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MONASTERY OF PHONIA.
three small channels through which the lake once found an outlet have been periodically choked with sand, wood, stone, and other materials. All efforts to clear them have failed, but the lake has ceased rising for the present. The monk says that there has been a sort of fatality about the matter. The very year that the Revolution commenced in Greece (1821) the waters began rising, and continued to do so until the coming of King Otho, when there ensued five years of prosperity.* The southern end of the lake is the deepest. Altogether the old man was very much inclined to repine at the dispensations of Providence, which, he said, had reduced the monastery to such straits as to render it too poor even to support an abbot.
* That faithful chronicler, Pausanias, assures us that of old the waters rose to such a height that they inundated the city of Pheneus, and that marks of the point they reached still remained on the sides of the mountains. The inhabitants attributed the construction of the subterranean canal to that convenient workman, Hercules, who had freed the neighboring Lake of Stymphalus from its horrid birds.
THE rain was falling without intermission when we rose on the morrow,
and it seemed quite useless to undertake to proceed on our journey. Meanwhile, our friend the monk insisted on showing us the chapel, or church, standing quite detached from the rest of the buildings. It was one of the neatest in Greece; and the fresco paintings upon the walls, though executed in the last century, were still brilliant and pleasing. Our admiration was most excited by the sight of the shrine separating the holy place, where stands the “sacred table” (the Greeks do not call it an altar), from the body of the church. It was of gilt wood very highly ornamented and carved, and said by the monks to be the richest work of the kind in the country.* The conversation turning upon the priesthood, I elicited my cicerone's sentiments as to education. “Young priests,” said he, “rarely go to the University to study. There are schools at Nauplia and some other
* From an inscription, it appears that the monastery was founded in a valley midway between its present site and Phonia in the year 1334, and was removed thence on occasion of a great overflow of the lake. The church was built in 1754 or 1768, I forget which. There are but few books in the establishment, and no regular library.
places, where they can obtain quite as much learning as they will need, and it is found advisable to give them no more. Philosophy atheizes them; and by the time they have completed their academic course, they are but too ready to abandon the sacred office."
Before long the rain held up, and we thought that we might with prudence venture out. We had wished to reward our attentive monk for his kindness, besides the remuneration given to the monastery for our entertainment. Out of motives of delicacy, my companions had insisted on giving it to him under the form of a contribution to the church he had been showing us. Just as we were leaving the gate, we were witness to an animated discussion between him and our Nicholas, from whom he was endeavoring to extort payment for some fire-wood. When he was told that we had already much more than canceled that score, he averred he could never think of touching a "lepton" of our donation, which must be strictly applied to sacred purposes.
It was out of the question for us to reach Calavryta that day. The best we could do was to make a short advance, and spend the night at the village of Solos. On our way, we enjoyed for a time a clear view of Mount Khelmos on the left, and of Cyllene, or Zyria, on the right, both of them thickly covered with recent snow. But the clouds were not long in collecting about the mountain tops, whence they rapidly descended and deluged us with rain. Altogether, we had a dismal afternoon of it. We were glad when, after passing the villages of St. Barbara and Zaroukla, we turned into a branch of the same valley, and entered one of three or four villages picturesquely perched on its sides. The small stream running through it is supplied by the Styx. We wandered through Solos for some time in quest of accommodation for the night, and, finding no suitable house, were quite at a loss what to do. Just at that moment, an officer of the army
issued from his door close by, and, as soon as he heard there were some strangers hunting for quarters, pressed us with much cordiality to make our stay with him. His house was by far the best in the place. Our portable tables, beds, and chairs, were not put in requisition for the night, and we were
favored with the presence of our host and a nephew of his at meal-time. The young man was able to give us important information respecting the condition and history of this district. He prided himself not a little upon the patriotic exploits of his father, whose name he pointed out to me in a recentlypublished work of Speliades on the Greek Revolution. Nicholas X. Soliotes was one of the original conspirators, to whose vigorous plans and no less energetic execution of them, the successful outbreak of popular vengeance was in great measure due. As soon as it was agreed to commence the momentous struggle, he was the first to draw his sword from the scabbard and fall upon the unsuspecting Turks. The first man slain in the Revolution fell under his hands; and he had increased the number of his victims to eleven before many days elapsed. When he rose to leave, our young friend invited us to pay him a visit at his own house; but, besides the fatigue we experienced, we were scarcely in trim for an evening call. Subsequently, our guide warmly censured us for declining; and assured us that we had missed a capital opportunity of seeing several very pretty Greek girls, the daughters of the revolutionary hero.
I was much struck with the simplicity of the lamps in ordinary use. The shape has scarcely varied from remote antiquity; if any thing, it is even more simple than formerly. One that I noticed here consisted of a small, oval tin saucer, with a short spout at one end. On this the wick rested, the greater part being coiled in the bottom of the saucer, which was half full of oil. At the other end, an upright strip of tin, bent above, served as a handle and support... This sort of lamp may be seen in almost every shop, except where a still more primitive method is resorted to. In the shoemakers' stalls, torches or tar lights are employed. No whale-oil is to be found in the kingdom. Olive-oil is universally burned in the lamps.
Our baggage left early in the morning for Calavryta by the direct route. We hired a guide to conduct us to the celebrated fall of the Styx; for Nicholas did not feel sufficiently familiar with the way to lead us thither. We followed up the same ravine in which Solos is situated, keeping far above
its bottom, until we reached the foot of Mount Khelmos. The path generally ran on a ledge of earth that threatened every moment to give way under our feet. Our guide, a peasant from the valley, who should certainly have been accustomed to tramping through the snow, wished to lead us along an easy path, by which we could advance but a short clistance, and then gain only a distant view of the Styx. He assured us most vehemently that the other road was quite impassable on account of the snow. The truth was, that, in consequence of the recent violent storms, it was difficult to get up high on the mountains, whose summits were covered with fresh and deep drifts. We insisted, however, on trying the more difficult path leading up the left bank of the Styx, whose fall is visible from below. After traversing a rugged tract, and surmounting the rocky hills at the base of the mountain, we commenced the ascent of the mountain itself. Leaving our horses, we proceeded about an hour, crossed several beds of snow of limited extent, and succeeded in reaching a spot whence we could gain an excellent view of the stream. Any nearer approach would have been exceedingly difficult at this season of the year, even had we possessed a guide worthy of the name of a mountaineer.
The far-famed “River Styx” is composed of two rills of water springing from the melting snows on the topmost level of Mount Khelmos, a few feet from each other. They run but a short distance before coming to the verge of a frightful precipice several hundred feet in height, over whose perpendicular face they leap at one bound into the chasm below. The amount of water they contain is very small, and long before they reach the ground they are transformed, as it were, into a thin spray by the resistance of the atmosphere. The cascade is surpassed in point of height and volume by many waterfalls in Switzerland; but various circumstances have combined to give it, both in ancient and modern times, the reputation of possessing supernatural qualities. The locality is wild and secluded, far from the dwellings of men. From the valley an indistinct view of it can be gained at one or two points only; its base, if accessible at all, is quite out of reach during three-fourths of the year, and the springs are covered