[*]Xenophon, “The Economist,” xi, p. 8.
There is a simple little prayer also which seems to be a favorite with the farmers. Its honest directness carries its own message.
“Rain, rain, dear Zeus, upon the fields of the Athenians and the plains."[*]
[*]It was quoted later to us by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who adds, “In truth, we ought not to pray at all, or we ought to pray in this simple and noble fashion.”
Higher still ascends the prayer of Socrates, when he begs for “the good” merely, leaving it to the wise gods to determine what “the good” for him may be; and in one prayer, which Plato puts in Socrates’s mouth, almost all the best of Greek ideals and morality seems uttered. It is spoken not on the Acropolis, but beside the Ilissus at the close of the delightful walk and chat related in the “Phoedrus.”
“Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me the beauty of the inward soul, and may the outward and the inward man be joined in perfect harmony. May I reckon the wise to be wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as none but the temperate can carry. Anything more?—That prayer, I think, is enough for me.”
Phormion and his party are descending to the city to spend the evening in honest mirth and feasting, but we are fain to linger, watching the slow course of the shadows as they stretch across the Attic hills. Sea, sky, plain, mountains, and city are all before us, but we will not spend words upon them now. Only for the buildings, wrought by Pericles and his might peers, we will speak out our admiration. We will gladly confirm the words Plutarch shall some day say of them, “Unimpaired by time, their appearance retains the fragrance of freshness, as though they had been inspired by an eternally blooming life and a never aging soul."[*]
[*]Plutarch wrote this probably after 100 A.D., when the Parthenon had stood for about five and half centuries.
Chapter XXI. The Great Festivals of Athens.
198. The Frequent Festivals at Athens.—Surely our “Day in Athens” has been spent from morn till night several times over, so much there is to see and tell. Yet he would be remiss who left the city of Athena before witnessing at least several of the great public festivals which are the city’s noble pride. There are a prodigious number of religions festivals in Athens.[*] They take the place of the later “Christian Sabbath” and probably create a somewhat equal number of rest days during the year, although at more irregular intervals. They are far from being “Scotch Sundays,"[+] however. On them the semi-riotous “joy of life” which is part of the Greek nature finds its fullest, ofttimes its wildest, expression. They are days of merriment, athletic sports, great civic spectacles, chorals, public dances.[&] To complete our picture of Athens we must tarry for a swift cursory glance upon at least three of these fete days of the city of Pericles, Sophocles, and Phidias.