Page 0483

483 GREECE- MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.

entrance from all directions. Instead of the low booths which in modern cities so often

pass for market-houses, the Greeks gave to their buildings used for this purpose much

care, both in structure and ornamentation. The place was not only a market but a public

promenade, where friend met friend, exchanged the usual civilities of life, and discussed

the affairs of the state.

In the different apartments of the market the various products were exposed, each after

its kind. Some sold wine; others, fruits; others, peas and lentils; others, flowers. For

the Greeks never banqueted until they had wreathed themselves with flowers. It was the

aestheticism of a natural civilization. The flower-girls of the Greek market-place were

many times made the subject, of the painter's brush and the sculptor's chisel.

Not only were the daily needs of the people supplied from the market, but around this

square of the city were arranged the principal buildings belonging to the other vocations;

shops of artisans, physicians stalls, artists' studios, places for loungers and gossips.

Here the witty assembled. Here the doctors discoursed on the art of healing. Here

Hippocrates prescribed for & his patients. Here the popular satirist made the physician

smart with his puns and epigrams. Of Dr. Hermas the bitter rogue said:

"Diophantes, sleeping, saw Hermas, the physician: Diophantes never woke from that fatal

vision! "

Around the market were also gathered clowns and showmen', sellers of amulets and charms,

venders of nostrums and ointments. In another part were the money-changers and bankers,

domestic merchants and importers of foreign goods. The money- changers were the notaries

who authenticated documents and certified the validity of contracts. They received

deposits, charged commissions, issued checks and drafts. Before their benches were

frequently seen many of the wealthiest citizens of the state.

The great majority of those who plied vocations in the Greek market were men.

The exceptions were in the case of the sellers of bread and flowers. These booths were

managed by women and girls. The ladies of Athens went not to market. But of men-old men,

youths, striplings--all classes were here congregated from day to day. Here Socrates

walked with his demure visage and far-seeing eyes. Here Diogenes carried his lantern. Here

came the frivolous dandy with his new suit and cane. Only the public officers, who during

market hours were engaged elsewhere in administrative duties, and the artisans plying

their vocations, were not seen in the noisy but witty crowds about the public market.

There is little doubt that several traits of Athenian character-its rage for discussion,

its whimsicality, its madness for politics-were in some measure traceable to the life of

the market-place. Here grew and was stimulated that tendency to extremes for which the

Greeks have been so much marked by soberer peoples. They were capable within the briefest

period of feeling and exhibiting the highest pitch of enthusiasm and the lowest ebb of

despondency. In the market one spirit fired a thousand. There bad news quenched hilarity

and sent all to their homes in despair.

The citizens of Athens-and Athens is typical of all the free cities of Greece-were a

populace. It was the native soil of the demagogue, the sycophant, the statesman. Whether a

man would be one or the other depended upon his character and genius. Political parties

could but flourish here. Athens was a lawyers' camp. Broils and litigation were the

necessary results pf that type of freedom which was claimed by the primitive democracy.

So vast was the activity and so keen the litigious instincts of the Athenians, that in the

heyday of-the city's power a fourth or fifth of her people attended court every day!

Aristophanes, in his comedy of the Birds, declares that the cicada sings for a month, but

that the Athenians buzz with lawsuits to the end of their lives. The satirist then makes

two Athenians, tired out with the unceasing contentions of their city, go on high and

found another commonwealth in the clouds. But scarcely