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Page 6

Playing in the Streets

 

    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 calamity,[5] although recounting cold-blooded massacres of thousands of adults with never a qualm; and Herodotus is a very good spokesman for average Greek opinion.

 

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