Part 2 out of 13
As to the Assyrian deities and their worship, these were in all their
essential characteristics so similar to those of the later Chald�an
system, already described (see p. 45), that any detailed account of them
here is unnecessary. One difference, however, in the two systems should be
noted. The place occupied by Il, or Ra, as the head of the Chald�an
deities, is in Assyria given to the national god Asshur, whose emblem was
a winged circle with the figure of a man within, the whole perhaps
symbolizing, according to Rawlinson, eternity, omnipresence, and wisdom.
CRUELTY OF THE ASSYRIANS.--The Assyrians have been called the "Romans of
Asia." They were a proud, martial, cruel, and unrelenting race. Although
possessing, as we have just noticed, a deep and genuine religious feeling,
still the Assyrian monarchs often displayed in their treatment of
prisoners the disposition of savages. In common with most Asiatics, they
had no respect for the body, but subjected captives to the most terrible
mutilations. The sculptured marbles taken from the palaces exhibit the
cruel tortures inflicted upon prisoners; kings are being led before their
conqueror by means of hooks thrust through one or both lips; [Footnote:
See 2 Chron. xxxiii. 10-13 (Revised Version).] other prisoners are being
flayed alive; the eyes of some are being bored out with the point of a
spear; and still others are having their tongues torn out.
[Illustration: ASSYRIANS FLAYING THEIR PRISONERS ALIVE.]
An inscription by Asshur-nazir-pal, found in one of the palaces at Nimrud,
runs as follows: "Their men, young and old, I took prisoners. Of some I
cut off the feet and hands; of others I cut off the noses, ears, and lips;
of the young men's ears I made a heap; of the old men's heads I built a
tower. I exposed their heads as a trophy in front of their city. The male
children and the female children I burned in the flames."
ROYAL SPORTS.--The Assyrian king gloried in being, like the great Nimrod,
"a mighty hunter before the Lord." The monuments are covered with
sculptures that represent the king engaged in the favorite royal sport.
Asshur-nazir-pal had at Nineveh a menagerie, or hunting-park, filled with
various animals, many of which were sent him as tribute by vassal princes.
[Illustration: LION HUNT. (From Nineveh.)]
REMAINS OF ASSYRIAN CITIES.--Enormous grass-grown mounds, enclosed by
crumbled ramparts, alone mark the sites of the great cities of the
Assyrian kings. The character of the remains arises from the nature of the
building material. City walls, palaces, and temples were constructed
chiefly of sun-dried bricks, so that the generation that raised them had
scarcely passed away before they began to sink down into heaps of rubbish.
The rains of many centuries have beaten down and deeply furrowed these
mounds, while the grass has crept over them and made green alike the
palaces of the kings and the temples of the gods. [Footnote: Lying upon
the left bank of the Upper Tigris are two enormous mounds surrounded by
heavy earthen ramparts, about eight miles in circuit. This is the site of
ancient Nineveh, the immense enclosing ridges being the ruined city walls.
These ramparts are still, in their crumbled condition, about fifty feet
high, and average about one hundred and fifty in width. The lower part of
the wall was constructed of solid stone masonry; the upper portion of
dried brick. This upper and frailer part, crumbling into earth, has
completely buried the stone basement. The Turks of to-day quarry the stone
from these old walls for their buildings.]
PALACE-MOUNDS AND PALACES.--In order to give a certain dignity to the
royal residence, to secure the fresh breezes, and to render them more
easily defended, the Assyrians, as well as the Babylonians and the
Persians, built their palaces upon lofty artificial terraces, or
platforms. These eminences, which appear like natural, flat-topped hills,
were constructed with an almost incredible expenditure of human labor. The
great palace-mound at Nineveh, called by the natives Koyunjik, covers an
area of one hundred acres, and is from seventy to ninety feet high. Out of
the material composing it could be built four pyramids as large as that of
Cheops. Upon this mound stood several of the most splendid palaces of the
[Illustration: RESTORATION OF A COURT IN SARGON'S PALACE AT KHORSABAD.
The group of buildings constituting the royal residence was often of
enormous extent; the various courts, halls, corridors, and chambers of the
Palace of Sennacherib, which surmounted the great platform at Nineveh,
covered an area of over ten acres. The palaces were usually one-storied.
The walls, constructed chiefly of dried brick, were immensely thick and
heavy. The rooms and galleries were plastered with stucco, or panelled
with precious woods, or lined with enamelled bricks. The main halls,
however, and the great open courts were faced with slabs of alabaster,
covered with sculptures and inscriptions, the illustrated narrative of the
wars and labors of the monarch. There were two miles of such sculptured
panelling at Koyunjik. At the portals of the palace, to guard the
approach, were stationed the colossal human-headed bulls.
[Illustration: SCULPTURES FROM A GATEWAY AT KHORSABAD.]
An important adjunct of the palace was the temple, a copy of the tower-
temples of the Chald�ans. Its position is marked at present by a lofty
conical mound rising amidst and overlooking the palace ruins.
Upon the decay of the Assyrian palaces, the material forming the upper
part of the thick walls completely buried and protected all the lower
portion of the structure. In this way their sculptures and inscriptions
have been preserved through so many centuries, till brought to light by
the recent excavations of French and English antiquarians.
THE ROYAL LIBRARY AT NINEVEH.--Within the palace of Asshur-bani-pal at
Nineveh, Layard discovered what is known as the Royal Library. There were
two chambers, the floors of which were heaped with books, like the
Chald�an tablets already described, The number of books in the collection
has been estimated at ten thousand. The writing upon some of the tablets
is so minute that it cannot be read without the aid of a magnifying glass.
We learn from the inscriptions that a librarian had charge of the
collection. Catalogues of the books have been found, made out on clay
tablets. The library was open to the public, for an inscription says, "I
[Asshur-bani-pal] wrote upon the tablets; I placed them in my palace for
the instruction of my people."
Asshur-bani-pal, as we have already learned, was the Augustus of Assyria.
It was under his patronage and direction that most of the books were
prepared and placed in the Ninevite collection. The greater part of these
were copies of older Chald�an tablets; for the literature of the
Assyrians, as well as their arts and sciences, was borrowed almost in a
body from the Chald�ans. All the old libraries of the low country were
ransacked, and copies of their tablets made for the Royal Library at
Nineveh. Rare treasures were secured from the libraries founded or
enlarged by Sargon of Agade (see p. 42). In this way was preserved the
most valuable portion of the early Chald�an literature, which would
otherwise have been lost to the world.
The tablets embrace a great variety of subjects; the larger part, however,
are lexicons and treatises on grammar, and various other works intended as
text-books for scholars. Perhaps the most curious of the tablets yet found
are notes issued by the government, and made redeemable in gold and silver
on presentation at the king's treasury.
From one part of the library, which seems to have been the archives
proper, were taken copies of treaties, reports of officers of the
government, deeds, wills, mortgages, and contracts. One tablet, known as
"the Will of Sennacherib," conveys to certain priests some personal
property to be held in trust for one of his sons. This is the oldest will
BABYLONIAN AFFAIRS FROM 1300 TO 625 B.C.--During the six centuries and
more that intervened between the conquest of the old Chald�an monarchy by
the Assyrian king Tiglathi-Nin and the successful revolt of the low
countries under Nabopolassar (see pp. 43, 51), the Babylonian peoples bore
the Assyrian yoke very impatiently. Again and again they made violent
efforts to throw it off; and in several instances they succeeded, and for
a time enjoyed home rulers. But for the most part the whole country as far
as the "Sea," as the Persian Gulf is called in the inscriptions, was a
dependency of the great overshadowing empire of the north.
NABOPOLASSAR (625-604 B.C.).--Nabopolassar was the first king of what is
called the New Babylonian Monarchy. When troubles and misfortunes began to
thicken about the last Assyrian king, Saracus, he intrusted to the care of
Nabopolassar, as his viceroy, the towns and provinces of the South. The
chance now presented of obtaining a crown proved too great a temptation
for the satrap's fidelity to his master. He revolted and became
independent (625 B.C.). Later, he entered into an alliance with the Median
king, Cyaxares, against his former sovereign (see p. 51). Through the
overthrow of Nineveh and the break-up of the Assyrian Empire, the new
Babylonian kingdom received large accessions of territory.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR (604-561 B.C.).--Nabopolassar was followed by his renowned
son Nebuchadnezzar, whose oppressive wars and gigantic architectural works
rendered Babylon at once the scourge and the wonder of the ancient world.
Jerusalem, having repeatedly revolted, was finally taken and sacked. The
temple was stripped of its sacred vessels of silver and gold, which were
carried away to Babylon, and the temple itself with the adjoining palace
was given to the flames; the people, save a miserable remnant, were also
borne away into the "Great Captivity" (586 B.C.).
With Jerusalem subdued, Nebuchadnezzar pushed with all his forces the
siege of the Phoenician city of Tyre, whose investment had been commenced
several years before. In striking language the prophet Ezekiel (ch. xxix.
18) describes the length and hardness of the siege: "Every head was made
bald, and every shoulder was peeled." After a siege of thirteen years, the
city seems to have fallen into the hands of the Babylonian king, and his
authority was now undisputed from the Zagros Mountains to the
The numerous captives of his many wars, embracing peoples of almost every
nation in Western Asia, enabled Nebuchadnezzar to rival even the Pharaohs
in the execution of enormous works requiring an immense expenditure of
human labor: Among his works were the Great Palace in the royal quarter of
the city; the celebrated Hanging Gardens; and gigantic reservoirs, canals,
and various engineering works, embracing a vast system of irrigation that
reached every part of Babylonia.
In addition to all these works, the indefatigable monarch seems to have
either rebuilt or repaired almost every city and temple throughout the
entire country. There are said to be at least a hundred sites in the tract
immediately about Babylon which give evidence, by inscribed bricks bearing
his legend, of the marvellous activity and energy of this monarch.
In the midst of all these gigantic undertakings, surrounded by a brilliant
court of councillors and flatterers, the reason of the king was suddenly
and mysteriously clouded. [Footnote: "Nebuchadnezzar fell a victim to that
mental aberration which has often proved the penalty of despotism, but in
the strange and degrading form to which physicians have given the name of
lycanthropy; in which the patient, fancying himself a beast, rejects
clothing and ordinary food, and even (as in this case) the shelter of a
roof, ceases to use articulate speech, and sometimes persists in going on
all-fours."--Smith's _Ancient History of the East_, p. 357.] After a
period the cloud passed away, "the glory of his kingdom, his honor, and
brightness returned unto him." But it was the splendor of the evening; for
the old monarch soon after died at the age of eighty, worn out by the
toils and cares of a reign of forty-three years, the longest, most
memorable, and instructive in the annals of the Babylonian or Assyrian
THE FALL OF BABYLON.--In 555 B.C., Nabonadius, the last king of Babylon,
began his reign. He seems to have associated with himself in the
government his son Belshazzar, who shared with his father the duties and
honors of royalty, apparently on terms of equal co-sovereignty.
To the east of the valley of the Tigris and the Euphrates, beyond the
ranges of the Zagros, there had been growing up an Aryan kingdom, the
Medo-Persian, which, at the time now reached by us, had excited by its
aggressive spirit the alarm of all the nations of Western Asia. For
purposes of mutual defence, the king of Babylon, and Croesus, the well-
known monarch of Lydia, a state of Asia Minor, formed an alliance against
Cyrus, the strong and ambitious sovereign of the Medes and Persians. This
league awakened the resentment of Cyrus, and, after punishing Croesus and
depriving him of his kingdom (see p. 75), he collected his forces to
chastise the Babylonian king.
Anticipating the attack, Nabonadius had strengthened the defences of
Babylon, and stationed around it supporting armies. But he was able to
avert the fatal blow for only a few years. Risking a battle in the open
field, his army was defeated, and the gates of the capital were thrown
open to the Persians (538 B.C.). [Footnote: The device of turning the
Euphrates, which Herodotus makes an incident of the siege, was not
resorted to by Cyrus; but it seems that a little later (in 521-519 B.C.),
the city, having revolted, was actually taken in this way by the Persian
king Darius. Herodotus confused the two events.]
With the fall of Babylon, the sceptre of dominion, borne for so many years
by Semitic princes, was given into the hands of the Aryan peoples, who
were destined, from this time forward, to shape the course of events, and
control the affairs of civilization.
THE GREAT EDIFICES OF BABYLON.--The deep impression which Babylon produced
upon the early Greek travellers was made chiefly by her vast architectural
works,--her temples, palaces, elevated gardens, and great walls. The
Hanging Gardens of Nebuchadnezzar and the walls of the city were reckoned
among the wonders of the world.
[Illustration: BIRS-NIMRUD. (Ruins of the great Temple of the Seven
Spheres, near Babylon.)]
The Babylonians, like their predecessors the Chald�ans, accorded to the
sacred edifice the place of pre-eminence among their architectural works.
Sacred architecture in the time of Nebuchadnezzar had changed but little
from the early Chald�an models (see p. 44); save that the temples were now
larger and more splendid, being made, in the language of the inscriptions,
"to shine like the sun." The celebrated Temple of the Seven Spheres, at
Borsippa, a suburb of Babylon, may serve as a representative of the later
Babylonian temples. This structure was a vast pyramid, rising in seven
consecutive stages, or platforms, to a height of over one hundred and
fifty feet. Each of the stages was dedicated to one of the seven planets,
or spheres. (The sun and moon were reckoned as planets.) The stages sacred
to the sun and moon were covered respectively with plates of gold and
silver. The chapel, or shrine proper, surmounted the uppermost stage. An
inscribed cylinder discovered under the corner of one of the stages (the
Babylonians always buried records beneath the corners of their public
edifices), informs us that this temple was a restoration by Nebuchadnezzar
of a very ancient one, which in his day had become, from "extreme old
age," a heap of rubbish. This edifice in its decay has left one of the
grandest and most impressive ruins in all the East.
The Babylonian palaces and palace-mounds, in all essential features, were
like those of the Assyrians, already described.
The so-called Hanging Gardens excited the greatest admiration of the
ancient Greek visitors to Babylon. They were constructed by
Nebuchadnezzar, to please his wife Amytis, who, tired of the monotony of
the Babylonian plains, longed for the mountain scenery of her native
Media. The gardens were probably built somewhat in the form of the tower-
temples, the successive stages being covered with earth, and beautified
with rare plants and trees, so as to simulate the appearance of a mountain
rising in cultivated terraces towards the sky.
Under the later kings, Babylon was surrounded with stupendous walls.
Herodotus affirms that these defences enclosed an area just fourteen miles
square. A recently discovered inscription corroborates the statement of
the historian. The object in enclosing such an enormous district seems to
have been to bring sufficient arable ground within the defences to support
the inhabitants in case of a protracted siege. No certain traces of these
great ramparts can now be found.
THE PATRIARCHAL AGE.--Hebrew history begins with the departure of Abraham
out of Ur of the Chaldees, about 2000 B.C. The story of Abraham and his
nephew Lot, of Isaac and his sons Jacob and Esau, of the sojourn of the
descendants of Jacob in Egypt, of the Exodus, of the conquest of Canaan
and the apportionment of the land among the twelve tribes of Israel,--all
this marvellous story is told in the Hebrew Scriptures with a charm and
simplicity that have made it the familiar possession of childhood.
THE JUDGES (from about 1300 to 1095 B.C.).--Along period of anarchy and
dissension followed the conquest and settlement of Canaan by the Hebrews.
"There was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his
own eyes." During this time there arose a line of national heroes, such as
Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, whose deeds of valor and daring, and the
timely deliverance they wrought for the tribes of Israel from their foes,
caused their names to be handed down with grateful remembrance to
These popular leaders were called Judges because they usually exercised
judicial functions, acting as arbiters between the different tribes, as
well as between man and man. Their exploits are narrated in the Book of
Judges, which is a collection of the fragmentary, yet always interesting,
traditions of this early and heroic period of the nation's life. The last
of the Judges was Samuel, whose life embraces the close of the anarchical
age and the beginning of the monarchy.
FOUNDING OF THE HEBREW MONARCHY (about 1095 B.C.).--During the period of
the Judges, the tribes of Israel were united by no central government.
Their union was nothing more than a league, or confederation, which has
been compared to the Saxon Heptarchy in England. But the common dangers to
which they were exposed from the attacks of the half-subdued Canaanitish
tribes about them, and the example of the great kingdoms of Egypt and
Assyria, led the people to begin to think of the advantages of a closer
union and a stronger government. Consequently the republic, or
confederation, was changed into a kingdom, and Saul, of the tribe of
Benjamin, a man chosen in part because of his commanding stature and royal
aspect, was made king of the new monarchy (about 1095 B.C.).
The king was successful in subduing the enemies of the Hebrews, and
consolidated the tribes and settled the affairs of the new state. But
towards the close of his reign, his reason became disturbed: fits of gloom
and despondency passed into actual insanity, which clouded the closing
years of his life. At last he and his three sons fell in battle with the
Philistines upon Mount Gilboa (about 1055 B.C.).
THE REIGN OF DAVID (about 1055-1015 B.C.).--Upon the death of Saul, David,
son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah, who had been previously anointed and
encouraged to expect the crown by the prophet Samuel, assumed the sceptre.
This warlike king transformed the pastoral and half-civilized tribes into
a conquering people, and, in imitation of the monarchs of the Nile and the
Euphrates, extended the limits of his empire in every direction, and waged
wars of extermination against the troublesome tribes of Moab and Edom.
Poet as well as warrior, David enriched the literature of his own nation
and of the world with lyric songs that breathe such a spirit of devotion
and trust that they have been ever since his day the source of comfort and
inspiration to thousands. [Footnote: The authorship of the different
psalms is a matter of debate, yet critics are very nearly agreed in
ascribing the composition of at least a considerable number of them to
David.] He had in mind to build at Jerusalem, his capital city, a
magnificent temple, and spent the latter years of his life in collecting
material for this purpose. In dying, he left the crown to Solomon, his
youngest son, his eldest, Absalom, having been slain in a revolt against
his father, and the second, Adonijah, having been excluded from the
succession for a similar crime.
THE REIGN OF SOLOMON (about 1015-975 B.C.).--Solomon did not possess his
father's talent for military affairs, but was a liberal patron of
architecture, commerce, and learning. He erected, with the utmost
magnificence of adornment, the temple at Jerusalem, planned by his father
David. King Hiram of Tyre, who was a close friend of the Hebrew monarch,
aided him in this undertaking by supplying him with the celebrated cedar
of Lebanon, and with Tyrian architects, the most skilled workmen at that
time in the world. The dedication ceremonies upon the completion of the
building were most imposing and impressive. Thenceforth this temple was
the centre of the Jewish worship and of the national life.
[Illustration: THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON. (A Restoration.)]
For the purpose of extending his commerce, Solomon built fleets upon the
Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The most remote regions of Asia and Africa
were visited by his ships, and their rich and wonderful products made to
contribute to the wealth and glory of his kingdom.
Solomon maintained one of the most magnificent courts ever held by an
oriental sovereign. When the Queen of Sheba, attracted by the reports of
his glory, came from Southern Arabia to visit the monarch, she exclaimed,
"The half was not told me." He was the wisest king of the East. His
proverbs are famous specimens of sententious wisdom. He was versed, too,
in botany, being acquainted with plants and trees "from the hyssop upon
the wall to the cedar of Lebanon."
But wise as was Solomon in his words, his life was far from being either
admirable or prudent. In conformity with Asiatic custom, he had many
wives--seven hundred, we are told--of different nationalities and
religions. Through their persuasion the old monarch himself fell into
idolatry, which turned from him the affections of his best subjects, and
prepared the way for the dissensions and wars that followed his death.
THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM (about 975 B.C.).--The reign of Solomon was
brilliant, yet disastrous in the end to the Hebrew monarchy. In order to
carry on his vast undertakings, he had laid most oppressive taxes upon his
people. When Rehoboam, his son, succeeded to his father's place, the
people entreated him to lighten the taxes that were making their very
lives a burden. Influenced by young and unwise counsellors, he replied to
the petition with haste and insolence: "My father," said he, "chastised
you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." Immediately all
the tribes, save Judah and Benjamin, rose in revolt, and succeeded in
setting up, to the north of Jerusalem, a rival kingdom, with Jeroboam as
its first king. This northern state, with Samaria as its capital, became
known as the Kingdom of Israel; the southern, of which Jerusalem remained
the capital, was called the Kingdom of Judah.
Thus was torn in twain the empire of David and Solomon. United, the tribes
might have maintained an empire capable of offering successful resistance
to the encroachments of the powerful and ambitious monarchs about them.
But now the land becomes an easy prey to the spoiler. It is henceforth the
pathway of the conquering armies of the Nile and the Euphrates. Between
the powerful monarchies of these regions, as between an upper and nether
millstone, the little kingdoms are destined, one after the other, to be
ground to pieces.
THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (975?-722 B.C.).--The kingdom of the Ten Tribes
maintained an existence for about two hundred and fifty years. Its story
is instructive and sad. Many passages of its history are recitals of the
struggles between the pure worship of Jehovah and the idolatrous service
of the deities introduced from the surrounding nations. The cause of the
religion of Jehovah, as the tribes of Israel had received it from the
patriarch Abraham and the lawgiver Moses, was boldly espoused and upheld
by a line of the most remarkable teachers and prophets produced by the
Hebrew race, among whom Elijah and Elisha stand preeminent.
The little kingdom was at last overwhelmed by the Assyrian power. This
happened 722 B.C., when Samaria, as we have already narrated in the
history of Assyria, was captured by Sargon, king of Nineveh, and the Ten
Tribes were carried away into captivity beyond the Euphrates (see p. 48).
From this time they are quite lost to history.
The country, left nearly vacant by this wholesale deportation of its
inhabitants, was filled with other subjects or captives of the Assyrian
king. The descendants of these, mingled with the few Jews of the poorer
class that were still left in the country, formed the Samaritans of the
time of Christ.
THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH (975?-586 B.C.).--This little kingdom, torn by
internal religious dissensions, as was its rival kingdom of the north, and
often on the very verge of ruin from Egyptian or Assyrian armies,
maintained an independent existence for about four centuries. During this
period, a line of eighteen kings, of most diverse character, sat upon the
throne. Upon the extension of the power of Babylon to the west, Jerusalem
was forced to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Babylonian kings.
The kingdom at last shared the fate of its northern rival. Nebuchadnezzar,
in revenge for an uprising of the Jews, besieged and captured Jerusalem,
and carried away a large part of the people, and their king Zedekiah, into
captivity at Babylon (see p. 58). This event virtually ended the separate
and political life of the Hebrew race (586 B.C.). Henceforth Judah
constituted simply a province of the empires--Babylonian, Persian,
Macedonian, and Roman--which successively held sway over the regions of
Western Asia, with, however, just one flicker of national life under the
Maccabees, during a part of the two centuries preceding the birth of
It only remains to mention those succeeding events which belong rather to
the story of the Jews as a people than as a nation. Upon the capture of
Babylon by the Persian king Cyrus (see p. 60), that monarch, who was
kindly disposed towards the Jews that he there found captives, permitted
them to return to Jerusalem and restore the temple. Jerusalem thus became
again the centre of the old Hebrew worship, and, although shorn of
national glory, continued to be the sacred centre of the ancient faith
till the second generation after Christ. Then, in chastisement for
repeated revolts, the city was laid in ruins by the Romans; while vast
numbers of the inhabitants--some authorities say over one million--were
slain, or perished by famine, and the remnant were driven into exile to
Thus, by a series of unparalleled calamities and persecutions, the
descendants of Abraham were "sifted among all nations"; but to this day
they cling with a strange devotion and loyalty to the simple faith of
HEBREW RELIGION AND LITERATURE.
The ancient Hebrews made little or no contribution to science. They
produced no new order of architecture. In sculpture they did nothing:
their religion forbade their making "graven images." Their mission was to
teach religion. Here they have been the instructors of the world. Their
literature is a religious one; for literature with them was simply a
medium for the conveyance of religious instruction and the awakening of
The Hebrew religion, a pure monotheism, the teachings of a long line of
holy men--patriarchs, lawgivers, prophets, and priests--stretching from
Abraham down to the fifth century B.C., is contained in the sacred books
of the Old Testament Scriptures. In these ancient writings, patriarchal
traditions, histories, dramas, poems, prophecies, and personal narratives
blend in a wonderful mosaic, which pictures with vivid and grand effect
the various migrations, the deliverances, the calamities--all the events
and religious experiences in the checkered life of the Chosen People.
Out of this old exclusive, formal Hebrew religion, transformed and
spiritualized by the Great Teacher, grew the Christian faith. Out of the
Old Testament arose the New, which we should think of as a part of Hebrew
literature: for although written in the Greek language, and long after the
close of the political life of the Jewish nation, still it is essentially
Hebrew in thought and doctrine, and the supplement and crown of the Hebrew
Besides the Sacred Scriptures, called collectively, by way of pre-
eminence, the Bible (The Book), it remains to mention especially the
Apocrypha, embracing a number of books that were composed after the
decline of the prophetic spirit, and which show traces, as indeed do
several of the later books of the Bible, of the influence of Persian and
Greek thought. These books are generally regarded by the Jews and
Protestants as uncanonical, but in the main are considered by the Roman
Catholics as possessing equal authority with the other books of the Bible.
Neither should we fail to mention the Talmud, a collection of Hebrew
customs and traditions, with the comments thereupon of the rabbis, a work
held by most Jews next in sacredness to the Holy Book; the writings of
Philo, an illustrious rabbi who lived at Alexandria just before the birth
of Christ; and the _Antiquities of the Jews_ and the _Jewish Wars_ by the
historian Josephus, who lived and wrote about the time of the taking of
Jerusalem by Titus; that is, during the latter part of the first century
THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE.--Ancient Phoenicia embraced a little strip of
broken sea-coast lying between the Mediterranean and the ranges of Mount
Lebanon. One of the most noted productions of the country was the fine
fir-timber cut from the forests that crowned the lofty ranges of the
Lebanon Mountains. The "cedar of Lebanon" holds a prominent place both in
the history and the poetry of the East.
Another celebrated product of the country was the Tyrian purple, which was
obtained from several varieties of the murex, a species of shell-fish,
secured at first along the Phoenician coast, but later sought in distant
waters, especially in the Grecian seas.
The Phoenicians were of Semitic race, and of close kin to most of the so-
called Canaanitish tribes. They were a maritime and trading people.
TYRE AND SIDON.--The various Phoenician cities never coalesced to form a
true nation. They simply constituted a sort of league, or confederacy, the
petty states of which generally acknowledged the leadership of Tyre or of
Sidon, the two chief cities. The place of supremacy in the confederation
was at first held by Sidon, but later by Tyre.
From the 11th to the 4th century B.C., Tyre controlled, almost without
dispute on the part of Sidon, the affairs of Phoenicia. During this time
the maritime enterprise and energy of her merchants spread the fame of the
little island-capital throughout the world. She was queen and mistress of
During all the last centuries of her existence, Phoenicia was, for the
most part, tributary to one or another of the great monarchies about her.
She acknowledged in turn the suzerainty of the Assyrian, the Egyptian, the
Babylonian, the Persian, and the Macedonian kings. Alexander the Great,
after a most memorable siege, captured the city of Tyre--which alone of
all the Phoenician cities closed her gates against the conqueror--and
reduced it to ruins (332 B.C.). The city never recovered from this blow.
The larger part of the site of the once brilliant maritime capital is now
"bare as the top of a rock,"--a place where the fishermen that still
frequent the spot spread their nets to dry.
PHOENICIAN COMMERCE.--When we catch our first glimpse of the
Mediterranean, about 1500 B.C., it is dotted with the sails of Phoenician
navigators. It was natural that the people of the Phoenician coast should
have been led to a seafaring life. The lofty mountains that back the
little strip of shore seemed to shut them out from a career of conquest
and to prohibit an extension of their land domains. At the same time, the
Mediterranean in front invited them to maritime enterprise; while the
forests of Lebanon in the rear offered timber in abundance for their
ships. The Phoenicians, indeed, were the first navigators who pushed out
boldly from the shore and made real sea voyages.
The longest voyages were made to procure tin, which was in great demand
for the manufacture of articles in bronze. The nearest region where this
metal was found was the Caucasus, on the eastern shore of the Euxine. The
Phoenician sailors boldly threaded the Aegean Archipelago, passed through
the Hellespont, braved the unknown terrors of the Black Sea, and from the
land of Colchis brought back to the manufacturers of Asia the coveted
Towards the close of the 11th century B.C., the jealousy of the Pelasgic
states of Greece and of the Archipelago, that were now growing into
maritime power, closed the Aegean Sea against the Phoenician navigators.
They then pushed out into the Western Mediterranean, and opened the tin-
mines of the Iberian (Spanish) peninsula. When these began to fail, these
bold sailors passed the Pillars of Hercules, faced the dangers of the
Atlantic, and brought back from those distant seas the tin gathered in the
mines of Britain.
PHOENICIAN COLONIES.--Along the different routes pursued by their ships,
and upon the coasts visited by them, the Phoenicians established naval
stations and trading-posts. Settlements were made in Cyprus, in Rhodes,
and on other islands of the Aegean Sea, as well as in Greece itself. The
shores of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica were fringed with colonies; while
the coast of North Africa was dotted with such great cities as Utica,
Hippo, and Carthage. Colonies were even planted beyond the Pillars of
Hercules, upon the Atlantic seaboard. The Phoenician settlement of Gades,
upon the western coast of Spain, is still preserved in the modern Cadiz.
ARTS DISSEMINATED BY THE PHOENICIANS.--We can scarcely overrate the
influence of Phoenician maritime enterprise upon the distribution of the
arts and the spread of culture among the early peoples of the
Mediterranean area. "Egypt and Assyria," says Lenormant, "were the
birthplace of material civilization; the Canaanites [Phoenicians] were its
missionaries." Most prominent of the arts which they introduced among all
the nations with whom they traded was that of alphabetical writing.
Before or during the rule of the Hyksos in Egypt, the Phoenician settlers
in the Delta borrowed from the Egyptians twenty-two hieratic characters,
which they passed on to their Asiatic kinsmen. These characters received
new names, and became the Phoenician alphabet. Now, wherever the
Phoenicians went, they carried this alphabet as "one of their exports." It
was through them, probably, that the Greeks received it; the Greeks passed
it on to the Romans, and the Romans gave it to the German peoples. In this
way did our alphabet come to us from Old Egypt.
The introduction of letters among the different nations, vast as was the
benefit which the gift conferred upon peoples just beginning to make
advances in civilization, was only one of the many advantages which
resulted to the early civilization of Europe from the commercial
enterprise of the Phoenicians. It is probable that they first introduced
among the semi-civilized tribes of that continent the use of bronze, which
marks an epoch in their growing culture. Articles of Phoenician
workmanship are found in the earliest tombs of the Greeks, the Etruscans,
and the Romans; and in very many of the manufactures of these peoples may
be traced the influence of Phoenician art.
GREAT ENTERPRISES AIDED BY THE PHOENICIANS.--While scattering the germs of
civilization and culture broadcast over the entire Mediterranean area, the
enterprising Phoenicians were also lending aid to almost every great
undertaking of antiquity.
King Hiram of Tyre furnished Solomon with artisans and skilled workmen,
and with great rafts of timber from Lebanon, for building the splendid
temple at Jerusalem. The Phoenicians also provided timber from their fine
forests for the construction of the great palaces and temples of the
Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians. They built for the Persian
king Xerxes the Hellespontine bridges over which he marched his immense
army into Greece (see p. 81). They furnished contingents of ships to the
kings of Nineveh and Babylon for naval operations both upon the
Mediterranean and the Persian and Arabian gulfs. Their fleets served as
transports and convoys to the expeditions of the Persian monarchs aiming
at conquest in Asia Minor or in Europe. They formed, too, the naval branch
of the armaments of the Pharaohs; for the Egyptians hated the sea, and
never had a native fleet. And it was Phoenician sailors that, under the
orders of Pharaoh-Necho, circumnavigated Africa (see p. 26)--an
undertaking which, although attended perhaps with less advantage to the
world, still is reckoned quite as remarkable, considering the remote age
in which it was accomplished, as the circumnavigation of the globe by the
Portuguese navigator Magellan, more than two thousand years later.
THE PERSIAN EMPIRE
1. POLITICAL HISTORY.
KINSHIP OF THE MEDES AND PERSIANS.--It was in very remote times, that some
Aryan tribes, separating themselves from the other members of the Aryan
family, sought new abodes on the plateau of Iran. The tribes that settled
in the south became known as the Persians; while those that took
possession of the mountain regions of the northwest were called Medes. The
Medes, through mingling with native non-Aryan tribes, became quite
different from the Persians; but notwithstanding this, the names of the
two peoples were always very closely associated, as in the familiar
legend, "The law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not."
THE MEDES AT FIRST THE LEADING RACE.--Although the Persians were destined
to become the dominant tribe of all the Iranian Aryans, still the Medes
were at first the leading people. Cyaxares (625-585 B.C.) was their first
prominent leader and king. We have already seen how, aided by the
Babylonians, he overthrew the last king of Nineveh, and burned that
capital (see p. 51).
Cyaxares was followed by his son Astyages (585-558 B.C.), during whose
reign the Persians, whom Cyaxares had brought into at least partial
subjection to the Median crown, revolted, overthrew the Median power, and
thenceforth held the place of leadership and authority.
REIGN OF CYRUS THE GREAT (558-529 B.C.).--The leader of the revolt against
the Medes was Cyrus, the tributary king of the Persians. Through his
energy and soldierly genius, he soon built up an empire more extended than
any over which the sceptre had yet been swayed by an Oriental monarch, or
indeed, so far as we know, by any ruler before his time. It stretched from
the Indus to the farthest limits of Asia Minor, and from the Caspian Sea
to the Persian Gulf, thus embracing not only the territories of the Median
kingdom, but also those of the allied kingdoms of Lydia and Babylonia. The
subjugation of Babylonia to the Persian authority has already been
narrated (see p. 60). We will now tell how Cyrus gained the kingdom of
[Illustration: KINGDOMS OF LYDIA, MEDIA, AND BABYLONIA. C. B.C. 550]
Lydia was a country in the western part of Asia Minor. It was a land
highly favored by nature. It embraced two rich river valleys,--the plains
of the Hermus and the Cayster,--which, from the mountains inland, slope
gently to the island-dotted Aegean. The Pactolus, and other tributaries of
the streams we have named, rolled down "golden sands," while the mountains
were rich in the precious metals. The coast region did not at first belong
to Lydia; it was held by the Greeks, who had fringed it with cities. The
capital of the country was Sardis, whose citadel was set on a lofty and
The Lydians were a mixed people, formed, it is thought, by the mingling,
in prehistoric times, of Aryan tribes that crossed the Aegean from Europe,
with the original non-Aryan population of the country.
The last and most renowned of the Lydian kings was Croesus. Under him the
Lydian empire attained its greatest extension, embracing all the states of
Asia Minor west of the Halys, save Lycia. The tribute Croesus collected
from the Greek cities, which he subjugated, and the revenues he derived
from his gold mines, rendered him the richest monarch of his times, so
that his name has passed into the proverb "Rich as Croesus."
Now Astyages, whom Cyrus had just overthrown, was the brother-in-law of
this Croesus. When Croesus heard of his relative's misfortune, he resolved
to avenge his wrongs. The Delphian oracle (see p. 104), to which he sent
to learn the issue of a war upon Cyrus, told him that he "would destroy a
great kingdom." Interpreting this favorably, he sent again to inquire
whether the empire he should establish would prove permanent, and received
this oracle: "Flee and tarry not when a mule [Footnote: The allusion is to
the (traditional) mixed Persian and Median descent of Cyrus.] shall be
king of the Medes." Deeming the accession of a mule to the Persian throne
altogether impossible, he inferred the oracle to mean that his empire
should last forever.
Thus encouraged in his purpose, Croesus prepared to make war upon Persia.
But he had miscalculated the strength and activity of his enemy. Cyrus
marched across the Halys, defeated the Lydian army in the field, and after
a short siege captured Sardis; and Lydia became a province of the new
[Illustration: TOMB OF CYRUS THE GREAT. (Present Condition.)]
There is a story which tells how Cyrus had caused a pyre to be erected on
which to burn Croesus, but at the last moment was struck by hearing the
unfortunate monarch repeatedly call the name of Solon. Seeking the meaning
of this, he was told that Croesus in his prosperous years was visited by
the Greek sage Solon, who, in answer to the inquiry of Croesus as to
whether he did not deem him a happy man, replied, "Count no man happy
until he is dead." Cyrus was so impressed with the story, so the legend
tells, that he released the captive king, and treated him with the
This war between Croesus and Cyrus derives a special importance from the
fact that it brought the Persian empire into contact with the Greek cities
of Asia, and thus led on directly to that memorable struggle between
Greece and Persia known as the Gr�co-Persian War.
Tradition says that Cyrus lost his life while leading an expedition
against some Scythian tribes in the north. He was buried at Pasargad�, the
old Persian capital, and there his tomb stands to-day, surrounded by the
ruins of the magnificent buildings with which he adorned that city. The
following cuneiform inscription may still be read upon a pillar near the
sepulchre: "I am Cyrus, the king, the Akh�menian."
Cyrus, notwithstanding his seeming love for war and conquest, possessed a
kindly and generous disposition. Almost universal testimony has ascribed
to him the purest and most beneficent character of any Eastern monarch.
REIGN OF CAMBYSES (529-522 B.C.).--Cyrus the Great left two sons, Cambyses
and Smerdis: the former, as the oldest, inherited the sceptre, and the
title of king. He began a despotic and unfortunate reign by causing his
brother, whose influence he feared, to be secretly put to death.
With far less ability than his father for their execution, Cambyses
conceived even vaster projects of conquest and dominion. Asia had hitherto
usually afforded a sufficient field for the ambition of Oriental despots.
Cambyses determined to add the country of Africa to the vast inheritance
received from his father. Upon some slight pretext, he invaded Egypt,
captured Memphis, and ascended the Nile to Thebes. From here he sent an
army of fifty thousand men to subdue the oasis of Ammon, in the Libyan
desert. Of the vast host not a man returned from the expedition. It is
thought that the army was overwhelmed and buried by one of those fatal
storms, called simooms, that so frequently sweep over those dreary wastes
After a short, unsatisfactory stay in Egypt, Cambyses set out on his
return to Persia. While on his way home, news was brought to him that his
brother Smerdis had usurped the throne. A Magian [Footnote: There were at
this time two opposing religions in Persia: Zoroastrianism, which taught
the simple worship of God under the name of Ormazd; and Magianism, a less
pure faith, whose professors were fire-worshippers. The former was the
religion of the Aryans; the latter, that of the non-Aryan portion of the
population. The usurpation which placed Smerdis on the throne was planned
by the Magi, Smerdis himself being a fire-priest.] impostor, Gomates by
name, who resembled the murdered Smerdis, had personated him, and actually
grasped the sceptre. Entirely disheartened by this startling
intelligence, Cambyses in despair took his own life.
REIGN OF DARIUS I. (521-486 B.C.).--The Persian nobles soon rescued the
sceptre from the grasp of the false Smerdis, and their leader, Darius,
took the throne. The first act of Darius was to punish, by a general
massacre, the Magian priests for the part they had taken in the usurpation
[Illustration: CAPTIVE INSURGENTS BROUGHT BEFORE DARIUS. Beneath his foot
is the Magus Gomates, the false Smerdis. (From the great Behistun Rock.)]
With quiet and submission secured throughout the empire, Darius gave
himself, for a time, to the arts of peace. He built a palace at Susa, and
erected magnificent structures at Persepolis; reformed the administration
of the government (see p. 82), making such wise and lasting changes that
he has been called "the second founder of the Persian empire"; established
post-roads, instituted a coinage for the realm, and upon the great rock of
Behistun, a lofty smooth-faced cliff on the western frontier of Persia,
caused to be inscribed a record of all his achievements. [Footnote: This
important inscription is written in the cuneiform characters, and in three
languages, Aryan, Turanian, and Semitic. It is the Rosetta Stone of the
cuneiform writings, the key to their treasures having been obtained from
its parallel columns.]
And now the Great King, Lord of Western Asia and of Egypt, conceived and
entered upon the execution of vast designs of conquest, the far-reaching
effects of which were destined to live long after he had passed away.
Inhospitable steppes on the north, and burning deserts on the south, whose
shifting sands within a period yet fresh in memory had been the grave of a
Persian army, seemed to be the barriers which Nature herself had set for
the limits of empire in these directions. But on the eastern flank of the
kingdom the rich and crowded plains of India invited the conqueror with
promises of endless spoils and revenues; while on the west a new
continent, full of unknown mysteries, presented virgin fields never yet
traversed by the army of an Eastern despot. Darius determined to extend
the frontiers of his empire in both these directions.
At one blow the region of northwestern India known as the Punjab, was
brought under Persian authority; and thus with a single effort were the
eastern limits of the empire pushed out so as to include one of the
richest countries of Asia--one which henceforth returned to the Great King
an annual revenue vastly larger than that of any other province hitherto
acquired, not even excepting the rich district of Babylonia.
With an army numbering, it is said, more than 700,000 men, Darius now
crossed the Bosphorus by means of a sort of pontoon bridge, constructed by
Grecian architects, and passing the Danube by means of a similar bridge,
penetrated far into what is now Russia, which was then occupied by
Scythian hordes. The results of the expedition were the addition of Thrace
to the Persian empire, and the making of Macedonia a tributary kingdom.
Thus the Persian kings secured their first foothold upon the European
The most significant campaign in Europe was yet to follow. In 500 B.C.,
the Ionian cities in Asia Minor subject to the Persian authority revolted.
The Greeks of Europe lent aid to their sister states. Sardis was sacked
and burned by the insurgents. With the revolt crushed and punished with
great severity, Darius determined to chastise the European Greeks, and
particularly the Athenians, for their insolence in giving aid to his
rebellious subjects. Herodotus tells us that he appointed a person whose
sole duty it was daily to stir up the purpose of the king with the words,
"Master, remember the Athenians."
A large land and naval armament was fitted out and placed under the
command of Mardonius, a son-in-law of Darius. The land forces suffered
severe losses at the hands of the barbarians of Thrace, and the fleet was
wrecked by a violent storm off Mount Athos, three hundred ships being lost
Two years after this disaster, another expedition, consisting of 120,000
men, was borne by ships across the AEgean to the plains of Marathon. The
details of the significant encounter that there took place between the
Persians and the Athenians will be given when we come to narrate the
history of Greece. We need now simply note the result,--the complete
overthrow of the Persian forces by the Greeks under Miltiades (490 B.C.).
Darius, angered beyond measure by the failure of the expedition, stirred
up all the provinces of his vast empire, and called for new levies from
far and near, resolved upon leading in person such an army into Greece
that the insolent Athenians should be crushed at a single blow, and the
tarnished glory of the Persian arms restored. In the midst of these
preparations, with the Egyptians in revolt, the king suddenly died, in the
year 486 B.C.
REIGN OF XERXES I. (486-465 B.C.).--The successor of Darius, his son
Xerxes, though more inclined to indulge in the ease and luxury of the
palace than to subject himself to the hardship and discipline of the camp,
was urged by those about him to an active prosecution of the plans of his
After crushing the Egyptian revolt and another insurrection in Babylonia,
the Great King was free to devote his attention to the distant Greeks.
Mustering the contingents of the different provinces of his empire, Xerxes
led his vast army over the bridges he had caused to be thrown across the
Hellespont, crushed the Spartan guards at the Pass of Thermopyl�, pushed
on into Attica, and laid Athens in ruins. But there fortune forsook him.
At the naval battle of Salamis, his fleet was cut to pieces by the Grecian
ships; and the king, making a precipitate retreat into Asia, hastened to
his capital, Susa. Here, in the pleasures of the harem, he sought solace
for his wounded pride and broken hopes. He at last fell a victim to palace
intrigue, being slain in his own chamber (465 B.C.).
END OF THE PERSIAN EMPIRE.--The power and supremacy of the Persian
monarchy passed away with the reign of Xerxes. The last one hundred and
forty years of the existence of the empire was a time of weakness and
anarchy. This period was spanned by the reigns of eight kings. It was in
the reign of Artaxerxes II., called Mnemon for his remarkable memory, that
took place the well-known expedition of the Ten Thousand Greeks under
Cyrus, the brother of Artaxerxes, an account of which will be given in
connection with Grecian history (see chap. XV.).
The march of the Ten Thousand through the very heart of the dominions of
the Great King demonstrated the amazing internal weakness of the empire.
Marathon and Salamis had shown the immense superiority of the free
soldiery of Greece over the splendid but servile armies of Persia, that
were often driven to battle with the lash. These disclosures invited the
Macedonians to the invasion and conquest of the empire.
In the year 334 B.C., Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, led a small
army of thirty-five thousand Greeks and Macedonians across the Hellespont.
Three great battles--that of the Granicus, that of Issus, and that of
Arbela--decided the fate of the Persian Empire. Darius III., the last of
the Persian kings, fled from the field of Arbela, on the plains of
Assyria, only to be treacherously assassinated by one of his own generals.
The succeeding movements of Alexander, and the establishment by him of the
short-lived Macedonian monarchy upon the ruins of the Persian state, are
matters that properly belong to Grecian history, and will be related in a
2. GOVERNMENT, RELIGION, AND ARTS.
THE GOVERNMENT.--Before the reign of Darius I., the government of the
Persian Empire was like that of all the great monarchies that had preceded
it; that is, it consisted of a great number of subject states, which were
allowed to retain their own kings and manage their own affairs, only
paying tribute and homage, and furnishing contingents in time of war, to
the Great King.
We have seen how weak was this rude and primitive type of government.
Darius I., who possessed rare ability as an organizer, remodelled the
system of his predecessors, and actually realized for the Persian monarchy
what Tiglath-Pileser II. had long before attempted, but only with partial
and temporary success, to accomplish for the Assyrian.
The system of government which Darius I. thus first made a real fact in
the world, is known as the _satrapal_, a form represented to-day by
the government of the Turkish Sultan. The entire kingdom was divided into
twenty or more provinces, over each of which was placed a governor, called
a satrap, appointed by the king. These officials held their position at
the pleasure of the sovereign, and were thus rendered his subservient
creatures. Each province contributed to the income of the king a stated
There were provisions in the system by which the king might be apprised of
the disloyalty of his satraps. Thus the whole dominion was firmly cemented
together, and the facility with which almost sovereign states--which was
the real character of the different parts of the empire under the old
system--could plan and execute revolt, was removed.
LITERATURE AND RELIGION: ZOROASTRIANISM.--The literature of the ancient
Persians was mostly religious. Their sacred book is called the Zendavesta.
The oldest part is named the Vendidad. This consists of laws,
incantations, and mythical tales.
[Illustration: THE KING IN COMBAT WITH A MONSTER. (From Persepolis.)]
The religious system of the Persians, as taught in the Zendavesta, is
known as Zoroastrianism, from Zoroaster, its founder. This great reformer
and teacher is now generally supposed to have lived and taught about 1000
Zoroastrianism was a system of belief known as dualism. Opposed to the
"good spirit," Ormazd (Ahura Mazda), there was a "dark spirit," Ahriman
(Angro-Mainyus), who was constantly striving to destroy the good creations
of Ormazd by creating all evil things--storm, drought, pestilence, noxious
animals, weeds and thorns in the world without, and evil in the heart of
man within. From all eternity these two powers had been contending for the
mastery; in the present neither had the decided advantage; but in the near
future Ormazd would triumph over Ahriman, and evil be forever destroyed.
The duty of man was to aid Ormazd by working with him against the evil-
loving Ahriman. He must labor to eradicate every evil and vice in his own
bosom; to reclaim the earth from barrenness; and to kill all bad animals--
frogs, toads, snakes, lizards--which Ahriman had created. Herodotus saw
with amazement the Magian priests armed with weapons and engaged in
slaying these animals as a "pious pastime." Agriculture was a sacred
calling, for the husbandman was reclaiming the ground from the curse of
the Dark Spirit. Thus men might become co-workers with Ormazd in the
mighty work of overthrowing and destroying the kingdom of the wicked
The evil man was he who allowed vice and degrading passions to find a
place in his own soul, and neglected to exterminate noxious animals and
weeds, and to help redeem the earth from the barrenness and sterility
created by the enemy of Ormazd. [Footnote: The belief of the Zoroastrians
in the sacredness of the elements,--earth, water, fire, and air,--created
a difficulty in regard to the disposal of dead bodies. They could neither
be burned, buried, thrown into the water, nor left to decay in a
sepulchral chamber or in the open air, without polluting one or another of
the sacred elements. So they were given to the birds and wild beasts,
being exposed on lofty towers or in desert places. Those whose feelings
would not allow them thus to dispose of their dead, were permitted to bury
them, provided they first encased the body in wax, to preserve the ground
from contamination. The modern Parsees, or Fire-Worshippers, give their
dead to the birds.]
After death the souls of the good and the bad alike must pass over a
narrow bridge: the good soul crosses in safety, and is admitted to the
presence of Ahura Mazda; while the evil soul is sure to fall from the
path, sharp as the edge of a scimitar, into a pit of woe, the dwelling-
place of Ahriman.
ARCHITECTURE.--The simple religious faith of the Persians discouraged,
though it did not prohibit, the erection of temples: their sacred
architecture scarcely included more than an altar and pedestal. The palace
of the monarch was the structure that absorbed the best efforts of the
In imitation of the inhabitants of the valley of the Euphrates, the
Persian kings raised their palaces upon lofty terraces, or platforms. But
upon the table-lands they used stone instead of adobe or brick, and at
Persepolis, raised, for the substruction of their palaces, an immense
platform of massive masonry, which is one of the most wonderful monuments
of the world's ancient builders. This terrace, which is uninjured by the
2300 years that have passed since its erection, is about 1500 feet long,
1000 feet wide, and 40 feet high. The summit is reached by broad stairways
of stone, pronounced by competent judges the finest work of the kind that
the ancient or even the modern world can boast.
[Illustration: THE RUINS OF PERSEPOLIS.]
Surmounting this platform are the ruins of the palaces of several of the
Persian monarchs, from Cyrus the Great to Artaxerxes Ochus. These ruins
consist chiefly of walls, columns, and great monolithic door- and window-
frames. Colossal winged bulls, copied from the Assyrians, stand as wardens
at the gateway of the ruined palaces.
Numerous sculptures in bas-relief decorate the faces of the walls, and
these throw much light upon the manners and customs of the ancient Persian
kings. The successive palaces increase, not only in size, but in
sumptuousness of adornment, thus registering those changes which we have
been tracing in the national history. The residence of Cyrus was small and
modest, while that of Artaxerxes Ochus equalled in size the great palace
of the Assyrian Sargon.
TABLE OF KINGS OF MEDIA AND PERSIA.
Kings of Media
Phraortes. . . . . . . . . . . . ? -625
Cyaxares . . . . . . . . . . . . 625-585
Astyages . . . . . . . . . . . . 585-558
Kings of Persia
Cyrus . . . . . . . . . . . . . 558-529
Cambyses . . . . . . . . . . . . 529-522
Pseudo-Smerdis . . . . . . . . . 522-521
Darius I. . . . . . . . . . . . 521-486
Xerxes I. . . . . . . . . . . . 486-465
Artaxerxes I. (Longimanus) . . . 465-425
Xerxes II. . . . . . . . . . . . 425
Sogdianus . . . . . . . . . . . 425-424
Darius II. (Nothus) . . . . . . 424-405
Artaxerxes II. (Mnemon) . . . . 405-359
Artaxerxes III. (Ochus) . . . . 359-338
Arses . . . . . . . . . . . . . 338-336
Darius III. (Codomannus) . . . . 336-330
SECTION II.--GRECIAN HISTORY
THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE.
DIVISIONS OF GREECE.--Long arms of the sea divide the Grecian peninsula
into three parts, called Northern, Central, and Southern Greece.
Northern Greece included the ancient districts of Thessaly and Epirus.
Thessaly consists mainly of a large and beautiful valley, walled in on all
sides by rugged mountains. It was celebrated far and wide for the variety
and beauty of its scenery. On its northern edge, lay a beautiful glen,
called the Vale of Tempe, the only pass by which the plain of Thessaly
could be entered from the north. The district of Epirus stretched along
the Ionian Sea on the west. In the gloomy recesses of its forests of oak
was situated the renowned Dodonean oracle of Zeus.
Central Greece was divided into eleven districts, among which were Phocis,
Boeotia, and Attica. In Phocis was the city of Delphi, famous for its
oracle and temple; in Boeotia, the city of Thebes; and in Attica, the
Southern Greece, or the Peloponnesus, was also divided into eleven
provinces, of which the more important were Arcadia, embracing the central
part of the peninsula; Achaia, the northern part; Argolis, the eastern;
and Messenia and Laconia, the southern. The last district was ruled by the
city of Sparta, the great rival of Athens.
MOUNTAINS.--The Cambunian Mountains form a lofty wall along a considerable
reach of the northern frontier of Greece, shutting out at once the cold
winds and hostile races from the north. Branching off at right angles to
these mountains is the Pindus range, which runs south into Central Greece.
In Northern Thessaly is Mount Olympus, the most celebrated mountain of the
peninsula. The ancient Greeks thought it the highest mountain in the world
(it is 9700 feet in height), and believed that its cloudy summit was the
abode of the celestials.
South of Olympus, close by the sea, are Ossa and Pelion, celebrated in
fable as the mountains which the giants, in their war against the gods,
piled one upon another, in order to scale Olympus.
Parnassus and Helicon, in Central Greece,--beautiful mountains clad with
trees and vines and filled with fountains,--were believed to be the
favorite haunts of the Muses. Near Athens are Hymettus, praised for its
honey, and Pentelicus, renowned for its marbles.
The Peloponnesus is rugged with mountains that radiate in all directions
from the central country of Arcadia,--"the Switzerland of Greece."
ISLANDS ABOUT GREECE.--Very much of the history of Greece is intertwined
with the islands that lie about the mainland. On the east, in the Aegean
Sea, are the Cyclades, so called because they form an irregular circle
about the sacred isle of Delos, where was a very celebrated shrine of
Apollo. Between the Cyclades and Asia Minor lie the Sporades, which
islands, as the name implies, are sown irregularly over that portion of
Just off the coast of Attica is a large island called by the ancients
Euboea, but known to us as Negropont. Close to the Asian shores are the
large islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, and Rhodes.
To the west of Greece lie the Ionian Islands, the largest of which was
called Corcyra, now Corfu. The rugged island of Ithaca was the birthplace
of Odysseus, or Ulysses, the hero of the _Odyssey_. Cythera, just south of
the Peloponnesus, was sacred to Aphrodite (Venus), as it was here fable
said she rose from the sea-foam. Beyond Cythera, in the Mediterranean,
midway between Greece and Egypt, is the large island of Crete, noted in
legend for its labyrinth and its legislator Minos.
INFLUENCE OF COUNTRY.--The physical features of a country have much to do
with the moulding of the character and the shaping of the history of its
people. Mountains, isolating neighboring communities and shutting out
conquering races, foster the spirit of local patriotism and preserve
freedom; the sea, inviting abroad, and rendering intercourse with distant
countries easy, awakens the spirit of adventure and develops commercial
Now, Greece is at once a mountainous and a maritime country. Abrupt
mountain-walls fence it off into a great number of isolated districts,
each of which in ancient times became the seat of a distinct community, or
state. Hence the fragmentary character of its political history. The
Hellenic states never coalesced to form a single nation.
The peninsula is, moreover, by deep arms and bays of the sea, converted
into what is in effect an archipelago. (No spot in Greece is forty miles
from the sea.) Hence its people were early tempted to a sea-faring life.
The shores of the Mediterranean and the Euxine were dotted with Hellenic
colonies. Intercourse with the old civilizations of Egypt and Phoenicia
stirred the naturally quick and versatile Greek intellect to early and
vigorous thought. The islands strewn with seeming carelessness through the
AEgean Sea were "stepping-stones," which invited the earliest settlers of
Greece to the delightful coast countries of Asia Minor, and thus blended
the life and history of the opposite shores.
Again, the beauty of Grecian scenery inspired many of the most striking
passages of her poets; and it is thought that the exhilarating atmosphere
and brilliant skies of Attica were not unrelated to the lofty achievements
of the Athenian intellect.
THE PELASGIANS.--The historic inhabitants of the land we have described
were called by the Romans Greeks, but they called themselves Hellenes,
from their fabled ancestor Hellen.
But the Hellenes, according to their own account, were not the original
inhabitants of the country. They were preceded by a people whom they
called Pelasgians. Who these folk were is a matter of debate. Some think
that the Pelasgians and Hellenes were kindred tribes, but that the
Hellenes, possessing superior qualities, gradually acquired ascendency
over the Pelasgians and finally absorbed them.
[Illustration: PREHISTORIC WALLS AT MYCEN�. (The Lions' Gate.)]
The Pelasgians were somewhat advanced beyond the savage state. They
cultivated the ground, and protected their cities with walls. Remnants of
their rude but massive masonry still encumber in places the soil of
THE HELLENES.--The Hellenes were divided into four tribes; namely, the
Ionians, the Dorians, the Ach�ans, and the �olians. The Ionians were a
many-sided, imaginative people. They developed every part of their nature,
and attained unsurpassed excellence in art, literature, and philosophy.
The most noted Ionian city was Athens, whose story is a large part of the
history of Hellas.
The Dorians were a practical, unimaginative race. Their speech and their
art were both alike without ornament. They developed the body rather than
the mind. Their education was almost wholly gymnastic and military. They
were unexcelled as warriors. The most important city founded by them was
Sparta, the rival of Athens.
These two great Hellenic families divided Hellas [Footnote: Under the name
Hellas the ancient Greeks included not only Greece proper and the islands
of the adjoining seas, but also the Hellenic cities in Asia Minor,
Southern Italy, Sicily, and elsewhere. "Wherever were Hellenes, there was
Hellas."] into two rival parties, which through their mutual jealousies
and contentions finally brought all the bright hopes and promises of the
Hellenic race to utter ruin.
The Ach�ans are represented by the Greek legends as being the predominant
race in the Peloponnesus during the Heroic Age. The �olians formed a
rather ill-defined division. In historic times the name is often made to
include all Hellenes not enumerated as Ionians or Dorians.
These several tribes, united by bonds of language and religion, always
regarded themselves as members of a single family. They were proud of
their ancestry, and as exclusive almost as the Hebrews. All non-Hellenic
people they called _Barbarians_ [Footnote: At first, this term meant
scarcely more than "unintelligible folk"; but later, it came to express
aversion and contempt.].
When the mists of antiquity are first lifted from Greece, about the
beginning of the eighth century B.C., we discover the several families of
the Hellenic race in possession of Greece proper, of the islands of the
�gean, and of the western coasts of Asia Minor. Respecting their
prehistoric migrations and settlements, we have little or no certain
ORIENTAL IMMIGRANTS.--According to their own traditions the early growth
of civilization among the European Hellenes was promoted by the settlement
among them of Oriental immigrants, who brought with them the arts and
culture of the different countries of the East.
From Egypt, legend affirms, came Cecrops, bringing with him the arts,
learning, and priestly wisdom of the Nile valley. He is represented as the
builder of the citadel (the _Cecropia_) of what was afterwards the
illustrious city of Athens. From Phoenicia Cadmus brought the letters of
the alphabet, and founded the city of Thebes. The Phrygian Pelops, the
progenitor of the renowned heroes Agamemnon and Menelaus, settled in the
southern peninsula, which was called after him the Peloponnesus (the
Island of Pelops).
The nucleus of fact in all these legends is probably this,--that the
European Greeks received the primary elements of their culture from the
East through their Asiatic kinsmen.
LOCAL PATRIOTISM OF THE GREEKS: THE CITY THE POLITICAL UNIT.--The narrow
political sympathies of the ancient Greeks prevented their ever uniting to
form a single nation. The city was with them the political unit. It was
regarded as a distinct, self-governing state, just like a modern nation. A
citizen of one city was an alien in any other: he could not marry a woman
of a city not his own, nor hold property in houses or lands within its
A Greek city-state usually embraced, besides the walled town, a more or
less extensive border of gardens and farms, a strip of sea-coast, or
perhaps a considerable mountain-hemmed valley or plain. The _model_
city (or _state_, as we should say) must not be over large. In this,
as in everything else, the ancient Greeks applied the Delphian rule--
"Measure in all things." "A small city," says one of their poets, "set
upon a rock and well governed, is better than all foolish Nineveh."
Aristotle thought that the ideal city should not have more than ten
THE LEGENDARY, OR HEROIC AGE.
(From the earliest times to 776 B.C.)
CHARACTER OF THE LEGENDARY AGE.--The real history of the Greeks does not
begin before the eighth century B.C. All that lies back of that date is an
inseparable mixture of myth, legend, and fact. Yet this shadowy period
forms the background of Grecian history, and we cannot understand the
ideas and acts of the Greeks of historic times without at least some
knowledge of what they believed their ancestors did and experienced in
those prehistoric ages.
So, as a sort of prelude to the story we have to tell, we shall repeat
some of the legends of the Greeks respecting their national heroes and
their great labors and undertakings. But it must be carefully borne in
mind that these legends are not history, though some of them may be
confused remembrances of actual events.
THE HEROES: HERACLES, THESEUS, AND MINOS.--The Greeks believed that their
ancestors were a race of heroes of divine or semi-divine lineage. Every
tribe, district, city, and village even, preserved traditions of its
heroes, whose wonderful exploits were commemorated in song and story. Many
of these personages acquired national renown, and became the revered
heroes of the whole Greek race.
Heracles was the greatest of the national heroes of the Greeks. He is
represented as performing, besides various other exploits, twelve
superhuman labors, and as being at last translated from a blazing pyre to
a place among the immortal gods. The myth of Heracles, who was at first a
solar divinity, is made up mainly of the very same fables that were told
of the Chald�an solar hero Izdubar (see p. 46). Through the Phoenicians,
these stories found their way to the Greeks, who ascribed to their own
Heracles the deeds of the Chald�an sun-god.
Theseus, a descendant of Cecrops, was the favorite hero of the Athenians,
being one of their legendary kings. Among his great exploits was the
slaying of the Minotaur,--a monster which Minos, king of Crete, kept in a
labyrinth, and fed upon youths and maidens sent from Athens as a forced
Minos, king of Crete, was one of the greatest tribal heroes of the
Dorians. Legend makes him a legislator of divine wisdom, the suppressor of
piracy in the Grecian seas, and the founder of the first great maritime
state of Hellas.
THE ARGONAUTIC EXPEDITION.--Besides the labors and exploits of single
heroes, the legends of the Greeks tell of several memorable enterprises
conducted by bands of heroes. Among these were the Argonautic Expedition
and the Siege of Troy.
The tale of the Argonautic Expedition is told with many variations in the
legends of the Greeks. Jason, a prince of Thessaly, with fifty companion
heroes, among whom were Heracles, Theseus, and Orpheus, the latter a
musician of superhuman skill, the music of whose lyre moved brutes and
stones, set sail in "a fifty-oared galley," called the _Argo_ (hence
the name _Argonauts_, given to the heroes), in search of a "golden
fleece" which was fabled to be nailed to a tree and watched by a dragon,
in the Grove of Ares, on the eastern shores of the Euxine, an inhospitable
region of unknown terrors. The expedition is successful, and, after many
wonderful adventures, the heroes return in triumph with the sacred relic.
Different meanings have been given to this tale. In its primitive form it
was doubtless a pure myth of the rain-clouds; but in its later forms we
may believe it to symbolize the maritime explorations in the eastern seas,
of some of the tribes of Pelasgian Greece.
THE TROJAN WAR (legendary date 1194-1184 B.C.).--The Trojan War was an
event about which gathered a great circle of tales and poems, all full of
an undying interest and fascination.
Ilios, or Troy, was the capital of a strong empire, represented as Grecian
in race and language, which had grown up in Asia Minor, along the shores
of the Hellespont. The traditions tell how Paris, son of Priam, king of
Troy, visited the Spartan king Menelaus, and ungenerously requited his
hospitality by secretly bearing away to Troy his wife Helen, famous for
her rare beauty.
All the heroes of Greece flew to arms to avenge the wrong. A host of one
hundred thousand warriors was speedily gathered. Agamemnon, brother of
Menelaus and "king of men," was chosen leader of the expedition. Under him
were the "lion-hearted Achilles," of Thessaly, the "crafty Ulysses"
(Odysseus), king of Ithaca, Ajax, "the swift son of Oileus," the
Telamonian Ajax, the aged Nestor, and many more--the most valiant heroes
of all Hellas. Twelve hundred galleys bore the gathered clans from Aulis
in Greece, across the �gean to the Trojan shores.
For ten years the Greeks and their allies hold in close siege the city of
Priam. On the plains beneath the walls of the capital, the warriors of the
two armies fight in general battle, or contend in single encounter. At
first, Achilles is foremost in every fight; but a fair-faced maiden, who
fell to him as a prize, having been taken from him by his chief,
Agamemnon, he is filled with wrath, and sulks in his tent. Though the
Greeks are often sorely pressed, still the angered hero refuses them his
aid. At last, however, his friend Patroclus is killed by Hector, eldest
son of Priam, and then Achilles goes forth to avenge his death. In a
fierce combat he slays Hector, fastens his body to his chariot wheels, and
drags it thrice around the walls of Troy.
The city is at last taken through a device of the "crafty Ulysses." Upon
the plain in sight of the walls is built a wooden statue of a horse, in
the body of which are hidden several Grecian warriors. Then the Greeks
retire to their ships, as though about to abandon the siege. The Trojans
issue from the gates and gather in wondering crowds about the image. They
believe it to be an offering sacred to Athena, and so dare not destroy it;
but, on the other hand, misled by certain omens and by a lying Greek named
Sinon, they level a place in the walls of their city, and drag the statue
within. At night the concealed warriors issue from the horse, open the
gates of the city to the Grecians, and Troy is sacked, and burned to the
ground. The aged Priam is slain, after having seen his sons and many of
his warriors perish before his face. �neas, with his aged father,
Anchises, and a few devoted followers, escapes, and, after long
wanderings, becomes the fabled founder of the Roman race in Italy.
It is a matter of difficulty to point out the nucleus of fact in this the
most elaborate and interesting of the Grecian legends. Some believe it to
be the dim recollection of a prehistoric conflict between the Greeks and
the natives of Asia Minor, arising from the attempt of the former to
secure a foothold upon the coast. That there really existed in prehistoric
times such a city as Troy, has been placed beyond doubt by the excavations
and discoveries of Dr. Schliemann.
RETURN OF THE GRECIAN CHIEFTAINS.--After the fall of Troy, the Grecian
chieftains and princes returned home. The poets represent the gods as
withdrawing their protection from the hitherto favored heroes, because
they had not respected the altars of the Trojans. So, many of them were
driven in endless wanderings over sea and land. Homer's _Odyssey_ portrays
the sufferings of the "much-enduring" Odysseus (Ulysses), impelled by
divine wrath to long journeyings through strange seas.
In some cases, according to the tradition, advantage had been taken of the
absence of the princes, and their thrones had been usurped. Thus at Argos,
�gisthus had won the unholy love of Clytemnestra, wife and queen of
Agamemnon, who on his return was murdered by the guilty couple. In
pleasing contrast with this we have exhibited to us the constancy of
Penelope, although sought by many suitors during the absence of her
THE DORIAN INVASION, OR THE RETURN OF THE HERACLID� (legendary date 1104
B.C.).--We set the tradition of the return of the Heraclid� apart from the
legends of the enterprises just detailed, for the reason that it
undoubtedly contains quite a large historical element. The legend tells
how Heracles, an Ach�an, in the times before the Trojan War, ruled over
the Peloponnesian Ach�ans. Just before that event his children were driven
from the land. Eighty years after the war, the hundred years of exile
appointed by the Fates having expired, the descendants of the hero, at the
head of the Dorians from Northern Greece, returned, and with their aid
effected the conquest of the greater part of the Peloponnesus, and
established themselves as conquerors and masters in the land that had
formerly been ruled by their semi-divine ancestor.
This legend seems to be a dim remembrance of a prehistoric invasion of the
Peloponnesus by the Dorians from the north of Greece, and the expulsion or
subjugation of the native inhabitants of the peninsula.
Some of the dispossessed Ach�ans, crowding towards the north of the
Peloponnesus, drove out the Ionians who occupied the southern shore of the
Corinthian Gulf, and settling there, gave the name _Achaia_ to all that
Arcadia, in the centre of the Peloponnesus, was another district which did
not fall into the hands of the Dorians. The people here, even down to the
latest times, retained their primitive customs and country mode of life;
hence _Arcadian_ came to mean rustic and artless.
MIGRATIONS TO ASIA MINOR.--The Greek legends represent that the Dorian
invasion of the Peloponnesus resulted in three distinct migrations from
the mother-land to the shores of Asia Minor and the adjoining islands.
The northwestern shore of Asia Minor was settled, mainly, by Aeolian
emigrants from Boeotia. The neighboring island of Lesbos became the home
and centre of �olian culture in poetry and music.
The coast to the south of the �olians was occupied by Ionian emigrants,
who, uniting with their Ionian kinsmen already settled upon that shore,
built up twelve splendid cities (Ephesus, Miletus, etc.), which finally
united to form the celebrated Ionian confederacy.
South of the Ionians, all along the southwestern shore of Asia Minor, the
Dorians established their colonies. They also settled the important
islands of Cos and Rhodes, and conquered and colonized Crete.
The traditions of these various settlements represent them as having been
effected in a very short period; but it is probable that the movement
embraced several centuries,--possibly a longer time than has been occupied
by the English race in colonizing the different lands of the Western
With these migrations to the Asiatic shores, the Legendary Age of Greece
comes to an end. From this time forward we tread upon fairly firm historic
SOCIETY IN THE HEROIC AGE.--In Homeric times the Greeks were ruled by
hereditary kings, who were believed to be of divine or superhuman lineage.
The king was at once the lawgiver, the judge, and the military leader of
his people. He was expected to prove his divine right to rule, by his
courage, strength, wisdom, and eloquence. When he ceased to display these
qualities, "the sceptre departed from him."
The king was surrounded by an advisory council of chiefs or nobles. The
king listened to what the nobles had to say upon any measure he might
propose, and then acted according to his own will or judgment, restrained
only by the time-honored customs of the community.
Next to the council of chiefs, there was a general assembly, called the
_Agora_, made up of all the common freemen. The members of this body
could not take part in any debate, nor could they vote upon any question.
This body, so devoid seemingly of all authority in the Homeric age, was
destined to become the all-powerful popular assembly in the democratic
cities of historic Greece.
Of the condition of the common freemen we know but little; the legendary
tales were concerned chiefly with the kings and nobles. Slavery existed,
but the slaves did not constitute as numerous a class as they became in
In the family, the wife held a much more honored position than she
occupied in later times. The charming story of the constant Penelope,
which we find in the _Odyssey_, assures us that the Homeric age cherished
a chivalric feeling for woman.
In all ranks of society, life was marked by a sort of patriarchal
simplicity. Manual labor was not yet thought to be degrading. Ulysses
constructs his own house and raft, and boasts of his skill in swinging the
scythe and guiding the plow. Spinning and weaving were the chief
occupations of the women of all classes.
One pleasing and prominent virtue of the age was hospitality. There were
no public inns in those times, hence a sort of gentle necessity compelled
the entertainment of wayfarers. The hospitality accorded was the same free
and impulsive welcome that the Arab sheik of to-day extends to the
traveller whom chance brings to his tent. But while hospitable, the nobles
of the heroic age were often cruel, violent, and treacherous. Homer
represents his heroes as committing without a blush all sorts of fraud and
villanies. Piracy was considered an honorable occupation.
[Illustration: FORTY-OARED GREEK BOAT. (After a Vase Painting.)]
Art and architecture were in a rudimentary state. Yet some advance had
been made. The cities were walled, and the palaces of the kings possessed
a certain barbaric splendor. Coined money was unknown; wealth was reckoned
chiefly in flocks and herds, and in uncoined metals. The art of writing
was probably unknown, at least there is no certain mention of it; and
sculpture could not have been in an advanced state, as the Homeric poems
make no mention of statues. The state of literature is shown by the poems
of the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_: before the close of the age, epic poetry had
reached a perfection beyond which it has never been carried.
Commerce was yet in its infancy. Although the Greeks were to become a
great maritime people, still in the Homeric age they had evidently
explored the sea but little. The Phoenicians then ruled the waves. The
Greeks in those early times knew scarcely anything of the world beyond
Greece proper and the neighboring islands and shores. Scarcely an echo of
the din of life from the then ancient and mighty cities of Egypt and
Chald�a seems to have reached their ears.
RELIGION OF THE GREEKS.
INTRODUCTORY.--Without at least some little knowledge of the religious
ideas and institutions of the ancient Greeks, we should find very many
passages of their history wholly unintelligible. Hence a few remarks upon
these matters will be in place here.
COSMOGRAPHY OF THE GREEKS.--The Greeks supposed the earth to be, as it
appears, a plane, circular in form like a shield. Around it flowed the
"mighty strength of the ocean river," a stream broad and deep, beyond
which on all sides lay realms of Cimmerian darkness and terror. The
heavens were a solid vault, or dome, whose edge shut down close upon the
earth. Beneath the earth, reached by subterranean passages, was Hades, a
vast region, the realm of departed souls. Still beneath this was the
prison Tartarus, a pit deep and dark, made fast by strong gates of brass
and iron. Sometimes the poets represent the gloomy regions beyond the
ocean stream as the cheerless abode of the dead.
The sun was an archer-god, borne in a fiery chariot up and down the steep
pathway of the skies. Naturally it was imagined that the regions in the
extreme east and west, which were bathed in the near splendors of the
sunrise and sunset, were lands of delight and plenty. The eastern was the
favored country of the Ethiopians [Footnote: There was also a western
division of these people.], a land which even Zeus himself so loved to
visit that often he was found absent from Olympus when sought by
suppliants. The western region, adjoining the ocean stream, formed the
Elysian Fields, the abodes of the souls of heroes and of poets. [Footnote:
These conceptions, it will be understood, belong to the early period of
Greek mythology. As the geographical knowledge of the Greeks became more
extended, they modified considerably the topography not only of the upper-
world, but also of the nether-world.]
THE OLYMPIC COUNCIL.--There were twelve members of the celestial council,
six gods and as many goddesses. The male deities were Zeus, the father of
gods and men; Poseidon, ruler of the sea; Apollo, or Phoebus, the god of
light, of music, and of prophecy; Ares, the god of war; Heph�stus, the
deformed god of fire, and the forger of the thunderbolts of Zeus; Hermes,
the wing-footed herald of the celestials, the god of invention and
commerce, himself a thief and the patron of thieves.
[Illustration: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOMER.]
The female divinities were Hera, the proud and jealous queen of Zeus;
Athena, or Pallas,--who sprang full-grown from the forehead of Zeus,--the
goddess of wisdom, and the patroness of the domestic arts; Artemis, the
goddess of the chase; Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, born of
the sea-foam; Hestia, the goddess of the hearth; Demeter, the earth-
mother, the goddess of grains and harvests. [Footnote: The Latin names of
these divinities are as follows: Zeus = Jupiter; Poseidon = Neptune;
Apollo = Apollo; Ares = Mars; Heph�stus = Vulcan; Hermes = Mercury; Hera =
Juno; Athena = Minerva; Artemis = Diana; Aphrodite = Venus; Hestia =
Vesta; Demeter = Ceres.
These Latin names, however, are not the equivalents of the Greek names,
and should not be used as such. The mythologies of the Hellenes and Romans
were as distinct as their languages. Consult Rawlinson's _Religions of
the Ancient World_.]
These great deities were simply magnified human beings, possessing all
their virtues, and often their weaknesses. They give way to fits of anger
and jealousy. "Zeus deceives, and Hera is constantly practising her
wiles." All the celestial council, at the sight of Heph�stus limping
across the palace floor, burst into "inextinguishable laughter"; and
Aphrodite, weeping, moves all to tears. They surpass mortals rather in
power, than in size of body. They can render themselves visible or
invisible to human eyes. Their food is ambrosia and nectar; their
movements are swift as light. They may suffer pain; but death can never
come to them, for they are immortal. Their abode is Mount Olympus and the
airy regions above the earth.
LESSER DEITIES AND MONSTERS.--Besides the great gods and goddesses that
constituted the Olympian council there was an almost infinite number of
other deities, celestial personages, and monsters neither human nor
Hades (Pluto) ruled over the lower realms; Dionysus (Bacchus) was the god
of wine; the goddess Nemesis was the punisher of crime, and particularly
the queller of the proud and arrogant; �olus was the ruler of the winds,
which he confined in a cave secured by mighty gates.
There were nine Muses, inspirers of art and song. The Nymphs were
beautiful maidens, who peopled the woods, the fields, the rivers, the
lakes, and the ocean. Three Fates allotted life and death, and three
Furies (Eumenides or Erinnyes) avenged crime, especially murder and
unnatural crimes. The Gorgons were three sisters, with hair entwined with
serpents. A single gaze upon them chilled the beholder to stone. Besides
these there were Scylla and Charybdis, sea-monsters that made perilous the
passage of the Sicilian Straits, the Centaurs, the Cyclops, Cerberus, the
watch-dog of Hades, and a thousand others.
Many at least of these monsters were simply personifications of the human
passions or of the malign and destructive forces of nature. Thus, the
Furies were the embodiment of an aroused and accusing conscience; the
Gorgons were tempests, which lash the sea into a fury that paralyzes the
affrighted sailor; Scylla and Charybdis were dangerous whirlpools off the
coast of Sicily. To the common people at least, however, they were real
creatures, with all the parts and habits given them by the poets.
MODES OF DIVINE COMMUNICATION.--In the early ages the gods were wont, it
was believed, to visit the earth and mingle with men. But even in Homer's
time this familiar intercourse was a thing of the past--a tradition of a
golden age that had passed away. Their forms were no longer seen, their
voices no longer heard. In these later and more degenerate times the
recognized modes of divine communication with men were by oracles, and by
casual and unusual sights and sounds, as thunder and lightning, a sudden
tempest, an eclipse, a flight of birds,--particularly of birds that mount
to a great height, as these were supposed to know the secrets of the
heavens,--the appearance or action of the sacrificial victims, or any
strange coincidence. The art of interpreting these signs or omens was
called the art of divination.
ORACLES.--But though the gods might reveal their will and intentions
through signs and portents, still they granted a more special
communication of counsel through what were known as _oracles_. These
communications, it was believed, were made by Zeus, and especially by
Apollo, who was the god of prophecy, the Revealer.
Not everywhere, but only in chosen places, did these gods manifest their
presence and communicate the divine will. These favored spots were called
oracles, as were also the responses there received. There were twenty-two
oracles of Apollo in different parts of the Grecian world, but a much
smaller number of those of Zeus. These were usually situated in wild and
desolate spots--in dark forests or among gloomy mountains.
The most renowned of the oracles was that of the Pelasgian Zeus at Dodona,
in Epirus, and that of Apollo at Delphi, in Phocis. At Dodona the priests
listened in the dark forests for the voice of Zeus in the rustling leaves
of the sacred oak. At Delphi there was a deep fissure in the ground, which
emitted stupefying vapors, that were thought to be the inspiring breath of
Apollo. Over the spot was erected a splendid temple, in honor of the
oracle. The revelation was generally received by the Pythia, or priestess,
seated upon a tripod placed over the orifice. As she became overpowered by
the influence of the prophetic exhalations, she uttered the message of the
god. These mutterings of the Pythia were taken down by attendant priests,
interpreted, and written in hexameter verse. Sometimes the will of Zeus
was communicated to the pious seeker by dreams and visions granted to him
while sleeping in the temple of the oracle.
The oracle of Delphi gained a celebrity wide as the world: it was often
consulted by the monarchs of Asia and the people of Rome in times of
extreme danger and perplexity. Among the Greeks scarcely any undertaking
was entered upon without the will and sanction of the oracle being first
Especially true was this in the founding of colonies. Apollo was believed
"to take delight in the foundation of new cities." No colony could prosper
that had not been established under the superintendence of the Delphian
Some of the responses of the oracle contained plain and wholesome advice;
but very many of them, particularly those that implied a knowledge of the
future, were obscure and ingeniously ambiguous, so that they might
correspond with the event however affairs should turn. Thus, Croesus is
told that, if he undertake an expedition against Persia, he will destroy a
great empire. He did, indeed;--but the empire was his own.
The Delphian oracle was at the height of its fame before the Persian War;
in that crisis it did not take a bold or patriotic stand, and its
reputation was sensibly impaired.
IDEAS OF THE FUTURE.--To the Greeks life was so bright and joyous a thing
that they looked upon death as a great calamity. They therefore pictured
life after death, except in the case of a favored few, as being hopeless
and aimless. [Footnote: Homer makes the shade of the great Achilles in
Hades to say:--
"I would be
A laborer on earth, and serve for hire
Some man of mean estate, who makes scant cheer,
Rather than reign o'er all who have gone down
To death."--_Od._ XI. 489-90 [Bryant's Trans.].] The Elysian Fields,
away in the land of sunset, were, indeed, filled with every delight; but
these were the abode only of the great heroes and benefactors of the race.
So long as the body remained unburied, the soul wandered restless in
Hades; hence the sacredness of the rites of sepulture.
THE SACRED GAMES.--The celebrated games of the Greeks had their origin in
the belief of their Aryan ancestors that the souls of the dead were
gratified by such spectacles as delighted them during their earthly life.
During the Heroic Age these festivals were simply sacrifices or games
performed at the tomb, or about the pyre of the dead. Gradually these grew
into religious festivals observed by an entire city or community, and were
celebrated near the oracle or shrine of the god in whose honor they were
instituted; the idea now being that the gods were present at the festival,
and took delight in the various contests and exercises.
Among these festivals, four acquired a world-wide celebrity. These were
the Olympian, celebrated in honor of Zeus, at Olympia, in the
Peloponnesus; the Pythian, in honor of Apollo, near his shrine and oracle
at Delphi; the Nemean, in honor of Zeus, at Nemea; and the Isthmian, held
in honor of Poseidon, on the isthmus of Corinth.
THE OLYMPIAN GAMES.--Of these four festivals the Olympian secured the
greatest renown. In 776 B.C. Coroebus was victor in the foot-race at
Olympia, and as from that time the names of the victors were carefully
registered, that year came to be used by the Greeks as the starting-point
in their chronology. The games were held every fourth year, and the
interval between two successive festivals was known as an Olympiad.
The contests consisted of foot-races, boxing, wrestling, and other
athletic games. Later, chariot-racing was introduced, and became the most
popular of all the contests. The competitors must be of the Hellenic race;
and must, moreover, be unblemished by any crime against the state or sin
against the gods. Spectators from all parts of the world crowded to the
The victor was crowned with a garland of wild olive; heralds proclaimed
his name abroad; his native city received him as a conqueror, sometimes
through a breach made in the city walls; his statues, executed by eminent
artists, were erected at Olympia and in his own city; sometimes even
divine honor and worship were accorded to him; and poets and orators vied
with the artist in perpetuating the name and deeds of him who had
reflected undying honor upon his native state.
INFLUENCE OF THE GRECIAN GAMES.--For more than a thousand years these
national festivals exerted an immense influence upon the literary, social,
and religious life of Hellas. They enkindled among the widely scattered
Hellenic states and colonies a common literary taste and enthusiasm; for
into all the four great festivals, excepting the Olympian, were
introduced, sooner or later, contests in poetry, oratory, and history.
During the festivals, poets and historians read their choicest
productions, and artists exhibited their masterpieces. The extraordinary
honors accorded to the victors stimulated the contestants to the utmost,
and strung to the highest tension every power of body and mind. To this
fact we owe some of the grandest productions of the Greek race.
They moreover promoted intercourse and trade; for the festivals became
great centres of traffic and exchange during the continuance of the games.
They softened, too, the manners of the people, turning their thoughts from
martial exploits and giving the states respite from war; for during the
month in which the religious games were held it was sacrilegious to engage
in military expeditions. In all these ways, though they never drew the
states into a common political union, still they did impress a common
character upon their social, intellectual, and religious life.
THE AMPHICTYONIC COUNCIL.--Closely connected with the religious festivals
were the so-called Amphictyonies, or "leagues of neighbors." These were
associations of a number of cities or tribes for the celebration of
religious rites at some shrine, or for the protection of some particular
Pre-eminent among all such unions was that known as the Delphic
Amphictyony, or simply The Amphictyony. This was a league of twelve of the
sub-tribes of Hellas, whose main object was the protection of the Temple
of Apollo at Delphi. Another of its purposes was, by humane regulations,
to mitigate the cruelties of war.
The so-called First Sacred War (600-590 B.C.) was a crusade of ten years
carried on by the Amphictyons against the cities of Crissa and Cirrha for
their robbery of the treasures of the Delphian temple. The cities were
finally taken, levelled to the ground, and the wrath of the gods invoked
upon any one who should dare to rebuild them. The spoils of the war were
devoted to the establishment of musical contests in honor of the Delphian
Apollo. Thus originated the renowned Pythian festivals, to which allusion
has just been made.
AGE OF THE TYRANTS AND OF COLONIZATION:
THE EARLY GROWTH OF SPARTA AND OF ATHENS.
1. AGE OF THE TYRANTS AND OF COLONIZATION.
THE TYRANTS.--In the Heroic Age the preferred form of government was a
patriarchal monarchy. The _Iliad_ says, "The rule of many is not a
good thing: let us have one ruler only,--one king,--him to whom Zeus has
given the sceptre." But by the dawn of the historic period, the
patriarchal monarchies of the Ach�an age had given place, in almost all
the Grecian cities, to oligarchies or aristocracies.
THE OLIGARCHIES GIVE WAY TO TYRANNIES.--The nobles into whose hands the
ancient royal authority thus passed were often divided among themselves,
and invariably opposed by the common freemen, who, as they grew in
intelligence and wealth, naturally aspired to a place in the government.
The issue of long contentions was the overthrow almost everywhere of
oligarchical government and the establishment of the rule of a single
Usually this person was one of the nobility, who held himself out as the
champion of the people, and who with their help usurped the government.
One who had thus seized the government was called a tyrant. By this term
the Greeks did not mean one who rules harshly, but simply one who holds
the supreme authority in the state illegally. Some of the Greek Tyrants
were mild and beneficent rulers, though too often they were all that the
name implies among us.
But the Greeks always had an inextinguishable hatred of arbitrary rule;
consequently the Tyrannies were, as a rule, short-lived, rarely lasting
longer than three generations. They were usually violently overthrown, and
the old oligarchies re-established, or democracies set up in their place.
As a rule, the Dorian cities preferred oligarchical, and the Ionian cities
democratical, government. The so-called Age of the Tyrants lasted from 650
to 500 B.C.
Among the most noted of the Tyrants were the Pisistratid�, at Athens, of
whom we shall speak hereafter; Periander at Corinth (625-585 B.C.), who
was a most cruel ruler, yet so generous a patron of artists and literary
men that he was thought worthy of a place among the Seven Sages; and
Polycrates, Tyrant of Samos (535-522 B.C.), who, with that island as a
stronghold, and with a fleet of a hundred war-galleys, built up a sort of
maritime kingdom in the AEgean, and for the space of more than a decade
enjoyed such astonishing and uninterrupted prosperity, that it was
believed his sudden downfall and death--he was allured to the Asian shore
by a Persian satrap, and crucified--were brought about by the envy of the
gods, [Footnote: Herodotus tells how Amasis of Egypt, the friend and ally
of the Tyrant, becoming alarmed at his extraordinary course of good
fortune, wrote him, begging him to interrupt it and disarm the envy of the
gods, by sacrificing his most valued possession. Polycrates, acting upon
the advice, threw into the sea a precious ring, which he highly prized;
but soon afterwards the jewel was found by his servants in a fish that a
fisherman had brought to the palace as a present for Polycrates. When
Amasis heard of this, he at once broke off his alliance with the Tyrant,
feeling sure that he was fated to suffer some terrible reverse of fortune.
The event justified his worst fears.] who the Greeks thought were apt to
be jealous of over-prosperous mortals.
THE FOUNDING OF COLONIES.--The Age of the Tyrants coincides very nearly
with the era of greatest activity in the founding of new colonies.
Thousands, driven from their homes, like the Puritans in the time of the
Stuart tyranny in England, fled over the seas, and, under the direction of
the Delphian Apollo, laid upon remote and widely separated shores the
basis of "Dispersed Hellas." The overcrowding of population and the Greek
love of adventure also contributed to swell the number of emigrants.
During this colonizing era Southern Italy became so thickly set with Greek
cities as to become known as _Magna Gr�cia_, "Great Greece." Here were
founded during the latter part of the eighth century B.C. the important
Dorian city of Tarentum; the wealthy and luxurious Ach�an city of Sybaris
(whence the term _Sybarite_, meaning a voluptuary); the Great Crotona,
distinguished for its schools of philosophy and its victors in the
Upon the island of Sicily was planted, by the Dorian Corinth, the city of
Syracuse (734 B.C.), which, before Rome had become great, waged war on
equal terms with Carthage.
In the Gulf of Lyons was established about 600 B.C. the important Ionian
city of Massalia (Marseilles), the radiating point of long routes of
travel and trade.
On the African coast was founded the great Dorian city of Cyrene (630
B.C.), and probably about the same time was established in the Nile delta
the city of Naucratis, through which the civilization of Egypt flowed into
The tide of emigration flowed not only to the west and south, but to the
north as well. The northern shores of the �gean and those of the
Hellespont and the Propontis were fringed with colonies. The Argonautic
terrors of the Black Sea were forgotten or unheeded, and even those remote
shores received their emigrants. Many of the settlements in that quarter
were established by the Ionian city of Miletus, which, swarming like a
hive, became the mother of more than eighty colonies.
Through this wonderful colonizing movement, Greece came to hold somewhat
the same place in the ancient Mediterranean world that England as a
colonizer occupies in the world of today. Many of these colonies not only
reflected honor upon the mother land through the just renown of their
citizens, but through their singularly free, active, and progressive life,
they exerted upon her a most healthful and stimulating influence.
2. THE GROWTH OF SPARTA.
SITUATION OF SPARTA.--Sparta was one of the cities of the Peloponnesus
which owed their origin or importance to the Dorian Invasion (see p. 96).
It was situated in the deep valley of the Eurotas, in Laconia, and took
its name Sparta (sown land) from the circumstance that it was built upon
tillable ground, whereas the heart and centre of most Greek cities
consisted of a lofty rock (the citadel, or acropolis). It was also called
Laced�mon, after an early legendary king.
CLASSES IN THE SPARTAN STATE.--In order to understand the social and
political institutions of the Spartans, we must first notice the three
classes--Spartans (Spartiat�), Perioeci, and Helots--into which the
population of Laconia was divided.
The Spartans proper were the descendants of the Dorian conquerors of the
country. They composed but a small fraction of the entire population.
Their relations to the conquered people were those of an army of
occupation. Sparta, their capital, was simply a vast camp, unprotected by
any walls until later and degenerate times. The martial valor of its
citizens was thought its only proper defence.
The Perioeci (dwellers-around), who constituted the second class, were the
subjugated Ach�ans. They were allowed to retain possession of their lands,
but were forced to pay tribute, and, in times of war, to fight for the
glory and interest of their Spartan masters.
The third and lowest class was composed of slaves, or serfs, called
Helots. The larger number of these were laborers upon the estates of the
Spartans. They were the property of the state, and not of the individual
Spartan lords, among whom they were distributed by lot. Practically they
had no rights which their Spartan masters felt bound to respect. It is
affirmed that when they grew too numerous for the safety of the state,
their numbers were thinned by a deliberate massacre of the surplus
THE LEGEND OF LYCURGUS.--The laws and customs of the Spartans have excited
more interest, perhaps, than any similar institutions of the ancient
world. A mystery and halo were thrown about them by their being attributed
to the creative genius of a single lawgiver, Lycurgus.
Lycurgus, according to tradition, lived about the ninth century B.C. He is
represented as acquainting himself with the laws and institutions of
different lands, by converse with their priests and sages. He is said to
have studied with great zeal the laws of Minos, the legendary lawgiver of
the Cretans. Like the great legislator Moses, he became learned in all the
wisdom of the Egyptians.
After much opposition, a system of laws and regulations drawn up by
Lycurgus was adopted by the Spartan people. Then, binding his countrymen
by a solemn oath that they would carefully observe his laws during his
absence, he set out on a pilgrimage to Delphi. In response to his inquiry,
the oracle assured him that Sparta would endure and prosper as long as the
people obeyed the laws he had given them. Lycurgus caused this answer to
be carried to his countrymen; and then, that they might remain bound by
the oath they had taken, he resolved never to return. He went into an
THE KINGS, THE SENATE, AND THE POPULAR ASSEMBLY.--The so-called
Constitution of Lycurgus provided for two joint kings, a Senate of Elders,
and a Popular Assembly.
The two kings corresponded in some respects to the two consuls in the
later Roman republic. One served as a check upon the other. This double
sovereignty worked admirably; for five centuries there were no attempts on
the part of the Spartan kings to subvert the constitution. The power of
the joint kings, it should be added, was rather nominal than real (save in
time of war); so that while the Spartan government was monarchical in
form, it was in reality an aristocracy, the Spartans corresponding very
closely to the feudal lords of medi�val Europe.
The Senate consisted of thirty elders. The powers of this body were at
first almost unlimited. After a time, however, officers called ephors were
elected by the Popular Assembly, and these gradually absorbed the powers
and functions of the Senate, as well as the authority of the two associate
The Popular Assembly was composed of all the citizens of Sparta over
thirty years of age. By this body laws were made, and questions of peace
and war decided. In striking contrast to what was the custom at Athens,
all matters were decided without debate. The Spartans were fighters, not
talkers; they hated discussion.
REGULATIONS AS TO LANDS AND MONEY.--At the time of Lycurgus the lands of
Laconia had become absorbed by the rich, leaving the masses in poverty and
distress. It is certain that the lawgiver did much to remedy this ruinous
state of affairs. Tradition says that all the lands were redistributed, an
equal portion being assigned to each of the nine thousand Spartan
citizens, and a smaller and less desirable portion to each of the thirty
thousand Perioeci,--but it is not probable that there was any such exact
equalization of property.
The Spartans were forbidden to engage in trade; all their time must be
passed in the chase, or in gymnastic and martial exercise. Iron was made
the sole money of the state. This, according to Plutarch, "was of great
size and weight, and of small value, so that the equivalent for ten min�