National Geographic : 1963 Jul
KODACHROME FROM BLACK - AH O Attic shape! fair attitude! with... marble men and maidens overwrought Patched bowl that held wine some 2,450 years ago brings to solid form John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Fabled Ariadne holds a wreath to lay on the brow of Theseus after his victory over the Cretan Minotaur. Save on pottery, classical Greek painting has all but perished. Ancient Greek designs inspire modern vases turned out by scores in a Piraeus pottery factory. We have extensive knowledge of the Agora and other parts of classical Athens, thanks to the detailed Description of Greece written by Pausanius, a traveler of the 2d century A.D. But for the reconstructed Agora itself, we are indebted to the painstaking work of the American School of Classical Studies. This archeological institution, supported by nearly 90 U. S. and Canadian educational organizations, carries on excavations in Ath ens and in the Peloponnesus. For the Agora dig, the school bought up 360 pieces of prop erty and leveled many houses in Plaka, the "old town" of Athens that clings to the north slope of the Acropolis. With Colin Edmonson, then Secretary of the American School, I strolled the ten-acre Agora. We walked amid tumbled stones that once echoed to the slapping sandals of the great Athenians of the Golden Age. I had to keep reminding myself that this was indeed the spot where Socrates had met his friends and carried on his dialogues. To the southwest of the market I found the raised circular floor of the Tholos, seat of the ancient Athenian Government. Here, I learned, a number of the city's council mem bers lived, ate, and slept so as to be available at all hours. And nearby any winner in the Olympic Games could get free meals for the rest of his life. Red Paint for Shirking Voters In the strict democracy of Athens, every male citizen was subject to political service. Four times a month, at dawn, every man was expected to appear on the Pnyx, a low hill near the Agora. There he voted on the laws of Athens as a member of the world's first par liament of free citizens. There he heard such famed orators as Pericles and Demosthenes. "If citizens tried to get out of this public duty," Mr. Edmonson told me, "Scythian arch ers who served as Athenian police rounded up the stragglers and drove them with ropes freshly dipped in red paint. Anyone whose clothes became stained had to pay a fine." In the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos II (opposite), he showed me objects of everyday life that tell much about ancient Athens. "You know what it means to ostracize some one. Well, that word comes from the Greek ostrakon, and here is an ostracon." He showed me a potsherd. "This fragment of pottery was a ballot prepared for use against the famous Themistocles. You can see the letters of his name scratched on it. The Athe nians were often jealous of their leaders, HS EKTACHROMEBY PHILLIP HARRINGTON( N.G.S.