"Athens, The Eye Of Greece, Mother Of Arts And Eloquence"
Context: Satan tempts Christ in the desert with creature comforts, worldly power and glory, and simple obedience to the Devil. If Christ accepts even a part, Paradise cannot be regained, for God requires complete obedience to Himself. Before they leave the mountain wilderness, Satan and Christ debate. Near the beginning of the debate Satan calls Christ's attention to Athens as a symbol of paganism and, even more important, as a symbol of the contemplative, scholarly life. He asks Christ how He can teach the gentiles if He does not know their writings, their philosophy; Christ rejects even Athenian wisdom as less than God's wisdom. But Satan's (and Milton's) appreciation of the center of Greek culture is manifest:
. . . on the Aegean shore a city standsBuilt nobly, pure the air, and light the soil,Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of artsAnd eloquence, native to famous witsOr hospitable, in her sweet recess,City or suburban, studious walks and shades;See there the olive grove of Academe. . . .