and impatience, I was introduced into the Pasha’s audience chamber: I saw a man of about forty years of age, with a fine figure, seated or rather lying on a couch, wearing a silk caftan, a dagger adorned with diamonds at his belt, a white turban on his head. An old man with a long beard respectfully occupied a seat to his right (perhaps it was the executioner); the Greek dragoman sat at his feet; three pageboys held up pellets of ambergris, silver tongs, and fire for the pipe. My Janissary remained by the door.
I stepped forward, and saluted His Excellency, placing my hand over my heart; I handed him the Consul’s letter, and, exercising the privilege of the French, I sat down without waiting for permission.
Osman asked me where I came from, where I was going, what I wanted.
I replied that I was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; that on the way to the holy city of the Christians I was traversing the Morea to view Roman antiquities (everything that relates to the Greeks, and the Greeks themselves, are termed Roman by the Turks.); that I wanted a firman for post-horses, and an order to pass the Isthmus.
The Pasha replied that I was welcome, that I might view anything I pleased, and that he would issue me with the firmans. He then asked me if I was a military man, and whether I had fought in Egypt.
This question puzzled me, not knowing why it was asked. I replied that I had formerly served my country, but had never been in Egypt. Osman immediately relieved me of my embarrassment: he told me plainly that he had been taken prisoner by the French at the Battle of Aboukir (July, 1799); that he was very well treated by my countrymen, and that he would remember them always.
I did not expect the honour of coffee, yet I obtained it: I then complained of the insult offered to one of my people, and Osman invited me to give twenty strokes of the cane to the wretch who had stopped Joseph. I refused this compensation, and contented myself with the Pasha’s goodwill. I left the audience quite satisfied; it is true that I had shown the Empire a respect equally as flattering. Happy if the Turks in office employed simplicity of manners and justice in seeking the welfare of the peoples they govern! But they are tyrants consumed with the thirst for gold, who shed innocent blood without remorse in its pursuit.
I returned to the house of my host, preceded by my Janissary and followed by Joseph, who had forgotten his disgrace. I passed close to some ruins whose construction seemed antique: I woke then from that species of distraction into which the previous scenes with the two Turkish officers, the dragoman and the Pasha, had thrown me. I found myself suddenly in the land of the Tegeans: and I was a Frenchman in short jacket now and large hat; and had just returned from an audience with a Tartar in a long robe and turban in the midst of Greece!
Eheu ….fugaces labuntur anni!
Oh…how the years fly, they’re slipping away!
(Horace: Odes 2.14 lines1-2)
Monsieur Barbié du Bocage rightly protests against the inaccuracy of our maps of Morea, where the capital of this province is often not even acknowledged. The cause of this neglect is the change in Turkish government in this part of Greece. There used to be a sanjak (administrative district) based on Coroni. The Morea has become a pashalik (Imperial sub-division) and the Pasha has established his residence in Tripolitsa, as a more central point. As to the agreeability of the location, I have noticed that the Turks are quite indifferent to beauty of place. In this respect they lack the sensitivity of the Arabs, whom the charm of sky and earth always seduces, and who still mourn today their lost Granada.
However, though very obscure, Tripolitsa was not entirely unknown to Monsieur Pouqueville, who calls it Tripolitza; Pellegrin speaks of it, and calls it Trepelozza; D’Anville, Trapolizza; Monsieur de Choiseul, Tripolizza; and other travellers have followed that spelling. D’Anville observes that Tripolizza is not Mantinea: it is a modern city, which seems to have arisen between Mantinea, Tegea and Arcadian Orchomenos.
‘Acropolis of Orchomenos’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p274, 1819)
The British Library
In the evening, a Tartar brought me my firman for the post horses and the order to allow passage of the Isthmus. In establishing themselves in the ruins of Constantinople, the Turks have clearly retained several customs of the conquered peoples. The post-system established in Turkey is, very nearly, that fixed on by the Roman emperors: one pays nothing for the horses; the weight of your luggage is regulated, you are obliged to provide all food, etc. I refused to take advantage of these magnificent but obnoxious privileges, whose burden falls on the wretched people: I paid for all my horses and food like a traveller without protection or firman.
Tripolitsa being a completely modern city, I left on the 15th of August for Sparta, which I longed to reach. I was forced, so to speak, to retrace my steps, a thing which would not have been necessary if I had first entered Laconia via Kalamata. Three miles to the west, on leaving Tripolitsa, we halted to view some ruins: they are those of a Greek monastery destroyed by the Albanians at the time of the Russian War; but the walls of this monastery revealed the remains of beautiful architecture, and stones carved with inscriptions embedded in the masonry. I tried for a long while to decipher one to the left of the main door of the church. The letters were from the old days, and the inscription appeared to be in boustrophedon (bi-directional text): though that does not always indicate great antiquity. The characters were inverted by the position of the stone, and the stone itself was fractured, set very high, and partly covered by cement. I could decipher nothing, except the word TEΓEATEΣ, Tegeans, which caused me almost as much joy as if I was a member of the Academy of Inscriptions. Tegea must have had its existence near to the monastery. A host of medals are found in the neighbouring fields. I bought three from a peasant, who could give me no information about them; he sold them to me at a high price. The Greeks, by dint of meeting travellers are beginning to know the value of their antiques.
I must not forget that in wandering among the ruins I found a much more modern inscription: it was the name of Monsieur Fauvel (the Vice-Consul at Athens), written in pencil on a wall. One must be a traveller to know what pleasure one experiences in suddenly meeting, in far-off and unknown places, with a name that reminds one of home.
We continued our route to the north-west. After walking for three hours through semi-cultivated land, we entered a wilderness that does not end until one reaches the valleys of Laconia. The dry bed of a stream served us for a road; we wound with it through a labyrinth of low mountains, all similar to each other, exhibiting nothing but bare summits and flanks covered with a species of dwarf live-oak with leaves like holly. On the bank of the dried-up stream, in the midst of these little hills, we found a caravanserai shaded by two plane trees, and refreshed by a small spring. We let our mounts rest: we had been ten hours on horseback. We found that the only food was goat’s milk and some almonds. We left before sunset, and halted at eleven o’clock in the evening in a gorge running into the valley, on the edge of another stream, which retained a little water.
The track we followed did not pass through anywhere famous: it had served none the less as a route for troops from Sparta, on the way to fight those of Tegea, in the early wars of Lacedaemon. On the road I only met with a temple of Jupiter-Scotitas (of the Darkness) towards the Hermes passage: all these mountains form together the various branches of Mount Parnon, Mount Cronius and Olympus.
‘Mount Olympus - Tempe - Mount Ossa’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 02 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p112, 1819)
Internet Archive Book Images
On the 16th of August, at daybreak, we bridled our horses: the Janissary prayed, washed his elbows, beard and hands, turned toward the east to summon the light, and we departed. In advancing towards Laconia, the mountains became more elevated and covered with a few clumps of trees, the valleys were narrow and irregular, some of them reminded me, though on a smaller scale, of the site of the Grande Chartreuse (near Grenoble) with its magnificent carpet of forests. At noon we came upon a caravanserai, as poor as that of the previous day, though it was adorned with the Ottoman flag. In a space of sixty-five miles these were the only two buildings we had encountered: fatigue and hunger forced us to remain in this squalid habitation longer than I would have liked. The owner of the place, an old Turk of forbidding aspect, was sitting in an attic that overlooked the stalls of the caravanserai; the goats climbed up to him, and surrounded him with their ordure. He received us in this pleasure house, and did not deign to rise from his dunghill to give sustenance to these dogs of Christians; he shouted in a terrible voice, and a wretched Greek lad, totally naked, his body swollen by fever and the lashes, merely brought us ewe’s milk in a jug disgusting for its dirtiness; I was further obliged to go outside in order to drink at my ease, as the goats and their kids besieged me trying to snatch a piece of biscuit I held in my hand. I had eaten bear and sacred dog-meat with the savages; I have since shared a meal with the Bedouin, but I have never met anything comparable to this initial caravanserai of Laconia. Yet it was almost in the same location that the herds of Menelaus grazed, and where he offered a feast to Telemachus: ‘meanwhile the guests were arriving at the sacred king’s palace. They drove in their sheep, and brought unmixed wine, and their elegantly veiled wives sent bread. So they prepared the feast in the hall’ (Homer: Odyssey IV:620-524).
We left the caravanserai at about three in the afternoon: after five hours we reached a ridge of mountains, and found before us Taygetus, whose opposite side I had already seen; Misitra, at its foot; and the Vale of Laconia.
We descended by a kind of stairway cut in the rock, like that of Mount Boreion. We saw a delicate bridge with a single arch, thrown elegantly across a small river, and connecting two tall hills. Arriving at the river, we forded its clear waters, through tall reeds, and beautiful oleanders in full bloom. The river that I thus passed, unknowingly, was the Eurotas. A tortuous valley opened before us; it wound around several hills of a similar nature, which looked like artificial mounds or tumuli. We followed these detours, and arrived at Misitra as night was falling.
Monsieur Vial had given me a letter for one of the principal Turks in Misitra, named Ibrahim-Bey. We alighted in his courtyard, and his slaves led me to the guest-room; it was filled with Muslims who were like me all travellers and guests of Ibrahim. I took my place on the couch in the midst of them; like them I hung my weapons on the wall above my head. Joseph and my Janissary did likewise. Nobody asked me who I was, or where I came from: everyone continued to smoke, sleep or talk to his neighbour without a glance at me.
Our host arrived: he had been presented with the letter from Monsieur Vial. Ibrahim, who was about sixty years old, had a kind and open visage. He approached me, took my hand affectionately, blessed me, tried to pronounce the word good, half in French, half in Italian, and sat down beside me. He spoke in Greek to Joseph, he begged me to pardon him if he had not received me as promptly as he had wished: he had a sick child: a figliuolo, he repeated in Italian, and it had distracted him, mi fa tornar la testa, and he gripped his turban with his two hands. Assuredly it was not fatherly tenderness in all its simplicity that I would have expected to find at Sparta; yet here was an old Tartar displaying the natural emotion, in the ancient graveyard of those mothers who told their sons, as they handed them their shields: Ή ταν ή επί ταν: (return) with this or upon it.
Ibrahim left me after a few moments, to go and see his son, he ordered a pipe and coffee to be brought to me; but as the dinner hour was over, I was not served pilau: though it would have given me great pleasure since I had barely eaten for twenty-four hours. Joseph took a sausage from his sack, pieces of which he swallowed without the Turks knowing; he offered some secretly to the Janissary, who averted his eyes with a mixture of regret and horror.
I ignored them: I lay down on a couch in the corner of the room. A window with a reed lattice opened on the valley of Laconia, on which the moon shed a wonderful light. Leaning on my elbow, I let my eyes roam the sky; the vale; the peaks of Taygetus, bright or sombre, according to whether they were in darkness or light. I could scarcely convince myself that I breathed the air of the homeland of Helen and Menelaus. I allowed myself those reflections we all make, and I more than another, on the vicissitudes of human destiny. What varied places had shared my peaceful or troubled repose! On how many occasions, by the light of those same stars, in the forests of America, on the roads of Germany, among the moors of England, in the Italian countryside, in the midst of the sea, had I given myself over to those same thoughts touching the vagaries of life!
An old Turk, a man, it seemed, of some worth, drew me from these reflections, in order to prove to me in a much more direct manner that I was far from my homeland. He lay at my feet on the couch: he turned, he sat up, he sighed, he called his slaves, he sent them away again; he waited for daylight with impatience. The dawn came (the 17th of August): the Tartar, surrounded by his servants, some kneeling, others standing, removed his turban, he admired himself in a piece of broken mirror, combed his beard, curled his moustache, rubbed his cheeks to enliven them. After making his toilet thus, he departed, majestically shuffling his slippers, and throwing me a disdainful look.
My host entered some time later, carrying his son in his arms. The poor child, thin and yellow from fever, was quite naked. He had amulets and various spells hanging round his neck. The father put him on my lap, and it was necessary to listen to the history of the disease: the child had taken all the quinine in the Morea; he had been bled (and the sickness was there); his mother had made charms, and attached a turban to the grave of a saint: nothing had helped. Ibrahim finished by asking if I knew of any remedy: I remembered that in my childhood I had been cured of a fever with common centaury (centaurium erythraea); I advised the use of this plant, as the gravest of doctors might have done. But what was this centaury? Joseph held forth. I pretended that centaury was discovered by a doctor of that neighbourhood, called Chiron, who rode the mountains on horseback. A Greek said he knew that Chiron, he was from Kalamata, and he usually rode a white horse. As we were taking counsel, we saw a Turk enter, whom I recognized as an elder of the faith by his green turban (worn by a Hadji). He came to us, took the child’s head between his hands, and uttered a devout prayer; such is the nature of piety; it is moving and respected even in the most erroneous of religions.
I had sent the Janissary to find horses and a guide, so as to visit first Amyclae and then the ruins of Sparta, where I thought them to be: while I awaited his return, Ibrahim serve me a Turkish meal. I was still lying on the couch: they set a very low table before me: a slave helped me to wash my hands; they brought me diced chicken with rice on a wooden board, I ate with my fingers. After the chicken, a sort of mutton stew was served in a copper basin; then figs, olives, grapes and cheese, to which, according to Guillet (Georges Guillet de Saint-Georges) Misitra owes its name (Saverio Scrofani agrees with that opinion. If Sparta took its name from the flowering broom, spartium junceum, and not Spartus son of Amyclus, or Sparta, wife of Lacedaemon, Misitra may well have take its name from a cheese.) Between each course a slave poured water over my hands, and another offered me a cloth, of thick cotton, but very white. I refused to drink wine out of courtesy: after coffee, I was offered soap for my moustache.
During the meal, the elder of the faith asked me several questions, via Joseph; he wanted to know why I was travelling since I was neither a merchant nor a doctor. I replied that I was travelling to see the various peoples, especially those Greeks who were dead: that made him laugh: he replied that since I had come to Turkey, I ought to learn Turkish. I gave him a better reason for my travelling by saying that I was a pilgrim on my way to Jerusalem. ‘Hadji, Hadji!’ (Pilgrim, Pilgrim!), he cried. He was fully satisfied. Religion is a sort of universal language understood by all men. The Turk could not understand that I had left my homeland out of a simple motive of curiosity; but he found it quite natural that I should undertake a long journey to pray at a shrine, to ask God for prosperity or deliverance from some affliction. Ibrahim, who when bringing me his son had asked if I had any children, was convinced that I was going to Jerusalem to obtain some. I had found the savages of the New World indifferent to my foreign manners, but solely attentive like the Turks to my weapons and my religion, that is to say, the two things that protect mankind in regard to body and soul. This unanimous agreement of people concerning religion, and the simplicity of ideas, struck me as worthy of note.
In addition, this guest-room where I took my meal offered a rather touching scene, which recalled the ancient customs of the East. Not all of Ibrahim’s guests were rich, many were not, and several were even genuine beggars: yet they sat on the same couch with the Turks who had a large train of horses and slaves. Joseph and my Janissary were treated as I was, except that they were still not placed at my table. Ibrahim welcomed his guests equally; spoke to everyone; made sure everyone was served. There were beggars in rags whom slaves respectfully brought coffee. We recognize here the charitable precepts of the Koran, and the virtue of hospitality that the Turks borrowed from the Arabs; but this brotherhood of the turban does not cross the threshold, and many a slave has drunk coffee with his host, whose neck that same host has severed on leaving. Yet I have read, and I was told, that in Asia there are Turkish families still possessing the character, simplicity and candour of former ages: I believe it, because Ibrahim was certainly one of the most venerable men I have ever encountered.
The Janissary returned with a guide who offered me horses not merely for Amyclae, but for Argos too. He asked a price which I accepted. The elder of the faith, witness to the transaction, rose in a fit of anger; he told me that since I was travelling to observe the people, I ought to know that I was dealing with rogues; that these fellows were robbing me; that the price they were asking was extraordinary; that I owed them nothing, since I had a firman; and finally that I had been duped utterly. He exited, full of indignation, and I saw that he was less moved by a spirit of justice than disgusted by my stupidity.
At eight in the morning I left for Amyclae, now Sclavo-Chorio. I was accompanied by the new guide and a Greek cicerone, a very good man, but very ignorant. We took the track over the plain, at the foot of Taygetus, following small shaded and very agreeable paths, passing between gardens; these gardens, watered by streams flowing down the mountain, were planted with mulberry trees, fig trees and sycamores. One could also see plenty of watermelons, grapes, cucumbers and herbs of various kinds: from the beauty of the sky and the nature of the nearby crops, one might have thought one was in the vicinity of Chambery (in Savoy). We crossed the Tiasa (Trypiotiko), and arrived at Amyclae (Amykles), where I found only a dozen Greek chapels destroyed by the Albanians, and placed at some distance from each other in the middle of cultivated fields. The Temple of Apollo, that of King Eurotas dedicated to the goddess Onga (now accepted to be an invention of the Abbé Michel Fourmont’s), the tomb of Hyacinthus, everything has vanished. I could not find any inscriptions; yet I searched carefully for the famous obituary list (now deemed a forgery) of the priestesses of Amyclae, which the Abbé Fourmont copied in 1731 or 1732, and which yielded a sequence dating to almost a thousand years before Christ. The destruction of antiquities is increasing so rapidly in Greece that often a traveller cannot find the slightest vestige of monuments that another passer-by has admired only a few months before him (!). While I was looking for fragments of ancient ruins among heaps of modern ruins, I saw some peasants led by a priest and they removed a board leaning against the wall of one of the chapels, and entered a sanctuary that I had not yet visited. I had the curiosity to follow them, and found that these poor people prayed alongside their priests among the ruins: they sang the Litany before an image of the Panagia (The Holy Virgin) daubed in red on a wall painted blue. It was some distance from these celebrations to those of Hyacinthus, but the triple glory of the ruins, those unfortunates, and their prayers to the true God effaced, to my eyes, all the glory of the earth.
My guides urged me to leave, because we were bordering on the Maniots, who despite modern relations are nonetheless great thieves. We re-crossed the Tiasa, and returned to Misitra by the mountain path. I will note here an error that never fails to cause confusion on maps of Laconia. We grant, indifferently, the modern names Iris or Vasilipotamos to the Eurotas. La Guilletière (Guillet) does not know where Niger (Domenicus Marius Niger/Domenico Mario Negri, see Geographiae Commentarius XI p342) came by this name of Iris, and Monsieur Pouqueville also seems surprised by that name. Niger, and Meletius (Michael, Archbishop of Athens, see his Ancient and Modern Geography) who writes Neris by corruption, however, were not entirely wrong. The Eurotas is known at Misitra under the name Iri (not Iris) as far as its junction with the Tiasa: it then takes the name Vasilipotamos, and retains it for the rest of its course.
We arrived in the mountain village of Parori, where we saw a large spring called Chieramo: it flows abundantly from the side of a rock; a weeping willow shades it above, and a huge plane tree rises below, round which we sat on mats to take coffee. I do not know how this weeping willow reached Misitra; it is the only one I saw in Greece (Though I rather think I may have seen others in the garden of the Agha of Napoli di Romania, on the Gulf of Argos.) The general opinion is, I believe, that salix babylonica came from Asia Minor, while it may have reached us from China via the Orient. It is the same with the pyramidal poplar, which Lombardy received from the Crimea and Georgia, and whose family is found on the banks of the Mississippi, above Illinois.
There are heaps of broken and buried marble near the fountain of Parori: several fragments bear inscriptions in which one can make out letters and words: given time and money, one might make a few discoveries here perhaps: however, it is likely that most of these inscriptions were copied by the Abbé Fourmont, who collected three hundred and fifty examples in Laconia and Messenia (these were all later deemed to be forgeries).
Following this, while still halfway up the flank of Taygetus, we encountered a second fountain called Πανθάλαμα, Panthalama, which takes its name from the stone from which the water escapes. On the stone can be seen an ancient poorly-executed relief, depicting three dancing nymphs with garlands. Finally we found a third fountain named Τρίτζέλλα, Tritzella, above which opens an unremarkable cave. (Saverio Scrofani speaks of these fountains.) One might recognize, if one wished, the Dorcia (the Dorkeian Spring, see Pausanias III.15.2) of the ancients in one of these three fountains; but then it would be placed much too far from Sparta.
There, that is to say at the Tritzella spring, we were behind Misitra, and almost at the foot of the ruined castle which commands the town. It is set on the top of a rock almost pyramidal in shape. We had consumed eight hours in our travels, and it was four in the afternoon. We left our horses, and ascended on foot to the castle via the Jewish quarter, which winds snail-like round the rock up to the foot of the castle. This area had been completely destroyed by the Albanians, only the walls of the houses were still standing, and one could see, through the openings of windows and doors, traces of the flames that had devoured these former retreats of the poor. Children, as vicious as the Spartans, from whom they are descended, hide in these ruins, spy on the passer-by, and as he passes bring down on him sections of wall, and fragments of rock. I was nearly the victim of one of these Spartan games.
The Gothic castle that crowns the debris is itself in ruins: the gaps in the parapets, the cracks formed in the vaults, and the gaping cisterns, ensure that one cannot walk there in safety. There are no gates, guards, or cannon; the whole thing is deserted; but one is well rewarded for the trouble it takes to climb the turret, by the view enjoyed.
Below you, and on your left, is the section of Misitra that was destroyed; that is to say the Jewish quarter, which I mentioned previously. At the end of this area, you see the archbishop’s palace and the church of St. Demetrius, surrounded by a group of Greek houses with gardens.
Vertically below you lies the part of town called the Κατωχόριον, the Katôchôrion, that is to say the town below the castle.
In front of the Katôchôrion lies the Μεσωχόριον, the Mésochôrion, the middle town: it has large gardens, and contains Turkish houses painted in green and red; one can also see bazaars, caravanserais and mosques.
To the right, at the foot of Taygetos, can be seen the three villages or suburbs that I had crossed: Tritzella, Panthalama, and Parori.
From the town itself, flow two streams: one is called Όβριοπόταμος, Hobriopotamos the river of the Jews; it runs between Katôchôrion and Mésochôrion.
The second is named Panthalama, from the Fountain of the Nymphs, out of which emerges: it meets the Hobriopotamos some distance away in the plain, towards the deserted village of Μαγοϋλα, Magoula. These two rivers, over which there is a small bridge, were sufficient for Guilletiere to identify the Eurotas and the Babyca Bridge, under the generic name of Γέφυρος, it should, I think, be written Γέφυρα.
At Magoula, these two streams flow together into the river Magoula, the ancient Cnacion, and the latter flows into the Eurotas and is lost.
Viewed from the Castle of Misitra, the valley of Laconia is admirable: it extends roughly from north to south, and is bordered on the west by Taygetus, and on the east by the mountains Thornax, Barosthenes, Olympus and Menelaion; small hills obstruct the northern part of the valley, decreasing in height as they descend towards the south, their final ridges forming the hills on which Sparta was sited. From Sparta to the sea a continuous fertile plain extends watered by the Eurotas. (For a description of Laconia, see Les Martyrs, Bk. XIV.)
So here I am mounted on a battlement of Misitra castle, viewing, contemplating and admiring the whole of Laconia. ‘But when will you speak of Sparta?’ the reader asks. Where are the ruins of that city? Are they enclosed by Misitra? Is there no trace left? Why run off to Amyclae before visiting every corner of Sparta? Are you content to name the Eurotas without following its course, without describing its banks? How wide is it? What colour are its waters? Where are its swans, reeds, laurels? The smallest details must be recounted in regard to the home of Lycurgus, King Agis, Lysander, and Leonidas. Everyone has seen Athens, but few travellers indeed have penetrated as far as Sparta: no one has fully described its ruins.’
I would have satisfied the reader long ago, if, at the very moment he saw me on the summit of the keep of Misitra, I had not asked on my own account all the questions that I hear asked of me now.
In preparing for this journey, I neglected no opportunity of gathering all possible information about Sparta: I traced the history of that city from the Romans until our day; I have already spoken of the people and books that told us something of modern Sparta; but unfortunately the notions derived from these are somewhat vague, since they have created two contradictory opinions. According to Père Pacifique (Père Pacifique de Provins), Coronelli (Vincenzo Coronelli), the romanticist Guillet and those who follow them, Misitra is built on the ruins of Sparta; while according to Spon, Vernon (Francis Vernon), the Abbé Fourmont, Leroy (Julien-David Leroy) and D’Anville, the ruins of Sparta are some distance from Misitra. It is quite clear from this that the best authorities support the latter view. D’Anville is most definitive, and seems shocked by the opposing view: ‘The place, he said, that the city (Sparta) occupied, is named Palaeochôri or the old town, the new town whoich goes under the name Misitra which it would be wrong to confuse with Sparta, is further west.’ (Géographie ancienne, abrégée I p.270) Spon, contradicting La Guilletière, expresses himself equally as strongly, in following the testimony of Vernon and Consul Giraud (Jean Giraud, French Consul at Athens). Abbé Fourmont, who found so many inscriptions at Sparta, could hardly be wrong about the location of the city. It is true that we do not possess the details of his route, but Leroy, who identified the Theatre and Dromos, could not fail to know the true position of Sparta. The best geographers, in conformance with these great authorities, have been at pains to point out that Misitra is in no sense Sparta. There are even those who give the approximate distance from one to the other of these cities, making it about six miles.
Evidenced here, by a striking example, is the difficulty of re-establishing the truth once an error has become entrenched. Despite Spon, Fourmont, Leroy, D’Anville, etc, people were generally determined on viewing Misitra as Sparta, I myself above all. Two modern travellers enlightened me, Scrofani and Monsieur Pouqueville. I had not paid attention to the fact that that the latter, in describing Misitra as representing Sparta, was only repeating the opinion of the local inhabitants, and did not express this sentiment as his own: he seems to lean rather towards the opinion of those he considers the best authorities: hence I was forced to conclude that Monsieur Pouqueville, correct regarding everything he saw with his own eyes, had been mistaken in what he had been told of Sparta. (He even says in so many words that Misitra is not the site of Sparta; then he returns to the ideas of the inhabitants of the country. We can see that the author was constantly torn between the leading authorities he was acquainted with, and the chatter of some ignorant Greek.)
Persuaded then, by this initial error of understanding, that Misitra was Sparta, I prepared to set off for Amyclae: my plan was first to eliminate what was not Sparta before granting that city my whole attention. Judge of my embarrassment when, from the heights of the Fortress at Misitra, I persisted in recognizing as the city of Lycurgus an absolutely modern city, whose architecture offered me merely a kind of confused mixture of Oriental manner and Gothic style, of Greek and Italian: with not one poor little ancient ruin in the midst of it all as consolation. If only old Sparta, like ancient Rome, had lifted its disfigured head amidst these new buildings! But no, Sparta was overthrown in the dust, buried in the tomb, trampled by the Turks, dead, quite dead!
‘Misitra, Near Sparta’
Belgium, the Rhine, Italy, Greece, and the Shores and Islands of the Mediterranean - George Newenham Wright, Thomas Allom, Leicester Silk Buckingham (p31, 1851)
The British Library
So I thought. My cicerone knew hardly a word of Italian and English. To make myself better understood by him, I essayed vile phrases in contemporary Greek: I scribbled with a pencil a few words of ancient Greek, I spoke in Italian and English, I mingled some French with all this. Joseph wanted to assist our communication, and only increased the confusion; the Janissary and the guide (a sort of half-Negroid Jew) gave their advice in Turkish, and added to the evil. We all spoke at once, we screamed, we gesticulated; with our various clothes, languages and diverse complexions, we looked like a host of demons, perched at sunset, on the edge of the ruins. The woods and waterfalls of Taygetus were behind us, Laconia at our feet, and the most beautiful of skies above our heads:
‘There is Misitra,’ I said to the cicerone: ‘is that not Lacedaemon?’ He replied: ‘Signor, Lacedaemon, what is that?’
– I say Lacedaemon to you, meaning Sparta.’
– Sparta? What?
– I am asking you whether Misitra is Sparta.
– I don’t understand.
– What! You, a Greek, you, a Lacedaemonian, do not know the name of Sparta!
– Sparta? Oh yes, a great republic! Famous for Lycurgus!
– This Misitra is Lacedaemon?
The Greek gave me a nod. I was delighted.
‘Now,’ I said, ‘tell me what I am looking at: what is that part of the town called?’ And I pointed to the area before me, a little to the right.
‘Mesochôrion,’ he replied.
– I know that, but what part of Lacedaemon was it?"
– Lacedaemon? What?’
I was beside myself.
‘At least tell me where the river was.’ And I repeated: ‘Potamos, potamos.’
My Greek pointed out to me the stream called the River of the Jews.
‘What! That, the Eurotas? Impossible! Tell me where the Vasilipotamos is.’
The cicerone made great gestures, and extended his arm to the right towards Amyclae.
Here I was plunged again into utter perplexity. I pronounced the name Iri; and at that, my Spartan pointed to the left, in the opposite direction to Amyclae.
It was necessary to conclude that there were two rivers: one on the right, the Vasilipotamos; the other on the left, the Iri; and that neither of these rivers passed through Misitra. One can see above, from the explanation I gave as to these two names, what caused my error.
So, I said to myself, I no longer know where the Eurotas is, but it clearly does not pass through Misitra. Misitra therefore is not Sparta, unless the course of the river has altered, and is now some distance from the city; which is not at all likely. Where then is Sparta? I have come so far, and am unable to find it! I will return without having seen it! I was filled with dismay. As I was descending the keep, the Greek cried: ‘Perhaps your Lordship is asking for Palaeochôri?’ At this name, I remembered the passage from D’Anville, I cried in turn: ‘Yes, Palaeochôri, the old city! Where is Palaeochôri?
– Over there, at Magoula,’ said the cicerone and showed me, at a distance, in the valley, a white cottage surrounded by a few trees.
Tears sprang to my eyes, as I fixed my gaze on that little hut, which stood on the deserted site of one of the most famous cities of the world, and which served only to identify the location of Sparta, inhabited by a single goatherd, whose only wealth is the grass that grows on the graves of King Agis, and Leonidas.
‘Ancient Sparta (Restored)’
Greek Pictures, Drawn with Pen and Pencil - Sir John Pentland Mahaffy (p177, 1890)
The British Library
I wished to see or hear nothing more. I descended the keep precipitately, despite the cries of the guides who wanted to show me the modern ruins and tell me tales of aghas, pashas, cadis (judges), and vaivodes: but passing in front of the archbishop’s palace I found a group of priests waiting for the Frenchman, at the door, who on behalf of the archbishop invited me to enter.
Although I wished fervently to refuse this act of politeness, there was no means of escape. So I entered: the archbishop was sitting in the midst of his clergy in a very clean room, furnished with mats and cushions in the Turkish manner. All these priests and their leader were men of wit and good humour; several knew Italian and spoke that language with ease. I told them what had happened regarding the ruins of Sparta: they laughed about it, and mocked at the cicerone; they seemed clearly accustomed to foreigners.
The Morea is indeed full of Levantines, Frenchmen, Ragusans, Italians, and especially young doctors from Venice and the Ionian islands, who send it their cadis and aghas. The roads are safe enough: one finds passably good food, one enjoys perfect freedom, provided one shows a little firmness and prudence. In general, it makes for quite easy travelling, especially for a man who has lived among the American Indians. There are always a few Englishmen on the roads of the Peloponnese: the priests told me they had recently encountered antiquaries and officers of that nation. At Misitra, there is even a Greek house called the English Tavern: there one can eat roast beef and drink port. The traveller, in this respect, owes a great obligation to the English: it is they who have established good inns throughout Europe: in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, and at Constantinople, and Athens, and even at the gates of Sparta, despite Lycurgus.
The Archbishop knew the Vice-Consul at Athens, and I think he said something about having shown him hospitality on the two or three visits that Monsieur Fauvel (Louis François Sébastian Fauvel was Vice-Consul at Athens from 1803) had made to Misitra. After I had been served coffee, I was shown the archbishop’s palace and the church: the latter, much lauded in our geographies, nevertheless possesses nothing of note. The mosaic pavement is commonplace; the paintings, praised by Guillet, exactly resemble rough drafts of the school preceding Perugino. As for the architecture, there are always domes, more or less overwhelming, more or less multiplied. The cathedral, dedicated to Saint Demetrius, and not to the Virgin, as we have said, possesses, for its part, seven of these domes. Since this ornament was employed in Constantinople in a degenerate artistic period, it has marred all the monuments of Greece. It has neither the boldness of the Gothic, nor the wise beauty of the antique. When immense it is sufficiently majestic; but then it overwhelms the building that bears it; if it is small, it is merely an ignoble skullcap, which fails to link to any element of the architecture, and that rises above the entablature for the express purpose of break the harmonious line of the cymatium (the moulding on a classical cornice).
In the library of the archbishop’s palace, I found various treatises of the Greek Fathers, books of disputes, and two or three Byzantine historians, among others Pachymeres (Georgius Pachymeres). It would have been interesting to collate the text of this manuscript with the texts we have, but it has doubtless passed in front of the eyes of our two great Hellenists, the Abbé Fourmont and D’Ansse de Villoison (Jean-Baptiste Gaspard d’Ansse de Villoison). It is probable that the Venetians, long time masters of the Morea, have removed the most valuable manuscripts.
My hosts eagerly showed me printed translations of various French works: namely Télémaque (Fénelon), Rollin (Histoire Ancienne) etc., and new publications from Bucharest. Among these translations, I would not have expected to find Atala, if Monsieur Stamatis (Konstantinos Stamatis, French Consul in Civita Vecchia), had not done me the honour likewise of lending my savage the accents of Homer. The translation I saw in Misitra was not complete; the translator was a Greek, a native of Zante; he found himself in Venice when Atala appeared there, in Italian, and it was on this translation that he had based his own, in contemporary Greek. I do not know if I concealed my name from pride or modesty, but my author’s petty glory was so pleased to find itself juxtaposed with the greater glory of Lacadaemon, that the doorman of the archbishop’s palace had reason to praise my generosity: it was an act of charity for which I have since done penance.
It was dark when I left the archbishop’s palace: we traversed the most populous area of Misitra; we passed the bazaar indicated in several descriptions as being in front of the agora of the ancients, always assuming that Misitra is Lacadaemon. This bazaar is a wretched affair like the market halls we see in our little provincial towns. Miserable shops selling shawls, haberdashery, foodstuffs, occupy the streets. The shops were at that time illuminated by lamps of Italian manufacture. They pointed out to me, by the light of these lamps, two Maniots selling dried fish, and the various sea-creatures called frutti di mare at Naples. These fishermen, who were fairly tall, resembled peasants from the Franche-Comté. I found nothing extraordinary in them. I bought a dog out of Taygetus from them: it was of medium stature, with coarse tawny hair, a blunt nose, and a savage demeanour:
amica vis pastoribus.
……………………...a tawny Laconian,
the shepherd’s friend:
(Horace Epode VI:5-6)
I named him Argus: ‘Ulysses did the same.’ (La Fontaine: La tortue et les deux canards: line 13) Unfortunately I lost him a few days later on the road between Argos and Corinth.
We saw several women go by wrapped in their long robes. We turned aside to yield them the way, according to the custom of the East, which is due more to jealousy than politeness. I could not see their faces, so I do not know whether Sparta is still Sparta of the beautiful women, after Homer, χαλλιγύναιχα.
I returned to Ibrahim’s dwelling after thirteen hours of exploration, during which I had only rested for a few moments. Besides being able to endure fatigue, hunger and the sun, I have observed that lively emotion supports me against lassitude and gives me new strength. Moreover, I am convinced, and more than most, that an inflexible will conquers all, and even overcomes time. I decided not to go to bed, to profit from the night to write up my notes, to set out next day for the ruins of Sparta, and then continue my journey from there without returning to Misitra.
I said farewell to Ibrahim; I ordered Joseph and my guide to set off with the horses on the road to Argos, and to meet me at that stretch of the Eurotas we had already passed on our way from Tripolitsa. I retained only the Janissary to accompany me to the ruins of Sparta: if I could only have done without him, I would have gone to Magoula alone because I have experienced how subordinates who grow impatient and bored interfere in the research one wishes to carry out.
Everything being thus settled, on the 18th of August, half an hour before daybreak, the Janissary and I mounted our horses; I rewarded the good Ibrahim’s slaves, and left at full gallop for Sparta.
We had already been riding for an hour, along a firm track heading directly south-east, when as dawn rose I saw some ruins and a long wall of ancient construction: my heart began to throb. The Janissary turned to me, and pointing to a whitish hut on the right with his whip, cried, with an air of satisfaction: ‘Palaeochôri!’ I walked toward the principal ruin that I could see, on a hill. On rounding this prominence on the north-west to ascend it, I stopped suddenly at the sight of a vast enclosure, opening in a semicircle, and instantly recognized it as a theatre. I cannot describe the tumultuous feelings that besieged me. The hill at the foot of which I was then standing, was therefore that of the citadel of Sparta, since the theatre abutted on the citadel; the ruin that I could see on the hill was thus the temple of Athene Khalkioicon (Athene of the Bronze House, see Pausanias III.17.2), since it stood within the citadel; the ruins and length of wall I had passed lower down therefore belonged to the tribe of the Cynosures (the inhabitants of the Kynosouria quarter, see Pausanias III.16.9. Kynosoura the Dog’s Tail was the northern constellation Ursa Minor), since that tribe lived to the north of the city; Sparta was therefore under my eyes; and its theatre, which I had the good fortune to stumble upon on my arrival, immediately yielded me the positions of the districts and monuments. I dismounted, and ran up the hill onto the citadel.
As I reached the summit, the sun was rising behind the Menelaion Hills. What a beautiful sight! But how sad it seemed! The lonely Eurotas flowing beneath the ruins of the Babyca bridge; ruins everywhere, and not one human being among the ruins! I stood motionless in a kind of stupor, gazing at the scene. A mixture of admiration and sadness retarded my steps and my thoughts; the silence around me was profound: I wanted at least to summon an echo from this place, where the human voice was no longer heard, and I called out as loudly as I could: ‘Leonidas!’ No repetition of that great name came from the ruins, and it even seemed as if Sparta had forgotten him.
If the ruins to which illustrious memories are attached make clearly visible the vanity of all things here below, we can still agree that the names which survive from those empires, and which immortalise those times and places, mean something. After all, let us not show too much scorn for glory: nothing is more beautiful, except virtue. The height of happiness would be to unite the one with the other in this life, and that was the subject of that unique prayer the Spartans addressed to the gods: ‘Ut pulchra bonis adderent! Let virtue be added to beauty!’(See the article under Euphémie in the Encyclopédie.)
When the species of confusion which had seized me had dissipated, I began to explore the ruins around me. The summit of the hill presented a plateau surrounded, especially to the north-west, by thick walls; I made two circuits, and counted one thousand five hundred and sixty, then one thousand five hundred and seventy, ordinary paces, or about seven hundred and eighty geometric paces (a geometric pace is defined as twice an ordinary one, at five French feet, 1.62 metres, or 5.315 English feet), but it should be noted that in this circuit I included the entire summit of the hill, including the curve of the hill formed by the excavation of the theatre: that is the theatre Leroy investigated.
Rubble, partly buried underground, partly raised above ground, towards the middle of this plateau, proclaims the foundations of the Temple of Athene-Khalkioicon (Khalkioicon means Bronze House. The texts of Pausanias and Plutarch are not to be taken literally, by imagining this temple as made wholly of bronze; the name means only that the temple was coated with bronze, within and perhaps without. I hope no one confuses the two Pausanias’s I mention here, the one in the text, the other in this note) to which Pausanias (son of Cleombrotus, see Thucydides I:134) fled in vain, and lost his life. A kind of terraced ramp seventy feet long, with a very gentle slope, descends from the south of the hill to the plain. This was perhaps the path by which one mounted to the citadel, which was only fortified heavily under the Lacedaemonian tyrants.
At the start of this ramp, and above the theatre, I saw a small round building three-quarters ruined: the interior niches seem equally capable of receiving statues or urns. Is it a tomb? Is this the Temple of the Armed Aphrodite (see Pausanias III.15.10)? It should be approximately in this position, and belonged to the Agiadai (III.2.1). Caesar, who claimed descent from Venus-Aphrodite, bore on his ring the image of Armed Venus: it was in fact a dual emblem of the failings and glory of that great man:
Vincere si possum nuda, quid arma gerens?
If I can conquer naked, why bear arms?
(Ausonius: Epigram 64, based on the Palatine Anthology 16.174)
If one had stood with me on the hill of the citadel, this is what one would have seen around one:
To the east, that is to say towards the Eurotas, a mound of elongated form flattened at its top, to serve as a stadium or racetrack. On both sides of this mound, between it and two other mounds which form two valleys with the first, are the ruins of the Babyca Bridge and the course of the Eurotas. Across the river, the view is arrested by a chain of reddish summits: these are the Menelaion Hills. Behind these hills, a barrier of high mountains arises which borders on the Gulf of Argos, in the distance.
Looking east, between the citadel and the Eurotas, casting one’s eyes north and south of east, parallel to the river’s course, one can locate the district of the Limnatae (Pausanias III .16.9), the temple of Lycurgus (III.16.6), the palace of King Demaratos (III.4.3), the district of the Agiadai (III.2.1), and that of the Mesoatai (III.16.9), a Lesché (λέσχη, a conversation or lounging room, see Plutarch: Lycurgus 25), the shrine of Cadmus (Pausanias III.15.8), the sanctuaries of Herakles and Helen (III.15.3) and the Planes (III.14.8). Throughout this vast extent, I counted seven sets of remains standing above ground, but completely ruined and shapeless. Since I might choose, I named one of these piles of debris the Temple of Helen; another, the tomb of Alcman (III.15.1): I dreamed I was viewing the heroic monuments of Agis and Cadmus; I was thus determined on fable, and as history recognized only the Temple of Lycurgus. I confess that to black broth and the Crypteia (κρυπτεία, Spartan ritualistic and clandestine military training, see Plutarch: Lycurgus, 28, 3–7) I prefer the memory of the only poet Sparta produced (Alcman), and the wreath of flowers the girls of Sparta gathered for Helen on the ‘island’ of the Planes:
…O ubi campi
Sperchiusque et virginibus bacchata Lacaenis,
…O for the plains,
for Spercheus, for Taygetus of the Spartan virgins’
(Virgil: Georgics II. 486)
Looking now towards the north, still from the summit of the citadel, we see a fairly high hill which overlooks even the one on which the citadel was built, which contradicts Pausanias’s text. It is in the valley formed by these two hills that the market-place was to be found and the monuments contained by the latter, such as the Council House of the Elders (Pausanias: III.11.2), the Persian Colonnade, the Canopy (III.12.10), etc. There are no ruins on that side. To the northwest lay the district of the Cynosures, by which I entered Sparta, and where I noted the long wall.
Let us now turn to the west, and we see on a level ground, behind and at the foot of the theatre, three ruins, one of which is quite tall, and rounded like a tower; in this direction were the districts of the Pitanatai (III.16.9 Pitane, is now Magoula), Theomelida (III.14.2), the tombs of Pausanias and Leonidas (III.14.1), the Crotanian Lesché, and the Temple of Issorian Artemis (III.14.2).
Finally, if one returns one’s gaze to the south, one sees uneven ground lifted here and there by the foundations of walls razed to the level of the soil. Their stones must have been carried off, because there are none to be seen round about. Menelaus’s house (III.14.6) lay in this direction, and further off on the road to Amyclae, lay the Temple of the Dioscuri and the Graces. This description will become more intelligible if the reader has recourse to Pausanias, or simply the Travels of the Young Anacharsis (Jean-Jacques Barthélemy).
All the area of Sparta is uncultivated: the sun blazes down in silence, and devours the marble tombs ceaselessly. When I saw this desert, no plant ornamented the ruins, no bird, no insect animated them, no creature except for thousands of lizards, noiselessly climbing and descending the burning walls. A dozen half-wild horses were grazing the withered grass here and there; a shepherd cultivated a few watermelons in a corner of the theatre; and at Magoula, which gives its sad name to Lacedaemon, one notes a scant grove of cypress trees. But even Magoula which was once a sizeable Turkish village has perished on this field of death: its huts have fallen, and it is no more than a ruin proclaiming ruins.
I descended from the citadel, and walked for a quarter of an hour to reach the Eurotas. It looked more or less as I had passed it six miles higher up, without recognising it: at Sparta it has about the width of the Marne above Charenton. Its bed, almost dry in summer, presents a strand sprinkled with small pebbles, clumps of reeds and oleanders, over which run a few threads of cool, limpid water. The water seemed excellent to me; I drank copiously, because I was dying of thirst. The Eurotas certainly deserves the epithet χαλλιδόναξ, of lovely reeds, as Euripides called it; but I don’t know that it should retain that of olorifer (Statius: Thebaid IV: 227, ‘et oloriferi Eurotae’) the swan-bearer, since I saw no swans on its waters. I followed its course, hoping to encounter those birds that, according to Plato (Phaedo 84e-85b), sight Olympus before they die, which is why their last song is so melodious: my search was fruitless. Apparently I was not, like Horace (Odes II:20), favoured by the Tyndarides, and they did not wish me to penetrate the secret of their birthplace.
Famous rivers meet the same fate as famous people: first unknown, then celebrated everywhere, they then fall back into their initial obscurity. The Eurotas; first called the Himera; now flows, forgotten, as the Iris; just as the Tiber, formerly the Albula, now bears the unknown waters of the Tevere to the sea. I examined the ruins of the Babyca Bridge, which are nothing much. I searched for the island called the Planes; I even believe I found it below Magoula: it is an area triangular in shape, one side of which is bathed by the Eurotas while the other two sides are enclosed by ditches full of rushes, where during the winter the river of Magoula flows, the former Cnacion. There are a few mulberry and sycamore trees on this island, but no plane-trees. I saw nothing that might have suggested that the Turks had once made this island a place of delight; however I did see a few flowers, including blue lilies borne by a species of gladiolus; I picked some in memory of Helen: beauty’s fragile wreath still exists on the banks of the Eurotas, though beauty itself has vanished.
The view enjoyed while walking along the Eurotas is very different from that seen from the summit of the citadel. The river follows a tortuous course, and hides itself, as I said, among reeds and oleanders as large as trees: on the left bank, the Menelaion Hills, of a barren reddish appearance, form a contrast with the verdant freshness of the Eurotas’s bed. On the right bank, Taygetus reveals its magnificent flank; all the space between its flank and the river is occupied by the hills and ruins of Sparta; these hills and ruins do not appear desolate when viewed from nearby: on the contrary, they seem tinged with purple, violet, and pale gold. They are not the meadows, or leaves of pure cold green, that rich landscapes exhibit, they are effects of the light: that is why the rocks and heather of the Bay of Naples are always more beautiful than the most fertile valleys of England and France.
Thus, after centuries of neglect, that river on whose banks Spartans wandered made famous by Plutarch, that river, I say, may have rejoiced in its oblivion to hear the steps of an obscure foreigner sound on its shores. It was on August the 18th, 1806, at nine in the morning, that I took this walk alone beside the Eurotas which will never fade from my memory. Though I hate the Spartan moral code, I cannot fail to understand the greatness of a free people, and I cannot tread that noble dust without emotion. A single fact attests to the glory of that people: when Nero visited Greece, he dared not venture to Sparta. What a wonderful tribute to that city!
I returned to the citadel, stopping at all the ruins I encountered on the way. Since Misitra was probably built from the ruins of Sparta, that fact will undoubtedly have contributed greatly to the deterioration of the monuments of that city. I found my companion in exactly the same place where I had left him: he was seated; he had slept; he had just woken up; he was smoking; he was about to sleep again. The horses were grazing peacefully in the home of King Menelaus: ‘Helen had not left her beautiful distaff wound with purple-dyed wool, to give them pure wheat in a manger.’ (An adaptation of Odyssey IV 120 et al.) Also, complete traveller that I am, I am still not the son of Odysseus, though I prefer, like Telemachus, my native cliffs to the most beautiful of foreign countries.
It was noon, and the sun darted its burning rays at our heads. We sat in the shade in a corner of the theatre, and we ate, with an appetite, the bread and dried figs we had brought from Misitra; Joseph had taken the remaining provisions. The Janissary rejoiced: he thought we were about to leave, and was preparing to depart, but soon saw, to his chagrin, that he was mistaken. I began to take notes, and make a sketch of the place: all this took two full hours, after which I wished to examine the monuments to the west of the citadel. It was on that side that the tomb of Leonidas ought to be located. The Janissary accompanied me pulling the horses by their bridles; we wandered from ruin to ruin. We were the only two living men in the midst of so many illustrious dead; both barbarians; strangers to one another as well as to Greece; from the forests of Gaul and the rocks of the Caucasus, we met in the depths of the Peloponnese, I to pass by, he to make a living from, the graves of those who were not our ancestors.
I questioned the smallest stones in vain, seeking the ashes of Leonidas. I yet experienced a moment’s hope; near that kind of tower I indicated to the west of the citadel, I saw remnants of sculpture that seemed to be those of a lion. We know from Herodotus (VII: 225) that there was a stone lion over the tomb of Leonidas, a circumstance which is not reported by Pausanias. I redoubled my ardour; all my efforts were in vain. (My memory deceived me here: the lion mentioned by Herodotus was at Thermopylae. The historian does not even claim the bones of Leonidas were transported to their homeland. He contends that, on the contrary, Xerxes ordered that the king’s headless body be fastened to a cross: VII:238. Thus, the remains of the lion that I saw at Sparta cannot indicate the tomb of Leonidas. Clearly I did not have a copy of Herodotus to hand in the ruins of Sparta; I only carried on my travels Racine, Tasso, Virgil and Homer, the latter with blank pages to write notes. It is therefore not very surprising that relying on my memory as my sole resource, I could mistake the lion’s location, but nevertheless I made a factual error. You will find two pleasant epigrams in the Greek Anthology on this stone lion of Thermopylae.) I am not sure if this was the place where the Abbé Fourmont discovered three curious monuments (more of Fourmont’s false claims). One was a little pillar on which was inscribed the name Jerusalem: it perhaps derived from that alliance of Jews and Spartans spoken of in Maccabees (see I Maccabees 12:1-23); the other two monuments were the sepulchral inscriptions of Lysander and Agesilaus: a Frenchman would naturally be the one to find the tombs of two great generals. I note that it is to my compatriots that Europe owes its first satisfactory notions regarding the ruins of Sparta and Athens (True, there are two letters concerning Athens in the collection of Martin Crusius, of 1584, but besides the fact that they say almost nothing of the city, they were written by native Greeks of the Morea, and therefore they are not the result of research of modern travellers. Spon also cites a manuscript in the Barberini Library in Rome, dating from two hundred years before his own travels, in which he found some drawings of Athens.) Deshayes (Louis Deshayes, Baron de Courmenin), sent by Louis XIII to Jerusalem, passed through Athens in about 1629: we have his travels, which were not known to Chandler (the Hellenist, Richard Chandler). Father Babin (Jacques-Paul Babin), a Jesuit, in 1672 gave us his account of The Present State of the City of Athens; this account was prefaced by Spon, before that honest and skilful traveller began his journey with Wheler (George Wheler). The Abbé Fourmont and Leroy shed the first certain light on Laconia, though in truth Vernon had passed through Sparta before them, but there is only a single letter of the Englishman’s: he contents himself with saying that he saw Sparta, and fails to enter into any detail. As for myself, I do not know if my investigations will endure; but at least I have joined my name to that of Sparta, which alone can save me from oblivion, I have, so to speak, re-discovered that immortal city, in giving hitherto unknown details of its ruins: a simple fisherman, by chance or by shipwreck, often determines the position of some reef that has escaped the notice of the most skilled pilots.
There were, at Sparta, a host of statues and altars dedicated to Sleep, Death and Beauty (Aphrodite-Morpho)(Pausanias III.15.10-11) deities to all men; and to armed Fear, apparently that which the Spartans inspired in their enemies: none of these remain, but I read on a sort of pedestal these four letters ΛΑΣΑ. Should we read ΓΕΛΑΣΜΑ Gelasma? Might this be the pedestal of the statue of Laughter that Lycurgus erected among those grave descendants of Hercules (Plutarch: Lycurgus, 25)? An altar of Laughter remaining alone in the midst of buried Sparta offers a gloriously triumphant subject for the philosophy of Democritus!
The day ended when I tore myself from these illustrious ruins, from the shade of Lycurgus, the memories of Thermopylae, and all the lies, the fables and the history. The sun disappeared behind the Taygetos, so that I saw it both begin and end its circuit of the ruins of Sparta. It was three thousand five hundred and forty-three years since it rose for the first time on that new-born city. I left, filled with the spirit of the objects I had seen, and submerged in inexhaustible reflection: such days allow us to endure many later misfortunes, and above all render us indifferent to the world’s fine show.
We ascended the course of the Eurotas for an hour and a half, crossed the fields, and stumbled on the road to Tripolitsa. Joseph and the guide were camped on the other side of the river, near the bridge: they had lit a fire of reeds, despite Apollo, whom the sighing of the reeds consoled for the loss of Daphne. Joseph was abundantly provisioned: he had salt, oil, watermelon, bread and meat. He prepared a leg of mutton, like the companion of Achilles, and served it to me on the corner of a large stone, with wine from Ulysses’ vineyard and water from the Eurotas. I possessed what was required in order to find the dinner excellent, that seasoning which the Tyrant Dionysius lacked if he were to appreciate the merits of black broth. (See Cicero: Tusculan Disputations XXXIV: the seasoning required was ‘fatigue from hunting; a sweat; a race on the banks of the Eurotas; hunger and thirst’.)
After supper, Joseph brought me my saddle, which usually served me as a pillow; I wrapped myself in my cloak, and lay down beside the Eurotas, under a laurel. The night was so pure and serene that the Milky Way reflected in the river’s water seemed like the dawn glow, by the light of which one could have read. I fell asleep with my eyes fixed on the heavens, with the beautiful constellation of Leda’s Swan (Cygnus: checked as correct for location, date and time: translator’s note) exactly overhead. I still recall the pleasure I used to feel in falling asleep, in that way, in the woods of America, and especially waking in the middle of the night. I would hear the sound of the wind in that solitude; the calls of fallow-deer, does and stags; the roar of some distant cataract, while my fire, half-extinguished, glowed red beneath the foliage. I even loved the voice of the Iroquois, when he raised a cry deep in the forest, and seemed to proclaim his boundless liberty, in the starlight, amidst the silence of nature. All that pleases the twenty year old, because life is sufficient, so to speak, in itself; and because in early youth there is something vague and unquiet that draws us constantly towards chimeras, ipsi sibi somnia fingunt: they create their own dreams? (Virgil: Eclogues VIII:108); but at a more mature age the mind turns to stronger tastes: above all it wants to feed on memories and examples from history. I would still, willingly, sleep beside the Eurotas or the Jordan if the heroic shades of the three hundred Spartans or the twelve sons of Jacob would visit my sleep, but I would not go to seek a New World which had never been turned by the ploughshare: Now I need ancient deserts, that may, at will, conjure up for me the walls of Babylon or the legions of Pharsalia, grandia ossa!: the bones of giants! (Virgil: Georgics I:497) fields whose furrows instruct me and where I find, human as I am, the blood, tears and sweat of mankind.
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 02 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p144, 1819)
Internet Archive Book Images
Joseph woke me on the 19th of August, at three in the morning, as I had ordered him: we saddled our horses, and departed. I turned my head round towards Sparta, and cast a last glance at the Eurotas: I could not avoid that feeling of sadness one feels in the presence of ancient ruins, and on leaving those places one will never see again.
The path leading from Laconia into the Argolid was in ancient times what it still is today, one of the roughest and wildest in Greece. We followed the Tripolitsa track for some time then, turning east, we plunged into the mountain gorges. We rode swiftly through ravines and under trees that forced us to lie prone on the necks of our horses. I knocked my head so hard against a branch of these trees, that I was thrown ten paces before I knew it. As my horse galloped on, my travelling companions, who were ahead of me, did not notice my fall: their cries, when they returned to me, roused me to my senses.
At four, we reached the summit of a mountain where we allowed our horses to rest. The cold was so intense we were obliged to kindle a fire of broom. I can not assign a name to this place little famous in antiquity: but we must have been close to the sources of the Loenus in the Mount Eva range, and not far from Prasiae on the Gulf of Argos.
We arrived at noon at a large village called Saint-Paul, fairly close to the sea: they spoke of nothing but a tragic event that they hastened to recount to us.
A girl of this village, having lost her father and mother, and finding herself mistress of a small fortune, was sent by her relatives to Constantinople. At eighteen she returned to her village: she spoke Turkish, Italian and French; and when foreigners passed through St. Paul, she received them with a civility which made her virtue seem suspect. The peasants’ leaders gathered. After reviewing the conduct of the orphan, they resolved to rid themselves of this girl who was a disgrace to the village. They first procured the sum allotted in Turkey to the murder of a Christian; then they entered the girl’s home during the night, beat her to death, and a man who was awaiting news of the execution went to carry the blood money to the Pasha. This caused outrage among all the Greeks of Saint-Paul, not at the atrocity of the deed, but the greed of the Pasha; for the latter, who also found the deed appropriate, and who acknowledged receiving the amount due for a commonplace murder, observed however that the beauty, youth, learning, and travels of the orphan, gave him (he being the Pasha of the Morea) legal right to compensation: in consequence of which His Lordship had sent, that day, two Janissaries to request a further contribution.
The village of Saint-Paul is pleasant; it is watered by fountains shaded by pine trees of the wild species, pinus sylvestris. We found one of the Italian doctors there, who travel all over the Morea: I had him bleed me. I drank excellent milk in a very clean dwelling, somewhat resembling a Swiss hut. A young Moraite came to sit before me: he looked, by his size and clothing, like Meleager. Greek peasants are not dressed like the Levantine Greeks we see in France: they wear a tunic which reaches to their knees which they tie with a belt; their wide trousers are hidden by the hem of this tunic, over their bare legs they cross strips of cloth to hold their sandals on; with close-cropped hair, they perfectly resemble ancient Greeks without the cloak.
My new companion, sitting, as I have said before me, watched my movements with great curiosity. He said not a word and devoured me with his eyes: he craned his head to look into the earthenware vase from which I drank my milk. I got up, he got up; I sat down again, he sat down. I presented him with a cigar; he was delighted and by a gesture invited me to smoke with him. When I left, he followed me for half an hour, still without speaking and without my knowing what he wanted. I gave him money, he threw it down: The Janissary wanted to chase him away; he wanted to beat the Janissary. I was touched, I do not know why; perhaps through seeing myself, I a civilized barbarian, appear an object of curiosity to a Greek become a barbarian (The Greeks of the mountains claim to be the true descendants of the Lacadaemonians, they say that the Maniots are simply a collection of foreign brigands, and they are right).
We left Saint-Paul at two in the afternoon, after changing horses, and followed the track to ancient Cynuria (Kynouria). At about four o’clock, the guide called to us that we were about to be attacked: indeed, we did see some armed men in the mountains; they watched us for a long time, and let us pass by calmly. We entered the Parthenius range, and descended beside a river whose course led us to the sea. We could make out the citadel of Argos, Nauplia (Nafplio), in front of us, and the mountains of Corinth near Mycenae. From the point we had reached, it was still a three hour ride to Argos: it was necessary to pass the head of the Gulf by crossing the marshes of Lerna, which stretched between the city and the place where we found ourselves. We passed an Agha’s garden, in which I noted Lombardy poplars mixed with cypresses, lemon, and orange-trees and a grove of trees I have not seen before except in Greece. Shortly afterwards the guide took the wrong path, and we found ourselves following narrow causeways that separated small ponds and flooded paddy-fields. Night overtook us in the midst of this difficulty: at each step it was necessary to leap wide ditches on horses frightened by the darkness, the croaking of frogs, and a host of violet flames that flickered over the marsh. The guide’s horse fell, and as we were riding in single file, we stumbled one after another into a ditch. We all cried out at once, without intending to; the water was deep enough for the horses to swim and drown themselves there without their masters; my wound reopened, and my head hurt a great deal. We emerged at last, miraculously, from this quagmire; but it was by then impossible to reach Argos. We saw a little light among the reeds: we turned towards it, dying of cold, covered with mud, dragging our horses by the bridle, and running the risk at every step of plunging again into some pothole.
The light guided us to a farmhouse in the middle of the swamp in the vicinity of the village of Lerna (near Mili): they had just brought in the harvest, and the reapers were lying on the ground: they rose from beneath our feet, and fled like wild beasts. We managed to reassure them, and we spent the rest of the night with them on a pile of sheep’s dung, the least dirty and humid place we could find. I would have had the right to pick a quarrel with Hercules, who had failed to finish off the Hydra of Lerna, since I picked up a fever in that unhealthy place which did not quit me totally till I reached Egypt.
On the 20th of August, at daybreak, I was in Argos: the village which has replaced that illustrious city is cleaner and livelier than most other villages in the Morea. Its position is very beautiful, at the head of the Gulf of Nauplia, or Argos, four and a half miles from the sea: on one side are the mountains of Cynuria and Arcadia and on the other the heights of Troezen and Epidaurus.
But whether my imagination was darkened by the memory of the misfortunes and fury of the Pelopides, or whether I was struck by what was really true, the land seemed an uncultivated desert, the mountains sombre and bare, a natural scene fruitful of great crimes and great virtues. I visited what are called the remains of the palace of Agamemnon, the ruins of the theatre, and a Roman aqueduct; I climbed the citadel; I wanted to view any stone that the hand of the king of kings had touched. Who can boast of enjoying a glory compared to those families sung by Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Racine? And yet when one sees, in that very place, how little remains of those families, one is profoundly astonished!
‘Palamide Napoli di Romania’
Travels to and from Constantinople in the years 1827 and 1828 - Charles Colville Frankland (p348, 1829)
The British Library
It is a long while since the ruins of Argos have corresponded to the greatness of its name. Chandler, in 1766 (Regarding this correction to the date, 1755 or 1756, in the original texts, see Chandler’s Travels in Greece, Chapter LV, Clarendon Press, 1776), found them just as I saw them; the Abbé Fourmont in 1729 (Not as in the text 1746), and Pellegrin (Le Sieur Pellegrin) in 1719 had no happier a visit. The Venetians above all contributed to the destruction of the city’s monuments, by employing the debris to build their castle of Palamidi (at Nafplio). In the time of Pausanias, there was a statue of Zeus, at Argos, remarkable because it had three eyes, and even more remarkable for another reason: Sthenelus brought it from Troy; it was said to be the statue at whose feet Priam was slain in his palace by the son of Achilles (Pausanias II.24.5):
Ingens ara fuit, juxtaque veterrima laurus,
Incumbens arae, atque umbra complexa Penates.
A large altar was there, with an ancient laurel nearby,
That leant on the altar, and clothed the household gods with shade.
(Virgil: Aeneid II: 513-514)
But Argos, which doubtless triumphed at showing within its walls the Penates that betrayed the House of Priam, Argos soon itself presented a fine example of the vicissitudes of fate. From the reign of Julian the Apostate, it was so deprived of its glory, it could not because of it poverty, contribute to the restoration and cost of the Isthmian Games. Julian pleaded its cause against the Corinthians: this plea is still extant among the works of the emperor (Epistle XXVIII). It is one of the most singular documents in the history of things and men. Finally Argos, home of the king of kings, having become in the Middle Ages part of the inheritance of a Venetian widow, was sold by the widow to the Republic of Venice for a life annuity of two hundred ducats, and a one-time payment of five hundred more. Coronelli documents the contract: Omnia vanitas!
I was welcomed to Argos by the Italian physician Avramiotti whom Monsieur Pouqueville saw in Nafplion, and on whose little girl, a victim of hydrocephalus, he had operated. Monsieur Avramiotti showed me a map of the Peloponnese which he had begun to draught, with Monsieur Fauvel, the modern names alongside the former names: it will be a valuable work, and could not be created except by those who have lived in the location for many years. Avramiotti had made his fortune, and had begun to sigh for Italy. There are two things that live more strongly in the heart of a man as he progresses through life, country and religion. We may have forgotten one or the other in our youth, but sooner or later they present themselves to us with all their charms, and wake deep in our hearts a love rightly owed to their beauty. So we talked of France and Italy in Argos, for the same reason that the Argive soldier who followed Aeneas remembered Argos as he lay dying in Italy (Antores, see Virgil: Aeneid X:78-82). There was barely a word about Agamemnon between us, though I was to see his tomb next day. We talked on the terrace of the house, which overlooked the Gulf of Argos: it was perhaps from the summit of this terrace that the poor old woman threw the tile that ended the glory and adventures of Pyrrhus (Plutarch: Pyrrhus: 34. 1-2.) Monsieur Avramiotti pointed out a promontory, across the water, and said: ‘It was there Clytemnestra positioned the slave, who was to signal the return of the Greek fleet,’ and added: ‘You are just come from Venice? I think I would do well to return to Venice.’
I left this exile in Greece; the following day at daybreak, and with new horses and a new guide I took the road to Corinth. I think Monsieur Avramiotti was not sorry to be rid of me: though he had received me with great politeness, it was easy to see that my visit had not occurred at an appropriate moment.
After a half-hour ride, we crossed the Inachus: the river-god was the father of Io, so greatly celebrated through Juno’s jealousy: before reaching the bed of the river, however one encounters, on leaving Argos, the Gate of Eileithyia (Goddess of Childbirth) and the altar of the Sun (Pausanias:II.18.3). Half a mile further, on the other side of the Inachus, we should have seen the Temple of Mysian Demeter (II.18.3), and beyond that the tomb of Thyestes, and the heroic monument of Perseus (II.18.1). We stopped at about the level at which these buildings existed at the time of Pausanias’s travels. We were leaving the plain of Argos, which is the subject of a very fine memoir by Monsieur Barbié du Bocage. Near our entry into the Corinthian mountains, we saw Nauplia behind us. The place we had arrived at was called Carvati (Krabata), and it is there that one must turn off the road to seek the ruins of Mycenae, a little to the right. Chandler missed them when returning from Argos. They are very well known today because of the excavations that Lord Elgin carried out there during his travels in Greece. Monsieur Fauvel has described them in his memoirs, and Monsieur Choiseul-Gouffier possesses drawings: the Abbé Fourmont has already described them, and Dumonceaux saw them. We crossed a heath: a narrow path led us to the ruins, which are roughly as they were at the time of Pausanias, since Mycenae was destroyed more than two thousand two hundred and eighty years ago. The Argives razed it to its foundations, jealous of the fame it had acquired by sending forty warriors to die with the Spartans at Thermopylae. We began by examining the tomb which has been named the Tomb of Agamemnon: it is a subterranean building, round in shape, which receives light through the dome, and is remarkable only for the simplicity of its architecture. You enter through a trench leading to the door of the tomb: the door was adorned with pilasters of a bluish marble, which is fairly common and quarried from the mountains nearby. It was Lord Elgin who opened up the monument, and cleared the earth which filled the interior. A little low door leads from the main chamber to a chamber of lesser extent. After examining it carefully, I believe that this latter room is simply an excavation made by workmen outside the tomb, since I noticed no walls. That leaves the use of the little door to be explained, which was perhaps just another entry to the tomb. Has this tomb always been concealed by earth, like the rotunda of the Catacombs in Alexandria? Or was it once, on the contrary, above ground, like the tomb of Cecilia Metella in Rome? Were there any external features, and if so of what order of architecture were they? All these are questions that remain to be answered. Nothing was found in the tomb, and it is not even sure whether it is the tomb of Agamemnon that Pausanias mentions (II.16.5). (The Spartans too boasted of possessing the ashes of Agamemnon.)
Leaving the monument, I crossed a barren valley; and on the opposite side of a hill I saw the ruins of Mycenae: I admired above all one of the gates of the city, consisting of huge masses of rock resting on the rocks of the hillside itself, with which they have the appearance of making a whole. Two lions of colossal form, carved on both sides of the door, are the only ornament: they are represented in relief, standing facing each other, like the lions which support the arms of our knights of old; they lack their heads. I have not seen, more imposing architecture, even in Egypt; and the wilderness in which it is found adds further to its weightiness: it is the sort of work that Strabo and Pausanias attribute to the Cyclops, and whose traces are found in Italy. Monsieur Petit-Radel (Louis-François Petit-Radel) would claim this architecture as preceding the invention of the architectural orders. For the rest, a naked child, a shepherd-boy it was, who showed me in this solitude the Tomb of Agamemnon and the ruins of Mycenae.
At the bottom of the door I mentioned is a spring, which could be, if you will, that below which Perseus found a mushroom, which gave its name to Mycenae; since mykes in Greek means a mushroom, or the cap of a sword-sheath: this tale is in Pausanias (II.16.3). In trying to regain the path to Corinth, I heard the ground echo beneath the feet of my horse. I dismounted, and discovered the roof of another tomb.
Pausanias counted five tombs at Mycenae, the Tomb of Atreus, that of Agamemnon, that of Eurymedon, that of Teledamos and Pelops, and that of Electra. He adds that Clytemnestra and Aegisthus were buried outside the walls (II.16.5): was it the tomb of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus that I had found? I have indicated the fact to Monsieur Fauvel, who ought to seek it on his first trip to Argos: a singular destiny which made me travel from Paris expressly to discover the ashes of Clytemnestra!
We continued our journey, to the left of Nemea: we arrived at an early hour at Corinth, over a kind of plain crossed by streams of water and divided by isolated mounds, like the Acro-Corinth (the ancient citadel of Corinth), into which it merges. We saw the latter long before reaching it, looking like an irregular mass of red granite, crowned with a line of crooked walls. Every traveller has described Corinth. Wheler and Spon visited the citadel, where they found the fountain of Pyrene; but Chandler did not ascend the Acro-Corinth, and Monsieur Fauvel tells us that the Turks no longer let anyone enter. Indeed, I could not even get permission to walk around it, despite the efforts my Janissary made regarding the matter. However, Pausanias in his Corinthia, and Plutarch in his Life of Aratus, acquaint us fully with the site and monuments of the Acro-Corinth.
We descended to a fairly clean caravanserai, located in the centre of the town, not far from the bazaar. The Janissary departed to find provisions; Joseph prepared dinner; and while they were occupied I wandered the area alone.
Corinth is located at the foot of the mountains, on a plain stretching to the Sea of Crissa, now the Gulf of Lepanto the one name in modern Greece that competes in beauty with the ancient ones. When the weather is clear, one discovers beyond that sea the summits of Helicon and Parnassus; but from the city itself one cannot view the Saronic Gulf itself; it is necessary to ascend the Acro-Corinth; then one can view not only the sea, but one’s gaze extends to the citadel of Athens, and as far as Capo Colonna (Cape Sounion): ‘It is’ says Spon, ‘one of the most beautiful views in the world.’ I can easily believe it; since even from the foot of the Acro-Corinth the view is enchanting. The houses of the villagers, quite large and well maintained, are spread in clusters over the plain, amongst mulberry, orange and cypress trees; the vines, which provide the country’s wealth, grant a fresh and fertile air to the country . They are neither hung in garlands on the trees as in Italy, nor trained low as in the neighbourhood of Paris. Each vine forms a stem of isolated verdure, round which the grapes hang in autumn like crystal droplets. The summits of Parnassus and Helicon, the Gulf of Lepanto, which resembles a beautiful canal, and Mount Oneion covered with myrtles, form the north and east horizon of the view, while the Acro-Corinth, and the mountains of Argolis and Sicyon rise to the south and west. As for the monuments of Corinth, they no longer exist. Monsieur Foucherot (Jacques Foucherot) discovered two Corinthian capitals among the ruins, the only reminder of the order invented in this city.
‘Tithorea, Mount Parnassos’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 02 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p163, 1819)
Internet Archive Book Images
Corinth, razed to the ground by Mummius, rebuilt by Julius Caesar and Hadrian, destroyed for a second time by Alaric, re-founded once more by the Venetians, was sacked for the third and final time by Mahomet II. Strabo saw it (29BC) shortly after its re-instatement, under Augustus. Pausanias admired it in the time of Hadrian (2nd century AD), and, according to the monuments he describes it was, at that time, a great city. It would have been interesting to know what it may have been like around 1173 AD when Benjamin of Tudela was a visitor, but that Spanish Jew gravely recounts that he arrived at Patras: ‘The city which Antipater, King of the Greeks, built.’ he says. ‘He was one of the four successors of Alexander.’ From there he travelled to Lepanto and Corinth: he found three hundred Jews in that city led by the venerable Rabbis Leon, Jacob and Hezekiah: and that was all that Benjamin sought there.
‘Sacred Well of Patra’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p155, 1819)
The British Library
Modern travellers have increased our awareness of what remains of Corinth after so many disasters: Spon and Wheler discovered the remains of a temple there, of great antiquity: the ruins consisted of eleven fluted columns without pedestals of the Doric order. Spon affirms that these columns were not four diameters more in height than the diameter of the foot of a column, which seems to mean that they were about five diameters tall. Chandler says that they were half the height they ought to have been to satisfy the correct proportions of the Doric order. Obviously Spon erred, if he derived the order by using the diameter of the base of the column, not the diameter of the middle. This monument, depicted by Leroy, is worthy of note, because it either proves that the Doric order did not initially have the proportions Pliny and Vitruvius subsequently assigned to them, or that the Tuscan order, which this temple seems to approximate to, did not originate in Italy. Spon believed this monument to be the temple of Ephesian Artemis, cited by Pausanias (II.2.5), and Chandler, Strabo’s Sisypheum (Geographica, VIII.6). I cannot say whether these columns still exist: I did not see them; but I have some confused recollection of them being toppled, and that the English removed the last fragments. (The columns were or still are near the harbour of Schoenus, but I did not descend to the sea.)
A maritime people, a king (Periander) who was a philosopher and who became a tyrant, a barbaric Roman (Mummius) who believed that one could replace the statues of Praxiteles as one could the breastplates of soldiers, all that fails to render Corinth of surpassing interest: but one has recourse to Jason, Medea, the spring of Pyrene, Pegasus, and the Isthmian games, instituted by Theseus, and sung by Pindar; that is to say, as ever, fable and poetry. I scarcely have time for Dionysius (Dionysius II) and Timoleon: the former cowardly enough to escape death, the other so unfortunate as to live (Plutarch: Timoleon). If I ever mounted a throne, I would only descend it in death; and I will never be ‘virtuous’ enough to kill my own brother: I care nothing therefore for those two men. I prefer that child who, during the siege of Corinth, caused Mummius himself to weep, by reciting Homer’s lines:
τρις μάκαρες Δαναοι και τετράκις, οϊ τότ᾽ όλοντο
Τροίη έν ευ ρείη χάριν Ἀτρεΐδησι φέροντες.
ως δη έγώ γ᾽ όφελον θανέειν και πότμον έπισπειν
ηματι τω ωότε μοι πλειστοι χαλκήρεα δουρα
Τρωες έπέρριψαν περι Πηλειωνι θανόντι.
τω κ᾽ έλαχον κτερέων, καί μευ κλέος ηγον Ἀχαιοί:
νυν δέ λευγαλέω θανάτω εϊμαρτο άλωναι.
‘Thrice blessed, four times blessed those Danaans who died long ago on Troy’s wide plain working the will of the sons of Atreus. I wish I had met my fate like them, and died on that day when the Trojan host hurled their bronze-tipped spears at me while we fought for the corpse of Achilles, son of Peleus. Then I would have had proper burial, and the Achaeans would have trumpeted my fame, but now I am destined to die a miserable death.’
(Homer: Odyssey V:306-312)
Behold whatever is true, natural, and full of pathos; and one will find there some great stroke of fate, strength of spirit, and the depths of humankind.
They still make vases at Corinth, but they are no longer those that Cicero asked so eagerly of his dear Atticus. It seems, moreover, that the Corinthians have lost the taste they had for foreigners: while I was examining a piece of marble in a vineyard, I was assailed by a hail of stones, apparently the descendants of Lais wish to maintain the honour of the proverb (‘Not every man may visit Corinth’, see Horace Epistles I.17.36).
When the Caesars rebuilt the walls of Corinth and the temples of the gods rose from their ruins more gloriously than ever before, an obscure worker built a monument silently that remained standing amid the ruins of Greece. This worker was a foreigner who said of himself: ‘Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.’ (2 Corinthians 11.25-27) That man, ignored by the great, scorned by the crowd, rejected as ‘the sweepings of world,’ only associating at first with two companions, Crispus and Gaius, and with the household of Stephanus: such were the unknown architects of an indestructible temple and the first Christians of Corinth. The traveller casts his eyes over the site of this famous city: he sees not a remnant of the pagan altars, but he sees a number of Christian chapels rising from the midst of the Greek houses. The Apostle can still give, from heaven, the sign of peace to his children, and say to them: ‘Paul, unto the Church of God which is at Corinth.’
It was nearly eight in the morning when we left Corinth on the 21st of August, after a fine night. Two roads run from Megara to Corinth: one crossesMount Gerania, today Palaeo-Vouni (the Old Mountain); the other follows the Saronic Gulf, beneath the Scyronian Rocks. The latter is the more interesting: it was the only one known to ancient travellers, who fail to mention the former: but the Turks no longer allow it to be used: they established a military post at the foot of Mount Oneion, almost in the middle of the Isthmus, in order to command both seas: the jurisdiction of the Morea ends there, and one cannot pass the outpost without showing an order expressly from the Pasha.
So obliged to take the only way left open to me, I had to renounce my search for the ruins of the temple of Isthmian Poseidon (Strabo: Geographica 8.6), which Chandler could not find, which Pocock, Wheler and Spon saw, and which still exists, according to the testimony of Monsieur Fauvel. For the same reason, I could not examine the traces of attempts at various times to cut through the Isthmus: the canal that was started near the harbour of Schoenus was, according to Monsieur Foucherot, thirty to forty feet deep and sixty wide. Today it would be easy to complete the work using gunpowder: it is barely five miles from coast to coast, measuring across the narrowest part of the tongue of land that separates the two seas.
A wall six miles long, now elevated, now eroded closes off the Isthmus at a place that was named Hexamillia (Examilia): that is where we began to ascend Mount Oneion. I often halted my horse, surrounded by pine trees, laurel and myrtle, to look back. I gazed sadly at the two seas, especially that which extended to the west and which seemed to tempt me with memories of France. The sea was so calm! The route was so short! In a few days I could see my friends once more! I returned my gaze to the Peloponnese, to Corinth, to the Isthmus, to the place where the Isthmian Games were celebrated: what a wilderness! What silence! Unfortunate country! Unhappy Greeks! Will France, lose her glory thus? Will she be thus devastated, and trampled, in the course of centuries?
The image of my country, that came suddenly to mingle with the sights before my eyes, touched me: I could no longer think without pain of the distance yet to be traversed before I saw my Penates again. I was like the friend in the fable, alarmed by a dream; and I would gladly have returned to my country, to address it thus:
Vous m’êtes en dormant un peu triste apparu;
J’ai craint qu’il ne fût vrai, je suis vite accouru.
Ce maudit songe en est la cause.
While I slept, you appeared, so sad, to me,
I feared it was true: I swiftly rushed to see.
A wretched dream: that was the cause.
(La Fontaine: Fables: Les Deux Amis: 21-23)
We plunged into the gorges of Mount Oneion, losing and finding in turns our view of the Saronic Gulf and Corinth. From the summit of the mountain, which is called Macriplaysi, we descended to Derveni, otherwise the outpost. I am not sure if that is where one should locate Crommyon; but certainly, I found the men there no more human than Pytiocamptes (Pine-cutter: a robber killed by Theseus.) I showed my order from the Pasha. The captain invited me to smoke a pipe and drink coffee in his barracks. He was a large man with a calm, apathetic face, unable to make a move on his mat without sighing, as if he was in pain: he examined my weapons, I pointed to his own, especially a long rifle that carried far, he said. The guards spotted a farmer climbing the mountain away from the track; they shouted to him to descend; he did not hear their voices. Then the captain rose with an effort, took up his rifle, aimed at the peasant among the fir-trees for some time, and fired his gun. The Turk returned, after this adventure, to his mat, as tranquil, as pleasant a man as before. The peasant descended to the guard-house, injured apparently, since he wept and showed a bloodstain. He was given fifty strokes of the cane as a cure.
I stood up abruptly, all the more sorry, because the desire to shine brightly before me had persuaded this executioner to fire at the peasant. Joseph would not translate what I was saying, and perhaps caution was necessary at that moment; but I paid little attention to caution.
I had my horse brought, and I left without waiting for the Janissary, who called after me in vain. He joined me with Joseph when I had already reached the rounded top of Mount Gerania. My indignation subsided gradually due to the effect of the places through which I was travelling. It seemed to me that in approaching Athens I was returning to civilization, and that even nature took on a less sad appearance. The Morea is almost entirely devoid of trees, though it is certainly more fertile than Attica. I was delighted to walk through a pine forest, between the trunks of which I could see the sea. The slopes which stretch from the shoreline to the foot of the mountain were covered with olive and carob trees; such sites are rare in Greece.
The first thing that struck me on arriving at Megara was a group of Albanian women, who, to be truthful, were not as lovely as Nausicaa and her companions: they were cheerfully washing clothes at a spring near which some formless remnants of an aqueduct could be seen. If this was the Fountain of the Sithnidian Nymphs and the aqueduct of Theagenes, Pausanias has over-praised them (Pausanias: I.40.1) The aqueducts I saw in Greece bear no resemblance to Roman aqueducts; they barely rise above the ground, and do not present that row of great arches that create so beautiful an effect in the landscape.
We descended to an Albanian house, where we were quite well lodged. It was not quite six in the evening; I went off, as usual, to wander among the ruins. Megara, which retains its name, and the port of Nisaea called Dodeca Ecclesiais (the Twelve Churches), without being celebrated in history, once possessed beautiful buildings. Greece, under the Roman Emperors, came to resemble Italy in the last century: it was Classic ground where every city was full of masterpieces. At Megara, the Twelve Olympian Gods from the hand of Praxiteles (Pausanias I.40.2), an Olympian Zeus begun by Theokosmos and Phidias (I.40.3), and the tombs of Alcmene (I.41.1), Iphigenia (I.43.1), and Tereus (I.41.8) were to be seen. It was on this latter tomb that a hoopoe (upupa epops) appeared for the first time: it was decided that Tereus had been changed into this bird, since his victims had been turned into the swallow and the nightingale. Since I was making a poetic journey, I was obliged to profit from it all, and firmly believe, with Pausanias, that the adventure of the daughter of Pandion (Philomela) began and ended at Megara. Besides, from Megara I could see both peaks of Parnassus: that was certainly enough for me to call to mind the lines from Virgil and La Fontaine:
Qualis populea moerens philomela sub umbra...
As the nightingale grieving in the poplar’s shadows…
(Virgil: Georgics IV:511)
Autrefois Progne, l’hirondelle…
Once Procne, the swallow…
(La Fontaine: Fables: Philomèle et Progné: 1)
Night or Darkness, and Conian Zeus (that is, of the dust, χονία: the reading is not quite certain, but I am using the French translation, which follows the Latin version faithfully, as the expert Pierre Henri Larcher correctly observes) had their temples at Megara (Pausanias I.40.5): one might well say that those two gods have remained there. One sees walls here and there: I do not know if they are those Apollo built in concert with Alcathous. The god, while active at that work, placed his lyre on a stone which since then makes a harmonious sound when touched with a pebble (I.42.1). The Abbé Fourmont gathered thirty inscriptions from Megara. Pocock, Spon, Wheler and Chandler found some others which are of minimal interest. I did not search for Euclid’s school; I would rather have seen the house of that pious woman who buried the bones of Phocion beneath her house (see Les Martyrs, BkIII.) After a fairly long walk, I returned to my host, where I was awaited so that I might see to a patient.
The Greeks, like the Turks, assume that all the French have knowledge of medicine and specific cures. The simplicity with which they address a stranger in their illness has something touching about it, and reminds one of ancient times: it is a noble reliance of man on man. The Indians in America display the same attitude. I think religion and humanity in this situation obliges the traveller to deliver what is expected of him: an air of confidence, words of comfort, can sometimes bring life to the dying and joy to a family.
A Greek had come to ask me to see his daughter. I found the poor creature stretched on the ground on a mat, and buried under the rags with which she had been covered. She freed her arm, with great reluctance and modesty, from the miserable rags, and fell back dying on the coverlet. She seemed to me to be suffering from a putrid fever: I disengaged from her head the small silver coins with which Albanian peasant women adorn their hair; the braids and the weight of metal concentrated heat over the brain. I carried camphor with me for the plague, and I shared it with the patient: she had been fed grapes, I approved the diet. Finally, we prayed to Christos and the Panagia (The Virgin), and I promised a speedy recovery. I was far from hopeful; I have seen so many die, I have too much experience on that subject.
On leaving I found the entire village gathered at the door; the women fell upon me, shouting: ‘Crasi, Crasi! Wine, Wine!’ They wanted to testify their gratitude to me by forcing me to drink: this rendered my role as a doctor rather ridiculous. But what matter, if I added one more person in Megara to those, in the various parts of the world where I have wandered, who may wish me a little good? It is a privilege of the traveller to leave behind him a host of memories, and to live often in the hearts of strangers longer than in the memory of his friends.
I returned to the caravanserai with difficulty. All night, in front of my eyes, I saw the image of the dying Albanian girl: it reminded me that Virgil, visiting Greece as I was, was halted at Megara by the disease of which he died; I myself was tormented by fever. Yet Megara had seen, a few years previously, a group of Frenchmen still more wretched than I pass through (the garrison of Zante: who surrendered to the Russians in 1798.). I longed to leave a place that seemed to me to possess about it something fatal.
But we did not leave our house the next day, the 22nd of August, until eleven in the morning. The Albanians who had welcomed me wished to regale me before I left with one of these chickens without tail or rump that Chandler thought peculiar to Megara, and which have been brought from Virginia, or perhaps some little district in Germany. My host attached great importance to these birds, about which he knew a thousand stories. I told him that I had travelled through the country where these birds were found, a far distant country, situated beyond the sea, and that in this country there were Greeks who had settled in the woods among the Indians. In fact, some Greeks, weary of the Turkish yoke, had migrated to Florida, where the fruits of freedom have caused them to forget their homeland. ‘Those who ate the honey-sweet lotus fruit no longer wished to bring back word to us, or sail for home. They wanted to stay with the Lotus-eaters, eating the lotus, forgetting all thoughts of return.’ (Odyssey: IX.94-97)
The Albanian understand nothing of that: his only response was to invite me to eat his chicken and some frutti di mare. I would have preferred the fish called glaucus (probably the grayling: thymallus thymallus found in marine, brackish and freshwater environments) which was once caught on the coast of Megara. Anaxandrides quoted by Athenaeus (Athenaeus in the Deipnosophists VII.46 quotes from Anaxandrides’ play ‘Nereus’, Antiphanes’ ‘Cyclops’ and Amphis’s ‘Seven Against Thebes’: all three were Attic comic poets) says that Nereus alone could conceive of eating the head of this excellent fish; Antiphanes wants it boiled, and Amphis serves it entire to those seven champions, who swearing over the black shield, terrified the heavens with appalling oaths. (See Aeschylus: Seven Against Thebes: lines 41-49)
The delay caused by my host’s hospitality, and still more by my lassitude, prevented us from arriving in Athens that day. Leaving Megara at eleven in the morning, as I said, we first crossed the plain; then we climbed Mount Kerato-Pyrgo (the Tower of the Horns), the Kerata (Horns) of antiquity: two isolated rocks form the summit, and on one of these rocks are the ruins of a tower which gave its name to the mountain. It is on the descending slope of Kerata-Pyrgo towards Eleusis, that one should place Cercyon’s wrestling-ground and the grave of Alope (Pausanias: I.39.3). No trace of them remains. We soon came to the Flower Well (I.39.1) in the depths of a cultivated valley. I was almost as tired as Demeter when she sat beside the well, after searching the whole world for Persephone. We stopped briefly in the valley, and then continued our journey. Advancing towards Eleusis, I failed to notice any of the multi-coloured anemones that Wheler saw in the fields, but then the season was over.
At about five o’clock we reached a plain surrounded by mountains to the north, west and east. A long straight arm of the sea bathes the plain to the south, and looks like the string to the mountains’ bow. The other side of this strait is bordered by the shores of a lofty island; the eastern extremity of the island is close to one of the promontories of the mainland: a narrow passage can be seen between the two points. I decided to halt at a village built on a hill, near the sea, at the western terminus of the circle of mountains that I mentioned.
In the plain, the remains of an aqueduct could be distinguished; and a host of ruins scattered in the midst of the stubble left from recent harvesting; we dismounted at the foot of the hill, and climbed to the nearest house: we were shown hospitality.
While I was at the door, advising Joseph about something, I witnessed the arrival of a Greek who greeted me in Italian. He immediately told me his story; he was from Athens; he was occupied in making tar from the pine-trees on the Geranian Mountains; he was a friend of Monsieur Fauvel, and I was sure to see Monsieur Fauvel. I replied that I was carrying letters for Monsieur Fauvel. I was delighted to meet this man, hoping to draw from him some information about the ruins surrounding me, and the sites among which I stood. I knew the identity of those sites, but an Athenian who knew Monsieur Fauvel would be an excellent guide. So I asked him to tell me a little about what I saw around me, and explain my location. He put his hand over his heart, in the Turkish manner, and bowed humbly: ‘I have often listened to Monsieur Fauvel’s explanation,’ he said, ‘though I myself am ignorant, and I do not know if this is quite correct. Firstly, to the east, above the hill, you can see the summit of a yellowish mountain: that is Telo-Vouni (greater Hymettus); the island on the other side of the strait is Koulouri: Monsieur Fauvel called it Salamis. Monsieur Fauvel says that in the strait opposite you, there was a great battle between the Greek and Persian fleets. The Greeks occupied the strait; and the Persians were on the far side, towards the Lion harbour (Piraeus): the king of the Persians, whose name I cannot remember, was seated on a throne at the end of the Cape. As for the village where we are now, Monsieur Fauvel calls it Eleusis, and the rest of us Lepsina. Monsieur Fauvel said there was a temple (the Temple of Demeter) below the house where we are standing: if you take a few steps, you can see the place where the damaged statue from the temple (that of Eleusinian Demeter) stood; the English have taken it.’ (The statue was appropriated by Edward Clarke in 1801, and is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England)
‘Colossal Lion at the N. E. Foot Hymettos’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p608, 1819)
The British Library
The Greek, departing in order to attend to his tar-making, left me gazing at a deserted shore, and a sea, where the only vessel to be seen was a fishing boat moored to the rings of a ruined pier.
Every modern traveller has visited Eleusis; all the inscriptions have been noted. The Abbé Fourmont alone copied twenty. We have a very learned dissertation by Monsieur de Sainte-Croix (Guillaume de Sainte-Croix) on the Temple of Eleusis and a plan of the sanctuary by Monsieur Foucherot. Warburton (Bishop William Warburton), Saint-Croix, and the Abbé Barthélemy, have said everything of interest regarding the mysteries of Demeter, and the last has described the external ceremonies. As for the mutilated statue, carried away by two travellers, Chandler takes it to be a statue of Persephone, and Spon a statue of Ceres (The caryatid, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, is probably a statue of a priestess). This colossal bust, according to Pococke (Richard Pococke), is five and a half feet from shoulder to shoulder, and the basket (probably a ritual cista) with which it is crowned is over two feet tall. Spon claims that the statue might be by Praxiteles: I am unsure upon what that opinion is founded. Pausanias, out of respect for the mysteries, does not describe the statue of Demeter (I.38.8); Strabo maintains the same silence. We read, in fact, in Pliny (36.23) that Praxiteles sculpted a marble Demeter and two bronze Persephones: the first, of which Pausanias also speaks (I.2.4), having been transported to Rome, cannot be the one seen for many years at Eleusis; the two bronze Persephones are irrelevant. Judging by the features of this statue that remain, it may simply portray a canephore (basket-carrier) (Guillet takes it to be a caryatid.) I rather think Monsieur Fauvel told me that this statue, despite its reputation, was of inferior workmanship.
I have nothing to tell then of Eleusis, following so many descriptions by others, except that I walked amidst the ruins, I went down to the harbour, and I stopped to contemplate the Strait of Salamis. The glory and the pomp had passed; the same silence possessed both land and sea: no more cheers, no more chanting, no more ceremonies on the shore, no more warlike cries, no more clashing of galleys, no more tumult on the waves. My imagination was scarcely adequate, now to conjure up the religious procession to Eleusis, now to clothe the shore with that innumerable army of Persians, spectators of the naval conflict at Salamis. Eleusis is, in my view, the most venerable site in Greece, because there the unity of God was taught, and because that place witnessed the greatest effort men have ever made on behalf of liberty.
Who would believe it! Salamis is now almost completely erased from the Greek memory. You have read what my Athenian said. ‘The Island of Salamis has not retained its name,’ Monsieur Fauvel says in his Memoirs; ‘it is forgotten with that of Themistocles.’ Spon recounts that he stayed at Salamis with the priest Ioannis, ‘a man’ he adds, ‘less ignorant than his parishioners, since he knew that the island was formerly named Salamis; and was told so by his father.’ This indifference the Greeks show concerning their homeland is as shameful as it is deplorable, not only are they unaware of their own history, but they virtually ignore (there are notable exceptions, everyone has heard of Adamantios Korais, Panagiotes Kodriakas, etc.) the ancient language which is their glory: we have seen an Englishman, urged by a holy zeal, who wished to settle in Athens to give lessons in ancient Greek.
Night alone drove me from the shore. The waves raised by the evening breeze broke on the strand and were dying at my feet, I walked a while beside the sea which bathed the tomb of Themistocles (at Piraeus, according to Pausanias I.1.2); in all probability, I was at that moment the only person in Greece thinking of this great man.
Joseph had bought a sheep for dinner; he knew that we would arrive next day at the French Consulate. Sparta, which he had seen, and Athens which he was about to see, held no interest for him; but filled with joy, as he was, at reaching the end of his tribulations, he regaled our host’s household. Women, children, husband, all were in motion; the Janissary alone remained calm amidst the general excitement, smoking his pipe and nodding his turban at all these efforts, which he hoped to profit from. There had not been such a feast at Eleusis since the extinction of the mysteries by Alaric. We sat to table, that is to say we sat on the ground around the meal; our hostess had baked bread that was not very good, but was soft and fresh from the oven. I would have gladly renewed the cry of Long Live Demeter! Χαϊρε Δημήτερ! This bread, which derived from the recent crop, showed the falseness of a prophecy reported by Chandler. At the time of his travels, it was said at Eleusis that if the mutilated statue of the goddess were ever removed, the plain would cease to be fertile. Demeter went off to England, and the fields of Eleusis have nevertheless been rendered fertile by the true Divinity, who calls all men to the knowledge of His mysteries, who is not afraid of being dethroned,
Qui donne aux fleurs leur aimable peinture;
Qui fait naître et mûrir les fruits;
Et leur dispense avec mesure
Et la chaleur des jours et la fraîcheur des nuits;
Who gives the flowers their pleasant hue;
Who nurtures and matures the fruit;
Dispenses them in measure too
With days of heat, and nights that cool.
(Adapted from: Racine: Athalie: Act I Scene IV lines13-16)
This good cheer and the peace that we enjoyed were all the more enjoyable to me since we owed them, so to speak, to French protection. Thirty to forty years before, all the coast of Greece, especially the harbours of Corinth, Megara and Eleusis had been infested with pirates. The good order established in our ports of the Levant had gradually destroyed this piracy; our frigates policed them, and Ottoman subjects breathed freely under the French flag. The recent revolutions in Europe have led at certain times to other variations in control; but the corsairs have not reappeared. So we drank to the renown of those arms that protected our feast at Eleusis, as the Athenians had Alcibiades to thank when he conducted the procession of Iacchus to the Sanctuary of Demeter in safety. (Plutarch: Alcibiades:34.3)
At last, the great day of our entry into Athens dawned. On the 23rd of August, at three in the morning we all mounted; we began to ride, in silence, along the Sacred Way: I can assure you that the most devout initiate of Demeter never experienced as lively a joy as mine. We had donned our best clothes for the feast; the Janissary had re-wound his turban, and, unusually, the horses had been curried and groomed. We crossed the bed of a torrent called Saranta-Potamo or the Forty Rivers, probably the Eleusinian Cephisus (Kephisos): we saw the ruins of some Christian churches: they must occupy the site of the tomb of Zarex whom Apollo himself instructed in the art of singing (Pausanias I.38.4). Further ruins announced to us the monuments of Eumolpus and Hippothoon (I.38.2 and 4); we found the Rheitoi or saltwater stream (I.38.1): it was there that, during the rites of Eleusis, the common people insulted passers-by in memory of the insults an old woman had once inflicted on Demeter. From there passing to the end or extreme point of the Strait of Salamis, we entered the gorge formed by Mount Parnes (Parnitha) and Mount Aegaleo (Egaleo), this part of the Sacred Way was called the mystic. We saw the Monastery of Daphni, built on the ruins of a Temple of Apollo, whose church is one of the oldest in Attica (11th Century, Byzantine). A little further on, we noticed the ruins of a Temple of Venus. Eventually the defile began to widen; we rounded the ‘Painted Mountain’ (Pausanias I.37.3) obstructing the road as if to hide the view; and suddenly saw the plain of Athens.
Travellers who visit the city of Cecrops usually arrive by the Piraeus or by road from Negropont (Chalcis, Chalkida). They thus lose part of the spectacle, since one only sees the citadel when approaching from the sea and Mount Anchesmos (Lykavittos? See Pausanias I.32.2 for the only classical mention) blocks the view if you come from Euboea. My star had led me on the true path to view Athens in all its glory.
The first thing that caught my eyes was the citadel lit by the rising sun: it was immediately in front of me, across the plain, and seemed to rest against Mount Hymettus, which formed the background of the picture. It presented, in a confused mass, the capitals of the Propylaea, the columns of the Parthenon and the Temple of Erechtheus, the embrasures of a wall filled with cannon, Christian Gothic ruins and Muslim hovels.
‘Athens, from Mount Hymettus’
Belgium, the Rhine, Italy, Greece, and the Shores and Islands of the Mediterranean - George Newenham Wright, Thomas Allom, Leicester Silk Buckingham (p149, 1851)
The British Library
Two small hills, Anchesmos, and the hill called the Museum, rose to north and south of the Acropolis. Between these two hills at the foot of the Acropolis, Athens revealed itself to me: flat roofs, interspersed with minarets and cypresses, ruins, and isolated columns; the domes of its mosques surmounted by large nests of storks formed a pleasant aspect in the sunlight. But though one could still recognize Athens from its ruins, one could also see from the overall architecture and the general character of the monuments, that the city of Athene was no longer inhabited by the same people.
A circuit of mountains, which terminates on the coast, forms the plain or the Athens basin. From the point where I first saw this plain near the ‘Painted’ Mountain, it appeared divided into three bands or regions, running in a parallel direction from north to south. The first of these regions, nearest to me, was barren heath-land; the second offered a ploughed terrain whose crops had just been harvested; the third consisted of a stretch of olive groves, which extended in a slight curve from the sources of the Ilissus, passing the foot of the Anchesmus towards the harbour of Phaleron. The Cephisus flows into these groves which, by their age, seem to be descended from the ancient olive tree that Athene caused to spring from the earth. The dry bed of the Ilissus is on the other side of Athens, between Mount Hymettus and the city. The plain is not perfectly smooth: a little chain of hills detached from Mount Hymettus rises from the level ground forming the different heights on which Athens gradually erected its monuments.
It is seldom during the first experience of a profoundly vivid emotion that one enjoys the deepest feeling. I approached Athens with a species of pleasure which deprived me of the power of reflection; and not because I felt anything like what I felt at the sight of Sparta. Sparta and Athens retain their differing character even in their ruins: those of the former are grave, sad and solitary; those of the latter are pleasant, bright, inhabited. At the sight of the home of Lycurgus, all thoughts become serious, masculine, profound; the soul, strengthened, seems elevated and broadened; in front of the city of Solon, one is enchanted by the marvels of genius; one experiences the idea of the perfection of man considered as an intelligent and immortal being. The higher sentiments of human nature acquire something elegant in Athens that they lacked at Sparta. The love of country and freedom for the Athenians was not a blind instinct, but an enlightened sentiment, founded on that taste for beauty in all its forms, that the sky had so liberally disposed; finally, in passing from the ruins of Sparta to those of Athens I felt that I would have wished to die alongside Leonidas, but live alongside Pericles.
We progressed towards this little city, whose territory extended fifty or sixty miles, whose population did not match that of a Paris suburb, and yet whose fame in the world equals that of the Roman Empire. My eyes fixed on the ruins I applied to them these verses of Lucretius:
Primae frugiparos fetus mortalibus aegris
Dididerunt quondam praeclaro nomine Athenae,
Et recreaverunt vitam legesque rogarunt;
Et primae dederunt solatia dulcia vitae.
Athens of illustrious name first gave
Fruitful harvests to weak humankind,
Enriched existence, laid down the laws;
And first granted life’s sweet consolations.
(Lucretius: De Rerum Natura: VI:1-4)
I know nothing that is more to the glory of the Greeks than those words of Cicero: ‘Remember, Quintus, that you command among the Greeks who civilized the nations, by teaching them sweetness and humanity, and to whom Rome owes the enlightenment it possesses.’ (This is a free paraphrase of part of Cicero’s letter, of December 60BC, to his brother Quintus: Ad Quintum Fratrem BookI:Letter I:IX.27). When one thinks of what Rome was at the time of Pompey and Caesar, and what Cicero himself was, one finds in these few words a fine eulogy. (Pliny the Younger wrote almost the same thing to Maximus, proconsul of Achaia. See letter XCV)
From the three bands or regions before us which divided the plain of Athens, we passed rapidly through the first two of these, the uncultivated and cultivated regions. One can no longer see on, this part of the road, the Monument of the Rhodian or the Tomb of the Courtesan (Pausanias I.37.4); but one does find the ruins of various churches. We entered the olive groves: before coming to Cephisus, there are two tombs and an altar of Placated Zeus (I.37.3). We soon made out the bed of the Cephisus between the trunks of the olive trees that border it like ancient willows: I dismounted to salute the river and to drink the water; I found just what I wanted in a hollow under the bank, the rest had been diverted higher up to water the olive groves. I have always enjoyed drinking from the famous rivers I have passed on my travels: thus I have drunk the waters of the Mississippi, Thames, Rhine, Po, Tiber, Eurotas, Cephisus, Hermus, Granicus, Jordan, Nile, Tagus and Ebro. Let men on the banks of these rivers say with the Israelites: Sedimus et flevimus! We sat down and wept (Vulgate: Psalm 137, Greek numbering 136)
I saw, some distance away on my left, the remains of the bridge Xenokles of Lindos (or Sphettos, see Antagoras: Palatine Anthology 9.147) built on the Cephisus. I re-mounted, and did not try to view the sacred fig tree, the altar of Zephyr (Pausanias I.37.2-3), or the column of Anthemokritos (I.36.3) since the modern road does not follow the old Sacred Way here. Leaving the olive grove, we found a garden surrounded by walls, which roughly occupies the area outside the Kerameikos. It took us half an hour to get to Athens, through wheat stubble. A modern wall newly-repaired and resembling a garden wall encloses the city. We entered the gate, and penetrated the small country lanes, fresh and quite clean: each house has a garden planted with orange and fig trees. The people seemed lively and curious, and lacked the downtrodden aspect of the Moraites. The Consul’s house was pointed out to us.
I could have addressed no one better than Monsieur Fauvel regarding what to see in Athens: it is known that he has lived in the city of Athene, for many years; he knows every last detail, much better than Parisians know Paris. He has produced excellent descriptions, to him are owed the most interesting findings regarding the site of Olympia, the plain of Marathon, the tomb of Themistocles at Piraeus, the Temple of Aphrodite in the Gardens (Pausanias I.19.3), etc. In charge of the Consulate at Athens, which is no more than a courtesy title as far as he is concerned, he has worked and still works, as a painter, on the Voyage pittoresque de la Grèce. The author of this fine work, Monsieur de Choiseul-Gouffier had been so good as to give me a letter to this talented individual, and I also brought the consul a letter from the Minister (Monsieur Talleyrand.)
Doubtless, no one expects me to give a complete description of Athens here: if one wishes to know the history of that city from the Romans down to our day, there are various accounts. If it is the monuments of ancient Athens one wishes to learn about, the current translation of Pausanias, flawed though it is, will satisfy a host of readers and the Voyage du jeune Anacharsis leaves little to be desired. As for the ruins of this famous city, the letters from the collection of Martin Crusius; Père Babin; Guilletiere, despite his falsehoods; Pococke; Spon; Wheler; and particularly Chandler and Monsieur Fauvel, have made them so perfectly known, that I would merely be repeating them. Is it plans, maps, views of Athens and its monuments one seeks? They are found everywhere: it is sufficient to recall the work of the Marquis de Nointel (Charles Marie François Olier), Leroy, Stuart (James ‘Athenian’ Stuart), and Pars (William Pars); and Choiseul, completing the work that so many misfortunes have interrupted, will serve to set all Athens before our eyes. The subject of the manners and government of modern Athens is also well covered in the authors I have mentioned, and as customs do not change in the East as they do in France, all that Chandler and Guys (Pierre-Augustin) have said of the modern Greeks is still completely accurate today (though the latter should be read with mistrust, and caution regarding his methods).
Without pretending to erudition at the expense of my predecessors, I will report my excursions around Athens and my sentiments, day by day and hour by hour, following the plan that I have followed heretofore. Again, this Itinerary should be regarded less as a travel book and more as a memoir of a year of my life.
I descended to Monsieur Fauvel’s courtyard and had the good fortune to find him at home: I gave him, at once, the letters from Choiseul and Monsieur de Talleyrand. Monsieur Fauvel knew my name, I could not say to him: son pittore anch’io: I too am a painter (supposedly Correggio’s exclamation on first viewing a painting by Raphael): but at least I was an amateur full of zeal, if not talent; I had so great a willingness to study the antique and do good work, I had come so far in order to produce such wretched drawings, that the master saw in me a docile pupil.
At first there were a host of questions on either side regarding Paris and Athens, which we gladly answered, but Paris was soon forgotten, and Athens completely predominated. Monsieur Fauvel, his love of the arts stirred by a disciple, was as eager to show me Athens as I was to see it: he advised me, however, to let the heat of the day abate.
Nothing in my host’s house indicated the Consul, but everything there announced the artist and the antiquary. What a pleasure to be housed in Athens in a room full of plaster casts of the Parthenon! Round the walls were hung views of the Temple of Theseus, plans of the Propylaea, maps of Attica and the plain of Marathon. There were pieces of marble on one table, medals on another, with small busts and terracotta vases. The venerable dust was swept away, to my great regret; a camp-bed was erected in the middle of all these wonders; and like a conscript arriving on the eve of a skirmish, I slept on the field of battle.
‘Great Tumulus in the Plain of Marathon’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 02 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p192, 1819)
Internet Archive Book Images
Monsieur Fauvel’s house possessed, like most of the houses in Athens, a courtyard at the front, and a small garden at the back. I toured all the windows to see something at least of the streets, but it was in vain. Yet one could see, between the roofs of the neighbouring houses, a small corner of the citadel; I stood glued to the window which looked in that direction, like a schoolboy whose break has not yet arrived. Monsieur Fauvel’s Janissary had taken charge of my Janissary and of Joseph, so that I no longer had to bother about them.
At two o’clock dinner was served, which consisted of lamb stew, and chicken, half in the French manner, half Turkish. The wine, a heavy red like our Rhone wines, was of good quality; but it seemed so bitter to me that I could not drink it. In almost all the regions of Greece they steep pinecones in the barrels, to some degree; this gives the wine a bitter and aromatic flavour to which one has some difficulty accustoming oneself. (Other travellers attribute this taste to the pitch they mix into the wine: this may be partly true, but they also infuse the wine with pinecones.) If this custom dates back to antiquity, as I presume it does, that would explain why the pinecone was sacred to Dionysus. They brought me honey from Mount Hymettus: I found it had a medicinal taste I disliked; the honey from Chamounix seems much preferable. I have eaten an even more agreeable honey, at Kirkagac, near Pergamum (Bergama) in Anatolia; it is as white as the cotton-flowers from which the bees collect the pollen, and it has the strength and consistency of marshmallow. My host laughed at the grimace I made on tasting the wine and honey of Attica; it was as he had expected. As something was needed in compensation, he pointed out the clothing of the woman who served us: it was the drapery of the ancient Greeks to perfection, especially in the horizontal and undulating folds that formed above the breast and met the perpendicular folds which marked the border of the tunic. The coarse cloth in which this woman was dressed also contributed to the likeness; since, judging by their sculpture, fabrics among the ancients were thicker than ours. It would be impossible, given the chiffons and silks of modern women, to produce the sweeping lines of antique drapery: the silks of Ceos (Kea, though Kos was more famous for its Coan silks), and the other gossamers, that the satirists called ‘clouds’, were never reproduced by the chisel.
During dinner, we received compliments from what in the Levant is termed the ‘nation’: this nation is composed of French merchants or the dependents of France living in the various Ports of Call. In Athens there are only one or two houses of this kind: they trade in oil. Monsieur Roque did me the honour of a visit: he had a family, and he invited me to visit, accompanied by Monsieur Fauvel, then he began to speak of Athenian society: ‘A foreigner settled for some time in Athens seemed to have felt or inspired a passion that was the talk of the town ... There was gossip about the House of Socrates, and chatter concerning the gardens of Phocion ... The Archbishop of Athens had not yet returned from Constantinople. No one knew if they would receive justice from the Pasha of Negropont (Chalcis), who threatened to exact a levy on Athens. To maintain a defence against sudden attack, the perimeter wall had been repaired; however everything was to be hoped for from the leader of the black eunuchs, the governor of Athens, who certainly had more credit with His Highness than the Pasha. (O Solon! O Themistocles! The leader of the black eunuchs as governor of Athens, and all the other cities of Greece envying the Athenians that emblem of happiness!) ‘….For the rest, Monsieur Fauvel had done well to drive out the Italian priest who inhabited the Lantern of Demosthenes (one of the most beautiful monuments in Athens), and give his place to a French Capuchin. The latter possessed good manners, was affable, intelligent, and received hospitably those foreigners who, according to custom, intended to visit the French monastery...’ Such was the gossip, and the subject of conversation in Athens: one can see that the world was continuing as usual, and a traveller who let it go to his head too much might be somewhat confused by meeting his village concerns on arriving in Tripods Street.
Two British travellers had just left Athens when I arrived: a Russian painter was still there, but lived quite alone. Athens is very popular with lovers of antiquity, because it is on the way to Constantinople, and easily reached by sea.
About four o’clock in the evening, the heat having abated, Monsieur Fauvel summoned his Janissary and mine, and we left preceded by our guards: my heart beat with joy, and I was ashamed at finding myself still so young. My guide pointed out to me, almost at his door, the remains of an ancient temple. From there we turned right, and we walked through heavily populated little streets. We went to the bazaar, well-stocked with fresh meat, game, herbs and fruit. Everyone saluted Monsieur Fauvel, and everyone wished to know who I was, but nobody could pronounce my name. It was as it was in ancient Athens: ‘Athenienses autem omnes,’ said St. Luke (Vulgate: Acts 17:21), ‘…ad nihil aliud vocabant nisi aut dicere aut audire aliquid novi: for all the Athenians…spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing’; as for the Turks, they cried: Fransouse! Effendi! and smoked their pipes: which was what they preferred to do. The Greeks, seeing us pass by, raised their arms above their heads and shouted ‘Kalos ilthete, archondes! Bate kala eis palaeo Athinam! Welcome, gentlemen! Enjoy the ruins of Athens!’ And they looked as proud as if they had told us: ‘You are going to see Phidias or Ictinus (the architect).’ I lacked eyes enough to look: I saw antiquities everywhere. Mr. Fauvel pointed out to me here and there pieces of sculpture that served for boundary stones, walls or pavements: he told me what the dimensions of these fragments were in feet, inches and fractions of an inch; what kind of buildings they belonged to; what could be deduced about them from Pausanias; what the opinions of the Abbé Barthélemey, Spon, Wheler, and Chandler were concerning them; to what extent these views seemed to him (Monsieur Fauvel) well or ill-founded. We stopped at every step, the Janissaries and the local children who led the way, stopped wherever they saw a moulding, a cornice, a capital; they tried to determine from Monsieur Fauvel’s face if it was good; when the Consul shook his head, they shook their heads, and went to stand four steps further on in front of another fragment. We were thus conducted out of the centre of the modern city, and reached the western parts which Monsieur Fauvel wanted me to visit first, in order that we might carry out our researches in an orderly manner.
On leaving the centre of modern Athens, and walking directly west, the houses became more separated then large open spaces appeared, some within the enclosing wall, and others outside this wall: it is in these vacant areas that the Temple of Theseus, the Pnyx and the Areopagus are found. I will not describe the first, which is well-known, and not unlike the Parthenon; I will include it in the general thoughts I will shortly permit myself to make regarding Greek architecture. This temple is, moreover, the best preserved of those in Athens; having long been a church dedicated to Saint George, it now serves as a warehouse. The Areopagus was built on an eminence to the west of the citadel. One can scarcely comprehend how a monument of such extent could be built on the rock on which the ruins appear. A small valley called in ancient Athens, Coele (the Hollow), separates the hill of the Areopagus from those of the Pnyx and the Citadel. In the Coele, are shown the tombs of the two Cimons, Thucydides and Herodotus. The Pnyx, where the Athenians first held their public meetings, is an esplanade built on a steep rock, at the back of Lycabettus. A wall made of huge stones supports this esplanade on the north side, on the south stands a podium carved into the rock itself, mounted by four steps also carved in the stone. I mention this, because previous travellers have not seen the Pnyx in this form. Lord Elgin has been clearing the hillside for a number of years, and it is to him that we owe the discovery of the steps. Since one is not quite at the top of the rock there, one can only glimpse the sea by climbing the rostrum: people were thus denied sight of Piraeus, so that factious speakers would not launch foolhardy enterprises, through realising Athen’s naval power. (Histories vary regarding the matter. According to another version, it was the tyrants who forced the orators to turn their back on Piraeus.)
The Athenians were ranked around the esplanade between the circular wall that I indicated to the north, and the rostrum to the south.
It was in this forum then that Pericles, Alcibiades, and Demosthenes made their voices heard; that Socrates and Phocion spoke to the most thoughtless yet most intelligent nation on earth! It was here then that so many injustices were committed, so many cruel and iniquitous decrees proclaimed! This was the place perhaps that saw Aristides banished, Melitus triumph, the entire population of a city condemned to death, an entire people subjected to slavery? Yet it was here also that great citizens shouted their generous speeches against the tyrants of their country; that justice triumphed; that the truth was heard. ‘They are a people, ‘said the delegates of Corinth to the Spartans, ‘a people who breathe only novelties; prompt to conceive, prompt to execute, whose daring exceeds their strength. Faced with danger, into which they will often plunge without reflection, they never lose hope; naturally restless, they seek to expand abroad; in victory they advance and follow up their victory; defeated, they are not discouraged. To the Athenians, their life is not something that belongs to them, so they sacrifice it readily for their country! They believe they have been deprived of their rightful property whenever they fail to obtain the object of their desires. They replace a failed plan with a fresh expectation: their projects are scarce conceived when they are already executed. Incessantly pre-occupied with the future, the present eludes them: a people that knows no rest, and cannot tolerate it in others.’ (An edited paraphrase of Thucydides: Peloponnesian War: I.70)
And what has become of that people? Where shall I find them? I, who was translating this passage amidst the ruins of Athens, gazed on Muslim minarets and heard Christian voices. It was in Jerusalem that I would find the answer to my questions, and I already knew in advance the words of the oracle: Dominus mortificat et vivificat; deducit ad inferos et reducit: the Lord killeth and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. (Vulgate: 1 Samuel 2:6)
The day was not yet at its end: we passed from the Pnyx to the Museum hill. We know that this hill is crowned by the tomb of Philopappus, a monument to bad taste, but it is the occupant here and not the tomb that deserves the attention of the traveller. This obscure Philopappus, whose tomb can be seen from so far away, lived under Trajan. Pausanias (I.25.6) does not deign to name him, and simply calls him a Syrian. It can be seen from the inscription on his statue that he was from Besa, a deme of Attica. Well, this Philopappus was named Antiochus Philopappus: he was a legitimate heir to the throne of Syria! Pompey brought to Athens the descendants of King Antiochus, and there they became ordinary citizens. I do not know whether the Athenians, the recipients of many gifts from Antiochus, sympathized with the troubles of his dethroned family; but it seems that Philopappus was at least designated Consul. Fortune, by making him a citizen of Athens and a Consul of Rome at a time when these two titles were worth nothing, seemed to wish to toy with this disinherited monarch further, to console him for a dream with a dream, and show, in a single person, that it mocks equally at the majesty of nations and of kings.
The monument to Philopappus served us as an observatory from which to contemplate further vanities. Monsieur Fauvel pointed out to me the various places through which the walls of the old city passed; he showed me the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus, at the foot of the citadel, the dry bed of the Ilissus, the sea without ships, and the deserted harbours of Phaleron, Munychia and Piraeus.
We then returned to Athens: it was night; the Consul sent a message to the commander of the Citadel saying we would ascend the next morning, before sunrise. I bade good night to my host, and I retired to my apartment. Overcome with fatigue, I had been in a deep sleep for some time, when I was awakened suddenly by Turkish bagpipes and tambourines whose discordant sounds came from the heights of the Propylaea. At the same time a Turkish priest began to sing the hour in Arabic to Christians in the city of Athene. I can scarcely describe what I felt: the imam had no need to mark the flight of the years on my behalf; his voice alone, in that place, was sufficient to announce that centuries had passed.
This changeability in human affairs is all the more striking because it contrasts with the immobility of the rest of nature. As if to mock the instability of human society, wild animals experience no alteration in their empires or change of habits. I saw, when we were on the Hill of the Museum, storks forming their battalion and taking flight for Africa. (See, for a description of Athens in general, most of the XV book of Les Martyrs, and the notes.) For two thousand years they had made the same journey, and were as free and happy in the city of Solon as they are in the city of the commander of the black eunuchs. From the heights of their nests, that revolution cannot reach, they have witnessed the race of mortals altering beneath them: while impious generations were raised over the graves of religious generations, the young stork has always supported his aged father (see Aristophanes: Birds: 1355). Let me halt these reflections by saying that the stork is beloved by travellers; she, like them ‘in the heavens knoweth her appointed times’ (Jeremiah 8:7). These birds were often the companions of my travels in the wilds of America; I often saw them perched on the Indian wigwams; finding them in a different kind of wilderness, the ruins of the Parthenon, I could not help but talk a little of my old friends.
On the next day, the 24th of August, at half past four in the morning, we ascended the citadel: its summit is surrounded by walls, part ancient, part modern; while other ancient walls encircle its base. In the space enclosed by these walls are firstly the remains of the Propylaea and the ruins of the Temple of Victory (The Temple of Victory formed the right wing of the Propylaea. Pausanias I.22.4) Behind the Propylaea, on the left towards the city, one then sees the Pandroseum and the double temple of Poseidon-Erechtheus and Athene-Polias; finally, on the most prominent point of the Acropolis stands the temple of Athene; the rest of the space is obstructed by the rubble of old and new buildings, and by the tents, barracks and weapons of the Turks.
‘Athens - North Side of the Acropolis from the Foot of the Areiopagos’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p422, 1819)
The British Library
The rock of the citadel at the summit is perhaps eight hundred feet long by four hundred wide; its shape is roughly that of an oval whose ellipse takes in the flank of Mount Hymettus: one might call it a pedestal cut on purpose to bear the magnificent buildings which crown it.
I will not enter into a specific description of each monument: I refer the reader to the works that I have so often mentioned, and without repeating what one can find elsewhere, I will content myself with some general observations.
The first thing that strikes you regarding the monuments of Athens is their beautiful colour. In our climate, in an atmosphere full of smoke and rain, stone of the purest white soon becomes black or greenish. The clear sky and bright sun of Greece merely grant the marble of Paros and Pentelicos a golden hue similar to that of ripe ears of corn or autumn leaves.
Their rightness, simplicity and harmony of proportion then attract your admiration. Here is no order after order; column after column; dome after dome. The Temple of Athene, for example, is or rather was a simple elongated parallelogram, adorned with a peristyle, a pronaos or portico, and raised on three steps or levels all round. The pronaos occupied almost a third of the total length of the building; the interior of the temple was divided into two aisles separated by a wall, only receiving daylight through the doorway; in one aisle a statue of Athene was once to be seen, the work of Phidias; in the other, was the Athenian treasury. The columns of the peristyle and portico rested directly on the steps of the temple, they were without bases, fluted, and of the Doric order; they were forty-two feet tall and seventeen and a half feet in diameter near the ground; the space between the columns was seven feet four inches; and the monument was two hundred and eighteen feet long and ninety-eight and a half feet wide.
Triglyphs of the Doric order marked the frieze on the peristyle; metopes or small moveable marble tablets between them separated the triglyphs. Phidias or his pupils had carved the battle of the Centaurs and Lapiths on these metopes. The top of the main wall of the temple, or the frieze of the cella, was decorated with a bas-relief perhaps representing the Panathenaic festival. Excellent pieces of sculpture, but of the century of Hadrian, an epoch of renewal in the art, occupied the two pediments of the temple. (I cannot persuade myself that Phidias left the two pediments of the temple bare, while decorating the two friezes with such care. If the emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina are represented on one of the pediments, they may have been introduced in place of two other figures, or perhaps, as often happened, they merely changed the heads of the statues. Besides, this was not an unworthy flattery on the part of the Athenians: Hadrian deserved the honour as a benefactor of Athens and a restorer of the arts.) Votive offerings, and shields taken from the enemy in the course of the Median war, hung outside the building: one can still see the circular marks that the latter imprinted on the architrave of the pediment facing Mount Hymettus. This is what led Monsieur Fauvel to presume that the temple entrance could well have been oriented in that direction, contrary to general opinion, which places the entry at the opposite end. (The idea is ingenious, but the evidence is not very solid: besides a thousand other reasons might have led the Athenians to suspend the shields on the Hymettus side, perhaps they did not want to spoil the wonderful facade of the temple, by loading it with foreign ornamentation.) Between these shields, inscriptions were mounted: they were probably made of bronze, judging by the marks of the nails that attached the letters. Monsieur Fauvel thought that these nails might have been used to hold wreathes; but I swayed him to my opinion, by pointing out to him the regular arrangement of the holes. Similar marks were sufficient to restore and decipher the inscription on the Maison Carrée at Nîmes. I am convinced that, if the Turks would permit, one could also manage to decipher the inscriptions on the Parthenon.
Such is the temple that has rightly been taken as the greatest masterpiece of architecture among both ancients and moderns; the harmony and strength of all its sections are still visible in its ruins; for one would acquire a very false idea of it if one were merely to imagine it as a fine building, but rather small, and festooned with carving in our manner. There is always something slender in our architecture, when we aim at elegance; or heavy, when we pretend to majesty. See how calculated the whole Parthenon is! The order is Doric, and the limited height of the columns of that order instantly communicates the concept of strength and solidity; but the columns, which are moreover without a base, would be too heavy: Ictinus has recourse to his art: he makes the columns fluted, and heightens them by degrees: by this means he almost brings the lightness of the Corinthian to Doric gravity. For sole ornament you have two gables and two carved friezes. The frieze of the peristyle consists of small marble tablets regularly divided by triglyphs: in truth, each of these tablets is a masterpiece, the frieze of the cella stretches in a band along the top of a solid unified wall: that is all, absolutely all. How far we are from this wise economy of ornamentation, this blend of simplicity, strength and grace, in our profusion of indentations; square, long, round, or lozenge-shaped; our frail columns, raised on huge bases, or our vile cramped porches we call porticoes!
We should not conceal from ourselves the fact that architecture considered as an art is in its principles predominantly religious: it was invented for the worship of the Deity. The Greeks, who had a multitude of gods, were led to invent different styles of building, according to the ideas they attached to the differing powers of their gods. Vitruvius even devotes two chapters to this beautiful subject, and teaches us how one ought to construct temples and shrines of Minerva, Hercules, Ceres, etc. We, who adore the sole Lord of nature, also possess, strictly speaking, a single natural architecture, Gothic architecture. One senses immediately that this style is ours, it is original, and was born, so to speak with our altars. With regard to Greek architecture, we are only more or less ingenious imitators (Under the Valois, a charming blend of Greek and Gothic architecture was created, but it lasted only a moment), impersonators of work whose principles we denature, by transporting into the dwellings of men ornamentation fitted only for the house of the gods.
Besides their general harmony, their relationship with place and situation, and especially their appropriateness for the uses to which they were destined, what should be admired in the buildings of Greece is the degree of finish throughout. Objects not made to be seen are executed with the same care as the external composition. The jointure of the blocks that form the columns of the temple of Athene is such that the greatest attention is required to discover it, and it has not the thickness of the finest thread. To achieve that rare perfection, the marble was first cut perfectly straight with the chisel; then they would roll the two pieces round on top of one another, adding a grinding agent of sand and water between them. Their alignment, through this process, achieved an incredible straightness: the straightness in the vertical trunk of these columns was achieved by a square pivot of olive wood. I have seen one of these pivots in the hands of Monsieur Fauvel.
‘Inside View of the Parthenon’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p394, 1819)
The British Library
Rosettes, plinths, mouldings, astragals, all the details of the building, offer the same perfection; the lines of the capitals and the grooves of the columns of the Parthenon are so fine that one is tempted to believe that the entire column was turned on a lathe; carved ivory could not be more delicate than the Ionic ornamentation of the temple of Erechtheus: the caryatids of the Pandroseum are paragons. Finally, if after seeing the monuments of Rome, those of France seemed coarse to me, the monuments of Rome in turn seem barbaric now I have seen those of Greece: I would even include the Pantheon, with its disproportionate pediment. The comparison can be made easily in Athens, where Greek architecture is often placed in close proximity to the Roman.
‘West End of the Pandrosion’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p415, 1819)
The British Library
I fell moreover into a common error regarding the Greek monuments: I thought them perfect en masse, but I considered they lacked grandeur. I was brought to realise that the genius of their architects had given grandeur to the monuments in proportion to whatever lack of size they might possess; and besides Athens is filled with prodigious works. The Athenians, lacking great riches, lacking great numbers, moved gigantic masses: the stones of the Pnyx are veritable extents of rock, the Propylaea demanded vast labour, and the marble slabs that covered them were of a size the like of which has never been seen; the height of the columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus may surpass sixty feet, and the entire temple was half a mile in extent: the walls of Athens, including those comprising the three harbours and the long walls, covered a distance of nearly twenty-three miles (two hundred stadia, according to Dio Chrysostom); the walls that joined the city to Piraeus were wide enough for two chariots to pass, and every fifty paces they were flanked by square towers. The Romans never raised higher fortifications.
By what fatality have such masterpieces of antiquity, which modern travellers will journey so far and with so many hardships to admire, owed their destruction in part to modern times? (We know how the Colosseum in Rome has been damaged, and we also know the Italian pun on ‘Barberini’ and ‘barbarians’. Some historians suspect that the Knights of Rhodes destroyed the famous Mausoleum of Halicarnassus; that was, it is true, in order to defend Rhodes and fortify the island against the Turks; but though that is some sort of excuse for the knights’ actions, the destruction of that wonder is no less unfortunate for us.) The Parthenon survived in its entirety until 1687: the Christians first converted it into a church; and the Turks, through jealousy of the Christians, changed it, in turn, into a mosque. The Venetians came in the midst of seventeenth-century enlightenment, to bombard the monuments of Pericles; they fired red-hot cannon balls into the Propylaea and the Temple of Athene; an incendiary fell on the latter building, shattered the arch, set fire to barrels of gunpowder, and blew up part of a building that honoured less the false gods of the Greeks and more the genius of man. (The invention of firearms has been a fatal thing for the arts. If the barbarians had discovered gunpowder, not one Greek or Roman building would remain on the surface of the earth; they would have blown up the pyramids, if it had only been in search of treasures. A year of our warfare destroys more monuments than a century of fighting among the ancients. It seems that everything opposes perfection of the arts among the moderns: our nations, manners, customs, dress and even our inventions.) The city having been taken (in 1687), Morosini (Doge Francesco Morosini) whose intention was to beautify Venice with the ruins of Athens, wished to remove the sculptures from the pediment of the Parthenon, and break them up. Another modern has just completed, for love of the arts, the destruction that the Venetians began. (They established a battery of six guns and four mortars on the Pnyx. One cannot conceive how at such close range they failed to destroy all the buildings of the citadel. See Francesco Fanelli, Atene Attica).
I have had occasion to speak of Lord Elgin a number of times in this Itinerary: we owe to him, as I have said, a more perfect knowledge of the Pnyx and the tomb of Agamemnon; he still maintains an Italian, in Greece, in charge of conducting excavations, who discovered, while I was in Athens, various antiquities which I have not seen. (They were discovered in a tomb: I believe that this tomb was that of a child. Among other interesting things, they found pieces of a previously unknown game, whose main item was, as far as I recall, a ball or globe of polished metal. I do not know if there is any evidence of this game in Athens. The state of war existing between France and England prevented Monsieur Fauvel contacting Lord Elgin’s agent for me; so that I failed to see this ancient toy which consoled an Athenian child in the grave.) But Lord Elgin has lost the merit of his laudable undertakings by ravaging the Parthenon. He wished the bas-reliefs of the frieze removed: to achieve this, Turkish labourers first shattered the architrave and threw the capitals down, and then, instead of sliding the metopes out, these barbarians found it quicker to shatter the cornice. In the Temple of Erechtheus, they have removed the corner column; so that the whole entablature has now to be supported by a pile of stones, threatening it with ruin.
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p403, 1819)
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Englishmen, who have visited Athens since Lord Elgin’s time there, have themselves deplored the disastrous effects of such thoughtless love of the arts. It is claimed that Lord Elgin excused himself by saying that he was merely imitating us. It is true that the French have taken statues and paintings to Italy; but they have not mutilated temples to appropriate the bas-reliefs; they have simply followed the example of the Romans, who despoiled Greece of masterworks of painting and sculpture. The monuments of Athens, torn from the locations for which they were created, will not only lose their beauty in a relative sense, but they will be materially diminished. Only light reveals the delicacy of certain lines and colours: now, this light is lacking beneath English skies, these lines and colours will vanish, or remain hidden. However, I will confess that though the interests of France, the glory of our country and a thousand other reasons might justify the transplantation of monuments conquered by our arms, the arts themselves, being of the party of the defeated, and among the captives, may well possess the right to grieve.
We spent the whole morning visiting the citadel. The Turks had formerly built the minaret of a mosque next to the portico of the Parthenon. We climbed the half-ruined stair of the minaret, sat on a broken part of the frieze of the temple, and cast our eyes around us. We had Mount Hymettus to the east; Pentelicus to the north; Parnes to the north-west; Mount Icarius and Mount Cordyalus, or Aegaleo, to the west, while above the former one saw the summit of Cithaeron; to the south-west and to the south the sea was visible; the Piraeus; the shores of Salamis, Aegina, and Epidaurus; and the citadel of Corinth.
‘The Old Port and Temple of Aegina’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p653, 1819)
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Below us, in the basin whose circumference I have just described, could be seen the hills and most of the monuments of Athens; to the south-west, the hill of the Museum with the tomb of Philopappus; to the west, the rocks of the Areopagus, of the Pnyx and of Lycabettus; to the north, the little mountain of Anchesmus; and to the east the hills that overlook the Stadium. At the foot of the citadel, we saw the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. To the left of these ruins were the great isolated columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus; further away, turning towards the north-east, we saw the walls of the Lyceum, the course of the Ilissus, the Stadium, and a Temple of Artemis or Demeter. In the west and north-west towards the groves of olive trees, Monsieur Fauvel pointed out to me the site of the external Ceremaicos (Kerameikos), the Academy, and the path lined with tombs. Finally, in the valley formed by the Anchesmus and the citadel, we could see the modern city.
You must now conceive of a landscape, sometimes naked and covered with yellow heath, sometimes occupied by clumps of olive trees, by patches of barley, by the furrows of vineyards; you must imagine trunks of columns, and stumps of ruins, ancient and modern, emerging from amidst these cultivated areas; the whitewashed walls and fences of gardens traversing the fields: you must populate the countryside with Albanians drawing water, or washing the clothes of the Turks, beside the wells; peasants coming and going, driving donkeys, or carrying produce to the city on their backs; you must imagine all those mountains whose names are so beautiful, all those ruins so celebrated, all those islands, all those seas no less famous, lit by a brilliant light. I saw, from the top of the Acropolis, the sun rising between the twin summits of Mount Hymettus; the crows that nest all around the citadel, but never fly across its summit, hovered below us, their wings black and glossy were iced with pink by the first reflections of dawn; columns of smoke ascended blue and slender among the shadows along the flanks of Hymettus, proclaiming the territories and hives of its bees; Athens, the Acropolis, and the ruins of the Parthenon were coloured with the most beautiful hues of flowering peach; the sculptures of Phidias, struck horizontally by the golden rays, were vivified, and seemed to move as the shadows flickered, in relief; far off the sea and Piraeus were all white with light; and the citadel of Corinth, reflecting the brightness of the new day, shone on the western horizon like a fiery purple rock.
From the place where we stood, we might have seen, in the great days of Athens, the ships leaving Piraeus to encounter the enemy, or sailing to the festivals at Delos; we might have listened to the woes of Oedipus, Philoctetes or Hecuba sounding from the Theatre of Dionysus; we might have heard the citizens applauding the speeches of Demosthenes. But, alas, no sound struck our ears! A few sparse cries escaped from the populace of slaves exiting at intervals from those walls, that echoed for so long to the voices of a free people. I said, to console myself, what one must ever say: Everything passes, everything ends in this world. Where were they fled, those divine spirits who erected the temple on whose ruins I was seated? That sun, which may have lit the last sighs of the poor girl from Megara (Simaetha?), witnessed the death of the brilliant Aspasia. This tableau of Attica, this spectacle I contemplated, had been contemplated by eyes closed for two thousand years. I will depart in turn; the same reflections on the same ruins will be made by other men as transient as I. Our lives and our hearts are in the hands of God: let Him then dispose of the one as the other.
I took, in descending the citadel, a piece of marble from the Parthenon; I also collected a fragment of stone from the tomb of Agamemnon; and since then I have always stolen something from the monuments I passed. Mine are not such beautiful souvenirs of travel as those carried off by Choiseul and Lord Elgin, but they are sufficient for me. I am also careful to preserve the small tokens of friendship I receive from my hosts, including a case made of bone that Père Munoz gave me at Jaffa. When I see these trifles, I immediately recall my journeys and my adventures. I say to myself: ‘I was there, such and such a thing happened to me.’ Odysseus returned home with large chests full of rich gifts the Phaeacians had made him; I came back with a dozen pieces of stone from Sparta Athens, Argos, and Corinth, three or four small terracotta heads that I had from Monsieur Fauvel, various rosaries, a bottle of water from the Jordan, another from the Dead Sea, some reeds from the Nile, a piece of marble from Carthage, and a model, in plaster, of the Alhambra. I spent fifty thousand francs along the way, and left behind as presents my linen and my weapons. If my journey had lasted any longer, I would have returned on foot, with a white stick. Unfortunately, I would not have found on my arrival a good brother who would have said, like the old man in the Thousand and One Nights: ‘Brother: here are a thousand sequins: buy camels, and journey no more.’ (Adapted from the Story of the Second Old Man, and of the Two Black Dogs)
We dined on leaving the citadel, and the same evening took ourselves to the Stadium, on the far side of the Ilissus. This Stadium retains its original shape; one can no longer see the marble steps with which Herodes Atticus adorned it (Pausanias I.19.7). As for the Ilissus, it is devoid of water. Chandler departs on this occasion from his customary moderation, and protests at the poets who give the Ilissus a limpid wave, and border its course with bushy willows. Behind his ill-humour, one sees that he wishes to attack a drawing of Leroy’s which represents a view of the Ilissus. I am like Dr. Chandler: I hate descriptions lacking truth; and when a stream is devoid of water, I wish to be told so. You will see that I have not exaggerated regarding the banks of the Jordan, and transformed that river into a great flood. However, there I might have been expected to support a lie. All travellers, and Scripture itself, justify the most grandiose description of it. But Chandler has taken his ill-humour too far. Here is a curious fact that I got from Mr. Fauvel: if one digs in the bed of the Ilissus one finds water at a very shallow depth: this is so well known to the Albanian peasants, that they make a hole in the bed of the gorge whenever they want to wash clothing, and immediately strike water. It is very likely therefore that the bed of the Ilissus has gradually been filled with stones and gravel washed down from the nearby mountains, and the water flows at present between two layers of sand. That is sufficient to excuse those poor poets who have met the fate of Cassandra; they sing the truth in vain, nobody believes them; if they had been content to speak it, they might have been more fortunate. They are supported here, also, by the witness of history, which attests to the waters of the Ilissus: why was there a bridge over the Ilissus if it never held water even in winter? America spoiled me a little with its host of rivers, but I could not help trying to defend the honour of that Ilissus, which gave a name to the Muses (Ilissiades: they had an altar at the edge of the Ilissus) and from whose banks Boreas abducted Oreithyia (Pausanias I.19.6)
On returning from the Ilissus, Monsieur Fauvel took me over broken ground, where one must seek the site of the Lyceum. Then we came to some large isolated columns, located in the area of the city known as New Athens, or the Athens of the Emperor Hadrian. Spon considered these columns to be the remains of the portico of the hundred and twenty columns (Pausanias I.18.9), and Chandler assumed they belonged to the temple of Olympian Zeus. Monsieur Lechevalier and other travellers have spoken of it. These columns are well represented in the various views of Athens, and especially in the work of Stuart, who recreated the entire building from the ruins. On a portion of the architrave which surmounts two of these columns, there is a hovel, once the dwelling place of a hermit. It is impossible to understand how this hovel could have been built on the capitals of these prodigious columns, whose height may be more than sixty feet. Thus that vast temple, that the Athenians laboured over for seven centuries, that all the kings of Asia wanted to finish, that Hadrian, master of the world, had the glory of completing; that temple has succumbed to the efforts of time, and the cell of a hermit remains perched on its ruins! A wretched mud hut is supported in the air by two columns of marble, as if fortune had wanted to expose to all eyes, on this beautiful pedestal, a monument to its triumphs and caprices.
These columns, though much higher than those of the Parthenon, are far from possessing beauty: the degeneration of the art makes itself apparent, but since they are isolated and scattered on bare ground, they have a surprising effect. I stopped at their feet to hear the wind whistling round their heads: they resemble those solitary palms that can be seen here and there amidst the ruins of Alexandria. When the Turks were threatened with some calamity, they brought a lamb to this place and forced it to bleat, while raising its head to the sky: unable to find a voice of innocence among men, they employed a new born lamb to appease the anger of heaven.
We returned to Athens by the portico whose well-known inscription reads:
THIS IS THE CITY OF HADRIAN
AND NOT THE CITY OF THESEUS
‘Gate of Hadrian’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p460, 1819)
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We went to return the visit Monsieur Roque had made to me, and we spent the evening with him; I saw several women. Readers who are curious about the clothing, manners and customs of the Turkish, Greek and Albanian women in Athens, might read the twenty-sixth chapter of Chandler’s Travels in Greece (1776). If it were not so long, I would have transcribed it here entire. I would say only that the Athenian women seemed less tall and less beautiful to me than those of the Morea. The custom whereby they paint the rims of their eyes blue, and their fingertips red, is disagreeable to a foreigner; but since I had seen women with pearls in their noses, which the Iroquois found very striking, and I was tempted into quite liking this fashion myself, there shall be no disputing taste. The women of Athens were, moreover, never much renowned for their beauty. They were accused of loving wine. The proof that their empire held little sway is that almost all the famous men of Athens were attached to foreigners: Pericles, Sophocles, Socrates, Aristotle and even the divine Plato.
On the 25th of August, we were on horseback early in the morning; we left the city and took the road to Phaleron. Approaching from the sea, the land rises, and ends in heights whose bays form, to east and west, the harbours of Phaleron, Munychia and Piraeus. Among the dunes of Phaleron, we found the foundations of the walls that surrounded the harbour, and other ruins completely worn away: they were perhaps those of the Temples of Zeus and Demeter (Pausanias I.1.4). Aristides’ little field and tomb were near here (Plutarch: Aristides XXVII.1). We went down to the harbour: it is a semi-circular basin where the sea flows over fine sand; it could contain some fifty vessels: that was just the number that Menestheus led to Troy.
τω δ᾽ άμα πεντήκοντα μέλαιναι νηες έποντο.
And with him came fifty black ships.
(Homer: Iliad II:556)
Theseus also left from Phalereon on his way to Crete.
Pourquoi, trop jeune encor, ne pûtes-vous alors
Entrer dans le vaisseau qui le mit sur nos bords?
Par vous aurait péri le monstre de la Crète…
Why could you, still so young, not be aboard
The ships that brought him once to our shores?
The Cretan monster would have perished there…
(Racine: Phaedra: ActII:SceneV. Lines 647-9 of the play)
It is not always mighty vessels and vast harbours that grant immortality: Homer and Racine have prevented the record of a small bay and a little boat from fading.
From the harbour of Phaleron we arrived at that of Munychia. The latter is oval in shape, and slightly larger than the former. Finally, we rounded the extremity of a rocky hill, and riding from cape to cape, we proceeded towards Piraeus. Monsieur Fauvel stopped me, in the arc made by a spit of land, to show me a tomb dug in the rock; it has no roof, and is level with the sea. The waves, by their regular movements cover and reveal it, and it fills and empties by turns. A few paces away, you can see the remains of a monument on the shore.
Monsieur Fauvel considers this the place where the bones of Themistocles were deposited (Plutarch: Themistocles 32.4). This interesting discovery of his has been contested: it is argued that the ruins scattered nearby are too fine to be the remains of the tomb of Themistocles. In fact, according to Diodorus Siculus the geographer, quoted by Plutarch, the ‘tomb’ was merely an altar.
The objection is weak. Why bring to the original discussion another matter unrelated to the subject in question? Could not the fragments of white marble, which are mentioned as a difficulty, have belonged to a tomb quite other than that of Themistocles? Why, when animosities had abated, could the descendants of Themistocles not have adorned the tomb of their illustrious ancestor, whom they had previously interred modestly, or even in secret, as Thucydides says? Do they not dedicate a painting representing the history of this great man? And was not this painting, in the time of Pausanias, on public display in the Parthenon? (Pausanias I.1.2) There was also a statue of Themistocles in the Prytaneum (I.18.3).
The site where Monsieur Fauvel found this tomb is in fact Cape Alcimus, and I will give a stronger proof of it than that of the tranquility of the water in that place. There is an error in Plutarch; Alimos should be read instead of Alcimus, according to a remark by Meursius (Johannes Meursius), noted by Dacier (André Dacier?). Alimus was a demos or village of Attica, of the tribe of Leontidis, situated to the east of Piraeus. Now, the ruins of this village are still visible in the vicinity of the tomb of which we are speaking (I do not wish to conceal any difficulties, and I know that Alimos has also been placed to the east of Phaleron. Thucydides was of the village of Alimos.) Pausanias is quite confused in what he says of the position of this tomb. But Diodorus Periegetes is very clear, and the verses of Plato the comic poet, quoted by the said Diodorus, point absolutely to the place and the tomb found by Monsieur Fauvel:
‘Set in an open place, the sailors entering and leaving port salute your tomb; and if they offer battle on the sea, you will be witness to the clash of vessels.’ (Plutarch, quoting Plato the comic poet: Themistocles 32.5).
If Chandler was astonished at the solitude of Piraeus, I can assure you I was no less surprised than he. We travelled a deserted shore; three harbours were presented to us, and in those three harbours we saw not a single boat. The only spectacle, ruins, rocks and the sea: the only sounds, the cry of sea-birds, and the murmur of the waves that, breaking on the tomb of Themistocles, emitted an eternal sigh from the depths of eternal silence. Washed away by the sea, the ashes of the conqueror of Xerxes repose beneath that same sea, joining the bones of the Persians. I searched for the Temple of Aphrodite, the Long Colonnade, and the symbolic statue of Demos, representing the people of Athens, without success (Pausanias: I.1.3): the image of that inexorable people was toppled forever beside the well where exiled citizens came, in vain, to re-claim their homeland (see Xenophon, Hellenica: 2.4:24-43). Instead of those great arsenals; those boat-sheds where the galleys were moored; those Agorae echoing to the sailors’ voices (I.1.2); instead of those buildings which resembled en masse the overall appearance and beauty of the city of Rhodes, I could see only a dilapidated monastery and a warehouse. The sad sentinel of the shore and a model of dumb patience; a Turkish customs man is seated there, all year round, in a miserable wooden hut: months on end pass without him seeing a boat. Such is the deplorable state today of those ports, once so famous. What can have destroyed so many monuments of gods and men? That hidden force that overturns all things, and is itself subject to the unknown God whose altar St. Paul saw at Phaleron: Άγνώστω Θεω: Deo Ignoto (see Acts:17:23).
The port of Piraeus describes an arc, whose two ends, close together, leave a narrow passage; it is called the Lion Port nowadays, because of the marble lion formerly to be seen there, which Morosini transported to Venice in 1687. Three basins, the Cantharus, the Aphrodisus, and Zea, divided the inner harbour. One can still see a half-filled basin, which could well have been the Aphrodisus. Strabo (Geographica IX.15) says that the large harbour of the Athenians was able to hold four hundred ships; and Pliny increases the total to one thousand (a misreading of Pliny: Naturalis Historia 17:XXXVII/125). Fifty of our ships would fill it entirely, and I am not sure two frigates could lie alongside, especially now they are moored on a long cable. But the water is deep, the anchorage good, and Piraeus in the hands of a civilized nation could become a major port. As for the rest, the only warehouse that we see today is of French origin; it was built, I believe, by Monsieur Gaspari (Joseph Dimitri Gaspari), former consul of France at Athens. So it is not long since the Athenians were represented in Piraeus by the people who most resemble them.
After we had rested for a while beside the Customs house, and the Monastery of Saint Spyridon, we returned to Athens following the Piraeus road. We saw remnants of the long wall everywhere. We passed the tomb of the Amazon, Antiope (Pausanias I.2.1), which Monsieur Fauvel had excavated: he gave an account of the excavation in his Memoirs. We rode through vineyards, like those of Burgundy, whose grapes were beginning to redden. We stopped at public water-troughs, under the olive trees: I had the mortification of finding that the tomb of Menander, the cenotaph of Euripides (I.2.2), and the little temple dedicated to Socrates, no longer existed, at least they have not yet been found. We continued our journey, and, on approaching the Museum, Monsieur Fauvel pointed out to me a track that wound up the flank of that hill. He told me that the path had been worn by the Russian painter who every day, from the same spot, painted views of Athens. If genius is simply patience, as was claimed by Buffon (Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon) the painter must have possessed a full measure of it.
It is scarcely four miles from Athens to Phaleron, three or four miles from Phaleron to Piraeus, following the windings of the coastline, and five miles from Piraeus to Athens: so that when we reached the city, we had ridden approximately twelve miles, or four leagues.
As the horses were hired for the whole day, we hurried our dinner, and recommenced our ride at four in the evening.
We left Athens in the direction of Mount Hymettus; my host took me to the village of Angelo Kipos (Perivole) where he believes he has found the Temple of Aphrodite in the Gardens, for the reasons he gives in his Memoirs. Chandler’s opinion, which places the temple at Panagia Spiliotissa, is equally plausible, and in its favour is the authority of an inscription. But Monsieur Fauvel produces in favour of his sentiment two old myrtle trees and some pleasant ruins of the Ionic order: a fine reply to any objections. That is how we are, we amateurs of antiquity: we use everything as evidence.
‘Athens - Panagia Spiliotissa’
A Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece, During the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, Vol 01 - Edward Dodwell FSA (p353, 1819)
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After seeing the sights of Angelo Kipos, we turned due west, and passing between Athens and Mount Anchesmus we entered the olive groves; there are no ruins in this direction, and we did no more than take a pleasant ride among the memories of Athens. We found the Cephisus, which I had already greeted lower down, on arriving from Eleusis: at this location it flowed with water; but the water, I am sorry to say, was a little muddy: it serves to irrigate the orchards, and is sufficient to cool the river-bank, which is all too rare in Greece. We then retraced our steps, still traversing the olive groves. We passed on our right, a little mound covered with rocks; it was Colonus, beneath which the village to which Sophocles retired could once be seen, and where that great tragedian shed his last tears for Antigone’s father (Oedipus). We followed the Bronze Road for a while; one sees there the vestiges of the Temple of the Furies: from there, on approaching Athens, we wandered for quite a while in the vicinity of the Academy. There is no longer anything there to identify that retreat. Its original plane-trees fell under Sulla’s axe (86BC), and those that Hadrian may have ordered to be re-planted there failed to escape the later barbarians. The altar of Love, that of Prometheus, and that of the Muses have disappeared; (Pausanias I.30.1-2) all divine fire is extinguished in the groves where Plato was so often inspired. Two comments suffice to show what charm and grandeur antiquity found in the lessons of that philosopher: on the eve of that day when Plato received Socrates among his disciples, he dreamed that a swan settled on his breast; death having prevented Plato from finishing his Critias, Plutarch (Life of Solon:32) deplored that misfortune, and compares the writings of the Head of the Academy to the temples of Athens, among which that of Olympian Zeus was the only one not completed.
It was already an hour after dark, when we thought of returning to Athens: the sky was bright with stars, and the air of an incomparable softness, transparency and purity, and our horses ambled at a slow pace, and we fell silent. The road we were following was probably the old road from the Academy, bordered by the tombs of those who died for their country, and those of the greatest men of Greece; there lay Thrasybulus, Pericles, Chabrias, Timotheus, Harmodios and Aristogeiton (Pausanias I.29.2-16). It was a noble idea to gather in one place the ashes of those famous individuals who lived in different centuries, and who, like the members of an illustrious but long-scattered family, had come to rest in the bosom of their common mother. What variety of genius, greatness and courage! What variety of manners and virtues could be seen there at a glance! And those virtues tempered by death, like those happy wines, Plato says, that we mix with a sober god (water, see Plato: Laws: VI), no longer offend the eyes of the living. The passer-by who read, on a funeral column these simple words:
PERICLES OF THE TRIBE OF ACAMANTIS
OF THE DEME OF CHOLARGOS
felt only admiration, without envy. Cicero represents Atticus to us as wandering amidst those tombs, seized with holy reverence at the presence of those venerable ashes (De Finibus: V: 1-2?). He could no longer paint the same picture for us today: the tombs have been destroyed. The illustrious dead whom the Athenians placed outside their city, as an advanced guard, have not risen to defend it; they have been trampled beneath the feet of the Tartars. ‘Time, violence, and the plough’ Chandler said, ‘have levelled all’. (See Travels in Greece, Chapter XXII/Page 109, Clarendon Press 1776)’ The plough is not needed here, and that remark better evokes the desolation of Greece than any thought which I could deliver.
It still remained for me to see the still theatres and monuments within the city of Athens: to that I devoted the 26th of August. I have already said, and everyone knows, that the Theatre of Dionysus was at the foot of the citadel, in the direction of Mount Hymettus. The Odeion (Pausanias I.20.3), begun by Pericles, completed by Lycurgus son of Lycophron; burnt down by Aristion and Sulla (86BC), restored by Ariobarzanes (Ariobarzanes II of Cappadocia), was close to the Theatre of Dionysus; they may have been linked by a portico. It is likely that a third theatre existed in the same location, built by Herodes Atticus. The tiers of the theatre were built on the slope of the mountain that served as their foundation. There is some controversy about these monuments, and Stuart locates the Theatre of Dionysus where Chandler locates the Odeion.
The ruins of the theatre are unimpressive; I was not taken with them, because I had seen monuments of that kind in Italy, much larger and better preserved; but a sad thought occurred to me: under the Roman emperors, at a time when Athens was still schooling the world, gladiators mounted their blood-stained games in the Theatre of Dionysus. The masterpieces of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were no longer played; assassination and murder had taken the place of the dramatic arts, which gives us a fine idea of the human spirit, and the noble amusements of civilized nations. The Athenians flocked to such cruelties with the same zeal with which they had flocked to the Dionysian rites. How could a people that had once mounted so high, stoop so low? What was become of that Altar of Pity once seen in the middle of the market-place in Athens (Pausanias: I.17.1), round which supplicants hung sacrificial bands? If the Athenians were the only Greeks, according to Pausanias, who honoured Pity, and regarded it as the consolation of life, they have changed greatly! Certainly, it was not for its gladiatorial contests that Athens was named the sacred home of the gods. Perhaps nations, as well as individuals, are cruel in their decrepitude as in their childhood, perhaps the spirit of a nation exhausts itself; and when it has created everything, traversed everything, tasted everything, filled with its own masterpieces, and unable to produce new ones, it becomes brutalized, and returns to purely physical sensation. Christianity will prevent the modern nations from ending in such a deplorable old age; but if all religion were extinguished among us, I would not be surprised if the cries of dying gladiators were to be heard on those stages which today echo to the grief of Phaedra or Andromache.
After visiting the theatres, we re-entered the city, where we cast a glance on the Portico, which perhaps formed the entrance to the Agora. We halted at the Tower of the Winds, which Pausanias does not speak of, but which Vitruvius (De Architectura: I.6.4) and Varro (De Re Rustica: III.5.17) have made known. Spon (ii. Page 135 Amsterdam 1675) gives full details with an explanation of the winds; the entire monument has been described by Stuart in his Antiquities of Athens (Chapter III); Francesco Giambetti had already drawn it in 1465 (manuscript on vellum in the Barberini Library), during the renaissance of art in Italy. At the time of Père Babin in 1672, this Tower of the Winds was thought to be the tomb of Socrates. I pass over in silence some ruins of the Corinthian order, that have been taken to be the Stoa Poikile (the Painted Porch), the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus; or the Prytaneion; and which may not belong to any of those buildings. What is certain is that they are from the time of Pericles. One senses the grandeur but also the Roman inferiority; everything the Roman emperors touched in Athens is recognizable at first glance, and shows a significant disparity with the masterpieces of the century of Pericles. Finally, we went to the French monastery to return the visit that the priests of this unique order had paid me. I may have already said that the monastery our missionaries inhabit contains within its dependencies the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates; it was at this last monument that I finished paying my debt of admiration to the ruins of Athens.
‘Monument of Lysicrates’
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This elegant work of Greek genius was known to early travellers as the Fanari tou Demosthenis. ‘In the premises which the Capuchin monks recently purchased,’ said the Jesuit, Babin, in 1672, ‘there is a very remarkable antiquity, which has remained intact since the time of Demosthenes: it is commonly called The Lantern of Demosthenes.’ (It seems that there was another monument in Athens in 1669, called the Lantern of Diogenes. Guillet invokes, regarding this monument, the testimony of Père Barnabé and Père Simon, and Messieurs Monceaux and Lainez.)
It has since been recognized (by Riesdel, Chandler, etc.) and first by Spon, that it is the Choragic Monument raised by Lysicrates on Tripods Street. Monsieur Legrand (Jacques-Guillaume Legrand) exhibited a model in terracotta in the courtyard of the Louvre a few years ago (the monument has since been re-created at Saint-Cloud), which was very like, only the architect, probably to give more elegance to his work, removed the circular wall that fills the space between the columns of the original monument.
It is certainly not one of the least astonishing quirks of fate that has lodged a Capuchin in the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates; but what may seem odd at first glance is touching and fitting when one thinks of the beneficial effects of our missions, when you consider that a French priest showed Chandler hospitality at Athens, while other French priests were assisting travellers in China, Canada, in the deserts of Africa and Tartary.
‘The French in Athens,’ said Spon ‘have only the chapel of the Capuchins, which is at the Fanari tou Demosthenis. When we were in Athens only Père Séraphin was there, a very honest man, from whom one day a Turk from the garrison stole a cord belt, either out of malice, or as a result of drunkenness, having met him on the road to the Lion Port, from which he was returning, simply having gone to see some Frenchmen from a tartane that was moored there.
The Jesuits were established at Athens before the Capuchins, and were never driven out. They only retired to Negropont because they found more occupation there, and more French than at Athens. Their hospice was almost at the extremity of the city, near the archbishop’s palace. As for the Capuchins, they have been established in Athens since 1658, and Père Simon bought the Fanari and the adjoining mansion in 1669, there having been other priests of his order in the city before him.’
It is to these missions then so long disparaged that we owe our initial notions about ancient Greece (One can read, in the Jesuit Lettres édifiantes, of the missionaries’ work in the islands of the Archipelago). When travellers left home to visit the Parthenon, already the priests, religious exiles among those famous ruins hospitable to new gods, awaited the antiquary and artist. Scholars wondered what had become of the city of Cecrops while in Paris, at the novitiate of Saint-Jacques, there was Père Barnabé, and at Compiègne Père Simon, who could have brought them news of it; but they did not parade their knowledge: kneeling at the foot of the cross, they hid, in the humility of the cloister, what they had learned, and above all what they had suffered for twenty years, amidst the ruins of Athens.
‘The French Capuchins,’ said La Guilletière, ‘who were called to their mission in the Morea by the congregation Propaganda Fide of the Holy See, have their principal residence in Naples, because the galleys of the Beys (rulers, vassals of the Sultan) over-winter there; and are usually present from November until the feast of St. George, which is the day they return to sea: they are full of Christian slaves who need to be educated and encouraged; which is what Père Barnabé of Paris, presently the superior of the mission in Athens and the Morea, occupies himself in doing, with as much success as zeal.’
But if these priests, on their return from Sparta and Athens, were so modest among the cloisters, perhaps it was because they lacked any feeling that their memories of Greece contained wonders, perhaps they also lacked the necessary understanding. Listen to the Jesuit, Père Babin: we owe him the first description of Athens we possess.
‘You can find,’ he said, ‘in several books, a description of Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem or the rest of the world’s most significant cities, as they currently exist: but I know of no book which describes the Athens I have seen, and no one could find the city if they searched for it as portrayed in Pausanias and the other ancient authors; but here you will find it in the very state it is in today, which is such that even in ruins it cannot fail to inspire a certain respect, as much in the pious who view its churches, as the scholars who recognize it as the womb of the sciences, and warlike, generous people who see it as a field of Mars, and a theatre where the greatest conquerors of antiquity demonstrated their worth, and revealed with brilliance their power, courage and industry; and these ruins are useful finally in marking its original nobility, and showing it was once the object of universal admiration.
Personally, I confess that when, from afar, I saw the city, in my telescope, rise from the sea, and I saw a host of marble columns in the distance, testifying to its former glory, I felt touched by feelings of respect.’
The missionary then proceeds to describe its monuments: happier than us, he saw the Parthenon in its entirety.
Finally, that pity for the Greeks, those philanthropic ideas that we boast of carrying with us on our travels, were they unknown then to the priests? Listen again to Père Babin:
‘What Solon once said to one of his friends, on regarding this great city from a mountain top, and seeing its host of magnificent marble palaces: that he considered it as no more than a large but wealthy hospital, filled with as many wretches as the city had inhabitants, I would again wish to speak of it in that way, and say that this city rebuilt from the ruins of its former palaces, is no more than a large and impoverished hospital which contains as many wretches as Christians.’
You will forgive me for expanding on this subject. No traveller before me, except Spon, has done justice to these missionaries in Athens who are so interesting to a Frenchman; I ignored them myself in my Génie du Christianisme. Chandler hardly speaks of the priests who showed him hospitality, and I am not sure that he even deigns to name them once. Thank God, I am above such petty scruples. When I am under an obligation, I say so, and blush not at all for art, and do not consider Lysicrates’ monument dishonoured because it is part of a Capuchin monastery. The Christian, who preserves that monument by dedicating it to works of charity, seems as respectable to me as the heathen, who raised it in memory of a victory won by a chorus of music.
So I end my review of the ruins of Athens: I examined them in an orderly manner and with the intelligence and familiarity that ten years of residence and labour have granted to Monsieur Fauvel. It saved me all those hours we lose in groping, doubting, and searching, when we find ourselves alone in a new world. I gained a clear idea of the monuments, sky, sun, prospects, land, sea, rivers, woods, and mountains of Attica; I could now correct my impressions, and give a local colour to my written descriptions of these famous places (see Les Martyrs). It only remained for me to continue my journey: my aim above all was to reach Jerusalem; and what miles still lay before me! The season was advancing, and I might miss, by lingering further, that boat which every year carries the pilgrims, bound for Jerusalem, from Constantinople to Jaffa. I had every reason to fear that my Austrian vessel would not be waiting for me at the tip of Attica; that not seeing me re-appear, it would have sailed for Smyrna. My host shared my concerns, and traced the path I should follow. He advised me to go to Keratea, a village of Attica, situated at the foot of Laurium (Lavrio), at some distance from the sea, opposite the island of Zea (Kea). ‘When you arrive in the village,’ he said, ‘they will light a fire on the mountain; the boats off Zea, accustomed to the signal, will make immediately for the coast of Attica. You can then embark for the harbour of Zea, where you may find the ship from Trieste. In any case, it will be easy at Zea to charter a felucca for Chios or Smyrna.’ I was not one to avoid the adventurous course; a man who, from the sole desire of rendering his work a little less defective, has undertaken the journey I had undertaken, cannot be fussy about chance and accident. I had to depart, and I could only leave Attica in that way, since there was no boat from Piraeus (The disturbances in Roumeli rendered the overland journey to Constantinople impracticable.) I immediately decided to execute the plan suggested to me. Monsieur Fauvel wanted me stay a few days longer, but the fear of missing the season for sailing to Jerusalem prevailed over all other considerations. The northerly winds had no more than six weeks longer to blow, and if I arrived in Constantinople at too late a date, I ran the risk of being trapped by the westerlies.
I dismissed Monsieur Vial’s Janissary after paying him and giving him a letter of thanks to his master. On a fairly hazardous journey, we do not part easily from the companions with whom we have lived for some time. When I saw the Janissary mount his horse, wish me a safe journey, take the road to Eleusis, and depart on the road exactly opposite to that which I was to pursue, I felt moved despite myself. I followed him with my eyes, thinking he would one more see, alone, the deserts we had seen together. I also thought that, by all accounts, that Turk and I would never meet again; that we would never even hear talk of each other. I imagined the fate of this man so different from my own, his sorrows and pleasures so different from my pleasures and my sorrows, and all to arrive at the same place; he among the vast and beautiful and cemeteries of Greece, I, on the paths of the world, or in the suburbs of some city.
Our separation took place in the evening of the same day on which I visited the French monastery; for the Janissary had been warned to prepare for his return to Coron. I left at night for Keratia, with Joseph and an Athenian who was visiting his parents on Zea. This young Greek was our guide. Monsieur Fauvel accompanied me to the city gate: there, we embraced, and wished each other a speedy reunion in our mutual homeland. I undertook to deliver the letter he gave me to Monsieur de Choiseul: to send Monsieur Choiseul news from Athens was to send him news of his own country.
I was glad to leave Athens by night: I would have felt too many regrets, if I had left those ruins in the light of day: at least, like Hagar (Genesis: 16), I would not see what I was losing forever. I put the bridle on my horse’s neck, and following the guide and Joseph who rode ahead, I gave myself over to my reflections; all the way, I was haunted by a strange dream. I imagined that I was given sovereignty over Attica. I advertised throughout Europe that whoever was weary of revolution and wished to find peace might come and console themselves amidst the ruins of Athens, where I promised them security and repose. I built roads, I opened hostelries, I provided all sorts of amenities for travellers; I bought a harbour on the Gulf of Lepanto, in order to make the crossing from Otranto to Athens, shorter and easier. As one will readily appreciate, I did not neglect the monuments: the masterpieces of the citadel were raised again as they were designed, in accordance with their ruins; and the city, surrounded by strong walls, was protected from its being looted by the Turks. I founded a university, where students from all over Europe might come to learn Greek, both ancient and modern. I invited shipping agents from Hydra to settle in Piraeus, and I possessed a navy. The bare mountains I clothed with pine-trees to restore water to my rivers; I encouraged agriculture; a host of Swiss and Germans mingled with my Albanians; every day new discoveries were excavated, and Athens rose from the tomb. Arriving at Keratia, I emerged from my dream, and found myself the same Gros-Jean as before (see La Fontaine: Fables: La laitière et le pot au lait, where the name is adapted from Rabelais’ ‘Gros Jan’)
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We rounded Mount Hymettus, passing to the south of Pentelicus, and cutting back towards the sea entered the Laurium range, where the Athenians once mined their silver. This part of Attica has never been particularly well-known: several towns and villages were sited between Phaleron and Cape Sunium, such as Anaphlystos, Azenia, Lamptrai, Anagyrous, Alimuse, Thorai, Aenone, etc. Wheler and Chandler explored these abandoned sites with scant success, and Monsieur Lechevalier crossed the same wilderness when he landed at Cape Sunium on his way to Athens. The interior of the country is still less known and less inhabited than the coast, and I am not sure of the origins of the village of Kératia. (Meursius in his treatise De Populis Atticae speaks of the village or deme of Κειριάδαί of the tribe of Hippothoontides. Spon mentions Κυρτίαδαι of the tribe of Acamantides; but gives no description, and simply relies on a passage from Hesychius.) It is located in a fairly fertile valley, amidst the mountains which overlook it on all sides, and whose flanks are clothed with sage, rosemary and myrtle. The bottom of the valley is cultivated, and the properties are divided from one another, as they used to be in Attica, by hedges planted with trees (as they are in England and Brittany). Birds abound throughout the countryside, and especially the hoopoe, wood pigeon, red partridge, and hooded crow. The village consisted of a dozen neat houses set well apart. We saw flocks of goats and sheep on the mountains; and in the valley, pigs, donkeys, horses and some cows.
On the 27th of August we descended to the house of an Albanian known to Monsieur Fauvel. On arriving, I immediately climbed a hill to the east of the village, trying to locate the Austrian boat; but saw only the sea and the island of Zea. In the evening, at sunset, a fire of myrtle and heather was lit on the summit of a mountain. A goatherd posted on the shore would bring news of the vessel from Zea as soon as it became visible. This use of signal fires dates back to antiquity, and furnished Homer with one of the finest similes of the Iliad:
ώς δ᾽ότε καπνος ιων εις ουρανον ευρυν ικηται,
As smoke reaches the sky from a burning city,
(Homer: Iliad: XXI.522)
That morning, on my way to the beacon summit, I had taken my gun with me, and amused myself with hunting: it was full noon; I was badly sunburned on one hand and part of my head. The thermometer had been constantly around 28 degrees during my stay in Athens (Monsieur Fauvel told me that the temperature often mounted to 33 or 34 degrees Centigrade.) One of the oldest maps of Greece, that of Sophianus (Nicholas Sophianus, 1552), places the latitude of Athens at 37 degrees, and between 10 and 12 minutes; Vernon increased it to 38 degrees 5 minutes, while Monsieur de Chabert (Joseph Bernard Marquis de Chaubert) has finally determined the latitude of the Temple of Athene to be 37 degrees 58 minutes 1 second. (One may read a learned dissertation regarding its latitude inserted in the Mémoires de l’Académie des inscriptions.) One concludes that at noon, in August, at this latitude, the sun’s heat must be very great. That evening, as I lay down on a mat, wrapped in my cloak, I perceived that my head was aching. Our hotel was not very convenient as regards illness; lying on the ground in our host’s single room, or rather shed, our heads were ranged against the wall; I lay between Joseph and the young Athenian; the household utensils were hanging above my bed, so that my host’s daughter, my host himself, and his servants, trampled us underfoot while adding something to, or removing something from, the hooks on the wall.
If, in my life, I have ever had a moment of despair, I think it was then, when seized with a violent fever, I felt that my thoughts had blurred, and that I had fallen into delirium: my impatience intensified my illness. I found myself suddenly arrested in my journey by this accident! To be kept by fever in Keratia, in an obscure location, in an Albanian hut! If only I had stayed at Athens! To die in a decent bed, gazing at the Parthenon! But even if the fever was nothing, if it incapacitated me for a few days, was my passage still not lost? The pilgrims for Jerusalem would be gone, the season over. What would I do in the East? Travel overland to Jerusalem? Wait another year? France, my friends, my projects, my work that I had left unfinished, were recalled to memory in turn. All night Joseph continually brought me large jugs of water that failed to quench my thirst. The ground on which I lay was, literally, drenched in sweat, and that was the very thing that saved me. I was truly delirious at times: I sang the song ‘Vive, Henri Quatre!’ (Traditional, but popularised, as a monarchist song, by Charles Collé’s comedy: La Partie de chasse de Henri IV); Joseph lamented, and said: ‘O Dio, che questo? Il Signor canta! Poveretto!’
The fever abated on the 28th of August, at about nine in the morning, after having prostrated me for seventeen hours. If I had experienced so violent an attack for a second time, I doubt I would have survived. The goatherd returned with the sad news that no boat had appeared from Zea. I made an effort: I wrote a note to Monsieur Fauvel, and begged him to send a caique to the place on the coast nearest the village, to take me to Zea. While I was writing it, my host told me a long tale, and asked for me to put in a good word for him with Monsieur Fauvel: I tried to satisfy him, but my head was so weak, I could hardly see to trace the words. The young Greek departed for Athens with my letter, charged with obtaining a boat himself if one were to be found.
I spent the day lying on my mat. Everyone had gone to the fields; even Joseph had vanished; and only my host’s daughter remained. She was a girl of seventeen to eighteen years old, quite pretty, walking around on bare feet, her hair loaded with medals and small pieces of silver. She paid no attention to me; she worked as if I had not been not there. The door was open, the sun’s rays entered, and it was the only part of the room that was illuminated. From time to time I fell asleep; I would wake again, and always saw the Albanian girl occupied with something new, singing softly, or arranging her hair or some aspect of her dress. I sometimes asked her for water: Nero! She brought me a jug full of water: crossing her arms, she waited patiently until I had finished drinking, and when I had drunk, she said: Kalo? ‘Enough?’ and returned to work. In the silence of noon, nothing was audible, but the insects buzzing in the hut, and a few roosters calling outside. I felt light-headed, as one does after a long bout of fever; my weakened eyes saw a host of sparks and patches of light around me; I had only vague thoughts, but sweet ones.
The day passed thus: the evening was much better; I rose; I slept well that night, and on the 29th of August, in the morning, the Greek returned with a letter from Monsieur Fauvel, quinine, Malaga wine, and some good news. They had found a boat, by the merest chance in the world: the boat had left Phaleron with a fair wind, and awaited me in a small cove about six miles from Keratia. I forget the name of the cape where we did, in fact, find the boat. Here is the letter from Monsieur Fauvel:
‘To Monsieur DE CHATEAUBRIAND
At the foot of Laurium
Athens, August 28, 1806.
My very dear guest,
I received the letter, which you have done me the honour of writing to me. I was sorry to read that our country’s trade winds have detained you on the slopes of Laurium; that the signals went unanswered; and that fever, together with the winds, has added to the inconvenience of your stay in Kératia, situated near the sites of various villages that I leave to your sagacity the leisure of finding. To counter one of your discomforts, I send you some doses of the best quinine I know of; mix it in a glass of Malaga wine, which is not the worst known, and take it when you are empty, before food. I would almost guarantee your recovery, if the fever were a disease: though the Faculty considers that as yet undecided. Moreover, whether illness or an imbalance of essential humours, I advise you not to journey with it to Kea. I have chartered for you, not a trireme of Piraeus, but a quadrireme, for forty piastres, having received a pledge of five and a half piastres. You will pay the captain forty-five piastres twenty: the young compatriot of Simonides will deliver them to you: he will depart after the music which often filled your ears. I will consider the matter of your protégé, who, however, is a brute; he should never beat anyone, especially young girls; for myself, I found nothing in him to praise on my last visit. Assure him, however, dear sir, that your representations on his behalf will meet with all the success he ought to expect. I am sorry that excessive fatigue, and enforced insomnia, gave you the fever and have delayed everything. We could have visited Athens and its environs in tranquillity, while the trade winds held your ship, God knows where, without your seeing Keratia, its goats and mines; you could have sped from Piraeus to Kea, in despite of the wind. Send me your news I pray, and be sure to return to France via Athens. Come with offerings for Athene, to guarantee your safe return; be assured you can never grant me a greater pleasure than to visit us, and adorn our solitude.
Accept, I pray you, the assurance, etc
I had taken such an aversion to Keratia that I longed to escape. I felt a chill, and anticipated the return of my fever. I did not hesitate to swallow a triple dose of quinine. I have always been convinced that French doctors administer this remedy too cautiously and timidly. Horses were brought, and we left with a guide. In less than half an hour, I felt the symptoms of this new attack abate, and I regained all my hopes. We were heading west through a narrow valley that ran between barren mountains.
After an hour’s ride, we descended to a beautiful plain, which seemed fertile enough. Then changing direction, we rode directly south, over the plain; we came to some hills, which formed, without my realising it, the coastal promontories; for after passing through a gorge we suddenly saw the sea, and our boat moored at the foot of a cliff. In sight of this vessel, I considered myself delivered from the evil genie who wished to entomb me in the Athenian mines, perhaps because of my contempt for Plutus.
We gave the horses over to the guide: we clambered into the boat, manoeuvred by three sailors. They unfurled the sail; and favoured by a southerly wind, we set course for Cape Sunium. I am not sure whether the bay we departed from was the one which, according to Monsieur Fauvel, bears the name of Anaviso; but I failed to see the ruins of the nine towers, Enneapyrgoi, where Wheler rested on his way from Cape Sunium. Ancient Azinia should be near to that place. About six in the evening we passed in front of the Island of Donkeys, once the island of Patroclus (Gaidouronissi, or Patroklos); and at sunset we entered the harbour of Sunium: it is a creek sheltered by the cliffs that support the ruins of the temple. We leapt ashore, and I climbed the headland.
The Greeks excelled as much in the placement of their buildings as in the architecture of the buildings themselves. Most of the promontories of the Peloponnese, Attica, Ionia and the islands of the Archipelago were marked by temples, memorials, and tombs. Those monuments, surrounded by woods and rocks, seen in all aspects of light, sometimes amidst clouds and lightning, sometimes lit by the moon, the setting sun, or the dawn, rendered the Greek coastline of incomparable beauty: the earth thus adorned presented itself to the eyes of the mariner in the guise of ancient Cybele, who, crowned with towers and seated on the shore, commanded Poseidon her son to spread his waves at her feet.
Christianity, to whom we owe the sole architecture conforming to our morality, also taught us where to place our true monuments; our chapels, our abbeys, our monasteries were scattered in the woods and on the tops of mountains; not because the choice of sites always followed a premeditated plan of the architect, but because an art which is related to the customs of a people, naturally knows what will best express it. Notice, on the contrary, how our modern buildings imitating the antique are, for the most part, badly placed! Have we ever thought, for example, of adorning the only height which overlooks Paris? Religion alone has thought on our behalf. Modern Greek monuments resemble the corrupt language spoken today in Sparta and Athens: one would be hard put to argue that it is the language of Homer and Plato, a mixture of gross words and foreign constructions betraying barbarism at every turn.
I experienced these thoughts in sight of the ruins of the Temple of Sunium: This temple is of the Doric order, and from a fine period of architecture. I saw far off the sea of the Archipelago with all its islands: the setting sun reddened the coast of Zea and the fourteen beautiful columns of white marble, at whose feet I sat. The sage and juniper trees spread their aromatic scent amongst the ruins, and the sound of the waves barely reached me.
As the wind had dropped, we had to await a new breeze to enable our departure. Our sailors threw themselves down in the bottom of their boat, and slept. Joseph and the young Greek remained with me. After eating and talking for some time, they settled themselves on the ground, and fell asleep in turn. I wrapped my head in my cloak to protect me from the dew, and, leaning against a column, I alone remained awake, gazing at the sky and the sea.
To the most beautiful sunset had succeeded the most beautiful of nights. The firmament, reflected in the waves, seemed to rest in the depths of the sea: the evening star, my constant companion during my travels, was about to disappear below the horizon; no more of it could be seen than the long rays that it shed from time to time over the waves, like the light of a flickering lamp. At intervals, the passing breeze disturbed the sky’s reflection in the sea, stirred the constellations, and expired among the columns of the temple with a low murmur.
However, this spectacle seemed sad when I considered that I gazed at it among ruins. Around me were tombs, silence, destruction, death, while our Greek sailors slept without anxiety and without dreams amidst the remains of Greece. I was leaving this sacred soil forever: my thoughts filled with its past greatness and its current abasement, I retraced the images that came to trouble my eyes.
I am not one of those intrepid admirers of antiquity to whom a line of Homer brings consolation for everything. I could never understand the sentiment expressed by Lucretius:
Suave mari magno, turbantibus aequora ventis
E terra magnum alterius spectare labourem.
It is pleasant, from shore, to watch the struggles of others,
On a swelling sea, when the winds are churning the deep.
(Lucretius: De Rerum Natura II: 1-2)
Far from enjoying the contemplation from the shore of others’ shipwreck, I suffer when I see men suffer: the Muses have no power over me, if they fail to show pity for the unfortunate. God forbid that I should descend now to one of those tirades which have done so much harm to our country! Yet if I had ever thought, with those whose character and talents I otherwise respect, that absolute government is the best form of government, a few months’ sojourn in Turkey would have completely cured me of that opinion.
Travellers who simply wander through civilized Europe are happy: they are not driven to visit those countries once famous, where the heart is blighted at every step, where living ruins divert the attention at every moment from ruins of marble and stone. In Greece, one indulges in illusions in vain: sad truth pursues one. Huts of dried mud, more suitable as the dens of animals than the homes of men; women and children in rags, fleeing at the approach of stranger or Janissary; even the goats frightened, scattering over the mountainside, and only the dogs left behind to welcome you with howls: such is the spectacle that robs you of memory’s charms.
The Peloponnese is a desert: since the Russian War, the Turkish yoke has weighed on the Moraites; the Albanians massacred a portion of the population. One sees only villages destroyed by fire and steel: in the towns, such as Misitra, entire districts have been abandoned. I often rode for forty or fifty miles through the countryside without encountering a single dwelling. Blatant insults, outrages of all kinds, destruction of all means of cultivation and livelihood; driving a Greek peasant from his hut, abducting his wife and children, killing him on the slightest pretext; all this is a mere game for the Agha of the smallest village. Brought to the last degree of misery, the Moraite tears himself from his country to seek in Asia Minor a fate less harsh. Vain hope! He cannot escape his destiny: once more he finds the cadis and the pashas, amidst the sands of Jordan and the deserts of Palmyra!
Attica, with a little less wretchedness, offers no less servitude; Athens is under the immediate protection of the head of the black eunuchs of the Seraglio. A disdar, or commander, represents that monstrous protector amidst the people of Solon. This disdar inhabits the citadel, filled with masterpieces by Phidias and Ictinus, without asking what people have left these fragments behind, without deigning to leave the hut he has had built beneath the ruins of the monuments of Pericles: very occasionally the tyrant crawls mechanically to the door of his den; sitting cross-legged on a dirty carpet, while the smoke of his pipe ascends between the columns of the Temple of Athene, he casts his gaze stupidly over the shores of Salamis and the Sea of Epidaurus.
It is as if Greece itself wished, by her sadness, to proclaim the misfortunes of her children. In general, the country is uncultivated; the ground is bare, monotonous, savage, and of a yellow withered hue. There are no rivers properly speaking, but merely small streams and torrents that are dry during the summer. You see no farmhouses, or hardly any, amongst the fields; you see no labourers; you encounter no carts or teams of oxen. Nothing is as sad as failing to discover any trace of a modern wheel in places where you can still see the marks of ancient wheels in the rock. Farmers in tunics, heads covered with red caps, like the galley slaves of Marseilles, offer you in passing a sad kali spera (good evening). They drive donkeys and small ponies, with dishevelled manes, in front of them, that suffice to carry their meagre rural tools, or the produce from their vines. Border this wasteland with a sea almost as solitary; set on a shelf of rock a dilapidated boat, or an abandoned monastery; let a minaret rise from the depths of solitude to proclaim slavery; let a herd of goats or sheep graze on a headland among ruined columns; let the turban of some Turkish traveller put the goatherds to flight, and render the path more desolate, and you will have a true idea of the picture Greece presents.
The causes of the decline of the Roman Empire have been well-researched: there is interesting work to be done on the causes that precipitated the downfall of the Greeks. Athens and Sparta did not fall for the same reasons that led to the ruin of Rome; they were not dragged down by their own weight and the grandeur of their empire. We can not say either that they perished through their riches: the gold of their allies, and the abundance that trade brought to Athens were, in the last result, quite insignificant; those colossal fortunes that announce a change of morals, were never seen amongst its citizens (Great fortunes at Athens, such as that of Herodes Atticus, only appeared under the Roman Empire.); and the state was always so poor that the kings of Asia Minor hastened to nourish it, or contribute to the cost of its monuments. As for Sparta, Persian money corrupted some individuals; but the republic itself was never anything but poor.
I therefore assign as the primary cause of the decline of Greece, the war waged between those two republics after they had defeated the Persians. Athens, as a State, no longer existed from the moment she was captured by the Spartans. An absolute conquest puts an end to the destiny of a people whatever name that people leaves to history. The vices of Athenian government prepared the way for the victory of Sparta. A purely democratic State is the worst when it comes to fighting a powerful enemy, and when a unified will is necessary to save the country. Nothing is as deplorable as the squabbles of the Athenian people, while the Spartans were at their gates: exiling and recalling in turn the citizens who could have saved them; obedient to the voice of factious orators, they suffered the fate they had earned by their follies, and if Athens, was not utterly razed, it owed its preservation to its conquerors respect for its ancient virtues.
Lacedaemonia triumphant found, in turn, like Athens, the primary cause of ruin in its own institutions. Modesty, which a unique law deliberately trampled underfoot, in order to preserve modesty itself, was finally overthrown by that very law: the women of Sparta, who had presented themselves half-naked to the eyes of men, became the most corrupt women in Greece: from all those unnatural Spartan laws came only debauchery and cruelty. Cicero, a witness to the games of the Spartan children, describes those children tearing each other with tooth and nail. And what did these brutal institutions achieve? Did they ensure the independence of Sparta? It was hardly worth raising men like wild beasts in order to obey the tyrant, Nabis, and become Roman slaves.
The best of principles have their excesses and their dangerous side: Lycurgus, by eradicating ambition within the walls of Sparta, thought to save the republic, and thereby lost it. After the subjugation of Athens, if the Spartans had reduced Greece to a series of provinces of Lacedaemonia, they might have become masters of the earth: this conjecture is the more likely in that, without claiming so high a destiny, they shook, weak as they were, the dominion of the great King of Asia Minor. Their successive victories would have prevented the rise of a powerful monarchy, neighbouring on Greece, from invading the republics. Lacedaemonia, incorporating within it the peoples conquered by its arms, would have crushed Philip in his cradle; the great men who were its enemies would have become its subjects, and Alexander, instead of being born in a kingdom, would, like Caesar, have emerged from the heart of a republic.
Far from showing that spirit of greatness, and self-preserving ambition, the Lacedaemonians, content with setting up thirty tyrants in Athens, soon returned to their vales, through that desire for obscurity that had inspired their laws. With nations it is not as it is with men; moderate wealth and love of ease, which may be fitting for a citizen, will not take a State very far. Doubtless one should never undertake an impious war; one should never purchase glory at the cost of injustice; but not knowing how to take advantage of one’s position to honour, expand, and strengthen one’s country is rather a defect of spirit in a people than a sense of virtue.
What followed from this Spartan behaviour? Macedonia soon dominated Greece; Philip dictated laws to the assembled amphictyons (deputies). Meanwhile, the feeble empire of Laconia, which merely retained its reputation for warfare, and failed to show real strength, vanished. Epaminondas appeared: the Spartans, defeated at Leuctra, were obliged to justify themselves at length before their conqueror; they heard these harsh words in reply: ‘We have put an end to your brief eloquence! Nos brevi eloquentiae vestrae finem imposuimus.’ (Attribution unknown) Only then did the Spartans realize how advantageous it would have been to them to have formed a single State from all the cities of Greece, to have counted Epaminondas among the number of their generals and their citizens. The secret of their weakness once known, all was irretrievably lost, and Philopoemen completed what Epaminondas had begun.
Here we should note a memorable example of the superiority that literature grants one people over another, when that people has also demonstrated its warlike virtues. We may say that the battles of Leuctra and Mantinea erased the name of Sparta from the earth, while Athens, taken by the Spartans, and ravaged by Sulla, still retained an empire. She saw hastening to her breast the Romans who had conquered her, and who made a glory out of passing for her sons: one took the surname of Atticus; another (Cicero) called himself a disciple of Plato and Demosthenes. The Latin poets, Lucretius, Horace, and Virgil, sang of that Queen of Greece incessantly. ‘I grant the dead the salute of the living,’ cries the greatest of the Caesars, forgiving guilty Athens (attributed not to Augustus but to Sulla by Plutarch: Sulla:14.5). Hadrian chose to join to his title of Emperor that of Archon of Athens, and add masterpieces to the land of Pericles; Constantine the Great was so flattered that the Athenians had erected a statue to him, he filled the city with gifts; Julian shed tears on leaving the Academy and, in victory, believed he owed his triumph to the Athene of Phidias. Chrysostoms, Basils, Cyrils came, like Cicero and Atticus, to study eloquence at its source; as late as the Middle Ages, Athens was known as the School of Arts and Sciences. When Europe woke from barbarism, its first cry was for Athens. ‘What has become of her?’ was asked on all sides, and when it was learnt that her ruins still existed men hastened there, as to the ashes of their mothers.
How different that renown to one achieved by arms alone! While Athens is a name on everyone’s lips, Sparta is completely forgotten; one barely glimpses her under Tiberius, pleading, and losing, a petty claim against the Messenians; one reads the passage in Tacitus (Annals IV.43.3) twice over, to assure oneself that it does indeed speak of the famous Sparta. Several centuries later, we find Caracalla with a Spartan cohort (Herodian IV.8.2-3, 9.4); a dubious honour, which seems to indicate that the children of Lycurgus had retained their ferocity. Sparta is finally transformed, under the Lower Empire, into a ridiculous principality, whose leaders adopted the name despots, a name that became a title for tyrants. Some brigands, who call themselves the true descendants of the Lacedaemonians, are now all the glory of Sparta.
I have not seen enough of the modern Greeks to dare have an opinion on their character. I know it is very easy to vilify the wretched, nothing is easier than to ask, far from danger: ‘Why do they not shatter the yoke under which they groan?’ Everyone may, own to such noble sentiments and energetic pride, at their own fireside. Moreover, such trenchant opinions abound in a century where one is unsure of nothing except the existence of God; but as the judgments generally made of nations are often contradicted by experience, I will offer my opinion. I still think that there is plenty of spirit left in Greece; I even believe that our masters in all genres are still there: just as I believe also that human nature retains its superiority in Rome; which does not mean that there are superior men now in Rome.
However, I am convinced that the Greeks are not likely to break their chains in the near future. If they were freed from the tyranny that oppresses them, they would not immediately lose the mark of their irons. Not only have they been crushed under the weight of despotism, but for two thousand years they have existed as an obsolete and degraded people. They have not been renewed, as the rest of Europe has, by barbarous nations; the very empire which has conquered them has contributed to their corruption. That empire has not brought them the harsh and savage customs of men of the North, but the voluptuous customs of those of the South. Not to mention the religious crime the Greeks would have committed in renouncing their altars, they would have gained nothing by submitting to the Koran. There is in Mohammed’s book, neither civilized principle nor precept to elevate the character; the book preaches neither the hatred of tyranny, nor the love of liberty. By following the religion of their masters, the Greeks would have renounced literature and the arts, to become soldiers of Fate, and blindly obey the whim of an absolute ruler. They would have spent their days ravaging the world, or sleeping on a mat in the midst of women and perfumes.
The same impartiality that obliges me to speak of the Greeks with the respect that is due to misfortune, would have prevented me from treating the Turks as severely as I do, if I had not seen among them those abuses all too common among conquering nations: unfortunately, the soldiers of a republic are no better masters than the satellites of a despot; and a proconsul proved no less greedy than a Pasha. (The Romans, like the Turks, often reduced those they conquered to slavery. If I am to say everything I think, I consider that system one of the causes of the superiority that the great men of Athens and Rome possessed to the great men of modern times. It is clear that one cannot exercise all the faculties of one’s mind except when one is freed from the material cares of life; and one is totally free of such cares only in countries where the domestic skills, trades and tasks are left to slaves. The service of a hired hand, one who leaves you when he pleases and whose negligence and defects you are obliged to endure, cannot be compared to the service of man whose life and death are in your hands. It is also clear that habit of command elevates the mind; and grants manners that nobility we never find in the bourgeois equality of our cities. But let us not regret this superiority of the ancients, since it was bought at the expense of freedom of the human race, and let us bless Christianity forever, that broke the fetters of the slave.) Yet the Turks are not common oppressors, although they have found their apologists. A proconsul could be a monster of immorality, greed, cruelty; but no proconsul delighted, through design and religious belief, in destroying the monuments of civilization and art, felling trees, while annihilating the very crops and whole generations: now, that is what the Turks do every day of their lives. Could anyone believe that there are in the world tyrants absurd enough to oppose any improvement in the barest necessities? A bridge collapses, no one rebuilds it. A man repairs his house, he is abused. I saw Greek captains with torn sails expose themselves to shipwreck, rather than mend the sails; so afraid are they to reveal their affluence or their industry! Finally, if I knew the Turks to be free and virtuous citizens in their own country, though lacking in generosity to the nations they have conquered, I would remain silent, and rest content to groan inwardly at the imperfection of human nature; but to find in one man both the tyrant of the Greeks and the slave of the Grand Seigneur (the Ottoman Emperor), both the executioner of a defenceless people and a servile creature whom the Pasha can strip of his property, tie up in a leather bag, and hurl into the depths of the sea; that is unsupportable; and I know of no brute beast I would not prefer to such a man.
One can see that I did not give myself up to romantic ideas, on the tip of Cape Sunium, ideas that the beauty of the scene might yet have given birth to. On the point of leaving Greece, I naturally retraced the history of that country; I sought to discover in the ancient prosperity of Sparta and Athens the reason for their present misery, and in their current fate the seeds of their future destiny. The sea breeze, which gradually increased in force, as it swirled against the cliffs, had informed me that the wind was rising, and it was time to continue my journey. I woke Joseph and his companion. We descended to the boat. Our sailors had already made preparations for departure. We set sail, and the breeze, which blew from the mainland, carried us rapidly toward Zea. The further we travelled, the more beautiful the columns of Sunium seemed above the waves; we saw them perfectly against the azure sky, because of their extreme whiteness, and the serenity of the night. We were already quite far from the headland, and our ears were still filled with the seething of the waves at the foot of the cliffs, the murmur of wind in the junipers, and the singing of crickets that alone today inhabit the ruins of the temple: those were the last sounds I heard from the mainland of Greece.
End of Part One