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
Aulis And Chalkis
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
When I had come back from the bay, it was dark and the wineshop had closed, accordingly I went into the adjoining house where I was to remain for the night. There was a bright fire blazing in the hearth ; around it the company were squatted on rugs ; the flashes from the flames lit up all the faces which were gazing intently on the fire. Out-side of that illuminated circle a small lamp struggled with the darkness; the naked rafters could be dimly seen over-head hung with various articles of the household. We had one-half of the house, which consisted of a single oblong room ; the other half was taken up with the stable ; the difference between our part and the donkey's part of the house was not marked by any partition, but by a floor slightly raised from the ground. Sometimes in Greek dwellings you will not find this distinction of a floor retained ; man has not yet weaned himself from the bosom of his primeval mother. In the stable were a donkey and a lamb ; each of them in its own peculiar note, informed us at intervals during the entire night, of its presence.
Also the company round the fire is worthy of notice. There we sit looking at the blaze and watching the supper which is cooking before us ; hunger is throned in every eye, and observes the various stages of the culinary process with no little impatience. I am squatted in front of the hearth, deeply absorbed in the turkey now being whirled on the spit and oozing all over with fragrant juices ; Varvouillya is next on my right, he is telling some of his stories of travel for our amusement; next to him comes Yanni, our simple Albanian host, with his hands locked around his knees and rather stupidly rocking himself backwards and forwards on his haunches. Yanni's mind is evidently divided between the stranger, the like of whom he has never seen in his house before, and the turkey, with the preponderance of interest in favor of the latter.
But on my left sit two new characters, women, two other guests besides Varvouillya and myself. They are Wallachian shepherdesses who have come down from the mountains with their products, and are going to the bazaar at Chalkis early tomorrow morning. There is a wild look about them, they are genuine nomads, children of Nature, living in the open air among the hills, like birds amid branches. Their dress is rude, of very simple construction, from below a short kirtle their naked feet peep out, resting on the hearth-stones, and evidently not accustomed to tender usage ; they had shoes, but these had been taken off at the door according to custom. The youngest of the two was a girl of about eighteen, who sat next to me ; she could not well be called beautiful, but I admired her unstinted physical growth, the fullness and natural luxuriance of her body. Dark tresses fell down her cheeks in the wild negligence of nature ; from beneath them, as out of some dim grot gleamed two bright warm eyes. I began to talk with her as she spoke Greek ; I told her that I wanted to see and to live with the shepherds in their tents of brushwood, then I asked her if she would not take me with her to the Wallachian village in the mountains. With a shower of unusually vivid sparkles from her eyes she replied that she would. But the next day she said that she had to go to Chalkis, and could not well look after me there ; still she would return in the afternoon and would then gladly conduct me to her home. I am sorry to say that I backed out, though I wanted very much to go to her village, and I debated a good while with myself about the matter. But I concluded that I had better stay with Varvouillya who was going forward to Thebes the following day. I now regret that I did not accept her invitation, for I had never afterwards another opportunity of the kind, though I sought one repeatedly ; also I might have remained in that Wallachian village and become a shepherd.
Her associate, a woman in middle life, is of a very different type ; she has a strangely fine face with subtly woven lines, though it be somewhat wrinkled and haggard. Slight curls hang down over her features which seem to be marked more by mental than by physical endurance. I can not help thinking that she has suffered, the spirit within appears to be in dumb protest with this pastoral life of hers. She must be some waif of civilization, a lost child of Europe whom destiny has cast among these shepherds. But how has she come hither ? There is ancestral dignity still remaining in those fine lines ; some fall speaks unconsciously from her sorrowful look. A whole romance I seem to read, plainly writ in her face, but when I question her about her origin, she says that she is merely a shepherdess.
Next to her in the circle is Yanni's wife who is occupied in turning an iron spit over the coals. She is dressed in the white Albanian costume, and seems very shy and taciturn ; she never shares in the laugh, and often tries to hide her chin and forehead more deeply in her headkerchief. Every few moments she fetches a deep sigh, this is repeated so often that I inquire the cause. I was told that there had recently occurred a death in the family this was the form of mourning. In all parts of Greece the same custom can be noticed ; the women, not the men, utter the lamentations which are kept up beside the hearth long afterwards, as if to invoke the missing member to take his place at the domestic gathering. It is essentially the ancient custom ; at the house of the deceased and in the funeral procession were heard the wailings of females, who represent more intimately and intensely than the man, the domestic ties. Thus, as in life itself, the saddest note of Nature would spontaneously well up and mingle with our animated words, tingeing and often extinguishing them; good Varvouillya tries to give consolation to the poor mother sitting at the hearth, while we look on in sympathetic silence, but the consolation only sharpens the pang and the tears begin to fall.
That spit which is now taken in hand by Yanni, must also have its jot of attention. It is an iron rod which pierces a turkey ; this is turned continually before the fire till the fowl is thoroughly roasted. All other meats are cooked pretty much in the same way, they are cut up into small pieces which are pierced by the spit and held over the fire. Thus the Homeric cookery, as seen everywhere in Iliad and Odyssey, is still prevalent in Greece: his companions stood
Around him and prepared the feast, and some
So the merry Greeks feasted anciently at Aulis ; so the traveler is going to feast to-night, for the turkey is doue.
The simmering bird is removed from the spit by the skillful hands of Yanni and placed upon the table which is lying flat on the floor like the inn-keeper's at Marcopoulo. Around it the three men squat down cross-legged, with eager glances ; the three women keep at a distance and pick their bone in their own corner. Women here have not yet risen to the exalted privilege of eating their dinner with their majestic lords. There was beside the fowl, good black bread, a little dry, but floated, as usual, by the pearl-dropping recinato. The host is, as already said, a simple Albanian, without education and without natural gifts, yet he has some natural capacity for turkey and wine. He is kind and open-hearted, but he seems to have passed his whole life in this little village, without any knowledge of the world outside of it. A vague curiosity he shows about lands' and seas and peoples of which the traveler talks, but his intellect is hardly capable of more than a stupid wonder. He is quite a contrast to that quick-witted and well-educated Greek, the jolly landlord of Marcopoulo, whom we must not always expect to meet at our inn. He speaks a broken Romaic, I speak a broken Greek, between us the pure transparent tongue of Hellas is badly shivered, as if a costly mirror were shattered to fragments. Still in each fragment you can see yourself ; so we manage to understand one another very well.
Doubtless Yanni may be taken as a pretty fair sample of the common Albanian population of Greece. It is still a problem what these people are going to make of themselves : will they finally coalesce with the other elements and aid in forming one homogeneous Hellenic nation, or will they continue to remain a distinct race upon Greek soil? At present the Albanians preserve most stubbornly the ancestral language and customs. The wife before me cannot speak even common Greek or Romaic, though she understands it pretty well ; to preserve their language the men often do not permit the women to learn other than the maternal tongue. Their agriculture, their methods of labor, their implements are of the most primitive kind ; they allow no improvements on the traditional manner of doing things. This Albanian element seems a most stubborn, stolid, impervious element in the way of the progress of Greece ; its conservatism would be excellent, were it not in danger of becoming absolutely crystallized ; it can not be kneaded or moulded to any new shape. Still the Albanians are a strong, courageous, uncorrupted race ; without their bravery and perseverance there would have been no Greek independence.
Perhaps in the course of time they may add their somewhat heavy ballast to the somewhat light-headed and unsteady Greek character, for in this respect the two peoples are quite opposite. Thus there may arise another great Hellenic nation, combining the versatility of the one with the conservatism of the other element. At present, however, the streams will not mingle. This lack of homogeneity in the population .f modern Greece is the most striking fact of its social condition, and excites the observer to various reflections. It certainly indicates weakness, national weakness, for the spirit of nationality is not strong enough to overcome these natural distinctions of race, and to fuse them into unity. Every strong nation must digest the foreign elements with-in itself and absorb them into its own character, language and institutions by the intensity of its national life. But these three races Greek, Albanian, Wallachian have existed here for centuries alongside of one another without being smelted by the fire of patriotism into the oneness of spirit which may be called nationality. Greece is still an agglomerate, not an organic Whole ; the want of the central fire which burns up all narrow limitations is still felt ; the ancient tendency to separation, which is so strongly marked in the physical features of the country, is now manifested in this resistance to a fusion of races, though in antiquity the resistance was to a political unity of peoples of the same race. Such a condition comes of weakness and can only perpetuate weakness.
Already I had been ruminating on the problem of accommodating this respectable body of people in one room for the night. Yanni began solving the difficulty by spreading out a blanket on the floor for me and then giving me another blanket for cover. Thus I was disposed of ; the shepherdesses lay down on a rug in front of the fire, pretty much as they were ; it was probably the best lodging they had had in a long time. Tresses became more dishevelled as their heads drooped in slumber ; then too they must have for-gotten that they were under roof, for they snored away as if they were on their native mountains with only the skies overhead. The family also retire alongside of the hearth ; thus we all lie there, scattered around the blaze of the oak branches, head to feet and feet to head, in the sweet innocence of Paradise.
But notice Yanni, thou unsatisfied wanderer up and down the earth ! At the other end of the house where the stable is, hangs a small lamp suspended from the ceiling ; with a faint light it burns before a rude picture of the Virgin ; on retiring Yanni turns to that light, crosses himself many times, makes profound bows to the image and repeats his prayers. Not before that act is done, is he willing to con-sign himself to the strange unconscious world which lies between to-day and to-morrow. This question of Deity then has entered the heart of the unlettered man ; there is a power above him which he recognizes, and with which he must put himself in harmony, before he can find repose for the night. The traveler observes the fact not without reflection, not without emotion. Mark it well: his own sweet will is not for Yanni the supreme thing; he must at least placate that image yonder, and the power which looks through it into his soul. Recognition of some higher being who governs the universe gleams through the darkness into this hut ; it is a gleam, only a gleam like that flickering lamp illuminating dimly the face of the Virgin. But by it you can behold some image of the Divine, rude though it be ; whenever you wake in the night, you will see the lamp still burning faintly high up amid the rafters, hopefully trying to show to you also some countenance of love and protection.
Previously at supper, I had noticed a peculiar religious trait of Yanni's, or perhaps only a freak ; whenever he emptied a glass of recinato, he invariably used this expression in doubtful Greek : apo ton theon to God ; he drank his toast to God. If I proposed the health of his family, of his wife, of his country, of himself, he would never fail to drink, but his only response was : apo ton theon to God. Did he imagine that divinity too was pleased with the golden recinato, like ancient Bacchus? Certainly he did not think that the joyous beverage could be of Satan, wherein I religiously believe with him. But the traveler as he looks up will behold a true illumination in that small burning lamp, and will feel a protecting hand reach out from the dim picture ; for by the light there the Virgin can see, according to Yanni's faith, and avert any act of villany, and even punish the evil-doer. Such will be the general feeling of the lone stranger, as he drops off into slumber, in spite of the ugly drawback that the brigands went to church at Oropus and devoutly prayed to the Virgin.
Unimportant details I promised to tell you ; therefore I may say that my dreams were pleasant, though my couch was hard, harder than any I recollect of having since the days of my campaigning. But when I became sore on one side, nothing prevented me from turning over and lying on my other side, except the danger of stirring up the people at my feet. Various sounds floated through my slumbers that night, some of which I brought back with me from Lethe: the donkey in the stable kept champing his straw, the lamb bleated, the dogs barked, the baby cried ; Varvouillya, asleep within reaching distance of me, grunted at his beast of destiny, and then punched me in the ribs. All this I could endure and slumber on in happy Greek mood ; but when the young shepherdess, in some dream of pastoral felicity turned over and rolled her stalwart body upon my feet, sleep fled from my eyelids. Meantime the elder shepherdess rose and woke her companion ; they talked and chaffered with Yanni about the bill for their lodging ; then tying their heavy bundles on their back, they set out for Chalkis afoot, before the rosy-fingered Aurora had strewn a single coral in the Orient. What man in these degenerate days could lift the burden with which I saw my young shepherdess gaily trip along, when she opened the door to the fitful glimmer of the moon ! Good-bye, mountainous nymph, an aching ankle keeps thy mighty image vividly before me, yet darting amid delightful visions of what a life would be in thy pastoral home.
In the morning there is a large company passing from the village to Chalkis in a boat ; I go with them. The little vessel went across the ancient bay of Aulis, right through the anchoring places of the Greek fleet, which must have rocked buoyantly on these wavelets. Opening into the large bay is the small bay of Aulis ; both of them were required, doubt-less, for the old fleet; one imagines those thousand ships still lying on the sea with their drooping white sails in the sun. But it is the island in the middle of the bay which fixes most strongly the attention ; round and full it rises out of the water slightly flattened on the top, and seems to dance in the ripples like a ball. As it is the center of the harbor, so around it play all the memories of the ancient story of the ships, of the heroes, of the virgin's sacrifice. Along the shore are beautiful hilltops rising up into sunshine ; on them we place some shrine or temple, white with columns and frieze, gleaming afar over the waters. Upon one of these summits is situated the ancient citadel of Aulis, whose re-mains can still be seen ; huge walls with gates are there, speaking of the olden time.
The little boat is full of people ; there are several other boats going in the same direction ; each has its oarsman with its crew on the benches ; thus a new Agamemnonian fleet cuts through the waters of Aulis. Many flashes of old Greek customs the traveler will imagine that he sees in the company. There is the Greek merriment aboard, which at times seems to verge toward childishness, as shown in little tricks and jests ; two men of middle age roll over the benches and tickle each other to the amusement of the whole fleet. Many hints of old Greek dress will be noticed in these garments ; they are mostly white fustanellas, not spotless now, but suggesting that they may have been anciently so. There is a leathern pouch around the waist containing a long knife and other needful untensils ; from it the wearer draws forth flint and punk to strike a light for any purpose which he may have in mind ; since it would be a gross anachronism to illumine the bay of Aulis with a modern match. A whole Greek household lies in that pouch ; out of its unseen depths the man at my side takes a heavy needle and thread, and sews up a rip in my shoe, for his own mere delectation. Then there i8 the language ; still the Greek is spoken here, and it is probable that the ancient and the modern sailor, could they now address each other in these waters, would be mutually intelligible. Still the most marvelous fact of human speech: the Homeric heroes spake as is spoken to-day in the port of Aulis.
During this little voyage my chief associate I find in the schoolmaster of Vathy (or Aulis), who is crossing over to Chalkis for some school books, as he says. He was a captain in the Cretan insurrection, was compelled to flee from his native island and leave his family to the tender mercies of the Turk ; now he has to be a schoolmaster in a foreign land. It is not long before he begins to complain; manifestly he has lost his Greek mood teaching school at Aulis. Indeed fortune has buffeted him till he has become like a wind-beaten oak, all gnarled and cross-grained; but to-day the rest of the merry company prevent him from letting out fully his splenetic humor. He invited me to visit his school, which I promised to do when we returned from Chalkis where we have now arrived.
The town of Chalkis presented on that morning, which was market-day, a very mixed appearance. The Orient seems to be more strongly impressed upon this place than upon any other in Greece ; yet it has also many a fierce reminder of the Occident ; clearly it has been a point of conflict and of fluctuating possession in the old centuries. Its importance for it commands the Euripus at the narrowest crossing has always made it an object with conquerors. The traces of its various rulers and its checkered destiny are stamped everywhere upon its face, and at once possess the attention and the feelings of the beholder. Here is a Gothic church with its pointed windows, dating from the Venetian occupation during the Middle Ages. It seems like a lost ghost, you salute it and ask it : How hast thou wandered hither from thy home in the dark foggy North? The lion of St. Mark is still seen over the gate of the castle ; he yet has the hoary look of a crusader. Signs of Turkish occupation are noticed in the old mosques and towers, in the falling fortifications, in the careless construction of the walls. Wretched patchwork over great remains shows the Turk in Greece. A few Mohammedans are said to linger still in Chalkis, the only place of the Prophet's worship in the kingdom is left here. A few marbles built into the walls of the churches give a slight sprinkle of antiquity ; but of the distinctive new Hellas the traveler seeks the signs in vain. But it will come, be not impatient.
The bazaar or market is on Mondays ; good fortune has landed me just at the right moment. The streets and particularly the public square are lined with small booths, everything which the Orient offers is for sale, mingled in admirable disorder with Western merchandise. Peddlers are here from all parts of Greece, hawking their wares ; I see my man who fell into turbid Asopus, trying to sell a kind of carding comb ; still the marks of the muddy waters fleck the white folds of his fustanella, as he dashes, all oblivious, through the surging crowd. Some American cottons and American cutlery can be noticed, but the English manufacturer possesses the market ; for his success he has my best wishes at least, since he does not clamor for protection at home, while carrying his wares around the world. The most obstinate chafferers are the women who are selling, for no women appear as buyers ; I am told that Greek women of respectability never go to market. What a bustling, bar-gaining, yet merry-making crowd ! Dried figs I bought, good, yet enormously cheap ; for five cents a peasant woman loaded me down, so that I had to leave part of my measure behind for want of transportation. I should have bought only a cent's worth according to the rules of careful economy. My Wallachian shepherdess, too, I saw there, sitting among her curds and lambs, with wild luxuriant form now more fully revealed in the clear daylight ; she greets me with another shower of sparkles and invites me anew to her mountain home. As I walked through one of the back streets, some Greek boys observing my foreign dress began to run after and mock the stranger; they were joined by others wherever we passed: I darted rapidly through an alley, but the crowd increased till a small mob was in per-suit. I hurried back to the bazaar and lost myself from my tormentors in the throng. The boys did not mean anything except a little sport ; but it was one of two acts of rudeness which I remember to have experienced in my journey through rural Greece. Postal matters seemed rather lax at Chalkis ; two visits to the Post Office were not able to pro-cure me an interview with the Postmaster or the sight of a postage stamp.
The Greek shops open with their whole fronts into the street, they always seem to be half outside in the free air. The shoemaker sits before his door and pegs away, the black-smith's shop is next to the shoemaker's, his bellows can be blown by a person standing on the pavement. The artisans generally are working in the open air, or just across the threshold of the entrance. Public eating places are frequent ; the kitchen is where the front window is in our houses ; as you pass along the street, you can see the pot boiling and smell the oleaginous fragrance of its contents. If you wish, the keeper will hand you a spoon and a plate of lentils or beans with stewed mutton, and you can eat your dinner under the free blue sky of Hellas.
Thus the shops range close together down the street, like a series of pigeon holes, before which the active chattering folk is swarming. It is the gift of the climate : man can not endure to be housed up, though it be mid winter. The air invites, confinement within walls is painful, the glorious world is outside and the golden gifts of Helius. Yet just as the shops are open, free, unconfined, so the dwelling houses are close, walled-in, forbidding. There the women are, the family ; the world must not be allowed to enter that sanctuary, nor must it come out into the world. I walked toward the suburbs through the more private streets, in the hope of catching a glimpe of some beautiful Greek shape. But there was not one to be seen, not a woman of the better class appeared any where. Away then ;—no chance is there of finding Helen here in this Oriental seclusion ; though Aulis lie just yonder across the strait, resting in tranquil sunshine, yet eternally inviting to a new expedition to Troy, there is now not a sign of a Homeric hero, not a sign of even a wretched Thersites who has come hither in pursuit of their beautiful queen. The day of the Trojan enterprise is indeed past forever ; Helen must be recovered in some other way.
In my disappointment I went down to the bridge over the Euripus and looked at the flow of its waters. The first bridge is said to have been built by the Thebans during the Peloponnesian war ; the building of it was one of the severest blows that Athens received, and according to Thucydides caused more terror than the defeat of the Sicilian expedition —doubtless one of the two exaggerations to be found in that coldest-blooded of historians. But look under the bridge at this strong current ; it seems like a narrow stream dashing down a rocky bottom. Look at it longer ; it is not as swift as it was, indeed it changes under your eye from a rapid torrent to a mild unruffled movement of slow waters. If you look at it the third time long enough, you will find that the current has wholly ceased, there is a complete calm under the bridge ; nay, it begins slowly to move the other way, and soon increases to the swift dashing stream which you saw first, but in the opposite direction. This change takes p within a few minutes, and sometimes there are several su changes in twenty-four hours. On the whole this is the most capricious thing known of the sea. The cause is commonly said to be some mixed action of tides and winds along with the configuration of the land above and below. But I hold it to be an inherent principle of Greek water that it be able to run in one direction, then to turn around and run back again ; true to the Greek character it sometimes has the capacity of being the opposite of itself. Enemies call this trait by the ugly name of lying or treachery ; but let us call it versatility, the ability to turn about.
From this narrowest point of the Euripus we see plainly what the island Euboea is : simply a fragment torn off from the mainland and thrown into the sea. The mighty giant who performed the feat was a veritable existence to the ancient eye looking at yonder ragged mountain and beholding this rift filled with water ; nor will the modern observer fail to have some faith in that deed of wonder. The old myths are often the truest expression of the Greek landscape to this day; far truer to me than the imageless impersonal geological description. That angry Titan who tore up a mountain and hurled it at Jupiter, with the forests still on it and with the streams still running down its sides, can yet be seen with a good vision. Euboea is an island, but it be-comes mainland by a bridge. Such is the physical aspect of Greece: land and water lie in brotherly embrace, ready to furnish mutual assistance ; but they can be made to hold aloof from each other with sullen defiance. The continent, too, is filled with islands, quite like the sea, for what else are these plains and valleys held asunder by the mountains, requiring that climbing ship, the donkey to pass them?
In the afternoon the same vessel with the same company returns to Vathy. As I sat on the shore previous to departing, I was surprised to hear myself addressed in good fluent English by a man in the baggy blue breeches of the islanders. I greeted gladly my native speech in that strange spot, where I least thought of hearing it ; the unexpected meeting of lovers after long separation, could not have been more tender ; under such circumstances one is astonished to find what deep affection he has for his mother tongue. The man had been many years a sailor in the English merchant marine where he had learned the language. But shove off, let us leave living Chalkis and once more rock over the ripples of the Euripus to the more real forms of those ancient ghosts at Aulis.
For after all, the supreme interest here is the deserted harbor, the invisible ships, the vanished temples. Yet Nature also is in harmony with the spell, if she does not produce it ; the blue waters beneath us gush around the keel in quiet joy; the gentle curvature of the hills throws its soft line against the sky ; these hills too are waves in that fixed rocky sea above, now also faintly blue with haze ; over their tops Apollo with the coyness of a new love tenderly feels with his golden fingers. It is classic repose in classic out-line ; the soul into which these summits have been born can never tolerate extravagance, violence, horror. In that line of tranquil undulation, there is movement, much movement, but no throes, no wild fury. There is struggle, for note how yonder mountain strives to reach above its neighbors ; still there is the final reconcilation, the final solution of the conflict in a grand harmony. Passion too is here, the heights roll and heave over some mighty throbbing heart, but there is no giving way, no despair ; each throb reveals the motion of a Grace and its very calmness signifies its energy. Blood-red intensity you will say, yet somehow united with a sunny tranquillity, making a new sweet but deep-moving music over these heights.
You, the spectator, are drawn into the soul of this landscape, though the crowd in the boat laugh at your absence of mind ; emotions awake deeply within you, though they can not boil over into frenzy, passions even rise but are gifted with a strange self-control. You are rent with some unseen conflict, some unconscious struggle, as if the old powers still lurked in the place and wrought upon you with demonic sympathy. What is the matter with you? What influence is this which hurls you into the hopes, the fears into all the tossings of a conflict which does not exist for the sober senses is it memory, is it imagination merely, or the nature around you? You weep or are ready to weep amid the wild gayety of the company in your boat ; you struggle within yourself, you resolve, you make the sacrifice, you repent. Finally you ask yourself ; whom shall I place in this landscape to give it expression? Whom shall I place here to give myself expression? For the typical person must be found around whom these dim emotions cluster, and in whom they have utterance ; thus they are thrown out of you and give you relief from their throng. Already, I imagine, you have had glimpses of a form flitting through your soul amid the clouds of feeling that form begins to walk out of darkness into the gleaming radiance of sunshine ; it is a young virgin dressed in spotless white, there she stands before you in clearest plastic outline. Who is she? Who also is that man standing behind her, in brazen helm and mailed coat with a spear in his hand ; he seems a Jove-born king, of great authority in his look and pride in his mien ; yet there is deep tenderness, nay, sadness in his eye ? It is Iphigenia with her father Agamemnon ; they have just landed on yonder round island in the bay, upon whose summit the temple stands ; he drops behind her sacretly to throw away a tear.
Bump we too are landed ; the boat strikes the shore heavily, having crossed again the harbor of Aulis. I am thrown forward by the jolt into the lap of the Cretan school-master, the crabbed Didaskali, who asks me to accompany him directly to his school. We soon enter the building, which is substantial, but has no floor ; twenty-five little urchins walk about in the dust which has this advantage, which the expert will not fail to appreciate: it makes their steps wholly noiseless. Every one of them is stockingless still in February ; they wear low sharp-pointed pumps and high trowsers, the naked flesh intervening you may imagine, if you wish. As soon as the Didaskali enters, his impatience begins to manifest itself ; he finds fault with all that he sees and with whatever has been done during his absence ; nearly every boy into whose copy-book he looks, receives a thump. The son of the Didaskali, a youth of about fifteen, helps him teach, and presides during his absence ; that son had his cap knocked off his head across the room by his irate father. The term zoon, animal, was the favorite word of the Didaskali, though he employed other heavy artillery of that sort which I did not fully understand, except its thunder. Taking me along, with switch in hand, he goes around the room and inspects the hands of the little fellows ; he strikes their fingers light or hard with his switch in pro-portion to the dirt on them. Cleanliness received that day an immense advancement in Aulis. But judging by the condition of those fingers generally, I could not believe that such a tour had been the teacher's habit every day; the reflection would force itself upon the pedagogic mind that he did all this for the special honor of visitors as some of his fellow-craftsmen do in other lands upon occasion.
Yet the boys are learning, the school is by no means bad. They write well, spell readily from dictation, and are drilled thoroughly in the rudiments of arithmetic and geography. Certainly the country schools which I attended in youth were not better, some in our land are far worse to-day. The seats and desks are of the improved kind, there is a black-board and it is used. The main object of primary education is manifestly attained here ; the common branches, those great instrumentalities of all culture, are placed in the possession of every pupil. If any of these boys has the divine spark within him, he has now the means in his hand to kindle it into a flame. Also there was order, though it was too much the discipline of terror. Very interesting it was to hear the old verbs conjugated with the instinct of a spoken tongue verbs which were droned over by young Thucydides and Xenophon. Nothing can please the lover of Greek literature and of that ancient Greek world more than to see these old forms and expressions welling up again into the spontaneity of living speech. Therefore the Greek school is the most interesting of all schools and one of the most interesting things in Greece. Do not pass it by in your trip.
But the Didaskali is a grumbler ; knocked over and belabored by ill-fortune, he has become all bruised and crumpled up in spirit; I cannot think of straightening him out now ; it seriously clouds my Greek mood even to be with him. First, he has the eternal grievance of all teachers that I ever saw, male or female : he receives too little salary. This is 60 drachmas a month, he informs me ; in our money less than 12 dollars. Yet I have to tell him that poverty-stricken Greece pays relatively better salaries than rich America to her instructors, which is verily not much consolation. Then too the lack of promotion is another complaint, for he feels himself capable of teaching in the Hellenic School, the next higher grade ; in fact he knows himself to be far more deserving than a certain Demosthenes who has been put up by favoritism.
Here then is another case of unappreciated genius which we never fail to meet, withersoever we may turn upon our broad earth ; to greatness that is unknown the world is in-deed cold and indifferent. A sort of disease one may call it,. of which hardly any human being, however humble, is free; at some moment, whatever his stoicism, he will be heard to cry out in pain: Alas, I am an unrecognized mortal in this life! The malady has seized our schoolmaster in its most violent and eruptive form, breaking out continually into speech, whose burden is, My genius is not appreciated at Aulis. So he heralds the fact to me, and I herald it to you who listen and are touched upon a chord more or less responsive. Such is, at bottom, the trouble with the Didaskali's discordant temper ; for what harmony can come from a soul that so profoundly believes in its own genius, yet has to live in a world that so profoundly disbelieves in the same, or is totally ignorant of it? Shrillest discord must result when such a soul and such a world corne in contact with each other, as they have to do ; yet it is a very human note, universally heard among men. The traveler may laugh a little at the Didaskali, but has to reply sympathetically: Yours is just my case, too, in my country ; I also am not appreciated there ; but our talents are invincible, our merits are bound to shine through all clouds of envy and favoritism into full recognition, if we can only in the mean time keep in a good humor.
His abode was in a room to the rear of the school-house, where he boarded himself with his boy. He complained of his wretched quarters, and his room did look as if no woman's hand had been there for many a day. Unwashed plates and spoons, table and bed were promiscuously scattered about the room, which state of things seems to be his own fault. A pot of beans was boiling over the fire for his meal ; this with the recinato is enough for human want. Miserable existence, he cried. I answered : no, my friend, I deem your lot an enviable one, I would like to change with you. To be schoolmaster in Aulis is to be prince of schoolmasters ; heroes are your next neighbors, poets are your dearest friends ; monarchs are your associates, if there ever were monarchs on this earth. Homer, Pindar, Aeschylus are here with an infinite train of successors who have made this spot the setting for their rarest jewels. And those old heroes who still haunt this place whose tramp can still be heard on the night-air and whose oars still rustle over yon bay in the evening wind are they no company for you? Give me your school, this room where we now are, your pot of beans and demijohn of recinato, with those rare old books of Troy —and I should be willing to stay here forever. I should like, however, before I begin, to have these dishes washed and the bed cleaned up I did not speak aloud this last sentence, but I could not help thinking it.
I now escape from my colleague who has told me so much more than I wanted to hear of, supposing by my look that I knew all about his sort of grievances, and I make my way across the fields to the hills overlooking the bay. That will be a relief indeed, for there far other company awaits the sojourner at Aulis. The common people when I meet them on the road, stop and curiously inquire: Where are you going? What business have you here? Not in an unfriendly spirit, but in simple rustic curiosity they catch me by the arm and hold me, as if I or they belonged to the brigands. The word which one hears has buried within it a whole history of society ti donleia, what occupation is yours literally what slave-labor is yours, for in antiquity the slave chiefly labored ; but now that word has come to mean simply work, thus resembling our word service. As the slave has risen into the free laborer in the course of centuries, so has that word been ennobled along with him, till now there is no object corresponding to its former sense, and it indicates one weighty point of superiority which modern has over ancient Greece. Ti douleia still heard on these hills gives a peep back through two thousand years when slave met slave on this spot and asked: what slave-labor is yours?
Before a house or rather in the door of a house in one place a man sits thrumming a stringed instrument whose notes vibrate softly on the sunbeams in some secret harmony, you must believe, with the mellow golden afternoon. It may be the old lyre in one of its forms, it has the sweet low thrill of the Italian mandoline when there is a perfect lull in the air. Into its strain there fall at intervals the stray notes of a song, as if the idle player was merely preluding at random to his own vacant fancies. In front of his eye as it glances out of the door lies the harbor of Aulis whose distant waters seem to be gently quivering to the touch of the instrument. Will any one blame the traveler as too fantastic, if he again thinks of Homer's men of Achilles who was found before his tent playing his harp to his own dear soul, when the embassy of Greek chieftains came to pacify his anger and to urge his return to the war? But this present hero is not Achilles, nor does he seem to have any destructive wrath, nor has he lost his Briseis, who just now stands before his tent wrestling violently with a sullied fustanella.
Therefore we may pass on. But at the view of the bay and of the hills the secret combat rises again in the breast, the two antique forms come up with startling distinctness, filled with their intense conflict. Do what you will, every other deed, every other shape is swallowed up in the struggle between father and daughter. She, the young, the innocent, the spotless, must be immolated to a supposed necessity of State. That the winds may blow favorably, and the armament sail successfully to the Trojan shore, her sacrifice is demanded, for to the Greek, to her own father far more important it seemed that Helen should return than that Iphigenia should live. It is an old but undying theme, which both ancient and modern poets have treated with a tragic depth and energy ; woman, guiltless and removed from political strife, is nevertheless snatched from the Family and made to suffer or even to perish that ends of State may be attained : whether she be the king's own daughter Iphigenia, offered for the sake of the great national enterprise, or the modern princess, Blanche, led to a political marriage bringing peace to the nation perhaps, but to herself only wretchedness and slow death.
Furthermore, that these early Greeks should sacrifice virgin purity to beauty distained is a prophecy, a double prophecy: it foretells the supreme glory of their career, and at the same time indicates the moral disease which must finally eat away their character and energy. They will bring back Helen to Greece and realize beauty beyond all other peoples, but the ethical violation hinted in the death of Iphigenia will remain and become the seed of inner corruption. For mark ! she and what she represents is gone, destroyed ; her fate will wake the avenging Nemesis that will bring back her loss to the people who have immolated her, and hence possess her no longer. Thus they reveal themselves and their destiny in their legend.
It is true that the ancient legend rescues Iphigenia from the sacrificial altar by the intervention of the Goddess Artemis. But she is taken to a barbarous land, to Tauris, where she is preserved as a priestess to the divinity who saved her ; there too she becomes the bearer of all that Greece represents. Again look at the prophetic image in the legend, for it is the Barbarians, that is, those who are not Greeks, the modern world if you please, who have taken up and saved Iphigenia, cherishing her with a deathless affection, while she on the other hand as priestess of the temple in foreign lands, has brought to them the humanizing influences of Greek culture. Chiefly from such a point of view is the famous Iphigenia of Goethe written, the finest of all the dramatic elaborations of this legend. In it we see the modern Barbarian, now the Poet, filled with the inspiration of the Grecian priestess, and paying back to her a tribute greater and more beautifiul than anything which she herself has received or transmitted.
But the old Greek legend likewise brings her back from Tauris, after many years of banishment and priestly service, to Greece, restores her from the hands of the Barbarians to her ancient home. Such is indeed that prophetic myth which our own time has seen fulfilled, but which the dawn of Goethe's poem has not yet beheld. For it is the strong arm of those whom Greece called Barbarians, but to whom she imparted her culture, which has broken her chains and re-stored her to freedom and nationality. Nay, they have brought back her own civilization to herself, increased with tenfold spoils, it is true, but still bearing her impress. So we may now say with the old legend that Iphigenia has returned to Greece.
The account of the sacrifice of Iphigenia is not the creation of Homer ; the entire story at Aulis he passes over in silence. On the contrary it is a development of later Greek consciousness, of the tragic and not of the epic spirit, though it doubtless had its germ in the Homeric Age. This intense conflict in which father sacrifices daughter belongs to the domain of tragedy. Two struggling principles, each with its own right, assail each other in the very bosom of the Family, and just in that point where its tenderest emotions are knit together. The time of the tragic poets was indeed a tragic time, whereof they are the true outgrowth, a time in which Greece was immolating her own daughter, and was growing conscious of the fact, which consciousness found its intense expression in the drama.
Yet, on the other hand, we must not misunderstand that father, Agamemnon. Ile was leader of the Greek hosts, the representative of the Greek State ; moreover he possessed the heroic character, which sacrifices all feelings to the public end, and courageously endures. The pang in his breast for the death of his child was as great as that of any parent. We must not suppose that he was devoid of tenderness and pity ; on the contrary they surged up and dashed around his purpose like the waves of the sea in a tempest. Still that purpose stood, had to stand, firm as a rock mid the terrific upheaval of emotions; for he must be the hero, placed there at the head of the expedition, he must subordinate to the great national end all his feelings ; the most piercing cries of his own soul in anguish cannot make him waver for a moment. Once more take a glance with me over the waters ; can you not, on yon round island aslant the evening sun-beams, behold the father, pale, trembling, weeping, yet resolute now leading his daughter, robed in white folds, up the knoll to the altar? There is the temple of Artemis, within whose marble embrace the two forms slowly disappear ; the eyes of the Greek hosts who look on from this shore with us, and from the ships lying over the bay, are not dry--nor are mine.
Then a voice comes to me and asks : would you sacrifice your daughter to the State? No, I would not, I answer, not directly at least. I do not pretend to be a hero, do not wish to be one. This is sentimental, it is true ; but I am sentimental upon this subject. I do not wish to pay such a large price for heroism, I prefer to be ignoble and keep my Iphigenia. Still Agamemnon paid it, had to pay it, all great world-historical characters pay that or a greater price for their destiny. This is just the tragedy of the hero the conflict within tears him to pieces ; still he, subjecting His emotions to his principle, heroically makes the sacrifice. But we have no such sacrifice to make in this expedition, praise be to Artemis and the rest of the Gods; no world sustaining heroism is now required ; all the omens are propitious, all the winds are favorable ; besides, we are going to take a new route in the pursuit of the fair runaway.
Thus the Agamemnon of the Iliad is not wholly the Agamemnon of Aulis, though the two fuse together in the imagination ; the latter the tragedians have modeled, making him the bearer of a terrific internal struggle, in addition to his being in the external struggle with Troy, which now falls into the background. This transition from the outer to the inner conflict indicates a deepening of life and of consciousness ; spiritual suffering has seized hold of man, and that simple, happy epical world of Homer has departed forever. Such is the soul of the legend which can be felt even through the superficial half-mocking treatment of Euripides. Still the scenery of Aulis throws the beholder into that ancient tragic struggle, he lives it over again within himself as he saunters around the hills, looks up at the skies, and floats over the waters.
Whether these characters were ever living persons or not, whether the Trojan war be historical or not, can make little difference. That conflict has furnished the most abiding types for the race, types of heroism, endurance, wisdom. And what more can History do than furnish its great characters those eternal symbols by which whole ages think, live and die? Here at Aulis once more rises the thought of the struggle between the East and the West ; all the Greek armament was animated by this principle ; the Iliad is but the first heroic utterance of the conflict. The day lowers, but the traveler is filled with the spirit of the air it is the same air breathed by those ancient heroes and is still laden with all the energy of the old enterprise. Nay, the conflict between East and West is here before him to-day, smothered though quivering, as he looks out toward Troy.
My friends, you will recollect that our last turning-point whence we began a new direction in our journey, was at Marathon. The battle there was historical the greatest battle in History. On its plain the East and West grappled ; it was the East which then attacked, but was victoriously met and repulsed. We have marched forward to Aulis, it is true, but in reality we have gone backward into the twilight of fable. Now the Greeks are the aggressive side, and assail their enemies on Asiatic soil, yet it is the same question, the same principle at issue. But to pass from Marathon to Aulis means to remount from clear history into the misty mythical origin ; still this myth expresses better than history the dim primitive instinct, the unconscious germ of the Hellenic world. This goal, then, we have reached, yet not the further road to Troy shall we go, but turn from Aulis and move forward to a still deeper phase of Greek spirit, to the seat of oracular wisdom and of reconciliation. Through Thebes, full of profounder tragic destinies than even Aulis, we shall pass toward the place of harmony, toward the God whom Hellas chiefly adored in the greatest and intensest period of her life, and whom she be-sought to harmonize her inner struggles. In the track of Orestes driven by Furies, we shall approach the temple of Apollo the light-darter, who could bring atonement to the guilty soul and thus solve the ancient tragedy. Here then we stand at the very opening of our Western world. Having courageously marched thus far, and having cast many delighted glances into that dawn across the sea, we may catch breath again for a few moments before we turn up the road toward Delphi, the next stadium of Greek civilization.