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We’re not the only foreign visitors, of course. Ugh, yes, there are
Thracians from Abdera — keep to themselves, you know, and thank
heaven for that. But look, there’s a crowd from Kyme just across
the water from Lesbos, and over there — real Sidonians, all the
way from Syria! Funny how all these foreigners seem to wander
aimlessly, always bumping into each other. Wonder if there’s really
something to those rumors about their I.Q.?
Oh, look, there’s a side entrance, the one with the threadbare
awning. Let’s make for it, tip-toeing carefully past this gang of
hotheads. Look at the size of those chips on their shoulders! No,
no, don’t even let your eyes meet theirs. Every one spoiling for a
fight, as if he really enjoyed being a stereotype! Even that swarm of
bawdy old women is keeping its distance.
You’re worried by the size of the ‘athletes’ guarding the entrance?
Don’t be! They’re all a bunch of ponces and cross-dressers. Watch
how quickly this one fades, and I’m only scowling at him. Pass
on through, ladies and gentlemen, under the tent we go, into that
infinite Greek sunset where laughter dwells, and look — the market’s
still open. Welcome to Philogelos!
II
Our stroll through the world of the fourth century takes us first along
a cobbled avenue of tenements that gradually give way to fancier
flats. Gradually, the air becomes thicker with a heady mixture of
spices, rotten fruit, sewage, incense and donkey dung. We emerge,
at last, in the market place itself, a vast, crumbling pavement flanked
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