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William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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Page 8

Familiar Types around the Agora

 

    These animated, eager-faced men whose mantles fall in statuesque folds prefer obviously to walk under the Painted Porch, or the blue roof of heaven, while they evolve their philosophies, mature their political schemes, or organize the material for their orations and dramas, rather than to bend over desks within close offices. Around the Athenian Agora, a true type of this preference, and busy with this delightful idleness, half a century earlier could have been seen a droll figure with "indescribable nose, bald head, round body, eyes rolling and twinkling with good humor," scantily clad,—an incorrigible do-nothing, windbag, and hanger-on, a later century might assert,—yet history has given to him the name of Socrates.

    Not all Athenians, of course, make such justifiable use of their idleness. There are plenty of young men parading around in long trailing robes, their hair oiled and curled most effeminately, their fingers glittering with jewels,—"ring-loaded, curly-locked coxcombs," Aristophanes, the comic poet, has called them,—and they are here only for silly display. Also there are many of their elders who have no philosophy or wit to justify their continuous talking; nevertheless, all considered, it must be admitted that the Athenian makes a use of their dearly loved "leisure," which men of a more pragmatic race will do well to consider as the fair equivalent of much frantic zeal for "business." Athenian "leisure" has already given the world Pericles, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Socrates, and Plato, not to name such artists as Phidias, whose profession cannot exempt them from a certain manual occupation.

 

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