Part 4 out of 13
Thus, no sooner had they heard of the death of Alexander than several of
the Grecian states rose against the Macedonian general Antipater, and
carried on with him what is known as the Lamian War (323-321 B.C.). The
struggle ended disastrously for the Greeks, and Demosthenes, who had been
the soul of the movement, was forced to flee from Athens. He took refuge
upon an island just off the coast of the Peloponnesus; but being still
hunted by Antipater, he put an end to his own life by means of poison.
[Illustration: THE DYING GAUL.]
The next matter of moment in the history of Macedonia, was an invasion of
the Gauls (279 B.C.), kinsmen of the Celtic tribes that about a century
before this time had sacked the city of Rome. These savage marauders
inflicted terrible suffering upon both Macedonia and Greece. But they were
at last expelled from Europe, and settling in Asia Minor, they there gave
name to the province of Galatia. The celebrated Greek sculpture, The Dying
Gaul, popularly but erroneously called The Dying Gladiator, is a most
interesting memorial of this episode in Greek history.
Macedonia finally came in contact with a new enemy--the great military
republic of the West. For lending aid to Carthage in the Second Punic War,
she incurred the anger of Rome, and the result was that, after much
intrigue and hard fighting, the country was brought into subjection to the
Italian power. In the year 146 B.C. it was erected into a Roman province.
The political affairs of Greece proper during the period we are
considering were chiefly comprehended in the fortunes of two
confederacies, or leagues, one of which was called the Ach�an, and the
other the �tolian League. United, these two confederacies might have
maintained the political independence of Greece; but that spirit of
dissension which we have seen to be the bane of the Hellenic peoples
caused them to become, in the hands of intriguing Rome, weapons first for
crushing Macedonia, and then for grinding each other to pieces. Finally,
in the year 146 B.C., the splendid city of Corinth was taken by the Roman
army and laid in ashes. This was the last act in the long and varied drama
of the political life of ancient Greece. Henceforth it constituted simply
a portion of the Roman Empire.
CONCLUSION.--We have now traced the political fortunes of the Hellenic
race through about seven centuries of authentic history. In succeeding
chapters it will be our pleasanter task to trace the more brilliant and
worthy fortunes of the artistic and intellectual life of Hellas,--to
portray, though necessarily in scanty outline, the achievements of that
wonderful genius which enabled her, "captured, to lead captive her
GREEK ARCHITECTURE, SCULPTURE, AND PAINTING.
THE GREEK SENSE OF BEAUTY.--The Greeks were artists by nature. "Ugliness
gave them pain like a blow." Everything they made was beautiful. Beauty
they placed next to holiness; indeed, they almost or quite made beauty and
right the same thing. They are said to have thought it strange that
Socrates was good, seeing he was so unprepossessing in appearance.
[Illustration: PELASGIAN MASONRY.]
PELASGIAN ARCHITECTURE.--The term Pelasgian is applied to various
structures of massive masonry found in different parts of Greece, Italy,
and Asia Minor. The origin of these works was a mystery to the earliest
Hellenes, who ascribed them to a race of giants called Cyclops; hence the
name Cyclopean that also attaches to them.
These works exhibit three well-defined stages of development. In the
earliest and rudest structures the stones are gigantic in size and
untouched by the chisel; in the next oldest the stones are worked into
irregular polygonal blocks; while in the latest the blocks are cut into
rectangular shapes and laid in regular courses. The walls of the old
citadels or castles of several Grecian cities exhibit specimens of this
primitive architecture (see p. 90).
ORDERS OF ARCHITECTURE.--There are three styles, or orders, of Grecian
architecture--the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian. They are
distinguished from one another chiefly by differences in the proportions
and ornamentation of the column.
[Illustration: DORIC CAPITAL.]
[Illustration: IONIC CAPITAL.]
The Doric column is without a base, and has a simple and massive capital.
At first the Doric temples of the Greeks were almost as massive as the
Egyptian temples, but later they became more refined.
The Ionic column is characterized by the spiral volutes of the capital.
This form was borrowed from the Assyrians, and was principally employed by
the Greeks of Ionia, whence its name.
The Corinthian order is distinguished by its rich capital, formed of
acanthus leaves. This type is made up of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Grecian
elements. The addition of the acanthus leaves is said to have been
suggested to the artist Callimachus by the pretty effect of a basket
surrounded by the leaves of an acanthus plant, upon which it had
The entire structure was made to harmonize with its supporting columns.
The general characteristics of the several orders are well portrayed by
the terms we use when we speak of the "stern" Doric, the "graceful" Ionic,
and the "ornate" Corinthian.
[Illustration: CORINTHIAN CAPITAL.]
TEMPLE OF DIANA AT EPHESUS.--The temple of Diana at Ephesus was regarded
as one of the wonders of the world. The original structure was commenced
about the beginning of the sixth century B.C., and, according to Pliny,
was one hundred and twenty years in process of building. Croesus gave
liberally of his wealth to ornament the shrine.
In the year 356 B.C., on the same night, it is said, that Alexander was
born, an ambitious youth, named Herostratus, fired the building, simply to
immortalize his name. Alexander offered to rebuild the temple, provided
that he be allowed to inscribe his name upon it. The Ephesians gracefully
declined the proposal by replying that it was not right for one deity to
erect a temple to another. Alexander was obliged to content himself with
placing within the shrine his own portrait by Apelles--a piece of work
which cost $30,000. The value of the gifts to the temple was beyond all
calculation: kings and states vied with one another in splendid donations.
Painters and sculptors were eager to have their masterpieces assigned a
place within its walls, so that it became a great national gallery of
paintings and statuary.
So inviolable was the sanctity of the temple that at all times, and
especially in times of tumult and danger, property and treasures were
carried to it as a safe repository. [Footnote: The Grecian temples were,
in a certain sense, banks of deposit. They contained special chambers or
vaults for the safe-keeping of valuables. The heaps of gold and silver
relics discovered by Di Cesnola at Sunium, in the island of Cyprus, were
found in the secret subterranean vaults of a great temple. The priests
often loaned out on interest the money deposited with them, the revenue
from this source being added to that from the leased lands of the temple
and from the tithes of war booty, to meet the expenses of the services of
the shrine. Usually the temple property in Greece was managed solely by
the priests; but the treasure of the Parthenon at Athens formed an
exception to this rule. The treasure here belonged to the state, and was
controlled and disposed of by the vote of the people. Even the personal
property of the goddess, the gold drapery of the statue (see p. 185),
which was worth about $600,000, could be used in case of great need, but
it must be replaced in due time, with a fair interest.] But the riches of
the sanctuary proved too great a temptation to the Roman emperor Nero. He
risked incurring the anger of the great Diana, and robbed the temple of
many statues and a vast amount of gold. Later (in 262 A.D.), the barbarian
Goths enriched themselves with the spoils of the shrine, and left it a
THE DELPHIAN TEMPLE.--The first temple erected at Delphi over the spot
whence issued the mysterious vapors (see p. 105) was a rude wooden
structure. In the year 548 B.C., the temple then standing was destroyed by
fire. All the cities and states of Hellas contributed to its rebuilding.
Even the king of Egypt, Amasis, sent a munificent gift. More than half a
million of dollars was collected; for the temple was to exceed in
magnificence anything the world had yet seen. It will be recalled that the
Athenian Alcm�onid� were the contractors who undertook the rebuilding of
the shrine (see p. 122).
The temple was crowded with the spoils of many battle-fields, with the
rich gifts of kings, and with rare works of art. Like the temple at
Ephesus, the Delphian shrine, after remaining for many years secure,
through the awe and reverence which its oracle inspired, suffered frequent
spoliation. The greed of conquerors overcame all religious scruples. The
Phocians robbed the temple of a treasure equivalent, it is estimated, to
more than $10,000,000 with us (see p. 160); and Nero plundered it of five
hundred bronze images. But Constantine (emperor of Rome 306-337 A.D., and
founder of Constantinople) was the Nebuchadnezzar who bore off the sacred
vessels and many statues as trophies to his new capital then rising on the
THE ATHENIAN ACROPOLIS AND THE PARTHENON.--In the history of art there is
no other spot in the world possessed of such interest as the flat-topped
rock, already described, which constituted the Athenian Acropolis. We
have seen that in early times the eminence was used as a stronghold. But
by the fifth century B.C. the city had slipped down upon the plain, and
the summit of the rock was consecrated to the temples and the worship of
the deities, and came to be called "the city of the gods." During the
period of Athenian supremacy, especially in the Periclean Age, Hellenic
genius and piety adorned this spot with temples and statues that all the
world has pronounced to be faultless specimens of beauty and taste.
[Illustration: ATHENIAN YOUTH IN PROCESSION. (From the Frieze of the
The most celebrated of the buildings upon the Acropolis was the Parthenon,
the "Residence of the virgin-goddess Athena." This is considered the
finest specimen of Greek architecture. It was designed by the architect
Ictinus, but the sculptures that adorned it were the work of the
celebrated Phidias. [Footnote: The subject of the wonderful frieze running
round the temple was the procession which formed the most important
feature of the Athenian festival known as the Great Panathen�a, which was
celebrated every four years in honor of the patron-goddess of Athens. The
larger part of the frieze is now in the British Museum, the Parthenon
having been despoiled of its coronal of sculptures by Lord Elgin. Read
Lord Byron's _The Curse of Minerva_. To the poet, Lord Elgin's act
appeared worse than vandalism.] It was built in the Doric order, of marble
from the neighboring Pentelicus. After standing for more than two thousand
years, and having served successively as a Pagan temple, a Christian
church, and a Mohammedan mosque, it finally was made to serve as a Turkish
powder-magazine, in a war with the Venetians, in 1687. During the progress
of this contest a bomb fired the magazine, and more than half of this
masterpiece of ancient art was shivered into fragments. The front is
nearly perfect, and is the most prominent feature of the Acropolis at the
[Illustration: RESTORATION OF THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS.]
THE MAUSOLEUM AT HALICARNASSUS.--This structure was another of the Seven
Wonders of the World. It was a monumental tomb designed to preserve the
memory of Mausolus, king of Caria, who died 353 B.C. Its erection was
prompted by the love and grief of his wife Artemisia. The combined genius
of the most noted artists of the age executed the wish of the queen. It is
the traditions of this beautiful structure that have given the world a
name for all magnificent monuments raised to perpetuate the memory of the
THEATRES.--The most noted of Greek theatres was the Theatre of Dionysus at
Athens, which was the model of all the others. It was semi-circular in
form, and was partly cut in the rock on the southeastern slope of the
Acropolis, the Greeks in the construction of their theatres generally
taking advantage of a hillside. There were about one hundred rows of
seats, the lowest one, bordering the orchestra, consisting of sixty-seven
marble arm-chairs. The structure would hold thirty thousand spectators.
[Illustration: THE THEATRE OF DIONYSUS AT ATHENS. (Restored by G.
2. SCULPTURE AND PAINTING.
PROGRESS IN SCULPTURE: INFLUENCE OF THE GYMNASTIC ART.--Wood was the
material first employed by the Greek artists. About the eighth century
B.C. bronze and marble were generally substituted for the less durable
material. With this change sculpture began to make rapid progress.
[Illustration: PITCHING THE DISCUS, OR QUOIT (Discobolus.)]
But what exerted the most positive influence upon Greek sculpture was the
gymnastic art. The exercises of the gymnasium and the contests of the
sacred games afforded the artist unrivalled opportunities for the study of
the human form. "The whole race," as Symonds says, "lived out its
sculpture and its painting, rehearsed, as it were, the great works of
Phidias and Polygnotus, in physical exercises, before it learned to
express itself in marble or in color."
As the sacred buildings increased in number and costliness, the services
of the artist were called into requisition for their adornment. At first
the temple held only the statue of the god; but after a time it became, as
we have already seen, a sort of national museum. The entablature, the
pediments, and every niche of the interior of the shrine, as well as the
surrounding grounds and groves, were peopled with statues and groups of
figures, executed by the most renowned artists, and representing the
national deities, the legendary heroes, victors at the public games, or
incidents in the life of the state in which piety saw the special
interposition of the god in whose honor the shrine had been reared.
PHIDIAS.--Among all the great sculptors of antiquity, Phidias stands pre-
eminent. He was an Athenian, and was born about 488 B.C. He delighted in
the beautiful myths and legends of the Heroic Age, and from these he drew
subjects for his art. It was his genius that created the wonderful figures
of the pediments and the frieze of the Parthenon.
[Illustration: ATHENA PARTHENOS. After a statue found at Athens in 1880,
which is supposed to be a copy of the colossal statue of Athena by
Phidias, described in the text.]
The most celebrated of his colossal sculptures were the statue of Athena
within the Parthenon, and that of Olympian Zeus in the temple at Olympia.
The statue of Athena was of gigantic size, being about forty feet in
height, and was constructed of ivory and gold, the hair, weapons, and
drapery being of the latter material.
The statue of Olympian Zeus was also of ivory and gold. It was sixty feet
high, and represented the god seated on his throne. The hair, beard, and
drapery were of gold. The eyes were brilliant stones. Gems of great value
decked the throne, and figures of exquisite design were sculptured on the
golden robe. The colossal proportions of this wonderful work, as well as
the lofty yet benign aspect of the countenance, harmonized well with the
popular conception of the majesty and grace of the "father of gods and
men." It was thought a great misfortune to die without having seen the
Olympian Zeus. [Footnote: Phidias avowed that he took his idea from the
representation which Homer gives in the first book of the _Iliad_ in
the passage thus translated by Pope:--
"He spake, and awful bends his sable brow,
Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod,
The stamp of fate, and sanction of the god.
High heaven with reverence the dread signal took,
And all Olympus to the centre shook." BULFINCH'S _Age of Fable_.]
The statue was in existence for eight hundred years, being finally
destroyed by fire in the fifth century A.D.
[Illustration: HEAD OF THE OLYMPIAN ZEUS BY PHIDIAS.]
Phidias also executed other works in both bronze and marble. He met an
unworthy fate. Upon the famous shield at the feet of the statue of Athena
in the Parthenon, among the figures in the representation of a battle
between the Athenians and the Amazons, Phidias introduced a portrait of
himself and also one of his patron Pericles. The enemies of the artist
caused him to be prosecuted for this, which was considered an act of
sacrilege. He died in prison (432 B.C.).
POLYCLETUS.--At the same time that Phidias was executing his ideal
representations of the gods, Polycletus the elder, whose home was at
Argos, was producing his renowned bronze statues of athletes. Among his
pieces was one representing a spear-bearer, which was so perfect as to be
known as "the Rule."
PRAXITELES.--This artist, after Polycletus, stands next to Phidias as one
of the most eminent of Greek sculptors. His works were executed during the
fourth century B.C. Among his chief pieces may be mentioned the "Cnidian
Aphrodite." This stood in the Temple of Aphrodite at Cnidus, and was
regarded by the ancients as the most perfect embodiment of the goddess of
beauty. Pilgrimages were made from distant countries to Cnidus for the
sake of looking upon the matchless statue.
LYSIPPUS.--This artist is renowned for his works in bronze. He flourished
about the middle of the fourth century B.C. His statues were in great
demand. Many of these were of colossal size. Alexander gave the artist
many orders for statues of himself, and also of the heroes that fell in
[Illustration: THE LAOCOON GROUP.]
THE RHODIAN COLOSSUS AND SCHOOLS OF ART.--The most noted pupil of Lysippus
was Chares, who gave to the world the celebrated Colossus at Rhodes (about
280 B.C.). This was another of the wonders of the world. Its height was
about one hundred and seven feet, and a man could barely encircle with his
arms the thumb of the statue. [Footnote: The statue was not as large as
the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The height of the latter is 151
feet.] After standing little more than half a century, it was overthrown
by an earthquake. For nine hundred years the Colossus then lay, like a
Homeric god, prone upon the ground. Finally, the Arabs, having overrun
this part of the Orient (A.D. 672), appropriated the statue, and thriftily
sold it to a Jewish merchant. It is said that it required a train of nine
hundred camels to bear away the bronze.
This gigantic piece of statuary was not a solitary one at Rhodes; for that
city, next after Athens, was the great art centre of the Grecian world.
Its streets and gardens and public edifices were literally crowded with
statues. The island became the favorite resort of artists, and the various
schools there founded acquired a wide renown. Many of the most prized
works of Grecian art in our modern museums were executed by members of
these Rhodian schools. The "Laoco�n Group," found at Rome in 1506, and now
in the Museum of the Vatican, is generally thought to be the work of three
GREEK PAINTING.--Although the Greek artists attained a high degree of
excellence in painting, still they probably never brought the art to the
perfection which they reached in sculpture. One reason for this was that
paintings were never, like statues, objects of adoration; hence less
attention was directed to them.
With the exception of antique vases and a few patches of mural decoration,
all specimens of Greek painting have perished. Consequently our knowledge
of Greek painting is derived chiefly from the descriptions of renowned
works, by the ancient writers, and their anecdotes of great painters.
POLYGNOTUS.--Polygnotus (flourished 475-455 B.C.) has been called the
Prometheus of painting, because he was the first to give fire and
animation to the expression of the countenance. "In his hand," it is
affirmed, "the human features became for the first time the mirror of the
soul." Of a Polyxena [Footnote: Polyxena was a daughter of the Trojan
Priam, famous for her beauty and her sufferings.] painted by this great
master, it was said that "she carried in her eyelids the whole history of
the Trojan War."
ZEUXIS AND PARRHASIUS.--These great artists lived and painted about 400
B.C. A favorite and familiar story preserves their names as companions,
and commemorates their rival genius. Zeuxis, such is the story, painted a
cluster of grapes which so closely imitated the real fruit that the birds
pecked at them. His rival, for his piece, painted a curtain. Zeuxis asked
Parrhasius to draw aside the veil and exhibit his picture. "I confess I am
surpassed," generously admitted Zeuxis to his rival; "I deceived birds,
but you have deceived the eyes of an experienced artist."
APELLES.--Apelles, who has been called the "Raphael of antiquity," was the
court painter of Alexander the Great. He was such a consummate master of
the art of painting, and carried it to such a state of perfection, that
the ancient writers spoke of it as the "art of Apelles."
That Apelles, like Zeuxis and Parrhasius, painted life-like pictures is
shown by the following story. In a contest between him and some rival
artists, horses were the objects represented. Perceiving that the judges
were unfriendly to him, and partial, Apelles insisted that less prejudiced
judges should pronounce upon the merit of the respective pieces,
demanding, at the same time, that the paintings should be shown to some
horses that were near. When brought before the pictures of his rival, the
horses exhibited no concern; but upon being shown the painting of Apelles,
they manifested by neighing and other intelligent signs their instant
recognition of the companions the great master had created.
NOTE.--Recent excavations (1878-1886) on the site of ancient Pergamus, in
Asia Minor, have brought to light a great Altar, dating seemingly from the
second century B.C., whose sides were decorated with gigantic sculptures
representing the Battle of the Giants against the Gods. The sculptures,
which by some are placed next to those of the Parthenon, are now in the
1. EPIC AND LYRIC POETRY.
THE GREEKS AS LITERARY ARTISTS.--It was that same exquisite sense of
fitness and proportion and beauty which made the Greeks artists in marble
that also made them artists in language. "Of all the beautiful things
which they created," says Professor Jebb, "their own language was the most
beautiful." This language they wrought into epics, lyrics, dramas,
histories, and orations as incomparable in form and beauty as their
temples and statues.
THE HOMERIC POEMS,--The earliest specimens of Greek poetry are the so-
called "Homeric poems," consisting of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_. The
subject of the _Iliad_ (from Ilios, Troy) is the "Wrath of Achilles." The
_Odyssey_ tells of the long wanderings of the hero Odysseus (Ulysses) up
and down over many seas while seeking his native Ithaca, after the
downfall of Ilios. These poems exerted an incalculable influence upon the
literary and religious life of the Hellenic race.
The _Iliad_ must be pronounced the world's greatest epic. It has been
translated into all languages, and has been read with an ever fresh
interest by generation after generation for nearly 3000 years. Alexander,
it is told, slept with a copy beneath his pillow,--a copy prepared
especially for him by his preceptor Aristotle, and called the "casket
edition," from the jewelled box in which Alexander is said to have kept
it. We preserve it quite as sacredly in all our courses of classical
study. The poem has made warriors as well as poets. It incited the
military ambition of Alexander, of Hannibal, and of C�sar; it inspired
Virgil, Dante, and Milton. All epic writers have taken it as their model.
DATE AND AUTHORSHIP OF THE HOMERIC POEMS.--Until the rise of modern German
criticism, the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ were almost universally
ascribed to a single bard named Homer, who was believed to have lived
about the middle of the ninth or tenth century B.C., one or two centuries
after the events commemorated in his poems. Though tradition represents
many cities as contending for the honor of having been his birthplace,
still he was generally regarded as a native of Smyrna, in Asia Minor. He
travelled widely (so it was believed), lost his sight, and then, as a
wandering minstrel, sang his immortal verses to admiring listeners in the
different cities of Hellas.
But it is now the opinion of many scholars that the _Iliad_ and the
_Odyssey_, as they stand today, are not, either of them, the creation
of a single poet. They are believed to be mosaics; that is, to be built up
out of the fragments of an extensive ballad literature that grew up in an
age preceding the Homeric. The "Wrath of Achilles," which forms the
nucleus of the _Iliad_ as we have it, may, with very great probability, be
ascribed to Homer, whom we may believe to have been the most prominent of
a brotherhood of bards who flourished about 850 or 750 B.C.
THE HESIODIC POEMS.--Hesiod, who lived a century or more after the age
that gave birth to the Homeric poems, was the poet of nature and of real
life, especially of peasant life, in the dim transition age of Hellas. The
Homeric bards sing of the deeds of heroes, and of a far-away time when
gods mingled with men. Hesiod sings of common men, and of every-day,
present duties. His greatest poem, a didactic epic, is entitled _Works
and Days_. This is, in the main, a sort of farmers' calendar, in which
the poet points out to the husbandman the lucky and unlucky days for doing
certain kinds of work, eulogizes industry, and intersperses among all his
practical lines homely maxims of morality and beautiful descriptive
passages of the changing seasons.
LYRIC POETRY: PINDAR.--The �olian island of Lesbos was the hearth and home
of the earlier lyric poets. Among the earliest of the Lesbian singers was
the poetess Sappho, whom the Greeks exalted to a place next to Homer.
Plato calls her the Tenth Muse. Although her fame endures, her poetry,
except some mere fragments, has perished.
Anacreon was a courtier at the time of the Greek tyrannies. He was a
native of Ionia, but passed much of his time at the court of Polycrates of
Samos. He seems to have enjoyed to the full the gay and easy life of a
courtier, and sung so voluptuously of love and wine and festivity that the
term "Anacreontic" has come to be used to characterize all poetry over-
redolent of these themes.
But the greatest of the Greek lyric poets, and perhaps the greatest of all
lyric poets of every age and race, was Pindar (about 522-443 B.C.). He was
born at Thebes, but spent most of his time in the cities of Magna Gr�cia.
Such was the reverence in which his memory was held that when Alexander,
one hundred years after Pindar's time, levelled the city of Thebes to the
ground on account of a revolt, the house of the poet was spared, and left
standing amid the general ruin (see p. 161). The greater number of
Pindar's poems were inspired by the scenes of the national festivals. They
describe in lofty strains the splendors of the Olympian chariot-races, or
the glory of the victors at the Isthmian, the Nemean, or the Pythian
Pindar insists strenuously upon virtue and self-culture. With deep meaning
he says, "Become that which thou art;" that is, be that which you are made
2. THE DRAMA AND DRAMATISTS.
ORIGIN OF THE GREEK DRAMA.--The Greek drama, in both its branches of
tragedy and comedy, grew out of the songs and dances instituted in honor
of the god of wine--Dionysus (the same as the Roman Bacchus).
Tragedy (goat-song, possibly from the accompanying sacrifice of a goat)
sprang from the graver songs, and comedy (village-song) from the lighter
and more farcical ones. Gradually, recital and dialogue were added, there
being at first but a single speaker, then two, and finally three, which
last was the classical number. Thespis (about 536 B.C.) is said to have
introduced this idea of the dialogue; hence the term "Thespian" applied to
the tragic drama.
[Illustration: BACCHIC PROCESSION.]
Owing to its origin, the Greek drama always retained a religious
character, and further, presented two distinct features, the chorus (the
songs and dances) and the dialogue. At first, the chorus was the all-
important part; but later, the dialogue became the more prominent portion,
the chorus, however, always remaining an essential feature of the
performance. Finally, in the golden age of the Attic stage, the chorus
dancers and singers were carefully trained, at great expense, and the
dialogue became the masterpiece of some great poet,--and then the Greek
drama, the most splendid creation of human genius, was complete.
THE THREE GREAT TRAGIC POETS.--There are three great names in Greek
tragedy,--�schylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. These dramatists all wrote
during the splendid period which followed the victories of the Persian
war, when the intellectual life of all Hellas, and especially that of
Athens, was strung to the highest tension. This lent nervous power and
intensity to almost all they wrote, particularly to the tragedies of
AEschylus and Sophocles. Of the two hundred and more dramas produced by
these poets, only thirty-two have escaped the accidents of time.
�schylus (525-456 B.C.) knew how to touch the hearts of the generation
that had won the victories of the Persian war; for he had fought with
honor both at Marathon and at Salamis. But it was on a very different
arena that he was destined to win his most enduring fame. Eleven times did
he carry off the prize in tragic composition. The Athenians called him the
"Father of Tragedy."
The central idea of his dramas is that "no mortal may dare raise his heart
too high,"--that "Zeus tames excessive lifting up of heart." _Prometheus
Bound_ is one of his chief works. Another of his great tragedies is
_Agamemnon_, thought by some to be his masterpiece. The subject is
the crime of Clytemnestra (see p. 96). It is a tragedy crowded with
spirit-shaking terrors, and filled with more than human crimes and woes.
Nowhere is portrayed with greater power the awful vengeance with which the
implacable Nemesis is armed.
Sophocles (495-405 B.C.) while yet a youth gained the prize in a poetic
contest with �schylus. Plutarch says that �schylus was so chagrined by his
defeat that he left Athens and retired to Sicily. Sophocles now became the
leader of tragedy at Athens. In almost every contest he carried away the
first prize. He lived through nearly a century, a century, too, that
comprised the most brilliant period of the life of Hellas. His dramas were
perfect works of art. The leading idea of his pieces is the same as that
which characterizes those of �schylus; namely, that self-will and insolent
pride arouse the righteous indignation of the gods, and that no mortal can
contend successfully against the will of Zeus.
Euripides (485-406 B.C.) was a more popular dramatist than either �schylus
or Sophocles. His fame passed far beyond the limits of Greece. Herodotus
asserts that the verses of the poet were recited by the natives of the
remote country of Gedrosia; and Plutarch says that the Sicilians were so
fond of his lines that many of the Athenian prisoners, taken before
Syracuse, bought their liberty by teaching their masters his verses.
COMEDY: ARISTOPHANES.--Foremost among all writers of comedy must be placed
Aristophanes (about 444-380 B.C.). He introduces us to the every-day life
of the least admirable classes of Athenian society. Four of his most noted
works are the _Clouds_, the _Knights_, the _Birds_, and the _Wasps_.
In the comedy of the _Clouds_, Aristophanes especially ridicules the
Sophists, a school of philosophers and teachers just then rising into
prominence at Athens, of whom the satirist unfairly makes Socrates the
The aim of the _Knights_ was the punishment and ruin of Cleon, whom
we already know as one of the most conceited and insolent of the
demagogues of Athens.
The play of the _Birds_ is "the everlasting allegory of foolish sham
and flimsy ambition." It was aimed particularly at the ambitious Sicilian
schemes of Alcibiades; for at the time the play appeared, the Athenian
army was before Syracuse, and elated by good news daily arriving, the
Athenians were building the most gorgeous air-castles, and indulging in
the most extravagant day-dreams of universal dominion.
In the _Wasps_, the poet satirizes the proceedings in the Athenian
law-courts, by showing how the great citizen-juries, numbering sometimes
five or six hundred, were befooled by the demagogues. But Aristophanes was
something more than a master of mere mirth-provoking satire and ridicule:
many of the choruses of his pieces are inexpressibly tender and beautiful.
3. HISTORY AND HISTORIANS.
Poetry is the first form of literary expression among all peoples. So we
must not be surprised to find that it was not until several centuries
after the composition of the Homeric poems--that is, about the sixth
century B.C.--that prose-writing appeared among the Greeks. Historical
composition was then first cultivated. We can speak briefly of only three
historians,--Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon,--whose names were
cherished among the ancients, and whose writings are highly valued and
carefully studied by ourselves.
HERODOTUS.--Herodotus (about 484-402 B.C.), born at Halicarnassus, in Asia
Minor, is called the "Father of History." He travelled over much of the
then known world, visiting Italy, Egypt, and Babylonia, and as an eye-
witness describes with a never-failing vivacity and freshness the wonders
of the different lands he had seen. Herodotus lived in a story-telling
age, and he is himself an inimitable story-teller. To him we are indebted
for a large part of the tales of antiquity--stories of men and events
which we never tire of repeating. He was over-credulous, and was often
imposed upon by his guides in Egypt and at Babylon; but he describes with
great care and accuracy what he himself saw. It is sometimes very
difficult, however, to determine just what he actually did see with his
own eyes and experience in his own person; for it seems certain that,
following the custom of the story-tellers of his time, he often related as
his own personal adventures the experiences of others, yet with no thought
of deceiving. In this he might be likened to our modern writers of
The central theme of his great History is the Persian wars, the struggle
between Asia and Greece. Around this he groups the several stories of the
nations of antiquity. In the pictures which the artist-historian draws, we
see vividly contrasted, as in no other writings, the East and the West,
Persia and Hellas.
THUCYDIDES.--Thucydides (about 471-400 B.C.), though not so popular an
historian as Herodotus, was a much more philosophical one. He was born
near Athens. A pretty story is told of his youth, which must be repeated,
though critics have pronounced it fabulous. The tale is that Thucydides,
when only fifteen, was taken by his father to hear Herodotus recite his
history at the Olympian games, and that the reading and the accompanying
applause caused the boy to shed tears, and to resolve to become an
Thucydides was engaged in military service during the first years of the
Peloponnesian War; but, on account of his being unfortunate, possibly
through his own neglect, the Athenians deprived him of his command, and he
went into an exile of twenty years. It is to this circumstance that we are
indebted for his invaluable _History of the War between the Peloponnesians
and the Athenians_.
Through the closest observation and study, he qualified himself to become
the historian of what he from the first foresaw would prove a memorable
war. "I lived," he says, "through its whole extent, in the very flower of
my understanding and strength, and with a close application of my
thoughts, to gain an exact insight into all its occurrences." He died
before his task was completed. The work is considered a model of
historical writing. Demosthenes read and re-read his writings to improve
his own style; and the greatest orators and historians of modern times
have been equally diligent students of the work of the great Athenian.
XENOPHON.--Xenophon (about 445-355 B.C.) was an Athenian, and is known
both as a general and a writer. The works that render his name so familiar
are his _Anabasis_, a simple yet thrilling narrative of the Expedition of
the Ten Thousand Greeks; and his _Memorabilia_, or Recollections of
Socrates. This work by his devoted pupil is the most faithful portraiture
that we possess of that philosopher.
INFLUENCE OF THE PUBLIC ASSEMBLY.--The art of oratory among the Greeks was
fostered and developed by the democratic character of their institutions.
The public assemblies of the democratic cities were great debating clubs,
open to all. The gift of eloquence secured for its possessor a sure pre-
eminence. The law-courts, too, especially the great jury-courts of Athens,
were schools of oratory; for every citizen was obliged to be his own
advocate and to defend his own case. Hence the attention bestowed upon
public speaking, and the high degree of perfection attained by the Greeks
in the difficult art of persuasion. Almost all the prominent Athenian
statesmen were masters of oratory.
THEMISTOCLES AND PERICLES.--We have already become acquainted with
Themistocles and Pericles as statesmen and leaders of Athenian affairs
during the most stirring period of the history of Athens. They both were
also great orators, and to that fact were largely indebted for their power
and influence. Thucydides has preserved the oration delivered by Pericles
in commemoration of those who fell in the first year of the Peloponnesian
War. It is an incomparable picture of the beauty and glory of Athens at
the zenith of her power, and has been pronounced one of the finest
productions of antiquity. The language of the address, as we have it, is
the historian's, but the sentiments are doubtless those of the great
statesman. It was the habit of Thucydides to put speeches into the mouths
of his characters.
DEMOSTHENES AND �SCHINES.--It has been the fortune of Demosthenes (385-322
B.C.) to have his name become throughout the world the synonym of
eloquence. The labors and struggles by which, according to tradition, he
achieved excellence in his art are held up anew to each generation of
youth as guides of the path to success. His first address before the
public assembly was a complete failure, owing to defects of voice and
manner. With indomitable will he set himself to the task of correcting
these. He shut himself up in a cave, and gave himself to the diligent
study of Thucydides. That he might not be tempted to spend his time in
society, he rendered his appearance ridiculous by shaving one side of his
head. To correct a stammering utterance, he spoke with pebbles in his
mouth, and broke himself of an ungainly habit of shrugging his shoulders
by speaking beneath a suspended sword. To accustom himself to the tumult
and interruptions of a public assembly, he declaimed upon the noisiest
These are some of the many stories told of the world's greatest orator.
There is doubtless this much truth in them at least--that Demosthenes
attained success, in spite of great discouragements, by persevering and
laborious effort. It is certain that he was a most diligent student of
Thucydides, whose great history he is said to have known by heart. More
than sixty of his orations have been preserved. "Of all human productions
they present to us the models which approach the nearest to perfection."
The latter part of the life of Demosthenes is intertwined with that of
another and rival Athenian orator, �schines. For his services to the
state, the Athenians proposed to award to Demosthenes a golden crown.
�schines opposed this. All Athens and strangers from far and near gathered
to hear the rival orators; for every matter at Athens was decided by a
great debate. Demosthenes made the grandest effort of his life. His
address, known as the "Oration on the Crown," has been declared to be "the
most polished and powerful effort of human oratory." �schines was
completely crushed, and was sent into exile, and became a teacher of
oratory at Rhodes.
He is said to have once gathered his disciples about him and to have read
to them the oration of Demosthenes that had proved so fatal to himself.
Carried away by the torrent of its eloquence, his pupils, unable to
restrain their enthusiasm, burst into applause. "Ah!" said �schines, who
seemed to find solace in the fact that his defeat had been at the hands of
so worthy an antagonist, "you should have heard the wild beast himself!"
Respecting the orations of Demosthenes against Philip of Macedon, and the
death of the eloquent patriot, we have already spoken (see pp. 160, 174).
5. THE ALEXANDRIAN AGE.
The Alexandrian period of Greek literature embraces the time between the
break-up of Alexander's empire and the conquest of Greece by Rome (300-146
B.C.). During this period Alexandria in Egypt was the centre of literary
activity, hence the term _Alexandrian_, applied to the literature of
the age. The great Museum and Library of the Ptolemies afforded in that
capital such facilities for students and authors as existed in no other
city in the world.
[Illustration: IDEAL SCENE IN THE ALEXANDRIAN LIBRARY]
But the creative age of Greek literature was over. With the loss of
political liberty, literature was cut off from its sources of inspiration.
Consequently the Alexandrian literature lacked freshness and originality.
The writers of the period were grammarians, commentators, and
translators,--in a word, book-worms.
One of the most important literary undertakings of the age was the
translation of the Old Testament into Greek. From the traditional number
of translators (seventy) the version is known as the _Septuagint_ (Latin
for seventy.) The work was probably begun by Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was
completed under his successors.
Among the poets of the period one name, and only one, stands out clear and
pre-eminent. This is that of Theocritus, a Sicilian idyllist, who wrote at
Alexandria under Ptolemy Philadelphus. His idyls are beautiful pictures of
Sicilian pastoral life.
CONCLUSION: GR�CO-ROMAN WRITERS.--After the Roman conquest of Greece, the
centre of Greek literary activity shifted from Alexandria to Rome. Hence
Greek literature now passes into what is known as its Gr�co-Roman period
(146 B.C.-527 A.D.).
The most noted historical writer of the first part of this period was
Polybius (about 203-121 B.C.), who wrote a history of the Roman conquests
from 264 to 146 B.C. His work, though the larger part of it has reached us
in a very mutilated state, is of great worth; for Polybius wrote of
matters that had become history in his own day. He had lived to see the
larger part of the world he knew absorbed by the ever-growing power of the
Plutarch (b. about 40 A.D.), "the prince of ancient biographers," will
always live in literature as the author of the _Parallel Lives_, in
which, with great wealth of illustrative anecdotes, he compares or
contrasts Greek and Roman statesmen and soldiers.
GREEK PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE.
THE SEVEN SAGES; THE FORERUNNERS.--About the sixth century B.C. there
lived and taught in different parts of Hellas many philosophers of real or
reputed originality and wisdom. Among these were seven men, called the
"Seven Sages," who held the place of pre-eminence. [Footnote: As in the
case of the Seven Wonders of the World, ancient writers were not always
agreed as to what names should be accorded the honor of enrolment in the
sacred number. Thales, Solon, Periander, Cleobulus, Chilo, Bias, and
Pittacus are, however, usually reckoned as the Seven Wise Men.] To them
belongs the distinction of having first aroused the Greek intellect to
philosophical thought. The wise sayings--such as "Know thyself" and
"Nothing in excess"--attributed to them, are beyond number.
The ethical maxims and practical proverbs ascribed to the sages, while,
like the so-called proverbs of Solomon, they contain a vast amount of
practical wisdom, still do not constitute philosophy proper, which is a
systematic search for the reason and causes of things. They form simply
the introduction or prelude to Greek philosophy.
THE IONIC PHILOSOPHERS.--The first Greek school of philosophy grew up in
the cities of Ionia, in Asia Minor, where almost all forms of Hellenic
culture seem to have had their beginning. The founder of the system was
Thales of Miletus (about 640-550 B.C.), who was followed by Anaximander,
Anaximenes, and Heraclitus.
One tenet held in common by all these philosophers was that matter and
mind are inseparable; or, in other words, that all matter is animate. They
never thought of the soul as something distinct and separable from matter
as we do. Even the soul in Hades was conceived as having a body in every
respect like that the soul possessed in the earthly life, only it was
composed of a subtler substance. This conception of matter as being alive
will help us to understand Greek mythology, which, it will be remembered,
endowed trees, rivers, springs, clouds, the planets, all physical objects
indeed, with intelligence and will.
PYTHAGORAS.--Pythagoras (about 580-500 B.C.) was born on the island of
Samos, whence his title of "Samian Sage." Probable tradition says that he
spent many years of his early life in Egypt, where he became versed in all
the mysteries of the Egyptians. He returned to Greece with a great
reputation, and finally settled at Crotona, in Italy.
Like many another ancient philosopher, Pythagoras sought to increase the
reverence of his disciples for himself by peculiarities of dress and
manner. His uncut hair and beard flowed down upon his shoulders and over
his breast. He never smiled. His dress was a white robe, with a golden
crown. For the first years of their novitiate, his pupils were not allowed
to look upon their master. They listened to his lectures from behind a
curtain. _Ipse dixit_, "he himself said so," was the only argument
they must employ in debate. It is to Pythagoras, according to legend, that
we are indebted for the word _philosopher_. Being asked of what he
was master, he replied that he was simply a "philosopher," that is, a
"lover of wisdom."
Pythagoras held views of the solar system that anticipated by two thousand
years those of Copernicus and his school. He taught, only to his most
select pupils however, that the earth is a sphere; and that, like the
other planets, it revolves about a central globe of fire. From him comes
the pretty conceit of the "music of the spheres." He imagined that the
heavenly spheres, by their swift, rolling motions, produced musical notes,
which united in a celestial melody, too refined, however, for human ears.
He taught the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, an idea he had
doubtless brought from Egypt. Because of this belief the Pythagoreans were
strict vegetarians, abstaining religiously from the use of all animal
ANAXAGORAS.--Anaxagoras (499-427 B.C.) was the first Greek philosopher who
made _mind_, instead of necessity or chance, the arranging and harmonizing
force of the universe. "Reason rules the world" was his first maxim.
Anaxagoras was the teacher in philosophy of Pericles, and it is certain
that that statesman was greatly influenced by the liberal views of the
philosopher; for in his general conceptions of the universe, Anaxagoras
was far in advance of his age. He ventured to believe that the moon was
somewhat like the earth, and inhabited; and taught that the sun was not a
god, but a glowing rock, as large, probably, as the Peloponnesus.
But for his audacity, the philosopher suffered the fate of Galileo in a
later age; he was charged with impiety and exiled. Yet this did not
disturb the serenity of his mind. In banishment he said, "It is not I who
have lost the Athenians, but the Athenians who have lost me."
EMPEDOCLES AND DEMOCRITUS.--In the teachings of Empedocles (about 492-432
B.C.) and Democritus (about 460-370 B.C.) we meet with many speculations
respecting the constitution of matter and the origin of things which are
startlingly similar to some of the doctrines held by modern scientists.
Empedocles, with the evolutionists of to-day, taught that the higher forms
of life arise out of the lower; Democritus conceived all things to be
composed of invisible atoms, all alike in quality, but differing in form
THE SOPHISTS.--The Sophists, of whom the most noted were Protagoras,
Gorgias, and Prodicus, were a class of philosophers or teachers who gave
instruction in rhetoric and the art of disputation. They travelled about
from city to city, and contrary to the usual custom of the Greek
philosophers, took fees from their pupils. They were shallow but brilliant
men, caring more for the dress in which the thought was arrayed than for
the thought itself, more for victory than for truth; and some of them
inculcated a selfish morality. The better philosophers of the time
despised them, and applied to them many harsh epithets, taunting them with
selling wisdom, and accusing them of boasting that they could "make the
worse appear the better reason."
SOCRATES.--Volumes would not contain what would be both instructive and
interesting respecting the lives and works of the three great philosophers
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. We can, however, accord to each only a few
words. Of these three eminent thinkers, Socrates (469-399 B.C.), though
surpassed in grasp and power of intellect by both Plato and Aristotle, has
the firmest hold upon the affections of the world.
Nature, while generous to the philosopher in the gifts of soul, was unkind
to him in the matter of his person. His face was ugly as a satyr's, and he
had an awkward, shambling walk, so that he invited the shafts of the comic
poets of his time. He loved to gather a little circle about him in the
Agora or in the streets, and then to draw out his listeners by a series of
ingenious questions. His method was so peculiar to himself that it has
received the designation of the "Socratic dialogue." He has very happily
been called an _educator_, as opposed to an _instructor_. In the young men
of his time Socrates found many devoted pupils. The youthful Alcibiades
declared that "he was forced to stop his ears and flee away, that he might
not sit down by the side of Socrates and grow old in listening."
Socrates was unfortunate in his domestic relations. Xanthippe, his wife,
seems to have been of a practical turn of mind, and unable to sympathize
with the abstracted ways of her husband.
This great philosopher believed that the proper study of mankind is man,
his favorite maxim being "Know Thyself"; hence he is said to have brought
philosophy from the heavens and introduced it to the homes of men.
Socrates held the Sophists in aversion, and in opposition to their selfish
expediency taught the purest system of morals that the world had yet
known, and which has been surpassed only by the precepts of the Great
Teacher. He thought himself to be restrained from entering upon what was
inexpedient or wrong by a tutelary spirit. He believed in the immortality
of the soul and in a Supreme Ruler of the universe, but sometimes spoke
slightingly of the temples and the popular deities. This led to his
prosecution on the double charge of blasphemy and of corrupting the
Athenian youth. The fact that Alcibiades had been his pupil was used to
prove the demoralizing tendency of his teachings. He was condemned to
drink the fatal hemlock. The night before his death he spent with his
disciples, discoursing on the immortality of the soul.
PLATO.--Plato (429-348 B.C.), "the broad-browed," was a philosopher of
noble birth, before whom in youth a brilliant career in the world of Greek
affairs opened; but, coming under the influence of Socrates, he resolved
to give up all his prospects in politics and devote himself to philosophy.
Upon the condemnation and death of his master he went into voluntary
exile. In many lands he gathered knowledge and met with varied
experiences. He visited Sicily, where he was so unfortunate as to call
upon himself the resentment of Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, through
having worsted him in an argument, and also by an uncourtly plainness of
speech. The king caused him to be sold into slavery as a prisoner of war.
Being ransomed by a friend, he found his way to his native Athens, and
established a school of philosophy in the Academy, a public garden close
to Athens. Here amid the disciples that thronged to his lectures, he
passed the greater part of his long life,--he died 348 B.C., at the age of
eighty-one years,--laboring incessantly upon the great works that bear his
Plato imitated in his writings the method of Socrates in conversation. The
discourse is carried on by questions and answers, hence the term
_Dialogues_ that attaches to his works. He attributes to his master,
Socrates, much of the philosophy that he teaches: yet his _Dialogues_
are all deeply tinged with his own genius and thought. In the _Republic_
Plato portrays his conception of an ideal state. He was opposed to the
republic of Athens, and his system, in some of its main features, was
singularly like the Feudal System of Medi�val Europe.
The _Ph�do_ is a record of the last conversation of Socrates with his
disciples--an immortal argument for the immortality of the soul.
Plato believed not only in a future life (post-existence), but also in
pre-existence; teaching that the ideas of reason, or our intuitions, are
reminiscences of a past experience. [Footnote: In the following lines from
Wordsworth we catch a glimpse of Plato's doctrine of pre-existence:--
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
Nor yet in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
From God, who is our home."--_Ode on Immortality_.] Plato's
doctrines have exerted a profound influence upon all schools of thought
and philosophies since his day. In some of his precepts he made a close
approach to the teachings of Christianity. "We ought to become like God,"
he said, "as far as this is possible; and to become like Him is to become
holy and just and wise."
ARISTOTLE.--As Socrates was surpassed by his pupil Plato, so in turn was
Plato excelled in certain respects by his disciple Aristotle, "the master
of those who know." In him the philosophical genius of the Hellenic
intellect reached its culmination. He was born in the Macedonian city of
Stagira (384 B.C.), and hence is frequently called the "Stagirite." As in
the case of Socrates, his personal appearance gave no promise of the
philosopher. His teacher, Plato, however, recognized the genius of his
pupil, and called him the "Mind of the school."
After studying for twenty years in the school of Plato, Aristotle became
the preceptor of Alexander the Great. When Philip invited him to become
the tutor of his son, he gracefully complimented the philosopher by saying
in his letter that he was grateful to the gods that the prince was born in
the same age with him. Alexander became the liberal patron of his tutor,
and aided him in his scientific studies by sending him large collections
of plants and animals, gathered on his distant expeditions.
At Athens the great philosopher delivered his lectures while walking about
beneath the trees and porticoes of the Lyceum; hence the term
_peripatetic_ (from the Greek _peripatein_, "to walk about") applied to
Among the productions of his fertile intellect are works on rhetoric,
logic, poetry, morals and politics, physics and metaphysics. For centuries
his works were studied and copied and commented upon by both European and
Asiatic scholars, in the schools of Athens and Rome, of Alexandria and
Constantinople. Until the time of Bacon in England, for nearly two
thousand years, Aristotle ruled over the realm of mind with a despotic
sway. All teachers and philosophers acknowledged him as their guide and
ZENO AND THE STOICS.--We are now approaching the period when the political
life of Hellas was failing, and was being fast overshadowed by the
greatness of Rome. But the intellectual life of the Greek race was by no
means eclipsed by the calamity that ended its political existence. For
centuries after that event the poets, scholars, and philosophers of this
intellectual people led a brilliant career in the schools and universities
of the Roman world.
From among all the philosophers of this long period, we can select for
brief mention only a few. And first we shall speak of Zeno and Epicurus,
who are noted as founders of schools of philosophy that exerted a vast
influence upon both the thought and the conduct of many centuries.
Zeno, founder of the celebrated school of the Stoics, lived in the third
century before our era (about 362-264). He taught at Athens in a public
porch (in Greek, _stoa_), from which circumstance comes the name applied
to his disciples.
The Stoical philosophy was the outgrowth, in part at least, of that of the
Cynics, a sect of most rigid and austere morals. The typical
representative of this sect is found in Diogenes, who lived, so the story
goes, in a tub, and went about Athens by daylight with a lantern, in
search, as he said, of a _man_. The Cynics were simply a race of pagan
The Stoics inculcated virtue for the sake of itself. They believed--and it
would be very difficult to frame a better creed--that "man's chief
business here is to do his duty." They schooled themselves to bear with
perfect composure any lot that destiny might appoint. Any sign of emotion
on account of calamity was considered unmanly and unphilosophical. Thus,
when told of the sudden death of his son, the Stoic replied, "Well, I
never imagined that I had given life to an immortal."
Stoicism became a favorite system of thought with certain classes of the
Romans, and under its teachings and doctrines were nourished some of the
purest and loftiest characters produced by the pagan world. It numbered
among its representatives, in later times, the illustrious Roman emperor
Marcus Aurelius, and the scarcely less renowned and equally virtuous slave
Epictetus. In many of its teachings it anticipated Christian doctrines,
and was, in the philosophical world, a very important preparation for
EPICURUS AND THE EPICUREANS.--Epicurus (342-270 B.C.), who was a
contemporary of Zeno, taught, in opposition to the Stoics, that
_pleasure_ is the highest good. He recommended virtue, indeed, but
only as a means for the attainment of pleasure; whereas the Stoics made
virtue an end in itself. In other words, Epicurus said, "Be virtuous,
because virtue will bring you the greatest amount of happiness"; Zeno
said, "Be virtuous, because you ought to be."
Epicurus had many followers in Greece, and his doctrines were eagerly
embraced by many among the Romans during the corrupt period of the Roman
empire. Many of these disciples carried the doctrines of their master to
an excess that he himself would have been the first to condemn. Allowing
full indulgence to every appetite and passion, their whole philosophy was
expressed in the proverb, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." No
pure or exalted life could be nourished in the unwholesome atmosphere of
such a philosophy. Epicureanism never produced a single great character.
THE SKEPTICS; PYRRHO.--About the beginning of the third century B.C.
skepticism became widespread in Greece. It seemed as though men were
losing faith in everything. Many circumstances had worked together in
bringing about this state of universal unbelief. A wider knowledge of the
world had caused many to lose their faith in the myths and legends of the
old mythologies. The existence of so many opposing systems of philosophy
caused men to doubt the truth of any of them. Many thoughtful minds were
hopelessly asking, "What is truth?"
Pyrrho (about 360-270 B.C.) was the doubting Thomas of the Greeks. He
questioned everything, and declared that the great problems of the
universe could not be solved. He asserted that it was the duty of man, and
the part of wisdom, to entertain no positive judgment on any matter, and
thus to ensure serenity and peace of mind.
The disciples of Pyrrho went to absurd lengths in their skepticism, some
of them even saying that they asserted nothing, not even that they
asserted nothing. They doubted whether they doubted.
THE NEO-PLATONISTS.--Neo-Platonism was a blending of Greek philosophy and
Oriental mysticism. It has been well called the "despair of reason,"
because it abandoned all hope of man's ever being able to attain the
_highest_ knowledge through reason alone, and looked for a Revelation. The
centre of this last movement in Greek philosophical thought was Alexandria
in Egypt, the meeting-place, in the closing centuries of the ancient
world, of the East and the West.
Philo the Jew (b. about 30 B.C.), who labored to harmonize Hebrew
doctrines with the teachings of Plato, was the forerunner of the Neo-
Platonists. But the greatest of the school was Plotinus (A.D. 204-269),
who spent the last years of his life at Rome, where he was a great
CONFLICT BETWEEN NEO-PLATONISM AND CHRISTIANITY.--While the Neo-Platonists
were laboring to restore, in modified form, the ancient Greek philosophy
and worship, the teachers of Christianity were fast winning the world over
to a new faith. The two systems came into deadly antagonism. Christianity
triumphed. The gifted and beautiful Hypatia, almost the last
representative of the old system of speculation and belief, was torn to
pieces in the streets of Alexandria by a mob of fanatic Christian monks
(A.D. 415). Finally the Roman emperor Justinian forbade the pagan
philosophers to teach their doctrines (A.D. 529). This imperial edict
closed forever the Greek schools, in which for more than a thousand years
the world had received instruction upon the loftiest themes that can
engage the human mind. The Greek philosophers, as living, personal
teachers, had finished their work; but their systems of thought will never
cease to attract and influence the best minds of the race.
SCIENCE AMONG THE GREEKS.
The contributions of the Greek observers to the physical sciences have
laid us under no small obligation to them. Some of those whom we have
classed as philosophers, were careful students of nature, and might be
called scientists. The great philosopher Aristotle wrote some valuable
works on anatomy and natural history. From his time onward the sciences
were pursued with much zeal and success. Especially did the later Greeks
do much good and lasting work in the mathematical sciences.
MATHEMATICS: EUCLID AND ARCHIMEDES.--Alexandria, in Egypt, became the seat
of the most celebrated school of mathematics of antiquity. Here, under
Ptolemy Lagus, flourished Euclid, the great geometer, whose work forms the
basis of the science of geometry as taught in our schools at the present
time. Ptolemy himself was his pupil. The royal student, however, seems to
have disliked the severe application required to master the problems of
Euclid, and asked his teacher if there was not some easier way. Euclid
replied, "There is no royal road to geometry."
In the third century B.C., Syracuse, in Sicily, was the home of
Archimedes, the greatest mathematician that the Grecian world produced.
ASTRONOMY.--Among ancient Greek astronomers, Aristarchus, Hipparchus, and
Claudius Ptolemy are distinguished.
Aristarchus of Samos, who lived in the third century B.C., held that the
earth revolves about the sun as a fixed centre, and rotates on its own
axis. He was the Greek Copernicus. But his theory was rejected by his
contemporaries and successors.
Hipparchus, who flourished about the middle of the second century B.C.,
was, through his careful observations, the real founder of scientific
astronomy. He calculated eclipses, catalogued the stars, and wrote several
astronomical works of a really scientific character.
Claudius Ptolemy lived in Egypt about the middle of the second century
after Christ. His great reputation is due not so much to his superior
genius as to the fortunate circumstance that a vast work compiled by him,
preserved and transmitted to later times almost all the knowledge of the
ancients on astronomical and geographical subjects. In this way it has
happened that his name has become attached to various doctrines and views
respecting the universe, though these probably were not originated by him.
The phrase _Ptolemaic system_, however, links his name inseparably
with that conception of the solar system set forth in his works, which
continued to be the received theory from his time until Copernicus--
fourteen centuries later.
Ptolemy combated the theory of Aristarchus in regard to the rotation and
revolution of the earth; yet he believed the earth to be a globe, and
supported this view by exactly the same arguments that we to-day use to
prove the doctrine.
SOCIAL LIFE OF THE GREEKS.
EDUCATION.--Education at Sparta, where it was chiefly gymnastic, as we
have seen (p. 115), was a state affair; but at Athens and throughout
Greece generally, the youth were trained in private schools. These schools
were of all grades, ranging from those kept by the most obscure teachers,
who gathered their pupils in some recess of the street, to those
established in the Athenian Academy and Lyceum by such philosophers as
Plato and Aristotle.
[Illustration: A GREEK SCHOOL. (After a vase-painting.)]
It was only the boys who received education. These Grecian boys, Professor
Mahaffy imagines, were "the most attractive the world has ever seen." At
all events, we may believe that they were trained more carefully and
delicately than the youth among any other people before or since the days
of Hellenic culture.
In the nursery, the boy was taught the beautiful myths and stories of the
national mythology. At about seven he entered school, being led to and
from the place of training by an old slave, who bore the name of
_pedagogue_, which in Greek means a guide or leader of boys--not a
teacher. His studies were grammar, music, and gymnastics, the aim of the
course being to secure a symmetrical development of mind and body alike.
Grammar included reading, writing, and arithmetic; music, which embraced a
wide range of mental accomplishments, trained the boy to appreciate the
masterpieces of the great poets, to contribute his part to the musical
diversions of private entertainments, and to join in the sacred choruses
and in the p�an of the battlefield. The exercises of the palestr� and the
gymnasia trained him for the Olympic contests, or for those sterner hand-
to-hand battle-struggles, in which so much depended upon personal strength
Upon reaching maturity, the youth was enrolled in the list of citizens.
But his graduation from school was his "commencement" in a much more real
sense than with the average modern graduate. Never was there a people
besides the Greeks whose daily life was so emphatically a discipline in
liberal culture. The schools of the philosophers, the debates of the
popular assembly, the practice of the law-courts, the religious
processions, the representations of an unrivalled stage, the Panhellenic
games--all these were splendid and efficient educational agencies, which
produced and maintained a standard of average intelligence and culture
among the citizens of the Greek cities that probably has never been
attained among any other people on the earth. Freeman, quoted approvingly
by Mahaffy, says that "the average intelligence of the assembled Athenian
citizens was higher than that of our [the English] House of Commons."
SOCIAL POSITION OF WOMAN.--Woman's social position in ancient Greece may
be defined in general as being about half-way between Oriental seclusion
and Western freedom. Her main duties were to cook and spin, and to oversee
the domestic slaves, of whom she herself was practically one. In the
fashionable society of Ionian cities, she was seldom allowed to appear in
public, or to meet, even in her own house, the male friends of her
husband. In Sparta, however, and in Dorian states generally, she was
accorded much greater freedom, and was a really important factor in
The low position generally assigned the wife in the home had a most
disastrous effect upon Greek morals. She could exert no such elevating or
refining influence as she casts over the modern home. The men were led to
seek social and intellectual sympathy and companionship outside the family
circle, among a class of women known as Hetair�, who were esteemed chiefly
for their brilliancy of intellect. As the most noted representative of
this class stands Aspasia, the friend of Pericles. The influence of the
Hetair� was most harmful to social morality.
THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENTS.--Among the ancient Greeks the theatre was a
state establishment, "a part of the constitution." This arose from the
religious origin and character of the drama (see p. 193), all matters
pertaining to the popular worship being the care and concern of the state.
Theatrical performances, being religious acts, were presented only during
religious festivals, and were attended by all classes, rich and poor, men,
women, and children. The women, however, except the Hetair�, were, it
would seem, permitted to witness tragedies only; the comic stage was too
gross to allow of their presence. The spectators sat under the open sky;
and the pieces followed one after the other in close succession from early
morning till nightfall.
[Illustration: GREEK TRAGIC FIGURE.]
There were companies of players who strolled about the country, just as
the English actors of Shakespeare's time were wont to do. While the better
class of actors were highly honored, ordinary players were held in very
low esteem. The tragic actor increased his height and size by wearing
thick-soled buskins, an enormous mask, and padded garments. The actor in
comedy wore thin-soled slippers, or socks. The _sock_ being thus a
characteristic part of the make-up of the ancient comic actor, and the
_buskin_ that of the tragic actor, these foot coverings have come to
be used as the symbols respectively of comedy and tragedy, as in the
familiar lines of Dryden:--
"Great Fletcher never treads in buskins here,
Nor greater Jonson dares in socks appear."
The theatre exerted a great influence upon Greek life. It performed for
ancient Greek society somewhat the same service as that rendered to modern
society by the pulpit and the press. During the best days of Hellas the
frequent rehearsal upon the stage of the chief incidents in the lives of
the gods and the heroes served to deepen and strengthen the religious
faith of the people; and later, in the Macedonian period, the theatre was
one of the chief agents in the diffusion of Greek literary culture over
BANQUETS AND SYMPOSIA.--Banquets and drinking-parties among the Greeks
possessed some features which set them apart from similar entertainments
among other peoples.
The banquet proper was partaken, in later times, by the guest in a
reclining position, upon couches or divans, arranged about the table in
the Oriental manner. After the usual courses, a libation was poured out
and a hymn sung in honor of the gods, and then followed that
characteristic part of the entertainment known as the _symposium_.
The symposium was "the intellectual side of the feast." It consisted of
general conversation, riddles, and convivial songs rendered to the
accompaniment of the lyre passed from hand to hand. Generally,
professional singers and musicians, dancing-girls, jugglers, and jesters
were called in to contribute to the merrymaking. All the while the wine-
bowl circulated freely, the rule being that a man might drink "as much as
he could carry home without a guide,--unless he were far gone in years."
Here also the Greeks applied their maxim, "Never too much."
The banqueters usually consumed the night in merry-making, sometimes being
broken in upon from the street by other bands of revellers, who made
themselves self-invited guests.
OCCUPATION.--The enormous body of slaves in ancient Greece relieved the
free population from most of those forms of labor classed as drudgery. The
�sthetic Greek regarded as degrading any kind of manual labor that marred
the symmetry or beauty of the body.
At Sparta, and in other states where oligarchical institutions prevailed,
the citizens formed a sort of military class, strikingly similar to the
military aristocracy of Feudal Europe. Their chief occupation was martial
and gymnastic exercises and the administration of public affairs. The
Spartans, it will be recalled, were forbidden by law to engage in trade.
In other aristocratic states, as at Thebes, a man by engaging in trade
disqualified himself for full citizenship.
In the democratic states, however, speaking generally, labor and trade
were regarded with less contempt. A considerable portion of the citizens
were traders, artisans, and farmers.
Life at Athens presented some peculiar features. All Attica being included
in what we should term the corporate limits of the city, the roll of
Athenian citizens included a large body of well-to-do farmers, whose
residence was outside the city walls. The Attic plains, and the slopes of
the half-encircling hills, were dotted with beautiful villas and inviting
And then Athens being the head of a great empire of subject cities, a
large number of Athenian citizens were necessarily employed as salaried
officials in the minor positions of the public service, and thus politics
became a profession. In any event, the meetings of the popular assembly
and the discussion of matters of state engrossed more or less of the time
and attention of every citizen.
Again, the great Athenian jury-courts, which were busied with cases from
all parts of the empire, gave constant employment to nearly one fourth of
the citizens, the fee that the juryman received enabling him to live
without other business. It is said that, in the early morning, when the
jurymen were passing through the streets to the different courts, Athens
appeared like a city wholly given up to the single business of law.
Furthermore, the great public works, such as temples and commemorative
monuments, which were in constant process of erection, afforded employment
for a vast number of artists and skilled workmen of every class.
In the Agora, again, at any time of the day, a numerous class might have
been found whose sole occupation, as in the case of Socrates, was to talk.
The writer of the "Acts of the Apostles" was so impressed with this
feature of life at Athens that he summarized the habits of the people by
saying, "All the Athenians, and strangers which were there, spent their
time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing."
(Chap. xvii. 21.)
SLAVERY.--There was a dark side to Greek life. Hellenic art, culture,
refinement--"these good things were planted, like exquisite exotic
flowers, upon the black, rank soil of slavery."
The proportion of slaves to the free population in many of the states was
astonishingly large. In Corinth and �gina there were ten slaves to every
freeman. In Attica the proportion was four to one; that is to say, out of
a population of about 500,000, 400,000 were slaves. [Footnote: The
population of Attica in 317 B.C. is reckoned at about 527,000. That of
Athens in its best days was probably not far from 150,000.] Almost every
freeman was a slave owner. It was accounted a real hardship to have to get
along with less than half a dozen slaves.
This large class of slaves was formed in various ways. In the prehistoric
period, the fortunes of war had brought the entire population of whole
provinces into a servile condition, as in certain parts of the
Peloponnesus. During later times, the ordinary captives of war still
further augmented the ranks of these unfortunates. Their number was also
largely added to by the slave traffic carried on with the barbarian
peoples of Asia Minor. Criminals and debtors, too, were often condemned to
servitude; while foundlings were usually brought up as slaves.
The relation of master and slave was regarded by the Greek as being, not
only a legal, but a natural one. A free community, in his view, could not
exist without slavery. It formed the natural basis of both the family and
the state,--the relation of master and slave being regarded as "strictly
analogous to the relation of soul and body." Even Aristotle and other
Greek philosophers approved the maxim that "slaves are simply domestic
animals possessed of intelligence." They were regarded as just as
necessary in the economy of the family as cooking utensils.
In general, Greek slaves were not treated harshly--judging their treatment
by the standard of humanity that prevailed in antiquity. Some held places
of honor in the family, and enjoyed the confidence and even the friendship
of their master. Yet at Sparta, where slavery assumed the form of serfdom,
the lot of the slave was peculiarly hard and unendurable.
If slavery was ever justified by its fruits, it was in Greece. The
brilliant civilization of the Greeks was its product, and could never have
existed without it. As one truthfully says, "Without the slaves the Attic
democracy would have been an impossibility, for they alone enabled the
poor, as well as the rich, to take a part in public affairs." Relieving
the citizen of all drudgery, the system created a class characterized by
elegant leisure, refinement, and culture.
We find an almost exact historical parallel to all this in the feudal
aristocracy of medi�val Europe. Such a society has been well likened to a
great pyramid, whose top may be gilded with light, while the base lies in
dark shadows. The civilization of ancient Hellas was splendid and
attractive, but it rested with a crushing weight upon all the lower orders
of Greek society.
SECTION III. ROMAN HISTORY.
THE ROMAN KINGDOM.
(Legendary Date, 753-509 B.C.)
DIVISIONS OF ITALY.--The peninsula of Italy, like that of Greece, divides
itself into three parts--Northern, Central, and Southern Italy. The first
comprises the great basin of the Po, lying between the Alps and the
Apennines. In ancient times this part of Italy included three districts--
Liguria, Gallia Cisalpina, which means "Gaul on this (the Italian) side of
the Alps," and Venetia.
The countries of Central Italy were Etruria, Latium, and Campania, facing
the Western, or Tuscan Sea; Umbria and Picenum, looking out over the
Eastern, or Adriatic Sea; and Samnium and the country of the Sabines,
occupying the rough mountain districts of the Apennines.
Southern Italy comprised the countries of Apulia, Lucania, Calabria, and
Bruttium. Calabria occupied the "heel," and Bruttium formed the "toe," of
the peninsula. This part of Italy, as we have already learned, was called
Magna Gr�cia, or "Great Greece," on account of the number and importance
of the Greek cities that during the period of Hellenic supremacy were
established in these regions.
The large island of Sicily, lying just off the mainland on the south, may
be regarded simply as a detached fragment of Italy, so intimately has its
history been interwoven with that of the peninsula. In ancient times it
was the meeting-place and battleground of the Carthaginians, Greeks, and
EARLY INHABITANTS OF ITALY.--There were, in early times, three chief races
in Italy--the Italians, the Etruscans, and the Greeks. The Italians, a
branch of the Aryan family, embraced many tribes (Latins, Umbrians,
Sabines, Samnites, etc.), that occupied nearly all Central Italy. The
Etruscans, a wealthy, cultured, and maritime people of uncertain race,
dwelt in Etruria, now Tuscany. Before the rise of the Romans they were the
leading race in the peninsula. Of the establishment of the Greek cities in
Southern Italy, we have already learned in connection with Grecian History
Some five hundred years B.C., the Gauls, a Celtic race, came over the
Alps, and settling in Northern Italy, became formidable enemies of the
infant republic of Rome.
THE LATINS.--Most important of all the Italian peoples were the Latins,
who dwelt in Latium, between the Tiber and the Liris. These people, like
all the Italians, were near kindred of the Greeks, and brought with them
into Italy those same customs, manners, beliefs, and institutions which we
have seen to have been the common possession of the various branches of
the Aryan household (see p. 5). There are said to have been in all Latium
thirty towns, and these formed an alliance known as the Latin League. The
city which first assumed importance and leadership among the towns of this
confederation was Alba Longa, the "Long White City," so called because its
buildings stretched for a great distance along the summit of a whitish
THE BEGINNINGS OF ROME.--The place of preeminence among the Latin towns
was soon lost by Alba Longa, and gained by another city. This was Rome,
the stronghold of the Ramnes, or Romans, located upon a low hill on the
south bank of the Tiber, about fifteen miles from the sea.
The traditions of the Romans place the founding of their city in the year
753 B.C. The town was established, it would seem, as an outpost to guard
the northern frontier of Latium against the Etruscans.
Recent excavations have revealed the foundations of the old walls and two
of the ancient gates. We thus learn that the city at first covered only
the top of the Palatine Hill, one of a cluster of low eminences close to
the Tiber, which, finally embraced within the limits of the growing city,
became the famed "Seven Hills of Rome." From the shape of its enclosing
walls, the original city was called _Roma Quadrata_, "Square Rome."
THE EARLY ROMAN STATE: KING, SENATE, AND POPULAR ASSEMBLY.--The early
Roman state seems to have been formed by the union of three communities.
These constituted three tribes, known as Ramnes (the Romans proper, who
gave name to the mixed people), Tities, and Luceres. Each of these tribes
was divided into ten wards, or districts (_curi�_); each ward was
made up of _gentes_, or clans, and each clan was composed of a number
of families. The heads of these families were called _patres_, or
"fathers," and all the members patricians, that is, "children of the
At the head of the nation stood the King, who was the father of the state.
He was at once ruler of the people, commander of the army, judge and high
priest of the nation, with absolute power as to life and death.
Next to the king stood the Senate, or "council of the old men," composed
of the "fathers," or heads of the families. This council had no power to
enact laws: the duty of its members was simply to advise with the king,
who was free to follow or to disregard their suggestions.
The Popular Assembly (_comitia curiata_) comprised all the citizens
of Rome, that is, all the members of the patrician families, old enough to
bear arms. It was this body that enacted the laws of the state, determined
upon peace or war, and also elected the king.
CLASSES OF SOCIETY.--The two important classes of the population of Rome
under the kingdom and the early republic, were the patricians and the
plebeians. The former were the members of the three original tribes that
made up the Roman people, and at first alone possessed political rights.
They were proud, exclusive, and tenacious of their inherited privileges.
The latter were made up chiefly of the inhabitants of subjected cities,
and of refugees from various quarters that had sought an asylum at Rome.
They were free to acquire property, and enjoyed personal freedom, but at
first had no political rights whatever. The greater number were petty
land-owners, who held and cultivated the soil about the city. A large part
of the early history of Rome is simply the narration of the struggles of
this class to secure social and political equality with the patricians.
Besides these two principal orders, there were two other classes--clients
and slaves. The former were attached to the families of patricians, who
became their patrons, or protectors. The condition of the client was
somewhat like that of the serf in the feudal system of the Middle Ages. A
large clientage was considered the crown and glory of a patrician house.
The slaves were, in the main, captives in war. Their number, small at
first, gradually increased as the Romans extended their conquests, till
they outnumbered all the other classes taken together, and more than once
turned upon their masters in formidable revolts that threatened the very
existence of the Roman state.
THE LEGENDARY KINGS.--For nearly two and a half centuries after the
founding of Rome (from 753 to 509 B.C., according to tradition), the
government was a monarchy. To span this period, the legends of the Romans
tell of the reigns of seven kings--Romulus, the founder of Rome; Numa, the
lawgiver; Tullus Hostilius and Ancus Marcius, conquerors both; Tarquinius
Priscus, the great builder; Servius Tullius, the reorganizer of the
government and second founder of the state; and Tarquinius Superbus, the
haughty tyrant, whose oppressions led to the abolition by the people of
the office of king.
The traditions of the doings of these monarchs and of what happened to
them, blend hopelessly fact and fable. We cannot be quite sure even as to
the names. Respecting Roman affairs, however, under the last three rulers
(the Tarquins), who were of Etruscan origin, some important things are
related, the substantial truth of which we may rely upon with a fair
degree of certainty; and these matters we shall notice in the following
GROWTH OF ROME UNDER THE TARQUINS.--The Tarquins extended their authority
over the whole of Latium. The position of supremacy thus given Rome was
naturally attended by the rapid growth in population and importance of the
little Palatine city. The original walls soon became too strait for the
increasing multitudes; new ramparts were built--tradition says under the
direction of the king Servius Tullius--which, with a great circuit of
seven miles, swept around the entire cluster of the Seven Hills. A large
tract of marshy ground between the Palatine and Capitoline hills was
drained by means of the Cloaca Maxima, the "Great Sewer," which was so
admirably constructed that it has been preserved to the present day. It
still discharges its waters through a great arch into the Tiber. The land
thus reclaimed became the Forum, the assembling-place of the people. Upon
the summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Forum, was built the
famous sanctuary called the Capitol, or the Capitoline temple, where
beneath the same roof were the shrines of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, the
three great national deities. Upon the level ground between the Aventine
and the Palatine was laid out the Circus Maximus, the "Great Circus,"
where were celebrated the Roman games.
[Illustration: VIEW OF THE CAPITOLINE, WITH THE CLOACA MAXIMA. (A
NEW CONSTITUTION OF SERVIUS TULLIUS.--The second king of the Etruscan
house, Servius Tullius by name, effected a most important change in the
constitution of the Roman state. He did here at Rome just what Solon at
about this time did at Athens (see p. 120). He made property instead of
birth the basis of the constitution. The entire population was divided
into five classes, the first of which included all citizens, whether
patricians or plebeians, who owned twenty _jugera_ (about twelve acres) of
land; the fifth and lowest embraced all that could show title to even two
jugera. The army was made up of the members of the five classes; as it was
thought right and proper that the public defence should be the care of
those who, on account of their possessions, were most interested in the
maintenance of order and in the protection of the boundaries of the state.
The assembling-place of the military classes thus organized was on a large
plain just outside the city walls, called the Campus Martius, or "Field of
Mars." The meeting of these military orders was called the _comitia
centuriata_, or the "assembly of hundreds." [Footnote: This assembly
was not organized by Servius Tullius, but it grew out of the military
organization he created.] This body, which of course was made up of
patricians and plebeians, gradually absorbed the powers of the earlier
patrician assembly (_comitia curiata_).
THE EXPULSION OF THE KINGS.--The legends make Tarquinius Superbus, or
Tarquin the Proud, the last king of Rome. He is represented as a monstrous
tyrant, whose arbitrary acts caused both patricians and plebeians to unite
and drive him and all his house into exile. This event, according to
tradition, occurred in the year 509 B.C., only one year later than the
expulsion of the tyrants from Athens (see p. 122).
So bitterly did the people hate the tyranny they had abolished that it is
said they all, the nobles as well as the commons, bound themselves by most
solemn oaths never again to tolerate a king. We shall hereafter see how
well this vow was kept for nearly five hundred years.
THE ROMAN RELIGION.
THE CHIEF ROMAN DEITIES.--The basis of the Roman religious system was the
same as that of the Grecian: the germs of its institutions were brought
from the same early Aryan home. At the head of the Pantheon stood Jupiter,
identical in all essential attributes with the Hellenic Zeus. He was the
special protector of the Roman people. To him, together with Juno and
Minerva, was consecrated, as we have already noticed, a magnificent temple
upon the summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Forum and the
city. Mars, the god of war, standing next in rank, was the favorite deity
and the fabled father of the Roman race, who were fond of calling
themselves the "children of Mars." They proved themselves worthy offspring
of the war-god. Martial games and festivals were celebrated in his honor
during the first month of the Roman year, which bore, and still bears, in
his honor, the name of March. Janus was a double-faced deity, "the god of
the beginning and the end of everything." The month of January was sacred
to him, as were also all gates and doors. The gates of his temple were
always kept open in time of war and shut in time of peace.
The fire upon the household hearth was regarded as the symbol of the
goddess Vesta. Her worship was a favorite one with the Romans. The nation,
too, as a single great family, had a common national hearth in the Temple
of Vesta, where the sacred fires were kept burning from generation to
generation by six virgins, daughters of the Roman state. The Lares and
Penates were household gods. Their images were set in the entrance of the
dwelling. The Lares were the spirits of ancestors, which were thought to
linger about the home as its guardians.
ORACLES AND DIVINATION.--The Romans, like the Greeks, thought that the
will of the gods was communicated to men by means of oracles, and by
strange sights, unusual events, or singular coincidences. There were no
true oracles at Rome. The Romans, therefore, often had recourse to those
in Magna Gr�cia, even sending for advice, in great emergencies, to the
Delphian shrine. From Etruria was introduced the art of the haruspices, or
soothsayers, which consisted in discovering the divine mind by the
appearance of victims slain for the sacrifices.
THE SACRED COLLEGES.--The four chief sacred colleges, or societies, were
the Keepers of the Sibylline Books, the College of Augurs, the College of
Pontiffs, and the College of the Heralds.
[Illustration: VESTAL VIRGIN.]
A curious legend is told of the Sibylline Books. An old woman came to
Tarquinius Superbus and offered to sell him, for an extravagant price,
nine volumes. As the king declined to pay the sum demanded, the woman
departed, destroyed three of the books, and then, returning, offered the
remainder at the very same sum that she had wanted for the complete
number. The king still refused to purchase; so the sibyl went away and
destroyed three more of the volumes, and bringing back the remaining
three, asked the same price as before. Tarquin was by this time so curious
respecting the contents of the mysterious books that he purchased the
remaining volumes. It was found upon examination that they were filled
with prophecies respecting the future of the Roman people. The books were
placed in a stone chest, which was kept in a vault beneath the Capitoline
temple; and special custodians were appointed to take charge of them and
interpret them. The number of keepers, throughout the most important
period of Roman history, was fifteen. The books were consulted only in
times of extreme danger.
The duty of the members of the College of Augurs was to interpret the
omens, or auspices, which were casual sights or appearances, by which
means it was believed that Jupiter made known his will. Great skill was
required in the "taking of the auspices," as it was called. No business of
importance, public or private, was entered upon without first consulting
the auspices, to ascertain whether they were favorable. The public
assembly, for illustration, must not convene, to elect officers or to
enact laws, unless the auspices had been taken and found propitious.
Should a peal of thunder occur while the people were holding a meeting,
that was considered an unfavorable omen, and the assembly must instantly
The College of Pontiffs was so called because one of the duties of its
members was to keep in repair the bridges (_pontes_) over which the
religious processions were accustomed to pass. This was the most important
of all the religious institutions of the Romans; for to the pontiffs
belonged the superintendence of all religious matters. In their keeping,
too, was the calendar, and they could lengthen or shorten the year, which
power they sometimes used to extend the office of a favorite or to cut
short that of one who had incurred their displeasure. The head of the
college was called Pontifex Maximus, or the Chief Bridge-builder, which
title was assumed by the Roman emperors, and after them by the Christian
bishops of Rome; and thus the name has come down to our own times. The
College of Heralds had the care of all public matters pertaining to
foreign nations. If the Roman people had suffered any wrong from another
state, it was the duty of the heralds to demand satisfaction. If this was
denied, and war determined upon, then a herald proceeded to the frontier
of the enemy's country and hurled over the boundary a spear dipped in
blood. This was a declaration of war. The Romans were very careful in the
observance of this ceremony.
SACRED GAMES.--The Romans had many religious games and festivals.
Prominent among these were the so-called Circensian Games, or Games of the
Circus, which were very similar to the sacred games of the Greeks (see p.
106). They consisted, in the main, of chariot-racing, wrestling, foot-
racing, and various other athletic contests.
These festivals, as in the case of those of the Greeks, had their origin
in the belief that the gods delighted in the exhibition of feats of skill,
strength, or endurance; that their anger might be appeased by such
spectacles; or that they might be persuaded by the promise of games to
lend aid to mortals in great emergencies. At the opening of the year it
was customary for the Roman magistrate, in behalf of the people, to
promise to the gods games and festivals, provided good crops, protection
from pestilence, and victory were granted the Romans during the year. So,
too, a general in great straits in the field might, in the name of the
state, vow plays to the gods, and the people were sacredly bound by his
act to fulfil the promise. Plays given in fulfilment of vows thus made
were called votive games.
Towards the close of the republic these games lost much of their religious
character, and at last became degraded into mere brutal shows given by
ambitious leaders for the purpose of winning popularity.
THE EARLY ROMAN REPUBLIC: CONQUEST OF ITALY,
THE FIRST CONSULS.--With the monarchy overthrown and the last king and his
house banished from Rome, the people set to work to reorganize the
government. In place of the king, there were elected (by the _comitia
centuriata_, in which assembly the plebeians had a place) two patrician
magistrates, called consuls, [Footnote: That is, _colleagues_. Each
consul had the power of obstructing the acts or vetoing the commands of
the other. In times of great public danger the consuls were superseded by
a special officer called a _dictator_, whose term of office was limited to
six months, but whose power during this time was as unlimited as that of
the kings had been.] who were chosen for one year, and were invested with
all the powers, save some priestly functions, that had been held by the
monarch during the regal period.
In public each consul was attended by twelve servants, called lictors,
each of whom bore an axe bound in a bundle of rods (_fasces_), the
symbols of the authority of the consul to flog and to put to death. Within
the limits of the city, however, the axe must be removed from the
_fasces_, by which was indicated that no Roman citizen could be put
to death by the consuls without the consent of the public assembly.
Lucius Junius Brutus and Tarquinius Collatinus were the first consuls
under the new constitution. But it is said that the very name of
Tarquinius was so intolerable to the people that he was forced to resign
the consulship, and that he and all his house were driven out of Rome.
[Footnote: The truth is, he was related to the exiled royal family, and
the people were distrustful of his loyalty to the republic.] Another
consul, Publius Valerius, was chosen in his stead.
SECESSION OF THE PLEBEIANS.
FIRST SECESSION OF THE PLEBEIANS (494 B.C.).--Taking advantage of the
disorders that followed the political revolution, the Latin towns which
had been forced to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome rose in revolt, and
the result was that almost all the conquests that had been made under the
kings were lost. For a long time the little republic had to struggle hard
for bare existence.
Troubles without brought troubles within. The poor plebeians, during this
period of disorder and war, fell in debt to the wealthy class,--for the
Roman soldier went to war at his own charge, equipping and feeding
himself,--and payment was exacted with heartless severity. A debtor became
the absolute property of his creditor, who might sell him as a slave to
pay the debt, and in some cases even put him to death. All this was
intolerable. The plebeians determined to secede from Rome and build a new
city for themselves on a neighboring eminence, called afterwards the
Sacred Hill. They marched away in a body from Rome to the chosen spot, and
began making preparations for erecting new homes (494 B.C.).
THE COVENANT AND THE TRIBUNES.--The patricians saw clearly that such a
division must prove ruinous to the state, and that the plebeians must be
persuaded to give up their enterprise and come back to Rome. The consul
Valerius was sent to treat with the insurgents. The plebeians were at
first obstinate, but at last were persuaded to yield to the entreaties of
the embassy to return, being won to this mind, so it is said, by one of
the wise senators, Menenius, who made use of the well-known fable of the
Body and the Members.
The following covenant was entered into, and bound by the most solemn
oaths and vows before the gods: The debts of the poor plebeians were to be
cancelled and those held in slavery set free; and two magistrates (the
number was soon increased to ten), called tribunes, whose duty it should
be to watch over the plebeians, and protect them against the injustice,
harshness, and partiality of the patrician magistrates, were to be chosen
from the commons. The persons of these officers were made sacred. Any one
interrupting a tribune in the discharge of his duties, or doing him any
violence, was declared an outlaw, whom any one might kill. That the
tribunes might be always easily found, they were not allowed to go more
than one mile beyond the city walls. Their houses were to be open night as
well as day, that any plebeian unjustly dealt with might flee thither for
protection and refuge.
We cannot overestimate the importance of the change effected in the Roman
constitution by the creation of this office of the tribunate. Under the
protection and leadership of the tribunes, who were themselves protected
by oaths of inviolable sanctity, the plebeians carried on a struggle for a
share in the offices and dignities of the state which never ceased until
the Roman government, as yet only republican in name, became in fact a
real democracy, in which patrician and plebeian shared equally in all
emoluments and privileges.
CORIOLANUS.--The tradition of Coriolanus illustrates in what manner the
tribunes cared for the rights of the common people and protected them from
the oppression of the nobles. During a severe famine at Rome, Gelon, the
King of Syracuse, sent large quantities of grain to the capital for
distribution among the suffering poor. A certain patrician, Coriolanus by
name, made a proposal that none of the grain should be given to the
plebeians save on condition that they give up their tribunes. These
officials straightway summoned him before the plebeian assembly,
[Footnote: This was the _Concilium Tributum Plebis_, an assembly
which came into existence about this time. It was made up wholly of
plebeians, and was presided over by the tribunes. Later, there came into
existence another tribal assembly, which was composed of patricians and
plebeians, and presided over by consuls or pr�tors. Some authorities are
inclined to regard these two assemblies as one and the same body; but
others, among whom is Mommsen, with probably better reason, look upon
them as two distinct organizations.] on the charge of having broken the
solemn covenant of the Sacred Mount, and so bitter was the feeling against
him that he was obliged to flee from Rome.
He now allied himself with the Volscians, enemies of Rome, and even led
their armies against his native city. An embassy from the Senate was sent
to him, to sue for peace. But the spirit of Coriolanus was bitter and
revengeful, and he would listen to none of their proposals. Nothing
availed to move him until his mother, at the head of a train of Roman
matrons, came to his tent, and with tears pleaded with him to spare the
city. Her entreaties and the "soft prayers" of his own wife and children
prevailed, and with the words "Mother, thou hast saved Rome, but lost thy
son," he led away the Volscian army.
CINCINNATUS MADE DICTATOR.--The enemies of Rome, taking advantage of the
dissensions of the nobles and commons, pressed upon the frontiers of the
republic on all sides. In 458 B.C., the �quians, while one of the consuls
was away fighting the Sabines, defeated the forces of the other, and shut
them up in a narrow valley, whence escape seemed impossible. There was
great terror in Rome when news of the situation of the army was brought to
The Senate immediately appointed Cincinnatus, a noble patrician, dictator.
The ambassadors that carried to him the message from the Senate found him
upon his little farm near the Tiber, at work behind the plough. Accepting
the office at once, he hastily gathered an army, marched to the relief of
the consul, captured the entire army of the �quians, and sent them beneath
the yoke. [Footnote: This was formed of two spears thrust firmly into the
ground and crossed a few feet from the earth by a third. Prisoners of war
were forced to pass beneath this yoke as a symbol of submission.]
Cincinnatus then led his army back to Rome in triumph, laid down his
office, and sought again the retirement of his farm.
THE DECEMVIRS AND THE TABLES OF LAWS.--Written laws are always a great
safeguard against oppression. Until what shall constitute a crime and what
shall be its penalty are clearly written down and well known and
understood by all, judges may render unfair decisions, or inflict unjust
punishment, and yet run little risk--unless they go altogether too far--of
being called to an account; for no one but themselves knows what the law
or the penalty really is. Hence in all struggles of the people against the
tyranny of the ruling class, the demand for written laws is one of the
first measures taken by the people for the protection of their persons and
property. Thus we have seen the people of Athens, early in their struggle
with the nobles, demanding and obtaining a code of written laws (see p.
119). The same thing now took place at Rome. The plebeians demanded that a
code of laws be drawn up, in accordance with which the consuls, who
exercised judicial powers, should render their decisions. The patricians
offered a stubborn resistance to their wishes, but finally were forced to
yield to the popular clamor.
A commission was sent to the Greek cities of Southern Italy and to Athens
to study the Grecian laws and customs. Upon the return of this embassy, a
commission of ten magistrates, who were known as decemvirs, was appointed
to frame a code of laws (451 B.C.). These officers, while engaged in this
work, were also to administer the entire government, and so were invested
with the supreme power of the state. The patricians gave up their consuls
and the plebeians their tribunes. At the end of the first year, the task
of the board was quite far from being finished, so a new decemvirate was
elected to complete the work. Appius Claudius was the only member of the
old board that was returned to the new.
The code was soon finished, and the laws were written on twelve tablets of
brass, which were fastened to the rostrum, or orator's platform in the
Forum, where they might be seen and read by all. These "Laws of the Twelve
Tables" were to Roman jurisprudence what the good laws of Solon (see p.
120) were to the Athenian constitution. They formed the basis of all new
legislation for many centuries, and constituted a part of the education of
the Roman youth--every school-boy being required to learn them by heart.
MISRULE AND OVERTHROW OF THE DECEMVIRS.--The first decemvirs used the
great power lodged in their hands with justice and prudence; but the
second board, under the leadership of Appius Claudius, instituted a most
infamous and tyrannical rule. The result was a second secession of the
plebeians to the Sacred Hill. This procedure, which once before had proved
so effectual in securing justice to the oppressed, had a similar issue
now. The situation was so critical that the decemvirs were forced to
resign. The consulate and the tribunate were restored. Eight of the
decemvirs were forced to go into exile; Appius Claudius and one other,
having been imprisoned, committed suicide.
CONSULAR, OR MILITARY TRIBUNES.--The overthrow of the decemvirate was
followed by a long struggle between the nobles and the commons, which was
an effort on the part of the latter to gain admission to the consulship;
for up to this time only a patrician could hold that office. The
contention resulted in a compromise. It was agreed that, in place of the
two consuls, the people _might_ elect from either order magistrates,
who should be known as "military tribunes with consular powers." These
officers, whose numbers varied, differed from consuls more in name than in
functions or authority. In fact, the plebeians had gained the office, but
not the name (444 B.C.).
THE CENSORS.--No sooner had the plebeians virtually secured admission to
the consulship, than the jealous and exclusive patricians commenced
scheming to rob them of the fruit of the victory they had gained. They
effected this by taking from the consulate some of its most distinctive
duties and powers, and conferring them upon two new patrician officers
called censors. The functions of these magistrates were many and
important. They took the census, and thus assigned to every man his
position in the different classes of the citizens; and they could, for
immorality or any improper conduct, not only degrade a man from his rank,
but deprive him of his vote. It was their duty to watch the public morals
and in case of necessity to administer wholesome advice. Thus we are told
of their reproving the young Romans for wearing tunics with long sleeves--
an Oriental and effeminate custom--and for neglecting to marry upon
arriving at a proper age. From the name of these Roman officers comes our
word _censorious_, meaning fault-finding.
The first censors were elected probably in the year 444 B.C.; about one
hundred years afterwards, in 351 B.C., the plebeians secured the right of
holding this office also.
SIEGE AND CAPTURE OF VEII.--We must now turn to notice the fortunes of
Rome in war. Almost from the founding of the city, we find its warlike
citizens carrying on a fierce contest with their powerful Etruscan
neighbors on the north. Veii was one of the largest and richest of the
cities of Etruria. Around this the war gathered. The Romans, like the
Grecians at Troy, attacked its walls for ten years. The length of the
siege, and the necessity of maintaining a force permanently in the field,
led to the establishment of a paid standing army; for hitherto the soldier
had not only equipped himself, but had served without pay. Thus was laid
the basis of that military power which was destined to effect the conquest
of the world, and then, in the hands of ambitious and favorite generals,
to overthrow the republic itself.
[Illustration: ROMAN SOLDIER.]
The capture of Veii by the dictator Camillus (396 B.C.) was followed by
that of many other Etruscan towns. Rome was enriched by their spoils, and
became the centre of a large and lucrative trade. The frontiers of the
republic were pushed out even beyond the utmost limits of the kingdom
before its overthrow. All that was lost by the revolution had been now
regained, and much besides had been won. At this moment there broke upon
the city a storm from the north, which all but cut short the story we are
SACK OF ROME BY THE GAULS (390 B.C.).--We have already mentioned how, in
very remote times, the tribes of Gaul crossed the Alps and established
themselves in Northern Italy (see p. 223). While the Romans were
conquering the towns of Etruria, these barbarian hordes were moving
southward, and overrunning and devastating the countries of Central Italy.
[Illustration: GAULS IN SIGHT OF ROME.]
News was brought to Rome that they were advancing upon that city. A Roman
army met them on the banks of the river Allia, eleven miles from the