Wilt thou, Italia, spurn their prayers with scorn? Snatch the last morsel from thy serfs' white lips, Ravish for murderous strife their eldest born, And squander millions on thy useless ships?
Make thine ill-paid officials banded knaves, Drive thy starved sons by thousands from thy shore, Send them to rot in Abyssinian graves, And hide the cancer festering at thy core?
Yet none the less shalt thou most dearly pay For playing thus the war-lord's pompous part, When thou shalt feel, at no far-distant day, The people's dagger driven through thy heart.
America And Sicily.
Notwithstanding the appalling misery of the Yellow Country, no part of Sicily was to me so interesting and impressive as the site of that illustrious city of antiquity, called by the Greeks Acragas, by the Romans Agrigentum, and by its present citizens Girgenti. This, like Selinus, its contemporary and rival, lies on the island's southern shore, and in full view of that majestic portion of the Mediterranean, called the Mare Africano. It was undoubtedly one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world. Pindar, the greatest of Greek lyric poets, sang of it as the loveliest of them all; and the most famous man whom it produced - the poet and philosopher, Empedo-cles - said of his fellow-citizens that they built as if they were to live forever, yet gave themselves to pleasure, as if they were to die upon the morrow. Gaining colossal fortunes by their trade in oil, corn, and wine with Carthage, only eighty miles away, the merchants of Acragas showed a luxury and splendor which became proverbial. Before the house of the millionaire, Gellias, for example, slaves stood continually to invite all passing strangers to refresh themselves beneath his roof; and five hundred horsemen are said to have been received and lodged by him at one time. Within his cellars also were three hundred reservoirs of wine, hewn in the solid rock, each of which held about nine hundred gallons. Yet Gellias was only one of many such luxurious and hospitable plutocrats in Acragas. Some of them built elaborate monuments to horses which had won for them distinguished races. Others erected tombs for household pets. When one of the city's athletes returned vietorious from the Olympian games, three hundred chariots went out to welcome him, each drawn by snow-white horses. Moreover, some of the finest paintings and statues in the world were gathered in the temples and private dwellings of Acragas, among them being the famous painting of Venus, - the masterpiece of Zeuxis, who chose the five most beautiful maidens of the city for his models, and showed, as a result, a marvelous combination of their points of loveliness. In the gymnasiums of Acragas even the strigils were of gold, as were the jars containing oil for lubrication. Yet this renowned metropolis had even a shorter period of prosperity than Selinus; for in less than two centuries after its foundation, the Carthaginians captured and destroyed it, in 406 B.C., sending its works of art to Africa, and carrying off twenty-five thousand of its citizens to slavery. This really sealed its fate; for, though it subsequently played a minor role, as Agrigentum, under the Romans, it suffered cruel outrages at every new invasion of its tempting territory, and never could regain its ancient glory.
The Modern Girgenti.
Ancient Sarcophagus, Found At Girgenti.
The modern town, Girgenti, perched on the summit of a cliff twelve hundred feet above the sea, was formerly the acropolis of Acragas; but the old city of the Greeks extended also over the adjoining slopes, and held within its walls, ten miles in circuit, those famous temples, whose remaining shafts and prostrate blocks alike bear witness "To the glory that was Greece And the grandeur that was Rome".
Head Of Demeter. Vatican.
It is hardly worth while entering modern Girgenti, for it possesses nothing of its ancient splendor. Its steep and ill-paved streets, lined frequently with narrow dwellings cut irregularly in the rock, have an unwholesome look and smell; and its cathedral, famous only for acoustic properties which make of it a sort of whispering gallery, seems out of keeping with the dominating genius of the place - the spirit of antiquity. In other words, the interest of the traveler centres here upon a broad, high bluff, some two miles distant from the town, where not a modern habitation now exists, save one well-kept hotel, and where the ghosts of vanished greatness haunt the historic slopes, still dominated by the pale gray olive of Minerva.