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“Beneath the vintage moon's uncertain light,
And some faint stars that pierced the film of cloud,
DELPHI, An Elegy.
It was late, however, before we were fairly under chief cause of detention was the difficulty experienced in shipping our horses, which had to be hoisted into the caïque. To this unpleasant operation some submitted with very good grace, while others presented a sufficiently ridiculous appearance, by their plunges and struggles in mid air. H. and I had spent the morning in bathing in the Gulf, and visiting the chief shops of Vostitza.
At length we started, with a light but favorable breeze, heading almost directly eastward for Cape Andromachi. Had it blown fresher, we might without difficulty have made the Scala of Salona before nightfall. But the wind died away as we were rounding the Cape and entering the Crissæan Bay, at the bottom of which our destined harbor lay. We were becalmed, however, in the midst of a splendid panorama of
NECROPOLIS OF DELPHI.
mountains; Parnassus and Helicon being most conspicuous on the northern side, and Cyllene, Khelmos, and Olonos on the south. Our mattresses were spread on the deck, for the stench of the small cabin was quite intolerable.
In the morning at daybreak we found ourselves still becalmed, within a mile or two of last evening's position. Toward eight o'clock we passed the town of Galaxidi, and came to anchor opposite the Scala, or landing-place, of the large village of Salona, which lies a few miles in the interior. Here we experienced another delay of an hour or two before setting out for Delphi. We thought it not worth while to go on to Salona, the site of the ancient important town of Amphissa, and, accordingly, took a direct route through Crissa. The valley we were riding through was plentifully watered by streams descending from the hills, and covered with the most flourishing vineyards I had yet seen in Greece. It was not long before we entered a beautiful olive-grove. As usual, the trees are supplied with moisture by means of a system of canals, branching off into multitudes of shallow channels, one of which runs around each tree. Just beyond the grove, we rode by the village of Crissa, which shows some remains of remote antiquity in the way of polygonal walls. Delphi was situated in a valley beyond, and its walls ran along the crest of the hill back of Crissa, but a few hundred yards distant. For some minutes, as we approached them, we seemed to be traversing the cemetery of the city of the Pythian Apollo. Some of the sepulchres were mere sarcophagi cut in the solid rock, while others were chambers of more or less rude construction. We dismounted and entered one apparently the most perfect. It consisted of a single chamber, on three of whose sides were hewn receptacles for the dead, who had long since mouldered away. It is rare to find any traces of the covers of these sarcophagi. In the wall behind two of them were small niches, apparently designed for the reception of statues of infernal or tutelar deities, and perhaps of lamps kept burning there by the devotion of surviving friends. A second tomb we found quite similar to this, and beyond it a third excavation in the form of a semicircular seat, looking out upon the Delphic vale,
This celebrated valley opened upon our view suddenly as we rose rapidly toward the high and precipitous cliffs on the north. My first impression was a feeling of disappointment at its smallness, and I could scarce persuade myself that this was in reality the world-renowned seat of the oracle. Instead of any level piece of ground, Delphi was built on a steep slope, extending probably not over a mile in length, and certainly not half a mile wide from the rocks where we stood to the much more rugged heights on the opposite side. Down below runs the River Pleistus ; beyond rises the bold face of Mount Cirphis; and above, on the northeast, are two remarkable crags, in a cleft between which springs the Castalian fountain. Evidently the vale could scarcely be cultivated without the construction of terraces. Accordingly, we find numerous walls of various periods, built as well for this purpose as to serve for the support of the platforms of the numerous edifices. They form one of the most striking features of the spot..
“Still could I dimly trace the terraced lines,
Diverging from the cliffs on either side;
And rich devices of Hellenic pride.
“The place whence Gods and worshippers had fled;
Only, and they too tenantless, remain
The rather neat-looking village of Castri occupies the very site of the celebrated shrine of Apollo, of which few traces remain. A church of St. Elias is built on the foundation of an antique structure, perhaps the Palace of the Amphictyons"-a body which met alternately here and at Thermopylæ. On the highest portion of the slope we traced the stadium, so buried by the earth that continually washes down from the hills, that only two of the uppermost seats appear. The Delphic games were periodically celebrated here in honor of the god of divination and the oracle. The theatre was immediately below, but its form only is left imprinted on the soil; and near by is the fountain Cassotis. On the whole, the ruins of Delphi are unsatisfactory, with the exception of the famous fountain Castalia, which we visited next. It
was of old a curious, open basin, of oblong shape, cut out of the solid rock at the foot of a perpendicular cliff, in which there are still to be seen three niches for statues.
There was a secret channel behind, now laid open to view, the object of which was to draw off the superfluous water. In front of the fountain are three or four steps leading down into it. The side of the basin has been much broken, so that now the water runs through as a mere rill. Some Castriote women were washing clothes there, while others came from time to time to draw water. The whole interior, where the Pythia used to perform her ablutions before entering the temple, was filled with a thick growth of thrifty weeds and bushes, and bathing was entirely out of the question. We contented ourselves with tasting some of the sacred water.
This, then, was the famed seat of the oracle, where a frenzied girl, by her delirious exclamations, influenced the councils of distant monarchs, and decided the fates of the globe. Even in its desolation Delphi is beautiful, and no spot could be more appropriate for the shrine of a god than this secluded vale. But when its temples and princely palaces were in their pristine glory, few localities could have presented a more magnificent sight than burst upon
eye pilgrims as, in solemn procession, they crossed the hills that seem to isolate Delphi from the rest of the world. The small village of Castri has succeeded to all this glory. Its houses are, perhaps, somewhat more respectable than those of the surrounding places, and its inhabitants lay claim to some sort of superiority over their neighbors, the Arachovites, who are probably of Albanian origin.
Having satisfied ourselves by a visit to each of the remains of antiquity, and examining the inscriptions whose discovery cost the distinguished Müller his life,* we proceeded to the
* Contrary to the advice of his friends and acquaintances at Athens, he attempted a tour through Bæotia and Phocis in midsummer. At Delphi he interested himself much in superintending some excavations on a part of the site of the Temple of Apollo, which were rewarded with the discovery of very valuable inscriptions. Such was his impatience to learn their contents, that, without waiting for the cool of the day, or until they should be transported to some shady place, he sat down in the sun to copy them. A violent fever was the result of this imprudent
of the pagan
private house where we were toʻlodge. Nicholas meanwhile had been making inquiries respecting the practicability of attempting the ascent of Mount Parnassus. The result was that he brought us two or three men who pretended to be experienced guides. They deterred us from undertaking it, and urged that the great quantity of snow that had fallen of late would render it impossible to reach the summit of the mountain. We scarcely knew how much faith to put in their representations, remembering our deceitful guide at the Styx, and were not too sure that Nicholas (who disliked all mountain excursions) had not persuaded them to tell us this story. The event showed that our surmises were incorrect; but we had concluded at any rate to visit the Corycian Cave, and we should lose no time by visiting Parnassus likewise.
It was a clear morning that we chose for the ascent. At four o'clock we were climbing the mountain behind Delphi, having left orders for our agoyates to proceed with our horses and luggage directly to Arachova, a small village some distance above Castri on the Pleistus, where we were to descend. The mules hired for the occasion were by no means remarkable for elegance, and too much inclined to weakness of the knees. The only check upon their propensity to fall was a halter, and, to guide them, it was necessary occasionally to administer a kick to one side or other of the head, as occasion required. With the exception, however, of finding ourselves once or twice landed on our feet over 'our mules' heads, we suffered no great inconvenience.
We shortly reached an elevated table-land, two thousand feet or more above the level of the sea, at whose extent I was somewhat astonished. We rode some distance over it, and then dismounted to clamber up to the entrance of the Corycian Cave. It is a large cavern, of no great beauty, but deserving a visit for its historical associations. When Xerxes invaded Greece, as Herodotus tells us, the Delphians sent their wives and children over into Achaia, and themselves retired, some to Amphissa, others to the summits of Parnassus and the Corycian Cave. There they lay concealed until exposure, and he returned to Athens only to linger a few days, and be buried on the neighboring hill of Colonos.