Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/209

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THE ENVIRONMENT OF GRECIAN CULTURE.

Greece, on the contrary, was multiple and diverse in space and in time. The name is more particularly applied to the eastern-most of the peninsulas that the European continent projects into the Mediterranean toward Africa, in which the Grecian race, while it spread itself widely abroad, was most compactly settled; in which its cities of greatest influence and most immortal fame were built; and where were celebrated the Olympian, Isthmian, and Nemean games, to which all the scattered members of the Hellenic family periodically resorted. But, besides the peninsula of Hellas, as it was called, there were other Grecian lands, less eminently conspicuous, perhaps, which also performed their part, and that not an unimportant one, in the general movement of the race. There was Asiatic Greece, which by virtue of its brilliant and supple genius was more precocious than European Greece; which engaged first in the flights of poetry and art, and in general and distant voyages. There was a Greece in Africa, at Naucratis and the other cities among the mouths of the Nile, and in Cyrenaica cities, protected by the desert against invasion, and with its caravan-roads radiating in every direction into the interior, made it as a door opening toward the mysteries of the Southern continent. Thence a curiosity constantly on the alert brought data by means of which the limits of the known world were pushed further back, and the idea of the variety of men and climates was fostered.

On the opposite shores were the Grecian colonies fringing the gulfs and promontories of southern Italy, with their advanced posts pushed to the coasts of Gaul and Spain. They had the honor of being the earliest educators of Rome; and the monuments of architecture and sculpture which they have left are no less beautiful than those which originated on the soil of the mother-country. Between these Grecian lands, forming four well-defined groups on the mainland, each of which had its distinct existence, there was an insular Greece in the sea, including Sicily, the islands of the Adriatic, the islands south and east of Hellas—Cythera, Crete, the Cyclades and Sporades, Rhodes, Cyprus, Chios, Lesbos, the islands near Thrace, and many others, large and small. Men and merchandise, raw materials and manufactured goods, sacred images with the ideas and feelings they represented, the products of industry, and plastic types, were circulated and exchanged among these colonies with extraordinary facility; and happy meetings and fruitful contacts occurred in these hospitable archipelagoes, between Greeks and barbarians, and between Greeks of different stocks.

The race that was developed in this fortunate situation, favored by circumstances and by the medium in which it grew up, was perhaps the best endowed one that has participated in the