Christopher Wordsworth: PELOPONNESUS

Christopher Wordsworth: PELOPONNESUS

Posted January 23rd, 2011 by webmaster







   If Lucian, in his dialogue which derives its title from their Contemplations, had desired to direct the attention of Mercury and Charon to the portion of Greece which is called the PELOPONNESUS, he would probably have adopted an expedient similar to that which he has employed in order to give them a more extensive prospect than this of which we now speak. The wish of one of those personages whom we have mentioned was not merely to be presented with a view, as he expresses it, of cities and of mountains, but to behold the inhabitants of the former, and to learn what were their occupations and their conversation. For this purpose he chose an eminence  to which he and his companion ascended, and which commanded a sight of all the objects which he desired to contemplate.

    Our present design is not of so extensive a nature  as that which was entertained by the philosopher of Samosata. From the imaginary summit where they stood he exhibited to his two spectators a comprehensive panorama, which embraced Ionia and Lydia on the east, Sicily and Italy on the west, and stretched from the Danube, southward, to the shores of Crete. Our view is limited to the district which lies nearly in the centre of these points. He showed to Mercury and Charon a prospect, from an ideal summit, of the known world: we would exhibit to the spectator, from a real mount, a view of the Peninsula of Greece.

    The spot which Lucian would probably have selected for this purpose is the summit of a mountain on the western frontier of ARCADIA. Its peaked and isolated summit is crowned with a ruined castle; its slopes are sprinkled with groups of cottages and sheepfolds and thinly clad with low forests of oaks and of mountain pines. It rises on the west side of MOUNT LYCAEUS, the hills sacred of old to Pan and the King of the Gods. It is now called Zakkouka. From this point the spectator beholds the map of the Peloponnesus unrolled, as it were, before his eyes. Looking southward, he sees the lofty range of the Arcadian hills, commencing with the heights of the woody ERYMANTHUS, run in an easterly direction to the central eminence of CYLENE, and thus divide the coast-land of ACHAIA from the territory of Arcadia.

    From the rocky pile of Cyllene his eye moves southward, and traces the continuation of the same ridges in that direction till they arrive at the hill of MAENALUS, whose pine-tree groves have been celebrated in the pastoral poetry of Greece and Italy. This rocky barrier separates Arcadia on the west from the Argolic peninsula on the east.

    Mount Maemalus, at the south-east angle of Arcadia, connects itself with a long chain of hills which stretch from that point further to the south-east, till they terminate in the Aegean Sea. They form the eastern boundary of the plain of Sparta. Their most remarkable mountain is PARNON. The snow-capped summits of this ridge are visible form the point where we now suppose ourselves placed, namely, the summit of Lycaeus.

    A line drawn from Mount Maenalus toward the west, and terminating in this point, forms the southern limit of Arcadia: from this summit, the magnificent range of Mount TAYGETUS, which runs in a parallel line to that of Parnon, and bounds the Spartan Valley on the west, as Parnon does on the east, branches off to the south-east and goes on in an uninterrupted course till it at last arrives at the southern coast of Laconia where it ends in the TAENARIAN promontory, which is the most southern point of the Grecian Peninsula. This noble chain of Alpine hills is seen from our station on Mount Zakkouka. Nearer to us are the verdant and cultivated declivities of the Lycaean mountains of Arcadia.

    On the west of that chain the spectator from this eminence beholds the rugged and irregular surface of the Messenian territory, which is separated from Laconia by the long and lofty range of Taygetus. Further to the south he will perceive the coast of Corone, and the neighbouring waters of the Messenian Gulf.   

    Turning his eyes to the north-west, he will see the fruitful plains of ELIS stretching themselves along the western shore of the Peloponnesus; and being fatigued by the view of rude and rugged mountains, some bare and cultivated, some capped with snow, others thinly clad with the meagre produce of a stunted vegetation, and seeming to refuse all recompense to the industry of the husbandman, his eyes will rest with delight on the wide and luxuriant plain of Olympia, refreshed and beautified by the waters of the Alpheus, winding through it to the sea.

    From the rapid survey which this single eminence from which our view has been taken, enables us to make of the Greek peninsula, we may derive some general inferences both with respect to its physical conformation and local peculiarities, and also to the moral, social and political consequences which were the result of these characteristics.

    It is impossible to avoid the reflections which such a view as the present suggests, that the Peloponnesus was intended by Nature to be the seat of different tribes of inhabitants, varying in their extraction, manners and government. The Alps have formed the Cantons of Switzerland; and in the Peloponnesus, whose greatest length is one hundred and fifty miles, and the greatest breadth one hundred and thirty, the same causes were in operation to produce a similar result.

    We have seen in the view which we have just taken that the central province of Arcadia bears a resemblance in position and in form to a large natural Camp, fortified by a lofty and impregnable circumvallation of mountains.

    Around this circular bulwark lie the other provinces of the Peninsula: they all abut upon this central wall, which serves as a defence to them from the interior, while their external frontier is formed  by the sea, which supplied them both with an outlet and a protection. Each of these provinces is separated from its neighbours by mountain radii thrown out toward the sea from the mural circle of Arcadia.

    If we may be allowed to illustrate its local peculiarities by such a comparison, we may regard the entire Peloponnesus as a vast natural Colosseum, of which Arcadia is the Arena, surrounded by its Podium, or parapet of high mountains. The other provinces, separated from each other by mountain Viae, which diverge from this podium, are the Cunei, bounded externally by a wall of sea. We shall have occasion to remark hereafter the singular fact, that the Arcadian Arena of which we speak possesses but one outlet, or Vomitorium, namely, that through which the Alpheus flows in its way to the Ionian Sea. In like manner there exists but one entrance or Corridor, which leads to the interior of the whole. This is the Isthmus of Corinth.

    If we were to form our opinion from a view of the stern  and austere  features which characterize the external appearance of this arena and these cunei of which we have spoken, we should suppose that there was little probability of their offering any of the charms and allurements of a refined and pleasurable existence; and this would certainly have been the case if they had depended for their principal recommendations on their physical basis and structure.

    But while these were of such a character as has been described, the air and climate which were combined with them served to mitigate the asperities of their other attributes. If the arena and cunei of the Peloponnesus were formed of rugged and bleak mountain, a clear and brilliant sky, such as hung over few other countries in the world, was their Velarium.

    The description then of physical elements which is applicable to Greece in general, is especially appropriate to that part of it which we are now describing. The great kingdoms of Europe are not more distinctly severed from each other by their boundaries than the small provinces of the Morea are by theirs. Each of these possesses, as it were, its own Alps and Pyrenees. Hence there is no bond of union among them. Each of them is self-sufficient and independent hence, too, their history is rather that of separate countries, than of one; and not merely so, but of countries opposed to, as well as divided from, each other. In looking down as we have just done from the heights of Lycaeus on the two southern provinces of the Peninsula, we mean Messenia and Laconia, separated from each other by the long Apennine of  Mount Taygetus, we cannot but remember the protracted and bitter enmity which exasperated the ancient inhabitants of these two districts against each other, and which raged the more fiercely in consequence of the opportunities for military aggressions which their contiguity afforded, and which was only terminated by the national extinction of one of the belligerent parties.

    It would have been fortunate for Messenia  if no barrier had existed between itself and its more powerful neighbours. It then might have been incorporated in Laconia as a part of that country, instead of being subjugated by it: its inhabitants might have be come citizens instead of being slaves of Sparta. They might have risen to Lacedaemonians, instead of being depressed into Helots.

    Thus locally isolated and divided from each other, the provinces of the Peninsula never organized among themselves a national confederacy for the sake of mutual protection, or the attainment of any great political object. The battles of Greece would never have been fought against a national foe within the limits of the Peloponnesus. In the pass of the Thermopylae, upon the plain of Marathon, on the field of Plataea, in the Straits of Salamis, the cause of the Hellenic Nation was nobly defended: but not on then Isthmus of Corinth. It could not have been so

    The Peloponnesus indeed  has, by the Greek Geographer Strabo, been styled the ACROPOLIS of  Greece: and as such it might seem to offer within itself  the best means for the defence of the national cause. The character which he has assigned to it might reasonably appear to arise from its position and local advantages: but in fact, from its possession of numerous mountain passes and isolated piles of rock, such as those, for instances, which overhang the castellated monastery of MEGASPELION, this Acropolis contained within itself too many minor and independent citadels, and these citadels were too well fortified in themselves, to render their inhabitants very solicitous about the general welfare and security of the great national fortress, whose legitimate defenders were too often engaged in besieging the castles of each other to regard the defence and safety of the whole as an object of much interest or importance to any of them in their individual character.

    Hence it arose, that all the attempts to unite and concentrate the nations of the Peloponnesus in one federal body, however prudently devised, and with whatever zeal, integrity and sagacity they were prosecuted, did not meet with the success which under different circumstances would have attended them.

    The ACHAEAN LEAGUE, framed by the deliberate wisdom of a people who were distinguished by the excellence of their civil institutions, consolidated as it was by the political and military prudence and energy of Aratus, and animated by the vigour of Philopoemen, was not able to overcome the insurmountable difficulties which Nature herself seemed to have thrown in its way to impede and thwart its progress.

     It was permitted to stretch itself along the level coasts, and over the extensive lowland of Achaia; it reached the walls of AEGIUM, of Sicyon, and the Isthmus of Corinth; and thence descended to embrace within its grasp the City of Argos and some other towns of the Argolic Peninsula: it was enabled to conquer the geographical obstruction which then embarrassed its progress: it passed with difficulty over the mountain chains of Erymanthus and Cyllene, and reached the walls of the Arcadian MEGALOPOLIS; but it met with a hostile power which arrested its career, on the frontier of Laconia, and through it succeeded for a time, by measures of vigorous coercion, in reducing the capital of that country, and in attaching it by force to itself, yet this very union produced so much of national antipathy among the parties that cemented together, that it proved the very circumstance which ultimately led to the dissolution of the whole, and ended the national struggle by combining the antagonists, not indeed in a confederacy among themselves, but by reducing them to the common condition of subjects to the foreign despotism of Rome.

    An illustration of this national disaffection of these provinces among themselves, and of their subsequent amalgamation under the levelling domination of the Roman power, is supplied by the numismatic history of the Peloponnesus.

    While each of these possessed in its coinage its peculiar symbol, derived from its own history or mythology, or from its various production either of nature or of art – while, for instance, Achaia exhibited on her medals the type and effigy of her own deities, Ceres and Jupiter, – while Argolis referred to the temple of Juno and the games of NEMEA as the peculiar glories and ornaments of her own soil, – while the forms of the tutelary Dioscuri appeared on the coins of Laconia, and Elis displayed her national cognisance and insignia by appealing to her popular solemnity in honour of the Olympian Jove, these several states never united together in any such expression of their common sympathy among themselves, or of their social attachment  rather to the soil of Peloponnesus as their common country, or to one another as joint members of the same national family. They never emblazoned their union in any such device, as long as they were enabled to do so from the spontaneous dictates of civil freedom and unfettered affection. It was left to Rome to unite the States of Greece.

    The first coin which expressed the feelings of amity and relationship which a community of soil, sea and sky seemed likely to inspire in the minds of those who shared them, was struck under the auspices  of the Roman Consul Titus Quintius Flaminius.

    This absence of union, to which we have alluded, was the main cause which led to a result of which otherwise it would have appeared difficult to assign any adequate reason. Placed in a central position between Asia and Italy, admirably adapted for facilitating the communication  between them, washed on three sides by a frequented sea, not ill supplied with harbours for the reception of shipping, and with timber for the building of vessels, the Peloponnesus possessed natural qualifications of a higher order for becoming the seat of a flourishing trade, and the scene of mercantile activity.

    This however was in fact never the case. The states of the Peninsula were too much occupied in the struggle of international warfare, to devote their attention to the more useful and humanizing pursuits of peace. Few ships were seen its ports; there was little interchange of its produce with that of foreign lands; nor could it boast any great skill or success in domestic manufactures for the advantage of its own inhabitants. The exceptions to this assertion are found in then instances of PATRAE, SICYON and CORINTH, which enjoyed the advantage of the most desirable situations for mercantile purposes, and were also removed from the pernicious influence of the intestine broils which distracted the other cities of the Peloponnesus. 

    In this state of disorganization, which generally prevailed in the earlier ages of the history of the Peloponnesus, and amid the convulsions of a social nature which were produced by it, it is a matter of more interest to remark, that the desire of tranquillity, and the longing, natural to man, for that gratification which arises from the free indulgence in tithe pleasures of peaceful and friendly intercourse, did not fail to stamp some impress, in visible characters, on the face of the Peloponnesian soil.

    While the other  districts of the Peninsula, with their stern and rugged  forms, seemed to resist all attempts to blend them together, while in their mountain defiles and fastnesses they offered the most favourable sites for the exercise of military skill, while their limestone soil afforded the facilities and supplied the materials for surrounding their towns with walls, hewn from its quarries, and of fortifying their citadels with the massy bulwark of polygonal masonry, which still crown the summits of their precipitous cliffs, yet, on one small portion of this country, Nature shed a more peaceful influence; and Man, acting from the dictates of the greater feelings which, after the storm of warlike passions had subsided, found access to his heart, was not reluctant to give a tangible character and expression  to this genial and softer power. While the other provinces then were so many Theatres of War, that which surrounded the city of Elis was not consecrated by the united voices of the peninsular population, as a Temple of Peace.

    The land itself was considered holy and inviolable. The sound of arms was not permitted to cross its frontier. It was the Delos of the Peloponnesus. Here was a perpetual armistice; and not only was the influence of this asylum felt within its own limits, but at stated periods it extended itself to the other parts of the Peninsula.

    The full Moon which gave which gave the signal for the commencement of the celebration of the Olympian Games – which were under the special direction and control of the citizens of Elis, who regarded them as the glory and ornament of their own soil – was a natural Herald, which proclaimed peace to the inhabitants of the neighbouring provinces of Greece, who, however bitter their enmity at other times might be, and within the frontiers of other provinces, resorted with feelings of a different kind to the hollowed limits of Elis, and stood as friends and brothers, at that season, on the banks of the ALPHEUS, and beneath the shade of the olive grove of OLYMPIA. 

    We have endeavoured to show how the political state of the Peloponnesus received its tone and character from the physical form and features of the soil itself; and it would not be an uninteresting speculation to examine how the religious faith, the mythological traditions and the social manners of its inhabitants, were affected by influences arising from the same source.

    There is no country, of the same dimensions, in Europe, which has been the scene of so many and so various natural revolutions, as that which we are now describing. It  has been the arena of conflicts, not merely between man and man, but of more fierce struggles, in which the elements of nature have been the combatants.

    The  loss of the Rhone, as it is called, which dives in a subterranean channel beneath the rocks of the Ecluse, has long attracted the notice and excited the wonder of the Swiss traveller; and in Italy, the stupendous works by which the waters of the Alban and Fucine lakes have been reduced from their ancient level, and conducted through the centre of high hills, by means of long and broad emissaries, serve as a proud proof of the power and ingenuity of man to rival the operations of nature. The Copaic lake, in the continent of Greece, presents examples of a similar kind.

    But the single province of Arcadia, in thee Peloponnesus, exhibits more wonders of this description than all these combined together. From the sides of the mountains by which this country is encircled, numerous torrents descend into the hollows of the rocky crater of which Arcadia is formed; and here is little reason to distrust the ancient tradition which recorded, that, from the confluence of water thus supplied, this crater itself was originally the basin of a large lake.

    At present there is one valley through which these streams discharge themselves, and one only. It is at the northern foot of the mountain which we have chosen as the centre of our panoramic view of the Peloponnesus, namely Mount LYCAEUS. Through this gorge, which tends to the north-west, the rivers which flow westward from the centre of Arcadia find their way into the Ionian Sea, having united themselves to the stream which receives the waters of nearly all the rivers of the west of the Pelopo0nnesus, namely the ALPHAEUS.

    But on the eastern side of Arcadia exists no such vent for the discharge of its streams, as is found in the valley at the roots of Mount Lycaeus. The waters there are left either to stagnate in the hollows of the valley, and to expand themselves into lakes, or to force their way by subterranean chasms through the rocky barrier of the hills. By a benevolent provision of Nature, it so happens that the geological formation of these mountains is such as to admit of the latter alternative. The limestone strata of which they consist, are not difficult of perforation by the agency which these rivers employ. Thence it arises, that these streams which seemed destined to be pent up within their rocky prisons, have opened for themselves valves and emissaries by which the inland country has been rescued from inundation, and the ulterior provinces have been fertilized as if by a process of artificial irrigation.

    To cite one of the most remarkable instances, which we shall have occasion hereafter to specify. The lake, or rather the river Stymphalus, at the southern foot of the Arcadian mountain of Cyllene, discharges itself from its channel at the bottom of a limestone precipice, where it enters the earth, and passes by a hidden course under a range of mountains to the south-east side; till at last it emerges from its dark bed in the recesses of Mount CHAON, and flows in a rapid stream, which bears the name of Erasinus, into the Argolic territory whence it passes on into the sea in the Gulf NAUPLIA.

    To the lively imagination of a Greek, these struggles of nature presented something more than the phenomena of physical causes producing the effect which, by the regular operation of known laws, was due to them. To him, these appearances were not the results of natural laws, but the acts of individual Powers. It was not the river which, by the impetuosity and pressure of its waters, mined its way through the opposing strata of calcareous rock, till it found an issue on then opposite side of the mountain precipice, but it was the arm of some living and powerful Agent, who grappled with the force of his Antagonist, and achieved this conquest, which was alike glorious to himself and beneficent in its consequences to man.

    The mythology of Greece was the creature of its climate, of its soil, and its physical phenomena; it varied with their diversities in each particular province. The legendary religion of Arcadia was of a remarkable character, in proportion as that country was distinguished from the others by the number and strangeness of its natural wonders. The agent by whose power these acqueous revolutions, which abounded there, were effected, was Hercules; and the establishment of his worship in Arcadia was thus produced by the subterranean passage of the Stymphalian lake into the passage of the Erasinus. We may refer to the influence of similar causes on the social and moral character, on the pursuits ands tastes, of the inhabitants of the same country. The soil of this division of the Peloponnesus was such as to afford little encouragement to the agriculturist. Its mountain tops are covered with snow for the greater part of the year, and its plains themselves, such as those of Tegea, Mantinea and Megalopolis, are rather flat surfaces on the elevations of hills, than warm and fruitful lowlands, where a rich alluvial soil is deposited by the contributions of fertilizing streams, or which are sheltered by the protection of umbrageous forests, or refreshed by the mild breezes of the sea.

    The temperature and soil of such provinces as Boeotia and Thessaly, in the continent of Greece, were almost without a parallel in the Peloponnesus; much less could they be rivaled within the limits of Arcadia. From the circumstances which have been detailed, it arose that the life of the inhabitants of that country was necessarily pastoral. The same leisure and freedom and familiarity with grand and beautiful scenes, which such an existence in a fine country supplies in abundance, and which has produced the mountain melodies of Switzerland and Tyrol, made in earlier times, the land of Arcadia the cradle of the pastoral Music of Hellas. On the summit of Cyllene Mercury found the lyre; and it was Pan, the deity of Arcadia, who invented the favourite instrument of the swains of Greece.

    The social character of the Arcadians was beneficially affected by these influences. They were beguiled, by their means, of the rudeness which they would otherwise have derived from the ruggedness of their soil, and from the inclemency of their climate; and thus, by a happy compensation, the very same causes which gave them impulse towards a rigid and savage mode of existence, supplied the most efficient means for reclaiming them from those same tendencies, to habits of a more refined nature.

    It is said, by an authority which cannot be questioned on such a matter, namely, by the native historian Polybius, that the inhabitants of the village CYNAETHA, who alone, of the people of Arcadia, resisted the influences which were supplied by the national music, owed to that circumstance the sternness and inhospitality of the character by which they were distinguished from their compatriots.   

    Such, then, were some of the results produced by the soil and climate of this country.

    It is not unworthy of remark, as a demonstration of the fact, that all which was connected with the occupation and enjoyment of a country life, as produced and cherished in Arcadia, that even the pastoral Poet of Italy, when he is commencing his didactic poem upon the affairs of rural life, is carried away from his own country into Greece, and led to derive his  inspiration, not from the rivers and mountains, from the meadows and the vineyards, of his own beautiful land – not even from those which adorned the fairest part of it, in which he was then writing –, but from the rude hills and barren sheep-walks of Arcadia. Not the majestic steeps of the Apennines, nor the vine-clad slopes of Vesuvius, but the Arcadian mountains of Maenalus and Lycaeus, were the pastoral Helicon and Parnassus of Virgil. 

    There is another result, derived from a source similar to that of which we have just spoken, and which is not to be neglected in an attempt to form an estimate of the social character of the inhabitants of this country, and of the natural causes which led to its development.

    The life of shepherds is necessarily of a migratory kind. The selection of new pastures, and the temporary abandonment of the old, are the familiar and constant duties of their existence: but the habitual performance of them has a strong tendency to weaken their attachment to any particular spot, and to produce a restlessness of character and an impatience of the same objects, which renders a change from one scene to another, not merely agreeable to them, but necessary.

    Hence was produced a feature in the character of the Arcadians, which obtained for them less respect than they derived from their probity and hospitality, and from the exercise of those other virtues which are generally associated with the idea of pastoral life.

    The Arcadians were not reluctant to serve as mercenary troops, in whatever country, and under whatever commander, there seemed to be the prospect of the greater personal advantage to themselves; and instances are not wanting of contests, in which some of them were ranged on a different side from others of their fellow-countrymen. Thus, as Arcadia was the Switzerland of Greece, so were Arcadians the Switzers of antiquity.

    To pass from Arcadia to the province which bounded it on the south. It was a part of the policy of the legislator of LACONIA, to dissuade his compatriots from surrounding their capital with walls. He did this, no doubt, from the conviction, that, as men, and not walls, make a city, so ten best way to secure for a city the best walls, namely, the bravest men, was to leave it unfortified.

   Thus it happened in fact. SPARTA was most secure, when she had no walls; and she then began to be unsafe when she erected them.

    But the physical characteristics of his country alone might well have suggested to Lycurgus the same thing. Nature herself had, in truth, already surrounded, not, indeed, the capital city, but the whole country of Laconia, with impregnable bulwarks. The real walls of Sparta were her mountains. From them she gained the appropriate title of unassailable. On the west, she was fenced in by the lofty and continuous range of Mount Taygetus: all entrance within her limits was blocked up on the north by the huge hills of the Arcadian frontier; on the east, her territory was protected by the sea, and within its coast line, and parallel to it, it was fenced off by the long bank of Mount Parnon, which runs from the heights of Mount MAENALUS to the MALEAN promontory, and terminates in the insular cliffs of CYTHERA.

    We have spoken above of the whole peninsula of the Peloponnesus as bearing a resemblance in form to an AMPHITHEATRE; and from what has been just stated, it will appear that the country of Sparta – the hollow Lacedaemon, as it is called in the Iliad and the Odyssey – being flanked on the east and on the west by two long parallel ridges of mountains, which were connected together by a similar but much shorter barrier at the northern extremity, may well be compared in shape to an ancient STADIUM, of which Mount Parnon and Mount Taygetus are two sides, and of which the end is formed by the northern abutment, already described, of the Arcadian hills.

    The bed of this natural stadium was the valley of Sparta. The entrance to it was from the Bay of Laconia at the south. Along it flowed the river EUROTAS which has its source above the northern termination of the valley, and was believed to run in the same channel as the Alpheus, till these rivers separated themselves in the bowels of a mountain not far from that point – the one diverging northward toward the centre of Arcadia, while the Eurotas issued from the same chasm into the territory of Laconia. The city of Sparta stood in the middle of this valley, on the right bank of the stream.

    The vale of Sparta was justly celebrated for its picturesque character. Being also sheltered on three sides from the severity of cold winds, and open on the south to the soft and refreshing breezes which were wafted upon it from the southern sea, and being watered by the copious flood of the Eurotas, which vied in size – to adopt the ancient belief with respect to their common origin –, with its twin stream, the Alpheus, the largest river of the Peninsula, it enjoyed natural advantages, which, if its soil had corresponded in excellence with its other qualifications, would have rendered the Laconian valley the most productive province of the Peloponnesus.

    Its low grounds, indeed, are remarkable for their fertility, and for the variety of their productions, and exhibit a beautiful luxuriance of shrubs and fruit tress. Here are figs and oranges, pomegranates and myrtles. The acclivities which rise above the plains are clad with olives, for the cultivation of which the soil of the Taygetus is so favourable that it may justly seem to demand an apology from the Athenian bard, who rejects all the pretensions of the “Dorian Isle” to a share in the production of that tree.

    These olive plantations are succeeded by forests of firs, which cover the loftier heights of the mountains, whose sides are ploughed into deep gullies by torrents which flow from the summit of the Taygetus into the vale where they mix their water with the Eurotas. At this stage of the ascent, the mountain assumes a different character. It becomes bleak  and savage: it is broken into deep gorges and abrupt precipices. It then shoots up its lofty and jagged peaks, which are covered  with snow during the greater portion of the year.

    The long and majestic range of these mountain piles, contrasted with the green banks and the flowing stream, the blooming gardens and the rich corn fields, which fringe the river, and adorn the vale beneath them, present a beautiful picture which might well have excited the admiration and inspired the love of the ancient inhabitants of Laconia, delighting as they did in all the bodily exercises for which a beautiful country and a fine climate produce an enthusiastic devotion.

    To impart additional beauty to this scene, we may imagine it, as in ancient days, peopled with living objects – chorusses, for instance, such as Theocritus describes in it, of the countrywomen of Helen dancing on  the slopes of the mountain, along the bank of the stream, or beneath the shadows of the grove: we may listen, in fancy, to the echoes with which the mountain rung of old at early dawn, when the fellow-countrymen of her twin Brothers followed the dogs of Sparta to the chase, through the glades and glens of Taygetus.

    The Maenalian summits are a central point to which the mountain chains of Arcadia, Laconia and Argolis converge. Beneath them, on the south-west, is the modern town of TRIPOLITZA, which stands on the site formerly occupied by one of the oldest and most venerable cities of Arcadia. This was PALLANTIUM, the city of Pallas and Evander.

    It is interesting to trace, as it were, the first footsteps of Rome, the Mistress of the World, on this rude mountain of Arcadia; and to pass, in imagination, from the sylvan scene before us, while we look upon the pine-tree groves of Maenalus, and on the castle-hill of Pallantium, to the gorgeous pile of imperial splendour which glittered on the top of the Roman PALATINE. We are pleased, also, with the reflection, that one of the best of Roman Emperors, ANTONINUS PIUS, did not scorn the tradition which deduced the primaeval colony of Rome from the soil of the Maenalian mount; and that he showed to the humble Pallantium the respect and gratitude that was due to the old city from which the friend of Aeneas and father of Pallas was believed to have come to that Roman hill which derived its name from Pallantium and on which the Emperor himself dwelt.

    The road from Tripolitza to Argos passed along a narrow defile between the hills of ARTEMISIUM on the north and PARTHENIUM on the south. It was near this spot that the Athenian Courier, Pheidippides, in his way between Athens and Sparta, whither he went to implore her succour before the battle of Marathon, was accosted, as he said, by the Arcadian deity Pan, who desired him, on his arrival at home, to assure the Athenians of his good will towards them, of his regret that his favourable dispositions had not been acknowledged by them with due honour and gratitude, and of his intention to be present and to assist them in the great conflict in which they were about to engage; a promise which, having been duly fulfilled, by the pastoral Deity, obtained for him a shrine in the grotto consecrated  to his honour at the north-west corner of the Athenian Acropolis.

    To best view of the ARGOLIC plain, to which we now pass, is that which is obtained from the citadel, anciently called LARISSA, of Argos its capital city. This Acropolis stands on the summit of a lofty and insulated hill, about four miles distant from the northern shore of the Argolic Gulf. Here the spectator may contemplate the sites which have rendered the soil of Argolis illustrious for thousands of years in the history and poetry of Greece.

    To the south of him, in ten bay in which Danaus landed with his daughters from Aegypt – the subject of one of the earliest drama of the Athenian stage. On the western edge of the same bay, is the LERNAEAN pool; at a point nearer the city, the river ERASINUS falls into the sea, having passed through a subterraneous chasm from the north of Arcadia, and thus connects the lake of  STYMPHALUS in which it rises there, and which was the scene of one of the labours of Hercules, with the site of the Argolic Lerna, which was also the witness of a similar feat of the same hero.

    Nearer still to the city from which our view is taken, flows the famous stream of Inachus, connected with Argolic history from the earliest times. It descends, in fact, from the frontier of Arcadia; but according to the mythical accounts of Greek poets, who delighted in uniting distant lands with each other by means of rivers, and who, therefore, scrupled not to give them the course which was most convenient for such a purpose – it was no other than a stream of the same name, which flowed in the country of the Amphilochians, on the eastern shore of the Ambracian gulf, and which, having mingled its waters with those of the Aetolian Achelöus, passed under the earth and emerged from a cavern at the roots of Mount  CHAON, near the southern foot of the citadel of Argos.

    In this fiction, we recognize the trace of a very natural and not unpleasant attempt to connect the inhabitants  of a colony with those of their mother city, by such sympathies as would arise, notwithstanding their distance from one another, from the circumstance of their dwelling on the banks of the same river. The Amphilochian  Argos as peopled and named from the Argos pf the Peloponnesus; and by the supposition  above mentioned the two kindred Cities were kept in perpetual alliance and communion with each other; their hearts were tied, as it were, to each other by the silver chord of the same stream.

    On the northern margin of the Argolic plain, stands the city of MYCENAE. Its site is visible from the Acropolis of Argos. It remains nearly in the same state as it appeared in the days of the Athenian historian, who deduced from the extent and condition of its remains, as they then were, an argument with respect to the magnitude of the power of the house of its sovereigns, the ATRIDAE, compared with that of more recent dynasties.

    We look with a feeling of awe on a city which was in ruins in the time of  THUCYDIDES. Nor is it without a sensation of delight  that we contemplate the sane venerable monument of antique sculpture which was seen here in later times by the traveller PAUSANIAS to whose taste and diligence all persons who feel an interest in the geography and antiquities of Greece are deeply indebted, and which still stands in our days, as he describes it standing in his own, over the principal, and, indeed, the only gate, with the exception of a small postern, of the city of Mycenae.

    In exploring the site if this town, and in contemplating the structure and ornaments of this, the GATE OF LIONS, at the north-west angle of the city, we seem to become the companions of these two Authors, who saw what we now see. Nay, more – carried on, as it were, down the stream of their faith, and in resigning ourselves to the current of feelings by which they were impelled, we appear to recognize here the same objects with which, in their imagination, this place was peopled in earlier times.

    Thus, for instance, while halting before the principal portal to which we have just alluded, of the city of Mycenae, and which is still flanked by the walls and tower of its massive and heroic masonry, and is surmounted by the architectural and sculptural ornaments of its earliest days, we picture to ourselves AGAMEMNON, the King of men, arriving before it in his car, on his return from his expedition to Troy: we behold him resigning the reins to his attendant, and descending from his chariot, and planting his foot on the tapestried road which, in the description of the dramatic poet, conducts him to the palace of his ancestors, in the citadel, which he is now about to revisit, after an absence of ten years. Or again, we seem to behold Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, arriving at day-break with his friend Pylades, and visiting the tomb of his dead father, which was seen here by the Grecian traveller of whom we have just spoken; we have then a vision of the procession of the Virgins, passing from the street of the city through the same gate, and bearing their libations and garlands to the same tomb; we hear the lamentations of the sorrowful Electra, and are present at her recognition of her brother, Orestes, which changes her sadness into joy.

    In the subterranean chamber, or TREASURY, which is outside the city, and not far from the same gate, whose doorway is supported by columns of green basalt, with fantastic zig-zag ornaments, and whose remarkable structure and symmetry attracted the attention of the same Topographer, and is described by him, we see the depository of the wealth of its early kings which gained for this city the title of the GOLDEN MYCENAE.

    We imagine this vaulted apartment as it probably appeared in the fancy of Pausanias to have existed in the times of Atreus, to whom he assigns it. We see cars of excellent workmanship, whose sides are embossed with figures in curious relief, hanging on the walls, which were then sheathed with metallic plates: we behold vases and tripods of bronze and gold, the gifts of Greek and Asiatic sovereigns, piled upon the floor: helmets and bucklers, swords and lances, the insignia and weapons of ancient heroes – some of them believed, it may be, to be the works of Vulcan, or the gifts of Minerva – suspended upon nails, or ranged along the walls: there are bits and bridles, trappings of horses, and ivory frontlets dyed by women of Maeonia; and in the chests placed beneath them, lie embroidered tunics and cloaks, bright with purple and with gold; webs woven by honourable women, and noble princesses of the house of PELOPS, of PERSEUS, and of ATREUS. Such are some of the pictures which will exhibit themselves to the imagination of the traveller as he treads the soil and contemplates the monuments of Mycenae.

    To complete the panorama which is presented to the eye of the spectator, on the summit of the citadel of Argos.

    Looking to the north-east, he sees, at a distance of four miles, and on the slope of the hills which gradually sink from the east into the Argolic plain, the site of the HERAEUM, the temple of Juno, the tutelary goddess of Argos. The hewn masses of its substructions still remain.

    It is worthy of observation that a spot so distant from the capital city itself should have been selected for the position of the edifice consecrated to its patron deity. Thus removed, however, as the temple of Juno was from the haunts of men, placed upon a quiet and solitary hill, visited by shepherds and their flocks, surrounded by groves of trees, watered on each side by a mountain stream, with a ridge of lofty hills rising at its back, and with the wide Argolic plain stretching  itself at its feet, this sacred building  inspired more of that particular feeling of awe and veneration which was specially due to the stately dignity of the Dorian goddess, the wife of Jove, and the queen of the Gods, than if it had stood on a less sequestered spot, or had been exposed to the daily gaze of man amid the noise of streets, or in the crowd of the agora of the Argolic capital itself.

    The road which leads from Argos to this temple, and which we can trace with the eye, from the spot where we suppose ourselves now placed, has gained a lasting interest – similar to that possessed by the PLAIN OF THE PIOUS on the side of Mount Aetna – from the act of filial affection of the two brothers who drew along it with their own hands, from the gates of Argos to the door of the temple, a distance of forty-five stadia – the car of their mother who had no other means of going in due state on the festal day, to join the joyful concourse of her countrywomen, who had been assembled in that place. Having been crowned as victors in the gymnastics contests, the two youths were welcomed on their arrival at the Heraeum, b the congregated people who congratulated the mother on her sons, and the sons on their strength and virtue. The mother, rejoicing in her own happiness and in her children’s deed, repaired to the shrine of Juno and, standing before the statue, prayed for her sons the greater blessing which the goddess could give, and they receive. It happened, after their mother’s prayer, and when they had offered their own sacrifices, that the two brothers, overcome with fatigue, reclined in the temple and fell together into a sound sleep, from which they never awoke. Their statues were erected at Delphi, by the hands of their admiring countrymen; and their lot was declared, by the wise Solon to the wealthy Croesus, to be only inferior in happiness to that of the Athenian Tellus.

    South of the Heraeum, or Temple of Juno, and at the north-east corner of the Argolic gulf, placed on a low oblong rock, is the remarkable city of TIRYNS. Exhibiting, as it does, the most ancient remains of the military architecture of Greece, and exciting the wonder of the beholder, by the hugeness of the rude blocks with which its walls and galleries are constructed, and which called forth an epithet, expressive of admiration, even from the mouth of Homer himself – it survives as a striking monument of the power of men, concerning whom all written history is silent. It arose, and flourished, in times antecedent to history, and seems to exist to make mythology credible. We are acquainted with Tiryns only as built by the CYCLOPES, and as the early residence of HERCULES.

    Further to the south, and commanding the entrance of the bay of Argos, on the east side of it, and rendered conspicuous by the lofty eminence of its citadel, is the town of NAUPLIA.

    The rank which was held by Argos in the heroic times, that Nauplia occupied in the Middle Ages, and the natural advantages of its position will preserve to it an importance which will long render the name of Nauplia – which is derived from that of a son of Neptune – a familiar  word to the merchants and sailors of the Archipelago.

    At the conclusion of this preliminary sketch – before we quit our position on the heights of the Acropolis of Argos – we may be allowed to indulge in some speculations of a more general character, on the geography and natural peculiarities of the country which we are describing.

    These reflections are not ill suited to the spot which exercised so powerful an influence from the earliest times over the condition and fortunes of the continent and peninsula of Greece, and, indeed, are naturally suggested to the mind by the localities of this heroic metropolis.

    The geographical position of GREECE, properly so called, is evidently such as to favour the development of the physical and intellectual faculties of man. Under the temperate influence of its seasons and its climate, they acquired strength without stiffness, and softness without effeminacy.

    Its situation, again, with respect to other countries – to Asia and Egypt, to Italy and Sicily – was such as to afford it every facility for receiving the arts and civilities of life, while it furnished the best opportunities for communicating to others  what it so accepted itself.

    Its long coast-line, indented by numerous bays and harbours, conduced to the same end. Nor was it possible for the inhabitant of Greece to forget the world beyond him, which the sea, ever presenting itself to his view as he crossed the lofty hills even in the inmost heart of his own land, brought perpetually to his mind.

    Thus the spirit of enterprise and of ambition which distinguished his character, was the natural produce of his soil.

    Again: if we turn our eyes to the interior of the country, we are struck with the remarkable manner in which it is divided by the hand of nature into distinct provinces. The long ridges of mountains by which it is intersected in various directions, have traced upon its soil the line of a natural map, which no hand of man will ever erase. Hence that distinction of tribes, differing from each other in extraction, dialect and civil and religious institutions with which the soil of Greece was peopled.

    That the spirit of emulation and rivalry which naturally arose among these different tribes produced very important results both for good and evil, it is not necessary to observe. While  the cause of the nation, as a whole, suffered from the disunion consequent upon it, yet a love of glory and distinction was thus excited among the individual members of which the nation consisted, which led to no ignoble effects, either in arts or arms. The productions, too, of the poet and historian, gained life and vigour from the variety of dialects which were spoken by these different nations, and each of which was appropriated and consecrated to the service of its own peculiar subject: and the political philosopher of Greece was enabled to confirm and illustrate his own speculations by reference to the various forms of civil polity adopted by the numerous states among which his country was divided.

    It would be long to inquire what facilities and encouragements were given to the cultivation of the arts by the physical properties which characterised the land of Greece. That the imaginative faculties of its inhabitants were awakened and kept alive by the remarkable phenomena  which presented themselves to their view, cannot be doubted.

    The volcanic fires which agitated its soil, the earthquakes which overthrew the walls of its cities and convulsed the inmost recesses of its hills, the lakes whose inundations engulfed its plains, the rivers which forced their way by subterranean chasms through the barriers or rocky hills – to omit all reference to the majestic forms of nature in repose which daily met his eye, namely, a sky without clouds, a sea studded with numerous islands and a land clad with thick forests – and nit to mention the creations of art which so happily adorned these natural objects as to seem to be united and identified with them, as, for instance, the stately mass and the well-marshalled columns of the Doric temple rising on the hill, or the breathing statue in the grove – all these objects were to the imagination of the Greek like so many trophies of Miltiades  to the mind of Themistocles; they haunted him like a passion by day, and disturbed his sleep by night; they carried him away from the region of blank abstractions and from the contemplation of mere objects of sense, to dwell in the presence of living Powers by whom, in his creeds, all the motions of the universe were impelled and controlled.

    To descend from contemplating the conceptions of genius to consider the mechanical operations of art: It was to the geological formation of its mountains, to the durable limestone rock of which they consist, that Greece was indebted for those magnificent works of military architecture – for the massy wall and lofty tower of polygonal masonry by which she defended the cities which still stand upon her hills, and which seem to rival, in permanence and strength, the mountains themselves from which their materials were hewn.

    Again, it is to the rich and varied veins of marble, which streamed, in exhaustless abundance through the quarries of Paros, of Pentelicus, of Hymettus and of Carystus, that she owed the noblest works of her sculptors and her architects – her PARTHENON and her THESEUM, her friezes of PHIGALEIA and of AEGINA.

    And as it was the wealth of her soil to which she was indebted for the existence of these beautiful creations, so it was the purity of her air which preserved them: this latter element allowed her to attract the popular eye, to inform the national taste, to inspire the faith and evoke the gratitude of her sons, by the statues and pictures of her Gods and her heroes, of her good and great men, which she placed, not only beneath roofs or within walls, not merely in the enclosures of her hills and of her fanes, but on the lofty pediments of her Temples, in the crowded avenues of her streets.

    This permitted her also to decorate her buildings with the brilliant and varied hues which Painting lent to her Sister-Art, and to imitate the clearness of her own sky and the freshness of her own sea, by those architectural embellishments  which Art would not venture to adopt, except in a country alone, where Nature has eclipsed in brightness and vivacity of execution every thing that Art can conceive.