Chapter XIV. The Peireus and the Shipping.
101. The Town of Peireus. - The Peireus has all the life of the Athenian Agora many times multiplied. Everywhere there is work and bustle. Aristophanes has long since described the impression it makes on strangers,[*] - sailors clamoring for pay, rations being served out, figureheads being burnished, men trafficking for corn, for onions, for leeks, for figs, - "wreaths, anchovies, flute girls, blackened eyes, the hammering of oars from the dock yards, the fitting of rowlocks, boatswains' pipes, fifes, and whistling." There is such confusion one can hardly analyze one's surroundings. However, we soon discover the Peireus has certain advantages over Athens itself. The streets are much wider and are quite straight,[+] crossing at right angles, unlike the crooked alleys of old Athens which seem nothing but built-up cow trails. Down at the water front of the main harbor ("the Peireus" harbor to distinguish it from Zea and Munychia) we find about one third, nearest the entrance passage and called the Cantharus, reserved for the use of the war navy. This section is the famous "Emporium," which is such a repository of foreign wares that Isocrates boasts that here one can easily buy all those things which it is extremely hard to purchase anywhere else in Hellas. Along the shore run five great stoas or colonnades, all used by the traders for different purposes; - among them are the Long Stoa (Makra' Stoa'), the "Deigma" (see section 78) used as a sample house by the wholesalers, and the great Corn Exchange built by Pericles. Close down near the wharves stands also a handsome and frequented temple, that of Athena Euploia (Athena, Giver of good Voyages), to whom many a shipman offers prayer ere hoisting sail, and many another comes to pay grateful vows after surviving a storm. Time fails us for mentioning all the considerable temples farther back in the town. The Peireus in short is a semi-independent community; with its shrines, its agoras, its theaters, its court rooms, and other public buildings. The population contains a very high percentage of metics, and downright Barbarians, - indeed, long-bearded Babylonians, clean bronze Egyptians, grinning Ethiopians, never awaken the least comment, they are so familiar.
[*]"Acharn." 54 ff.
[+]Pericles employed the famous architect Hippodamus to lay out the Peireus. It seems to have been arranged much like many of the newer American cities.
[seems to have been still another precinct, sacred to "Zeus and Athena the Preservers," where it was very proper to offer thanksgivings after a safe voyage.
102. The Merchant Shipping. - We can now cast more particular eyes upon the shipping. Every possible type is represented. The fishing craft just now pulling in with loads of shining tunnies caught near Aegina are of course merely broad open boats, with only a single dirty orange sail swinging in the lagging breeze. Such vessels indeed depend most of the time upon their long oars. Also just now there goes across the glassy surface of the harbor a slim graceful rowing craft, pulling eight swiftly plying oars to a side. She is a "Lembus:" probably the private cutter of the commandant of the port. Generally speaking, however, we soon find that all the larger Greek ships are divided into two categories, the "long ships" and the "round ships." The former depend mainly on oars and are for war; the latter trust chiefly to sail power and are for cargo. The craft in the merchant haven are of course nearly all of this last description.
Greeks are clever sailors. They never feel really happy at a great distance from the sea which so penetrates their little country; nevertheless, they have not made all the progress in navigation which, considering the natural ingenuity of the race, might well be expected. The prime difficulty is that Greek ships very seldom have comfortable cabins. The men expect to sleep on shore every night possible. Only in a great emergency, or when crossing an exceptionally wide gulf or channel,[*] can a captain expect the average crew to forego the privilege of a warm supper and bivouac upon the strand. This means (since safe anchorages are by no means everywhere) the ships must be so shallow and light they can often be hauled up upon the beach. Even with a pretty large crew, therefore, the limit to a manageable ship is soon reached; and during the whole of the winter season all long-distance voyaging has to be suspended; while, even in summer, nine sailors out of ten hug close to the land, despite the fact that often the distance of a voyage is thereby doubled.
[*]For example, the trip from Crete to Cyrene - which would be demanded first, before coasting along to Egypt.