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Outside the wineshop everyone was teasing the mild-mannered stranger who wore the gray cloak of a Greek philosopher. The usual run of philosophers are much-traveled, sharp as needles, knowing as vultures; but this one seemed ignorant and artless, a real peasant.
"In Hell's name, where do you spring from?" asked Scorpus, the charioteer. "Anyone would think you'd been asleep a thousand years and just woken up!"
"From Myconos, the Aegean island," replied the stranger. "It's not very big, but quite famous. Why, the Giants who attacked Heaven are buried beneath our granite rocks, which the god Hercules threw at them. And we show the tomb of Ajax, too—a Trojan War hero."
The philosopher then began to quote Homer, but Scorpus cut him short. "You're not a real Myconian," he said accusingly. "Can't be. Look at your thatch! Myconi calva omnis juventas—All Myconians are bald as pumpkins, even boys!"
The philosopher blushed. "I'm afraid you're right," he said. "My family, I confess, originated in Athens. Political refugees. This thick hair does make me somewhat conspicuous at home. But I have the most beautifully bald wife and children."
He spoke in such earnest tones that we could not help liking him. "Ever traveled before?" I asked, when the laughter had subsided.
"Some years ago I attended a course in philosophy at Athens. From there I went to the Olympic Games: an unforgettable experience! As Homer says...."
"Forget Homer! Who cares about Homer here? Did you see good sport at Olympia?"
"Sir, it was fabulous!" The philosopher's voice rose with enthusiasm. "A score of events crammed into five days! No less than 40,000 visitors must have gathered there from all over the Greek world! We put up tents and picnicked beside the river. First, the sacrifices and the classification of athletes; then a contest of trumpeters. A little fellow from Sicily ought to have won, but the judges disqualified him after an objection; it seems he had once served a prison term for striking a priest. Only freeborn Greeks of good character may compete at Olympia. But, by Jove, how he blew—what sweet thunder! Next, to whet our appetite, the boys' races! The third day, the day of champions—the 200-yard sprint, the quarter-mile and three-mile foot race! Classical wrestling! A race of armed soldiers carrying shields-and spears; our Myconian champion came in third. Hard-glove boxing. Freestyle wrestling. Magnificent! The competitors had trained for years."
"Foot races!" scoffed Bufotilla, Scorpus' green-eyed girl friend, blowing her nose daintily with thumb and forefinger and wiping them on my cloak. "I can't imagine a drearier spectacle."