EVERYONE landing at Seriphos must naturally think of those frogs which Pliny tells us were always silent here, and it was a disappointment to me when I heard them croaking gaily on the little plain down by the harbour. I confess I believe that the saying about the frogs of Seriphos being silent referred to the boorishness of the inhabitants when they visited Athens. Captain Georgios Hadgi Nikolas Ibelligeka, into whose hands we fell on landing, was anything but a silent member of society, and before many days were out we had cause to regret his loquacity.
Captain George we called him for short-the rest of his name was so very long. The rocks were the second thing we looked at at Seriphos, and as we did so we thought of Danae and Perseus landing here in a chest, and being received by King Polydectes with all hospitality; here Perseus left Danae, and when after a successful voyage he returned with Medusa's head, and found King Polydectes making love to Danae, he forthwith turned him and all the Seriphiotes into stones. This story when you look at the landscape seems natural enough, for Seriphos is an island with lovely outlines; the town is built on a conical, escarped hill, just above the harbour, with caves and rocks all over it, just as the inhabitants were standing when Perseus petrified them. Modern white houses are now clinging like mussels to these rocks, and the summit is crowned with the remains of a medieval castle. Some peasants brought us some old coins with Medusa's head on-the old coins of Seriphos, in fact-and with the usual sharp-wittedness of their race they told us that they were the coins of the first queen of Seriphos, who lived up at yonder castle.
The village of Livadi, by the harbour, is small but tidy, and we there partook of refreshments in a clean fisherman's cottage off a table rudely carved with all sorts offish designs. The ceilings of the houses are here all made of canes placed crosswise; onthe top of this ceiling they put seaweed, and on the top of the seaweed mud, which is carefully pressed and rolled, and forms the roof of the one-storeyed houses; a very treacherous roof, indeed, in wet weather, as we often experienced. The tiny plain down by the harbour is a pattern of fertility. There is a well in each field; pomegranates, figs, and almond trees abound; another feature peculiar to Seriphosat once caught the eye: every proprietor has his grave in his own field, built like a little shrine, and if he sells his field special provision in the articles of sale have to be made for the non-disturbance of ancestral bones.
This custom is not carried on in any other of the Cyclades, and reminded us of the days when an Athenian possessor of land left4directions in his will to be buried in his private ground (Demosthenes, 'Euerg.' p. 1159).Frequently, too, the graves, as at Seriphos now, were by the roadside. The family sepulcher of Isocrates was near the Cynosarges, that of Thucydides by the Melitic Gate. We climbed up the steep ascent to the town on foot, as did the rest of the population who had come to see the steamer arrive: women carrying their babies tied to their backs with string; fishermen with their baskets full of fish, now in great request, for the ante-Christmas fast had just set in; and by our side our new host, Captain George, trotted, pointing out each object of interest we passed. 'This is the tomb of So-and so, who died of so-and so, and was the father of Maria So-and-so. This is the Church of St. Isidoros, where is a spring of warm water, reckoned excellent for the health, where a yearly panegyris (a festival) is held; and it was built by Sophia Makri, who was asleep and dreamt she was caught by her neck by St. Isidoros and commanded to go and build a church on this spot. When she awoke she had it built. Come in and have a glass of water; there is iron in it.' So Captain George rambled on.
I followed him in, drank some exquisite water, and recognised why it was dedicated to St. Isidoros, becauses…dhroj, iron (according to modern pronunciation) suggested one of those ecclesiastical puns in which the Eastern Church loves to indulge. Captain George here paused awhile to rest, and as I scrutinised our new acquaintance I felt I did not like him; he was a little thick-set man with an evil countenance, but sparkling with intelligence. Afterwards I learnt that he was well known in these seas as an expert smuggler, who would have been a pirate if he had lived fifty years ago. He had just got a nice new caique painted green, and his plan was to offer us hospitality and to persuade us to take his boat at a price which would pay him better than smuggling.We went on a little further. 'Here is the Church of St. Tryphon,' said Captain George, 'the protector of agriculture. 'Not knowing much about St. Tryphon I questioned further, and found that he is in great repute here. On his day no one works or cleans out his house, because they think he has power over rats and all animals hurtful to agriculture, and on St. Tryphon's Day the Church has offices and prayers for the special supplication of this saint to ward off blight. St. Tryphon must, I thought, be a descendant of Apollo Smintheus, who was worshipped in the neighbouring isle of Keos. Captain George's house was a new one, at the lower end of the town, really quite a mansion for the islands. You enter the one sitting room with the divan, and off this are several little boxes, about eight feet square, entered by gates four feet high, the upper part being open: these are bedrooms. Ours had a thin gauze blind across the opening, which afforded us only a sorry attempt at seclusion.
Captain George's wife was a chattel, and a very uninteresting piece of furniture, too; for he hounded the poor thing about until she looked like a scared mongrel. She waited upon us at meals and never took a part in them. She cooked, she swept, and she slaved whilst the captain made merry with his guests. The wife of a lower class Greek is a pitiable object, much as she was in Hesiod's time, who, in his 'Works and Days,' shows us a wife's condition then, and considered it the worst possible feature of a bad wife to5wish to sit at meals with her lord and master. Hesiod's advice to a young man starting in life would apply to a Greek of to-day: 'You must start with a house, a wife, an ox, and a plough.' Mrs. Ibelligeka would come up to Hesiod's standard.
After the usual slight refreshments of coffee, jam, and mastic, we were joined by the demarch, a priest, and a schoolmaster, and taken forth to see the town. Of all towns in the Greek Islands, Seriphos will remain fixed in my mind as the most filthy. The main street is a sewer into which all the offal is thrown; and it is tenanted by countless pigs-for each householder has liberty to keep three. What the nuisance must have been when the number was unlimited I cannot think. Furthermore this street is like a ladder of rocks, and the pigs in their movements are as nimble as goats, most dangerous to thepeace of mind of the pedestrian. Sometimes the street is not two feet wide, sometimes it is expanded to six feet, but always an inch deep in mire, often more.
In one of these narrow streets on the Tuesday after Easter the maidens of Seriphos play their favourite game of the swing (κουνια). They hang a rope from one wall to the other, put some clothes on it, and swing, singing and swinging, one after the other. Aware of this the young men try to pass by, and are called upon for a toll of one penny each, a song, and a swing. The words they generally use are as follows:-'The gold is swung, the silver is swung, and swung, too, is my love with the golden hair;' to which the maiden replies, 'Who is it that swings me that I may gild him with my favour, that I may work him a fez all covered with pearls?' Then, having paid his penny, he is permitted to pass, and another comes on and does likewise. The houses opening on to this street were mere black-holes, where sat families shivering round charcoal fires on which pots full of ling were boiling for the evening meal. They seemed hospitably inclined towards us, for one woman ran out with a branch of myrtle and some basil, which she handed me for good luck; rather a nuisance, indeed, for the ascent demanded all one's care.
The summit of the hill, and the castle crowning it, were at length reached, and here the schoolmaster showed us a niche in which, he said, once stood a statue of a king of Seriphos, which the English had taken away. I asked for further particulars about this, to me, unknown royal house of Seriphos, but the schoolmaster's genius for invention would lead him no further. He had not the face to tell me that it was a statue of King Polydectes. Over the gateway to the castle was the coat of arms, and 1433 over it; so I felt convinced that the schoolmaster alluded to a statue of one of the Latin dukes who ruled in Seriphos. But, though the English have been great robbers in Greece in their day, I question if anyone ever burdened himself with the statue of a Crispi or a Sommaripa.
The Church of St. Athanasius was worth seeing, being round with two little apses. It has a lovely iconostasis, commonly called tempelon, or screen, before the sanctuary, carved in wood, with vine tendrils, and festoons, and niches for twenty eikons, or sacred pictures, along the top. The rock on which the town is built goes down straight on the northern side, and is covered with a greenish lichen, which contrasts curiously with the white houses wedged against it. The antiquities left in Seriphos do not point to any very great artistic merit in the6days of old; a few headless statues here and there, fragments of pillars, and one solitary sculpture of a symposium over a doorway were all the traces that we could see of the city where once dwelt the 'silent frogs. '
Next morning we started on an expedition with the object of visiting a convent dedicated to the Archangel Michael and a remote village called Galene (peace): Captain George was to be our guide. He had nothing to do, he said, and if we would pay for amule for him nothing would give him greater pleasure than to do the honours of his island. There is much that is pretty in the steep slopes of Seriphos, though the island, except near the town, is bare; for at this time of year the vineyards were brown, and the long, straggling vines, which in the islands are trained along the ground to get what protection they can from the summer winds, do not in winter present a very lovely appearance. Seriphos is noted for its wine, and it is one of the chief industries of the place. Each vineyard has its wine-press in it ( πατετήριον): these are just white washed tanks out of which the juice of the grapes when trampled on flows into a lower tank; all round were thrown the remnants of stalks and skins from the late vintage and the hard matter which had been extracted from the compressed pulp.After extracting the juice in this manner they boil it for a month before it is consideredfit to drink; and the day of St. Minas, in November, is considered as the proper one on which to stop boiling the wine (απαβράζω); and on this day all the well-known wine-tasters of the place repair to the vats and expect a present of wine straight out of them as an incentive to approve. In July, when the first fruits of the vintage are supposed to be ready, they throw a bunch of grapes into their houses, thinking thereby to rid them of rats and other vermin, saying, as they do so, 'The black grape will sicken, the black grape will poison. Outwith you, fleas and rats! 'And on August 6, when the vintage begins, the Church hasspecial offices and prayers for the success of the same. In connection with the planting of vineyards they have quite a Bacchic festival in Seriphos.
On one of the many feast-days of the Virgin after matins are over the man who desires to plant a new vineyard calls together fifty or more men, according to the size of the field which he intends to plant. To each man he hands a spade, and then he fills skins with wine, and has joints of goat's flesh, which have been roasted for the occasion, brought out, and the company start off in high glee, singing as they go and preceded by a standard-bearer holding a white banner. During their interval of rest they consume the goats and the wine, and then work till the vineyard is planted-for it must all be done in one day-and in the evening they return home, with their spades, their hoes, and the wine-skins empty, somewhat the merrier for having imbibed the contents. At a spot called Panagia, before the Virgin's Church, the white standard is set up, and the Seriphiotes enjoy a dance that evening in which the vineyard-planters join.
A somewhat similar co-operation is customary in Seriphos when the first rains of October fall. All the husbandmen meet together to assist one another at the forges in preparing their implements of husbandry for the coming season. They come with their spades, their ploughs, and their mattocks, and they come prepared, too, to have a festive7gathering; and every evening until the work is done they have drinking parties, regular symposia, now called τα φτειασιματα. Another custom connected with husbandry still in vogue in Seriphos is that on September 14, the Day of the Cross. Farmers take a little of the grain which is about shortly to be sown and a rose with them to church. These things are blessed in the liturgy. The rose is broken up and scattered about in the first field which is sown that year as a sure emblem of abundance and success. This is a trace of the ancient προηροσιαι ,or sacrifices before the sowing of seed, to ensure a productive harvest.
Captain George was most communicative about the ways of his country, as were alsothe muleteers who accompanied us, and supplied any knowledge in which Captain George was wanting. One of them, a stalwart fellow with grizzled hair, suddenly put me a question which puzzled me not a little. 'Did you ever hear of the transfiguration basket, sir? 'The man was difficult to understand, the Seriphiotes dialect being full of obscure words; and not until Captain George had come to my assistance did I comprehend whatwas meant. And he put it as follows into intelligible Greek for my benefit. 'On the day of our Saviour's transfiguration all faithful Seriphiotes believe that a basket is let down from heaven, full of all manner of good things, for the man who is lucky enough to be the first to see it; but he must be very quick in asking for what he wants, for the basket is immediately drawn up again, and the gift is not forth coming.'As a confirmation of this story, the muleteer went on to relate how a shepherd had once seen this basket descending, and, thinking hurriedly in his mind that money would be the best thing to have, he cried out in all haste, 'Two thousand (χιλια),' and was going to add florins, when two jars, called here χείλια, from χείλος, a brim, fell from the basket at his feet.
This story ought to be a warning to Greeks generally to alter their pronunciation; for when nearly all the vowels and diphthongs are pronounced like e, that is to say, ι, η, ει, οι, υ, other people are puzzled who are less hurried visitors than the heavenly basket. By this time we were nearing the convent of the archangel. From a distance it looked like a fortress; around it is a high wall with battlements, and a terrace inside, from which in those old troublous times the monks could fight. Beneath the terrace are the cells, and in the centre of the square is the church. There are four towers at each end of the walls, one of which is now converted into a dovecote. The entrance is exceedingly low, only about four feet high, at the top of a flight of steps, which have been added since the days of pirates. Formerly it was approached only by a wooden staircase, which could be drawn up. In the door is a most extraordinary bolt and wooden key, being a long bit of jagged wood, which is shoved into the bolt, and fits itself with a jerk into the required place; but it requires practice to work these locks. The ceiling of the porch was all crisscross reed-work, like the houses, and from it were hung the scales, with which they weighed the produce of the fields let out to husbandman.
The church is old and interesting, being round and vaulted, evidently much earlier than the date over the door, 1447, which was of marble, and with rudely carved grape8tendrils, with leaves painted green, stalks painted brown, and the background yellow, climbing up the jambs, above which were two birds on two poplars and an inscription describing the might of the archangel. Inside the church was beautifully frescoed, having round it a frieze of saints, full length, over a dado of drapery. The vaulted roof was covered with biblical scenes, and on the entrance wall was the usual terrible fresco of St. Michael, and on the left those awful representations of hell so common in Byzantine churches. There is the fiery river with its inscription on a scroll (ο πύρινος ποταμός); kings, bishops, &c. are engulfed in a dragon's mouth; the proud man, labelled ο περίφανος, is hung by his feet from a tree; the evil speaker (ο καταλαλήτης) is dragged by his feet, whilst a demon follows him, shoving a spear down his throat; the glutton is being slapped by two demons at the same time on the stomach and on the mouth; the drunkard is head downwards to let the wine run out; those who cannot get up for early mass on Sundays are lying in bed like dead men, with elegant coverlets over them; and the tortures of the woman who has nourished a foreigner are horrible to behold: a fitting subject for contemplation in these islands, from whence the female population has gone, at one time or another, to the Turkish towns as servants or to fill the harems. The poor old monk who accompanied us was in a great state of grief that his superior was absent; however we satisfied him by promising to look in again on our return from Galene. He was such a queer old wretch, with bare legs, baggy blue trousers, blue cotton jacket lined with filthy fur, and a black cap on his head, by which alone we knew him to be a monk. His poor head was all on one side, and surrounded by a large crop of unkempt grizzled hair. Most of these monks are little above peasants; they go into the monasteries, instead of the workhouse, when too old and infirm to work, and take a vow to observe celibacy and let their hair grow. In Greece, as with us, the proverb is common, 'When the devil grows old he becomes a monk.' They till the ground belonging to the monastery and do all the menial offices, carrying out thereby the advice of an Egyptian father who taught that a labouring monk was tempted but by one devil, whilst an idleone was exposed to the devastation of a legion.
The village of Galene was about a mile from the convent, in a valley to the north of Seriphos. From above it looked like a giant's staircase, one house below the other. There is iron in the soil about here, and the roofs, made of mud, have tinged the houses with a bright and picturesque yellow from the iron that is in it. Few places in the world can be more out of the world than this; we literally scrambled down a precipitous path, which formed the street, and went to the demarch's house, an old man, eighty-five years of age, by name Kousoupis. He greeted us warmly, and said he had had a presentiment(Orama) the previous day that strangers would come, so he had ordered his daughter tobake more bread. We saw at a glance that we were launched into a thoroughly old-world, superstitious family, and acted accordingly. Old Kousoupis, however, in his day had seen something of the world; he had fought in his country's wars, and had been present when Otho arrived as the first king of the Hellenes. Nevertheless he remained what he was born, an uncultured, intensely9superstitious Greek. 'I have presentiments,' said he, 'for everything that will happen. Before I was elected demarch I had a presentiment; before my wife died, twelve years ago, I was helping a shipwrecked crew down in the harbour of Sicanna, and I saw a vision; and though the captain of the ship begged me to remain to protect him from pirates, being a man of influence, yet I felt obliged to come home on account of my vision; and then I found my poor wife about to deliver up her soul, which she did almost immediately afterwards in my arms. ''Do you believe in the existence of Nereids?' I mildly asked. And forthwith the tongues of the whole family were loosed. Now much has been written about the Nereids of modern Greece. Various stories from various parts of modern Hellas have been produced, which give us a varied idea of the belief in these mysterious beings. First we have the Nereids of the streams, and the Nereids, properly so called, are water witches (νερό, νερευς), and they correspond to the water nymphs of antiquity. Wherever there is a warm healing stream they believe that it flows from the breasts of the Nereids. But he that wishes to be cured, must go holding green lamp to fill his jar, and must leave a bit of his dress there, and must hurry away without looking back, otherwise he will lose his senses. When these waters are troubled they say the Nereids have been bathing, and woe to the man who is unlucky enough to see them; they revenge themselves on him for his impertinent beholding.
Then we have the Nereids of the woods, valleys, cliffs, &c.; the Dryads and Hamadryads of antiquity. We hear of them with goats' and asses' feet, some resembling the Satyrs, others the Harpies of antiquity. On their heads they wear flowing scarves, like the old-fashioned costumes still preserved in some of the islands. They are supposed to rush in a whirlwind through the air, they injure children, they dance to the tune of the lyre played by some wretched man whom they have smitten, and by their beauty they attract men to their peril (νυμφολύπτος). Sometimes by getting their wings or their handkerchiefs a man may capture a Nereid with whom he is smitten; but first she will turn into all sorts of forms; a snake, fire, camels, &c. like the old story of Peleus and Thetis: and he may have children by her-for instance, the great family of Mavro Michaelis of Manes are supposed to have Nereid blood in their veins. Much poetry is connected with the popular idea of the Nereids: their smiles turn into roses, their tears into pearls, they have lovely long hair. 'Beautiful as a Nereid' is a common term to express beauty. Their work is weaving, and they produce most exquisite things; as they work a man they have bewitched plays the lyre to them. Such are the Nereids of to-day.
Some of the tales about them which I heard in my travels I will relate, having the value of being identified as really existing. No sooner had we spoken of Nereids than the demarch's daughter, a woman of fifty or more, at once developed a desire to talk and tell her story as to what had happened to her as she was staying in Constantinople with a cousin of hers who had just had a lovely child, which had become ugly owing to the influence of the Nereids; so the mother was determined to take the child and lay it on a marble monument in St. George's Church. Having done this she laid it on a grave for a while and took Miss Kousoupis with her without telling her anything about it. The child was left for five minutes on the grave, and then the mother gave it to Miss Kousoupis to carry; and as they went away, owing to the mother having given Miss Kousoupis no notice of what she was doing, she looked round, and the child died in a fortnight, and she herself suffered from headache, giddiness, and general wasting, and was brought back to Seriphos in a dying state. So her mother took her to the monastery of the archangel, where we had just been, and there they lived for forty days until she recovered; but even now she said she was liable to fits of faintness and giddiness.
Here in one story we have two ancient ideas combined: the baneful influence of the Nereids on the young, and the prevalent idea that illness can be cured by lying in churches. The vividness of the narration and the excitement of the narrator quite convinced me that she believed that what she was telling me was true. Seeing we were interested in this subject, the demarch sent for an old woman popularly believed at Galene to be one hundred years old. Her sobriquet was Plyntes, for in her youthful days she had been employed in washing out the wine-vats after the process of treading the grapes was over. Such a wrinkled piece of goods I never saw. She had on a white cap drawn forwards over her eyes, so that only the nose and chin could be seenen profile. Over this was a shawl tied round her chin; she had on a snuff-coloured short petticoat, stockings to match, a fur jacket, and over it a wide coat of brown Dutch carpet. She hobbled in, and seemed terrified of us, crossing herself lest we should cast on her the evil eye. She would not speak a word at first, in spite of the demarch's assurances that our intentions were peaceable. She almost shrieked when he spoke about Nereids, started up, and prepared to hobble away, but was persuaded to return. Again when the question was put she asserted. 'I know nothing,' shut her eyes, and groaned, and then, turning to our, by no means juvenile, host, she murmured, 'My little boy, what are they going to do to me?' Thereupon everyone set to work to console her and stroke her, assuring her that the English meant no harm; so she at length told her tale in a low voice, which had to be translated to me from the dialect. 'Years ago Michael Kappazacharias was digging in his vineyard near St. Cyprian's Church.' Here she grew frightened again, and crossed herself violently before continuing, 'Well, it was a very calm, still day, when suddenly a whirlwind came and carried him to some distance; and as he was being borne along he felt the firm grip of the Nereids. Shortly afterwards he was found lying senseless, and carried in that state to the village. 'In this story we had the Nereids of the storm, like the Harpies of old, who carried off the daughter of Pandareos from the halls of Olympus in a rushing wind, such a wind as Penelope longed for to carry her away to get relief from the troubles which surrounded her.
On our climb up the village the demarch made us pay a visit to his brother-in-law, Stavris by name, and father of the superior of the archangel's convent. He was in bed wrapped up in very rough blankets, and a coat over his shoulders of a brown carpet material. He was delighted to see us, and apologised for being in bed, saying that he was not ill, but having walked about for ninety years his feet hurt him, and he sufferedfrom the cold. There was another bed in the room, reaching from side to side, like the berth of a ship, with a curtain across it tied back with a ribbon, where several generations of his descendants slept. More stories of Nereids were here forthcoming, the demarch being determined that Galene should for ever be associated in our minds with those mysterious beings. Old Stavris told us how he and a well-to-do man belonging to Seriphos were once sleeping for the night in a cowshed, being benighted on their way. During the night old Stavris awoke, and saw men approaching with great horns on their heads, both of whom he knew to be dead. One of them said, 'Stavris, if you had not been here we should have run the rich man through with our horns.' In spite of their asseverations to the contrary, I had not the least doubt in my mind that some vagabonds had come to steal the cattle or rob the rich man; for similar stories of this means used by pirates to terrify weak-minded peasants are common enough in the islands. We called at the archangel's convent again on our way home, where the superior was prepared to receive us in the guest room and to regale us with coffee and jam. He showed us all the old convent books, which were being rapidly consumed by damp and worms, and then took us to see the church again under his own guidance, telling us the history of various gifts to the Church-lamps, eikons, &c. The story of two hanging lamps interested us. He said they had been given by a sea captain in fulfillment of the following vow. Two sailors from his ship had stolen two lamps from this church, and then embarked with them on their return journey; but when the ship had got a little way from Seriphos it refused to move, though the wind was fair and the sails unfurled. At length a pigeon came and perched on the top of the mast, which the captain tried to shoot, but he could not. A sailor then climbed the mast to see if he could catch the bird, but it plucked out his eye. So the captain was awestruck, and said, 'What wrong is this on my ship?' and the two guilty sailors in terror confessed their theft. 'Throw out the lamps,' said the captain, 'and I vow to give two new ones to the archangel;' whereupon the ship sailed on her course. Twelve months afterwards, at the festival of the archangel, he returned with the lamps. 'What do you think would have happened to him if he had forgotten his vow?' Iasked hesitatingly. 'Well, sir,' he replied, 'to prove to you that the archangel makes a man keep his vow, I will tell you the story of a man of Galene who was ill, and promised an ox to the convent if he recovered. The man got better, but forgot to keep his vow. One day he was returning from his work, and found himself surrounded by a lake, so that he could go neither backwards nor forwards; and in his distress he cried, "O my archangel! if you will remove this lake from around me I will give you two oxen." And sure enough next day he knocked at the convent door with the two promised oxen. 'Surely it is hardly to be wondered at that the people continue their belief in the supernatural if their religious instructors preach to them in this fashion.
Our journey home was a pleasant one. We passed through another village called Kalosis, when all the inhabitants came out to see us, and pressed us to receive hospitality in their houses; but as evening was coming on we politely refused, so they satisfied their hospitable appetite by bursting our pockets with presents of oranges, melons, and nuts, and by giving us bouquets of flowers, which rather embarrassed us on mule back. During our absence the captain's wife had prepared us an excellent repast-macaroni and cheese enough to feed a regiment, a tender fowl (for a wonder!), and a salad dressed to perfection. That night a fearful thunderstorm made of the main street of Seriphos a perfect mud cascade; the plain below was the receptacle of all this excellent manure. No wonder it is green and fertile .After the rain had ceased we set off for another point on the island, and on our way visited the long line of windmills which stretches up the hillside behind the town. Two of these are draught mills, circular ones, with an upper storey without a roof. There are two openings, one to the north, another to the south, and inside are six flaps, which catch the wind and turn this upper storey round and round, and in so doing the corn in the lower storey is ground. These draught mills are much thought of in this windy isle, and reckoned superior to, though not so picturesque as, those with sails. Pursuing our course, we next climbed to a spot where there is a long ancient inscription cut on the smooth rock, very difficult of access, and which was only discovered by a peasant last year. It is in large badly formed letters as follows:-
ΠΕΝΤΕ ΑΠ'ΕΜΟΥ ΠΕΝΤΕ ΑΠΟ ΣΟΥ ΘΥΣΑΥΡΟΝ ΟΡΥΓΕ
What can this mean, 'Five from me, five from you, dig up a treasure'? Does it refer to the mines of Seriphos, and a co-operation for the purpose of working them; or was it written by one of those Roman exiles who were sent to die in Seriphos-Cassius Severus, the orator, for instance, who Tacitus tells us 'grew old on the rock of Seriphos' (saxo Seriphio consenuit)? The view from this spot is grand and extraordinary: the town was below us, the plain still lower, and the island-dotted sea stretched around us. Just outside the harbour is Seriphos' Chicken (Serphopoulo), a barren rock, where in summer time herdsmen take their flocks; beyond is Siphnos, our next goal. After trudging on for about a mile beyond this inscription we were shown a magnet mine, where the earth sticks to the point of your knife. Could this be the treasure to which the inscription alludes? I think so. There are a few traces of ancient buildings near this spot-a few broken bits of columns and a white marble lion stuck as an ornament at the top of a low mud-roofed church.From here to the white watch tower, on the southwest of Seriphos, is a considerable ride, and, except from an archaeological point of view, not a repaying one. There is a good harbour close to this tower, still called by its Italian name Porto Catena, for in Italian days there was a chain across the mouth to protect the ships inside, like the one they had at Pisa; and from here ships still fetch iron from the mines.
As we went our muleteer sang us the song of the white tower, which tells its modern legend-how the Turks laid siege to it for twelve years, and how at length an old woman was persuaded13to show them the source of water which kept the garrison alive; after this it was taken. It is a pretty quaint ballad-the modern Greeks have all their old war legends in verse like this, and thus hand them down as traditions from father to son, just as their ancestors did in the days of Homer. As for the ruin itself it is one of those numerous round Hellenic towers of white marble, about thirty feet in diameter. For in ancient times they got iron from here, and this tower was built to protect the ships. It was not until we wished to leave Seriphos that we really began to dislike Captain George. It was a wet morning, but cleared up about midday, so we got ready to start, and were greeted as usual by intimations that night was coming on. We were firm, however, and at last got ourselves and our traps conveyed to the harbour, Captain George having previously told us that his boat was ready; but it was not, the canvas bulwarks were not even nailed on. His eloquence now took the form of inventing one futile excuse after another; there was no oil, no bread for the men, and these things must be fetched from the town. Everyone, of course, took his side, and we, poor foreigners, had to exercise all our firmness. We told him to dance on his plate, an expression in vogue for quickness. We positively refused to enter the house they proposed that we should spend the night in. Three whole hours we consumed thus idly, and at last, at four o'clock, when it was really getting late, Captain George reluctantly consented to start; and as we sailed off for our journey of eight miles with a favourable wind we hear dominous whispers of winter, night, dark, Boreas, calm, whirlwind, and all the terrors that could be invented. Until we were close upon Siphnos the wind was favourable; and, oh! if we had but started an hour earlier all would have been right; as it was, a persistent calm set in, and Siphnos, like St. Brandon's Isle, hovered for weary dark hours, now before us, now behind us, as we tacked and struggled for a breath of wind.