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by public buildings of every sort — arcades, gymnasiums, city hall
and courthouse, baths, theatres, and temples. The marble facades,
once resplendent, are now hopelessly decayed; the magnificent
public buildings with their Corinthian columns are now in serious
disrepair.
No worry: the bustling populace is still there, the incessant babble
of hawkers and shoppers, the shouted insults, the challenges, the
occasional fist-fight, the collapsing stall. And the essential services
still function, above all the public bath. There the water is not as
fresh as it was in your granddad’s day, but a cool dip in the pool is
still possible, a soak in a hot tub, a relaxing conversation with your
fellow citizens in the steam room.
And in the gymnasium, there’s still a physical trainer for the youth,
and a schoolmaster or two to lecture restless students on geometry
or literature, drawing or music, preparing them for a future as full-
fledged citizens.
The luckier ones — the richer ones, that is — will be able to continue
their studies in the great university centers, in Antioch in the eastern
Mediterranean, in Nicomedeia in Anatolia, in Constantinople on
the Bosporus, in Egyptian Alexandria, or — if they’re really, really
lucky — in ‘golden’ Athens, the university of universities, the ‘school
of Hellas,’ as Pericles once called it. For what other city contains
so many hallowed places of learning — the Academy of Plato, the
Lyceum of Aristotle, the Stoa of Zeno, the Garden of Epicurus?
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