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
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