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and such as it met the view of Socrates and Demosthenes—such in its general outline it is still. Diminutive as is the rock of the Acropolis, yet there is something in the queen-like stateliness of its form, in the perpetual brightness of its sunlit crown of temples, in the central position which it holds amidst the sweep of surrounding hills, that stamps it at once as the "eye of Greece," as the point to which all the other features of the landscape, the manycoloured plain, on whose "light soil" it stands, the "pure air" of the transparent atmosphere which encompasses it, the glittering wall of the ^Egean sea, which seems to rise behind it, and the graceful outline of the distant mountains of Argolis which form the girdle of its horizon—converge as towards their common centre.
What has been said of the reality given to the earlier history of Greece by the topography of Attica, is still more true of the topography of Argolis. The only vestige of comparatively advanced history which the plain of Argos exhibits, is indeed one of deep interest; and remarkable, as being one of the latest and least known of recent discoveries. It is we believe about ten years ago since General Gordon first stumbled upon the remains of the famous temple of the Argive Hera, which even Col. Leake had constantly missed, and which had been always overlooked by travellers, because they imagined that the To 'EXAijwica to which the peasants pointed were the remains of Mycenae, lying much in the same direction. Yet there upon the slope of the hills, as described by Herodotus and Pausanias, he found the Cyclopean substructions of the earlier temple, which was burnt down in the Peloponnesian war by the carelessness of the priestess Chryseis, and the more recent foundations of the second temple on a terrace immediately below it, with the irresistible evidence of two marble peacocktails in its gateway. Ancient as these ruins are, they are yet the most modern in the neighbourhood. In the plain of Argos we feel that we are in the region not. of historical, but of mythological and poetical Greece. The rapid succession of rocky insulated eminences along the level pasture bring at once to our minds the age in which kings were chieftains, and cities were fortresses; the lofty citadel of Nauplia retaining in its name of Palamedi an unbroken tradition, not otherwise known even from ancient, writers, of its unfortunate founder—the Larissa of Argos, with the rough dry bed of the Charadrus at its foot, in which the Argive people met in solemn assembly to stone their unworthy generals— the low oblong rock of Tiryns, whose enormous Cyclopean walls are probably the only works of man recorded by Homer which are yet in existence. And greatest of all, Mycenae, on which it may be as well to dwell more at length, as no account that we have seen does justice to its remarkable character.
At the very extremity of the plain of Argos (pvxos)—as if Perseus had drawn back from the home of his murdered grandfather into the uttermost recess that he could find, without abandoning his hold over the level tract which lay beneath him, with its Cyclopean fortresses, and its glittering bay in the distance—stands the low eminence, where he is said to have called forth, by the /*wn/r of his sword, the streams which on each side creep round the hill, as well as that which supplies the well on the top. Round this rocky knoll are the vestiges of his city; in its face is fixed the ancient gateway, with its coping-stone of green basalt, and its sculptured lionesses, the gateway where the oldest kings of Greece sate to administer justice, a memorial of the antiquity not only of Greece, but of the world, of ages not only classical, but primeval, mythological, aboriginal. Close above and behind this eminence rises a black, frowning hill, with its dark sterile precipices filling up the idea of perfect desolation—of the ancient curse of the Pelopidae brooding over the place. Such is the spot which was chosen for the central stage of Greek tragedy. The impression which the whole scene leaves on the mind is indeed precisely that which is left by the closing dialogue between Clytemnsestra and the Chorus in the Agamemnon of iEschylus. And when we remember that such as are the actual vestiges of Mycenae now, such nearly they were in the days of Pausanias, and such probably, with but few additions, they were in the days of the Tragedians, we can have but little doubt that the imagery which floated before them still remains to be judged of by us; that the gate of the "saeva Pelopis domus," in front of which all the plots of the Orestean trilogies unfold themselves, — the tomb which Electra visited with libations,—are that very same ancient gateway which we have described as meeting us in the walls of the citadel-hill —and that very same remarkable vault hardly a stone's throw distant from it in the adjacent valley, whose massy structure equally carries us back to the Tragedians; whether under the name of the Treasury of Atreus, we are referred generally to the idea of the "rich Mycenae" (irokvxpvaoi, ApxaioirXovros, dites), or whether we adopt what seems their own account of it, by calling it the Tomb of Agamemnon.
The topography of a country throws a remarkable light not only on the events of which it was the scene, but on the mind of those who inhabited it. We may agree with men or nations in opinions — we may sympathise with them in questions of practice—but we cannot become familiar with them, unless we know how far they look with pleasure or indifference on the images which affect ourselves. Now, this knowledge is exactly what the natural scenery of Greece furnishes in a remarkable degree. The institutions, the amusements, the religion of the ancient Greeks, are known to us only as reflected in the mirror of their writings: it must be by a distinct effort of the imagination that we can conceive them independently of the light in which they appeared to their cotemporaries. But in the outward features of their country we have the original objects as well as the reflection, we are able actually to compare the one with the other, and to observe what parts of the real image the mirror has received, and what it has repelled; to compare the effect produced upon them with the effect produced upon ourselves, and to examine into the causes of the different impression received in the two cases. The most direct, traces of this effect are naturally to be looked for in their poetry.
Now, that the scenery of Greece is in itself eminently poetical — that it is in fact poetical rather than strictly beautiful—that its charm consists in the striking character of its several features, in the almost dramatic propriety with which each feature tells upon the whole landscape, rather than in the romantic shapes and "riotous prodigality" of life in Italian scenery—no one who has seen it can doubt. And it may be considered as an indirect proof of this, that some of the truest and happiest touches of its main characteristics are to be found in English poets, Gray, Wordsworth, and especially Milton, who never saw them, but whose insight into them was great in proportion to his appreciation of the Greek poets, and to the development of a kindred faculty in his own mind. And it is further certain, that the mind of the Greek nation was not merely in itself poetical, but that it was also thoroughly impregnated with the general spirit of the scenery, in the midst of which it was formed. As a particular instance of it may be mentioned the singular appropriateness of Mycenae to the Orestean tragedy, as before described; and it is almost impossible, except in the language of the Greek poets, to do justice to the surpassing clearness and gorgeousness of the atmosphere of Athens, to which they seem to have been so thoroughly awake. *a 6eo-7roT
ava£, afieTpt)T df/p 6s c\ets Ttjv -fiv pereopov, (Anstoph. Nub. 265), ofijxa alBipos MiijiaTov (rfXayetrai pappapiais fv avyats (285.), aldepa o-tpvoraTov (ib. 560.), xpvo-avyel 86pa . . . Ttjkavyls durivav treXas (A.V. 1709, 1710), 8ia \apnpoTaTov /Saivovrer afipas aldepot (Eurip.
Med. 829). These, and many other passages which might be quoted (see in Wordsworth's Athens and Attica, 240, 241), hyperbolical as some of them may sound to western ears, are only just representations of the transparent clearness, the brilliant colouring of an Athenian sky; of the flood of fire with which the marble columns, the mountains, and the sea, are all bathed and penetrated by the illumination of an Athenian sunset15.
But if Greek scenery is a standing witness to us of the readiness with which the Greeks caught its general spirit, it is no less a witness to us of the indifference with which they regarded its details, of their complete sacrifice of all particular facts to the leading idea which they wished to represent.
Homer, it is true, forms an exception; his epithets still designate accurately the character of the places to which they are affixed. Whether Mistra (Leake's Morea m. 6), or Mezapo (ib. i. 287) be the Messa of the Iliad, the number of wild pigeons in the rocks justifies the appellation of irdkvrpjpav, three
15 Is it fanciful to find in the delight with which the Athenians dwelt on the constant sunshine of the Acropolis, the origin of the frequent epithet Xwrapai 'Adrji/ai—or in the violet hue which with
out exaggeration the evening sheds upon its encircling crown of mountains, not indeed the origin, but an additional reason for the application of that other epithet
thousand years have not destroyed the truth of TlpwOa rtixtofo-o-av; the windmills in the plain of Argos indicate at this day the thirsty character of the soil (irdkvbtyiov), which Strabo was superficial enough to doubt. And the Roman poets contain strokes of description as true as can be found in any literature. When indeed they speak without personal knowledge of the places they describe, nothing can be more extravagant than their mistakes, of which Col. Leake (Morea, m. 399. Athens, 1st ed. 71) has given instances; but it would be unfair from this to argue that they are equally inaccurate where they have been eye-witnesses. Even without speaking of the wonderful touches of description in Italian scenery;—such as the concentration of the whole image of the sponge-like rock of Tivoli, with its hundred waterfalls, into the "udum Tibur" of Horace; or the peculiar wildness not only of the sea-like surge, but also of the sea-like shores of Garda, which Virgil has so admirably caught in the Fluctibus et Jremitu assurgens, Benace, marino—no Greek epithet was ever so happily applied as the "purpureos colles Hymetti"16 of Ovid, to the violet hue which Hymettus assumes in the evening sky, in contrast to the glowing furnace of the rock of Lycabettus, and the rosy pyramid of Pentelicus.
The poets of the great age of Greek literature in this respect faithfully reflected the genius of their country. The declaration of Socrates, that "it was from men in the city, and not from grassy slopes and shady trees on the banks of the Ilissus, that he could learn true wisdom" (Phtedrus, 10), is more or less applicable to the whole Greek view of natural objects. The actual sight of Grecian scenery at once shows how entirely they looked at it through the medium of their own imaginations, how they carried into their descriptions of nature the same spirit which dictated their descriptions of man, indifferent always to actual portraitures, aiming always at ideal pictures.
"Ovid. Art. Amat. Hi. 389. The whole passage is given in Leake's Athens, 2nd ed. n. 10, with a commendation of
its accuracy Dr. Wordsworth (p. 107)
points out the fidelity with which Catul
lus has described the site of the Temple of Victory, in contrast with other Latin poets, who were misled by ignorance of the scene.