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
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
As soon as the speech had come to an end, I rose and looked out of the wineshop, desiring to take a short stroll before going to bed, in order to catch a breath of fresh air and to see a Greek evening in the Marathonian vale. Though long after sunset, it appeared light out of doors everywhere ; that vague flicker from the sky it was which gives a mystical indefiniteness to the things of Nature and produces such a marked contrast to the clear plastic outlines of daytime. The schoolmaster went along, and we walked up the stream of Marathon, which often gurgled into a momentary gleam over the pebbles, and then fell back into darkness. The mountains on each side of us were changed into curious fantastic shapes which played in that subtle light ; caprice of forms now ruled the beautiful Greek world, as if begotten in the sport of a Northern fancy ; Hecate with her rout of witches and goblins had broken loose from her dark caverns in the earth and was flitting across glimmering patches of twilight up and down the hill-sides. Below the peaks the dells and little seams of valleys running athwart one another were indicated by lines of darkness so that their whole figure came to resemble a many-legged monster crawling down the slant ; while above on the summits was the dreamy play of light with the dance of the fairies. But these shapes let us shun in Greece ; we may allow them to sport capriciously be-fore us for a few moments in the evening, though in truth they belong not here. Let us then hasten back to the wineshop and await to-morrow the return of Phoebus Apollo, the radiant Greek God, who will slay these Pythons anew with his shining arrows and put to flight all the weird throng, revealing again our world in clear clean-cut outlines bounded in his soft sunlight.
When we arrived there, we still found the priest the Iong-haired, dark-stoled Papas, though nearly everybody else had gone home. He began to catechise me on the subject of religion, particularly its ceremonies ; of which examination I, knowing my weakness, tried to keep shy. But he broke out directly upon me with this question : Were you ever baptized? Therein a new shortcoming was revealed to myself, for I had to confess that I actually did not know ; I did not recollect any such event myself, and I had always forgotten to ask my father whether the rite had ever been performed over me when an infant. The priest thought that this was bad, very bad kakon, polù kakon was his repeated word of disapprobation ; then he asked me if I never intended to be baptized. This question, here at Marathon, drove me to bed ; I at once called for a light. But it was only one of the frequent manifestations that will be observed in modern Greece, of a tendency to discuss religious subtleties. The ecclesiastical disputes-of the Byzantine Empire Homoousian and Homoiousian will often today be brought up vividly to the mind of the traveler. Especially the ceremonies of the Eastern Church are maintained with much vigor and nice distinction in a very finespun and consequently very thin tissue of argumentation.
After excusing myself from the Papas, who in company with me performs a slight inner baptism of himself with a glass of recinato as the final ceremony of the day, I ask to be conducted to my quarters, and am led to an adjoining building up stairs. The room is without furniture ; in one corner of it lies a mattress covered with coarse sheeting and a good quilt, on the floor for in Greece bedsteads are not much in vogue. They are considered to be in the way and to take up unnecessary room ; so the bed-clothes are spread out on the floor along the hearth every evening and packed away every morning. This bed was considered a particularly good one, intended for strangers who might visit Marathon and who had to pay for it two francs a night. Indeed, during a great portion of the year in this hot climate, the bed is not only unnecessary but a nuisance in which one can only roll and swelter ; hence the family bed has no such place in the Greek as in the Northern household.
The light which is left me is also worthy of a passing notice. It consists of a cup two-thirds filled with water ; on the water lies half an inch of olive oil ; on the surface of the oil is floating a small piece of wood to which a slender wick is attached reaching into the oil ; the upper end of this wick is lighted, and painfully throws its shadowy glimmer on the walls. A truly pristine light, going back probably to old Homer, thinks the traveler, by which the blind bard could have sat and hymned his lines to eager listeners around the evening board ; an extremely economical light, burning the entire night without any diminution of the oil apparently and giving a proportionate illumination it is a hard light to read by, still harder to write by. There is no tallow in the country for candles ; the little wax which is produced is used for tapers in the churches. There is no desk or chair in the room ; one must write on the floor in some way, if he wishes to send a line to the dear ones, or take a note.
Accordingly the traveler goes to bed, props himself upon his elbow, opens his book on the floor near the light but the eyes swim for a moment, the head totters, back it falls upon the mattress : that is the end of one day's adventure ; he will rapidly descend into Lethe, where, though in dreams he fight the great battle over again alongside of Miltiades at one moment, and the next moment argue the question of baptism with the Papas, he will lie in sweet unconscious repose, till the Sun-god rising from his bath in the ocean stretch his long golden fingers through the window, gently open the eye-lids and whisper to the slumberer who will hear though but half awake : " Rise, it is the day of Marathon." Thereupon the traveler leaps from his couch, for he knows that it is the voice of a God and he dares not disobey ; if he have any winged sandals, he now puts them on, for today he will have to make an Olympian flight ; if he have that staff of Hermes with which the Argus-slayer conducts departed souls out of Hades and into it, he will seize the same and sally forth, for to-day he will have to call up from the past many mighty spirits those colossal shades which still rise at Marathon.
When I came out of my high-sounding chamber in the morning, I met my good host with an ewer of water which he proceeded to pour upon my hands for the purpose of ablution ; unpoetical washbasins do not exist, or were refused me, perchance on account of my Homeric habits. After a breakfast quite like the supper on the previous evening, I begin the march for the battle of Marathon, having filled a small haversack with a piece of black bread and some cheese for luncheon, and having slung around my shoulder a canteen of recinato. Nor do I forget my chief weapons two books and the maps, which I hold tightly under my arm. Thus equipped, I tread along, with becoming modesty I trust, yet with no small hopes of victory.
But there is no hurry, let the gait still be leisurely. As I pass down the road through the village which is spread out on the banks of the stream, I meet many an acquaintance made the evening before at the wineshop; ; each recognizes me by a slight nod of the head with a pleasant smile. All of them seemed still to be laughing at the idea of my being an ancient Hoplite now re-visiting former scenes of activity. Such friendly greeting on every side together with the genial sunshine of the morning puts the traveler into a happy mood, slightly transcendental perhaps. Whatever he now does is an adventure worth recording to future ages ; what-ever he now sees is a divine revelation.
Passing along to a shelving place in the stream, he beholds the washers one hundred women or more at work with furious muscle, pounding, scouring, rubbing, rinsing the filth begrimed fustanellas of their husbands, brothers, sons. There is a strength, vigor, and I should say, anger in their motions, that they seem animated by some feeling of revenge against those dirty garments, and in my opinion with good reason. One Amazonian arm is wielding a billet of wood, quite of the weight and somewhat resembling the shape of the maul with which the American woodman drives wedges into the gnarled oak. Upon a flat smooth stone are laid the garments, boiled, soaped and steaming, when they are belabored by that maul. None of our modern machinery is seen, even the washboard is very imperfect or does not appear at all. Somehow in this wise the ancient Nausicaas must have blanched their linen at the clear Marathonian stream ; one will unconsciously search now with eager glances for the divine Phaeacian maid to see whether she be not here still. At present the washers are strewn along the marble edge of the water for quite a distance, dressed in white, bare-armed, mostly bare-footed and bare-legged, in the liveliest, fiercest muscular motion, as if wrestling desperately with some fiend. Look at the struggling, wriggling, smiting mass of mad women Maenads under some divine enthusiasm while the sides of old Kotroni Mountain across the river re-echoes with the thud of their relentless billets. A truly Marathonian battle against filth, with this very distinct utterance : " For one day at least we are going to be clean in Marathon."
But it is impossible to look at the washers all the time, however fascinating the view ; indeed I had almost forgotten that I am on my way to the field of the great battle which does not speak well for an ancient Hoplite. I still pass along the stream with its white lining of marble through which flows the current pellucid ; what ! are the eyes deceived, or is the water actually diminishing in the channel? Yes, not only has it diminished, but now a few steps farther it has wholly vanished, sunk away into the earth, leaving merely a dry rocky bed for the wildest torrent of the storm. Thus that crisp joyous mountain stream which gave us such delight in its dance down the hill through the valley when we looked at it coming to Marathon, now disappears with its en-tire volume of water, to rise again in the marshes beyond or perchance in the sea.
This phenomenon is not unusual in Greece, and like all occurrences of Nature in this country, has been stamped with a spiritual impress. Rivers sink away, pass through a channel underground, then come again to the surface, possibly to vanish, and to rise a second time in like manner. There is a special Greek word to designate such a subterranean passage : it is called the catabothron. Many a stream, therefore, has its catabothron, and this fact always gave origin to a pretty fable which was elaborated by the poet of the neighborhood and through him passed into the mythical treasures of the people. A beautiful stream of water ripples down from the mountain and sinks away ; it is the fair nymph Marathonia who is ravished by Seismos, the land-heaving Earthquake rising out of the ground, as she is bathing in her rivulet and revealing her beauty ; but after long struggle and flight, she is rescued by her mother, the far-sounding Amphetrite in the bosom of the sea. Thus each little locality of Greece had its fountain of poetry, incessantly welling up into legend and song.
But this is not all. Why did the Greek seize upon Nature and weave out of her hints that wonderful texture of fable It was just he who did it with supreme beauty, just he and nobody else ; manifestly he wrought from some deep need of expressing himself, he had to utter what was within him, his spiritual life and also the life of his community. Nature lay there before him and was profoundly sympathetic with his utterance ; into her forms he wrought his experience, his intellectual stores, his history. For instance, a village migrates, a colony is sent out, a religious rite is introduced from abroad, a political institution is transplanted what is it but a spring, a stream, a water-nymph disappearing at the one place and rising at the other? Before his door is the river, it does the same thing and becomes the expression thereof ; let him but narrate its course and he has the deep poetic hint of his own life, and it may be, of the life of his whole nation and race.
Perhaps the best known of these legends is that of Arethusa, the beautiful nymph of Ells, one of Diana's choir. who beloved of the river-god Alpheius, fled under the sea, still pursued by the god, when finally she rose in the fountain Arethusa in Sicily. A cup thrown into the river Alpheius in Greece would be cast up at the Sicilian fountain ; the blood of sacrifice which flowed into the river during the great Olympic festival would ensanguine the waters of fair Arethusa over the sea. A poetical people we behold, always grasping Nature and making her the voice of their deed, the expression of their spiritual revolutions. There was a great colonization of Sicily from Greece in the 7th and 8th centuries B. C., a transference thither of Greek customs, institutions, language ; must there not be some utterance of that important event from the hearts of the people, taken directly from that which they see before themselves every day?
Such an utterance, however, becomes a legend an expression of all similar occurrences ; hence it is truly a symbol and lasts forever. Thus the Greek has created the symbols, at least the most beautiful symbols of the race, for they are employed to-day by Art and must be eternally employed. This is the supreme significance of Greek Mythology. Notice once more that it comes from Nature, yet is not merely natural; nor, on the other hand, though it bears the impress of Spirit, is it merely allegorical ; it is the perfect blending of Nature and Spirit. their happy interpenetration ; thus a brook, a thing of Nature, leaps up into the human shape, while a revolution, a thing of Spirit, drops clown into the subterranean course of the brook.
With such thoughts I pass by the Marathonian catabothron, see the waters swoon away into the earth ; then I have to ask myself : where will it rise next? Not in the Euripus yonder, I say ; not even across the sea in Sicily it has already gone much farther. The Marathonian stream is certain to pass beyond the Pillars of Hercules, wind its way under a great ocean, worm through the cavernous passages of a continent, rise up once more on the banks of the Father of Waters with whose turbid current it will mingle, and add thereto a little of its quiet transparent beauty. Can you not see it rising already?
So one saunters down that short neck which attaches the village to the plain, joyously attuned by the climate and trying to throw himself back into that spirit which created the old Greek Mythology, determined to see here what an ancient Greek would see. Nature begins to be alive, she begins to speak strange things in his soul and to reveal new shapes to his vision ; an Oread skips along the mountain with him, while the Naiads circle in aj chorus round the neighboring fountain. Such company he must find, if he truly travel in Greece. Not as a sentimental play of the fancy, not as a pretty bauble for the amusement of a dreary hour, but as a vital source of faith and action, as a deep and abiding impulse to the greatest and most beautiful works, will the loyal traveler seek to realize within himself these antique forms.
But that shape at yonder spring drawing water, what can it be? Clearly not a Naiad; dark eyes flashing out from blooming features that lie half hidden among her hair falling down carelessly on both sides of her forehead, a short dress drooping over her luxuriant frame in romantic tatters of many colors, under which the bosom swells half exposed, cause the white water-nymphs to vanish into viewless air and leave a seductive image behind, which will long accompany the traveler in spite of himself, rising at intervals and dancing through his thoughts even at Marathon. It is the Wallachian maiden who has come down from her mountain lodge for water, which in two large casks she puts on the back of a donkey. A wild beauty, fascinating on account of wildness, not devoid of a certain coy coquetry ; she seems not displeased to have attracted the marked attention of that man in Frankish garments who is passing along the road, for her dark eyes shoot out new sparkles from under the falling tresses, tempered with subdued smiles. She has nothing to do with the villagers of Marathon, she is a child of the mountains, she belongs to a different world. Slowly she passes out of sight with her charge into the brushwood; looking back at the last step she stoops and plucks a flower ; then she springs up and vanishes among the leaves.
It is a slight disappointment, perhaps ; but look now, in the opposite direction, and you will behold in the road going toward the plain a new and very delightful appearance : three white robes are there moving gracefully along through the clear atmosphere and seem to be set in high relief against the hilly background. Three women, evidently of the wealthier people of the village, for their garments are of stainless purity and adjusted with unusual care, appear to be taking a walk at their leisure down the valley. Their dress is a long loose gown flowing freely down to the heels, all of it shows the spotless white except a narrow pink border. Over this dress is worn a woolen mantilla, also white with a small border. At the view there arises the feeling which will often be experienced in other localities of Greece with even greater intensity : the feeling of a living plastic outline which suggests its own copy in marble. No costume can possibly be so beautiful and so distinct in this atmosphere ; there they move along, as if statues should start from their pedestals and walk down from their temples through the fields. Why the white material was taken by the old artists for sculpture, be-comes doubly manifest now ; here is the living model in her fair drapery, yonder across the river is the marble, Pentelic marble, cropping out of the hills. Unite the twain, they belong together, both have still a mute longing to be joined once more in happy marriage. I have not the least doubt that the ancient Marathonian woman in the age of the battle paced through this valley in a similar costume, producing similar sensations in this bluish transparent air.
But the three shapes draw near, one will look into their faces as they pass, they are Albanian women, not beautiful by any means, not with features corresponding to their costumes, you will say. Therefore we must add something very essential to bring back that ancient Greek woman, for she had brought body into the happiest harmony with dress, if we may judge of those types which have come down to us. Still this is a delightful vision of antique days, passing in stately gait through the clear sunlit landscape ;—forms of white marble in contrast to the many-colored tatters of the Wallachian maiden, who, having no sympathy of dress with the climate shows that she does not belong to Marathon.
Now we have arrived if you have succeeded in keeping up with me at the point where the bed of the river passes into the plain, in full view of which we at present stand. It sweeps around almost crescent-shaped, like the side of a vast amphitheater eut into the mountains ; the line from tip to tip of the arc is said to measure about six miles. That line, seen from the spot where we now are, has a beautiful blue border of sparkling water the Euripus, which separates the mainland from the island Euboia. There is upon the plain but one tree worthy of the name a conifer which rises strange and solitary about in the center of it, and looks like a man, with muffled head in soldier's cloak standing guard, still waiting for some enemy to come out of the East. The plain is at present largely cultivated, vineyards and fields of grain are scattered through it, but the ancient olives are wanting. At the northern horn of the crescent is a large morass running quite parallel to the sea ; a smaller one is at the southern horn. Into the plain two villages debouch, both having roads from Athens. There is a beautiful shore gradually shelving off into deep water with a gravel bottom ; here the traveler will sit long and look at the waves breaking one after another upon the beach. This coast, however, is but a narrow strip for several miles ; just behind it lies amid the grass the deceptive marsh, not visible at any considerable distance. This morass and its conformation will explain the great miracle of the battle : namely, its decisiveness notwithstanding the enormous disparity in the numbers of the two contending armies. For the morass was the treacherous enemy lurking in ambuscade at the rear and under the very feet of the Persians.
In regard to the battle of Marathon we have only one trustworthy account this is given by Herodotus, the Father of History. It is short and omits much that we would like to know, indeed must know in order to comprehend the battle. Still, a view of the ground will suggest the general plan, with the help of the old historian's hints and of one contemporary fact handed down by the traveler Pausanias. The battle was a fierce attack in front, aided by the enemy in the rear the morass, which had a double power. It, on the one hand, prevented the foe from getting assistance, which could only come from the ships by a long detour round the narrow strip of coast easily blocked by a few soldiers. On the other hand, broken or even unbroken lines being forced into the swampy ground would become hopelessly disordered, and would have enough to do fighting the enemy under their feet.
Imagine now this line of coast with the vessels drawn up sternwards along the shelving bank; then comes the narrow strip of shore on which a portion of the Persian army lies en-camped ; then follows the marshy tract, then the plain upon which another portion of the Persion army is drawn up ; still further and beyond the plain is the slope of the mountain where with good vision you can see the Athenians arrayed in order of battle. At the mouth of one of the two villages. doubtless near the modern hamlet of Vrana they have taken position, since they could easily pass round the road and protect the other valley, if a movement should be made in that direction by the enemy. Single-handed of all the states of Greece they stand here ; they had sent for aid to the Spar-tans who refused to come on account of a religious festival. Still the suspicion lives and will forever live through history that this was a mere pretense, that the Spartans would gladly have seen their rival destroyed, though at the peril of Greek freedom.
But who are these men filing silently through the brush-wood of Mount Kotroni, in leather helmets and rude kilts, hurrying forward to the aid of the Athenians? They are the Plataeans, a small community of Beotia, in all Greece the only town outside of Attica that has the courage and the inclination to face the Persian foe. One thousand men are here from that small place a quiet rural village lying on the slopes of Kithaeron ; the whole male population, one is forced to think, including every boy and old man capable of bearing arms is in that band, for the entire community could hardly number more than three or four thousand souls. Yet here they are to the last man ; one almost imagines that some of the women must be among them in disguise as today the Greek women of Parnassus often handle the gun with skill, and ha-re been known to fight desperately in the ranks along side of their fathers and brothers. But think of what was involved in that heroic deed ; the rude villagers assemble when the messenger comes with the fearful news that the Persian had landed just across at Marathon; in the market-place they deliberate, having hurried from their labor in the fields, in coarse rustic garb with bare feet slipped into low sandals ; uncouth indeed they seem, but if there ever were men on the face of this earth, they were in Plataea at that hour. No faint-hearted words were there, we have the right to assume no half-hearted support no hesitation ; every man takes his place in the files, the command to march is given and they all are off. Nor can we forget the anxiety left behind in the village ; the Greek wife with child on her arm peers out of the door, taking a last look at that receding column winding up Kithaeron and disappearing over its summit; there is not a husband, not a grown-up son remaining in Plataea. What motive, do you ask? I believe that these rude Greek rustics were animated by a profound instinct which may be called not only national but world-historical the instinct of hostility to the Orient and its principle in favor of political autonomy and individual freedom. Also another ground of their conduct was gratitude toward the Athenians who had saved them from the tyranny of Thebes, their overbearing neighbor ; now their benefactors are in the sorest need, patriotism and friendship alike command, there can be no hesitation. So those thousand men on a September day wind through the pines and arbutes of Kotroni with determined tread, are received with great joy by the Athenians and at once take their position on the left wing ready for the onset. Let any village in the world's history match the deed! Well may the Athenians after that day join the Plataeans with themselves in public prayers to the Gods, in whose defence both have marched out.
Scarcely have these allies arrived, we may suppose, when the moment of battle is at hand. Doubtless it was the most favorable moment, and as such eagerly seized by Miltiades ; why it was so favorable no one at this late day can know. Perhaps the much-feared Persian cavalry were absent on a foraging expedition, perhaps the enemy were negligent or were embarking, or, as Herodotus says, because it was Miltiades' day of command ;—alas, who can tell? At any rate the order to charge is given, down the declivity the Greeks rush, over the plain for a mile. The deep files on the wings of their army bear everything before them ; but the center is defeated for a time and driven back, for it had apparently been weakened to strengthen the wings. Such is the first fierce attack.
Now comes the second stage of the struggle, the battle at the marshes. The front of the enemy, pressed by the Greeks and consolidated into a mass of panic-stricken fugitives bore the rear backwards ; thus the whole hostile army pushed itself into the swamp. Whoever has seen a regiment of infantry in a morass, reeling, struggling with broken lines, sinking under their equipments, soldiers extricating one foot only to sink deeper with the other, cursing theirs stars and damning the war, that is, a complete loss of all discipline and a sort of despair on account of the new victorious enemy underfoot such a person can imagine the condition of a large part of the Persian army after that attack. The Greek lines stood on the edge of the marsh and smote the struggling disordered mass with little or no loss to themselves. They also prevented succor from coming round the narrow tongue of coast till the battle at the morass was over, wholly victorious for the Greeks.
The narrative of Herodotus omits entirely this second stage of the conflict, and modern historians have slurred it over with little or no separate attention. Thus, however, the whole battle is an unaccountable mystery. Fortunately this struggle at the morass and its result are vouched for by an authority at once original and contemporaneous an authority even better than Herodotus who was a foreigner from Asia Minor. It was the picture in the Poekile at Athens painted not long after the battle. Of the details of that picture we have several important hints from ancient authors. Says Pausanias, evidently speaking of its leading motive, it shows " the barbarians fleeing and pushing one another into the swamp." There can be no doubt that this was the salient and decisive fact of the battle : the barbarians fled and pushed one another into the swamp. By the fierce onset of the Greeks the front lines of the enemy were driven upon the rear, and the whole multitude was carried by its own weight into the treacherous ground, numbers only increasing the momentum and the confusion. Such was the conception of the artist painting the battle before the eyes of the very men who had participated in it ; such, therefore, we must take to be the contemporary Athenian conception. The picture may well be considered to be the oldest historical document we have concerning the fight, and as even better evidence than the foreign historian. The ground, moreover, as we look at it today, tells the same story. A skillful military commander of the present time, other things being equal, would make the same plan of attack. Thus, too, the great miracle of the battle the defeat of so many by so few and the small loss of the victors is reasonably cleared up.
The third stage of the conflict was the battle at the ships, while the enemy were embarking. This, to be successful, had to take place, partly upon the narrow strip of shore to which the Greeks must penetrate at a disadvantage. In their zeal they rushed into the water down the shelving pebbly bottom in order to seize the fleet ; still the faithful traveler visiting the scene will, after their example, wade far out into the sea. Seven vessels were taken out of six hundred, the enemy making good their embarkation. Many Greeks here suffered the fate of brave Kynageirus, brother of the poet AEschylus, who seizing hold of a vessel had his arms chopped off by a Persian battle-ax. In general, the Greeks were repulsed at the battle of the ships ; but this third stage, since the enemy were leaving, is the least important of the whole conflict.
Not a word does Herodotus say about the numbers engaged on either side a strange, unaccountable omission. Yet he must have conversed with men who fought at the battle, with the leaders possibly, and he gives with the greatest care the loss on both sides 6400 Persians, 192 Athenians. The omission leads to the conjecture that he could not find out the true figures ; yet why not at Athens, where they must have been known? It is a puzzle ; let each one solve it by his own conjecture which is likely to be as good as anybody else's.
Ancient writers much later than the battle give to the Persians from 210,000 to 600,000 men ; to the Athenians and Plataeans 10,000 men. Modern writers have sought through various sources to lessen this immense disparity, by increasing the Athenian and diminishing the Persian numbers. In-deed Marathon became the topic of the wildest exaggeration for the Greek orators and rhetoricians-300,000 were said to have been slain by less than 10,000 ; Kynageirus already mentioned is declared to have had first the right hand cut off, then the left hand, then to have seized the vessel with his teeth like a wild animal ; Callimachus, a brave general who was slain, is represented to have been pierced by so many weapons that he was held up by their shafts. It was the great common-place of Athenian oratory, thence it has passed to be the world's common-place. Justly. in my opinion for it is one of the supreme world-events, and not merely a local and even national affair ; thus the world will talk of its own deeds. Do not imagine with the shallow-brained de-tractor that rhetoric has made Marathon ; no, Marathon rather has made rhetoric, among other greater things.
Far more interesting than these rhetorical exaggerations of a later time are the contemporary accounts which come from the people and show their faith the legends of supernatural appearances which took part in the fight. For there was aught divine, the people must believe, at work visibly upon the battlefield that day. Epizelus, a soldier in the ranks was stricken blind and remained so during life, at the vision of a gigantic warrior with a huge beard, who passed near him and smote the enemy. Theseus, the special Athenian hero, Hercules the universal Greek hero were there and seen of men ; no doubt of it, the heroes all did fight along, with very considerable effect too. Nor were the Gods absent : the God Pan, regardless of slighted divinity, met the courier Phidippides on the way to Sparta for aid and promised his divine help if the Athenians would neglect him no longer. Finally Athena herself, the protecting Goddess of the city, in helm and spear strode there through the ranks, shaking her dreadful egis, visible to many, nay, to all Athenian eyes.
Even a new hero appears, unheard of before ; in rough rustic garb, armed with a ploughshare he smote the Oriental foe who had invaded his soil. After the battle he vanishes —who was he? On consulting an oracle the Athenians were merely told to pay honors to the Hero Echetlus. On the whole the most interesting and characteristic of all these appearances the rustic smiter he is, who reveals the stout rude work put in by the Attic peasant on that famous day. Indeed all who fell were buried on the sacred ground of the battle and were worshipped as heroes with annual rites. Still in the time of the traveler Pausanias, about 150 years after Christ, the air was filled at night with the blare of trumpets, the neighing of steeds and the clangor of battle. Says he : " It is dangerous to go to the spot for the express purpose of seeing what is going on, but if a man finds himself there by accident without having heard about the matter, the Gods will not be angry." Greece was at the. period of Pausanias extinct in Roman servitude, yet the clash of that battle could be heard, loud, angry, even dangerous, over six hundred years after the event. Still the modern peasant hears the din of combat in the air sometimes ; I asked him, he was a little shy of the matter ; the noise, however, has be-come to him comparatively feeble, still there is a noise. But long will it be, one may well think, before that noise wholly subsides.
So the Heroes and Gods fought along with the Athenians at Marathon, visibly, almighty and in wrath. Thus it has been delivered to us on good authority; thus I, for one, am going to believe, for the event shows it ; far otherwise had been the story, if the Gods had not fought along on that day. There would have been no Marathonian victory, no Athens, no Greek literature, for us at least. But now Theseus, the deserving Hero, will have a new temple, beautiful, enduring, at this moment nearly perfect, after almost twenty-four centuries. Athena also will have a new temple, larger and more beautiful than any heretofore, still the unattained type of all temples ; it shall be called, in honor of the virgin Goddess, the Parthenon. Attic song will now burst forth, Attic art too, celebrating just this Marathon victory; that long line of poets, orators, philosophers, historians will now appear all because the Gods fought along at Marathon.
For can we not see the Divine at once springing into artistic utterance at Athens? There in the Poekile or Painted Porch was a large picture representing this battle ; prominent were the forms of Miltiades who commanded, of Callimachus whose slain body was held upright by the piercing spears, of Kynageirus seizing the vessel, of Epizelus struck blind by the spectral warrior. But among these mortal heroes the shapes of Hercules, Theseus, Echetlus stood out in that picture ; above all, however, the supreme figure was painted there, the warlike virgin Athena, clad in divine armor, moving in the midst of the combat with death-dealing glances from her awful-gleaming eye. Look up yon-der at the Acropolis ; there too she stands, or will soon be made to stand Athena Promachos, Athena the Forefighter, in full panoply towering toward the skies, looking off on the sea in proud defiance at the East. Manifestly the Gods were fighting for their people ; let it be imaged before all eyes : then we have Art, which is the Divine appearing in our material world to the senses. Many a regret rises that one can not see how those ancient Artists brought the Goddess down from Olympus and revealed her to men after be-holding her at Marathon.
The most prominent object on the plain of Marathon is an artificial mound, perhaps thirty feet high at present ; upon it is growing some low brushwood. It is generally considered to be the tomb of the 192 Athenians who were buried on the battlefield and had there a monument on which their tribe and their names were written. To the summit of this mound the traveler will ascend and sit down ; he will thank the brambles growing upon it that they have preserved it so well in their rude embrace from the leveling rains. He may reasonably feel that he is upon the rampart which separates the East from the West. Yonder just across this narrow strait are the mountains of Euboea, snow-capped and loftily proud, yet they stooped their heads to the Persian conqueror. All the islands of the sea submitted, Asia Minor submitted. But here upon this shore defiantly facing the East, was the first successful resistance to the Oriental principle ; its sup-porters could hardly do more than make a landing upon these banks, when down from the mountains swept fire and whirlwind, burning them up, driving them into the sea. Here then our West begins or began in Space and Time, we might say upon this very mound ; that semi-circular sweep of hills yonder forms the adamantine wall which shut out Orientalism. Regard their shape once more ; they seem to open, like a huge pair of forceps, only in order to close again and press to death.
Strange is the lot of the men buried here, the unconscious instruments of a world's destiny, nameless except two or three possibly. Yet they had some mighty force in them and back of them ; one is quite inclined to think that they must have remotely felt in some dim far-off presentiment what lay in their deed for the future, and that such feeling nerved their arms to a hundred-fold intensity. Here upon the mound this question comes home to us before all others : What is man but that which he is ready to die for? Such is his earthly contradiction : if he have that for which he is willing to give his life, then he has a most vital, perdurable energy ; but if he have nought for which he would die, then he is already dead, buried ignobly in a tomb of flesh.
But what is this Greek principle which Marathon has pre-served for us against the Orient? It is not easy to be formulated in words, to anybody's complete satisfaction. Politically, it is freedom ; in Art, it is Beauty ; in Mind, it is Philosophy ; and so on, through many other abstract predicables. Perhaps we may say that the fundamental idea of Greece is the self-development of the individual in all its phases the individual state, the individual city or town, the individual man. Henceforth the task is to unfold the germ which lies within, removed from external trammels to give to the individual a free, full, harmonious development. Thus will be produced the great types of states, of men, of events ; still further, these types will then be reproduced by the artist in poetry, in marble, in history and in many other forms. This second production or reproduction is, indeed, of all Grecian things, the most memorable.
The battle of Marathon is itself a type and has always been considered by the world as a supreme type of its kind, representing a phase of the spiritual. Athens from this moment has the spirit of which the Marathonian deed is only an utterance. Soon that spirit will break forth in all directions, producing new eternal types, just as Marathon is such a type in its way. Athenian plastic Art, Poetry, Philosophy are manifestations of this same spirit and show in a still higher degree than the battle, the victory over Orientalism. The second Persian invasion came, but it was only a repetition of the first 'ore ; it too was defeated at Marathon, which was the primitive Great Deed, the standing image to Greece of herself and of all her possibilities Hence the use of it so often by her writers and speakers, as well as by those of the entire Western world.
With Marathon, too, History properly begins ; that is, the stream of History. Now it becomes a definite, demonstrable, unbroken current sweeping down to our own times. Before Marathon, indeed, there is History, and much History, but it is in flashes, short or long, then going out in darkness. The history of Greece itself before Marathon is merely an agglomeration of events quite disconnected. The head waters take their start at Marathon, Oriental bubblings there are in abundance, but no stream. In fact it could not be otherwise, such is just the character of the Orient : to be unable to create this historical continuity. But the West has it, and it was won at Marathon, marking the greatest of all transitions both in the form and in the substance of History. Moreover the historic consciousness now arises ; History for the first time is able to record itself in an adequate manner. If you now scan him closely, you will find that man has come to the insight that he has done in these days something worthy of being remembered forever. But where is the scribe to set it down? Behold, here he comes, old Herodotus, the Father of History, with the first truly historical book in which he has written together with the rest of the Persian War the noble record of just this great Marathonian deed. Thus with the worthy action appears the man worthy of transmitting its glory.
Still the traveler remains upon the top of the mound, asking himself: Why is Marathon so famous? Other battles have equalled it in disparity of numbers and in completeness of victory, while they have had the same principle of freedom and nationality at stake. The battle of Morgarten with its 1600 Swiss against 20,000 Austrians is often cited and is sometimes called the Swiss Marathon. But Morgarten to the world is an obscure skirmish, it is not one of the heroic deeds which determined a civilization ; it is not one of the hallowed symbols of the race. This then must be the cause : Greece has created to a large extent what we may call the symbols of our Western world the typical deeds, the typical men, the typical forms which are still the ideals by which we mould our works and to which we seek, partially at least, to adjust our lives.
Marathon therefore stands for a thousand battles; all other struggles for freedom, of which our Occident has been full, are merely echoes, repetitions, imitations to a certain extent of that great primitive action. And Greece is just the nation in History which was gifted with the power of making all that she did a type of its kind. The idea of the West she first had, in its instinctive form, in its primal enchanting bloom ; most happily she embodied that idea in her actions, making them into eternal things of beauty.
That is, all the deeds of Greece are works of Art. In this sense the battle of Marathon may be called a work of Art.. Grandeur of idea with perfect realization is the definition of such a work, and is that quality which elevates the person who can rightly contemplate it into true insight. It fills the soul of the beholder with views of the new future world and makes him for a time the sharer of its fruits. Marathon is only that single wonderful event, yet it is symbolical of all that are to come after it you may say, embraces them all ; it tells the race for the first time what the race can do, giving us a new hope and a new vision. So indeed does every great work of Art and every great action ; but this is the grand original, it is the prophecy of the future standing there at the opening of History, telling us what we too may become, imparting to us at this distance of time a fresh aspiration.
One step further let us push this thought till it mirror itself clearly and in completeness. The Athenians were not only doers of beautiful deeds, they were also the makers of beautiful things to represent the same they were artists. Not only a practical, but an equal theoretic greatness was theirs ; in no people that has hitherto appeared were the two primal elements of Human Spirit, Will and Intelligence, blended in such happy harmony ; here, as in all their other gifts there was no overbalancing, but a symmetry which becomes musical. They first made the deed the type of all deeds, made it a Marathon ; then they embodied it in an actual work of Art. They were not merely able to enact the great thought, but also to put it into its true outward form, to be seen and admired of men. Their action was beautiful, often supremely beautiful, but that was not enough ; they turned around after having performed it, and rescued it from the moment of time in which it was born and in which it might perish, and then made it eternal in marble, in color, in prose, in verse.
Thus we can behold it still. On the temple of Wingless Victory at Athens is to be seen at this day a frieze representing the battle of Marathon. There is still to be read that tremendous war poem, the Persae of AEschylus, who also fought at Marathon ; the white heat of this first conflict and of the later Persian war can still be felt in it through the intervening thousands of years. Upon the summit of the mound where we now stand, ancient works of Art were doubtless placed ; the stele inscribed with the names of the fallen is mentioned by Pausanias. Only a short distance from this tomb ancient substructions can still be observed; temples and shrines, statues and monuments must have been visible here on all sides ; to the sympathetic eye the whole plain will now be whitened with shapes of marble softly re-posing in the sunshine. The Greeks are indeed the supreme artistic people, they have created the beautiful symbols of the world ; they have furnished the artistic type and have embodied it in many forms they had the ideal and gave to it an adequate expression. Moderns have done other great things, but this belongs to the Greeks.
So after the mighty Marathonian deed there is at Athens a most determined struggle, a supreme necessity laid upon the people to utter it worthily, to reveal it in the forms of Art and thus to create Beauty. Architecture, Sculpture, Poetry spring at once and together to a heighth which they have hardly since attained, trying to express the lofty consciousness begotten of heroic action. Philosophy too followed; but chiefest of all, the Great Men of the time, those plastic shapes in flesh and blood, manifesting the perfect development and harmony of mind and body, rise in Olympian majesty and make the next hundred years after the battle the supremest intellectual birth of the ages ; and all because the Gods fought along at Marathon and must thereafter be revealed.
But let us descend from this height, for we can not stay up here all day let us go down from the mound resuming our joyous sauntering occupation; let our emotions, still somewhat exalted, flow down quietly and mingle once more with the soft pellucid Marathonian rill. The declining sun is warning us that we have spent the greater part of a day in wandering over the plain and in sitting on the shore and the tumulus. Let us still trace the bed of the river up from the swamp ; every where along its bank and in its channel can be seen fragments of edifices. Here are ancient bricks with mortar still clinging to them ; there' is the drum of a column lying in the sand, half-buried ; pieces of ornamented capitals look up at you from the ground with broken smiles. Remains of a wall of carefully hewn stone speak of a worthy superstructure ; the foundations of a temple of Bacchus was discovered here a few years ago, together with a curious inscription still preserved in the town. The fragments scattered along and in the channel for half a mile or more tell of the works once erected on this spot to the He-roes and Gods of the plain, and which were things of beauty. The traveler will seek to rebuild this group of shrines and temples, each in its proper place and with suitable ornament ; he will fill them with white images, with altar's and tripods ; he will call up the surging crowd of merry Greek worshipers passing from spot to spot at some festival.
As one walks slowly through the fields in the pleasant sun, a new delight comes over him at the view of the flowers of Marathon. Everywhere they are springing up over the plain, though it be January still many of them and of many kinds, daisies, dandelions, and primroses looking a little differently from what they do at home, yet full as joyously. The most beautiful is a kind of poppy unknown to me elsewhere ; so let me call it the Marathonian poppy. In most eases it wraps its face in a half-closed calyx, as the Greek maiden covers forehead and chin in her linen veil ; still you can look down into the hood of leaves and there behold sparkling dark eyes. Some of the flowers, however, are entirely open, some only in bud yet; then there is every variety of color, red, purple, and blue, with infinitely delicate shadings. One tarries among them and plays after having gone through the earnest battle ; he will stoop down and pluck a large handful of them in order to arrange them in groups passing into one another by the subtlest hues. So, after being in such high company, one gladly becomes for a time a child once more amid the Marathonian poppies.
If it were in me, I would like to manifest a little sentiment over the name of the flower in Modern Greek. It is called loulouthi the most beautiful word for a beautiful thing that I know of in any language, particularly if it be spoken low from tender lips and be reached by gentle fingers from bosom throbbing visibly faster. The ancient Greek word was anthos ; herein the voice of the daughter far surpasses that of the mother, to my ear at least. And there are other names in Modern Greek of which the same complimentary thing can be said, but there are some designations concerning which just the opposite must be affirmed. At the mention of that word loulouthi as I recollect, the face of the speaker lights up, the eye kindles, the voice grows softer, indeed the whole appearance is transformed, while the image of the thing and the music of the word unite in producing one delightful melody in the soul. Such are my associations with the name that it speaks of green fields, and wavy slopes, of transparent rills running through olive orchards, with the song of maidens gathering the fruit, all in Greek sunshine making together a harmony which seems to be uttered only in that one word loulouthi.
Out of the fields of poppies I pass into the narrow neck which led me early this morning from the village into the plain. As I turn back and look again at those lunar-shaped hills, they seem to glance more fiercely than ever towards the East, inviting into their retreating folds in order to envelop and crush. The first shadow of evening lies upon the plain ; the conifer towers up in the middle of the level expanse ; it is still the sentinel standing there, now more deeply muffled in his war-cloak, but looking out watchfully upon the sea as if the enemy were yet expected there and he was ready to shout the warning to the hills. The mound, too, can be seen in the distance, slightly swelling above the surface of the plain, but soon its outline has mingled with the shadows. After going forward a little further I turn around once more and look, it is the last view of the plain of Marathon I bid it good-bye and resolutely set my face in the other direction.
At the entrance to the village I met the schoolmaster, cordial as ever, and apparently waiting for my return. I asked him to take me to the school-house, though the school had been dismissed an hour or more. It was not a palace, yet it was one of the better houses of the place ; pupils' benches were very low, teacher's desk very high. As you pick up a text-book you will find essentially the ancient idiom written in the ancient letters ; it were not hard to imagine some old Greek pedagogue trouncing his boys on this spot. The youth of the village can still read of the great actions here in the same tongue in which they were first recorded the great actions performed upon this soil by the men whom the Greek people still delight to call their ancestors. Yet when I asked the schoolmaster whether he had ever read Herodotus' account of the battle, he replied that he had not. But he had written poetry, like some other schoolmasters, and he began to recite me his verses. Great pleasure it gave to see that the Muses still continue to hover delightfully around Marathon.
As I come out of the school-house in the late dusk of the evening, large fires are blazing up at various points on the mountains. One thinks of those ancient war-signals that leaped from peak to peak rousing the people to resist the invader. Now it denotes the presence of a different race the Wallachian shepherd, who has driven in his herd and kindled his camp-fire around which he is to repose for the night. It is quite chilly, while the day has been very agreeable on ac-count of the sunshine ; I would not like to be in his place, though yesterday evening I thought that I might have to seek his company with the warmth of his fire and of his bed of leaves. Under the almond trees the Didaskali walks with me in pleasant chat, the tender almond blossoms of mid-winter drooping over our heads in the soft, twilight.
I came back to the wineshop, feeling as if I had fought a day at Marathon wearied, yet full of triumphant joy like a returning soldier. After supper my audience was again be-fore me, ready for a speech which I did not make : but they were equally eager to hear strange stories from the other world, whose inhabitant in their presence they curiously gazed upon. One of the Albanians, observing that I talked French with the schoolmaster and Greek with the rest of them, while I said that my native tongue was English, asked me how many languages I knew. I gave him the number with which I had more or less occupied myself at different times of my life, when he crossed himself on his breast rappidly, took off his headkerchief, and made a long profound bow, muttering a prayer not to me but to the Virgin, as I understood him. What he meant by all this ceremony, I do not know ; but I imagine that he only intended to pay his respects to what he considered the biggest fib he had ever heard in his life. I do not propose to repeat to you the number which I mentioned, lest you may go through with some gesticulations like the Albanian.
The Papas, that long-haired Achaean, was also on hand, and again introduced the subject of baptism, most discordant theme at Marathon. I shifted quickly to the answer of another question which led me to tell of the city where I lived ;—St. Louis among her other virtues is capable of being translated into tolerable Greek. I spoke of her commerce, of her great river, of her railroads with their enormous distances yet speedy transit. I spoke of her population, now a tragic theme, alas ! too deep for tears. Five hundred thousand at least she had, I said, and I do not believe that I stopped there. Little did I then think that a plague would so soon sweep over our fair city, a plague worse than war, worse than cholera, and at one fell swoop would carry off hundreds of thousands of our best citizens that plague of a census. Utter astonishment there was on those Albanian faces, but the ideas must have been vague, for one of the men asked me whether Greenland was near my city whereat the schoolmaster sharply reproved the questioner. But for many minutes I continued the encomiastic vein, and I can not but think that Agios Loudophikus will remain in memory a little while at Marathon. Such was, then, the bright vision of our home, beheld in the far distance through Marathonian gleams.
But will this city ever mean to the world the thousandth part of what Marathon means ? Will it ever make a banner under which civilization will march? Will it ever create a symbol which nations will contemplate as a thing of beauty and as a hope-inspiring prophecy of their destiny? Will it rear any men to be exemplars for the race? Alas ! no such man has she yet produced, very little sign of such things is here at present; we are not a symbol-making people, do not know nor care what that means ; our ambition is to make canned beef for the race and to correct the census. St. Louis has some fame abroad as a flour market, but she is likely to be forgotten by ungrateful man as soon as he has eaten his loaf of bread or can get it from elsewhere. A great population she has doubtless, greater than Athens ever had ; but I can not see, with the best good-will, that in the long run there is much difference between the 350,000 who are here and the 150,000 who are not, but were supposed to be. Marathon river is often a river without water, but will turbid Mississippi with her thousands of steamboats stop ! this strain is getting discordant, at Marathon] should be heard no dissonance, least of all the dissonance of despair. Yes, there is hope ; while the future lasts and it will be a long time before that ceases there is hope. The Marathonian catabothron is certain to rise here yet, with many other catabothrons and form with native rivers a new stream unheard of in the history of the world. Who of us has not some such article of faith? When this valley has its milliard of human beings in throbbing activity over its surface, we, all of us I doubt not, shall look back from some serene height and behold them ; we shall then see that so many people have created their beautiful symbol.