Syracuse And Girgenti
( Originally Published 1910 )
THE traveller in Sicily is constantly reminded of classical history and literature. While tossing, it may be, at anchor in the port of Trapani, and wondering when the tedious Libeccio will release him, he must perforce remember that here AEneas instituted the games for Anchises. Here Mnestheus and Gyas and Sergestus and Cloanthus raced their galleys ; on yonder little isle the Centaur struck; and that was the rock which received the dripping Menoetes :
Ilium et labentem Teucri et risere natantem,
Or crossing a broken bridge at night in the lumbering diligence, guarded by infantry with set bayonets, and wondering on which side of the ravine the brigands are in ambush, he suddenly calls to mind that this torrent was the ancient Haly cus, the border between Greeks and Carthaginians, established of old, and ratified by Timoleon after the battle of the Crimisus. Among the bare gray hills of Segeste his thoughts revert to that strange story told by Herodotus of Philippus, the young soldier of Crotona, whose beauty was so great that when the Segesteans found him slain among their foes they raised the corpse and burned it on a pyre of honor, and built a hero's temple over the urn that held his ashes. The first sight of Aetna makes us cry with Theocritus,
The solemn heights of Castro Giovanni bring lines of Ovid to our lips :
Hand procul Hennnis lacus est a moenibus altae
We look, indeed, in vain for the leafy covert and the purple flowers that tempted Proserpine. , The place is barren now : two solitary cypress-trees mark the road which winds downward from a desolate sulphur mine, and the lake is clearly the crater of an extinct volcano. Yet the voices of old poets are not mute. "The rich Virgilian rustic measure" recalls a long-since buried past. Even among the wavelets of the Faro, we remember Homer scanning the shore if haply somewhere yet may linger the wild fig-tree which saved Ulysses from the whirlpool of Charybdis. At any rate, we cannot but exclaim with Goethe, "Now all these coasts, gulfs, and creeks, islands and peninsulas, rocks and sand-banks, wooded hills, soft meadows, fertile fields, neat gardens, hanging grapes, cloudy mountains, constant cheerfulness of plains, cliffs, and ridges, and the surrounding sea, with such manifold variety are present in my mind; now is the Odyssey for the first time become to me a living world."
But, rich as the whole of Sicily may be in classical associations, two places, Syracuse and Girgenti, are pre-eminent for the power of bringing the Greek past forcibly before us. Their interest is of two very different kinds. Girgenti still displays the splendor of temples placed upon a rocky cornice between sea and olive-groves. Syracuse has nothing to show but the scene of world-important actions. Yet the great deeds recorded by Thucydides, the conflict between eastern and western Hellas which ended in the annihilation of the bright, brief, brilliant reality of Athenian empire, remain so clearly written on the hills and harbors and marsh-lands of Syracuse that no place in the world is topographcally more memorable. The artist, whether architect or landscape-painter or poet, finds full enjoyment at Girgenti. The historian must be exacting, indeed, in his requirements if he is not satisfied with Syracuse.
What has become of Syracuse, "the greatest of Greek cities and the fairest of all cities" even in the days of Cicero? Scarcely one stone stands upon another of all those temples and houses. The five towns which were included by the walls have now shrunk to the little island which the first settlers named Ortygia, where the sacred fountain of Arethusa seemed to their home-loving hearts to have followed them from Hellas.* Nothing survives but a few columns of Athene's temple built into a Christian church, with here and there the marble masonry of a bath or the Roman stone-work of an amphitheatre. There are not even any mounds or deep deposits of rubble mixed with pottery to show that here once a town had been. Etiam periere ruinae. The vast city, devastated for the last time by the Saracens in 878 A.D., has been reduced to dust and swept by the sirocco into the sea. This is the explanation of its utter ruin. The stone of Syracuse is friable and easily disintegrated. The petulant moist wind of the southeast corrodes its surface, and when it falls it crumbles to powder. Here, then, the elements have had their will unchecked by such sculptured granite as in Egypt resists the mounded sand of the desert, or by such marble colonnades as in Athens have calmly borne the insults of successive sieges. What was hewn out of the solid rock—the semicircle of the theatre, the street of the tombs with its deeply dented chariot-ruts, the gigantic quarries from which the material of the metropolis was scooped, the catacombs which burrow for miles underground—alone prove how mighty must have been the Syracuse of Dionysius. Truly, " the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity." Standing on the beach of the Great Harbor or the Bay of Thapsus, we may repeat almost word by word Antipater's solemn lament over Corinth :
Where is thy splendor now, thy crown of towers,
Time, however, though he devours his children, cannot utterly destroy either the written record of illustrious deeds or the theatre of their enactment. Therefore, with Thucydides in hand, we may still follow the events of that Syracusan siege which decided the destinies of Greece, and, by the fall of Athens, raised Sparta, Macedonia, and finally Rome to the hegemony of the civilized world.
There are few students of Thucydides and Grote who would not be surprised by the small scale of the cliffs, and the gentle in-cline of Epipolae—the rising ground above the town of Syracuse, upon the slope of which the principal operations of the Athenian siege took place.* Maps, and to some extent also the language of Thucydides, who talks of the or practicable approaches to Epipolae, and the precipices by which it was separated from the plain, would lead one to suppose that the whole region was on each hand rocky and abrupt. In reality it is extremely difficult to distinguish the rising ground of Epipolæ upon the southern side from the plain, so very gradual is the line of ascent and so comparatively even is the rocky surface of the hill. Thucydides, in narrating the night attack of Demosthenes upon the lines of Gylippus (book vii. 43-45), lays stress upon the necessity of approaching Epipolæ from the western side by Euryalus, and again asserts that during the hurried retreat of the Athenians great numbers died by leaping from the cliffs, while still more had to throw away their armor. At this time the Athenian army was encamped upon the shore of the Great Harbor, and held trenches and a wall that stretched from that side at least half way across Epipolæ. It seems therefore strange that, unless their movements were impeded by counterworks and lines of walls, of which we have no information, the troops of Demosthenes should not, at least in their retreat, have been able to pour down over the gentle descent of Epipolæ towards the Anapus, in-stead of returning to Euryalus. Anyhow, we can scarcely discern cliffs of more than ten feet upon the southern slope of Epipolæ, nor can we understand why the Athenians should have been forced to take these in their line of retreat. There must have been some artificial defences of which we read nothing, and of which no traces now remain, but which were sufficient to prevent them from choosing their ground. Slight difficulties of this kind raise the question whether the wonderful, clearness of Thucydides in detail was really the result of personal observation, or whether his graphic style enabled him to give the appearance of scrupulous accuracy. I incline to think that the author of the sixth and seventh books of the History must have visited Syracuse, and that if we could see his own map of Epipolæ, we should better be able to understand the difficulties of the backward night march of Demosthenes, by discovering that there was some imperative necessity for not descending, as seems natural, upon the open slope of the hill to the south. The position of Euryalus at the extreme point called Mongibellisi is clear enough. Here the ground, which has been continually rising from the plateau of Achradina (the northern suburb of Syracuse), comes to an abrupt finish. Between Mongibellisi and the Belvedere hill beyond there is a deep depression, and the slope to Euryalus either from the south or north is gradual. It was a gross piece of neglect on the part of Nikias not to have fortified this spot on his first investment of Epipolæ, instead of choosing Labdalum, which, wherever we may place it, must have been lower down the hill to the east. For Euryalus is the key to Epipolae. It was here that Nikias himself ascended in the first instance, and that afterwards he permitted Gylippus to enter and raise the siege, and lastly that Demosthenes, by overpowering the insufficient Syracusan guard, got at night within the lines of the Spartan general. Thus the three most important movements of the siege were made upon Euryalus. Dionysies, when he enclosed Epipolæ with walls, recognized the value of the point, and fortified it with the castle which re-mains, and to which, as Colonel Leake believes, Archimedes, at the order of Hiero IT., made subsequent additions. This castle is one of the most interesting Greek ruins extant. A little repair would make it even now a substantial place of defence, according to Greek tactics. Its deep foss is cut in the solid rock, and furnished with subterranean magazines for the storage of provisions. The three piles of solid masonry on which the drawbridge rested still stand in the centre of this ditch. The oblique grand entrance to the foss descends by a flight of well-cut steps. The rock itself over which the fort was raised is honey-combed with excavated passages for infantry and cavalry, of different width and height, so that one sort can be assigned to mounted horsemen and another to foot-soldiers. The trap-doors which led from these galleries into the fortress are provided with rests for ladders, that could be let down to help a sallying force, or drawn up to impede an advancing enemy. The inner court for stabled horses and the stations for the catapults are still in tolerable preservation. Thus the whole arrangement of the stronghold can be traced, not dimly, but distinctly. Being placed on the left side of the chief gate of Epipolæ, the occupants of the fort could issue to attack a foe advancing towards that gate in the rear. At the same time the subterranean galleries enabled them to pour out upon the other side, if the enemy had forced an entrance, while the minor passages and trap-doors provided a retreat in case the garrison were over-powered in one of their offensive operations. The view from Euryalus is extensive. To the left rises .Ætna, snowy, solitary, broadly vast, above the plain of Catania, the curving shore, Thapsus, and the sea. Syracuse itself, a thin white line between the harbor and the open sea, a dazzling streak between two blues, terminates the slope of Epipolae, and on the right hand stretch the marshes of Anapus, rich with vines and hoary with olives.
By far the most interesting localities of Syracuse are the Great Harbor and the stone-quarries. When the sluggish policy and faint heart of Nikias had brought the Athenians to the verge of ruin, when Gylippus had entered the besieged city, and Plemmyrium had been wrested from the invaders, and Demosthenes had failed in his attack upon Epipolae, and the blockading trenches had been finally evacuated, no hope remained for the armament of Athens except only in retreat by water. They occupied a palisaded encampment upon the shore of the harbor, between the mouth of the Anapus and the city ; whence they attempted to force their way with their galleys to the open sea. Hitherto the Athenians had been supreme upon their own element; but now the Syracusans adopted tactics suited to the narrow basin in which the engagements had to take place. Building their vessels with heavy beaks, they crushed the lighter craft of the Athenians, which had no room for flank movements and rapid evolutions. A victory was thus obtained by the Syracusan navy; the harbor was blockaded with chains by the order of Gylippus; the Athenians were driven back to their palisades upon the fever-haunted shore. Their only chance seemed to depend upon a renewal of the sea-fight in the harbor. The supreme moment arrived. What remained of the Athenian fleet, in numbers still superior to that of their enemies, steered straight for the mouth of the harbor. The Syracusans advanced from the naval stations of Ortygia to meet them. The shore was thronged with spectators, Syracusans tremulous with the expectation of a decisive success, Athenians on the tenter-hooks of hope and dread. In a short time the harbor became a confused mass of clashing triremes ; the water beat-en into bloody surf by banks of oars; the air filled with shouts from the combatants and exclamations from the lookers-on in which desperation gave energy to the Athenians, and ambitious hope inspired their foes with more than wonted vigor, the fleet of the Athenians was finally overwhelmed. The whole scene can be reproduced with wonderful distinctness; for the low shores of Plemmyrium, the city of Ortygia, the marsh of Lysimeleia, the hills above the Anapus, and the distant dome of "Etna are the same as they were upon that memorable day. Nothing has disappeared except the temple of Zeus Olympius and the buildings of Temenitis.
What followed upon the night of that defeat is less easily realized. Thucydides, however, by one touch reveals the depth of despair to which the Athenians had sunk. They neglected to rescue the bodies of their dead from the Great Harbor, or to ask for a truce, according to hallowed Greek usage, in order that they might perform the funeral rites. To such an extent was the army demoralized. Meanwhile within the city the Syracusans kept high festival, honoring their patron Herakles, upon whose day it happened that the battle had been fought. Nikias neglected this opportunity of breaking up his camp and retiring unmolested into the interior of the island. When after the delay of two nights and a day he finally began to move, the Syracusans had blockaded the roads. How his own division capitulated by the blood-stained banks of the Asinarus after a six days' march of appalling misery, and how that of Demosthenes surrendered in the olive-field of Polyzelus, is too well known.
One of the favorite excursions from modern Syracuse takes the traveller in a boat over the sandy bar of the Anapus, beneath the old bridge which joined the Helorine road to the city, and up the river to its junction with the Cyane. This is the ground traversed by the army, first in their attempted flight, and then in their return as captives to Syracuse. Few, perhaps, who visit the spot, think as much of that last act in a world-historical tragedy, as of the picturesque compositions made by arundo donax, castor-oil plant, yellow flags, and papyrus, on the river-banks and promontories. Like miniature palm-groves these water-weeds stand green and golden against the bright blue sky, feathering above the boat which slowly pushes its way through clinging reeds. The huge red oxen of Sicily in the marsh on either hand toss their spreading horns and canter off knee-deep in ooze. Then comes the fountain of Cyane, a broad round well of water, thirty feet in depth, but quite clear, so that you can see the pebbles at the bottom and fishes swimming to and fro among the weeds. Papyrus-plants edge the pool; thick and tufted, they are exactly such as one sees carved or painted upon Egyptian architecture of the Ptolemaic period.
With Thucydides still in hand, before quitting Syracuse we must follow the Athenian captives to their prison-grave. The Latomia de' Cappuecini is a place which it is impossible to de-scribe in words, and of which no photographs give any notion. Sunk to the depth of a hundred feet below the level of the soil, with sides perpendicular and in many places as smooth as though the chisel had just passed over them, these vast excavations pro-duce the impression of some huge subterranean gallery, widening here and there into spacious halls, the whole of which has been -unroofed and opened to the air of heaven. It is a solemn and romantic labyrinth, where no wind blows rudely, and where orange-trees shoot upward luxuriantly to meet the light. The wild fig bursts from the living rock, mixed with lentisk-shrubs and pendent caper-plants. Old olives split the masses of fallen cliff with their tough, snake-like, slowly corded and compacted roots. Thin flames of pomegranate-flowers gleam amid foliage of lustrous green ; and lemons drop unheeded from femininely fragile branches. There, too, the ivy hangs in long festoons, waving like tapestry to the breath of stealthy breezes ; while under foot is a tangle of acanthus, thick curling leaves of glossiest green, surmounted by spikes of dull lilac-blossoms. Wedges and columns and sharp teeth of the native rock rear themselves here and there in the midst of the open spaces to the sky, worn fantastically into notches and saws by the action of sirocco. A light yellow calcined by the sun to white is the prevailing color of the quarries. But in shady places the limestone takes a curious pink tone of great beauty, like the interior of some sea-shells. The reflected lights, too, and half-shadows in their scooped-out chambers, make a wonderful natural chiaroscuro. The whole scene is now more picturesque in a sublime and grandiose style than forbidding. There is even one spot planted with magenta-colored mesembrianthemums of dazzling brightness; and the air is loaded with the drowsy perfume of lemon-blossoms. Yet this is the scene of a great agony. This garden was once the Gethsemane of a nation, where nine thousand free men of the proudest city of Greece were brought by an unexampled stroke of fortune to slavery, shame, and a miserable end. Here they dwindled away, worn out by wounds, disease, thirst, hunger, heat by day and cold by night, heart-sickness, and the insufferable stench of putrefying corpses. The pupils of Socrates, the admirers of Euripides, the orators of the Pnyx, the athletes of the Lyceum, lovers and comrades and philosophers, died here like dogs ; and the dames of Syracuse stood doubtless on those parapets above, and looked upon them like wild beasts. What the Gorgo of Theocritus might have said to her friend Praxinoe on the occasion would be the subject for an idyl à la Browning ! How often, pining in those great glaring pits, which were not then curtained with ivy or canopied by olive-trees, must the Athenians have thought with vain remorse of their own Rhamnusian Nemesis, the goddess who held scales adverse to the hopes of men, and bore the legend " Be not lifted up !" How often must they have watched the dawn walk forth fire-footed upon the edge of those bare crags, or the stars slide from east to west across the narrow space of sky ! How they must have envied the unfettered clouds sailing in liquid ether, or traced the far flight of hawk and swallow, sighing, " Oh that I too had the wings of a bird !" The weary eyes turned upward found no change or respite, save what the frost of night brought to the fire of day, and the burning sun to the pitiless cold constellations.
A great painter, combining Doré's power over space and distance with the distinctness of Flaxman's design and the coloring of Alma Tadema, might possibly realize this agony of the Athenian captives in the stone-quarries. The time of day chosen for the picture should be full noon, with its glare of light and sharply de-fined vertical shadows. The crannies in the straight sides of the quarry should here and there be tufted with a few dusty creepers , and wild fig-trees. On the edge of the sky-line stand parties of Syracusan citizens with their wives and children (shaded by umbrellas), richly dressed, laughing and triumphing over the misery beneath. In the full foreground there are placed two figures. A young Athenian has just died of fever. His body lies stretched along the ground, the head resting on a stone, and the face turned to the sky. Beside him kneels an older warrior, sunburnt and dry with thirst, but full as yet of vigor. Ile stares with wide despair - smitten eyes straight out, as though he had lately been stretched upon the corpse, but had risen at the sound of move-ment, or some supposed word of friends close by. His bread lies untasted near him, and the half-pint of water—his day's portion—has been given to bathe the forehead of his dying friend. They have stood together through the festival of leave-taking from Piraeus, through the battles of Epipolae, through the retreat and the slaughter at the passage of the Asinarus. But now it has come to this, and death has found the younger. Perhaps the friend beside him remembers some cool wrestling-ground in far-off Athens, or some procession up the steps of the Acropolis, where first they met. Anyhow his fixed gaze now shows that he has passed in thought at least beyond the hell around him. Not far behind should be ranged groups of haggard men, with tattered clothes and dulled or tigerish eyes, some dignified, some broken down by grief; while here and there newly fallen corpses, and in one hideous corner a great heap of abandoned dead, should point the ghastly words of Thucydides.
Every landscape has some moment of its own at which it should be seen for the first time. Medieval cities, with their narrow streets and solemn spires, demand the twilight of a summer night. Mediterranean islands show their best in the haze of afternoon, when sea and sky and headland are bathed in aerial blue, and the mountains seem to be made of transparent amethyst. The first sight of the Alps should be taken at sunset from some point of vantage, like the terrace at Berne, or the castle walls of Salzburg. If these fortunate moments be secured, all after-knowledge of locality and detail serves to fortify and deepen the impression of picturesque harmony. The mind has then conceived a leading thought, which gives ideal unity to scattered memories and in-vests the crude reality with an aesthetic beauty. The lucky moment for the landscape of Girgenti is half an hour past sunset in a golden after-glow. Landing at the port named after Empedocles, having caught from the sea some glimpses of temple-fronts emergent on green hill-slopes among almond-trees, with Pindar's epithet of " splendor-loving" in my mind, I rode on such an evening up the path which leads across the Drago to Girgenti. The way winds through deep -sunk lanes of rich amber sandstone, hedged with cactus and dwarf - palm, and set with old gnarled olive-trees. As the sunlight faded, Venus shone forth in a luminous sky, and the deep yellows and purples overhead seemed to mingle with the heavy scent of orange-flowers from scarcely visible groves by the roadside. Saffron in the west and violet in the east met midway, composing a translucent atmosphere of mellow radiance, like some liquid gem—dolce color d'oriental berillo. Girgenti, far off and far up, gazing seaward, and rearing her topaz-colored bastions into that gorgeous twilight, shone like the aerial vision of cities seen in dreams or imaged in the clouds. Hard and sharp against the sallow line of sunset leaned grotesque shapes of cactuses like hydras, and delicate silhouettes of young olive-trees like sylphs : the river ran silver in the hollow, and the mountain-side on which the town is piled was solid gold. Then came the dirty dull interior of Girgenti, misnamed the magnificent. But no disenchantment could destroy the memory of that vision, and Pindar's remains in my mind a reality.
The temples of Girgenti are at the distance of two miles from the modern town. Placed upon the edge of an irregular plateau which breaks off abruptly into cliffs of moderate height below them, they stand in a magnificent row between the sea and plain on one side, and the city and the hills upon the other. Their color is that of dusky honey or dun amber; for they are not built of marble, but of sandstone, which at some not very distant geological period must have been a sea-bed. Oyster and scallop shells are imbedded in the roughly hewn masonry, while here and there patches of a red deposit, apparently of broken coralline, make the surface crimson. The vegetation against which the ruined colonnades are relieved consists almost wholly of almond and olive trees, the bright green foliage of the one mingling with the grays of the other, and both enhancing the warm tints of the stone. This contrast of colors is very agreeable to the eye; yet when the temples were perfect it did not exist. There is no doubt that their surface was coated with a fine stucco, wrought to smoothness, toned like marble, and painted over with the blue and red and green decorations proper to the Doric style. This fact is a practical answer to those aesthetic critics who would fain establish that the Greeks practised no deception in their arts. The whole effect of the colonnades of Selinus and Girgenti must have been an illusion, and their surface must have needed no less constant reparation than the exterior of a Gothic cathedral. The sham jewelry frequently found in Greek tombs, and the curious mixture of marble with sandstone in the sculptures from Selinus, are other instances that Greeks no less than modern artists con-descended to trickery for the sake of effect. In the series of the metopes from Selinus now preserved in the museum at Palermo, the flesh of the female persons is represented by white marble, while that of the men, together with the dresses and other accessories, is wrought of common stone. Yet the bass-reliefs in which this peculiarity occurs belong to the best period of Greek sculpture, and the groups are not unworthy for spirit and design to be placed by the side of the metopes of the Parthenon. Most beautiful, for example, is the contrast between the young unarmed Hercules and the Amazon he overpowers. His naked man's foot grasps with the muscular energy of an athlete her soft and help-less woman's foot, the roughness of the sandstone and the smoothness of the marble really heightening the effect of difference.
Though ranged in a row along the same cornice, the temples of Girgenti, originally at least six in number, were not so disposed that any of their architectural lines should be exactly parallel. The Greeks disliked formality ; the carefully calculated asymmetrecia in the disposition of their groups of buildings secured variety of effect as well as a broken surface for the display of light and shadow. This is very noticeable on the Acropolis of Athens, where, however regular may be the several buildings, all are placed at different angles to each other and the hill. Only two of the Girgenti temples survive in any degree of perfection—the so-called Concordia and the Juno Lacinia. The rest are but mere heaps of mighty ruins, with here and there a broken column, and in one place an angle of a pediment raised upon a group of pillars. The foundations of masonry which supported them and the drums of their gigantic columns are tufted with wild palm, aloe, asphodel, and crimson snap-dragon. Yellow-blossoming sage and mint and lavender and mignonette sprout in the crevices where snakes and lizards harbor. The grass around is gemmed with blue pimpernel and convolvulus. Gladiolus springs amid the young corn-blades beneath the almond-trees; while a beautiful little iris makes the most unpromising dry places brilliant with its delicate grays and blues. In cooler and damper hollows, around the boles of old olives and under ruined arches, flourishes the tender acanthus, and the roadsides are gaudy with a yellow daisy flower, which may perchance be of Theocritus. Thus the whole scene is a wilderness of brightness, less radiant but more touching than when processions of men and maid-ens bearing urns and laurel-branches, crowned with ivy or with myrtle, paced along those sandstone roads, chanting paeans and prosodial hymns, towards the glistening porches and hypaethral cells.
The only temple about the name of which there can be no doubt, is that of Zeus Olympius. A prostrate giant who once with nineteen of his fellows helped to support the roof of this enormous fane, and who now lies in pieces among the asphodels, remains to prove that this was the building begun by the Agrigentines after the defeat of the Phoenicians at the Himera, when slaves were many and spoil was abundant, and Hellas both in Sicily and on the mainland felt a more than usual thrill of gratitude to their ancestral deity. The greatest architectural works of the island, the temples of Segeste and Selinus as well as those of Girgenti, were begun between this period and the Carthaginian invasion of 409 B.C. The victory of the Hellenes over the barbarians in 480 B.C., symbolized in the victory of Zeus over the enslaved Titans of this temple, gave a vast impulse to their activity and wealth. After the disastrous incursion of the same foes seventy years later, the western Greek towns of the island received a check from which they never recovered. Many of their noblest buildings remained unfinished. The question which rises to the lips of all who contemplate the ruins of this gigantic temple and its compeer dedicated to Herakles is this Who wrought the destruction of works so solid and enduring? For what purpose of spite or interest were those vast columns—in the very flutings of which a man can stand with ease—felled like forest pines? One sees the mighty pillars lying as they sank, like swaths beneath the mower's scythe. Their basements are still in line. The drums which composed them have fallen asunder, but maintain their original relation to each other on the ground. Was it earthquake or the hand of man that brought them low ? Poggio Bracciolini tells us that in the fifteenth century they were burning the marble buildings of the Roman Campagna for lime. We know that the Senator Brancaleone made havoc among the classic monuments occupied as fortresses by Frangipani and Savelli and Orsini. We understand how the Farnesi should have quarried the Coliseum for their palace. But here, at the distance of three miles from Girgenti, in a comparative desert, what army, or what band of ruffians, or what palace-builders could have found it worth their while to devastate mere mountains of sculptured sandstone? The Romans invariably respected Greek temples. The early Christians used them for churches—and this accounts for the comparative perfection of the Concordia. It was in the age of the Renaissance that the ruin of Girgenti's noblest monuments occurred. The temple of Zeus Olympius was shattered in the fifteenth century, and in the next its fragments were used to build a break-water. The demolition of such substantial edifices is as great a wonder as their construction. We marvel at the energy which must have been employed on their overthrow no less than at the art which raised such blocks of stone and placed them in position.
While so much remains both at Syracuse and at Girgenti to recall the past, we are forced here, as at Athens, to feel how very little we really know about Greek life. We cannot bring it up before our fancy with any clearness, but rather in a sort of hazy dream, from which some luminous points emerge. The entrance of an Olympian victor through the breach in the city walls of Girgenti, the procession of citizens conducting old Timoleon in his chariot to the theatre, the conferences of the younger Dionysius with Plato in his guarded palace-fort, the stately figure of Empedocles presiding over incantations in the marshes of Selinus, the austerity of Dion and his mystic dream, the first appearance of stubborn Gylippus with long Lacedoemonian hair in the theatre of Syracuse—such picturesque pieces of history we may fairly well recapture. But what were the daily occupations of the Simaetha of Theocritus? What was the state-dress of the splendid Queen Philistis, whose name may yet be read upon her seat, and whose face adorns the coins of Syracuse? How did the great altar of Zeus look, when the oxen were being slaughtered there by hundreds, in a place which must have been shambles and meat-market and temple all in one? What scene of architectural splendor met the eyes of the swimmers in the Piscina of Girgenti? How were the long hours of so many days of leisure occupied by the Greeks, who had each three pillows to his head in " splendor-loving Acragas ?" Of what sort was the hospitality of Gellias? Questions like these rise up to tantalize us with the hopelessness of ever truly recovering the life of a lost race. After all the labor of antiquary and the poet, nothing remains to be uttered but such moralizings as Sir Thomas Browne poured forth over the urns discovered at Old Walsingham : "What time the persons of these ossuaries entered the famous nations of the dead, and slept with princes and counsellors, might admit a wide solution. But who were the proprietaries of these bones, or what bodies these ashes made up, were a question above antiquarism ; not to be resolved by man, nor easily perhaps by spirits except we consult the provincial guardians, or tutelary observators." Death reigns over the peoples of the past, and we must fain be satisfied to cry with Raleigh : " O eloquent, just, and mighty Death ! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded ; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised : thou bast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of men, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, hic jacet." Even so. Yet while the cadence of this august rhetoric is yet in our ears, another voice is heard as of the angel seated by a void and open tomb, "Why seek ye the living among the dead The spirit of Hellas is indestructible, however much the material existence of the Greeks be lost beyond recovery ; for the life of humanity is not many but one, not parcelled into separate moments, but continuous.