Greece - The Morea, Or Peloponnesus
( Originally Published 1920 )
GEOGRAPHICALLY the Peloponnesus well deserves the name of island, which was bestowed upon it by the ancients. The low Isthmus of Corinth completely severs it from the mountainous peninsula of Greece. It is a world in itself, small enough as far as the mere space is concerned which it occupies upon the map, but great on account of the part it has played in the history of humanity.
On entering the Peloponnesus from the Isthmus of Corinth, we see rising in front of us the mountain rampart of Oneium, which defended the entrance of the peninsula, and upon one of whose promontories was built the nearly impregnable citadel of Corinth. These mountains form part of the general mountain system of the whole island, and, sheltered by them, its inhabitants could live in security. The principal mountain mass, whence all other chains radiate towards the entrances of the peninsula, is situated in the interior of the country, about forty miles to the west of Corinth. There Mount Cyllene of the ancient Greeks, or Zyria, rises into the air, its flanks covered with dark pines ; and farther away still, the Khelmos, or Aroanian Mountain, attains even a more considerable height, its snows descending into a valley on its northern slope, where they give rise to the river Styx, the cold waters of which prove fatal to perjurers, and disappear in a narrow chasm, one of the entrances to Hades. A range of wooded peaks, to the west of the Khelmos, connects that mountain with the Olonos (Mount Erymanthus), celebrated as the haunt of the savage boar destroyed by Hercules. All these mountains, from Corinth as far as Patras, form a rampart running parallel with the southern shore of the gulf, in the direction of which they throw off spurs enclosing steep valleys. In one of these—that of Buraikos—we meet with the grand caverns of Mega-Spileon, which are used as a monastery, and where the most curious structures may be seen built up on every vantage-ground offered by the rocks, suggesting a resemblance to the cells of a vast nest of hornets.
The table-land of the Peloponnesus is thus hounded towards the north by an elevated coast range. Another chain of the same kind bounds it on the east. It likewise starts from Mount Cyllene, and extends southward, its various portions being known as Gaurias, Malevo (Mount Artemisium), and Parthenion. It is then broken through by a vast depression, but again rises farther south as the range of Hagios Petros, or Parnon, to the east of Sparta. Getting lower by degrees, it terminates in the promontory of Malea, opposite to the island of Cerigo. It was this cape, tradition tells us, which formed the last refuge of the Centaurs ; that is to say, of the barbarian ancestors of the modern Tsakonians. No promontory was more dreaded by Greek navigators than this Cape Malea, owing to sudden gusts of wind, and an ancient proverb says, " When thou bast doubled the cape forget the name of thy native land."
The mountains of Western Morea do not present the regularity of the eastern chain. They are cut through by rivers, and to the south of the Aroanian Mountains and the Erymanthus they ramify into a multitude of minor chains, which now and then combine into mountain groups, and impart the most varied aspect to that portion of the plateau. Everywhere in the valleys we come unexpectedly upon landscapes to which an indescribable charm is imparted by a group of trees, a spring, a flock of sheep, or a shepherd sitting upon a heap of ruins. We are in beautiful Arcadia, sung by the poets. Though in great part deprived of its woods, it is still a beautiful country ; but more charming still are the eastern slopes of the plateau, which descend towards the Ionian Sea. There luxuriant forests and sparkling rivulets add an element of beauty to blue waves, distant islands, and a transparent sky, which is wanting in nearly every other part of maritime Greece.
The table-land of Arcadia is commanded on the west by pine-clad Maenalus, and bounded on the south by several mountain groups which give birth to separate mountain chains. One of these mountain masses—the Kotylion, or Palaeocastro—thus gives rise to the mountains of Messenia, amongst which rises the famous Ithome, and to those of AEgaleus, which spread over the peninsula to the west of the Gulf of Coron, and reappear in the sea as the rocky islets of Sapienza, Cabrera, and % enetikon. Another mountain mass, the Lyc:cus, or Diaforti—the Aroadian Olympus, which the Pelasgians claim for their cradle—and which rises almost in the centre of the Peloponnesus, is continued westward of Laoonia by an extended mountain chain, the most elevated and most characteristic of all the Korea. The highest crest of these mountains is the famous Taygetus, known also as I'entedactyl uu (five fingers), because of the five peaks which surmount it; or as St. Elias. in honour, no doubt, of Helios, the Dorian sun-god. A portion of the lower slopes of this mountain is clothed with forests of chestnuts and walnuts.
The three southern extremities of the Peloponnesus are thus occupied by high mountains and rocky declivities. The peninsula of Argolis, in the cast, is likewise traversed by mountain ranges, which start from Mount Cyllene, similarly to the Gaurias and the mountains of Arcadia. The whole of the Peloponnesus is thus a country of table-lands and mountain ranges. If we except the plains of Elis, which have been formed by the alluvial deposits carried down by the riv ers of Arcadia, and the lake basins of the interior, which have been filled up in the course of ages, we meet with nothing but mountains.* The principal mountain masses—the Cyllene, the Taygetus, and Parnon—are composed of crystalline schists and metamorphic marbles, as in continental Greece. Strata of the Jurassic age and beds of cretaceous limestone are here and there met with at the foot of these more ancient rocks. Near the coast, in Argolis, and on the flanks of the Taygetus, eruptions of serpentines and porphyries have taken place, whilst on the north-eastern coast of Argolis, and especially on the small peninsula of Methone, there exist recent volcanoes—amongst others, the Kaimenipetra, which M. Fouque identifies with the fire-vomiting mouths of Strabo, and which had its last eruption twenty-one centuries ago. These volcanoes are, no doubt, the vents of a submarine area of disturbance which extends through Milos, Santorin, and Nisyros, to the south of the AEgean Sea.
The sulphur springs which abound on the western coast of the Peloponnesus are, perhaps, likewise evidences of a reaction of the interior of the earth.
It is the opinion of several geologists that the coasts of Western Greece are being insensibly upheaved. In many places, and particularly at Corinth, we meet with ancient caverns and sea beaches at an elevation of several feet above the sea-level. It is this upheaval, and not merely the alluvial deposits brought down by rivers, which explains the encroachment of the land upon the sea at the mouth of the Achelous and on the coast of Elis, where four rocky islets have been joined to the land. Elsewhere a subsidence of the land has been noticed, as in the Gulf of Marathonisi and on the eastern coast of Greece, where the ancient pemnsula of Elaphonisi has been converted into an island. But even there the fluvial deposits have encroached upon the sea. The city of Calamata is twice as distant from the seashore now as in the days of Strabo, and the traces of the ancient haven of Helos, on the coast of Laconia, are now far inland.
The limestone rocks of the interior of the Peloponnesus abound as much in chasms, which swallow up the rivers, as do Boeotia and the western portion of the whole of the Balkan peninsula. Some of these katavothras are mere sieves, hidden beneath herbage and pebbles, but others are wide chasms and caverns, through which the course of the underground waters may be readily traced. In winter wild birds post themselves at the entrances of these caverns, in expectation of the prey which the river is certain to carry towards them; in summer, after the waters have retired, foxes and jackals again take possession of their accustomed dens. The water swallowed up by these chasms on the plateau reappears on the other side of the mountains in the shape of springs, or kephalaria (kephalorrysi.). The water of these springs has been purified by its passage through the earth, and its temperature is that of the soil. It bursts forth sometimes from a crevice in the rocks, sometimes in an alluvial plain, and sometimes even from the bottom of the sea. The subterranean geography of Greece is net yet sufficiently known to enable us to trace each of these kephalaria to the katavothras which feed them.
The ancients were most careful in keeping open these natural funnels, for, by facilitating the passage of the water, they prevented the formation of swamps. These precautions, however, were neglected during the centuries of barbarism which overcame Greece, and the waters were permitted to accumulate in many places at the expense of the salubrity of the country. The plain of Pheneus, or Phonia, a vast chasm between the Aroanian Mountains and the Cyllene, has thus repeatedly been converted into a lake. In the middle of last century the whole of this basin was filled with water to a depth of more than 300 feet. In 1828, when this sheet of water had already become eonsiderably reduced, it was still G miles long and 150 feet in depth. At length, a few years afterwards, the subterranean sluices opened, the waters disappeared, and there remained only two small marshes near the places of exit. But in 1850 the lake was again 2O0 feet in depth. Hercules, we are told, constructed a canal to drain this valley and to cleanse its subterranean outlets, but the inhabitants content themselves now with plaeing a grating above the sink-holes," to prevent the admission of trunks of trees and of other large objects carried along by the floods.
To the east of the valley of Pheneus, and on the southern foot of Mount Cyllene, there is another lake basin, celebrated in antiquity because of the man-eating birds which infested it, until they were exterminated by Hercules. This is the Stymphalus, alternately lake and cultivated land. During winter the waters cover about one-third of the basin ; but it happens occasionally, after heavy rains, that the lake resumes its ancient dimensions. There is only one katavothra through which the waters can escape, and this, instead of being near the shore, as usual, is at the bottom of the lake. It swallows up not only the water of the lake, but like-wise the vegetable remains carried into it, and the mud formed at its bottom ; and this detritus is conyeyed through it to some subterranean cavity, where it putrefies slowly, as may be judged from the fetid exhalations proceeding from the katavothra. The water, however, is purified, and when it reappears on the surface, close to the seashore, it is as clear as crystal.
There are many other lake basins of the same kind between the mountains of Areadia and the chain of the Gaurias. They all have their swamps or temporary lakes, but the katavothras, in every instance, are suf ficientIv numerous to prevent an inundation of the entire valley. The most important of these lake basins is formed by the famous plain of Mantinea, upon which many a battle was fought. From an hydrological point of view this is one of the most curious places in the world; for the waters which collect there are discharged into two opposite seas—the Gulf of Nauplia on the east, and in the direction of the Alpheus and the Ionian Sea towards the west. There may exist even some subterranean rivulet which discharges itself, towards the south, into the Eu rotas and the Gulf of Laconia.
The disappearance of the waters underground has condemned to sterility several parts of the Peloponnesus, which a little water would convert into the most fertile regions of the globe. The surfaee waters quickly suck up and form subterranean rivers, hidden from sight, which only see the light again, in most instances, near the seashore, when it is impossible to utilise them. The plain of Argos, though surrounded by a majestic amphitheatre of well-watered hills, is more sterile and arid even than are Megara and Attica. Its soil is always dry, and soaks up water like a sieve, which may have given rise to the fable of the Danaids. But to the south of that plain, where there is but a narrow cultivable strip of land between the mountains and the seashore, a great river bursts forth from the rocks. This is the Erasinus.
Other springs burst forth at the southern extremity of the plain, close to the defile of Lerna, which, like that of the Erasinus, are supposed to be fed from Lake Stymphalus. Close to them is a chasm filled with water, said to be unfathomable. It abounds in tortoises, and venomous serpents inhabit the adjoining marsh. These are the klphalaria, or " heads," of the ancient hydra of Lerna, which Hercules found it so difficult to seize hold of. Mill farther south there is another spring which rises from the bottom of the sea, more than three hundred yards from the shore. This spring—the I)oinae of the ancients, and Anavula of modern Greek mariners—is, in reality, but the mouth of one of the rivers swallowed up by the katavothras of Mantinea. When the sea is still it throws up a jet rising to a height of fifty feet.
Analogous phenomena may be witnessed in the two southern valleys of the peninsula, those of Sparta and Nessenia. The Iri, or Eurotas, is, in reality, but a large rivulet, which discharges itself into the Gulf of Marathonisi, at the end of a gorge, through which the waters of the Lake of Sparta forced themselves a passage during some ancient deluge ; but it is only on rare occasions that its volume of water is sufficient to remove the bar which obstructs its mouth. The Vasili-Potanlo (" royal river "), on the other hand, which bursts forth at the foot of a rock a short distance from the Eurotas, though its whole course does not exceed fix e miles, discharges a considerable volume of water throughout the year, and its mouth is at all times open. As to the river of Messenia, the ancient Pamisus, now called Pirnatza, it is the only river of Greece, besides the Alpheus, which forms a harbour at its mouth, and it can be ascended by small vessels for a distance of eight miles; but this advantage it owes exclusively to the powerful springs of Hagios Floros, which are fed by the mountains on the east. These springs, which form a large swamp where they rise to the surface. are the real river, if volume of water is to be decisive, and the country watered and fertilised by them was called the " Happy " by the ancients, on account of its fertility.
The western regions of the Peloponnesus receive more rain, and they are likewise in the possession of the most considerable river, the Alpheus. now called Ruphia, from one of its tributaries. The latter, the ancient Ladon, conveys a larger volume of water towards the sea than the Alpheus. It was as celebrated amongst the Greeks as was the Peneus of Thessaly, on account of the transparency of its waters, and the smiling scenery along its banks. It is partly fed by the snows of Mount Erymanthus, and, like most rivers of the Morea, derives a portion of its waters from subterranean tributaries rising on the central plateau. The Ladon thus receives the waters of Lake Phenea, whilst the Alpheus proper is fed in its upper course from katavothras on the shores of the ancient lakes of Orchomenus and Mantinea. Having traversed the basin of Megalopolis, anciently a lake, it passes through a series of picturesque gorges, and reaches its lower valley. A charming tradition, illustrative of the ties of amity which existed between Elis and Syraeuse, makes this river plunge beneath the sea and reappear in Sicily, close to the fountain of his beloved Arethusa. The ancient Greeks, who witnessed the disappearance of so many rivers, would hardly have looked upon this submarine course of the Alpheus as a thing to wonder at.
The Alpheus and all other rivers of Elis carry down towards the sea immense masses of detritus, which they spread over the plains extending from the foot of the mountains to the seashore. The ruins of Olympia disappeared in this manner beneath alluvial deposits. They have all frequently changed their beds, and not one amongst them has (lone so more frequently than the Peneus, or river of Gastuni. Anciently it discharged its waters to the north of the rocky promontory of Chelonatas, whilst in the present day it turns abruptly to the south, and enters the sea at a distance of fifteen miles from its ancient mouth. Works of irrigation may partly account for this change, but there can be no doubt that nature unaided bas by degrees much modified the aspect of this portion of Greece. Islands originally far in the sea have been joined to the land ; numerous open bays have gradually been cut off from the sea by natural embankments, and transformed into swamps or lagoons. One of the latter extends for several leagues to the south of the Alpheus, and is divided from the sea by a fine forest of pines. These majestic forests, in which the Triphylians paid honour to their dead, the surrounding hills dotted over with clumps of trees, and Mount Lycaeus, from whose flanks are precipitated the cascades dedicated to Neda, the nurse of Jupiter, render this the most attractive district of all the Morea to a lover of nature.
The Peloponnesus presents us with one of the most striking instances of the influence exercised by the nature of the country upon the historical development of its inhabitants. Held to Greece by a mere thread, and defended at its entrance by a double bulwark of mountains, this "isle of Pelops" naturally became the seat of independent tribes at a time when armies still recoiled from natural obstacles. The isthmus was open as a commercial high-road, but it was closed against invaders.
The relief of the peninsula satisfactorily explains the distribution of the tribes inhabiting it, and the part they played in history. The whole of the interior basin, which has no visible outlets towards the sea, naturally became the home of a tribe who, like the Arcadians, held no intercourse with their neighbours, and hardly any amongst themselves. Corinth, Sicyon, and Achaia occupied the sea-shore on the northern slopes of the mountains, but were separated by high transversal chains. The inhabitants of these isolated valleys long remained strangers to each other, and when at length they combined to resist the invader, it was too late. Elis, in the west, with its wide valleys and its insalubrious plains extending along a coast having no havens, naturally played but a secondary part in the history of the peninsula. Its inhabitants, exposed to invasions, owing to their country being without natural defences, would soon have been enslaved, had they not placed themselves under the protection of all the rest of Greece by converting their plain of Olympia into a place of meeting, where the Hellenes of Europe and of Asia, from the continent and from the islands, met for a few days' festival to forget their rivalries and animosities. The basin of Argos and the mountain peninsula of Argolis, on the eastern side of the Peloponnesus, on the other hand, are districts having natural boundaries, and are easily defended. Hence the Argolians were able to maintain their autonomy for centuries, and even in the Homeric age they exercised a sort of hegemony over the remainder of Greece. The Spartans were their successors. The country in which they established themselves possessed the double advantage of being secure against every attack, and of furnishing all they stood in need of. Having firmly established themselves in the beautiful valley of the Eurotas, they found no difficulty in extending their power to the seashore, and to the unfortunate Reins. At a later date they crossed the heights of the Tavgetus, and descended into the plains of Messenia. That portion of Greece likewise formed a natural basin, protected by elevated mountain ramparts; and the Messenians, who were kinsmen of the Spartans and their equals in bravery, were thus able to resist for a century. At length they fell, and all the Southern Peloponnesus acknowledged the supremacy of Sparta, which was now in a position to assert its authority over the whole of Greece. Then it was that the mountain-girt plateau on the road from Lacedoemonia to Corinth, upon which stood the cities of Tegea and Mantinea, and which was made by nature for a field of Mars, became the scene of strife.
The Peloponnesus, with its sinuous shores, forms a remarkable contrast to Attica. Its characteristics are essentially those of a continent, and anciently the Peloponnesians were mountaineers rather than mariners. Except in Corinth, where the two seas nearly join, and a few towns of Argolis, which is another Attica, there were no inducements for the inhabitants to engage in maritime commerce; and in their mountain valleys and upland plains they were entirely dependent upon the rearing of cattle and husbandry. Arcadia, in the centre of the peninsula, was inhabited only by herdsmen and labourers; and its name, which originally meant " country of bears," has become the general designation for an eminently pastoral country. The Laconians also, separated from the sea by rocky mountains which hem in the valley of the Eurotas at its point of issue, preserved for a long time the customs of warriors and of cultivators of the soil, and took to the sea only with reluctance. "When the Spartans placed Eurotas and Tavgetus at the bead of their heroes," says Edgar Quinet, "they distinctly connected the features of the valley with the destinies of the people by whom it was occupied."
In the very earliest ages the Phoenieians already occupied important factories on the coasts of the Peloponnesus. They had established themselves at Nauplia, in the Gulf of Argos ; and at Crania, the modern Marathonisi or Gythion, in Laconia, they purchased the shells which they required to dye their purple cloths. The Greeks themselves were in possession of a few busy ports, amongst which was " sandy Pylos," the capital of Nestor, whose position is now held by Navarino, on the other side of the gulf. At a subsequent date, when Greece had become the centre of Mediterranean commerce, Corinth, so favourably situated between the two seas, rose into importance, not because of its political influence, its cultivation of the arts, or love of liberty, but through the number and wealth of its inhabitants. It is said that it had a population of three hundred thousand souls within its walls. Even after it had been razed by the Romans it again recovered its ancient pre-eminence. But the exposed position of the town has caused it to be ravaged so many times that all commerce has fled from it. In 1858, when an earthquake destroyed Corinth, that once famous city had dwindled down into a poor Tillage. The city has been rebuilt about five miles from its ancient site, on the shore of the gulf named after it, but we doubt whether it will ever resume its ancient importance unless a canal be dug to connect the two seas. The high-roads from Marseilles and Trieste to Smyrna and Constantinople would then lead across the Isthmus of Corinth, and this canal might attract an amount of shipping equal to that which frequents other ocean channels or canals similarly situated. But for the present the isthmus is almost deserted, and only the passengers who are conveyed by Greek steamers to the small ports on its opposite shores cross it. The ancients, who had failed in the construction of a canal, and who made no further effort after the time of Nero, because they imagined one of the two seas to be at a higher level than the other, had provided, at all events, a kind of tramway, by means of which their small vessels could be conveyed from the Gulf of Corinth to the AEgean Sea.
After the Crusades, when the powerful Republic of Venice had gained a footing upon the coasts of Morea, flourishing commercial colonies arose along them, in Arcadia, on the island of Prodano (Prote), at Navarino, Modon, Coron, Calamata, Malvoisie, and Nauplia in Argolis. At the call of these Venetian merchants the Peloponnesus again became a seat of trade, and resumed, to some extent, that part in maritime enterprise which it had enjoyed in the time of the Phoenicians. But the advent of the Turk, the impoverishment of the soil, and the civil wars which resulted therefrom, again forced the inhabitants to break off all intercourse with the outer world, and to shut themselves up in their island as in a prison. Tripolis, or Tripolitza, in the very centre of the peninsula, and called thus, it is said, because it is the representative of three ancient cities—Mantinea, Tegea, and Pallantium—then became the most populous place. Since the Greeks have regained their independence life again fluctuates towards the sea-shore as by a sort of natural sequence. Patras, close to the entrance of the Gulf of Corinth, and near the most fertile and best-cultivated plains on the eastern shore, is by far the most important city at present, awl, in anticipation of its future extension, the streets of a new town have been laid out, in the firm belief that it will some day rival Smyrna and Trieste in extent.
The other towns of the peninsula, even those which exhibited the greatest activity during the dominion of the Venetians, are but of very secondary importance, if we compare them with this emporium of the Peloponnesus. .AEgium, or Vostitza, on the Gulf of Corinth, is a poor port, less celebrated on account of its commerce than in consequence of a magnificent plane-tree, more than fifty feet in girth, the hollow trunk of w hich was formerly used as a prison. Pyrgos, close to the Alpheus, has no port at all. The fine roadstead of Navarino, defended against winds and waves by the rocky islet of Sphacteria, is but little frequented, and the merchantmen riding at anchor there never outnumber the Turkish men-of-war at the bottom, where they have lain since the battle fought in 1828. Modon and Coron have likewise fallen off. Calamata, at the mouth of the fertile valleys of Messenia, has an open roadstead only, and -vessels cannot always ride in safety upon it. The celebrated Malvoisie, now called Moneinvasia, is hardly more than a heap of ruins, and the vineyards in its neighbourhood, which furnished the exquisite wine named after the town, have long ceased to exist. Nauplia, which was the capital of the modern kingdom of Greece during the first few years of its existence, possesses the advantage of a well-sheltered port ; but its walls, its bastions, and its forts give it the character of a military town rather than of a commercial one.
The towns in the interior of the country, whatever glories may attach to them, are hardly more now than large villages. The most celebrated of all. Sparta, thanks to the fertility of its environs, promises to become one of the most prosperous cities of the interior of the Peloponnesus. Sparta—that is, the " scattered city,"was named thus because its houses were scattered over the plain, defended only by the valour of their inhabitants, and not by walls. In the Middle Ages Sparta was supplanted by the neighbouring Mistra, whose decayed Gothic buildings and castles occupy a steep hill on the western side of the Eurotas; but it has now recovered its supremacy amongst the towns of Laconia. Argos, which is more ancient even than the city of Lacedaemon, has likewise risen anew from its ruins ; for the plain in which it lies, though occasionally dried up, is of great natural fertility.
Strangers, however, who explore the countries of the Peloponnesus, do not go in search of these newly risen cities, where a few stones only remind them of the glories of the past, but are attracted by the ancient monuments of art. In that respect Argolis is one of the richest provinces of Greece. Near to Argos the seats of an amphitheatre are cut into the steep flanks of the hill of Larissa. Between Argos and Nauplia a small rock rises in the middle of the plain, which is surmounted by the ancient Acropolis of Tiryns, the Cyclopean walls of which are more than fifty feet in thickness. A few miles to the north of Argos are the ruins of Mycenae, the city of Agamemnon, where the celebrated " Gate of Lions," coarsely sculptured when Greek art first dawned, and the vast vaults known as the Treasury f the Atrides, mainly attract the attention of visitors. These vaults are amongst the oldest and best-preserved antiquities of Greece. They exhibit most solid workmanship, and one of the stones, which does duty as a lintel over the entrance-gate, weighs no less than one hundred and sixty-nine tons. At Epidaurus, in Argolis, on the shores of the Gulf of AEgina, and close to the most famous temple of AEsculapius, we still meet with a theatre which has suffered less from time than any other throughout Greece. Shrubs, interspersed with small trees, surround it ; but we can still trace its fifty-four rows of white marble seats, capable of affording accommodation to twelve thousand spectators. Amongst other famous ruins of Argolis are the beautiful remains of a temple of Jupiter at Nemea, and the seven Doric columns of Corinth, said to be the oldest in all Greece. But the most beautiful edifice of the peninsula must be sought for near Arcadian Phigalia, in the charming valley of the Neda. This is the temple of Bassae, erected by Ictinus in honour of Apollo Epicurius, and its beauty is enhanced by the oaks and rocks which surround it.
Citadels, however, are the buildings we most frequently meet with ; and many a fortified place, with its walls and acropolis, yet exists as in the days of ancient Greece. The walls of Phigalia and Messenia still have their ancient towers, gates, and redoubts. Other fortifications were utilised by the Crusaders, Venetians, or Turks, and by them furnished with crenellated walls and keeps, which add another picturesque feature to the landscape. One of these ancient fortresses, transformed during the Middle Ages, rises at the very gates of the Peloponnesus—namely, the citadel of Corinth, the strongest and most commanding of all.
Several of the islands of the AEgean Sea must be looked upon as natural dependencies of the Peloponnesus, to which submarine ledges or shoals attach them.
The islands along the coast of Argolis, which are inhabited by Albanian seamen, who were amongst the foremost to fight the Turk during the struggle for Hellenic independence, have lost much of their former commercial importance. Poros, a small Albanian town on a volcanic island of the same name, which the revolted people chose for their capital, is, however, still a bustling place, for it has an excellent harbour, and the Greek Government has made it the principal naval station of the kingdom. Hydra, on the other hand, and the small island of Spezzia, next to it, have lost their former importance. They are both rocky islands, without arable soil, trees, or water, and yet they formerly supported a population of fifty thousand souls. About 17:30 a colony of Albanians, weary of the exactions of some Turkish pasha on the mainland, fled to the island of Hydra. They were left in peace there, for they agreed to pay a trifling tribute. Their commerce—leavened, to be sure, with a little piracy—assumed large dimensions, and immediately before the war of independence the Albanians of Hydra owned nearly 400 vessels of 100 to 200 tons each, and they were able to send over 200 vessels, armed with 200 guns, against the Turks. By engaging so enthusiastically in this struggle for liberty, the Hydriotes, without suspecting it, wrought their own ruin. No sooner was the cause of Greece triumphant than the commerce of Hydra was transferred to Syra and the Pira'us, which are more favourably situated.
Cythera of Laconia, a far larger island than either of those mentioned, and better known by the Italian name of Cerigo, formed a member of the Septinsular Republic, although not situated in the Ionian Sea, and clearly a dependency of the Peloponnesus. Cythera is no longer the island of Venus, and its voluptuous groves have disappeared. Seen from the north, it resembles a pile of sterile rocks. It nevertheless yields abundant harvests, possesses fine plantations of olive-trees, and populous villages. Cerigo, in former times, enjoyed considerable importance, owing to its position between the Ionian Sea and the Archipelago ; but Cape Malea has lost its terrors now, and the harbour of refuge on the island is no longer sought after. Heaps of shells, left there by Phoenician manufacturers of purple, have been found on the island ; and it was the Phoenicians who introduced the worship of Venus Astarte.