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The region was one of the most noteworthy in Attica. Manifold in variety were the objects crowded together within a narrow space. By the side of riven masses of rock appeared the smooth slopes of a mountain plateau, and—the centre of the landscape—a huge crag with a flat top and steep sides towered aloft like a gigantic stone altar, reared by the earth itself to receive the homage and reverence of mankind. Two rivers, a wide and a narrow stream, flowed down its sides. Height and valley, ravine and mountain peak, closely adjoined each other, all easy of access and affording a surprising wealth of beautiful views.
The spot had a lofty destination. Here temples and pillared halls, hermae and statues were to appear like the marble embodiment of a dream of beauty in the youth of the human race; from hence the light of intellect was to diffuse its rays over the whole inhabited world.
But in the distant ages of which we are now speaking Athens had no existence even in name. Yet a suburb of the city afterwards so renowned was already in course of construction. On the Pnyx, the Areopagus, and part of the Museium stood a number of dwellings, and even at the present day traces may be found on these heights of eight or nine hundred houses, which must have lodged three or four thousand persons.
This city, founded by inhabitants of the island of Salamis, was called Kranaai, and its residents were known by the name of Cranai, dwellers on the heights.
Nothing could be more simple than these houses. As may still be seen, they consisted merely of a room hollowed in the cliff, closed in front and above with clay and stones,—the latter seem to have rested upon logs to prevent a sudden fall during the earthquakes so frequent in this region. Here and there small holes, into which the ends of the pieces of timber were thrust, may still be discerned in the cliffs. Many of the dwellings were arranged in rows, rising like stairs one above another, all with an open space in front to serve as a place of meeting for the inhabitants. These terraces were connected by small steps hewn in the rock; here and there appeared altars, large storehouses, and tombs, the latter consisting of one or more subterranean rock chambers. Great numbers of such sepulchres are still found scattered over large tracts of the ancient cliff-city.