National Geographic : 1963 Jul
example, a beautifully carved marble block bearing a Turkish inscription praising an Ottoman governor. Just a few paces from this carving stands a lone olive tree. As I leaned against it, Mr. Edmonson recalled the legend of Athena and Poseidon, who waged a contest on the Acrop olis to see which should control Attica and be the patron deity of Athens: "Poseidon threw his trident into the rock, and a spring of sea water gushed out. Then Athena thrust her spear into the ground, and a full-grown olive tree sprang up. Athena was victorious and the city was named in her honor because of the value of her gift. To this day the Greeks think it is unlucky to cut down an olive tree. "The historian Herodotus says that when Athenians returned to the Acropolis after the Persians had burned the temples, they were astounded to discover that the blackened stub of Athena's tree had produced a foot and a half of new growth overnight. They took this as a sign Athena had not abandoned her city. "And that's Athena's tree you're leaning against!" he concluded. Was the story any less inter esting because I knew that a di rector of the American School of Classical Studies had planted the tree 35 years ago? A drive through the country side 50 miles west of Athens took Harrington and me to the site of Old Corinth, the city of Paul's Letters to the Corinthians. Leav ing Athens, we passed the Kera meikos, marble-studded cemetery of the ancients, where Pericles delivered his celebrated funeral oration for the Athenian dead in the war with Sparta; the olive grove of Plato's Academy; and Streetside grill offers take home meat courses. Customers buy slices of roast lamb or of long, thin kokoretsi-skewered lamb heart and liver wound in washed intestines and broiled to a crisp. Visitors approach kokoretsi doubtfully, but most find it delicious. Nosegays say it's May Day. 127 Daphni, whose monastic church holds some of the world's finest Byzantine mosaics. And all the while we were following the Sacred Way, the road on which processions wound their way to Eleusis for the highly secret rituals of the mystery cult of Demeter. Now the mysteries are lost, and the sanctuary of Demeter that I saw is but a drab field of ruins. The thin, rocky soil of Attica offers scant hospitality to today's farmer, yet we passed frequent wheat fields and orange groves. Men and women scythed grass and cultivated their plots with hoes so heavy that watching them left me weary. The dusty green of olive trees lined the road for long distances, their twisted, pitted, and perforated trunks sometimes three feet thick, but the limbs much smaller because of severe pruning a few feet from the ground. On we drove, past pistachio groves and through fields spangled with the wild flowers HS EKTACHROMEBY PHILLIP HARRINGTON() N.G .S .