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Remember the moment when Precisa fell, It was taken by storm from the French.
Thou sat'st with Thrasybulus and his train,
Receive the fiery Frank, her former guest ; When taken by the Latins, and retained for several years.-See Gibbon.
The prophet's tomb of all its pious spoil, Mecca and Medina were taken some time ago by the Wahabees, a sect yearly increasing.
On many of the mountains, particularly Liakura, the snow never is entirely melted, notwithstanding the intense heat of the summer; but I never saw it lie on the plains, even in winter.
Aboce its prostrate brethren of the care ; Of Mount Pentelicus, from whence the marble was dug that constructed the public edifices of Athens. The modern name is Mount Mendeli. An immense cave formed by the quarries still remains, and will till the end of time.
Ilhen Marathon became a magic word ; “Siste Viator-heroa calcas !" was the epitaph on the famous Count Merci ; - what then must be our feelings when standing on the tumulus of the two hundred (Greeks) who fell on Marathon? The principal barrow has recently been opened by Fauvel ; few or no relics, as vases, &c. were found by the excavator. The plain of Marathon was offered to me for sale at the sum of sixteen thousand piastres, about nine hundred pounds! Alas !-" Expende quot libras in duce summo-invenies !”_was the dust of Miltiades worth no more? it could scarcely have fetched less if sold by weight.
PAPERS REFERRED TO BY NOTE ON STANZA LXXIII.
1. Before I say any thing about a city of which every body, traveller or not, has thought it necessary to say something, I will request Miss Owenson, when she next borrows an Athenian heroine for her four volumes, to have the goodness to marry her to somebody more of a gentleman than a “Disdar Aga”. (who by the by is not an Aga), the most impolite of petty officers, the greatest patron of larceny Athens ever saw, (except Lord E.) and the unworthy occupant of the Acropolis, on a handsome annual stipend of 150 piastres (eight pounds sterling), out of which he has only to pay his garrison, the most illregulated corps in the ill-regulated Ottoman Empire. I speak it tenderly, seeing I was once the cause of the husband of “ Ida of Athens” nearly suffering the bastinado; and because the said “ Disdar” is a turbulent husband, and beats his wife, so that I exhort and beseech Miss Owenson to sue for a separate maintenance in behalf of “ Ida.” Having premised thus much, on a matter of such import to the readers of romances, I may now leave Ida, to mention her birthplace.
Setting aside the magic of the name, and all those associations which it would be pedantic and superfluous to recapitulate, the very situation of Athens would render it the favourite of all who have eyes for art or nature. The climate, to me at least, appeared a perpetual spring; during eight months I never passed a day without being as many hours on horseback : rain is extremely rare, snow never lies in the plains, and a cloudy day is an agreeable rarity. In Spain, Portugal, and every part of the East which I visited, except Ionia and Attica, I perceived no such superiority of climate to our own; and at Constantinople, where I passed May, June, and part of July (1810), you might “ damn the climate, and complain of spleen,” five days out of seven.
The air of the Morea is heavy and unwholesome, but the moment you pass the isthmus in the direction of Megara the change is strikingly perceptible. But I fear Hesiod will still be found correct in his description of a Baotian winter.
We found at Livadia an “esprit fort” in a Greek bishop, of all freethinkers ! This worthy hypocrite rallied his own religion with great intrepidity (but not before his flock), and talked of a mass as a “coglioneria.” It was impossible to think better of him for this ; but, for a Bæotian, he was brisk with all his absurdity. This phenomenon, (with the exception indeed of Thebes, the remains of Chæronea, the plain of Platea, Orchomenus, Livadia, and its nominal cave of Trophonius,) was the only remarkable thing we saw before we passed Mount Cithæron.
The fountain of Dirce turns a mill: at least, my companion (who resolving to be at once cleanly and classical bathed in it) pronounced it to be the fountain of Dirce, and any body who thinks it worth while may contradict him. At Castri we drank of half a dozen streamlets, some not of the purest, before we decided to our satisfaction which was the true Castalian, and even that had a villanous twang, probably from the snow, though it did not throw us into an epic fever, like poor Dr. Chandler.
From Fort Phyle, of which large remains still exist, the Plain of Athens, Pentelicus, Hymettus, the Ægean, and the Acropolis, burst upon the eye at once ; in my opinion, a more glorious prospect than even Cintra or Istambol. Not the view from the Troad, with Ida, the Hellespont, and the more distant Mount Athos, can equal it, though so superior in extent.
I heard much of the beauty of Arcadia, but excepting the view from the monastery of Megaspelion (which is inferior to Zitza in a command of country) and the descent from the mountains on the way from Tripolitza to Argos, Arcadia has little to recommend it beyond the name.
" Sternitur, et dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos."
Virgil could have put this into the mouth of none but an Argive; and (with reverence be it spoken) it does not deserve the epithet. And if the Polynices of Statius, “ In mediis audit duo litora campis," did actually hear both shores in crossing the isthmus of Corinth, he had better ears than have ever been worn in such a journey since.
“ Athens," says a celebrated topographer, “is still the most polished city of Greece.” Perhaps it may of Greece, but not of the Greeks; for Joannina in Epirus is universally allowed, amongst themselves, to be superior in the wealth, refinement, learning, and dialect of its inhabitants. The Athenians are remarkable for their cunning; and the lower orders are not improperly characterised in that proverb, which classes them with "the Jews of Salonica, and the Turks of the Negropont."
Among the various foreigners resident in Athens, French, Italians, Germans, Ragusans, &c. there was never a difference of opinion in their estimate of the Greek character, though on all other topics they disputed with great acrimony.
M. Fauvel, the French consul, who has passed thirty years principally at Athens, and to whose talents as an artist and manners as a gentleman none who have known him can refuse their testimony, has frequently declared in my hearing, that the Greeks do not deserve to be emancipated ; reasoning on the grounds of their “national and individual depravity," while he forgot that such depravity is to be attributed to causes which can only be removed by the measure he reprobates.
M. Roque, a French merchant of respectability, long settled in Athens, asserted with the most amusing gravity ; “Sir, they are the same canaille that existed in the days of Themistocles !” an alarming remark to the “Laudator temporis acti." The ancients banished Themistocles; the moderns cheat Monsieur Roque : thus great men have ever been treated !
In short, all the Franks who are fixtures, and most of the Englishmen, Germans, Danes, &c. of passage, came over by degrees to their opinion, on much the same grounds that a Turk in England would condemn the nation by wholesale, because he was wronged by his lacquey, and overcharged by his washerwoman.
Certainly it was not a little staggering when the Sieurs Fauvel and Lusieri, the two greatest demagogues of the day, who divide between them the power of Pericles and the popularity of Cleon, and puzzle the poor Waywode with perpetual differences, agreed in the utter condemnation, “ nulla virtute redemptum,” of the Greeks in general, and of the Athenians in particular.
For my own humble opinion, I am loth to hazard it, knowing, as I do, that there be now in MS. no less than five tours of the first magnitude and of the most threatening aspect, all in typographical array, by persons of wit, and honour, and regular common-place books : but, if I may say this without offence, it seems to me rather hard to declare so positively and pertinaciously, as almost every body has declared, that the Greeks, because they are very bad, will never be better.
Eton and Sonnini have led us astray by their panegyrics and projects; but, on the other hand, De Pauw and Thornton have debased the Greeks beyond their demerits.
The Greeks will never be independent; they will never be sovereigns as
being slaves. Our colonies are not independent, but they are free and industrious, and such may Greece be hereafter.
At present, like the Catholics of Ireland and the Jews throughout the world, and such other cudgelled and heterodox people, they suffer all the moral and physical ills that can afflict humanity. Their life is a struggle against truth ; they are vicious in their own defence. They are so unused to kindness, that when they occasionally meet with it they look upon it with suspicion, as a dog often beaten snaps at your fingers if you attempt to caress him. “ They are ungrateful, notoriously, abominably ungrateful !”—this is the general cry. Now, in the name of Nemesis ! for what are they to be grateful? Where is the human being that ever conferred a benefit on Greek or Greeks? They are to be grateful to the Turks for their fetters, and to the Franks for their broken promises and lying counsels. They are to be grateful to the artist who engraves their ruins, and to the antiquary who carries them away: to the traveller whose janissary flogs them, and to the scribbler whose journal abuses them! This is the amount of their obligations to foreigners.
FRANCISCAN CONVENT, ATREYS,
January 23, 1811.
Amongst the remnants of the barbarous policy of the earlier ages, are the traces of bondage which yet exist in different countries; whose inhabitants, however divided in religion and manners, almost all agree in oppression.
The English have at last compassionated their negroes, and under a less bigoted government may probably one day release their Catholic brethren : but the interposition of foreigners alone can emancipate the Greeks, who, otherwise, appear to have as small a chance of redemption from the Turks, as the Jews have from mankind in general.
Of the ancient Greeks we know more than enough ; at least the younger men of Europe devote much of their time to the study of the Greek writers and history, which would be more usefully spent in mastering their own. Of the moderns, we are perhaps more neglectful than they deserve; and while every man of any pretensions to learning is tiring out his youth, and often his age, in the study of the language and of the harangues of the Athenian demagogues in favour of freedom, the real or supposed descendants of these sturdy republicans are left to the actual tyranny of their masters, although a very slight effort is required to strike off their chains.
To talk, as the Greeks themselves do, of their rising again to their pristine superiority, would be ridiculous; as the rest of the world must resume its barbarism, after re-asserting the sovereignty of Greece : but there seems to be no very great obstacle, except in the apathy of the Franks, to their becoming an useful dependency, or even a free state with a proper guarantee ;-under correction, however, be it spoken, for many and well-informed men doubt the practicability even of this.
The Greeks have never lost their hope, though they are now more divided in opinion on the subject of their probable deliverers. Religion recommends the Russians; but they have twice been deceived and abandoned by that power, and the dreadful lesson they received after the Muscovite desertion in the Morea has never been forgotten. The French they dislike ; although the subjugation of the rest of Europe will, probably, be attended by the deliverance of continental Greece. The islanders look to the English for succour, as they have very lately possessed themselves of the Ionian republic, Corfu excepted. But whoever appear with arms in their hands will be welcome; and when that day arrives, Heaven have mercy on the Ottomans, they cannot expect it from the Giaours.
But instead of considering what they have been, and speculating on what they may be, let us look at them as they are.
And here it is impossible to reconcile the contrariety of opinions: some, particularly the merchants, decrying the Greeks in the strongest language ;