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Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Complete by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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severity of the Dorian morals, these sturdy matrons rather discarded
the graces than avoided the frailties of their softer contemporaries.
Plato [Plat. de legibus, lib. i. and lib. vi.] and Aristotle [Aristot.
Repub., lib. ii.] give very unfavourable testimonials of their
chastity. Plutarch, the blind panegyrist of Sparta, observes with
amusing composure, that the Spartan husbands were permitted to lend
their wives to each other; and Polybius (in a fragment of the 12th
book) [Fragm. Vatican., tom. ii., p. 384.] informs us that it was an
old-fashioned and common custom in Sparta for three or four brothers
to share one wife. The poor husbands!--no doubt the lady was a match
for them all! So much for those gentle creatures whom that grave
German professor, M. Mueller, holds up to our admiration and despair.

[145] In Homer the condition of the slave seems, everywhere, tempered
by the kindness and indulgence of the master.

[146] Three of the equals always attended the king's person in war.

[147] The institution of the ephors has been, with probability,
referred to this epoch--chosen at first as the viceroys in the absence
of the kings.

[148] Pausanias, Messenics.

[149] See Mueller's Dorians, vol. i., p. 172, and Clinton's Fast.
Hell. vol. i., p. 183.

[150] For the dates here given of the second Messenian war see Fast.
Hell., vol. i., 190, and Appendix 2.

[151] Now called Messina.

[152] In Phocis were no less than twenty-two states (poleis); in
Boeotia, fourteen; in Achaia, ten. The ancient political theorists
held no community too small for independence, provided the numbers
sufficed for its defence. We find from Plato that a society of five
thousand freemen capable of bearing arms was deemed powerful enough to
constitute an independent state. One great cause of the ascendency of
Athens and Sparta was, that each of those cities had from an early
period swept away the petty independent states in their several
territories of Attica and Laconia.

[153] Machiavel (Discor., lib. i., c. ii.).

[154] Lib. iv., c. 13.

[155] Aristotle cites among the advantages of wealth, that of being
enabled to train horses. Wherever the nobility could establish among
themselves a cavalry, the constitution was oligarchical. Yet, even in
states which did not maintain a cavalry (as Athens previous to the
constitution of Solon), an oligarchy was the first form of government
that rose above the ruins of monarchy.

[156] One principal method of increasing the popular action was by
incorporating the neighbouring villages or wards in one municipality
with the capital. By this the people gained both in number and in

[157] Sometimes in ancient Greece there arose a species of lawful
tyrants, under the name of Aesymnetes. These were voluntarily chosen
by the people, sometimes for life, sometimes for a limited period, and
generally for the accomplishment of some particular object. Thus was
Pittacus of Mitylene elected to conduct the war against the exiles.
With the accomplishment of the object he abdicated his power. But the
appointment of Aesymnetes can hardly be called a regular form of
government. They soon became obsolete--the mere creatures of
occasion. While they lasted, they bore a strong resemblance to the
Roman dictators--a resemblance remarked by Dionysius, who quotes
Theophrastus as agreeing with Aristotle in his account of the

[158] For, as the great Florentine has well observed, "To found well
a government, one man is the best--once established, the care and
execution of the laws should be transferred to many."--(Machiavel.
Discor., lib. i., c. 9.) And thus a tyranny builds the edifice, which
the republic hastens to inhabit.

[159] That of Orthagoras and his sons in Sicyon. "Of all
governments," says Aristotle, "that of an oligarchy, or of a tyrant,
is the least permanent." A quotation that cannot be too often pressed
on the memory of those reasoners who insist so much on the brief
duration of the ancient republics.

[160] Besides the representation necessary to confederacies--such as
the Amphictyonic League, etc., a representative system was adopted at
Mantinea, where the officers were named by deputies chosen by the
people. "This form of democracy," says Aristotle, "existed among the
shepherds and husbandmen of Arcadia;" and was probably not uncommon
with the ancient Pelasgians. But the myrioi of Arcadia had not the
legislative power.

[161] "Then to the lute's soft voice prolong the night,
Music, the banquet's most refined delight."
Pope's Odyssey, book xxi., 473.

It is stronger in the original--

Moltae kai phormingi tu gar t'anathaemata daitos.

[162] Iliad, book ix., Pope's translation, line 250.

[163] Heyne, F. Clinton, etc.

[164] Pope's translation, b. iv., line 75, etc.

[165] At least this passage is sufficient to refute the arguments of
Mr. Mitford, and men more learned than that historian, who, in taking
for their premises as an indisputable fact the extraordinary
assumption, that Homer never once has alluded to the return of the
Heraclidae, arrive at a conclusion very illogical, even if the
premises were true, viz., that therefore Homer preceded the date of
that great revolution.

[166] I own that this seems to me the most probable way of accounting
for the singular and otherwise disproportioned importance attached by
the ancient poets to that episode in the Trojan war, which relates to
the feud of Achilles and Agamemnon. As the first recorded enmity
between the great Achaeans and the warriors of Phthiotis, it would
have a solemn and historical interest both to the conquering Dorians
and the defeated Achaeans, flattering to the national vanity of either

[167] I adopt the analysis of the anti-Homer arguments so clearly
given by Mr. Coleridge in his eloquent Introduction to the Study of
the Greek Poets. Homer, p. 39.

[168] en spanei biblon, are the words of Herodotus. Leaves and the
bark of trees were also used from a very remote period previous to the
common use of the papyrus, and when we are told that leaves would not
suffice for works of any length or duration, it must not be forgotten
that in a much later age it was upon leaves (and mutton bones) that
the Koran was transcribed. The rudest materials are sufficient for
the preservation of what men deem it their interest to preserve!

[169] See Clinton's F. H., vol. i., p. 145.

[170] Critics, indeed, discover some pretended gaps and
interpolations; but these, if conceded, are no proof against the unity
of Homer; the wonder is, that there should be so few of such
interpolations, considering the barbarous age which intervened between
their composition and the time in which they were first carefully
edited and collected. With more force it is urged against the
argument in favour of the unity of Homer, derived from the unity of
the style and character, that there are passages which modern critics
agree to be additions to the original poems, made centuries afterward,
and yet unsuspected by the ancients; and that in these additions--such
as the last books of the Iliad, with many others less important--the
Homeric unity of style and character is still sustained. We may
answer, however, that, in the first place, we have a right to be
skeptical as to these discoveries--many of them rest on very
insufficient critical grounds; in the second place, if we grant them,
it is one thing whether a forged addition be introduced into a poem,
and another thing whether the poem be all additions; in the third
place, we may observe, that successful imitations of the style and
characters of an author, however great, may be made many centuries
afterward with tolerable ease, and by a very inferior genius,
although, at the time he wrote or sung, it is not easy to suppose that
half a dozen or more poets shared his spirit or style. It is a very
common scholastic trick to imitate, nowadays, and with considerable
felicity, the style of the greatest writers, ancient and modern. But
the unity of Homer does not depend on the question whether imitative
forgeries were introduced into a great poem, but whether a multitude
of great poets combined in one school on one subject. An ingenious
student of Shakspeare, or the elder dramatists, might impose upon the
public credulity a new scene, or even a new play, as belonging to
Shakspeare, but would that be any proof that a company of Shakspeares
combined in the production of Macbeth? I own, by-the-way, that I am a
little doubtful as to our acumen in ascertaining what is Homeric and
what is not, seeing that Schlegel, after devoting half a life to
Shakspeare (whose works are composed in a living language, the
authenticity of each of which works a living nation can attest),
nevertheless attributes to that poet a catalogue of plays of which
Shakspeare is perfectly innocent!--but, to be sure, Steevens does the

[171] That Pisistratus or his son, assisted by the poets of his day,
did more than collect, arrange, and amend poems already in high
repute, we have not only no authority to suppose, but much evidence to
contradict. Of the true services of Pisistratus to Homer, more

[172] "The descent of Theseus with Pirithous into hell," etc.--Paus.,
ix., c. 31.

[173] Especially if with the Boeotians we are to consider the most
poetical passage (the introductory lines to the muses) a spurious

[174] A herdsman.

[175] I cannot omit a tradition recorded by Pausanias. A leaden
table near the fountain was shown by the Boeotians as that on which
the "Works and Days" was written. The poems of Hesiod certainly do
not appear so adapted to recital as perusal. Yet, by the most
plausible chronology, they were only composed about one hundred years
after those of Homer!

[176] The Aones, Hyantes, and other tribes, which I consider part of
the great Pelasgic family, were expelled from Boeotia by Thracian
hordes. [They afterward returned in the time of the Dorian
emigration.] Some of the population must, however, have remained--the
peasantry of the land; and in Hesiod we probably possess the national
poetry, and arrive at the national religion, of the old Pelasgi.

[177] Welcker.

[178] The deadly signs which are traced by Praetus on the tablets of
which Bellerophon was the bearer, and which are referred to in the
Iliad, are generally supposed by the learned to have been pictorial,
and, as it were, hieroglyphical figures; my own belief, and the
easiest interpretation of the passage, is, that they were alphabetical
characters--in a word, writing, not painting.

[179] Pausanias, lib. i., c. 27, speaks of a wooden statue in the
Temple of Pohas, in Athens, said to have been the gift of Cecrops;
and, with far more claim to belief, in the previous chapter he tells
us that the most holy of all the images was a statue of Minerva,
which, by the common consent of all the towns before incorporated in
one city, was dedicated in the citadel, or polis. Tradition,
therefore, carried the date of this statue beyond the time of Theseus.
Plutarch also informs us that Theseus himself, when he ordained divine
honours to be paid to Ariadne, ordered two little statues to be made
of her--one of silver and one of brass.

[180] All that Homer calls the work of Vulcan, such as the dogs in
the palace of Alcinous, etc., we may suppose to be the work of
foreigners. A poet could scarcely attribute to the gods a work that
his audience knew an artificer in their own city had made!

[181] See Odyssey, book vii.

[182] The effect of the arts, habits, and manners of a foreign
country is immeasurably more important upon us if we visit that
country, than if we merely receive visits from its natives. For
example, the number of French emigrants who crowded our shores at the
time of the French revolution very slightly influenced English
customs, etc. But the effect of the French upon us when, after the
peace, our own countrymen flocked to France, was immense.

[183] Herod., lib. ii., c. 178.

[184] Grecian architecture seems to have been more free from
obligation to any technical secrets of Egyptian art than Grecian
statuary or painting. For, in the first place, it is more than
doubtful whether the Doric order was not invented in European Greece
long prior to the reign of Psammetichus [The earliest known temple at
Corinth is supposed by Col. Leake to bear date B. C. 800, about one
hundred and thirty years before the reign of Psammetichus in Egypt.];
and, in the second place, it is evident that the first hints and
rudiments both of the Doric and the Ionic order were borrowed, not
from buildings of the massive and perennial materials of Egyptian
architecture, but from wooden edifices; growing into perfection as
stone and marble were introduced, and the greater difficulty and
expense of the workmanship insensibly imposed severer thought and more
elaborate rules upon the architect. But I cannot agree with Mueller
and others, that because the first hints of the Doric order were taken
from wooden buildings, therefore the first invention was necessarily
with the Dorians, since many of the Asiatic cities were built chiefly
of wood. It seems to me most probable that Asia gave the first
notions of these beautiful forms, and that the Greeks carried them to
perfection before the Asiatics, not only from their keen perception of
the graceful, but because they earlier made a general use of stone.
We learn from Herodotus that the gorgeous Sardis was built chiefly of
wood, at a time when the marble of Paros was a common material of the
Grecian temples.

[185] Thales was one of the seven wise men, B. C. 586, when
Pherecydes of Syrus, the first prose writer, was about fourteen years
old. Mr. Clinton fixes the acme of Pherecydes about B. C. 572.
Cadmus of Miletus flourished B. C. 530.

[186] To this solution of the question, why literature should
generally commence with attempts at philosophy, may he added another:
--When written first breaks upon oral communication, the reading
public must necessarily be extremely confined. In many early nations,
that reading public would be composed of the caste of priests; in this
case philosophy would be cramped by superstition. In Greece, there
being no caste of priests, philosophy embraced those studious minds
addicted to a species of inquiry which rejected the poetical form, as
well as the poetical spirit. It may be observed, that the more
limited the reading public, the more abstruse are generally prose
compositions; as readers increase, literature goes back to the fashion
of oral communication; for if the reciter addressed the multitude in
the earlier age, so the writer addresses a multitude in the later;
literature, therefore, commences with poetical fiction, and usually
terminates with prose fiction. It was so in the ancient world--it
will he so with England and France. The harvest of novels is, I fear,
a sign of the approaching exhaustion of the soil.

[187] See chapter i.

[188] Instead of Periander of Corinth, is (by Plato, and therefore)
more popularly, but less justly, ranked Myson of Chene.

[189] Attributed also to Thales; Stob. Serm.

[190] Aristotle relates (Pol., lib. i.) a singular anecdote of the
means whereby this philosopher acquired wealth. His skill in
meteorology made him foresee that there would be one season an
extraordinary crop of olives. He hired during the previous winter all
the oil-presses in Chios and Miletus, employing his scanty fortune in
advances to the several proprietors. When the approaching season
showed the ripening crops, every man wished to provide olive-presses
as quickly as possible; and Thales, having them all, let them at a
high price. His monopoly made his fortune, and he showed to his
friends, says Aristotle, that it was very easy for philosophers to be
rich if they desire it, though such is not their principal desire;--
philosophy does not find the same facilities nowadays.

[191] Thus Homer is cited in proof of the progenital humidity,

"'Okeanos hosper ginesis pantos tet ktai;"

The Bryant race of speculators would attack us at once with "the
spirit moving on the face of the waters." It was not an uncommon
opinion in Greece that chaos was first water settling into slime, and
then into earth; and there are good but not sufficient reasons to
attribute a similar, and of course earlier, notion to the Phoenicians,
and still more perhaps to the Indians.

[192] Plut. de Plac. Phil.

[193] Ap. Stob. Serm.

[194] Laert.

[195] According to Clinton's chronology, viz., one year after the
legislation of Draco. This emendation of dates formerly received
throws considerable light upon the causes of the conspiracy, which
perhaps took its strength from the unpopularity and failure of Draco's
laws. Following the very faulty chronology which pervades his whole
work, Mr. Mitford makes the attempt of Cylon precede the legislation
of Draco.

[196] A cap.

[197] The expedition against Salamis under Solon preceded the arrival
of Epimenides at Athens, which was in 596. The legislation of Solon
was B. C. 594--the first tyranny of Pisistratus B. C. 560: viz.,
thirty-four years after Solon's legislation, and at least thirty-seven
years after Solon's expedition to Salamis. But Pisistratus lived
thirty-three years after his first usurpation, so that, if he had
acted in the first expedition to Salamis, he would have lived to an
age little short of one hundred, and been considerably past eighty at
the time of his third most brilliant and most energetic government!
The most probable date for the birth of Pisistratus is that assigned
by Mr. Clinton, about B. C. 595, somewhat subsequent to Solon's
expedition to Salamis, and only about a year prior to Solon's
legislation. According to this date, Pisistratus would have been
about sixty-eight at the time of his death. The error of Plutarch
evidently arose from his confounding two wars with Megara for Salamis,
attended with similar results--the first led by Solon, the second by
Pisistratus. I am the more surprised that Mr. Thirlwall should have
fallen into the error of making Pisistratus contemporary with Solon in
this affair, because he would fix the date of the recovery of Salamis
at B. C. 604 (see note to Thirlwall's Greece, p. 25, vol. ii.), and
would suppose Solon to be about thirty-two at that time (viz., twenty-
six years old in 612 B. C.). (See Thirlwall, vol. ii., p. 23, note.)
Now, as Pisistratus could not have been well less than twenty-one, to
have taken so prominent a share as that ascribed to him by Plutarch and
his modern followers, in the expedition, he must, according to such
hypothesis, have been only eleven years younger than Solon, have
perpetrated his first tyranny just before Solon died of old age, and
married a second wife when he was near eighty! Had this been the
case, the relations of the lady could not reasonably have been angry
that the marriage was not consummated!

[198] We cannot suppose, as the careless and confused Plutarch would
imply, that the people, or popular assembly, reversed the decree; the
government was not then democratic, but popular assemblies existed,
which, in extraordinary cases--especially, perhaps, in the case of
war--it was necessary to propitiate, and customary to appeal to. I
make no doubt that it was with the countenance and consent of the
archons that Solon made his address to the people, preparing them to
receive the repeal of the decree, which, without their approbation, it
might be unsafe to propose.

[199] As the quotation from Homer is extremely equivocal, merely
stating that Ajax joined the ships that he led from Salamis with those
of the Athenians, one cannot but suppose, that if Solon had really
taken the trouble to forge a verse, he would have had the common sense
to forge one much more decidedly in favour of his argument.

[200] Fifty-seven, according to Pliny.

[201] Plut. in Vit. Sol.

[202] Arist. Pol., lib. ii., c. 8.

[203] This regulation is probably of later date than the time of
Solon. To Pisistratus is referred a law for disabled citizens, though
its suggestion is ascribed to Solon. It was, however, a law that
evidently grew out of the principles of Solon.

[204] A tribe contained three phratries, or fraternities--a phratry
contained three genes or clans--a genos or clan was composed of thirty
heads of families. As the population, both in the aggregate and in
these divisions, must have been exposed to constant fluctuations, the
aforesaid numbers were most probably what we may describe as a fiction
in law, as Boeckh (Pol. Econ. of Athens, vol. i., p. 47, English
translation) observes, "in the same manner that the Romans called the
captain a centurion, even if he commanded sixty men, so a family might
have been called a triakas (i.e., a thirtiad), although it contained
fifty or more persons." It has been conjectured indeed by some, that
from a class not included in these families, vacancies in the
phratries were filled up; but this seems to be a less probable
supposition than that which I have stated above. If the numbers in
Pollux were taken from a census in the time of Solon, the four tribes
at that time contained three hundred and sixty families, each family
consisting of thirty persons; this would give a total population of
ten thousand eight hundred free citizens. It was not long before that
population nearly doubled itself, but the titles of the subdivisions
remained the same. I reserve for an appendix a more detailed and
critical view of the vehement but tedious disputes of the learned on
the complicated subject of the Athenian tribes and families.

[205] Boeckh (Pub. Econ. of Athens, book iv., chap. v.) contends,
from a law preserved by Demosthenes, that the number of measures for
the zeugitae was only one hundred and fifty. But his argument,
derived from the analogy of the sum to be given to an heiress by her
nearest relation, if he refused to marry her, is by no means
convincing enough to induce us to reject the proportion of two hundred
measures, "preserved (as Boeckh confesses) by all writers," especially
as in the time of Demosthenes. Boeckh himself, in a subsequent
passage, rightly observes, that the names of zeugitae, etc., could
only apply to new classes introduced in the place of those instituted
by Solon.

[206] With respect to the value of "a measure" in that time, it was
estimated at a drachma, and a drachma was the price of a sheep.

[207] The law against idleness is attributable rather to Pisistratus
than Solon.

[208] Athenaeus, lib. xiv.

[209] Plutarch de Gloria Athen. I do not in this sketch entirely
confine myself to Solon's regulations respecting the areopagus.

[210] The number of the areopagites depending upon the number of the
archons, was necessarily fluctuating and uncertain. An archon was not
necessarily admitted to the areopagus. He previously underwent a
rigorous and severe examination of the manner in which he had
discharged the duties of his office, and was liable to expulsion upon
proofs of immorality or unworthiness.

[211] Some modern writers have contended that at the time of Solon
the members of the council were not chosen by lot; their arguments are
not to me very satisfactory. But if merely a delegation of the
Eupatrids, as such writers suppose, the council would be still more
vicious in its constitution.

[212] Pollux.

[213] Aeschines in Timarch.

[214] Each member was paid (as in England once, as in America at this
day) a moderate sum (one drachma) for his maintenance, and at the
termination of his trust, peculiar integrity was rewarded with money
from the public treasury.

[215] When there were ten tribes, each tribe presided thirty-five
days, or five weeks; when the number was afterward increased to
twelve, the period of the presidency was one month.

[216] Atimos means rather unhonoured than dishonoured. He to whom,
in its milder degree, the word was applied, was rather withdrawn (as
it were) from honour than branded with disgrace. By rapid degrees,
however, the word ceased to convey its original meaning; it was
applied to offences so ordinary and common, that it sunk into a mere
legal term.

[217] The more heinous of the triple offences, termed eisangelia.

[218] This was a subsequent law; an obolus, or one penny farthing,
was the first payment; it was afterward increased to three oboli, or
threepence three farthings.

[219] Sometimes, also, the assembly was held in the Pnyx, afterward
so celebrated: latterly, also (especially in bad weather), in the
temple of Bacchus;--on extraordinary occasions, in whatever place was
deemed most convenient or capacious.

[220] Plato de Legibus.

[221] Plutarch assures us that Solon issued a decree that his laws
were to remain in force a hundred years: an assertion which modern
writers have rejected as incompatible with their constant revision.
It was not, however, so contradictory a decree as it seems at first
glance--for one of the laws not to be altered was this power of
amending and revising the laws. And, therefore, the enactment in
dispute would only imply that the constitution was not to be altered
except through the constitutional channel which Solon had appointed.

[222] See Fast. Hell., vol. ii., 276.

[223] Including, as I before observed, that law which provided for
any constitutional change in a constitutional manner.

[224] "Et Croesum quem vox justi facunda Solonis
Respicere ad longae jussit spatia ultima vitae."
Juv., Sat. x., s. 273.

The story of the interview and conversation between Croesus and Solon
is supported by so many concurrent authorities, that we cannot but
feel grateful to the modern learning, which has removed the only
objection to it in an apparent contradiction of dates. If, as
contended for by Larcher, still more ably by Wesseling, and since by
Mr. Clinton, we agree that Croesus reigned jointly with his father
Alyattes, the difficulty vanishes at once.

[225] Plutarch gives two accounts of the recovery of Salamis by
Solon; one of them, which is also preferred by Aelian (var. c. xix.,
lib. vii.), I have adopted and described in my narrative of that
expedition: the second I now give, but refer to Pisistratus, not
Solon: in support of which opinion I am indebted to Mr. Clinton for
the suggestion of two authorities. Aeneas Tacticus, in his Treatise
on Sieges, chap. iv., and Frontinus de Stratagem., lib. iv., cap.
vii.--Justin also favours the claim of Pisistratus to this stratagem,
lib. xi., c. viii.

[226] The most sanguine hope indeed that Cicero seems to have formed
with respect to the conduct of Cesar, was that he might deserve the
title of the Pisistratus of Rome.

[227] If we may, in this anecdote, accord to Plutarch (de Vit. Sol.)
and Aelian (Var. lib. viii., c. xvi.) a belief which I see no reason
for withholding.

[228] His own verses, rather than the narrative of Plutarch, are the
evidence of Solon's conduct on the usurpation of Pisistratus.

[229] This historian fixes the date of Solon's visit to Croesus and
to Cyprus (on which island he asserts him to have died), not during
his absence of ten years, but during the final exile for which he

[230] Herod., l. i., c. 49.

[231] The procession of the goddess of Reason in the first French
revolution solves the difficulty that perplexed Herodotus.

[232] Mr. Mitford considers this story as below the credit of
history. He gives no sufficient reason against its reception, and
would doubtless have been less skeptical had he known more of the
social habits of that time, or possessed more intimate acquaintance
with human nature generally.

[233] Upon which points, of men and money, Mr. Mitford, who is
anxious to redeem the character of Pisistratus from the stain of
tyranny, is dishonestly prevaricating. Quoting Herodotus, who
especially insists upon these undue sources of aid, in the following
words--'Errixose taen tyrannida, epikouroisi te polloisi kai
chraematon synodoisi, ton men, autothen, ton de, apo Strumanos potamou
synionton: this candid historian merely says, "A particular interest
with the ruling parties in several neighbouring states, especially
Thebes and Argos, and a wise and liberal use of a very great private
property, were the resources in which besides he mostly relied." Why
he thus slurs over the fact of the auxiliary forces will easily be
perceived. He wishes us to understand that the third tyranny of
Pisistratus, being wholesome, was also acceptable to the Athenians,
and not, as it in a great measure was, supported by borrowed treasure
and foreign swords.

[234] Who, according to Plutarch, first appeared at the return of
Solon; but the proper date for his exhibitions is ascertained (Fast.
Hell., vol. ii., p. 11) several years after Solon's death.

[235] These two wars, divided by so great an interval of time,--the
one terminated by Periander of Corinth, the other undertaken by
Pisistratus,--are, with the usual blundering of Mr. Mitford, jumbled
together into the same event. He places Alcaeus in the war following
the conquest of Sigeum by Pisistratus. Poor Alcaeus! the poet
flourished Olym. 42 (611 B. C.); the third tyranny of Pisistratus may
date somewhere about 537 B. C., so that Alcaeus, had he been alive in
the time ascribed by Mr. Mitford to his warlike exhibitions, would
have been (supposing him to be born twenty-six years before the date
of his celebrity in 611) just a hundred years old--a fitting age to
commence the warrior! The fact is, Mr. Mitford adopted the rather
confused account of Herodotus, without taking the ordinary pains to
ascertain dates, which to every one else the very names of Periander
and Alcaeus would have suggested.

[236] For the reader will presently observe the share taken by
Croesus in the affairs of this Miltiades during his government in the
Chersonesus; now Croesus was conquered by Cyrus about B. C. 546--it
must, therefore, have been before that period. But the third tyranny
of Pisistratus appears to have commenced nine years afterward, viz.,
B. C. 537. The second tyranny probably commenced only two years
before the fall of the Lydian monarchy, and seems to have lasted only
a year, and during that period Croesus no longer exercised over the
cities of the coast the influence he exerted with the people of
Lampsacus on behalf of Miltiades; the departure of Miltiades, son of
Cypselus, must therefore have been in the first tyranny, in the
interval 560 B. C.--554 B. C., and probably at the very commencement
of the reign--viz., about 550 B. C.

[237] In the East, the master of the family still sits before the
door to receive visiters or transact business.

[238] Thucydides, b. vi., c. 54. The dialogue of Hipparchus,
ascribed to Plato, gives a different story, but much of the same
nature. In matters of history, we cannot doubt which is the best
authority, Thucydides or Plato,--especially an apocryphal Plato.

[239] Although it is probable that the patriotism of Aristogiton and
Harmodius "the beloved" has been elevated in after times beyond its
real standard, yet Mr. Mitford is not justified in saying that it was
private revenge, and not any political motive, that induced them to
conspire the death of Hippias and Hipparchus. Had it been so, why
strike at Hippias at all?--why attempt to make him the first and
principal victim?--why assail Hipparchus (against whom only they had a
private revenge) suddenly, by accident, and from the impulse of the
moment, after the failure of their design on the tyrant himself, with
whom they had no quarrel? It is most probable that, as in other
attempts at revolution, that of Masaniello--that of Rienzi--public
patriotism was not created--it was stimulated and made passion by
private resentment.

[240] Mr. Mitford has most curiously translated this passage thus:
"Aristogiton escaped the attending guards, but, being taken by the
people (!!!) was not mildly treated. So Thucydides has expressed
himself." Now Thucydides says quite the reverse: he says that, owing
to the crowd of the people, the guard could not at first seize him.
How did Mr. Mitford make this strange blunder? The most charitable
supposition is, that, not reading the Greek, he was misled by an error
of punctuation in the Latin version.

[241] "Qui cum per tormenta conscios caedis nominare cogeretur," etc.
(Justin., lib. ii., chap. ix.) This author differs from the elder
writers as to the precise cause of the conspiracy.

[242] Herodotus says they were both Gephyraeans by descent; a race,
according to him, originally Phoenician.--Herod. b. v., c. 57.

[243] Mr. Mitford too hastily and broadly asserts the whole story of
Leaena to be a fable: if, as we may gather from Pausanias, the statue
of the lioness existed in his time, we may pause before we deny all
authenticity to a tradition far from inconsonant with the manners of
the time or the heroism of the sex.

[244] Thucyd., b. vi., c. 59.

[245] Herodotus, b. vi., c. 103. In all probability, the same
jealousy that murdered the father dismissed the son. Hippias was far
too acute and too fearful not to perceive the rising talents and
daring temper of Miltiades. By-the-way, will it be believed that
Mitford, in is anxiety to prove Hippias and Hipparchus the most
admirable persons possible, not only veils the unnatural passions of
the last, but is utterly silent about the murder of Cimon, which is
ascribed to the sons of Pisistratus by Herodotus, in the strongest and
gravest terms.--Mr. Thirlwall (Hist. of Greece, vol. ii., p. 223)
erroneously attributes the assassination of Cimon to Pisistratus

[246] Suidas. Laertius iv., 13, etc. Others, as Ammonius and
Simplicius ad Aristotelem, derive the name of Cynics given to these
philosophers from the ridicule attached to their manners.

[247] Whose ardour appears to have been soon damped. They lost but
forty men, and then retired at once to Thessaly. This reminds us of
the wars between the Italian republics, in which the loss of a single
horseman was considered no trifling misfortune. The value of the
steed and the rank of the horseman (always above the vulgar) made the
cavalry of Greece easily discouraged by what appears to us an
inconsiderable slaughter.

[248] Aelian. V. Hist. xiii., 24.

[249] Wachsm, l. i., p. 273. Others contend for a later date to this
most important change; but, on the whole, it seems a necessary
consequence of the innovations of Clisthenes, which were all modelled
upon the one great system of breaking down the influence of the
aristocracy. In the speech of Otanes (Herod., lib. iii., c. 80), it
is curious to observe how much the vote by lot was identified with a
republican form of government.

[250] See Sharon Turner, vol. i., book i.

[251] Herod., b. i., c. xxvi.

[252] Ctesias. Mr. Thirlwall, in my judgment, very properly contents
himself with recording the ultimate destination of Croesus as we find
it in Ctesias, to the rejection of the beautiful romance of Herodotus.
Justin observes that Croesus was so beloved among the Grecian cities,
that, had Cyrus exercised any cruelty against him, the Persian hero
would have drawn upon himself a war with Greece.

[253] After his fall, Croesus is said by Herodotus to have reproached
the Pythian with those treacherous oracles that conduced to the loss
of his throne, and to have demanded if the gods of Greece were usually
delusive and ungrateful. True to that dark article of Grecian faith
which punished remote generations for ancestral crimes, the Pythian
replied, that Croesus had been fated to expiate in his own person the
crimes of Gyges, the murderer of his master;--that, for the rest, the
declarations of the oracle had been verified; the mighty empire,
denounced by the divine voice, had been destroyed, for it was his own,
and the mule, Cyrus, was presiding over the Lydian realm: a mule might
the Persian hero justly be entitled, since his parents were of
different ranks and nations. His father a low-born Persian--his
mother a Median princess. Herodotus assures us that Croesus was
content with the explanation--if so, the god of song was more
fortunate than the earthly poets he inspires, who have indeed often,
imitating his example, sacrificed their friends to a play upon words,
without being so easily able to satisfy their victims.

[254] Herod., l. v., c. 74.

[255] If colonists they can properly be called--they retained their
connexion with Athens, and all their rights of franchise.

[256] Herod., l. v., c. 78.

[257] Mr. Mitford, constantly endeavouring to pervert the simple
honesty of Herodotus to a sanction of despotic governments, carefully
slurs over this remarkable passage.

[258] Pausanias, b. iii., c. 5 and 6.

[259] Mr. Mitford, always unduly partial to the Spartan policy,
styles Cleomenes "a man violent in his temper, but of considerable
abilities." There is no evidence of his abilities. His restlessness
and ferocity made him assume a prominent part which he was never
adequate to fulfil: he was, at best, a cunning madman.

[260] Why, if discovered so long since by Cleomenes, were they
concealed till now? The Spartan prince, afterward detected in bribing
the oracle itself, perhaps forged these oracular predictions.

[261] Herod., b. v. c. 91.

[262] What is the language of Mr. Mitford at this treason? "We have
seen," says that historian, "the democracy of Athens itself setting
the example (among the states of old Greece) of soliciting Persian
protection. Will, then, the liberal spirit of patriotism and equal
government justify the prejudices of Athenian faction (!!!) and doom
Hippias to peculiar execration, because, at length, he also, with many
of his fellow-citizens, despairing of other means for ever returning
to their native country, applied to Artaphernes at Sardis?" It is
difficult to know which to admire most, the stupidity or dishonesty of
this passage. The Athenian democracy applied to Persia for relief
against the unjust invasion of their city and liberties by a foreign
force; Hippias applied to Persia, not only to interfere in the
domestic affairs of a free state, but to reduce that state, his native
city, to the subjection of the satrap. Is there any parallel between
these cases? If not, what dulness in instituting it! But the
dishonesty is equal to the dulness. Herodotus, the only author Mr.
Mitford here follows, expressly declares (I. v., c. 96) that Hippias
sought to induce Artaphernes to subject Athens to the sway of the
satrap and his master, Darius; yet Mr. Mitford says not a syllable of
this, leaving his reader to suppose that Hippias merely sought to be
restored to his country through the intercession of the satrap.

[263] Herod., l. v., c. 96.

[264] Aulus Gellius, who relates this anecdote with more detail than
Herodotus, asserts that the slave himself was ignorant of the
characters written on his scull, that Histiaeus selected a domestic
who had a disease in his eyes--shaved him, punctured the skin, and
sending him to Miletus when the hair was grown, assured the credulous
patient that Aristagoras would complete the cure by shaving him a
second time. According to this story we must rather admire the
simplicity of the slave than the ingenuity of Histiaeus.

[265] Rather a hyperbolical expression--the total number of free
Athenians did not exceed twenty thousand.

[266] The Paeonians.

[267] Hecataeus, the historian of Miletus, opposed the retreat to
Myrcinus, advising his countrymen rather to fortify themselves in the
Isle of Leros, and await the occasion to return to Miletus. This
early writer seems to have been one of those sagacious men who rarely
obtain their proper influence in public affairs, because they address
the reason in opposition to the passions of those they desire to lead.
Unsuccessful in this proposition, Hecataeus had equally failed on two
former occasions;--first, when he attempted to dissuade the Milesians
from the revolt of Aristagoras: secondly, when, finding them bent upon
it, he advised them to appropriate the sacred treasures in the temple
at Branchidae to the maintenance of a naval force. On each occasion
his advice failed precisely because given without prejudice or
passion. The successful adviser must appear to sympathize even with
the errors of his audience.

[268] The humane Darius--whose virtues were his own, his faults of
his station--treated the son of Miltiades with kindness and respect,
married him to a Persian woman, and endowed him with an estate. It
was the habitual policy of that great king to attach to his dominions
the valour and the intellect of the Greeks.

[269] Pausanias says, that Talthybius afterward razed the house of
Miltiades, because that chief instigated the Athenians to the
execution of the Persian envoys.

[270] Demaratus had not only prevented the marriage of Leotychides
with a maiden named Percalos, but, by a mixture of violence and
artifice, married her himself. Thus, even among the sober and
unloving Spartans, woman could still be the author of revolutions.

[271] The national pride of the Spartans would not, however, allow
that their king was the object of the anger of the gods, and
ascribing his excesses to his madness, accounted for the last
by a habit of excessive drinking which he had acquired from the

[272] Herod., l. 6, c. 94.

[273] Ibid., l. 6, c. 107.

[274] The sun and moon.

[275] In his attack upon Herodotus, Plutarch asserts that the
Spartans did make numerous military excursions at the beginning of the
month; if this be true, so far from excusing the Spartans, it only
corroborates the natural suspicion that they acted in accordance, not
with superstition, but with their usual calculating and selfish policy
--ever as slow to act in the defence of other states as prompt to
assert the independence of their own.

[276] Paus., l. 8, c. 5.

[277] The exact number of the Athenians is certainly doubtful.
Herodotus does not specify it. Justin estimates the number of
citizens at ten thousand, besides a thousand Plataeans: Nepos at ten
thousand in all; Pausanias at nine thousand. But this total,
furnished by authorities so equivocal, seems incredibly small. The
free population could have been little short of twenty thousand. We
must add the numbers, already great, of the resident aliens and the
slaves, who, as Pausanias tells us, were then for the first time
admitted to military service. On the other hand it is evident, from
the speech of Miltiades to Callimachus, and the supposed treachery of
the Alcmaeonidae, that some, nor an inconsiderable, force, was left in
reserve at Athens for the protection of the city. Let us suppose,
however, that two thirds of the Athenian citizens of military age,
viz., between the ages of twenty and sixty, marched to Marathon (and
this was but the common proportion on common occasions), the total
force, with the slaves, the settlers, and the Plataean auxiliaries,
could not amount to less than fifteen or sixteen thousand. But
whatever the precise number of the heroes of Marathon, we have ample
testimony for the general fact that it was so trifling when compared
with the Persian armament, as almost to justify the exaggeration of
later writers.

[278] Plut. in Vit. Aris. Aristid., pro Quatuor Vias, vol. ii., p.
222, edit. Dindorf.

[279] In his graceful work on Athens and Attica, Mr. Wordsworth has
well observed the peculiar propriety of this reference to the examples
of Harmodius and Aristogiton, as addressed to Callimachus. They were
from the same borough (aphidnae) as the polemarch himself.

[280] The goddess of Athens was supposed to have invented a peculiar
trumpet used by her favoured votaries.

[281] To raise the standard was the sign of battle.--Suidas, Thucyd.
Schol., c. 1. On the Athenian standard was depicted the owl of
Minerva.--Plut. in Vit. Lysand.

[282] Aeschyl. Persae.

[283] Ibid.

[284] Herod., l. 6., c. xii.

[285] Plut. in Vit. Aristid.

[286] Roos hespera. Aristoph., Vesp 1080.

[287] Justin, lib. ii., c. ix.

[288] According, however, to Suidas, he escaped and died at Lemnos.

[289] This incident confirms the expressed fear of Miltiades, that
delay in giving battle might produce division and treachery among some
of the Athenians. Doubtless his speech referred to some particular
faction or individuals.

[290] Plut. in Vit. Arist.

[291] These apparitions, recorded by Pausanias, l. i., c. 33, are
still believed in by the peasantry.



by Edward Bulwer Lytton





I The Character and Popularity of Miltiades.--Naval expedition.
--Siege of Paros.--Conduct of Miltiades.--He is Accused and
Sentenced.--His Death.

II The Athenian Tragedy.--Its Origin.--Thespis.--Phrynichus.--
Aeschylus.--Analysis of the Tragedies of Aeschylus.

III Aristides.--His Character and Position.--The Rise of
Themistocles.--Aristides is Ostracised.--The Ostracism
examined.--The Influence of Themistocles increases.--The
Silver--mines of Laurion.--Their Product applied by
Themistocles to the Increase of the Navy.--New Direction
given to the National Character.

IV The Preparations of Darius.--Revolt of Egypt.--Dispute for
The Succession to the Persian Throne.--Death of Darius.--
Brief Review of the leading Events and Characteristics of
his Reign.

V Xerxes conducts an Expedition into Egypt.--He finally resolves
on the Invasion of Greece.--Vast Preparations for the
Conquest of Europe.--Xerxes arrives at Sardis.--Despatches
Envoys to the Greek States, demanding Tribute.--The Bridge
of the Hellespont.--Review of the Persian Armament at
Abydos.--Xerxes encamps at Therme.

VI The Conduct of the Greeks.--The Oracle relating to Salamis.--
Art of Themistocles.--The Isthmian Congress.--Embassies to
Argos, Crete, Corcyra, and Syracuse.--Their ill Success.--
The Thessalians send Envoys to the Isthmus.--The Greeks
advance to Tempe, but retreat.--The Fleet despatched to
Artemisium, and the Pass of Thermopylae occupied.--Numbers
of the Grecian Fleet.--Battle of Thermopylae.

VII The Advice of Demaratus to Xerxes.--Themistocles.--Actions off
Artemisium.--The Greeks retreat.--The Persians invade
Delphi, and are repulsed with great Loss.--The Athenians,
unaided by their Allies, abandon Athens, and embark for
Salamis.--The irresolute and selfish Policy of the
Peloponnesians.--Dexterity and Firmness of Themistocles.--
Battle of Salamis.--Andros and Carystus besieged by the
Greeks.--Anecdotes of Themistocles.--Honours awarded to him
in Sparta.--Xerxes returns to Asia.--Olynthus and Potidaea
besieged by Artabazus.--The Athenians return Home.--The
Ostracism of Aristides is repealed.

VIII Embassy of Alexander of Macedon to Athens.--The Result of his
Proposals.--Athenians retreat to Salamis.--Mardonius
occupies Athens.--The Athenians send Envoys to Sparta.--
Pausanias succeeds Cleombrotus as Regent of Sparta.--Battle
of Plataea.--Thebes besieged by the Athenians.--Battle of
Mycale.--Siege of Sestos.--Conclusion of the Persian War.



I Remarks on the Effects of War.--State of Athens.--Interference
of Sparta with respect to the Fortifications of Athens.--
Dexterous Conduct of Themistocles.--The New Harbour of the
Piraeus.--Proposition of the Spartans in the Amphictyonic
Council defeated by Themistocles.--Allied Fleet at Cyprus
and Byzantium.--Pausanias.--Alteration in his Character.--
His ambitious Views and Treason.--The Revolt of the Ionians
from the Spartan Command.--Pausanias recalled.--Dorcis
replaces him.--The Athenians rise to the Head of the Ionian
League.--Delos made the Senate and Treasury of the Allies.--
Able and prudent Management of Aristides.--Cimon succeeds
To the Command of the Fleet.--Character of Cimon.--Eion
besieged.--Scyros colonized by Atticans.--Supposed Discovery
of the Bones of Theseus.--Declining Power of Themistocles.
--Democratic Change in the Constitution.--Themistocles
ostracised.--Death of Aristides.

II Popularity and Policy of Cimon.--Naxos revolts from the
Ionian League.--Is besieged by Cimon.--Conspiracy and
Fate of Pausanias.--Flight and Adventures of Themistocles.
--His Death.

III Reduction of Naxos.--Actions off Cyprus.--Manners of
Cimon.--Improvements in Athens.--Colony at the Nine Ways.
--Siege of Thasos.--Earthquake in Sparta.--Revolt of Helots,
Occupation of Ithome, and Third Messenian War.--Rise and
Character of Pericles.--Prosecution and Acquittal of Cimon.
--The Athenians assist the Spartans at Ithome.--Thasos
Surrenders.--Breach between the Athenians and Spartans.--
Constitutional Innovations at Athens.--Ostracism of Cimon.

IV War between Megara and Corinth.--Megara and Pegae garrisoned
by Athenians.--Review of Affairs at the Persian Court.--
Accession of Artaxerxes.--Revolt of Egypt under Inarus.--
Athenian Expedition to assist Inarus.--Aegina besieged.--The
Corinthians defeated.--Spartan Conspiracy with the Athenian
Oligarchy.--Battle of Tanagra.--Campaign and Successes of
Myronides.--Plot of the Oligarchy against the Republic.--
Recall of Cimon.--Long Walls completed.--Aegina reduced.--
Expedition under Tolmides.--Ithome surrenders.--The
Insurgents are settled at Naupactus.--Disastrous Termination
of the Egyptian Expedition.--The Athenians march into
Thessaly to restore Orestes the Tagus.--Campaign under
Pericles.--Truce of five Years with the Peloponnesians.--
Cimon sets sail for Cyprus.--Pretended Treaty of Peace with
Persia.--Death of Cimon.

V Change of Manners in Athens.--Begun under the Pisistratidae.--
Effects of the Persian War, and the intimate Connexion with
Ionia.--The Hetaerae.--The Political Eminence lately
acquired by Athens.--The Transfer of the Treasury from Delos
to Athens.--Latent Dangers and Evils.--First, the Artificial
Greatness of Athens not supported by Natural Strength.--
Secondly, her pernicious Reliance on Tribute.--Thirdly,
Deterioration of National Spirit commenced by Cimon in the
Use of Bribes and Public Tables.--Fourthly, Defects in
Popular Courts of Law.--Progress of General Education.--
History.--Its Ionian Origin.--Early Historians.--Acusilaus.
of the Life and Writings of Herodotus.--Progress of
Philosophy since Thales.--Philosophers of the Ionian and
Eleatic Schools.--Pythagoras.--His Philosophical Tenets and
Political Influence.--Effect of these Philosophers on
Athens.--School of Political Philosophy continued in Athens
from the Time of Solon.--Anaxagoras.--Archelaus.--Philosophy
not a thing apart from the ordinary Life of the Athenians.



I Thucydides chosen by the Aristocratic Party to oppose
Pericles.--His Policy.--Munificence of Pericles.--Sacred
War.--Battle of Coronea.--Revolt of Euboea and Megara--
Invasion and Retreat of the Peloponnesians.--Reduction of
Euboea.--Punishment of Histiaea.--A Thirty Years' Truce
concluded with the Peloponnesians.--Ostracism of Thucydides.

II Causes of the Power of Pericles.--Judicial Courts of the
dependant Allies transferred to Athens.--Sketch of the
Athenian Revenues.--Public Buildings the Work of the People
rather than of Pericles.--Vices and Greatness of Athens had
the same Sources.--Principle of Payment characterizes the
Policy of the Period.--It is the Policy of Civilization.--
Colonization, Cleruchia.

III Revision of the Census.--Samian War.--Sketch of the Rise and
Progress of the Athenian Comedy to the Time of Aristophanes.

IV The Tragedies of Sophocles.



B. C. 490--B. C. 479.


The Character and Popularity of Miltiades.--Naval Expedition.--Siege
of Paros.--Conduct of Miltiades.--He is Accused and Sentenced.--His

I. History is rarely more than the biography of great men. Through a
succession of individuals we trace the character and destiny of
nations. THE PEOPLE glide away from us, a sublime but intangible
abstraction, and the voice of the mighty Agora reaches us only through
the medium of its representatives to posterity. The more democratic
the state, the more prevalent this delegation of its history to the
few; since it is the prerogative of democracies to give the widest
competition and the keenest excitement to individual genius: and the
true spirit of democracy is dormant or defunct, when we find no one
elevated to an intellectual throne above the rest. In regarding the
characters of men thus concentrating upon themselves our survey of a
nation, it is our duty sedulously to discriminate between their
qualities and their deeds: for it seldom happens that their renown in
life was unattended with reverses equally signal--that the popularity
of to-day was not followed by the persecution of to-morrow: and in
these vicissitudes, our justice is no less appealed to than our pity,
and we are called upon to decide, as judges, a grave and solemn cause
between the silence of a departed people, and the eloquence of
imperishable names.

We have already observed in the character of Miltiades that astute and
calculating temperament common to most men whose lot it has been to
struggle for precarious power in the midst of formidable foes. We
have seen that his profound and scheming intellect was not accompanied
by any very rigid or high-wrought principle; and placed, as the chief
of the Chersonese had been from his youth upward, in situations of
great peril and embarrassment, aiming always at supreme power, and, in
his harassed and stormy domain, removed far from the public opinion of
the free states of Greece, it was natural that his political code
should have become tempered by a sinister ambition, and that the
citizen of Athens should be actuated by motives scarcely more
disinterested than those which animated the tyrant of the Chersonese.
The ruler of one district may be the hero, but can scarcely be the
patriot, of another. The long influence of years and custom--the
unconscious deference to the opinion of those whom our youth has been
taught to venerate, can alone suffice to tame down an enterprising and
grasping mind to objects of public advantage, in preference to designs
for individual aggrandizement: influence of such a nature had never
operated upon the views and faculties of the hero of Marathon.
Habituated to the enjoyment of absolute command, he seemed incapable
of the duties of civil subordination; and the custom of a life urged
him onto the desire of power [1]. These features of his character
fairly considered, we shall see little to astonish us in the later
reverses of Miltiades, and find additional causes for the popular
suspicions he incurred.

II. But after the victory of Marathon, the power of Miltiades was at
its height. He had always possessed the affection of the Athenians,
which his manners as well as his talents contributed to obtain for
him. Affable and courteous--none were so mean as to be excluded from
his presence; and the triumph he had just achieved so largely swelled
his popularity, that the most unhesitating confidence was placed in
all his suggestions.

In addition to the victory of Marathon, Miltiades, during his tyranny
in the Chersonese, had gratified the resentment and increased the
dominion of the Athenians. A rude tribe, according to all authority,
of the vast and varied Pelasgic family, but essentially foreign to,
and never amalgamated with, the indigenous Pelasgians of the Athenian
soil, had in very remote times obtained a settlement in Attica. They
had assisted the Athenians in the wall of their citadel, which
confirmed, by its characteristic masonry, the general tradition of
their Pelasgic race. Settled afterward near Hymettus, they refused to
blend with the general population--quarrels between neighbours so near
naturally ensued--the settlers were expelled, and fixed themselves in
the Islands of Lemnos and Imbros--a piratical and savage horde. They
kept alive their ancient grudge with the Athenians, and, in one of
their excursions, landed in Attica, and carried off some of the women
while celebrating a festival of Diana. These captives they subjected
to their embraces, and ultimately massacred, together with the
offspring of the intercourse. "The Lemnian Horrors" became a
proverbial phrase--the wrath of the gods manifested itself in the
curse of general sterility, and the criminal Pelasgi were commanded by
the oracle to repair the heinous injury they had inflicted on the
Athenians. The latter were satisfied with no atonement less than that
of the surrender of the islands occupied by the offenders. Tradition
thus reported the answer of the Pelasgi to so stern a demand--
"Whenever one of your vessels, in a single day and with a northern
wind, makes its passage to us, we will comply."

Time passed on, the injury was unatoned, the remembrance remained--
when Miltiades (then in the Chersonese) passed from Elnos in a single
day and with a north wind to the Pelasgian Islands, avenged the cause
of his countrymen, and annexed Lemnos and Imbros to the Athenian sway.
The remembrance of this exploit had from the first endeared Miltiades
to the Athenians, and, since the field of Marathon, he united in
himself the two strongest claims to popular confidence--he was the
deliverer from recent perils, and the avenger of hereditary wrongs.

The chief of the Chersonese was not slow to avail himself of the
advantage of his position. He promised the Athenians a yet more
lucrative, if less glorious enterprise than that against the Persians,
and demanded a fleet of seventy ships, with a supply of men and money,
for an expedition from which he assured them he was certain to return
laden with spoil and treasure. He did not specify the places against
which the expedition was to be directed; but so great was the belief
in his honesty and fortune, that the Athenians were contented to grant
his demand. The requisite preparations made, Miltiades set sail.
Assuming the general right to punish those islands which had sided
with the Persian, he proceeded to Paros, which had contributed a
trireme to the armament of Datis. But beneath the pretext of national
revenge, Miltiades is said to have sought the occasion to prosecute a
selfish resentment. During his tyranny in the Chersonese, a Parian,
named Lysagoras, had sought to injure him with the Persian government,
and the chief now wreaked upon the island the retaliation due to an

Such is the account of Herodotus--an account not indeed inconsistent
with the vindictive passions still common to the inhabitants of the
western clime, but certainly scarce in keeping with the calculating
and politic character of Miltiades: for men go backward in the career
of ambition when revenging a past offence upon a foe that is no longer

Miltiades landed on the island, laid vigorous siege to the principal
city, and demanded from the inhabitants the penalty of a hundred
talents. The besieged refused the terms, and worked day and night at
the task of strengthening the city for defence. Nevertheless,
Miltiades succeeded in cutting off all supplies, and the city was on
the point of yielding; when suddenly the chief set fire to the
fortifications he had erected, drew off his fleet, and returned to
Athens, not only without the treasure he had promised, but with an
ignominious diminution of the glory he had already acquired. The most
probable reason for a conduct [2] so extraordinary was, that by some
accident a grove on the continent was set on fire--the flame, visible
equally to the besiegers and the besieged, was interpreted alike by
both: each party imagined it a signal from the Persian fleet--the one
was dissuaded from yielding, and the other intimidated from
continuing the siege. An additional reason for the retreat was a
severe wound in the leg which Miltiades had received, either in the
course of the attack, or by an accident he met with when attempting
with sacrilegious superstition to consult the infernal deities on
ground dedicated to Ceres.

III. We may readily conceive the amazement and indignation with
which, after so many promises on the one side, and such unbounded
confidence on the other, the Athenians witnessed the return of this
fruitless expedition. No doubt the wily and equivocal parts of the
character of Miltiades, long cast in shade by his brilliant qualities,
came now more obviously in view. He was impeached capitally by
Xanthippus, an Athenian noble, the head of that great aristocratic
faction of the Alcmaeonids, which, inimical alike to the tyrant and
the demagogue, brooked neither a master of the state nor a hero with
the people. Miltiades was charged with having accepted a bribe from
the Persians [3], which had induced him to quit the siege of Paros at
the moment when success was assured.

The unfortunate chief was prevented by his wound from pleading his own
cause--he was borne into the court stretched upon his couch, while his
brother, Tisagoras, conducted his defence. Through the medium of his
advocate, Miltiades seems neither vigorously to have refuted the
accusation of treason to the state, nor satisfactorily to have
explained his motives for raising the siege. His glory was his
defence; and the chief answer to Xanthippus was "Marathon and Lemnos."
The crime alleged against him was of a capital nature; but, despite
the rank of the accuser, and the excitement of his audience, the
people refused to pronounce sentence of death upon so illustrious a
man. They found him guilty, it is true--but they commuted the capital
infliction to a fine of fifty talents. Before the fine was paid,
Miltiades expired of the mortification of his wound. The fine was
afterward paid by his son, Cimon. Thus ended a life full of adventure
and vicissitude.

The trial of Miltiades has often been quoted in proof of the
ingratitude and fickleness of the Athenian people. No charge was ever
more inconsiderately made. He was accused of a capital crime, not by
the people, but by a powerful noble. The noble demanded his death--
appears to have proved the charge--to have had the law which imposed
death wholly on his side--and "the favour of the people it was," says
Herodotus, expressly, "which saved his life." [4] When we consider
all the circumstances of the case--the wound to the popular vanity--
the disappointment of excited expectation--the unaccountable conduct
of Miltiades himself--and then see his punishment, after a conviction
which entailed death, only in the ordinary assessment of a pecuniary
fine [5], we cannot but allow that the Athenian people (even while
vindicating the majesty of law, which in all civilized communities
must judge offences without respect to persons) were not in this
instance forgetful of the services nor harsh to the offences of their
great men.


The Athenian Tragedy.--Its Origin.--Thespis.--Phrynichus.--Aeschylus.
--Analysis of the Tragedies of Aeschylus.

I. From the melancholy fate of Miltiades, we are now invited to a
subject no less connected with this important period in the history of
Athens. The interval of repose which followed the battle of Marathon
allows us to pause, and notice the intellectual state to which the
Athenians had progressed since the tyranny of Pisistratus and his

We have remarked the more familiar acquaintance with the poems of
Homer which resulted from the labours and example of Pisistratus.
This event (for event it was), combined with other causes,--the
foundation of a public library, the erection of public buildings, and
the institution of public gardens--to create with apparent suddenness,
among a susceptible and lively population, a general cultivation of
taste. The citizens were brought together in their hours of
relaxation [6], by the urbane and social manner of life, under
porticoes and in gardens, which it was the policy of a graceful and
benignant tyrant to inculcate; and the native genius, hitherto
dormant, of the quick Ionian race, once awakened to literary and
intellectual objects, created an audience even before it found
expression in a poet. The elegant effeminacy of Hipparchus
contributed to foster the taste of the people--for the example of the
great is nowhere more potent over the multitude than in the
cultivation of the arts. Patronage may not produce poets, but it
multiplies critics. Anacreon and Simonides, introduced among the
Athenians by Hipparchus, and enjoying his friendship, no doubt added
largely to the influence which poetry began to assume. The peculiar
sweetness of those poets imbued with harmonious contagion the genius
of the first of the Athenian dramatists, whose works, alas! are lost
to us, though evidence of their character is preserved. About the
same time the Athenians must necessarily have been made more
intimately acquainted with the various wealth of the lyric poets of
Ionia and the isles. Thus it happened that their models in poetry
were of two kinds, the epic and the lyric; and, in the natural
connexion of art, it was but the next step to accomplish a species of
poetry which should attempt to unite the two. Happily, at this time,
Athens possessed a man of true genius, whose attention early
circumstances had directed to a rude and primitive order of histrionic
recitation:--Phrynichus, the poet, was a disciple of Thespis, the
mime: to him belongs this honour, that out of the elements of the
broadest farce he conceived the first grand combinations of the tragic

II. From time immemorial--as far back, perhaps, as the grove
possessed an altar, and the waters supplied a reed for the pastoral
pipe--Poetry and Music had been dedicated to the worship of the gods
of Greece. At the appointed season of festival to each several deity,
his praises were sung, his traditionary achievements were recited.
One of the divinities last introduced into Greece--the mystic and
enigmatical Dionysos, or Bacchus, received the popular and
enthusiastic adoration naturally due to the God of the Vineyard, and
the "Unbinder of galling cares." His festival, celebrated at the most
joyous of agricultural seasons [7], was associated also with the most
exhilarating associations. Dithyrambs, or wild and exulting songs, at
first extemporaneous, celebrated the triumphs of the god. By degrees,
the rude hymn swelled into prepared and artful measures, performed by
a chorus that danced circling round the altar; and the dithyramb
assumed a lofty and solemn strain, adapted to the sanctity of
sacrifice and the emblematic majesty of the god. At the same time,
another band (connected with the Phallic procession, which, however
outwardly obscene, betokened only, at its origin, the symbol of
fertility, and betrays the philosophy of some alien and eastern creed
[8]) implored in more lively and homely strains the blessing of the
prodigal and jovial deity. These ceremonial songs received a wanton
and wild addition, as, in order, perhaps, more closely to represent
and personify the motley march of the Liber Pater, the chorus-singers
borrowed from the vine-browsing goat which they sacrificed the hides
and horns, which furnished forth the merry mimicry of the satyr and
the faun. Under license of this disguise, the songs became more
obscene and grotesque, and the mummers vied with each other in
obtaining the applause of the rural audience by wild buffoonery and
unrestricted jest. Whether as the prize of the winner or as the
object of sacrifice, the goat (tragos in the Greek) was a sufficiently
important personage to bestow upon the exhibition the homely name of
TRAGEDY, or GOATSONG, destined afterward to be exalted by association
with the proudest efforts of human genius. And while the DITHYRAMB,
yet amid the Dorian tribes, retained the fire and dignity of its
hereditary character--while in Sicyon it rose in stately and mournful
measures to the memory of Adrastus, the Argive hero--while in Corinth,
under the polished rule of Periander, Arion imparted to the antique
hymn a new character and a more scientific music [9],--gradually, in
Attica, it gave way before the familiar and fantastic humours of the
satyrs, sometimes abridged to afford greater scope to their
exhibitions--sometimes contracting the contagion of their burlesque.
Still, however, the reader will observe, that the tragedy, or
goatsong, consisted of two parts--first, the exhibition of the
mummers, and, secondly, the dithyrambic chorus, moving in a circle
round the altar of Bacchus. It appears on the whole most probable,
though it is a question of fierce dispute and great uncertainty, that
not only this festive ceremonial, but also its ancient name of
tragedy, or goatsong, had long been familiar in Attica [10], when,
about B. C. 535, during the third tyranny of Pisistratus, a skilful
and ingenious native of Icaria, an Attic village in which the
Eleutheria, or Bacchic rites, were celebrated with peculiar care,
surpassed all competitors in the exhibition of these rustic
entertainments. He relieved the monotonous pleasantries of the
satyric chorus by introducing, usually in his own person, a histrionic
tale-teller, who, from an elevated platform, and with the lively
gesticulations common still to the popular narrators of romance on the
Mole of Naples, or in the bazars of the East, entertain the audience
with some mythological legend. It was so clear that during this
recital the chorus remained unnecessarily idle and superfluous, that
the next improvement was as natural in itself, as it was important in
its consequences. This was to make the chorus assist the narrator by
occasional question or remark.

The choruses themselves were improved in their professional art by
Thespis. He invented dances, which for centuries, retained their
popularity on the stage, and is said to have given histrionic disguise
to his reciter--at first, by the application of pigments to the face;
and afterward, by the construction of a rude linen mask.

III. These improvements, chiefly mechanical, form the boundary to the
achievements of Thespis. He did much to create a stage--little to
create tragedy, in the proper acceptation of the word. His
performances were still of a ludicrous and homely character, and much
more akin to the comic than the tragic. Of that which makes the
essence of the solemn drama of Athens--its stately plot, its gigantic
images, its prodigal and sumptuous poetry, Thespis was not in any way
the inventor. But PHRYNICHUS, the disciple of Thespis, was a poet; he
saw, though perhaps dimly and imperfectly, the new career opened to
the art, and he may be said to have breathed the immortal spirit into
the mere mechanical forms, when he introduced poetry into the bursts
of the chorus and the monologue of the actor. Whatever else
Phrynichus effected is uncertain. The developed plot--the
introduction of regular dialogue through the medium of a second actor
--the pomp and circumstance--the symmetry and climax of the drama--do
not appear to have appertained to his earlier efforts; and the great
artistical improvements which raised the simple incident to an
elaborate structure of depicted narrative and awful catastrophe, are
ascribed, not to Phrynichus, but Aeschylus. If the later works of
Phrynichus betrayed these excellences, it is because Aeschylus had
then become his rival, and he caught the heavenly light from the new
star which was destined to eclipse him. But every thing essential was
done for the Athenian tragedy when Phrynichus took it from the satyr
and placed it under the protection of the muse--when, forsaking the
humours of the rustic farce, he selected a solemn subject from the
serious legends of the most vivid of all mythologies--when he breathed
into the familiar measures of the chorus the grandeur and sweetness of
the lyric ode--when, in a word, taking nothing from Thespis but the
stage and the performers, he borrowed his tale from Homer and his
melody from Anacreon. We must not, then, suppose, misled by the
vulgar accounts of the Athenian drama, that the contest for the goat,
and the buffooneries of Thespis, were its real origin; born of the
epic and the lyric song, Homer gave it character, and the lyrists
language. Thespis and his predecessors only suggested the form to
which the new-born poetry should be applied.

IV. Thus, under Phrynichus, the Thespian drama rose into poetry,
worthy to exercise its influence upon poetical emulation, when a young
man of noble family and sublime genius, rendered perhaps more
thoughtful and profound by the cultivation of a mystical philosophy
[11], which had lately emerged from the primitive schools of Ionian
wisdom, brought to the rising art the united dignity of rank,
philosophy, and genius. Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, born at Eleusis
B. C. 525, early saturated a spirit naturally fiery and exalted with
the vivid poetry of Homer. While yet a boy, and probably about the
time when Phrynichus first elevated the Thespian drama, he is said to
have been inspired by a dream with the ambition to excel in the
dramatic art. But in Homer he found no visionary revelation to assure
him of those ends, august and undeveloped, which the actor and the
chorus might be made the instruments to effect. For when the idea of
scenic representation was once familiar, the epics of Homer suggested
the true nature of the drama. The great characteristic of that poet
is individuality. Gods or men alike have their separate,
unmistakeable attributes and distinctions--they converse in dialogue--
they act towards an appointed end. Bring Homer on the stage, and
introduce two actors instead of a narrator, and a drama is at once
effected. If Phrynichus from the first borrowed his story from Homer,
Aeschylus, with more creative genius and more meditative intellect,
saw that there was even a richer mine in the vitality of the Homeric
spirit--the unity of the Homeric designs. Nor was Homer, perhaps, his
sole though his guiding inspiration. The noble birth of Aeschylus no
doubt gave him those advantages of general acquaintance with the
poetry of the rest of Greece, which an education formed under the
lettered dynasty of the Pisistratidae would naturally confer on the
well-born. We have seen that the dithyramb, debased in Attica to the
Thespian chorus, was in the Dorian states already devoted to sublime
themes, and enriched by elaborate art; and Simonides, whose elegies,
peculiar for their sweetness, might have inspired the "ambrosial"
Phrynichus, perhaps gave to the stern soul of Aeschylus, as to his own
pupil Pindar, the model of a loftier music, in his dithyrambic odes.

V. At the age of twenty-five, the son of Euphorion produced his first
tragedy. This appears to have been exhibited in the year after the
appearance of Aristagoras at Athens,--in that very year so eventful
and important, when the Athenians lighted the flames of the Persian
war amid the blazing capital of Sardis. He had two competitors in
Pratinas and Choerilus. The last, indeed, preceded Phrynichus, but
merely in the burlesques of the rude Thespian stage; the example of
Phrynichus had now directed his attention to the new species of drama,
but without any remarkable talent for its cultivation. Pratinas, the
contemporary of Aeschylus, did not long attempt to vie with his mighty
rival in his own line [12]. Recurring to the old satyr-chorus, he
reduced its unmeasured buffooneries into a regular and systematic
form; he preserved the mythological tale, and converted it into an
artistical burlesque. This invention, delighting the multitude, as it
adapted an ancient entertainment to the new and more critical taste,
became so popular that it was usually associated with the graver
tragedy; when the last becoming a solemn and gorgeous spectacle, the
poet exhibited a trilogy (or three tragedies) to his mighty audience,
while the satyric invention of Pratinas closed the whole, and answered
the purpose of our modern farce [13]. Of this class of the Grecian
drama but one specimen remains, in the Cyclops of Euripides. It is
probable that the birth, no less than the genius of Aeschylus, enabled
him with greater facility to make the imposing and costly additions to
the exhibition, which the nature of the poetry demanded--since, while
these improvements were rapidly proceeding, the poetical fame of
Aeschylus was still uncrowned. Nor was it till the fifteenth year
after his first exhibition that the sublimest of the Greek poets
obtained the ivy chaplet, which had succeeded to the goat and the ox,
as the prize of the tragic contests. In the course of a few years, a
regular stage, appropriate scenery and costume, mechanical inventions
and complicated stage machinery, gave fitting illusion to the
representation of gods and men. To the monologue of Phrynichus,
Aeschylus added a second actor [14]; he curtailed the choruses,
connected them with the main story, and, more important than all else,
reduced to simple but systematic rules the progress and development of
a poem, which no longer had for its utmost object to please the ear or
divert the fancy, but swept on its mighty and irresistible march, to
besiege passion after passion, and spread its empire over the whole

An itinerant platform was succeeded by a regular theatre of wood--the
theatre of wood by a splendid edifice, which is said to have held no
less an audience than thirty thousand persons [15]. Theatrical
contests became a matter of national and universal interest. These
contests occurred thrice a year, at three several festivals of Bacchus
[16]. But it was at the great Dionysia, held at the end of March and
commencement of April, that the principal tragic contests took place.
At that period, as the Athenian drama increased in celebrity, and
Athens herself in renown, the city was filled with visiters, not only
from all parts of Greece, but almost from every land in which the
Greek civilization was known. The state took the theatre under its
protection, as a solemn and sacred institution. So anxious were the
people to consecrate wholly to the Athenian name the glory of the
spectacle, that at the great Dionysia no foreigner, nor even any
metoecus (or alien settler), was permitted to dance in the choruses.
The chief archon presided, over the performances; to him was awarded
the selection of the candidates for the prize. Those chosen were
allowed three actors [17] by lot and a chorus, the expense of which
was undertaken by the state, and imposed upon one of the principal
persons of each tribe, called choragus. Thus, on one occasion,
Themistocles was the choragus to a tragedy by Phrynichus. The immense
theatre, crowded by thousands, tier above tier, bench upon bench, was
open to the heavens, and commanded, from the sloping hill on which it
was situated, both land and sea. The actor apostrophized no mimic
pasteboard, but the wide expanse of Nature herself--the living sun,
the mountain air, the wide and visible Aegaean. All was proportioned
to the gigantic scale of the theatre, and the mighty range of the
audience. The form was artificially enlarged and heightened; masks of
exquisite art and beauty brought before the audience the ideal images
of their sculptured gods and heroes, while (most probably) mechanical
inventions carried the tones of the voice throughout the various tiers
of the theatre. The exhibitions took place in the open day, and the
limited length of the plays permitted the performance of probably no
less than ten or twelve before the setting of the sun. The sanctity
of their origin, and the mythological nature of their stories, added
something of religious solemnity to these spectacles, which were
opened by ceremonial sacrifice. Dramatic exhibitions, at least for a
considerable period, were not, as with us, made hackneyed by constant
repetition. They were as rare in their recurrence as they were
imposing in their effect; nor was a drama, whether tragic or comic,
that had gained the prize, permitted a second time to be exhibited. A
special exemption was made in favour of Aeschylus, afterward extended
to Sophocles and Euripides. The general rule was necessarily
stimulant of renewed and unceasing exertion, and was, perhaps, the
principal cause of the almost miraculous fertility of the Athenian

VI. On the lower benches of the semicircle sat the archons and
magistrates, the senators and priests; while apart, but in seats
equally honoured, the gaze of the audience was attracted, from time to
time, to the illustrious strangers whom the fame of their poets and
their city had brought to the Dionysia of the Athenians. The youths
and women [18] had their separate divisions; the rest of the audience
were ranged according to their tribes, while the upper galleries were
filled by the miscellaneous and impatient populace.

In the orchestra (a space left by the semicircular benches, with wings
stretching to the right and left before the scene), a small square
platform served as the altar, to which moved the choral dances, still
retaining the attributes of their ancient sanctity. The coryphaeus,
or leader of the chorus, took part in the dialogue as the
representative of the rest, and, occasionally, even several of the
number were excited into exclamations by the passion of the piece.
But the principal duty of the chorus was to diversify the dialogue by
hymns and dirges, to the music of flutes, while, in dances far more
artful than those now existent, they represented by their movements
the emotions that they sung [19],--thus bringing, as it were, into
harmony of action the poetry of language. Architectural
embellishments of stone, representing a palace, with three entrances,
the centre one appropriated to royalty, the others to subordinate
rank, usually served for the scene. But at times, when the plot
demanded a different locality, scenes painted with the utmost art and
cost were easily substituted; nor were wanting the modern contrivances
of artificial lightning and thunder--the clouds for the gods--a
variety of inventions for the sudden apparition of demon agents,
whether from above or below--and all the adventitious and effective
aid which mechanism lends to genius.

VII. Thus summoning before us the external character of the Athenian
drama, the vast audience, the unroofed and enormous theatre, the
actors themselves enlarged by art above the ordinary proportions of
men, the solemn and sacred subjects from which its form and spirit
were derived, we turn to Aeschylus, and behold at once the fitting
creator of its grand and ideal personifications. I have said that
Homer was his original; but a more intellectual age than that of the
Grecian epic had arrived, and with Aeschylus, philosophy passed into
poetry. The dark doctrine of fatality imparted its stern and awful
interest to the narration of events--men were delineated, not as mere
self-acting and self-willed mortals, but as the agents of a destiny
inevitable and unseen--the gods themselves are no longer the gods of
Homer, entering into the sphere of human action for petty motives and
for individual purposes--drawing their grandeur, not from the part
they perform, but from the descriptions of the poet;--they appear now
as the oracles or the agents of fate--they are visiters from another
world, terrible and ominous from the warnings which they convey.
Homer is the creator of the material poetry, Aeschylus of the
intellectual. The corporeal and animal sufferings of the Titan in the
epic hell become exalted by tragedy into the portrait of moral
fortitude defying physical anguish. The Prometheus of Aeschylus is
the spirit of a god disdainfully subjected to the misfortunes of a
man. In reading this wonderful performance, which in pure and
sustained sublimity is perhaps unrivalled in the literature of the
world, we lose sight entirely of the cheerful Hellenic worship; and
yet it is in vain that the learned attempt to trace its vague and
mysterious metaphysics to any old symbolical religion of the East.
More probably, whatever theological system it shadows forth, was
rather the gigantic conception of the poet himself, than the imperfect
revival of any forgotten creed, or the poetical disguise of any
existent philosophy. However this be, it would certainly seem, that,
in this majestic picture of the dauntless enemy of Jupiter, punished
only for his benefits to man, and attracting all our sympathies by his
courage and his benevolence, is conveyed something of disbelief or
defiance of the creed of the populace--a suspicion from which
Aeschylus was not free in the judgment of his contemporaries, and
which is by no means inconsonant with the doctrines of Pythagoras.

VIII. The conduct of the fable is as follows: two vast demons,
Strength and Force, accompanied by Vulcan, appear in a remote plain of
earth--an unpeopled desert. There, on a steril and lofty rock, hard
by the sea, Prometheus is chained by Vulcan--"a reward for his
disposition to be tender to mankind." The date of this doom is cast
far back in the earliest dawn of time, and Jupiter has but just
commenced his reign. While Vulcan binds him, Prometheus utters no
sound--it is Vulcan, the agent of his punishment, that alone
complains. Nor is it till the dread task is done, and the ministers
of Jupiter have retired, that "the god, unawed by the wrath of gods,"
bursts forth with his grand apostrophe--

"Oh Air divine! Oh ye swift-winged Winds--
Ye sources of the Rivers, and ye Waves,
That dimple o'er old Ocean like his smiles--
Mother of all--oh Earth! and thou the orb,
All-seeing, of the Sun, behold and witness
What I, a god, from the stern gods endure.

* * * * * *

When shall my doom be o'er?--Be o'er!--to me
The Future hides no riddle--nor can wo
Come unprepared! It fits me then to brave
That which must be: for what can turn aside
The dark course of the grim Necessity?"

While thus soliloquizing, the air becomes fragrant with odours, and
faintly stirs with the rustling of approaching wings. The Daughters
of Ocean, aroused from their grots below, are come to console the
Titan. They utter many complaints against the dynasty of Jove.
Prometheus comforts himself by the prediction that the Olympian shall
hereafter require his services, and that, until himself released from
his bondage, he will never reveal to his tyrant the danger that
menaces his realm; for the vanquished is here described as of a
mightier race than the victor, and to him are bared the mysteries of
the future, which to Jupiter are denied. The triumph of Jupiter is
the conquest of brute force over knowledge.

Prometheus then narrates how, by means of his counsels, Jupiter had
gained his sceptre, and the ancient Saturn and his partisans been
whelmed beneath the abyss of Tartarus--how he alone had interfered
with Jupiter to prevent the extermination of the human race (whom
alone the celestial king disregarded and condemned)--how he had
imparted to them fire, the seed of all the arts, and exchanged in
their breasts the terrible knowledge of the future for the beguiling
flatteries of hope and hence his punishment.

At this time Ocean himself appears: he endeavours unavailingly to
persuade the Titan to submission to Jupiter. The great spirit of
Prometheus, and his consideration for others, are beautifully
individualized in his answers to his consoler, whom he warns not to
incur the wrath of the tyrant by sympathy with the afflicted. Alone
again with the Oceanides, the latter burst forth in fresh strains of

"The wide earth echoes wailingly,
Stately and antique were thy fallen race,
The wide earth waileth thee!
Lo! from the holy Asian dwelling-place,
Fall for a godhead's wrongs, the mortals' murmuring tears,
They mourn within the Colchian land,
The virgin and the warrior daughters,
And far remote, the Scythian band,
Around the broad Maeotian waters,
And they who hold in Caucasus their tower,
Arabia's martial flower
Hoarse-clamouring 'midst sharp rows of barbed spears.

One have I seen with equal tortures riven--
An equal god; in adamantine chains
Ever and evermore
The Titan Atlas, crush'd, sustains
The mighty mass of mighty Heaven,
And the whirling cataracts roar,
With a chime to the Titan's groans,
And the depth that receives them moans;
And from vaults that the earth are under,
Black Hades is heard in thunder;
While from the founts of white-waved rivers flow
Melodious sorrows, wailing with his wo."

Prometheus, in his answer, still farther details the benefits he had
conferred on men--he arrogates to himself their elevation to intellect
and reason [20]. He proceeds darkly to dwell on the power of
Necessity, guided by "the triform fates and the unforgetful Furies,"
whom he asserts to be sovereign over Jupiter himself. He declares
that Jupiter cannot escape his doom: "His doom," ask the daughters of
Ocean, "is it not evermore to reign?"--"That thou mayst not learn,"
replies the prophet; "and in the preservation of this secret depends
my future freedom."

The rejoinder of the chorus is singularly beautiful, and it is with a
pathos not common to Aeschylus that they contrast their present
mournful strain with that which they poured

"What time the silence, erst was broken,
Around the baths, and o'er the bed
To which, won well by many a soft love-token,
And hymn'd by all the music of delight,
Our Ocean-sister, bright
Hesione, was led!"

At the end of this choral song appears Io, performing her mystic
pilgrimage [21]. The utter wo and despair of Io are finely contrasted
with the stern spirit of Prometheus. Her introduction gives rise to
those ancestral and traditionary allusions to which the Greeks were so
attached. In prophesying her fate, Prometheus enters into much
beautiful descriptive poetry, and commemorates the lineage of the
Argive kings. After Io's departure, Prometheus renews his defiance to
Jupiter, and his stern prophecies, that the son of Saturn shall be
"hurled from his realm, a forgotten king." In the midst of these
weird denunciations, Mercury arrives, charged by Jupiter to learn the
nature of that danger which Prometheus predicts to him. The Titan
bitterly and haughtily defies the threats and warnings of the herald,
and exults, that whatever be his tortures, he is at least immortal,--
to be afflicted, but not to die. Mercury at length departs--the
menace of Jupiter is fulfilled--the punishment is consummated--and,
amid storm and earthquake, both rock and prisoner are struck by the
lightnings of the god into the deep abyss.

"The earth is made to reel, and rumbling by,
Bellowing it rolls, the thunder's gathering wrath!
And the fierce fires glare livid; and along
The rocks the eddies of the sands whirl high,
Borne by the hurricane, and all the blasts
Of all the winds leap forth, each hurtling each
Met in the wildness of a ghastly war,
The dark floods blended with the swooping heaven.
It comes--it comes! on me it speeds--the storm,
The rushing onslaught of the thunder-god;
Oh, majesty of earth, my solemn mother!
And thou that through the universal void,
Circlest sweet light, all blessing; EARTH AND ETHER,
YE I invoke, to know the wrongs I suffer."

IX. Such is the conclusion of this unequalled drama, epitomized
somewhat at undue length, in order to show the reader how much the
philosophy that had awakened in the age of Solon now actuated the
creations of poetry. Not that Aeschylus, like Euripides, deals in
didactic sentences and oracular aphorisms. He rightly held such
pedantries of the closet foreign to the tragic genius [22]. His
philosophy is in the spirit, and not in the diction of his works--in
vast conceptions, not laconic maxims. He does not preach, but he
inspires. The "Prometheus" is perhaps the greatest moral poem in the
world--sternly and loftily intellectual--and, amid its darker and less
palpable allegories, presenting to us the superiority of an immortal
being to all mortal sufferings. Regarded merely as poetry, the
conception of the Titan of Aeschylus has no parallel except in the
Fiend of Milton. But perhaps the representation of a benevolent
spirit, afflicted, but not accursed--conquered, but not subdued by a
power, than which it is elder, and wiser, and loftier, is yet more
sublime than that of an evil demon writhing under the penance
deservedly incurred from an irresistible God. The one is intensely
moral--at once the more moral and the more tragic, because the
sufferings are not deserved, and therefore the defiance commands our
sympathy as well as our awe; but the other is but the picture of a
righteous doom, borne by a despairing though stubborn will; it affords
no excitement to our courage, and forbids at once our admiration and
our pity.

X. I do not propose to conduct the reader at length through the other
tragedies of Aeschylus; seven are left to us, to afford the most
striking examples which modern or ancient literature can produce of
what perhaps is the true theory of the SUBLIME, viz., the elevating
the imagination by means of the passions, for a moral end.

Nothing can be more grand and impressive than the opening of the
"Agamemnon," with the solitary watchman on the tower, who, for ten
long years, has watched nightly for the beacon-fires that are to
announce the fall of Ilion, and who now beholds them blaze at last.
The description which Clytemnestra gives of the progress of these
beacon-fires from Troy to Argos is, for its picturesque animation, one
of the most celebrated in Aeschylus. The following lines will convey
to the general reader a very inadequate reflection, though not an
unfaithful paraphrase, of this splendid passage [23]. Clytemnestra
has announced to the chorus the capture of Troy. The chorus, half
incredulous, demand what messenger conveyed the intelligence.
Clytemnestra replies:--

"A gleam--a gleam--from Ida's height,
By the fire--god sent, it came;
From watch to watch it leap'd that light,
As a rider rode the flame!
It shot through the startled sky;
And the torch of that blazing glory
Old Lemnos caught on high,
On its holy promontory,
And sent it on, the jocund sign,
To Athos, mount of Jove divine.
Wildly the while it rose from the isle,
So that the might of the journeying light
Skimm'd over the back of the gleaming brine!
Farther and faster speeds it on,
Till the watch that keep Macistus steep--
See it burst like a blazing sun!
Doth Macistus sleep
On his tower--clad steep?
No! rapid and red doth the wild-fire sweep
It flashes afar, on the wayward stream
Of the wild Euripus, the rushing beam!
It rouses the light on Messapion's height,
And they feed its breath with the withered heath.
But it may not stay!
And away--away
It bounds in its freshening might.
Silent and soon,
Like a broadened moon,
It passes in sheen, Asopus green, [24]
And bursts on Cithaeron gray.
The warder wakes to the signal rays,
And it swoops from the hill with a broader blaze,
On--on the fiery glory rode--
Thy lonely lake, Gorgopis, glowed--
To Megara's Mount it came;
They feed it again,
And it streams amain
A giant beard of flame!
The headland cliffs that darkly down
O'er the Saronic waters frown,
Are pass'd with the swift one's lurid stride,
And the huge rock glares on the glaring tide,
With mightier march and fiercer power
It gain'd Arachne's neighbouring tower--
Thence on our Argive roof its rest it won,
Of Ida's fire the long-descended son
Bright harbinger of glory and of joy!
So first and last with equal honour crown'd,
In solemn feasts the race-torch circles round.
And these my heralds! this my SIGN OF PEACE!
Lo! while we breathe, the victor lords of Greece,
Stalk, in stern tumult, through the halls of Troy!" [25]

In one of the earlier choruses, in which is introduced an episodical
allusion to the abduction of Helen, occurs one of those soft passages
so rare in Aeschylus, nor less exquisite than rare. The chorus
suppose the minstrels of Menelaus thus to lament the loss of Helen:--

"And wo the halls, and wo the chiefs,
And wo the bridal bed!
And we her steps--for once she loved
The lord whose love she fled!
Lo! where, dishonour yet unknown,
He sits--nor deems his Helen flown,
Tearless and voiceless on the spot;
All desert, but he feels it not!
Ah! soon alive, to miss and mourn
The form beyond the ocean borne
Shall start the lonely king!
And thought shall fill the lost one's room,
And darkly through the palace gloom
Shall stalk a ghostly thing. [26]
Her statues meet, as round they rise,
The leaden stare of lifeless eyes.
Where is their ancient beauty gone?--
Why loathe his looks the breathing stone?
Alas! the foulness of disgrace
Hath swept the Venus from her face!
And visions in the mournful night
Shall dupe the heart to false delight,
A false and melancholy;
For naught with sadder joy is fraught,
Than things at night by dreaming brought,
The wish'd for and the holy.
Swift from the solitary side,
The vision and the blessing glide,
Scarce welcomed ere they sweep,
Pale, bloodless, dreams, aloft
On wings unseen and soft,
Lost wanderers gliding through the paths of sleep."

But the master-terror of this tragedy is in the introduction of
Cassandra, who accompanies Agamemnon, and who, in the very hour of his
return, amid the pomp and joy that welcome the "king of men," is
seized with the prophetic inspiration, and shrieks out those ominous
warnings, fated ever to be heard in vain. It is she who recalls to
the chorus, to the shuddering audience, that it is the house of the
long-fated Atridae, to which their descendant has returned--"that
human shamble-house--that bloody floor--that dwelling, abhorred by
Heaven, privy to so many horrors against the most sacred ties;" the
doom yet hangs over the inexpiable threshold; the curse passes from
generation to generation; Agamemnon is the victim of his sires.

Recalling the inhuman banquet served by Atreus to Thyestes of his own
murdered children, she starts from the mangled spectres on the

"See ye those infants crouching by the floor,
Like phantom dreams, pale nurslings, that have perish'd
By kindred hands."

Gradually her ravings become clear and clearer, until at last she
scents the "blood-dripping slaughter within;" a vapour rises to her
nostrils as from a charnel house--her own fate, which she foresees at
hand, begins to overpower her--her mood softens, and she enters the
palace, about to become her tomb, with thoughts in which frantic
terror has yielded to solemn and pathetic resignation:

"Alas for mortals!--what their power and pride?
A little shadow sweeps it from the earth!
And if they suffer--why, the fatal hour
Comes o'er the record like a moistened sponge,
And blots it out; _methinks this latter lot
Affects me deepest--Well! 'tis pitiful!"_ [27]

Scarcely has the prophetess withdrawn than we hear behind the scene
the groans of the murdered king, the palace behind is opened, and
Clytemnestra is standing, stern and lofty, by the dead body of her
lord. The critics have dwelt too much on the character of
Clytemnestra--it is that of Cassandra which is the masterpiece of the

XI. The story, which is spread throughout three plays (forming a
complete trilogy), continues in the opening of the Choephori, with
Orestes mourning over his father's tomb. If Clytemnestra has
furnished would-be critics with a comparison with Lady Macbeth, for no
other reason than that one murdered her husband, and the other
persuaded her husband to murder somebody else, so Orestes may with
more justice be called the Hamlet of the Greeks; but though the
character itself of Orestes is not so complex and profound as that of
Hamlet, nor the play so full of philosophical beauties as the modern
tragedy, yet it has passages equally pathetic, and more sternly and
terribly sublime. The vague horror which in the commencement of the
play prepares us for the catastrophe by the dream of Clytemnestra--how
a serpent lay in swaddling-clothes like an infant, and she placed it
in her breast, and it drew blood; the brief and solemn answer of

"Man's visions never come to him in vain;"

the manner in which the avenging parricide interrupts the dream, so
that (as in Macbeth) the prediction inspires the deed that it
foretells; the dauntless resolution of Clytemnestra, when she hears, in
the dark sayings of her servant, that "the dead are slaying the
living" (i. e., that through the sword of Orestes Agamemnon is avenged
on Aegisthus), calls for a weapon, royal to the last, wishing only to

"Know which shall be the victor or the vanquished--
Since that the crisis of the present horror;"

the sudden change from fierce to tender as Orestes bursts in, and,
thinking only of her guilty lover, she shrieks forth,

"Ah! thou art then no more, beloved Aegisthus;"

the advance of the threatening son, the soft apostrophe of the mother
as she bares her bosom--

"Hold! and revere this breast on which so oft
Thy young cheek nestled--cradle of thy sleep,
And fountain of thy being;"

the recoil of Orestes--the remonstrance of Pylades--the renewed
passion of the avenger--the sudden recollection of her dream, which
the murderess scarcely utters than it seems to confirm Orestes to its
fulfilment, and he pursues and slays her by the side of the adulterer;
all these passages are full of so noble a poetry, that I do not think
the parallel situations in Hamlet equal their sustained and solemn
grandeur. But the sublimest effort of the imagination is in the
conclusion. While Orestes is yet justifying the deed that avenged a
father, strange and confused thoughts gradually creep over him. No
eyes see them but his own--there they are, "the Gorgons, in vestments
of sable, their eyes dropping loathly blood!" Slowly they multiply,
they approach, still invisible but to their prey--"the angry hell-
hounds of his mother." He flies, the fresh blood yet dripping from
his hands. This catastrophe--the sudden apparition of the Furies
ideally imaged forth to the parricide alone--seems to me greater in
conception than the supernatural agency in Hamlet. The visible ghost
is less awful than the unseen Furies.

The plot is continued through the third piece of the trilogy (the
Eumenides), and out of Aeschylus himself, no existing tragedy presents
so striking an opening--one so terrible and so picturesque. It is the
temple of Apollo at Delphi. The priestess, after a short invocation,
enters the sacred edifice, but suddenly returns. "A man," she says,
"is at the marble seat, a suppliant to the god--his bloody hands hold
a drawn sword and a long branch of olive. But around the man sleep a
wondrous and ghastly troop, not of women, but of things woman-like,
yet fiendish; harpies they seem, but are not; black-robed and
wingless, and their breath is loud and baleful, and their eyes drop
venom--and their garb is neither meet for the shrines of God nor the
habitations of men. Never have I seen (saith the Pythian) a nation
which nurtured such a race." Cheered by Apollo, Orestes flies while
the dread sisters yet sleep; and now within the temple we behold the
Furies scattered around, and a pale and lofty shape, the ghost of
Clytemnestra, gliding on the stage, awakens the agents of her
vengeance. They break forth as they rouse themselves, "Seize--seize--
seize." They lament--they bemoan the departure of their victim, they
expostulate with Apollo, who expels them from his temple. The scene
changes; Orestes is at Athens,--he pleads his cause before the temple

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