Page images

Thebes preserves in Thive, its modern appellation, almost the only memorial of its former existence. It is situated at the extremity of a large plain, stretching far to the west. Above it rises a low range of hills, and one of a conical form, that overlooks the modern town, is most probably the Cadmaea, the ancient citadel. Cithaeron and the mountain of the Sphinx are to the S. E.4

Since Strabo5 declares that in his time Thebes was so reduced as hardly to deserve the name of a village, later travellers cannot of course expect that their researches in the Boeotian capital should be attended with much gratification or success. It is a small place of about 4000 inhabitants; the houses are wretched in their appearance, nor are there any vestiges of the ancient town. A range of arches on the east side are evidently modern. In a Greek church, at the western entrance of the town, are some antique columns, with very rude capitals, and in the wall of a house I observed a small basso-relievo of one figure.

Pococke found some inscriptions at Thebes, and so did Chandler.' The circuit of ancient Thebes (probably only the Cadmaea) was of very small extent, and could be taken in at one view:

The vicinity was woody. Antigone mentions

®n(3xs cvxppxlit xX<ros.*

There was the fountain Dirce, and the river Ismenus and Asopu3.

1. 771. The nuptial feast of Harmony.] In allusion to a passage in Euripides. 'Afpovias 3i nol' e«f 6fUMtus

HAfloi/ H£Xvl3x\, pofpfyi tl tfiJ^f* QtlfixS
Txs A/UplOWPtf tf AUf«f uVo, WUffof Xv(?X j

AiSvfiM* irolxpw, woew XpQi jwrw

Uotrag Iff/urn %x[x Sivn*

4 Strabo, ix.p. 589. Ibid. p. 585. 6 See Inscript. Graecae.

T Phoeniss.1. 1366. 8 Sophoc. Antig. 1. 845.

» Phoeniss. 1. 829. See also Pau*. 1. ix. c. 5. and 1*. and Onestus ap. Antho1. t. ii. p . 290. Pind.Pyth. iii. 1.161.

For fair Harmonia's nuptial hour

The Gods erst left their skies,
On golden lyre of sacred pow'r

Amphion swept his symphonies;
And at his strain the walls of Thebes arose

Close by the streams where Dirce's fall

Is heard in murmurs musical,
And o'er the grassy plain the dark Ismenus flows.

1. 775- The wave of crested warriors.] Thi» and some of the following expressions are taken from a very sublime chorus in the 'Eu-1* wri 0»(3«if, beginning ®fco/4«i ipofiegx, 1. 78:

Kup« faf irifi trloXw
Afeos Mo/Mvei /

AvxvSos, o-apnf, irufiot afyeAof . . .
Auutrei Si fcvvuv Ittimo

The expresssion, 'brazen field lightning with spears/ 1. (777,) is, I think, taken from iEschylus, but I cannot refer to the passage. Xenophon* uses one very like it, nrgxirlx /*»^«Axu ir«o-« »' s-gxnx; and Homer describes the x***8 npww.*

1. 785. JRang'd in Oppression's ranks.] I particularly allude to the part .which the Thebans took in the Persian invasion, and their treacherous conduct to the heroic inhabitants of Plataea.3

'At that time,' (said the Plataeans to the Lacedaemonians,)' when the 'Barbarian wished to bring slavery on Greece, they (the Thebans) were 'with him.4

'We condemn (says Polybius) the conduct of the Thebans during the 'Persian invasion, because they shrunk from the perils which the other

• Xenoph. Cyrop. 1. vL c. 4. * Odyss. sir. 1 . 263. * Thucyd. ii. c. %. 4 lb. iii. 56.

'Greeks encountered for the safety of their country, and through fear joined 'the Barbarians.*

'We alone of all the Boeotians (said the Plataeans) strive for the freedom 'of Greece.'

The Athenians consecrated in the temple the shields taken from the enemy, with this inscription, A(kvouvi irtfi MnSuv Xm 0n(3«i«i/.7

The apostacy of the Thebans from the common cause was afterwards used as an argument by Pelopidas at the court of Persia, to induce the King to assist Thebes, in acquiring the supremacy of Greece/

Their stupidity was noted to a proverb.

1. 808. Uie icy grasp of vice.] The power of vice and luxury, in destroying all the nobler faculties of the mind, is finely illustrated by Longinus at the conclusion of his celebrated treatise.

» Polyb. 1. iv. c. 31. * Thucyd. iii. e. 54. » vEschin. in Ctesiphont. 1 Xenoph. He1. vil. c. i.




1. 4. Athens.] 'Sept. 25. Soon after leaving the plain of Thebes we entered 'Attica. The country now presented a most barren appearance, and the road 'wound amidst a chain of low hills, on the sides of which the crags were con'tinually bared to the view, interspersed with little vegetation, and exhibiting 'hardly any sign of cultivation. In about three hours we entered a narrow 'defile: The rocks on each side were covered with trees, chiefly firs. This 'is part of the ancient Mount Parnes. We followed a path amongst these 'rocks for three hours. About 2 o'clock we had the first view of Athens, 'distant four hours journey. The Acropolis was the only part visible; it ap'peared to stand in a plain. We were on very high ground, and two ranges 'of hills rose between us and the Acropolis. Beyond, we had views of the sea, 'and what I concluded to be Salamis and the coast of Argolis. This view 'was the most interesting that we ever beheld. The object of our wishes, 'the reward of our toils, was in sight. In a few hours we were to enter the 'most celebrated city in the world, which in its days of glory filled so magni'ficent a space in the history of man, and the light of whose glory still beams 'with uneclipsed splendour through the gloom of more than twenty cen'turies. A thousand recollections of its power, its grandeur, its pre-eminence 'in the arts, were presented to our minds. On our right we saw the ruins 'of an old tower and some other buildings, which I took to be the ancient 'Phyle, whence Thrasybulus advanced against the thirty tyrants.* We

'Xenoph. Hel1. 1. ii. c. 4.

'passed through the village of Casha, and in an hour reached the plain. For 'two hours more we traversed this plain, which is covered with olive trees. 'The sun was setting amidst clouds of a gloomy hue tinged with a fiery red'ness when we entered Athens. We passed near the temple of Theseus, 'which reflected the last rays from its broad and massy pillars. The Acro'polis rose before us, on whose summit appeared the ruins of the temple of * Minerva.' Journal.

The mind naturally feels some doubt at the accomplishment of what it has for a long time anxiously desired, and most travellers, I should imagine, upon their first arrival at Athens have been inclined to question the reality of the picture which the senses presented. 'Can this be Athens?' we exclaim, 'this the " eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence?" Is this the fountain of that mighty stream which has flowed to all the nations of the civilized world, bearing on its breast the stores of Art and Science, of Imagination and Reason?'—The object so long sighed after, so diligently pursued, when offered to the view is rejected as illusive; we feel inclined to disbelieve the impression of the senses, and regard the whole as the fabric of a vision.

To this momentary state of scepticism succeed the lasting emotions of enthusiasm; a temper of mind the more permanent as novelty is not the source of its existence. Every object is as new and interesting at Athens at the end of the first year, as of the first hour. We are never wearied with visiting the banks of the stream where Socrates conversed; the bema whence Demosthenes declaimed; the theatre where the voice of Tragedy spoke the immortal conceptions of Sophocles and Euripides. 'Id quidem infinitum est, in hac urbe; quacumque enim ingredimur, in aljquam historiam vestigium ponimus.'*

The chief part of the pleasure experienced in a survey of Athens is intellectual, derived from memory and reflection. Moral associations crowd so rapidly into our thoughts on this sacred ground, that we have little leisure or inclination to attend to visible objects; and scenes which in any other place would fill us with delight, at Athens perform only a secondary office. The bold and commanding figures of Genius, of Virtue, and of Heroism, are pourtrayed in such vivid colours, and start with such life and spirit from the canvass that we can hardly turn the eye from them to admire the glowing skies, the time-stained temples, and majestic mountains which appear in the distance.

* Cicero.

« PreviousContinue »