The Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association of Greater Austin

What Inspired Our Website?  Austin, City of the Violet Crown

In surviving fragment 64, the Greek lyric poet Pindar wrote of Athens:
"City of Light, with your violet crown, beloved of poets, you are the bulwark of Greece."

The dry and dusty climate of Attica make makes sunrises and sunsets display a band of violet and purple that extends 10-20 degrees above the horizon. This atmospheric phenomenon is often referred to as the "Belt of Venus."

O. Henry is credited with making the comparison of Austin to Athens based upon this effect. He observed not only a meteorological affinity, however, but also a cultural one. In Chapter 2 of his short story "Tictoca: The Great French Detective, In Austin," published on October 27, 1894, he writes:

"The drawing-rooms of the most magnificent
residences in Austin are ablaze of lights.
Carriages line the streets in front, and from
gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet,
on which the delicate feet of the guests
may tread. The occasion is the entrée
into society of one of the fairest buds
in the City of the Violet Crown."

As a seat of learning and government, the connection of Austin to Athens seems appropriate. For us, it echoes the roots of Phi Beta Kappa itself, whose 3 Greek letters ΦBK stand for our motto: "Love of learning is the guide of life."

   photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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