- Project Runeberg -  Armenia and the Near East /

(1928) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen - Tema: Russia
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Mount Hymettos reared its bare, yellowish-brown ridge—where
the sun still glowed as Socrates lifted the cup of poison
to his lips. In the north-east, behind the cone of Lycabettos
and its monastery, rose the top of Pentelicon, with its ancient
marble quarry. In the north long ridges of hills undulated
across the plain, backed by the jagged crest of Mount Parnes.
Towards the west ran the “sacred way” through an old olive
grove north of the hill of Daphne and Mount Skaramanga,
between low eminences and past the temple of Aphrodite to
the Eleusinian Fields. Nearer to us lay the Hill of the Nymphs
and the observatory. A truly wonderful panorama! There
is none like it.

This, then, was the Athens of the Greeks! How many
inhabitants had the little Attic republic—how many, after
deducting the slaves? Compared with the great cities of
to-day it was hardly more than a village. But think how many
of mankind’s greatest minds this little town contained,
simultaneously or within a short period. Has any people in
the whole history of the human race been able to rise to such
heights? The Sumerians—the ancient Egyptians—who can
tell? But at any rate this Attic miracle is more germane to
ourselves. For well-nigh two thousand years the white race
has built upon this foundation, returning again and again to
the same treasure-house. But its glory vanished as strangely
as it had arisen; and afterwards?...

Gone—glimmering through the dream of things that were:
First in the race that led to Glory’s goal,
They won, and pass’d away—is this the whole?

Ruins—the only sure fruits of victory.... The peoples
mutually consuming one another.

Looking out across the country one is constantly struck by
its aridity, treelessness, and dearth of green. It gives a curious
impression of sterility, which probably accounts for its
peculiarly warm, chequered tones of yellow, golden brown,
and red. Some say that the country has become drier and
warmer than it was in the days of the ancient Greeks. But
there is no sufficient ground for accepting this theory. The
river Kephissos can hardly have contained more water then

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