Country Life Around Athens
Nevertheless occasionally this inborn love of the glorious outer world must find its expression, and it is of these very groves along he Ilissus that we have one of the few "nature pieces" in Athenian literature. As the plodding steeds take their way let us recall our Plato—his "Phaedrus," written probably not many years before this our visit.
Socrates is walking with Phædrus outside the walls, and urges the latter: "Let us go to the Ilissus and sit down in some quiet spot." "I am fortunate," answers Phædrus, "in not having my sandals on, and, as you never have any, we may go along the brook and cool our feet. This is the easiest way, and at midday is anything but unpleasant." He adds that they will go on to the tallest plane tree in the distance, "where are shade and gentle breezes, and grass whereon we may either sit or lie.... The little stream is delightfully clear and bright. I can fancy there might well be maidens playing near [according to the local myth of Boreas's rape of Orithyia]." And so at last they come to the place, when Socrates says: "Yes indeed, a fair and shady resting place it is, full of summer sounds and scents. There is the lofty and spreading plane tree, and the agnus castus, high and clustering in the fullest blossom and the greatest fragrance, and the stream which flows beneath the plane tree is deliciously cool to the feet. Judging by the ornaments and images [set] about, this must be a spot sacred to Achelous and the Nymphs; moreover there is a sweet breeze and the grasshoppers are chirruping; and the greatest charm of all is the grass like a pillow, gently sloping to the head."
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