Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/224

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212
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

disturbances, is embalmed doubtless in the tradition of the Ogygean Deluge, Ogygea being the original name of Bœotia. A similar trouble must have occurred about the time of Alexander the Great, who appears to have contemplated the reclaiming of the

PSM V48 D224 Sustaining wall of masonry.jpg

Sustaining Wall of Masonry.

basin. Strabo says: "When the outlets were again obstructed. Crates, the miner, a man of Chalcis, began to clear away the obstructions, but desisted in consequence of the Bœotians being in a state of insurrection, although, as he himself says in the letter to Alexander, many places had been already drained."

These statements of Strabo would lead to the inference that the drainage of the basin by the ancients consisted only in keeping free from obstruction certain subterraneous passages through which the waters flowed to the sea; and this would probably have been the conclusion to-day but for the recent efforts of the Greek government to reclaim the submerged lands. These efforts, under the supervision of experienced engineers, have resulted in nearly draining the basin, and have led to the discovery of a complete ancient system of hydraulic works dating from so remote a period that all record or tradition of their construction has been lost. This system, so vast and comprehensive as to excite the wonder of modern engineers, taking into consideration the primitive appliances of the ancients, served to convert this now miasmatic basin into a fruitful plain, the home, a thousand years before our era, of a thriving and numerous population.

To give a clear conception of these ancient works and of the problems which the prehistoric engineers had to solve, it will be necessary to take a brief topographical survey of the region.