The first time Mark Twain saw the Parthenon, he was about five or six miles away, on the deck of a ship near the Greek port of Piraeus. “Every column of the noble structure was discernible through the telescope,” he wrote in 1867. Beside it lay the city of Athens. Twain and his companions were “anxious to get ashore and visit these classic localities as quickly as possible.” “No land we had yet seen had aroused such a universal interest among the passengers.”
Then came a problem: The commandant of Piraeus placed Twain’s ship under quarantine. The Quaker City had just …
This article appears as “Twain in the Time of Cholera” in the May 4, 2020, print edition of National Review.
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