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The sun rose almost directly behind the noble cluster of white marble columns that still remain, until his broad disk appeared a crown of burnished gold above its head. We spent an hour or two in examining the ruins, and enjoying the glorious and exciting prospect which its site affords of that island-studded ocean, that lay stretched beneath and around us.
The same weather as that of yesterday succeeded, alternate calms and breezes, so that at night-fall we were still some leagues from our destination. This day was the anniversary of the revolution of Greece, and we could hear the firing of cannon, and the rejoicing of its people on all sides. At night a thousand lights sprung up
us, and the whole sea became illuminated, from the numerous bonfires on the different islands. There was one in particular that had the grandest and most imposing effect; it was a series of lights placed in the form of a cross, on the side of Mount Anchesmus that faces the city of Athens, and which, owing to the clearness of the night, was perfectly visible to us even at that distance.
We entered the harbour of the Piræus early next morning, and “ brought up” among a large fleet of the Austrian, English, Russian, and French navies, besides some small Greek brigs and corvettes.
We found the port of Athens in a much more thriving condition than accounts had led us to expect. Several good houses have sprung up, with the usual accompaniments of stores and wine-shops ; besides a handsome building lately erected for a military college. One of the first objects that caught our attention on landing, was a stand of cars, hackney coaches, and several omnibuses, that ply from the port to the city. In one of these we set forward to Athens, upon a good level road that runs in nearly a direct line to the city; and for the most part, upon
the site of the long walls of Pausanias, part of the foundations of which are still discoverable near the Piræus. The distance is about five miles, and the prospect during the entire way is most imposing ; for the Acropolis rises in monarchical grandeur in the centre, and every pillar of the Parthenon is clearly defined against the azure sky that forms the back-ground of the picture. On either side of the road is an extensive plain, watered by the streamlets of the Cephissus and Flissus; it is fast coming under cultivation, bearing some good crops of well-grown barley, and
PRESENT CONDITION OF ATHENS.
several groves of olives, which yet remain, despite the desolating hand of Turkish tyranny and misrule, that had attempted to destroy them prior to the revolution.
We took up our quarters at the Hotel de France, and shortly after strolled out to inspect the antiquities, having for our cicerone, Mr. George Finlay, now a resident in Athens, than whom few possess more knowledge of the classic lore of ancient Greece, or, from actual observation and participation in it, are better acquainted with the late revolution, or the present condition of
Notwithstanding its bad government, Athens continues to improve and to progress; its population is now nearly 20,000, though it was but 5,000 six or seven years ago.
of the sacred associations and illusive charms that surrounded the most refined city of the ancients, are dissolved by an inspection of the capital of modern Greece. To climb the acropolis, we must wade through the mud and dirt of narrow streets and lanes. The Lantern of Demosthenes is in the back yard of a miserable hovel; and several of the finest specimens of architecture form the sides and gables of modern buildings. The streets are long, straggling, and irregular; and it is very much to be regretted, that some plan has not been laid down for the construction of the new town, so as not to interfere with the remains of all that makes Athens valuable to the scholar, the traveller, or the antiquary. What an interesting object would not the Temple of the Winds form in one of the squares that may yet beautify the rising city; when the wretched houses that now obscure it and other like structures, shall very likely have to be purchased by a “ board of wide-street commissioners.”
With the antiquities of Athens I shall not trouble my readers. So many splendid works have been published on that subject ; and so many proud names that note the genius and learning of our own countrymen, have gone before us, that unless he would plagiarise from the works of Stuart or Dodwell ; quote the accurate and critical Colonel Leake; or draw from the able sketches of the chaste and classical Mr. Wordsworth, little remains for the passing traveller to notice, except its present condition under its Bavarian government.
Not that we did not visit every scene of interest ; make copious notes of its past purpose and present state; and, in the enthusiasm of the place and hour, pen
STATE OF SOCIETY AND GOVERNMENT.
down heroic and euphonious thoughts and reflections. But the page at which I have arrived, reminds me that I have already carried my readers over a long, and to some, perhaps a weary route ; but bear with me a little longer-we are on our way to England—to home; there to enjoy whatever of climate suited to invalids our summer months afford; and then we'll part, perhaps for ever.
We remained in Athens, altogether, about eight days. In the mornings we loitered among its ruins, or inquired into its present social condition ; and in the evenings enjoyed the society of some of our countrymen, or partook of the hospitality of our worthy minister—for all who come here, will find a cordial welcome at the residence of Sir E. Lyons; and few could enjoy the comforts of that elegant and social circle more than we did, after being so long estranged from all that makes the home and table of a Briton happy, no matter under what clime he may be placed. The ambassadors and representatives of foreign powers are by far the greatest personages in Athens; and their residences are the most splendid buildings in the city. In society, which is chiefly formed of those personages, and the few landed proprietors who may have settled in the vicinity of the city, the affairs of other countries and the intrigues of the several diplomatists are much more spoken of, than the affairs or prospects of Greece. But, besides these, Athens in general possesses a few enlightened travellers of different nations-artists, antiquaries, and men of letters; and nearly all the foreign residents are educated persons--well acquainted with the history, antiquities, and topography of their adopted country.
With the government of king Otho every party seemed dissatisfied, and apparently with great justice. But little good could be expected from the despotic administration of a stripling foreign monarch, who despises trade, and thinks that he is not only the state but the country; who acts as his own prime minister, and sits as president of the council that now governs Greece---and that assembly was, then at least, with one exception, composed entirely of foreigners! The Greeks naturally look with a jealous eye upon the Bavarian intruders, who they know will be preferred to any place of trust or emolument before themselves ; while the Bavarians in turn consider themselves as martyrs, who have risked their precious lives, and deserted their
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 (1844].