Narrow, dirty, and dusty as the streets seem, children,
even of good families, are allowed to play in them. After a rain one can
see boys floating toy boats of leather in every mud puddle, or
industriously making mud pies. In warm weather the favorite if cruel
sport is to catch a beetle, tie a string to its legs, let it fly off,
then twitch it back again. Leapfrog, hide-and-seek, etc., are in violent
progress down every alley. The streets are not all ideal playgrounds.
Despite genteel ideas of dignity and moderation, there is a great deal
of foul talk and brawling among the passers, and Athenian children have
receptive eyes and ears. Yet on the other hand, there is a notable
regard and reverence for childhood. With all its frequent callousness
and inhumanity, Greek sentiment abhors any brutality to young children.
Herodotus the historian tells of the falling of a roof, whereby one
hundred and twenty school children perished, as being a frightful
although recounting cold-blooded massacres of thousands of adults with
never a qualm; and Herodotus is a very good spokesman for average Greek