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“These massive walls,
It was between six and seven in the evening of one of the first days of April before I could make the necessary arrangements for a tour with a party intending to start on the morrow for Nauplia. Mr. Newton, late an antiquarian attached to the British Museum, but recently appointed Vice-Consul for the Island of Mitylene, and C., son of a prominent London publisher, were to be my companions, and we had engaged Demetrius, familiarly called Demetri, for our guide. By the time we had fully concluded to make the excursion, it was wellnigh dark; and yet neither Demetri nor I had procured our passes, without which we were liable to be stopped at any
moment on our way, and perhaps subjected to considerable trouble in clearing ourselves from the suspicion of being either robbers or vagrants. The passport office was closed; but the timely disbursement of two or three drachms readily opened it for us.
A fresh difficulty presented itself; for not a blank pass could be found in the office. The ingenuity of the clerk easily surmounted this obstacle. An old pass which had seen service was discovered; the name upon it was transmuted to what might be supposed to bear a slight resemblance to mine; and the words “ with his man, Demetrius,” were added. So were we permitted to visit Argolis.
The next morning saw us on our way to Piræus, by the Macadamized road, which for three-fourths of the distance runs in a direct line across the meadows. The German surveyors chose for its substruction the northern of the Long Walls of Themistocles, and every violent rain uncovers temporarily the upper course of stones. Our driver did himself credit, and we reached the harbor in three quarters of an bour, and in ample time for the little Austrian steamer upon which we took passage for Nauplia.
The weather was cloudy and dull when we started; but as we advanced the atmosphere grew clearer, and we saw with great distinctness the shores of the Saronic Gulf, upon which we entered. Just beyond the narrow entrance of the harbor, our attention was drawn to the simple monument of Miaulis; and only a few feet farther were the fragments of what popular tradition has dignified with the name of Themistocles' Tomb. Whether this be the exact spot of his sepulture or not, the bones of the great general of ancient times, and those of the most famous admiral of modern Greece, lie mouldering on the shores of the Ægean, within a few yards of each other. Themistocles, it is well known, was buried by the sea-side, in full view of the Straits of Salamis, the scene of his most splendid victory over the Persian fleet.
We altered our course as soon as we had cleared the promontory of Munychia, and, leaving on our right the island of Salamis, headed for the eastern cape of Argolis. This brought us within a very short distance of the Temple of Ægina, dedicated of old to Jupiter Panhellenius. Through the captain's
glass we could distinguish without difficulty its standing col
It is one of the most perfect edifices out of Athens itself; but we saw it to little advantage, and I reserved a visit for a future occasion.
There were quite a number of passengers on board our little steamer, and as the day was fair and mild, every body congregated on deck. Indeed, the trip being a short one, most of them were deck passengers. The Greeks are so talkative and
of access, that it is not difficult to make a number of acquaintances in a short time. Our company was a lively one, too. As they had nothing else to do, most of them amused themselves by playing cards. One party of eight or ten were seated in Turkish fashion near the helm, forming a circle around a cloth, on which figured a cold leg of mutton and several bottles of wine. The men helped themselves plentifully, and, disdaining the use of forks, cut the meat with their jack-knives, or tore it to pieces with their fingers. These were evidently all from the same neighborhood, and members of the same clan. Some had that free-and-easy look, united to a considerable share of fierceness, that distinguishes the old kleft; others, who were younger, belonged to the no less energetic, but more tractable class, that is now springing up to take the place of the mountain brigand. I fell into conversation with some students of the University that were returning home to spend the Easter Week vacation. Like all the rest of Greek students, they were poor, and evidently self-made men. Another set was collected around a musician, who afforded entertainment by playing on an instrument not unlike the banjo, and by singing some country songs.
There were but two cabin passengers besides ourselves, and they were members of the House of Representatives. One of them, Mr. Axelos, who represents the city of Nauplia, was disposed to be very communicative. He informed me that an election was about to be held at Argos the next day, or the day after, and that he was going thither to attend it. Being a partisan of the king, he seemed to be commissioned to procure as favorable a result for the ministry as he could. The officer to be chosen on this occasion was the demarch, or mayor of the city, the most important municipal authority. The
mode of election, as Mr. Axelos described it, is a most curious
The people choose twelve men as electors, and twelve more as substitutes. The first twelve choose from their own number four men with their substitutes; and finally three candidates are selected by these for the office of mayor. Their names are presented to the king or ministry, and these designate the one who shall be mayor. Out of the three candidates, I presume, the monarch may safely depend on finding one that will advocate the ministerial measures, for the sake of gaining office. And, of course, in so complicated a procedure, the government will find abundant opportunity for wielding an influence over the election. It would be too great a stretch of charity to believe that my friend, Mr. Axelos, had no part to take in the election at Argos, as he was furnished by the ministry with an order for an escort of soldiers through the dangerous pass from Argos to Corinth, of which he invited me to avail myself in returning to Athens.
By eleven o'clock we had crossed the Saronic Gulf, passing close to the island of Poros, remarkable of late years for the burning of the Greek fleet in its harbor; but more famous under the name of Calauria, as the scene of the death of Demosthenes. It is a bleak, barren rock, without the sign of a habitation on this side. We kept on our course, near to the main land, and inside of the island of Hydra, which rises high and rocky from the sea. The town itself is divided by a ridge, which, running out into the sea, forms two harbors, the smaller serving for quarantine. The house of Condurriotti, the famous Hydriote, stands on the narrow tongue of land between the two, and was pointed out to me. The commerce of Hydra has never recovered from the shock it received during the Revolutionary war. The prizes captured did not compensate for the great drains upon its resources. Since the Revolution, its neighbor, Spezzia, has regained some of its former importance; but Hydra has never sent forth such extensive fleets as those which it sent annually into the Black Sea. The privileges enjoyed by the islanders were so singular that they had little reason to complain of the tyranny of the Turks. Hydra was almost independent of the Porte, governing itself, permitting no infidel to set foot on its soil, and merely paying
HYDRA, THE HOME OF LIBERTY.
a small annual tribute. Commerce has usually the effect of removing national prejudice, and of making men more tolerant of the religion, manners, and customs of their neighbors; but at Hydra it seems to have had a result directly the reverse. A Smyrniote lady at Athens told me that her father once nearly lost his life for presuming to enter Hydra in Frank dress. So inveterate was the dislike entertained for the foreign costume, that he was pursued and hooted at in the streets, and compelled to take refuge in a house. It was a characteristic outburst of patriotism that led the admiral Tombazi to reply to one who exclaimed “What a spot you have chosen for your country!” “It was liberty that chose the spot, not we.” But along with this noble sentiment, and with others distinguishing them above the rest of their countrymen, the Hydriotes possess a considerable measure of the sordid love of gain. It is said that there actually existed in their city, at the time of the Revolution, three mints for the manufacture of counterfeit Turkish coin, which was taken to Turkey, and there put in circulation.*
Our steamboat stopped but a few moments off Hydra, to land passengers, and then continued its course until, coming between Spezzia and the continent, we entered the Gulf of Argos. The town of Spezzia is less picturesquely situated than Hydra; but the island is lower and not so rocky. The harbor is long and narrow. The remainder of the afternoon was spent in steaming up the Gulf, with the bare rocks of the Argolic peninsula on the right, and the equally precipitous hills of Laconia on the other side, coming down to the very margin of the water. After turning a promontory, our steamer anchored directly between Nauplia and the little fort of St. Nicholas, or Bourtzi, on a small island opposite the city.
Nauplia is finely situated, and appears to great advantage from the water. The houses are generally built of white limestone, with tiled roofs but slightly inclined. They rise gradually one above another on the side of a hill that forms the end of the promontory, and is crowned by the fort of Itchkali. But these works are slight compared with those on the Palamede, a hill 740 feet in height, which commands the town
* Howe's Greek Revolution, p. 155, note in fine.