« السابقةمتابعة »
of the Greek states. Every one of these was situated in a plain, bounded by mountains, whether entirely surrounded by them, as Orchomenus and Sparta,—or on a long strip of coast, left by their receding from the shore, as in Elis and Achaia,—or in plains of which the fourth side was open to the sea, as in Attica and Argolis. A solitary fortress or a retired sanctuary at times interrupted the intervening tracts of mountain-country, but otherwise, with the exception of the wild uplands of Arcadia and Doris, they seem to have been always very nearly as desolate as they are at present. Between one plain and another Pausanias has found almost as little to record as would a traveller of modern times6. With these broad and rugged, as well as lofty walls, separating the nearest neighbours from each other, we can well conceive how the infant states would grow up in perfect isolation, especially in cases where they owed their origin to Eastern colonists, who would plant them as near the shore on which they landed as was consistent with safety from the pirates who then infested the Grecian seas. Each of these states thus secluded between the mountains and the sea, would, with the rapid development which seems one of the peculiarities of the Hellenic race, attain its full growth, and form its character, before any external influence could have reached it; and the moral barriers erected in the peculiarities of tastes and customs thus acquired, would be as impassable in the later, as the physical barrier had been in the earlier stages of its existence. Accordingly, every idea and institution would take its shape and colour from the atmosphere immediately surrounding it; the tendency to draw from native resources would be doubly encouraged; and whereas in modern times rarity has generally been made the symbol of honour and value, in Greece every thing seems to have been precious in proportion as it was of home-growth. It was the bay-tree of Delphi—the olive of Attica—the light green pine-tree of the Isthmus—the oleaster of Olympia—which in the eyes of these respective states was most reverenced and cherished.
* This may account for a fact to which
allusion will be made again; viz that
whilst the names of towns have mostly survived, those of the mountains have utterly perished. A brief but excellent
sketch of the peculiar features of the plains and rivers of Greece may be found in Dr. Forchhammer's paper on the plain of Troy, in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. xu. p. 28.
The sentiment of Aristotle, navra ds icdXAiora m<f>vKev, found an echo in every Greek heart: whatever nature dictated, even in a whisper, that they instantly heard and obeyed; whatever she seemed to forbid, that they looked upon with horror. To triumph over natural obstacles was to them not praiseworthy, but the reverse. Nero, in exact accordance with that spirit of the Roman empire, of which he was the exaggerated representative, would have cut through the Isthmus; but the Greeks saw in it only a daring effort of impiety, deservedly frustrated by signs of Divine wrath. Near neighbours as were the Athenians to the Boeotians, yet the guardian goddess of Attica (according to the well-known legend) threw away in disgust the musical pipe, whose use was in fact almost peculiar to the Boeotian marshes, of which the most pleasing characteristic still consists in the graceful stems and silvery tufts of the waving sea of reeds that first suggested the thought. Unexhausted and easy of access as were the Pentelic quarries, and familiar as every Greek must have been with the magnificent purposes to which their materials were turned in the buildings of Athens, yet, with a few exceptions, the temples in the rest of Greece seem to have been built of the rough stone of the immediate neighbourhood. Corinth, the chief, if not the sole commercial state of Greece, became so, not like Venice, by her own spirit in spite of her natural disadvantages, but by her central and maritime position in spite of herself. Boeotia yielded without a struggle to the stupifying and enervating influence of the fogs of her marshes and the fertility of her soil. Sparta at once moulded her institutions into conformity with the rugged hills
among which she was placed: Tiraprav eXa^er ravrav Koir/ifi was
the advice which the circle of enclosing mountains must have instilled into the legislator's mind—a fortress, and nothing more she was by nature—a fortress, and nothing more, she was therefore to be rendered by man. Lastly, Attica, as we said, was most emphatically entitled to the glory of a local and indigenous character. It is impossible, after leaving any of the adjacent provinces of Greece, to stand at the mouth of any of the mountain-passes which command a view of the plain of Athens, and not be struck by the contrast of the luxuriant vegetation which
we have left behind, with the naked hills and barren plain which we see before us, relieved only by the long stream of olives stretching down from Parnes to the sea. There we see the sterility by which Thucydides accounted for its early security and rapid civilization—there we see the Saronic gulf, with its islands, tempting it to maritime conquest7.
Hence arose two of the most singular phases of Greek History, each without a parallel.
In no other country have so many states existed without a federal union, or so vast a variety of character been developed within such narrow limits.
What is true of the absence of internal communication in Greece by reason of its mountains, is true of the absence of external communication by reason of its sea. It is impossible to conceive a continental country more completely insular in its position than Greece. The girdle of islands which surround it —the deep inlets with which its coast is indented in all directions—the almost impassable barrier which the wild population of the Albanian hills have in all ages opposed to access from the mainland of Europe in the interior—have made it a complete type of maritime geography. From the earliest times it was looked upon by .the East as the "Isles of the Sea;" and in later times the names of "Isthmus" and "Archipelago," originally peculiar to Corinth and the ^Egean sea, have become generic names in every part of the habitable globe. This watery barrier—whilst it certainly acted in the first instance as the means of conveying to the shores of Greece the more enterprising adventurers from without, and gave a vent to its own energies
7 What is true of Attica generally is also true of its subdivisions. The view from the top of Hymettus or Pentelicus at once discloses the character of those factions, whose names in themselves may seem to savour of confusion. The Pedim are evidently the occupants of the two fiat plains of Athens and Eleusis —the only two plains, in the strict sense of the word (with the exception of the little plain of Marathon), which exist in Attica. Paralia, the long strip of land
along the south-eastern coast, is flat, but so straitly pressed between Hymettus and the sea as to be little more than a broad beach. Mesogtea (which retains its name) is the low table-land enclosed within the ranges of Pentelicus, Hymettus, and the long line of hills which run nearly from Marathon to Sunium, and is thus almost cut off from the sea; the Diacrii were the rough inhabitants of the low connecting highlands which unite Parnes with Pentelicus.
when they were sufficiently developed from within—yet must have contributed to the independent growth of the seed once received, at an era when navigation was dreaded rather than welcomed as a channel of communication.
If the study of Greek topography tends to fix in our minds the nature of the limits of Greece, it also tends, more powerfully than any thing else, to prevent our transferring to Greek history the notions derived from the vast dominion and colossal power of modern or even of Roman times. The impression of the small size of Greek states, to any one who measures human affairs by a standard not of physical but of moral grandeur, will be the very opposite to a feeling of contempt. No Hindoo notions of greatness, as derived from mere magnitude, can find any place in the mind of one who has fully realized to himself the fact, that within the limits of a two days' journey lie the vestiges of four such cities as Sicyon, Corinth, Megara, and Athens; and that the scanty stream of the Ilissus, the puny mountains of Parnassus and Cithaeron, have attained a fame which the Missisippi and the Himalayas can never hope to equal. We thus learn also fully to appreciate the difficulty which the Greek philosophers had in conceiving the idea of national unity in a state consisting of more than 10,000 citizens. We thus realize the vast importance which each individual must have possessed in influencing the fortunes of the commonwealth, the suspicion which must have been entertained against every one who held aloof from public affairs, the success and rapidity with which a revolution might be effected by means of a single confiscation or massacre.
In this point of view it may be worth while to notice two confusions which a knowledge or a sight of the localities themselves effectually obviates, viz. the application of our modern notions to the navigation or the fortifications of ancient history. With regard to the first, it cannot be too often impressed upon the student of Greek geography, that, with the exception of the Alpheus, there is, we believe, no river in Greece proper which admits of navigation even in boats. What is true of the Ilissus, is true, more or less, of all, that they are mere torrents, full after heavy rains, but throughout the greater part of the year fordable, and in summer many of them perfectly dry. They are, it has been truly observed by Dr. Ulrichs, noranoi, giving opportunity to drink, and no more. The names of "flumen" or "fluvius" are as little appropriate to them, as the ships which Statins introduces on the Ismenus. Under the same head may be considered the small dimensions of their harbours, which are well described by Dr. Arnold in his notes to Thucydides, viii. 96, when he compares them to the little basons in creeks of the Swiss and Italian lakes. Sometimes, as in the case of Syracuse and Pylus, if the bay of Navarino be indeed the harbour of Pylus, the modern and ancient notions would correspond; but the fact, that even in its earlier times Athens could have been satisfied with the little oval creeks of Phalerum and Munychia, is enough to indicate the vast difference between Greek and English navigation.
The aspect of the Greek citadels reminds us no less forcibly that their original destination was not so much military, as social and religious—that their character was not that of a fortress for the accommodation of garrisons only, but in early times the seat of the infant city, and in all times the home of the ancestral gods of the people. Mitford's forgetfulness of this distinction8 naturally led him to the erroneous conclusion, that Epipolae, as a higher point than Ortygia, must therefore have been the citadel of Syracuse, and that therefore Dionysius, as fixing his habitation in the latter, could not really have been a tyrant. In like manner, it is with difficulty that a traveller visiting Greece for the first time, can be persuaded (of what is undoubtedly the fact) that the long undulating promontory, south of the present town of Corfu, and not the two pointed peaks of the modern citadel, formed the old Acropolis of Corcyra; and the same notion would lead him to believe, were the existing ruins destroyed, that the towering height of Lycabettus, and not the little square rock which nestles at its foot, was the Acropolis of Athens, did he not remember (what every hour of increased familiarity with the scene would of itself teach him) that it was according to the express statement of Thucydides, (n. 15), not only the citadel, but the original n<5Xw9 itself.
8 As shewn in Arnold's History of I 9 If we can carry back our thoughts Rome, I. 462, 466. I into Roman antiquity, to the time when