Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Truly holy is this abode

Oil-glistening, violet-crowned city, forever song praises you, my holy Athens, you, stronghold of the Hellenes: Home of the Gods.

About this fragment of Pindar, a young Wilamowitz wrote to his parents after seeing the Athenian acropolis in 1873:

"Pindar of Thebes sang this 2,350 years ago. A Theban, and two years after the Battle of Plataea. It would be like an Alsatian today praising Berlin. And really, when I climbed up the Acropolis between the marble fragments and cactus, Lüders cried out to me the phrase that Jehovah said to Moses when he appeared to him on Horeb in the burning bush: Remove the shoes from thy feet, for holy is the place where thou entereth. And when I entered the rocky plateau, and before me lay the great field of ruins, I stood upon the ancient slope where the islands of the sea came to give their tithe to the Goddess of Athens, where later the Spartan lords drew back before the holiness of the place, where the weapons fell from the hand of Alaric the Goth——there I now saw that everything lay in ruins, that the violence of time, human neglect, and human evil had been able to destroy even the walls of the gods' dwelling, but not to infect the holiness of their breath, which floats over the place. Then I too cried out: Truly holy is this abode, a Home of the Gods, as Pindar said. But I didn't take off my boots; I only lit a cigarette."