This little book tries to describe what an intelligent person would see and hear in ancient Athens, if by some legerdemain he were translated to the fourth century B.C. and conducted about the city under competent guidance. Rare happenings have been omitted and sometimes, to avoid long explanations, probable matters have been stated as if they were ascertained facts; but these instances are few, and it is hoped no reader will be led into serious error.
The year 360 B.C. has been selected for the hypothetical time of this visit, not because of any special virtue in that date, but because Athens was then architecturally almost perfect, her civic and her social life seemed at their best, the democratic constitution held its vigor, and there were few outward signs of the general decadence which was to set in after the triumph of Macedon.
I have endeavored to state no facts and to make no allusions, that will not be fairly obvious to a reader who has merely an elementary knowledge of Greek annals, such information, for instance, as may be gained through a good secondary school history of ancient times. This naturally has led to comments and descriptions which more advanced students may find superfluous.
The writer has been under a heavy debt to the numerous and excellent works on Greek "Private Antiquities" and "Public Life" written in English, French, or German, as well as to the various great Classical Encyclopædias and Dictionaries, and to many treatises and monographs upon the topography of Athens and upon the numerous phases of Attic culture. It is proper to say, however, that the material from such secondary sources has been merely supplementary to a careful examination of the ancient Greek writers, with the objects of this book kept especially in view. A sojourn in modern Athens, also, has given me an impression of the influence of the Attic landscape upon the conditions of old Athenian life, an impression that I have tried to convey in this small volume.
I am deeply grateful to my sister, Mrs. Fannie Davis Gifford, for helpful criticism of this book while in manuscript; to my wife, for preparing the drawings from Greek vase-paintings which appear as illustrations; and to my friend and colleague, Professor Charles A. Savage, for a kind and careful reading of the proofs. Thanks also are due to Henry Holt and Company for permission to quote material from their edition of Von Falke's "Greece and Rome."
A Day in Old Athens
Next page : The Physical Setting of Athens
Back to A Day in Old Athens Contents
The Greek Word Library
Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/old-athens-preface.asp