National Geographic : 1919 Jun
© Donald McLeish THE CASTLE ON LAKE GENEVA WHERE THE PRISONER OF CHILLON WAS CONFINED FOR SIX YEARS After his release from the dungeon of this castle, Francois de Bonivard, the original of Byron's "Prisoner of Chillon," was commissioned to write a history of Geneva. His style was more forceful than elegant. For example, in speaking of the manner in which the city was hemmed in by its enemies, he wrote: "One could scarcely spit over the walls without spitting on the Duke of Savoy," and "As the glutton likes a good plump fowl, so the Duke likes Gen eva." He likened some of his timorous fellow-patriots to "those who want to catch the fish without getting their feet wet." Duke Charles of Brunswick, who be queathed 20,000,000 francs to the city he loved so well; through the narrow, step like streets of the old town up to the eleventh century cathedral, and to the por tals of the famous Hotel de Ville, within the shadow of whose walls Servetus heard pronounced the sentence of death at the stake. It is a poor European city that cannot trace its origin back to the age of myth and mythology. It took Geneva a long time to extend its family tree to Hellenic days, but traditionists now declare that four centuries ago there was discovered in the castle of Chillon a document which makes the lake city a contender with Rome for antiquity. It will be remembered that the Eternal City was founded by the descendants of <Eneas and his followers, who escaped from the Greeks after the fall of Troy. Geneva, which under Calvin's regime was to acquire the appellation, the "Protest ant Rome," likewise turns to Troy for its traditional founder - Lemanus, son of Paris, whose abduction of the fair Helen from the palace of Menelaus brought on the Trojan war. And, to prove their case, Genevan guide-books point to their lake, Leman (from the old Latin name for Lake Geneva, revived in the eigh teenth century), named in honor of their mythical progenitor. Leaving the realm of fiction and tradi tion, the settlement at the southwestern extremity of the Alpine lake remained under the domination of Rome from the time of Caesar until the break-up of the empire. In that period of five centuries it was twice razed-once by the Ostro goths and once by Attila and his Huns.