A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life.
a marked man around Athens or any other Greek city.  Poets celebrate him; youths dog his heels and try to imitate him; his kinsfolk take on airs; very likely he is rewarded as a public benefactor by the government.  But there is abundant honor for one who has triumphed in any of the great contests; and even as we go out we see people pointing to a bent old man and saying, “Yes; he won the quoit hurling at the Nema when Ithycles was archon."[+]

[*]The exact order of these contests, and the rules of elimination as the games proceeded, are uncertain—­perhaps they varied with time and place.

[+]This would make it 398 B.C.  The Athenians dated their years by the name of their “first Archon” ("Archon eponymos").

...The Academy is already thinning.  The beautiful youths and their admiring “lovers” have gone homeward.  The last race has been run.  We must hasten if we would not be late to some select symposium.  The birds are more melodious than ever around Colonus; the red and golden glow upon the Acropolis is beginning to fade; the night is sowing the stars; and through the light air of a glorious evening we speed back to the city.

Chapter XVIII.  Athenian Cookery and the Symposium.

154.  Greek Meal Times.—­The streets are becoming empty.  The Agora has been deserted for hours.  As the warm balmy night closes over the city the house doors are shut fast, to open only for the returning master or his guests, bidden to dinner.  Soon the ways will be almost silent, to be disturbed, after a proper interval, by the dinner guests returning homeward.  Save for these, the streets will seem those of a city of the dead:  patrolled at rare intervals by the Scythian archers, and also ranged now and then by cutpurses watching for an unwary stroller, or miscreant roisterers trolling lewd songs, and pounding on honest men’s doors as they wander from tavern to tavern in search of the lowest possible pleasures.

We have said very little of eating or drinking during our visit in Athens, for, truth to tell, the citizens try to get through the day with about as little interruption for food and drink as possible.  But now, when warehouse and gymnasium alike are left to darkness, all Athens will break its day of comparative fasting.

Roughly speaking, the Greeks anticipate the latter-day “Continental” habits in their meal hours.  The custom of Germans and of many Americans in having the heartiest meal at noonday would never appeal to them.  The hearty meal is at night, and no one dreams of doing any serious work after it.  When it is finished, there may be pleasant discourse or varied amusements, but never real business; and even if there are guests, the average dinner party breaks up early.  Early to bed and early to rise, would be a maxim indorsed by the Athenians.

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A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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