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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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The Athenian House and its Furnishings

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Page 2

Following an Athenian Gentleman Homeward

 

    Leaving the Agora and reëntering the streets the second impression of the residence districts becomes more favorable. There are a few bay trees planted from block to block; and ever and anon the monotonous house walls recede, giving space to display some temple, like the Fane of Hephæstos[1] near the Market Place, its columns and pediment flashing not merely with white marble, but with the green, scarlet, and gold wherewith the Greeks did not hesitate to decorate their statuary.

    At street corners and opposite important mansions a Hermes-bust like those in the plaza rises, and a very few houses have a couple of pillars at their entrances and some outward suggestion of hidden elegance.

    We observe that almost the entire crowd leaving the Agora goes on foot. To ride about in a chariot is a sign of undemocratic presumption; while only women or sick men will consent to be borne in a litter. We will select a sprucely dressed gentleman who has just been anointed in a barber's shop and accompany him to his home. He is neither one of the decidedly rich, otherwise his establishment would be exceptional, not typical, nor is he of course one of the hard-working poor. Followed by perhaps two clean and capable serving lads, he wends his way down several of the narrow lanes that lie under the northern brow of the Acropolis.[2] Before a plain solid house door he halts and cries, "Pai! Pai!" ["Boy! Boy!"]. There is a rattle of bolts and bars. A low-visaged foreign-born porter, whose business it is to show a surly front to all unwelcome visitors, opens and gives a kind of salaam to his master; while the porter's huge dog jumps up barking and pawing joyously.

    As we enter behind him (carefully advancing with right foot foremost, for it is bad luck to tread a threshold with the left) we notice above the lintel some such inscription as "Let no evil enter here!" or "To the Good Genius," then a few steps through a narrow passage bring us into the Aula, the central court, the indispensable feature of every typical Greek house.

 

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