this road only a few days at a time, while through all other seasons the ships could sail freely, promoting an incessant exchange of visits and mutual favors among districts between which Nature had within placed the restrictions of numerous and high barriers.
The attachment of the Greeks to the sea was confirmed by the regularity and mildness of the winds. This sea and these winds favored the moral unity of Greece, which it enjoyed till the time of the Roman conquest without ever having political and administrative unity. Until the capture of Corinth by Mummius it was divided into a number of cantons separated from one another by Nature, which were as many independent states. This universal presence of the sea furnishes a means of accounting for the superiority of the part which Greece has played in the world. The country, while it was free, had no roads, and did not need them. It was easier and more convenient to spread sail, in order to go from one place to another, than to climb the mountains and coast along the precipices. It would have been hard to find, even outside of the very numerous class of professional sailors, a Greek who had not, once at least in his life, left his native village or city for purposes of war, commerce, pleasure, or piety. The last two motives were confounded in practice. The desire to consult a renowned oracle, or to attend the festivals celebrated in honor of the great national deities, caused the movement, every year, of thousands of Greeks, many of whom came from a great distance—from remote parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa. These festivals held a place in the lives of the Greeks of which we, subject to the tyranny of professional duty and the cares of business, can hardly form a conception. We can imagine that the attendants upon them, during the few hours they passed together, would have much to tell one another and to learn, and would improve the opportunity. Can anything be fancied better than these removals and meetings to awaken the mind and keep it on the alert, and thus to forestall the estrangement with which the race was threatened by reason of the dispersion and wide separation of its branches? The Greeks of Hellas could refresh and increase their knowledge by conversation with those of their brethren who, like Ulysses, had "seen cities and learned the thoughts of many men." The citizens of the most remote colonies, those who lived in small groups among barbarians or in the oases of the desert, having taken part in the periodical solemnities at Athens, Delphi, or Olympia, could return more Greek in feeling and thought, manners and language. Like the giant of one of their fables, they had recruited their strength by touching the mother's bosom of the country of which they were children.
Greece was thus at once central and scattered; central in Hellas, scattered and multiplied in the periphery. The great body