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THE SPLENDID CITY
THENS is a very old city. Cecrops, who came from Egypt, is
said to have founded it. The fables tell us that he
was half man and half dragon, and though we know this
is not true it may be true that there was a man named
Cecrops and that he did begin to build the city. At
first it was called after him, Cecropia, but the people
were so fond of the goddess Athene that its name was
changed to Athens.
The fables say that Poseidon, the god of the sea,
wanted the men of the city to worship him. So he
struck the rock, and a beautiful horse appeared. Then
Athene struck the ground, and an olive tree sprung up.
Cecrops said, "O goddess, your gift is best! The city
will always honor and worship you."
Athens stands in the central plan of Attica, three
back from the sea. All around the plain
are mountains except for the south, which is open to
There are four hills in the city, the Acropolis, the
Areopagus, the Pynx, and the Museum. The Acropolis is
the highest, rising one hundred and fifty feet above
the plain. It is very steep on every side except the
west, which has a slope not easy to climb. The flat
top is about one thousand feet long and five hundred
West from the Acropolis stands the Areopagus, or the
Hill of Mars, where the courts of justice were held.
Sixteen steps cut in the rock lead up from the market
place to the top, where the Council used to meet.
Around three sides of the top, benches are cut out of
the solid rock. The fourth side looks to the south and
is open. On the west side is a raised block on which
the criminal used to stand. Another such block is on
the eastern side, and there the accuser stood.
The Pnyx is a lower hill, where public meetings were
held at daybreak to avoid the heat. There were only a
few wooden benches there. The people stood or sat on
the bare rocks.
The Museum was where the poet Musæus was buried.
The first houses were built on the Acropolis.
Afterwards men set up their dwellings on the plain
below. But the Acropolis was always the citadel or
fortress, the strongest part of the city.
Pisistratus was the first to think of making the
Acropolis beautiful. He erected three temples and
other public buildings. Xerxes, the king of the
Persians, when he
in-  vaded the land, found this
height surrounded by a palisade of logs, which he
burned with everything else on the hill. After that,
no dwellings, but many splendid temples and monuments,
were built there. More and more were added through
fifty years in the days of Themistocles, Cimon, and
Pericles. Athens had then become the most magnificent
city in Greece.
On the Acropolis stood three temples devoted to Athene.
One held an image of the goddess made of olive wood,
which was said to have fallen from heaven, and was the
most sacred thing in Athens. This was called Athene
Polias, and every four years a grand procession marched
up the hill to put upon the statue an elegant new robe
which the women had embroidered.
The plain on which the lower part of the city stood is
rocky and barren. However, a line of olive trees
reached from the river Cephissus to the sea. The air
is very clear and pure, so that the people lived much
out of doors. At sunset the hills around glow with
different colors, violet, rose, and molten gold.
Three miles from Athens was the harbor called the
Piræ. It had three openings, made narrow by walls
built out into the water so that not more than two
large boats could pass at once. In time of war these
openings were closed by chains stretched across them.
Long walls, fourteen or fifteen feet thick, were built
all the way from the city down to the water's edge, and
the citizens took great pride in their strength.
The Piræ was really the name of three
places,first the peninsula or point of land
itself, second the harbor
and third the town
which grew up around the harbor. Themistocles built
the walls around the port, and Pericles continued them
all the way up to the city.
Lysander, the Spartan conqueror, pulled them down, but
they were rebuilt. Many years afterwards, when the
Romans came and conquered, they tore down the walls and
forts and left Athens without protection.
Even then, when she had no power in the war, she was
still honored as the most learned city in the world.
For hundreds of years it was the fashion for young men
to go there for education in philosophy, literature,
and art. The Romans admired the splendid city and did
much to add to its beauty.