This little book tries to describe what an intelligent person would see and hear in ancient Athens, if by some legerdemain he were translated to the fourth century B.C. and conducted about the city under competent guidance. Rare happenings have been omitted and sometimes, to avoid long explanations, PROBABLE matters have been stated as if they were ascertained facts; but these instances are few, and it is hoped no reader will be led into serious error.
Attica was perhaps the most favored portion of all, Around her coasts, rocky often and broken by pebbly beaches and little craggy peninsulas, surged the deep blue Ægean, the most glorious expanse of ocean in the world. Far away spread the azure water[*],--often foam-crested and sometimes alive with the dolphins leaping at their play,--reaching towards a shimmering sky line where rose "the isles of Greece," masses of green foliage, or else of tawny rock, scattered afar, to adapt the words of Homer, "like shields laid on the face of the glancing deep."
[*]The peculiar blueness of the water near Attica is probably caused by the clear rocky bottom of the sea, as well as by the intensity of the sunlight.
Above the sea spread the noble arch of the heavens,--the atmosphere often dazzlingly bright, and carrying its glamour and sparkle almost into the hearts of men. The Athenians were proud of the air about their land. Their poets gladly sung its praises, as, for example, Euripides[*], when he tells how his fellow countrymen enjoy being--
Ever through air clear shining brightly As on wings uplifted, pacing lightly.
5. The Mountains of Attica.--The third great element, besides the sea and the atmosphere of Athens, was the mountains. One after another the bold hills reared themselves, cutting short all the plainlands and making the farmsteads often a ma