Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/210

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work of civilization. The Greeks had in the highest degree the genius for invention in letters and the arts. The other great peoples of their time reached a certain point and stopped there, afterward only repeating the types which they had created during their earlier period; or else were content to "borrow and adapt; and, finishing their useful work before they lost their independence, continued to exist long after they had ceased to live and bring forth.

But Greece has always been progressive, or at least moving. Even when subjugated by the Romans, and when its series of original creations seemed to have been exhausted, it still cultivated science and history; attempted criticism; extended and sounded more deeply the ancient systems of philosophy; and took a part in the elaboration of the dogmas of Christianity.

In art, while its master sculptors and painters were extinct, its architects still produced great works without copying Ictinus and Mnesicles. The basilicas of Ravenna and the noble structure of St. Sophia are comparable in merit with the highest classical forms.

No organic development in the history of the human mind has been better known, or has been richer and at the same time more simple, than that of the Grecian genius. Notwithstanding the extent to which the Hellenic population was scattered, and the distances which separated the various groups, the evolution, taken as a whole, was governed by the same laws and exhibited the same phases in like order and under like conditions, in all the lands in which the Greek language was spoken. The different stocks were like trees of the same species, destined to produce the same fruits, the color and taste of which were liable, it is true, to be modified by local influences, but the variations were kept within narrow bounds. So these peoples were kept from greatly diverging by their constant communication with each other, which was aided by the forms and relations of their lands—promontories jutting out toward one another, and frequent islands; so that the sailor between distant ports was hardly ever out of sight of some Grecian headland. Nowhere else does the Mediterranean offer such a disposition; and there was in this geographical feature a direct provocative of the spirit of adventure.

The Hellenic peninsula is divided into two masses of nearly equal size—central Greece and the Peloponnesus—each of which is in turn divided into secondary peninsulas that have curiously irregular contours; while the islands are often so near to one another that one can pass between them or to the mainland with a few strokes of the oars. The waters in the sinuosities of the straits are always smooth; the deep bays lying in the recesses of the hilly shore; the narrow creeks concealed in the serratures of