- Project Runeberg -  Armenia and the Near East /
14

(1928) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen - Tema: Russia
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Greece; and here, as he lay on his deathbed, with the true
artist’s dissatisfaction with his own achievements, he would
have burnt the manuscript of the Æneid, his life-work and
the greatest poem of Roman culture. Here, too, the Crusaders
used to concentrate their fleets on their way to the East.
Then, in 1458, the town was destroyed by an earthquake;
most of the inhabitants were buried beneath the ruins, and
the harbour was choked with sand. Only in recent times
has it been cleared, and the town has once more come to
life. Tempora mutantur.
On we steam.... The evening is very still, the vault of
heaven high and spacious; a myriad stars glitter there, and
the moon floods the Mediterranean with her gentle radiance.
During thousands of years this was “the sea” of the ancients,
surrounded by their oikoumene, the inhabited earth. Along
its shores cultures and world-empires grew up, flourished, and
fell into decay.... And what has brought us here? We
are steaming east across these immemorial waters in order to
try to lend a helping hand to a small people struggling for
existence—one of the little nations that has suffered most in the
course of ages from the conflicts between those great empires.

Why is a night like this so beautiful? An illimitable void
with far-away star-globes, a disk of burnished copper, a black
stretch of water, a glittering path of light and sparkling silver
streaks, a roving human eye seeking to penetrate the distance—can
that be all? And this sea? Nothing but a wide
depression in the earth’s crust filled with water. And the
Semiramis is cleaving its smooth surface, driven onward through
the night by the measured stroke of the pistons.

From the world whither we are bound a name floats down
to us upon the tide of the ages; its real significance is
unknown, but its sound suggests Eastern tales of wonder, sunk
in the silent depths of the ages. Semiramis, or Shammuramat!
Daughter of Babylon, wise and beautiful, queen of
Nineveh, the favourite wife of Samsi-Adad. She ruled the
mighty kingdom for her son Adadnirari. When, according
to the legend, Adadnirari tried to rid himself of her by the
agency of a eunuch—doubtless because he alone could resist
her charms—she forgave her son, commanded the satraps to

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