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Page 11

The Route to the Acropolis

 

    Phormion, son of Cresphontes, has been to Arcadia, and won the pentathlon in some athletic contests held at Mantinea. Although not equal to a triumph in the "four great Panhellenic contests," it was a most notable victory. Before setting out he vowed a sheep to Athena the Virgin if he conquered. The goddess was kind, and Phormion is very grateful. While the multitudes are streaming out to the Gymnasia, the young athlete, brawny and handsome, surrounded by an admiring coterie of friends and kinsmen, sets out for the Acropolis.

    Phormion's home is in the "Ceramicus," the so-called "potters' quarter." His walk takes him a little to the west of the Agora, and close to the elegant temple of Hephæstos,[11] but past this and many other fanes he hastens. It was not the fire god which gave him fair glory at Mantinea. He goes onward until he is forced to make a detour to the left, at the craggy, rough hill of Areopagus which rises before him. Here, if time did not press, he might have tarried to pay respectful reverence before a deep fissure cleft in the side of the rock. In front of this fissure stands a little altar. All Phormion's company look away as they pass the spot, and they mutter together "Be propitious, O Eumenides!" (literally, Well-minded Ones). For like true Greeks they delight to call foul things with fair and propitious names; and that awful fissure and altar are sacred to the Erinyes (Furies), the horrible maidens, the trackers of guilt, the avengers of murder; and above their cave, on these rude rocks, sits the august court of the Aeropagus when it meets as a "tribunal of blood" to try cases of homicide.

    Phormion's party quicken their steps and quit this spot of ill omen. Then their sight is gladdened. The whole glorious Acropolis stands out before them.

 

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