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Modern Greece
by [?]

‘Journal of a Tour in Greece and the Ionian Islands.’
By WILLIAM MURE, of Caldwell.


What are the nuisances, special to Greece, which repel tourists from that country? They are three;–robbers, fleas, and dogs. It is remarkable that all are, in one sense, respectable nuisances–they are ancient, and of classical descent. The monuments still existing from pre-Christian ages, in memory of honest travellers assassinated by brigands of klephts, (Kleptai,) show that the old respectable calling of freebooters by sea and land, which Thucydides, in a well-known passage, describes as so reputable an investment for capital during the times preceding his own, and, as to northern Greece, even during his own, had never entirely languished, as with us it has done, for two generations, on the heaths of Bagshot, Hounslow, or Finchley. Well situated as these grounds were for doing business, lying at such convenient distances from the metropolis, and studying the convenience of all parties, (since, if a man were destined to lose a burden on his road, surely it was pleasing to his feelings that he had not been suffered to act as porter over ninety or a hundred miles, in the service of one who would neither pay him nor thank him); yet, finally, what through banks, and what through policemen, the concern has dwindled to nothing. In England, we believe, this concern was technically known amongst men of business and ‘family men,’ as the ‘Low Toby.’ In Greece it was called [Greek: laeseia]; and Homericaliy speaking, it was perhaps the only profession thoroughly respectable. A few other callings are mentioned in the Odyssey as furnishing regular bread to decent men–viz. the doctor’s, the fortune-teller’s or conjurer’s, and the armorer’s. Indeed it is clear, from the offer made to Ulysses of a job, in the way of hedging and ditching, that sturdy big-boned beggars, or what used to be called ‘Abraham men’ in southern England, were not held to have forfeited any heraldic dignity attached to the rank of pauper, (which was considerable,) by taking a farmer’s pay where mendicancy happened to be ‘looking downwards.’ Even honest labor was tolerated, though, of course, disgraceful. But the Corinthian order of society, to borrow Burke’s image, was the bold sea-rover, the buccaneer, or, (if you will call him so) the robber in all his varieties. Titles were, at that time, not much in use–honorary titles we mean; but had our prefix of ‘Right Honorable’ existed, it would have been assigned to burglars, and by no means to privy-councillors; as again our English prefix of ‘Venerable’ would have been settled, not on so sheepish a character as the archdeacon, but on the spirited appropriator of church plate. We were surprised lately to find, in a German work of some authority, so gross a misconception of Thucydides, as that of supposing him to be in jest. Nothing of the sort. The question which he represents as once current, on speaking a ship in the Mediterranean–‘Pray, gentlemen, are you robbers?’ actually occurs in Homer; and to Homer, no doubt, the historian alludes. It neither was, nor could be conceived, as other than complimentary; for the alternative supposition presumed him that mean and well-known character–the merchant, who basely paid for what he took. It was plainly asking–Are you a knight grand-cross of some martial order, or a sort of costermonger? And we give it as no hasty or fanciful opinion, that the South Sea islands (which Bougainville held to be in a state of considerable civilization) had, in fact, reached the precise stage of Homeric Greece. The power of levying war, as yet not sequestered by the ruling power of each community, was a private right inherent in every individual of any one state against all individuals of any other. Captain Cook’s ship, the Resolution, and her consort, the Adventure, were as much independent states and objects of lawful war to the islanders, as Owyhee, in the Sandwich group, was to Tongataboo in the Friendly group. So that to have taken an Old Bailey view of the thefts committed was unjust, and, besides, inefectual; the true remedy being by way of treaty or convention with the chiefs of every island. And perhaps, if Homer had tried it, the same remedy (in effect, regular payments of black-mail) might have been found available in his day.