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BEFORE leaving the retired hamlet of Georgitzana, we had ocular proof of the sensation excited by our arrival among the rustic population of this place, lying off from the usual lines of travel. At one time I counted no fewer than thirty-eight persons, chiefly women and children, all apparently intent upon seeing the strangers. The female part of this assemblage, engaged in spreading the news or scandal of the village, were scarcely less busy with the spindle and distaff, their never-failing resource in moments of leisure.
From Georgitzana our route lay in a northwesterly direction, across the hilly and undulating country separating Lacedæmonia from Arcadia, and kept Mount Taygetus on the left. A more frequented road leads to the pass of Leondari, which we did not visit. The country traversed was well wooded and picturesque, but sustains a very small population. The maple, the plane-tree, the wild olive, the oak, and the walnut abound. Cattle, though remarkably small, were more numerous than in any part of Greece I had hitherto crossed. We came to no khan on our way, and accordingly rested at noon under some large plane-trees near a cool spring
of water, whose stream finds its way to the Eurotas. At about three in the afternoon we began our descent toward Megalopolis, which occupies the centre of a large valley toward the southwestern corner of Arcadia. It appeared exceedingly beautiful; the more so, perhaps, because the sterility of the rocky mountains that gird it is concealed by a growth of forest trees, in some places quite dense. The valley seemed to be some eight miles long by six wide. Its soil was very fertile, and cultivated with wheat. A single cypress, rising above the centre of Sinano, guided us thither; for during much of the time there was no road to follow. At an intermediate village we halted for a moment, while Nicholas accosted the Demark, and endeavored to obtain lodgings for ourselves and our suite. He was urgent in his claim, and supported it by representations of our fancied greatness and high rank in our respective countries. But it may be fairly questioned whether his success was attributable to any credit given by the Demark to our guide's high-sounding praises, or to the hospitable disposition which is common to all Greeks.
Riding about ten minutes to the north of the village of Sinano, we reached the site of Megalopolis. It occupied both banks of the Helisson, a small creek tributary to the Alpheus, which it joins a few miles to the westward. The ruins most distinctly traceable were those of the Theatre, the largest building of the kind, as Pausanias tells us, in Greece. It seems to have been not less than four hundred and eighty feet in diameter, and capable of seating some ten or fifteen thousand spectators. The opposite bank is covered with a confused mass of walls and rubbish, among which the site of the ancient forum has been sought. But it was sufficient for us to know that here it was that Epaminondas, that greatest of ancient statesmen, founded a city designed to act as a check on the overgrown power of Sparta. Within its walls were collected, by his advice, a great part of the inhabitants of almost every town in Arcadia, who gave to their new home the emphatic name of the “Great City.”
While my companions were indulging in a bath in the cool waters of the Helisson, I was accosted by a couple of Greeks of the better class, who proved to be a justice of the peace,
and the teacher of the public school. The latter, a fine-looking young man, told me that he had left the University at Athens only last year, and he appeared much interested in learning that I had been attending lectures there. Some of his scholars were with him, looking at the remains of ancient works, with which they had probably been familiar ever since infancy. They were unusually polite, and gave us considerable information about the place, whose name they pronounced as if it were written Shinano, by a corruption which in Greece, as in Italy, seems to be confined to certain localities. On hearing that I came from America, they plied me with geographical questions. They seemed especially pleased to find out that our continent was actually on the opposite side of the globe, as they had been taught at school, but had scarcely been able to believe. Accompanied by quite a number of our new friends, we retraced our steps to Sinano, where, meanwhile, suitable provision had been made for our entertainment. On the way thither, a shepherd-boy, who was feeding his flock near our path, ran up to offer some small copper coins for sale. They were scarcely legible; but he assured us he had picked them up himself, and so we took them. The consequence was, that within an hour the door of our lodging-place was besieged by a host of curiosity-mongers, bringing with them various articles of interest, which they begged us to purchase.
In starting from Megalopolis on the next day, we turned to the southwest ; and after some miles' ride over the plain, came to the mountains that divide Arcadia from Messenia. The passage was long and difficult, the descent being very tedious into the plain. About half way, our progress was impeded by a procession, or what seemed to be such, coming up the mountain in the opposite direction. Women and children were generally huddled together on the backs of mules, which were besides overloaded with quantities of clothes, cooking utensils, fire-arms, and, in short, with every thing necessary to furnish the hut of a Moreote tsimpanes. It turned out that we had met one of those yearly migrations of the nomadic shepherds, who in the spring forsake their villages in the plain to pasture their flocks or cultivate the higher lands. On inquiry, we
found that the caravan was composed of as many as fifty-six families, and that the next day was to be their great annual feast in honor of St. George, who may be considered their patron saint. These migrations take place more or less generally in all parts of the country; even the husbandmen leaving their villages in the spring, and spending a few days or weeks in ploughing and sowing their arable lands on the mountains. This done, they descend to the plains, and perhaps have no farther occasion to return until their fields are ready for harvesting. For their accommodation, they usually erect a sum-. mer village-a rude collection of stone hovels, given up more than three fourths of the year to the vermin, which, from the slovenly habits of the people, are sufficiently numerous to form a large, if not respectable, population. The pass
is called Dervenia—a Turkish word signifying a defile—and is guarded by an effective corps of five or six soldiers, whom we found fast asleep within the guard-house. In Peloponnesus the soldiery find little occupation; for of late years robberies have scarcely occurred there, except in the neighborhood of Calamas. In Northern Greece they are morebusily employed; but, unfortunately, it is generally the case that when depredations are committed, the soldiers reach the scene of action just after the marauders have left; affording the villagers the poor consolation of a detachment quartered on them for several days.
Leaving the mountains, we entered upon the valley of Messenia, watered by the River Pamisus (now called Dipotamo), flowing into the Messenian Gulf. So well irrigated is this plain, and so fertile the soil, that it may doubtless be considered the garden of Greece, and almost every inch of ground is carefully cultivated. Mount Ithome forms the opposite side of the valley, but we found no road leading thither. Nicholas was not over anxious to look for one, but struck boldly at once through the fields in a “bee line” for the place of our destination. In spring, when the fields are ploughed, the farmer takes no pains to preserve the path of the preceding year, and expects that travelers will make a new one for themselves. No guide, therefore, can remember the location of the old road; and the common practice is to ride directly through
the fields, whether they be wheat, barley, or any thing else, without the least compunction. At first I was quite solicitous about the injury our horses' hoofs would occasion to the young grain; but as the cultivators we passed seemed quite indifferent to the matter, I soon lost all concern. This morning, however, our progress was frequently interrupted by numerous ditches for draining or irrigating the country; and we were obliged to skirt them until we could reach a favorable spot for leaping or fording.
We passed a village bearing the name of Meligala, but saw little in the appearance of its inhabitants to indicate the prosperity alluded to in its appellation (“milk and honey''). Soon after, the ascent began. Our baggage-horses and their drivers had meanwhile taken a circuitous but much easier road around the northern side of the mountain of Ithome, and were to stop, if they could find lodgings, at the small village of Mavromati, within the walls of the ancient Messene. At the notch separating Mount Ithome from the pointed but somewhat lower head of Mount Evan on the south, and just above a monastery, we dismounted, and left our horses with the guide, to take them down to the village.
On the lower part of Mount Evan began the first traces of the walls, where we noticed particularly a window of shape somewhat peculiar, and overgrown with bushes and thorny shrubs. Thence we followed the line of the fortifications, interrupted occasionally by towers and gates, running up the crest of Mount Ithome. The ascent was very tedious. The path is steep, and the elevation very considerable.
Over a stony ground covered with bushes of the prickly oak, which flourishes here, in connection with the yellow flowered broom, and under a burning sun, it was, perhaps, three quarters of an hour before we stood on the summit. This is occupied by an old ruined convent, whose ivy-grown walls we climbed to enjoy a view extending over the whole of Messenia. To the south and southeast lay the wide Gulf of Messenia or Coron, bounded on the east by the highlands of Maina, as far as Cape Grosso, by which all farther prospect was cut off. Nearer came the town of Calamas, on the shore of the gulf, and the intervening luxuriant plain watered by the Pamisus, which