A History of the American School of Classical Studies, 1882-1942
Appendix II: How I Became a Captain in the Greek Army, by Walter Miller
On the third day of June, 1886, after the conclusion of the first campaign of excavation at the Theatre of Thoricus, I started out in the early morning for my tramp through northern Greece. Inasmuch as during the winter months I had covered the topography of Attica pretty thoroughly, I decided in order to economize my time, to take the little train that shuttled back and forth between Athens and the village of Kephisia (charmingly located on a spur of Mt. Pentelicus, amid the springs and waterfalls that form the source of the storied Cephissus River, eight and a half miles from the capital).
My program for the day was an extensive one, ending at nightfall at the village of Marathona, many hard miles away from Athens. Accordingly, I had risen early and caught the five-thirty train for Kephisia. But, again to husband my time, I left the train at Amarousion, seven miles from the city. There I drank from the spring that in 1906 leaped into fame as the Greek Government’s prize given to Spyridon Loues, the winner of the first Marathon Race at the first Olympic Games of modern times. (With his carts and his huge jars Spyridon Loues supplied Athens with excellent table water until the great reservoir was built in the hills above Marathon.)
From Amarousi an easy trail led me east to the monastery of Pentele (Mendele), known at that time as the richest monastic settlement in Attica. Hospitality has always been one of the outstanding virtues of the Greeks, and the monks are especially hospitable. Accordingly, I was not surprised to find the abbot himself standing at the entrance to the court of the convent and insisting upon my coming in and making myself at home there for as long as I would consent to stay. But first he would entertain me with coffee and sweetmeats under the great plane trees that shaded the spring that gushed up in the middle of the court. Upon his asking me of my plans for the day, I told him that I was going to the top of the mountain and down the other side of Marathon. He thereupon devoutly crossed himself and asked if I had made my will—for no one could get down the northern side of Pentelicus alive. So he insisted upon sending along with me to the summit one of the young neophytes, with instructions to spend the day with me and bring me back to the monastery at night.
After a pleasant half-hour with the brothers, the neophyte and I started up the mountain. Our trail led us directly to the ancient marble quarries out of which came the material for the famous buildings and sculptures of classical days. And there, as I explored the antique cuttings and the devices for letting those enormous blocks of marble down without breaking, I managed to lose my neophyte (and I rather think he contributed to his being lost) and easily made my way to the summit.
After several hours of enjoyment of the wonderful panorama below me, in spite of the advice of the guidebook and the warning of the monks of Pentele, I got my bearings for Marathon and dropped down the northern face of the mountain. It is precipitous and hard; but to one who has mountaineered in the Rockies and the high Sierras it presents no impossible feat; and in late afternoon I found myself in the midst of the plain at the foot of the mountain. The sun had sunk behind the western mountains, and I followed the course of the brook of Marathona, its banks overgrown with oleander and clematis and melodious with the evening song of the nightingales, up to the village of Marathona. At that time the village boasted of two so-called hotels. I stopped at the first one and asked for supper and a room. No food at all was available, and no furnished bedroom existed at that hostelry. So I tried the other inn. A bed could be had, but no food. Marathona was a prosperous little town, and I wondered at its poverty in the matter of food. I was informed that there had been a picnic from all the country round at Marathona that day, and the picnickers had eaten up everything that could be bitten. I had had a long, hard day with very little to eat, and was tired and hungry and much inclined to complain. In the midst of my complaining a young man approached and introduced himself as the schoolmaster of the village and eager to be of help to a future member of his guild: he would take me to the home of the Demarch (mayor) and entertain me there. But his honor, the Demarch, was at Athens, and the Demarch’s house had been stripped as bare as the rest of the town. Finally the village priest, hearing that (of all things!) an American was left to starve on their hands went down to the church and brought us two loaves of the shew-bread (“which it is lawful for only the priests to eat”), and with good scriptural precedent the schoolmaster and I did eat and were filled!
On Sunday, two days later, after stopping at the Amphiaraum, as I was making for Tanagra, not far from Delisi I was overtaken by two young men on horseback. They greeted me with a volley of questions, as is the custom of the land: where was I going? what was I going to do there? where did I live? what was my business? who was my father? where did he live? what was his business? etc.; etc. I told them that I was an archaeologist, a student at the American School at Athens; that I was just then on my way to Tanagra, to spend the greater part of the day there. And then it was my turn to ask questions. From their answers I discovered that they lived at Chlembotsari; that they were brothers; that their name was Delvanares; and that they had come down to Delisi to catch little cuttlefish (much relished as food by the Greeks of the day) and swim their horses in the Euripus. The trail to Tanagra, they assured me, was difficult to follow, but their route to Chlembotsari led directly through Tanagra, and we could all proceed together that far.
After about an hour we came to one of those bright and beautiful springs that gush out of that limestone country almost anywhere, and there we stopped to drink. As I threw myself down flat to quench my thirst, my watch indiscreetly slipped out of my pocket and attracted their attention and curiosity. I exhibited my silver timepiece and explained its merits. Then came a repetition of the Glaucus-Diomedes episode in the Sixth Book of the Iliad—except for the conclusion. The elder of my two young men carried a beautifully carved shepherd’s staff. This he wished to give me in exchange for my watch. The laws of Hellenic guest-friendship, from the days of the Trojan War to the present time, demanded that the exchange be made. But I had no immediate need of a shepherd’s crook, and I did have constant need of my watch. Zeus did not “take away my wits,” as he did the wits of Glaucus, “Who, interchanging his harness with Tydeus’ son, Diomedes, Took only bronzen for gold, even nine bulls’ worth for a hundred.” So, although I knew I was violating a basic law of Greek hospitality, I was obliged to refuse.
But attached to the other end of the leather guard I carried in the opposite vest-pocket a compass. What about that? Would I give him the compass in exchange for the shepherd’s staff? Again I had to violate the law; for in a land without roads, railroads, or even signposts, a compass was part of the essential equipment of the lone wanderer on foot. My lack of cooperation was accepted with apparent good grace, and, as we proceeded from the spring, the younger one, leading the way, invited me to hang my black bag on the horn of his saddle. The trail was a good one, wide enough for one rider and one footman to walk side by side, but not wide enough for two horses. I explained to him that it was really much more comfortable for me to carry the bag slung over my shouder and let it carry my coat than it would be to wear the coat or to carry it over my arm. But when the invitation was repeated, even a third time, I was afraid they might think that the bag contained something more valuable than my notebook, my guidebook, my bit of bread and cheese, and the one indispensable change of raiment I carried for the trip ahead of me. So I caught the strap of my bag about his saddle and dropped back to talk with the older young man. The two meanwhile had been conversing in Albanian, of which I understood only “yes” and “no.” But what they were saying became ere long quite apparent. As soon as I dropped back, the man on the forward horse began to unbuckle the covering of the bag. There was nothing in it that I objected to his seeing; but I did resent his curiosity as impudence. So I stepped forward and told him so, while I readjusted the buckle. Again I was called back; and again he attempted to open the bag. This time I made a vigorous protest and told him that it was by his courtesy that I had hung my bag on his horse, and by his courtesy I expected him to let it alone. When I was called back a third time, instead of trying to open the bag, he hit his horse a smart cut on the flank, and away he galloped up the trail. But the strap was none too firmly attached to the bag, and as the horse galloped, and the bag bounced up and down, the bag fell to the ground, leaving the strap still attached to the horn of the saddle. Before the young man could stop the onrush of his horse and turn around to where the bag lay, I had it in my hands, unwound the strap, bade them go on their way to Chlembotsari (I’d find my way to Tanagra myself), and withdrew to the shade of a live-oak tree, where I sat down and opened my bag. From it I took out a needle and thread and proceeded to repair the damage. Instead of going on and leaving me there, they both dismounted and came and sat down within a few feet of where I was doing my needlework and watched the operation. Just as I was putting on the finishing stitch, the younger man rose as if to remount, but instead he leaped at my throat as I sat there with both hands impeded by my sewing. He held me firmly, while the other came and tore my watch from my pocket and carried it away and stowed it in one of his saddlebags. By that time I began to realize what was going to happen, and, as he came back to complete the job of robbery, my onetime skill with a football returned, and I planted my foot in the midst of his body and sent him reeling. But I had not placed my kick wisely; for where he landed someone had left an olive-wood club. With that he returned, while the other was still throttling me, and the last words I heard him say were: “You’ll never kick anybody again—in this world.”
When I woke up, the sun had passed the zenith. My watch was gone; my purse was gone; nothing was left me but my old black bag. I looked all around. Nothing was in sight but the wheat fields, with here and there a live-oak tree. Straight through the standing wheat I struggled to the top of the nearest hill. Away off to the southeast I saw a Turkish tower. It may have been built by the Venetians. But at any rate, it dated from the time of the wars of the Venetians and the Turks for the possession of the land. Where there was a Turkish tower, there was sure to be a Greek village. So on through the wheat fields I went to the village. It was still Sunday, and everyone in town was asleep. I passed through the greater part of the village and knocked at an open door. No response. So I walked in and found a man asleep on the floor by his hearth. With my foot I roused him, and he sat up and looked at me in amazement. Here was a stranger; in “European dress”; stained with blood and looking wild. While he was getting his breath, I asked him the name of his town. “Staniates.” This was the centre of the battlefield of 424 B. C., but I was not now interested in the battle of Delium nor even in Socrates and Xenophon and Alcibiades.
“Where is your Demarch (mayor)?” I asked him.
“The Demarch is not here,” was the reply, which was not an answer to my question. So I repeated, with emphasis:
“Where IS your Demarch?”
“Our Demarch does not live here.” (Out in the country the Demarch is not mayor of a small village but of a township, which may comprise a number of villages.) Then I asked:
“Well then, where does your Demarch live?”
“He lives at Chlembotsari,” he answered and pointed toward the west. I had heard that name not long before, and I felt that I had had all the experience with the citizens of that town I cared for. For all I knew, this Demarch might have been the father or the uncle or the brother of my brigands, and I had no inclination to appeal to him for redress. But I did ask him,
“How far is it from here to Chlembotsari?”
“Tessaras horas (four hours),” he replied.
Glancing through my involuntary host’s east window, I saw the top of Mt. Parnes. Beyond Parnes was Athens. There I should find help. So I asked again: “How far is it to Tatoi?” (Tatoi was the summer residence of the royal family, well down on the eastern side of Parnes.)
“How far is it from here to Tatoi?” I asked.
To Athens I would go. So I asked the man to show me the trail to Tatoi. He not only showed me the way, but he walked with me a mile or more, trying his best to find out why in the world I inquired for the Demarch and then walked off in exactly the opposite direction. But my story was not to be told until I should reach Athens.
After about two hours’ walk from Staniates I came to another of those bright and beautiful springs, where I stopped and washed the blood from my aching head and ate the cent’s worth of bread and the cent’s worth of cheese that I had brought from Oropus Landing in the morning. What I lacked of food found copious compensation in the spring. Luncheon finished, I hurried on again. In the late afternoon I arrived at a village at the foot of Parnes, Kako-Salesi by name. By this time the time of the Sabbath rest was past, and people were astir. At the entrance to the town I made inquiry of a woman:
“How far is it from here to Tatoi?”
“Tessaras horas” was the reply.
That’s funny, thought I. Four from four leaves four. It just didn’t agree with my kind of mathematics. So I proceeded to argue with the lady. But she was not inclined to argue the case. “If you don’t believe me,” she said, “there is the road; try it and see.”
At the farther edge of the town I met a bunch of soldiers, chorophylakes (gensdarmes). Soldiers whose task it is to patrol the country must surely have accurate knowledge of distances. So with them I renewed my inquiry as to the distance to Tatoi.
“We,” they replied, “have been all day coming down. We think you might make it in about six hours.”
My heart sank. My little Sunday-morning pleasure walk was turning out rather long, and I gave up hope of reaching Athens that night. I began to wish that I had gone to the demarchia at Chlembotsari after all. Soon after the meeting with the soldiers I overtook a woman with two horses and a donkey laden with wheat for the mills at Nanoi, not far from Marathon, and with that my hopes revived. She did not know how far it was to Athens; “But,” she said, “yonder ahead of us is a man with a cargo of butter (on a horse) on his way to Athens to market. He can give you the information you seek.”
I put on extra speed and overtook the man with the butter and asked him where he was going.
“To Athens,” he joyously replied.
“When do you expect to arrive?” I asked.
“Oh, tomorrow about this time, or next day”—he didn’t care, so long as he got to “bright and shining Athens.”
I was tired and disheartened and inclined to be a bit sarcastic, when I asked:
“Tell me, friend, isn’t there a shorter road to Tatoi than the one you are planning to take?”
“Yes, there is—right there.” And with that he pointed to a trail leading directly up the mountain. “By that trail you can make Tatoi in a little less than four hours. But mind you don’t let night catch you on this side of the mountain!”
Like Pentelicus, the northern side of Parnes also is the precipitous side. I have seen some pretty mean trails in the Rockies and the high Sierras; but never have I encountered a more heartbreaking trail than the one that climbed from Kako-Salesi to the summit of the pass over Parnes. With the strength of despair I reached the top. “The sun sank,” as Homer puts it; “darkness dropped down out of the skies; and all the ways were darkened.” But I was on the Attic side of the mountain and soon struck the highway that led from Athens to that same Oropus Landing which I had left early in the morning.
It was some time after dark when I came in sight of the royal residence at Tatoi. The royal family and guests were gathering about the dinner table set forth upon the lawn in front of the palace. I was hungry enough to have joined them, but I had not been invited; and besides I was in a hurry to get to Athens. Nevertheless my hobnails on the highway had announced my approach, and as I arrived at the upper end of the driveway leading in to the palace, there was a member of the king’s bodyguard, detailed to find out who was tramping through Tatoi at that time of night. I satisfied him that I was a member of the American School; that I had been out on an archaeological excursion and was late in getting back to the School. But that report did not satisfy His Majesty. And at the lower end of the driveway the soldier halted me with some more questions. My answers to these were apparently all that was desired.
Down the mountain I hurried with all the strength I had. But instead of following the highway directly into the city, I thought to gain time by turning off to Kephisia, that pleasant resort eight and a half miles from Athens, and catching the little train into town. Now I knew that that train ran till ten o’clock on weekdays and till eleven o’clock on Sundays—or just the other way. Anyway, my watch was gone, and I could only guess at what time it might then be. In any case, I must hurry, hurry. As I crossed the bridge over the Cephissus, I heard the locomotive whistle blow, and I knew that the train was leaving Athens. Then it blew for leaving Patisia; then Herakleion, Amarouseion, and Anavryta. Then a longer pause; and I knew the train was waiting at Kephisia. I thought it must be the last train for the day, and I put on extra steam. But just as I got to the entrance of the village, “Toot,” and away went the train. I sank on the roadside, exhausted; for I had been on the go since five o’clock in the morning, besides being knocked on the head, with nothing to eat but a small bit of bread and cheese in all that time. I was just dropping off to sleep, when the thought occurred to me that maybe it was only ten o’clock and there might be an eleven o’clock train, and there I’d be, left asleep by the side of the road until next day.
So I pulled myself together and dragged myself into the town. At the first cafe I inquired if the last train had gone to Athens. The waiter thought it had; but he advised me to go to the station and make sure. I crept down to the station. The agent was putting up his shutters for the night, and I knew there was no getting to Athens that night. I dropped down upon a bench, with the old black bag for a pillow. I could not have gone to a hotel; I had no money. I might have sought hospitality in that land of guest-friendship; but I should then have had to explain how and why I was reduced to asking for entertainment. So the bench on the station platform had to serve me for my bed. And it served me well; for I was awakened by the first train coming in in the morning.
I then searched my pockets for chance loose change; my paper and silver and gold were gone—to Chlembotsari. I managed to scrape together seventy-five lepta (centimes; equivalent to about fifteen cents). It took seventy of those precious lepta to buy a third-class ticket to Athens. The remaining five lepta I blew in on a breakfast!
My first objective in Athens was the Presbyterian manse, where I would seek comfort and help from my beloved old friend, Dr. Kalopothakes. To him I told my tale. He was obviously worried—worse worried than I realized at the moment—worried on more accounts than mine. While I was telling him of the robbery, Mrs. Kalopothakes, a dear New England lady, was preparing for me an American breakfast. Never in all my life has any food tasted to me so good and satisfying as that!
Dr. Kalopothakes knew what to do. He sent me at once to the American Legation with the request that Mr. Walker Fearn, our Minister to Greece, should take me to the State Department and introduce me to the Prime Minister, Charilaos Trikoupes, and have him attend to the matter. Mr. Fearn was no stranger to me, and I lost no time in giving him the history of recent events and thoughtlessly added that I came with instructions from Dr. Kalopothakes. But our fine diplomat was also enough of the politician to resent suggestions from a preacher; and when I told him that Dr. Kalopothakes requested him to introduce me to the Prime Minister, he balked.
“My only access to the powers,” he insisted, “is not through the Prime Minister but through the Minister of Foreign Affairs; and if I write to him about your case, I shall probably in the course of a week or two get a polite letter from Mr. Dragoumes, saying that he is sorry that such a thing should happen, but the laws of Greece are supposed to protect foreigners as well as natives. And there the matter will end.”
“But,” I interposed, “you have always seemed to be a friend to me.”
“And so I am, indeed,” he replied.
“You are also said to be a close friend of Trikoupes; are you not?”
“Yes,” he answered; “I am right proud of my friendly relations with the Greek Prime Minister.”
“Then,” said I, “let this business not be official at all; but take your friend Miller and introduce him to your friend Trikoupes, and let me do the rest.
We were soon on the way to the State Department. Mr. Trikoupes was not there; he had gone, they thought, to the Department of War. Thither we drove. Yes, Mr. Trikoupes had been there, but he had gone to the Foreign Office. Yes, he had been there (Trikoupes was everywhere, as busy and as brilliant a statesman as ever was), but he had gone home. To his home we went and there were entertained by his gracious and accomplished sister for a while, and presently she said:
“You came to see my brother on business, I suppose. You will certainly find him now at his own office.”
And we did so. In a few words Mr. Fearn introduced me to the great Trikoupes as “a student at our American School, who had gone out into Boeotia and fallen in with some brigands and been robbed.” Trikoupes turned upon me in a savage military manner, pulled at his mustachios and shouted:
“What did you mean, a young fellow like you, going about our country alone, and ignorant of our language!”
Up to this point the conversation had been altogether in English, which Trikoupes spoke perfectly. But when he bullied me and said I was “ignorant of the language,” it was my turn to
bully back, for I was at that time right proud of my mastery of the modern Greek tongue, and I said to him in Greek:
“Mr. Trikoupes, I can speak Greek just as well as you can, Sir; and I love your country and your people almost as much as you do, and if I want to wander about in it—even alone—I’d like to know a good reason why I should not do so.”
My impudence pleased the great man, and he asked me to tell him the whole story in detail—in Greek. I did so. And, as I proceeded, he became more and more worried—like Dr. Kalopothakes a few hours before. The reason for such worry was this: when the Greek nation came out from under the Turkish yoke in 1828, there were brigands in Greece, and the problem of brigandage was a serious one. At no small expenditure of money and of lives, the government got rid of the curse. And when, in after years, a bit of brigandage breaks out, it is, or may be, a very serious matter. Only a few years before this experience of mine, Mr. Frederick Vyner, a member of the British Legation in Athens, with three others, while traveling in this neighborhood, were captured by an organized band of Albanian robbers, carried off into the hills, and held for a ransom of twenty-five thousand pounds, together with a demand for an amnesty for this and all previous crimes. While negotiations were still in progress, a troop of Greek soldiers attacked the brigands, who then shot all four of their prisoners. Mr. Vyner and one other may have been murdered under the very tree under which I was slugged and robbed—at least, it was very close by. This act of brigandage caused serious complications with the British Government; the British press and the Parliament held that the Greek Government was responsible for the outrage but, for political reasons, was afraid to act against the organized brigands; brigandage, it seemed, was just then in danger of becoming a social institution in Greece. The case was finally settled by the overthrow of the corrupt ministry then in power and the payment of an idemnity, which may be seen today in the Frederick Vyner Memorial in York Minster.
While I talked, Mr. Trikoupes pulled nervously at his forelock, and when I finished he walked to his desk and sent a message by telegraphic wire (this was before the days of telephones) and returned to us, begging to be excused as he was very busy and explaining that he had given orders for the arrest of the robbers and the recovery of my property. As we walked to the door, I made bold to ask what he had done.
“I have ordered a company of mounted chorophylakes to go to that part of the country and get the brigands.”
“Mr. Trikoupes,” I said, “your chorophylakes can’t do a thing. Send me along. If I ever set eyes upon my men, I shall recognize them and make their arrest possible.”
“You are right,” he replied. “Come around to the moirarcheion (headquarters of the division) this afternoon at four o’clock, and you will find everything ready for you. Good morning!”
Our interview was eminently successful, and Mr. Fearn carried me off in triumph to the Legation for luncheon. At four o’clock, as I approached the moirarcheion, I saw coming up a side street a company of cavalry, with a riderless horse led on the flank. With a thrill I said to myself: “That’s MY horse!”
I was conducted to the colonel’s office and there given a captain’s uniform and a captain’s commission, with authority to employ that company of cavalry according to my own judgment, in any way I would, for the discovery, identification and arrest of the perpetrators of the crime.
I have had a good many proud moments in my life; but I do not believe I ever had a prouder thrill than when a fine young lieutenant of the mounted gensdarmerie of Greece saluted the new captain and held the stirrup for me to mount that same “riderless horse.” Away we went at a gallop to Tatoi. There we stopped for supper. Shortly after sundown we were again in the saddle and soon descending Mt. Parnes at a comparatively slow pace. After my experiences of the preceding forty-eight hours, I was naturally tired and sleepy; and I often dozed in my saddle. On one such occasion, my magnificent Bosnian steed took a notion to run under a pine tree and pretty nearly played the Absalom game with me. My cap was torn off and my ear badly lacerated; after that I was wide awake—for a while. On we rode, I still napping at times, and arrived an hour after midnight at Oropus Landing, from which I had started less than forty-eight hours before. A lieutenant of the infantry chorophylake, whom I had seen upon my earlier arrival at Oropus Landing, was the first person to greet us. He put me into the military station, and there I enjoyed the sweetest three hours of sleep I ever had. This lieutenant, Epaminondas Moiras by name, and three of his foot soldiers, learning of our mission, begged to be permitted to go along with us. It was a happy coalition, as the sequel proved.
My plan of campaign was to conduct my company over precisely the same route that I had followed on Sunday. By the time we arrived at Delisi, the peasants were nearly all out in the fields busy with their grain or their flocks. The Epistates (a sort of deputy for the Demarch in an outlying village of the township) turned over to our council of war his headquarters. The council consisted of our commissioned officers. The men we sent out to range the fields and bring in every man, woman and child that belonged to that village. Such is the police authority of the chorophylake. One by one they were put through a searching examination by our chief advocate, Epaminondas Moiras, a skilled attorney. The main line of inquiry was in regard to a “stranger in European clothes” who had passed that way on Sunday, and in regard to two young men from up-country who had come to swim their horses in the Euripus and catch cuttlefish. According to all the testimony we obtained, not a soul had come from the outside to Delisi on that particular Sunday. Even the woman who had given me a cup of water at the village well and sent me with her blessing on the road to Tanagra had not seen any stranger or anyone else.
Not the shadow of a clue was obtained at Delisi. We proceeded inland, took in water at the fateful spring, paused under the still more fateful live-oak, and soon arrived at Staniates—that point which is four-hours distant from ever}’ other point on the globe.
At Staniates we followed the same procedure. As far as we could discover no one had gone from Staniates on Sunday; and no stranger had passed that way. Even the man whom I had rudely awakened from his Sabbath slumber and who had accompanied me, with more or less interesting conversation, on the road toward Tatoi had not seen anyone. Something was wrong with him. He was recalled. No use. He was recalled again. This time I myself further cross-questioned him:—with no obvious results; but he withdrew to one side and pulled distractedly at his forelock, and something clicked. So he came back and peered under the visor of my cap, then turned to my captain and said:
“Captain, you keep asking about a lad in European clothes that came this way on Sunday. Well, Captain, there was such a boy; and, Captain, this (pointing at me)—this is that boy !”.
They could remember—if it seemed the part of discretion to remember. One can only guess what was in his mind. And this was the only bit of information that we obtained at Staniates. One stranger had passed through; no native had gone anywhere for any purpose.
We left Staniates in mid-afternoon for Chlembotsari, where we, trusting in the information that the young robbers had given me early in our acquaintance, were confident that we should end our quest successfully. On the way we passed directly through the Tanagra that I had started out to visit on that memorable Sunday; but Tanagra, with all its historical and archaeological associations, had nothing of interest for me now; we marched straight through.
It was now near sunset, and people were returning from their harvesting to the village. Their curiosity was aroused by the sight of a small army, foot and horse, moving on Chlembotsari. One athletic young man hurried to join us and asked what it was all about. But we were not answering questions but asking them; so Epaminondas took him in hand and questioned him closely about where he had spent the preceding Sunday and what he could tell of the movements of other young men of the village. To us he told nothing; but when we were through with him, he started off to give big news to his friends. That wouldn’t do. So, at command of one of our officers, a trooper caught a rope-end around the young man’s arms and attached him to a ring in his saddle. Then came up another curious Chlembotsarian and then another and another; and all were subjected to the same sort of examination and then in like manner detained with us.
We were in plain sight from the town even when more than a mile away. So we were not surprised to find awaiting our arrival the Demarch himself at the city gates. He was anything but the terror I had pictured to myself, when I turned my back on Chlembotsari on Sunday and headed for Athens—anything but the father of brigands—a gentle, mild-mannered old man with snow-white hair and beard and a winsome smile that won the heart. I dismounted to receive his greeting and his welcome. In a few words I informed him why we were there, and this gentle old soul literally burst into tears at the news of such a crime on the part of two of his citizens. What should we do with our prisoners? Well, the Demarch said, there was the town jail; we might put them in that under guard till we should be ready to go. The word “jail” sounds rather uninviting; but I doubt if that particular jail had had an occupant in half a dozen years. At any rate, into that calaboose they went, with a guard whose business it was to see that they had no communication with the outside world.
The Demarch took me to his house, which, of course, was also his office. He asked me how old were my robbers. I told him that they were between eighteen and twenty-one. To make sure, he took down the record of births and drew off a list of all the youth of Chlembotsari between the ages of twelve and twenty-five. The names were distributed among our soldiers, who brought the young men in one by one or two by two to be examined before the court of the clever Epaminondas Moiras. When he got through with them, they were taken across the street to join their friends in the jail.
About eight o’clock there was brought in a lad of that age which the ancient Greeks, accustomed to seeing their youngsters stripped in the athletic games of the palaestra every day, called, with careful discrimination, not “boys” nor “youths” but mellepheboi, “lads on the point of becoming youths.” Such was this youngster. No Albanian was he, like most of those we had seen, but a Greek of that perfect type of beauty which we see in fourth-century Attic sculpture. Even grizzled old warrior Epaminondas softened when he took this lad in hand.
“My son” (Epaminondas never said “son” to any other witness), he asked, “what is your name?” With obvious local pride the boy’s shoulders came up a bit, and he answered:
“My name is Epaminondas.” (Chlembotsari is only a few miles from Thebes, the capital of the province.)
“My name is Epaminondas, too,” said the lieutenant. “Do you know where we got our name?”
“Yes, sir.” The shoulders came up another notch with patriotic ardor. “From the great Epaminondas of Thebes.”
“Well, then (with the most solemn oath that he could under the circumstances administer), by the great Epaminondas of Thebes you tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
The head and shoulders came up to their full height, as he answered:
“By the great Epaminondas of Thebes, I’ll die for the truth.”
And then the little rascal proceeded to lie like a “Cretan.”
“Epaminondas, where were you last Sunday?”
“I went down to Delisi.”
“What did you go to Delisi for?”
“I went to see my aunt.”
“Did you see anybody on the way to Delisi?”
“No, sir; not a soul.”
“Did you see anybody on the way back?”
“No, sir; not a soul.”
Now Delisi is all of ten miles from Chlembotsari; and although it was Sunday, it was not likely, albeit possible, that in those twenty and more miles he should not have seen anyone at all. But let that pass.
“Well, did you see anyone at Delisi?”
“No, sir; not a soul.”
“But I thought you went there on purpose to see an aunt.”
“Oh yes, of course I saw my aunt; but not a soul besides.”
Although Moiras was one of the shrewdest Greeks I ever knew and could handle a witness as well as the cleverest of lawyers, he failed utterly to budge young Epaminondas from the position he had taken. Our entire council of war and the Demarch, who sat with us, were perfectly sure that Epaminondas had valuable information for us. But how were we to get it out of him? The Demarch had a scheme:
“Down under this house,” he said, “is a cellar without a chink to let a sound in or out, except the door. You might put Epaminondas down there, with a guard at the door, to think things over a while.”
So down into the cellar went the lad Epaminondas.
Soon after that came in two big, hulking, surly fellows who, under cross-examination, failed to give a consistent account of their movements on the Sunday before.
“Those two,” said my captain, “are your men.”
But I knew better; and the work went on. Later those two suspicious characters were re-introduced, and again their answers were confused.
“Those two are your men,” the captain repeated; and he handed me a written document. It was the description I had given at headquarters in Athens when I first reported the robbery; and it tallied even to the embroidery on their peculiar Greek shoes.
“Those two are your men,” said the captain; “and tomorrow we’ll take them to Athens as our prisoners.”
“Nay, not so,” I replied. “I am sorry to remind you, captain, that I am in command of this expedition. Those are not my men, and the search must continue.”
Before we turned in, we had Epaminondas brought up out of the cellar. He was a little pale from his solitary confinement in that black cellar. But all the clever pleading and all the furious browbeating of Lieutenant Epaminondas failed to elicit the slightest information. So back to the cellar went Epaminondas, and the rest of us to bed.
The first thing in the morning Epaminondas was brought up again. He was decidedly pale and worried now. And when big Epaminondas asked him pleadingly, “Tell me, son, who was it that you saw at Delisi besides your aunt?” he answered hesitatingly:
“Well, yes, I did see a couple of young fellows swimming their horses in the Euripus.”
“Were you near enough to talk with them?”
“Yes; I talked with them.”
“Then you can tell us their names.”
“I have no idea what their names are.”
“Didn’t you ask them their names?”
“No; it never occurred to me to ask their names.”
From the days of the Trojan War to the present it is the most natural thing for a Greek, when he gets into conversation with a stranger, to ask his name. Epaminondas did not seem to know that; but we did, and we were sure that we should ultimately get the truth out of him.
“Well; at least you can tell us where they came from.”
“No, sir; I haven’t the remotest idea where they came from.”
“Didn’t you ask them where they were from?”
“No, sir; it never occurred to me to ask them where they were from.”
This also, and for the same reasons, seemed to us altogether improbable, but nothing could shake his oath to “be true”—to his friends. Of course he had no idea what they had been doing; but he knew that it was serious, or so many soldier-policemen would not be on their trail. There seemed to be nothing else for it, and again Epaminondas was conducted to the Demarch’s cellar.
Before the morning was done we had examined every young man on the Demarch’s list and still had not got anywhere. Then the Demarch asked me if I would recognize the animals. I was sure I could. No one had left the town that day for work in the harvest or elsewhere. So the Demarch took me the round of the stables of the village. My horses were not there.
“Thank God!” cried his honor; “the crime does not come home to my village!”
We returned for luncheon to his house. The officers’ mess was in a large room in the upper story. While the others were getting ready, I stepped out upon a balcony looking to the east, and saw a lone horseman coming up the trail toward the town. I was at once curious. No one had left Chlembotsari; we had seen to that; who could be coming in, and why? As he came near, I recognized the epistates of Delisi. He also recognized me and came at once to the balcony where I was sitting. He, too, was uneasy and worried and was nervously pulling at his forelock as he addressed me:
“Captain; when you all were at our place the other day we were all so excited we couldn’t remember anything. But after you went off, we got to thinking it over and talking about it. And then it came back to us that there had been two young men from up-country at Delisi on Sunday; that they had unloaded their saddles at my door, had drunk a cup of coffee with me, and then gone to the Euripus to swim their horses and catch some cuttlefish; that they did have some conversation with me and with some other people.”
The reader will have little difficulty in guessing what was the matter with their memories if he will recall that while negotiations were in progress concerning Frederick Vyner and his companions, the brigands in that case were lodged for several days in three houses at Oropus Landing, one of which was the home of the Epistates! Loyalty to neighbors and clan was far stronger in the hearts and minds of those peasant folk than bonds of law and justice. From this the reader may also readily guess what prompted our Epistates to ride all the way up to Chlembotsari to tell us that. But he had something more vital to tell us just then.
“What are their names?” He told me, told me correctly.
“Where do they live?”
“They live at Bratsi.”
Bratsi is a small village only a few miles away and in the same township; and my expectations of an early catch rose. Then said I:
“Well, then; we shall get them!”
“Oh yes; you’ll get them all right.” And this he said with such assurance that I asked:
“What makes you so dead sure of our getting them?”
“Oh, I came around by the way of Bratsi, and I told them the army was on their trail and that you’d get them.”
Then it was my turn to rage. I actually drew my sabre and made at him as if I would have his worthless life. He dropped to his knees and begged: “If you don’t get them, you may kill me; but you will get them.”
We didn’t wait for the luncheon that was about ready for us but ordered all men to horse. While our horses were being brought out and saddled, I had Epaminondas brought up out of his awful confinement.
“Epaminondas,” I asked him, “were those fellows that you saw at Delisi from Bratsi?”
“Who told you?”
“Are their names so-and-so?”
“How did you find out?”
“Well, at least, my dear boy, you did not betray them.”
About the same time there were coming from the jail across the way cries of “A dika! A dika!” (“Injustice! Injustice!”) Orders were immediately issued for their release; and they came out to freedom the most surprised bunch of Hellenic youth that ever suffered unjustly.
Chlembotsari is high up on one spur of the mountain; Bratsi is in the plain, with another spur of the mountain in between. When we got well down the former spur, we sent half of our troopers around the next spur to head off any possible flight into the grain fields and lower hills. The rest of us climbed the intervening spur. When we reached the top, with Bratsi in plain view, we could see those other horsemen careering about the wheat fields in apparent excitement; this was too much for the rest, and they all plunged down the mountainside, helter-skelter, to get into the melee, leaving on the trail only Epaminondas Moiras, who also was now mounted, myself, and the Demarch (Bratsi also was in his bailiwick), and the espistates from Delisi, whose miserable life was in the balance, away back in the rear. As we descended toward the village, I caught sight of two men walking leisurely toward the wooded hills. I called to Epaminondas, who was ahead of me on the narrow trail, to hurry up and stop those two fellows. But Epaminondas was tired; he had borne all the burden and the heat of the day ever since he joined us at Oropus Landing, and he could only grunt:
“Oh, they don’t amount to anything; let them go.”
“All right. If you don’t want to go, get out of my way and let me pass. I’ll get them.”
That was too much for the soldier. He drove his heels into the flanks of his beast and went galloping down the trail, closely followed by me. The men heard the clattering of the hoofs on the flinty trail and broke into a run for the woods. Epaminondas called them to halt or he’d kill them. They didn’t halt but ran the faster. Moiras drew his carbine and fired. They must have heard the bullet sing pretty close to their heads; for they stopped. In an instant Epaminondas was on his feet at their side, with drawn revolver. In another instant I was with him and exclaimed:
“Those are the very chaps we have been looking for!”
“The devil you say!”
To his prisoners he said:
“Take hold of those reins and lead us to your house.” They led.
Meanwhile our troopers were bringing in the people of Bratsi for investigation, as at the other places where we had been. They were all immediately released to go about their work as they might wish. After the first excitement of the capture had died down, someone asked the robbers what they had done with my watch and money. They replied that they had not meant to keep them but had turned them over to their father, and he had gone to Thebes to deliver them to the headquarters of the chorophylake there, to be returned to me at Athens! So we put our tallest lieutenant on my steed, with telegrams to the authorities in Athens, and bade him ride with all speed on the road they said the old man had taken for Thebes, send the telegrams and catch the father going or coming and bring him back to Bratsi.
Later someone asked the fellows why in the world they had robbed me.
“We were going along together pleasantly,” they said. “He told us he was an archaeologist, and we thought he must be a lord with plenty of money. Finally the devil came and prompted us; and we robbed him.”
We had a grand dinner to celebrate our success and lay down, expecting to be roused at midnight to go to Athens. But we were not disturbed. For our lieutenant returned from Thebes without any news of the father. He had not gone to Thebes at all. So we were called at daybreak to go on a hunt for the old man. As I came down from my billet, a soldier came to tell me that the village priest wished me to have coffee at his house. While I was chatting with him, the Demarch came to me and fished out of his capacious leather pocket a silver watch and asked me if it was mine. I identified it, and he handed it to my captain. Out of another compartment of that wonderful pocket he drew forth a leather purse and asked if that was mine. I said it looked like mine.
“Count the money,” he said. I counted. There was a good deal, for I was equipped with enough to carry me all through northern Greece, to Constantinople, down through the famous cities of Asia and back to Athens. I replied that my money was all there, with the possible exception of a five-franc piece of paper, and I wasn’t perfectly sure of that and would let it pass. The epistates, whose life was now restored, took a cheerful view of the situation and suggested that, now that I had my “things” all restored, we give the boys a flogging and let them go. The priest pleaded for mercy. But we had no choice. The men had been arrested as “brigands,” and to Athens they must go.
But there was still the question of the father. He had made himself particeps criminis, and all my men were for running him down and taking him along to Athens. But I said, “No; we are taking away two of the three breadwinners of that family; let us leave the other.” So they fettered each of the young men to a trooper’s horse, his right hand firmly fastened to a ring in the saddle, and set out on our return. The wailing of the mother was pitiful in the extreme; the smaller children added their howls.
Our progress, under the circumstances, was necessarily slow. The captain and I soon became tired of it. So we each took a trooper with us and galloped to Tatoi, where we arrived soon after noon. After an excellent luncheon we galloped on to Kephisia. There we refreshed ourselves at a swell cafe, turned our horses over to our knights to bring home, took a fine carriage to the station, and rode in first class this time, if you please, to Athens. All quite different from the way I had traveled on the preceding Sunday! Again I called first of all on Dr. Kalopothakes and his good wife, to whose kind counsel all the success of my adventure was due.
Within a few days the preliminary trial was held at the office of the Attorney General, where I told my story briefly and identified the prisoners as the “brigands” who had robbed me. Before the final trial came off I had made another excursion, on which I was one night the guest of a district judge. To him I told the tale in considerable detail and asked him what he thought would be the sentence.
“If you tell that story in court as you have told it to me, the sentence can only be death.”
So when the trial came off, I omitted all mention of the club and my being left for dead from the slugging. I did not wish to have their lives on my conscience. Accordingly the sentence was one that I should not prefer to having my head cut off. The men were young, and it was their first offense; so they were sent to the awful prison at Aegina for ten years. Whether they survived the horrors of that black hole I never learned. I still treasure my commission as Captain of the Mounted Chorophylake.
Appendix III: Excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1882–1940
“Excavation” is used in the broadest sense. Crow’s work in the Pnyx, 1882, was more properly an “investigation.” This is true also of Bates’s and Allen’s work at the Asklepieion in 1906, and of Hill’s at the Erechtheum in 1914. Miller’s Thoricus was the School’s first real dig. “Under the auspices of the School” is used to describe an excavation not financed by the School but for which the School secured the Government’s permission to dig and for which the School assumed responsibility. In the case of the excavation at Pylos the School merely endorsed the request for permission to dig.
The excavations “with the Fogg Museum” and “with the University of Cincinnati” were joint enterprises, those “with the Archaeological Institute of America” were partially or wholly financed by the Institute and staffed by the School.
“With the assistance of the School” means that School Fellows participated in the excavation, and facilities for publication were given.