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William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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The Peiraeus and the Shipping

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Page 3

Munychia and the Havens of Athens

 

    Making our way up a steep lane upon the northwestern slope, we pass within the fortifications, the most formidable near Athens. A band of young ephebi of the garrison eye us as we enter; but we seem neither Spartans nor Thebans and are not molested. From a convenient crag near the temple, the whole scheme of the harbors of Athens is spread out before us, two hundred and eighty odd feet below. Behind us is the familiar plain of Athens with the city, the Acropolis, and the guardian mountains. Directly west lies the expanse of roof of the main harbor town, and then beyond is the smooth blue expanse of the "Port of the Peiraeus," the main mercantile harbor of Athens. Running straight down from Munychia, southwest, the land tapers off into a rocky promontory, entirely girt with strong fortifications. In this stretch of land are two deep round indentations. Cups of bright water they seem, communicating with the outer sea only by narrow entrances which are dominated by stout castles. "Zea" is the name of the more remote; the "haven" of "Munychia" is that which seems opening almost at our feet. These both are full of the naval shipping, whereof more hereafter. To the eastward, and stretching down the coast, is a long sandy beach whereon the blue ripples are crumbling between the black fishing boats drawn up upon the strand. This is Phaleron, the old harbor of Athens before Themistocles fortified the "Peiraeus"—merely an open roadstead in fact, but still very handy for small craft, which can be hauled up promptly to escape the tempest.

 

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