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Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book V. by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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not listen to the prayer of his sister to desist from the expedition
to Thebes, and to turn his armies back to Argos. "What," he says,

"Lead back an army that could deem I trembled!"

Yet he feels the mournful persuasion that his death is doomed; and a
glimpse of the plot of the "Antigone" is opened upon us by his prayer
to his sister, that if he perish, they should lay him with due honours
in the tomb. The exquisite loveliness of Antigone's character touches
even Polynices, and he departs, saying,

"With the gods rests the balance of our fate;
But thee, at least--oh never upon thee
May evil fall! Thou art too good for sorrow!"

The chorus resume their strains, when suddenly thunder is heard, and
Oedipus hails the sign that heralds him to the shades. Nothing can be
conceived more appalling than this omen. It seems as if Oedipus had
been spared but to curse his children and to die. He summons Theseus,
tells him that his fate is at hand, and that without a guide he
himself will point out the spot where he shall rest. Never may that
spot be told--that secret and solemn grave shall be the charm of the
land and a defence against its foes. Oedipus then turns round, and
the instinct within guides him as he gropes along. His daughters and
Theseus follow the blind man, amazed and awed. "Hither," he says,

"Hither--by this way come--for this way leads
The unseen conductor of the dead [353]--and she
Whom shadows call their queen! [354] Oh light, sweet light,
Rayless to me--mine once, and even now
I feel thee palpable, round this worn form,
Clinging in last embrace--I go to shroud
The waning life in the eternal Hades!"

Thus the stage is left to the chorus, and the mysterious fate of
Oedipus is recited by the Nuntius, in verses which Longinus has not
extolled too highly. Oedipus had led the way to a cavern, well known
in legendary lore as the spot where Perithous and Theseus had pledged
their faith, by the brazen steps which make one of the entrances to
the infernal realms;

"Between which place and the Thorician stone--
The hollow thorn, and the sepulchral pile
He sat him down."

And when he had performed libations from the stream, and laved, and
decked himself in the funeral robes, Jove thundered beneath the earth,
and the old man's daughters, aghast with horror, fell at his knees
with sobs and groans.

"Then o'er them as they wept, his hands he clasped,
And 'Oh my children,' said he, 'from this day
Ye have no more a father--all of me
Withers away--the burden and the toil
Of mine old age fall on ye nevermore.
Sad travail have ye home for me, and yet
Let one thought breathe a balm when I am gone--
The thought that none upon the desolate world
Loved you as I did; and in death I leave
A happier life to you!'

Thus movingly,
With clinging arms and passionate sobs, the three
Wept out aloud, until the sorrow grew
Into a deadly hush--nor cry nor wail
Starts the drear silence of the solitude.
Then suddenly a bodiless voice is heard
And fear came cold on all. They shook with awe,
And horror, like a wind, stirred up their hair.
Again, the voice--again--'Ho! Oedipus, Why linger we so long?

Oedipus then solemnly consigns his children to Theseus, dismisses
them, and Theseus alone is left with the old man.

"So groaning we depart--and when once more
We turned our eyes to gaze, behold, the place
Knew not the man! The king alone was there,
Holding his spread hands o'er averted brows
As if to shut from out the quailing gaze
The horrid aspect of some ghastly thing
That nature durst not look on. So we paused
Until the king awakened from the terror,
And to the mother Earth, and high Olympus,
Seat of the gods, he breathed awe--stricken prayer
But, how the old man perished, save the king,
Mortal can ne'er divine; for bolt, nor levin,
Nor blasting tempest from the ocean borne,
Was heard or seen; but either was he rapt
Aloft by wings divine, or else the shades,
Whose darkness never looked upon the sun,
Yawned in grim mercy, and the rent abyss
Ingulf'd the wanderer from the living world."

Such, sublime in its wondrous power, its appalling mystery, its dim,
religious terror, is the catastrophe of the "Oedipus at Coloneus."
The lines that follow are devoted to the lamentations of the
daughters, and appear wholly superfluous, unless we can consider that
Sophocles desired to indicate the connexion of the "Oedipus" with the
"Antigone," by informing us that the daughters of Oedipus are to be
sent to Thebes at the request of Antigone herself, who hopes, in the
tender courage of her nature, that she may perhaps prevent the
predicted slaughter of her brothers.

VII. Coming now to the tragedy of "Antigone," we find the prophecy of
Oedipus has been fulfilled--the brothers have fallen by the hand of
each other--the Argive army has been defeated--Creon has obtained the
tyranny, and interdicts, on the penalty of death, the burial of
Polynices, whose corpse remains guarded and unhonoured. Antigone,
mindful of her brother's request to her in their last interview,
resolves to brave the edict, and perform those rites so indispensably
sacred in the eyes of a Greek. She communicates her resolution to her
sister Ismene, whose character, still feeble and commonplace, is a
perpetual foil to the heroism of Antigone. She acts upon her
resolutions, baffles the vigilant guards, buries the corpse. Creon,
on learning that his edict has been secretly disobeyed, orders the
remains to be disinterred, and in a second attempt Antigone is
discovered, brought before him, and condemned to death. Haemon, the
son of Creon, had been affianced to Antigone. On the news of her
sentence he seeks Creon, and after a violent scene between the two,
which has neither the power nor the dignity common to Sophocles,
departs with vague menaces. A short but most exquisite invocation to
love from the chorus succeeds, and in this, it may be observed, the
chorus express much left not represented in the action--they serve to
impress on the spectator all the irresistible effects of the passion
which the modern artist would seek to represent in some moving scene
between Antigone and Haemon. The heroine herself now passes across
the stage on her way to her dreadful doom, which is that of living
burial in "the cavern of a rock." She thus addresses the chorus--

"Ye, of the land wherein my fathers dwelt,
Behold me journeying to my latest bourne!
Time hath no morrow for these eyes. Black Orcus,
Whose court hath room for all, leads my lone steps,
E'en while I live, to shadows. Not for me
The nuptial blessing or the marriage hymn:
Acheron, receive thy bride!
(Chorus.) Honoured and mourned
Nor struck by slow disease or violent hand,
Thy steps glide to the grave! Self-judged, like Freedom, [355]
Thou, above mortals gifted, shalt descend
All living to the shades.
Antigone. Methinks I have heard--
So legends go--how Phrygian Niobe
(Poor stranger) on the heights of Sipylus
Mournfully died. The hard rock, like the tendrils
O' the ivy, clung and crept unto her heart--
Her, nevermore, dissolving into showers,
Pale snows desert; and from her sorrowful eyes,
As from unfailing founts adown the cliffs,
Fall the eternal dews. Like her, the god
Lulls me to sleep, and into stone!"

Afterward she adds in her beautiful lament, "That she has one comfort
--that she shall go to the grave dear to her parents and her brother."

The grief of Antigone is in perfect harmony with her character--it
betrays no repentance, no weakness--it is but the natural sorrow, of
youth and womanhood, going down to that grave which had so little of
hope in the old Greek religion. In an Antigone on our stage we might
have demanded more reference to her lover; but the Grecian heroine
names him not, and alludes rather to the loss of the woman's lot of
wedlock than the loss of the individual bridegroom. But it is not for
that reason that we are to conclude, with M. Schlegel and others, that
the Greek women knew not the sentiment of love. Such a notion, that
has obtained an unaccountable belief, I shall hereafter show to be at
variance with all the poetry of the Greeks--with their drama itself--
with their modes of life--and with the very elements of that human
nature, which is everywhere the same. But Sophocles, in the character
of Antigone, personifies duty, not passion. It is to this, her
leading individuality, that whatever might weaken the pure and statue-
like effect of the creation is sacrificed. As she was to her father,
so is she to her brother. The sorrows and calamities of her family
have so endeared them to her heart that she has room for little else.
"Formed," as she exquisitely says of herself, "to love, not to hate,"
[356] she lives but to devote affections the most sacred to sad and
pious tasks, and the last fulfilled, she has done with earth.

When Antigone is borne away, an august personage is presented to us,
whose very name to us, who usually read the Oedipus Tyrannus before
the Antigone, is the foreteller of omen and doom. As in the Oedipus
Tyrannus, Tiresias the soothsayer appears to announce all the terrors
that ensue--so now, at the crowning desolation of that fated house,
he, the solemn and mysterious surviver of such dark tragedies, is
again brought upon the stage. The auguries have been evil--birds
battle with each other in the air--the flame will not mount from the
sacrificial victim--and the altars and hearths are full of birds and
dogs, gathering to their feast on the corpse of Polynices. The
soothsayer enjoins Creon not to war against the dead, and to accord
the rites of burial to the prince's body. On the obstinate refusal of
Creon, Tiresias utters prophetic maledictions and departs. Creon,
whose vehemence of temper is combined with a feeble character, and
strongly contrasts the mighty spirit of Oedipus, repents, and is
persuaded by the chorus to release Antigone from her living prison, as
well as to revoke the edict which denies sepulture to Polynices. He
quits the stage for that purpose, and the chorus burst into one of
their most picturesque odes, an Invocation to Bacchus, thus
inadequately presented to the English reader.

"Oh thou, whom earth by many a title hails,
Son of the thunder-god, and wild delight
Of the wild Theban maid!
Whether on far Italia's shores obey'd,
Or where Eleusis joins thy solemn rites
With the great mother's [357], in mysterious vales--
Bacchus in Bacchic Thebes best known,
Thy Thebes, who claims the Thyads as her daughters;
Fast by the fields with warriors dragon-sown,
And where Ismenus rolls his rapid waters.
It saw thee, the smoke,
On the horned height--[358]
It saw thee, and broke
With a leap into light;
Where roam Corycian nymphs the glorious mountain,
And all melodious flows the old Castalian fountain
Vocal with echoes wildly glad,
The Nysian steeps with ivy clad,
And shores with vineyards greenly blooming,
Proclaiming, steep to shore,
That Bacchus evermore
Is guardian of the race,
Where he holds his dwelling-place
With her [359], beneath the breath
Of the thunder's glowing death,
In the glare of her glory consuming.

Oh now with healing steps along the slope
Of loved Parnassus, or in gliding motion,
O'er the far-sounding deep Euboean ocean--
Come! for we perish--come!--our Lord and hope!
Leader of the stately choir
Of the great stars, whose very breath is light,
Who dost with hymns inspire
Voices, oh youngest god, that sound by night;
Come, with thy Maenad throng,
Come with the maidens of thy Naxian isle,
Who chant their Lord Bacchus--all the while
Maddening, with mystic dance, the solemn midnight long!"

At the close of the chorus the Nuntius enters to announce the
catastrophe, and Eurydice, the wife of Creon, disturbed by rumours
within her palace, is made an auditor of the narration. Creon and his
train, after burying Polynices, repair to the cavern in which Antigone
had been immured. They hear loud wailings within "that unconsecrated
chamber"--it is the voice of Haemon. Creon recoils--the attendants
enter--within the cavern they behold Antigone, who, in the horror of
that deathlike solitude, had strangled herself with the zone of her
robe; and there was her lover lying beside, his arms clasped around
her waist. Creon at length advances, perceives his son, and conjures
him to come forth.

"Then, glaring on his father with wild eyes,
The son stood dumb, and spat upon his face,
And clutched the unnatural sword--the father fled,
And, wroth, as with the arm that missed a parent,
The wretched man drove home unto his breast
The abhorrent steel; yet ever, while dim sense
Struggled within the fast-expiring soul--
Feebler, and feebler still, his stiffening arms
Clung to that virgin form--and every gasp
Of his last breath with bloody dews distained
The cold white cheek that was his pillow. So
Lies death embracing death!" [360]

In the midst of this description, by a fine stroke of art, Euridice,
the mother of Haemon, abruptly and silently quits the stage [361].
When next we hear of her, she has destroyed herself, with her last
breath cursing her husband as the murderer of her child. The end of
the play leaves Creon the surviver. He himself does not perish, for
he himself has never excited our sympathies [362]. He is punished
through his son and wife--they dead, our interest ceases in him, and
to add his death to theirs and to that of Antigone would be bathos.

VIII. In the tragedy of "Electra," the character of the heroine
stands out in the boldest contrast to the creation of the Antigone;
both are endowed with surpassing majesty and strength of nature--they
are loftier than the daughters of men, their very loveliness is of an
age when gods were no distant ancestors of kings--when, as in the
early sculptors of Pallas, or even of Aphrodite, something of the
severe and stern was deemed necessary to the realization of the
divine; and the beautiful had not lost the colossal proportions of the
sublime. But the strength and heroism of Antigone is derived from
love--love, sober, serene, august--but still love. Electra, on the
contrary, is supported and exalted above her sex by the might of her
hatred. Her father, "the king of men," foully murdered in his palace
--herself compelled to consort with his assassins--to receive from
their hands both charity and insult--the adulterous murderer on her
father's throne, and lord of her father's marriage bed [363]--her
brother a wanderer and an outcast. Such are the thoughts unceasingly
before her!--her heart and soul have for years fed upon the bitterness
of a resentment, at once impotent and intense, and nature itself has
turned to gall. She sees not in Clytemnestra a mother, but the
murderess of a father. The doubt and the compunction of the modern
Hamlet are unknown to her more masculine spirit. She lives on but in
the hope of her brother's return and of revenge. The play opens with
the appearance of Orestes, Pylades, and an old attendant--arrived at
break of day at the habitation of the Pelopidae--"reeking with blood"
--the seats of Agamemnon. Orestes, who had been saved in childhood by
his sister from the designs of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, has now
returned in manhood. It is agreed that, in order to lull all
suspicion in the royal adulterers, a false account of the death of
Orestes by an accident in the Pythian Games shall be given to
Clytemnestra; and Orestes and Pylades themselves are afterward to be
introduced in the character of Phocians, bearing the ashes of the
supposed dead. Meanwhile the two friends repair to the sepulchre of
Agamemnon to offer libations, etc. Electra then appears, indulges her
indignant lamentations at her lot, and consoles herself with the hope
of her brother's speedy return.

She is joined by her sister Chrysothemis, who is bearing sepulchral
offerings to the tomb of Agamemnon; and in this interview Sophocles,
with extraordinary skill and deep knowledge of human nature, contrives
to excite our admiration and sympathy for the vehement Electra by
contrasting her with the weak and selfish Chrysothemis. Her very
bitterness against her mother is made to assume the guise of a solemn
duty to her father. Her unfeminine qualities rise into courage and
magnanimity--she glories in the unkindness and persecution she meets
with from Clytemnestra and Aegisthus--they are proofs of her reverence
to the dead. Woman as she is, she is yet the daughter of a king--she
cannot submit to a usurper--"she will not, add cowardice to misery."
Chrysothemis informs Electra that on the return of Aegisthus it is
resolved to consign her to a vault" where she may chant her woes
unheard." Electra learns the meditated sentence undismayed--she will
not moderate her unwelcome wo--"she will not be a traitoress to those
she loves." But a dream has appalled Clytemnestra--Agamemnon has
appeared to her as in life. In the vision he seemed to her to fix his
sceptre on the soil, whence it sprouted up into a tree that
overshadowed the whole land. Disquieted and conscience-stricken, she
now sends Chrysothemis with libations to appease the manes of the
dead. Electra adjures Chrysothemis not to render such expiations to
scatter them to the winds or on the dust--to let them not approach the
resting-place of the murdered king. Chrysothemis promises to obey the
injunction, and departs. A violent and powerful scene between
Clytemnestra and Electra ensues, when the attendant enters (as was
agreed on) to announce the death of Orestes. In this recital he
portrays the ceremony of the Pythian races in lines justly celebrated,
and which, as an animated and faithful picture of an exhibition so
renowned, the reader may be pleased to see, even in a feeble and cold
translation. Orestes had obtained five victories in the first day--in
the second he starts with nine competitors in the chariot-race--an
Achaean, a Spartan, two Libyans--he himself with Thessalian steeds--a
sixth from Aetolia, a Magnesian, an Enian, an Athenian, and a Boeotian
complete the number.

"They took their stand where the appointed judges
Had cast their lots, and ranged the rival cars;
Rang out the brazen trump! Away they bound,
Cheer the hot steeds and shake the slackened reins
As with a body the large space is filled
With the huge clangour of the rattling cars:
High whirl aloft the dust-clouds; blent together
Each presses each--and the lash rings--and loud
Snort the wild steeds, and from their fiery breath,
Along their manes and down the circling wheels,
Scatter the flaking foam. Orestes still,
Ay, as he swept around the perilous pillar
Last in the course, wheel'd in the rushing axle,
The left rein curbed--that on the dexter hand
Flung loose. So on erect the chariots rolled!
Sudden the Aenian's fierce and headlong steeds
Broke from the bit--and, as the seventh time now
The course was circled, on the Libyan car
Dash'd their wild fronts: then order changed to ruin:
Car crashed on car--the wide Crissaean plain
Was, sealike, strewn with wrecks: the Athenian saw,
Slackened his speed, and, wheeling round the marge,
Unscathed and skilful, in the midmost space,
Left the wild tumult of that tossing storm.
Behind, Orestes, hitherto the last,
Had yet kept back his coursers for the close;
Now one sole rival left--on, on he flew,
And the sharp sound of the impelling scourge
Rang in the keen ears of the flying steeds.
He nears--he reaches--they are side by side
Now one--the other--by a length the victor.
The courses all are past--the wheels erect
All safe--when as the hurrying coursers round
The fatal pillar dash'd, the wretched boy
Slackened the left rein; on the column's edge
Crash'd the frail axle--headlong from the car,
Caught and all meshed within the reins he fell;
And masterless, the mad steeds raged along!

Loud from that mighty multitude arose
A shriek--a shout! But yesterday such deeds
To-day such doom! Now whirled upon the earth,
Now his limbs dash'd aloft, they dragged him--those
Wild horses--till all gory from the wheels
Released--and no man, not his nearest friends,
Could in that mangled corpse have traced Orestes.
They laid the body on the funeral pyre,
And while we speak, the Phocian strangers bear,
In a small, brazen, melancholy urn,
That handful of cold ashes to which all
The grandeur of the beautiful hath shrunk.
Hither they bear him--in his father's land
To find that heritage--a tomb!"

It is much to be regretted that this passage, so fine in the original,
is liable to one great objection--it has no interest as connected with
the play, because the audience know that Orestes is not dead; and
though the description of the race retains its animation, the report
of the catastrophe loses the terror of reality, and appears but a
highly-coloured and elaborate falsehood.

The reader will conceive the lamentations of Electra and the fearful
joy of Clytemnestra at a narrative by which the one appears to lose a
brother and a friend--the other a son and an avenging foe.

Chrysothemis joyfully returns to announce, that by the tomb of
Agamemnon she discovers a lock of hair; libations yet moisten the
summit of the mound, and flowers of every hue are scattered over the
grave. "These," she thinks, "are signs that Orestes is returned."
Electra, informing her of the fatal news, proposes that they, women as
they are, shall attempt the terrible revenge which their brother can
no longer execute. When Chrysothemis recoils and refuses, Electra
still nurses the fell design. The poet has more than once, and now
again with judgment, made us sensible of the mature years of Electra
[364]; she is no passionate, wavering, and inexperienced girl, but the
eldest born of the house; the guardian of the childhood of its male
heir; unwedded and unloving, no soft matron cares, no tender maiden
affections, have unbent the nerves of her stern, fiery, and
concentrated soul. Year after year has rolled on to sharpen her
hatred--to disgust her with the present--to root her to one bloody
memory of the past--to sour and freeze up the gentle thoughts of
womanhood--to unsex

"And fill her from the crown to the toe, topful
Of direst cruelty--make thick her blood
Stop up the access and passage to remorse," [365]

and fit her for one crowning deed, for which alone the daughter of the
king of men lives on.

At length the pretended Phocians enter, bearing the supposed ashes of
Orestes; the chief of the train addresses himself to Electra, and this
is the most dramatic and touching scene in the whole tragedy. When
the urn containing, as she believes, the dust of her brother, is
placed in the hands of Electra, we can well overleap time and space,
and see before us the great actor who brought the relics of his own
son upon the stage, and shed no mimic sorrows [366]--we can well
picture the emotions that circle round the vast audience--pity itself
being mingled with the consciousness to which the audience alone are
admitted, that lamentation will soon be replaced by joy, and that the
living Orestes is before his sister. It is by a most subtle and
delicate art that Sophocles permits this struggle between present pain
and anticipated pleasure, and carries on the passion of the spectators
to wait breathlessly the moment when Orestes shall be discovered. We
now perceive why the poet at once, in the opening of the play,
announced to us the existence and return of Orestes--why he disdained
the vulgar source of interest, the gross suspense we should have felt,
if we had shared the ignorance of Electra, and not been admitted to
the secret we impatiently long to be communicated to her. In this
scene, our superiority to Electra, in the knowledge we possess,
refines and softens our compassion, blending it with hope. And most
beautifully here does Sophocles remove far from us the thought of the
hard hatred that hitherto animates the mourner--the strong, proud
spirit is melted away--the woman and the sister alone appear. He whom
she had loved more dearly than a mother--whom she had nursed, and
saved, and prayed for, is "a nothing" in her hands; and the last rites
it had not been hers to pay. He had been

"By strangers honoured and by strangers mourned."

All things had vanished with him--"vanished in a day"--"vanished as by
a hurricane"--she is left with her foes alone. "Admit me" (she
cries), "to thy refuge--make room for me in thy home."

In these lamentations, the cold, classic drama seems to warm into
actual life. Art, exquisite because invisible, unites us at once with
imperishable nature--we are no longer delighted with Poetry--we are
weeping with Truth.

At length Orestes reveals himself, and now the plot draws to its
catastrophe. Clytemnestra is alone in her house, preparing a caldron
for the burial; Electra and the chorus are on the stage; the son--the
avenger, is within; suddenly the cries of Clytemnestra are heard.
Again--again! Orestes re-enters a parricide! [367] He retires as
Aegisthus is seen approaching; and the adulterous usurper is now
presented to us for the first and last time--the crowning victim of
the sacrifice. He comes flushed with joy and triumph. He has heard
that the dreaded Orestes is no more. Electra entertains him a few
moments with words darkly and exultingly ambiguous. He orders the
doors to be thrown open, that all Argos and Mycenae may see the
remains of his sole rival for the throne. The scene opens. On the
threshold (where, with the Greeks, the corpse of the dead was usually
set out to view) lies a body covered with a veil or pall. Orestes
(the supposed Phocian) stands beside.

"Aegisthus. Great Jove! a grateful spectacle!--if thus
May it be said unsinning; yet if she,
The awful Nemesis, be nigh and hear,
I do recall the sentence! Raise the pall.
The dead was kindred to me, and shall know
A kinsman's sorrow.
Orestes. Lift thyself the pall;
Not mine, but thine, the office to survey
That which lies mute beneath, and to salute,
Lovingly sad, the dead one.
Aegisthus. Be it so--
It is well said. Go thou and call the queen:
Is she within?
Orestes. Look not around for her--
She is beside thee!"

Aegisthus lifts the pall, and beholds the body of Clytemnestra! He
knows his fate at once. He knows that Orestes is before him. He
attempts to speak. The fierce Electra cuts him short, and Orestes,
with stern solemnity, conducts him from the stage to the spot on which
Aegisthus had slain Agamemnon, so that the murderer might die by the
son's hand in the place where the father fell. Thus artistically is
the catastrophe not lessened in effect, but heightened, by removing
the deed of death from the scene--the poetical justice, in the calm
and premeditated selection of the place of slaughter, elevates what on
the modern stage would be but a spectacle of physical horror into the
deeper terror and sublimer gloom of a moral awe; and vindictive
murder, losing its aspect, is idealized and hallowed into religious

IX. Of the seven plays left to us, "The Trachiniae" is usually
considered the least imbued with the genius of Sophocles; and Schlegel
has even ventured on the conjecture, singularly destitute of even
plausible testimony, that Sophocles himself may not be the author.
The plot is soon told. The play is opened by Deianira, the wife of
Hercules, who indulges in melancholy reflections on the misfortunes of
her youth, and the continual absence of her husband, of whom no
tidings have been heard for months. She soon learns from her son,
Hyllus, that Hercules is said to be leading an expedition into Euboea;
and our interest is immediately excited by Deianira's reply, which
informs us that oracles had foretold that this was to be the crisis
[368] in the life of Hercules--that he was now to enjoy rest from his
labours, either in a peaceful home or in the grave; and she sends
Hyllus to join his father, share his enterprise and fate. The chorus
touchingly paint the anxious love of Deianira in the following lines:

"Thou, whom the starry-spangled Night did lull
Into the sleep from which--her journey done
Her parting steps awake thee--beautiful
Fountain of flame, oh Sun!
Say, on what seagirt strand, or inland shore
(For earth is bared before thy solemn gaze),
In orient Asia, or where milder rays
Tremble on western waters, wandereth he
Whom bright Alcmena bore?
Ah! as some bird within a lonely nest
The desolate wife puts sleep away with tears;
And ever ills to be
Haunting the absence with dim hosts of fears,
Fond fancy shapes from air dark prophets of the breast."

In her answer to the virgin chorus, Deianira weaves a beautiful
picture of maiden youth as a contrast to the cares and anxieties of
wedded life:

"Youth pastures in a valley of its own;
The scorching sun, the rains and winds of Heaven,
Mar not the calm--yet virgin of all care;
But ever with sweet joys it buildeth up
The airy halls of life."

Deianira afterward receives fresh news of Hercules. She gives way to
her joy. Lichas, the herald, enters, and confides to her charge some
maidens whom the hero had captured. Deianira is struck with
compassion for their lot, and with admiration of the noble bearing of
one of them, Iole. She is about to busy herself in preparation for
their comfort, when she learns that Iole is her rival--the beloved
mistress of Hercules. The jealousy evinced by Deianira is beautifully
soft and womanly [369]. Even in uttering a reproach on Hercules, she
says she cannot feel anger with him, yet how can she dwell in the same
house with a younger and fairer rival;

"She in whose years the flower that fades in mine
Opens the leaves of beauty."

Her affection, her desire to retain the love of the hero, suggests to
her remembrance a gift she had once received from a centaur who had
fallen by the shaft of Hercules. The centaur had assured her that the
blood from his wound, if preserved, would exercise the charm of a
filter over the heart of Hercules, and would ever recall and fix upon
her his affection. She had preserved the supposed charm--she steeps
with it a robe that she purposes to send to Hercules as a gift; but
Deianira, in this fatal resolve, shows all the timidity and sweetness
of her nature; she even questions if it be a crime to regain the heart
of her husband; she consults the chorus, who advise the experiment
(and here, it may be observed, that this is skilfully done, for it
conveys the excuse of Deianira, the chorus being, as it were, the
representative of the audience). Accordingly, she sends the garment
by Lichas. Scarce has the herald gone, ere Deianira is terrified by a
strange phenomenon: a part of the wool with which the supposed filter
had been applied to the garment was thrown into the sunlight, upon
which it withered away--"crumbling like sawdust"--while on the spot
where it fell a sort of venomous foam froths up. While relating this
phenomenon to the chorus, her son, Hyllus, returns [370], and relates
the agonies of his father under the poisoned garment: he had indued
the robe on the occasion of solemn sacrifice, and all was rejoicing,

"As from the sacred offering and the pile
The flame broke forth,"

the poison began to work, the tunic clung to the limbs of the hero,
glued as if by the artificer, and, in his agony and madness, Hercules
dashes Lichas, who brought him the fatal gift, down the rock, and is
now on his way home. On hearing these news and the reproaches of her
son, Deianira steals silently away, and destroys herself upon the
bridal-bed. The remainder of the play is very feeble. Hercules is
represented in his anguish, which is but the mere raving of physical
pain; and after enjoining his son to marry Iole (the innocent cause of
his own sufferings), and to place him yet living upon his funeral
pyre, the play ends.

The beauty of the "Trachiniae" is in detached passages, in some
exquisite bursts by the chorus, and in the character of Deianira,
whose artifice to regain the love of her consort, unhappily as it
terminates, is redeemed by a meekness of nature, a delicacy of
sentiment, and an anxious, earnest, unreproachful devotion of conjugal
love, which might alone suffice to show the absurdity of modern
declamations on the debasement of women, and the absence of pure and
true love in that land from which Sophocles drew his experience.

X. The "Ajax" is far superior to the "Trachiniae." The subject is
one that none but a Greek poet could have thought of or a Greek
audience have admired. The master-passion of a Greek was emulation--
the subject of the "Ajax" is emulation defeated. He has lost to
Ulysses the prize of the arms of Achilles, and the shame of being
vanquished has deprived him of his senses.

In the fury of madness he sallies from his tent at night--slaughters
the flocks, in which his insanity sees the Greeks, whose award has
galled and humbled him--and supposes he has slain the Atridae and
captured Ulysses. It is in this play that Sophocles has, to a certain
extent, attempted that most effective of all combinations in the hands
of a master--the combination of the ludicrous and the terrible [371]:
as the chorus implies, "it is to laugh and to weep." But when the
scene, opening, discovers Ajax sitting amid the slaughtered victims--
when that haughty hero awakens from his delirium--when he is aware
that he has exposed himself to the mockery and derision of his foes--
the effect is almost too painful even for tragedy. In contrast to
Ajax is the soothing and tender Tecmessa. The women of Sophocles are,
indeed, gifted with an astonishing mixture of majesty and sweetness.
After a very pathetic farewell with his young son, Ajax affects to be
reconciled to his lot, disguises the resolution he has formed, and by
one of those artful transitions of emotion which at once vary and
heighten interest on the stage, the chorus, before lamenting, bursts
into a strain of congratulation and joy. The heavy affliction has
passed away--Ajax is restored. The Nuntius arrives from the camp.
Calchas, the soothsayer, has besought Teucer, the hero's brother, not
to permit Ajax to quit his tent that day, for on that day only Minerva
persecutes him; and if he survive it, he may yet be preserved and
prosper. But Ajax has already wandered away, none know whither.
Tecmessa hastens in search of him, and, by a very rare departure from
the customs of the Greek stage, the chorus follow.

Ajax appears again. His passions are now calm and concentrated, but
they lead him on to death. He has been shamed, dishonoured--he has
made himself a mockery to his foes. Nobly to live or nobly to die is
the sole choice of a brave man. It is characteristic of the Greek
temperament, that the personages of the Greek poetry ever bid a last
lingering and half-reluctant farewell to the sun. There is a
magnificent fulness of life in those children of the beautiful West;
the sun is to them as a familiar friend--the affliction or the terror
of Hades is in the thought that its fields are sunless. The orb which
animated their temperate heaven, which ripened their fertile earth, in
which they saw the type of eternal youth, of surpassing beauty, of
incarnate poetry--human in its associations, and yet divine in its
nature--is equally beloved and equally to be mourned by the maiden
tenderness of Antigone or the sullen majesty of Ajax. In a Chaldaean
poem the hero would have bid farewell to the stars!

It is thus that Ajax concludes his celebrated soliloquy.

"And thou that mak'st high heaven thy chariot-course,
Oh sun--when gazing on my father-land,
Draw back thy golden rein, and tell my woes
To the old man, my father--and to her
Who nursed me at her bosom--my poor mother!
There will be wailing through the echoing walls
When--but away with thoughts like these!--the hour
Brings on the ripening deed. Death, death, look on me!
Did I say death?--it was a waste of words;
We shall be friends hereafter.
'Tis the DAY,
Present and breathing round me, and the car
Of the sweet sun, that never shall again
Receive my greeting!--henceforth time is sunless,
And day a thing that is not! Beautiful light,
My Salamis--my country--and the floor
Of my dear household hearth--and thou, bright Athens,
Thou--for thy sons and I were boys together--
Fountains and rivers, and ye Trojan plains,
I loved ye as my fosterers--fare ye well!
Take in these words, the last earth hears from Ajax--
All else unspoken, in a spectre land
I'll whisper to the dead!"

Ajax perishes on his sword--but the interest of the play survives him.
For with the Greeks, burial rather than death made the great close of
life. Teucer is introduced to us; the protector of the hero's remains
and his character, at once fierce and tender, is a sketch of
extraordinary power. Agamemnon, on the contrary--also not presented
to us till after the death of Ajax--is but a boisterous tyrant [372].
Finally, by the generous intercession of Ulysses, who redeems his
character from the unfavourable conception we formed of him at the
commencement of the play, the funeral rites are accorded, and a
didactic and solemn moral from the chorus concludes the whole.

XI. The "Philoctetes" has always been ranked by critics among the
most elaborate and polished of the tragedies of Sophocles. In some
respects it deserves the eulogies bestowed on it. But one great fault
in the conception will, I think, be apparent on the simple statement
of the plot.

Philoctetes, the friend and armour-bearer of Hercules, and the heir of
that hero's unerring shafts and bow, had, while the Grecian fleet
anchored at Chryse (a small isle in the Aegaean), been bitten in the
foot by a serpent; the pain of the wound was insufferable--the shrieks
and groans of Philoctetes disturbed the libations and sacrifices of
the Greeks. And Ulysses and Diomed, when the fleet proceeded, left
him, while asleep, on the wild and rocky solitudes of Lemnos. There,
till the tenth year of the Trojan siege, he dragged out an agonizing
life. The soothsayer, Helenus, then declared that Troy could not fall
till Philoctetes appeared in the Grecian camp with the arrows and bow
of Hercules. Ulysses undertakes to effect this object, and, with
Neoptolemus (son of Achilles), departs for Lemnos. Here the play
opens. A wild and desolate shore--a cavern with two mouths (so that
in winter there might be a double place to catch the sunshine, and in
summer a twofold entrance for the breeze), and a little fountain of
pure water, designate the abode of Philoctetes.

Agreeably to his character, it is by deceit and stratagem that Ulysses
is to gain his object. Neoptolemus is to dupe him whom he has never
seen with professions of friendship and offers of services, and to
snare away the consecrated weapons. Neoptolemus--whose character is a
sketch which Shakspeare alone could have bodied out--has all the
generous ardour and honesty of youth, but he has also its timid
irresolution--its docile submission to the great--its fear of the
censure of the world. He recoils from the base task proposed to him;
he would prefer violence to fraud; yet he dreads lest, having
undertaken the enterprise, his refusal to act should be considered
treachery to his coadjutor. It is with a deep and melancholy wisdom
that Ulysses, who seems to comtemplate his struggles with
compassionate and not displeased superiority, thus attempts to
reconcile the young man:

"Son of a noble sire! I too, in youth,
Had thy plain speech and thine impatient arm:
But a stern test is time! I have lived to see
That among men the tools of power and empire
Are subtle words--not deeds."

Neoptolemus is overruled. Ulysses withdraws, Philoctetes appears.
The delight of the lonely wretch on hearing his native language; on
seeing the son of Achilles--his description of his feelings when he
first found himself abandoned in the desert--his relation of the
hardships he has since undergone, are highly pathetic. He implores
Neoptolemus to bear him away, and when the youth consents, he bursts
into an exclamation of joy, which, to the audience, in the secret of
the perfidy to be practised on him, must have excited the most lively
emotions. The characteristic excellence of Sophocles is, that in his
most majestic creations he always contrives to introduce the sweetest
touches of humanity.--Philoctetes will not even quit his miserable
desert until he has returned to his cave to bid it farewell--to kiss
the only shelter that did not deny a refuge to his woes. In the joy
of his heart he thinks, poor dupe, that he has found faith in man--in
youth. He trusts the arrows and the bow to the hand of Neoptolemus.
Then, as he attempts to crawl along, the sharp agony of his wound
completely overmasters him. He endeavours in vain to stifle his
groans; the body conquers the mind. This seems to me, as I shall
presently again observe, the blot of the play; it is a mere exhibition
of physical pain. The torture exhausts, till insensibility or sleep
comes over him. He lies down to rest, and the young man watches over
him. The picture is striking. Neoptolemus, at war with himself, does
not seize the occasion. Philoctetes wakes. He is ready to go on
board; he implores and urges instant departure. Neoptolemus recoils--
the suspicions of Philoctetes are awakened; he thinks that this
stranger, too, will abandon him. At length the young man, by a
violent effort, speaks abruptly out, "Thou must sail to Troy--to the
Greeks--the Atridae."

"The Greeks--the Atridae!" the betrayers of Philoctetes--those beyond
pardon--those whom for ten years he has pursued with the curses of a
wronged, and deserted, and solitary spirit. "Give me back," he cries,
"my bow and arrows." And when Neoptolemus refuses, he pours forth a
torrent of reproach. The son of the truth--telling Achilles can
withstand no longer. He is about to restore the weapons, when Ulysses
rushes on the stage and prevents him.

At length, the sufferer is to be left--left once more alone in the
desert. He cannot go with his betrayers--he cannot give glory and
conquest to his inhuman foes; in the wrath of his indignant heart even
the desert is sweeter than the Grecian camp. And how is he to sustain
himself without his shafts! Famine adds a new horror to his dreary
solitude, and the wild beasts may now pierce into his cavern: but
their cruelty would be mercy! His contradictory and tempestuous
emotions, as the sailors that compose the chorus are about to depart,
are thus told.

The chorus entreat him to accompany them.

Phil. Begone.
Chor. It is a friendly bidding--we obey--
Come, let us go. To ship, my comrades.
Phil. No--
No, do not go--by the great Jove, who hears
Men's curses--do not go.
Chor. Be calm.
Phil. Sweet strangers!
In mercy, leave me not.

* * * * * *

Chor. But now you bade us!
Phil. Ay--meet cause for chiding,
That a poor desperate wretch, maddened with pain,
Should talk as madmen do!
Chor. Come, then, with us.
Phil. Never! oh--never! Hear me--not if all
The lightnings of the thunder-god were made
Allies with you, to blast me! Perish Troy,
And all beleaguered round its walls--yea; all
Who had the heart to spurn a wounded wretch;
But, but--nay--yes--one prayer, one boon accord me.
Chor. What wouldst thou have?
Phil. A sword, an axe, a something;
So it can strike, no matter!
Chor. Nay--for what?
Phil. What! for this hand to hew me off this head--
These limbs! To death, to solemn death, at last
My spirit calls me.
Chor. Why?
Phil. To seek my father.
Chor. On earth?
Phil. In Hades.

Having thus worked us up to the utmost point of sympathy with the
abandoned Philoctetes, the poet now gradually sheds a gentler and
holier light over the intense gloom to which we had been led.
Neoptolemus, touched with generous remorse, steals back to give the
betrayed warrior his weapons--he is watched by the vigilant Ulysses--
an angry altercation takes place between them. Ulysses, finding he
cannot intimidate, prudently avoids personal encounter with the son of
Achilles, and departs to apprize the host of the backsliding of his
comrade.--A most beautiful scene, in which Neoptolemus restores the
weapons to Philoctetes--a scene which must have commanded the most
exquisite tears and the most rapturous applauses of the audience,
ensues; and, finally, the god so useful to the ancient poets brings
all things, contrary to the general rule of Aristotle [373], to a
happy close. Hercules appears and induces his former friend to
accompany Neoptolemus to the Grecian camp, where his wound shall be
healed.. The farewell of Philoctetes to his cavern--to the nymphs of
the meadows--to the roar of the ocean, whose spray the south wind
dashed through his rude abode--to the Lycian stream and the plain of
Lemnos--is left to linger on the ear like a solemn hymn, in which the
little that is mournful only heightens the majestic sweetness of all
that is musical. The dramatic art in the several scenes of this play
Sophocles has never excelled, and scarcely equalled. The contrast of
character in Ulysses and Neoptolemus has in it a reality, a human
strength and truth, that is more common to the modern than the ancient
drama. But still the fault of the story is partly that the plot rests
upon a base and ignoble fraud, and principally that our pity is
appealed to by the coarse sympathy with physical pain: the rags that
covered the sores, the tainted corruption of the ulcers, are brought
to bear, not so much on the mind as on the nerves; and when the hero
is represented as shrinking with corporeal agony--the blood oozing
from his foot, the livid sweat rolling down the brow--we sicken and
turn away from the spectacle; we have no longer that pleasure in our
own pain which ought to be the characteristic of true tragedy. It is
idle to vindicate this error by any dissimilarity between ancient and
modern dramatic art. As nature, so art, always has some universal and
permanent laws. Longinus rightly considers pathos a part of the
sublime, for pity ought to elevate us; but there is nothing to elevate
us in the noisome wounds, even of a mythical hero; our human nature is
too much forced back into itself--and a proof that in this the ancient
art did not differ from the modern, is in the exceeding rarity with
which bodily pain is made the instrument of compassion with the Greek
tragedians. The Philoctetes and the Hercules are among the exceptions
that prove the rule. [374]

XII. Another drawback to our admiration of the Philoctetes is in the
comparison it involuntarily courts with the Prometheus of Aeschylus.
Both are examples of fortitude under suffering--of the mind's conflict
with its fate. In either play a dreary waste, a savage solitude,
constitute the scene. But the towering sublimity of the Prometheus
dwarfs into littleness every image of hero or demigod with which we
contrast it. What are the chorus of mariners, and the astute Ulysses,
and the boyish generosity of Neoptolemus--what is the lonely cave on
the shores of Lemnos--what the high-hearted old warrior, with his
torturing wound and his sacred bow--what are all these to the vast
Titan, whom the fiends chain to the rock beneath which roll the rivers
of hell, for whom the daughters of Ocean are ministers, to whose
primeval birth the gods of Olympus are the upstarts of a day, whose
soul is the treasure-house of a secret which threatens the realm of
heaven, and for whose unimaginable doom earth reels to its base, all
the might of divinity is put forth, and Hades itself trembles as it
receives its indomitable and awful guest! Yet, as I have before
intimated, it is the very grandeur of Aeschylus that must have made
his poems less attractive on the stage than those of the humane and
flexible Sophocles. No visible representation can body forth his
thoughts--they overpower the imagination, but they do not come home to
our household and familiar feelings. In the contrast between the
"Philoctetes" and the "Prometheus" is condensed the contrast between
Aeschylus and Sophocles. They are both poets of the highest
conceivable order; but the one seems almost above appeal to our
affections--his tempestuous gloom appals the imagination, the vivid
glare of his thoughts pierces the innermost recesses of the intellect,
but it is only by accident that he strikes upon the heart. The other,
in his grandest flights, remembers that men make his audience, and
seems to feel as if art lost the breath of its life when aspiring
beyond the atmosphere of human intellect and human passions. The
difference between the creations of Aeschylus and Sophocles is like
the difference between the Satan of Milton and the Macbeth of
Shakspeare. Aeschylus is equally artful with Sophocles--it is the
criticism of ignorance that has said otherwise. But there is this
wide distinction--Aeschylus is artful as a dramatist to be read,
Sophocles as a dramatist to be acted. If we get rid of actors, and
stage, and audience, Aeschylus will thrill and move us no less than
Sophocles, through a more intellectual if less passionate medium. A
poem may be dramatic, yet not theatrical--may have all the effects of
the drama in perusal, but by not sufficiently enlisting the skill of
the actor--nay, by soaring beyond the highest reach of histrionic
capacities, may lose those effects in representation. The storm in
"Lear" is a highly dramatic agency when our imagination is left free
to conjure up the angry elements,

"Bid the winds blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled waters."

But a storm on the stage, instead of exceeding, so poorly mimics the
reality, that it can never realize the effect which the poet designs,
and with which the reader is impressed. So is it with supernatural
and fanciful creations, especially of the more delicate and subtle
kind. The Ariel of the "Tempest," the fairies of the "Midsummer
Night's Dream," and the Oceanides of the "Prometheus," are not to be
represented by human shapes. We cannot say that they are not
dramatic, but they are not theatrical. We can sympathize with the
poet, but not with the actor. For the same reason, in a lesser
degree, all creations, even of human character, that very highly task
the imagination, that lift the reader wholly out of actual experience,
and above the common earth, are comparatively feeble when reduced to
visible forms. The most metaphysical plays of Shakspeare are the
least popular in representation. Thus the very genius of Aeschylus,
that kindles us in the closet, must often have militated against him
on the stage. But in Sophocles all--even the divinities themselves--
are touched with humanity; they are not too subtle or too lofty to be
submitted to mortal gaze. We feel at once that on the stage Sophocles
ought to have won the prize from Aeschylus; and, as a proof of this,
if we look at the plays of each, we see that scarcely any of the great
characters of Aeschylus could have called into sufficient exercise the
powers of an actor. Prometheus on his rock, never changing even his
position, never absent from the scene, is denied all the relief, the
play and mobility, that an actor needs. His earthly representative
could be but a grand reciter. In the "Persians," not only the
theatrical, but the dramatic effect is wanting--it is splendid poetry
put into various mouths, but there is no collision of passions, no
surprise, no incident, no plot, no rapid dialogue in which words are
but the types of emotions. In the "Suppliants" Garrick could have
made nothing of Pelasgus. In the "Seven before Thebes" there are not
above twenty or thirty lines in the part of Eteocles in which the art
of the actor could greatly assist the genius of the poet. In the'
trilogy of the "Agamemnon," the "Choephori," and the "Orestes,"
written in advanced years, we may trace the contagious innovation of
Sophocles; but still, even in these tragedies, there is no part so
effective in representation as those afforded by the great characters
of Sophocles. In the first play the hypocrisy and power of
Clytemnestra would, it is true, have partially required and elicited
the talents of the player; but Agamemnon himself is but a thing of
pageant, and the splendid bursts of Cassandra might have been
effectively uttered by a very inferior histrionic artist. In the
second play, in the scene between Orestes and his mother, and in the
gathering madness of Orestes, the art of the poet would unquestionably
task to the uttermost the skill of the performer. But in the last
play (the Furies), perhaps the sublimest poem of the three, which
opens so grandly with the parricide at the sanctuary, and the Furies
sleeping around him, there is not one scene from the beginning to the
end in which an eminent actor could exhibit his genius.

But when we come to the plays of Sophocles, we feel that a new era in
the drama is created; we feel that the artist poet has called into
full existence the artist actor. His theatrical effects [375] are
tangible, actual--could be represented to-morrow in Paris--in London--
everywhere. We find, therefore, that with Sophocles has passed down
to posterity the name of the great actor [376] in his principal plays.
And I think the English reader, even in the general analysis and
occasional translations with which I have ventured to fill so many
pages, will perceive that all the exertions of subtle, delicate, and
passionate power, even in a modern actor, would be absolutely
requisite to do justice to the characters of Oedipus at Coloneus,
Antigone, Electra, and Philoctetes.

This, then, was the distinction between Aeschylus and Sophocles--both
were artists, as genius always must be, but the art of the latter
adapts itself better to representation. And this distinction in art
was not caused merely by precedence in time. Had Aeschylus followed
Sophocles, it would equally have existed--it was the natural
consequence of the distinctions in their genius--the one more sublime,
the other more impassioned--the one exalting the imagination, the
other appealing to the heart. Aeschylus is the Michael Angelo of the
drama, Sophocles the Raffaele.

XIII. Thus have I presented to the general reader the outline of all
the tragedies of Sophocles. In the great length at which I have
entered in this, not the least difficult, part of my general task, I
have widely innovated on the plan pursued by the writers of Grecian
history. For this innovation I offer no excuse. It is her poetry at
the period we now examine, as her philosophy in a later time, that
makes the individuality of Athens. In Sophocles we behold the age of
Pericles. The wars of that brilliant day were as pastimes to the
mighty carnage of oriental or northern battle. The reduction of a
single town, which, in our time, that has no Sophocles and no
Pericles, a captain of artillery would demolish in a week, was the
proudest exploit of the Olympian of the Agora; a little while, and one
defeat wrests the diadem of the seas from the brows of "The Violet
Queen;" scanty indeed the ruins that attest the glories of "The
Propylaea, the Parthenon, the Porticoes, and the Docks," to which the
eloquent orator appealed as the "indestructible possessions" of
Athens; along the desolate site of the once tumultuous Agora the
peasant drives his oxen--the champion deity [377] of Phidias, whose
spectral apparition daunted the barbarian Alaric [378], and the gleam
of whose spear gladdened the mariner beneath the heights of Sunium,
has vanished from the Acropolis; but, happily, the age of Pericles has
its stamp and effigy in an art more imperishable than that of war--in
materials more durable than those of bronze and marble, of ivory and
gold. In the majestic harmony, the symmetrical grace of Sophocles, we
survey the true portraiture of the genius of the times, and the old
man of Coloneus still celebrates the name of Athens in a sweeter song
than that of the nightingale [379], and melodies that have survived
the muses of Cephisus [380]. Sophocles was allegorically the prophet
when he declared that in the grave of Oedipus was to be found the
sacred guardian and the everlasting defence of the city of Theseus.


[1] "Cum consuetudine ad imperii cupiditatem trahi videretur."--Nepos
in Vit. Milt., cap. 8.

[2] Corn. Nepos in Vit. Milt., cap. 7.

[3] Nepos. in Vit. Milt., cap. 7.

[4] Herod., lib. vi., cap. cxxxvi.

[5] Nepos says the fine was estimated at the cost of the navy he had
conducted to Paros; but Boeckh rightly observes, that it is an
ignorant assertion of that author that the fine was intended for a
compensation, being the usual mode of assessing the offence.

The case is simply this--Miltiades was accused--whether justly or
unjustly no matter--it was clearly as impossible not to receive the
accusation and to try the cause, as it would be for an English court
of justice to refuse to admit a criminal action against Lord Grey or
the Duke of Wellington. Was Miltiades guilty or not? This we cannot
tell. We know that he was tried according to the law, and that the
Athenians thought him guilty, for they condemned him. So far this is
not ingratitude--it is the course of law. A man is tried and found
guilty--if past services and renown were to save the great from
punishment when convicted of a state offence, society would perhaps be
disorganized, and certainly a free state would cease to exist. The
question therefore shrinks to this--was it or was it not ungrateful in
the people to relax the penalty of death, legally incurred, and
commute it to a heavy fine? I fear we shall find few instances of
greater clemency in monarchies, however mild. Miltiades unhappily
died. But nature slew him, not the Athenian people. And it cannot be
said with greater justice of the Athenians, than of a people no less
illustrious, and who are now their judges, that it was their custom
"de tuer en amiral pour encourager les autres."

[6] The taste of a people, which is to art what public opinion is to
legislation, is formed, like public opinion, by habitual social
intercourse and collision. The more men are brought together to
converse and discuss, the more the principles of a general national
taste will become both diffused and refined. Less to their climate,
to their scenery, to their own beauty of form, than to their social
habits and preference of the public to the domestic life, did the
Athenians, and the Grecian republics generally, owe that wonderful
susceptibility to the beautiful and harmonious, which distinguishes
them above all nations ancient or modern. Solitude may exalt the
genius of a man, but communion alone can refine the taste of a people.

[7] It seems probable that the principal Bacchic festival was
originally held at the time of the vintage--condita post frumenta.
But from the earliest known period in Attica, all the triple Dionysia
were celebrated during the winter and the spring.

[8] Egyptian, according to Herodotus, who asserts, that Melampus
first introduced the Phallic symbol among the Greeks, though he never
sufficiently explained its mysterious significations, which various
sages since his time had, however, satisfactorily interpreted. It is
just to the Greeks to add, that this importation, with the other rites
of Bacchus, was considered at utter variance with their usual habits
and manners.

[9] Herodotus asserts that Arion first named, invented, and taught
the dithyramb at Corinth; but, as Bentley triumphantly observes,
Athenaeus has preserved to us the very verses of Archilochus, his
predecessor by a century, in which the song of the dithyramb is named.

[10] In these remarks upon the origin of the drama, it would belong
less to history than to scholastic dissertation, to enter into all the
disputed and disputable points. I do not, therefore, pause with every
step to discuss the questions contested by antiquarians--such as,
whether the word "tragedy," in its primitive and homely sense,
together with the prize of the goat, was or was not known in Attica
prior to Thespis (it seems to me that the least successful part of
Bentley's immortal work is that which attempts to enforce the latter
proposition); still less do I think a grave answer due to those who,
in direct opposition to authorities headed by the grave and searching
Aristotle, contend that the exhibitions of Thespis were of a serious
and elevated character. The historian must himself weigh the
evidences on which he builds his conclusions; and come to those
conclusions, especially in disputes which bring to unimportant and
detached inquiries the most costly expenditure of learning, without
fatiguing the reader with a repetition of all the arguments which he
accepts or rejects. For those who incline to go more deeply into
subjects connected with the early Athenian drama, works by English and
German authors, too celebrated to enumerate, will be found in
abundance. But even the most careless general reader will do well to
delight himself with that dissertation of Bentley on Phalaris, so
familiar to students, and which, despite some few intemperate and bold
assumptions, will always remain one of the most colossal monuments of
argument and erudition.

[11] Aeschylus was a Pythagorean. "Veniat Aeschylus, sed etiam
Pythagoreus."--Cic. Tusc. Dis., b. ii., 9.

[12] Out of fifty plays, thirty-two were satyrical.--Suidas in Prat.

[13] The Tetralogy was the name given to the fourfold exhibition of
the three tragedies, or trilogy, and the Satyric Drama.

[14] Yet in Aeschylus there are sometimes more than two speaking
actors on the stage,--as at one time in the Choephori, Clytemnestra,
Orestes, Electra (to say nothing of Pylades, who is silent), and again
in the same play, Orestes, Pylades, and Clytemnestra, also in the
Eumenides, Apollo, Minerva, Orestes. It is truly observed, however,
that these plays were written after Sophocles had introduced the third
actor. [The Orestean tetralogy was exhibited B. C. 455, only two
years before the death of Aeschylus, and ten years after Sophocles had
gained his first prize.] Any number of mutes might be admitted, not
only as guards, etc., but even as more important personages. Thus, in
the Prometheus, the very opening of the play exhibits to us the demons
of Strength and Force, the god Vulcan, and Prometheus himself; but the
dialogue is confined to Strength and Vulcan.

[15] The celebrated temple of Bacchus; built after the wooden theatre
had given way beneath the multitude assembled to witness a contest
between Pratinas and Aeschylus.

[16] 1st. The rural Dionysia, held in the country districts
throughout Attica about the beginning of January. 2d. The Lenaean, or
Anthesterial, Dionysia, in the end of February and beginning of March,
in which principally occurred the comic contests; and the grand
Dionysis of the city, referred to in the text. Afterward dramatic
performances were exhibited also, in August, during the Panathenaea.

[17] That is, when three actors became admitted on the stage.

[18] For it is sufficiently clear that women were admitted to the
tragic performances, though the arguments against their presence in
comic plays preponderate. This admitted, the manners of the Greeks
may be sufficient to prove that, as in the arena of the Roman games,
they were divided from the men; as, indeed, is indirectly intimated in
a passage of the Gorgias of Plato.

[19] Schlegel says truly and eloquently of the chorus--"that it was
the idealized spectator"--"reverberating to the actual spectator a
musical and lyrical expression of his own emotions."

[20] In this speech he enumerates, among other benefits, that of
Numbers, "the prince of wise inventions"--one of the passages in which
Aeschylus is supposed to betray his Pythagorean doctrines.

[21] It is greatly disputed whether Io was represented on the stage
as transformed into the actual shape of a heifer, or merely accursed
with a visionary phrensy, in which she believes in the transformation.
It is with great reluctance that I own it seems to me not possible to
explain away certain expressions without supposing that Io appeared on
the stage at least partially transformed.

[22] Vit. Aesch.

[23] It is the orthodox custom of translators to render the dialogue
of the Greek plays in blank verse; but in this instance the whole
animation and rapidity of the original would be utterly lost in the
stiff construction and protracted rhythm of that metre.

[24] Viz., the meadows around Asopus.

[25] To make the sense of this detached passage more complete, and
conclude the intelligence which the queen means to convey, the
concluding line in the text is borrowed from the next speech of
Clytemnestra--following immediately after a brief and exclamatory
interruption of the chorus.

[26] i. e. Menelaus, made by grief like the ghost of his former self.

[27] The words in italics attempt to convey paraphrastically a new
construction of a sentence which has puzzled the commentators, and met
with many and contradictory interpretations. The original literally
is--"I pity the last the most." Now, at first it is difficult to
conjecture why those whose adversity is over, "blotted out with the
moistened sponge," should be the most deserving of compassion. But it
seems to me that Cassandra applies the sentiments to herself--she
pities those whose career of grief is over, because it is her own lot
which she commiserates, and by reference to which she individualizes a
general reflection.

[28] Perhaps his mere diction would find a less feeble resemblance in
passages of Shelley, especially in the Prometheus of that poet, than
in any other poetry existent. But his diction alone. His power is in
concentration--the quality of Shelley is diffuseness. The interest
excited by Aeschylus, even to those who can no longer sympathize with
the ancient associations, is startling, terrible, and intense--that
excited by Shelley is lukewarm and tedious. The intellectuality of
Shelley destroyed, that of Aeschylus only increased, his command over
the passions.

[29] In the comedy of "The Frogs," Aristophanes makes it the boast of
Aeschylus, that he never drew a single woman influenced by love.
Spanheim is surprised that Aristophanes should ascribe such a boast to
the author of the "Agamemnon." But the love of Clytemnestra for
Aegisthus is never drawn--never delineated. It is merely suggested
and hinted at--a sentiment lying dark and concealed behind the motives
to the murder of Agamemnon ostensibly brought forward, viz., revenge
for the sacrifice of Iphigenia, and jealousy of Cassandra.

[30] In plays lost to us.

[31] I reject the traditions which make Aristides and Themistocles
rivals as boys, because chronology itself refutes them. Aristides
must have been of mature age at the battle of Marathon, if he was the
friend and follower of Clisthenes, one of the ten generals in the
action, and archon in the following year. But both Plutarch and
Justin assure us that Themistocles was very young at the battle of
Marathon, and this assurance is corroborated by other facts connected
with his biography. He died at the age of sixty-five, but he lived
to see the siege of Cyprus by Cimon. This happened B. C. 449. If,
then, we refer his death to that year, he was born 514 B. C., and
therefore was about twenty-four at the battle of Marathon.

[32] Plut. in Vit. Them. Heraclides et Idomeneus ap. Athen., lib. 12.

[33] See Dodwell's "Tour through Greece," Gell's "Itinerary."

[34] "Called by some Laurion Oros, or Mount Laurion." Gell's

[35] Boeckh's Dissert. on the Silver Mines of Laurium.

[36] Boeckh's Dissert. on the Silver Mines of Laurium.

[37] On this point, see Boeckh. Dissert. on the Silver Mines of
Laurion, in reference to the account of Diodorus.

[38] If we except the death of his brother, in the Cambyses of
Ctesias, we find none of the crimes of the Cambyses of Herodotus--and
even that fratricide loses its harsher aspect in the account of
Ctesias, and Cambyses is represented as betrayed into the crime by a
sincere belief in his brother's treason.

[39] The account of this conspiracy in Ctesias seems more improbable
than that afforded to us by Herodotus. But in both the most
extraordinary features of the plot are the same, viz., the striking
likeness between the impostor and the dead prince, and the complete
success which, for a time, attended the fraud. In both narrations,
too, we can perceive, behind the main personages ostensibly brought
forward, the outline of a profound device of the magi to win back from
the Persian conquerors, and to secure to a Mede, the empire of the

[40] Herodotus says it was resolved that the king could only marry
into the family of one of the conspirators; but Darius married two
daughters and one grand-daughter of Cyrus. It is more consonant with
eastern manners to suppose that it was arranged that the king should
give his own daughters in marriage to members of these six houses. It
would have been scarcely possible to claim the monopoly of the royal
seraglio, whether its tenants were wives or concubines, and in all
probability the king's choice was only limited (nor that very rigidly)
to the family of Cyrus, and the numerous and privileged race of the

[41] Besides the regular subsidies, we gather from Herodotus, I. c.
92, that the general population was obliged to find subsistence for
the king and his armies. Babylon raised a supply for four months, the
resources of that satrapy being adequate to a third part of Asia.

[42] That comparatively small and frontier part of India known to

[43] Forming a revenue of more than 100,000l. sterling.--Heeren's
Persians, chap. ii.

[44] Such are the expressions of Herodotus. His testimony is
corroborated by the anecdotes in his own history, and, indeed, by all
other ancient authorities.

[45] Dinon. (Apud Athen., lib. xiii.) observes, that the Persian
queen tolerated the multitude of concubines common to the royal
seraglio, because they worshipped her, like a divinity.

[46] See, in addition to more familiar authorities, the curious
remarks and anecdotes relative to the luxury of the Persian kings, in
the citations from Dinon, Heraclides, Agathocles, and Chares of
Mitylene, scattered throughout Athenaeus, lib. xii., xiii., xiv.; but
especially lib. xii.

[47] Strabo, lib. xv, Herod., lib. i., c. cxxxi., etc.

[48] Among innumerable instances of the disdain of human life
contracted after their conquest by those very Persians who, in their
mountain obscurity, would neither permit their sovereign to put any
one to death for a single offence, nor the master of a household to
exercise undue severity to a member of his family (Herod., lib. i., c.
cxxxvii.), is one recorded by Herodotus, and in the main corroborated
by Justin. Darius is at the siege of Babylon; Zopyrus, one of the
seven conspirators against the magian, maims himself and enters
Babylon as a deserter, having previously concerted with Darius that a
thousand men, whose loss he could best spare, should be sent one day
to the gate of Semiramis, and two thousand, another day, to the gates
of Ninus, and four thousand, a third day, to the Chaldaean gates. All
these detachments Zopyrus, at the head of the Babylonians,
deliberately butchered. The confidence of the Babylonians thus
obtained, Zopyrus was enabled to betray the city to the king. This
cold-blooded and treacherous immolation of seven thousand subjects was
considered by the humane Darius and the Persians generally a proof of
the most illustrious virtue in Zopyrus, who received for it the reward
of the satrapy of Babylon. The narrative is so circumstantial as to
bear internal evidence of its general truth. In fact, a Persian would
care no more for the lives of seven thousand Medes than a Spartan
would care for the lives of suspected Helots.

[49] Herodot., lib. i., c. cxxxiv. The Pasargadae, whom the ancient
writers evidently and often confound with the whole Persian
population, retained the old education and severe discipline for their
youth, long after the old virtues had died away. (See Strabo, xv.,
Herod., lib. i., and the rhetorical romance of Xenophon.) But laws
and customs, from which the animating spirit of national opinion and
sentiment has passed, are but the cenotaphs of dead forms embalmed in

[50] Ctesias, 20.

[51] Herod., lib vii., c. xi.

[52] Juvenal, Richardson, etc. The preparations at Mount Athos
commenced three years before Xerxes arrived at Sardis. (Compare
Herod., l. vii. 21, with 33, 37.)

[53] Differently computed; according to Montfaucon, the sum total may
be estimated at thirty-two millions of Louis d'ors.

[54] It must be confessed that the tears of Xerxes were a little
misplaced. He wept that men could not live a hundred years, at the
very moment when he meditated destroying a tolerable portion of them
as soon as he possibly could.--Senec. de Brev. Vit., c. 17.

[55] Common also to the ancient Germans.

[56] For this reason--whoever died, whether by disease or battle, had
his place immediately supplied. Thus their number was invariably the

[57] Diod. Sic.

[58] See note [48].

[59] Her., lib. vii., c. 138.

[60] Mueller on the Greek Congress.

[61] Mueller on the Greek Congress.

[62] Anaxandrides, king of Sparta, and father of Cleomenes and
Leonidas, had married his niece: she was barren. The Ephors persuaded
him to take another wife; he did so, and by the second wife.
Cleomenes was born. Almost at the same time, the first wife, hitherto
barren, proved with child. And as she continued the conjugal
connexion, in process of time three sons were born; of these Leonidas
was the second. But Cleomenes, though the offspring of the second
wife, came into the world before the children by the first wife and
therefore had the prior right to the throne.

[63] It is impossible by any calculations to render this amount more
credible to modern skepticism. It is extremely likely that Herodotus
is mistaken in his calculation; but who shall correct him?

[64] The Cissii, or Cissians, inhabited the then fertile province of
Susiana, in which was situated the capital of Susa. They resembled
the Persians in dress and manners.

[65] So Herodotus (lib. vii., c. 218); but, as it was summer, the
noise was probably made rather by the boughs that obstructed the path
of the barbarians, than by leaves on the ground.

[66] Diod. Sic., xi., viii.

[67] Justin, ii., ix.

[68] Another Spartan, who had been sent into Thessaly, and was
therefore absent from the slaughter of Thermopylae, destroyed himself.

[69] The cross was the usual punishment in Persia for offences
against the king's majesty or rights. Perhaps, therefore, Xerxes, by
the outrage, only desired to signify that he considered the Spartan as
a rebel.

[70] "Thus fought the Greeks at Thermopylae," are the simple
expressions of Herodotus, lib. vii., c. 234.

[71] Thus the command of the Athenian forces was at one time likely
to fall upon Epicydes, a man whose superior eloquence had gained an
ascendency with the people, which was neither due to his integrity nor
to his military skill. Themistocles is said to have bribed him to
forego his pretensions. Themistocles could be as severe as crafty
when occasion demanded: he put to death an interpreter who accompanied
the Persian envoys, probably to the congress at the Isthmus [Plutarch
implies that these envoys came to Athens, but Xerxes sent none to that
city.], for debasing the language of free Greeks to express the
demands of the barbarian enemy.

[72] Plutarch rejects this story, very circumstantially told by
Herodotus, without adducing a single satisfactory argument for the
rejection. The skepticism of Plutarch is more frivolous even than his

[73] Demost., Philip. 3. See also Aeschines contra Ctesiphon.

[74] I have said that it might be doubted whether the death of
Leonidas was as serviceable to Greece as his life might have been; its
immediate consequences were certainly discouraging. If his valour was
an example, his defeat was a warning.

[75] There were [three hundred, for the sake of round numbers--but
one of the three hundred--perhaps two--survived the general massacre.]
three hundred Spartans and four hundred Thespians; supposing that (as
it has been asserted) the eighty warriors of Mycenae also remained
with Leonidas, and that one hundred, or a fourth of the Thebans fell
ere their submission was received, this makes a total of eight hundred
and eighty. If we take now what at Plataea was the actual ratio of
the helots as compared with the Spartans, i. e, seven to one, we shall
add two thousand one hundred helots, which make two thousand nine
hundred and ninety; to which must be added such of the Greeks as fell
in the attacks prior to the slaughter of Thermopylae; so that, in
order to make out the total of the slain given by Herodotus, more than
eleven hundred must have perished before the last action, in which
Leonidas fell.

[76] Plut. in vit. Them.

[77] Ibid.

[78] It is differently stated; by Aeschylus and Nepos at three
hundred, by Thucydides at four hundred.

[79] Plut. in vit. Them.

[80] Here we see additional reason for admiring the sagacity of

[81] Her., lib. viii., c. 74.

[82] The tutor of his children, Sicinnus, who had experience of the
Eastern manners, and spoke the Persian language.

[83] The number of the Persian galleys, at the lowest computation,
was a thousand [Nepos, Herodotus, and Isocrates compute the total at
about twelve hundred; the estimate of one thousand is taken from a
dubious and disputed passage in Aeschylus, which may be so construed
as to signify one thousand, including two hundred and seven vessels,
or besides two hundred and seven vessels; viz., twelve hundred and
seven in all, which is the precise number given by Herodotus. Ctesias
says there were more than one thousand.]; that of the Greeks, as we
have seen, three hundred and eighty. But the Persians were infinitely
more numerously manned, having on board of each vessel thirty men-at-
arms, in addition to the usual number of two hundred. Plutarch seems
to state the whole number in each Athenian vessel to be fourteen heavy
armed and four bowmen. But this would make the whole Athenian force
only three thousand two hundred and forty men, including the bowmen,
who were probably not Athenian citizens. It must therefore be
supposed, with Mr. Thirlwall, that the eighteen men thus specified
were an addition to the ordinary company.

[84] Aeschylus. Persae. 397.

[85] The Persian admiral at Salamis is asserted by Ctesias to have
been Onaphas, father-in-law to Xerxes. According to Herodotus, it was
Ariabignes, the king's brother, who seems the same as Artabazanes,
with whom he had disputed the throne.--Comp. Herod., lib. vii., c. 2,
and lib. viii., c. 89.

[86] Plut in vit. Them.

[87] Plut. in vit. Them. The Ariamenes of Plutarch is the Ariabignes
of Herodotus.

[88] Mr. Mitford, neglecting to observe this error of Xerxes,
especially noted by Herodotus, merely observes--"According to
Herodotus, though in this instance we may have difficulty to give him
entire credit, Xerxes, from the shore where he sat, saw, admired, and
applauded the exploit." From this passage one would suppose that
Xerxes knew it was a friend who had been attacked, and then, indeed,
we could not have credited the account; but if he and those about him
supposed it, as Herodotus states, a foe, what is there incredible?
This is one instance in ten thousand more important ones, of Mr.
Mitford's habit of arguing upon one sentence by omitting those that
follow and precede it.

[89] Diod., lib xi., c. 5. Herod., lib. viii., c. 110. Nepos, et
Plut, in vit. Them.

[90] Plut. in vit. Them.

[91] Ibid. These anecdotes have the stamp of authenticity.

[92] Herod., lib. viii., c. 125. See Wesseling's Comment on
Timodemus. Plutarch tells the same anecdote, but makes the baffled
rebuker of Themistocles a citizen of Seriphus, an island in which,
according to Aelian, the frogs never croaked; the men seem to have
made up for the silence of the frogs!

[93] See Fast. Hell., vol. ii., page 26.

[94] Plut. in vit. Arist.

[95] Ibid.

[96] The custom of lapidation was common to the earlier ages; it had
a kind of sanction, too, in particular offences; and no crime could be
considered by a brave and inflamed people equal to that of advice
against their honour and their liberties.

[97] See Herod., lib. ix., c. 10. Also Mr. Clinton on the Kings of
Sparta. Fast. Hell., vol. ii., p. 187.

[98] See Herod., lib, vi., c. 58. After the burial of a Spartan
king, ten days were devoted to mourning; nor was any public business
transacted in that interval.

[99] "According to Aristides' decree," says Plutarch, "the Athenian
envoys were Aristides, Xanthippus, Myronides, and Cimon."

[100] Herodotus speaks of the devastation and ruin as complete. But
how many ages did the monuments of Pisistratus survive the ravage of
the Persian sword!

[101] Plut. in vit. Arist.

[102] This, among a thousand anecdotes, proves how salutary and
inevitable was the popular distrust of the aristocracy. When we read
of the process of bribing the principal men, and of the conspiracy
entered into by others, we must treat with contempt those accusations
of the jealousy of the Grecian people towards their superiors which
form the staple declamations of commonplace historians.

[103] Gargaphia is one mile and a half from the town of Plataea.
Gell's Itin. 112.

[104] Plut. in vit. Arist.

[105] A strange fall from the ancient splendour of Mycenae, to
furnish only four hundred men, conjointly with Tiryns, to the cause of

[106] Her., lib. ix., c. 45.

[107] Plutarch in vit. Arist.

[108] This account, by Herodotus, of the contrast between the Spartan
and the Athenian leaders, which is amply supported elsewhere, is, as I
have before hinted, a proof of the little effect upon Spartan
emulation produced by the martyrdom of Leonidas. Undoubtedly the
Spartans were more terrified by the slaughter of Thermopylae than
fired by the desire of revenge.

[109] "Here seem to be several islands, formed by a sluggish stream
in a flat meadow. (Oeroe?) must have been of that description.--
"Gell's Itin, 109.

[110] Herod., lib. ix., c. 54.

[111] Plut. in vit. Arist.

[112] Sir W. Gell's Itin. of Greece.

[113] Herod. lib. ix., c. 62.

[114] The Tegeans had already seized the tent of Mardonius,
possessing themselves especially of a curious brazen manger, from
which the Persian's horse was fed, and afterward dedicated to the
Alean Minerva.

[115] I adopt the reading of Valcknaer, "tous hippeas." The Spartan
knights, in number three hundred, had nothing to do with the cavalry,
but fought on foot or on horseback, as required. (Dionys. Hal., xi.,
13.) They formed the royal bodyguard.

[116] Mr. Mitford attributes his absence from the scene to some
jealousy of the honours he received at Sparta, and the vain glory with
which he bore them. But the vague observations in the authors he
refers to by no means bear out this conjecture, nor does it seem
probable that the jealousy was either general or keen enough to effect
so severe a loss to the public cause. Menaced with grave and imminent
peril, it was not while the Athenians were still in the camp that they
would have conceived all the petty envies of the forum. The
jealousies Themistocles excited were of much later date. It is
probable that at this period he was intrusted with the very important
charge of watching over and keeping together that considerable but
scattered part of the Athenian population which was not engaged either
at Mycale or Plataea.

[117] Thucyd., lib. i., c. 89.

[118] Ibid., lib. i., c. 90.

[119] Diod. Sic., lib. xi.; Thucyd., lib. i., c. 90.

[120] Ap. Plut. in vit. Them.

[121] Diodorus (lib. xi.) tells us that the Spartan ambassadors,
indulging in threatening and violent language at perceiving the walls
so far advanced, were arrested by the Athenians, who declared they
would only release them on receiving hack safe and uninjured their own

[122] Thucyd., lib. i., c. 91.

[123] Ibid., lib. i., c. 92.

[124] Schol. ad Thucyd., lib. i., c. 93. See Clinton, Fasti Hell.,
vol. i., Introduction, p. 13 and 14. Mr. Thirlwall, vol. ii., p. 401,
disputes the date for the archonship of Themistocles given by Mr.
Clinton and confirmed by the scholiast on Thucydides. He adopts (page
366) the date which M. Boeckh founds upon Philochorus, viz., B. C.
493. But the Themistocles who was archon in that year is evidently
another person from the Themistocles of Salamis; for in 493 that hero
was about twenty-one, an age at which the bastard of Neocles might be
driving courtesans in a chariot (as is recorded in Athenaeus), but was
certainly not archon of Athens. As for M. Boeckh's proposed
emendation, quoted so respectfully by Mr. Thirlwall, by which we are
to read Hybrilidon for Kebridos, it is an assumption so purely
fanciful as to require no argument for refusing it belief. Mr.
Clinton's date for the archonship of the great Themistocles is the one
most supported by internal evidence--1st, by the blanks of the years
481-482 in the list of archons; 2dly, by the age, the position, and
repute of Themistocles in B. C. 481, two years after the ostracism of
his rival Aristides. If it were reduced to a mere contest of
probabilities between Mr. Clinton on one side and Mr. Boeckh and Mr.
Thirlwall on the other, which is the more likely, that Themistocles
should have been chief archon of Athens at twenty-one or at thirty-
three--before the battle of Marathon or after his triumph over
Aristides? In fact, a schoolboy knows that at twenty-one (and
Themistocles was certainly not older in 493) no Athenian could have
been archon. In all probability Kebridos is the right reading in
Philochorus, and furnishes us with the name of the archon in B. C. 487
or 486, which years have hitherto been chronological blanks, so far as
the Athenian archons are concerned.

[125] Pausan., lib. i., c. 1.

[126] Diod., lib. xi.

[127] Diod., lib. xi.

[128] Diod., lib. xi. The reader will perceive that I do not agree
with Mr. Thirlwall and some other scholars, for whose general opinion
I have the highest respect, in rejecting altogether, and with
contempt, the account of Diodorus as to the precautions of
Themistocles. It seems to me highly probable that the main features
of the story are presented to us faithfully; 1st, that it was not
deemed expedient to detail to the popular assembly all the objects and
motives of the proposed construction of the new port; and, 2dly, that
Themistocles did not neglect to send ambassadors to Sparta, though
certainly not with the intention of dealing more frankly with the
Spartans than he had done with the Athenians.

[129] Thucyd., lib. i.

[130] Aristot. Pol., lib. ii. Aristotle deems the speculations of
the philosophical architect worthy of a severe and searching

[131] Of all the temples, those of Minerva and Jupiter were the most
remarkable in the time of Pausanias. There were then two market-
places. See Pausanias, lib. i., c. i.

[132] Yet at this time the Amphictyonic Council was so feeble that,
had the Spartans succeeded, they would have made but a hollow
acquisition of authority; unless, indeed, with the project of gaining
a majority of votes, they united another for reforming or
reinvigorating the institution.

[133] Thucyd., lib. i., c. 96.

[134] Heeren, Pol. Hist. of Greece.

[135] Corn. Nep. in vit. Paus.

[136] Thucyd., lib. i., c. 129.

[137] Plut. in vit. Arist.

[138] Ibid.

[139] Thucyd., lib. i.

[140] Plut. in vit. Cimon. Before this period, Cimon, though rising
into celebrity, could scarcely have been an adequate rival to

[141] Corn. Nep. in vit. Cim.

[142] According to Diodorus, Cimon early in life made a very wealthy
marriage; Themistocles recommended him to a rich father-in-law, in a
witticism, which, with a slight variation, Plutarch has also recorded,
though he does not give its application to Cimon.

[143] Corn. Nep. in vit. Cim.

[144] Thucyd., lib. i.

[145] Ibid., lib. i. Plut. in vit. Cim. Diod. Sic., lib. xi.

[146] See Clinton, Fast. Hell., vol. ii., p. 34, in comment upon

[147] Athenaeus, lib. xii.

[148] Plut. in vit. Them.

[149] Plut. in vit. Aristid.

[150] About twenty-three English acres. This was by no means a
despicable estate in the confined soil of Attica.

[151] Aristot. apud Plat. vit. Cim.

[152] Produced equally by the anti-popular party on popular pretexts.
It was under the sanction of Mr. Pitt that the prostitution of charity
to the able-bodied was effected in England.

[153] Plut. in vit. Cim.

[154] His father's brother, Cleomenes, died raving mad, as we have
already seen. There was therefore insanity in the family.

[155] Plut. in vit. Cim. Pausanias, lib. iii., c. 17.

[156] Pausarias, lib. iii., c. 17.

[157] Phigalea, according to Pausanias.

[158] Plut. in vit. Cim.

[159] Thucyd., lib. i.

[160] Plato, leg. vi.

[161] Nep. in vit. Paus.

[162] Pausanias observes that his renowned namesake was the only
suppliant taking refuge at the sanctuary of Minerva Chalcioecus who
did not obtain the divine protection, and this because he could never
purify himself of the murder of Cleonice.

[163] Thucyd., lib. i., 136.

[164] Plut. in vit. Them.

[165] Thucyd., lib. i., 137.

[166] Mr. Mitford, while doubting the fact, attempts, with his usual
disingenuousness, to raise upon the very fact that he doubts,
reproaches against the horrors of democratical despotism. A strange
practice for an historian to allow the premises to be false, and then
to argue upon them as true!

[167] The brief letter to Artaxerxes, given by Thucydides (lib i.,
137), is as evidently the composition of Thucydides himself as is the
celebrated oration which he puts into the mouth of Pericles. Each has
the hard, rigid, and grasping style so peculiar to the historian, and
to which no other Greek writer bears the slightest resemblance. But
the matter may be more genuine than the diction.

[168] At the time of his arrival in Asia, Xerxes seems to have been
still living. But he appeared at Susa during the short interval
between the death of Xerxes and the formal accession of his son, when,
by a sanguinary revolution, yet to be narrated, Artabanus was raised
to the head of the Persian empire: ere the year expired Artaxerxes was
on the throne.

[169] I relate this latter account of the death of Themistocles, not
only because Thucydides (though preferring the former) does not
disdain to cite it, but also because it is evident, from the speech of
Nicias, in the Knights of Aristophanes, i. 83, 84, that in the time of
Pericles it was popularly believed by the Athenians that Themistocles
died by poison; and from motives that rendered allusion to his death a
popular claptrap. It is also clear that the death of Themistocles
appears to have reconciled him at once to the Athenians. The previous
suspicions of his fidelity to Greece do not seem to have been kept
alive even by the virulence of party; and it is natural to suppose
that it must have been some act of his own, real or imagined, which
tended to disprove the plausible accusations against him, and revive
the general enthusiasm in his favour. What could that act have been
but the last of his life, which, in the lines of Aristophanes referred
to above, is cited as the ideal of a glorious death! But if he died
by poison, the draught was not bullock's blood--the deadly nature of
which was one of the vulgar fables of the ancients. In some parts of
the continent it is, in this day, even used as medicine.

[170] Plut. in vit. Them.

[171] Plut. in vit. Them.

[172] Thucyd., lib. i.

[173] Diod., lib. xi.

[174] Plut. in vit. Cim.

[175] Diod. (lib. xi.) reckons the number of prisoners at twenty
thousand! These exaggerations sink glory into burlesque.

[176] The Cyaneae. Plin. vi., c. 12. Herod. iv., c. 85, etc. etc.

[177] Thucyd., lib.., 99.

[178] Plut. in vit. Cim.

[179] For the siege of Thasos lasted three years; in the second year
we find Cimon marching to the relief of the Spartans; in fact, the
siege of Thasos was not of sufficient importance to justify Cimon in a
very prolonged absence from Athens.

[180] Plut. in vit. Cim.

[181] Plut. in vit. Cim.

[182] Those historians who presume upon the slovenly sentences of
Plutarch, that Pericles made "an instrument" of Ephialtes in assaults
on the Areopagus, seem strangely to mistake both the character of
Pericles, which was dictatorial, not crafty, and the position of
Ephialtes, who at that time was the leader of his party, and far more
influential than Pericles himself. Plato (ap. Plut. in vit. Peric.)
rightly considers Ephialtes the true overthrower of the Areopagus; and
although Pericles assisted him (Aristot., l. ii., c. 9), it was
against Ephialtes as the chief, not "the instrument," that the wrath
of the aristocracy was directed.

[183] See Demosth. adv. Aristocr., p. 642. ed. Reisk. Herman ap.
Heidelb. Jahrb., 1830, No. 44. Forckhammer de Areopago, etc. against
Boeckh. I cannot agree with those who attach so much importance to
Aeschylus, in the tragedy of "The Furies," as an authority in favour
of the opinion that the innovations of Ephialtes deprived the
Areopagus of jurisdiction in cases of homicide. It is true that the
play turns upon the origin of the tribunal--it is true that it
celebrates its immemorial right of adjudication of murder, and that
Minerva declares this court of judges shall remain for ever. But
would this prophecy be risked at the very time when this court was
about to be abolished? In the same speech of Minerva, far more direct
allusion is made to the police of the court in the fear and reverence
due to it; and strong exhortations follow, not to venerate anarchy or
tyranny, or banish "all fear from the city," which apply much more
forcibly to the council than to the court of the Areopagus.

[184] That the Areopagus did, prior to the decree of Ephialtes,
possess a power over the finances, appears from a passage in Aristotle
(ap. Plut. in vit. Them.), in which it is said that, in the expedition
to Salamis, the Areopagus awarded to each man eight drachmae.

[185] Plutarch attributes his ostracism to the resentment of the
Athenians on his return from Ithome; but this is erroneous. He was
not ostracised till two years after his return.

[186] Mikaeas epilabomenoi prophaseos.--Plut. in vit. Cim. 17.

[187] Neither Aristotle (Polit., lib. v., c. 10), nor Justin, nor
Ctesias nor Moderns speak of the assassin as kinsman to Xerxes. In
Plutarch (Vit. Them.) he is Artabanus the Chiliarch.

[188] Ctesias, 30; Diod, 11; Justin, lib. iii., c. 1. According to
Aristotle, Artabanus, as captain of the king's guard, received an
order to make away with Darius, neglected the command, and murdered
Xerxes from fears for his own safety.

[189] Thucyd., lib. i., 107. The three towns of Doris were,
according to Thucydides, Baeum, Cytenium, and Erineus. The scholiast
on Pindar (Pyth. i., 121) speaks of six towns.

[190] Thucyd., lib. i.

[191] Thucydides, in mentioning these operations of the Athenians,
and the consequent fears of the Spartans, proves to what a length
hostilities had gone, though war was not openly declared.

[192] Diod. Sic.. lib. xi.

[193] Thucyd., lib, i.

[194] Diod., lib. xi.

[195] Certain German historians, Mueller among others, have built
enormous conclusions upon the smallest data, when they suppose Cimon
was implicated in this conspiracy. Meirs (Historia Juris de bonis
Damnatis, p. 4, note 11) is singularly unsuccessful in connecting the
supposed fine of fifty talents incurred by Cimon with the civil
commotions of this period. In fact, that Cimon was ever fined at all
is very improbable; the supposition rests upon most equivocal ground:
if adopted, it is more likely, perhaps, that the fine was inflicted
after his return from Thasos, when he was accused of neglecting the
honour of the Athenian arms, and being seduced by Macedonian gold (a
charge precisely of a nature for which a fine would have been
incurred). But the whole tale of this imaginary fine, founded upon a
sentence in Demosthenes, who, like many orators, was by no means
minutely accurate in historical facts, is possibly nothing more than a
confused repetition of the old story of the fine of fifty talents (the
same amount) imposed upon Miltiades, and really paid by Cimon. This
is doubly, and, indeed, indisputably clear, if we accept Becker's
reading of Parion for patrion in the sentence of Demosthenes referred

[196] If we can attach any credit to the Oration on Peace ascribed to
Andocides, Cimon was residing on his patrimonial estates in the
Chersonese at the time of his recall. As Athens retained its right to
the sovereignty of this colony, and as it was a most important
position as respected the recent Athenian conquests under Cimon
himself, the assertion, if true, will show that Cimon's ostracism was
attended with no undue persecution. Had the government seriously
suspected him of any guilty connivance with the oligarchic
conspirators, it could scarcely have permitted him to remain in a
colony, the localities of which were peculiarly favourable to any
treasonable designs he might have formed.

[197] In the recall of Cimon, Plutarch tells us, some historians
asserted that it was arranged between the two parties that the
administration of the state should be divided; that Cimon should be
invested with the foreign command of Cyprus, and Pericles remain the
head of the domestic government. But it was not until the sixth year
after his recall (viz., in the archonship of Euthydemus, see Diodorus
xii.) that Cimon went to Cyprus; and before that event Pericles
himself was absent on foreign expeditions.

[198] Plutarch, by a confusion of dates, blends this short armistice
with the five years' truce some time afterward concluded. Mitford and
others have followed him in his error. That the recall of Cimon was
followed by no peace, not only with the Spartans, but the
Peloponnesians generally, is evident from the incursions of Tolmides
presently to be related.

[199] Diod lib. xi.

[200] See Mueller's Dorians, and the authorities he quotes. Vol. i.,
b. I.

[201] For so I interpret Diodorus.

[202] Diod. Sic., lib. xi.

[203] There was a democratic party in Thessaly always favourable to
Athens. See Thucyd., iv., c. 88.

[204] Now Lepanto.

[205] Paus., lib. ii., c. 25.

[206] Plut. in vit. Peric.

[207] Thucyd., lib. i., 112.

[208] Diod., lib. xi. Plut. in vit. Cim. Heeren, Manual of Ancient
History; but Mr. Mitford and Mr. Thirlwall properly reject this
spurious treaty.

[209] Plut. in Cim.

[210] The Clouds.

[211] Isoc. Areop., 38.

[212] Idomen. ap. Athen., lib. xii.

[213] Thucyd., lib. ii., 16; Isoc. Areopag., e. xx., p. 234.

[214] If we believe with Plutarch that wives accompanied their
husbands to the house of Aspasia (and it was certainly a popular
charge against Pericles that Aspasia served to corrupt the Athenian
matrons), they could not have been so jealously confined as writers,
judging from passages in the Greek writers that describe not what
women were, but what women ought to be, desire us to imagine. And it
may be also observed, that the popular anecdotes represent Elpinice as
a female intriguante, busying herself in politics, and mediating
between Cimon and Pericles; anecdotes, whether or not they be strictly
faithful, that at least tend to illustrate the state of society.

[215] As I propose, in a subsequent part of this work, to enter at
considerable length into the social life and habits of the Athenians,
I shall have full opportunity for a more detailed account of these
singular heroines of Alciphron and the later comedians.

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