Part 3 out of 13
(about $140) required a great room for its stowage, and a yoke of oxen to
draw it." The object of this, he tell us, was to prevent its being used
for the purchase of "foreign trumpery."
THE PUBLIC TABLES.--The most peculiar, perhaps, of the Lycurgean
institutions were the public meals. In order to correct the extravagance
with which the tables of the rich were often spread, Lycurgus ordered that
all the Spartan citizens should eat at public and common tables. Excepting
the ephors, none, not even the kings, were excused from sitting at the
common mess. One of the kings, returning from a long expedition, presumed
to dine privately with his wife, but received therefor a severe reproof.
A luxury-loving Athenian, once visiting Sparta and seeing the coarse fare
of the citizens, is reported to have declared that now he understood the
Spartan disregard of life in battle. "Any one," said he, "must naturally
prefer death to life on such fare as this."
EDUCATION OF THE YOUTH.--Children were considered as belonging to the
state. Every infant was brought before the Council of Elders; and if it
did not seem likely to become a robust and useful citizen, it was exposed
in a mountain glen. At seven the education and training of the youth were
committed to the charge of public officers, called boy-trainers. The aim
of the entire course, as to the boys, was to make a nation of soldiers who
should despise toil and danger and prefer death to military dishonor.
Reading and writing were untaught, and the art of rhetoric was despised.
Spartan brevity was a proverb, whence our word _laconic_ (from Laconia),
implying a concise and pithy mode of expression. Boys were taught to
respond in the fewest words possible. At the public tables they were not
permitted to speak until questioned: they sat "silent as statues." As
Plutarch puts it, "Lycurgus was for having the money bulky, heavy, and of
little value; and the language, on the contrary, very pithy and short, and
a great deal of sense compressed in a few words."
But before all things else the Spartan youth was taught to bear pain
unflinchingly. Often he was scourged just for the purpose of accustoming
his body to pain. Frequently, it is said, boys died under the lash,
without betraying their suffering by look or moan.
Another custom tended to the same end as the foregoing usage. The boys
were at times compelled to forage for their food. If detected, they were
severely punished for having been so unskilful as not to get safely away
with their booty. This custom, as well as the fortitude of the Spartan
youth, is familiar to all through the story of the boy who, having stolen
a young fox and concealed it beneath his tunic, allowed the animal to tear
out his vitals, without betraying himself by the movement of a muscle.
The Cryptia, which has been represented as an organization of young
Spartans who were allowed, as a means of rendering themselves ready and
expert in war, to hunt and kill the Helots, seems in reality to have been
a sort of police institution, designed to guard against uprisings of the
ESTIMATE OF THE SPARTAN INSTITUTIONS.--That the laws and regulations of
the Spartan constitution were admirably adapted to the end in view,--the
rearing of a nation of skilful and resolute warriors,--the long military
supremacy of Sparta among the states of Greece abundantly attests. But
when we consider the aim and object of the Spartan institutions, we must
pronounce them low and unworthy. The true order of things was just
reversed among the Laced�monians. Government exists for the individual: at
Sparta the individual lived for the state. The body is intended to be the
instrument of the mind: the Spartans reversed this, and attended to the
education of the mind only so far as its development enhanced the
effectiveness of the body as a weapon in warfare.
Spartan history teaches how easy it is for a nation, like an individual,
to misdirect its energies--to subordinate the higher to the lower. It
illustrates, too, the fact that only those nations that labor to develop
that which is best and highest in man make helpful contributions to the
progress of the world. Sparta, in significant contrast to Athens,
bequeathed nothing to posterity.
THE MESSENIAN WARS.--The most important event in Spartan history between
the age of Lycurgus and the commencement of the Persian War was the long
contest with Messenia, known as the First and Second Messenian Wars (about
750-650 B.C.). Messenia was one of the districts of the Peloponnesus
which, like Laconia, had been taken possession of by the Dorians at the
time of the great invasion.
It is told that the Spartans, in the second war, falling into despair,
sent to Delphi for advice. The oracle directed them to ask Athens for a
commander. The Athenians did not wish to aid the Laced�monians, yet dared
not oppose the oracle. So they sent Tyrt�us, a poet-schoolmaster, who they
hoped and thought would prove of but little service to Sparta. Whatever
truth there may be in this part of the story, it seems indisputable that
during the Second Messenian War, Tyrt�us, an Attic poet, reanimated the
drooping spirits of the Spartans by the energy of his martial strains.
Perhaps it would not be too much to say that Sparta owed her final victory
to the inspiring songs of this martial poet.
The conquered Messenians were reduced to serfdom, and their condition made
as degrading and bitter as that of the Helots of Laconia. Many, choosing
exile, pushed out into the western seas in search of new homes. Some of
the fugitives founded Rhegium, in Italy; others, settling in Sicily, gave
name and importance to the still existing city of Messina.
GROWTH OF THE POWER OF SPARTA.--After having secured possession of
Messenia, Sparta conquered the southern part of Argolis. All the southern
portion of the Peloponnesus was now subject to her commands.
On the north, Sparta extended her power over many of the villages, or
townships, of Arcadia; but her advance in this direction having been
checked by Tegea, one of the few important Arcadian cities, Sparta entered
into an alliance with that city, which ever after remained her faithful
friend and helper. This alliance was one of the main sources of Spartan
preponderance in Greece during the next hundred years and more.
Sparta was now the most powerful state in the Peloponnesus. Her fame was
spread even beyond the limits of Hellas. Croesus, king of Lydia, sought an
alliance with her in his unfortunate war with Persia, which just now was
the rising power in Asia.
3. THE GROWTH OF ATHENS.
THE ATTIC PEOPLE.--The population of Attica in historic times was
essentially Ionian in race, but there were in it strains of other Hellenic
stocks, besides some non-Hellenic elements as well. This mixed origin of
the population is believed to be one secret of the versatile yet well-
balanced character which distinguished the Attic people above all other
branches of the Hellenic family. It is not the absolutely pure, but the
mixed races, like the English people, that have made the largest
contributions to civilization.
THE SITE OF ATHENS.--Four or five miles from the sea, a flat-topped rock,
about one thousand feet in length and half as many in width, rises with
abrupt cliffs, one hundred and fifty feet above the level of the plains of
Attica. The security afforded by this eminence doubtless led to its
selection as a stronghold by the early Attic settlers. Here a few
buildings, perched upon the summit of the rock and surrounded by a
palisade, constituted the beginning of the capital whose fame has spread
over all the world.
THE KINGS OF ATHENS.--During the Heroic Age Athens was ruled by kings,
like all the other Grecian cities. The names of Theseus and Codrus are the
most noted of the regal line.
[Illustration: THE ACROPOLIS AT ATHENS. (From a Photograph.)]
To Theseus tradition ascribed the work of uniting the different Attic
villages, or cantons, twelve in number, into a single city, on the seat of
the ancient Cecropia (see p. 92). This prehistoric union, however or by
whomsoever effected, laid the basis of the greatness of Athens.
Respecting Codrus, the following legend is told: At one time the Dorians
from the Peloponnesus invaded Attica. Codrus having learned that an oracle
had assured them of success if they spared the life of the Athenian king,
disguised himself, and, with a single companion, made an attack upon some
Spartan soldiers, who instantly slew him. Discovering that the king of
Athens had fallen by a Laced�monian sword, the Spartans despaired of
taking the city, and withdrew from the country.
THE ARCHONS (1050?-612 B.C.).--Codrus was the last king of Athens. His
successor, elected by the nobles, was given simply the name of Archon, or
Ruler, for the reason, it is said, that no one was thought worthy to bear
the title of the divine Codrus. The real truth is, that the nobles were
transforming the Homeric monarchy into an oligarchy, and to effect the
change were taking away from the king his royal powers. At the outset
there was but one Archon, elected for life; later, there were nine, chosen
Throughout these early times the government was in the hands of the
nobles; the people, that is, the free farmers and artisans, having no part
in the management of public affairs. The people at length demanded a voice
in the government, or at least legal protection from the exactions and
cruelties of the wealthy.
THE LAWS OF DRACO (about 620 B.C.).--To meet these demands, the nobles
appointed one of their own number, Draco, to prepare a code of laws. He
reduced existing customs and regulations to a definite and written
constitution, assigning to the smallest offence the penalty of death. This
cruel severity of the Draconian laws caused an Athenian orator to say of
them that "they were written, not in ink, but in blood." But for their
harshness Draco was not responsible: he did not make them; their severity
was simply a reflection of the harshness of those early times.
THE REBELLION OF CYLON (612 B.C.).--Soon after the enactment of Draco's
laws, which naturally served only to increase the discontent of the
people, Cylon, a rich and ambitious noble, taking advantage of the state
of affairs, attempted to overthrow the government and make himself
supreme. He seized the citadel of the Acropolis, where he was closely
besieged by the Archons. Finally the Archon Megacles offered the
insurgents their lives on condition of surrender. They accepted the offer,
but fearing to trust themselves among their enemies without some
protection, fastened a string to a statue of Athena, and holding fast to
this, descended from the citadel, into the streets of Athens. As they came
in front of the altars of the Furies, the line broke; and Megacles,
professing to believe that this mischance indicated that the goddess
refused to shield them, caused them to be set upon and massacred.
The people were alarmed lest the fierce anger of the avenging Furies had
been incurred by the slaughter of prisoners in violation of a sacred oath
and before their very altars. Calamities that now befell the state
deepened their apprehension. Thus the people were inflamed still more
against the aristocracy. They demanded and finally secured the banishment
of the Alcm�onid�, the family to which Megacles belonged. Even the bones
of the dead of the family were dug up, and cast beyond the frontiers. The
people further insisted upon a fresh revision of the laws and a share in
THE LAWS OF SOLON (594 B.C.).--Solon, a man held in great esteem by all
classes, was chosen to draw up a new code of laws. He repealed many of the
cruel laws of Draco; permitted the return of persons driven into exile;
gave relief to the debtor class, especially to the poor farmers, whose
little plots were covered with mortgages, by reducing the value of the
money in which they would have to make payment; ordered those held in
slavery for debt to be set free; and cancelled all fines payable to the
state. These measures caused contentment and prosperity to take the place,
everywhere throughout Attica, of previous discontent and wretchedness.
CHANGES IN THE ATHENIAN CONSTITUTION.--The changes wrought by Solon in the
political constitution of Athens were equally wise and beneficent. He
divided all the citizens of Athens into four classes, according to their
income. Only members of the first class could hold the office of Archon;
and only those of the first three classes were eligible to the Council of
Elders; but every member of all the classes had the right to vote in the
Thus property instead of birth was made the basis of political rights.
This completely changed the character of the government; it was no longer
an exclusive oligarchy.
A council known as the Council of the Four Hundred was created by Solon.
Its chief duties were to decide what matters might be discussed by the
public assembly, and to execute the resolutions of that body.
THE TRIBUNAL OF THE AREOPAGUS.--Solon also enlarged the jurisdiction of
the celebrated Tribunal of the Areopagus, a venerable council that from
time out of memory had been held on the Areopagus, or Mars' Hill, near the
Acropolis. The judges sat beneath the open sky, that they might not be
contaminated, it is said, by the breath of the criminals brought before
them. To this court was committed the care of morals and religion. It was
in the presence of this venerable tribunal, six hundred years after
Solon's time, that Paul stood when he made his eloquent defence of
THE PUBLIC ASSEMBLY.--The public assembly, under the constitution of
Solon, was made the most important of all the institutions of the state.
It was the fountain of all power. Contrary to the rule in Sparta, any
citizen had the right not only of voting, but of speaking on any question
which the assembly had a right to discuss. Six thousand citizens were
required to constitute a quorum to transact business in cases of special
importance. This popular assembly grew into vast importance in later
times. By it were discussed and decided questions affecting the entire
These laws and institutions of Solon laid the basis of the Athenian
THE TYRANT PISISTRATUS (560-527 B.C.).--Solon had the misfortune of living
to see his institutions used to set up a tyranny, by an ambitious kinsman,
his nephew Pisistratus. This man courted popular favor, and called himself
the "friend of the people." One day, having inflicted many wounds upon
himself, he drove his chariot hastily into the public square, and
pretended that he had been thus set upon by the nobles, because of his
devotion to the people's cause. The people, moved with sympathy and
indignation, voted him a guard of fifty men. Under cover of raising this
company, Pisistratus gathered a much larger force, seized the Acropolis,
and made himself master of Athens. Though twice expelled from the city, he
as often returned, and finally succeeded in getting a permanent hold of
The rule of the usurper was mild, and under him Athens enjoyed a period of
great prosperity. He adorned the city with temples and other splendid
buildings, and constructed great aqueducts. Just beyond the city walls, he
laid out the Lyceum, a sort of public park, which became in after years
the favorite resort of the philosophers and poets of Athens. He was a
liberal patron of literature; and caused the Homeric poems to be collected
and edited. He died 527 B.C., thirty-three years after his first seizure
of the citadel. Solon himself said of him that he had no vice save
EXPULSION OF THE TYRANTS FROM ATHENS (510 B.C.).--The two sons of
Pisistratus, Hippias and Hipparchus, succeeded to his power. At first they
emulated the example of their father, and Athens flourished under their
parental rule. But at length an unfortunate event gave an entirely
different tone to the government. Hipparchus, having insulted a young
noble, was assassinated. Hippias escaped harm, but the event caused him to
become suspicious and severe. His rule now became a tyranny indeed, and
was brought to an end in the following way.
After his last return to Athens, Pisistratus had sent the "accursed"
Alcm�onid� into a second exile. During this period of banishment an
opportunity arose for them to efface the stain of sacrilege which was
still supposed to cling to them on account of the old crime of Megacles.
The temple at Delphi having been destroyed by fire, they contracted with
the Amphictyons to rebuild it. They not only completed the work in the
most honorable manner throughout, but even went so far beyond the terms of
their contract as to use beautiful Parian marble for the front of the
temple, when only common stone was required by the specifications.
By this act the exiled family won to such a degree the favor of the
priests of the sacred college, that they were able to influence the
utterances of the oracle. The invariable answer now of the Pythia to
Spartan inquirers at the shrine was, "Athens must be set free."
Moved at last by the repeated injunctions of the oracle, the Spartans
resolved to drive Hippias from Athens. Their first attempt was
unsuccessful; but in a second they were so fortunate as to capture the two
children of the tyrant, who, to secure their release, agreed to leave the
city (510 B.C.). He retired to Asia Minor, and spent the rest of his life,
as we shall learn hereafter, seeking aid in different quarters to re-
establish his tyranny in Athens. The Athenians passed a decree of
perpetual exile against him and all his family.
THE REFORMS OF CLISTHENES (509 B.C.).--Straightway upon the expulsion of
the Tyrant Hippias, there arose a great strife between the people, who of
course wished to organize the government in accord with the constitution
of Solon, and the nobles, who desired to re-establish the old
aristocratical rule. Clisthenes, an aristocrat, espoused the cause of the
popular party. Through his influence several important changes in the
constitution, which rendered it still more democratical than under Solon,
were now effected.
Athenian citizenship was conferred upon _all the free inhabitants of
Attica_. This made such a radical change in the constitution in the
interest of the masses, that Clisthenes rather than Solon is regarded by
many as the real founder of the Athenian democracy.
OSTRACISM.--But of all the innovations or institutions of Clisthenes, that
known as _ostracism_ was the most characteristic. By means of this
process any person who had excited the suspicions or displeasure of the
people could, without trial, be banished from Athens for a period of ten
years. Six thousand votes cast against any person in a meeting of the
popular assembly was a decree of banishment. The name of the person whose
banishment was sought was written on a piece of pottery or a shell (in
Greek _ostrakon_), hence the term _ostracism_.
The original design of this institution was to prevent the recurrence of
such a usurpation as that of the Pisistratid�. The privilege and power it
gave the people were often abused, and many of the ablest and best
statesmen of Athens were sent into exile through the influence of some
demagogue who for the moment had caught the popular ear.
No stigma or disgrace attached to the person ostracized. The vote came to
be employed, as a rule, simply to settle disputes between rival leaders of
political parties. Thus the vote merely expressed political preference,
the ostracized person being simply the defeated candidate for popular
The institution was short-lived. It was resorted to for the last time
during the Peloponnesian War (417 B.C.). The people then, in a freak,
ostracized a man whom all admitted to be the meanest man in Athens. This
was regarded as such a degradation of the institution, as well as such an
honor to the mean man, that never thereafter did the Athenians degrade a
good man, or honor a bad one, by a resort to the measure.
SPARTA OPPOSES THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY.--The aristocratic party at Athens
was naturally bitterly opposed to all these democratic innovations. The
Spartans, also, viewed with disquiet and jealousy this rapid growth of the
Athenian democracy, and tried to overthrow the new government and restore
Hippias to power. But they did not succeed in their purpose, and Hippias
went away to Persia to seek aid of King Darius. His solicitations, in
connection with an affront which the Athenians just now offered the king
himself by aiding his revolted subjects in Ionia, led directly up to the
memorable struggle known as the Gr�co-Persian wars.
[Illustration: GREEK WARRIORS PREPARING FOR BATTLE.]
THE GR�CO-PERSIAN WARS.
EXPEDITIONS OF DARIUS AGAINST GREECE.--In narrating the history of the
Persians, we told how Darius, after having subdued the revolt of his
Ionian subjects in Asia Minor, turned his armaments against the European
Greeks, to punish them for the part they had taken in the capture and
burning of Sardis. It will be recalled how ill-fated was his first
expedition, which was led by his son-in-law Mardonius (see p. 80).
Undismayed by this disaster, Darius issued orders for the raising and
equipping of another and stronger armament. Meanwhile he sent heralds to
the various Grecian states to demand earth and water, which elements among
the Persians were symbols of submission. The weaker states gave the tokens
required; but the Athenians and Spartans threw the envoys of the king into
pits and wells, and bade them help themselves to earth and water. By the
beginning of the year 490 B.C., another Persian army of 120,000 men had
been mustered for the second attempt upon Greece. This armament was
intrusted to the command of the experienced generals Datis and
Artaphernes; but was under the guidance of the traitor Hippias. A fleet of
six hundred ships bore the army from the coasts of Asia Minor over the
Aegean towards the Grecian shores.
After receiving the submission of the most important of the Cyclades, and
capturing and sacking the city of Eretria upon the island of Euboea, the
Persians landed at Marathon, barely one day's journey from Athens. Here is
a sheltered bay, which is edged by a crescent-shaped plain, backed by the
rugged ranges of Parnes and Pentelicus. Upon this level ground the Persian
generals drew up their army, flushed and confident with their recent
THE BATTLE OF MARATHON (490 B.C.).--The Athenians were nerved by the very
magnitude of the danger to almost superhuman energy. Slaves were
transformed into soldiers by the promise of liberty. A fleet runner,
Phidippides by name, was despatched to Sparta for aid. In just thirty-six
hours he was in Sparta, which is one hundred and fifty miles from Athens.
But it so happened that it lacked a few days of the full moon, during
which interval the Spartans, owing to an old superstition, were averse to
setting out upon a military expedition. They promised aid, but moved only
in time to reach Athens when all was over. The Plat�ans, firm and grateful
friends of the Athenians, on account of some former service, no sooner
received the latter's appeal for help than they responded to a man.
The Athenians and their faithful allies, numbering about ten thousand in
all, under the command of Miltiades, were drawn up in battle array just
where the hills of Pentelicus sink down into the plain of Marathon. The
vast host of the Persians filled the level ground in their front. The fate
of Greece and the future of Europe were in the keeping of Miltiades and
his trusty warriors. Without waiting for the attack of the Persians, the
Greeks charged and swept like a tempest from the mountain over the plain,
pushed the Persians back towards the shore, and with great slaughter drove
them to their ships.
Miltiades at once despatched a courier to Athens with intelligence of his
victory. The messenger reached the city in a few hours, but so breathless
from his swift run that, as the people thronged eagerly around him to hear
the news he bore, he could merely gasp, "Victory is ours," and fell dead.
But the danger was not yet past. The Persian fleet, instead of returning
to the coast of Asia, bore down upon Athens. Informed by watchers on the
hills of the movements of the enemy, Miltiades immediately set out with
his little army for the capital, which he reached just at evening, the
battle at Marathon having been won in the forenoon of that same day. The
next morning, when the Persian generals would have made an attack upon the
city, they found themselves confronted by the same men who but yesterday
had beaten them back from the plains of Marathon. Shrinking from another
encounter with these citizen-soldiers of Athens, the Persians spread their
sails, and bore away towards the Ionian shore.
Thus the cloud that had lowered so threateningly over Hellas was for a
time dissipated. The most imposing honors were accorded to the heroes who
had achieved the glorious victory, and their names and deeds were
transmitted to posterity, in song and marble. And as the gods were
believed to have interposed in behalf of Greece, suitable recognition of
their favor was made in gifts and memorials. A considerable part of the
brazen arms and shields gathered from the battle-field was melted into a
colossal statue of Athena, which was placed upon the Acropolis, as the
guardian of Athens.
RESULTS OF THE BATTLE OF MARATHON.--The battle of Marathon is reckoned as
one of the "decisive battles of the world." It marks an epoch, not only in
the life of Greece, but in that of Europe. Hellenic civilization was
spared to mature its fruit, not for itself alone, but for the world. The
battle decided that no longer the despotism of the East, with its
repression of all individual action, but the freedom of the West, with all
its incentives to personal effort, should control the affairs and mould
the ideas and institutions of the future. It broke the spell of the
Persian name, and destroyed forever the prestige of the Persian arms. It
gave the Hellenic peoples that position of authority and pre-eminence that
had been so long enjoyed by the successive races of the East. It
especially revealed the Athenians to themselves. The consciousness of
resources and power became the inspiration of their future acts. They
performed great deeds thereafter because they believed themselves able to
MILTIADES FALLS INTO DISGRACE.--The distinguished services Miltiades had
rendered his country, made him the hero of the hour at Athens. Taking
advantage of the public feeling in his favor, he persuaded the Athenians
to put in his hands a fleet for an enterprise respecting the nature of
which no one save himself was to know anything whatever. Of course it was
generally supposed that he meditated an attack upon the Persians or their
allies, and with full faith in the judgment as well as in the integrity of
their favorite, the Athenians gave him the command he asked.
But Miltiades abused the confidence imposed in him. He led the expedition
against the island of Paros, simply to avenge some private wrong. The
undertaking was unsuccessful, and Miltiades, severely wounded, returned to
Athens, where he was brought to trial for his conduct. His never-to-be-
forgotten services at Marathon pleaded eloquently for him, and he escaped
being sentenced to death, but was subjected to a heavy fine. This he was
unable to pay, and in a short time he died of his wound. The unfortunate
affair left an ineffaceable blot upon a fame otherwise the most
resplendent in Grecian story.
ATHENS PREPARES FOR PERSIAN VENGEANCE.--Many among the Athenians were
inclined to believe that the battle of Marathon had freed Athens forever
from the danger of a Persian invasion. But there was at least one among
them who was clear-sighted enough to see that that battle was only the
beginning of a great struggle. This was Themistocles, a sagacious,
versatile, and ambitious statesman, who labored to persuade the Athenians
to strengthen their navy, in order to be ready to meet the danger he
Themistocles was opposed in this policy by Aristides, called the Just, a
man of the most scrupulous integrity, who feared that Athens would make a
serious mistake if she converted her land force into a naval armament. The
contention grew so sharp between them that the ostracism was called into
use to decide the matter. Six thousand votes were cast against Aristides,
and he was sent into exile.
It is related that while the vote that ostracized him was being taken in
the popular assembly, an illiterate peasant, who was a stranger to
Aristides, asked him to write the name of Aristides upon his tablet. As he
placed the name desired upon the shell, the statesman asked the man what
wrong Aristides had ever done him. "None," responded the voter; "I don't
even know him; but I am tired of hearing him called 'the Just.'"
After the banishment of Aristides, Themistocles was free to carry out his
naval policy without any serious opposition, and soon Athens had the
largest fleet of any Greek city, with a harbor at Pir�us.
XERXES' PREPARATIONS TO INVADE GREECE.--No sooner had the news of the
disaster at Marathon been carried to Darius than he began to make gigantic
preparations to avenge this second defeat and insult. It was in the midst
of these plans for revenge that, as we have already learned, death cut
short his reign, and his son Xerxes came to the throne (see p. 80).
Urged on by his nobles, as well as by exiled Greeks at his court, who
sought to gratify ambition or enjoy revenge in the humiliation and ruin of
their native land, Xerxes, though at first disinclined to enter into a
contest with the Greeks, at length ordered the preparations begun by his
father to be pushed forward with the utmost energy. For eight years all
Asia resounded with the din of preparation. Levies were made upon all the
provinces that acknowledged the authority of the Great King, from India to
the Hellespont. Vast contingents of vessels were furnished by the coast
countries of the Mediterranean. Immense stores of provisions, the harvests
of many years, were gathered into great storehouses along the intended
line of march.
While all these preparations were going on in Asia itself, Phoenician and
Egyptian architects were employed in spanning the Hellespont with a double
bridge of boats, which was to unite the two continents as with a royal
highway. At the same time, the isthmus at Mount Athos, in rounding which
promontory the admirals of Mardonius had lost their fleet, was cut by a
canal, traces of which may be seen at this day. Three years were consumed
in these gigantic works. With them completed, or far advanced, Xerxes set
out from his capital to join the countless hosts that from all quarters of
the compass were gathering at Sardis, in Asia Minor.
DISUNION OF THE GREEKS: CONGRESS AT CORINTH (481 B.C.).--Startling rumors
of the gigantic preparations that the Persian king was making to crush
them were constantly borne across the Aegean to the ears of the Greeks in
Europe. Finally came intelligence that Xerxes was about to begin his
march. Something must now be done to meet the impending danger. Mainly
through the exertions of Themistocles, a council of the Greek cities was
convened at Corinth in the fall of 481 B.C.
But on account of feuds, jealousies, and party spirit, only a small number
of the states of Hellas could be brought to act in concert. Argos would
not join the proposed confederation through hatred of Sparta; Thebes,
through jealousy of Athens. The Cretans, to whom an embassy had been sent
soliciting aid, refused all assistance. Gelon, the Tyrant of Syracuse,
offered to send over a large armament, provided that he were given the
chief command of the allied forces. His aid on such terms was refused.
Thus, through different causes, many of the Greek cities held aloof from
the confederation, so that only about fifteen or sixteen states were
brought to unite their resources against the Barbarians; and even the
strength of many of those cities that did enter into the alliance was
divided by party spirit. The friends of aristocratical government were
almost invariably friends of Persia, because a Persian victory in Greece
proper meant what it had already meant in Ionia,--a suppression of the
democracies as incompatible with the Persian form of government. Thus for
the sake of a party victory, the aristocrats were ready to betray their
country into the hands of the Barbarians. Furthermore, the Delphian
oracle, aristocratical in its sympathies, was luke-warm and wavering, if
not actually disloyal, and by its timid responses, disheartened the
But under the inspiration of Themistocles the patriots in convention at
Corinth determined upon desperate resistance to the Barbarians. It was at
first decided to concentrate a strong force in the Vale of Tempe, and at
that point to dispute the advance of the enemy; but this being found
impracticable, it was resolved that the first stand against the invaders
should be made at the pass of Thermopyl�.
The Spartans were given the chief command of both the land and the naval
forces. The Athenians might fairly have insisted upon their right to the
command of the allied fleet, but they patriotically waived their claim,
for the sake of harmony.
THE HELLESPONTINE BRIDGES BROKEN.--As the vast army of Xerxes was about to
move from Sardis, intelligence came that the bridges across the Hellespont
had been wrecked by a violent tempest. It is said that Xerxes, in great
wrath, ordered the architects to be put to death, and the sea to be bound
with fetters and scourged. The scourgers faithfully performed their duty,
at the same time gratuitously cursing the traitorous and rebellious
Hellespont with what Herodotus calls "non-Hellenic and blasphemous terms."
Other architects spanned the channel with two stronger and firmer bridges.
Each roadway rested upon a row of from three to four hundred vessels, all
securely anchored like modern pontoons. The bridges were each about one
mile in length, and furnished with high parapets, that the horses and
cattle might not be rendered uneasy at sight of the water.
PASSAGE OF THE HELLESPONT.--With the first indications of the opening
spring of 480 B.C., just ten years after the defeat at Marathon, the vast
Persian army was astir and concentrating from all points upon the
Hellespont. The passage of this strait, as pictured to us in the
inimitable narration of Herodotus, is one of the most dramatic of all the
spectacles afforded by history.
Before the passage commenced, the bridges were strewn with the sacred
myrtle and perfumed with incense from golden censers, while the sea was
placated with libations poured by the king himself. As the east reddened
with the approach of day, prayers were offered, and the moment the rays of
the sun touched the bridges the passage began. To avoid accidents and
delays, the trains of baggage wagons and the beasts of burden crossed by
one causeway, leaving the other free for the march of the army. The first
of the host to cross was the sacred guard of the Great King, the Ten
Thousand Immortals, all crowned with garlands as in festival procession.
Preceding the king, the gorgeous Chariot of the Sun moved slowly, drawn by
eight milk-white steeds. Herodotus affirms that for seven days and seven
nights the bridges groaned beneath the living tide that Asia was pouring
into Europe. [Footnote: According to Herodotus, the land and naval forces
of Xerxes amounted to 2,317,000 men, besides about 2,000,000 slaves and
attendants. It is believed that these figures are a great exaggeration,
and that the actual number of the Persian army could not have exceeded
BATTLE OF THERMOPYL� (480 B.C.).--Leading from Thessaly into Central
Greece is a narrow pass, pressed on one side by the sea and on the other
by rugged mountain ridges. At the foot of the cliffs break forth several
hot springs, whence the name of the pass, Thermopyl�, or "Hot Gates."
At this point, in accordance with the decision of the Corinthian Congress,
was offered the first resistance to the progress of the Persian army.
Leonidas, king of Sparta, with three hundred Spartan soldiers and about
six thousand allies from different states of Greece, held the pass. As the
Greeks were about to celebrate the Olympian games, which their religious
scruples would not allow them to postpone, they left this handful of men
unsupported to hold in check the army of Xerxes until the festival days
should be past.
The Spartans could be driven from their advantageous position only by an
attack in front, as the Grecian fleet prevented Xerxes from landing a
force in their rear. Before assaulting them, Xerxes summoned them to give
up their arms. The answer of Leonidas was, "Come and take them." For two
days the Persians tried to storm the pass. The Asiatics were driven to the
attack by their officers armed with whips. But every attempt to force the
way was repulsed; even the Ten Thousand Immortals were hurled back from
the Spartan front like waves from a cliff.
But an act of treachery on the part of a native Greek rendered unavailing
all the bravery of the keepers of the pass. A by-way leading over the
mountains to the rear of the Spartans was revealed to Xerxes. The
startling intelligence was brought to Leonidas that the Persians were
descending the mountain-path in his rear. He saw instantly that all was
lost. The allies were permitted to seek safety in flight while opportunity
remained. But to him and his Spartan companions there could be no thought
of retreat. Death in the pass, the defence of which had been intrusted to
them, was all that Spartan honor and Spartan law now left them. The next
day, surrounded by the Persian host, they fought with desperate valor;
but, overwhelmed by mere numbers, they were slain to the last man. With
them also perished seven hundred Thespians who had chosen death with their
companions. Over the bodies of the Spartan soldiers a monument was
afterwards erected with this inscription: "Stranger, tell the
Laced�monians that we lie here in obedience to their orders."
THE BURNING OF ATHENS.-Athens now lay open to the invaders. The
Peloponnesians, thinking of their own safety simply, commenced throwing up
defences across the isthmus of Corinth, working day and night under the
impulse of an almost insane fear. Athens was thus left outside to care for
Counsels were divided. The Delphian oracle had obscurely declared, "When
everything else in the land of Cecrops shall be taken, Zeus grants to
Athena that the _wooden walls_ alone shall remain unconquered, to defend
you and your children." The oracle was believed to be, as was declared,
"firm as adamant."
But there were various opinions as to what was meant by the "wooden
walls." Some thought the Pythian priestess directed the Athenians to seek
refuge in the forests on the mountains; but Themistocles (who it is
thought may have himself prompted the oracle) contended that the ships
were plainly indicated.
The last interpretation was acted upon. All the soldiers of Attica were
crowded upon the vessels of the fleet at Salamis. The aged men, with the
women and children, were carried out of the country to different places of
safety. All the towns of Attica, with the capital, were thus abandoned to
A few days afterwards the Persians entered upon the deserted plain, which
they rendered more desolate by ravaging the fields and burning the empty
towns. Athens shared the common fate, and her splendid temples sank in
flames. Sardis was avenged. The joy in distant Susa was unbounded.
THE NAVAL BATTLE OF SALAMIS (480 B.C.).--Just off the coast of Attica,
separated from the mainland by a narrow passage of water, lies the island
of Salamis. Here lay the Greek fleet, awaiting the Persian attack. To
hasten on the attack before dissensions should divide the Greek forces,
Themistocles resorted to the following stratagem. He sent a messenger to
Xerxes representing that he himself was ready to espouse the Persian
cause, and advised an immediate attack upon the Athenian fleet, which he
represented as being in no condition to make any formidable resistance.
Xerxes was deceived. He ordered an immediate attack. From a lofty throne
upon the shore he himself overlooked the scene and watched the result. The
Persian fleet was broken to pieces and two hundred of the ships destroyed.
[Footnote: The entire Persian fleet numbered about seven hundred and fifty
vessels; the Grecian, about three hundred and eighty-five ships, mostly
The blow was decisive. Xerxes, fearing that treachery might burn or break
the Hellespontine bridges, instantly despatched a hundred ships to protect
them; and then, leaving Mardonius with three hundred thousand men to
retrieve the disaster of Salamis, and effect, as he promised to do, the
conquest of the rest of Greece, the monarch set out on his ignominious
retreat to Asia. [Footnote: On the very day of the battle of Salamis,
Gelon of Syracuse gained a great victory over the Carthaginians at the
battle of Himera, in the north of Sicily. So it was a memorable day for
Hellas in the West as well as in the East.]
THE BATTLES OF PLAT�A AND MYCALE (479 B.C.).--The next year the Persian
fleet and army thus left behind in Europe were entirely destroyed, both on
the same day--the army at Plat�a, near Thebes, by the combined Greek
forces under the Spartan Pausanias; and the fleet, including the Asiatic
land forces, at Mycale, on the Ionian coast.
The battles of Salamis, Plat�a, and Mycale were the successive blows that
shattered into fragments the most splendid armaments ever commanded by
MEMORIALS AND TROPHIES OF THE WAR.--The glorious issue of the war caused a
general burst of joy and exultation throughout all Greece. Poets, artists,
and orators, all vied with one another in commemorating the deeds of the
heroes whose valor had warded off the impending danger.
Nor did the pious Grecians think that the marvellous deliverance had been
effected without the intervention of the gods in their behalf. To the
temple at Delphi was gratefully consecrated a tenth of the immense spoils
in gold and silver from the field of Plat�a; and within the sanctuary of
Athena, upon the Acropolis at Athens, were placed the broken cables of the
Hellespontine bridges, at once a proud trophy of victory, and a signal
illustration of the divine punishment that had befallen the audacious and
impious attempt to lay a yoke upon the sacred waters of the Hellespont.
PERIOD OF ATHENIAN SUPREMACY. (479-431 B.C.)
REBUILDING THE WALLS OF ATHENS.--After the Persians had been expelled from
Greece, the first care of the Athenians was the rebuilding of their homes.
Their next task was the restoration of the city walls. The exalted hopes
for the future which had been raised by the almost incredible achievements
of the past few months, led the Athenians to draw a vast circuit of seven
miles about the Acropolis as the line of the new ramparts.
The rival states of the Peloponnesus watched the proceedings of the
Athenians with the most jealous interest. While they could not but admire
Athens, they feared her. Sparta sent an embassy to dissuade the citizens
from rebuilding the walls, hypocritically assigning as the cause of her
interest in the matter her solicitude lest, in case of another Persian
invasion, the city, if captured, might become a shelter and defence to the
enemy. But the Athenians persisted in their purpose, and in a marvellously
short time had raised the wall to such a height that they could defy
THEMISTOCLES' NAVAL POLICY.--Themistocles saw clearly that the supremacy
of Athens among the Grecian states must be secured and maintained by her
mastery of the sea. He had unbounded visions of the maritime power and
glory that might come to her through her fleet, those "wooden walls" to
which at this moment she owed her very existence; and he succeeded in
inspiring his countrymen with his own enthusiasm and sanguine hopes.
In the prosecution of his views, Themistocles persuaded the Athenians to
enlarge the harbor of Pir�us, the most spacious of the ports of Athens,
and to surround the place with immense walls, far exceeding, both in
compass and strength, those of the capital. He also led his countrymen to
the resolution of adding each year twenty well-equipped triremes to their
This policy, initiated by Themistocles, was, as we shall see, zealously
pursued by the statesmen that after him successively assumed the lead in
HIS OSTRACISM.--Themistocles well deserved the honor of being called, as
he was, the founder of the New Athens. But, although an able statesman, he
was an unscrupulous man. He accepted bribes and sold his influence,
thereby acquiring an enormous property. Finally he was ostracized (471
B.C.). After long wanderings, he became a resident at the court of the
Tradition affirms that Artaxerxes, in accordance with Persian usage,
provided for the courtier exile by assigning to three cities in Asia Minor
the care of providing for his table: one furnished bread, a second meat,
and a third wines. It is told that one day, as he sat down to his richly
loaded board, he exclaimed, "How much we should have lost, my children, if
we had not been ruined!"
THE CONFEDERACY OF DELOS (477 B.C.).--In order that they might be able to
carry on the war more effectively against the Persians, the Ionian states
of Asia Minor, the islands of the �gean, and some of the states in Greece
proper, shortly after the battle of Plat�a, formed themselves into what is
known as the Confederacy of Delos. Sparta, on account of her military
reputation, had hitherto been accorded the place of pre-eminence and
authority in all such alliances of the Hellenic cities. She had come,
indeed, to regard herself as the natural guardian and leader of Greece.
But at this time the unbearable arrogance of the Spartan general
Pausanias, who presumed upon the great reputation he had gained at the
battle of Plat�a, led the states which had entered into the alliance to
look to Athens to assume the position of leadership in the new
The lofty character of Aristides, who was now the most prominent Athenian
leader, and his great reputation for fairness and incorruptible integrity,
also contributed to the same result. He was chosen the first president of
the league (477 B.C.), and the sacred island of Delos was made the
repository of the common funds. What proportion of the ships and money
needed for carrying out the purposes of the union should be contributed by
the different states, was left entirely to the decision of Aristides, such
was the confidence all had in his equity; and so long as he had control of
the matter, none of the members of the alliance ever had cause of
Thus did Sparta lose, and Athens gain, the place of precedence among the
Ionian states. The Dorian states of the Peloponnesus, in the main, still
looked to Sparta as their leader and adviser. All Greece was thus divided
into two great leagues, under the rival leadership of Sparta and Athens.
THE ATHENIANS CONVERT THE DELIAN LEAGUE INTO AN EMPIRE.--The Confederacy
of Delos laid the basis of the imperial power of Athens. The Athenians
misused their authority as leaders of the league, and gradually, during
the interval between the formation of the union and the beginning of the
Peloponnesian War, reduced their allies, or confederates, to the condition
of tributaries and subjects.
Athens transformed the league into an empire in the following manner. The
contributions assessed by Aristides upon the different members of the
confederation consisted of ships and their crews for the larger states,
and of money payments for the smaller ones. From the first, Athens
attended to this assessment matter, and saw to it that each member of the
league made its proper contribution. After a while, some of the cities
preferring to make a money payment in lieu of ships, Athens accepted the
commutation, and then building the ships herself, added them to her own
navy. Thus the confederates disarmed themselves and armed their master.
Very soon the restraints which Athens imposed upon her allies became
irksome, and they began to refuse, one after another, to pay the
assessment in any form. Naxos, one of the Cyclades, was the first island
to secede, as it were, from the league (466 B.C.). But Athens had no idea
of admitting any such doctrine of state rights, and with her powerful navy
forced the Naxians to remain within the union, and to pay an increased
What happened in the case of Naxos happened in the case of almost all the
other members of the confederation. By the year 449 B.C. only three of the
island members of the league still retained their independence.
Even before this date (probably about 457 B.C.) the Athenians had
transferred the common treasury from Delos to Athens, and diverting the
tribute from its original purpose, were beginning to spend it, not in the
prosecution of war against the Barbarians, but in the execution of home
enterprises, as though the treasure were their own revenue.
Thus what had been simply a voluntary confederation of sovereign and
independent cities, was converted into what was practically an absolute
monarchy, with the Attic democracy as the imperial master.
What made this servitude of the former allies of Athens all the more
galling was the fact that they themselves had been compelled to forge the
very chains which fettered them; for it was their money that had built and
was maintaining the fleet by which they were kept in subjection and forced
to do whatever might be the will of the Athenians.
THE LEADERSHIP OF CIMON; HIS OSTRACISM.--One of the ablest and most
popular of the generals who commanded the forces of the Athenians during
this same period when they were enslaving their confederates, was Cimon,
the son of Miltiades. He was one of those whose spirits had been fired by
the exciting events attendant upon the Persian invasion. He had acquired a
certain reputation, at the time of the abandonment of Athens, by being the
first to hang up his bridle in the sanctuary of the Acropolis, thus
expressing his resolution to place all his confidence in the fleet, as
The popularity of Cimon at last declined, and he suffered ostracism, as
had Aristides and Themistocles before him. His loss of public favor came
about in this manner. In the year 464 B.C., a terrible earthquake
destroyed a large portion of Sparta. In the panic of the appalling
disaster the Spartans were led to believe that the evil had befallen them
as a punishment for their recent violation of the Temple of Poseidon, from
which some Helots who had fled to the sanctuary for refuge had been torn.
The Helots, on their part, were quick to interpret the event as an
intervention of the gods in their behalf, and as an unmistakable signal
for their uprising. Everywhere they flew to arms, and, being joined by
some of the Perioeci, furiously attacked their masters. The Spartans,
after maintaining the bitter struggle for several years, finding
themselves unable to reduce their former slaves to submission, were forced
to ask aid of the other Grecian states.
The great Athenian statesman Pericles implored his countrymen not to lend
themselves to the building up of the power of their rival. But the
aristocratic Cimon, who had always entertained the most friendly feelings
for the Spartans, exhorted the Athenians to put aside all sentiments of
enmity or jealousy, and to extend succor to their kinsmen. "Let not
Greece," said he, "be lamed, and thus Athens herself be deprived of her
yokefellow." The assembly voted as he advised, and so the Athenian forces
fought for some time side by side with the Laced�monians.
But the Spartans were distrustful of their Athenian allies, and fearing
they might pass over to the side of the Helots, they dismissed them. The
discourtesy of the act aroused the most bitter resentment at Athens. The
party of Pericles took advantage of the exasperated feelings of the people
to effect some important changes in the constitution in favor of the
people, which made it almost purely democratical in character, and to
secure the exercise of the ostracism against Cimon as the leader of the
aristocratical party and the friend of Sparta (459 B.C.).
THE AGE OF PERICLES (459-431 B.C.).
GENERAL FEATURES OF THE AGE.--Under the inspiration of Pericles, the
Athenian state now entered upon the most brilliant period of its history.
The epoch embraces less than the lifetime of a single generation, yet its
influence upon the civilization of the world can hardly be overrated.
During this short period Athens gave birth to more great men--poets,
artists, statesmen, and philosophers--than all the world besides has
produced in any period of equal length.
Among all the great men of this age, Pericles stood pre-eminent. Such was
the impression he left upon the period in which he lived, that it is
called after him the Periclean Age. Yet Pericles' authority was simply
that which talent and character justly confer. He ruled, as Plutarch says,
by the art of persuasion.
During the Periclean period the Athenian democracy was supreme. Every
matter that concerned the empire was discussed and decided by the popular
assembly. Never before had any people enjoyed such perfect political
liberty as did the citizens of Athens at this time, and never before were
any people, through so intimate a knowledge of public affairs, so well
able to direct the policies of state. Every citizen, it is affirmed, was
qualified to hold civil office.
PERICLES FOSTERS THE NAVAL POWER OF ATHENS.--Cimon's policy had been to
keep the Grecian cities united in order that they might offer effectual
resistance to the Persian power. The aim of his rival Pericles was to
maintain Athens as the leading state in Hellas, and to oppose the
pretensions of Sparta. Accordingly he encouraged the Athenians to
strengthen their naval armament and to perfect themselves in naval
discipline, for with Themistocles he was convinced that the supremacy of
Athens must depend chiefly upon her fleet.
As a part of his maritime policy, Pericles persuaded the Athenians to
build what were known as the Long Walls,--great ramparts between four and
five miles in length,--which united Athens to the ports of Pir�us and
Phalerum. Later, as a double security, a third wall was built parallel to
the one running to the former harbor. By means of these walls Athens and
her ports, with the intervening land, were converted into a vast fortified
district, capable in time of war of holding the entire population of
Attica. With her communication with the sea thus secured, and with a
powerful navy at her command, Athens could bid defiance to her foes on sea
[Illustration: ATHENS AND THE LONG WALLS.]
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE THIRTY YEARS' TRUCE.--At the same time that
Pericles was making the maritime supremacy of Athens more secure, he was
endeavoring to build up for her a land empire in Central Greece. As her
influence in this quarter increased, Sparta became more and more jealous,
and strove to counteract it, chiefly by enhancing the power of Thebes.
The contest between the two rivals was long and bitter. It was ended by
the well-known Peace of Pericles, or the Thirty Years' Truce (445 B.C.).
By the terms of this treaty each of the rival cities was left at the head
of the confederation it had formed, but neither was to interfere with the
subjects or allies of the other, while those cities of Hellas which were
not yet members of either league were to be left free to join either
according to choice.
The real meaning of the Truce was that Athens gave up her ambition to
establish a land empire, and was henceforth to be content with supremacy
on the seas. It meant further that Greece was to remain a house divided
against itself; that democratic Athens must share with aristocratic Sparta
the hegemony, or leadership, of the Hellenic cities.
PERICLES ADORNS ATHENS WITH PUBLIC BUILDINGS.--Notwithstanding Pericles
had failed to build up for Athens a land dominion, he had nevertheless
succeeded in securing for her a place of proud pre-eminence in maritime
Hellas. Athens having achieved such a position as she now held, it was the
idea of Pericles that the Athenians should so adorn their city that it
should be a fitting symbol of the power and glory of their empire. Nor was
it difficult for him to persuade his art-loving countrymen to embellish
their city with those masterpieces of genius that in their ruins still
excite the admiration of the world.
Upon the commanding site of the Acropolis was erected the unrivalled
Parthenon. Various other edifices, rich with sculptures, were also erected
there and in different parts of Athens, until the whole city took on a
surprisingly brilliant and magnificent appearance. The whole world looked
up to the Attic city with the same surprised wonder with which a century
before it had regarded the city of Babylon as adorned by the power and
wealth of the great Nebuchadnezzar.
The Athenians secured the vast sums of money needed for the prosecution of
their great architectural works, out of the treasury of the Delian
confederacy. The allies naturally declaimed bitterly against this
proceeding, complaining that Athens, with their money, was "gilding itself
as a proud and vain woman decks herself out with jewels." But the answer
of Pericles to them was, that the money was contributed to the end that
the cities of the league should be protected from the Persians, and that
so long as the Athenians kept the enemy at a distance they had a right to
use the money as they pleased.
The Citizens are taken into the Pay of the State.--It was a fixed idea of
Pericles that in a democracy there should be not only an equal
distribution of political rights among all classes, but also an
equalization of the means and opportunities of exercising these rights, as
well as an equal participation by all in social and intellectual
In promoting his views Pericles carried to great length the system of
payment for the most common public services. Thus, he introduced the
custom of military pay; hitherto the Athenian soldier had served his
country in the field as a matter of honor and duty. He also secured the
payment of the citizen for serving as a juryman, as well as for his
attendance upon the meetings of the popular assembly. Through his
influence, also, salaries were attached to the various civil offices, the
most of which had hitherto been unpaid positions.
These various measures enabled the poorer citizens to enjoy, without an
inconvenient sacrifice, their franchise in the popular assembly, and to
offer themselves for the different magistracies, which up to this time had
been practically open only to men of means and leisure.
Furthermore, Pericles introduced or extended the practice of supplying all
the citizens with free tickets to the theatre and other places of
amusement, and of banqueting the people on festival days at the public
STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS OF THE ATHENIAN EMPIRE.--Under Pericles Athens had
become the most powerful naval state in the world. In one of his last
speeches, made at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, in which he
recounts the resources of the Athenian empire, Pericles says to his
fellow-citizens: "There is not now a king, there is not any nation in the
universal world, able to withstand that navy which at this juncture you
can launch out to sea."
But the most significant feature of this new imperial power was the
combination of these vast material resources with the most imposing
display of intellectual resources that the world had ever witnessed. Never
before had there been such a union of the material and intellectual
elements of civilization at the seat of empire. Literature and art had
been carried to the utmost perfection possible to human genius. Art was
represented by the inimitable creations of Phidias and Polygnotus. The
drama was illustrated by the incomparable tragedies of �schylus,
Sophocles, and Euripides, and by the comedies of Aristophanes, while the
writing of the world's annals had become an art in the graceful narrations
But there were elements of weakness in the splendid imperial structure.
The subject cities of the empire were the slaves of Athens. To her they
paid tribute. To her courts they were dragged for trial. Naturally they
regarded Athens as the destroyer of Hellenic liberties, and watched
impatiently for the first favorable moment to revolt, and throw off the
hateful yoke that she had imposed upon them. Hence the Athenian empire
rested upon a foundation of sand.
Had Athens, instead of enslaving her confederates of the Delian league,
only been able to find out some way of retaining them as allies in an
equal union,--a great and perhaps impossible task in that age of the
world,--as head of the federated Greek race, she might have secured for
Hellas the sovereignty of the Mediterranean, and the history of Rome might
have ended with the first century of the Republic.
Furthermore, in his system of payment for the most common public services,
and of wholesale public gratuities, Pericles had introduced or encouraged
practices that had the same demoralizing effects upon the Athenians that
the free distribution of grain at Rome had upon the Roman populace. These
pernicious customs cast discredit upon labor, destroyed frugality, and
fostered idleness, thus sapping the virtues and strength of the Athenian
Illustrations of these weaknesses, as well as of the strength of the
Athenian empire, will be afforded by the great struggle between Athens and
Sparta known as the Peloponnesian War, the causes and chief incidents of
which we shall next rehearse.
THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR: THE SPARTAN AND THE THEBAN SUPREMACY.
1. THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR (431-404 B.C.).
CAUSES OF THE WAR.--During the closing years of the life of Pericles, the
growing jealousy between Athens and Sparta broke out in the long struggle
known as the Peloponnesian War. Pericles had foreseen the coming storm: "I
descry war," said he, "lowering from the Peloponnesus." His whole later
policy looked toward the preparation of Athens for the "irrepressible
The immediate causes of the war were, first, the interference of Athens,
on the side of the Corcyr�ans, in a quarrel between them and their mother
city Corinth; and secondly, the blockade by the Athenians of Potid�a, on
the Macedonian coast. This was a Corinthian colony, but it was a member of
the Delian league, and was now being chastised by Athens for attempted
secession. Corinth, as the ever-jealous naval rival of Athens, had
endeavored to lend aid to her daughter, but had been worsted in an
engagement with the Athenians.
With affairs in this shape, Corinth, seconded by other states that had
causes of complaint against Athens, appealed to Sparta, as the head of the
Dorian alliance, for aid and justice. The Spartans, after listening to the
deputies of both sides, decided that the Athenians had been guilty of
injustice, and declared for war. The resolution of the Spartans was
endorsed by the Peloponnesian confederation, and apparently approved by
the Delphian oracle, which, in response to an inquiry of the Spartans as
to what would be the issue of the proposed undertaking, assured them that
"they would gain the victory, if they fought with all their might."
COMPARISON OF THE RESOURCES OF SPARTA AND OF ATHENS.--The resources of
Hellas were, at the outbreak of the war, very evenly divided between the
two parties. With Sparta were all the states of the Peloponnesus, save
Argos and Achaia, while beyond the Isthmus the Boeotian League, headed by
Thebes, and other states were her allies. Together, these states could
raise a land force of sixty thousand men, besides a considerable naval
armament, Corinth being especially strong in ships.
Athens commanded all the resources of the subject cities--about three
hundred in number, with twice as many smaller towns--of her great maritime
empire. Her independent allies were Chios, Lesbos, Corcyra, and other
states. Of course the chief strength of Athens lay in her splendid navy.
THE BEGINNING: ATTACK UPON PLAT�A BY THE THEBANS.--The first act in the
long and terrible drama was enacted at night, within the walls of Plat�a.
This city, though in Boeotia, was under the protection of Athens, and
would have nothing to do with the Boeotian League.
Anxious to get possession of this place before the actual outbreak of the
war which they saw to be inevitable, the Thebans planned its surprise and
capture. Three hundred Thebans gained access to the unguarded city in the
dead of night, and marching to the public square, summoned the Plat�ans to
exchange the Athenian for a Boeotian alliance.
The Plat�ans were upon the point of acceding to all the demands made upon
them, when, discovering the small number of the enemy, they attacked and
overpowered them in the darkness, and took a hundred and eighty of them
prisoners. These captives they afterwards murdered, in violation, as the
Thebans always maintained, of a sacred promise that their lives should be
spared. This wretched affair at Plat�a precipitated the war (431 B.C.).
INVASION OF ATTICA: PESTILENCE AT ATHENS.--A Spartan army was soon
overrunning Attica, while an Athenian fleet was ravaging the coasts of the
Peloponnesus. Pericles persuaded the country people of Attica to abandon
their villas and hamlets and gather within the defences of the city. He
did not deem it prudent to risk a battle in the open fields. From the
walls of Athens the people could see the flames of their burning villages
and farmhouses, as the enemy ravaged the plains of Attica up to the very
gates of the city. It required all the persuasion of Pericles to restrain
them from issuing in a body from behind the ramparts and rushing to the
defence of their homes.
The second year the Laced�monians again ravaged the fields about Athens,
and drove the Athenians almost to frenzy with the sight of the flame and
smoke of such property as had escaped the destruction of the previous
year. To increase their misery, a pestilence broke out within the crowded
city, and added its horrors to the already unbearable calamities of war.
No pen could picture the despair and gloom that settled over the city.
Athens lost, probably, one-fourth of her fighting men. Pericles, who had
been the very soul and life of Athens through these dark days, fell a
victim to the plague (429 B.C.). In dying, he said he considered his
greatest praise to be that "he had never caused an Athenian to put on
After the death of Pericles the leadership of affairs at Athens fell into
the hands of unprincipled demagogues, of whom Cleon was chief. The mob
element got control of the popular assembly, so that hereafter we shall
find many of its actions characterized neither by virtue nor wisdom.
DESPERATE AND CRUEL CHARACTER OF THE WAR.--On both sides the war was waged
with the utmost vindictiveness and cruelty. As a rule, all the men
captured by either side were killed.
In the year 428 B.C. the city of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos,
revolted from the Athenians. With the rebellion suppressed, the fate of
the Mytileneans was in the hands of the Athenian assembly. Cleon proposed
that all the men of the place, six thousand in number, should be slain,
and the women and children sold as slaves. This infamous decree was
passed, and a galley despatched bearing the sentence for execution to the
Athenian general at Mytilene.
By the next morning, however, the Athenians had repented of their hasty
and cruel resolution. A second meeting of the assembly was hurriedly
called; the barbarous vote was repealed; and a swift trireme, bearing the
reprieve, set out in anxious haste to overtake the former galley, which
had twenty-four hours the start. The trireme reached the island just in
time to prevent the execution of the barbarous edict.
The second resolution of the Athenians, though more discriminating than
the first decree, was quite severe enough. Over one thousand of the nobles
of Mytilene were killed, the city was destroyed, and the larger part of
the lands of the island given to citizens of Athens.
Still more unrelenting and cruel were the Spartans. In the summer of the
same year that the Athenians wreaked such vengeance upon the Mytileneans,
the Spartans and their allies captured the city of Plat�a, put to death
all the men, sold the women as slaves, and turned the site of the city
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE PEACE OF NICIAS (421 B.C.).--Soon after the
affair at Mytilene and the destruction of Plat�a, an enterprising general
of the Athenians, named Demosthenes, seized and fortified a point of land
(Pylos) on the coast of Messenia. The Spartans made every effort to
dislodge the enemy. In the course of the siege, four hundred Spartans
under Brasidas, having landed upon a little island (Sphacteria), were so
unfortunate as to be cut off from the mainland by the sudden arrival of an
Athenian fleet. About three hundred of them were at last captured and
taken as prisoners to Athens.
But affairs now took a different turn; the Athenians were worsted (at the
battle of Delium, 424 B.C.), and then much indecisive fighting followed.
At last negotiations for peace were opened, which, after many embassies to
and fro, resulted in what is known as the Peace of Nicias, from the
prominent Athenian general who is supposed to have had most to do in
bringing it about. The treaty arranged for a truce of fifty years. Each
party was to give up to the other all prisoners and captured places.
ALCIBIADES AND THE SICILIAN EXPEDITION (415-413 B.C.).--The Peace of
Nicias was only a nominal one. Some of the allies of the two principal
parties to the truce were dissatisfied with it, and consequently its terms
were not carried out in good faith or temper on either side. So the war
went on. For about seven years, however, Athens and Sparta refrained from
invading each other's territory; but even during this period each was
aiding its allies in making war upon the dependents or confederates of the
other. Finally, hostilities flamed out in open and avowed war, and all
Hellas was again lit up with the fires of the fratricidal strife.
The most prominent person on the Athenian side during this latter period
of the struggle was Alcibiades, a versatile and brilliant man, but a
reckless and unsafe counsellor. He was a pupil of Socrates, but he failed
to follow the counsels of his teacher. His astonishing escapades only
seemed to attach the people more closely to him, for he possessed all
those personal traits which make men popular idols. His influence over the
democracy was unlimited. He was able to carry through the popular assembly
almost any measure that it pleased him to advocate. The more prudent of
the Athenians were filled with apprehension for the future of the state
under such guidance. The noted misanthrope Timon gave expression to this
feeling when, after Alcibiades had secured the assent of the popular
assembly to one of his impolitic measures, he said to him: "Go on, my
brave boy, and prosper; for your prosperity will bring on the ruin of all
this crowd." And it did, as we shall see.
The most prosperous enterprise of Alcibiades, in the Timonian sense, was
the inciting the Athenians to undertake an expedition against the Dorian
city of Syracuse, in Sicily. The scheme that Alcibiades was revolving in
his mind was a most magnificent one. He proposed that the Athenians, after
effecting the conquest of Sicily, should make that island the base of
operations against both Africa and Italy. With the Italians and
Carthaginians subdued, the armaments of the entire Hellenic world outside
of the Peloponnesus, were to be turned against the Spartans, who with one
blow should be forever crushed, and Athens be left the arbiter of the
destinies of Hellas.
Alcibiades succeeded in persuading the Athenians to undertake at least the
first part of the colossal enterprise. An immense fleet was carefully
equipped and manned. [Footnote: It consisted of one hundred and thirty-
four costly triremes, bearing thirty-six thousand soldiers and sailors.
The commanders were Alcibiades, Nicias, and Lamachus. Later, Demosthenes
was sent out with a reinforcement consisting of seventy-three triremes and
five thousand soldiers.] Anxiously did those remaining behind watch the
squadron as it bore away from the port of Athens. Could the watchers have
foreseen the fate of the splendid armament, their anxiety would have
passed into despair. "Athens itself was sailing out of the Pir�us, never
again to return."
Scarcely had the expedition arrived at Sicily, before Alcibiades, who was
one of the leading generals in command of the armament, was summoned back
to Athens to answer a charge of impiety. [Footnote: Just upon the eve of
the departure of the expedition, the numerous statues of Hermes scattered
throughout the city were grossly mutilated. Alcibiades was accused of
having had a hand in the affair, and furthermore of having mimicked the
sacred rites of the Eleusinian mysteries.] Fearing to trust himself in the
hands of his enemies at Athens, he fled to Sparta, and there, by
traitorous counsel, did all in his power to ruin the very expedition he
had planned. He advised the Spartans to send at once their best general to
the Syracusans. They sent Gylippus, an able commander, whose generalship
contributed largely to the total and irretrievable defeat that the
Athenians finally suffered. Their fleet and army were both virtually
annihilated. Seven thousand prisoners were crowded into the open stone
quarries, where hundreds speedily died of exposure and starvation. Most of
the wretched survivors were sold as slaves. The disaster was appalling and
complete. The resources of Athens were wrecked.
THE DECELEAN WAR: THE FALL OF ATHENS--While the Athenians were before
Syracuse, the Spartans, acting upon the advice of Alcibiades, had taken
possession of and fortified a strong and commanding position known as
Decelea, in Attica, only twelve miles from Athens. This was a thorn in the
side of Athens. Secure in this stronghold, the Spartans could annoy and
keep in terror almost all the Attic plain. The occupation by the Spartans
of this strategic point had such a determining influence upon the
remainder of the Peloponnesian War, that this latter portion of it is
known as the Decelean War (413-404 B.C.).
Taking advantage of the terrible misfortunes of Athens, her subject-allies
now revolted and fell away from her on every side. The Persians, ever
ready to aid the Greeks in destroying one another, lent a willing ear to
the solicitations of the traitor Alcibiades, and gave help to the
The Athenians put forth almost superhuman efforts to retrieve their
fortunes. Had they been united among themselves, perhaps their efforts
might not have been in vain. But the oligarchical party, for the sake of
ruining the democracy were willing to ruin the empire. While the army was
absent from Athens, they overturned the government, and established a sort
of aristocratical rule (411 B.C.), under which affairs were in the hands
of a council of Four Hundred.
The Athenian troops, however, who were at Samos, would not recognize the
new government. They voted themselves to be the true Athens, and
forgetting and forgiving the past, recalled Alcibiades, and gave him
command of the army, thereby well illustrating what the poet Aristophanes
said respecting the disposition of the Athenians towards the spoiled
favorite,--"They love, they hate, but cannot live without him."
Alcibiades detached the Persians from the side of the Spartans, and gained
some splendid victories for Athens. But he could not undo the evil he had
done. He had ruined Athens beyond redemption by any human power.
Constantly the struggle grew more and more hopeless. Alcibiades was
defeated, and fearing to face the Athenians, who had deposed him from his
command, sought safety in flight.
Finally, at �gospotami, on the Hellespont, the Athenian fleet was
surprised and captured by the Spartans under Lysander (405 B.C.). The
prisoners, three thousand in number, were massacred, and the usual rites
of burial denied their bodies.
The battle of �gospotami sealed the fate of Athens. "That night," writes
the historian Xenophon, referring to the night upon which the news of the
woful disaster reached Athens, "That night no man slept."
The towns on the Thracian and Macedonian coasts, and the islands of the
�gean belonging to the Athenian Empire, now fell into the hands of the
Peloponnesians. Athens was besieged by sea and land, and soon forced to
surrender. Some of the allies insisted upon the total destruction of the
city, and the conversion of its site into pasture-land. The Spartans,
however, with apparent magnanimity, declared that they would never consent
thus "to put out one of the eyes of Greece."
The real motive, doubtless, of the Spartans in sparing the city was their
fear lest, with Athens blotted out, Thebes or Corinth should become too
powerful. So the city itself was spared, but the fortifications of Pir�us
and the Long Walls were levelled to the ground, the work of demolition
being begun to the accompaniment of festive music (404 B.C.).
Sparta's power was now supreme. She had neither peer nor rival among all
the Grecian states. Throughout the war she had maintained that her only
purpose in warring against Athens was to regain liberty for the Grecian
cities. We shall very soon see what sort of liberty it was that they
enjoyed under her guardianship.
RESULTS OF THE WAR.--"Never," says Thucydides, commenting upon the
lamentable results of the Peloponnesian War, "Never had so many cities
been made desolate by victories;... never were there so many instances of
banishment; never so many scenes of slaughter either in battle or
Athens was but the wreck of her former self. She had lost two hundred
ships and sixty thousand men, including the killed among her allies.
Things were just the reverse now of what they were at the time of the
Persian invasion. When, with all Athens in ruins, Themistocles at Salamis
was taunted by the Spartans with being a man without a city, he replied
grandly, "Athens is here in her ships." But now the real Athens was gone;
only the empty shell remained.
And all the rest of Hellas showed the marks of the cruel war. Spots where
once had stood large towns were now pasture-land. But more lamentable than
all else besides, was the effect of the war upon the intellectual and
moral life of the Greek race. The Grecian world had sunk many degrees in
morality; while the vigor and productiveness of the intellectual and
artistic life of Hellas, the centre and home of which had been Athens,
were impaired beyond recovery. The achievements of the Greek intellect,
especially in the fields of philosophic thought, in the century following
the war were, it is true, wonderful; but these triumphs merely show, we
may believe, what the Hellenic mind would have done for art and general
culture, had it been permitted, unchecked, and under the favoring and
inspiring conditions of liberty and self-government, to disclose all that
was latent in it.
2. THE SPARTAN AND THE THEBAN SUPREMACY.
SPARTAN SUPREMACY.--For just one generation following the Peloponnesian
War (404-371 B.C.), Sparta held the leadership of the Grecian states.
Aristocratical governments, with institutions similar to the Spartan, were
established in the different cities of the old Athenian Empire. At Athens,
the democratical constitution of Solon, under which the Athenians had
attained their greatness, was abolished, and an oppressive oligarchy
established in its stead. The Thirty Tyrants, however, who administered
this government, were, after eight months' infamous rule, driven from the
city, and the old democratic constitution, somewhat modified, was re-
established (403 B.C.).
It was during this period that Socrates, the greatest moralist and teacher
of antiquity that Europe had produced, was condemned to death, because his
teachings were thought contrary to the religion of the Athenians. To this
era also belongs the well-known expedition of the Ten Thousand Greeks.
EXPEDITION OF THE TEN THOUSAND (401-400 B.C.).--Cyrus, satrap of the
Persian province of Asia Minor, thinking that his brother Artaxerxes held
the throne unjustly, planned to wrest it from him. For carrying out this
purpose, he raised an army composed of a hundred thousand Barbarians and
about eleven thousand Greek mercenaries.
With this force Cyrus set out from Sardis, in the spring of 401 B.C. He
marched without opposition across Asia Minor and Mesopotamia to Babylonia,
into the very heart of the Persian empire. Here, at Cunaxa, he was
confronted by Artaxerxes with a force of more than half a million of men.
The Barbarian allies of Cyrus were scattered at the first onset of the
enemy; but the Greeks stood like a rampart of rock. Cyrus, however, was
slain; and the other Greek generals, having been persuaded to enter into a
council, were treacherously murdered by the Persians.
The Greeks, in a hurried night meeting, chose new generals to lead them
back to their homes. One of these was Xenophon, the popular historian of
the expedition. Now commenced one of the most memorable retreats in all
history. After a most harassing march over the hot plains of the Tigris
and the icy passes of Armenia, the survivors reached the Black Sea, the
abode of sister Greek colonies.
THEBAN SUPREMACY (371-362 B.C.).--Throughout all the period of her
supremacy, Sparta dealt selfishly and tyrannically with the other Grecian
states. But at last the fiery resentment kindled by her oppressive
measures inspired such a determined revolt against her as brought to an
end her assumed supremacy over her sister cities. It was a city in Boeotia
that led the uprising against Sparta. This was Thebes. The oligarchical
government which the Laced�monians had set up in that capital was
overthrown by Pelopidas at the head of the so-called Sacred Band, a
company of three hundred select men who were bound by oath to stand by
each other to the last. Pelopidas was seconded in all his efforts by
Epaminondas, one of the ablest generals the Grecian race ever produced.
Under the masterly guidance and inspiration of these patriot leaders,
Thebes very soon secured a predominating influence in the affairs of
It was Epaminondas who, when his enemies sought to disgrace and annoy him
by electing him "public scavenger," made, in accepting the office, the
memorable utterance, "If the office will not reflect honor upon me, I will
reflect honor upon it."
At Leuctra (371 B.C.) the Thebans earned the renown of being the most
invincible soldiers in the world by completely overthrowing, with a force
of six thousand men, the Spartan army of twice that number. This is said
to have been the first time that the Spartans were ever fairly defeated in
open battle. Their forces had been annihilated, as at Thermopyl�,--but
annihilation is not defeat.
From the victory of Leuctra dates the short but brilliant period of Theban
supremacy. The year after that battle Epaminondas led an army into the
Peloponnesus to aid the Arcadians, who had risen against Sparta. Laconia
was ravaged, and for the first time Spartan women saw the smoke of fires
kindled by an enemy.
To strengthen Arcadia's power of resistance to Sparta, Epaminondas
perfected a league among the hitherto isolated towns and cantons of the
district. As the mutual jealousies of the leading cities prevented him
from making any one of them the capital of the confederation, he founded
Megalopolis, or the Great City, and made it the head of the union. In the
pursuit of the same policy, Epaminondas also restored the independence of
But, moved by jealousy of the rapidly growing power of Thebes, Athens now
formed an alliance with her old rival Sparta against her. Three times more
did Epaminondas lead an army into the Peloponnesus. During his fourth and
last expedition he fought with the Spartans and Athenians the great battle
of Mantinea, in Arcadia. On this memorable field, Epaminondas led the
Thebans once more to victory; but he himself was slain, and with him fell
the hopes and power of Thebes (362 B.C.).
All the states of Greece now lay exhausted, worn out by their endless
domestic contentions and wars. There was scarcely sufficient strength left
to strike one worthy blow against enslavement by the master destined soon
to come from the North.
PERIOD OF MACEDONIAN SUPREMACY: EMPIRE OF ALEXANDER. (338-323 B.C.)
GENERAL STATEMENT.--Macedonia lay to the north of Greece proper. The
ruling class of the country was probably of Hellenic race; at all events
the Macedonian kings were allowed to take part in the Olympian games--a
privilege accorded to none but pure Hellenes. Their efforts to spread
Greek art and culture among their subjects, a race of rough but brave and
martial men, unaccustomed to city life, had been so far successful that
the country had, to a certain degree, become Hellenized.
So this period of Macedonian supremacy upon which we are entering belongs
to the history of the political life of the Greek race, as well as the
eras marked by Athenian, Spartan, or Theban leadership. It was Hellenic
institutions, customs, and manners, Hellenic language and civilization,
that the Macedonians, in the extended conquests which we are about to
narrate, spread over the world. [Footnote: Of course it was rather the
outer forms than the real inner life and spirit of the old Greek
civilization which were adopted by the non-Hellenic peoples of Egypt and
Western Asia. Hence the resulting culture is given a special name,
_Hellenism_, which, in Professor Jebbs' language, means,--"not '_being_
Hellenes,' or Greeks, but--'doing _like_ Hellenes'; and as the adjective
answering to _Hellas_ is _Hellenic_, so the adjective answering to
_Hellenism_ is _Hellenistic_."] It is this which makes the short-lived
Macedonian empire so important in universal history.
PHILIP OF MACEDON.--Macedonia first rose to importance during the reign of
Philip II. (359-336 B.C.), better known as Philip of Macedon. He was a man
of pre-eminent ability, of wonderful address in diplomacy, and possessed
rare genius as an organizer and military chieftain. The art of war he had
learned in youth as a hostage-pupil of Epaminondas of Thebes. He was the
originator of the "Macedonian phalanx" a body as renowned in the military
history of Macedonia as is the "legion" in that of Rome.
With his kingdom settled and consolidated at home, Philip's ambition led
him to seek the leadership of the Grecian states. He sought to gain his
purpose rather by artful diplomacy and intrigue than by open force. In the
use of these weapons he might have been the teacher of the Athenian
THE SECOND SACRED WAR (355-346 B.C.).--Philip quickly extended his power
over a large part of Thrace and the Greek cities of Chalcidice. Meanwhile
he was, in the following way, acquiring a commanding position in the
affairs of the states of Greece proper.
The Phocians had put to secular use some of the lands which, at the end of
the First Sacred War (see p. 108), had been consecrated to the Delphian
Apollo. Taken to task and heavily fined for this act by the other members
of the Delphian Amphictyony, the Phocians deliberately robbed the temple,
and used the treasure in the maintenance of a large force of mercenary
soldiers. The Amphictyons not being able to punish the Phocians for their
impiety, were forced to ask help of Philip, who gladly rendered the
The Phocians were now quickly subdued, their cities were destroyed, and
the inhabitants scattered in villages and forced to pay tribute to the
Delphian Apollo. The place that the Phocians had held in the Delphian
Amphictyony was given to Philip, upon whom was also bestowed the privilege
of presiding at the Pythian games. The position he had now secured was
just what Philip had coveted, in order that he might use it to make
himself master of all Greece.
BATTLE OF CH�RONEA (338 B.C.).--Demosthenes at Athens was one of the few
who seemed to understand the real designs of Philip. His penetration, like
that of Pericles, descried a cloud lowering over Greece--this time from
the North. With all the energy of his wonderful eloquence, he strove to
stir up the Athenians to resist the encroachments of the king of Macedon.
He hurled against him his famous "Philippics," speeches so filled with
fierce denunciation that they have given name to all writings
characterized by bitter criticism or violent invective.
At length the Athenians and Thebans, aroused by the oratory of Demosthenes
and by some fresh encroachments of the Macedonians, united their forces,
and met Philip upon the memorable field of Ch�ronea in Boeotia. The
Macedonian phalanx swept everything before it. The Theban band was
annihilated. The power and authority of Philip were now extended and
acknowledged throughout Greece (338 B.C.).
PLAN TO INVADE ASIA.--While the Greek states were divided among
themselves, they were united in an undying hatred of the Persians. They
were at this time meditating an enterprise fraught with the greatest
importance to the history of the world. This was a joint expedition
against Persia. The march of the Ten Thousand Greeks through the very
heart of the dominions of the Great King had encouraged this national
undertaking, and illustrated the feasibility of the conquest of Asia. At a
great council of the Grecian cities held at Corinth, Philip was chosen
leader of this expedition. All Greece was astir with preparation. In the
midst of all, Philip was assassinated during the festivities attending the
marriage of his daughter, and his son Alexander succeeded to his place and
power (336 B.C.).
ACCESSION OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.--Alexander was only twenty years of age
when he came to his father's throne. The spirit of the man is shown in the
complaint of the boy when news of his father's victories came to him:
"Friends," said he to his playmates, "my father will possess himself of
everything and leave nothing for us to do."
For about two years Alexander was busy suppressing revolts against his
power among the different cities of Hellas, and chastising hostile tribes
on the northern frontiers of Macedonia. Thebes having risen against him,
he razed the city to the ground,--sparing, however, the house of the poet
Pindar,--and sold thirty thousand of the inhabitants into slavery. Thus
was one of the most renowned of the cities of Greece blotted out of
ALEXANDER CROSSES THE HELLESPONT (334 B.C.).--Alexander was now free to
carry out his father's scheme in regard to the Asiatic expedition. In the
spring of 334 B.C., he set out, at the head of an army numbering about
thirty-five thousand men, for the conquest of the Persian empire. Now
commenced one of the most remarkable and swiftly executed campaigns
recorded in history.
[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF ISSUS. (From a Mosaic found at Pompeii.)]
Crossing the Hellespont, Alexander routed the Persians at the important
battle of the Granicus, by which victory all Asia Minor was laid open to
THE BATTLE OF ISSUS (333 B.C.).--At the northeast corner of the
Mediterranean lies the plain of Issus. Here Alexander again defeated the
Persian army, numbering six hundred thousand men. The family of Darius,
including his mother, wife, and children, fell into the hands of
Alexander; but the king himself escaped from the field, and hastened to
his capital, Susa, to raise another army to oppose the march of the
SIEGE OF TYRE (332 B.C.).--Before penetrating to the heart of the empire,
Alexander turned to the south, in order to effect the subjugation of
Phoenicia, that he might command the Phoenician fleets and prevent their
being used to sever his communication with Greece. The island-city of
Tyre, after a memorable siege, was taken by means of a mole, or causeway,
built with incredible labor through the sea to the city. Eight thousand of
the inhabitants were slain, and thirty thousand sold into slavery--a
terrible warning to those cities that should dare to close their gates
against the Macedonian.
ALEXANDER IN EGYPT.--With the cities of Phoenicia and the fleets of the
Mediterranean subject to his control, Alexander easily effected the
conquest of Egypt. The Egyptians, indeed, made no resistance to the
Macedonians, but willingly exchanged masters.
While in the country, Alexander founded, at one of the mouths of the Nile,
a city called, after himself, Alexandria. The city became the meeting-
place of the East and West; and its importance through many centuries
attests the far-sighted wisdom of its founder.
A less worthy enterprise of the conqueror was his expedition to the oasis
of Siwah, located in the Libyan desert, where were a celebrated temple and
oracle of Zeus Ammon. To gratify his own vanity, as well as to impress the
superstitious barbarians, Alexander desired to be declared of celestial
descent. The priests of the temple, in accordance with the wish of the
king, gave out that the oracle pronounced Alexander to be the son of Zeus
Ammon, and the destined ruler of the world.
THE BATTLE OF ARBELA (331 B.C.).--From Egypt Alexander recommenced his
march towards the Persian capital. He had received offers of peace from
Darius, but to these he is said to have replied, "There cannot be two suns
in the heavens." Pushing on, he crossed the Euphrates and the Tigris
without opposition; but upon the plain of Arbela, not far from ancient
Nineveh, he found his further advance disputed by Darius with an immense
army. Again the Macedonian phalanx "cut through the ranks of the Persians
as a boat cuts through the waves." The fate of Darius has been already
narrated in our story of the last of the Persian kings (see p. 82).
The battle of Arbela was one of the decisive combats of history. It marked
the end of the long struggle between the East and the West, between Persia
and Greece, and prepared the way for the spread of Hellenic civilization
over all Western Asia.
ALEXANDER AT BABYLON, SUSA, AND PERSEPOLIS.--From the field of Arbela
Alexander marched south to Babylon, which opened its gates to him without
opposition. Susa was next entered by the conqueror. Here he seized
incredible quantities of gold and silver ($57,000,000, it is said), the
treasure of the Great King.
From Susa Alexander's march was next directed to Persepolis, where he
secured a treasure more than twice as great ($138,000,000) as that found
at Susa. Upon Persepolis Alexander wreaked vengeance, for all Greece had
suffered at the hands of the Persians. Many of the inhabitants were
massacred, and others sold into slavery; while the palaces of the Persian
kings were given to the flames.
Alexander, having thus overthrown the power of Darius, now began to regard
himself, not only as his conqueror, but as his successor, and was thus
looked upon by the Persians, He assumed the pomp and state of an Oriental
monarch, and required the most obsequious homage from all who approached
him. His Greek and Macedonian companions, unused to paying such servile
adulation to their king, were much displeased at Alexander's conduct, and
from this time on to his death, intrigues and conspiracies were being
constantly formed among them against his power and life.
CONQUEST OF BACTRIA.--Urged on by an uncontrollable desire to possess
himself of the most remote countries of which any accounts had ever
reached him, Alexander now led his army to the north, and, after subduing
many tribes that dwelt about the Caspian Sea, boldly conducted his
soldiers over the snowy passes of the Hindu Kush, and descended into the
fair provinces of Bactria.
During the years 329-328 B.C. Alexander conquered not only Bactria but
Sogdiana, a country lying north of the Oxus. Among his captives here was a
beautiful Bactrian princess, Roxana by name, who became his bride.
Alexander's stay in Sogdiana was saddened by his murder of his dearest
friend Clitus, who had saved his life at the Granicus. Both were flushed
with wine when the quarrel arose; after the deed, Alexander was
overwhelmed with remorse.
CONQUESTS IN INDIA.--With the countries north of the Hindu Kush subdued
and settled, Alexander recrossed the mountains, and led his army down upon
the rich and crowded plains of India (327 B.C.). Here again he showed
himself invincible, and received the submission of many of the native
The most formidable resistance encountered by the Macedonians was offered
by a strong and wealthy king named Porus. Captured at last and brought
into the presence of Alexander, his proud answer to the conqueror's
question as to how he thought he ought to be treated was, "Like a king."
The impulsive Alexander gave him back his kingdom, to be held, however,
subject to the Macedonian crown.
Alexander's desire was to extend his conquests to the Ganges, but his
soldiers began to murmur because of the length and hardness of their
campaigns, and he reluctantly gave up the undertaking. To secure the
conquests already made, he founded, at different points in the valley of
the Indus, Greek towns and colonies. One of these he named Alexandria,
after himself; another Bucephala, in memory of his favorite steed; and
still another Nic�a, for his victories. The modern museum at Lahore
contains many relics of Greek art, dug up on the site of these Macedonian
cities and camps.
Alexander's return route lay through the ancient Gedrosia, now
Beluchistan, a region frightful with burning deserts, amidst which his
soldiers endured almost incredible privations and sufferings. After a
trying and calamitous march of over two months, Alexander, with the
survivors of his army, reached Carmania. Here, to his unbounded joy, he
was joined by Nearchus, the trusted admiral of his fleet, whom he had
ordered to explore the sea between the Indus and the Euphrates.
To appropriately celebrate his conquests and discoveries, Alexander
instituted a series of religious festivals, amidst which his soldiers
forgot the dangers of their numberless battles and the hardships of their
unparalleled marches, which had put to the test every power of human
endurance. And well might these veterans glory in their achievements. In a
few years they had conquered half the world, and changed the whole course
PLANS AND DEATH OF ALEXANDER.--As the capital of his vast empire, which
now stretched from the Ionian Sea to the Indus, Alexander chose the
ancient Babylon, upon the Euphrates. His designs were to push his
conquests as far to the west as he had extended them to the east. Arabia,
Carthage, Italy, and Spain were to be added to his already vast domains.
Indeed, the plans of Alexander embraced nothing less than the union and
Hellenizing of the world. Not only were the peoples of Asia and Europe to
be blended by means of colonies, but even the floras of the two continents
were to be intermingled by the transplanting of fruits and trees from one
continent to the other. Common laws and customs, a common language and a
common religion, were to unite the world into one great family.
Intermarriages were to blend the races. Alexander himself married a
daughter of Darius III., and also one of Artaxerxes Ochus; and to ten
thousand of his soldiers, whom he encouraged to take Asiatic wives, he
gave magnificent gifts.
In the midst of his vast projects, Alexander was seized by a fever,
brought on by his insane excesses, and died at Babylon, 323 B.C., in the
thirty-second year of his age. His soldiers could not let him die without
seeing him. The watchers of the palace were obliged to open the doors to
them, and the veterans of a hundred battle-fields filed sorrowfully past
the couch of their dying commander. His body was carried to Alexandria, in
Egypt, and there enclosed in a golden coffin, and a splendid mausoleum was
raised over it. His ambition for celestial honors was gratified in his
death; for in Egypt and elsewhere temples were dedicated to him, and
divine worship was paid to his statues.
We cannot deny to Alexander, in addition to a remarkable genius for
military affairs, a profound and comprehensive intellect. He had fine
tastes, and liberally encouraged art, science, and literature. The artists
of his times had in him a munificent patron; and to his preceptor
Aristotle he sent large collections of natural-history objects, gathered
in his extended expeditions. He had a kind and generous nature: he avenged
the murder of his enemy Darius; and he repented in bitter tears over the
body of his faithful Clitus. He exposed himself like the commonest
soldier, sharing with his men the hardships of the march and the dangers
of the battle-field.
But he was self-seeking, foolishly vain, and madly ambitious of military
glory. He plunged into shameful excesses, and gave way to bursts of
passion that transformed a usually mild and generous disposition into the
fury of a madman. The contradictions of his life cannot, perhaps, be
better expressed than in the words once applied to the gifted
Themistocles: "He was greater in genius than in character."
RESULTS OF ALEXANDER'S CONQUESTS.--The remarkable conquests of Alexander
had far-reaching consequences. They ended the long struggle between Persia
and Greece, and spread Hellenic civilization over Egypt and Western Asia.
The distinction between Greek and Barbarian was obliterated, and the
sympathies of men, hitherto so narrow and local, were widened, and thus an
important preparation was made for the reception of the cosmopolitan creed
of Christianity. The world was also given a universal language of culture,
which was a further preparation for the spread of Christian teachings.
But the evil effects of the conquest were also positive and far-reaching.
The sudden acquisition by the Greeks of the enormous wealth of the Persian
empire, and contact with the vices and the effeminate luxury of the
Oriental nations, had a most demoralizing effect upon Hellenic life.
Greece became corrupt, and she in turn corrupted Rome. Thus the
civilization of antiquity was undermined.
CHRONOLOGICAL SUMMARY OF GRECIAN HISTORY TO THE DEATH OF
ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
The Trojan War, legendary date 1194-1184
The Dorians enter the Peloponnesus, about 1104
Early History of Sparta
Lycurgus gives laws to Sparta, about 850
The Messenian Wars, about 750-650
Early History of Athens
Rule of the Archons 1050-612
Rebellion of Cylon 612
Legislation of Solon 594
Pisistratus rules 560-527
Expulsion of the Pisistratid� 510
Period of Gr�co-Persian War
First Expedition of Darius (led by Mardonius) 492
Battle of Marathon 490
Battle of Thermopyl� 480
Battle of Salamis 480
Battles of Plat�a and Mycale 479
Period of Athenian Supremacy
Athens rebuilt 478
Aristides chosen first president of the
Confederacy of Delos 477
Themistocles sent into exile 471
Ostracism of Cimon 459
Pericles at the head of affairs--
Periclean Age 459-431
Events of the Peloponnesian War
Beginning of the Peloponnesian War 431
Pestilence at Athens 430
Expedition against Syracuse 415
Battle of �gospotami 405
Close of the War 404
Period of Spartan Supremacy
Rule of the Thirty Tyrants at Athens 404-403
Expedition of the Ten Thousand 401-400
Peace of Antalcidas 387
Oligarchy established at Thebes 382
Spartan power broken on the field of Leuctra 371
Period of Theban Supremacy
Battle of Leuctra, which secures the
supremacy of Thebes 371
Battle of Mantinea and death of Epaminondas 362
Period of Macedonian Supremacy
Battle of Ch�ronea 338
Death of Philip of Macedon 336
Alexander crosses the Hellespont 334
Battle of Issus 333
Battle of Arbela 331
Death of Alexander at Babylon 323
STATES FORMED FROM THE EMPIRE OF ALEXANDER.
DIVISION OF THE EMPIRE OF ALEXANDER.--There was no one who could wield the
sword that fell from the hand of Alexander. It is told that, when dying,
being asked to whom the kingdom should belong, he replied, "To the
strongest," and handed his signet ring to his general Perdiccas. But
Perdiccas was not strong enough to master the difficulties of the
situation. [Footnote: Perdiccas ruled as regent for Philip Arrid�us (an
illegitimate brother of Alexander), who was proclaimed titular king.]
Indeed, who is strong enough to rule the world?
Consequently the vast empire created by Alexander's unparalleled conquests
was distracted by quarrels and wars, and before the close of the fourth
century B.C., had become broken into many fragments. Besides minor states,
[Footnote: Two of these lesser states, Rhodes and Pontus, deserve special
RHODES.--Rhodes became the head of a maritime confederation of the cities
and islands along the coasts of Asia Minor, and thus laid the basis of a
remarkable commercial prosperity and naval power.
PONTUS.--Pontus (Greek for _sea_), a state of Asia Minor, was so called
from its position upon the Euxine. It was never thoroughly conquered by
the Macedonians. It has a place in history mainly because of the lustre
shed upon it by the transcendent ability of one of its kings, Mithridates
the Great (120-63 B.C.), who for a long time made successful resistance to
the Roman arms.] four well-defined and important monarchies arose out of
the ruins. After the rearrangement of boundaries that followed the
decisive battle of Ipsus (fought in Phrygia 301 B.C.), these principal
states had the outlines shown by the accompanying map. Their rulers were
Lysimachus, Seleucus Nicator, Ptolemy, and Cassander, who had each assumed
the title of king. The great horn being broken, in its place came up four
notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. [Footnote: Dan. viii. 8.]
Lysimachus held Thrace and the western part of Asia Minor; Seleucus
Nicator, Syria and the countries eastward to the Indus; Ptolemy ruled
Egypt; and Cassander governed Macedonia, and claimed authority over
Greece. [Footnote: Cassander never secured complete control of Greece,
hence this country is not included in his domains as these appear upon the
After barely mentioning the fate of the kingdom of Lysimachus, we will
trace very briefly the fortunes of the other three monarchies until they
were overthrown, one after the other, by the now rapidly rising power of
THRACE, OR THE KINGDOM OF LYSIMACHUS.--The kingdom of Lysimachus soon
disappeared. He was defeated by Seleucus in the year 281 B.C., and his
dominions were divided. The lands in Asia Minor were joined to the Syrian
kingdom, while Thrace was absorbed by Macedonia.
SYRIA, OR THE KINGDOM OF THE SELEUCID� (312-63 B.C.).--This kingdom,
during the two centuries and more of its existence, played an important
part in the political history of the world. Under its first king it
comprised nominally almost all the countries of Asia conquered by
Alexander, thus stretching from the Hellespont to the Indus. Its rulers
were called Seleucid�, from the founder of the kingdom, Seleucus Nicator.
Seleucus Nicator (312-280 B.C.), besides being a ruler of unusual ability,
was a most liberal patron of learning and art. He is declared to have been
"the greatest founder of cities that ever lived." Throughout his dominions
he founded a vast number, some of which endured for many centuries.
Antioch, on the Orontes, in Northern Syria, became, after Seleucia on the
Tigris, the capital of the kingdom, and obtained an influence and renown
as a centre of population and trade which have given its name a sure place
The successors of Seleucus Nicator led the kingdom through checkered
fortunes. On different sides provinces fell away and became independent
states. [Footnote: The most important of these were the following:--1.
PERGAMUS.--This was a state in western Asia Minor, which became
independent upon the death of Seleucus Nicator (280 B.C.). Favored by the
Romans, it gradually grew into a powerful kingdom, which at one time
embraced a considerable part of Asia Minor. Its capital, also called
Pergamus, became a most noted centre of Greek learning and civilization.
2. PARTHIA.--Parthia was a powerful Turanian state that grew up east of
the Euphrates River (from about 255 B.C. to 226 A.D.). Its kings were at
first formidable enemies of the rulers of Syria, and later of the Romans,
whom they never allowed to make any considerable conquest beyond the
Euphrates.] Antiochus III. (223-187 B.C.), called "the Great," raised the
kingdom for a short time into great prominence; but attempting to make
conquests in Europe, and further, giving asylum to the Carthaginian
general Hannibal, he incurred the fatal hostility of Rome. Quickly driven
by the Roman legions across the Hellespont, he was hopelessly defeated at
the battle of Magnesia (190 B.C.). After this, the Syrian kingdom was of
very little importance in the world's affairs. At last, brought again into
collision with Rome, the country was overrun by Pompey the Great, and
became a part of the Roman Republic, 63 B.C.
[Illustration: COIN OF ANTIOCHUS III. (THE GREAT).]
[Illustration: PTOLEMY SOTER.]
KINGDOM OF THE PTOLEMIES IN EGYPT (323-30 B.C.).--The Gr�co-Egyptian
empire of the Ptolemies was by far the most important, in its influence
upon the civilization of the world, of all the kingdoms that owed their
origin to the conquests of Alexander. The founder of the house and dynasty
was Ptolemy I., surnamed Soter (323-283 B.C.), one of Alexander's ablest
generals. His descendants ruled in Egypt for nearly three centuries, a
most important period in the intellectual life of the world. Under Ptolemy
I., Alexandria became the great depot of exchange for the productions of
the world. At the entrance of the harbor stood the Pharos, or light-
house,--the first structure of its kind,--which Ptolemy built to guide the
fleets of the world to his capital. This edifice was reckoned one of the
But it was not alone the exchange of material products that was
comprehended in Ptolemy's scheme. His aim was to make his capital the
intellectual centre of the world--the place where the arts, sciences,
literatures, and even the religions, of the world should meet and mingle.
He founded the famous Museum, a sort of college, which became the
"University of the East," and established the renowned Alexandrian
Library. Poets, artists, philosophers, and teachers in all departments of
learning were encouraged to settle in Alexandria by the conferring of
immunities and privileges, and by gifts and munificent patronage. His
court embraced the learning and genius of the age.
Ptolemy II., Philadelphus (283-247 B.C.), followed closely in the
footsteps of his father, carrying out, as far as possible, the plans and
policies of the preceding reign. Under his successor, Ptolemy III.,
Euergetes (247-242 B.C.), the dominions of the Ptolemies touched their
widest limits; while the capital Alexandria reached the culminating point
in her fame as the centre of Hellenistic civilization.
Altogether the Ptolemies reigned in Egypt almost exactly three centuries
(323-30 B.C.). Those rulers who held the throne for the last two hundred
years were, with few exceptions, a succession of monsters, such as even
Rome in her worst days could scarcely equal. The usage of intermarriage
among the members of the royal family,--a usage in which the Ptolemies
followed what was a custom of the ancient Pharaohs,--led to endless family
quarrels, which resulted in fratricide, matricide, and all the dark deeds
included in the calendar of royal crime. The story of the renowned
Cleopatra, the last of the house of the Ptolemies, will be told in
connection with Roman history, to which it properly belongs.
MACEDONIA AND GREECE.--From the time of the subjection of Greece by Philip
and Alexander to the absorption of Macedonia into the growing dominions of
Rome, the Greek cities of the peninsula were very much under the control
or influence of the Macedonian kings. But the Greeks were never made for
royal subjects, and consequently they were in a state of chronic revolt
against this foreign authority.