National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Fishermen in the Gulf of Corinth FISH was a popular item in the diet of the Greeks, es pecially for the poorer classes. The Homeric Heroes seemed not to regard it highly but preferred great roasts of oxen, sheep, and goats. In this it is likely that they reflect their northern origins, for they came from inland countries where sea food was not obtainable. In the fifth century, however, an Athenian banquet almost invariably included a fish course, and all sorts of rarer fish and mollusks were found at a well-set table. The Athenian gourmets were especially fond of the great eels which were brought from Lake Kopais in Boeotia, and the ringing of the fish bell to announce the arrival in the market of a fresh catch- of fish was the signal for a rush of householders to get there in time to obtain the best. For a long time it was the Athenian custom for the master of the house, accompanied by a slave, to do the marketing, and it was not until relatively late times that the women were allowed to have any part in it. An old story relates that at a recital by a lyre player his entire audience, with the exception of one deaf old man, departed without ceremony when the fish bell rang. When the musician thanked him for his courtesy in remaining in spite of the ringing of the bell, the man said, "What! Did the fish bell ring?" and rushed off as fast as he could go. Large quantities of sardines were caught in Phaleron Bay at Piraeus and, being plentiful and cheap, formed a major part of the diet of the poorer classes. Tunny also were plentiful. We hear of salt and smoked fish being brought from the Black Sea ports and the Spanish coast. In fishing, the ancientGreeks used nets mainly, but they also angled with hooks and lines. Bronze hooks have been found in excavations. There islittle toshow, however, that fishing was ever regardedas asport; itwas always aserious business. Octopuses were caught then asnow with tridents, which could also be usedinspearing fish, especially atnight by the light of torches. Our picture shows a fishing scene ontheshore ofthe Gulf of Corinth, beyond which rises Mount Helicon. Afishing boat has just put in, andbaskets ofherring and some tunny are being carried up to betaken tothe fish market inthe city, two miles or more away from theshore. One old man has comedown tothe source ofsupply and is bargaining with the fisherman. Possibly heisconvinced of the truth of the epithets found inthecomedies, that fishermen were assassinsand robbers. Near by, on some rocks,aboy isfishing with rod and line. In one hand he holds asort oflanding basket, and inthe water near him is anotherbasket inwhich heprobably puts the fish he catches so astokeep them fresh until itistime to go home. Out beyond the youngangler awarship isheaded west ward, her mast stepped and sailsettocatch thebreeze. The high latticed forecastle, single animal's head ram, and one bank of oars are characteristic ofsixth-century ships. In the tree above the man who isengaged incleaning fish sits a small owl, such as still may beseen flitting about, even in broad daylight, although they usually come out atdusk and pass the greater partof theday insmall burrows.