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PROSPECTS OF EDUCATION. 87
Such are a few of the data by which we may form an opinion of the present intellectual position of Greece. The system of education, though carefully planned on French, and especially German models, is doubtless capable of considerable improvement; but it is truly wonderful, considering the rapidity of its rise. In Athens alone there are five thousand souls, out of a population of about thirty thousand, engaged in study. Under such circumstances, no one can deny that the present condition of Greece is full of promise. Seed has been planted that must yield a plentiful harvest. Greece needs, however, a higher tone of morality, and a purer form of religion. This is the dark side of the picture. Would that clearer indications of a change so much to be desired could be presaged in the future. Then might we confidently abide the time, when, though insignificant in size beside the overgrown states of modern Europe, Greece would wield an influence disproportioned to the extent of her territory or the number of her inhabitants. in Greece,” procured from the Bureau of the Minister of Public In
struction, through my friend Mr. Pittakes. It has never been published, I understand.
The ACROPOLIS RESTORED.
A WEDDING IN THE UPPER CIRCLES.
A MARRIAGE ceremony at Athens is a celebration very different from one in the country. In the former we find exhibited somewhat of European civilization and cultivation; while into the remote villages, the influence of foreign customs has not yet penetrated. There, people are married, as well as baptized and buried, according to the good old customs of their fathers. And yet, even in the city, so many characteristic peculiarities have been preserved, that they appear novel and interesting to a stranger. I was therefore greatly pleased upon receiving one day an invitation to the wedding of a young Greek couple, who were to be married a few evenings later.
The rite takes place generally at the house of the bridegroom, though in some provinces the parish church is resorted to. But in this respect, as in most others, each petty district has its own customs, immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. We went at an early hour to the scene of the evening's festivities. It was a mansion of the old style, built of stone and stucco, and facing upon one of the small streets that abound in the more ancient part of the town. A crowd
A WEDDING PARTY. 89
of the lower classes, who, though not among the invited, made bold to collect in force around the door, seemed to preclude our entrance. A small company at a drinking-shop some distance down the street were keeping up their spirits with frequent potations, and made merry with the music of a stringed instrument, whose notes grated harshly upon our ears. This entertainment was every now and then interrupted by the jocose comments of the party upon the appearance of the guests, as they successively came into the light cast by a flaming torch fastened near the door. When at length we had worked our way up the thronged stairs, we found that some sixty or eighty persons were already assembled in the moderately large parlor, which though it seemed rather bare of ornament and furniture to one who had come from the West, had some pretensions in common with the drawing-rooms of Paris and London. The assembled company, composed as usual of a much greater proportion of ladies than of gentlemen, were mostly dressed in the latest style of Paris fashions. Yet there was a sprinkling of gentlemen clad in the genuine Albanian dress, comprising your free-and-easy people who wish to pass for the more independent class of society, and scorn to adopt the perpetually changing mode. There were not wanting a considerable number of pretty faces among the ladies (who, according to the common practice, congregated on one side of the room); but it was a beauty that consisted rather in freshness of color, and a good healthy look, than in delicacy of feature. If, however, fame speaks truly, some of the color is borrowed, and the belle of the ball-room makes but a sorry figure the next morning. All the tight lacing in the world could not give an Athenian young lady the wasp-like contour which is the admiration of French dressmakers and misses in their teens. Disguise it as they may, there is a tendency to embonpoint among the ladies, many of whom waddle about with a grace which would seem charming in the eyes of our Dutch progenitors. The men, on the other hand, are a lean, lank race, whose dark complexions acquire an additional touch of ferocity from the formidable mustaches which, when their hands are not otherwise employed, they may be seen twirling by the hour.
The company were all assembled, and on the tip-toe of expectation, when the bridegroom and the bride entered, and took their stand at the further extremity of the room. Each of them held a long, lighted waxen taper, and the groomsman and bridesmaid carried similar ones. The bride, arrayed in a white satin dress, covered with lace, and having for a headdress a wreath of flowers, from behind which a long white veil hung down over her shoulders, looked charming—as what bride does not? She bore the classic name of Athena. The bridegroom was dressed entirely in Frank costume. The priests came in at the same time with the couple—or, more properly, there were present at the beginning of the service two priests, with a deacon and a young man who read the responses, and who corresponded to the enfant de chaour of the Latin Church.
There are two distinct services in the Greek Church pertaining to this ceremony; and the rite of marriage can not take place unless the parties have been previously betrothed. Sometimes, however, as in this instance, the one service takes place immediately before the other. The liturgy was read by one of the priests from an elegantly-bound service-book. In one part of the ceremony he stopped, and taking up a ring from the small table, on which were deposited the various utensils which the deacon had brought in, he thrice made the sign of the cross over the book. Then he touched it to the forehead of the bridegroom and to that of the bride. Last of all, he placed it successively upon the finger, first of one, and then of the other, after divers crossings performed in the air.
When the parties were thus lawfully betrothed, there was a short pause; and then the bishop, whom the relatives had invited to officiate, in order to give more brilliancy to the wedding, entered the room, and the priests hastened to do him homage. His ordinary episcopal costume consists of a black cloak and gown, and the clerical cap, over which a black veil hangs down behind as a distinguishing mark of his office. But on this occasion his head was covered with a crown, and he carried a heavy silver crozier, such as is only to be seen in the Greek Church–Roman Catholic bishops rarely appearing in public with it. The handsome dresses of
MARRIAGE CEREMONY, 91
the priests added to the singularity of the scene. The bishop now took a principal part in the services, reading from a book of solid silver binding, which one of the priests held before him. Whenever he found it necessary to lay aside his crozier, one of the attendant ecclesiastics took it, at the same time kissing his hand; and when he resumed it, the same ceremony was gone through, to the no small disgust of those of us who were not accustomed to such abject servility. The service was protracted, and we became rather weary of it; for it was chiefly made up of prayers, hurried through, and of passages of Scripture, mumbled over in such a manner as to be quite unintelligible. Some portions of the written form are in themselves so utterly senseless, that no one can have the least idea of what they mean. The great and essential part of the rite was the crowning of the couple. The crowns were, in this case, merely wreaths of artificial flowers, numbers of which may be seen in the shops every day. The groomsman held one over the head of the bridegroom, and the bridesmaid held a similar one over the bride's head during the whole time, and they appeared quite fatigued before the end of the ceremony was reached. At last, the proper moment arriving, the bishop took one of the wreaths, touching it to the forehead of the bridegroom, and afterward to that of the bride, and made with it the sign of the cross between the couple. This he repeated three times, at the same time reciting the words that follow : “Thou, the servant of the Lord, Gregory, art crowned (or married) to the servant of the Lord, Athena, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” He then crowned the bridegroom with this wreath, and with the other performed the same ceremony in respect to the bride. Subsequently, the groomsman, who is usually the godfather, or honnos of the bridegroom, and is expected to be hereditary sponsor, exchanged the wreaths, and then replaced them on the heads of the couple. A cup was next handed by the bishop, first to the man, and then to the woman, and each of them drank a portion of the wine it contained. This very pleasing ceremony was symbolic of the obligation that both parties assume to participate equally in all the pleasures and sufferings of