A Walk In Hellas:
From Athens To Pentelicus
From Pentelicus To Parnes
From Parnes To Marathon
From Marathon To Marcopoulo
Rainy Day At Marcopoulo
From Marcopoulo To Aulis
Aulis And Chalkis
From Aulis To Thebes
Thebes And Plataea
Read More Articles About: A Walk In Hellas
From Parnes To Marathon
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHEN you last saw me, I had hurriedly started down Parnes to Marathon, with the design of taking you along, if I could. It was a sudden spirt of enthusiastic haste, not wholly consonant with the golden leisure of this Greek trip; nor did the time allow, for the sun had already turned his face away from his Oriental home, and was then casting his full effulgence somewhere on the Atlantic seas. Accordingly we may resume our customary gait and saunter along the road till night-fall, when we shall seek some shelter provided by the Gods.
Unceremoniously I took leave of the Scotch Lassie so I think as I glance back with a little longing up the mountain. But such friendships made during the hours of travel are usually dissolved as quickly as they are formed ; they are the most evanescent feature of the landscape. Still travelers on the whole will do well to obey that unwritten law which has before been announced: to consider themselves acquainted without the formality of an introduction. Thus several hours rapidly fly away with pleasant talk, and the two faces having come from the uttermost corners of the earth to peer into each other, and even to exchange sympathetic glances, again flit into infinite space sometimes not without a mutual sigh. So the Scotch lassie's life-road with its manifold turnings and windings crossed my rather crooked track of existence out here on Parnes ; for four hours or so our two paths ran together with gentle intertwinings, then separated to all eternity, probably. But who can tell? Perhaps like that Greek nymph Arethusa, nymph of the fountain, she may disappear in Greece, but may invisibly pass underground across continents, nay, across oceans, and suddenly come to the surface again in far-distant, unexpected places ? At any rate let the pleasing phantom now vanish with one last glance at the red cheeks and wreathed smiles, and I can not help adding, with a renewed look at those layers of Scotch granite slightly overlapping each other, well-polished but somewhat awry, always seen but more strongly felt beneath her very laugh. She is not unlovely, but made of adamant, that is a little crooked. She, with that round visage and those granitic virtues is not Helen though she may justly be called, I have no doubt, a better woman.
And here, since we have contemplatively resumed our ordinary slow gait, a reflection has intertwined itself in the strand of our experiences. This conflict between the Mora and the Beautiful where does it begin and where does it end? One fact seems to be well certified: Art and Morality have a tendency to become mortal enemies ; they have been in a death-grapple since the time of ancient Homer at least, with much fluctuation of victory from one side to the other. Can they be reconciled? That is one of the most serious questions of the human soul. There is doubtless a limit within which they may exist in harmony, indeed may be helpful to each other. But every person is inclined to place this limit at his own discretion, and often to place it quite out of being. Certainly the extremists on both sides are al-ways in unappeasable conflict. Rigid Puritanism would destroy Art root and branch ; it has no solution for the senses of man except the most violent repression. Such a view may prevail for a time, may even come to govern nations ; but then follows the fierce revolt of the Senses with tenfold retaliation for the wrong done them. In such a debauch both Art and Morality perish by the same licentious excess.
But Art, on the other hand, is inclined to cultivate the sensuous nature of man and neglect the moral. Consider those old Greeks, the supreme artistic people of the world, in their chief fable. Did they not cross the sea and fight ten years in order to bring back Helen, not because she was a good woman good women they had at home in abundance and had left behind but because she was the most beautiful woman. It is only a legend, let it be granted ; therefore it is truer than history, and it reflects more purely and adequately than history the spirit of that people who created it. Then, too, what a large number of good women were sacrificed for the sake of Helen, represented in Iphigenia the innocent virgin, Andromache the devoted wife ! Thus it has been with men ever since, more or less ; they make long pilgrimages across the world in search of Helen, when there are plenty of good women, indeed better women than Helen at home. What is the meaning of it all, has been a great query with the traveler, and it is also a question of considerable importance to those who have been left behind.
Man would not be man, could not exist as a living being, had he not these passions and senses ; they can not be rooted out, ought not to be rooted out, which deracination the ascetic view of morality would have us attempt. What then shall we do with them? They may become the sources of the purest pleasures or the scourge of the direst vices: get rid of them we can not. Here Art steps in where the rigid moralist has failed ; it says : Preserve the passions and senses, but elevate them ; allow them not to batten on them-selves, but give them the spiritual world to feed upon ; thus they will be satisfied and saved, for they have attained the Beautiful, and in that realm become sharers in what is truly divine. Helen simply as the runaway wife is not beautiful, nor did the old Greek think that she was, hence his tremendous effort to rescue her from her ugly condition. But Helen, repentant, self-accusing, longing for restoration, as she appears in the Iliad ; still more, Helen restored, living in happy unity with her family in the Spartan home of Menelaus once again, as she appears in the Odyssey this Helen, showing the long struggle overcome, is beautiful, though morality still shakes the head, and will not admit her to good society. Always jealous of her beauty, it seeks to discredit her present life by her past.
Indeed if we scan the legend a little more closely we shall see that it contains the conflict which we speak of and its solution. What caused Helen to err, or what, at least, was the occasion? It was Beauty in its sensuous manifestation; the blooming young wife of the Spartan King, the fairest woman of Greece, breaks the ethical injunction, abandons her husband, and flees with the handsome Asiatic. It is thus the eternal theme : the sensuous element of Beauty in conflict with morality. But what did the old Greek do in presence of such a problem ? Did he banish her entirely to the world of sensuality, and thus damn her forever? Did he even let her quietly go and remain in her alienation? No, that he could not do with his consciousness ; restoration is his watchword, Helen the Beautiful must be able to live in the family, though it cost ten or twenty years' war, though we have to sacrifice Iphigenia and many other good women, though we immolate our greatest national hero, the youthful Achilles, and many other mighty and worthy men in the enterprise. This must be accomplished this return of the beautiful woman to the family, this harmony of the sensuous and ethical nature of man ; otherwise the Greek people can not be, have no business to be. It was their problem in this world, and manfully they fought it out, producing the typical figures for all time those heroic characters after which mankind instinctively models itself or finds itself already modeled.
And then what a harmonious world resulted ! The living man became the first work of art which afterwards could be embodied in everlasting marble. There is the happy balance between the Real and Ideal, between the Senses and Morals of men, between Art and Virtue. Homer is indeed not the most rigidly moral of books ; it would not be worth much if it were ; but of all artistic books it is doubtless the most moral. That Ulysses, for example, always trying to harmonize his outer and inner life, seeking to make a complete man of himself through the most violent contradictions, is still the best development of character in this realm. How the two sides gradually fell asunder in Greece itself, how morality became ascetic and art became licentious, how the philosophers assailed poetry even Plato banished Homer from his imaginary republic how the Ideal was, on the one hand, utterly destroyed in this world by the hard-headed, practical Roman, and, on the other hand, was relegated into the Beyond by the prayerful, spiritual Christian all these matters belong to History, and even our slow and pensive gait will not allow us to pick them up and string them on our variegated thread.
Yet do not think that this change from the ancient world to the modern is, on the whole, to be regretted ; it is indeed an advance. Do not imagine that I wish to restore the old Greek life ; vain would it be for any mortal with combative spirit to turn his face against the World's History. Let no man with puny hand undertake to grasp the reins and wheel about the mighty steeds of the sun-chariot, now rushing at the top of their speed toward the West, in their swift career around the world. They have swept over the ocean ; almost within the memory of living men they have sped from the Atlantic to the Paci fie ; still with increased rapidity and fiery vigor they are whirling onward their light-dropping chariot. No longer can those steeds be turned out for quiet pasture on the sunny hills of pretty little Hellas. Yet for us that is still the world of beauty and of sweet idyllic rest ; we are still in need of its soothing harmonies, and we have to go back to its perennial fountains for refreshment and repose. Therefore let no Scotch lassie appear any longer in Greece with her granitic beauty and more granitic Scotch Presbyterianism. Personally she commands our highest respect, but in the country of Helen we would ask : " What art thou doing here, thou specter from the land of mist and snow, here in the sunlit fields of Apollo? In the regions of adamant and ice is thy home; there too is thy meed."
I have already intimated that it is too late to go to Marathon this evening, however much enthusiasm may goad the drooping limbs ; accordingly I stayed at Tatoe over night. Early the next morning I set out across the valley, following those ancient soldiers whom I had seen yesterday, and whom I hope you beheld. It is true that there is now and was in antiquity another road from Athens to Marathon, over which some of the soldiers may have passed to the field of battle, but the bulk of the army went up this road ; for did we not see them? 'Tis all imagination, some of you may cry out: be it so. But I maintain that the great eternal fact of this spot and of this whole valley is the march of the Marathonian band. Look up to the hill-tops and ask: has there ever been anything else here but that one event, which possesses any vitality? Look up once more and question the landscape : is there anything now here but the green fields, the low brush, the stream Kephissus and that marching line of old Athenian soldiers ? I would never have been on Parnes, you would never go thither, no tourist would ever be passing contemplatively up the valley, were it not for the presence of those old Hoplites. I tell you, the most distinct, the most enduring, the most real thing in all these parts at this moment is the march of that Marathonian band : in fact there is nothing else here.
I am free to say that, when I am in the road again, I do nothing but think of them, the heavy-armed, with steady silent tread winding around the spur of the mountain before me ; with the low dull thud of many feet they tramp along the causeway, and I with knapsack on my shoulder, fall into their measured gait and march along, keeping their regular steady step, bound for Marathon. In reflective mood, I should say the most of them were, as the soldier usually is when going into the uncertain combat. But what one of them had the remotest thought of that which he with his companions was doing of the place they were filling just at that moment in the history and destiny of our planet? Thus are we all, could we but see ; each individual is some unconscious earth-sustaining Atlas. For man, every man, is the instrument of an almighty power which brings him here and makes him a link in the chain which supports the All. Alas, poor mortal, with the full burden of his weakness upon him, he must aid in holding, or rather as a link he must actually hold up the whole Universe.
But to drop a little down the stream of Time : there is another vivid image darting through the air and vanishing amid the brushwood just in the locality to which I have now come ; another man passed up the road in recent years whom I would not care to meet at present in this solitude. It was Takos Arvanitika, the brigand chief with his band, also to be called Marathonian, whom not long ago we saw installed as King of Pentelicus. Somewhere here he passed across the valley to and from Tatoe, guarding savagely his English captives, as we find in a small diary kept by one of them ; he also went to Stamata, the next village, where we shall arrive in due season if some successor of his does not capture us too. Those brigands, dragging their unhappy prisoners through the bushes, dodging the Greek soldiery in pursuit, tiger-fierce with continuous alarm and in one case preparing to shoot their prisoners in cold blood, present quite a contrast to that ancient line of heroic shapes rounding in solid tread the mountain. The wretched picture let us not try to fill out, it is too melancholy, it will obscure the brightness of our Greek mood which we must preserve in the joyous sun-light of Hellas, through which we move as through a thick rain-fall of golden dreams dropping from the skies.
We may, however, at this point introduce a short account of these brigands. They, except two, were subjects of Turkey and did not live in Greece at all, but in Thessaly. They had crossed the Greek frontier in January preceding the capture, had previously had at least two brushes with the soldiers of the Greek government, in which the band had lost seven men. They were tracked from place to place but finally gained their mountain fastnesses. Though they belonged to the Greek church, and spoke Greek, yet their nationality was not Greek, but Wallachian.
Diplomacy during all this while continues spinning, spinning, with little purpose except to delay ; in the mean time the brigands encouraged by their friends and elated by success have risen in their demands until they ask for that to which no government can accede without absolute self-annihilation. They now insist upon a full pardon for all their crimes, to be granted before condemnation and indeed without trial. Good advice is cheap after the event, but there was only one logical course for a government to pursue : to hunt down the offenders and bring them to justice, for which purpose government exists among men. If it do not that, it has no right to be all. Still they negotiated ; the Greek ministry permitted too much outside control, particularly from the English embassy as the party most deeply concerned. By vigorous pursuit the prisoners might perhaps have been killed at once by the brigands, perhaps not ; at any rate murders of foreigners have occurred in London without the fault of the English government or of the English people. Let us not then abuse the Greeks for a crime which was not done even by native villains, but by a band of foreign miscreants whom the authorities had tried to drive away from Greek soil.
But the unfortunate fact still remains that to the eye of the traveler as he goes up this valley on the way to Marathon, in the present year of grace, the form of Takos appears with startling vividness alongside of Miltiades. Nor can it be denied that they may be taken, to a certain extent, as the representatives of their respective epochs. The one is clearly the product of Turkish disorder and oppression bravery driven out of society and-turned brigand; the other is the offspring of free Athenian institutions, and is now marching out to their defence, at the head of heroic companions, whose adamantine tread around these hills thunders still through the ages down to this very hour.
Another most remarkable fact which you cannot help thinking of on this spot, is, that each of these men could, in all probability, have understood the other, had the two spoken together here. Indeed of all facts connected with human speech, by far the most notable one is this immortality of the Greek language. Not as a mummied tongue, preserved only in books does it exist, but it still pours out of the hearts of the people as a vital fountain of utterance. At the same time it preserves more than any dead tongue, it contains nearly all the chief treasures of written speech, in the way of both education and religion ; in it are to be found the great works of heathen culture and the Christian New Testament.
As one turns around the mountain he will stop and take the last view of the Parthenon now about to pass out of sight. It has been a faithful happy companion of his trip ; always when he sits down to rest on some stone, he will seek a place which brings that temple into his eye, for it never fails to send a wave of quiet delight and fresh energy through the fatigued members. It hands a drink from a divine source to the distant thirsty wayfarer, who starts again on his path with new hope. Now we must bid it good-bye, as it sends to us its graceful benediction from the blue distance ; we shall behold it no more, till it suddenly rise up before us again, returning from our journey over the Athenian hills.
Thus I move along on the track of the Marathonian men, sometimes passing by a small orchard of olives, though there are not many in this locality. Of all the trees in Greece or Italy this olive is my favorite ; it has the prodigal sparkle of youth and the full joyousness of the Greek climate. Then I crouch through the underbrush by a narrow winding path ; often gliding among the bushes the Wallachian shepherd can be seen in attendance upon his flocks. At this season of the year these shepherds are found everywhere in Greece. They are a nomadic people whose home during the summer is in mountains of Thessaly, chiefly in the Pindus range. In win-ter when their native heights are covered with snow, they pack up their families and drive their herds southward to the mountains of Greece, whose sides are covered with abundance of green browsing.
But when summer comes, the hills here are parched with drouth ; vegetation is burnt up in the fierce glare of the sun-god who, the old Greeks fabled, smote the earth with his burning arrows ; the arched heavens overhead are heated like an immense bake-oven raying down its caloric upon the roasting earth. Then the Wallachian shepherd flees to the North where his own mountainous altitudes furnish in their turn verdure and a cool climate. Thus he passes and repasses between the two countries, enjoying the happy season of each. For the use of the pasturage he pays to the Greek government a certain sum, according to the number of his flocks. But he must not encroach upon the cultivated land —the field of grain or the vineyard ; hence his presence is al-ways required to watch his charge, there being no fences in Greece.
His black herd of goats and white herd of sheep now spot the sides of Pentelicus, as you look up ; the low continuous tinkle of their bells is the only sound that reaches the ear on the sunny air ;' absolute quiet you find here into which that incessant tinkle chimes with a sort of idyllic refrain. No factories, no railroads, no smoke, not a wagon, not even a house nothing but sunshine and pastoral repose. Now and then a shrill whistle may be heard from the shepherd when some goat passes toward the tilled field ; sometimes he will throw a stone at it for a warning to keep off ; sometimes he utters a word, calling it by name, for like the shepherds of Theocritus he seems to have a name for each member of his flock. More seldom you will hear the notes of a flute or panspipe very simple music indeed, but in a wonderful harmony with the life here, with these sunbeams and this tranquility of the hills.
You will see the shepherd holding a long staff in his hand with a peculiar crook at the end of it from time immemorial the symbol of his calling as well as that of the Christian Pastor. But with him it is not a symbol, he does not know what a symbol means probably, but it is for use. You will be highly entertained to see him employ it. Some refractory ewe must be caught for milking ; he seeks at first to grasp her by the fleece, once, twice, thrice, and fails ; but this time, as she tries to run by him in sheep fashion, he throws that hook under the hind leg and she is fast and perhaps cap-sized. With no small dexterity is the feat accomplished; then he flings her upon his shoulders and carries her off with head dangling down his back.
Wrapped in shaggy capote made of goat's hair and impervious to rain he stays out in the mountains day and night, defying all changes of weather, living in the simplest harmony with his surroundings, the veritable child of Nature. Yet he is not without a tinge of education, often he speaks and writes Greek. The blazing camp-fires seen on the distant hills in the chill of the evening are his ; there he gathers his herd for the night, drinks his whey and eats his curds, and on some holy festival he may roast a lamb in honor of the Saint. The women and children he leaves at the Wallachian village which is constructed mainly of poles and branches, and has to be built anew every year. Close to some spring or run he dumps his family down when he arrives in Greece from his Northern home ; there they remain or move about from place to place till ready for departure again the following spring. But the shepherd does not stay in the village with his family, but drives his herds into the hills, where he dwells with them in solitary delight. Some twenty-five hundred years ago an ancient bard took his picture, in magnified out-lines yet true to this day, and called him Polyphemus.
The language of the Wallachians is not Greek but a daughter of the Latin, and cognate with other Romanic tongues. It is often said in the country here that they speak Italian, but this is a mistake. They were an ancient Roman colony and have derived their speech from old Rome. Originally it is supposed that these Wallachians came from the regions about the Danube known as Wallachia, or ancient Dacia where most of them still dwell ; but in the great migration and displacement of nations during the Middle Ages, a fragment of this people was stranded on the mountains of Thessaly, where they have remained ever since with their primitive nomadic habits. They are not by any means a ferocious race, though some of them become brigands, as Takos.
They constitute one of the three distinct peoples which are found at present in Greece. This fact you should carefully remember ; not a homogeneous population but three different peoples are now living on Hellenic soil. These are the Greeks, Wallachians and Albanians each having distinct customs, language and character.
Almost in a straight line from Parnes to Marathon lies Stamata, a small village which I now approach. Just outside of it is a little Byzantine church which I stop to look at for a few moments ; the structure is of a pristine rudeness, yet the yard shows the hand of care ; it is not devoid of interest, for the humblest religious edifice has always a significant legend written on its stones. A dog sees me and giving a yelp starts towards me down the little hill from the village ; this yelp is the signal for every dog in the neighborhood ; here they come, a dozen or more, with hair crawling in bristly folds on their necks, snapping their teeth, rushing up be-hind and in front, with unearthly barking and gnarling. I at once ceased my contemplation of Byzantine architecture, and began shouting at the fiends ; I flourished my staff, re-treated against the fence of the church-yard. and succeeded in keeping them at bay till I was relieved from my purgatorial position by two hunters who were coming along, and by a youth from the village who pelted the dogs 'off with stones.
This was the second unpleasant experience with dogs ; for the tourist afoot they are clearly a problem. But I found out after some trials of him, that, though the Greek dog be a great blusterer, he is really a coward. His chief terror is a stone, which if he sees in the hands of the person whom he assails, he will keep at a safe distance and in lively motion. Often he remains perfectly quiet till you pass, then he treacherously slips up behind you and tries to snap a piece of flesh out of your calves. Or, he will come rushing upon you with hair erect, looking like a lion ; but if you reach for a stone, he will bring himself to a stand at once, or quickly turn back. Often he will ferociously run after the rock which you throw, and bite it, as if that hurt you. He is hard to hit, being an excellent dodger and in continual practice. A little bit of malice one has a right to feel against him ; so, after I had learned his character, I took delight in over-reaching him in this way : when I stooped for a stone, I would pick up two or three, fling one at him which he would run after, then when his attention was turned away from me, I would pepper him to the extent of my ability in projectiles. If you are as much interested in this subject as I am, you will be glad to learn that I often succeeded in sending him over the fields, howling, sometimes limping. Once or twice I came near getting into trouble on account cf the excellence of my aim. Every shepherd and every peas-ant has two or three such dogs, and seldom the owners take the trouble of calling them back when they rush out at the stranger.
The Greek dog has usually a wolfish appearance, as if but a step or two removed from a wild animal ; a large black dog, somewhat like a mastiff, is also seen ; the breed, how-ever, is mixed with many varieties. But he is cowardly, blustering, treacherous even for a dog; I confess that I have a prejudice against him on account of this affair at Stamata. His strictly vegetable diet may have something to do in modifying his courage. So much for dogs, which in addition to other things were represented at Athens as one of the terrors of a tour afoot in Greece. The pedestrian can now manage them, and may find some satisfaction in punishing their impudent bluster, while defending himself.
One of the hunters invites me to go with him to his house in the village an invitation which I gladly accept, passing through many a snarl of the large canine colony, which seemed in no hospitable mood toward me. It is a poor hamlet ; like all Albanian villages for the people here are Albanians it is built on one very wide street or public place, fronting which the huts are erected in two rows, one on each side. In this way a sort of enclosure is formed which may be used for the herds of the village and will probably contain them all. Here they could be shut up in case of an emergency and protected. Thus the form of the village hints to the traveler of ancient unsettled times, when the people had to be ready to defend themselves and their own against the sudden foray of the robber ; still the habit of building remains, though the danger be past. What a different history is revealed in the shape of the typical American town !
Guided by my friendly host, I enter his hovel ; in one corner is a fire made of brushwood ; there is a small chimney supplemented by a hole in the roof, but both chimney and hole do not succeed in enticing the smoke to the outside, for the room is now full of it. Still I soon get used to the smoke though it makes me cough and even cry a little at first. There is no window with glass panes, but a simple hole in the wall with a board over it answers the purpose thereof ; this board shoved aside admits fresh air and some light. Still with this opening it is rather dark in the room and I can hardly see, but the pupils of the eyes soon expand and everything becomes visible, nay, luminous. Happy Nature is always ready to adjust herself harmoniously to her surroundings. There is no floor but the earth, no ceiling but the naked tiles above. This room may be called the parlor of the house, to enter which one has to pass through an adjoining room which is the stable ; there a little donkey now stands munching his fodder ; he will turn around his big head and look at you as you enter, pricking up his long ears at the strange appearance ; near him his little gear hangs on a peg.
I am offered the chair of honor, namely a three-legged stool, by the fire ; while my host squats down on a mat. Recinato is first brought, with which we drink to each other's well-being; then black bread and olives are placed before me, and he insists upon my eating which I proceed to do without delay, as it is about noon and walking in the Greek morning air whets to a razor's keenness the appetite. Also he takes the trouble of bringing two eggs from a neighbor's, and in honor of his guest roasts them in the hot ashes. So we banquet there before the fire, certainly to my great satisfaction. Citizens, having heard of the new arrival, call one, two, three in succession ; they first come to that hole in the wall, shove the board aside, thrust in their kerchiefed heads, and give a friendly salute ; then they go round, and enter by the door, and when seated on the mat drink a bumper of wine to the health of the stranger, who is not slow to respond to such kindness.
In the conversation many a little hint of their ways of thinking and of their condition is brought to light ; there is no school in the place ; no priest lives here, one comes from another village to hold service ; nobody can either read or write, nor does there seem much ambition to change this state of things. Of the other sex only one old woman and two little girls show themselves. A picture of the Virgin hangs on the wall, before which a small oil lamp is kept burning. This sign of devotion greets the traveler pleasantly ; here, too, in this humble cabin there is a recognition of some-thing higher than self, a belief in punishment for the wicked deed and in reward for the good deed. That is assuredly a protection ; yes, the Virgin holds her shielding hand over thee too, unbeliever, who art wandering alone through Stamata. Think of it !
I have already told you that the inhabitants of the village are Albanians, and that this name is applied to one of the three different peoples which are at present scattered over Greece. They came from the North, doubtless from ancient Illyria, pressed hither partly by the migrations of the great tribes during medieval troubles, and partly allured by the lands of Greece, which must have been largely depopulated at that period. Their language is usually said to belong to the Slavonic group, and themselves to be Slays, but the point is stoutly disputed; recently they have been held to be even of Celtic stock. I have no judgment upon this matter ; but I confess I would like to think with some learned men that they are ancient Pelasgic remnants.
The Albanian is tall, slim and wiry ; rather taciturn and dull, and I thought a little inclined to suspicion, often looking slyly out of the corner of his blinking eye at the stranger. He is the sole agriculturalist in these parts, and stands in contrast to the Wallachian who is the shepherd, and to the Greek who is mainly the tradesman. Though he be the ploughman, the Albanian loves the gun far more than the plough ; he usually goes armed, carrying a long knife in a belt around the waist and sometimes a pistol. He makes an excellent soldier ; the bravest champions of Greek independence were the Albanians of the islands ; the best soldiers of the Turkish empire are today the Albanians of Albania proper or ancient Epirus. There is not a person of Greek blood in this village ; and the same statement is true of the entire rural population of Attica and Beotia, with a few scattered exceptions. The women are not handsome, often sun-burnt and wrinkled, often stooped with hard out-door labor. In-deed one is inclined to despair of ever seeing Helen as he goes through these country-towns. But we shall continue our quest, this air and sky make amends for much that is wanting, the Greek mood never wanes. The image is still hovering before us and beckons, we still have faith that we may yet catch a glimpse of the reality somewhere in our travels.
So I rose to go ; two hours more to Marathon it is said. My hospitable friend conducted me out of the village very necessary guidance through the double line of snarling dogs. I pressed into his hand a few decaria a copper coin worth about two cents enough to pay him, yet not enough to spoil him for the next pedestrian. He refused at first, but finally took them upon my urging him ; for it should be a principle with the tourist afoot to pay the people a reasonsable price for all that he receives, under the just supposition that he is quite as able to pay as they are to give. I do not pretend, however, that my liberality was extravagant, I never forgot that some of you might be my successors. My host put me into the road to Marathon and added many directions which I imperfectly understood, and would have forgotten, had I understood them. A friendly farewell and we separate. Good luck ! I am again on my way with lively hopes and joyous images best of company here in Greece.
But soon the road forked which branch to take I could not tell ; a forking road is a great perplexity to the traveler in a country without sign-hoards. He takes one way at ran dom, then concludes that he is wrong, goes back and takes the other, only to find at last that he was right the first time. Such was my fate now. I took one of the branches, but soon imagined that I had made a mistake, and tried to cross over the intervening field to the first branch, but this had dwindled to a small path which I followed till it lost itself in still smaller paths running in every direction through the mountains.
Where am I now? Such is the question which I find my-self asking with some bewilderment. Yonder is Parnes and yonder is Pentelicus nearly at right angles to each other ; with their aid I can keep the direction; so I start straight across the hills and ravines toward Marathon. Not a human habitation can be seen, not a shepherd, not a flock nought is there but blank solitude. A thick growth of underbrush covers the ground ; one has to push through it by main strength, being caught sometimes and held fast by the secret arms of a wood-nymph reaching out of her tree. Underfoot the crystalline grain of marble can be noticed in the rock which is nicked ; minerals now and then can be picked up.
From some dense copse a woodcock will rise at times with sudden whirr which startles the solitary wanderer. Thus I go forward, down valleys, across gulleys, up the steep hill-sides, following a path where it can be followed, with the belief that it must lead somewhither. Signs of a vacated camping spot appear, coal pits are burning off yonder, but I see nobody. So for three hours I wander up and down through the brambly and uneven solitudes ; it is not easy traveling, I begin to grow weary, the sun too is getting dim in afternoon decline. What if I should have to remain out all night in the mountains?
Still, courage ! Parnes and Pentelicus with a glance at the map show you that you are right, going directly to Marathon ; then forward, without delay ! Miltiades met and overcame a much greater obstacle not far from here ; you too must meet and overcome a little one. Consider what lies just before you it is Marathon! Thus I buoy myself up, keeping my mood persistently Greek. As I push through a clump of bushes, suddenly I stand upon the edge of an enormous chasm ; the precipice descends hundreds of feet straight down ; cascades can be heard below in the abyss, leaping and dashing, but can not be seen from the summit. The scenery is wild in the extreme ; colossal boulders have been broken off from mountain tops and flung half way down in gigantic confusion ; some rock battle it was of the old Titans. Three immense gorges come together into one gorge still more immense three throats of the monster at the entrance to Hades, an adamantine triple-necked Cerberus, guard of Hell. After shuddering at the view for a moment, this thought breaks up through the terror: shall I now have to turn back? for there is no getting down this place ; or perchance remain out all night in the mountains? I skirt along the edge of the abyss carefully, fearing lest another precipice may cut me off in this new direction also.
But as I turn around a little thicket and emerge on the other side, behold ! The whole valley, green with alternate patches of shrubs and grain-fields, gracefully narrow and curving, stretches out before me. Through it a silvery rib-bon of water is winding brightly along it is the River Marathon. Toward the farther end of the vale is a pleasant village lying quietly between the hills in sunny repose it is the village Marathon. In the distance through the opening between two mountains, following with the eye the course of the stream I can behold a plain spreading out like a fan, and stretching along the blue sparkling rim of the sea it is the plain of Marathon. The whole landscape sweeps into the vision at once from the high station ; something struggles within the beholder, wings can be felt growing out of the sides let us fly down into the vale without delay from this height.
Accordingly I start, not with pinions however, for I must have walked, inasmuch as I stepped on a long slanting slab of stone, all the while casting my eyes below into the valley, and not looking where I should place my feet which I imagined I had dispensed with. I slipped, gradually falling my whole length along that slab, not falling hard enough to hurt me, but, as it were, being laid down tenderly by some God who knew better what I wanted than I did myself. For I now experienced what a luxury it was to lie there after such a fatiguing walk and to look over that landscape. All anxiety about having to sleep out in the mountains has passed away ; just below I notice a path which leads to the main road running along the stream to the village. Thus I lie on the rough slab in full enjoyment of the scene then I take out my note-book and write pretty much what you have just heard. But what note-book can carry this view across the ocean, and show it to friends or transfer the atmosphere of memory and emotion which envelops it ! Still think of me, my hearers, lying there on a stone and looking over Marathon, while I jot down a note for you here. What next is in store for us anyhow?
But the sun refused to stand in the Heavens and gaze along with me, to gaze even upon Marathon ; he is sighting me now with waning eye just across yonder peak, in five minutes he will drop behind it. Get up then, and be off for the final stretch, though you be a little stiff from much racing to-day. I pass down the mountain, easily, by the path to the road, and come to the pleasant Marathonian stream, not large, but now leaping along its white marble bed with many a joyous gush and babble. The road runs just at the side of it so that it keeps me company; in one spot the smooth basin filled with a dancing transparent flow of ripples is too tempting ; I stoop down, wash hands and face, then pull off shoes and stockings, and wade into the cool pellucid waters I, the undignified man, right along the public road. But it was delicious refreshment to the foot-sore traveler ; the cool stream healed the feverish members bruised by the long stony journey and I was ready again for the march and the battle.
Just as I was prepared to start once more, a new appearance I notice coming down the road ; it is the traveling merchant with his entire store of goods laden on the back of a little donkey. His salute is friendly, his manner is quick and winning ; we go along together toward the village talking of many things. He tells me that he is from Oropus, a town on the Attic border, famous in antiquity, that his name is Aristides, that he is going to Marathon and will show me a place to stay during the night. There is something new and peculiar about this man the like of which I have not yet seen in these rural portions of Greece. He walks with a quick alert step, he has a shrewdness and brightness of intellect, a readiness and information which are remarkable in comparison to the ordinary intellectual gifts found in the country ; his features and his physical bearing, his keen dark eye and nervous twitch distinguish him in the most striking manner from the stolid Albanian peasant. He is a Greek of pure blood, he tells me manifestly we have met with a new and distinctive type.
I enter the village of Marathon with Aristides who brings me to the chief wineshop, where lodgings are to be had as well as refreshing beverage. First a thimble full of mastic, a somewhat strong alcoholic drink, with my merchant who then leaves me and goes to his business. A number of people are in the wineshop, they are the Albanian residents of the village ; all look curiously at the new arrival. The merchant soon passed around the word that I was from America---a fact which I had imparted to him on the way. But of America they had very little notion. The strangest sort of curiosity peeped out of their rather small eyes ; the news spread rapidly through the town that a live American had arrived ; what that was, they all hastened to see. So they continued to pour in by twos and threes, till the spacious wineshop was nearly full. Not a word they said, but walked along in front of the table where I sat, and stared at me —with their kerchiefed heads drawn down in shaggy capotes, dressed in tight breeches like close-fitting drawers, with feet thrust into low shoes which run out to a point at the toes and curl over. Thus they move before me in continuous procession ; when they had taken a close survey of me, they would sit down on a bench, roll a cigarette in paper, strike fire from a flint, and begin to smoke. A taciturn, curious but not unfriendly crowd I called for recinato.
Presently a man clad in European garments appeared among them, and in courteous manner addressed me, talking good Greek but very bad French ; it was the village school-master whom the people familiarly called Didaskali. I hailed him joyfully as a fellow craftsman in a foreign land, and lost no time in announcing to him that I too was a school-master in my country. Professional sympathy at once opened all the sluices of his heart, we were friends on the spot. He was not an Albanian, but a Greek born in the Turkish provinces ; I do not think he was as bright as my merchant Aristides, though he was probably better educated. I took a stroll with him around the town ; he sought to show me every possible kindness, with the single exception of his persistency in talking French. One neat little cottage I noticed ; it was the residence of the Dikastes or village judge ; but the most of the houses were low hovels, with glassless windows, often Roofless. Women were shy, hiding forehead and chin in wrappage at the approach of the stranger, who perhaps was too eager in trying to peer into their faces as if in search of some visage lost long ago in this valley. Still human nature is here, too, in Marathon, for I caught a young girl giving a sly peep through the window after we had pass ed which she had pretended to close when she saw the stranger approaching.
But it is growing dark ; I have done a pretty good day's work ; I must put off the rest of the sight-seeing till tomorrow. Only half a mile below is the Marathonian plain which one can see from the village, but it must now be turned over to darkness. At my request the Didaskali goes back with me to the wineshop, when he excuses himself, promising soon to return. There I had a supper which was eminently satisfactory after a day's walk: five eggs fried in goat's butter, large quantities of black bread, and abundance of recinato at one cent a glass good-sized glasses at that.
While I sat there eating, the people began to assemble again. The Papas, the village priest came and listened, the untrowsered man, with dark habit falling down to his heels like a woman's dress, and with long raven hair rolled up in a knot on the back of his head, upon which knot sat his high stiff ecclesiastical cap ; the Dikastes or village judge came, an educated man, who had studied at the University of Athens, and who dressed in European fashion, possessing in noticeable contrast to the rest of the Marathonians the latest style of Parisian hat ; a lame shop-keeper came, a Greek of the town, bright, full of mockery, flattering me with high titles in order to get me to hire his mules for my journey, as I had good reason to suspect ; finally the schoolmaster and the traveling merchant appeared again, both in excellent humor and expecting a merry evening. There was no doctor present, I asked for him ; they told me that there was none in the valley, though it is scourged with malarial fever in summer ; one man in particular complained of the health of the place. All the representative citizens of Marathon were before me, looking at me eating there in the wineshop on a wooden table. Some one. asked me about my native language. " This is the language that I understand best," said I, raising a mouthful of egg and bread to my lips : "you seem to understand it too." This jest, for whose merit I do not put in any high claims, made all the Albanians laugh and set the whole wineshop in a festive mood. It is manifest that this audience is not very difficult to please.
Finally my long repast was finished long both on account of the work done and on account of the continued interruptions caused by question and answer. The people still held out-there they were before me, more curious than ever, now with a laughing look on account of that one sterile jest, laughing out of the corner of the eye, and with head already somewhat drawn out of the shaggy capote from expectation. What next? I was on the soil of illustrious Marathon, expectant gazes were centered upon me ; what had I, as a true American, to do for the honor of my country? My duty was clear from the start, I must make a speech. I would have been unfaithful to my nationality, had I not done so at Marathon. Accordingly I shoved the table aside, pulled out my bench, and in the full happiness of hunger and thirst satisfied perhaps too a little aglow with the golden recinato I began to address them as follows :
Andres Marathonioi Ye men of Marathon at this point I confess I had to laugh to myself, looking into that solid Albanian stare of fifty faces, for the echo of the tremendous oath of Demosthenes in which he swears by the heroes of Marathon, rung through my ears and made the situation appallingly ludicrous. Still, in spite of my laugh, you must know that I was in deep earnest and full of my theme ; moreover there were at least four persons before me who could understand both my Greek and my allusions. As to my Greek, I affirm that Demosthenes himself would have understood it, had he been there though he might have criticised the style and pronunciation. But I resumed :
Ye men of Marathon, I never was gladder in my life than I am to be with you to-night. I crossed over the mountains on foot from Stamata ; every step that I took was lighter with thinking of Marathon. When from yonder summit I first caught a glimpse of your village and valley and gave a distant peep into the plain beyond to the sea, I had to shed tears of joy. Your name is indeed the greatest, the most inspiring in all history. In every age it has been the mighty rallying cry of freedom ; nations oppressed, on hearing it, have taken hope and risen, smiting to earth their tyrants. It has been the symbol of courage to the few and weak against the many and strong ; the very utterance of the name inspires what is highest and noblest in the human breast courage, devotion, liberty, nationality. Under a banner in-scribed with that word Marathon, our Western civilization has heroically marched and fought its battle ; here was its first outpost, here its first and greatest triumph and the shout of that triumph still re-echoes and will go on re-echoing forever through history. But Marathon is not merely here ; it has traveled around the world along with man's freedom and enlightenment. Among all civilized peoples the name is known and cherished ; it is familiar as a household word, nay, it is a household prayer. In the remote districts of America I have often heard it uttered and uttered with deepest admiration and gratitude. There, in my land, thousands of miles from here, I first learned the name of Marathon in a log school-house by the side of the primitive forest ; it fell from the lips of a youth who was passionately speaking of his country. It had in its very sound, I can still re-collect, some spell, some strange fascination, for it seemed to call up like an army of spirits the great heroes of the past along with the most intense feelings of the soul. There you can hear it among the people in their little debates ; also you can hear it from great orators in senate-halls. Marathon, I repeat, is the mightiest most magical name in history, by which whole nations swear when they march out in defence of their Gods, their families and their freedom. By it too they compare their present with their past and ever struggle upwards to fulfil what lies prophetically in their great example. Now I am in the very place ; I can hardly persuade myself that it is not a dream, and that you are not shadows flitting here before me. In that log school-house I did not even dare to dream of this moment ; but it has arrived. I have already had a glimpse where the old battlefield reposed to-day in the hazy distance ; to-morrow I shall visit it, run over it, spend the whole day upon it, looking and thinking ; for I desire to stamp its features and its spirit into my very brain that I may carry Marathon across the ocean to my land and show it to others who may not be able to come here and see it for themselves. Nor shall I refrain from confessing to you a secret within me : I can not help thinking that I have been here before ; everything looks familiar to me ; I beheld yon summit long ago, the summit of old Kotroni ; I have marched down the Marathonian stream as I marched to-day ; I seem to be doing over again the same things that I have done here before ; I made a speech on this spot ages ago in Greek a much better one, I think, than I am now making. And further let me tell you what I believe I believe that I too fought along at Marathon, that I was one of those ten thousand Athenian soldiers that rushed down yonder hillside and draye the Oriental man into the sea. I can now behold myself off there charging down a meadow toward a swamp, amid the rattle of arms and the hymn of battle, with shield firmly grasped and with spear fiercely out-thrust, on the point of which, spitted through and through, I can feel a quivering Persian."
At this strange notion and still more at the accompanying gesture made in a charging attitude, the mirthful Greeks could hold in no longer, but burst suddenly into a loud and prolonged laugh, in which the Albanians joined; they all laughed, laughed inextinguishably, like the blessed Gods on Olympus, and the whole wineshop was filled with wild merriment. Whereat the speech was brought to a close which may be modestly called a happy one : thus let it be now.