Lydia Maria Child
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
A Grecian Romance.
BY L. MARIA CHILD.
AUTHOR OF LETTERS FROM NEW YORK, FLOWERS FOR CHILDREN, ETC
The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of old religion,
The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty,
That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain.
Or forest by slow stream, or pabbly spring,
Or chasms and watery depths, all these have vanished--
They live no longer in the faith of Reason!
But still, the heart doth need a language--still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names.
A Spirit hung,
Beautiful region! o'er thy towns and farms,
Statues, and temples, and memorial tombs,
And _emanations_ were perceived.
A NEW AND CORRECTED EDITION.
MY BELOVED BROTHER,
OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY,
To whose Early Influence I owe my Love of Literature
IS RESPECTFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.
This volume is purely romance; and most readers will consider it romance
of the wildest kind. A few kindred spirits, prone to people space "with
life and mystical predominance," will perceive a light _within_ the
For such I have written it. To minds of different mould, who may think
an apology necessary for what they will deem so utterly useless, I have
nothing better to offer than the simple fact that I found delight in
Here let us seek Athenæ's towers,
The cradle of old Cecrops' race,
The world's chief ornament and grace;
Here mystic fanes and rites divine,
And lamps in sacred splendour shine;
Here the gods dwell in marble domes,
Feasted with costly hecatombs,
That round their votive statues blaze,
Whilst crowded temples ring with praise;
And pompous sacrifices here
Make holidays throughout the year.
The moon was moving through the heavens in silent glory; and Athens,
with all her beautiful variety of villas, altars, statues, and temples,
rejoiced in the hallowed light.
The white columns of the lofty Parthenon stood in distinct relief
against the clear blue sky; the crest and spear of Pallas Promachos
glittered in the refulgent atmosphere, a beacon to the distant mariner;
the line of brazen tripods, leading from the Theatre of Dionysus, glowed
like urns of fire; and the waters of the Illyssus glanced right
joyfully, as they moved onward to the ocean. The earth was like a
slumbering babe, smiling in its sleep, because it dreams of Heaven.
In the most ancient and quiet part of the city, not far from the gate
Diocharis, was the modest mansion of Anaxagoras; and at this tranquil
hour, the grand-daughter of the philosopher, with her beloved companion
Eudora, stood on the roof, enjoying the radiant landscape, and the balmy
Philothea's tall figure was a lovely union of majesty and grace. The
golden hair, which she inherited from a Laconian mother, was tastefully
arranged on the top of her head, in a braided crown, over the sides of
which the bright curls fell, like tendrils of grapes from the edge of a
basket. The mild brilliancy of her large dark eyes formed a beautiful
contrast to a complexion fair even to transparency. Her expression had
the innocence of infancy; but it was tinged with something elevated and
holy, which made it seem like infancy in Heaven.
Eudora had more sparkling eyes, lips more richly coloured, and a form
more slender and flexile. Her complexion might have seemed dark, had it
not been relieved by a profusion of glossy black hair, a portion of
which was fastened with a silver arrow, while the remainder shaded her
forehead, and fell over her shoulders.
As they stood side by side, with their arms twined around each other,
they were as lovely a sight as the moon ever shone upon. Totally unlike
each other, but both excellent in beauty. One might have been a model
for the seraphs of Christian faith, the other an Olympian deity.
For a few moments, Philothea stood in earnest silence, gazing upon the
bright planet of evening--then, in a tone of deep enthusiasm, she
"It is a night to feel the presence of the gods! Virgin sister of
Phoebus, how calm thou art in thy glorious beauty! Thou art filling the
world with music--silent to the ear, but audible to the heart! Phidias
has embodied the unbreathing harmony in stone, and we worship the fair
proportions, as an emanation from the gods. The birds feel it--and
wonder at the tune that makes no noise. The whole earth is lulled by its
influence. All is motionless; save the Naiades of the stream, moving in
wreathed dance to the voiceless melody. See how their shining hair
sparkles on the surface of the waters! Surely there is music in this
light! Eudora, what is it within us, that listens where there is no
sound? Is it thus we shall hear in Elysium?"
In a subdued and troubled voice, her companion answered, "Oh, Philothea,
when you talk thus, my spirit is in fear--and now, too, all is so still
and bright, that it seems as if the gods themselves were listening to
"The same mysterious influence impresses me with awe," replied the
contemplative maiden: "In such an hour as this, Plato must have received
the sublime thought, 'God is truth--and light is his shadow.'"
Eudora drew more closely to her friend, and said, timidly: "Oh,
Philothea, do not talk of the gods. Such discourse has a strange and
fearful power, when the radiant daughter of Zeus is looking down upon us
in all her heavenly majesty. Even the midnight procession of the
Panathenæa affected me less deeply."
After a few moments of serious silence, she continued: "I saw it last
night, for the first time since my childhood; for you know I was very
ill when the festival was last celebrated. It was truly a beautiful and
majestic scene! The virgins all clothed in white; the heifers decorated
with garlands; the venerable old men bearing branches of olive; the
glittering chariots; the noble white horses, obeying the curb with such
proud impatience; the consecrated image of Pallas carried aloft on its
bed of flowers; the sacred ship blazing with gems and gold; all moving
in the light of a thousand torches! Then the music, so loud and
harmonious! It seemed as if all Athens joined in the mighty sound. I
distinguished you in the procession; and I almost envied you the
privilege of embroidering the sacred peplus, and being six long months
in the service of Pallas Athenæ. I have had so much to say since you
returned, and Phidias has so many guests, that I have found little time
to ask concerning the magnificent sights you saw within the Acropolis."
"The night would wear away, ere I could describe all I witnessed within
the walls of the Parthenon alone," rejoined her companion: "There is the
silver-footed throne, on which Xerxes sat, while he watched the battle
of Salamis; the scimitar of Mardonius, captured at Platææ; a beautiful
ivory Persephone, on a pedestal of pure gold; and a Methymnean lyre,
said to have belonged to Terpander himself, who you know was the first
that used seven strings. Victorious wreaths, coins, rings, and goblets
of shining gold, are there without number; and Persian couches, and
Egyptian sphynxes, and--",
"What do you find so interesting beyond the walls?" asked Eudora,
smiling at the earnestness with which her friend gazed in the distance:"
Do the slaves, bringing water from the Fountain of Callirhöe, look so
very beautiful in the moonlight?"
"I marvel that you can speak so lightly," replied Philothea: "We have as
yet heard no tidings concerning the decision in the Court of Cynosarges,
on which the fate of Philæmon depends; and you know how severely his
high spirit will suffer, if an unfavourable sentence is awarded. Neither
of us have alluded to this painful topic. But why have we thus lingered
on the house-top, if it were not to watch for the group which, if I
mistake not, are now approaching, on their return from Cynosarges?"
"Then it is for Philæmon's sake, that you have so long been looking
wistfully toward the Illyssus?" said Eudora, playfully.
"I will not deny that Paralus has had the largest share of my thoughts,"
replied the simple-hearted maiden; "but for Philæmon, as your betrothed
lover, and the favourite pupil of my grandfather, I feel an interest
strong enough to keep me on the watch during a less delightful evening
than this. I think it must be Paralus who walks in the centre of the
group; we have been separated many months; and courtesy to the numerous
strangers under his father's roof has prevented our having much
discourse to-day. For his sake, I am glad once more to be in my own
happy home. He is none the less dear to me because I know that he can
never be my husband."
"And why should he not?" exclaimed Eudora: "The blood of princes flowed
in the veins of your ancestors. If Anaxagoras is poor, it is because he
has preferred wisdom to gold."
With a faint sigh, Philothea answered, "Had the good old man preferred
gold to wisdom, I should have loved him less; nor would his instructions
have made me such a wife as Paralus deserves; yet Pericles would have
better liked the union. He has obtained from his son a solemn promise
never to speak to me of marriage. The precaution was unnecessary; for
since this new law has passed, I would not marry Paralus, even with his
father's consent. I would never be the means of bringing degradation and
losses upon him."
"If you still love Paralus, I wonder you can be so quiet and cheerful,"
"I wished him to make the required promise, because obedience to parents
is our first duty," replied Philothea; "and had I thought otherwise, the
laws compel it. But the liberty of loving Paralus, no power can take
from me; and in that I find sufficient happiness. I am bound to him by
ties stronger than usually bind the hearts of women. My kind grandfather
has given me an education seldom bestowed on daughters; and from our
childhood, Paralus and I have shared the same books, the same music, and
the same thoughts, until our souls seem to be one. When I am very happy,
I always see a peculiar brightness on his countenance; and when I am
powerfully impressed by any of the fair sights of this beautiful world,
or by those radiant deities who live among the stars, often, before I
can speak my thoughts, he utters my very words. I sometimes think the
gods have united human beings by some mysterious principle, like the
according notes of music. Or is it as Plato has supposed, that souls
originally one have been divided, and each seeks the half it has lost?
Eudora, if you consider how generally maidens are bestowed in marriage
without consulting their affections, you must confess that you have
reason to feel deeply grateful for your own lot."
"Yet this new law against those of foreign parentage, renders marriage
with me as dishonourable as with you," rejoined the maiden: "Nay, it is
much more so; for I am a slave, though, by courtesy, they do not call me
"But Philæmon has no parents to forbid his choice," said Philothea;
"and if the court decide against him, he will incur no fine by a
marriage with you; for he himself will then be a sojourner in Athens.
The loss of his paternal estates will indeed leave him poor; but he has
friends to assist his own energies, and in all probability, your union
will not be long delayed. Ah, now I am certain that Anaxagoras
approaches, with Paralus and Philæmon. They perceive us; but Paralus
does not wave his hand, as he promised to do, if they brought good
Without appearing to share her anxiety, Eudora carelessly inquired, "Did
you witness the Festival of Torches, while you were within the
Acropolis? The swiftness of the runners, moving in the light of their
own torches, making statues and temples ruddy with the glow as they
passed, was truly a beautiful sight. I suppose you heard that Alcibiades
gained the prize? With what graceful celerity he darted through the
course! I was at Aspasia's house that evening. It is so near the goal,
that we could plainly see his countenance flushed with excitement and
exercise, as he stood waving his unextinguished torch in triumph."
"I am sorry Phidias considers improvement in music of sufficient
consequence to encourage your visits to that dangerous woman," answered
Philothea: "It was an unpropitious day for Athens when she came here to
invest vice with all the allurements of beauty and eloquence."
"I think women should judge kindly of Aspasia's faults, and remember
that they are greatly exaggerated by her enemies," rejoined Eudora; "for
she proves that they are fit for something better than mere domestic
slaves. Her house is the only one in all Greece where women are allowed
to be present at entertainments. What is the use of a beautiful face, if
one must be shut up in her own apartment for ever? And what avails skill
in music, if there is no chance to display it? I confess that I like the
customs Aspasia is trying to introduce."
"And I should like them, if I believed they would make the Grecian women
something _better_ than mere domestic slaves," said Philothea; "but such
as Aspasia will never raise women out of the bondage in which they are
placed by the impurity and selfishness of man. Your own confessions,
Eudora, do not speak well for her instructions. Why should a
true-hearted woman wish to display her beautiful face, or her skill in
music, to any but those on whom her affections are bestowed?"
"It is natural to wish for admiration," replied the handsome maiden:
"The goddesses themselves contended for it. You, at least, ought not to
judge Aspasia harshly; for she has the idea that you are some deity in
disguise; and she has the most extravagant desire to see you."
"Flattery to ourselves does not change the nature of what is wrong,"
answered Philothea. "Pericles has more than once mentioned Aspasia's
wish that I should visit her; but nothing short of my grandfather's
express command will ever induce me to do it. Our friends are now
entering the gate. Let us go to welcome them."
Eudora hastily excused herself under the plea of duties at home; and
Philothea, supposing it might be painful to meet her unfortunate lover
in the presence of others, forebore to urge it.
A paternal blessing beamed from the countenance of Anaxagoras, the
moment Philothea appeared. Paralus greeted her as a brother welcomes a
cherished sister; but in the earnest kindness of his glance was
expressed something more deep and heart-stirring than his words implied.
Philæmon, though more thoughtful than usual, received his own and
Eudora's friend, with cheerful cordiality. His countenance had the frank
and smiling expression of one who truly wishes well to all men, and
therefore sees everything reflected in forms of joy. His figure was
athletic, while his step and bearing indicated the promptitude and
decision of a man who acts spontaneously from his own convictions.
Paralus, far from being effeminate, was distinguished for his dexterity
and skill in all the manly sports of the gymnasium; but the purity of
his complexion, and the peculiarly spiritual expression of his face,
would have been deemed beautiful, even in a woman. The first he probably
derived from his mode of life; for, being a strict Pythagorean, he never
partook of animal food. The last was the transparent medium of
innocence, through which thoughts and affections continually showed
their changing forms of life.
In answer to her eager questions, Philothea soon learned that her fears
had prophesied aright concerning the decision of the court. Philæmon
had been unsuccessful; but the buoyant energy of his character did not
yield even to temporary despondency. He spoke of his enemies without
bitterness, and of his own prospects with confidence and hope.
Philothea would have immediately gone to convey the tidings to her
friend, had not Philæmon early taken his leave, and passed through the
garden into the house of Phidias.
Paralus remained until a late hour, alternately talking with the
venerable philosopher, and playing upon his flute, while Philothea sung
the songs they had learned together.
In the course of conversation, Anaxagoras informed his child that
Pericles particularly urged her attendance at Aspasia's next symposium.
"I obey my grandfather, without a question," she replied; "but I would
much rather avoid this visit, if it were possible."
"Such is likewise my wish," rejoined the philosopher; "but Pericles has
plainly implied that he should be offended by refusal; it is therefore
necessary to comply with his request."
The maiden looked doubtingly at her lover, as if she deemed his
sanction necessary; and the inquiring glance was answered by an
affectionate smile. "I need not repeat my thoughts and feelings with
regard to Aspasia," said Paralus, "for you know them well; but for many
reasons it is not desirable that an estrangement should take place
between my father and Anaxagoras. Since, therefore, it has pleased
Pericles to insist upon it, I think the visit had better be made. You
need not fear any very alarming innovation upon the purity of ancient
manners. Even Aspasia will reverence you,"
Philothea meekly yielded to the opinion of her friends; and it was
decided that, on the evening after the morrow, she should accompany her
grandfather to Aspasia's dwelling.
Before proceeding farther, it is necessary to relate the situation of
the several characters introduced in this chapter.
Anaxagoras had been the tutor of Pericles, and still retained
considerable influence over him; but there were times when the
straightforward sincerity, and uncompromising integrity of the old man
were somewhat offensive and troublesome to his ambitious pupil. For the
great Athenian statesman, like modern politicians, deemed honesty
excellent in theory, and policy safe in practice. Thus admitting the
absurd proposition that principles entirely false and corrupt in the
abstract are more salutary, in their practical manifestation, than
principles essentially good and true.
While Pericles was determined to profit by diseases of the state, the
philosopher was anxious to cure them; therefore, independently of
personal affection and gratitude, he was willing to make slight
concessions, in order to retain some influence over his illustrious
The celebrated Aspasia was an elegant and voluptuous Ionian, who
succeeded admirably in pleasing the good taste of the Athenians, while
she ministered to their vanity and their vices. The wise and good
lamented the universal depravity of manners, sanctioned by her
influence; but a people so gay, so ardent, so intensely enamoured of the
beautiful, readily acknowledged the sway of an eloquent and fascinating
woman, who carefully preserved the appearance of decorum. Like the
Gabrielles and Pompadours of modern times, Aspasia obtained present
admiration and future fame, while hundreds of better women were
neglected and forgotten. The crowds of wealthy and distinguished men who
gathered around her, were profuse in their flattery, and munificent in
their gifts; and Pericles so far yielded to her influence, that he
divorced his wife and married her.
Philæmon was at that time on terms of intimacy with the illustrious
orator; and he earnestly remonstrated against this union, as alike
disgraceful to Pericles and injurious to public morals. By this advice
he incurred the inveterate dislike of Aspasia; who never rested from her
efforts until she had persuaded her husband to procure the revival of an
ancient law, by which all citizens who married foreigners, were
subjected to a heavy fine; and all persons, whose parents were not both
Athenians, were declared incapable of voting in the public assemblies,
or of inheriting the estates of their fathers. Pericles the more
readily consented to this, because such a law at once deprived many
political enemies of power. Philæmon was the son of Chærilaüs, a
wealthy Athenian; but his mother had been born in Corinth, though
brought to Athens during childhood. It was supposed that this latter
circumstance, added to the patriotism of his family and his own moral
excellence, would prevent the application of the law in his individual
case. But Alcibiades, for reasons unknown to the public, united his
influence with that of Aspasia; and their partizans were active and
powerful. When the case was tried in the court of illegitimacy at
Cynosarges, Philæmon was declared a sojourner in Athens, incapable of
holding any office, and dispossessed of his paternal inheritance.
Eudora was a mere infant when Phidias bought her of a poor goatherd in
Phelle. The child was sitting upon a rock, caressing a kid, when the
sculptor first saw her, and the gracefulness of her attitude attracted
his attention, while her innocent beauty touched his heart. She and her
nurse had been stolen from the Ionian coast, by Greek pirates. The nurse
was sold into slavery, and the babe delivered by one of the pirates to
the care of his mother. The little creature, in her lisping way, called
herself baby Minta; and this appellation she retained, until Phidias
gave her the name of Eudora.
Philothea, the orphan daughter of Alcimenes, son of Anaxagoras, was a
year or two older than Eudora. She was brought to Athens, at about the
same period; and as they resided very near each other, the habitual
intercourse of childhood naturally ripened into mature friendship. No
interruption of this constant intimacy occurred, until Philothea was
appointed one of the Canephoræ, whose duty it was to embroider the
sacred peplus, and to carry baskets in the grand procession of the
Panathenæa. Six months of complete seclusion within the walls of the
Acropolis, were required of the Canephoræ. During this protracted
absence, Aspasia persuaded Phidias to bring Eudora frequently to her
house; and her influence insensibly produced a great change in that
young person, whose character was even more flexile than her form.
"With grace divine her soul is blest,
And heavenly Pallas breathes within her breast;
In wonderous arts than woman more renowned,
And more than woman with deep wisdom crowned.
It was the last market hour of Athens, when Anaxagoras, Philothea, and
Eudora, accompanied by Geta, the favourite slave of Phidias, stepped
forth into the street, on their way to Aspasia's residence.
Loud shouts of laughter came from the agoras, and the whole air was
filled with the hum of a busy multitude. Groups of citizens lingered
about the porticos; Egyptians, Medians, Sicilians, and strangers from
all the neighbouring States of Greece, thronged the broad avenue of the
Piræus; women, carrying upon their heads olive jars, baskets of grapes,
and vases of water, glided among the crowd, with that majestic motion so
peculiar to the peasantry in countries where this custom prevails.
Philothea drew the folds of her veil more closely, and clung timidly to
her venerable protector. But neither this, nor increasing twilight,
could screen the graceful maidens from observation. Athenians looked
back as they passed, and foreigners paused to inquire their name and
In a few moments they were under the walls of the Acropolis, walking in
the shadow of the olive groves, among god-like statues, to which the
gathering obscurity of evening gave an impressive distinctness--as if
the light departing from the world, stood petrified in marble.
Thence they entered the inner Ceramicus, where Aspasia resided. The
building, like all the private houses of Athens, had a plain exterior,
strongly contrasted by the magnificence of surrounding temples, and
porticos. At the gate, an image of Hermes looked toward the harbour,
while Phoebus, leaning on his lyre, appeared to gaze earnestly at the
A slave, stationed near the door, lighted the way to the apartment where
Aspasia was reclining, with a Doric harp by her side, on which she had
just been playing. The first emotion she excited was surprise at the
radiant and lucid expression, which mantled her whole face, and made the
very blood seem eloquent. In her large dark eye the proud consciousness
of intellect was softened only by melting voluptuousness; but something
of sadness about her beautiful mouth gave indication that the heavenly
part of her nature still struggled with earth-born passions.
A garland of golden leaves, with large drops of pearl, was interwoven
among the glossy braids of her hair, and rested on her forehead.
She wore a robe of rich Milesian purple, the folds of which were
confined on one shoulder within a broad ring of gold, curiously wrought;
on the other they were fastened by a beautiful cameo, representing the
head of Pericles. The crimson couch gave a soft flush to the cheek and
snowy arm that rested on it; and, for a moment, even Philothea yielded
to the enchantment of her beauty.
Full of smiles, Aspasia rose and greeted Eudora, with the ease and
gracefulness of one long accustomed to homage; but when the venerable
philosopher introduced his child, she felt the simple purity emanating
from their characters, and something of embarrassment mingled with her
Her own face was uncovered, contrary to the custom of Grecian women; and
after a few of those casual remarks which everywhere serve to fill up
the pauses in conversation, she playfully seized Eudora's veil, and
threw it back over her shoulders. She would have done the same to
Philothea; but the maiden placed her hand on the half transparent
covering, and said, "With your leave, lady, I remain veiled."
"But I cannot give my leave," rejoined Aspasia, playfully, still keeping
her hold upon the veil: "I must see this tyrannical custom done away in
the free commonwealth of Athens. All the matrons who visit my house
agree with me in this point; all are willing to renounce the absurd
"But in a maiden it would be less seemly," answered Philothea.
Thus resisted, Aspasia appealed to Anaxagoras to exert his authority;
adding, in an audible whisper, "Phidias has told me that she is as
lovely as the immortals."
With a quiet smile, the aged philosopher replied, "My child must be
guided by her own heart. The gods have there placed an oracle, which
never misleads or perplexes those who listen to it."
Aspasia continued, "From what I had heard of you, Philothea, I expected
to find you above the narrow prejudices of Grecian women. In _you_ I was
sure of a mind strong enough to break the fetters of habit. Tell me, my
bashful maiden, why is beauty given us, unless it be like sunlight to
bless and gladden the world?"
"Lady," replied the gentle recluse, "beauty is given to remind us that
the soul should be kept as fair and perfect in its proportions, as the
temple in which it dwells."
"You are above ordinary women," said Aspasia; "for you hear me allude to
your beauty without affecting to contradict me, and apparently without
The sound of voices in earnest conversation announced the approach of
Pericles with visiters. "Come to my room for a few moments," said
Aspasia, addressing the maidens: "I have just received a magnificent
present, which I am sure Eudora will admire. As she spoke, she led the
way to an upper apartment. When they opened the door, a soft light shone
upon them from a lamp, which a marble Psyche shaded with her hand, as
she bent over the couch of Eros.
"Now that we are quite sure of being uninterrupted, you cannot refuse to
raise your veil," said Aspasia.
Simply and naturally, the maiden did as she was desired; without any
emotion of displeasure or exultation at the eager curiosity of her
For an instant, Aspasia stood rebuked and silent, in the presence of
that serene and holy beauty.
With deep feeling she exclaimed, "Maiden, Phidias spoke truly. Even
thus do we imagine the immortals!"
A faint blush gleamed on Philothea's face; for her meek spirit was
pained by a comparison with things divine; but it passed rapidly; and
her whole soul became absorbed in the lovely statues before her.
Eudora's speaking glance seemed to say, "I knew her beauty would
surprise you!" and then, with the eager gayety of a little child, she
began to examine the gorgeous decorations of the room.
The couch rested on two sphinxes of gold and ivory, over which the
purple drapery fell in rich and massive folds. In one corner, a pedestal
of Egyptian marble supported an alabaster vase, on the edge of which
were two doves, exquisitely carved, one just raising his head, the other
stooping to drink. On a similar stand, at the other side, stood a
peacock, glittering with many coloured gems. The head lowered upon the
breast formed the handle; while here and there, among the brilliant tail
feathers, appeared a languid flame slowly burning away the perfumed oil,
with which the bird was filled.
Eudora clapped her hands, with an exclamation of delight. "That is the
present of which I spoke," said Aspasia, smiling: "It was sent by
Artaphernes, the Persian, who has lately come to Athens to buy pictures
and statues for the great king."
As Philothea turned towards her companion, she met Aspasia's earnest
gaze. "Had you forgotten where you were?" she asked.
"No, lady, I could not forget that," replied the maiden. As she spoke,
she hastily withdrew her eyes from an immodest picture, on which they
had accidentally rested; and, blushing deeply, she added, "But there is
something so life-like in that slumbering marble, that for a moment I
almost feared Eudora would waken it."
"You will not look upon the picture," rejoined Aspasia; "yet it relates
a story of one of the gods you reverence so highly. I am told you are a
devout believer in these fables?"
"When fiction is the robe of truth, I worship it for what it covers,"
replied Philothea; "but I love not the degrading fables which poets have
made concerning divine beings. Such were not the gods of Solon; for such
the wise and good can never be, in this world or another."
"Then you believe in a future existence?" said Aspasia, with an
With quiet earnestness, Philothea answered:--"Lady, the simple fact that
the human soul has ever _thought_ of another world, is sufficient proof
that there is one; for how can an idea be formed by mortals, unless it
has first existed in the divine mind?"
"A reader of Plato, I perceive!" exclaimed Aspasia: "They told me I
should find you pure and child-like; with a soul from which poetry
sparkled, like moonlight on the waters. I did not know that wisdom and
philosophy lay concealed in its depths."
"Is there any other wisdom, than true simplicity and innocence?" asked
With a look of delighted interest, Aspasia took her arm familiarly;
saying, "You and I must be friends. I shall not grow weary of you, as I
do of other women. Not of you, dearest," she added in an under tone,
tapping Eudora's cheek. "You must come here constantly, Philothea.
Though I am aware," continued she, smiling, "that it is bad policy for
me to seek a guest who will be sure to eclipse me."
"Pardon me, lady," said Philothea, gently disengaging herself:
"Friendship cannot be without sympathy."
A sudden flush of anger suffused Aspasia's countenance; and Eudora
looked imploringly at her friend, as she said, "You love _me_,
Philothea; and I am sure we are very different."
"I crave pardon," interrupted Aspasia, with haughty impatience. "I
should have remembered that the conversation prized by Pericles and
Plato, might appear contemptible, to this youthful Pallas, who so
proudly seeks to conceal her precious wisdom from ears profane."
"Lady, you mistake me," answered Philothea, mildly: "Your intellect,
your knowledge, are as far above mine, as the radiant stars are above
the flowers of the field. Besides, I never felt contempt for anything to
which the gods had given life. It is impossible for me to despise you;
but I pity you."
"Pity!" exclaimed Aspasia, in a piercing tone, which made both the
maidens start. "Am I not the wife of Pericles, and the friend of Plato?
Has not Phidias modelled his Aphrodite from my form? Is there in all
Greece a poet who has not sung my praises? Is there an artist who has
not paid me tribute? Phoenicia sends me her most splendid manufactures
and her choicest slaves; Egypt brings her finest linen and her metals of
curious workmanship; while Persia unrolls her silks, and pours out her
gems at my feet. To the remotest period of time, the world,--aye, the
_world_,--maiden, will hear of Aspasia, the beautiful and the gifted!"
For a moment, Philothea looked on her, silently and meekly, as she stood
with folded arms, flushed brow, and proudly arched neck. Then, in a
soft, sad voice, she answered: "Aye, lady--but will your spirit _hear_
the echo of your fame, as it rolls back from the now silent shores of
"You utter nonsense!" said Aspasia, abruptly: "There is no immortality
but fame. In history, the star of my existence will never set--but shine
brilliantly and forever in the midst of its most glorious
After a brief pause, Philothea resumed: "But when men talk of Aspasia
the beautiful and the gifted, will they add, Aspasia the good--the
The last word was spoken in a low, emphatic tone. A slight quivering
about Aspasia's lips betrayed emotion crowded back upon the heart; while
Eudora bowed her head, in silent confusion, at the bold admonition of
With impressive kindness, the maiden continued: "Daughter of Axiochus,
do you never suspect that the homage you receive is half made up of
selfishness and impurity? This boasted power of intellect--this giddy
triumph of beauty--what do they do for you? Do they make you happy in
the communion of your own heart? Do they bring you nearer to the gods?
Do they make the memory of your childhood a gladness, or a sorrow?"
Aspasia sank on the couch, and bowed her head upon her hands. For a few
moments, the tears might be seen stealing through her fingers; while
Eudora, with the ready sympathy of a warm heart, sobbed aloud.
Aspasia soon recovered her composure. "Philothea," she said, "you have
spoken to me as no one ever dared to speak; but my own heart has
sometimes uttered the truth less mildly. Yesterday I learned the same
lesson from a harsher voice. A Corinthian sailor pointed at this house,
and said, 'There dwells Aspasia, the courtezan, who makes her wealth by
the corruption of Athens!' My very blood boiled in my veins, that such
an one as he could give me pain. It is true the illustrious Pericles has
made me his wife; but there are things which even his power, and my own
allurements, fail to procure. Ambitious women do indeed come here to
learn how to be distinguished; and the vain come to study the fashion of
my garments, and the newest braid of my hair. But the purest and best
matrons of Greece refuse to be my guests. You, Philothea, came
reluctantly--and because Pericles would have it so. Yes," she added, the
tears again starting to her eyes--"I know the price at which I purchase
celebrity. Poets will sing of me at feasts, and orators describe me at
the games; but what will that be to me, when I have gone into the silent
tomb? Like the lifeless guest at Egyptian tables, Aspasia will be all
unconscious of the garlands she wears.
"Philothea, you think me vain, and heartless, and wicked; and so I am.
But there are moments when I am willing that this tongue, so praised for
its eloquence, should be dumb forever--that this beauty, which men
worship, should be hidden in the deepest recesses of barbarian
forests--so that I might again be as I was, when the sky was clothed in
perpetual glory, and the earth wore not so sad a smile as now. Oh,
Philothea! would to the gods, I had your purity and goodness! But you
despise me;--for you are innocent."
Soothingly, and almost tearfully, the maiden replied: "No, lady; such
were not the feelings which made me say we could not be friends. It is
because we have chosen different paths; and paths that never approach
each other. What to you seem idle dreams, are to me sublime realities,
for which I would gladly exchange all that you prize in existence. You
live for immortality in this world; I live for immortality in another.
The public voice is your oracle; I listen to the whisperings of the gods
in the stillness of my own heart; and never yet, dear lady, have those
two oracles spoken the same language."
Then falling on her knees, and looking up earnestly, she exclaimed,
"Beautiful and gifted one! Listen to the voice that tries to win you
back to innocence and truth! Give your heart up to it, as a little child
led by its mother's hand! Then shall the flowers again breathe poetry,
and the stars move in music."
"It is too late," murmured Aspasia: "The flowers are scorched--the stars
are clouded. I cannot again be as I have been."
"Lady, it is _never_ too late," replied Philothea: "You have unbounded
influence--use it nobly! No longer seek popularity by flattering the
vanity, or ministering to the passions of the Athenians. Let young men
hear the praise of virtue from the lips of beauty. Let them see religion
married to immortal genius. Tell them it is ignoble to barter the
heart's wealth for heaps of coin--that love weaves a simple wreath of
his own bright hopes, stronger than massive chains of gold. Urge
Pericles to prize the good of Athens more than the applause of its
populace--to value the permanence of her free institutions more than the
splendour of her edifices. Oh, lady, never, never, had any mortal such
power to do good!"
Aspasia sat gazing intently on the beautiful speaker, whose tones grew
more and more earnest as she proceeded.
"Philothea," she replied, "you have moved me strangely. There is about
you an influence that cannot be resisted. It is like what Pindar says of
music; if it does not give delight, it is sure to agitate and oppress
the heart. From the first moment you spoke, I have felt this mysterious
power. It is as if some superior being led me back, even against my
will, to the days of my childhood, when I gathered acorns from the
ancient oak that shadows the fountain of Byblis, or ran about on the
banks of my own beloved Meander, filling my robe with flowers."
There was silence for a moment. Eudora smiled through her tears, as she
whispered, "Now, Philothea, sing that sweet song Anaxagoras taught you.
He too is of Ionia; and Aspasia will love to hear it."
The maiden answered with a gentle smile, and began to warble the first
notes of a simple bird-like song.
"Hush!" said Aspasia, putting her hand on Philothea's mouth, and
bursting into tears--"It was the first tune I ever learned; and I have
not heard it since my mother sung it to me."
"Then let me sing it, lady," rejoined Philothea: "It is good for us to
keep near our childhood. In leaving it, we wander from the gods."
A slight tap at the door made Aspasia start up suddenly; and stooping
over the alabaster vase of water, she hastened to remove all traces of
As Eudora opened the door, a Byzantian slave bowed low, and waited
permission to speak.
"Your message?" said Aspasia, with queenly brevity.
"If it please you, lady, my master bids me say he desires your
"We come directly," she replied; and with another low bow, the Byzantian
closed the door. Before a mirror of polished steel, supported by ivory
Graces, Aspasia paused to adjust the folds of her robe, and replace a
curl that had strayed from its golden fillet.
As she passed, she continued to look back at the reflection of her own
fair form, with a proud glance, which seemed to say, "Aspasia is herself
Philothea took Eudora's arm, and folding her veil about her, with a deep
sigh followed to the room below.
All is prepared--the table and the feast--
With due appurtenance of clothes and cushions.
Chaplets and dainties of all kinds abound:
Here rich perfumes are seen--there cakes and cates
Of every fashion; cakes of honey, cakes
Of sesamum, and cakes of unground corn.
What more? A troop of dancing women fair,
And minstrels who may chaunt us sweet Harmodius.
The room in which the guests were assembled, was furnished with less of
Asiatic splendour than the private apartment of Aspasia; but in its
magnificent simplicity there was a more perfect manifestation of ideal
beauty. It was divided in the middle by eight Ionic columns, alternately
of Phrygian and Pentelic marble. Between the central pillars stood a
superb statue from the hand of Phidias, representing Aphrodite guided by
Love, and crowned by Peitho, goddess of Persuasion. Around the walls
were Phoebus and Hermes in Parian marble, and the nine Muses in ivory. A
fountain of perfumed water, from the adjoining room, diffused coolness
and fragrance, as it passed through a number of concealed pipes, and
finally flowed into a magnificent vase, supported by a troop of Naiades.
In a recess stood the famous lion of Myron, surrounded by infant Loves,
playing with his paws, climbing his back, and decorating his neck with
garlands. This beautiful group seemed actually to live and move in the
clear light and deep shadows derived from a silver lamp suspended above.
The walls were enriched with some of the choicest paintings of
Apollodorus, Zeuxis, and Polygnotus. Near a fine likeness of Pericles,
by Aristolaus, was Aspasia, represented as Chloris scattering flowers
over the earth, and attended by winged Hours.
It chanced that Pericles himself reclined beneath his portrait, and
though political anxiety had taken from his countenance something of the
cheerful freshness which characterized the picture, he still retained
the same elevated beauty--the same deep, quiet expression of
intellectual power. At a short distance, with his arm resting on the
couch, stood his nephew Alcibiades, deservedly called the handsomest man
in Athens. He was laughing with Hermippus, the comic writer, whose
shrewd, sarcastic and mischievous face was expressive of his calling.
Phidias slowly paced the room, talking of the current news with the
Persian Artaphernes. Anaxagoras reclined near the statue of Aphrodite,
listening and occasionally speaking to Plato, who leaned against one of
the marble pillars, in earnest conversation with a learned Ethiopian.
The gorgeous apparel of the Asiatic and African guests, contrasted
strongly with the graceful simplicity of Grecian costume. A
saffron-coloured mantle and a richly embroidered Median vest glittered
on the person of the venerable Artaphernes. Tithonus, the Ethiopian,
wore a skirt of ample folds, which scarcely fell below the knee. It was
of the glorious Tyrian hue, resembling a crimson light shining through
transparent purple. The edge of the garment was curiously wrought with
golden palm leaves. It terminated at the waist in a large roll, twined
with massive chains of gold, and fastened by a clasp of the far-famed
Ethiopian topaz. The upper part of his person was uncovered and
unornamented, save by broad bracelets of gold, which formed a
magnificent contrast with the sable colour of his vigorous and
As the ladies entered, the various groups came forward to meet them; and
all were welcomed by Aspasia with earnest cordiality and graceful
self-possession. While the brief salutations were passing, Hipparete,
the wife of Alcibiades came from an inner apartment, where she had been
waiting for her hostess. She was a fair, amiable young matron, evidently
conscious of her high rank. The short blue tunic, which she wore over a
lemon-coloured robe, was embroidered with golden grasshoppers; and on
her forehead sparkled a jewelled insect of the same species. It was the
emblem of unmixed Athenian blood; and Hipparete alone, of all the ladies
present, had a right to wear it. Her manners were an elaborate copy of
Aspasia; but deprived of the powerful charm of unconsciousness, which
flowed like a principle of life into every motion of that beautiful
The momentary silence, so apt to follow introductions, was interrupted
by an Ethiopian boy, who, at a signal from Tithonus, emerged from behind
the columns, and kneeling, presented to Aspasia a beautiful box of
ivory, inlaid with gold, filled with the choicest perfumes. The lady
acknowledged the costly offering by a gracious smile, and a low bend of
the head toward the giver.
The ivory was wrought with exquisite skill, representing the imaginary
forms of the constellations, studded with golden stars. The whole rested
on a golden image of Atlas, bending beneath the weight. The box was
passed from hand to hand, and excited universal admiration.
"Were these figures carved by an artist of your own country?" asked
With a smile, Tithonus replied, "You ask the question because you see a
Grecian spirit in those forms. They were indeed fashioned by an
Ethiopian; but one who had long resided in Athens."
"There is truly a freedom and variety in these figures, which I have
rarely seen even in Greece," rejoined Phidias; "and I have never met
with those characteristics in Ethiopian or Egyptian workmanship."
"They belong not to the genius of those countries," answered Tithonus:
"Philosophy and the arts are but a manifestation of the intelligible
ideas that move the public mind; and thus they become visible images of
the nations whence they emanate. The philosophy of the East is misty and
vast--with a gleam of truth here and there, resting like sunlight on the
edge of a dark and mighty cloud. Hence, our architecture and statuary is
massive and of immense proportions. Greece is free--therefore she has a
philosopher, who sees that every idea must have a form, and in every
form discovers its appropriate life. And because philosophy has
perceived that the principle of vitality and beauty flows from the
divine mind into each and every earthly thing, therefore Greece has a
sculptor, who can mould his thoughts into marble forms, from which the
free grandeur of the soul emanates like a perpetual presence." As he
spoke, he bowed low to Plato and Phidias.
"The gigantic statues of Sicily have fair proportions," said Plato; "and
they have life; but it is life in deep repose. There is the vastness of
eternity, without the activity of time."
"The most ancient statuary of all nations is an image of death; not of
sleeping energy," observed Aspasia. "The arms adhere rigidly to the
sides, the feet form one block; and even in the face, the divine ideal
seems struggling hard to enter the reluctant form. But thanks to
Pygmalion of Cyprus, we now have the visible impress of every passion
carved in stone. The spirit of beauty now flows freely into the
harmonious proportions, even as the oracle is filled by the inspiration
of the god. Now the foot bounds from the pedestal, the finger points to
the stars, and life breathes from every limb. But in good time the
Lybian pipe warns us that the feast is ready. We must not soar too far
above the earth, while she offers us the rich treasures of her
fruit-trees and vines."
"Yet it is ever thus, when Plato is with us," exclaimed Pericles. "He
walks with his head among the stars--and, by a magic influence, we rise
to his elevation, until we perceive the shadows of majestic worlds,
known in their reality only to the gods. As the approach of Phoebus
fills the priestess with prophecy, so does this son of Phoebus impart
something of his own eloquence to all who come within its power."
"You speak truly, O Pericles," replied Tithonus; "but it is a truth felt
only by those who are in some measure worthy to receive it. Aspasia
said wisely, that the spirit of beauty flows in, only where the
proportions are harmonious. The gods are ever with us, but few feel the
presence of the gods."
Philothea, speaking in a low tone to Eudora, added, "And Plato rejoices
in their glorious presence, not only because he walks with his head
among the stars, but because he carries in his heart a blessing for
every little child."
These words, though spoken almost in a whisper, reached the ear of the
philosopher himself; and he turned toward the lovely speaker with a
beaming glance, which distinctly told that his choicest blessings were
bestowed upon spirits pure and gentle as her own.
Thus conversing, the guests passed between the marble columns, and
entered that part of the room where the banquet was prepared. Aspasia
filled a golden basket with Athenian olives, Phoenician dates, and
almonds of Naxos, and whispering a brief invocation, placed it on a
small altar, before an ivory image of Demeter, which stood in the midst
of the table. Seats covered with crimson cloth were arranged at the end
of the couches, for the accommodation of women; but the men reclined in
Asiatic fashion, while beautiful damsels sprinkled perfumes on their
heads, and offered water for their hands in vases of silver.
In choosing one to preside over the festivities of the evening, the lot
fell upon Tithonus; but he gracefully declined the office, saying it
properly belonged to an Athenian.
"Then I must insist that you appoint your successor," said Aspasia.
"Your command partakes little of the democracy of Athenian
institutions," answered he, smiling; "but I obey it cheerfully; and
will, as most fitting, crown the wisest." He arose, as he spoke, and
reverently placed the chaplet on the head of Plato.
"I will transfer it to the most beautiful," rejoined the philosopher;
and he attempted to place the garland on the brow of Alcibiades. But the
young man prevented him, and exclaimed, "Nay--according to your own
doctrines, O admirable Plato, wisdom should wear the crown; since beauty
is but its outward form."
Thus urged, Plato accepted the honours of the banquet; and taking a
handful of garlands from the golden urn on which they were suspended, he
proceeded to crown the guests. He first placed upon Aspasia's head a
wreath of bright and variegated flowers, among which the rose and the
myrtle were most conspicuous. Upon Hipparete he bestowed a coronal of
violets, regarded by the proud Athenians as their own peculiar flower.
Philothea received a crown of pure white lilies.
Aspasia, observing this, exclaimed, "Tell me, O Plato, how you knew that
wreath, above all the others, was woven for the grand-daughter of
"When I hear a note of music, can I not at once strike its chord?"
answered the philosopher: "Even as surely is there an everlasting
harmony between the soul of man and the visible forms of creation. If
there were no innocent hearts, there would be no white lilies."
A shadow passed over Aspasia's expressive countenance; for she was aware
that her own brilliant wreath contained not one purely white blossom.
But her features had been well-trained to conceal her sentiments; and
her usual vivacity instantly returned.
The remainder of the garlands were bestowed so rapidly, that there
seemed scarcely time for deliberate choice; yet Pericles wore the oak
leaves sacred to Zeus; and the laurel and olive of Phoebus rested on the
brow of Phidias.
A half mischievous smile played round Aspasia's lips, when she saw the
wreath of ivy and grape leaves placed on the head of Alcibiades. "Son of
Aristo," she exclaimed, "the Phoenician Magii have given you good skill
in divination. You have bestowed every garland appropriately."
"It needed little magic," replied Plato, "to know that the oaken leaves
belonged to one whose eloquence is so often called Olympian; or that the
laurel was due to him who fashioned Pallas Parthenia; and Alcibiades
would no doubt contend boldly with any man who professed to worship the
god of vineyards with more zeal than himself."
The gay Athenian answered this challenge by singing part of an
Anacreontic ode, often repeated during the festivities of the Dionysia:
"To-day I'll haste to quaff my wine,
As if to-morrow ne'er should shine;
But if to-morrow comes, why then--
I'll haste to quaff my wine again.
For death may come with brow unpleasant--
May come when least we wish him present,
And beckon to the sable shore,
And grimly bid us--drink no more!"
This profane song was sung in a voice so clear and melodious, that
Tithonus exclaimed, "You err, O Plato, in saying the tuneful soul of
Marsyas has passed into the nightingale; for surely it remains with this
young Athenian. Son of Clinias, you must be well skilled in playing upon
the flute the divine airs of Mysian Olympus?"
"Not I, so help me Dionysus!" lisped Alcibiades. "My music master will
tell you that I ever went to my pipes reluctantly. I make ten sacrifices
to equestrian Poseidon, where I offer one gift to the Parnassian
"Stranger, thou hast not yet learned the fashions of Athens," said
Anaxagoras, gravely. "Our young equestrians now busy themselves with
carved chariots, and Persian mantles of the newest mode. They vie with
each other in costly wines; train doves to shower luxuriant perfumes
from their wings; and upon the issue of a contest between fighting
quails, they stake sums large enough to endow a princess. To play upon
the silver-voiced flute is Theban-like and vulgar. They leave that to
"And why not leave laughter to the slaves?" asked Hermippus; "since
anything more than a graceful smile distorts the beauty of the features?
I suppose bright eyes would weep in Athens, should the cheeks of
Alcibiades be seen puffed out with vulgar wind-instruments."
"And can you expect the youth of Athens to be wiser than their gods?"
rejoined Aspasia. "Pallas threw away her favourite flute, because Hera
and Aphrodite laughed at her distorted countenance while she played upon
it. It was but a womanly trick in the virgin daughter of Zeus."
Tithonus looked at the speaker with a slight expression of surprise;
which Hermippus perceiving, he thus addressed him, in a cool, ironical
tone: "O Ethiopian stranger, it is evident you know little of Athens; or
you would have perceived that a belief in the gods is more vulgar than
flute-playing. Such trash is deemed fit for the imbecility of the aged,
and the ignorance of the populace. With equestrians and philosophers, it
is out of date. You must seek for it among those who sell fish at the
gates; or with the sailors at Piræus and Phalerum."
"I have visited the Temple of Poseidon, in the Piræus," observed
Aspasia; "and I saw there a multitude of offerings from those who had
escaped shipwreck." She paused slightly, and added, with a significant
smile, "But I perceived no paintings of those who had been wrecked,
notwithstanding their supplications to the god."
As she spoke, she observed that Pericles withdrew a rose from the
garland wherewith his cup was crowned; and though the action was so
slight as to pass unobserved by others, she instantly understood the
caution he intended to convey by that emblem sacred to the god of
At a signal from Plato, slaves filled the goblets with wine, and he rose
to propose the usual libation to the gods. Every Grecian guest joined in
the ceremony, singing in a recitative tone:
Dionysus, this to thee,
God of warm festivity!
Giver of the fruitful vine,
To thee we pour the rosy wine!
Music, from the adjoining room, struck in with the chorus, and continued
for some moments after it had ceased.
For a short time, the conversation was confined to the courtesies of the
table, as the guests partook of the delicious viands before them. Plato
ate olives and bread only; and the water he drank was scarcely tinged
with Lesbian wine. Alcibiades rallied him upon this abstemiousness; and
Pericles reminded him that even his great pattern, Socrates, gave
Dionysus his dues, while he worshipped the heaven-born Pallas.
The philosopher quietly replied, "I can worship the fiery God of Vintage
only when married with Nymphs of the Fountain."
"But tell me, O Anaxagoras and Plato," exclaimed Tithonus, "if, as
Hermippus hath said, the Grecian philosophers discard the theology of
the poets? Do ye not believe in the Gods?"
Plato would have smiled, had he not reverenced the simplicity that
expected a frank and honest answer to a question so dangerous.
Anaxagoras briefly replied, that the mind which did not believe in
divine beings, must be cold and dark indeed.
"Even so," replied Artiphernes, devoutly; "blessed be Oromasdes, who
sends Mithras to warm and enlighten the world! But what surprises me
most is, that you Grecians import new divinities from other countries,
as freely as slaves, or papyrus, or marble. The sculptor of the gods
will scarcely be able to fashion half their images."
"If the custom continues," rejoined Phidias, "it will indeed require a
life-time as long as that conferred upon the namesake of Tithonus."
"Thanks to the munificence of artists, every deity has a representative
in my dwelling," observed Aspasia.
"I have heard strangers express their surprise that the Athenians have
never erected a statue to the principle of _Modesty_" said Hermippus.
"So much the more need that we enshrine her image in our own hearts,"
The sarcastic comedian made no reply to this quiet rebuke. Looking
toward Artaphernes, he continued: "Tell me, O servant of the great king,
wherein the people of your country are more wise in worshipping the sun,
than we who represent the same divinity in marble!"
"The principles of the Persian religion are simple, steady, and
uniform," replied Artaphernes; "but the Athenian are always changing.
You not only adopt foreign gods, but sometimes create new ones, and
admit them into your theology by solemn act of the great council. These
circumstances have led me to suppose that you worship them as mere
forms. The Persian Magii do indeed prostrate themselves before the
rising Sun; but they do it in the name of Oromasdes, the universal
Principle of Good, of whom that great luminary is the visible symbol. In
our solemn processions, the chariot sacred to Oromasdes precedes the
horse dedicated to Mithras; and there is deep meaning in the
arrangement. The Sun and Zodiac, the Balance and the Rule, are but
emblems of truths, mysterious and eternal. As the garlands we throw on
the sacred fire feed the flame, rather than extinguish it, so the
sublime symbols of our religion are intended to preserve, not to
conceal, the truths within them."
"Though you disclaim all images of divinity," rejoined Aspasia, "yet we
hear of your Mithras pictured like a Persian King, trampling on a
With a smile, Artaphernes replied, "I see, lady, that you would fain
gain admittance to the Mithraic cave; but its secrets, like those of
your own Eleusis, are concealed from all save the initiated."
"They tell us," said Aspasia, "that those who are admitted to the
Eleusinian mysteries die in peace, and go directly to the Elysian
fields; while the uninitiated wander about in the infernal abyss."
"Of course," said Anaxagoras, "Alcibiades will go directly to Elysium,
though Solon groped his way in darkness."
The old philosopher uttered this with imperturbable gravity, as if
unconscious of satirical meaning; but some of the guests could scarcely
repress a smile, as they recollected the dissolute life of the young
"If Alcibiades spoke his real sentiments," said Aspasia, "I venture to
say he would tell us that the mystic baskets of Demeter, covered with
long purple veils, contain nothing half so much worth seeing, as the
beautiful maidens who carry them."
She looked at Pericles, and saw that he again cautioned her, by raising
the rose toward his face, as if inhaling its fragrance.
There was a brief pause, which Anaxagoras interrupted, by saying, "The
wise can never reverence images merely as images. There is a mystical
meaning in the Athenian manner of supplicating the gods with garlands on
their heads, and bearing in their hands boughs of olive twined with
wool. Pallas, at whose birth we are told gold rained upon the earth, was
unquestionably a personification of wisdom. It is not to be supposed
that the philosophers of our country consider the sun itself as anything
more than a huge ball of fire; but the sight of that glorious orb leads
the contemplative soul to the belief in one Pure Intelligence, one
Universal Mind, which in manifesting itself produces order in the
material world, and preserves the unconfused distinction of infinite
"Such, no doubt, is the tendency of all reflecting minds," said Phidias;
"but in general, the mere forms are worshipped, apart from the sacred
truths they represent. The gods we have introduced from Egypt are
regarded by the priests of that learned land as emblems of certain
divine truths brought down from ancient times. They are like the Hermae
at our doors, which outwardly appear to rest on inexpressive blocks of
stone; but when opened, they are found to contain beautiful statues of
the gods within them. It is not so with the new fables which the Greeks
are continually mixing with their mythology. Pygmalion, as we all know,
first departed from the rigid outline of ancient sculpture, and
impressed life and motion upon marble. The poets, in praise of him,
have told us that his ardent wishes warmed a statue into a lovely and
breathing woman. The fable is fanciful and pleasing in itself; but will
it not hereafter be believed as reality? Might not the same history be
told of much that is believed? It is true," added he, smiling, "that I
might be excused for favouring a belief in images, since mortals are
ever willing to have their own works adored."
"What! does Plato respond to the inquiries of Phidias?" asked
The philosopher replied: "Within the holy mysteries of our religion is
preserved a pure and deep meaning, as the waters of Arethusa flow
uncontaminated beneath the earth and the sea. I do not presume to decide
whether all that is believed has the inward significancy. I have ever
deemed such speculations unwise. If the chaste daughter of Latona always
appears to my thoughts veiled in heavenly purity, it is comparatively
unimportant whether I can prove that Acteon was torn by his dogs, for
looking on the goddess with wanton eyes. Anaxagoras, said wisely that
material forms lead the contemplative mind to the worship of ideal good,
which is in its nature immortal and divine. Homer tells us that the
golden chain resting upon Olympus reaches even to the earth. Here we see
but a few of the last links, and those imperfectly. We are like men in a
subterranean cave, so chained that they can look only forward to the
entrance. Far above and behind us is a glowing fire: and beautiful
beings, of every form, are moving between the light and us poor fettered
mortals. Some of these bright beings are speaking, and others are
silent. We see only the shadows cast on the opposite wall of the
cavern, by the reflection of the fire above; and if we hear the echo of
voices, we suppose it belongs to those passing shadows. The soul, in its
present condition, is an exile from the orb of light; its ignorance is
forgetfulness; and whatever we can perceive of truth, or imagine of
beauty, is but a reminiscence of our former more glorious state of
being. He who reverences the gods, and subdues his own passions, returns
at last to the blest condition from which he fell. But to talk, or
think, about these things with proud impatience, or polluted morals, is
like pouring pure water into a miry trench; he who does it disturbs the
mud, and thus causes the clear water to become defiled. When Odysseus
removed his armour from the walls, and carried it to an inner apartment,
invisible Pallas moved before him with her golden lamp, and filled the
place with radiance divine. Telemachus, seeing the light, exclaimed,
'Surely, my father, some of the celestial gods are present.' With deep
wisdom, the king of Ithaca replied, 'Be silent. Restrain your intellect,
and speak not.'"
"I am rebuked, O Plato," answered Phidias; "and from henceforth, when my
mind is dark and doubtful, I will remember that transparent drops may
fall into a turbid well. Nor will I forget that sometimes, when I have
worked on my statues by torch-light, I could not perceive their real
expression, because I was carving in the shadow of my own hand."
"Little can be learned of the human soul, and its connection with the
Universal Mind," said Anaxagoras: "These sublime truths seem vague and
remote, as Phoeacia appeared to Odysseus like a vast shield floating on
the surface of the distant ocean.
"The glimmering uncertainty attending all such speculations, has led me
to attach myself to the Ionic sect, who devote themselves entirely to
the study of outward nature."
"And this is useful," rejoined Plato: "The man who is to be led from a
cave will more easily see what the heavens contain by looking to the
light of the moon and the stars, than by gazing on the sun at noon-day."
Here Hermippus interrupted the discourse, by saying, "The son of Clinias
does not inform us what _he_ thinks of the gods. While others have
talked, he has eaten."
"I am a citizen and a soldier--neither priest nor philosopher," replied
Alcibiades: "With a strong arm and a willing heart to fight for my
country, I leave others to settle the attributes of her gods. Enough for
me, that I regularly offer sacrifices in their temples, and pour
libations upon their altars. I care very little whether there be Elysian
fields, or not. I will make an Elysium for myself, as long as Aspasia
permits me to be surrounded by forms so beautiful, and gives me nectar
like this to drink." He replaced the goblet, from which he had drunk
deeply, and exclaimed, "By Dionysus! they quaff nothing better than this
in voluptuous Ionia!"
"Methinks a citizen and a soldier might find a more worthy model in
Spartan, than in Ionian manners," said Anaxagoras; "but the latter truly
suits better with the present condition of Athens."
"A condition more glorious than that of any other people upon earth,"
exclaimed Pericles, somewhat warmly: "The story of Athens, enthroned in
her beauty and power, will thrill through generous hearts, long after
other nations are forgotten."
"She is like a torch sending forth its last bright blaze, before it is
extinguished forever," replied Anaxagoras, calmly: "Where idle
demagogues control the revenues of industrious citizens, the government
cannot long stand. It is a pyramid with the base uppermost."
"You certainly would not blame the wisdom of Aristides, in allowing the
poor as well as the rich, the privilege of voting?" said Pericles.
"A moderate supply of wealth is usually the result of virtuous and
industrious habits; and it should be respected merely for what it
indicates," rejoined Anaxagoras. "Aristides, and other wise men, in
their efforts to satisfy the requirements of a restless people, have
opened a sluice, without calculating how it would be enlarged by the
rushing waters, until the very walls of the city are undermined by its
"But can the safety of the state be secured by merely excluding the
vicious poor?" said Plato. "Are there not among us vicious rich men, who
would rashly vote for measures destructive of public good, if they could
thereby increase their own wealth? He who exports figs to maintain
personal splendour, when there is famine in Attica, has perhaps less
public virtue than the beggar, who steals them to avoid starvation."
"But the vicious rich man will bribe the beggar to vote as he
dictates," replied Anaxagoras; "and thus his power of doing evil becomes
"Your respect for permanent institutions makes you blind to the love of
change, inherent and active in the human mind," said Pericles. "If
society be like the heaving ocean, those who would guide their vessels
in safety, must obey the winds and the tides."
"Nay, Pericles," replied the old man, earnestly; "if society be a
tumultuous ocean, government should be its everlasting shores. If the
statesman watches wind and tide only that his own bark may ride through
the storm in safety, while every fresh wave sweeps a landmark away, it
is evident that, sooner or later, the deluge must come."
The discourse was growing too serious to be agreeable to Pericles, who
well knew that some of his best friends deemed he had injured the state,
by availing himself too freely of the democratic tendencies of the
people. Plato, perceiving this, said, "If it please you, Anaxagoras, we
will leave these subjects to be discussed in the Prytaneum and the
Agoras. Fair and glorious is the violet-crowned city, and let us trust
the gods will long preserve it so."
"Thou hast well spoken, son of Aristo," replied Artaphernes: "Much as I
had heard of the glory and beauty of Athens, it far surpasses my hopes.
Perhaps I find myself lingering to gaze on the Odeum more frequently
than on any other of your magnificent edifices; not for its more
impressive beauty; but because it is in imitation of our Great King's
Hermippus looked up, and smiled with ill-natured significance; for
Cratinus, the ribald, had openly declared in the theatre, that Pericles
needed only to look in his mirror, to discover a model for the sloping
roof of the Odeum. Athenian guests were indignant at being thus reminded
of the gross allusion to a deformity conspicuous in the head of their
illustrious statesman; but Artaphernes, quite unconscious of his
meaning, continued: "The noble structure is worthy of him who planned
it. Yet the unpretending beauty of some of your small temples makes me
feel more as if I were in the presence of a god. I have often marvelled
what it is in those fair white columns, that charms me so much more than
the palaces of the East, refulgent with gems and gold."
"The beauty that lies _within_ has ever a mysterious power," answered
Plato. "An amethyst may beam in the eye of a statue; but what, save the
soul itself, can give the expression of soul? The very spirit of harmony
is embodied in the proportions of the Parthenon. It is marble music. I
sometimes think the whole visible beauty of creation is formed from the
music of the Infinite; and that the various joys we feel are but the
union of accordant notes in the great chorus of the universe. There is
music in the airy dance; music in poetry; music in the glance of a
beautiful woman; music in the involutions and inflexions of numbers;
above all, there is music in light! And what _Light_ is in this world,
_Truth_ is in that glorious world to which the mind of man returns after
its long exile. Yes, there is music in light! Hence, Phoebus is god of
the Sun and of the Lyre, and Memnon yields sweet sounds to welcome
approaching day. For this reason, the disciples of Zoroaster and
Pythagoras hail the rising sun with the melody of harps; and the birds
pour forth their love of light in song. Perchance the order of the
universe is revealed in the story of Thebes rising to the lyre of
Amphion; and Ibycus might have spoken sublime truth, when he told of
music in the motion of the everlasting stars."
Philothea had listened so earnestly, that for a moment all other
thoughts were expelled from her mind. She threw back her veil, and with
her whole soul beaming from her face, she exclaimed, "O Plato, I once
_heard_ the music of the stars! Ibycus"----
The ardent gaze of Alcibiades restored her to painful consciousness;
and, blushing deeply, she replaced her veil. Aspasia smiled; but Plato,
with gentle reverence, asked, "What would Philothea say of the divine
The timid maiden gave no reply; and the tears of innocent shame were
seen falling fast upon her trembling arm.
With that ready skill, which ever knows how to adapt itself to the
circumstances of the moment, Aspasia gave a signal to her attendants,
and at once the mingled melody of voices and instruments burst upon the
ear. It was one of the enchanting strains of Olympus the Mysian; and
every heart yielded to its influence. A female slave noiselessly brought
Aspasia's silver harp, and placed before her guests citharas and lyres,
of ivory inlaid with gold. One by one, new voices and instruments joined
in the song; and when the music ceased, there was a pause of deep and
"Shame to the feast, where the praises of Harmodius are not sung," said
Pericles, smiling, as he looked toward Eudora. With rapid fingers the
maiden touched her lyre, and sung the patriotic song of Callistratus:
"I'll wreathe my sword with myrtle, as brave Harmodius did,
And as Aristogeiton his avenging weapon hid;
When they slew the haughty tyrant and regained our liberty,
And, breaking down oppression, made the men of Athens free.
"Thou art not, loved Harmodius, thou art not surely dead,
But to some secluded sanctuary far away art fled;
With the swift-footed Achilleus, unmolested there to rest,
And to rove with Diomedes through the islands of the blest.
"I'll wreathe my sword with myrtle, as Aristogeiton did,
And as the brave Harmodius his avenging weapon hid;
When on Athenæ's festival they aimed the glorious blow,
And calling on fair freedom, laid the proud Hipparchus low.
"Thy fame, beloved Harmodius, through ages still shall brighten,
Nor ever shall thy glory fade, beloved Aristogeiton;
Because your country's champions ye nobly dared to be,
And striking down the tyrant, made the men of Athens free."
The exhilarating notes stirred every Grecian heart. Some waved their
garlands in triumph, while others joined in the music, and kept time
with branches of myrtle.
"By Phoebus! a glorious song and divinely sung," exclaimed Alcibiades:
"But the lovely minstrel brings danger to our hearts in those sweet
sounds, as Harmodius concealed his sword among myrtle leaves."
Hipparete blushed, and with a quick and nervous motion touched her
cithara. With a nod and a smile, Aspasia said, "Continue the music, I
pray you." The tune being left to her own choice, the young matron sang
Anacreon's Ode to the Grasshopper. Her voice was not unpleasing; but it
contrasted disadvantageously with the rich intonations of Eudora; and if
the truth must be told, that dark-haired damsel was quite too conscious
of the fact.
Tithonus expressed an earnest desire to hear one of Pindar's odes; and
Philothea, urged by Aspasia, began with a quivering hand to accompany
herself on the harp. Her voice was at first weak and trembling; and
Plato, to relieve her timidity, joined in the music, which soon gushed
forth, clear, deep, and melodious:
"Hail, celestial Poesy!
Fair enchantress of mankind!
Veiled in whose sweet majesty
Fables please the human mind.
But, as year rolls after year,
These fictitious charms decline;
Then, O man, with holy fear,
Write and speak of things divine.
Of the heavenly natures say
Nought unseemly, or profane--
Hearts that worship and obey,
Are preserved from guilty stain."
Oppressed with the grandeur of the music, and willing to evade the tacit
reproach conveyed in the words, Aspasia touched her lyre, and, with
mournful tenderness, sung Danæ's Hymn to her Sleeping Infant. Then,
suddenly changing to a gayer measure, she sang, with remarkable
sweetness and flexibility of voice:
"While our rosy fillets shed
Blushes o'er each fervid head,
With many a cup, and many a smile,
The festal moments we beguile.
And while the harp impassioned flings
Tuneful rapture from the strings,
Some airy nymph, with fluent limbs,
Through the dance luxuriant swims,
Waving in her snowy hand,
The leafy Dionysian wand,
Which, as the tripping wanton flies,
Shakes its tresses to her sighs.
At these words, a troop of graceful maidens, representing the Zephyrs
and the Hours, glided in and out, between the marble columns, pelting
each other with roses, as they flew through the mazes of the dance.
Presently, the music, more slow and measured in its cadence, announced
the dance of Ariadne guiding her lover from the Labyrinth. In obedience
to a signal from Aspasia, Eudora sprang forward to hold the silken cord,
and Alcibiades darted forward to perform the part of Theseus. Slowly,
but gracefully as birds balancing themselves on the air, the maidens
went through the difficult involutions of the dance. They smiled on each
other, as they passed and repassed; and though Eudora's veil concealed
the expression of her features, Philothea observed, with an undefined
feeling of apprehension, that she showed no tokens of displeasure at the
brief whispers and frequent glances of Alcibiades.
At last, Pericles bade the attendants bring forth the goblet of the Good
Genius. A large golden bowl, around which a silver grape-vine twined its
luxuriant clusters, was immediately placed before him, filled with the
rich juices of the Chian grape. Then Plato, as king of the feast,
exclaimed, "The cup of the Good Genius is filled. Pledge him in unmixed
The massive goblet passed among all the guests; some taking a deep
draught, and others scarcely moistening their lips with the wine. When
the ceremony was finished, Pericles said, "Now, if it pleases Hermippus,
we should like to see him in the comic dance, for which he is so
Philothea looked earnestly at her grandfather. He instantly understood
her wishes, and bade farewell to Aspasia; urging the plea that his child
was unused to late hours, and too timid to be in the streets of Athens
without his protection. Phidias requested that Eudora might accompany
them; and Hipparete likewise asked leave to depart. Aspasia bestowed
gifts on her visiters, according to the munificent custom of the
country. To Hipparete she gave a bracelet of pearls; to Philothea, a
lyre of ivory and gold; and to Eudora, a broad clasp for her mantle, on
which the car of Aphrodite, drawn by swans, was painted in enamel, by
Polygnotus, the inventor of the art.
Alcibiades chose to remain at his wine; but slaves with torches were in
readiness at the gates, and Hipparete lived in the Ceramicus, within
sight of Aspasia's dwelling.
A rapid walk soon restored the maidens to their own peaceful homes.
Philothea, with the consent of Anaxagoras, went to share the apartment
of her friend; which, separated only by a small garden, was almost
within hearing of her own.
Much I dislike the beamless mind,
Whose earthly vision, unrefined,
Nature has never formed to see
The beauties of simplicity!
Simplicity, the flower of Heaven,
To souls elect by nature given."
As the maidens entered their apartment, Eudora rather abruptly dismissed
Dione, the aged nurse, who had been waiting their arrival. Her favourite
dog was sleeping on the couch; and she gave the little creature a hasty
box on the ear, which made him spring suddenly to the floor, and look up
in her face, as if astonished at such ungentle treatment.
Philothea stooped down and caressed the animal, with a slightly
reproachful glance at her friend.
"He was sleeping on my mantle," said the petulant damsel.
"His soft, white fur could not have harmed it," rejoined her companion;
"and you know that Hylax himself, as well as the mantle, was a gift from
Eudora carelesssly tossed the mantle over her embroidery frame, from
which it trailed along the dusty floor. Philothea looked earnestly in
her face, unable to comprehend such wayward conduct. "It is evident you
do not want my company to-night," she said; "I will therefore return to
my own apartment."
The peevish maiden slowly untied her sandal, without making any reply.
Philothea's voice trembled slightly, as she added, "Good night, Eudora,
To-morrow I hope you will tell me how I have offended you."
"Stay! Stay!" exclaimed the capricious damsel; and she laid her hand
coaxingly on her friend's arm. Philothea smiled a ready forgiveness.
"I know I am very petulant to-night," said Eudora; "but I do not believe
you yourself could listen to Hipparete without being vexed. She is so
stupid, and so haughty. I don't think she spoke ten words to-night
without having a grasshopper for one of them. She is so proud of her
pure Athenian blood! Do you know she has resolved to employ a skilful
artificer from Corinth, to make her an ivory box just like the one
Tithonus gave Aspasia; but she took care to inform me that it should be
inlaid with golden grasshoppers, instead of stars. A wise and witty
device, is't not? to put grasshoppers in the paws of transformed
Calisto, and fasten them in the belt of Orion. The sky will be so purely
Athenian, that Hipparete herself might condescend to be a
The talkative maiden laughed at her own conceit; and even her more
serious companion could not refrain from a smile, as with untiring
volubility she continued: "Then she told me that she herself embroidered
her grasshopper robe, and bade me admire the excellence of the pattern.
She said Plato could not possibly have mistaken the wreath intended for
her; knowing, as he did, that her father and mother were both descended
from the most ancient families in Athens; and she repeated a list of
ancestors with names all ending in _ippus_ and _ippides_. When, in
answer to her question, I acknowledged that the ornament in her hair
was beautiful, she told me she would gladly give me one like it, if it
were proper for me to wear it. I do so detest the sight of that Athenian
emblem! I would walk to the fields of Acharnae, on purpose to crush a
"You put yourself in a singular passion for such a harmless insect,"
replied Philothea, smiling. "I hope there are none of them within
hearing. You know the poets say they rose from the ashes of men, who,
when the Muses first had existence, pined away for the love of song; and
that after death they go to Parnassus, and inform the most ancient
Calliope, the heavenly Urania, and the amorous Erato, concerning the
conversation of their votaries. If they are truly the children of song,
they will indeed forget their own resentments; but your conversation
would be so unlikely to make a favourable impression on the tuneful
sisters, that it may be well for you the insects are now sleeping."
"If the tattling tribe were all awake and listening," replied Eudora, "I
would freely give them leave to report all I say against Astronomy, or
Poetry, or Music. If this be the test, I am willing to be tried with
Hipparete at the court of the Muses. If she were less stupid, I think I
could tolerate her pride. But I thought she would never have done with a
long story about a wine-stain that nearly spoiled her new dove-coloured
robe; the finest from the looms of Ecbatana; the pattern not to be
matched in all Greece; and Aspasia half wild to obtain one like it. She
did not fail to inform me that the slave who had spilled the wine, was
tied to the olive-tree in the garden, and whipped six days in
succession. I never saw her in my life that she did not remind me of
being a slave."
"Dearest Eudora," said Philothea, "how can you make yourself so unhappy
on this subject? Has not Phidias, from the first hour he bought you,
allowed you all the privileges of a daughter?"
"Yes," replied Eudora; "but the very circumstance that I was bought with
his money embitters it all. I do not thank him that I have been taught
all which becomes an Athenian maiden; for I can never be an Athenian.
The spirit and the gifts of freedom ill assort with the condition of a
slave. I wish he had left me to tend goats and bear burdens, as other
slaves do; to be beaten as they are beaten; starved as they are starved;
and die as they die. I should not then have known my degradation. I
would have made friends with the birds and the flowers, and never had a
heart-wound from a proud Athenian fool."
Philothea laid her hand gently on her friend's arm, and gazing on her
excited countenance, she said, "Eudora, some evil demon vexes you
strangely to-night. Did I not know the whole tenor of your blameless
life, I should fear you were not at peace with your own conscience."
Eudora blushed deeply, and busily caressed the dog with her foot.
In a mild, clear voice, Philothea continued: "What _now_ prevents you
from making friendship with the birds and the flowers! And why do you
cherish a pride so easily wounded? Yes, it is pride, Eudora. It is
useless disguise to call it by another name. The haughtiness of others
can never make us angry, if we ourselves are humble. Besides, it is
very possible that you are unjust to Hipparete. She might very naturally
have spoken of her slave's carelessness, without meaning to remind you
"She _did_ mean it," replied Eudora, with angry emphasis. "She is always
describing her pompous sacrifices to Demeter; because she knows I am
excluded from the temple. I hope I shall live to see her proud heart
"Nay, Eudora," said Philothea, turning mournfully away: "Your feelings
are strangely embittered; the calm light of reason is totally obscured
by the wild torch-dance of your passions. Methinks hatred itself need
wish Hipparete no worse fate than to be the wife of so bold and bad a
man as Alcibiades."
"Oh, Philothea! I wonder you can call him bold," rejoined Eudora. "He
looks steadily at no one; his eyelashes ever rest on his face, like
those of a modest maiden."
"Aye, Eudora--but it is not the expression of a sinless heart, timidly
retiring within the shrine of its own purity; it is the shrinking of a
conscience that has something to conceal. Little as we know about the
evils of the world, we have heard enough of Alcibiades, to be aware that
Hipparete has much need to seek the protection of her patron goddess."
"She had better worship in the temple of Helen, at Therapne," answered
Eudora, sharply: "The journey might not prove altogether hopeless; for
that temple is said to confer beauty on the ugliest woman that ever
entered it." As the peevish damsel said this, she gave a proud glance
at her own lovely person, in the mirror, before which a lamp was
Philothea had often seen her friend in petulant moods; but she had never
before known her to evince so much bitterness, or so long resist the
soothing influence of kindness. Unwilling to contend with passions she
could not subdue, and would not flatter, she remained for some moments
in serious silence.
The expression of her countenance touched Eudora's quick feelings; and
she said, in an humble tone, "I know I am doing wrong, Philothea, but I
cannot help it."
Her friend calmly replied, "If you believe you cannot help it, you
deceive yourself; and if you do not believe it, you had better not have
"Now you are angry with me," exclaimed the sensitive maiden; and she
burst into tears.
Philothea passed her arm affectionately round her waist, saying, "I am
not angry with you, Eudora; but while I love you, I cannot and ought not
to love the bad feelings you cherish. Believe me, my dear friend, the
insults of others can never make us wretched, or resentful, if all is
right within our own hearts. The viper that stings us is always
nourished within us. Moreover, I believe, dearest Eudora, that half your
wrongs are in your own imagination. I too am a foreigner; but I have
been very happy within the walls of Athens."
"Because you have never been a slave," retorted her companion; "and you
have shared privileges that strangers are seldom allowed to share. You
have been one of the Canephoræ; you have walked in the grand
procession of the Panathenæa: and your statue in pure Pentelic marble,
upholds the canopy over the sacred olive-tree. I know that your skilful
fingers, and your surpassing beauty have deserved these honours; but you
must pardon me, if I do not like the proud Athenians quite so well as
"I gratefully acknowledge the part I have been allowed to take in the
sacred service of Pallas," replied the maiden; "but I owe it neither to
my beauty, nor my skill in embroidery. It was a tribute to that wise and
good old man, my grandfather."
"And I," said Eudora, in a tone of deep melancholy, "have neither
grandfather, parent, or brother to care for me."
"Who could have proved a better protector than Phidias has been?"
inquired her gentle friend.
"Philothea, I cannot forget that I am his slave. What I said just now in
anger, I repeat in sober sadness; it would be better for me to have a
slave's mind with a slave's destiny."
"I have no doubt," replied Philothea, "that Phidias continues to be your
master merely that he may retain lawful power to protect you, until you
are the wife of Philæmon."
"Some slaves have been publicly registered as adopted children," said
"But in order to do that," rejoined her friend, "it is necessary to
swear to their parentage; and yours is unknown. If it were not for this
circumstance, I believe Phidias would be most willing to adopt you."
"No, Philothea--Phidias would do no such thing. He is good and kind. I
know that I have spoken of him as I ought not to have spoken. But he is
a proud man. He would not adopt a nameless orphan, found with a poor
goatherd of Phelle. Had I descended from any of the princes conquered by
Grecian valour, or were I even remotely allied with any of the
illustrious men that Athens has ostracised, then indeed I might be the
adopted daughter of Phidias," After a short pause, she added, "If he
enfranchised me without adoption, I think I should have no difficulty in
finding a protector;" and again the maiden gave a triumphant glance at
"I am aware that your marriage with Philæmon has only awaited the
termination of these unfortunate law-suits," replied Philothea: "Though
he is not rich, it cannot be very long before he is able to take you
under his protection; and as soon as he has the power, he will have the
"Will he, indeed!" exclaimed Eudora; and she trotted her little foot
"You are altogether mysterious to-night," said Philothea: "Has any
disagreement arisen between you and Philæmon, during my absence?"
"He is proud, and jealous; and wishes me to be influenced by every whim
of his," answered the offended beauty.
"The fetters of love are a flowery bondage," rejoined Philothea:
"Blossoms do not more easily unfold themselves to the sunshine, than
woman obeys the object of her affections. Don't you remember the little
boy we found piping so sweetly, under the great plane-tree by the
fountain of Callirhöe? When my grandfather asked him where he learned to
play so well, he answered; with a look of wondering simplicity, that it
'piped itself.' Methinks this would be the reply of a loving woman, to
one who inquired how her heart had learned submission. But what has
Philæmon required, that you consider so unreasonable?"
"He dislikes to have me visit Aspasia; and was angry because I danced
"And did you tell him that you went to Aspasia's house, in conformity
with the express directions of Phidias?" inquired Philothea.
"Why don't you say of my _master_?" interrupted Eudora, contemptuously.
Without noticing the peevishness of this remark, her friend continued:
"Are you quite sure that you have not been more frequently than you
would have been, if you had acted merely in reluctant obedience to the
will of Phidias. I am not surprised that Philæmon is offended at your
dancing with Alcibiades; assuredly a practice, so boldly at variance
with the customs of the country, is somewhat unmaidenly."
"It is enough to be one man's slave," replied Eudora. "I will dance with
whom I please. Alcibiades is the handsomest, and the most graceful, and
the most agreeable man in Athens--at least every body says so. I don't
know why I should offend him to please Philæmon."
"I thought there was a very satisfactory reason," observed Philothea,
quietly: "Alcibiades is the husband of Hipparete, and you are the
promised wife of Philæmon. I would not have believed the person who
told me that Eudora seriously called Alcibiades the handsomest and most
agreeable man in Athens."
"The sculptors think him pre-eminently beautiful," answered Eudora; "or
they would not so often copy his statue in the sacred images of Hermes.
Socrates applied Anacreon's eloquent praise of Bathyllus to him, and
said he saw in his lips 'Persuasion sleeping upon roses.'"
"That must have been in the days of youthful innocence," replied
Philothea: "Surely his countenance has now nothing divine in its
expression; though I grant the colouring rich, and the features regular.
He reminds me of the Alexandrian coin; outwardly pleasing to the eye but
inwardly made of base metal. Urania alone confers the beauty-giving
zone. The temple of Aphrodite in the Piræus is a fitting place for the
portrait of Alcibiades; and no doubt he is well pleased that the people
go there in throngs to see him represented leaning on the shoulder of
the shameless Nemea."
"If Aristophon chose to paint him side by side with the beautiful Nemea,
it is no fault of his," said Eudora.
"The artist would not have dared so to represent Plato, or Philæmon, or
Paralus," rejoined Philothea; "nor would Alcibiades allow his picture
thus to minister to the corruption of the Athenians, if he had any
perception of what is really beautiful. I confess, Eudora, it pained me
to see you listen to his idle flattery. He worships every handsome
woman, who will allow herself to be polluted by his incense. Like
Anacreon, his heart is a nest for wanton loves. He is never without a
brood of them--some trying their wings, some in the egg, and some just
breaking the shell."
With slight resentment in her manner, Eudora answered: "Anacreon is the
most beautiful of poets; and I think you speak too harshly of the son of
"I am sorry for you, if you can perceive the beautiful where the pure is
wanting," rejoined Philothea; "You have changed, since my residence in
the Acropolis. The cherub Innocence, that was once the ever-present
deity in your soul, has already retired deeper within the shrine, and
veils his face in presence of the vain thoughts you have introduced
there. I fear Aspasia has made you believe that a passion for
distinction is but another name for love of the good, the true, and the
beautiful. Eudora, if this false man has flattered you, believe me, he
is always ready to bestow the same upon others. He has told me that I
was the loveliest of earthly objects; no doubt he has told you the same;
but both cannot be true."
"You!" exclaimed her companion: "Where could he find opportunity to
address such language to you?"
"Where a better man would have had better thoughts," replied Philothea:
"It was during the sacred festival of the Panathenæa. A short time
before midnight, it was my duty to receive the sacred basket from the
hands of the priestess, and deposit it in the cave, beneath the Temple
of Urania, in the gardens. Eucoline, the daughter of Agatho, attended
me, carrying a lighted torch. Having entered the cave, I held the torch
while she took up the other sacred basket, which was there in readiness
to be conveyed to the Parthenon; and we again stepped forth into the
gardens. A flood of light streamed from the Temple, so clear and
strong, that I could distinctly see the sacred doves, among the
multitude of fragrant roses--some sleeping in the shaded nooks, others
fluttering from bush to bush, or wheeling round in giddy circles,
frightened by the glare. Near a small lake in the centre of the gardens,
stood Myron's statue of the heavenly Urania, guiding a dove to her
temple by a garland of flowers. It had the pure and placid expression of
the human soul, when it dwells in love and peace. In this holy
atmosphere we paused for a moment in silent reverence. A smiling band of
infant hours came clustering round my memory, and softly folded
themselves about my heart. I thought of those early days, when, hand in
hand with Paralus, I walked forth in the spring-time, welcoming the
swallows to our shores, and gathering fragrant thyme to feed my bees. We
did not then know that bees and young hearts need none to take thought
for their joy, but best gather their own sweet nourishment in sunlight
and freedom. I remembered the helpless kid that Paralus confided to my
care. When we dressed the little creature in wreaths, we mourned that
flowers would not _grow_ in garlands; for it grieved our childish hearts
to see them wither. Once we found, in the crevice of a moss-covered
rock, a small nest with three eggs. Paralus took one of them in his
hand; and when we had admired its beauty, he kissed it reverently, and
returned it to its hiding-place. It was the natural outpouring of a
heart brimful of love for all things pure and simple. Paralus ever lived
in affectionate communion with the birds and the flowers. Firm in
principle, but gentle in affection, he himself is like the rock, in
whose bosom the loving bird found a sheltered nook, so motherly and
safe, where she might brood over her young hopes in quiet joy."
The maiden's heart had unconsciously followed her own innocent
recollections, like the dove led by a garland; and for a few moments she
remained silent in thoughtful tenderness.
Eudora's changeful and perturbed spirit had been soothed by the serene
influence of her friend; and she too was silent for awhile. But the
giddy images that had of late been reeling their wild dance through her
brain, soon came back in glittering fantasy.
"Philothea!" she exclaimed, abruptly, "you have not told me where you
The maiden looked up suddenly, like an infant startled from sweet dreams
by some rude noise. Recovering from her surprise, she smiled, and said,
"Eudora, your question came upon me like his unexpected and unwelcome
presence in the sacred gardens. I told you that we stood by that quiet
lake in meek reverence; worshipping,--not the marble image before
us,--but the Spirit of Beauty, that glides through the universe,
breathing the invisible through visible forms, in such mysterious
harmony. Suddenly Eucoline touched my arm with a quick and timid motion.
I turned and saw a young man gazing earnestly upon us. Our veils, which
had been thrown back while we looked at the statue, were instantly
dropped, and we hastily retraced our steps. The stranger followed us,
until we passed under the shade of the olive grove, within sight of the
Propylæa. He then knelt, and attempting to hold me by the robe, poured
forth the wildest protestations of love. I called aloud for protection;
and my voice was heard by the priests, who were passing in and out of
the Acropolis, in busy preparation for the festival. The young man
suddenly disappeared; but he was one of the equestrians that shared in
the solemnities of the night, and I again saw him as I took my place in
the procession. I had then never seen Alcibiades; but when I met him
to-night, I immediately recognized the stranger who spoke so rudely in
"You must forgive me," said Eudora, "if I am not much disposed to blame
mortal man for wishing to look upon your face a second time. Even Plato
does homage to woman's beauty."
"True, Eudora; but there is reverence mingled with his homage. The very
atmosphere around Alcibiades seemed unholy. I never before met such a
glance; and the gods grant I may never meet such another. I should not
have mentioned the occurrence, even to you, had I not wished to warn you
how lightly this volatile Athenian can make love."
"I heard something of this before," rejoined Eudora; "but I did not know
"How could you have heard of it?" inquired Philothea, with an accent of
"Alcibiades had a more eager curiosity than yourself," replied Eudora.
"He soon ascertained the name of the lovely Canephoræ that he saw in
the Gardens of Urania; and he has never ceased importuning Aspasia,
until you were persuaded to visit her house."
The face, neck, and arms of the modest maiden were flushed with
indignant crimson. "Was it for this purpose," she said, "that I was
induced to yield my own sense of propriety to the solicitations of
Pericles? It is ever thus, when we disobey the gods, to please mortals.
How could I believe that any motive so harmless as idle curiosity
induced that seductive and dangerous woman to urge me into her
"I marvelled at your courage in talking to her as you did," said Eudora.
"Something within impelled me," replied Philothea, reverently;--"I did
not speak from myself."
Eudora remained in serious silence for a moment; and then said, "Can you
tell me, Philothea, what you meant by saying you once heard the stars
sing? Or is that one of those things concerning which you do not love to
have me inquire?"
The maiden replied: "As I sat at my grandfather's feet, near the statue
of Phoebus in the portico, at early dawn, I heard music, of soft and
various sounds, floating in the air; and I thought perchance it was the
farewell hymn of the stars, or the harps of the Pleiades, mourning for
their lost sister.--I had never spoken of it; but to-night I forgot the
presence of all save Plato, when I heard him discourse so eloquently of
"And were you as unhappy as you expected to be during this visit?"
inquired her friend.
"Some portions of the evening I enjoyed exceedingly," replied Philothea.
"I could have listened to Plato and Tithonus, until I grew old in their
presence. Their souls seem to move in glowing moonlight, as if
surrounded by bright beings from a better world."
Eudora looked thoughtfully in her friend's face. "It is strange," she
said, "how closely you associate all earthly objects with things divine.
I have heard Anaxagoras say that when you were a little child, you
chased the fleeting sunshine through the fields, and called it the
glittering wings of Phoebus Apollo, as he flew over the verdant earth.
And still, dearest Philothea, your heart speaks the same language.
Wherever you look, you see the shining of god-like wings. Just so you
talked of the moonlight, the other evening. To Hipparete, that solemn
radiance would have suggested no thought except that lamp-light was more
favourable to the complexion; and Hermippus would merely have rejoiced
in it, because it saved him the expense of an attendant and a torch, as
he reeled home from his midnight revels. I seldom think of sacred
subjects, except when I am listening to you; but they then seem so
bright, so golden, so divine, that I marvel they ever appear to me like
cold, dim shadows."
"The flowers of the field are unlike, but each has a beauty of its own;
and thus it is with human souls," replied Philothea.
For a brief space there was silence. But Eudora, true to the restless
vivacity of her character, soon seized her lyre, and carelessly touching
the strings, she hummed one of Sappho's ardent songs:
Back to Full Books