A SMALLER HISTORY OF GREECE
from the earliest times to the Roman conquest.
WILLIAM SMITH, D.C.L., LL.D.
In this Etext, printed text in italics has been written in capital letters.
Many words in the printed text have accents, etc. which have been omitted. Dipthongs have been expanded into two letters.
CHAPTER I . . Geography of Greece.
CHAPTER II . . Origin of the Greeks, and the Heroic Age.
CHAPTER III . . General Survey of the Greek People. National Institutions.
CHAPTER IV . . Early History of Peloponnesus and Sparta to the end of the Messenian Wars, B.C. 668.
CHAPTER V . . Early History of Athens down to the Establishment of Democracy by Clisthenes, B.C. 510.
CHAPTER VI . . The Greek Colonies.
CHAPTER VII . . The Persian Wars.—From the Ionic Revolt to the Battle of Marathon, B.C. 500-490.
CHAPTER VIII . . The Persian Wars.—The Battles of Thermopylae Salamis, and Plataea, B.C. 480-479.
CHAPTER IX . . From the end of the Persian Wars to the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, B.C. 479-431.
CHAPTER X . . Athens in the time of Pericles.
CHAPTER XI . . The Peloponnesian War.—First Period, from the commencement of the War to the Peace of Nicias, B.C. 431-421.
CHAPTER XII . . The Peloponnesian War.—Second Period, from the Peace of Nicias to the Defeat of the Athenians in Sicily, B.C. 421-413.
CHAPTER XIII . . The Peloponnesian War.—Third Period, from the Sicilian Expedition to the end of the War, B.C. 413-404.
CHAPTER XIV . . The Thiry Tyrants, and the death of Socrates, B.C. 404-399.
CHAPTER XV . . The Expedition of the Greeks under Cyrus, and Retreat of the Ten Thousand, B.C. 401-400.
CHAPTER XVI . . The Supremacy of Sparta, B.C. 404-371.
CHAPTER XVII . . The Supremacy of Thebes, B.C. 371-361.
CHAPTER XVIII . . History of the Sicilian Greeks from the Destruction of the Athenian Armament to the Death of Timoleon.
CHAPTER XIX . . Phillip of Macedon, B.C. 359-336.
CHAPTER XX . . Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323.
CHAPTER XXI . . From the Death of Alexander the Great to the Conquest of Greece by the Romans, B.C. 323-146.
CHAPTER XXII . . Sketch of the History of Greek Literature from the Earliest Times to the Reign of Alexander the Great.
GEOGRAPHY OF GREECE.
Greece is the southern portion of a great peninsula of Europe, washed on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded on the north by the Cambunian mountains, which separate it from Macedonia. It extends from the fortieth degree of latitude to the thirty-sixth, its greatest length being not more than 250 English miles, and its greatest breadth only 180. Its surface is considerably less than that of Portugal. This small area was divided among a number of independent states, many of them containing a territory of only a few square miles, and none of them larger than an English county. But the heroism and genius of the Greeks have given an interest to the insignificant spot of earth bearing their name, which the vastest empires have never equalled.
The name of Greece was not used by the inhabitants of the country. They called their land HELLAS, and themselves HELLENES. At first the word HELLAS signified only a small district in Thessaly, from which the Hellenes gradually spread over the whole country. The names of GREECE and GREEKS come to us from the Romans, who gave the name of GRAECIA to the country and of GRAECI to the inhabitants.
The two northerly provinces of Greece are THESSALY and EPIRUS, separated from each other by Mount Pindus. Thessaly is a fertile plain enclosed by lofty mountains, and drained by the river Peneus, which finds its way into the sea through the celebrated Vale of Tempe. Epirus is covered by rugged ranges of mountains running from north to south, through which the Achelous the largest river of Greece, flows towards the Corinthian gulf.
In entering central Greece from Thessaly the road runs along the coast through the narrow pass of Thermopylae, between the sea and a lofty range of mountains. The district along the coast was inhabited by the EASTERN LOCRIANS, while to their west were DORIS and PHOCIS, the greater part of the latter being occupied by Mount Parnassus, the abode of the Muses, upon the slopes of which lay the town of Delphi with its celebrated oracle of Apollo. South of Phocis is Boeotia, which is a large hollow basin, enclosed on every side by mountains, which prevent the waters from flowing into the sea. Hence the atmosphere was damp and thick, to which circumstance the witty Athenians attributed the dullness of the inhabitants. Thebes was the chief city of Boeotia. South of Boeotia lies ATTICA, which is in the form of a triangle, having two of its sides washed by the sea and its base united to the land. Its soil is light and dry and is better adapted for the growth of fruit than of corn. It was particularly celebrated for its olives, which were regarded as the gift of Athena (Minerva), and were always under the care of that goddess. Athens was on the western coast, between four and five miles from its port, Piraeus. West of Attica, towards the isthmus, is the small district of MEGARIS.
The western half of central Greece consists of WESTERN LOCRIS, AETOLIA and ACARNANIA. These districts were less civilised than the other countries of Greece, and were the haunts of rude robber tribes even as late as the Peloponnesian war.
Central Greece is connected with the southern peninsula by a narrow isthmus, on which stood the city of Corinth. So narrow is this isthmus that the ancients regarded the peninsula as an island, and gave to it the name of PELOPONNESUS, or the island of Pelops, from the mythical hero of this name. Its modern name, the MOREA, was bestowed upon it from its resemblance to the leaf of the mulberry.
The mountains of Peloponnesus have their roots in the centre of the country, from which they branch out towards the sea. This central region, called ARCADIA, is the Switzerland of the peninsula. It is surrounded by a ring of mountains, forming a kind of natural wall, which separates it from the remaining Peloponnesian states. The other chief divisions of Peloponnesus were Achaia, Argolis, Laconia, Messenia, and Elis. ACHAIA is a narrow slip of country lying between the northern barrier of Arcadia and the Corinthian gulf. ARGOLIS, on the east, contained several independent states, of which the most important was Argos. LACONIA and MESSENIA occupied the whole of the south of the peninsula from sea to sea: these two countries were separated by the lofty range of Taygetus, running from north to south, and terminating in the promontory of Taenarum (now Cape Matapan), the southernmost point of Greece and Europe. Sparta, the chief town of Laconia, stood in the valley of the Eurotas, which opens out into a plain of considerable extent towards the Laconian gulf. Messenia, in like manner, was drained by the Pamisus, whose plain is still more extensive and fertile than that of the Eurotas. ELIS, on the west of Arcadia, contains the memorable plain of Olympia, through which the Alpheus flows, and in which the city of Pisa stood.
Of the numerous islands which line the Grecian shores, the most important was Euboea, stretching along the coasts of Boeotia and Attica. South of Euboea was the group of islands called the CYCLADES, lying around Delos as a centre; and east of these were the SPORADES, near the Asiatic coast. South of these groups are the large islands of CRETE and RHODES.
The physical features of the country exercised an important influence upon the political destinies of the people. Greece is one of the most mountainous countries of Europe. Its surface is occupied by a number of small plains, either entirely surrounded by limestone mountains or open only to the sea. Each of the principal Grecian cities was founded in one of these small plains; and, as the mountains which separated it from its neighbours were lofty and rugged, each city grew up in solitary independence. But at the same time it had ready and easy access to the sea, and Arcadia was almost the only political division that did not possess some territory upon the coast. Thus shut out from their neighbours by mountains, the Greeks were naturally attracted to the sea, and became a maritime people. Hence they possessed the love of freedom and the spirit of adventure, which have always characterised, more or less the inhabitants of maritime districts.
ORIGIN OF THE GREEKS AND THE HEROIC AGE.
No nation possesses a history till events are recorded in written documents; and it was not till the epoch known by the name of the First Olympiad, corresponding to the year 776 B.C., that the Greeks began to employ writing as a means for perpetuating the memory of any historical facts. Before that period everything is vague and uncertain; and the exploits of the heroes related by the poets must not be regarded as historical facts.
The PELASGIANS are universally represented as the most ancient inhabitants of Greece. They were spread over the Italian as well as the Grecian peninsula; and the Pelasgic language thus formed the basis of the Latin as well as of the Greek. They were divided into several tribes, of which the Hellenes were probably one: at any rate, this people, who originally dwelt in the south of Thessaly, gradually spread over the rest of Greece. The Pelasgians disappeared before them, or were incorporated with them, and their dialect became the language of Greece. The Hellenes considered themselves the descendants of one common ancestor, Hellen, the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha. To Hellen were ascribed three sons, Dorus, Xuthus, and AEolus. Of these Dorus and AEolus gave their names to the DORIANS and AEOLIANS; and Xuthus; through his two sons Ion and Achaeus, became the forefather of the IONIANS and ACHAEANS. Thus the Greeks accounted for the origin of the four great divisions of their race. The descent of the Hellenes from a common ancestor, Hellen, was a fundamental article in the popular faith. It was a general practice in antiquity to invent fictitious persons for the purpose of explaining names of which the origin was buried in obscurity. It was in this way that Hellen and his sons came into being; but though they never had any real existence, the tales about them may be regarded as the traditional history of the races to whom they gave their names.
The civilization of the Greeks and the development of their language bear all the marks of home growth, and probably were little affected by foreign influence. The traditions, however, of the Greeks would point to a contrary conclusion. It was a general belief among them that the Pelasgians were reclaimed from barbarism by Oriental strangers, who settled in the country and introduced among the rude inhabitants the first elements of civilization. Attica is said to have been indebted for the arts of civilized life to Cecrops, a native of Sais in Egypt. To him is ascribed the foundation of the city of Athens, the institution of marriage, and the introduction of religious rites and ceremonies. Argos, in like manner, is said to have been founded by the Egyptian Danaus, who fled to Greece with his fifty daughters, to escape from the persecution of their suitors, the fifty sons of his brother AEgyptus. The Egyptian stranger was elected king by the natives, and from him the tribe of the Danai derived their name, which Homer frequently uses as a general appellation for the Greeks. Another colony was the one led from Asia by Pelops, from whom the southern peninsula of Greece derived its name of Peloponnesus. Pelops is represented as a Phrygian, and the son of the wealthy king Tantalus. He became king of Mycenae, and the founder of a powerful dynasty, one of the most renowned in the Heroic age of Greece. From him was descended Agamemnon, who led the Grecian host against Troy.
The tale of the Phoenician colony, conducted by Cadmus, and which founded Thebes in Boeotia, rests upon a different basis. Whether there was such a person as the Phoenician Cadmus, and whether he built the town called Cadmea, which afterwards became the citadel of Thebes, as the ancient legends relate, cannot be determined; but it is certain that the Greeks were indebted to the Phoenicians for the art of writing; for both the names and the forms of the letters in the Greek alphabet are evidently derived from the Phoenician. With this exception the Oriental strangers left no permanent traces of their settlements in Greece; and the population of the country continued to be essentially Grecian, uncontaminated by any foreign elements.
The age of the heroes, from the first appearance of the Hellenes in Thessaly to the return of the Greeks from Troy, was supposed to be a period of about two hundred years. These heroes were believed to be a noble race of beings, possessing a superhuman though not a divine nature, and superior to ordinary men in strength of body and greatness of soul.
Among the heroes three stand conspicuously forth: Hercules, the national hero of Greece; Theseus, the hero of Attica; and Minos, king of Crete, the principal founder of Grecian law and civilization.
Hercules was the son of Zeus (Jupiter) and Alcmena; but the jealous anger of Hera (Juno) raised up against him an opponent and a master in the person of Eurystheus at whose bidding the greatest of all heroes was to achieve those wonderful labours which filled the whole world with his fame. In these are realized, on a magnificent scale, the two great objects of ancient heroism, the destruction of physical and moral evil, and the acquisition of wealth and power. Such, for instance, are the labours in which he destroys the terrible Nemean lion and Lernean hydra, carries off the girdle of Ares from Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, and seizes the golden apples of the Hesperides, guarded by a hundred-headed dragon.
Theseus was a son of AEgeus, king of Athens, and of AEthra, daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezen. Among his many memorable achievements the most famous was his deliverance of Athens from the frightful tribute imposed upon it by Minos for the murder of his son. This consisted of seven youths and seven maidens whom the Athenians were compelled to send every nine years to Crete, there to be devoured by the Minotaur, a monster with a human body and a bull's head, which Minos kept concealed in an inextricable labyrinth. The third ship was already on the point of sailing with its cargo of innocent victims, when Theseus offered to go with them, hoping to put an end for ever to the horrible tribute. Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, became enamoured of the hero, and having supplied him with a clue to trace the windings of the labyrinth, Theseus succeeded in killing the monster, and in tracking his way out of the mazy lair. Theseus, on his return, became king of Attica, and proceeded to lay the foundations of the future greatness of the country. He united into one political body the twelve independent states into which Cecrops had divided Attica, and made Athens the capital of the new kingdom. He then divided the citizens into three classes, namely, EUPATRIDAE, or nobles; GEOMORI, or husbandmen; and DEMIURGI, or artisans.
Minos, king of Crete, whose history is connected with that of Theseus, appears, like him, the representative of an historical and civil state of life. Minos is said to have received the laws of Crete immediately from Zeus; and traditions uniformly present him as king of the sea. Possessing a numerous fleet, he reduced the surrounding islands, especially the Cyclades, under his dominion, and cleared the sea of pirates.
The voyage of the Argonauts and the Trojan war were the most memorable enterprises undertaken by collective bodies of heroes.
The Argonauts derived their name from the Argo, a ship built For the adventurers by Jason, under the superintendence of Athena (Minerva). They embarked in the harbour of Iolcus in Thessaly for the purpose of obtaining the golden fleece which was preserved in AEa in Colchis, on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, under the guardianship of a sleepless dragon. The most renowned heroes of the age took part in the expedition. Among them were Hercules and Theseus, as well as the principal leaders in the Trojan war; but Jason is the central figure and the real hero of the enterprise. Upon arriving at AEa, after many adventures, king AEtes promised to deliver to Jason the golden fleece, provided he yoked two fire-breathing oxen with brazen feet, and performed other wonderful deeds. Here, also, as in the legend of Theseus, love played a prominent part. Medea, the daughter of AEtes, who was skilled in magic and supernatural arts, furnished Jason with the means of accomplishing the labours imposed upon him; and as her father still delayed to surrender the fleece, she cast the dragon asleep during the night, seized the fleece, and sailed away in the Argo with her beloved Jason.
The Trojan war was the greatest of all the heroic achievements. It formed the subject of innumerable epic poems, and has been immortalised by the genius of Homer. Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, abused the hospitality of Menelaus, king of Sparta, by carrying off his wife Helen, the most beautiful woman of the age. All the Grecian princes looked upon the outrage as one committed against themselves. Responding to the call of Menelaus, they assembled in arms, elected his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, leader of the expedition, and sailed across the AEgean in nearly 1200 ships to recover the faithless fair one. Several of the confederate heroes excelled Agamemnon in fame. Among them Achilles, chief of the Thessalian Myrmidons, stood pre-eminent in strength, beauty, and valour; whilst Ulysses, king of Ithaca; surpassed all the rest in the mental qualities of counsel and eloquence. Among the Trojans, Hector, one of the sons of Priam, was most distinguished for heroic qualities and formed a striking contrast to his handsome but effeminate brother Paris. Next to Hector in valour stood AEneas, son of Anchises and Aphrodite (Venus). Even the gods took part in the contest, encouraging their favourite heroes, and sometimes fighting by their side or in their stead.
It was not till the tenth year of the war that Troy yielded to the inevitable decree of fate; and it is this year which forms the subject of the Iliad. Achilles, offended by Agamemnon, abstains from the war; and in his absence the Greeks are no match for Hector. The Trojans drive them back into their camp, and are already setting fire to their ships, when Achilles gives his armour to his friend Patroclus, and allows him to charge at the head of the Myrmidons. Patroclus repulses the Trojans from the ships, but the god Apollo is against him, and he falls under the spear of Hector. Desire to avenge the death of his friend proves more powerful in the breast of Achilles than anger against Agamemnon. He appears again in the field in new and gorgeous armour, forged for him by the god Hephrastus (Vulcan) at the prayer of Thetis. The Trojans fly before him, and, although Achilles is aware that his own death must speedily follow that of the Trojan hero, he slays Hector in single combat.
The Iliad closes with the burial of Hector. The death of Achilles and the capture of Troy were related in later poems. The hero of so many achievements perishes by an arrow shot by the unwarlike Paris, but directed by the hand of Apollo. The noblest combatants had now fallen on either side, and force of arms had proved unable to accomplish what stratagem at length effects. It is Ulysses who now steps into the foreground and becomes the real conqueror of Troy. By his advice a wooden horse is built, in whose inside he and other heroes conceal themselves. The infatuated Trojans admit the horse within their walls. In the dead of night the Greeks rush out and open the gates to their comrades. Troy is delivered over to the sword, and its glory sinks in ashes. The fall of Troy is placed in the year 1184 B.C.
The return of the Grecian leaders from Troy forms another series of poetical legends. Several meet with tragical ends. Agamemnon is murdered on his arrival at Mycenae, by his wife Clytaemnestra and her paramour AEgisthus. But of these wanderings the most celebrated and interesting are those of Ulysses, which form the subject of the Odyssey. After twenty years' absence he arrives at length in Ithaca, where he slays the numerous suitors who devoured his substance and contended for the hand of his wife Penelope.
The Homeric poems must not be regarded as a record of historical persons and events, but, at the same time, they present a valuable picture of the institutions and manners of the earliest known state of Grecian society.
In the Heroic age Greece was already divided into a number of independent states, each governed by its own king. The authority of the king was not limited by any laws; his power resembled that of the patriarchs in the Old Testament; and for the exercise of it he was responsible only to Zeus, and not to his people. But though the king was not restrained in the exercise of his power by any positive laws, his authority was practically limited by the BOULE; or council of chiefs, and the Agora, or general assembly of freemen. These two bodies, of little account in the Heroic age, became in the Republican age the sole depositories of political power.
The Greeks in the Heroic age were divided into the three classes of nobles, common freemen, and slaves. The nobles were raised far above the rest of the community in honour, power, and wealth. They were distinguished by their warlike prowess, their large estates, and their numerous slaves. The condition of the general mass of freemen is rarely mentioned. They possessed portions of land as their own property, which they cultivated themselves; but there was another class of poor freemen, called Thetes, who had no land of their own, and who worked for hire on the estates of others. Slavery was not so prevalent in the Heroic age as at a later time, and appears in a less odious aspect. The nobles alone possessed slaves, and they treated them with a degree of kindness which frequently secured for the masters their affectionate attachment.
Society was marked by simplicity of manners. The kings and nobles did not consider it derogatory to their dignity to acquire skill in the manual arts. Ulysses is represented as building his own bed-chamber and constructing his own raft, and he boasts of being an excellent mower and ploughman. Like Esau, who made savoury meat for his father Isaac, the Heroic chiefs prepared their own meals and prided themselves on their skill in cookery. Kings and private persons partook of the same food, which was of the simplest kind. Beef, mutton, and goat's flesh were the ordinary meats, and cheese, flour, and sometimes fruits, also formed part of the banquet; wine was drunk diluted with water, and the entertainments were never disgraced by intemperance, like those of our northern ancestors. The enjoyment of the banquet was heightened by the song and the dance, and the chiefs took more delight in the lays of the minstrel than in the exciting influence of the wine.
The wives and daughters of the chiefs, in like manner, did not deem it beneath them to discharge various duties which were afterwards regarded as menial. Not only do we find them constantly employed in weaving, spinning and embroidery, but like the daughters of the patriarchs they fetch water from the well and assist their slaves in washing garments in the river.
Even at this early age the Greeks had made considerable advances in civilization. They were collected in fortified towns, which were surrounded by walls and adorned with palaces and temples. The massive ruins of Mycenae and the sculptured lions on the gate of this city belong to the Heroic age, and still excite the wonder of the beholder. Commerce, however, was little cultivated, and was not much esteemed. It was deemed more honourable for a man to enrich himself by robbery and piracy than by the arts of peace. Coined money is not mentioned in the poems of Homer. Whether the Greeks were acquainted at this early period with the art of writing is a question which has given rise to much dispute, and must remain undetermined; but poetry was cultivated with success, though yet confined to epic strains, or the narration of the exploits and adventures of the Heroic chiefs. The bard sung his own song, and was always received with welcome and honour in the palaces of the nobles.
In the battle, as depicted by Homer, the chiefs are the only important combatants, while the people are an almost useless mass, frequently put to rout by the prowess of a single hero. The chief is mounted in a war chariot, and stands by the side of his charioteer, who is frequently a friend.
GENERAL SURVEY OF THE GREEK PEOPLE—NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS.
The Greeks, as we have already seen, were divided into many independent communities, but several causes bound them together as one people. Of these the most important were community of blood and language—community of religious rites and festivals—and community of manners and character.
All the Greeks were descended from the same ancestor and spoke the same language. They all described men and cities which were not Grecian by the term BARBARIAN. This word has passed into our own language, but with a very different idea; for the Greeks applied it indiscriminately to every foreigner, to the civilized inhabitants of Egypt and Persia, as well as to the rude tribes of Scythia and Gaul.
The second bond of union was a community of religious rites and festivals. From the earliest times the Greeks appear to have worshipped the same gods; but originally there were no religious meetings common to the whole nation. Such meetings were of gradual growth, being formed by a number of neighbouring towns, which entered into an association for the periodical celebration of certain religious rites. Of these the most celebrated was the AMPHICTYONIC COUNCIL. It acquired its superiority over other similar associations by the wealth and grandeur of the Delphian temple, of which it was the appointed guardian. It held two meetings every year, one in the spring at the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and the other in the autumn at the temple of Demeter (Ceres) at Thermopylae. Its members, who were called the Amphictyons, consisted of sacred deputies sent from twelve tribes, each of which contained several independent cities or states. But the Council was never considered as a national congress, whose duty it was to protect and defend the common interests of Greece; and it was only when the rights of the Delphian god had been violated that it invoked the aid of the various members of the league.
The Olympic Games were of greater efficacy than the amphictyonic council in promoting a spirit of union among the various branches of the Greek race, and in keeping alive a feeling of their common origin. They were open to all persons who could prove their Hellenic blood, and were frequented by spectators from all parts of the Grecian world. They were celebrated at Olympia, on the banks of the Alpheus, in the territory of Elis. The origin of the festival is lost in obscurity; but it is said to have been revived by Iphitus, king of Elis, and Lycurgus the Spartan legislator, in the year 776 B.C.; and, accordingly, when the Greeks at a later time began to use the Olympic contest as a chronological era, this year was regarded as the first Olympiad. It was celebrated at the end of every four years, and the interval which elapsed between each celebration was called an Olympiad. The whole festival was under the management of the Eleans, who appointed some of their own number to preside as judges, under the name of the Hellanodicae. During the month in which it was celebrated all hostilities were suspended throughout Greece. At first the festival was confined to a single day, and consisted of nothing more than a match of runners in the stadium; but in course of time so many other contests were introduced, that the games occupied five days. They comprised various trials of strength and skill, such as wrestling boxing, the Pancratium (boxing and wrestling combined), and the complicated Pentathlum (including jumping, running, the quoit, the javelin, and wrestling), but no combats with any kind of weapons. There were also horse-races and chariot-races; and the chariot-race, with four full-grown horses, became one of the most popular and celebrated of all the matches.
The only prize given to the conqueror was a garland of wild olive; but this was valued as one of the dearest distinctions in life. To have his name proclaimed as victor before assembled Hellas was an object of ambition with the noblest and the wealthiest of the Greeks. Such a person was considered to have conferred everlasting glory upon his family and his country, and was rewarded by his fellow-citizens with distinguished honours.
During the sixth century before the Christian era three other national festivals—the Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian games—which were at first only local became open to the whole nation. The Pythian games were celebrated in every third Olympic year, on the Cirrhaean plain in Phocis, under the superintendence of the Amphictyons. The games consisted not only of matches in gymnastics and of horse and chariot races, but also of contests in music and poetry. They soon acquired celebrity, and became second only to the great Olympic festival. The Nemean and Isthmian games occurred more frequently than the Olympic and Pythian. They were celebrated once in two years—the Nemean in the valley of Nemea between Phlius and Cleonae—and the Isthmian by the Corinthians, on their isthmus, in honour of Poseidon (Neptune). As in the Pythian festival, contests in music and in poetry, as well as gymnastics and chariot-races, formed part of these games. Although the four great festivals of which we have been speaking had no influence in promoting the political union of Greece, they nevertheless were of great importance in making the various sections of the race feel that they were all members of one family, and in cementing them together by common sympathies and the enjoyment of common pleasures. The frequent occurrence of these festivals, for one was celebrated every gear, tended to the same result.
The Greeks were thus annually reminded of their common origin, and of the great distinction which existed between them and barbarians. Nor must we forget the incidental advantages which attended them. The concourse of so large a number of persons from every part of the Grecian world afforded to the merchant opportunities for traffic, and to the artist and the literary man the best means of making their works known. During the time of the games a busy commerce was carried on; and in a spacious hall appropriated for the purpose, the poets, philosophers, and historians were accustomed to read their most recent works.
The habit of consulting the same oracles in order to ascertain the will of the gods was another bond of union. It was the universal practice of the Greeks to undertake no matter of importance without first asking the advice of the gods; and there were many sacred spots in which the gods were always ready to give an answer to pious worshippers. The oracle of Apollo at Delphi surpassed all the rest in importance, and was regarded with veneration in every part of the Grecian world. In the centre of the temple of Delphi there was a small opening in the ground, from which it was said that a certain gas or vapour ascended. Whenever the oracle was to be consulted, a virgin priestess called PYTHIA took her seat upon a tripod which was placed over the chasm. The ascending vapour affected her brain, and the words which she uttered in this excited condition were believed to be the answer of Apollo to his worshippers. They were always in hexameter verse, and were reverently taken down by the attendant priests. Most of the answers were equivocal or obscure; but the credit of the oracle continued unimpaired long after the downfall of Grecian independence.
A further element of union among the Greeks was the similarity of manners and character. It is true the difference in this respect between the polished inhabitants of Athens and the rude mountaineers of Acarnania was marked and striking; but if we compare the two with foreign contemporaries, the contrast between them and the latter is still more striking. Absolute despotism human sacrifices, polygamy, deliberate mutilation of the person as a punishment, and selling of children into slavery, existed in some part or other of the barbarian world, but are not found in any city of Greece in the historical times.
The elements of union of which we have been speaking only bound the Greeks together in common feelings and sentiments: they never produced any political union. The independent sovereignty of each city was a fundamental notion in the Greek mind. This strongly rooted feeling deserves particular notice. Careless readers of history are tempted to suppose that the territory of Greece was divided among comparatively small number of independent states, such as Attica, Arcadia, Boeotia, Phocis, Locris, and the like; but this is a most serious mistake, and leads to a total misapprehension of Greek history. Every separate city was usually an independent state, and consequently each of the territories described under the general names of Arcadia, Boeotia, Phocis, and Locris, contained numerous political communities independent of one another. Attica, it is true, formed a single state, and its different towns recognised Athens as their capital and the source of supreme power; but this is an exception to the general rule.
EARLY HISTORY OF PELOPONNESUS AND SPARTA, DOWN TO THE END OF THE MESSENIAN WARS, B.C. 668.
In the heroic age Peloponnesus was occupied by tribes of Dorian conquerors. They had no share in the glories of the Heroic age; their name does not occur in the Iliad, and they are only once mentioned in the Odyssey; but they were destined to form in historical times one of the most important elements of the Greek nation. Issuing from their mountain district between Thessaly, Locris and Phocis, they overran the greater part of Peloponnesus, destroyed the ancient Achaean monarchies and expelled or reduced to subjection the original inhabitants of the land, of which they became the undisputed masters. This brief statement contains all that we know for certain respecting this celebrated event, which the ancient writers placed eighty years after the Trojan war (B.C. 1104). The legendary account of the conquest of Peloponnesus ran as follows:—The Dorians were led by the Heraclidae, or descendants of the mighty hero Hercules. Hence this migration is called the Return of the Heraclidae. The children of Hercules had long been fugitives upon the face of the earth. They had made many attempts to regain possession of the dominions in the Peloponnesus, of which their great sire had been deprived by Eurystheus, but hitherto without success. In their last attempt Hyllus, the son of Hercules, had perished in single combat with Echemus of Tegea; and the Heraclidae had become bound by a solemn compact to renounce their enterprise for a hundred years. This period had now expired; and the great-grandsons of Hyllus—Temenus, Cresphontes, and Aristodemus—resolved to make a fresh attempt to recover their birthright. They were assisted in the enterprise by the Dorians. This people espoused their cause in consequence of the aid which Hercules himself had rendered to the Dorian king, AEgimius, when the latter was hard pressed in a contest with the Lapithae. The invaders were warned by an oracle not to enter Peloponnesus by the Isthmus of Corinth, but across the mouth of the Corinthian gulf. The inhabitants of the northern coast of the gulf were favourable to their enterprise. Oxylus, king of the AEtolians, became their guide; and from Naupactus they crossed over to Peloponnesus. A single battle decided the contest. Tisamenus, the son of Orestes, was defeated and retired with a portion of his Achaean subjects to the northern coast of Peloponnesus, then occupied by the Ionians. He expelled the Ionians, and took possession of the country, which continued henceforth to be inhabited by the Achaeans, and to be called after them. The Ionians withdrew to Attica, and the greater part of them afterwards emigrated to Asia Minor.
The Heraclidae and the Dorians now divided between them the dominions of Tisamenus and of the other Achaean princes. The kingdom of Elis was given to Oxylus as a recompense for his services as their guide; and it was agreed that Temenus, Cresphontes, and Eurysthenes and Procles, the infant sons of Aristodemus (who had died at Naupactus), should draw lots for Argos, Sparta, and Messenia. Argos fell to Temenus, Sparta to Eurysthenes and Procles, and Messenia to Cresphontes.
Such are the main features of the legend of the Return of the Heraclidae. In order to make the story more striking and impressive, it compresses into a single epoch events which probably occupied several generations. It is in itself improbable that the brave Achaeans quietly submitted to the Dorian invaders after a momentary struggle. We have, moreover, many indications that such was not the fact, and that it was only gradually and after a long protracted contest that the Dorians became undisputed masters of the greater part of Peloponnesus.
Argos was originally the chief Dorian state in Peloponnesus, but at the time of the first Olympiad its power had been supplanted by that of Sparta. The progress of Sparta from the second to the first place among the states in the peninsula was mainly owing to the military discipline and rigorous training of its citizens. The singular constitution of Sparta was unanimously ascribed by the ancients to the legislator Lycurgus, but there were different stories respecting his date, birth, travels, legislation, and death. His most probable date however is B.C. 776, in which year he is said to have assisted Iphitus in restoring the Olympic games. He was the son of Eunomus, one of the two kings who reigned together in Sparta. On the death of his father, his elder brother, Polydectes, succeeded to the crown, but died soon afterwards, leaving his queen with child. The ambitious woman offered to destroy the child, if Lycurgus would share the throne with her. Lycurgus pretended to consent; but as soon as she had given birth to a son, he presented him in the market-place as the future king of Sparta. The young king's mother took revenge upon Lycurgus by accusing him of entertaining designs against his nephew's life. Hereupon he resolved to withdraw from his native country and to visit foreign lands. He was absent many years, and is said to have employed his time in studying the institutions of other nations, in order to devise a system of laws and regulations which might deliver Sparta from the evils under which it had long been suffering. During his absence the young king had grown up, and assumed the reins of government; but the disorders of the state had meantime become worse than ever, and all parties longed for a termination to their present sufferings. Accordingly the return of Lycurgus was hailed with delight, and he found the people both ready and willing to submit to an entire change in their government and institutions. He now set himself to work to carry his long projected reforms into effect; but before he commenced his arduous task he consulted the Delphian oracle, from which he received strong assurances of divine support. Thus encouraged by the god, he suddenly presented himself in the market-place, surrounded by thirty of the most distinguished Spartans in arms. His reforms were not carried into effect without violent opposition, and in one of the tumults which they excited, his eye is said to have been struck out by a passionate youth. But he finally triumphed over all obstacles, and succeeded in obtaining the submission of all classes in the community to his new constitution. His last act was to sacrifice himself for the welfare of his country. Having obtained from the people a solemn oath to make no alterations in his laws before his return, he quitted Sparta for ever. He set out on a journey to Delphi, where he obtained an oracle from the god, approving of all he had done, and promising prosperity to the Spartans as long as they preserved his laws. Whither he went afterwards, and how and where he died, nobody could tell. He vanished from earth like a god, leaving no traces behind him but his spirit: and his grateful countrymen honoured him with a temple, and worshipped him with annual sacrifices down to the latest times.
The population of Laconia was divided into the three classes of Spartans, Perioeci and Helots.
I. The SPARTANS were the descendants of the leading Dorian conquerors. They formed the sovereign power of the state, and they alone were eligible to honours and public offices. They lived in Sparta itself and were all subject to the discipline of Lycurgus. They were divided into three tribes,—the HYLLEIS, the PAMPHILI, and the DYMANES,—which were not, however, peculiar to Sparta, but existed in all the Dorian states.
II. The PERIOECI were personally free, but politically subject to the Spartans. [This word signifies literally DWELLERS AROUND THE CITY, and was generally used to indicate the inhabitants in the country districts, who possessed inferior political privileges to the citizens who lived in the city.] They possessed no share in the government, and were bound to obey the commands of the Spartan magistrates. They appear to have been the descendants of the old Achaean population of the country, and they were distributed into a hundred townships, which were spread through the whole of Laconia.
III. The HELOTS were serfs bound to the soil, which they tilled for the benefit of the Spartan proprietors. Their condition was very different from that of the ordinary slaves in antiquity, and more similar to the villanage of the middle ages. They lived in the rural villages, as the Perioeci did in the towns, cultivating the lands and paying over the rent to their masters in Sparta, but enjoying their homes, wives, and families, apart from their master's personal superintendence. They appear to have been never sold, and they accompanied the Spartans to the field as light armed troops. But while their condition was in these respects superior to that of the ordinary slaves in other parts of Greece, it was embittered by the fact that they were not strangers like the latter, but were of the same race and spoke the same language as their masters, being probably the descendants of the old inhabitants, who had offered the most obstinate resistance to the Dorians, and had therefore been reduced to slavery. As their numbers increased, they became objects of suspicion to their masters, and were subjected to the most wanton and oppressive cruelty.
The functions of the Spartan government were distributed among two kings, a senate of thirty members, a popular assembly, and an executive directory of five men called the Ephors.
At the head of the state were the two hereditary kings. The existence of a pair of kings was peculiar to Sparta, and is said to have arisen from the accidental circumstance of Aristodemus having left twin sons, Eurysthenes and Procles. This division of the royal power naturally tended to weaken its influence and to produce jealousies and dissensions between the two kings. The royal power was on the decline during the whole historical period, and the authority of the kings was gradually usurped by the Ephors, who at length obtained the entire control of the government, and reduced the kings to a state of humiliation and dependence.
The Senate, called GERUSIA, or the COUNCIL OF ELDERS, consisted of thirty members, among whom the two kings were included. They were obliged to be upwards of sixty years of age, and they held their office for life. They possessed considerable power and were the only real check upon the authority of the Ephors. They discussed and prepared all measures which were to be brought before the popular assembly, and they had some share in the general administration of the state. But the most important of their functions was, that they were judges in all criminal cases affecting the life of a Spartan citizen.
The Popular Assembly was of little importance, and appears to have been usually summoned only as a matter of form for the election of certain magistrates, for passing laws, and for determining upon peace and war. It would appear that open discussion was not allowed and that the assembly rarely came to a division.
The Ephors were of later origin, and did not exist in the original constitution of Lycurgus. They may be regarded as the representatives of the popular assembly. They were elected annually from the general body of Spartan citizens, and seem to have been originally appointed to protect the interests and liberties of the people against the encroachments of the kings and the senate. They correspond in many respects to the tribunes of the people at Rome. Their functions were at first limited and of small importance; but in the end the whole political power became centred in their hands.
The Spartan government was in reality a close oligarchy, in which the kings and the senate, as well as the people, were alike subject to the irresponsible authority of the five Ephors.
The most important part of the legislation of Lycurgus did not relate to the political constitution of Sparta, but to the discipline and education of the citizens. It was these which gave Sparta her peculiar character, and distinguished her in so striking a manner from all the other states of Greece. The position of the Spartans, surrounded by numerous enemies, whom they held in subjection by the sword alone, compelled them to be a nation of soldiers. Lycurgus determined that they should be nothing else; and the great object of his whole system was to cultivate a martial spirit, and to give them a training which would make them invincible in battle. To accomplish this the education of a Spartan was placed under the control of the state from his earliest boyhood. Every child after birth was exhibited to public view, and, if deemed deformed and weakly, was exposed to perish on Mount Taygetus. At the age of seven he was taken from his mother's care, and handed over to the public classes. He was not only taught gymnastic games and military exercises but he was also subjected to severe bodily discipline, and was compelled to submit to hardships and suffering without repining or complaint. One of the tests to which he was subjected was a cruel scourging at the altar of Artemis (Diana), until his blood gushed forth and covered the altar of the goddess. It was inflicted publicly before the eyes of his parents and in the presence of the whole city; and many Spartan youths were known to have died under the lash without uttering a complaining murmur. No means were neglected to prepare them for the hardships and stratagems of war. They were obliged to wear the same garment winter and summer, and to endure hunger and thirst, heat and cold. They were purposely allowed an insufficient quantity of food, but were permitted to make up the deficiency by hunting in the woods and mountains of Laconia. They were even encouraged to steal whatever they could; but if they were caught in the fact, they were severely punished for their want of dexterity. Plutarch tells us of a boy, who, having stolen a fox, and hid it under his garment, chose rather to let it tear out his very bowels than be detected in the theft.
The literary education of a Spartan youth was of a most restricted kind. He was taught to despise literature as unworthy of a warrior, while the study of eloquence and philosophy, which were cultivated at Athens with such extraordinary success, was regarded at Sparta with contempt. Long speeches were a Spartan's abhorrence, and he was trained to express himself with sententious brevity.
A Spartan was not considered to have reached the full age of manhood till he had completed his thirtieth year. He was then allowed to marry, to take part in the public assembly, and was eligible to the offices of the state. But he still continued under the public discipline, and was not permitted even to reside and take his meals with his wife. It was not till he had reached his sixtieth year that he was released from the public discipline and from military service.
The public mess—called SYSSITIA—is said to have been instituted by Lycurgus to prevent all indulgence of the appetite. Public tables were provided, at which every male citizen was obliged to take his meals. Each table accommodated fifteen persons, who formed a separate mess, into which no new member was admitted, except by the unanimous consent of the whole company. Each sent monthly to the common stock a specified quantity of barley-meal, wine, cheese, and figs and a little money to buy flesh and fish. No distinction of any kind was allowed at these frugal meals. Meat was only eaten occasionally; and one of the principal dishes was black broth. Of what it consisted we do not know. The tyrant Dionysius found it very unpalatable; but, as the cook told him, the broth was nothing without the seasoning of fatigue and hunger.
The Spartan women in their earlier years were subjected to a course of training almost as rigorous as that of the men, and contended with each other in running, wrestling and boxing. At the age of twenty a Spartan woman usually married, and she was no longer subjected to the public discipline. Although she enjoyed little of her husband's society, she was treated by him with deep respect, and was allowed a greater degree of liberty than was tolerated in other Grecian states. Hence she took a lively interest in the welfare and glory of her native land, and was animated by an earnest and lofty spirit of patriotism. The Spartan mother had reason to be proud of herself and of her children. When a woman of another country said to Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas, "The Spartan women alone rule the men," she replied, "The Spartan women alone bring forth men." Their husbands and their sons were fired by their sympathy to deeds of heroism. "Return either with your shield, or upon it," was their exhortation to their sons when going to battle.
Lycurgus is said to have divided the land belonging to the Spartans into 9000 equal lots and the remainder of Laconia into 30,000 equal lots, and to have assigned to each Spartan citizen one of the former of these lots, and to each Perioecus one of the latter.
Neither gold nor silver money was allowed in Sparta, and nothing but bars of iron passed in exchange for every commodity. As the Spartans were not permitted to engage in commerce, and all luxury and display in dress, furniture, and food was forbidden, they had very little occasion for a circulating medium, and iron money was found sufficient for their few wants. But this prohibition of the precious metals only made the Spartans more anxious to obtain them; and even in the times of their greatest glory the Spartans were the most venal of the Greeks, and could rarely resist the temptation of a bribe.
The legislation of Lycurgus was followed by important results. It made the Spartans a body of professional soldiers, all trained and well disciplined, at a time when military training and discipline were little known, and almost unpractised in the other states of Greece. The consequence was the rapid growth of the political power of Sparta, and the subjugation of the neighbouring states. At the time of Lycurgus the Spartans held only a small portion of Laconia: they were merely a garrison in the heart of an enemy's country. Their first object was to make themselves masters of Laconia, in which they finally succeeded after a severe struggle. They next turned their arms against the Messenians, Arcadians, and Argives. Of these wars the two waged against Messenia were the most celebrated and the most important. They were both long protracted and obstinately contested. They both ended in the victory of Sparta, and in the subjugation of Messenia. These facts are beyond dispute; but of the details we have no trustworthy narrative.
The FIRST MESSENIAN WAR lasted from B.C. 743 to 724. During the first four years the Lacedaemonians made little progress; but in the fifth a great battle was fought, and although its result was indecisive, the Messenians did not venture to risk another engagement, and retired to the strongly fortified mountain of Ithome. In their distress they sent to consult the oracle at Delphi, and received the appalling answer that the salvation of Messenia required the sacrifice of a virgin of the royal house to the gods of the lower world. Aristodemus, who is the Messenian hero of the first war, slew his own daughter, which so disheartened the Spartans, that they abstained from attacking the Messenians for some years. In the thirteenth year of the war the Spartan king marched against Ithome, and a second great battle was fought, but the result was again indecisive. The Messenian king fell in the action; and Aristodemus, who was chosen king in his place, prosecuted the war with vigour. In the fifth year of his reign a third great battle was fought. This time the Messenians gained a decisive victory, and the Lacedaemonians were driven back into their own territory. They now sent to ask advice of the Delphian oracle, and were promised success upon using stratagem. They therefore had recourse to fraud: and at the same time various prodigies dismayed the bold spirit of Aristodemus. His daughter too appeared to him in a dream, showed him her wounds, and beckoned him away. Seeing that his country was doomed to destruction, Aristodemus slew himself on his daughter's tomb. Shortly afterwards, in the twentieth year of the war, the Messenians abandoned Ithome, which the Lacedaemonians razed to the ground, and the whole country became subject to Sparta. Many of the inhabitants fled into other countries; but those who remained were reduced to the condition of Helots, and were compelled to pay to their masters half of the produce of their lands.
For thirty-nine years the Messenians endured this degrading yoke. At the end of this time they took up arms against their oppressors. The SECOND MESSENIAN WAR lasted from B.C. 685 to 668. Its hero is Aristomenes, whose wonderful exploits form the great subject of this war. It would appear that most of the states in Peloponnesus took part in the struggle. The first battle was fought before the arrival of the allies on either side, and, though it was indecisive, the valour of Aristomenes struck fear into the hearts of the Spartans. To frighten the enemy still more, the hero crossed the frontier, entered Sparta by night, and affixed a shield to the temple of Athena (Minerva), with the inscription, "Dedicated by Aristomenes to the goddess from the Spartan spoils." The Spartans in alarm sent to Delphi for advice. The god bade them apply to Athens for a leader. Fearing to disobey the oracle, but with the view of rendering no real assistance, the Athenians sent Tyrtaeus, a lame man and a schoolmaster. The Spartans received their new leader with due honour; and he was not long in justifying the credit of the oracle. His martial songs roused their fainting courage; and so efficacious were his poems that to them is mainly ascribed the final success of the Spartan arms.
Encouraged by the strains of Tyrtaeus, the Spartans again marched against the Messenians. But they were not at first successful. A great battle was fought at the Boar's Grave in the plain of Stenyclerus, in which they were defeated with great loss. In the third year of the war another great battle was fought, in which the Messenians suffered a signal defeat. So greet was their loss, that Aristomenes no longer ventured to meet the Spartans in the open field. Following the example of the Messenian leaders in the former war, he retired to the mountain fortress of Ira. The Spartans encamped at the foot of the mountain; but Aristomenes frequently sallied from the fortress, and ravaged the lands of Laconia with fire and sword. It is unnecessary to relate all the wonderful exploits of this hero in his various incursions. Thrice was he taken prisoner; on two occasions he burst his bonds, but on the third he was carried to Sparta, and thrown with his fifty companions into a deep pit, called Ceadas. His comrades were all killed by the fall; but Aristomenes reached the bottom unhurt. He saw, however, no means of escape, and had resigned himself to death; but on the third day perceiving a fox creeping among the bodies, he grasped its tail, and, following the animal as it struggled to escape, discovered an opening in the rock, and on the next day was at Ira to the surprise alike of friends and foes. But his single prowess was not sufficient to avert the ruin of his country. One night the Spartans surprised Ira, while Aristomenes was disabled by a wound; but he collected the bravest of his followers, and forced his way through the enemy. Many of the Messenians went to Rhegium, in Italy, under the sons of Aristomenes, but the hero himself finished his days in Rhodes.
The second Messenian war was terminated by the complete subjugation of the Messenians, who again became the serfs of their conquerors. In this condition they remained till the restoration of their independence by Epaminondas in the year 369 B.C. During the whole of the intervening period the Messenians disappear from history. The country called Messenia in the map became a portion of Laconia, which thus extended across the south of Pelponnesus from the eastern to the western sea.
THE EARLY HISTORY OF ATHENS, DOWN TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF DEMOCRACY BY CLISTHENES, B.C. 510.
Sparta was the only state in Greece which continued to retain the kingly form of government during the brilliant period of Grecian history. In all other parts of Greece royalty had been abolished at as early age, and various forms of republican government established in its stead. The abolition of royalty was first followed by an Oligarchy or the government of the Few. Democracy, or the government of the Many, was of later growth. It was not from the people that the oligarchies received their first and greatest blow. They were generally overthrown by the usurpers, to whom the Greeks gave the name of TYRANTS. [The Greek word Tyrant does not correspond in meaning to the same word in the English language. It signifies simply an irresponsible ruler, and may, therefore, be more correctly rendered by the term Despot.]
The rise of the Tyrants seems to have taken place about the same time in a large number of the Greek cities. In most cases they belonged to the nobles, and they generally became masters of the state by espousing the cause of the commonalty, and using the strength of the people to put down the oligarchy by force. At first they were popular with the general body of the citizens, who were glad to see the humiliation of their former masters. But discontent soon began to arise; the tyrant had recourse to violence to quell disaffection; and the government became in reality a tyranny in the modern sense of the word.
Many of the tyrants in Greece were put down by the Lacedaemonians. The Spartan government was essentially an oligarchy, and the Spartans were always ready to lend their powerful aid in favour of the government of the Few. Hence they took an active part in the overthrow of the despots, with the intention of establishing the ancient oligarchy in their place. But this rarely happened; and they found it impossible in most cases to reinstate the former body of nobles in their ancient privileges. The latter, it is true, attempted to regain them and were supported in their attempts by Sparta. Hence arose a new struggle. The first contest after the abolition of royalty was between oligarchy and the despot, the next was between oligarchy and democracy.
The history of Athens affords the most striking illustration of the different revolutions of which we have been speaking.
Little is known of Athens before the age of Solon. Its legendary tales are few, its historical facts still fewer. Cecrops, the first ruler of Attica, is said to have divided the country into twelve districts, which are represented as independent communities, each governed by a separate king. They were afterwards united into a single state, having Athens as its capital and the seat of government. At what time this important union was effected cannot be determined; but it is ascribed to Theseus, as the national hero of the Athenian people.
A few generations after Theseus, the Dorians are said to have invaded Attica. An oracle declared that they would be victorious if they spared the life of the Athenian King; whereupon Codrus, who then reigned at Athens, resolved to sacrifice himself for the welfare of his country. Accordingly he went into the invaders' camp in disguise, provoked a quarrel with one of the Dorian soldiers and was killed by the latter. Upon learning the death of the Athenian king, the Dorians retired from Attica without striking a blow: and the Athenians, from respect to the memory of Codrus, abolished the title of king, and substituted for it that of Archon or Ruler. The office, however, was held for life, and was confined to the family of Codrus. His son Medon was the first archon, and he was followed in the dignity by eleven members of the family in succession. But soon after the accession Alcmaeon, the thirteenth in descent from Medon, another change was introduced, and the duration of the archonship was limited to ten years (B.C. 752). The dignity was still confined to the descendants of Medon; but in the time of Hippomenes (B.C. 714) this restriction was removed, and the office was thrown open to all the nobles in the state. In B.C. 683 a still more important change took place. The archonship was now made annual, and its duties were distributed among nine persons, all of whom bore the title. The last of the decennial archons was Eryxias, the first of the nine annual archons Creon.
Such is the legendary account of the change of government at Athens, from royalty to an oligarchy. It appears to have taken place peaceably and gradually, as in most other Greek states. The whole political power was vested in the nobles; from them the nine annual archons were taken, and to them alone these magistrates were responsible. The people, or general body of freemen, had no share in the government.
The Athenian nobles were called EUPATRIDAE, the two other classes in the state being the GEOMORI or husbandmen, and DEMIURGI or artisans. This arrangement is ascribed to Theseus; but there was another division of the people of still greater antiquity. As the Dorians were divided into three tribes, so the Ionians were usually distributed into four tribes. The latter division also existed among the Athenians, who were Ionians, and it continued in full vigour down to the great revolution of Clisthenes (B.C. 509). These tribes were distinguished by the names of GELEONTES (or TELEONTES) "cultivators," HOPLETES "warriors," AEGICORES "goat-herds," and ARGADES "artisans." Each tribe contained three Phratriae, each Phratry thirty Gentes, and each Gens thirty heads of families.
The first date in Athenian history on which certain reliance can be placed is the institution of annual archons, in the year 683 B.C. The duties of the government were distributed among the nine archons in the following manner. The first was called THE ARCHON by way of pre-eminence, and sometimes the Archon Eponymus, because the year was distinguished by his name. The second archon was called THE BASILEUS or THE KING, because he represented the king in his capacity as high-priest of the nation. The third archon bore the title of THE POLEMARCH, or Commander-in-chief and was, down to the time of Clisthenes, the commander of the troops. The remaining six had the common title of THESMOTHETAE, or Legislators. Their duties seem to have been almost exclusively judicial.
The government of the Eupatrids was oppressive; and the discontent of the people at length became so serious, that Draco was appointed in 624 B.C. to draw up a written code of laws. They were marked by extreme severity. He affixed the penalty of death to all crimes alike; to petty thefts, for instance, as well as to sacrilege and murder. Hence they were said to have been written not in ink but in blood; and we are told that he justified this extreme harshness by saying that small offences deserved death, and that he knew no severer punishment for great ones.
The legislation of Draco failed to calm the prevailing discontent. The people gained nothing by the written code, except a more perfect knowledge of its severity; and civil dissensions prevailed as extensively as before. The general dissatisfaction with the government was favourable to revolutionary projects; and accordingly, twelve years after Draco's legislation (B.C. 612), Cylon, one of the nobles, conceived the design of depriving his brother Eupatrids of their power, and making himself tyrant of Athens. Having collected a considerable force, he seized the Acropolis; but he did not meet with support from the great mass of the people, and he soon found himself closely blockaded by the forces of the Eupatrids. Cylon and his brother made their escape, but the remainder of his associates, hard pressed by hunger, abandoned the defence of the walls, and took refuge at the altar of Athena (Minerva). They were induced by the archon Megacles, one of the illustrious family of the Alcmaeonidae, to quit the altar on the promise that their lives should be spared; but directly they had left the temple they were put to death, and some of them were murdered even at the altar of the Eumenides or Furies.
The conspiracy thus failed; but its suppression was attended with a long train of melancholy consequences. The whole family of the Alcmaeonidae was believed to have become tainted by the daring act of sacrilege committed by Megacles; and the friends and partisans of the murdered conspirators were not slow in demanding vengeance upon the accursed race. Thus a new element of discord was introduced into the state, In the midst of these dissensions there was one man who enjoyed a distinguished reputation at Athens, and to whom his fellow citizens looked up as the only person in the state who could deliver them from their political and social dissensions, and secure them from such misfortunes for the future. This man was Solon, the son of Execestides, and a descendant of Codrus. He had travelled through many parts of Greece and Asia, and had formed acquaintance with many of the most eminent men of his time. On his return to his native country he distinguished himself by recovering the island of Salamis, which had revolted to Megara (B.C. 600). Three years afterwards he persuaded the Alcmaeonidae to submit their case to the judgment of three hundred Eupatridae, by whom they were adjudged guilty of sacrilege, and were expelled from Attica. The banishment of the guilty race did not, however, deliver the Athenians from their religious fears. A pestilential disease with which they were visited was regarded as an unerring sign of the divine wrath. Upon the advice of the Delphic oracle, they invited the celebrated Cretan prophet and sage, Epimenides, to visit Athens, and purify their city from pollution and sacrilege. By performing certain sacrifices and expiatory acts, Epimenides succeeded in staying the plague.
The civil dissensions however still continued. The population of Attica was now divided into three hostile factions, consisting of the PEDIEIS or wealthy Eupatrid inhabitants of the plains; of the DIACRII, or poor inhabitants of the hilly districts in the north and east of Attica; and of the PARALI, or mercantile inhabitants of the coasts, who held an intermediate position between the other two. Their disputes were aggravated by the miserable condition of the poorer population. The latter were in a state of abject poverty, They had borrowed money from the wealthy at exorbitant rates of interest upon the security of their property and their persons. If the principal and interest of the debt were not paid, the creditor had the power of seizing the person as well as the land of his debtor, and of using him as a slave. Many had thus been torn from their homes and sold to barbarian masters, while others were cultivating as slaves the lands of their wealthy creditors in Attica. Matters had at length reached a crisis; the existing laws could no longer be enforced; and the poor were ready to rise in open insurrection against the rich.
In these alarming circumstances the ruling oligarchy were obliged to have recourse to Solon; and they therefore chose him Archon in B.C. 594, investing him under that title with unlimited powers to effect any changes he might consider beneficial to the state. His appointment was hailed with satisfaction by the poor; and all parties were willing to accept his mediation and reforms.
Solon commenced his undertaking by relieving the poorer class of debtors from their existing distress. He cancelled all contracts by which the land or person of a debtor had been given as security; and he forbad for the future all loans in which the person of the debtor was pledged. He next proceeded to draw up a new constitution and a new code of laws. As a preliminary step he repealed all the laws of Draco, except those relating to murder. He then made a new classification of the citizens, distributing them into four classes according to the amount of their property, thus making wealth and not birth the title to the honours and offices of the state. The first class consisted of those whose annual income was equal to 500 medimni of corn and upwards, and were called PENTACOSIOMEDIMNI. [The medimnus was one bushel and a half.] The second class consisted of those whose incomes ranged between 300 and 500 medimni and were called KNIGHTS, from their being able to furnish a war-horse. The third class consisted of those who received between 200 and 300 medimni, and were called ZEUGITAE from their being able to keep a yoke of oxen for the plough. The fourth class, called THETES, included all whose property fell short of 200 medimni. The first class were alone eligible to the archonship and the higher offices of the state. The second and third classes filled inferior posts, and were liable to military service, the former as horsemen, and the latter as heavy-armed soldiers on foot. The fourth class were excluded from all public offices, and served in the army only as light-armed troops. Solon, however, allowed them to veto in the public assembly, where they must have constituted by far the largest number. He gave the assembly the right of electing the archons and the other officers of the state; and he also made the archons accountable to the assembly at the expiration of their year of office.
This extension of the duties of the public assembly led to the institution of a new body. Solon created the Senate, or Council of Four Hundred with the special object of preparing all matters for the discussion of the public assembly, of presiding at its meetings, and of carrying its resolutions into effect. No subject could be introduced before the people, except by a previous resolution of the Senate. The members of the Senate were elected by the public assembly, one hundred from each of the four ancient tribes, which were left untouched by Solon. They held their office for a year, and were accountable at its expiration to the public assembly for the manner in which they had discharged their duties.
The Senate of the Areopagus [It received its name from its place of meeting, which was a rocky eminence opposite the Acropolis, called the hill of Ares (Mars Hill)], is said by some writers to have been instituted by Solon; but it existed long before his time, and may be regarded as the representative of the Council of Chiefs in the Heroic age. Solon enlarged its powers, and intrusted it with the general supervision of the institutions and laws of the state, and imposed upon it the duty of inspecting the lives and occupations of the citizens. All archons became members of it at the expiration of their year of office.
Solon laid only the foundation of the Athenian democracy by giving the poorer classes a vote in the popular assembly, and by enlarging the power of the latter; but he left the government exclusively in the hands of the wealthy. For many years after his time the government continued to be an oligarchy, but was exercised with more moderation and justice than formerly.
Solon enacted numerous laws, containing regulations on almost all subjects connected with the public and private life of the citizens. He encouraged trade and manufactures, and invited foreigners to settle in Athens by the promise of protection and by valuable privileges. To discourage idleness a son was not obliged to support his father in old age, if the latter had neglected to teach him some trade or occupation.
Solon punished theft by compelling the guilty party to restore double the value of the property stolen. He forbade speaking evil either of the dead or of the living.
Solon is said to have been aware that he had left many imperfections in his laws. He described them not as the best laws which he could devise, but as the best which the Athenians could receive. Having bound the government and people of Athens by a solemn oath to observe his institutions for at least ten years, he left Athens and travelled in foreign lands. During his absence the old dissensions between the Plain, the Shore, and the Mountain broke out afresh with more violence than ever. The first was headed by Lycurgus, the second by Megacles, an Alcmaeonid, and the third by Pisistratus, the cousin of Solon. Of these leaders, Pisistratus was the ablest and the most dangerous. He had espoused the cause of the poorest of the three classes, in order to gain popularity, and to make himself master of Athens. Solon on his return to Athens detected the ambitious designs of his kinsman, and attempted to disuade him from them. Finding his remonstrances fruitless, he next denounced his projects in verses addressed to the people. Few, however, gave any heed to his warnings: and Pisistratus, at length finding his schemes ripe for action, had recourse to a memorable strategem to secure his object. One day he appeared in the market-place in a chariot, his mules and his own person bleeding with wounds inflicted with his own hands. These he exhibited to the people, telling them that he had been nearly murdered in consequence of defending their rights. The popular indignation was excited; and a guard of fifty clubmen was granted him for his future security. He gradually increased the number of his guard and soon found himself strong enough to throw off the mask and seize the Acropolis (B.C. 560). Megacles and the Alcmaeonidae left the city. Solon alone had the courage to oppose the usurpation, and upbraided the people with their cowardice and their treachery. "You might," said he, "with ease have crushed the tyrant in the bud; but nothing now remains but to pluck him up by the roots." But no one responded to his appeal. He refused to fly; and when his friends asked him on what he relied for protection, "On my old age," was his reply. It is creditable to Pisistratus that he left his aged relative unmolested, and even asked his advice in the administration of the government. Solon did not long survive the overthrow of the constitution. He died a year or two afterwards at the advanced age of eighty. His ashes are said to have been scattered by his own direction round the island of Salamis, which he had won for the Athenian people.
Pisistratus however did not retain his power long. The leaders of the factions of the Shore and the Plain combined and drove the usurper into exile. But the Shore and the Plain having quarrelled, Pisistratus was recalled and again became master of Athens. Another revolution shortly afterwards drove him into exile a second time, and he remained abroad ten years. At length, with the assistance of mercenaries from other Grecian states and with the aid of his partisans in Athens, he became master of Athens for the third time, and henceforth continued in possession of the supreme power till the day of his death. As soon as he was firmly established in the government, his administration was marked by mildness and equity. He maintained the institutions of Solon, taking care, however, that the highest offices should always be held by some members of his own family. He not only enforced strict obedience to the laws, but himself set the example of submitting to them. Being accused of murder, he disdained to take advantage of his authority, and went in person to plead his cause before the Areopagus, where his accuser did not venture to appear. He courted popularity by largesses to the citizens and by throwing open his gardens to the poor. He adorned Athens with many public buildings. He commenced on a stupendous scale a temple to the Olympian Zeus, which remained unfinished for centuries, and was at length completed by the emperor Hadrian. He was a patron of literature, as well as of the arts. He is said to have been the first person in Greece who collected a library, which he threw open to the public; and to him posterity is indebted for the collection of the Homeric poems. On the whole it cannot be denied that he made a wise and noble use of his power.
Pisistratus died at an advanced age in 527 B.C., thirty-three years after his first usurpation. He transmitted the sovereign power to his sons, Hippias and Hipparchus, who conducted the government on the same principles as their father. Hipparchus inherited his father's literary tastes. He invited several distinguished poets, such as Anacreon and Simonides, to his court. The people appear to have been contented with their rule; and it was only an accidental circumstance which led to their overthrow and to a change in the government.
Their fall was occasioned by the conspiracy of Harmodius and Aristogiton, who were attached to each other by a most intimate friendship. Harmodius having given offence to Hippias, the despot revenged himself by putting a public affront upon his sister. This indignity excited the resentment of the two friends, and they now resolved to slay the despots at the festival of the Great Panathenaea, when all the citizens were required to attend in arms. Having communicated their design to a few associates, the conspirators appeared armed at the appointed time like the rest of the citizens, but carrying concealed daggers besides. Harmodius and Aristogiton had planned to kill Hippias first as he was arranging the order of the procession outside the city, but, upon approaching the spot where he was standing, they were thunderstruck at beholding one of the conspirators in close conversation with the despot. Believing that they were betrayed, they rushed back into the city with their daggers hid in the myrtle boughs which they were to have carried in the procession, and killed Hipparchus. Harmodius was immediately cut down by the guards. Aristogiton died under the tortures to which he was subjected in order to compel him to disclose his accomplices.
Hipparchus was assassinated in B.C. 514, the fourteenth year after the death of Pisistratus. From this time the character of the government became entirely changed. His brother's murder converted Hippias into a cruel and suspicious tyrant. He put to death numbers of the citizens, and raised large sums of money by extraordinary taxes.
The Alcmaeonidae, who had lived in exile ever since the third and final restoration of Pisistratus to Athens, now began to form schemes to expel the tyrant. Clisthenes, the son of Megacles, who was the head of the family, secured the Delphian oracle by pecuniary presents to the Pythia, or priestess, henceforth, whenever the Spartans came to consult the oracle, the answer of the priestess was always the same, "Athens must be liberated." This order was so often repeated, that the Spartans at last resolved to obey. Cleomenes, king of Sparta, defeated the Thessalian allies of Hippias; and the tyrant, unable to meet his enemies in the field, took refuge in the Acropolis. Here he might have maintained himself in safety, had not his children been made prisoners as they were being secretly carried out of the country. To procure their restoration, he consented to quit Attics in the space of five days. He sailed to Asia, and took up his residence at Sigeum in the Troad, which his father had wrested from the Mytilenaeans in war.
Hippias was expelled in B.C. 510, four years after the assassination of Hipparchus. These four years had been a time of suffering and oppression for the Athenians, and had effaced from their minds all recollection of the former mild rule of Pisistratus and his sons. Hence the expulsion of the family was hailed with delight. The memory of Harmodius and Aristogiton was cherished with the fondest reverence; and the Athenians of a later age, overlooking the four years which had elapsed from their death to the overthrow of the despotism, represented them as the liberators of their country and the first martyrs for its liberty. Their statues were erected in the market-place soon after the expulsion of Hippias; their descendants enjoyed immunity from all taxes and public burdens; and their deed of vengeance formed the favourite subject of drinking songs.
The Lacedaemonians quitted Athens soon after Hippias had sailed away, leaving the Athenians to settle their own affairs. Clisthenes, to whom Athens was mainly indebted for its liberation from the despotism, aspired to be the political leader of the state but he was opposed by Isagoras, the leader of the party of the nobles. By the Solonian constitution, the whole political power was vested in the hands of the nobles; and Clisthenes soon found that it was hopeless to contend against his rival under the existing order of things. For this reason he resolved to introduce an important change in the constitution, and to give to the people an equal share in the government.
The reforms of Clisthenes gave birth to the Athenian democracy, which can hardly be said to have existed before this time. His first and most important measure was a redistribution of the whole population of Attica into ten new tribes. He abolished the four ancient Ionic tribes, and enrolled in the ten new tribes all the free inhabitants of Attica, including both resident aliens and even emancipated slaves. He divided the tribes into a certain number of cantons or townships, called DEMI, which at a later time were 174 in number. Every Athenian citizen was obliged to be enrolled in a demus, each of which, like a parish in England, administered its own affairs. It had its public meetings it levied rates, and was under the superintendence of an officer called DEMARCHUS.
The establishment of the ten new tribes led to a change in the number of the Senate. It had previously consisted of 400 members, but it was now enlarged to 500, fifty being selected from each of the ten new tribes. The Ecclesia, or formal assembly of the citizens, was now summoned at certain fixed periods; and Clisthenes transferred the government of the state, which had hitherto been in the hands of the archons, to the senate and the ecclesia. He also increased the judicial as well as the political power of the people; and enacted that all public crimes should be tried by the whole body of citizens above thirty years of age, specially convoked and sworn for the purpose. The assembly thus convened was called HELIAEA and its members HELIASTS. Clisthenes also introduced the OSTRACISM, by which an Athenian citizen might be banished without special accusation, trial, or defence for ten years, which term was subsequently reduced to five. It must be recollected that the force which a Greek government had at its disposal was very small; and that it was comparatively easy for an ambitious citizen, supported by a numerous body of partisans, to overthrow the constitution and make himself despot. The Ostracism was the means devised by Clisthenes for removing quietly from the state a powerful party leader before he could carry into execution any violent schemes for the subversion of the government. Every precaution was taken to guard this institution from abuse. The senate and the ecclesia had first to determine by a special vote whether the safety of the state required such a step to be taken. If they decided in the affirmative, a day was fixed for the voting, and each citizen wrote upon a tile or oyster-shell [OSTRACON, whence the name OSTRACISM] the name of the person whom he wished to banish. The votes were then collected, And if it was found that 6000 had been recorded against any one person, he was obliged to withdraw from the city within ten days: if the number of votes did not amount to 6000, nothing was done.
The aristocratical party, enraged at these reforms called in the assistance of Cleomenes, king of the Lacedaemonians. Athens was menaced by foreign enemies and distracted by party struggles. Clisthenes was at first compelled to retire from Athens; but the people rose in arms against Cleomenes, expelled the Lacedaemonians, who had taken possession of the city, and recalled Clisthenes. Thereupon Cleomenes collected a Peloponnesian army in order to establish Isagoras as a tyrant over the Athenians, and at the same time he concerted measures with the Thebans and the Chalcidians of Euboea for a simultaneous attack upon Attica. The Peloponnesian army, commanded by the two kings, Cleomenes and Demaratus, entered Attica, and advanced as far as Eleusis; but when the allies became aware of the object for which they had been summoned, they refused to march farther, and strongly protested against the attempt to establish a tyranny at Athens. Their remonstrances being seconded by Demaratus, Cleomenes found it necessary to abandon the expedition and return home. At a later period (B.C. 491) Cleomenes took revenge upon Demaratus by persuading the Spartans to depose him upon the ground of illegitimacy. The exiled king took refuge at the Persian court.