Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/211

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THE ENVIRONMENT OF GRECIAN CULTURE.

the rocky coasts; the beaches on which vessels can be run to rest on the sands; landlocked harbors like that of the Piræus, capable of accommodating hundreds of ships—make Greece a country where the sea is so mingled with the land, insinuates itself into it and penetrates it in so many ways, that the inhabitants could not fail to trust themselves upon it as soon as they could hollow out a pirogue, familiarize themselves with the sea, and make it their highway. When the Greeks first appeared to view—in their epic poems—they were already bold sailors, fond of telling of the arduous voyages they had made and of the distant countries they had visited. They still keep their compact with the sea and excel as sailors; and their marine is an important element of Mediterranean commerce.

The roughness of their land made the Greeks all the more ready to accept the invitation offered them by the sea. The whole country is a single mountain mass of complicated construction and irregular expanse, the different summits of which have their several names; furrowed and carved by innumerable ravines and split by deep chasms, which often present precipitous walls. It has no high, broad, table-lands or large valleys; what are called plains there, except in Thessaly, where they are larger, being only narrow spaces nearly hemmed in by the mountains around, and notched by their intruding spurs. Where one must be always climbing, and descending to go up again, and is stopped at every few steps by some formidable obstacle, communication by land is not easy. It was therefore of great advantage and assistance to have the sea at hand to take one wherever he might wish to go, and, in order to enjoy it to the fullest, the Grecian colonists established themselves in such situations that each group should have at least one seaport. Only one considerable community, the Arcadians, had a wholly inland home, and they were regarded as generally behind the others in enterprise, learning, and civilization. Without the sea and the outlets it offered, the peoples who occupied the Hellenic peninsula would probably have continued in a condition of barbarism and anarchy, like that with which their relatives, the Albanians, are still struggling; without it they must have been doomed to that indefinite state of division in which the clan rules. The passage by land from one district to another was always arduous and often impossible. The local groups seemed doomed to live in perpetual isolation, with no room for a truly large and fruitful national development. That their influence became more prominent than might have been anticipated was because of a special feature that modified the effects of the general configuration of the land. Nearly all the mountain-walled districts of Greece had one side open to the sea, and that gave passage to everything—persons, goods, and ideas. Storms could close