Greece - Arcadia - Andritzena - Bassae
( Originally Published 1913 )
THERE is no name in Greece which raises in the mind of the ordinary reader more definite ideas than the name Arcadia. It has become indissolubly connected with the charms of pastoral ease and rural simplicity. The sound of the shepherd's pipe and the maiden's laughter, the rustling of shady trees, the murmuring of gentle fountains, the bleating of lambs and the lowing of oxen—these are the images of peace and plenty which the poets have imagined in that ideal retreat. There are none more unfounded in the real nature and aspect of the country, and more opposed to the sentiment of the ancients. Rugged mountains and gloomy defiles, a harsh and wintry climate, a poor and barren soil, tilled with infinite patience ; a home that exiled its children to seek bread at the risk of their blood, a climate more op-posed to intelligence and to culture than even Boeotian fogs, a safe retreat for bears and wolves—this is the Arcadia of old Greek history. Politically it has no weight whatever till the days of Epaminondas, and the foundation of Megalopolis. Intellectually, its rise is even later, and it takes no national part in the great march of literature from Homer to Menander. It was only famed for the marketable valour of its hardy mountaineers, of whom the Tegeans had held their own even against the power of Sparta, and obtained an honourable place in her army. It was also noted for rude and primitive cults, of which later men praised the simplicity and homely piety—at times also, the stern gloominess, which did not shrink from the offering of human blood.
I must remind the reader that rural beauty among the ancients, as well as among the Renaissance visions of an imaginary Arcadia as a rustic paradise, by no means included the wild picturesqueness which we admire in beetling cliffs and raging torrents. These were inhospitable and savage to the Greeks. It was the gentle slope, the rich pasture, the placid river framed in deep foliage—it was, in fact, landscape-scenery like the valley of the Thames, or about the abbeys of Yorkshire, which satisfied their notion of perfect landscape ; and in this the men of the Renaissance were perfectly agreed with them.
How, then, did the false notion of our Arcadia spring up in modern Europe ? How is it that even our daily papers assume this sense, and know it to be intelligible to the most vulgar public ? The history of the change from the historical to the poetical conception is very curious, and worth the trouble of explaining, especially as we find it assumed in many books, but accounted for in none.
It appears that from the oldest days the worship of Pan had its home in Arcadia, particularly about Mount Maenalus, and that it was already ancient when it was brought to Athens at the time of the Persian Wars. The extant Hymn to Pan, among the Homeric Hymns, which may have been composed shortly after that date, is very remarkable for its idyllic and picturesque tone, and shows that with this worship of Pan were early associated those trains of nymphs and rustic gods, with their piping and dance, which in-spired Praxiteles's inimitable Faun. These images are even transferred by Euripides 1 to the Acropolis, where he describes the daughters of Aglauros dancing on the sward, while Pan is playing his pipe in the grotto underneath. Such facts seem to show a gentle and poetical element in the stern and gloomy mountaineers, who lived, like the Swiss of our day, in a perpetual struggle with nature, and were all their lives harassed with toil, and saddened with thankless fatigue. This conclusion is sustained by the evidence of a far later witness, Polybius, who in his fourth book mentions the strictness with which the Arcadians insisted upon an education in music, as necessary to soften the harshness and wildness of their life. He even maintains that the savagery of one town (Kynætha) was caused by a neglect of this salutary precaution. So it happens that, although Theocritus lays his pastoral scenes in the uplands of Sicily, and the later pastoral romances, such as the exquisite Daphnis and Chloe, are particularly associated with the voluptuous Lesbos, Vergil, in several of his Eclogues, makes allusion to the musical talent of Arcadian shepherds, and in his tenth brings the unhappy Gallus into direct relation to Arcadia in connection with the worship of Pan on Mænalus. But this prominent feature in Vergil—borrowed, I suppose, from some Greek poet, though I know not from whom—bore no immediate fruit. His Roman imitators, Calpurnius and Nemesianus, make no mention of Arcadia, and if they had, their works were not unearthed till the year 1534, when the poetical Arcadia had been already created. There seems no hint of the idea in early Italian poetry ;1 for according to the histories of mediaeval literature, the pastoral romance did not originate until the close of the fifteenth century, with the Portuguese Ribeyro, and he lays all the scenes of his idylls not in a foreign country, but in Portugal, his own home. Thus we reach the year 1500 without any trace of a poetical Arcadia. But at that very time it was being created by the single work of a single man. The celebrated Jacopo Sannazaro, known by the title of Actius Sincerus in the affected society of literary Naples, exiled himself from that city in consequence of a deep and unrequited passion. He lay concealed for a long time, it is said, in the wilds of France, possibly in Egypt, but certainly not in Greece, and immortalised his grief in a pastoral medley of prose description and idyllic complaint called Arcadia and suggested, I believe, by the Gallus of Vergil. Though the learned and classical author despised this work in comparison with his heroic poem on the Conception of the Virgin Mary, the public of the day thought differently. Appearing in 1502, the Arcadia of Sannazaro went through sixty editions during the century, and so this single book created that imaginary home of innocence and grace which has ever since been attached to the name. Its occurrence henceforward is so frequent as to require no further illustration in this place.
But let us turn from this poetical and imaginary country to the real land—from Arcâdia to Arcadia, as it is called by the real inhabitants. As everybody knows, this Arcadia is the alpine centre of the Morea, bristling with mountain chains, which reach their highest points in the great bar of Erymanthus, to the N.W., in the lonely peak of 'Cyllene hoar,' to the N.E., in the less conspicuous, but far more sacred Lykaeon, to the S.W., and finally, in the serrated Taygetus to the S.E. These four are the angles, as it were, of. a quadrilateral enclosing Arcadia. Yet these are but the greatest among chains of great mountains, which seem to traverse the country in all directions, and are not easily distinguished, or separated into any connected system. They are nevertheless interrupted, as we found, by two fine oval plains-both stretching north and south, both surrounded with a beautiful panorama of mountains, and both, of course, the seats of the old culture, such as it was, in Arcadia. That which is southerly and westerly, and from which the rivers still flow into the Alpheus and the western seal is guarded at its south end by Megalopolis. That which is more east, which is higher in level, and separated from the former by the bleak bar of Maenalus, is the plain of Mantinea and Tegea, now represented by the important town of Tripolitza. These two parallel plains give some plan and system to the confusion of mountains which cover the ordinary maps of Arcadia.
The passage from Elis into Arcadia is nowhere marked by any natural boundary. You ride up the valley of the Alpheus, crossing constantly the streams, great and small, which come flowing into it from the spurs of Erymanthus, from northern Arcadia, and the adjoining highlands of Elis. The stream called Erymanthus, which is the old boundary does not strike the traveller here as it does higher up its course, and the only other confluent water worth mentioning is the Ladon, which meets the Alpheus at some hours' ride above Olympia, but which counted of old as a river of Arcadia. This Ladon seems to have specially struck Pausanius with its beauty, as he returns to it several times ; and later observers, such as M. Beulé, have corroborated him, saying that on the banks of this river you may indeed find the features of the poetical Arcadia—grassy slopes and great shady trees, without the defiles and precipices so common in the inner country. The Ladon and its valley in fact, though in Arcadia, partake of the character of the neighbouring Elis: it is the outer boundary of the real Alps. The Alpheus, on the contrary, which is a broad, peaceful stream when it passes into tamer country, comes through the wildest part of central Arcadia ; and if you follow its course upward, will lead you first past the ancient site of Heræa, a few miles above the Ladon, and then through rugged and savage mountains, till you at last ascend to the valley of Megalopolis, round which it winds in a great curve. We did not follow this route, nor did we ascend the valley of the Ladon, in spite of its reputed beauties. For we were bound for Andritzena, a ride of eleven hours from Olympia, which lay to the S.E., and within easy distance of the temple of Bassae. We therefore forded the Alpheus, just above the confluence of the Ladon, where the two rivers form a great delta of sand, and the stream is broad and comparatively shallow. The banks were clothed with brushwood, and above it with a green forest, along the grassy margin of which scarlet anemones were scattered like our primroses among the stems of the trees, and varied with their brightness the mosses and hoary lichen. From this point onward we began to cross narrow defiles, and climb up steeps which seemed impossible to any horse or mule. We entered secluded mountain valleys, where the inhabitants appeared to live apart from all the world, and looked with wonder upon the sudden stranger. We rested beside tumbling rivers, rushing from great wooded mountain sides, which stood up beside us like walls of waving green. The snow had disappeared from these wild valleys but a few weeks, and yet even the later trees were already clothed with that yellow and russet brown which is not only the faded remnant, but also the forerunner, of the summer green. And down by the river's side, the grey fig-trees were putting forth great tufts at the end of every branch, while the pear-trees were showering their snowy blossoms upon the stream. But in one respect, all this lonely solitude showed a marked contrast to the wilds of northern Greece. Every inch of available ground was cultivated ; all the steep hillsides were terraced in ridges with infinite labour ; the ravages of the winter's torrent were being actively repaired. There was indeed in some sense a solitude. No idlers or wanderers were to be seen on the way. But the careful cultivation of the country showed that there was not only population, but a thrifty and careful population. All the villages seemed encumbered with the remains of recent building ; for almost all the houses were new, or erected within very few years. The whole of this alpine district seemed happy and prosperous. This, say the Greeks, is the result of its remoteness from the Turkish frontier, its almost insular position—in fact, of its being under undisturbed Hellenic rule. No bandit has been heard of in Arcadia since the year 1847. Life and property are, I should think, more secure than in any part of England. Morals are remarkably pure. If all Greece were occupied in this way by a contented and industrious peasantry, undisturbed by ambition from within or violence from without, the kingdom must soon become rich and prosperous. It was not uncommon to find in these valleys two or three secluded home-steads, miles from any village. This is the surest sign both of outward security and of inward thrift, when people cut themselves off from society for the sake of ample room and good return for their industry. Late in the evening we entered the steep streets of the irregular but considerable town of Andritzena.
We experienced in this place some of the rudeness of Greek travel. As the party was too large to be accommodated in a private house, we sought shelter in an inn with no chairs, no beds, one tiny table, and about two spoons and forks. We were in fact lodged within four bare walls, with a balcony outside the room, and slept upon rugs laid on the floor. The people were very civil and honest—in this a great contrast to the inn at Tripolitza, of which I shall speak in due time —and were, moreover, considerably inconvenienced by our arriving during the Holy Week of the Greek Church, when there is hardly anything eaten. There was no meat, of course, in the town. Still worse, no form of milk, cheese, or curds, is allowed during this fast. The people live on black bread, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. They are wholly given up to their processions and services ; they are ready to think of nothing else. Thus we came not only to a place scantily supplied, but at the scantiest moment of the year. This is a fact of great importance to travellers in Greece, and one not mentioned, I think, in the guide- books. Without making careful provision beforehand by telegraph, no one should venture into the highlands of Grecce during this very Holy Week, and it should be remembered that it does not coincide with the Passion or Holy Week of the Latin Church. It was just ten days later on this occasion; so that, after having suffered some hardships from this cause in remote parts of Italy, we travelled into the same difficulty in Greece. But I must say that a Greek fast is a very different thing from the mild and humane fasting of the Roman Catholic Church. We should have been well-nigh starved, had I not appealed, as was my wont, to the physician, of the town, a very amiable and cultivated man, and really educated in the most philosophical views of modern medicine. He was well acquainted, for example, with the clinical practice of the Dublin school, as exemplified in the works of Graves and Stokes. It seemed to me, from a comparison of many instances, that in this matter of medicine, as indeed generally, the Greeks show remarkable intelligence and enterprise as compared with the nations around them.' They study in the great centres of European thought. They know the more important languages in which this science can be pursued. A traveller taken ill in the remote valleys of Arcadia would receive far safer and better treatment than would be his lot in most parts of Italy.
The gentleman to whom I appealed in this case did all he could to save us from starvation. He procured for us excellent fresh curds. He obtained us the promise of meat from the mountains. He came to visit us, and tell us what we required to know of the neighbourhood. Thus we were able to spend the earlier portion of the night in comparative comfort. But, as might have been expected, when the hour for sleep had arrived, our real difficulties began. I was protected by a bottle of spirits of camphor, with which my rugs and person were sufficiently scented to make me an object of aversion to my assailants. But the rest of the party were not so fortunate. It was, in fact, rather an agreeable diversion, when we were roused, or rather, perhaps, distracted, shortly after midnight, by piercing yells from a number of children, who seemed to be slowly approaching our street.
On looking out we saw a very curious scene. All the little children were coming in slow procession, each with a candle in its hand, and shouting Kyrie Eleison at the top of its voice. After the children came the women and the older men (I fancy many of the younger men were absent), also with candles, and in the midst a sort of small bier, with an image of the dead Christ laid out upon it, decked with tinsel and flowers, and surrounded with lights. Along with it came priests in their robes, singing in gruff bass some sort of Litany. The whole procession adjourned to the church of the town, where the women went to a separate gallery, the men gathered in the body of the building, and a guard of soldiers with fixed bayonets stood around the bier of their Christi Though the congregation seemed very devout, and many of them in tears at the sufferings of their Saviour, they nevertheless all turned round to look at us strangers who chanced to witness their devotions. To those who come from without, and from a different cult, and see the service of a strange nation in a strange tongue, the mesquin externals are the obtrusive feature, and we wonder how deep devotion and true piety can exist along with what is apparently mean and even grotesque. And yet in these poor and shabby services, with this neglect and insouciance of detail, there may be purer faith and better morals than in the gorgeous pageants and stately ceremonies of metropolitan cathedrals.
We rose in the morning eager to start on our three hours' ride to Bassae, where Ictinus had built his famous but inaccessible temple to Apollo the Helper. The temple is very usually called the temple of Phigalia, and its friezes are called Phigalian, I think, in the British Museum. This is so far true, that it was built for and managed by the people of Phigalia. But that town was a considerable distance off—according to Pausanias forty stadia, or about five miles ; and he tells us they built the temple at a place called Bassae (the glades), near the summit of Mount Kotilion. Accordingly, it ought to be consistently called the temple at or of Bassæ.
The morning, as is not unusual in these Alps, was lowering and gloomy, and as we and our patient mules climbed up a steep ascent out of the town, the rain began to fall in great threatening drops. But we would not be daunted. The way led among gaunt and naked mountain sides, and often up the bed of winter torrents. The lateness of the spring, for the snow was now hardly gone, added to the gloom ; the summer shrubs and the summer grass were not yet green, and the country retained most of its wintry bleakness. Now and then there met us in the solitude a shepherd coming from the mountains, covered in his white woollen cowl, and with a lamb of the same soft dull colour upon his shoulders. It was the day of preparation for the Easter feast, and the Iamb was being brought by this picturesque shepherd, not to the fold but to the slaughter. Yet there was a strange and fascinating suggestion in the serious face peering from its symphony of white, in the wilderness around, in the helpless patience of the animal, all framed in a background of grey mist, and dripping with abundant rain. As we wound our way through the mountains we came to glens of richer colour and friendlier aspect. The sound of merry boys and baying dogs reached up to us from below as we skirted far up along the steep sides, still seeking a higher and higher level. Here the primrose and violet took the place of the scarlet and the purple anemone, and cheered us with the sight of northern flowers, and with the fairest produce of a northern spring.
At last we attained a weird country, in which the ground was bare, save where some sheltered and sunny spot showed bunches of very tall violets, hanging over in tufts, rare purple anemones, and here and there a great full iris ; yet these patches were so exceptional as to make a strong contrast with the brown soil. But the main feature were single oak-trees with pollarded tops and gnarled branches, which stood about all over these lofty slopes, and gave them a melancholy and dilapidated aspect. They showed no mark of spring, no shoot or budding leaf, but the russet-brown rags of last year's clothing hung here and there upon the branches. These wintry signs, the gloomy mist, and the insistent rain gave us the feeling of chill October. And yet the weird oaks, with their branches tortured as it were by storm and frost—these crippled limbs, which looked as if the pains of age and disease had laid hold of the sad tenants of this alpine desert—were covered with their own peculiar loveliness. All the stems were clothed with delicate silver-grey lichen, save where great patches of velvety pale green moss spread a warm mantle about them. This beautiful contrast of grey and yellow-green may be seen upon many of our own oak-trees in the winter, and make these the most richly coloured of all the leafless stems in our frosty landscape. But here there were added among the branches huge tufts of mistletoe, brighter and yellower than the moss, yet of the same grassy hue, though of different texture. And there were trees so clothed with this foreign splendour that they looked like some quaint species of great evergreen. It seemed as if the summer's foliage must have really impaired the character and the beauty of this curious forest.
At last we crossed a long flat summit, and began to descend, when we presently came upon the temple from the north, facing us on a lower part of the lofty ridge. As we approached, the mist began to clear away, and the sun shone out upon the scene, while the clouds rolled back towards the east, and gradually disclosed to us the splendid prospect which the sanctuary commands. All the southern Peloponnesus lay before us. We could see the western sea, and the gulf of Koron to the south ; but the long ridge of Taygetus and the mountains of Malea hid from us the eastern seas. The rich slopes of Messene, and the rugged highlands of northern Laconia and of Arcadia, filled up the nearer view. There still remained here and there a cloud which made a blot in the picture, and marred the completeness of the landscape.
Nothing can be stranger than the remains of a beautiful temple in this alpine solitude. Greek life is a sort of protest for cities and plains and human culture, against picturesque Alps and romantic scenery. Yet here we have a building of the purest age and type set up far from the cities and haunts of men, and in the midst of such a scene as might be chosen by the most sentimental modern. It was dedicated to Apollo the Helper, for his deliverance of the country from the same plague which devastated Athens at the opening of the Peloponnesian War, and was built by the greatest architect of the day, Ictinus, the builder of the Parthenon.
It was reputed in Pausanias's day the most beautiful temple in Peloponnesus, next to that of Athene Alea at Tegea. Even its roof was of marble tiles, and the cutting of the limestone soffits of the ceiling is still so sharp and clear, that specimens have been brought to Athens, as the most perfect of the kind.
The friezes discovered in 1812, quite close to the surface, by Mr. Cockerell and his friends, were carried away, and are now one of the greatest ornaments of the British Museum. Any one who desires to know every detail of the building, and see its general effect when restored, must consult Cockerell's elaborate work on this and the temple of Aegina. It affords many problems to the architect. Each of the pillars within the cella was engaged or attached to the wall, by joinings at right angles with it, the first pair only reaching forward, so to speak, towards the spectator as he entered. The temple faces north, contrary to the usual habit of the Greeks. In the very centre was found a Corinthian capital—another anomaly in a Doric temple, and at the epoch of Periclean art. In Mr. Cockerell's restoration of the interior, this capital is fitted to a solitary pillar in the centre of the cella, and close to the statue of the god, which apparently faced sideways, and looked towards the rising sun. It is a more popular theory that it was set up much later, with some votive tripod upon it, and that it does not belong to the original structure. The frieze in this temple was not along the outside wall of the cella, but inside, and over the pillars, as the narrow side aisle (if I may so call it) between the pillars and the cella wall was broken by the joining of the former, five at each side, with the latter. I cannot but fancy that this transference of the friezes to the inner side of the wall was caused by the feeling that the Parthenon friezes, upon which such great labour and such exquisite taste had been lavished, were after all very badly seen, being 'skied ' into a place not worthy of them. Any one who will look up at the remaining band on the west front of the Parthenon from the foot of the pillars beneath will, I think, agree with me. At Bassae there are many peculiarities in the Ionic capitals, and in the ornamentation of this second monument of Ictinus's genius, which have occupied the architects, but on which I will not here insist?. The general effect is one of smallness, as compared with the Parthenon ; of lightness and grace, as compared with the temple at Olympia, the Doric pillars being here somewhat more slender than those of the Parthenon, though the other proportions are not unlike. The style of the frieze has been commented upon in all our histories of Greek art. The effect produced is, moreover, that of lateness, as compared with the Athenian sculptures ; there is more exaggerated action, flying drapery and contorted limbs, and altogether a conscious striving at a strong effect. But the execution, which was probably entrusted to native artists under Attic direction, is inferior to good Attic work, and in some cases positively faulty. Unfortunately, this part of the temple is in London, not at Bassae.
The ruin, as we saw it, was very striking, and unlike any other we had visited in Greece. It is built of the limestone which crops up all over the mountain plateau on which it stands ; and, as the sun shone upon it after recent rain, was of a delicate bluish-grey colour, so like the surface of the ground in tone that it almost seemed to have grown out of the rock, as its natural product. The pillars are indeed by no means monoliths, but set together of short drums, of which the inner row are but the rounded ends of long blocks which reach back to the cella walls. But as the grain of the stone runs across the pillars they have become curiously wrinkled with age, so that the artificial joinings are lost among the wavy transverse lines, which make us imagine the pillars sunk with years and fatigue, and weary of standing in this wild and gloomy solitude. There is a great oak-tree, such as I have already described, close beside the temple, and the colouring of its stem forms a curious contrast to the no less beautiful shading of the time-worn pillars. Their ground being a pale bluish-grey, the lichens which invade the stone have varied the fluted surface with silver, with bright orange, and still more with a delicate rose madder. Even under a mid-day sun these rich colours were very wonderful, but what must they be at sunset ?
There is something touching in the unconscious efforts of Nature to fill up the breaks and heal the rents which time and desolation have made in human work. If a gap occurs in the serried ranks of city buildings by sudden accident, the site is forthwith concealed with hideous boarding ; upon which, presently, staring portraits of latest clown or merriest mountebank mock as it were the ruin within, and advertise their idle mirth—an uglier fringe around the ugly stains of fire or the heaps of formless masonry. How different is the hand of Nature ! Whether in northern abbey or in southern fane, no sooner are the monuments of human patience and human pride abandoned and forgotten, than Nature takes them into her gentle care, covers them with ivy, with lichen, and with moss, plants her shrubs about them, and sows them with countless flowers. And thus, when a later age repents the ingratitude of its forerunners, and turns with new piety to atone for generations of forgetfulness, Nature's mantle has concealed from harm much that had else been destroyed, and covered the remainder with such beauty, that we can hardly conceive these triumphs of human art more lovely in their old perfection than in their modern solitude and decay.
The way from Andritzena to Megalopolis leads down from the rugged frontiers of Arcadia and Messene, till we reach the fine rolling plain which has Karytena at its northern, and Megalopolis near its southern, extremity. Our guides were in high spirits, and kept singing in turn a quaint love song, which, after the usual timeless flourishes and shakes at the opening, ended in the following phrase, which their constant repetition stamped upon my memory:
The way was at first steep and difficult—we were still in the land of the violet and primrose. But after an hour's ride we came into a forest which already showed summer signs ; and here we found again the anemone, the purple and white cistus, among shrubs of mastich and arbutus. Here, too, we found the cyclamen, which is such a favourite in the green-houses and gardens of England. We passed a few miles to the south of Karytena, with the wonderful, and apparently impregnable fortress of Hugo de Bruyères perched like an eagle's nest on the top of a huge cliff, from which there must be a splendid outlook not only down the valley of Megalopolis, but into the northern passes from Achaia, and the mountains of Elis. I can conceive no military post more important to the Arcadian plain, and yet it seems to have attained no celebrity in ancient history. From this fortress to the southern end of the plain, where the passes lead to Sparta and to northern Messene, there lies extended a very rich vein of country about twenty-five miles long, and ten or twelve broad, with some undulation, but practically a plain, well irrigated with rapid rivers, and waving with deep grass and green wheat. There are flourishing villages scattered along the slopes of the mountains, and all the district seems thoroughly tilled, except the region south of the town, where forests of olives give a wilder tone to the landscape.
I confess I had not understood the history of the celebrated foundation of Megalopolis, until I came to study the features of this plain. Here, as elsewhere, personal acquaintance with the geography of the country is the necessary condition of a living know-ledge of its history. As is well known, immediately after the battle of Leuctra the Arcadians proceeded to build this metropolis, as a safeguard or makeweight against the neighbouring power of Sparta. Pausanias, who is very full and instructive on the founding of the city, tells us that the founders came from the chief towns of Arcadia—Tegea, Mantinea, Kleitor, and Maenalus. But these cities had no intention of merging themselves in the new capital. In fact Mantinea and Tegea were in themselves fully as important a check on Sparta in their own valley, and were absolutely necessary to hold the passes northward to Argos, which lay in that direction. But the nation insisted upon all the village populations in and around the western plain (which hitherto had possessed no leading city) amalgamating into Megalopolis, and deserting their ancient homes. Many obeyed ; Pausanias enumerates about forty of them. Those who refused were exiled, or even massacred by the enraged majority. Thus there arose suddenly the great city, the latest foundation of a city in Classical Greece. But in his account it seems to me that Pausanias has omitted to take sufficient note of the leading spirit of all the movement—the Theban Epaminondas. No doubt the traveller's Arcadian informants were too thoroughly blinded by national vanity to give the real account, if indeed they knew it themselves. They represented it as the spontaneous movement of the nation, and even stated it to have been done in imitation of Argos, which in older times, when in almost daily danger of Spartan war, had abolished all the townships through Argolis, and thus increased its power and consolidated its population.
But the advice and support of Epaminondas, which made him the real founder, point to another model. The traveller who comes, after he has seen northern Greece, into the plain of Megalopolis, is at once struck with its extraordinary likeness to that of Thebes. There is the same circuit of mountains, the same undulation in the plain, the same abundance of water, the same attractive sites on the slopes for the settlements of men. It was not then Argos, with its far remote and not very successful centralisation, but Thebes, which was the real model ; and the idea was brought out into actuality not by Arcadian but by Theban statesmanship. Any Theban who had visited the plain could not but have this policy suggested to him by the memory of his own home. But here Epaminondas seems to have concealed his influence, and carried out his policy through Arcadian agents, merely sending x000 Thebans, under Pammenes, to secure his allies against hostile disturbances, whereas he proceeded to the foundation of Messene in person, and with great circumstance, as the dreams and oracles, the discussions about the site, and the pomp at the ceremony amply show, even in the cold narrative of Pausanias. Megalopolis, though a great and brilliant experiment, was not a lasting success. It was laid out on too large a scale, and in after years became rather a great wilderness than a great city. It was full of splendid buildings—the theatre, even now, is one of the most gigantic in Greece. But the violences of its foundation, which tore from their homes and household gods many citizens of ancient and hallowed sites, were never forgotten. It was long a leading city in politics, but never became a favourite residence, and fell early into decay. `Although,' says Pausanias (viii. 33), `the great city was founded with all zeal by the Arcadians, and with the brightest expectations on the part of the Greeks, I am not astonished that it has lost all its elegance and ancient splendour, and most of it is now ruined, for I know that Providence is pleased to work perpetual change, and that all things alike, both strong and weak, whether coming into life or passing into nothingness, are changed by a Fortune which controls them with an iron necessity. Thus Mycenæ, Nineveh, and the Boeotian Thebes are for the most part completely deserted and destroyed, but the name of Thebes has descended to the mere acropolis and very few in-habitants. Others, formerly of extraordinary wealth, the Egyptian Thebes and the Minyan Orchomenus and Delos, the common mart of the Greeks, are some of them inferior in wealth to that of a private man of not the richest class ; while Delos, being deprived of the charge of the Oracle by the Athenians who settled there, is, as regards Delians, depopulated. At Babylon the temple of Belus remains, but of this Babylon, once the greatest city under the sun, there is nothing left but the wall, as there is of Tiryns in Argolis. These the Deity has reduced to naught. But the city of Alexander in Egypt, and of Seleucus on the Orontes, built the other day, have risen to such greatness and prosperity, because Fortune favours them. . . . Thus the affairs of men have their seasons, and are by no means permanent.' These words of Pausanias have but increased in force with the lapse of centuries. The whole ancient capital of the Arcadians has well-nigh disappeared. The theatre, cut out from the deep earthen river bank, and faced along the wings with massive masonry, is still visible, though overgrown with shrubs ; and the English school of Athens has the credit of accomplishing its exploration.
The ancient town lay on both sides of the river Helisson, which is a broad and silvery stream, but not difficult to ford, as we saw it in spring, and Pausanias mentions important public buildings on both banks. Now there seems nothing but a mound, called the tomb of Philopœmen, on the north side, with a few scanty foundations. On the south side the stylobate of at least one temple is still almost on the level of the soil, and myriads of fragments of baked clay tell us that this material was largely used in the walls of a city where a rich alluvial soil afforded a very scanty supply of stone—a difficulty rare in Greece. The modern town lies a mile to the south of the river, and quite clear of the old site, so that excavations can be made without considerable cost, and with good hope of results. But the absence of any really archaic monument has, till recently, damped the ardour of the archaeologists.
The aspect of the present Megalopolis is very pleasing. Its streets are wide and clean, though for the most part overgrown with grass, and a single dark green cypress takes, as it were, the place of a spire among the flat roofs. We found the town in Easter holiday, and the inhabitants--at least the men—in splendid attire. For the women of the Morea have, alas ! abandoned their national costume, and appear in tawdry and ill-made dresses. Even the men who have travelled adopt the style of third-rate Frenchmen or Germans, and go about in tall hats, with a dirty grey plaid wrapped about their shoulders. To see these shoddy-looking persons among a crowd of splendid young men in Palikar dress, with the erect carriage and kingly mien which that very tight costume produces, is like seeing a miserable street cur among a pack of fox-hounds. And yet we were informed that, for political reasons, and in order to draw the Greeks from their isolation into European habits, the national dress is now forbidden in the schools !
We were welcomed with excellent hospitality in the town, and received by a fine old gentleman, whose sons, two splendid youths in full costume, attended us in person. Being people of moderate means, they allowed us, with a truer friendliness than that of more ostentatious hosts, to pay for most of the materials we required, which they got for us of the best quality, at the lowest price, and cooked and prepared them for us in the house. We inquired of the father what prospects were open to his handsome sons, who seemed born to be soldiers—the ornaments of a royal pageant in peace, the stay of panic in battle. He complained that there was no scope for their energies. Of course, tilling of the soil could never satisfy them. One of them was secretary to the Demarch, on some miserable salary. He had gone as far as Alexandria to seek his fortune, but had come home again, with the tastes and without the wealth of a rich townsman. So they are fretting away their life in idleness. I fear that such cases are but too common in the country towns of Greece.
The people brought us to see many pieces of funeral slabs, of marble pillars, and of short and late inscriptions built into house walls. They also sold us good coins of Philip of Macedon at a moderate price. The systematic digging about the old site undertaken by the English school has brought to light many import-ant remains. There is a carriage road from Megalopolis to Argos, but the portion inside the town was then only just finished, so we preferred riding as far as Tripoli. Travellers now landing at Argos will find it quite practicable to drive from the coast to this central plain of Arcadia, and then begin their riding. There is now, alas ! a railway from Argos to Tripoli in progress. By this means even ladies can easily cross the Morea. Two days' driving to Megalopolis, two days' riding to Olympia, and an easy day's drive and train to Katakalo, would be the absolute time required for the transit. But the difficulty is still to find a comfortable night's lodging between the first and second day's ride, both of them long and fatiguing journeys. Andritzena is too near Megalopolis, and not to be recommended without introductions. But there is probably some village on another route which would afford a half-way house. From Tripoli and from Megalopolis, which command their respective plains, excursions can be made to Mantinea, to Sparta, and best of all to Kalamata, where a coasting steamer calls frequently.
As we rode up the slopes of Mount Maenalus, which separates the plain of Tegea from that of Megalopolis, we often turned to admire the splendid view beneath, and count the numerous villages now as of old under the headship of the great town. The most striking feature was doubtless the snowy ridge of Taygetus, which reaches southward, and showed us the course of the Eurotas on its eastern side, along which a twelve hours' ride brings the traveller to Sparta. The country into which we passed was wild and barren in the extreme, and, like most so-called mountains in Greece, consisted of a series of parallel and of intersecting ridges, with short valleys or high plateaus between them. This journey, perhaps the bleakest in all Peloponnesus, until it approaches the plain of Tegea, is through Mount Maenalus, the ancestral seat of the worship of Pan, and therefore more than any other tract of Arcadia endowed with pastoral richness and beauty by the poets. There may be more fertile tracts farther north in these mountains. There may in ancient times have been forest or verdure where all is now bare. But in the present day there is no bleaker and more barren tract than these slopes and summits of Maenalus, which are wholly different from the richly wooded and well carpeted mountains through which we had passed on the way from Elis. Even the asphodel, which covers all the barer and stonier tracts with its fields of bloom, was here scarce and poor. Dull tortoises, and quick-glancing hoopoes, with their beautiful head-dresses, were the only tenants of this solitude. There was here and there a spring of delicious water where we stopped. At one of them the best of our ponies, an unusually spirited animal, escaped up the mountain, with one of our royal-looking young friends, who had accompanied us in full costume, for want of other amusement, in hot pursuit of him. We thought the chase utterly hopeless, as the pony knew his way perfectly, and would not let any one approach him on the bare hill-sides ; so we consolidated our baggage, and left them to their fate. But about two hours afterwards the young Greek came galloping after us on the pony, which he had caught—he had accomplished the apparently impossible feat.
At last, after a very hot and stony ride, with less colour and less beauty than we had ever yet found in Greece, we descended into the great valley of Tripoli, formerly held by Tegea at the south, and Mantinea at the north. The modern town lies between the ancient sites, but nearer to Tegea, which is not an hour's ride distant. The old Tripolis, of which the villages were absorbed by Megalopolis, is placed by the geographers in quite another part of Arcadia, near Gortyn, and due north of the western plain. The vicissitudes of the modern town are well known ; its importance under the Turks, its terrible destruction by the Egyptians in the War of Liberation ;1 even now, though not a house is more than fifty years old, it is one of the largest and most important towns in the Morea.
The whole place was on holiday, it being the Greek Easter Day, and hundreds of men in full costume crowded the large square in the middle of the town. There is a considerable manufacture of what are commonly called Turkey carpets, and of silk ; but the carpets have of late years lost all the beauty and harmony of colour for which they were so justly admired, and are now copied from the worst Bavarian work—tawdry and vulgar in the extreme. They are sold by weight, and are not dear, but they were so exceedingly ugly that we could not buy them. This decadence of taste has since been also shown in the woollen work of Arachova.
It is my disagreeable duty to state that while the inn at Tripoli was no better than other country inns in Arcadia, and full of noise and disturbance, the inn-keeper, a gentleman in magnificent costume, with a crimson vest and gaiters, covered with rich embroidery, turned out a disgraceful villain, in fact quite equal to the innkeepers of whom Plato in his day complained. We had no comforts, we had bad food, we had the locks of our baggage strained, not indeed by thieves, but by curious neighbours, who wished to see the contents ; we had dinner, a night's lodging, and breakfast, for which the host charged us, a party of four and a servant, 1 1 8 francs. And be it remembered that the wine of the country, which we drank, is cheaper than ale in England. We appealed at once to the magistrate, a very polite and reasonable man, who cut it down to eighty-four francs, still an exorbitant sum, and one which our friend quietly pocketed without further remonstrance. It is therefore advisable either to go with introductions, which we had (but our party was too large for private hospitality), or to stipulate beforehand concerning prices. I mention such conduct as exceptional—we met it only here, at Sparta, and at Nauplia ; but I fear Tripoli is not an honest district. A coat and rug which were dropped accidentally from a mule were picked up by the next wayfarer, who carried them off, though we had passed him but a few hundred yards, and there could be no doubt as to the owners. Our guides knew his village, and our property was telegraphed for, but never reappeared.
The site of Tegea, where there is now a consider-able village, is more interesting, being quite close to the passes which lead to Sparta, and surrounded by a panorama of rocky mountains. The morning was cloudy, and lights and shadows were coursing alternately over the view. There were no trees, but the surface of the rocks took splendid changing hues—grey, pink, and deep purple—while the rich soil beneath alternated between brilliant green and ruddy brown. As the plain of Megalopolis reminded me of that of Thebes, so this plain of Tegea, though infinitely richer in soil, yet had many features singularly like that of Attica, especially its bareness, and the splendid colours of its barren mountains. But the climate is very different at this great height above the sea ; the nights, and even the mornings and evenings, were still chilly, and the crops are still green when the harvest has begun in Attica. There are a good many remains, especially of the necropolis of Tegea, to be found scattered through the modern village, chiefly in the walls of new houses. One of these reliefs contained a very good representation of a feast—two men and two women, the latter sitting, and alternately with the men ; the whole work seemed delicate, and of a good epoch. These and other remains, especially an excellent relief of a lion, are now gathered into the little museum of the village of Piali, which occupies part of the ancient site. The circuit of the ancient walls and the site and plan of the great temple of Athena Alea have also recently been deter-mined. The temple, rebuilt by Scopas about 395 B.C., had Corinthian as well as Ionic capitals, though externally Doric in character. Some remarkable remains of the pediment, especially a boar's head, are now in the Museum at Athens.
The way to Argos is a good carriage-road through the passes of Mount Parthenion, and is not unlike the bleak ride through Maenalus, though there is a great deal more tillage, and in some places the hill-sides are terraced with cultivation. It was in this mountain that the god Pan met the celebrated runner Pheidippides, who was carrying his despatch about the Persian invasion from Athens to Sparta, and told him he would come and help the Athenians at Marathon. This Mount Parthenion, bleak and bare like Mount Maenalus, and yet like it peculiarly sacred to Pan, 'affords tortoises most suitable for the making of lyres, which the men who inhabit the mountain are afraid to catch, nor do they allow strangers to catch them, for they think them sacred to Pan.' We saw these tortoises, both in Maenalus and Parthenion, yet to us suggestive not of harmony but of discord. Two of them were engaged in mortal combat by the road-side. They were rushing at each other, and battering the edges of their shells together, apparently in the attempt to overturn each other. After a long and even conflict, one of them fled, pursued by the other at full speed, indeed far quicker than could be imagined. We watched the battle till we were tired, and left the pursuer and the pursued in the excitement of their deadly struggle. The traveller who goes by the new railroad over this ground will never see sights like this.
These were the principal adventures of our tour across Arcadia. The following night we rested in real luxury at the house of our old guest-friend, Dr. Papalexopoulos, whose open mansion had received us two years before, on our first visit to Argos.