National Geographic : 1930 Dec
NEW GREECE, THE CENTENARIAN, FORGES AHEAD A REVIVAL OF THE PYTHIAN GAMES IN THEIR HOME STADIUM Greek soldiers who appeared in a series of athletic contests are here engaged in a tug-of-war. promenade up and down, modern editions of the ancient chorus. Men in straw hats chop the air with their flattened bands, making manual training of politics. Mam mas call to their children, who never seem to sleep, and restless peace pervades the land. Athens is rapidly becoming modernized. The subway station at Omonoia, its cen tral square, is one of the busiest in Eu rope. A huge new structure stands at the head of Stadium Street. Good hotels are available and the Athenian garden res taurants are veritable oases on summer nights. But the main advance in recent years has been the new water supply pro vided by American engineers. A lake has appeared near Marathon, held back by a dam faced with such Pentelic marble as graces the Acropolis. The water comes in part through Hadrian's Aqueduct and at long last Athens and its suburbs have water enough even for the vastly in creased population. TIE STADIUM, CENTER OF HELLENIC PAGEANTRY The ancient stadium, newly sheathed in marble, is still the scene of pageantry (see illustration, page 651). In ancient times it rang to the cheers of frenzied crowds; but perhaps no event, even in the old heroic days, equaled that when a Greek peasant, Loues, won the Mara thon race at the first modern Olympic Games in 19o6. Women tore their jewelry from wrist and throat to offer to him, and an Athenian bootblack promised him free shines for life. One who thinks of a Greek shoeshine as the quintessence of the ephemeral realizes that this impulsive offer, if accepted, amounted to peonage. At the sound of a brush whacked against a wooden box, half of Athens shifts its feet. Pausanias knew the stadium soon after Herodes Atticus gave marble seats and partitions to the partly natural amphi theater. "The greater part of the Pentelic quarries was used up in its construction," was his false second-century impression. Forty years ago zigzag paths cut through the underbrush and several led up over the earthen slope at the curved end. But Greece is rich in public-spirited philan thropists. One of them resheathed the structure in Pentelic marble and to-day the world contains no finer stadium than this.