The Conspiracy of Cylon.--Loss of Salamis.--First Appearance of
Solon.--Success against the Megarians in the Struggle for Salamis.--
Cirrhaean War.--Epimenides.--Political State of Athens.--Character of
Solon.--His Legislation.--General View of the Athenian Constitution.

I. The first symptom in Athens of the political crisis (B. C. 621)
which, as in other of the Grecian states, marked the transition of
power from the oligarchic to the popular party, may be detected in the
laws of Draco. Undue severity in the legislature is the ordinary
proof of a general discontent: its success is rarely lasting enough to
confirm a government--its failure, when confessed, invariably
strengthens a people. Scarcely had these laws been enacted (B. C.
620) when a formidable conspiracy broke out against the reigning
oligarchy [195]. It was during the archonship of Megacles (a scion of
the great Alcmaeonic family, which boasted its descent from Nestor)
that the aristocracy was menaced by the ambition of an aristocrat.

Born of an ancient and powerful house, and possessed of considerable
wealth, Cylon, the Athenian, conceived the design of seizing the
citadel, and rendering himself master of the state. He had wedded the
daughter of Theagenes, tyrant of Megara, and had raised himself into
popular reputation several years before, by a victory in the Olympic
games (B. C. 640). The Delphic oracle was supposed to have inspired
him with the design; but it is at least equally probable that the
oracle was consulted after the design had been conceived. The divine
voice declared that Cylon should occupy the citadel on the greatest
festival of Jupiter. By the event it does not appear, however, that
he selected the proper occasion. Taking advantage of an Olympic year,
when many of the citizens were gone to the games, and assisted with
troops by his father-in-law, he seized the citadel. Whatever might
have been his hopes of popular support--and there is reason to believe
that he in some measure calculated upon it--the time was evidently
unripe for the convulsion, and the attempt was unskilfully planned.
The Athenians, under Megacles and the other archons, took the alarm,
and in a general body blockaded the citadel. But they grew weary of
the length of the siege; many of them fell away, and the contest was
abandoned to the archons, with full power to act according to their
judgment. So supine in defence of the liberties of the state are a
people who have not yet obtained liberty for themselves!

II. The conspirators were reduced by the failure of food and water.
Cylon and his brother privately escaped. Of his adherents, some
perished by famine, others betook themselves to the altars in the
citadel, claiming, as suppliants, the right of sanctuary. The guards
of the magistrates, seeing the suppliants about to expire from
exhaustion, led them from the altar and put them to death. But some
of the number were not so scrupulously slaughtered--massacred around
the altars of the furies. The horror excited by a sacrilege so
atrocious, may easily be conceived by those remembering the humane and
reverent superstition of the Greeks:--the indifference of the people
to the contest was changed at once into detestation of the victors. A
conspiracy, hitherto impotent, rose at once into power by the
circumstances of its defeat. Megacles--his whole house--all who had
assisted in the impiety, were stigmatized with the epithet of
"execrable." The faction, or friends of Cylon, became popular from
the odium of their enemies--the city was distracted by civil
commotion--by superstitious apprehensions of the divine anger--and, as
the excesses of one party are the aliment of the other, so the
abhorrence of sacrilege effaced the remembrance of a treason.

III. The petty state of Megara, which, since the earlier ages, had,
from the dependant of Athens, grown up to the dignity of her rival,
taking advantage of the internal dissensions in the latter city,
succeeded in wresting from the Athenian government the Isle of
Salamis. It was not, however, without bitter and repeated struggles
that Athens at last submitted to the surrender of the isle. But,
after signal losses and defeats, as nothing is ever more odious to the
multitude than unsuccessful war, so the popular feeling was such as to
induce the government to enact a decree, by which it was forbidden,
upon pain of death, to propose reasserting the Athenian claims. But a
law, evidently the offspring of a momentary passion of disgust or
despair, and which could not but have been wrung with reluctance from
a government, whose conduct it tacitly arraigned, and whose military
pride it must have mortified, was not likely to bind, for any length
of time, a gallant aristocracy and a susceptible people. Many of the
younger portion of the community, pining at the dishonour of their
country, and eager for enterprise, were secretly inclined to
countenance any stratagem that might induce the reversal of the

At this time there went a report through the city, that a man of
distinguished birth, indirectly descended from the last of the
Athenian kings, had incurred the consecrating misfortune of insanity.
Suddenly this person appeared in the market-place, wearing the
peculiar badge that distinguished the sick [196]. His friends were,
doubtless, well prepared for his appearance--a crowd, some predisposed
to favour, others attracted by curiosity, were collected round him--
and, ascending to the stone from which the heralds made their
proclamations, he began to recite aloud a poem upon the loss of
Salamis, boldly reproving the cowardice of the people, and inciting
them again to war. His supposed insanity protected him from the law--
his rank, reputation, and the circumstance of his being himself a
native of Salamis, conspired to give his exhortations a powerful
effect, and the friends he had secured to back his attempt loudly
proclaimed their applauding sympathy with the spirit of the address.
The name of the pretended madman was Solon, son of Execestides, the
descendant of Codrus.

Plutarch (followed by Mr. Milford, Mr. Thirlwall, and other modern
historians) informs us that the celebrated Pisistratus then proceeded
to exhort the assembly, and to advocate the renewal of the war--an
account that is liable to this slight objection, that Pisistratus at
that time was not born! [197]

IV. The stratagem and the eloquence of Solon produced its natural
effect upon his spirited and excitable audience, and the public
enthusiasm permitted the oligarchical government to propose and effect
the repeal of the law [198]. An expedition was decreed and planned,
and Solon was invested with its command. It was but a brief struggle
to recover the little island of Salamis: with one galley of thirty
oars and a number of fishing-craft, Solon made for Salamis, took a
vessel sent to reconnoitre by the Megarians, manned it with his own
soldiers, who were ordered to return to the city with such caution as
might prevent the Megarians discovering the exchange, on board, of
foes for friends; and then with the rest of his force he engaged the
enemy by land, while those in the ship captured the city. In
conformity with this version of the campaign (which I have selected in
preference to another recorded by Plutarch), an Athenian ship once a
year passed silently to Salamis--the inhabitants rushed clamouring
down to meet it--an armed man leaped ashore, and ran shouting to the
Promontory of Sciradium, near which was long existent a temple erected
and dedicated to Mars by Solon.

But the brave and resolute Megarians were not men to be disheartened
by a single reverse; they persisted in the contest--losses were
sustained on either side, and at length both states agreed to refer
their several claims on the sovereignty of the island to the decision
of Spartan arbiters. And this appeal from arms to arbitration is a
proof how much throughout Greece had extended that spirit of
civilization which is but an extension of the sense of justice. Both
parties sought to ground their claims upon ancient and traditional
rights. Solon is said to have assisted the demand of his countrymen
by a quotation, asserted to have been spuriously interpolated from
Homer's catalogue of the ships, which appeared to imply the ancient
connexion of Salamis and Athens (199); and whether or not this was
actually done, the very tradition that it was done, nearly half a
century before the first usurpation of Pisistratus, is a proof of the
great authority of Homer in that age, and how largely the services
rendered by Pisistratus, many years afterward, to the Homeric poems,
have been exaggerated and misconstrued. The mode of burial in
Salamis, agreeable to the custom of the Athenians and contrary to that
of the Megarians, and reference to certain Delphic oracles, in which
the island was called "Ionian," were also adduced in support of the
Athenian claims. The arbitration of the umpires in favour of Athens
only suspended hostilities; and the Megarians did not cease to watch
(and shortly afterward they found) a fitting occasion to regain a
settlement so tempting to their ambition.

V. The credit acquired by Solon in this expedition was shortly
afterward greatly increased in the estimation of Greece. In the Bay
of Corinth was situated a town called Cirrha, inhabited by a fierce
and lawless race, who, after devastating the sacred territories of
Delphi, sacrilegiously besieged the city itself, in the desire to
possess themselves of the treasures which the piety of Greece had
accumulated in the temple of Apollo. Solon appeared at the
Amphictyonic council, represented the sacrilege of the Cirrhaeans, and
persuaded the Greeks to arm in defence of the altars of their tutelary
god. Clisthenes, the tyrant of Sicyon, was sent as commander-in-chief
against the Cirrhaeans (B. C. 595); and (according to Plutarch) the
records of Delphi inform us that Alcmaeon was the leader of the
Athenians. The war was not very successful at the onset; the oracle
of Apollo was consulted, and the answer makes one of the most amusing
anecdotes of priestcraft. The besiegers were informed by the god that
the place would not be reduced until the waves of the Cirrhaean Sea
washed the territories of Delphi. The reply perplexed the army; but
the superior sagacity of Solon was not slow in discovering that the
holy intention of the oracle was to appropriate the land of the
Cirrhaeans to the profit of the temple. He therefore advised the
besiegers to attack and to conquer Cirrha, and to dedicate its whole
territory to the service of the god. The advice was adopted--Cirrha
was taken (B. C. 586); it became thenceforth the arsenal of Delphi,
and the insulted deity had the satisfaction of seeing the sacred lands
washed by the waves of the Cirrhaean Sea. An oracle of this nature
was perhaps more effectual than the sword of Clisthenes in preventing
future assaults on the divine city! The Pythian games commenced, or
were revived, in celebration of this victory of the Pythian god.

VI. Meanwhile at Athens--the tranquillity of the state was still
disturbed by the mortal feud between the party of Cylon and the
adherents of the Alcmaeonidae--time only served to exasperate the
desire of vengeance in the one, and increase the indisposition to
justice in the other. Fortunately, however, the affairs of the state
were in that crisis which is ever favourable to the authority of an
individual. There are periods in all constitutions when, amid the
excesses of factions, every one submits willingly to an arbiter. With
the genius that might have made him the destroyer of the liberties of
his country, Solon had the virtue to constitute himself their saviour.
He persuaded the families stigmatized with the crime of sacrilege, and
the epithet of "execrable," to submit to the forms of trial; they were
impeached, judged, and condemned to exile; the bodies of those whom
death had already summoned to a sterner tribunal were disinterred, and
removed beyond the borders of Attica. Nevertheless, the superstitions
of the people were unappeased. Strange appearances were beheld in the
air, and the augurs declared that the entrails of the victims denoted
that the gods yet demanded a fuller expiation of the national crime.

At this time there lived in Crete one of those remarkable men common
to the early ages of the world, who sought to unite with the honours
of the sage the mysterious reputation of the magician. Epimenides,
numbered by some among the seven wise men, was revered throughout
Greece as one whom a heavenlier genius animated and inspired. Devoted
to poetry, this crafty impostor carried its prerogatives of fiction
into actual life; and when he declared--in one of his verses, quoted
by St. Paul in his Epistle to Titus--that "the Cretans were great
liars," we have no reason to exempt the venerable accuser from his own
unpatriotic reproach. Among the various legends which attach to his
memory is a tradition that has many a likeness both in northern and
eastern fable:--he is said to have slept forty-seven [200] years in a
cave, and on his waking from that moderate repose, to have been not
unreasonably surprised to discover the features of the country
perfectly changed. Returning to Cnossus, of which he was a citizen,
strange faces everywhere present themselves. At his father's door he
is asked his business, and at length, with considerable difficulty.
he succeeds in making himself known to his younger brother, whom he
had left a boy, and now recognised in an old decrepit man. "This
story," says a philosophical biographer, very gravely, "made a
considerable sensation"--an assertion not to be doubted; but those who
were of a more skeptical disposition, imagined that Epimenides had
spent the years of his reputed sleep in travelling over foreign
countries, and thus acquiring from men those intellectual acquisitions
which he more piously referred to the special inspiration of the gods.
Epimenides did not scruple to preserve the mysterious reputation he
obtained from this tale by fables equally audacious. He endeavoured
to persuade the people that he was Aeacus, and that he frequently
visited the earth: he was supposed to be fed by the nymphs--was never
seen to eat in public--he assumed the attributes of prophecy--and
dying in extreme old age: was honoured by the Cretans as a god.

In addition to his other spiritual prerogatives, this reviler of
"liars" boasted the power of exorcism; was the first to introduce into
Greece the custom of purifying public places and private abodes, and
was deemed peculiarly successful in banishing those ominous phantoms
which were so injurious to the tranquillity of the inhabitants of
Athens. Such a man was exactly the person born to relieve the fears
of the Athenians, and accomplish the things dictated by the panting
entrails of the sacred victims. Accordingly (just prior to the
Cirrhaean war, B. C. 596), a ship was fitted out, in which an Athenian
named Nicias was sent to Crete, enjoined to bring back the purifying
philosopher, with all that respectful state which his celebrity
demanded. Epimenides complied with the prayer of the Athenians he
arrived at Athens, and completed the necessary expiation in a manner
somewhat simple for so notable an exorcist. He ordered several sheep,
some black and some white, to be turned loose in the Areopagus,
directed them to be followed, and wherever they lay down, a sacrifice
was ordained in honour of some one of the gods. "Hence," says the
historian of the philosophers, "you may still see throughout Athens
anonymous altars (i. e. altars uninscribed to a particular god), the
memorials of that propitiation."

The order was obeyed--the sacrifice performed--and the phantoms were
seen no more. Although an impostor, Epimenides was a man of sagacity
and genius. He restrained the excess of funeral lamentation, which
often led to unseasonable interruptions of business, and conduced to
fallacious impressions of morality; and in return he accustomed the
Athenians to those regular habits of prayer and divine worship, which
ever tend to regulate and systematize the character of a people. He
formed the closest intimacy with Solon, and many of the subsequent
laws of the Athenian are said by Plutarch to have been suggested by
the wisdom of the Cnossian sage. When the time arrived for the
departure of Epimenides, the Athenians would have presented him with a
talent in reward of his services, but the philosopher refused the
offer; he besought the Athenians to a firm alliance with his
countrymen; accepted of no other remuneration than a branch of the
sacred olive which adorned the citadel, and was supposed the primeval
gift of Minerva, and returned to his native city,--proving that a man
in those days might be an impostor without seeking any other reward
than the gratuitous honour of the profession.

VII. With the departure of Epimenides, his spells appear to have
ceased; new disputes and new factions arose; and, having no other
crimes to expiate, the Athenians fell with one accord upon those of
the government. Three parties--the Mountaineers, the Lowlanders, and
the Coastmen--each advocating a different form of constitution,
distracted the state by a common discontent with the constitution that
existed, the three parties, which, if we glance to the experience of
modern times, we might almost believe that no free state can ever be
without--viz., the respective advocates of the oligarchic, the mixed,
and the democratic government. The habits of life ever produce among
classes the political principles by which they are severally
regulated. The inhabitants of the mountainous district, free, rude,
and hardy, were attached to a democracy; the possessors of the plains
were the powerful families who inclined to an oligarchy, although, as
in all aristocracies, many of them united, but with more moderate
views, in the measures of the democratic party; and they who, living
by the coast, were engaged in those commercial pursuits which at once
produce an inclination to liberty, yet a fear of its excess, a
jealousy of the insolence of the nobles, yet an apprehension of the
licentiousness of the mob, arrayed themselves in favour of that mixed
form of government--half oligarchic and half popular--which is usually
the most acceptable to the middle classes of an enterprising people.
But there was a still more fearful division than these, the three
legitimate parties, now existing in Athens: a division, not of
principle, but of feeling--that menacing division which, like the
cracks in the soil, portending earthquake, as it gradually widens, is
the symptom of convulsions that level and destroy,--the division, in
one word, of the rich and the poor--the Havenots and the Haves. Under
an oligarchy, that most griping and covetous of all forms of
government, the inequality of fortunes had become intolerably
grievous; so greatly were the poor in debt to the rich, that [201]
they were obliged to pay the latter a sixth of the produce of the
land, or else to engage their personal labour to their creditors, who
might seize their persons in default of payment. Some were thus
reduced to slavery, others sold to foreigners. Parents disposed of
their children to clear their debts, and many, to avoid servitude, in
stealth deserted the land. But a large body of the distressed, men
more sturdy and united, resolved to resist the iron pressure of the
law: they formed the design of abolishing debts--dividing the land--
remodelling the commonwealth: they looked around for a leader, and
fixed their hopes on Solon. In the impatience of the poor, in the
terror of the rich, liberty had lost its charms, and it was no
uncommon nor partial hope that a monarchy might be founded on the
ruins of an oligarchy already menaced with dissolution.

VIII. Solon acted during these disturbances with more than his usual
sagacity, and therefore, perhaps, with less than his usual energy. He
held himself backward and aloof, allowing either party to interpret,
as it best pleased, ambiguous and oracular phrases, obnoxious to none,
for he had the advantage of being rich without the odium of extortion,
and popular without the degradation of poverty. "Phanias the Lesbian"
(so states the biographer of Solon) "asserts, that to save the state
he intrigued with both parties, promising to the poor a division of
the lands, to the rich a confirmation of their claims;" an assertion
highly agreeable to the finesse and subtlety of his character.
Appearing loath to take upon himself the administration of affairs, it
was pressed upon him the more eagerly; and at length he was elected to
the triple office of archon, arbitrator, and lawgiver; the destinies
of Athens were unhesitatingly placed within his hands; all men hoped
from him all things; opposing parties concurred in urging him to
assume the supreme authority of king; oracles were quoted in his
favour, and his friends asserted, that to want the ambition of a
monarch was to fail in the proper courage of a man. Thus supported,
thus encouraged, Solon proceeded to his august and immortal task of

IX. Let us here pause to examine, by such light as is bequeathed us,
the character of Solon. Agreeably to the theory of his favourite
maxim, which made moderation the essence of wisdom, he seems to have
generally favoured, in politics, the middle party, and, in his own
actions, to have been singular for that energy which is the
equilibrium of indifference and of rashness. Elevated into supreme
and unquestioned power--urged on all sides to pass from the office of
the legislator to the dignity of the prince--his ambition never passed
the line which his virtue dictated to his genius. "Tyranny," said
Solon, "is a fair field, but it has no outlet." A subtle, as well as
a noble saying; it implies that he who has once made himself the
master of the state has no option as to the means by which he must
continue his power. Possessed of that fearful authority, his first
object is to rule, and it becomes a secondary object to rule well.
"Tyranny has, indeed, no outlet!" The few, whom in modern times we
have seen endowed with a similar spirit of self-control, have
attracted our admiration by their honesty rather than their intellect;
and the skeptic in human virtue has ascribed the purity of Washington
as much to the mediocrity of his genius as to the sincerity of his
patriotism:--the coarseness of vulgar ambition can sympathize but
little with those who refuse a throne. But in Solon there is no
disparity between the mental and the moral, nor can we account for the
moderation of his views by affecting doubt of the extent of his
powers. His natural genius was versatile and luxuriant. As an
orator, he was the first, according to Cicero, who originated the
logical and brilliant rhetoric which afterward distinguished the
Athenians. As a poet, we have the assurance of Plato that, could he
have devoted himself solely to the art, even Homer would not have
excelled him. And though these panegyrics of later writers are to be
received with considerable qualification--though we may feel assured
that Solon could never have been either a Demosthenes or a Homer, yet
we have sufficient evidence in his history to prove him to have been
eloquent--sufficient in the few remains of his verses to attest
poetical talent of no ordinary standard. As a soldier, he seems to
have been a dexterous master of the tactics of that primitive day in
which military science consisted chiefly in the stratagems of a ready
wit and a bold invention. As a negotiator, the success with which,
out of elements so jarring and distracted, he created an harmonious
system of society and law, is an unanswerable evidence not more of the
soundness of his theories than of his practical knowledge of mankind.
The sayings imputed to him which can be most reasonably considered
authentic evince much delicacy of observation. Whatever his ideal of
good government, he knew well that great secret of statesmanship,
never to carry speculative doctrines too far beyond the reach of the
age to which they are to be applied. Asked if he had given the
Athenians the best of laws, his answer was, "The best laws they are
capable of receiving." His legislation, therefore, was no vague
collection of inapplicable principles. While it has been the origin
of all subsequent law,--while, adopted by the Romans, it makes at this
day the universal spirit which animates the codes and constitutions of
Europe--it was moulded to the habits, the manners, and the condition
of the people whom it was intended to enlighten, to harmonize, and to
guide. He was no gloomy ascetic, such as a false philosophy produces,
affecting the barren sublimity of an indolent seclusion; open of
access to all, free and frank of demeanour, he found wisdom as much in
the market-place as the cell. He aped no coxcombical contempt of
pleasure, no fanatical disdain of wealth; hospitable, and even
sumptuous, in his habits of life, he seemed desirous of proving that
truly to be wise is honestly to enjoy. The fragments of his verses
which have come down to us are chiefly egotistical: they refer to his
own private sentiments, or public views, and inform us with a noble
pride, "that, if reproached with his lack of ambition, he finds a
kingdom in the consciousness of his unsullied name." With all these
qualities, he apparently united much of that craft and spirit of
artifice which, according to all history, sacred as well as profane,
it was not deemed sinful in patriarch or philosopher to indulge.
Where he could not win his object by reason, he could stoop to attain
it by the affectation of madness. And this quality of craft was
necessary perhaps, in that age, to accomplish the full utilities of
his career. However he might feign or dissimulate, the end before him
was invariably excellent and patriotic; and the purity of his private
morals harmonized with that of his political ambition. What Socrates
was to the philosophy of reflection, Solon was to the philosophy of

X. The first law that Solon enacted in his new capacity was bold and
decisive. No revolution can ever satisfy a people if it does not
lessen their burdens. Poverty disposes men to innovation only because
innovation promises relief. Solon therefore applied himself
resolutely, and at once, to the great source of dissension between the
rich and the poor--namely, the enormous accumulation of debt which had
been incurred by the latter, with slavery, the penalty of default. He
induced the creditors to accept the compromise of their debts: whether
absolutely cancelling the amount, or merely reducing the interest and
debasing the coin, is a matter of some dispute; the greater number of
authorities incline to the former supposition, and Plutarch quotes the
words of Solon himself in proof of the bolder hypothesis, although
they by no means warrant such an interpretation. And to remove for
ever the renewal of the greatest grievance in connexion with the past
distresses, he enacted a law that no man hereafter could sell himself
in slavery for the discharge of a debt. Even such as were already
enslaved were emancipated, and those sold by their creditors into
foreign countries were ransomed, and restored to their native land,
But, though (from the necessity of the times) Solon went to this
desperate extent of remedy, comparable in our age only to the formal
sanction of a national bankruptcy, he rejected with firmness the wild
desire of a division of lands. There may be abuses in the contraction
of debts which require far sterner alternatives than the inequalities
of property. He contented himself in respect to the latter with a law
which set a limit to the purchase of land--a theory of legislation not
sufficiently to be praised, if it were possible to enforce it [202].
At first, these measures fell short of the popular expectation,
excited by the example of Sparta into the hope of an equality of
fortunes: but the reaction soon came. A public sacrifice was offered
in honour of the discharge of debt, and the authority of the lawgiver
was corroborated and enlarged. Solon was not one of those politicians
who vibrate alternately between the popular and the aristocratic
principles, imagining that the concession of to-day ought necessarily
to father the denial of to-morrow. He knew mankind too deeply not to
be aware that there is no statesman whom the populace suspect like the
one who commences authority with a bold reform, only to continue it
with hesitating expedients. His very next measure was more vigorous
and more unexceptionable than the first. The evil of the laws of
Draco was not that they were severe, but that they were inefficient.
In legislation, characters of blood are always traced upon tablets of
sand. With one stroke Solon annihilated the whole of these laws, with
the exception of that (an ancient and acknowledged ordinance) which
related to homicide; he affixed, in exchange, to various crimes--to
theft, to rape, to slander, to adultery--punishments proportioned to
the offence. It is remarkable that in the spirit of his laws he
appealed greatly to the sense of honour and the fear of shame, and
made it one of his severest penalties to be styled atimos or
unhonoured--a theory that, while it suited the existent, went far to
ennoble the future, character of the Athenians. In the same spirit
the children of those who perished in war were educated at the public
charge--arriving at maturity, they were presented with a suit of
armour, settled in their respective callings, and honoured with
principal seats in all public assemblies. That is a wise principle of
a state which makes us grateful to its pensioners, and bids us regard
in those supported at the public charge the reverent memorials of the
public service [203]. Solon had the magnanimity to preclude, by his
own hand, a dangerous temptation to his own ambition, and assigned
death to the man who aspired to the sole dominion of the commonwealth.
He put a check to the jobbing interests and importunate canvass of
individuals, by allowing no one to propose a law in favour of a single
person, unless he had obtained the votes of six thousand citizens; and
he secured the quiet of a city exposed to the license of powerful
factions, by forbidding men to appear armed in the streets, unless in
cases of imminent exigence.

XI. The most memorable of Solon's sayings illustrates the theory of
the social fabric he erected. When asked how injustice should be
banished from a commonwealth, he answered, "by making all men
interested in the injustice done to each;" an answer imbodying the
whole soul of liberty. His innovations in the mere forms of the
ancient constitution do not appear to have been considerable; he
rather added than destroyed. Thus he maintained or revived the senate
of the aristocracy; but to check its authority he created a people.
The four ancient tribes [204], long subdivided into minor sections,
were retained. Foreigners, who had transported for a permanence their
property and families to Athens, and abandoned all connexion with
their own countries, were admitted to swell the numbers of the free
population. This made the constituent body. At the age of eighteen,
each citizen was liable to military duties within the limits of
Attica; at the age of twenty he attained his majority, and became
entitled to a vote in the popular assembly, and to all the other
rights of citizenship. Every free Athenian of the age of twenty was
thus admitted to a vote in the legislature. But the possession of a
very considerable estate was necessary to the attainment of the higher
offices. Thus, while the people exercised universal suffrage in
voting, the choice of candidates was still confined to an oligarchy.
Four distinct ranks were acknowledged; not according, as hitherto, to
hereditary descent, but the possession of property. They whose income
yielded five hundred measures in any commodity, dry or liquid, were
placed in the first rank, under the title of Pentacosiomedimnians.
The second class, termed Hippeis, knights or horsemen, was composed of
those whose estates yielded three hundred measures. Each man
belonging to it was obliged to keep a horse for the public service,
and to enlist himself, if called upon, in the cavalry of the military
forces (the members of either of these higher classes were exempt,
however, from serving on board ship, or in the infantry, unless
intrusted with some command.) The third class was composed of those
possessing two hundred [205] measures, and called Zeugitae; and the
fourth and most numerous class comprehended, under the name of Thetes,
the bulk of the non-enslaved working population, whose property fell
short of the qualification required for the Zeugitae. Glancing over
these divisions, we are struck by their similarity to the ranks among
our own northern and feudal ancestry, corresponding to the nobles, the
knights, the burgesses, and the labouring classes, which have so long
made, and still constitute, the demarcations of society in modern
Europe. The members of the first class were alone eligible to the
highest offices as archons, those of the three first classes to the
political assembly of the four hundred (which I shall presently
describe), and to some minor magistracies; the members of the fourth
class were excluded from all office, unless, as they voted in the
popular assembly, they may be said to have had a share in the
legislature, and to exercise, in extraordinary causes, judicial
authority. At the same time no hereditary barrier excluded them from
the hopes so dear to human aspirations. They had only to acquire the
necessary fortune in order to enjoy the privileges of their superiors.
And, accordingly, we find, by an inscription on the Acropolis,
recorded in Pollux, that Anthemion, of the lowest class, was suddenly
raised to the rank of knight. [206]

XII. We perceive, from these divisions of rank, that the main
principle of Solon's constitution was founded, not upon birth, but
wealth. He instituted what was called a timocracy, viz., an
aristocracy of property; based upon democratic institutions of popular
jurisdiction, election, and appeal. Conformably to the principle
which pervades all states, that make property the qualification for
office, to property the general taxation was apportioned. And this,
upon a graduated scale, severe to the first class, and completely
exonerating the lowest. The ranks of the citizens thus established,
the constitution acknowledged three great councils or branches of
legislature. The first was that of the venerable Areopagus. We have
already seen that this institution had long existed among the
Athenians; but of late it had fallen into some obscurity or neglect,
and was not even referred to in the laws of Draco. Solon continued
the name of the assembly, but remodelled its constitution. Anciently
it had probably embraced all the Eupatrids. Solon defined the claims
of the aspirants to that official dignity, and ordained that no one
should be admitted to the areopagus who had not filled the situation
of archon--an ordeal which implied not only the necessity of the
highest rank, but, as I shall presently note, of sober character and
unblemished integrity.

The remotest traditions clothed the very name of this assembly with
majesty and awe. Holding their council on the sacred hill consecrated
to Mars, fable asserted that the god of battle had himself been
arraigned before its tribunal. Solon exerted his imagination to
sustain the grandeur of its associations. Every distinction was
lavished upon senators, who, in the spirit of his laws, could only
pass from the temple of virtue to that of honour. Before their
jurisdiction all species of crime might be arraigned--they had equal
power to reward and to punish. From the guilt of murder to the
negative offence of idleness [207], their control extended--the
consecration of altars to new deities, the penalties affixed to
impiety, were at their decision, and in their charge. Theirs was the
illimitable authority to scrutinize the lives of men--they attended
public meetings and solemn sacrifices, to preserve order by the
majesty of their presence. The custody of the laws and the management
of the public funds, the superintendence of the education of youth,
were committed to their care. Despite their power, they interfered
but little in the management of political affairs, save in cases of
imminent danger. Their duties, grave, tranquil, and solemn, held them
aloof from the stir of temporary agitation. They were the last great
refuge of the state, to which, on common occasions, it was almost
profanity to appeal. Their very demeanour was modelled to harmonize
with the reputation of their virtues and the dignity of their office.
It was forbidden to laugh in their assembly--no archon who had been
seen in a public tavern could be admitted to their order [208], and
for an areopagite to compose a comedy was a matter of special
prohibition [209]. They sat in the open air, in common with all
courts having cognizance of murder. If the business before them was
great and various, they were wont to divide themselves into
committees, to each of which the several causes were assigned by lot,
so that no man knowing the cause he was to adjudge could be assailed
with the imputation of dishonest or partial prepossession. After duly
hearing both parties, they gave their judgment with proverbial gravity
and silence. The institution of the ballot (a subsequent custom)
afforded secrecy to their award--a proceeding necessary amid the
jealousy and power of factions, to preserve their judgment unbiased by
personal fear, and the abolition of which, we shall see hereafter, was
among the causes that crushed for a while the liberties of Athens. A
brazen urn received the suffrages of condemnation--one of wood those
of acquittal. Such was the character and constitution of the

XIII. The second legislative council ordained or revived by Solon,
consisted of a senate, composed, first of four hundred, and many years
afterward of five hundred members. To this council all, save the
lowest and most numerous class, were eligible, provided they had
passed or attained the age of thirty. It was rather a chance assembly
than a representative one. The manner of its election appears not
more elaborate than clumsy. To every ward there was a president,
called phylarchus. This magistrate, on a certain day in the year,
gave in the names of all the persons within his district entitled to
the honour of serving in the council, and desirous of enjoying it.
These names were inscribed on brazen tablets, and cast into a certain
vessel. In another vessel was placed an equal number of beans;
supposing the number of candidates to be returned by each tribe to be
(as it at first was) a hundred, there were one hundred white beans put
into the vessel--the rest were black. Then the names of the
candidates and the beans were drawn out one by one; and each candidate
who had the good fortune to have his name drawn out together with a
white bean, became a member of the senate. Thus the constitution of
each succeeding senate might differ from the last--might, so far from
representing the people, contradict their wishes--was utterly a matter
of hazard and chance; and when Mr. Mitford informs us that the
assembly of the people was the great foundation of evil in the
Athenian constitution, it appears that to the capricious and
unsatisfactory election of this council we may safely impute many of
the inconsistencies and changes which that historian attributes
entirely to the more popular assembly [211]. To this council were
intrusted powers less extensive in theory than those of the Areopagus,
but far more actively exerted. Its members inspected the fleet (when
a fleet was afterward established)--they appointed jailers of prisons
--they examined the accounts of magistrates at the termination of
their office; these were minor duties; to them was allotted also an
authority in other departments of a much higher and more complicated
nature. To them was given the dark and fearful extent of power which
enabled them to examine and to punish persons accused of offences
unspecified by any peculiar law [212]--an ordinance than which, had
less attention been paid to popular control, the wildest ambition of
despotism would have required no broader base for its designs. A
power to punish crimes unspecified by law is a power above law, and
ignorance or corruption may easily distort innocence itself into
crime. But the main duty of the Four Hundred was to prepare the laws
to be submitted to the assembly of the people--the great popular
tribunal which we are about presently to consider. Nor could any law,
according to Solon, be introduced into that assembly until it had
undergone the deliberation, and received the sanction, of this
preliminary council. With them, therefore, was THE ORIGIN OF ALL
LEGISLATION. In proportion to these discretionary powers was the
examination the members of the council underwent. Previous to the
admission of any candidate, his life, his character, and his actions
were submitted to a vigorous scrutiny [213]. The senators then took a
solemn oath that they would endeavour to promote the public good, and
the highest punishment they were allowed to inflict was a penalty of
five hundred drachma. If that punishment were deemed by them
insufficient, the criminal was referred to the regular courts of law.
At the expiration of their trust, which expired with each year, the
senators gave an account of their conduct, and the senate itself
punished any offence of its members; so severe were its inflictions,
that a man expelled from the senate was eligible as a judge--a proof
that expulsion was a punishment awarded to no heinous offence. [214]

The members of each tribe presided in turn over the rest [215] under
the name of prytanes. It was the duty of the prytanes to assemble the
senate, which was usually every day, and to keep order in the great
assembly of the people. These were again subdivided into the proedri,
who presided weekly over the rest, while one of this number, appointed
by lot, was the chief president (or Epistates) of the whole council;
to him were intrusted the keys of the citadel and the treasury, and a
wholesome jealousy of this twofold trust limited its exercise to a
single day. Each member gave notice in writing of any motion he
intended to make--the prytanes had the prior right to propound the
question, and afterward it became matter of open discussion--they
decided by ballot whether to reject or adopt it; if accepted, it was
then submitted to the assembly of the people, who ratified or refused
the law which they might not originate.

Such was the constitution of the Athenian council, one resembling in
many points to the common features of all modern legislative

XIV. At the great assembly of the people, to which we now arrive, all
freemen of the age of discretion, save only those branded by law with
the opprobrium of atimos (unhonoured) [216], were admissible. At the
time of Solon, this assembly was by no means of the importance to
which it afterward arose. Its meetings were comparatively rare, and
no doubt it seldom rejected the propositions of the Four Hundred. But
whenever different legislative assemblies exist, and popular control
is once constitutionally acknowledged, it is in the nature of things
that the more democratic assembly should absorb the main business of
the more aristocratic. A people are often enslaved by the accident of
a despot, but almost ever gain upon the checks which the constitution
is intended habitually to oppose. In the later time, the assembly met
four times in five weeks (at least, during the period in which the
tribes were ten in number), that is, during the presidence of each
prytanea. The first time of their meeting they heard matters of
general import, approved or rejected magistrates, listened to
accusations of grave political offences [217], as well as the
particulars of any confiscation of goods. The second time was
appropriated to affairs relative as well to individuals as the
community; and it was lawful for every man either to present a
petition or share in a debate. The third time of meeting was devoted
to the state audience of ambassadors. The fourth, to matters of
religious worship or priestly ceremonial. These four periodical
meetings, under the name of Curia, made the common assembly, requiring
no special summons, and betokening no extraordinary emergency. But
besides these regular meetings, upon occasions of unusual danger, or
in cases requiring immediate discussion, the assembly of the people
might also be convened by formal proclamation; and in this case it was
termed "Sugkletos," which we may render by the word convocation. The
prytanes, previous to the meeting of the assembly, always placarded in
some public place a programme of the matters on which the people were
to consult. The persons presiding over the meeting were proedri,
chosen by lot from the nine tribes, excluded at the time being from
the office of prytanes; out of their number a chief president (or
epistates) was elected also by lot. Every effort was made to compel a
numerous attendance, and each man attending received a small coin for
his trouble [218], a practice fruitful in jests to the comedians. The
prytanes might forbid a man of notoriously bad character to speak.
The chief president gave the signal for their decision. In ordinary
cases they held up their hands, voting openly; but at a later period,
in cases where intimidation was possible, such as in the offences of
men of power and authority, they voted in secret. They met usually in
the vast arena of their market-place. [219]

XV. Recapitulating the heads of that complex constitution I have thus
detailed, the reader will perceive that the legislative power rested
in three assemblies--the Areopagus, the Council, and the Assembly of
the People--that the first, notwithstanding its solemn dignity and
vast authority, seldom interfered in the active, popular, and daily
politics of the state--that the second originated laws, which the
third was the great Court of Appeal to sanction or reject. The great
improvement of modern times has been to consolidate the two latter
courts in one, and to unite in a representative senate the sagacity of
a deliberative council with the interests of a popular assembly;--the
more closely we blend these objects, the more perfectly, perhaps, we
attain, by the means of wisdom, the ends of liberty.

XVI. But although in a senate composed by the determinations of
chance, and an assembly which from its numbers must ever have been
exposed to the agitation of eloquence and the caprices of passion,
there was inevitably a crude and imperfect principle,--although two
courts containing in themselves the soul and element of contradiction
necessarily wanted that concentrated oneness of purpose propitious to
the regular and majestic calmness of legislation, we cannot but allow
the main theory of the system to have been precisely that most
favourable to the prodigal exuberance of energy, of intellect, and of
genius. Summoned to consultation upon all matters, from the greatest
to the least, the most venerable to the most trite--to-day deciding on
the number of their war-ships, to-morrow on that of a tragic chorus;
now examining with jealous forethought the new harriers to
oligarchical ambition;--now appointing, with nice distinction, to
various service the various combinations of music [220];--now
welcoming in their forum-senate the sober ambassadors of Lacedaemon or
the jewelled heralds of Persia, now voting their sanction to new
temples or the reverent reforms of worship; compelled to a lively and
unceasing interest in all that arouses the mind, or elevates the
passions, or refines the taste;--supreme arbiters of the art of the
sculptor, as the science of the lawgiver,--judges and rewarders of the
limner and the poet, as of the successful negotiator or the prosperous
soldier; we see at once the all-accomplished, all-versatile genius of
the nation, and we behold in the same glance the effect and the
cause:--every thing being referred to the people, the people learned
of every thing to judge. Their genius was artificially forced, and in
each of its capacities. They had no need of formal education. Their
whole life was one school. The very faults of their assembly, in its
proneness to be seduced by extraordinary eloquence, aroused the
emulation of the orator, and kept constantly awake the imagination of
the audience. An Athenian was, by the necessity of birth, what Milton
dreamed that man could only become by the labours of completest
education: in peace a legislator, in war a soldier,--in all times, on
all occasions, acute to judge and resolute to act. All that can
inspire the thought or delight the leisure were for the people.
Theirs were the portico and the school--theirs the theatre, the
gardens, and the baths; they were not, as in Sparta, the tools of the
state--they were the state! Lycurgus made machines and Solon men. In
Sparta the machine was to be wound up by the tyranny of a fixed
principle; it could not dine as it pleased--it could not walk as it
pleased--it was not permitted to seek its she machine save by stealth
and in the dark; its children were not its own--even itself had no
property in self. Sparta incorporated, under the name of freedom, the
worst complexities, the most grievous and the most frivolous
vexations, of slavery. And therefore was it that Lacedaemon
flourished and decayed, bequeathing to fame men only noted for hardy
valour, fanatical patriotism, and profound but dishonourable craft--
attracting, indeed, the wonder of the world, but advancing no claim to
its gratitude, and contributing no single addition to its intellectual
stores. But in Athens the true blessing of freedom was rightly
placed--in the opinions and the soul. Thought was the common heritage
which every man might cultivate at his will. This unshackled liberty
had its convulsions and its excesses, but producing unceasing
emulation and unbounded competition, an incentive to every effort, a
tribunal to every claim, it broke into philosophy with the one--into
poetry with the other--into the energy and splendour of unexampled
intelligence with all. Looking round us at this hour, more than four-
and-twenty centuries after the establishment of the constitution we
have just surveyed,--in the labours of the student--in the dreams of
the poet--in the aspirations of the artist--in the philosophy of the
legislator--we yet behold the imperishable blessings we derive from
the liberties of Athens and the institutions of Solon. The life of
Athens became extinct, but her soul transfused itself, immortal and
immortalizing, through the world.

XVII. The penal code of Solon was founded on principles wholly
opposite to those of Draco. The scale of punishment was moderate,
though sufficiently severe. One distinction will suffice to give us
an adequate notion of its gradations. Theft by day was not a capital
offence, but if perpetrated by night the felon might lawfully be slain
by the owner. The tendency to lean to the side of mercy in all cases
may be perceived from this--that if the suffrages of the judges were
evenly divided, it was the custom in all the courts of Athens to
acquit the accused. The punishment of death was rare; that of atimia
supplied its place. Of the different degrees of atimia it is not my
purpose to speak at present. By one degree, however, the offender was
merely suspended from some privilege of freedom enjoyed by the
citizens generally, or condemned to a pecuniary fine; the second
degree allowed the confiscation of goods; the third for ever deprived
the criminal and his posterity of the rights of a citizen: this last
was the award only of aggravated offences. Perpetual exile was a
sentence never passed but upon state criminals. The infliction of
fines, which became productive of great abuse in later times, was
moderately apportioned to offences in the time of Solon, partly from
the high price of money, but partly, also, from the wise moderation of
the lawgiver. The last grave penalty of death was of various kinds,
as the cross, the gibbet, the precipice, the bowl--afflictions seldom
in reserve for the freemen.

As the principle of shame was a main instrument of the penal code of
the Athenians, so they endeavoured to attain the same object by the
sublimer motive of honour. Upon the even balance of rewards that
stimulate, and penalties that deter, Solon and his earlier successors
conceived the virtue of the commonwealth to rest. A crown presented
by the senate or the people--a public banquet in the hall of state--
the erection of a statue in the thoroughfares (long a most rare
distinction)--the privilege of precedence in the theatre or assembly--
were honours constantly before the eyes of the young and the hopes of
the ambitious. The sentiment of honour thus became a guiding
principle of the legislation, and a large component of the character
of the Athenians.

XVIII. Judicial proceedings, whether as instituted by Solon or as
corrupted by his successors, were exposed to some grave and vital
evils hereafter to be noticed. At present I content myself with
observing, that Solon carried into the judicial the principles, of his
legislative courts. It was his theory, that all the citizens should
be trained to take an interest in state. Every year a body of six
thousand citizens was chosen by lot; no qualification save that of
being thirty years of age was demanded in this election. The body
thus chosen, called Heliaea, was subdivided into smaller courts,
before which all offences, but especially political ones, might be
tried. Ordinary cases were probably left by Solon to the ordinary
magistrates; but it was not long before the popular jurors drew to
themselves the final trial and judgment of all causes. This judicial
power was even greater than the legislative; for if an act had passed
through all the legislative forms, and was, within a year of the date,
found inconsistent with the constitution or public interests, the
popular courts could repeal the act and punish its author. In Athens
there were no professional lawyers; the law being supposed the common
interest of citizens, every encouragement was given to the prosecutor
--every facility to the obtaining of justice.

Solon appears to have recognised the sound principle, that the
strength of law is in the public disposition to cherish and revere
it,--and that nothing is more calculated to make permanent the general
spirit of a constitution than to render its details flexile and open
to reform. Accordingly, he subjected his laws to the vigilance of
regular and constant revision. Once a year, proposals for altering
any existent law might be made by any citizen--were debated--and, if
approved, referred to a legislative committee, drawn by lot from the
jurors. The committee then sat in judgment on the law; five advocates
were appointed to plead for the old law; if unsuccessful, the new law
came at once into operation. In addition to this precaution, six of
the nine archons (called Thesmothetae), whose office rendered them
experienced in the defects of the law, were authorized to review the
whole code, and to refer to the legislative committee the
consideration of any errors or inconsistencies that might require
amendment. [221]

XIX. With respect to the education of youth, the wise Athenian did
not proceed upon the principles which in Sparta attempted to transfer
to the state the dearest privileges of a parent. From the age of
sixteen to eighteen (and earlier in the case of orphans) the law,
indeed, seems to have considered that the state had a right to prepare
its citizens for its service; and the youth was obliged to attend
public gymnastic schools, in which, to much physical, some
intellectual, discipline was added, under masters publicly nominated.
But from the very circumstance of compulsory education at that age,
and the absence of it in childhood, we may suppose that there had
already grown up in Athens a moral obligation and a general custom, to
prepare the youth of the state for the national schools.

Besides the free citizens, there were two subordinate classes--the
aliens and the slaves. By the first are meant those composed of
settlers, who had not relinquished connexion with their native
countries. These, as universally in Greece, were widely distinguished
from the citizens; they paid a small annual sum for the protection of
the state, and each became a kind of client to some individual
citizen, who appeared for him in the courts of justice. They were
also forbidden to purchase land; but for the rest, Solon, himself a
merchant, appears to have given to such aliens encouragements in trade
and manufacture not usual in that age; and most of their disabilities
were probably rather moral or imaginary than real and daily causes of
grievance. The great and paramount distinction was between the
freeman and the slave. No slave could be admitted as a witness,
except by torture; as for him there was no voice in the state, so for
him there was no tenderness in the law. But though the slave might
not avenge himself on the master, the system of slavery avenged itself
on the state. The advantages to the intellect of the free citizens
resulting from the existence of a class maintained to relieve them
from the drudgeries of life, were dearly purchased by the constant
insecurity of their political repose. The capital of the rich could
never be directed to the most productive of all channels--the labour
of free competition. The noble did not employ citizens--he purchased
slaves. Thus the commonwealth derived the least possible advantage
from his wealth; it did not flow through the heart of the republic,
employing the idle and feeding the poor. As a necessary consequence,
the inequalities of fortune were sternly visible and deeply felt. The
rich man had no connexion with the poor man--the poor man hated him
for a wealth of which he did not (as in states where slavery does not
exist) share the blessings--purchasing by labour the advantages of
fortune. Hence the distinction of classes defied the harmonizing
effects of popular legislation. The rich were exposed to unjust and
constant exactions; and society was ever liable to be disorganized by
attacks upon property. There was an eternal struggle between the
jealousies of the populace and the fears of the wealthy; and many of
the disorders which modern historians inconsiderately ascribe to the
institutions of freedom were in reality the growth of the existence of


The Departure of Solon from Athens.--The Rise of Pisistratus.--Return
of Solon.--His Conduct and Death.--The Second and Third Tyranny of
Pisistratus.--Capture of Sigeum.--Colony in the Chersonesus founded by
the first Miltiades.--Death of Pisistratus.

I. Although the great constitutional reforms of Solon were no doubt
carried into effect during his archonship, yet several of his
legislative and judicial enactments were probably the work of years.
When we consider the many interests to conciliate, the many prejudices
to overcome, which in all popular states cripple and delay the
progress of change in its several details, we find little difficulty
in supposing, with one of the most luminous of modern scholars [222],
that Solon had ample occupation for twenty years after the date of his
archonship. During this period little occurred in the foreign affairs
of Athens save the prosperous termination of the Cirrhaean war, as
before recorded. At home the new constitution gradually took root,
although often menaced and sometimes shaken by the storms of party and
the general desire for further innovation.

The eternal consequence of popular change is, that while it irritates
the party that loses power, it cannot content the party that gains.
It is obvious that each concession to the people but renders them
better able to demand concessions more important. The theories of
some--the demands of others--harassed the lawgiver, and threatened the
safety of the laws. Solon, at length, was induced to believe that his
ordinances required the sanction and repose of time, and that absence
--that moral death--would not only free himself from importunity, but
his infant institutions from the frivolous disposition of change. In
his earlier years he had repaired, by commercial pursuits, estates
that had been empoverished by the munificence of his father; and,
still cultivating the same resources, he made pretence of his vocation
to solicit permission for ail absence of ten years. He is said to
have obtained a solemn promise from the people to alter none of his
institutions during that period [223]; and thus he departed from the
city (probably B. C. 575), of whose future glories he had laid the
solid foundation. Attracted by his philosophical habits to that
solemn land, beneath whose mysteries the credulous Greeks revered the
secrets of existent wisdom, the still adventurous Athenian repaired to
the cities of the Nile, and fed the passion of speculative inquiry
from the learning of the Egyptian priests. Departing thence to
Cyprus, he assisted, as his own verses assure us, in the planning of a
new city, founded by one of the kings of that beautiful island, and
afterward invited to the court of Croesus (associated with his father
Alyattes, then living), he imparted to the Lydian, amid the splendours
of state and the adulation of slaves, that well-known lesson on the
uncertainty of human grandeur, which, according to Herodotus, Croesus
so seasonably remembered at the funeral pile. [224]

II. However prudent had appeared to Solon his absence from Athens, it
is to be lamented that he did not rather brave the hazards from which
his genius might have saved the state, than incur those which the very
removal of a master-spirit was certain to occasion. We may bind men
not to change laws, but we cannot bind the spirit and the opinion,
from which laws alone derive cogency or value. We may guard against
the innovations of a multitude, which a wise statesman sees afar off,
and may direct to great ends; but we cannot guard against that
dangerous accident--not to be foreseen, not to be directed--the
ambition of a man of genius! During the absence of Solon there rose
into eminence one of those remarkable persons who give to vicious
designs all the attraction of individual virtues. Bold, generous,
affable, eloquent, endowed with every gift of nature and fortune--
kinsman to Solon, but of greater wealth and more dazzling qualities--
the young Pisistratus, son of Hippocrates, early connected himself
with the democratic or highland party. The Megarians, who had never
relinquished their designs on Salamis, had taken an opportunity,
apparently before the travels, and, according to Plutarch, even before
the legislation of Solon, to repossess themselves of the island. When
the Athenians were enabled to extend their energies beyond their own
great domestic revolution, Pisistratus obtained the command of an
expedition against these dangerous neighbours, which was attended with
the most signal success. A stratagem referred to Solon by Plutarch,
who has with so contagious an inaccuracy blended into one the two
several and distinct expeditions of Pisistratus and Solon, ought
rather to be placed to the doubtful glory of the son of Hippocrates
[225]. A number of young men sailed with Pisistratus to Colias, and
taking the dress of women, whom they there seized while sacrificing to
Ceres, a spy was despatched to Salamis, to inform the Megarian guard
that many of the principal Athenian matrons were at Colias, and might
be easily captured. The Megarians were decoyed, despatched a body of
men to the opposite shore, and beholding a group in women's attire
dancing by the strand, landed confusedly to seize the prize. The
pretended females drew forth their concealed weapons, and the
Megarians, surprised and dismayed, were cut off to a man. The victors
lost no time in setting sail for Salamis, and easily regained the
isle. Pisistratus carried the war into Megara itself, and captured
the port of Nisaea. These exploits were the foundation of his after
greatness; and yet young, at the return of Solon, he was already at
the head of the democratic party. But neither his rank, his genius,
nor his popular influence sufficed to give to his faction a decided
eminence over those of his rivals. The wealthy nobles of the lowlands
were led by Lycurgus--the moderate party of the coastmen by Megacles,
the head of the Alcmaeonidae. And it was in the midst, of the strife
and agitation produced by these great sections of the people that
Solon returned to Athens.

III. The venerable legislator was received with all the grateful
respect he deserved; but age had dimmed the brilliancy of his powers.
His voice could no longer penetrate the mighty crowds of the market-
place. New idols had sprung up--new passions were loosed--new
interests formed, and amid the roar and stir of the eternal movement,
it was in vain for the high-hearted old man to recall those rushing on
the future to the boundaries of the past. If unsuccessful in public,
he was not discouraged from applying in private to the leaders of the
several parties. Of all those rival nobles, none deferred to his
advice with so marked a respect as the smooth and plausible
Pisistratus. Perhaps, indeed, that remarkable man contemplated the
same objects as Solon himself,--although the one desired to effect by
the authority of the chief, the order and the energy which the other
would have trusted to the development of the people. But, masking his
more interested designs, Pisistratus outbid all competition in his
seeming zeal for the public welfare. The softness of his manners--his
profuse liberality--his generosity even to his foes--the splendid
qualities which induced Cicero to compare him to Julius Cesar [226],
charmed the imagination of the multitude, and concealed the
selfishness of his views. He was not a hypocrite, indeed, as to his
virtues--a dissembler only in his ambition. Even Solon, in
endeavouring to inspire him with a true patriotism, acknowledged his
talents and his excellences. "But for ambition," said he, "Athens
possesses no citizen worthier than Pisistratus." The time became ripe
for the aspiring projects of the chief of the democracy.

IV. The customary crowd was swarming in the market-place, when
suddenly in the midst of the assembly appeared the chariot of
Pisistratus. The mules were bleeding--Pisistratus himself was
wounded. In this condition the demagogue harangued the people. He
declared that he had just escaped from the enemies of himself and the
popular party, who (under the auspices of the Alcmaeonidae) had
attacked him in a country excursion. He reminded the crowd of his
services in war--his valour against the Megarians--his conquest of
Nisaea. He implored their protection. Indignant and inflamed, the
favouring audience shouted their sympathy with his wrongs. "Son of
Hippocrates," said Solon, advancing to the spot, and with bitter wit,
"you are but a bad imitator of Ulysses. He wounded himself to delude
his enemies--you to deceive your countrymen." [227] The sagacity of
the reproach was unheeded by the crowd. A special assembly of the
people was convened, and a partisan of the demagogue moved that a
body-guard of fifty men, armed but with clubs, should be assigned to
his protection. Despite the infirmities of his age, and the decrease
of his popular authority, Solon had the energy to oppose the motion,
and predict its results. The credulous love of the people swept away
all precaution--the guard was granted. Its number did not long
continue stationary; Pisistratus artfully increased the amount, till
it swelled to the force required by his designs. He then seized the
citadel--the antagonist faction of Megacles fled--and Pisistratus was
master of Athens. Amid the confusion and tumult of the city, Solon
retained his native courage. He appeared in public--harangued the
citizens--upbraided their blindness--invoked their courage. In his
speeches he bade them remember that if it be the more easy task to
prevent tyranny, it is the more glorious achievement to destroy it.
In his verses [228] he poured forth the indignant sentiment which a
thousand later bards have borrowed and enlarged; "Blame not Heaven for
your tyrants, blame yourselves." The fears of some, the indifference
of others, rendered his exhortations fruitless! The brave old man
sorrowfully retreated to his house, hung up his weapons without his
door, and consoled himself with the melancholy boast that "he had done
all to save his country, and its laws." This was his last public
effort against the usurper. He disdained flight; and, asked by his
friends to what he trusted for safety from the wrath of the victor,
replied, "To old age,"--a sad reflection, that so great a man should
find in infirmity that shelter which he claimed from glory.

V. The remaining days and the latter conduct of Solon are involved in
obscurity. According to Plutarch, he continued at Athens, Pisistratus
showing him the utmost respect, and listening to the counsel which
Solon condescended to bestow upon him: according to Diogenes Laertius,
he departed again from his native city [229], indignant at its
submission, and hopeless of its freedom, refusing all overtures from
Pisistratus, and alleging that, having established a free government,
he would not appear to sanction the success of a tyrant. Either
account is sufficiently probable. The wisdom of Solon might consent
to mitigate what he could not cure, or his patriotism might urge him
to avoid witnessing the changes he had no power to prevent. The
dispute is of little importance. At his advanced age he could not
have long survived the usurpation of Pisistratus, nor can we find any
authority for the date of his death so entitled to credit as that of
Phanias, who assigns it to the year following the usurpation of
Pisistratus. The bright race was already run. According to the grave
authority of Aristotle, the ashes of Solon were scattered over the
Isle of Salamis, which had been the scene of his earlier triumphs; and
Athens, retaining his immortal, boasted not his perishable remains.

VI. Pisistratus directed with admirable moderation the courses of the
revolution he had produced. Many causes of success were combined in
his favour. His enemies had been the supposed enemies of the people,
and the multitude doubtless beheld the flight of the Alcmaeonidae
(still odious in their eyes by the massacre of Cylon) as the defeat of
a foe, while the triumph of the popular chief was recognised as the
victory of the people. In all revolutions the man who has sided with
the people is permitted by the people the greatest extent of license.
It is easy to perceive, by the general desire which the Athenians had
expressed for the elevation of Solon to the supreme authority that the
notion of regal authority was not yet hateful to them, and that they
were scarcely prepared for the liberties with which they were
intrusted. But although they submitted thus patiently to the
ascendency of Pisistratus, it is evident that a less benevolent or
less artful tyrant would not have been equally successful. Raised
above the law, that subtle genius governed only by the law; nay, he
affected to consider its authority greater than his own. He assumed
no title--no attribute of sovereignty. He was accused of murder, and
he humbly appeared before the tribunal of the Areopagus--a proof not
more of the moderation of the usurper than of the influence of public
opinion. He enforced the laws of Solon, and compelled the unruly
tempers of his faction to subscribe to their wholesome rigour. The
one revolution did not, therefore, supplant, it confirmed, the other.
"By these means," says Herodotus, "Pisistratus mastered Athens, and
yet his situation was far from secure." [230]

VII. Although the heads of the more moderate party, under Megacles,
had been expelled from Athens, yet the faction, equally powerful and
equally hostile, headed by Lycurgus, and embraced by the bulk of the
nobles, still remained. For a time, extending perhaps to five or six
years, Pisistratus retained his power; but at length, Lycurgus,
uniting with the exiled Alcmaeonidae, succeeded in expelling him from
the city. But the union that had led to his expulsion ceased with
that event. The contests between the lowlanders and the coastmen were
only more inflamed by the defeat of the third party, which had
operated as a balance of power, and the broils of their several
leaders were fed by personal ambition as by hereditary animosities.
Megacles, therefore, unable to maintain equal ground with Lycurgus,
turned his thoughts towards the enemy he had subdued, and sent
proposals to Pisistratus, offering to unite their forces, and to
support him in his pretensions to the tyranny, upon condition that the
exiled chief should marry his daughter Coesyra. Pisistratus readily
acceded to the terms, and it was resolved by a theatrical pageant to
reconcile his return to the people. In one of the boroughs of the
city there was a woman named Phya, of singular beauty and lofty
stature. Clad in complete armour, and drawn in a chariot, this woman
was conducted with splendour and triumph towards the city. By her
side rode Pisistratus--heralds preceded their march, and proclaimed
her approach, crying aloud to the Athenians "to admit Pisistratus, the
favourite of Minerva, for that the goddess herself had come to earth
on his behalf."

The sagacity of the Athenians was already so acute, and the artifice
appeared to Herodotus so gross, that the simple Halicarnassean could
scarcely credit the authenticity of this tale. But it is possible
that the people viewed the procession as an ingenious allegory, to the
adaptation of which they were already disposed; and that, like the
populace of a later and yet more civilized people, they hailed the
goddess while they recognised the prostitute [231]. Be that as it
may, the son of Hippocrates recovered his authority, and fulfilled his
treaty with Megacles by a marriage with his daughter. Between the
commencement of his first tyranny and the date of his second return,
there was probably an interval of twelve years. His sons were already
adults. Partly from a desire not to increase his family, partly from
some superstitious disinclination to the blood of the Alcmaeonidae,
which the massacre of Cylon still stigmatized with contamination,
Pisistratus conducted himself towards the fair Coesyra with a chastity
either unwelcome to her affection, or afflicting to her pride. The
unwedded wife communicated the mortifying secret to her mother, from
whose lips it soon travelled to the father. He did not view the
purity of Pisistratus with charitable eyes. He thought it an affront
to his own person that that of his daughter should be so tranquilly
regarded. He entered into a league with his former opponents against
the usurper, and so great was the danger, that Pisistratus (despite
his habitual courage) betook himself hastily to flight:--a strange
instance of the caprice of human events, that a man could with a
greater impunity subdue the freedom of his country, than affront the
vanity of his wife! [232]

VIII. Pisistratus, his sons and partisans, retired to Eretria in
Euboea: there they deliberated as to their future proceedings--should
they submit to their exile, or attempt to retrieve, their power? The
councils of his son Hippias prevailed with Pisistratus; it was
resolved once more to attempt the sovereignty of Athens. The
neighbouring tribes assisted the exiles with forage and shelter. Many
cities accorded the celebrated noble large sums of money, and the
Thebans outdid the rest in pernicious liberality. A troop of Argive
adventurers came from the Peloponnesus to tender to the baffled
usurper the assistance of their swords, and Lygdamis, an individual of
Naxos, himself ambitious of the government of his native state,
increased his resources both by money and military force. At length,
though after a long and tedious period of no less than eleven years,
Pisistratus resolved to hazard the issue of open war. At the head of
a foreign force he advanced to Marathon, and pitched his tents upon
its immortal plain. Troops of the factious or discontented thronged
from Athens to his camp, while the bulk of the citizens, unaffected ay
such desertions, viewed his preparations with indifference. At
length, when they heard that Pisistratus had broken up his encampment,
and was on his march to the city, the Athenians awoke from their
apathy, and collected their forces to oppose him. He continued to
advance his troops, halted at the temple of Minerva, whose earthly
representative had once so benignly assisted him, and pitched his
tents opposite the fane. He took advantage of that time in which the
Athenians, during the heats of the day, were at their entertainments,
or indulging the noontide repose, still so grateful to the inhabitants
of a warmer climate, to commence his attack. He soon scattered the
foe, and ordered his sons to overtake them in their flight, to bid
them return peacefully to their employments, and fear nothing from his
vengeance. His clemency assisted the effect of his valour, and once
more the son of Hippocrates became the master of the Athenian

IX. Pisistratus lost no time in strengthening himself by formidable
alliances. He retained many auxiliary troops, and provided large
pecuniary resources [233]. He spared the persons of his opponents,
but sent their children as hostages to Naxos, which he first reduced
and consigned to the tyranny of his auxiliary, Lygdamis. Many of his
inveterate enemies had perished on the field--many fled from the fear
of his revenge. He was undisturbed in the renewal of his sway, and
having no motive for violence, pursued the natural bent of a mild and
generous disposition, ruling as one who wishes men to forget the means
by which his power has been attained. Pisistratus had that passion
for letters which distinguished most of the more brilliant Athenians.
Although the poems of Homer were widely known and deeply venerated
long before his time, yet he appears, by a more accurate collection
and arrangement of them, and probably by bringing them into a more
general and active circulation in Athens, to have largely added to the
wonderful impetus to poetical emulation, which those immortal writings
were calculated to give.

When we consider how much, even in our own times, and with all the
advantages of the press, the diffused fame and intellectual influence
of Shakspeare and Milton have owed to the praise and criticism of
individuals, we may readily understand the kind of service rendered by
Pisistratus to Homer. The very example of so eminent a man would have
drawn upon the poet a less vague and more inquiring species of
admiration; the increased circulation of copies--the more frequent
public recitals--were advantages timed at that happy season when the
people who enjoyed them had grown up from wondering childhood to
imitative and studious youth. And certain it is, that from this
period we must date the marked and pervading influence of Homer upon
Athenian poetry; for the renown of a poet often precedes by many
generations the visible influence of his peculiar genius. It is
chiefly within the last seventy years that we may date the wonderful
effect that Shakspeare was destined to produce upon the universal
intellect of Europe. The literary obligations of Athens to
Pisistratus were not limited to his exertions on behalf of Homer: he
is said to have been the first in Greece who founded a public library,
rendering its treasures accessible to all. And these two benefits
united, justly entitle the fortunate usurper to the praise of first
calling into active existence that intellectual and literary spirit
which became diffused among the Athenian people, and originated the
models and masterpieces of the world. It was in harmony with this
part of his character that Pisistratus refitted the taste and
socialized the habits of the citizens, by the erection of buildings
dedicated to the public worship, or the public uses, and laid out the
stately gardens of the Lyceum--(in after-times the favourite haunt of
philosophy), by the banks of the river dedicated to song. Pisistratus
did thus more than continue the laws of Solon--he inculcated the
intellectual habits which the laws were designed to create. And as in
the circle of human events the faults of one man often confirm what
was begun by the virtues of another, so perhaps the usurpation of
Pisistratus was necessary to establish the institutions of Solon. It
is clear that the great lawgiver was not appreciated at the close of
his life; as his personal authority had ceased to have influence, so
possibly might have soon ceased the authority of his code. The
citizens required repose to examine, to feel, to estimate the
blessings of his laws--that repose they possessed under Pisistratus.
Amid the tumult of fierce and equipoised factions it might be
fortunate that a single individual was raised above the rest, who,
having the wisdom to appreciate the institutions of Solon, had the
authority to enforce them. Silently they grew up under his usurped
but benignant sway, pervading, penetrating, exalting the people, and
fitting them by degrees to the liberty those institutions were
intended to confer. If the disorders of the republic led to the
ascendency of Pisistratus, so the ascendency of Pisistratus paved the
way for the renewal of the republic. As Cromwell was the
representative of the very sentiments he appeared to subvert--as
Napoleon in his own person incorporated the principles of the
revolution of France, so the tyranny of Pisistratus concentrated and
imbodied the elements of that democracy he rather wielded than

X. At home, time and tranquillity cemented the new laws; poetry set
before the emulation of the Athenians its noblest monument in the
epics of Homer; and tragedy put forth its first unmellowed fruits in
the rude recitations of Thespis (B. C. 535). [234] Pisistratus sought
also to counterbalance the growing passion for commerce by peculiar
attention to agriculture, in which it is not unlikely that he was
considerably influenced by early prepossessions, for his party had
been the mountaineers attached to rural pursuits, and his adversaries
the coastmen engaged in traffic. As a politician of great sagacity,
he might also have been aware, that a people accustomed to
agricultural employments are ever less inclined to democratic
institutions than one addicted to commerce and manufactures; and if he
were the author of a law, which at all events he more rigidly
enforced, requiring every citizen to give an account of his mode of
livelihood, and affixing punishments to idleness, he could not have
taken wiser precautions against such seditions as are begot by poverty
upon indolence, or under a juster plea have established the
superintendence of a concealed police. We learn from Aristotle that
his policy consisted much in subjecting and humbling the pediaei, or
wealthy nobles of the lowlands. But his very affection to agriculture
must have tended to strengthen an aristocracy, and his humility to the
Areopagus was a proof of his desire to conciliate the least democratic
of the Athenian courts. He probably, therefore, acted only against
such individual chiefs as had incurred his resentment, or as menaced
his power; nor can we perceive in his measures the systematic and
deliberate policy, common with other Greek tyrants, to break up an
aristocracy and create a middle class.

XI. Abroad, the ambition of Pisistratus, though not extensive, was
successful. There was a town on the Hellespont called Sigeum, which
had long been a subject of contest between the Athenians and the
Mitylenaeans. Some years before the legislation of Solon, the
Athenian general, Phryno, had been slain in single combat by Pittacus,
one of the seven wise men, who had come into the field armed like the
Roman retiarius, with a net, a trident, and a dagger. This feud was
terminated by the arbitration of Periander, tyrant of Corinth, who
awarded Sigeum to the Athenians, which was then in their possession,
by a wise and plausible decree, that each party should keep what it
had got. This war was chiefly remarkable for an incident that
introduces us somewhat unfavourably to the most animated of the lyric
poets. Alcaeus, an eminent citizen of Mitylene, and, according to
ancient scandal, the unsuccessful lover of Sappho, conceived a passion
for military fame: in his first engagement he seems to have discovered
that his proper vocation was rather to sing of battles than to share
them. He fled from the field, leaving his arms behind him, which the
Athenians obtained, and suspended at Sigeum in the temple of Minerva.
Although this single action, which Alcaeus himself recorded, cannot be
fairly held a sufficient proof of the poet's cowardice, yet his
character and patriotism are more equivocal than his genius. Of the
last we have ample testimony, though few remains save in the frigid
grace of the imitations of Horace. The subsequent weakness and civil
dissensions of Athens were not favourable to the maintenance of this
distant conquest--the Mitylenaeans regained Sigeum. Against this town
Pisistratus now directed his arms--wrested it from the Mitylenaeans--
and, instead of annexing it to the republic of Athens, assigned its
government to the tyranny of his natural son, Hegesistratus,--a stormy
dominion, which the valour of the bastard defended against repeated
assaults. [235]

XII. But one incident, the full importance of which the reader must
wait a while to perceive, I shall in this place relate. Among the
most powerful of the Athenians was a noble named Miltiades, son of
Cypselus. By original descent he was from the neighbouring island of
Aegina, and of the heroic race of Aeacus; but he dated the
establishment of his house in Athens from no less distant a founder
than the son of Ajax. Miltiades had added new lustre to his name by a
victory at the Olympic games. It was probably during the first
tyranny of Pisistratus [236] that an adventure, attended with vast
results to Greece, befell this noble. His family were among the
enemies of Pisistratus, and were regarded by that sagacious usurper
with a jealous apprehension which almost appears prophetic. Miltiades
was, therefore, uneasy under the government of Pisistratus, and
discontented with his position in Athens. One day, as he sat before
his door (such is the expression of the enchanting Herodotus,
unconscious of the patriarchal picture he suggests [237]), Miltiades
observed certain strangers pass by, whose garments and spears denoted
them to be foreigners. The sight touched the chief, and he offered
the strangers the use of his house, and the rites of hospitality.
They accepted his invitation, were charmed by his courtesy, and
revealed to him the secret of their travel. In that narrow territory
which, skirting the Hellespont, was called the Chersonesus, or
Peninsula, dwelt the Doloncians, a Thracian tribe. Engaged in an
obstinate war with the neighbouring Absinthians, the Doloncians had
sent to the oracle of Delphi to learn the result of the contest. The
Pythian recommended the messengers to persuade the first man who, on
their quitting the temple, should offer them the rites of hospitality,
to found a colony in their native land. Passing homeward through
Phocis and Boeotia, and receiving no such invitation by the way, the
messengers turned aside to Athens; Miltiades was the first who offered
them the hospitality they sought; they entreated him now to comply
with the oracle, and assist their countrymen; the discontented noble
was allured by the splendour of the prospect--he repaired in person to
Delphi--consulted the Pythian--received a propitious answer--and
collecting all such of the Athenians as his authority could enlist, or
their own ambition could decoy, he repaired to the Chersonesus
(probably B. C. 559). There he fortified a great part of the isthmus,
as a barrier to the attacks of the Absinthians: but shortly afterward,
in a feud with the people of Lampsacus, he was taken prisoner by the
enemy. Miltiades, however, had already secured the esteem and
protection of Croesus; and the Lydian monarch remonstrated with the
Lampsacenes in so formidable a tone of menace, that the Athenian
obtained his release, and regained his new principality. In the
meanwhile, his brother Cimon (who was chiefly remarkable for his
success at the Olympic games), sharing the political sentiments of his
house, had been driven into exile by Pisistratus. By a transfer to
the brilliant tyrant of a victory in the Olympic chariot-race, he,
however, propitiated Pisistratus, and returned to Athens.

VIII. Full of years, and in the serene enjoyment of power,
Pisistratus died (B. C. 527). His character may already be gathered
from his actions: crafty in the pursuit of power, but magnanimous in
its possession, we have only, with some qualification, to repeat the
eulogium on him ascribed to his greater kinsman, Solon--"That he was
the best of tyrants, and without a vice save that of ambition."


The Administration of Hippias.--The Conspiracy of Harmodius and
Aristogiton.--The Death of Hipparchus.--Cruelties of Hippias.--The
young Miltiades sent to the Chersonesus.--The Spartans Combine with
the Alcmaeonidae against Hippias.--The fall of the Tyranny.--The
Innovations of Clisthenes.--His Expulsion and Restoration.--Embassy to
the Satrap of Sardis.--Retrospective View of the Lydian, Medean, and
Persian Monarchies.--Result of the Athenian Embassy to Sardis.--
Conduct of Cleomenes.--Victory of the Athenians against the Boeotians
and Chalcidians.--Hippias arrives at Sparta.--The Speech of Sosicles
the Corinthian.--Hippias retires to Sardis.

I. Upon the death of Pisistratus, his three sons, Hipparchus,
Hippias, and Thessalus, succeeded to the government. Nor, though
Hippias was the eldest, does he seem to have exercised a more
prominent authority than the rest--since, in the time of Thucydides,
and long afterward, it was the popular error to consider Hipparchus
the first-born. Hippias was already of mature age; and, as we have
seen, it was he who had counselled his father not to despair, after
his expulsion from Athens. He was a man of courage and ability worthy
of his race. He governed with the same careful respect for the laws
which had distinguished and strengthened the authority of his
predecessor. He even rendered himself yet more popular than
Pisistratus by reducing one half the impost of a tithe on the produce
of the land, which that usurper had imposed. Notwithstanding this
relief, he was enabled, by a prudent economy, to flatter the national
vanity by new embellishments to the city. In the labours of his
government he was principally aided by his second brother, Hipparchus,
a man of a yet more accomplished and intellectual order of mind. But
although Hippias did not alter the laws, he chose his own creatures to
administer them. Besides, whatever share in the government was
intrusted to his brothers, Hipparchus and Thessalus, his son and
several of his family were enrolled among the archons of the city.
And they who by office were intended for the guardians of liberty were
the necessary servants of the tyrant.

II. If we might place unhesitating faith in the authenticity of the
dialogue attributed to Plato under the title of "Hipparchus," we
should have, indeed, high authority in favour of the virtues and the
wisdom of that prince. And by whomsoever the dialogue was written, it
refers to facts, in the passage relative to the son of Pisistratus, in
a manner sufficiently positive to induce us to regard that portion of
it with some deference. According to the author, we learn that
Hipparchus, passionately attached to letters, brought Anacreon to
Athens, and lived familiarly with Simonides. He seems to have been
inspired with the ambition of a moralist, and distributed Hermae, or
stone busts of Mercury, about the city and the public roads, which,
while answering a similar purpose to our mile-stones, arrested the eye
of the passenger with pithy and laconic apothegms in verse; such as,
"Do not deceive your friend," and "Persevere in affection to
justice;"--proofs rather of the simplicity than the wisdom of the
prince. It is not by writing the decalogue upon mile-stones that the
robber would be terrified, or the adulterer converted.

It seems that the apothegmatical Hipparchus did not associate with
Anacreon more from sympathy with his genius than inclination to the
subjects to which it was devoted. He was addicted to pleasure; nor
did he confine its pursuits to the more legitimate objects of sensual
affection. Harmodius, a young citizen of no exalted rank, but much
personal beauty, incurred the affront of his addresses [238].
Harmodius, in resentment, confided the overtures of the moralist to
his friend and preceptor, Aristogiton. While the two were brooding
over the outrage, Hipparchus, in revenge for the disdain of Harmodius,
put a public insult upon the sister of that citizen, a young maiden.
She received a summons to attend some public procession, as bearer of
one of the sacred vessels: on presenting herself she was abruptly
rejected, with the rude assertion that she never could have been
honoured with an invitation of which she was unworthy. This affront
rankled deeply in the heart of Harmodius, but still more in that of
the friendly Aristogiton, and they now finally resolved upon revenge.
At the solemn festival of Panathenaea, (in honour of Minerva), it was
the custom for many of the citizens to carry arms in the procession:
for this occasion they reserved the blow. They intrusted their
designs to few, believing that if once the attempt was begun the
people would catch the contagion, and rush spontaneously to the
assertion of their freedom. The festival arrived. Bent against the
elder tyrant, perhaps from nobler motives than those which urged them
against Hipparchus [239], each armed with a dagger concealed in the
sacred myrtle bough which was borne by those who joined the
procession, the conspirators advanced to the spot in the suburbs where
Hippias was directing the order of the ceremonial. To their dismay,
they perceived him conversing familiarly with one of their own
partisans, and immediately suspected that to be the treason of their
friend which in reality was the frankness of the affable prince.
Struck with fear, they renounced their attempt upon Hippias, suddenly
retreated to the city, and, meeting with Hipparchus, rushed upon him,
wounded, and slew him. Aristogiton turned to fly--he escaped the
guards, but was afterward seized, and "not mildly treated" [240] by
the tyrant. Such is the phrase of Thucydides, which, if we may take
the interpretation of Justin and the later writers, means that,
contrary to the law, he was put to the torture [241]. Harmodius was
slain upon the spot. The news of his brother's death was brought to
Hippias. With an admirable sagacity and presence of mind, he
repaired, not to the place of the assassination, but towards the
procession itself, rightly judging that the conspiracy had only broken
out in part. As yet the news of the death of Hipparchus had not
reached the more distant conspirators in the procession, and Hippias
betrayed not in the calmness of his countenance any signs of his
sorrow or his fears. He approached the procession, and with a
composed voice commanded them to deposite their arms, and file off
towards a place which he indicated. They obeyed the order, imagining
he had something to communicate to them. Then turning to his guards,
Hippias bade them seize the weapons thus deposited, and he himself
selected from the procession all whom he had reason to suspect, or on
whose persons a dagger was found, for it was only with the open
weapons of spear and shield that the procession was lawfully to be
made. Thus rose and thus terminated that conspiracy which gave to the
noblest verse and the most enduring veneration the names of Harmodius
and Aristogiton. [242]

III. The acutest sharpener of tyranny is an unsuccessful attempt to
destroy it--to arouse the suspicion of power is almost to compel it to
cruelty. Hitherto we have seen that Hippias had graced his authority
with beneficent moderation; the death of his brother filled him with
secret alarm; and the favour of the populace at the attempted escape
of Aristogiton--the ease with which, from a personal affront to an
obscure individual, a formidable conspiracy had sprung up into life,
convinced him that the arts of personal popularity are only to be
relied on when the constitution of the government itself is popular.

It is also said that, when submitted to the torture, Aristogiton, with
all the craft of revenge, asserted the firmest friends of Hippias to
have been his accomplices. Thus harassed by distrust, Hippias
resolved to guard by terror a power which clemency had failed to
render secure. He put several of the citizens to death. According to
the popular traditions of romance, one of the most obnoxious acts of
his severity was exercised upon a woman worthy to be the mistress of
Aristogiton. Leaena, a girl of humble birth, beloved by that
adventurous citizen, was sentenced to the torture, and, that the pain
might not wring from her any confession of the secrets of the
conspiracy, she bit out her tongue. The Athenians, on afterward
recovering their liberties, dedicated to the heroine a brazen lioness,
not inappropriately placed in the vicinity of a celebrated statue of
Venus [243]. No longer depending on the love of the citizens, Hippias
now looked abroad for the support of his power; he formed an alliance
with Hippoclus, the prince of Lampsacus, by marrying his daughter with
the son of that tyrant, who possessed considerable influence at the
Persian court, to which he already directed his eyes--whether as a
support in the authority of the present, or an asylum against the
reverses of the future. [244]

It was apparently about a year before the death of Hipparchus, that
Stesagoras, the nephew and successor of that Miltiades who departed
from Athens to found a colony in the Thracian Chersonesus, perished by
an assassin's blow. Hippias, evidently deeming he had the right, as
sovereign of the parent country, to appoint the governor of the
colony, sent to the Chersonesus in that capacity the brother of the
deceased, a namesake of the first founder, whose father, Cimon, from
jealousy of his power or repute, had been murdered by the sons of
Pisistratus [245]. The new Miltiades was a man of consummate talents,
but one who scrupled little as to the means by which to accomplish his
objects. Arriving at his government, he affected a deep sorrow for
the loss of his brother; the principal nobles of the various cities of
the Chersonesus came in one public procession to condole with him; the
crafty chief seized and loaded them with irons, and, having thus
insnared the possible rivals of his power, or enemies of his designs,
he secured the undisputed possession of the whole Chersonesus, and
maintained his civil authority by a constant military force. A
marriage with Hegesipyle, a daughter of one of the Thracian princes,
at once enhanced the dignity and confirmed the sway of the young and
aspiring chief. Some years afterward, we shall see in this Miltiades
the most eminent warrior of his age--at present we leave him to an
unquiet and perilous power, and return to Hippias.

IV. A storm gathered rapidly on against the security and ambition of
the tyrant. The highborn and haughty family of the Alcmaeonids had
been expelled from Athens at the victorious return of Pisistratus--
their estates in Attica confiscated--their houses razed--their very
sepulchres destroyed. After fruitless attempts against the
oppressors, they had retired to Lipsydrium, a fortress on the heights
of Parnes, where they continued to cherish the hope of return and the
desire of revenge. Despite the confiscation of their Attic estates,
their wealth and resources, elsewhere secured, were enormous. The
temple of Delphi having been destroyed by fire, they agreed with the
Amphictyons to rebuild it, and performed the holy task with a
magnificent splendour far exceeding the conditions of the contract.
But in that religious land, wealth, thus lavished, was no unprofitable
investment. The priests of Delphi were not insensible of the
liberality of the exiles, and Clisthenes, the most eminent and able of
the Alcmaeonidae, was more than suspected of suborning the Pythian.
Sparta, the supporter of oligarchies, was the foe of tyrants, and
every Spartan who sought the oracle was solemnly involved to aid the
glorious enterprise of delivering the Eupatrids of Athens from the
yoke of the Pisistratidae.

The Spartans were at length moved by instances so repeatedly urged.
Policy could not but soften that jealous state to such appeals to her
superstition. Under the genius of the Pisistratidae, Athens had
rapidly advanced in power, and the restoration of the Alcmaeonidae
might have seemed to the Spartan sagacity but another term for the
establishment of that former oligarchy which had repressed the
intellect and exhausted the resources of an active and aspiring
people. Sparta aroused herself, then, at length, and "though in
violation." says Herodotus, "of some ancient ties of hospitality,"
despatched a force by sea against the Prince of Athens. That alert
and able ruler lost no time in seeking assistance from his allies, the
Thessalians; and one of their powerful princes led a thousand horsemen
against the Spartans, who had debarked at Phalerum. Joined by these
allies, Hippias engaged and routed the enemy, and the Spartan leader
himself fell upon the field of battle. His tomb was long visible in
Cynosarges, near the gates of Athens--a place rendered afterward more
illustrious by giving name to the Cynic philosophers. [246]

Undismayed by their defeat, the Spartans now despatched a more
considerable force against the tyrant, under command of their king
Cleomenes. This army proceeded by land--entered Attica--encountered,
defeated, the Thessalian horse [247],--and marched towards the gates
of Athens, joined, as they proceeded, by all those Athenians who
hoped, in the downfall of Hippias, the resurrection of their
liberties. The Spartan troops hastened to besiege the Athenian prince
in the citadel, to which he retired with his forces. But Hippias had
provided his refuge with all the necessaries which might maintain him
in a stubborn and prolonged resistance. The Spartans were unprepared
for the siege--the blockade of a few days sufficed to dishearten them,
and they already meditated a retreat. A sudden incident opening to us
in the midst of violence one of those beautiful glimpses of human
affection which so often adorn and sanctify the darker pages of
history, unexpectedly secured the Spartan triumph. Hippias and his
friends, fearing the safety of their children in the citadel, resolved
to dismiss them privately to some place of greater security.
Unhappily, their care was frustrated, and the children fell into the
hands of the enemy. All the means of success within their reach (the
foe wearied--the garrison faithful), the parents yet resigned
themselves at once to the voluntary sacrifice of conquest and

Upon the sole condition of recovering their children, Hippias and his
partisans consented to surrender the citadel, and quit the territories
of Attica within five days. Thus, in the fourth year from the death
of Hipparchus (B. C. 510), and about fifty years after the first
establishment of the tyranny under its brilliant founder, the dominion
of Athens passed away from the house of Pisistratus.

V. The party of Hippias, defeated, not by the swords of the enemy,
but by the soft impulses of nature, took their way across the stream
of the immemorial Scamander, and sought refuge at Sigeum, still under
the government of Hegesistratus, the natural brother of the exiled

The instant the pressure of one supreme power was removed, the two
parties imbodying the aristocratic and popular principles rose into
active life. The state was to be a republic, but of what
denomination? The nobles naturally aspired to the predominance--at
their head was the Eupatrid Isagoras; the strife of party always tends
to produce popular results, even from elements apparently the most
hostile. Clisthenes, the head of the Alcmaeonidae, was by birth even
yet more illustrious than Isagoras; for, among the nobles, the
Alcmaeonid family stood pre-eminent. But, unable to attain the sole
power of the government, Clisthenes and his party were unwilling to
yield to the more numerous faction of an equal. The exile and
sufferings of the Alcmaeonids had, no doubt, secured to them much of
the popular compassion; their gallant struggles against, their
ultimate victory over the usurper, obtained the popular enthusiasm;
thus it is probable, that an almost insensible sympathy had sprung up
between this high-born faction and the people at large; and when,
unable to cope with the party of the nobles, Clisthenes attached
himself to the movement of the commons, the enemy of the tyrant
appeared in his natural position--at the head of the democracy.
Clisthenes was, however, rather the statesman of a party than the
legislator for a people--it was his object permanently to break up the
power of the great proprietors, not as enemies of the commonwealth,
but as rivals to his faction. The surest way to diminish the
influence of property in elections is so to alter the constituencies
as to remove the electors from the immediate control of individual
proprietors. Under the old Ionic and hereditary divisions of four
tribes, many ancient associations and ties between the poorer and the
nobler classes were necessarily formed. By one bold innovation, the
whole importance of which was not immediately apparent, Clisthenes
abolished these venerable divisions, and, by a new geographical
survey, created ten tribes instead of the former four. These were
again subdivided into districts, or demes; the number seems to have
varied, but at the earliest period they were not less than one
hundred--at a later period they exceeded one hundred and seventy. To
these demes were transferred all the political rights and privileges
of the divisions they supplanted. Each had a local magistrate and
local assemblies. Like corporations, these petty courts of
legislature ripened the moral spirit of democracy while fitting men
for the exercise of the larger rights they demanded. A consequence of
the alteration of the number of the tribes was an increase in the
number that composed the senate, which now rose from four to five
hundred members.

Clisthenes did not limit himself to this change in the constituent
bodies--he increased the total number of the constituents; new
citizens were made--aliens were admitted--and it is supposed by some,
though upon rather vague authorities, that several slaves were
enfranchised. It was not enough, however, to augment the number of
the people, it was equally necessary to prevent the ascension of a
single man. Encouraged by the example in other states of Greece,
forewarned by the tyranny of Pisistratus, Clisthenes introduced the
institution of the Ostracism [248]. Probably about the same period,
the mode of election to public office generally was altered from the
public vote to the secret lot [249]. It is evident that these
changes, whether salutary or pernicious, were not wanton or uncalled
for. The previous constitution had not sufficed to protect the
republic from a tyranny: something deficient in the machinery of
Solon's legislation had for half a century frustrated its practical
intentions. A change was, therefore, necessary to the existence of
the free state; and the care with which that change was directed
towards the diminution of the aristocratic influence, is in itself a
proof that such influence had been the shelter of the defeated
tyranny. The Athenians themselves always considered the innovations
of Clisthenes but as the natural development of the popular
institutions of Solon; and that decisive and energetic noble seems
indeed to have been one of those rude but serviceable instruments by
which a more practical and perfect action is often wrought out from
the incompleted theories of greater statesmen.

VI. Meanwhile, Isagoras, thus defeated by his rival, had the mean
ambition to appeal to the Spartan sword. Ancient scandal attributes
to Cleomenes, king of Sparta, an improper connexion with the wife of
Isagoras, and every one knows that the fondest friend of the cuckold
is invariably the adulterer;--the national policy of founding
aristocracies was doubtless, however, a graver motive with the Spartan
king than his desire to assist Isagoras. Cleomenes by a public herald
proclaimed the expulsion of Clisthenes, upon a frivolous pretence that
the Alcmaeonidae were still polluted by the hereditary sacrilege of
Cylon. Clisthenes privately retired from the city, and the Spartan
king, at the head of an inconsiderable troop, re-entered Athens--
expelled, at the instance of Isagoras, seven hundred Athenian
families, as inculpated in the pretended pollution of Clisthenes--
dissolved the senate--and committed all the offices of the state to an
oligarchy of three hundred (a number and a council founded upon the
Dorian habits), each of whom was the creature of Isagoras. But the
noble assembly he had thus violently dissolved refused obedience to
his commands; they appealed to the people, whom the valour of liberty
simultaneously aroused, and the citadel, of which Isagoras and the
Spartans instantly possessed themselves, was besieged by the whole
power of Athens. The conspirators held out only two days; on the
third, they accepted the conditions of the besiegers, and departed
peaceably from the city. Some of the Athenians, who had shared the
treason without participating in the flight, were justly executed.
Clisthenes, with the families expelled by Cleomenes, was recalled, and
the republic of Athens was thus happily re-established.

VII. But the iron vengeance of that nation of soldiers, thus far
successfully braved, was not to be foreboded without alarm by the
Athenians. They felt that Cleomenes had only abandoned his designs to
return to them more prepared for contest; and Athens was not yet in a
condition to brave the determined and never-sparing energies of
Sparta. The Athenians looked around the states of Greece--many in
alliance with Lacedaemon--some governed by tyrants--others distracted
with their own civil dissensions; there were none from whom the new
commonwealth could hope for a sufficient assistance against the
revenge of Cleomenes. In this dilemma, they resorted to the only aid
which suggested itself, and sought, across the boundaries of Greece,
the alliance of the barbarians. They adventured a formal embassy to
Artaphernes, satrap of Sardis, to engage the succour of Darius, king
of Persia.

Accompanying the Athenians in this mission, full of interest, for it
was the first public transaction between that republic and the throne
of Persia, I pause to take a rapid survey of the origin of that mighty
empire, whose destinies became thenceforth involved in the history of
Grecian misfortunes and Grecian fame. That survey commences with the
foundation of the Lydian monarchy.

VIII. Amid the Grecian colonies of Asia whose rise we have
commemorated, around and above a hill commanding spacious and fertile
plains watered by the streams of the Cayster and Maeander; an ancient
Pelasgic tribe called the Maeonians had established their abode.
According to Herodotus, these settlers early obtained the name of
Lydians, from Lydus, the son of Atys. The Dorian revolution did not
spare these delightful seats, and an Heraclid dynasty is said to have
reigned five hundred years over the Maeonians; these in their turn
were supplanted by a race known to us as the Mermnadae, the founder of
whom, Gyges, murdered and dethroned the last of the Heraclidae; and
with a new dynasty seems to have commenced a new and less Asiatic
policy. Gyges, supported by the oracle of Delphi, was the first
barbarian, except one of the many Phrygian kings claiming the name of
Midas, who made votive offerings to that Grecian shrine. From his
time this motley tribe, the link between Hellas and the East, came
into frequent collision with the Grecian colonies. Gyges himself made
war with Miletus and Smyrna, and even captured Colophon. With
Miletus, indeed, the hostility of the Lydians became hereditary, and
was renewed with various success by the descendants of Gyges, until,
in the time of his great-grandson Alyattes, a war of twelve years with
that splendid colony was terminated by a solemn peace and a strict
alliance. Meanwhile, the petty but warlike monarchy founded by Gyges
had preserved the Asiatic Greeks from dangers yet more formidable than
its own ambition. From a remote period, savage and ferocious tribes,
among which are pre-eminent the Treres and Cimmerians, had often
ravaged the inland plains--now for plunder, now for settlement.
Magnesia had been entirely destroyed by the Treres--even Sardis, the
capital of the Mermnadae, had been taken, save the citadel, by the
Cimmerians. It was reserved for Alyattes to terminate these
formidable irruptions, and Asia was finally delivered by his arms from
a people in whom modern erudition has too fondly traced the ancestors
of the Cymry, or ancient Britons [250]. To this enterprising and able
king succeeded a yet more illustrious monarch, who ought to have found
in his genius the fame he has derived from his misfortunes. At the
age of thirty-five Croesus ascended the Lydian throne. Before
associated in the government with his father, he had rendered himself
distinguished in military service; and, wise, accomplished, but
grasping and ambitious, this remarkable monarch now completed the
designs of his predecessors. Commencing with Ephesus, he succeeded in
rendering tributary every Grecian colony on the western coast of Asia;
and, leaving to each state its previous institutions, he kept by
moderation what he obtained by force.

Croesus was about to construct a fleet for the purpose of adding to
his dominions the isles of the Aegaean, but is said to have been
dissuaded from his purpose by a profound witticism of one of the seven
wise men of Greece. "The islanders," said the sage, "are about to
storm you in your capital of Sardis, with ten thousand cavalry."--
"Nothing could gratify me more," said the king, "than to see the
islanders invading the Lydian continent with horsemen."--"Right,"
replied the wise man, "and it will give the islanders equal
satisfaction to find the Lydians attacking them by a fleet. To
revenge their disasters on the land, the Greeks desire nothing better
than to meet you on the ocean." The answer enlightened the king, and,
instead of fitting out his fleet, he entered into amicable alliance
with the Ionians of the isles [251]. But his ambition was only
thwarted in one direction to strike its roots in another; and he
turned his invading arms against his neighbours on the continent,
until he had progressively subdued nearly all the nations, save the
Lycians and Cilicians, westward to the Halys. And thus rapidly and
majestically rose from the scanty tribe and limited territory of the
old Maeonians the monarchy of Asia Minor.

IX. The renown of Croesus established, his capital of Sardis became
the resort of the wise and the adventurous, whether of Asia or of
Greece. In many respects the Lydians so closely resembled the Greeks
as to suggest the affinity which historical evidence scarcely suffices
to permit us absolutely to affirm. The manners and the customs of
either people did not greatly differ, save that with the Lydians, as
still throughout the East, but little consideration was attached to
women;--they were alike in their cultivation of the arts, and their
respect for the oracles of religion--and Delphi, in especial, was
inordinately enriched by the prodigal superstition of the Lydian

The tradition which ascribes to the Lydians the invention of coined
money is a proof of their commercial habits. The neighbouring Tmolus
teemed with gold, which the waters of the Pactolus bore into the very
streets of the city. Their industry was exercised in the manufacture
of articles of luxury rather than those of necessity. Their purple
garments.-their skill in the workmanship of metals--their marts for
slaves and eunuchs--their export trade of unwrought gold--are
sufficient evidence both of the extent and the character of their
civilization. Yet the nature of the oriental government did not fail
to operate injuriously on the more homely and useful directions of
their energy. They appear never to have worked the gold-mines, whose
particles were borne to them by the careless bounty of the Pactolus.
Their early traditional colonies were wafted on Grecian vessels. The
gorgeous presents with which they enriched the Hellenic temples seem
to have been fabricated by Grecian art, and even the advantages of
commerce they seem rather to have suffered than to have sought. But
what a people so suddenly risen into splendour, governed by a wise
prince, and stimulated perhaps to eventual liberty by the example of
the European Greeks, ought to have become, it is impossible to
conjecture; perhaps the Hellenes of the East.

At this period, however, of such power--and such promise, the fall of
the Lydian empire was decreed. Far from the fertile fields and
gorgeous capital of Lydia, amid steril mountains, inhabited by a
simple and hardy race, rose the portentous star of the Persian Cyrus.

X. A victim to that luxury which confirms a free but destroys a
despotic state, the vast foundations of the Assyrian empire were
crumbling into decay, when a new monarchy, destined to become its
successor, sprung up among one of its subject nations. Divided into
various tribes, each dependant upon the Assyrian sceptre, was a
warlike, wandering, and primitive race, known to us under the name of
Medes. Deioces, a chief of one of the tribes, succeeded in uniting
these scattered sections into a single people, built a city, and
founded an independent throne. His son, Phraortes, reduced the
Persians to his yoke--overran Asia--advanced to Nineveh--and
ultimately perished in battle with a considerable portion of his army.
Succeeded by his son Cyaxares, that monarch consummated the ambitious
designs of his predecessors. He organized the miscellaneous hordes
that compose an oriental army into efficient and formidable
discipline, vanquished the Assyrians, and besieged Nineveh, when a
mighty irruption of the Scythian hordes called his attention homeward.
A defeat, which at one blow robbed this great king of the dominion of
Asia, was ultimately recovered by a treacherous massacre of the
Scythian leaders (B. C. 606). The Medes regained their power and
prosecuted their conquests--Nineveh fell--and through the whole
Assyrian realm, Babylon alone remained unsubjugated by the Mede. To
this new-built and wide-spread empire succeeded Astyages, son of the
fortunate Cyaxares. But it is the usual character of a conquering
tribe to adopt the habits and be corrupted by the vices of the subdued
nations among which the invaders settle; and the peaceful reign of
Astyages sufficed to enervate that vigilant and warlike spirit in the
victor race, by which alone the vast empires of the East can be
preserved from their natural tendency to decay. The Persians, subdued
by the grandsire of Astyages, seized the occasion to revolt. Among
them rose up a native hero, the Gengis-khan of the ancient world.
Through the fables which obscure his history we may be allowed to
conjecture, that Cyrus, or Khosroo, was perhaps connected by blood
with Astyages, and, more probably, that he was intrusted with command
among the Persians by that weak and slothful monarch. Be that as it
may, he succeeded in uniting under his banners a martial and
uncorrupted population, overthrew the Median monarchy, and transferred
to a dynasty, already worn out with premature old age, the vigorous
and aspiring youth of a mountain race. Such was the formidable foe
that now menaced the rising glories of the Lydian king.

XI. Croesus was allied by blood with the dethroned Astyages, and
individual resentment at the overthrow of his relation co-operated
with his anxious fears of the ambition of the victor. A less
sagacious prince might easily have foreseen that the Persians would
scarcely be secure in their new possessions, ere the wealth and
domains of Lydia would tempt the restless cupidity of their chief.
After much deliberation as to the course to be pursued, Croesus
resorted for advice to the most celebrated oracles of Greece, and even
to that of the Libyan Ammon. The answer he received from Delphi
flattered, more fatally than the rest, the inclinations of the king.
He was informed "that if he prosecuted a war with Persia a mighty
empire would be overthrown, and he was advised to seek the alliance of
the most powerful states of Greece." Overjoyed with a response to
which his hopes gave but one interpretation, the king prodigalized
fresh presents on the Delphians, and received from them in return, for
his people and himself, the honour of priority above all other nations
in consulting the oracle, a distinguished seat in the temple, and the
right of the citizenship of Delphi. Once more the fated monarch
sought the oracle, and demanded if his power should ever fail. Thus
replied the Pythian: "When a mule shall sit enthroned over the Medes,
fly, soft Lydian, across the pebbly waters of the Hermus." The
ingenuity of Croesus could discover in this reply no reason for alarm,
confident that a mule could never be the sovereign of the Medes. Thus
animated, and led on, the son of Alyattes prepared to oppose, while it
was yet time, the progress of the Persian arms. He collected all the
force he could summon from his provinces--crossed the Halys--entered
Cappadocia--devastated the surrounding country--destroyed several
towns--and finally met on the plains of Pteria the Persian army. The
victory was undecided; but Croesus, not satisfied with the force he
led, which was inferior to that of Cyrus, returned to Sardis,
despatched envoys for succour into Egypt and to Babylon, and
disbanded, for the present, the disciplined mercenaries whom he had
conducted into Cappadocia. But Cyrus was aware of the movements of
the enemy, and by forced and rapid marches arrived at Sardis, and
encamped before its walls. His army dismissed--his allies scarcely
reached by his embassadors--Croesus yet showed himself equal to the
peril of his fortune. His Lydians were among the most valiant of the
Asiatic nations--dexterous in their national weapon, the spear, and
renowned for the skill and prowess of their cavalry.

XII. In a wide plain, in the very neighbourhood of the royal Sardis,
and watered "by the pebbly stream of the Hermus," the cavalry of Lydia
met, and were routed by the force of Cyrus. The city was besieged and
taken, and the wisest and wealthiest of the Eastern kings sunk
thenceforth into a petty vassal, consigned as guest or prisoner to a
Median city near Ecbatana [252]. The prophecy was fulfilled, and a
mighty empire overthrown. [253]

The Grecian colonies of Asia, during the Lydian war, had resisted the
overtures of Cyrus, and continued faithful to Croesus; they had now
cause to dread the vengeance of the conqueror. The Ionians and
Aeolians sent to demand the assistance of Lacedaemon, pledged equally
with themselves to the Lydian cause. But the Spartans, yet more
cautious than courageous, saw but little profit in so unequal an
alliance. They peremptorily refused the offer of the colonists, but,
after their departure, warily sent a vessel of fifty oars to watch the
proceedings of Cyrus, and finally deputed Latrines, a Spartan of
distinction, to inform the monarch of the Persian, Median, and Lydian
empires, that any injury to the Grecian cities would be resented by
the Spartans. Cyrus asked with polite astonishment of the Greeks
about him, "Who these Spartans were?" and having ascertained as much
as he could comprehend concerning their military force and their
social habits, replied, "That men who had a large space in the middle
of their city for the purpose of cheating one another, could not be to
him an object of terror:" so little respect had the hardy warrior for
the decent frauds of oratory and of trade. Meanwhile, he obligingly
added, "that if he continued in health, their concern for the Ionian
troubles might possibly be merged in the greatness of their own."
Soon afterward Cyrus swept onwards in the prosecution of his vast
designs, overrunning Assyria, and rushing through the channels of
Euphrates into the palaces of Babylon, and the halls of the scriptural
Belshazzar. His son, Cambyses, added the mystic Egypt to the vast

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