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Time is not required to make Athens familiar. At the mention of each object a thousand recollections of the most interesting nature are awakened. The string is touched, and the motion vibrates through the heart. There is nothing in our visit resembling the ceremonious introduction to a new circle of acquaintance; it is the revived delight of the society of long absent and beloved friends. Each place long known to us by name is presented to the sight. We can read the first of authors amidst the scenes which inspired their genius; and from the contemplation of whatever is most excellent in human production turn to the admiration of whatever is lovely and grand in Nature. We can leave for a time the perusal of the sublime doctrines of Plato, to wander amidst the groves of the Academy, or turn from the poetic raptures of JEschylus to view the scene of his glory and theme of his song, the waves of Salamis.
And yet after all, the traveller who, from the accounts of others, anticipates the most exalted pleasure, during a residence at Athens, may perhaps be disappointed. If his mind be not deeply imbued with classical impressions let him prepare for mortification; or rather prudently resolve to leave unvisited the walls of Cecrops. The fallacy of the hopes of a traveller who, in a tour through Greece, looks for pleasure independent of association, was exemplified to me in a striking instance. Previously to my arrival at Athens I met at Livadia a British merchant. He had experienced nothing but vexation and disgust since the ill-fated hour when first he set his foot on Grecian shores. The rivers and mountains which he had seen were not superior in appearance to those of his native country; the inns and roads decidedly worse; and he seriously informed me that in the parks of English noblemen were to be found many such buildings as the temple of Theseus.
The account which this merchant gave me of the failure of his hopes and expectations, was as candid and ingenuous as the confession of an earlier traveller, Synesius, who declares that the chief reason which he had for visiting Athens was, that he might no longer be compelled to revere (wpoirxuvfiv) those who had been there, and who differed in no respect from common mortals, but because they had seen the Academy, the Porch, and the Lycajum.'
Were we able to examine the secret thoughts of many of the modern pilgrims to Athens, we should find, I am afraid, that their travels have been
3 Synesii Epistolae.
guided by motives not superior to those of Synesius, and that their disappointment has at least equalled that of the merchant.
Athens is situated nearly in the centre of a plain, about ten miles in diameter. This plain is bounded on the N. E. by the mountain Pentelicus; on the N. by Mount Brilessus/ and the more distant summits of Mount Parnes; on the S. E. by Hymettus; and on the W. by the long and rugged range of Mount Icarius and iEgaleos. On the S. W. side its rocky shores repel the waves of the Saronic gulph, which rush with a melancholy sound into the deserted ports of Piraeus, Munychia, and Phalerum. A wood of olives, beginning in the vicinity of the Piraeus, stretches about six miles in a N. E. direction, towards Pentelicus, and adorns the plain with a belt of neverfailing verdure. The waters of the Cephissus flow through this wood, fertilizing in their course the gardens of the Academy, which are now used to supply with vegetables the inhabitants of Athens. The channel of the Ilissus is visible at the distance of about two miles to the S. E. of the Cephissus. The two rivers unite before they reach the sea; and within the curve formed by their junction, stands the Acropolis of Cecrops, composed of precipitous rocks, and crowned with the venerable ruins of the temple of Minerva. The entrance to the citadel ascends by a steep path at the western end; and the town beginning at the foot of the perpendicular cliffs which face the north, sweeps down a declivity into the plain. In the immediate vicinity of Athens the ground is broken by the abrupt rising of several insulated hills, of which the boldest in form, and largest in size, is Mount Anchesmus, distant about a mile to the N. E. of the town. The hill of Musaeus to the S. W. and the smaller elevations of Lycabattus and Colonos, agreeably diversify with their different outlines the uniform surface of the plain, which, except in the early part of the year, when the young corn is on the ground, presents a barren and arid appearance.
The new town covers about half the space occupied by ancient Athens. Instead of embracing, us formerly,* the whole circuit of the Acropolis, it is now confined to the N. side. The foundations of the old walls, which are
* Thucyd. ii.c.23.
5 We hare abundant evidence, from the buildings now remaining, that the town was built on the North of the Acropolis; and Thucydides (1. ii. c. 15.) mentions particularly the part to the south of the rock. See also Dion Chrysostom, Orat. vi. s. 14. Plato talks of the town descending to the Eridanus and Ilissus, which are to the south of the Acropolis. Plato in Crit.
generally discovered very near the modern ones, confirm the conjecture that the extent of the town, in this direction, has not undergone any material change.
Its length, from the Temple of Theseus to the Gate of Adrian, is about a mile; and its breadth, from the base of the rocks of the citadel to the boundary of the walls, is about half that distance.
The streets are narrow and irregularly laid out. It can no longer claim the Homeric epithet of fufu«fui«.' The houses in general are mean and wretched, except where the dwelling of a rich Turk, or Greek, surrounded with its ample court, overlooks the miserable hovels which adjoin it, and aided by the effect of a powerful contrast, almost extorts the praise of magnificence.
In the early and flourishing times of the republic, the private houses of Athens' were probably not much superior iu splendour or convenience to those of the present day. The alteration in their appearance kept pace with the increase of luxury, with the apparent prosperity and real deeline of the state. Demosthenes says,1 that the habitations of Aristides and Miltiades were not distinguished from those of their neighbours by any superior embellishment; but complains that in his own time the houses of individuals surpassed in magnificence the edifices appropriated to public purposes,
Athens seems to have undergone the most violent change in its outward appearance between the end of the second and beginning of the fifth century. Pausanias' has left us a description of the magnificent aspect which it presented in the reign of Antoninus Pius, and we are lost in admiration at the number and beauty of the temples, pictures, and statues, which he enumerates. Though it had then passed through the ordeal of Sylla's tyranny,1 and been plundered of its most valuable ornaments, it still retained a splendour worthy of its former fame. So exuberant was its fertility in works of art, that without sustaining any sensible diminution of splendor, it was able to spare treasures sufficient to adorn the capital of the Roman world. But the Gothic visitation was more destructive than the ravages of the Romans. And about 200 years after Pausanias, the skin of a slaughtered victim,* figuratively and impressively represents the desolation of Athens.
* Dicaearchus however says, that Athens was badly laid out in streets, iffv^SltfiMntm ila •mi amatory'*. De statu Oraeciae.
7 Dicaearchus de statu Graecia. 1 Demos. Olynth. iii. » Paus. 1. i.
* Plut. in SjU. * Synesii Epistolae.
The present population of Athens is estimated at about 10,000 individuals, ^one-fifth part of which are Turks. The population, in the time of its greatness, is supposed to have been not less than 284,000.3 The climate of Athens was always celebrated for its excellence. Euripides congratulates the Athenians on the purity and brilliance of their atmosphere:4
Act Ji« Xx/Airgvl»n
Xenophon says that the seasons there were most temperate, <Jf*f irf*oJ*T«f.* Yet there were occasional winter storms of considerable v iolence.' Its lightness is applauded by Dion Chrysostom.' It is still praised for superior salubrity. The months of November and December, which I passed there, were like August and September in England. January was in general fine, with the occasional interruption of bad days. The winter months are Fe bruary and March, when there is a good deal of rain, and sometimes snow.
'The state of Athens is much better with respect to the condition of the 'inhabitants, than that of the other towns of Greece. It enjoys peculiar privi'leges. It is not under the government of a Pasha, but of an officer called * the Vaivode, who purchases his place from one of the great officers of the 'Porte, the Kislar Aga.' This privilege was obtained about the year 1600 'by the address of a young Athenian female, called Johahi,' who had been
3 Hume's Essay on the populousness of ancient nations. This immense population cannot well be reconciled with the boundaries of the old town. We must therefore suppose that when the ancient authors speak of the extent of Athens, they mean not only the Acropolis and the town in the immediate vicinity, but the whole space between the long walls. Thucyd. (vii. c. 29.) says, that Syracuse was not inferior in size to Athens. The circumference of the walls of Syracuse was twenty miles, including Epipolae, a strong fort distant five piles from the citadel of Ortygia. In estimating the size of Syracuse, Epipoke was included; and with equal reason we may include the long walls of the Piraeus in our estimate of Athens. This supposition receives confirmation from Dion Chrysostom, who says that the circumference of Athens was 200 stadia (25 miles) and that the whole space between the walls was inhabited. Orat. vi. See also Thucyd. ii. c. 17.
4 Eurip. Medea, 1 . 830. • Xen. de Vectiga1. c. i.s. 3. 6 Alciphron, Epist. 1. i. 23. and 1. iii- ep.30. 7 Dion Chrysost. Orat. vi.
* In another part of my Journal I find I hare noted (but from whose information I do not know) that the Governor of Athens is no longer at the disposal of the Kislar Ago, but of the Master of the Mint, the Minister of Revenue. This change took place about thirty years ago,
9 Guilletiere, p. 163.
* carried captive to the seraglio of the Sultan. It is in consequence not subject 'to such terrible exactions and oppressions as the other towns suffer; and 'whenever the Vaivode has shewn himself disposed to increase, beyond the c usual degree, the measure of extortion, the modern Athenians have, by 'intrigues and representations to the higher powers, extricated themselves 'from their difficulties with a dexterity of conduct and diplomatic acuteness c worthy of the descendants ofThemistocles and Alcibiades. Athens besides 'lies out of the direct road from the Morea to Constantinople, and does not 'therefore suffer from the passing of troops, which is so serious an evil in other 'parts.1 The Turks too who inhabit it are a mild and peaceable race in com'parison with their neighbours; so that the Athenian Greeks by no means 1 endure any severe oppression.
'The Greek governors of Athens still retain the old appellation of Archons. 'They are three in number, and elected to the office. They, with the Arch'bishop, form a court, which sits every Monday for the determining civil suits 'and litigations amongst the Greeks. They assess all ranks in proportion to 'their means for defraying the expenses of the city, which in general amount 1 to 60,000 piastres per annum.
'The annual revenue of the Vaivode, whose jurisdiction extends over 'Attica, is about fifty or sixty thousand piastres. It arises from different 'sources, the principal of which are the capitation tax (the Caratch) from the 'Greeks, the poor classes paying three, the other, six piastres each: the cus
* toms on exports and imports; the tithe of grain, and of olive oil. Sheep, 'goats, bee-hives, vineyards, are also charged with a certain tax to the Vaivode. 'The taxes which the Athenians pay, though they complain much of their 'pressure, bear but a small proportion to those of some other countries. A 'man in very comfortable, if not affluent circumstances, told me that the 'amount of what he annually contributed was about 150 piastres, (£"7..10..0.) 'a trifling sura for a man of his condition.
'The price of labour is one piastre a day for a common labourer; for a man 'with two bullocks two piastres and a half; but provisions are so very cheap, 'that labourers are infinitely better paid than in England; in proof of which 'it may be observed, that they work only about one half the year, the remain'ing half is occupied by holidays and festivals, on which they are idle.
* De Tott gives a striking picture of the miseries attendant on the march of a Turkish army, vo1. ii. p.