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A Smaller History of Greece by William Smith

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from the earliest times to the Roman conquest.



In this Etext, printed text in italics has been written in capital

Many words in the printed text have accents, etc. which have been
omitted. Dipthongs have been expanded into two letters.


CHAPTER I . . Geography of Greece.

CHAPTER II . . Origin of the Greeks, and the Heroic Age.

CHAPTER III . . General Survey of the Greek People.
National Institutions.

CHAPTER IV . . Early History of Peloponnesus and Sparta to
the end of the Messenian Wars, B.C. 668.

CHAPTER V . . Early History of Athens down to the
Establishment of Democracy by Clisthenes,
B.C. 510.

CHAPTER VI . . The Greek Colonies.

CHAPTER VII . . The Persian Wars.--From the Ionic Revolt to
the Battle of Marathon, B.C. 500-490.

CHAPTER VIII . . The Persian Wars.--The Battles of Thermopylae
Salamis, and Plataea, B.C. 480-479.

CHAPTER IX . . From the end of the Persian Wars to the
beginning of the Peloponnesian War,
B.C. 479-431.

CHAPTER X . . Athens in the time of Pericles.

CHAPTER XI . . The Peloponnesian War.--First Period, from the
commencement of the War to the Peace of Nicias,
B.C. 431-421.

CHAPTER XII . . The Peloponnesian War.--Second Period, from
the Peace of Nicias to the Defeat of the
Athenians in Sicily, B.C. 421-413.

CHAPTER XIII . . The Peloponnesian War.--Third Period, from the
Sicilian Expedition to the end of the War,
B.C. 413-404.

CHAPTER XIV . . The Thiry Tyrants, and the death of Socrates,
B.C. 404-399.

CHAPTER XV . . The Expedition of the Greeks under Cyrus, and
Retreat of the Ten Thousand, B.C. 401-400.

CHAPTER XVI . . The Supremacy of Sparta, B.C. 404-371.

CHAPTER XVII . . The Supremacy of Thebes, B.C. 371-361.

CHAPTER XVIII . . History of the Sicilian Greeks from the
Destruction of the Athenian Armament to the
Death of Timoleon.

CHAPTER XIX . . Phillip of Macedon, B.C. 359-336.

CHAPTER XX . . Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323.

CHAPTER XXI . . From the Death of Alexander the Great to the
Conquest of Greece by the Romans, B.C. 323-146.

CHAPTER XXII . . Sketch of the History of Greek Literature
from the Earliest Times to the Reign of
Alexander the Great.



Greece is the southern portion of a great peninsula of Europe,
washed on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded on
the north by the Cambunian mountains, which separate it from
Macedonia. It extends from the fortieth degree of latitude to
the thirty-sixth, its greatest length being not more than 250
English miles, and its greatest breadth only 180. Its surface is
considerably less than that of Portugal. This small area was
divided among a number of independent states, many of them
containing a territory of only a few square miles, and none of
them larger than an English county. But the heroism and genius
of the Greeks have given an interest to the insignificant spot of
earth bearing their name, which the vastest empires have never

The name of Greece was not used by the inhabitants of the
country. They called their land HELLAS, and themselves HELLENES.
At first the word HELLAS signified only a small district in
Thessaly, from which the Hellenes gradually spread over the whole
country. The names of GREECE and GREEKS come to us from the
Romans, who gave the name of GRAECIA to the country and of GRAECI
to the inhabitants.

The two northerly provinces of Greece are THESSALY and EPIRUS,
separated from each other by Mount Pindus. Thessaly is a fertile
plain enclosed by lofty mountains, and drained by the river
Peneus, which finds its way into the sea through the celebrated
Vale of Tempe. Epirus is covered by rugged ranges of mountains
running from north to south, through which the Achelous the
largest river of Greece, flows towards the Corinthian gulf.

In entering central Greece from Thessaly the road runs along the
coast through the narrow pass of Thermopylae, between the sea and
a lofty range of mountains. The district along the coast was
inhabited by the EASTERN LOCRIANS, while to their west were DORIS
and PHOCIS, the greater part of the latter being occupied by
Mount Parnassus, the abode of the Muses, upon the slopes of which
lay the town of Delphi with its celebrated oracle of Apollo.
South of Phocis is Boeotia, which is a large hollow basin,
enclosed on every side by mountains, which prevent the waters
from flowing into the sea. Hence the atmosphere was damp and
thick, to which circumstance the witty Athenians attributed the
dullness of the inhabitants. Thebes was the chief city of
Boeotia. South of Boeotia lies ATTICA, which is in the form of a
triangle, having two of its sides washed by the sea and its base
united to the land. Its soil is light and dry and is better
adapted for the growth of fruit than of corn. It was
particularly celebrated for its olives, which were regarded as
the gift of Athena (Minerva), and were always under the care of
that goddess. Athens was on the western coast, between four and
five miles from its port, Piraeus. West of Attica, towards the
isthmus, is the small district of MEGARIS.

The western half of central Greece consists of WESTERN LOCRIS,
AETOLIA and ACARNANIA. These districts were less civilised than
the other countries of Greece, and were the haunts of rude robber
tribes even as late as the Peloponnesian war.

Central Greece is connected with the southern peninsula by a
narrow isthmus, on which stood the city of Corinth. So narrow is
this isthmus that the ancients regarded the peninsula as an
island, and gave to it the name of PELOPONNESUS, or the island of
Pelops, from the mythical hero of this name. Its modern name,
the MOREA, was bestowed upon it from its resemblance to the leaf
of the mulberry.

The mountains of Peloponnesus have their roots in the centre of
the country, from which they branch out towards the sea. This
central region, called ARCADIA, is the Switzerland of the
peninsula. It is surrounded by a ring of mountains, forming a
kind of natural wall, which separates it from the remaining
Peloponnesian states. The other chief divisions of Peloponnesus
were Achaia, Argolis, Laconia, Messenia, and Elis. ACHAIA is a
narrow slip of country lying between the northern barrier of
Arcadia and the Corinthian gulf. ARGOLIS, on the east, contained
several independent states, of which the most important was
Argos. LACONIA and MESSENIA occupied the whole of the south of
the peninsula from sea to sea: these two countries were
separated by the lofty range of Taygetus, running from north to
south, and terminating in the promontory of Taenarum (now Cape
Matapan), the southernmost point of Greece and Europe. Sparta,
the chief town of Laconia, stood in the valley of the Eurotas,
which opens out into a plain of considerable extent towards the
Laconian gulf. Messenia, in like manner, was drained by the
Pamisus, whose plain is still more extensive and fertile than
that of the Eurotas. ELIS, on the west of Arcadia, contains the
memorable plain of Olympia, through which the Alpheus flows, and
in which the city of Pisa stood.

Of the numerous islands which line the Grecian shores, the most
important was Euboea, stretching along the coasts of Boeotia and
Attica. South of Euboea was the group of islands called the
CYCLADES, lying around Delos as a centre; and east of these were
the SPORADES, near the Asiatic coast. South of these groups are
the large islands of CRETE and RHODES.

The physical features of the country exercised an important
influence upon the political destinies of the people. Greece is
one of the most mountainous countries of Europe. Its surface is
occupied by a number of small plains, either entirely surrounded
by limestone mountains or open only to the sea. Each of the
principal Grecian cities was founded in one of these small
plains; and, as the mountains which separated it from its
neighbours were lofty and rugged, each city grew up in solitary
independence. But at the same time it had ready and easy access
to the sea, and Arcadia was almost the only political division
that did not possess some territory upon the coast. Thus shut
out from their neighbours by mountains, the Greeks were naturally
attracted to the sea, and became a maritime people. Hence they
possessed the love of freedom and the spirit of adventure, which
have always characterised, more or less the inhabitants of
maritime districts.



No nation possesses a history till events are recorded in written
documents; and it was not till the epoch known by the name of the
First Olympiad, corresponding to the year 776 B.C., that the
Greeks began to employ writing as a means for perpetuating the
memory of any historical facts. Before that period everything is
vague and uncertain; and the exploits of the heroes related by
the poets must not be regarded as historical facts.

The PELASGIANS are universally represented as the most ancient
inhabitants of Greece. They were spread over the Italian as well
as the Grecian peninsula; and the Pelasgic language thus formed
the basis of the Latin as well as of the Greek. They were
divided into several tribes, of which the Hellenes were probably
one: at any rate, this people, who originally dwelt in the south
of Thessaly, gradually spread over the rest of Greece. The
Pelasgians disappeared before them, or were incorporated with
them, and their dialect became the language of Greece. The
Hellenes considered themselves the descendants of one common
ancestor, Hellen, the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha. To Hellen
were ascribed three sons, Dorus, Xuthus, and AEolus. Of these
Dorus and AEolus gave their names to the DORIANS and AEOLIANS;
and Xuthus; through his two sons Ion and Achaeus, became the
forefather of the IONIANS and ACHAEANS. Thus the Greeks
accounted for the origin of the four great divisions of their
race. The descent of the Hellenes from a common ancestor,
Hellen, was a fundamental article in the popular faith. It was a
general practice in antiquity to invent fictitious persons for
the purpose of explaining names of which the origin was buried in
obscurity. It was in this way that Hellen and his sons came into
being; but though they never had any real existence, the tales
about them may be regarded as the traditional history of the
races to whom they gave their names.

The civilization of the Greeks and the development of their
language bear all the marks of home growth, and probably were
little affected by foreign influence. The traditions, however,
of the Greeks would point to a contrary conclusion. It was a
general belief among them that the Pelasgians were reclaimed from
barbarism by Oriental strangers, who settled in the country and
introduced among the rude inhabitants the first elements of
civilization. Attica is said to have been indebted for the arts
of civilized life to Cecrops, a native of Sais in Egypt. To him
is ascribed the foundation of the city of Athens, the institution
of marriage, and the introduction of religious rites and
ceremonies. Argos, in like manner, is said to have been founded
by the Egyptian Danaus, who fled to Greece with his fifty
daughters, to escape from the persecution of their suitors, the
fifty sons of his brother AEgyptus. The Egyptian stranger was
elected king by the natives, and from him the tribe of the Danai
derived their name, which Homer frequently uses as a general
appellation for the Greeks. Another colony was the one led from
Asia by Pelops, from whom the southern peninsula of Greece
derived its name of Peloponnesus. Pelops is represented as a
Phrygian, and the son of the wealthy king Tantalus. He became
king of Mycenae, and the founder of a powerful dynasty, one of
the most renowned in the Heroic age of Greece. From him was
descended Agamemnon, who led the Grecian host against Troy.

The tale of the Phoenician colony, conducted by Cadmus, and which
founded Thebes in Boeotia, rests upon a different basis. Whether
there was such a person as the Phoenician Cadmus, and whether he
built the town called Cadmea, which afterwards became the citadel
of Thebes, as the ancient legends relate, cannot be determined;
but it is certain that the Greeks were indebted to the
Phoenicians for the art of writing; for both the names and the
forms of the letters in the Greek alphabet are evidently derived
from the Phoenician. With this exception the Oriental strangers
left no permanent traces of their settlements in Greece; and the
population of the country continued to be essentially Grecian,
uncontaminated by any foreign elements.

The age of the heroes, from the first appearance of the Hellenes
in Thessaly to the return of the Greeks from Troy, was supposed
to be a period of about two hundred years. These heroes were
believed to be a noble race of beings, possessing a superhuman
though not a divine nature, and superior to ordinary men in
strength of body and greatness of soul.

Among the heroes three stand conspicuously forth: Hercules, the
national hero of Greece; Theseus, the hero of Attica; and Minos,
king of Crete, the principal founder of Grecian law and

Hercules was the son of Zeus (Jupiter) and Alcmena; but the
jealous anger of Hera (Juno) raised up against him an opponent
and a master in the person of Eurystheus at whose bidding the
greatest of all heroes was to achieve those wonderful labours
which filled the whole world with his fame. In these are
realized, on a magnificent scale, the two great objects of
ancient heroism, the destruction of physical and moral evil, and
the acquisition of wealth and power. Such, for instance, are the
labours in which he destroys the terrible Nemean lion and Lernean
hydra, carries off the girdle of Ares from Hippolyte, queen of
the Amazons, and seizes the golden apples of the Hesperides,
guarded by a hundred-headed dragon.

Theseus was a son of AEgeus, king of Athens, and of AEthra,
daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezen. Among his many memorable
achievements the most famous was his deliverance of Athens from
the frightful tribute imposed upon it by Minos for the murder of
his son. This consisted of seven youths and seven maidens whom
the Athenians were compelled to send every nine years to Crete,
there to be devoured by the Minotaur, a monster with a human body
and a bull's head, which Minos kept concealed in an inextricable
labyrinth. The third ship was already on the point of sailing
with its cargo of innocent victims, when Theseus offered to go
with them, hoping to put an end for ever to the horrible tribute.
Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, became enamoured of the hero, and
having supplied him with a clue to trace the windings of the
labyrinth, Theseus succeeded in killing the monster, and in
tracking his way out of the mazy lair. Theseus, on his return,
became king of Attica, and proceeded to lay the foundations of
the future greatness of the country. He united into one
political body the twelve independent states into which Cecrops
had divided Attica, and made Athens the capital of the new
kingdom. He then divided the citizens into three classes,
namely, EUPATRIDAE, or nobles; GEOMORI, or husbandmen; and
DEMIURGI, or artisans.

Minos, king of Crete, whose history is connected with that of
Theseus, appears, like him, the representative of an historical
and civil state of life. Minos is said to have received the laws
of Crete immediately from Zeus; and traditions uniformly present
him as king of the sea. Possessing a numerous fleet, he reduced
the surrounding islands, especially the Cyclades, under his
dominion, and cleared the sea of pirates.

The voyage of the Argonauts and the Trojan war were the most
memorable enterprises undertaken by collective bodies of heroes.

The Argonauts derived their name from the Argo, a ship built For
the adventurers by Jason, under the superintendence of Athena
(Minerva). They embarked in the harbour of Iolcus in Thessaly
for the purpose of obtaining the golden fleece which was
preserved in AEa in Colchis, on the eastern shores of the Black
Sea, under the guardianship of a sleepless dragon. The most
renowned heroes of the age took part in the expedition. Among
them were Hercules and Theseus, as well as the principal leaders
in the Trojan war; but Jason is the central figure and the real
hero of the enterprise. Upon arriving at AEa, after many
adventures, king AEtes promised to deliver to Jason the golden
fleece, provided he yoked two fire-breathing oxen with brazen
feet, and performed other wonderful deeds. Here, also, as in the
legend of Theseus, love played a prominent part. Medea, the
daughter of AEtes, who was skilled in magic and supernatural
arts, furnished Jason with the means of accomplishing the labours
imposed upon him; and as her father still delayed to surrender
the fleece, she cast the dragon asleep during the night, seized
the fleece, and sailed away in the Argo with her beloved Jason.

The Trojan war was the greatest of all the heroic achievements.
It formed the subject of innumerable epic poems, and has been
immortalised by the genius of Homer. Paris, son of Priam, king
of Troy, abused the hospitality of Menelaus, king of Sparta, by
carrying off his wife Helen, the most beautiful woman of the age.
All the Grecian princes looked upon the outrage as one committed
against themselves. Responding to the call of Menelaus, they
assembled in arms, elected his brother Agamemnon, king of
Mycenae, leader of the expedition, and sailed across the AEgean
in nearly 1200 ships to recover the faithless fair one. Several
of the confederate heroes excelled Agamemnon in fame. Among them
Achilles, chief of the Thessalian Myrmidons, stood pre-eminent in
strength, beauty, and valour; whilst Ulysses, king of Ithaca;
surpassed all the rest in the mental qualities of counsel and
eloquence. Among the Trojans, Hector, one of the sons of Priam,
was most distinguished for heroic qualities and formed a striking
contrast to his handsome but effeminate brother Paris. Next to
Hector in valour stood AEneas, son of Anchises and Aphrodite
(Venus). Even the gods took part in the contest, encouraging
their favourite heroes, and sometimes fighting by their side or
in their stead.

It was not till the tenth year of the war that Troy yielded to
the inevitable decree of fate; and it is this year which forms
the subject of the Iliad. Achilles, offended by Agamemnon,
abstains from the war; and in his absence the Greeks are no match
for Hector. The Trojans drive them back into their camp, and are
already setting fire to their ships, when Achilles gives his
armour to his friend Patroclus, and allows him to charge at the
head of the Myrmidons. Patroclus repulses the Trojans from the
ships, but the god Apollo is against him, and he falls under the
spear of Hector. Desire to avenge the death of his friend proves
more powerful in the breast of Achilles than anger against
Agamemnon. He appears again in the field in new and gorgeous
armour, forged for him by the god Hephrastus (Vulcan) at the
prayer of Thetis. The Trojans fly before him, and, although
Achilles is aware that his own death must speedily follow that of
the Trojan hero, he slays Hector in single combat.

The Iliad closes with the burial of Hector. The death of
Achilles and the capture of Troy were related in later poems.
The hero of so many achievements perishes by an arrow shot by the
unwarlike Paris, but directed by the hand of Apollo. The noblest
combatants had now fallen on either side, and force of arms had
proved unable to accomplish what stratagem at length effects. It
is Ulysses who now steps into the foreground and becomes the real
conqueror of Troy. By his advice a wooden horse is built, in
whose inside he and other heroes conceal themselves. The
infatuated Trojans admit the horse within their walls. In the
dead of night the Greeks rush out and open the gates to their
comrades. Troy is delivered over to the sword, and its glory
sinks in ashes. The fall of Troy is placed in the year 1184 B.C.

The return of the Grecian leaders from Troy forms another series
of poetical legends. Several meet with tragical ends. Agamemnon
is murdered on his arrival at Mycenae, by his wife Clytaemnestra
and her paramour AEgisthus. But of these wanderings the most
celebrated and interesting are those of Ulysses, which form the
subject of the Odyssey. After twenty years' absence he arrives
at length in Ithaca, where he slays the numerous suitors who
devoured his substance and contended for the hand of his wife

The Homeric poems must not be regarded as a record of historical
persons and events, but, at the same time, they present a
valuable picture of the institutions and manners of the earliest
known state of Grecian society.

In the Heroic age Greece was already divided into a number of
independent states, each governed by its own king. The authority
of the king was not limited by any laws; his power resembled that
of the patriarchs in the Old Testament; and for the exercise of
it he was responsible only to Zeus, and not to his people. But
though the king was not restrained in the exercise of his power
by any positive laws, his authority was practically limited by
the BOULE; or council of chiefs, and the Agora, or general
assembly of freemen. These two bodies, of little account in the
Heroic age, became in the Republican age the sole depositories of
political power.

The Greeks in the Heroic age were divided into the three classes
of nobles, common freemen, and slaves. The nobles were raised
far above the rest of the community in honour, power, and wealth.
They were distinguished by their warlike prowess, their large
estates, and their numerous slaves. The condition of the general
mass of freemen is rarely mentioned. They possessed portions of
land as their own property, which they cultivated themselves; but
there was another class of poor freemen, called Thetes, who had
no land of their own, and who worked for hire on the estates of
others. Slavery was not so prevalent in the Heroic age as at a
later time, and appears in a less odious aspect. The nobles
alone possessed slaves, and they treated them with a degree of
kindness which frequently secured for the masters their
affectionate attachment.

Society was marked by simplicity of manners. The kings and
nobles did not consider it derogatory to their dignity to acquire
skill in the manual arts. Ulysses is represented as building his
own bed-chamber and constructing his own raft, and he boasts of
being an excellent mower and ploughman. Like Esau, who made
savoury meat for his father Isaac, the Heroic chiefs prepared
their own meals and prided themselves on their skill in cookery.
Kings and private persons partook of the same food, which was of
the simplest kind. Beef, mutton, and goat's flesh were the
ordinary meats, and cheese, flour, and sometimes fruits, also
formed part of the banquet; wine was drunk diluted with water,
and the entertainments were never disgraced by intemperance, like
those of our northern ancestors. The enjoyment of the banquet
was heightened by the song and the dance, and the chiefs took
more delight in the lays of the minstrel than in the exciting
influence of the wine.

The wives and daughters of the chiefs, in like manner, did not
deem it beneath them to discharge various duties which were
afterwards regarded as menial. Not only do we find them
constantly employed in weaving, spinning and embroidery, but like
the daughters of the patriarchs they fetch water from the well
and assist their slaves in washing garments in the river.

Even at this early age the Greeks had made considerable advances
in civilization. They were collected in fortified towns, which
were surrounded by walls and adorned with palaces and temples.
The massive ruins of Mycenae and the sculptured lions on the gate
of this city belong to the Heroic age, and still excite the
wonder of the beholder. Commerce, however, was little
cultivated, and was not much esteemed. It was deemed more
honourable for a man to enrich himself by robbery and piracy than
by the arts of peace. Coined money is not mentioned in the poems
of Homer. Whether the Greeks were acquainted at this early
period with the art of writing is a question which has given rise
to much dispute, and must remain undetermined; but poetry was
cultivated with success, though yet confined to epic strains, or
the narration of the exploits and adventures of the Heroic
chiefs. The bard sung his own song, and was always received with
welcome and honour in the palaces of the nobles.

In the battle, as depicted by Homer, the chiefs are the only
important combatants, while the people are an almost useless
mass, frequently put to rout by the prowess of a single hero.
The chief is mounted in a war chariot, and stands by the side of
his charioteer, who is frequently a friend.



The Greeks, as we have already seen, were divided into many
independent communities, but several causes bound them together
as one people. Of these the most important were community of
blood and language--community of religious rites and festivals--
and community of manners and character.

All the Greeks were descended from the same ancestor and spoke
the same language. They all described men and cities which were
not Grecian by the term BARBARIAN. This word has passed into our
own language, but with a very different idea; for the Greeks
applied it indiscriminately to every foreigner, to the civilized
inhabitants of Egypt and Persia, as well as to the rude tribes of
Scythia and Gaul.

The second bond of union was a community of religious rites and
festivals. From the earliest times the Greeks appear to have
worshipped the same gods; but originally there were no religious
meetings common to the whole nation. Such meetings were of
gradual growth, being formed by a number of neighbouring towns,
which entered into an association for the periodical celebration
of certain religious rites. Of these the most celebrated was the
AMPHICTYONIC COUNCIL. It acquired its superiority over other
similar associations by the wealth and grandeur of the Delphian
temple, of which it was the appointed guardian. It held two
meetings every year, one in the spring at the temple of Apollo at
Delphi, and the other in the autumn at the temple of Demeter
(Ceres) at Thermopylae. Its members, who were called the
Amphictyons, consisted of sacred deputies sent from twelve
tribes, each of which contained several independent cities or
states. But the Council was never considered as a national
congress, whose duty it was to protect and defend the common
interests of Greece; and it was only when the rights of the
Delphian god had been violated that it invoked the aid of the
various members of the league.

The Olympic Games were of greater efficacy than the amphictyonic
council in promoting a spirit of union among the various branches
of the Greek race, and in keeping alive a feeling of their common
origin. They were open to all persons who could prove their
Hellenic blood, and were frequented by spectators from all parts
of the Grecian world. They were celebrated at Olympia, on the
banks of the Alpheus, in the territory of Elis. The origin of
the festival is lost in obscurity; but it is said to have been
revived by Iphitus, king of Elis, and Lycurgus the Spartan
legislator, in the year 776 B.C.; and, accordingly, when the
Greeks at a later time began to use the Olympic contest as a
chronological era, this year was regarded as the first Olympiad.
It was celebrated at the end of every four years, and the
interval which elapsed between each celebration was called an
Olympiad. The whole festival was under the management of the
Eleans, who appointed some of their own number to preside as
judges, under the name of the Hellanodicae. During the month in
which it was celebrated all hostilities were suspended throughout
Greece. At first the festival was confined to a single day, and
consisted of nothing more than a match of runners in the stadium;
but in course of time so many other contests were introduced,
that the games occupied five days. They comprised various trials
of strength and skill, such as wrestling boxing, the Pancratium
(boxing and wrestling combined), and the complicated Pentathlum
(including jumping, running, the quoit, the javelin, and
wrestling), but no combats with any kind of weapons. There were
also horse-races and chariot-races; and the chariot-race, with
four full-grown horses, became one of the most popular and
celebrated of all the matches.

The only prize given to the conqueror was a garland of wild
olive; but this was valued as one of the dearest distinctions in
life. To have his name proclaimed as victor before assembled
Hellas was an object of ambition with the noblest and the
wealthiest of the Greeks. Such a person was considered to have
conferred everlasting glory upon his family and his country, and
was rewarded by his fellow-citizens with distinguished honours.

During the sixth century before the Christian era three other
national festivals--the Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian games--
which were at first only local became open to the whole nation.
The Pythian games were celebrated in every third Olympic year, on
the Cirrhaean plain in Phocis, under the superintendence of the
Amphictyons. The games consisted not only of matches in
gymnastics and of horse and chariot races, but also of contests
in music and poetry. They soon acquired celebrity, and became
second only to the great Olympic festival. The Nemean and
Isthmian games occurred more frequently than the Olympic and
Pythian. They were celebrated once in two years--the Nemean in
the valley of Nemea between Phlius and Cleonae--and the Isthmian
by the Corinthians, on their isthmus, in honour of Poseidon
(Neptune). As in the Pythian festival, contests in music and in
poetry, as well as gymnastics and chariot-races, formed part of
these games. Although the four great festivals of which we have
been speaking had no influence in promoting the political union
of Greece, they nevertheless were of great importance in making
the various sections of the race feel that they were all members
of one family, and in cementing them together by common
sympathies and the enjoyment of common pleasures. The frequent
occurrence of these festivals, for one was celebrated every gear,
tended to the same result.

The Greeks were thus annually reminded of their common origin,
and of the great distinction which existed between them and
barbarians. Nor must we forget the incidental advantages which
attended them. The concourse of so large a number of persons
from every part of the Grecian world afforded to the merchant
opportunities for traffic, and to the artist and the literary man
the best means of making their works known. During the time of
the games a busy commerce was carried on; and in a spacious hall
appropriated for the purpose, the poets, philosophers, and
historians were accustomed to read their most recent works.

The habit of consulting the same oracles in order to ascertain
the will of the gods was another bond of union. It was the
universal practice of the Greeks to undertake no matter of
importance without first asking the advice of the gods; and there
were many sacred spots in which the gods were always ready to
give an answer to pious worshippers. The oracle of Apollo at
Delphi surpassed all the rest in importance, and was regarded
with veneration in every part of the Grecian world. In the
centre of the temple of Delphi there was a small opening in the
ground, from which it was said that a certain gas or vapour
ascended. Whenever the oracle was to be consulted, a virgin
priestess called PYTHIA took her seat upon a tripod which was
placed over the chasm. The ascending vapour affected her brain,
and the words which she uttered in this excited condition were
believed to be the answer of Apollo to his worshippers. They
were always in hexameter verse, and were reverently taken down by
the attendant priests. Most of the answers were equivocal or
obscure; but the credit of the oracle continued unimpaired long
after the downfall of Grecian independence.

A further element of union among the Greeks was the similarity of
manners and character. It is true the difference in this respect
between the polished inhabitants of Athens and the rude
mountaineers of Acarnania was marked and striking; but if we
compare the two with foreign contemporaries, the contrast between
them and the latter is still more striking. Absolute despotism
human sacrifices, polygamy, deliberate mutilation of the person
as a punishment, and selling of children into slavery, existed in
some part or other of the barbarian world, but are not found in
any city of Greece in the historical times.

The elements of union of which we have been speaking only bound
the Greeks together in common feelings and sentiments: they
never produced any political union. The independent sovereignty
of each city was a fundamental notion in the Greek mind. This
strongly rooted feeling deserves particular notice. Careless
readers of history are tempted to suppose that the territory of
Greece was divided among comparatively small number of
independent states, such as Attica, Arcadia, Boeotia, Phocis,
Locris, and the like; but this is a most serious mistake, and
leads to a total misapprehension of Greek history. Every
separate city was usually an independent state, and consequently
each of the territories described under the general names of
Arcadia, Boeotia, Phocis, and Locris, contained numerous
political communities independent of one another. Attica, it is
true, formed a single state, and its different towns recognised
Athens as their capital and the source of supreme power; but this
is an exception to the general rule.



In the heroic age Peloponnesus was occupied by tribes of Dorian
conquerors. They had no share in the glories of the Heroic age;
their name does not occur in the Iliad, and they are only once
mentioned in the Odyssey; but they were destined to form in
historical times one of the most important elements of the Greek
nation. Issuing from their mountain district between Thessaly,
Locris and Phocis, they overran the greater part of Peloponnesus,
destroyed the ancient Achaean monarchies and expelled or reduced
to subjection the original inhabitants of the land, of which they
became the undisputed masters. This brief statement contains all
that we know for certain respecting this celebrated event, which
the ancient writers placed eighty years after the Trojan war
(B.C. 1104). The legendary account of the conquest of
Peloponnesus ran as follows:--The Dorians were led by the
Heraclidae, or descendants of the mighty hero Hercules. Hence
this migration is called the Return of the Heraclidae. The
children of Hercules had long been fugitives upon the face of the
earth. They had made many attempts to regain possession of the
dominions in the Peloponnesus, of which their great sire had been
deprived by Eurystheus, but hitherto without success. In their
last attempt Hyllus, the son of Hercules, had perished in single
combat with Echemus of Tegea; and the Heraclidae had become bound
by a solemn compact to renounce their enterprise for a hundred
years. This period had now expired; and the great-grandsons of
Hyllus--Temenus, Cresphontes, and Aristodemus--resolved to make a
fresh attempt to recover their birthright. They were assisted in
the enterprise by the Dorians. This people espoused their cause
in consequence of the aid which Hercules himself had rendered to
the Dorian king, AEgimius, when the latter was hard pressed in a
contest with the Lapithae. The invaders were warned by an oracle
not to enter Peloponnesus by the Isthmus of Corinth, but across
the mouth of the Corinthian gulf. The inhabitants of the
northern coast of the gulf were favourable to their enterprise.
Oxylus, king of the AEtolians, became their guide; and from
Naupactus they crossed over to Peloponnesus. A single battle
decided the contest. Tisamenus, the son of Orestes, was defeated
and retired with a portion of his Achaean subjects to the
northern coast of Peloponnesus, then occupied by the Ionians. He
expelled the Ionians, and took possession of the country, which
continued henceforth to be inhabited by the Achaeans, and to be
called after them. The Ionians withdrew to Attica, and the
greater part of them afterwards emigrated to Asia Minor.

The Heraclidae and the Dorians now divided between them the
dominions of Tisamenus and of the other Achaean princes. The
kingdom of Elis was given to Oxylus as a recompense for his
services as their guide; and it was agreed that Temenus,
Cresphontes, and Eurysthenes and Procles, the infant sons of
Aristodemus (who had died at Naupactus), should draw lots for
Argos, Sparta, and Messenia. Argos fell to Temenus, Sparta to
Eurysthenes and Procles, and Messenia to Cresphontes.

Such are the main features of the legend of the Return of the
Heraclidae. In order to make the story more striking and
impressive, it compresses into a single epoch events which
probably occupied several generations. It is in itself
improbable that the brave Achaeans quietly submitted to the
Dorian invaders after a momentary struggle. We have, moreover,
many indications that such was not the fact, and that it was only
gradually and after a long protracted contest that the Dorians
became undisputed masters of the greater part of Peloponnesus.

Argos was originally the chief Dorian state in Peloponnesus, but
at the time of the first Olympiad its power had been supplanted
by that of Sparta. The progress of Sparta from the second to the
first place among the states in the peninsula was mainly owing to
the military discipline and rigorous training of its citizens.
The singular constitution of Sparta was unanimously ascribed by
the ancients to the legislator Lycurgus, but there were different
stories respecting his date, birth, travels, legislation, and
death. His most probable date however is B.C. 776, in which year
he is said to have assisted Iphitus in restoring the Olympic
games. He was the son of Eunomus, one of the two kings who
reigned together in Sparta. On the death of his father, his
elder brother, Polydectes, succeeded to the crown, but died soon
afterwards, leaving his queen with child. The ambitious woman
offered to destroy the child, if Lycurgus would share the throne
with her. Lycurgus pretended to consent; but as soon as she had
given birth to a son, he presented him in the market-place as the
future king of Sparta. The young king's mother took revenge upon
Lycurgus by accusing him of entertaining designs against his
nephew's life. Hereupon he resolved to withdraw from his native
country and to visit foreign lands. He was absent many years,
and is said to have employed his time in studying the
institutions of other nations, in order to devise a system of
laws and regulations which might deliver Sparta from the evils
under which it had long been suffering. During his absence the
young king had grown up, and assumed the reins of government; but
the disorders of the state had meantime become worse than ever,
and all parties longed for a termination to their present
sufferings. Accordingly the return of Lycurgus was hailed with
delight, and he found the people both ready and willing to submit
to an entire change in their government and institutions. He now
set himself to work to carry his long projected reforms into
effect; but before he commenced his arduous task he consulted the
Delphian oracle, from which he received strong assurances of
divine support. Thus encouraged by the god, he suddenly
presented himself in the market-place, surrounded by thirty of
the most distinguished Spartans in arms. His reforms were not
carried into effect without violent opposition, and in one of the
tumults which they excited, his eye is said to have been struck
out by a passionate youth. But he finally triumphed over all
obstacles, and succeeded in obtaining the submission of all
classes in the community to his new constitution. His last act
was to sacrifice himself for the welfare of his country. Having
obtained from the people a solemn oath to make no alterations in
his laws before his return, he quitted Sparta for ever. He set
out on a journey to Delphi, where he obtained an oracle from the
god, approving of all he had done, and promising prosperity to
the Spartans as long as they preserved his laws. Whither he went
afterwards, and how and where he died, nobody could tell. He
vanished from earth like a god, leaving no traces behind him but
his spirit: and his grateful countrymen honoured him with a
temple, and worshipped him with annual sacrifices down to the
latest times.

The population of Laconia was divided into the three classes of
Spartans, Perioeci and Helots.
I. The SPARTANS were the descendants of the leading Dorian
conquerors. They formed the sovereign power of the state, and
they alone were eligible to honours and public offices. They
lived in Sparta itself and were all subject to the discipline of
Lycurgus. They were divided into three tribes,--the HYLLEIS, the
PAMPHILI, and the DYMANES,--which were not, however, peculiar to
Sparta, but existed in all the Dorian states.
II. The PERIOECI were personally free, but politically subject
to the Spartans. [This word signifies literally DWELLERS AROUND
THE CITY, and was generally used to indicate the inhabitants in
the country districts, who possessed inferior political
privileges to the citizens who lived in the city.] They
possessed no share in the government, and were bound to obey the
commands of the Spartan magistrates. They appear to have been
the descendants of the old Achaean population of the country, and
they were distributed into a hundred townships, which were spread
through the whole of Laconia.
III. The HELOTS were serfs bound to the soil, which they tilled
for the benefit of the Spartan proprietors. Their condition was
very different from that of the ordinary slaves in antiquity, and
more similar to the villanage of the middle ages. They lived in
the rural villages, as the Perioeci did in the towns, cultivating
the lands and paying over the rent to their masters in Sparta,
but enjoying their homes, wives, and families, apart from their
master's personal superintendence. They appear to have been
never sold, and they accompanied the Spartans to the field as
light armed troops. But while their condition was in these
respects superior to that of the ordinary slaves in other parts
of Greece, it was embittered by the fact that they were not
strangers like the latter, but were of the same race and spoke
the same language as their masters, being probably the
descendants of the old inhabitants, who had offered the most
obstinate resistance to the Dorians, and had therefore been
reduced to slavery. As their numbers increased, they became
objects of suspicion to their masters, and were subjected to the
most wanton and oppressive cruelty.

The functions of the Spartan government were distributed among
two kings, a senate of thirty members, a popular assembly, and an
executive directory of five men called the Ephors.

At the head of the state were the two hereditary kings. The
existence of a pair of kings was peculiar to Sparta, and is said
to have arisen from the accidental circumstance of Aristodemus
having left twin sons, Eurysthenes and Procles. This division of
the royal power naturally tended to weaken its influence and to
produce jealousies and dissensions between the two kings. The
royal power was on the decline during the whole historical
period, and the authority of the kings was gradually usurped by
the Ephors, who at length obtained the entire control of the
government, and reduced the kings to a state of humiliation and

The Senate, called GERUSIA, or the COUNCIL OF ELDERS, consisted
of thirty members, among whom the two kings were included. They
were obliged to be upwards of sixty years of age, and they held
their office for life. They possessed considerable power and
were the only real check upon the authority of the Ephors. They
discussed and prepared all measures which were to be brought
before the popular assembly, and they had some share in the
general administration of the state. But the most important of
their functions was, that they were judges in all criminal cases
affecting the life of a Spartan citizen.

The Popular Assembly was of little importance, and appears to
have been usually summoned only as a matter of form for the
election of certain magistrates, for passing laws, and for
determining upon peace and war. It would appear that open
discussion was not allowed and that the assembly rarely came to a

The Ephors were of later origin, and did not exist in the
original constitution of Lycurgus. They may be regarded as the
representatives of the popular assembly. They were elected
annually from the general body of Spartan citizens, and seem to
have been originally appointed to protect the interests and
liberties of the people against the encroachments of the kings
and the senate. They correspond in many respects to the tribunes
of the people at Rome. Their functions were at first limited and
of small importance; but in the end the whole political power
became centred in their hands.

The Spartan government was in reality a close oligarchy, in which
the kings and the senate, as well as the people, were alike
subject to the irresponsible authority of the five Ephors.

The most important part of the legislation of Lycurgus did not
relate to the political constitution of Sparta, but to the
discipline and education of the citizens. It was these which
gave Sparta her peculiar character, and distinguished her in so
striking a manner from all the other states of Greece. The
position of the Spartans, surrounded by numerous enemies, whom
they held in subjection by the sword alone, compelled them to be
a nation of soldiers. Lycurgus determined that they should be
nothing else; and the great object of his whole system was to
cultivate a martial spirit, and to give them a training which
would make them invincible in battle. To accomplish this the
education of a Spartan was placed under the control of the state
from his earliest boyhood. Every child after birth was exhibited
to public view, and, if deemed deformed and weakly, was exposed
to perish on Mount Taygetus. At the age of seven he was taken
from his mother's care, and handed over to the public classes.
He was not only taught gymnastic games and military exercises but
he was also subjected to severe bodily discipline, and was
compelled to submit to hardships and suffering without repining
or complaint. One of the tests to which he was subjected was a
cruel scourging at the altar of Artemis (Diana), until his blood
gushed forth and covered the altar of the goddess. It was
inflicted publicly before the eyes of his parents and in the
presence of the whole city; and many Spartan youths were known to
have died under the lash without uttering a complaining murmur.
No means were neglected to prepare them for the hardships and
stratagems of war. They were obliged to wear the same garment
winter and summer, and to endure hunger and thirst, heat and
cold. They were purposely allowed an insufficient quantity of
food, but were permitted to make up the deficiency by hunting in
the woods and mountains of Laconia. They were even encouraged to
steal whatever they could; but if they were caught in the fact,
they were severely punished for their want of dexterity.
Plutarch tells us of a boy, who, having stolen a fox, and hid it
under his garment, chose rather to let it tear out his very
bowels than be detected in the theft.

The literary education of a Spartan youth was of a most
restricted kind. He was taught to despise literature as unworthy
of a warrior, while the study of eloquence and philosophy, which
were cultivated at Athens with such extraordinary success, was
regarded at Sparta with contempt. Long speeches were a Spartan's
abhorrence, and he was trained to express himself with
sententious brevity.

A Spartan was not considered to have reached the full age of
manhood till he had completed his thirtieth year. He was then
allowed to marry, to take part in the public assembly, and was
eligible to the offices of the state. But he still continued
under the public discipline, and was not permitted even to reside
and take his meals with his wife. It was not till he had reached
his sixtieth year that he was released from the public discipline
and from military service.

The public mess--called SYSSITIA--is said to have been instituted
by Lycurgus to prevent all indulgence of the appetite. Public
tables were provided, at which every male citizen was obliged to
take his meals. Each table accommodated fifteen persons, who
formed a separate mess, into which no new member was admitted,
except by the unanimous consent of the whole company. Each sent
monthly to the common stock a specified quantity of barley-meal,
wine, cheese, and figs and a little money to buy flesh and fish.
No distinction of any kind was allowed at these frugal meals.
Meat was only eaten occasionally; and one of the principal dishes
was black broth. Of what it consisted we do not know. The
tyrant Dionysius found it very unpalatable; but, as the cook told
him, the broth was nothing without the seasoning of fatigue and

The Spartan women in their earlier years were subjected to a
course of training almost as rigorous as that of the men, and
contended with each other in running, wrestling and boxing. At
the age of twenty a Spartan woman usually married, and she was no
longer subjected to the public discipline. Although she enjoyed
little of her husband's society, she was treated by him with deep
respect, and was allowed a greater degree of liberty than was
tolerated in other Grecian states. Hence she took a lively
interest in the welfare and glory of her native land, and was
animated by an earnest and lofty spirit of patriotism. The
Spartan mother had reason to be proud of herself and of her
children. When a woman of another country said to Gorgo, the
wife of Leonidas, "The Spartan women alone rule the men," she
replied, "The Spartan women alone bring forth men." Their
husbands and their sons were fired by their sympathy to deeds of
heroism. "Return either with your shield, or upon it," was their
exhortation to their sons when going to battle.

Lycurgus is said to have divided the land belonging to the
Spartans into 9000 equal lots and the remainder of Laconia into
30,000 equal lots, and to have assigned to each Spartan citizen
one of the former of these lots, and to each Perioecus one of the

Neither gold nor silver money was allowed in Sparta, and nothing
but bars of iron passed in exchange for every commodity. As the
Spartans were not permitted to engage in commerce, and all luxury
and display in dress, furniture, and food was forbidden, they had
very little occasion for a circulating medium, and iron money was
found sufficient for their few wants. But this prohibition of
the precious metals only made the Spartans more anxious to obtain
them; and even in the times of their greatest glory the Spartans
were the most venal of the Greeks, and could rarely resist the
temptation of a bribe.

The legislation of Lycurgus was followed by important results.
It made the Spartans a body of professional soldiers, all trained
and well disciplined, at a time when military training and
discipline were little known, and almost unpractised in the other
states of Greece. The consequence was the rapid growth of the
political power of Sparta, and the subjugation of the
neighbouring states. At the time of Lycurgus the Spartans held
only a small portion of Laconia: they were merely a garrison in
the heart of an enemy's country. Their first object was to make
themselves masters of Laconia, in which they finally succeeded
after a severe struggle. They next turned their arms against the
Messenians, Arcadians, and Argives. Of these wars the two waged
against Messenia were the most celebrated and the most important.
They were both long protracted and obstinately contested. They
both ended in the victory of Sparta, and in the subjugation of
Messenia. These facts are beyond dispute; but of the details we
have no trustworthy narrative.

The FIRST MESSENIAN WAR lasted from B.C. 743 to 724. During the
first four years the Lacedaemonians made little progress; but in
the fifth a great battle was fought, and although its result was
indecisive, the Messenians did not venture to risk another
engagement, and retired to the strongly fortified mountain of
Ithome. In their distress they sent to consult the oracle at
Delphi, and received the appalling answer that the salvation of
Messenia required the sacrifice of a virgin of the royal house to
the gods of the lower world. Aristodemus, who is the Messenian
hero of the first war, slew his own daughter, which so
disheartened the Spartans, that they abstained from attacking the
Messenians for some years. In the thirteenth year of the war the
Spartan king marched against Ithome, and a second great battle
was fought, but the result was again indecisive. The Messenian
king fell in the action; and Aristodemus, who was chosen king in
his place, prosecuted the war with vigour. In the fifth year of
his reign a third great battle was fought. This time the
Messenians gained a decisive victory, and the Lacedaemonians were
driven back into their own territory. They now sent to ask
advice of the Delphian oracle, and were promised success upon
using stratagem. They therefore had recourse to fraud: and at
the same time various prodigies dismayed the bold spirit of
Aristodemus. His daughter too appeared to him in a dream, showed
him her wounds, and beckoned him away. Seeing that his country
was doomed to destruction, Aristodemus slew himself on his
daughter's tomb. Shortly afterwards, in the twentieth year of
the war, the Messenians abandoned Ithome, which the
Lacedaemonians razed to the ground, and the whole country became
subject to Sparta. Many of the inhabitants fled into other
countries; but those who remained were reduced to the condition
of Helots, and were compelled to pay to their masters half of the
produce of their lands.

For thirty-nine years the Messenians endured this degrading yoke.
At the end of this time they took up arms against their
oppressors. The SECOND MESSENIAN WAR lasted from B.C. 685 to
668. Its hero is Aristomenes, whose wonderful exploits form the
great subject of this war. It would appear that most of the
states in Peloponnesus took part in the struggle. The first
battle was fought before the arrival of the allies on either
side, and, though it was indecisive, the valour of Aristomenes
struck fear into the hearts of the Spartans. To frighten the
enemy still more, the hero crossed the frontier, entered Sparta
by night, and affixed a shield to the temple of Athena (Minerva),
with the inscription, "Dedicated by Aristomenes to the goddess
from the Spartan spoils." The Spartans in alarm sent to Delphi
for advice. The god bade them apply to Athens for a leader.
Fearing to disobey the oracle, but with the view of rendering no
real assistance, the Athenians sent Tyrtaeus, a lame man and a
schoolmaster. The Spartans received their new leader with due
honour; and he was not long in justifying the credit of the
oracle. His martial songs roused their fainting courage; and so
efficacious were his poems that to them is mainly ascribed the
final success of the Spartan arms.

Encouraged by the strains of Tyrtaeus, the Spartans again marched
against the Messenians. But they were not at first successful.
A great battle was fought at the Boar's Grave in the plain of
Stenyclerus, in which they were defeated with great loss. In the
third year of the war another great battle was fought, in which
the Messenians suffered a signal defeat. So greet was their
loss, that Aristomenes no longer ventured to meet the Spartans in
the open field. Following the example of the Messenian leaders
in the former war, he retired to the mountain fortress of Ira.
The Spartans encamped at the foot of the mountain; but
Aristomenes frequently sallied from the fortress, and ravaged the
lands of Laconia with fire and sword. It is unnecessary to
relate all the wonderful exploits of this hero in his various
incursions. Thrice was he taken prisoner; on two occasions he
burst his bonds, but on the third he was carried to Sparta, and
thrown with his fifty companions into a deep pit, called Ceadas.
His comrades were all killed by the fall; but Aristomenes reached
the bottom unhurt. He saw, however, no means of escape, and had
resigned himself to death; but on the third day perceiving a fox
creeping among the bodies, he grasped its tail, and, following
the animal as it struggled to escape, discovered an opening in
the rock, and on the next day was at Ira to the surprise alike of
friends and foes. But his single prowess was not sufficient to
avert the ruin of his country. One night the Spartans surprised
Ira, while Aristomenes was disabled by a wound; but he collected
the bravest of his followers, and forced his way through the
enemy. Many of the Messenians went to Rhegium, in Italy, under
the sons of Aristomenes, but the hero himself finished his days
in Rhodes.

The second Messenian war was terminated by the complete
subjugation of the Messenians, who again became the serfs of
their conquerors. In this condition they remained till the
restoration of their independence by Epaminondas in the year 369
B.C. During the whole of the intervening period the Messenians
disappear from history. The country called Messenia in the map
became a portion of Laconia, which thus extended across the south
of Pelponnesus from the eastern to the western sea.



Sparta was the only state in Greece which continued to retain the
kingly form of government during the brilliant period of Grecian
history. In all other parts of Greece royalty had been abolished
at as early age, and various forms of republican government
established in its stead. The abolition of royalty was first
followed by an Oligarchy or the government of the Few.
Democracy, or the government of the Many, was of later growth.
It was not from the people that the oligarchies received their
first and greatest blow. They were generally overthrown by the
usurpers, to whom the Greeks gave the name of TYRANTS. [The
Greek word Tyrant does not correspond in meaning to the same word
in the English language. It signifies simply an irresponsible
ruler, and may, therefore, be more correctly rendered by the term

The rise of the Tyrants seems to have taken place about the same
time in a large number of the Greek cities. In most cases they
belonged to the nobles, and they generally became masters of the
state by espousing the cause of the commonalty, and using the
strength of the people to put down the oligarchy by force. At
first they were popular with the general body of the citizens,
who were glad to see the humiliation of their former masters.
But discontent soon began to arise; the tyrant had recourse to
violence to quell disaffection; and the government became in
reality a tyranny in the modern sense of the word.

Many of the tyrants in Greece were put down by the
Lacedaemonians. The Spartan government was essentially an
oligarchy, and the Spartans were always ready to lend their
powerful aid in favour of the government of the Few. Hence they
took an active part in the overthrow of the despots, with the
intention of establishing the ancient oligarchy in their place.
But this rarely happened; and they found it impossible in most
cases to reinstate the former body of nobles in their ancient
privileges. The latter, it is true, attempted to regain them and
were supported in their attempts by Sparta. Hence arose a new
struggle. The first contest after the abolition of royalty was
between oligarchy and the despot, the next was between oligarchy
and democracy.

The history of Athens affords the most striking illustration of
the different revolutions of which we have been speaking.

Little is known of Athens before the age of Solon. Its legendary
tales are few, its historical facts still fewer. Cecrops, the
first ruler of Attica, is said to have divided the country into
twelve districts, which are represented as independent
communities, each governed by a separate king. They were
afterwards united into a single state, having Athens as its
capital and the seat of government. At what time this important
union was effected cannot be determined; but it is ascribed to
Theseus, as the national hero of the Athenian people.

A few generations after Theseus, the Dorians are said to have
invaded Attica. An oracle declared that they would be victorious
if they spared the life of the Athenian King; whereupon Codrus,
who then reigned at Athens, resolved to sacrifice himself for the
welfare of his country. Accordingly he went into the invaders'
camp in disguise, provoked a quarrel with one of the Dorian
soldiers and was killed by the latter. Upon learning the death
of the Athenian king, the Dorians retired from Attica without
striking a blow: and the Athenians, from respect to the memory
of Codrus, abolished the title of king, and substituted for it
that of Archon or Ruler. The office, however, was held for life,
and was confined to the family of Codrus. His son Medon was the
first archon, and he was followed in the dignity by eleven
members of the family in succession. But soon after the
accession Alcmaeon, the thirteenth in descent from Medon, another
change was introduced, and the duration of the archonship was
limited to ten years (B.C. 752). The dignity was still confined
to the descendants of Medon; but in the time of Hippomenes (B.C.
714) this restriction was removed, and the office was thrown open
to all the nobles in the state. In B.C. 683 a still more
important change took place. The archonship was now made annual,
and its duties were distributed among nine persons, all of whom
bore the title. The last of the decennial archons was Eryxias,
the first of the nine annual archons Creon.

Such is the legendary account of the change of government at
Athens, from royalty to an oligarchy. It appears to have taken
place peaceably and gradually, as in most other Greek states.
The whole political power was vested in the nobles; from them the
nine annual archons were taken, and to them alone these
magistrates were responsible. The people, or general body of
freemen, had no share in the government.

The Athenian nobles were called EUPATRIDAE, the two other classes
in the state being the GEOMORI or husbandmen, and DEMIURGI or
artisans. This arrangement is ascribed to Theseus; but there was
another division of the people of still greater antiquity. As
the Dorians were divided into three tribes, so the Ionians were
usually distributed into four tribes. The latter division also
existed among the Athenians, who were Ionians, and it continued
in full vigour down to the great revolution of Clisthenes (B.C.
509). These tribes were distinguished by the names of GELEONTES
(or TELEONTES) "cultivators," HOPLETES "warriors," AEGICORES
"goat-herds," and ARGADES "artisans." Each tribe contained three
Phratriae, each Phratry thirty Gentes, and each Gens thirty heads
of families.

The first date in Athenian history on which certain reliance can
be placed is the institution of annual archons, in the year 683
B.C. The duties of the government were distributed among the
nine archons in the following manner. The first was called THE
ARCHON by way of pre-eminence, and sometimes the Archon Eponymus,
because the year was distinguished by his name. The second
archon was called THE BASILEUS or THE KING, because he
represented the king in his capacity as high-priest of the
nation. The third archon bore the title of THE POLEMARCH, or
Commander-in-chief and was, down to the time of Clisthenes, the
commander of the troops. The remaining six had the common title
of THESMOTHETAE, or Legislators. Their duties seem to have been
almost exclusively judicial.

The government of the Eupatrids was oppressive; and the
discontent of the people at length became so serious, that Draco
was appointed in 624 B.C. to draw up a written code of laws.
They were marked by extreme severity. He affixed the penalty of
death to all crimes alike; to petty thefts, for instance, as well
as to sacrilege and murder. Hence they were said to have been
written not in ink but in blood; and we are told that he
justified this extreme harshness by saying that small offences
deserved death, and that he knew no severer punishment for great

The legislation of Draco failed to calm the prevailing
discontent. The people gained nothing by the written code,
except a more perfect knowledge of its severity; and civil
dissensions prevailed as extensively as before. The general
dissatisfaction with the government was favourable to
revolutionary projects; and accordingly, twelve years after
Draco's legislation (B.C. 612), Cylon, one of the nobles,
conceived the design of depriving his brother Eupatrids of their
power, and making himself tyrant of Athens. Having collected a
considerable force, he seized the Acropolis; but he did not meet
with support from the great mass of the people, and he soon found
himself closely blockaded by the forces of the Eupatrids. Cylon
and his brother made their escape, but the remainder of his
associates, hard pressed by hunger, abandoned the defence of the
walls, and took refuge at the altar of Athena (Minerva). They
were induced by the archon Megacles, one of the illustrious
family of the Alcmaeonidae, to quit the altar on the promise that
their lives should be spared; but directly they had left the
temple they were put to death, and some of them were murdered
even at the altar of the Eumenides or Furies.

The conspiracy thus failed; but its suppression was attended with
a long train of melancholy consequences. The whole family of the
Alcmaeonidae was believed to have become tainted by the daring
act of sacrilege committed by Megacles; and the friends and
partisans of the murdered conspirators were not slow in demanding
vengeance upon the accursed race. Thus a new element of discord
was introduced into the state, In the midst of these dissensions
there was one man who enjoyed a distinguished reputation at
Athens, and to whom his fellow citizens looked up as the only
person in the state who could deliver them from their political
and social dissensions, and secure them from such misfortunes for
the future. This man was Solon, the son of Execestides, and a
descendant of Codrus. He had travelled through many parts of
Greece and Asia, and had formed acquaintance with many of the
most eminent men of his time. On his return to his native
country he distinguished himself by recovering the island of
Salamis, which had revolted to Megara (B.C. 600). Three years
afterwards he persuaded the Alcmaeonidae to submit their case to
the judgment of three hundred Eupatridae, by whom they were
adjudged guilty of sacrilege, and were expelled from Attica. The
banishment of the guilty race did not, however, deliver the
Athenians from their religious fears. A pestilential disease
with which they were visited was regarded as an unerring sign of
the divine wrath. Upon the advice of the Delphic oracle, they
invited the celebrated Cretan prophet and sage, Epimenides, to
visit Athens, and purify their city from pollution and sacrilege.
By performing certain sacrifices and expiatory acts, Epimenides
succeeded in staying the plague.

The civil dissensions however still continued. The population of
Attica was now divided into three hostile factions, consisting of
the PEDIEIS or wealthy Eupatrid inhabitants of the plains; of the
DIACRII, or poor inhabitants of the hilly districts in the north
and east of Attica; and of the PARALI, or mercantile inhabitants
of the coasts, who held an intermediate position between the
other two. Their disputes were aggravated by the miserable
condition of the poorer population. The latter were in a state
of abject poverty, They had borrowed money from the wealthy at
exorbitant rates of interest upon the security of their property
and their persons. If the principal and interest of the debt
were not paid, the creditor had the power of seizing the person
as well as the land of his debtor, and of using him as a slave.
Many had thus been torn from their homes and sold to barbarian
masters, while others were cultivating as slaves the lands of
their wealthy creditors in Attica. Matters had at length reached
a crisis; the existing laws could no longer be enforced; and the
poor were ready to rise in open insurrection against the rich.

In these alarming circumstances the ruling oligarchy were obliged
to have recourse to Solon; and they therefore chose him Archon in
B.C. 594, investing him under that title with unlimited powers to
effect any changes he might consider beneficial to the state.
His appointment was hailed with satisfaction by the poor; and all
parties were willing to accept his mediation and reforms.

Solon commenced his undertaking by relieving the poorer class of
debtors from their existing distress. He cancelled all contracts
by which the land or person of a debtor had been given as
security; and he forbad for the future all loans in which the
person of the debtor was pledged. He next proceeded to draw up a
new constitution and a new code of laws. As a preliminary step
he repealed all the laws of Draco, except those relating to
murder. He then made a new classification of the citizens,
distributing them into four classes according to the amount of
their property, thus making wealth and not birth the title to the
honours and offices of the state. The first class consisted of
those whose annual income was equal to 500 medimni of corn and
upwards, and were called PENTACOSIOMEDIMNI. [The medimnus was
one bushel and a half.] The second class consisted of those
whose incomes ranged between 300 and 500 medimni and were called
KNIGHTS, from their being able to furnish a war-horse. The third
class consisted of those who received between 200 and 300
medimni, and were called ZEUGITAE from their being able to keep a
yoke of oxen for the plough. The fourth class, called THETES,
included all whose property fell short of 200 medimni. The first
class were alone eligible to the archonship and the higher
offices of the state. The second and third classes filled
inferior posts, and were liable to military service, the former
as horsemen, and the latter as heavy-armed soldiers on foot. The
fourth class were excluded from all public offices, and served in
the army only as light-armed troops. Solon, however, allowed
them to veto in the public assembly, where they must have
constituted by far the largest number. He gave the assembly the
right of electing the archons and the other officers of the
state; and he also made the archons accountable to the assembly
at the expiration of their year of office.

This extension of the duties of the public assembly led to the
institution of a new body. Solon created the Senate, or Council
of Four Hundred with the special object of preparing all matters
for the discussion of the public assembly, of presiding at its
meetings, and of carrying its resolutions into effect. No
subject could be introduced before the people, except by a
previous resolution of the Senate. The members of the Senate
were elected by the public assembly, one hundred from each of the
four ancient tribes, which were left untouched by Solon. They
held their office for a year, and were accountable at its
expiration to the public assembly for the manner in which they
had discharged their duties.

The Senate of the Areopagus [It received its name from its place
of meeting, which was a rocky eminence opposite the Acropolis,
called the hill of Ares (Mars Hill)], is said by some writers to
have been instituted by Solon; but it existed long before his
time, and may be regarded as the representative of the Council of
Chiefs in the Heroic age. Solon enlarged its powers, and
intrusted it with the general supervision of the institutions and
laws of the state, and imposed upon it the duty of inspecting the
lives and occupations of the citizens. All archons became
members of it at the expiration of their year of office.

Solon laid only the foundation of the Athenian democracy by
giving the poorer classes a vote in the popular assembly, and by
enlarging the power of the latter; but he left the government
exclusively in the hands of the wealthy. For many years after
his time the government continued to be an oligarchy, but was
exercised with more moderation and justice than formerly.

Solon enacted numerous laws, containing regulations on almost all
subjects connected with the public and private life of the
citizens. He encouraged trade and manufactures, and invited
foreigners to settle in Athens by the promise of protection and
by valuable privileges. To discourage idleness a son was not
obliged to support his father in old age, if the latter had
neglected to teach him some trade or occupation.

Solon punished theft by compelling the guilty party to restore
double the value of the property stolen. He forbade speaking
evil either of the dead or of the living.

Solon is said to have been aware that he had left many
imperfections in his laws. He described them not as the best
laws which he could devise, but as the best which the Athenians
could receive. Having bound the government and people of Athens
by a solemn oath to observe his institutions for at least ten
years, he left Athens and travelled in foreign lands. During his
absence the old dissensions between the Plain, the Shore, and the
Mountain broke out afresh with more violence than ever. The
first was headed by Lycurgus, the second by Megacles, an
Alcmaeonid, and the third by Pisistratus, the cousin of Solon.
Of these leaders, Pisistratus was the ablest and the most
dangerous. He had espoused the cause of the poorest of the three
classes, in order to gain popularity, and to make himself master
of Athens. Solon on his return to Athens detected the ambitious
designs of his kinsman, and attempted to disuade him from them.
Finding his remonstrances fruitless, he next denounced his
projects in verses addressed to the people. Few, however, gave
any heed to his warnings: and Pisistratus, at length finding his
schemes ripe for action, had recourse to a memorable strategem to
secure his object. One day he appeared in the market-place in a
chariot, his mules and his own person bleeding with wounds
inflicted with his own hands. These he exhibited to the people,
telling them that he had been nearly murdered in consequence of
defending their rights. The popular indignation was excited; and
a guard of fifty clubmen was granted him for his future security.
He gradually increased the number of his guard and soon found
himself strong enough to throw off the mask and seize the
Acropolis (B.C. 560). Megacles and the Alcmaeonidae left the
city. Solon alone had the courage to oppose the usurpation, and
upbraided the people with their cowardice and their treachery.
"You might," said he, "with ease have crushed the tyrant in the
bud; but nothing now remains but to pluck him up by the roots."
But no one responded to his appeal. He refused to fly; and when
his friends asked him on what he relied for protection, "On my
old age," was his reply. It is creditable to Pisistratus that he
left his aged relative unmolested, and even asked his advice in
the administration of the government. Solon did not long survive
the overthrow of the constitution. He died a year or two
afterwards at the advanced age of eighty. His ashes are said to
have been scattered by his own direction round the island of
Salamis, which he had won for the Athenian people.

Pisistratus however did not retain his power long. The leaders
of the factions of the Shore and the Plain combined and drove the
usurper into exile. But the Shore and the Plain having
quarrelled, Pisistratus was recalled and again became master of
Athens. Another revolution shortly afterwards drove him into
exile a second time, and he remained abroad ten years. At
length, with the assistance of mercenaries from other Grecian
states and with the aid of his partisans in Athens, he became
master of Athens for the third time, and henceforth continued in
possession of the supreme power till the day of his death. As
soon as he was firmly established in the government, his
administration was marked by mildness and equity. He maintained
the institutions of Solon, taking care, however, that the highest
offices should always be held by some members of his own family.
He not only enforced strict obedience to the laws, but himself
set the example of submitting to them. Being accused of murder,
he disdained to take advantage of his authority, and went in
person to plead his cause before the Areopagus, where his accuser
did not venture to appear. He courted popularity by largesses to
the citizens and by throwing open his gardens to the poor. He
adorned Athens with many public buildings. He commenced on a
stupendous scale a temple to the Olympian Zeus, which remained
unfinished for centuries, and was at length completed by the
emperor Hadrian. He was a patron of literature, as well as of
the arts. He is said to have been the first person in Greece who
collected a library, which he threw open to the public; and to
him posterity is indebted for the collection of the Homeric
poems. On the whole it cannot be denied that he made a wise and
noble use of his power.

Pisistratus died at an advanced age in 527 B.C., thirty-three
years after his first usurpation. He transmitted the sovereign
power to his sons, Hippias and Hipparchus, who conducted the
government on the same principles as their father. Hipparchus
inherited his father's literary tastes. He invited several
distinguished poets, such as Anacreon and Simonides, to his
court. The people appear to have been contented with their rule;
and it was only an accidental circumstance which led to their
overthrow and to a change in the government.

Their fall was occasioned by the conspiracy of Harmodius and
Aristogiton, who were attached to each other by a most intimate
friendship. Harmodius having given offence to Hippias, the
despot revenged himself by putting a public affront upon his
sister. This indignity excited the resentment of the two
friends, and they now resolved to slay the despots at the
festival of the Great Panathenaea, when all the citizens were
required to attend in arms. Having communicated their design to
a few associates, the conspirators appeared armed at the
appointed time like the rest of the citizens, but carrying
concealed daggers besides. Harmodius and Aristogiton had planned
to kill Hippias first as he was arranging the order of the
procession outside the city, but, upon approaching the spot where
he was standing, they were thunderstruck at beholding one of the
conspirators in close conversation with the despot. Believing
that they were betrayed, they rushed back into the city with
their daggers hid in the myrtle boughs which they were to have
carried in the procession, and killed Hipparchus. Harmodius was
immediately cut down by the guards. Aristogiton died under the
tortures to which he was subjected in order to compel him to
disclose his accomplices.

Hipparchus was assassinated in B.C. 514, the fourteenth year
after the death of Pisistratus. From this time the character of
the government became entirely changed. His brother's murder
converted Hippias into a cruel and suspicious tyrant. He put to
death numbers of the citizens, and raised large sums of money by
extraordinary taxes.

The Alcmaeonidae, who had lived in exile ever since the third and
final restoration of Pisistratus to Athens, now began to form
schemes to expel the tyrant. Clisthenes, the son of Megacles,
who was the head of the family, secured the Delphian oracle by
pecuniary presents to the Pythia, or priestess, henceforth,
whenever the Spartans came to consult the oracle, the answer of
the priestess was always the same, "Athens must be liberated."
This order was so often repeated, that the Spartans at last
resolved to obey. Cleomenes, king of Sparta, defeated the
Thessalian allies of Hippias; and the tyrant, unable to meet his
enemies in the field, took refuge in the Acropolis. Here he
might have maintained himself in safety, had not his children
been made prisoners as they were being secretly carried out of
the country. To procure their restoration, he consented to quit
Attics in the space of five days. He sailed to Asia, and took up
his residence at Sigeum in the Troad, which his father had
wrested from the Mytilenaeans in war.

Hippias was expelled in B.C. 510, four years after the
assassination of Hipparchus. These four years had been a time of
suffering and oppression for the Athenians, and had effaced from
their minds all recollection of the former mild rule of
Pisistratus and his sons. Hence the expulsion of the family was
hailed with delight. The memory of Harmodius and Aristogiton was
cherished with the fondest reverence; and the Athenians of a
later age, overlooking the four years which had elapsed from
their death to the overthrow of the despotism, represented them
as the liberators of their country and the first martyrs for its
liberty. Their statues were erected in the market-place soon
after the expulsion of Hippias; their descendants enjoyed
immunity from all taxes and public burdens; and their deed of
vengeance formed the favourite subject of drinking songs.

The Lacedaemonians quitted Athens soon after Hippias had sailed
away, leaving the Athenians to settle their own affairs.
Clisthenes, to whom Athens was mainly indebted for its liberation
from the despotism, aspired to be the political leader of the
state but he was opposed by Isagoras, the leader of the party of
the nobles. By the Solonian constitution, the whole political
power was vested in the hands of the nobles; and Clisthenes soon
found that it was hopeless to contend against his rival under the
existing order of things. For this reason he resolved to
introduce an important change in the constitution, and to give to
the people an equal share in the government.

The reforms of Clisthenes gave birth to the Athenian democracy,
which can hardly be said to have existed before this time. His
first and most important measure was a redistribution of the
whole population of Attica into ten new tribes. He abolished the
four ancient Ionic tribes, and enrolled in the ten new tribes all
the free inhabitants of Attica, including both resident aliens
and even emancipated slaves. He divided the tribes into a
certain number of cantons or townships, called DEMI, which at a
later time were 174 in number. Every Athenian citizen was
obliged to be enrolled in a demus, each of which, like a parish
in England, administered its own affairs. It had its public
meetings it levied rates, and was under the superintendence of an
officer called DEMARCHUS.

The establishment of the ten new tribes led to a change in the
number of the Senate. It had previously consisted of 400
members, but it was now enlarged to 500, fifty being selected
from each of the ten new tribes. The Ecclesia, or formal
assembly of the citizens, was now summoned at certain fixed
periods; and Clisthenes transferred the government of the state,
which had hitherto been in the hands of the archons, to the
senate and the ecclesia. He also increased the judicial as well
as the political power of the people; and enacted that all public
crimes should be tried by the whole body of citizens above thirty
years of age, specially convoked and sworn for the purpose. The
assembly thus convened was called HELIAEA and its members
HELIASTS. Clisthenes also introduced the OSTRACISM, by which an
Athenian citizen might be banished without special accusation,
trial, or defence for ten years, which term was subsequently
reduced to five. It must be recollected that the force which a
Greek government had at its disposal was very small; and that it
was comparatively easy for an ambitious citizen, supported by a
numerous body of partisans, to overthrow the constitution and
make himself despot. The Ostracism was the means devised by
Clisthenes for removing quietly from the state a powerful party
leader before he could carry into execution any violent schemes
for the subversion of the government. Every precaution was taken
to guard this institution from abuse. The senate and the
ecclesia had first to determine by a special vote whether the
safety of the state required such a step to be taken. If they
decided in the affirmative, a day was fixed for the voting, and
each citizen wrote upon a tile or oyster-shell [OSTRACON, whence
the name OSTRACISM] the name of the person whom he wished to
banish. The votes were then collected, And if it was found that
6000 had been recorded against any one person, he was obliged to
withdraw from the city within ten days: if the number of votes
did not amount to 6000, nothing was done.

The aristocratical party, enraged at these reforms called in the
assistance of Cleomenes, king of the Lacedaemonians. Athens was
menaced by foreign enemies and distracted by party struggles.
Clisthenes was at first compelled to retire from Athens; but the
people rose in arms against Cleomenes, expelled the
Lacedaemonians, who had taken possession of the city, and
recalled Clisthenes. Thereupon Cleomenes collected a
Peloponnesian army in order to establish Isagoras as a tyrant
over the Athenians, and at the same time he concerted measures
with the Thebans and the Chalcidians of Euboea for a simultaneous
attack upon Attica. The Peloponnesian army, commanded by the two
kings, Cleomenes and Demaratus, entered Attica, and advanced as
far as Eleusis; but when the allies became aware of the object
for which they had been summoned, they refused to march farther,
and strongly protested against the attempt to establish a tyranny
at Athens. Their remonstrances being seconded by Demaratus,
Cleomenes found it necessary to abandon the expedition and return
home. At a later period (B.C. 491) Cleomenes took revenge upon
Demaratus by persuading the Spartans to depose him upon the
ground of illegitimacy. The exiled king took refuge at the
Persian court.

The unexpected retreat of the Peloponnesian army delivered the
Athenians from their most formidable enemy, and they lost no time
in turning their arms against their other foes. Marching into
Boeotia, they defeated the Thebans and then crossed over into
Euboea, where they gained a decisive victory over the
Chalcidians. In order to secure their dominion in Euboea, and at
the same time to provide for their poorer citizens, the Athenians
distributed the estates of the wealthy Chalcidian landowners
among 4000 of their citizens, who settled in the country under
the name of CLERUCI.

The successes of Athens excited the jealousy of the Spartans, and
they now resolved to make a third attempt to overthrow the
Athenian democracy. They had meantime discovered the deception
which had been practised upon them by the Delphic oracle; And
they invited Hippias to come from Sigeum to Sparta, in order to
restore him to Athens. The experience of the last campaign had
taught them that they could not calculate upon the co-operation
of their allies without first obtaining their approval of the
project; and they therefore summoned deputies from all their
allies to meet at Sparta, in order to determine respecting the
restoration of Hippias. But the proposal was received with
universal repugnance; and the Spartans found it necessary to
abandon their project. Hippias returned to Sigeum, and
afterwards proceeded to the court of Darius.

Athens had now entered upon her glorious career. The
institutions of Clisthenes had given her citizens a personal
interest in the welfare and the grandeur of their country. A
spirit of the warmest patriotism rapidly sprang up among them;
and the history of the Persian wars, which followed almost
immediately, exhibits a striking proof of the heroic sacrifices
which they were prepared to make for the liberty and independence
of their state.



The vast number of the Greek colonies, their wide-spread
diffusion over all parts of the Mediterranean, which thus became
a kind of Grecian lake, and their rapid growth in wealth, power,
and intelligence, afford the most striking proofs of the
greatness of this wonderful people. Civil dissensions and a
redundant population were the chief causes of the origin of most
of the Greek colonies. They were usually undertaken with the
approbation of the cities from which they issued, and under the
management of leaders appointed by them. But a Greek colony was
always considered politically independent of the mother-city and
emancipated from its control. The only connexion between them
was one of filial affection and of common religious ties. Almost
every colonial Greek city was built upon the sea-coast, and the
site usually selected contained a hill sufficiently lofty to form
an acropolis.

The Grecian colonies may be arranged in four groups: 1. Those
founded in Asia Minor and the adjoining islands; 2. Those in the
western parts of the Mediterranean, in Italy, Sicily, Gaul, and
Spain; 3. Those in Africa; 4. Those in Epirus, Macedonia, and

1. The earliest Greek colonies were those founded on the western
shores of Asia Minor. They were divided into three great masses,
each bearing the name of that section of the Greek race with
which they claimed affinity. The AEolic cities covered the
northern part of this coast, together with the islands of Lesbos
and Tenedos; the Ionians occupied the centre, with the islands of
Chios and Samos; and the Dorians the southern portion, with the
islands of Rhodes and Cos. Most of these colonies were founded
in consequence of the changes in the population of Greece which
attended the conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians. The Ionic
cities were early distinguished by a spirit of commercial
enterprise, and soon rose superior in wealth and in power to
their AEolian and Dorian neighbours. Among the Ionic cities
themselves Miletus and Ephesus were the most flourishing, Grecian
literature took its rise in the AEolic and Ionic cities of Asia
Minor. Homer was probably a native of Smyrna. Lyric poetry
flourished in the island of Lesbos, where Sappho and Alcaeus were
born. The Ionic cities were also the seats of the earliest
schools of Grecian philosophy. Thales, who founded the Ionic
school of philosophy, was a native of Miletus. Halicarnassus was
one of the most important of the Doric cities, of which Herodotus
was a native, though he wrote in the Ionic dialect.

2. The earliest Grecian settlement in Italy was Cumae in
Campania, situated near Cape Misenum, on the Tyrrhenian sea. It
is said to have been a joint colony from the AEolic Cyme in Asia
and from Chalcis in Euboea, and to have been founded, according
to the common chronology, in B.C. 1050. Cumae was for a long
time the most flourishing city in Campania; and it was not till
its decline in the fifth century before the Christian era that
Capua rose into importance.

The earliest Grecian settlement in Sicily was founded in B.C.
735. The extraordinary fertility of the land soon attracted
numerous colonists from various parts of Greece, and there arose
on the coasts of Sicily a succession of flourishing cities. Of
these, Syracuse and Agrigentum, both Dorian colonies, became the
most powerful. The former was founded by the Corinthians in B.C.
734, and at the time of its greatest prosperity contained a
population of 500,000 souls, and was surrounded by walls twenty-
two miles in circuit. Its greatness, however, belongs to a later
period of Grecian history.

The Grecian colonies in southern Italy began to be planted at
nearly the same time as in Sicily. They eventually lined the
whole southern coast, as far as Cumae on the one sea and Tarentum
on the other. They even surpassed those in Sicily in number and
importance; and so numerous and flourishing did they become, that
the south of Italy received the name of Magna Graecia. Of these,
two of the earliest and most prosperous were Sybaris and Croton,
both situated upon the gulf of Tarentum, and both of Achaean
origin. Sybaris was planted in B.C. 720 and Croton in B.C. 710.
For two centuries they seem to have lived in harmony, and we know
scarcely anything of their history till their fatal contest in
B.C. 510, which ended in the ruin of Sybaris. During the whole
of this period they were two of the most flourishing cities in
all Hellas. Sybaris in particular attained to an extraordinary
degree of wealth, and its inhabitants were so notorious for their
luxury, effeminacy, and debauchery, that their name has become
proverbial for a voluptuary in ancient and modern times. Croton
was the chief seat of the Pythagorean philosophy. Pythagroras
was a native of Samos, but emigrated to Croton, where he met with
the most wonderful success in the propagation of his views. He
established a kind of religious brotherhood, closely united by a
sacred vow. They believed in the transmigration of souls, and
their whole training was designed to make them temperate and
self-denying. The doctrines of Pythagoras spread through many of
the other cities of Magna Graecia.

Of the numerous other Greek settlements in the south of Italy,
those of Locri, Rhegium, and Tarentum were the meet important.
Locri was founded by the Locrians from the mother-country in B.C.
683. The laws of this city were drawn up by one of its citizens,
named Zaleucus, and so averse were the Locrians to any change in
them, that whoever proposed a new law had to appear in the public
assembly with a rope round his neck, which was immediately
tightened if he failed to convince his fellow-citizens of the
necessity of the alteration. Rhegium, situated on the straits of
Messina, opposite Sicily, was colonised by the Chalcidians, but
received a large body of Messenians, who settled here at the
close of the Messenian war. Anaxilas, tyrant of Rhegium about
B.C. 500, was of Messenian descent. He seized the Sicilian
Zancle on the opposite coast, and changed its name into Messana,
which it still bears. Tarentum was a colony from Sparta and was
founded about B.C. 708. After the destruction of Sybaris it was
the most powerful and flourishing city in Magna Graecia, and
continued to enjoy great prosperity till its subjugation by the
Romans. Although of Spartan origin, it did not maintain Spartan
habits, and its citizens were noted at a later time for their
love of luxury and pleasure.

The Grecian settlements in the distant countries of Gaul and
Spain were not numerous. The most celebrated was Massalia, the
modern Marseilles, founded by the Ionic Phocaeans in B.C. 600.

3. The northern coast of Africa, between the territories of
Carthage and Egypt, was also occupied by Greek colonists. The
city of Cyrene was founded about B.C. 630. It was a colony from
the island of Thera in the AEgean, which was itself a colony from
Sparta. The situation of Cyrene was well chosen. It stood on
the edge of a range of hills, at the distance of ten miles from
the Mediterranean, of which it commanded a fine view. These
hills descended by a succession of terraces to the port of the
town, called Apollonia. The climate was most salubrious, and the
soil was distinguished by extraordinary fertility. With these
advantages Cyrene rapidly grew in wealth and power; and its
greatness is attested by the immense remains which still mark its
desolate site. Cyrene planted several colonies in the adjoining
district, of which Barca, founded about B.C. 560, was the most

4. There were several Grecian colonies situated on the eastern
side of the Ionian sea, in Epirus and its immediate
neighbourhood. Of these the island of Corcyra, now called Corfu,
was the most wealthy and powerful. It was founded by the
Corinthians about B.C. 700, and in consequence of its commercial
activity it soon became a formidable rival to the mother-city.
Hence a war broke out between these two states at an early
period; and the most ancient naval battle on record was the one
fought between their fleets in B.C. 664. The dissensions between
the mother-city and her colony are frequently mentioned in
Grecian history, and were one of the immediate causes of the
Peloponnesian war. Notwithstanding their quarrels they joined in
planting four Grecian colonies upon the same line of coast--
Leucas, Anactorium, Apollonia, and Epidamnus.

The colonies in Macedonia and Thrace were very numerous, and
extended all along the coast of the AEgean, of the Hellespont, of
the Propontis, and of the Euxine, from the borders of Thessaly to
the mouth of the Danube. Of these we can only glance at the most
important. The colonies on the coast of Macedonia were chiefly
founded by Chalcis and Eretria in Euboea; and the peninsula of
Chalcidice, with its three projecting headlands, was covered with
their settlements, and derived its name from the former city.
The Corinthians likewise planted a few colonies on this coast, of
which Potidaea, on the narrow isthmus of Pallene, most deserves

Of the colonies in Thrace, the most flourishing were Selymbria
and Byzantium, both founded by the Megarians, who appear as an
enterprising maritime people at an early period.


MARATHON, B.C. 500-490.

The Grecian cities on the coast of Asia Minor were the neighbours
of an Asiatic power which finally reduced them to subjection.
This was the kingdom of Lydia, of which Sardis was the capital.
Croesus, the last and most powerful of the Lydian kings, who
ascended the throne B.C. 560, conquered in succession all the
Grecian cities on the coast. His rule, however, was not
oppressive, and he permitted the cities to regulate their own
affairs. He spoke the Greek language, welcomed Greek guests, and
reverenced the Greek oracles, which he enriched with the most
munificent offerings. He extended his dominions in Asia Minor as
far as the river Halys, and he formed a close alliance with
Astyages, king of the Medes, who were then the ruling race in
Asia. Everything seemed to betoken uninterrupted prosperity,
when a people hitherto almost unknown suddenly became masters of
the whole of western Asia.

The Persians were of the same race as the Medes and spoke a
dialect of the same language. They inhabited the mountainous
region south of Media, which slopes gradually down to the low
grounds on the coast of the Persian gulf. While the Medes became
enervated by the corrupting influences to which they were
exposed, the Persians preserved in their native mountains their
simple and warlike habits. They were a brave and hardy nation,
clothed in skins, drinking only water, and ignorant of the
commonest luxuries of life. Cyrus led these fierce warriors from
their mountain fastnesses, defeated the Medes in battle, took
Astyages prisoner, and deprived him of his throne. The other
nations included in the Median empire submitted to the conqueror,
and the sovereignty of Upper Asia thus passed from the Medes to
the Persians. The accession of Cyrus to the empire is placed in
B.C. 559. A few years afterwards Cyrus turned his arms against
the Lydians, took Sardis, and deprived Croesus of his throne
(B.C. 546). The fall of Croesus was followed by the subjection
of the Greek cities in Asia to the Persian yoke. They offered a
brave but ineffectual resistance, and were taken one after the
other by Harpagus the Persian general. Even the islands of
Lesbos and Chios sent in their submission to Harpagus, although
the Persians then possessed no fleet to force them to obedience.
Samos, on the other hand, maintained its independence, and
appears soon afterwards one of the most powerful of the Grecian

During the reign of Cambyses (B.C. 529-521), the son and
successor of Cyrus, the Greek cities of Asia remained obedient to
their Persian governors. It was during this reign that
Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, became the master of the Grecian
seas. The ambition and good fortune of this enterprising tyrant
were alike remarkable. He possessed a hundred ships of war, with
which he conquered several of the islands; and he aspired to
nothing less than the dominion of Ionia, as well as of the
islands in the AEgean. The Lacedaemonians, who had invaded the
island at the invitation of the Samian exiles, for the purpose of
overthrowing his government, were obliged to retire, after
besieging his city in vain for forty days. Everything which he
undertook seemed to prosper; but his uninterrupted good fortune
at length excited the alarm of his ally Amasis, the king of
Egypt. According to the tale related by Herodotus, the Egyptian
king, convinced that such amazing good fortune would sooner or
later incur the envy of the gods, wrote to Polycrates, advising
him to throw away one of his most valuable possessions and thus
inflict some injury upon himself. Thinking the advice to be
good, Polycrates threw into the sea a favourite ring of matchless
price and beauty; but unfortunately it was found a few days
afterwards in the belly of a fine fish which a fisherman had sent
him as a present. Amasis now foresaw that the ruin of Polycrates
was inevitable, and sent a herald to Samos to renounce his
alliance. The gloomy anticipations of the Egyptian monarch
proved well founded. In the midst of all his prosperity
Polycrates fell by a most ignominious fate. Oroetes, the satrap
of Sardis, had for some unknown cause conceived a deadly hatred
against the Samian despot. By a cunning stratagem the satrap
allured him to the mainland, where he was immediately arrested
and hanged upon a cross (B.C. 522).

The reign of Darius, the third king of Persia. (B.C. 521-485),
is memorable in Grecian history. In his invasion of Scythia, his
fleet, which was furnished by the Asiatic Greeks, was ordered to
sail up the Danube and throw a bridge of boats across the river.
The King himself, with his land forces, marched through Thrace;
and, crossing the bridge, placed it under the care of the Greeks,
telling them that, if he did not return within sixty days, they
might break it down, and sail home. He then left them, and
penetrated into the Scythian territory. The sixty days had
already passed away, and there was yet no sign of the Persian
army; but shortly afterwards the Greeks were astonished by the
appearance of a body of Scythians, who informed them that Darius
was in full retreat, pursued by the whole Scythian nation, and
that his only hope of safety depended upon that bridge. They
urged the Greeks to seize this opportunity of destroying the
Persian army, and of recovering their own liberty, by breaking
down the bridge. Their exhortations were warmly seconded by the
Athenian Miltiades, the tyrant of the Thracian Chersonesus, and
the future conqueror of Marathon. The other rulers of the Ionian
cities were at first disposed to follow his suggestion; but as
soon as Histiaeus of Miletus reminded them that their sovereignty
depended upon the support of the Persian king, and that his ruin
would involve their own, they changed their minds and resolved to
await the Persians. After enduring great privations and
sufferings Darius and his army at length reached the Danube and
crossed the bridge in safety. Thus the selfishness of these
Grecian despots threw away the most favourable opportunity that
ever presented itself of delivering their native cities from the
Persian yoke. To reward the services of Histiaeus, Darius gave
him the town of Myrainus, near the Strymon. Darius, on his
return to Asia, left Megabazus in Europe with an army of 80,000
men to complete the subjugation of Thrace and of the Greek cities
upon the Hellespont. Megabazus not only subdued the Thracians,
but crossed the Strymon, conquered the Paeonians, and penetrated
as far as the frontiers of Macedonia. He then sent heralds into
the latter country to demand earth and water, the customary
symbols of submission. These were immediately granted by
Amyntas, the reigning monarch (B.C. 510); and thus the Persian
dominions were extended to the borders of Thessaly. Megabazus,
on his return to Sardis, where Darius awaited him, informed the
Persian monarch that Histiaeus was collecting the elements of a
power which might hereafter prove formidable to the Persian
sovereignty, since Myrcinus commanded the navigation of the
Strymon, and consequently the commerce with the interior of
Thrace. Darius, perceiving that the apprehensions of his general
were not without foundation, summoned Histiaeus to his presence,
and, under the pretext that he could not bear to be deprived of
the company of his friend, carried him with the rest of the court
to Susa. This apparently trivial circumstance was attended with
important consequences to the Persian empire and to the whole
Grecian race.

For the next few years everything remained quiet in the Greek
cities of Asia; but about B.C. 502 a revolution in Naxos, one of
the islands in the AEgean Sea, first disturbed the general
repose, and occasioned the war between Greece and Asia. The
aristocratical exiles, who had been driven out of Naxos by a
rising of the people, applied for aid to Aristagoras, the tyrant
of Miletus and the son-in-law of Histiaeus. Aristagoras readily
promised his assistance, knowing that, if they were restored by
his means, he should become master of the island. He obtained
the co-operation of Artaphernes, the satrap of western Asia by
holding out to him the prospect of annexing not only Naxos, but
all the islands of the AEgean sea, to the Persian empire. He
offered at the same time to defray the expense of the armament.
Artaphernes placed at his disposal a fleet of 200 ships under the
command of Megabates, a Persian of high rank; but Aristagoras
having affronted the Persian admiral, the latter revenged himself
by privately informing the Naxians of the object of the
expedition, which had hitherto been kept a secret. When the
Persian fleet reached Naxos they experienced a vigorous
resistance; and at the end of four months they were compelled to
abandon the enterprise and return to Miletus. Aristagoras was
now threatened with utter ruin. Having deceived Artaphernes, and
incurred the enmity of Megabates, he could expect no favour from
the Persian government, and might be called upon at any moment to
defray the expenses of the armament. In these difficulties he
began to think of exciting a revolt of his countrymen; and while
revolving the project he received a message from his father-in-
law, Histiaeus, urging him to this very step. Afraid of trusting
any one with so dangerous a message, Histiaeus had shaved the
head of a trusty slave, branded upon it the necessary words, and
as soon as the hair had grown again sent him off to Miletus. His
only motive for urging the Ionians to revolt was the desire of
escaping from captivity at Susa, thinking that Darius would set
him at liberty in order to put down an insurrection of his
countrymen. The message from Histiaeus fixed the wavering
resolution of Aristagoras. He forthwith called together the
leading citizens of Miletus, laid before them the project of
revolt, and asked them for advice. They all approved of the
scheme, with the exception of Hecataeus, one of the earliest
Greek historians. Aristagoras laid down the supreme power in
Miletus, and nominally resigned to the people the management of
their own affairs. A democratical form of government was
established in the other Greek cities of Asia, which thereupon
openly revolted from Persia (B.C. 500).

Aristagoras now resolved to cross over to Greece, in order to
solicit assistance. The Spartans, to whom he first applied,
refused to take any part in the war; but at Athens he met with a
very different reception. The Athenians sympathised with the
Ionians as their kinsmen and colonists, and were incensed against
the satrap Artaphernes, who had recently commanded them to recall
Hippias. Accordingly they voted to send a squadron of twenty

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