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Page 5

The Town of Peiraeus

 

    The Peiraeus has all the life of the Athenian Agora many times multiplied. Everywhere there is work and bustle. Aristophanes has long since described the impression it makes on strangers,[3]—sailors clamoring for pay, rations being served out, figureheads being burnished, men trafficking for corn, for onions, for leeks, for figs,—"wreaths, anchovies, flute girls, blackened eyes, the hammering of oars from the dock yards, the fitting of rowlocks, boatswains' pipes, fifes, and whistling." There is such confusion one can hardly analyze one's surroundings. However, we soon discover the Peiraeus has certain advantages over Athens itself. The streets are much wider and are quite straight,[4] crossing at right angles, unlike the crooked alleys of old Athens which seem nothing but built-up cow trails. Down at the water front of the main harbor ("the Peiraeus" harbor to distinguish it from Zea and Munychia) we find about one third, nearest the entrance passage and called the Cantharus, reserved for the use of the war navy. This section is the famous "Emporium," which is such a repository of foreign wares that Isocrates boasts that here one can easily buy all those things which it is extremely hard to purchase anywhere else in Hellas. Along the shore run five great stoas or colonnades, all used by the traders for different purposes;—among them are the Long Stoa ('Makra Stoa'), the "Deigma" ... used as a sample house by the wholesalers, and the great Corn Exchange built by Pericles. Close down near the wharves stands also a handsome and frequented temple, that of Athena Euploia (Athena, Giver of good Voyages), to whom many a shipman offers prayer ere hoisting sail, and many another comes to pay grateful vows after surviving a storm.[5] Time fails us for mentioning all the considerable temples farther back in the town. The Peiraeus in short is a semi-independent community; with its shrines, its agoras, its theaters, its court rooms, and other public buildings. The population contains a very high percentage of metics, and downright Barbarians,—indeed, long-bearded Babylonians, clean bronze Egyptians, grinning Ethiopians, never awaken the least comment, they are so familiar.

 

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