« הקודםהמשך »
happy homes, to follow the fortunes of their master. An order has been instituted by the king, and is now worn by every Bavarian soldier to commemorate his coming to Greece!! There is no faith between the two nations; and the only bond of union that might have merged all petty differences between the two people, that of intermarriage, is strictly prohibited by the German priests. Some idea as to the religion of this state, as well as the domestic happiness of royalty, may be formed from a knowledge of the fact, that the king is a Roman Catholic, the queen of the Lutheran persuasion, and their children, should they have any, must be brought up in the Greek church. The only part of the state that appears well regulated, is that in which the monarch does not interfere ; this is the municipal government of the city, which consists of several citizens, and some of the foreigners who fought and bled for Greece during the late war, and are now proprietors and tax-payers under the present dynasty. At the head of this corporation is a lordmayor or provost, who is chosen triennially.
The present palace, though an inconsiderable building as a royal residence, is yet good enough for a king of Greece, in its present infant state. There is, however, a palace being erected, that bids fair to rival any structure of the kind in Europe, both as to magnificence and extent. It is constructing of pure white Pentelic marble; the basement story was completed at the time of our visit, and stands on a space of ground equal to that of the enormous convent of Mafra. The front is to be a Doric colonnade, the columns of which were nearly finished at the time of our visit. Can it be believed that upwards of £150,000 has been already expended on this building, while the country for whose king it is in progress of completion, is scarcely able to afford a taxation sufficient to support its government? Where then has this money come from? Perhaps a solution to this query may be found by an examination of the items in the expenditure of the loan granted by England, France, and Russia, to replenish the exchequer of this bankrupt kingdom. But there is a still sadder tale to tell of that same palace than the mere squandering of the money I have mentioned; for every block of marble that decorates its walls, or forms its pillars, is blasted in the quarries of Pentelicus, broken with sledges, and rudely rolled down the mountain side ; so that scarcely one half of them arrive in safety
at the bottom. And when I state it as a fact within my own cognizance, that there is not (or was not up to May, 1838) a single truck or a single marble saw in the whole quarry, the lover of the arts and the admirer of Grecian architecture will indeed mourn over the vast and unnecessary destruction of this precious material, on which was once employed the chisel of a Phidias and a Praxiteles. This is no conjecture, nor was it gathered from “common report;" I visited the quarries, spent hours in their examination, and can vouch for what I say. I have there seen blocks of the purest snow-white marble blown into shivers with gunpowder ; and yet so careful did the ancients appear of this beauteous stone, that the sides of the caverns, from which were cut the Parthenon and the temples of Theseus, and Jupiter Olympius, are as square, as if the object was to raise the admiration of the visitor, rather than economise the material. The only good road in Attica is that formed between the palace and the foot of the Pentelican quarries.*
But let us leave King Otho to his palace and his Bavarians, and speak of matters more interesting to the modern traveller, and more suited to the object of this work. Is Athens a place likely to benefit persons seeking health as well as amusement, and what time is the best for visiting it? A friend who has been long resident in the country has kindly supplied me with the following useful information on this subject :
“With regard to the climate of Athens, it is warm in summer, and with a northerly wind, cold in winter; but in an airy situation, it is by no means oppressive in the hottest season ; and when you are sheltered from the cutting north wind, it is pleasant in winter; for the sun almost always shines, and there is very little rain. The mean temperature has been estimated by a French officer at fifteen degrees centigrade. The extremes which I have myself noticed in one year, 1833, were, on the 23rd of January at sun-rise, 27 degrees; and on the 20th of August at three P.M. 94 degrees of Fahrenheit ; but at nine P.m.
* The recent revolution and the proclaiming of a new constitution in Greece proves that all my conjectures and all my views of the government of King Otho were well founded [1814).
the same evening, it was 86 degrees. In 1835 the extremes were 30 degrees and 88 degrees; this was the very unhealthy year, when the whole plain of Athens was a marsh, from the circumstance of the canals of irrigation of the Cephissus being blocked up, and the water having during the whole winter (which was a very severe one) spread itself over the plain. In 1836, which was a very cool year, the extremes were 28 degrees and 85 degrees. The weather is generally very agreeable up to the 1st of June ; but June, July, and August, are very hot; nothing, however, can be finer than the autumn. Athens is a very healthy spot, and its unhealthiness in 1835 was purely accidental, for water in general is much too scarce to be wasted. The danger of the climate here is not from fever, but cold in winter ; as people taking violent exercise and exposing themselves to the cold winds, are apt to suffer severely. Athens is unfortunately the only place to which invalids, who intend to reside for a year, can venture to come to in Greece; as it is only at Athens they can procure good houses. In the islands it would, perhaps, be very agreeable to spend two or three months in autumn and spring. The communications with Athens are now very regular; from Trieste and Ancona, we have steamers twice a month; from Marseilles, by Leghorn and Malta, three times a month ; and from this, steamers go three times a month to Alexandria ; and others as often to Smyrna and Constantinople, and thence to the Danube, and on to Vienna Houses are now to be found here at a more moderate rate than formerly. We have had several families spending the winter ; and one English family has taken up its residence. We have a very agreeable society, and liberty to dress and do as we like.”
On the 10th, we visited Marathon. The distance from Athens is said to be about twenty miles. We passed over a wild and uncultivated district, broken into ravines and deep hollow gorges, or spreading out into irregular plains, wooded with Scotch fir and stone pine. A drifting mist rendered much of our way obscure, and in many places, the bridle-path was rugged, narrow, and precipitous. At Pikermi, about mid-way, we visited the great fossil formation recently discovered in this part of Greece. It is situated in the bed of a deep stream, and the bones, which are principally those of graminiverous and ruminant animals, and very much comminuted, are placed in a
bed of hard red ochery clay, in some parts so hard, that the specimens were, with difficulty, cut out of it. The multitude of fossil remains in this pit are almost incredible. Several horseloads have been conveyed to Athens, and in the museum of the Natural History Society there, I was afforded an opportunity of examining some most perfect specimens. Besides those animals that I have mentioned, I saw there a very fine head of the rhinoceros and also that of the palæotherium, as well as the skull of one of the simiæ of a very small size, but in excellent preservation, with the teeth quite perfect ; and I have in my possession the jaws and teeth of some small ruminants and carnivoræ from the same locality. The rain pouring in torrents during the short time that we remained at the place, prevented any very accurate or extended examination. It is a field yet open to geologists, for I am not aware of any accurate account of it having been given to the world. It was discovered by Mr. G. Finlay, and is situated on the south-eastern slope of Pentelicus, and beside the ancient road leading to Marathon.
As we could only proceed at a slow pace, we did not reach our destination till towards evening. And now we are on
“ The battle-field, where Persia's victim horde
First bow'd beneath the brunt of Hellas' sword;
We entered the plain by a narrow pass between the sea and a shoulder of the Argalike mountain, to the right of the sacred grove and temple of Hercules, and where it is supposed the Greek camp was placed. This opinion seems the most probable even to a cursory observer; for, had not this pass been occupied, the Persians might have marched on to Athens without opposition.
This vast plain, the richest and most cultivated that we witnessed in Greece, extends, in a crescentic shape, between the mountains and the sea, broken only by the memorable tumulus, near the centre, and a wood of tali stone pines that rises at its northern extremity. The sky was louring; the mountains indistinct; the sea looked dark and moody, and rolled its moaning waves far up upon the beach, while the wind sighed and whistled through the gaps and hollows of the hills that margin this noble plain, so celebrated in story, because here liberty was at stake,
the night age or hamlet"or. We turne
and valour was the winner. We turned our horses' heads to the little village or hamlet of Varna, and took up our quarters for the night at the miserable monastery, the only accommodation the place afforded.
Varna, which is believed by Colonel Leake and other eminent topographers to be the site of the ancient Marathon, from which the plain beneath took its name, is situated in a lonely, wild, and picturesque glen or hollow in the range of hills that rises immediately from the valley. Our domicile was any thing but comfortable or agreeable ; being a low empty room, without a fireplace, and having no less than four unglazed windows, and a tiled roof, through which the wind gained a very ready ingress. The night was piercingly cold, and the fleas terrific; but the early part of the evening was one of considerable interest, for our companion, Mr. Finlay, read for us that valuable Memoir on the Battle of Marathon, which has since been published in this country,* and in the morning we visited the tumulus, from the top of which he pointed out to us the position of the two armies, and the different places of interest that surrounded us.
The sides of this enormous barrow have now become so much broken down by the excavations of antiquity hunters, and the channels worn by the rains of above two thousand three hundred years, that we rode with ease to the top. Although but thirty feet high, it commands a perfect view of the surrounding plain, which is a rich loamy soil, and was then green with the young corn crop. Having picked up some of the flint and obsidian arrow-headst that are scattered in such quantities through the
* On the Battle of Marathon, by George Finlay, Esq.-See the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, Vol. III. 1839.
+ Although it is quite true that these rude and diminutive weapons are found in other parts of Greece, (and I have picked up some myself,) yet the vast quantities found in this mound are very remarkable ; but whether they are, as some assert, the arrow-heads used by the Æthiopian archers, who, Herodotus informs us, formed a part of the Persian army, it is difficult to decide. Their identity with similar weapons that have been found in other countries is, however, curious. Colonel Leake mentions their being found in Egypt and in Ireland. The one to which the learned antiquary refers, as found in Ireland, is that in the Museum of the Royal Dublin Society; but since he wrote, two most beautiful and perfect speci