Our Little Athenian Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles

In the Market-Place

"Come, Duris," called Hiero after breakfast the next morning, "Father says that we may go with him to the market. Later," he added, "we are going to the Acropolis. That, you know, is the hill that you must have noticed as you passed through the city yesterday. On it is the Parthenon, which Pericles, our ruler, has built. It is the most magnificent temple in the world. Near the Parthenon is a statue of Athene, which is forty feet high and is made of ivory and gold."

"Oh," exclaimed Duris, "I caught sight of the statue, I think, as we came into Athens. Father told me that it was made by the sculptor, Phidias, and that he is the finest sculptor that has ever lived."

"That is true," replied Hiero, "and there are many of his statues and carvings in the Parthenon also. But, oh, the Parthenon itself! I can't tell you about it, but, somehow, when I look at it, I just seem to feel how beautiful it is. All the artists and architects and sculptors say that it is perfect.

"But now," Hiero added, with a little laugh at his own enthusiasm, "we are going to the market. That is not so beautiful as the Acropolis, but I think you will find it interesting."

Hermippos and Phorion were now ready. With them were quite a company of slaves who were to attend them upon the street. Among these were Philo and Theron, pedagogues of Hiero and Duris, for every Greek boy of good family had his slave, who was called a pedagogue. This slave attended him wherever he went and was responsible for his good behavior.

Slaves also attended the men of Greece, not only to wait upon them and to carry for them any articles that might be needed, but also to show the standing and the wealth of their owners. So it was quite an imposing little company that left the home of Hermippos.

The streets of the city were narrow and ran in all sorts of irregular directions, as Duris had said. They were not graded, and in many places there were steps leading to higher or lower portions of the city. There were no sidewalks at all. People walked in the streets, and were careful not to keep too close to the houses lest a door should be hurriedly opened and strike them.

"We will go first and buy provisions for the home," said Hermippos, as they drew near to the market-place.

"And we are just in time," exclaimed Hiero, "for the bell of the fish market is ringing." People were now hurrying in the direction of the fish stalls, for fish was a favorite food of the Athenians.

All about the market-place were booths and shops where articles of many sorts were sold. There were also altars and statues, and marble seats, for the market was a general gathering place. Here the men of the city met to visit; here travellers came, to bring news from a distance; here business was carried on; and here the public affairs of Greece were discussed.

"Look!" exclaimed Hiero to Duris, and he pointed to one of the fish stalls.

"There is a fight!" said Duris.

"It is only a pretence," laughed Hiero. "See, in a moment one of the fellows will fall. Then the owner of the stall will throw water upon him to revive him—but the fish will be better drenched than the slave. That will make the fish look fresher, and they will sell better. But," added Hiero, with a comically solemn expression, "it is against the law to water the fish—except, of course, in case of accident."

"Oh, I see," laughed Duris. And a moment later he added, "There, it has happened exactly as you said!"

"Look this way," said Hiero, suddenly pointing in another direction, "here comes a procession of soldiers. It is the bodyguard of Pericles, the ruler of Athens. You will see him soon."

Duris jumped up on the marble seat, that he might see over the heads of the men about him.

The citizens saluted their ruler, and shouted as he passed, for he was a favorite with all the people. No other ruler had done so much for the good of the citizens or for the beauty of their city, and the Greeks loved beauty as no other nation ever has done.

"Hurrah!" exclaimed Duris, as he jumped down from the seat. "I am glad that I saw him! I am proud to think that he sent for my father to build one of the new temples."

As the boys reached a part of the market between two columns Hiero pointed toward the Acropolis. "See," he said, "what a good view of Pallas Athene we get from here. But the statue can be seen, of course, from all parts of the city, so the goddess guards us well."

The Greeks, like the Romans, worshipped many gods. They believed that the home of the gods was in Mount Olympus, a great mountain far to the north of Greece. Zeus was the ruler of Mount Olympus, and dwelt in a magnificent temple. Here he summoned the other gods into council whenever the affairs of men were to be considered.

The gods often quarrelled among themselves, and acted very much as the Greeks themselves did, but still they were supposed to have power over the earth and the sea; over the crops of the farmer and the battles of the general; to guard the homes and lives of citizens; and to rejoice in the many festivals and games of the people.

Every occurrence in nature was traced to the action of some god. Zeus was said to drive the chariot of the sun in its daily course through the heavens; Vulcan to forge the thunderbolts; while Demeter watched over the fields of grain. Iris was the rainbow, and Neptune the god to whom the sailors prayed, for he had power to grant them a quiet voyage.

The Greeks did not worship their gods because they were better than themselves, but because they were more powerful.

The many stories of the gods, which we call myths, but which formed the religion of the Greeks, were so full of poetry and of imaginative beauty that people of every nation love to hear them, even though they do not believe in them in the same way that the Greeks did.

But we must remember that Hiero and Duris believed these stories of gods and goddesses to be literally true, and so the great statue of Pallas Athene on the Acropolis represented to them a living goddess who protected Athens, and for whom the city was named.