The Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to prose. Volume I (of X) - Greece
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of the






Associate Editor

With an Introduction, Biographical and Explanatory Notes, etc.


Vol. I






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The Best of the World's Classics



484 B.C.—200 A.D.

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Ever since civilized man has had a literature he has apparently sought to make selections from it and thus put his favorite passages together in a compact and convenient form. Certain it is, at least, that to the Greeks, masters in all great arts, we owe this habit. They made such collections and named them, after their pleasant imaginative fashion, a gathering of flowers, or what we, borrowing their word, call an anthology. So to those austere souls who regard anthologies as a labor-saving contrivance for the benefit of persons who like a smattering of knowledge and are never really learned, we can at least plead in mitigation that we have high and ancient authority for the practise. In any event no amount of scholarly deprecation has been able to turn mankind or that portion of mankind which reads books from the agreeable habit of making volumes of selections and finding in them much pleasure, as well as improvement in taste and knowledge. With the spread of education and with the great increase of literature among all civilized nations, more especially since the invention of printing and its vast multiplication of books, the making of volumes of selections comprizing what is best in one's own or in many literatures is no longer a mere matter of taste or convenience as with the Greeks, but has become something little short of a necessity in this world of many workers, comparatively few scholars, and still fewer intelligent men of leisure. Anthologies have been multiplied like all other books, and in the main they have done much good and no harm. The man who thinks he is a scholar or highly educated because he is familiar with what is collected in a well-chosen anthology, of course, errs grievously. Such familiarity no more makes one a master of literature than a perusal of a dictionary makes the reader a master of style. But as the latter pursuit can hardly fail to enlarge a man's vocabulary, so the former adds to his knowledge, increases his stock of ideas, liberalizes his mind and opens to him new sources of enjoyment.

The Greek habit was to bring together selections of verse, passages of especial merit, epigrams and short poems. In the main their example has been followed. From their days down to the "Elegant Extracts in Verse" of our grandmothers and grandfathers, and thence on to our own time with its admirable "Golden Treasury" and "Oxford Handbook of Verse," there has been no end to the making of poetical anthologies and apparently no diminution in the public appetite for them. Poetry indeed lends itself to selection. Much of the best poetry of the world is contained in short poems, complete in themselves, and capable of transference bodily to a volume of selections. There are very few poets of whose quality and genius a fair idea can not be given by a few judicious selections. A large body of noble and beautiful poetry, of verse which is "a joy forever," can also be given in a very small compass. And the mechanical attribute of size, it must be remembered, is very important in making a successful anthology, for an essential quality of a volume of selections is that it should be easily portable, that it should be a book which can be slipt into the pocket and readily carried about in any wanderings whether near or remote. An anthology which is stored in one or more huge and heavy volumes is practically valueless except to those who have neither books nor access to a public library, or who think that a stately tome printed on calendered paper and "profusely illustrated" is an ornament to a center-table in a parlor rarely used except on solemn or official occasions.

I have mentioned these advantages of verse for the purposes of an anthology in order to show the difficulties which must be encountered in making a prose selection. Very little prose is in small parcels which can be transferred entire, and therefore with the very important attribute of completeness, to a volume of selections. From most of the great prose writers it is necessary to take extracts, and the chosen passage is broken off from what comes before and after. The fame of a great prose writer as a rule rests on a book, and really to know him the book must be read and not merely passages from it. Extracts give no very satisfactory idea of "Paradise Lost" or "The Divine Comedy," and the same is true of extracts from a history or a novel. It is possible by spreading prose selections through a series of small volumes to overcome the mechanical difficulty and thus make the selections in form what they ought above all things to be—companions and not books of reference or table decorations. But the spiritual or literary problem is not so easily overcome. What prose to take and where to take it are by no means easy questions to solve. Yet they are well worth solving, so far as patient effort can do it, for in this period of easy printing it is desirable to put in convenient form before those who read examples of the masters which will draw us back from the perishing chatter of the moment to the literature which is the highest work of civilization and which is at once noble and lasting.

Upon that theory this collection has been formed. It is an attempt to give examples from all periods and languages of Western civilization of what is best and most memorable in their prose literature. That the result is not a complete exhibition of the time and the literatures covered by the selections no one is better aware than the editors. Inexorable conditions of space make a certain degree of incompleteness inevitable when he who is gathering flowers traverses so vast a garden, and is obliged to confine the results of his labors within such narrow bounds. The editors are also fully conscious that, like all other similar collections, this one too will give rise to the familiar criticism and questionings as to why such a passage was omitted and such another inserted; why this writer was chosen and that other passed by. In literature we all have our favorites, and even the most catholic of us has also his dislikes if not his pet aversions. I will frankly confess that there are authors represented in these volumes whose writings I should avoid, just as there are certain towns and cities of the world to which, having once visited them, I would never willingly return, for the simple reason that I would not voluntarily subject myself to seeing or reading what I dislike or, which is worse, what bores and fatigues me. But no editor of an anthology must seek to impose upon others his own tastes and opinions. He must at the outset remember and never afterward forget that so far as possible his work must be free from the personal equation. He must recognize that some authors who may be mute or dull to him have a place in literature, past or present, sufficiently assured to entitle them to a place among selections which are intended above all things else to be representative.

To those who wonder why some favorite bit of their own was omitted while something else for which they do not care at all has found a place I can only say that the editors, having supprest their own personal preferences, have proceeded on certain general principles which seem to be essential in making any selection either of verse or prose which shall possess broader and more enduring qualities than that of being a mere exhibition of the editor's personal taste. To illustrate my meaning: Emerson's "Parnassus" is extremely interesting as an exposition of the tastes and preferences of a remarkable man of great and original genius. As an anthology it is a failure, for it is of awkward size, is ill arranged and contains selections made without system, and which in many cases baffle all attempts to explain their appearance. On the other hand, Mr. Palgrave, neither a very remarkable man nor a great and original genius, gave us in the first "Golden Treasury" a collection which has no interest whatever as reflecting the tastes of the editor, but which is quite perfect in its kind. Barring the disproportionate amount of Wordsworth which includes some of his worst things—and which, be it said in passing, was due to Mr. Palgrave's giving way at that point to his personal enthusiasm—the "Golden Treasury" in form, in scope, and in arrangement, as well as in almost unerring taste, is the best model of what an anthology should be which is to be found in any language.

Returning now to our questioner who misses some favorite and finds something else which he dislikes, the only answer, as I have just said, is that the collection is formed on certain general principles, as any similar collection of the sort must be. This series is called "The Best of the World's Classics," and "classics" is used not in the narrow and technical sense, but rather in that of Thoreau, who defined classics as "the noblest recorded thoughts of mankind." Therefore, the first principle of guidance in selection is to take examples of the great writings which have moved and influenced the thought of the world, and which have preeminently the quality of "high seriousness" as required by Aristotle. This test alone, however, would limit the selections too closely. Therefore the second principle of choice is to make selections from writers historically important either personally or by their writings. The third rule is to endeavor to give selections which shall be representative of the various literatures and the various periods through which, the collection ranges. Lastly, and this applies, of course, only to passages taken from the writers of England and the United States, the effort has been to give specimens of the masters of English prose, of that prose in its development and at its best, and to show, so far as may be, what can be accomplished with that great instrument, and what a fine style really is as exhibited in the best models. Everything contained in these volumes is there in obedience to one at least of these principles, many in obedience to more than one, some in conformity to all four.

No one will become a scholar or a master of any of the great literatures here represented by reading this collection. Literature and scholarship are not to be had so cheaply as that. Yet is there much profit to be had from these little volumes. They contain many passages which merit Dr. Johnson's fine saying about books: "That they help us to enjoy life or teach us to endure it." To the man of letters, to the man of wide reading, they will at least serve to recall, when far from libraries and books, those authors who have been the delight and the instructors of a lifetime. They will bring at least the pleasures of memory and that keener pleasure which arises when we meet a poem or a passage of prose which we know as an old and well-loved friend, remote from home, upon some alien page.

To that larger public whose lives are not spent among books and libraries, and for whose delectation such a collection as this is primarily intended, these volumes rightly read at odd times, in idle moments, in out-of-the-way places, on the ship or the train, offer much. They will bring the reader in contact with many of the greatest intellects of all time. They contain some of the noblest thoughts that have passed through the minds of our weak and erring race. There is no man who will not be the better, for the moment at least, by reading what Cicero says about old age, Seneca about death, and Socrates about love, to go no further for examples than to

"The glory that was Greece, And the grandeur that was Rome."

Moreover, the bowing acquaintance which can be formed here may easily offer attractions which will lead to a close and intimate friendship, with all that the word implies in the case of a great author or a great book. It seems to me, for example, as if no one who read here the too brief extracts from Erasmus or from Cervantes, to take at random two writers widely separated in thought, could fail to pursue the acquaintance thus begun, so potent are the sympathetic charm, the wit, the wisdom and the humor of both these great men. There is, at least, variety in these little volumes, and while many things in them may not appeal to us, they may to our neighbors. That which "is dumb to us may speak to him."

Again, let it be noticed that there is much more than the "high seriousness" which is the test of the greatest prose as of the finest poetry. Humor and pathos, tragedy and comedy, all find their place and glimpses of the pageant of human history flit through the pages. It would seem as if it were impossible to read extracts from Thucydides and Tacitus and Gibbon and not long to go to their histories and learn all that could be said by such men about the life of man upon earth, about Athens and Rome and the rise and fall of empires. Selections are unsatisfying and the better they are the more unsatisfying they become. But this is in reality their great merit. They have much beauty in themselves, they awaken pleasant memories, they revive old delights, but, above all, if rightly read they open the gates to the illimitable gardens whence all the flowers which have here been gathered may be found blooming in radiance, unplucked and unbroken and rooted in their native soil.

The most important part of the collection is that which gives selections from those writers whose native tongue is English. No translation even of prose can ever quite reproduce its original, and as a rule can not hope to equal it. There are many translations, notably the Elizabethan, which are extremely fine in themselves and memorable examples of English prose. Still they are not the original writings. Something escapes in the translation into another tongue, an impalpable something which can not be held or transmitted. The Bible stands alone, a great literary monument of the noblest and most beautiful English, which has formed English speech and become a part of the language as it is of the thought and emotion of the people who read "King James'" version in all parts of the globe. Yet we know that the version which the people, so fortunate in its possession, wisely and absolutely decline to give up in exchange for any revision is neither an accurate nor a faithful reproduction of its original. Therefore, putting aside the English Bible as wholly by itself, it may be safely said that the soul of a language and the beauties of style which it is capable of exhibiting can only be found and studied in the productions of writers who not only think in the language in which they write, but to whom that speech is native, the inalienable birthright and heritage of their race or country. In such writers we get not only the thought, the humor, or the pathos, all that can be transferred in a translation, but also the pleasure to the ear akin to music, the sense of form, the artistic gratification which form brings, all those attributes which are possible in the highest degree to those only to whom the language is native.

For these reasons, as will be readily understood, in making selections from those writers whose native tongue is English, specimens have been given of all periods from the earliest time and occasionally of authors who would not otherwise find a place in such a collection, for the purpose of tracing in outline the development of English prose and the formation of an English style which, like all true and great styles, is peculiar to the language and can not be reproduced in any other. This is not the place, nor would it be feasible within any reasonable limits to narrate the history of English prose. But in these selections it is possible to follow its gradual advance from the first rude and crude attempts through the splendid irregularities of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to the establishment of a standard of style in the eighteenth and thence onward to the modifications and changes in that standard which extend to our own time.

The purpose of this collection is not didactic. If it were it would be a school-book and not an anthology in the Greek sense, where the first principle was to seek what was of literary value, artistic in expression, and noble in thought. Yet the mere bringing together of examples of prose from the writings of the great masters of style can not but teach a lesson never more needed than now.

I do not mean by this to suggest imitation of any writer. Nothing is more dangerous, especially when the style of the writer imitated is peculiar and strongly marked. That which is valuable and instructive is the opportunity given here for a study of fine English styles, and in this way to learn the capabilities of the language and the general principles which have governed the production of the best English prose. We have in the English language an unequaled richness of vocabulary far surpassing in extent that of any other tongue. It possesses a great literature and a body of poetry unrivaled in modern times. It is not only one of the strongest bonds of union in the United States, but it is the language in which our freedom was won and in which our history and our laws are written. It is our greatest heritage. To weaken, corrupt or deprave it would be a misfortune without parallel to our entire people. Yet we can not disguise from ourselves the fact that the fertility of the printing-press, the multiplication of cheap magazines, and the flood of printed words poured out daily in the newspapers all tend strongly in this direction. This is an era of haste and hurry stimulated by the great inventions which have changed human environment. Form and style in any art require time, and time seems the one thing we can neither spare nor wisely economize. Yet, in literature above all arts, to abandon form and style is inevitably destructive and entails misfortunes which can hardly be estimated, for loose, weak and vulgar writing is a sure precursor of loose, weak and vulgar thinking. If form of expression is cast aside, form in thought and in the presentation of thought is certain to follow. Against all this the fine English prose amply represented in these selections offers a silent and convincing protest to every one who will read it attentively.

We can begin with the splendid prose of the age of Elizabeth and of the seventeenth century. It is irregular and untamed, but exuberant and brilliant, rich both in texture and substance. We find it at its height in the strange beauties of Sir Thomas Browne, in the noble pages of Milton, stiff with golden embroidery, as Macaulay says, and in the touching and beautiful simplicity of Bunyan's childlike sentences. Thence we pass to the eighteenth century, when English prose was freed from its involutions and irregularities and brought to uniformity and to a standard. The age of Anne gave to English prose balance, precision and settled form. There have been periods of greater originality, but the eighteenth century at least lived up to Pope's doctrine, set forth in the familiar line:

"What oft was thought but ne'er so well exprest."

As there is no better period to turn to for instruction than the age of Anne, so, if we must choose a single writer there is no better master to be studied than Swift. There have been many great writers and many fine and beautiful styles since the days of the terrible Dean of St. Patrick's, from the imposing and finely balanced sentences of Gibbon to the subtle delicacy of Hawthorne and the careful finish of Robert Louis Stevenson. But in Swift better than in any one writer can we find the lessons which are so sorely needed now. He had in the highest degree force, clearness and concentration all combined with a marvelous simplicity. Swift's style may have lacked richness, but it never failed in taste. There is not a line of false fine-writing in all his books. Those are the qualities which are so needed now, simplicity and clearness and a scrupulous avoidance of that would-be fine writing which is not at all fine but merely vulgar and insincere.

The writing in our newspapers is where reform is particularly needed. There are great journals here and there which maintain throughout a careful standard of good and sober English. Most of them, unhappily, are filled in the news columns at least with a strange jargon found nowhere else, spoken by no one and never used in daily life by those who every night furnish it to the compositors. It is happily compounded in about equal parts of turgid fine writing, vulgar jauntiness and indiscriminate slang.

I can best show my meaning by example. A writer in a newspaper wished to state that a man who had once caused excitement by a book of temporary interest and who, after the days of his notoriety were over, lived a long and checkered career, had killed himself. This is the way he said it:

His life's work void of fruition and dissipated into emptiness, his fondest hopes and ambitions crumbled and scattered, shunned as a fanatic, and unable to longer wage life's battle, Hinton Rowan Helper, at one time United States consul general to Buenos Ayres, yesterday sought the darkest egress from his woes and disappointments—a suicide's death.

In an unpretentious lodging-house in Pennsylvania avenue, near the Capitol, the man who as much, if not more than any other agitator, is said to have blazed the way to the Civil War, the writer who stirred this nation to its core by his anti-slavery philippics, and the promoter with the most gigantic railroad enterprise projected in the history of the world, was found gript in the icy hand of death. The brain which gave birth to his historic writings had willed the stilling of the heart which for three-quarters of a century had palpitated quick and high with roseate hopes.

That passage, taken at hazard from a newspaper, is intended, I think, to be fine writing of an imposing and dramatic kind. Why could not the writer have written it, a little more carefully perhaps, but still in just the language which he would have used naturally in describing the event to his wife or friend? Simply stated, it would have been far more solemn and impressive than this turgid, insincere account with its large words, its forced note of tragedy and its split infinitive. Let me put beneath it another description of a death-bed:

The blood and spirits of Le Fevre, which were waxing cold and slow, and were retreating to their last citadel, the heart—rallied back,—the film forsook his eyes for a moment,—he looked up wishfully into my Uncle Toby's face,—then cast a look upon his boy,—and that ligament, fine as it was,—was never broken.

Nature instantly ebbed again,—the film returned to its place,—the pulse fluttered,—stopt,—went on,—throbbed,—stopt again,—moved,—stopt,—shall I go on? No.

This famous passage is neither unintentional sentiment nor unaffected pathos. The art is apparent even in the punctuation. The writer meant to be touching and pathetic and to awaken emotions of tenderness and pity and he succeeded. The description is all he meant it to be. The extract from the newspaper arouses no emotion, unless it be resentment at its form and leaves us cold and unmoved. The other is touching and pitiful. Observe the manner in which Sterne obtains his effect, the perfect simplicity and good taste of every word, the reserve, the gentleness, the utter absence of any straining for effect. The one description died the day it appeared. The other has held its place for a century and a half. Are not the qualities which produced such a result worth striving for?

Let me take another haphazard selection from a description of a young girl entitled as such to every one's kindness, courtesy and respect. In it occurs this sentence: "The college girl is grammatical in speech, but she has the jolliest, chummiest jargon of slang that ever rolled from under a pink tongue." That articulate sounds come from beneath the tongue is at least novel and few persons are fortunate enough to be able to talk with that portion of their mouths. But I have no desire to dwell either upon the anatomical peculiarities of the sentence or upon its abysmal vulgarity. It is supposed to be effective, it is what is appropriately called "breezy," it is a form of words which can be heard nowhere in the speech of men and women. Why should it be consigned to print? It is possible to describe a young girl attractively and effectively in much simpler fashion. Let me give an example, not a famous passage at all, from another writer:

She shocked no canon of taste; she was admirably in keeping with herself, and never jarred against surrounding circumstances. Her figure, to be sure—so small as to be almost childlike and so elastic that motion seemed as easy or easier to it than rest—would hardly have suited one's idea of a countess. Neither did her face—with brown ringlets on either side and a slightly piquant nose, and the wholesome bloom, and the clear shade of tan, and the half dozen freckles, friendly remembrancers of the April sun and breeze—precisely give us the right to call her beautiful. But there was both luster and depth in her eyes. She was very pretty; as graceful as a bird and graceful much in the same way; as pleasant about the house as a gleam of sunshine falling on the floor through a shadow of twinkling leaves, or as a ray of firelight that dances on the wall while evening is drawing nigh.

Contrast this with the newspaper sentence and the sensation is one of pain. Again I say, observe the method by which Hawthorne gets his effect, the simplicity of the language, the balance of the sentences, the reserve, the refinement, and the final imaginative touch in the charming comparison with which the passage ends.

To blame the hard working men who write for the day which is passing over them because they do not write like Sterne and Hawthorne would be as absurd as it would be unjust. But they ought to recognize the qualities of fine English prose, they ought to remember that they can improve their readers by giving them good, simple English, pure and undefiled, and they ought not to debauch the public taste by vulgar fine writing and even more vulgar light writing. In short, they ought to write for the public as they would talk to their wives and children and friends; a little more formally and carefully perhaps, but in the same simple and direct fashion.

For the prolific authors of the flood of stories, which every month bears on its broad bosom many tons of advertisements, no such allowance need be made. They are not compelled to furnish copy between daylight and dark. They need a course of study in English prose more than anyone else, and they would profit by the effort. As a class they seem to be like the young man in Du Maurier's picture, who, being asked if he had read Thackeray, replies, "No. I nevah read novels; I write them."

In this age of quickening movement and restless haste it is, above all things, important to struggle against the well-nigh universal inclination to abandon all efforts for form and style. They are the great preservers of what is best in literature, the salt which ought never to lose its savor. Those who use English in public speech and public writing have a serious responsibility too generally forgotten and disregarded. I would fain call attention to it altho no single man can hope to effect much by any plea he can make in behalf of the use of good English, whether written or spoken. Yet no one, I think, can read the great masterpieces of English prose and not have both lesson and responsibility brought home to him. He would be insensible, indeed, if he did not feel after such reading that he was a sharer in a noble heritage which it behooved him to guard and cherish. If this series serves no other purpose, it will exhibit to those who read it some of the splendors and the beauties of English prose. It will at least open the gates of literature and perhaps lead its readers to authors they have not known before, or recall the words of writers who have entered into their lives and thoughts and thus make them more mindful of the ineffable value to them and their children of the great language which is at once their birthright and their inheritance.


Washington, D. C., July 15, 1909.



INTRODUCTION. By Henry Cabot Lodge.

HERODOTUS—(Born probably in 484 B.C., died probably in 424.)

I Solon's Words of Wisdom to Croesus. (From Book I of the "History." Translated by Rawlinson)

II Babylon and Its Capture by Cyrus. (From Book I of the "History." Translated by Taylor)

III The Pyramid of Cheops. (From Book II of the "History." Translated by Rawlinson)

IV The Story of Periander's Son. (From Book III of the "History." Translated by Rawlinson)

THUCYDIDES—(Born about 471 B.C., died about 401.)

I The Athenians and Spartans Contrasted. (From Book I of the "Peloponnesian War." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

II The Plague at Athens. (From Book II of the "Peloponnesian War." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

III The Sailing of the Athenian Fleet for Sicily. (From Book VI of the "Peloponnesian War." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

IV Completion of the Athenian Defeat at Syracuse. (From Book VII of the "Peloponnesian War." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

XENOPHON—(Born about 430 B.C., died about 357.)

I The Character of Cyrus the Younger. (From the "Anabasis." Translated by J. S. Watson)

II The Greek Army in the Snows of Armenia. (From the "Anabasis." Translated by Watson)

III The Battle of Leuctra. (From Book VI of the "Hellenica." Translated by Watson)

IV Of the Army of the Spartans. (From the treatise on "The Government of Lacedaemon." Translated by Watson)

V How to Choose and Manage Saddle Horses. (From the treatise on "Horsemanship." Translated by Watson)

PLATO—(Born about 427 B.C., died in 347.)

I The Image of the Cave. (From the "Republic." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

II Good and Evil. (From the "Protagoras." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

III Socrates in Praise of Love. (From the "Symposium." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

IV The Praise of Socrates by Alcibiades. (From the "Symposium." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

V The Refusal of Socrates to Escape from Prison. (From the "Crito." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

VI The Death of Socrates. (From the "Phaedo." Translated by Benjamin Jowett)

ARISTOTLE—(Born in 384 B.C., died in 322.)

I What Things are Pleasant. (From Book I of the "Rhetoric." Translated by Buckley)

II The Life Most Desirable. (From Book VII of the "Politics." Translated by Walford)

III Ideal Husbands and Wives. (From Book I of the "Economics." Translated by Walford)

IV Happiness as an End of Human Action. (From Book X of the "Nicomachean Ethics." Translated by Browne)

POLYBIUS—(Born in 204 B.C., died about 125.)

I The Battle of Cannae. (From Book IV of the "Histories." Translated by Shuckburgh)

II Hannibal's Advance on Rome. (From Book IX of the "Histories." Translated by Shuckburgh)

III The Defense of Syracuse by Archimedes. (From Book VIII of the "Histories." Translated by Shuckburgh)

PLUTARCH—(Born about 46 A.D., died in 125.)

I Demosthenes and Cicero Compared. (From the "Lives." Translated by Sir Thomas North)

II The Assassination of Caesar. (From the "Lives." Translated by North)

III Cleopatra's Barge. (From the "Life of Mark Antony." Translated by North)

IV The Death of Antony and Cleopatra. (From the "Life of Mark Antony." Translated by North)

EPICTETUS—(Born about the middle of the first century.)

I Of Freedom. (From the "Discourses." Translated by Thomas Wentworth Higginson)

II Of Friendship. (From the "Discourses." Translated by Higginson)

III The Philosopher and the Crowd. (From the "Discourses." Translated by Higginson)

LUCIAN—(Born about 120 A.D., died about 200.)

I A Descent to the Unknown. (From "Menippus." Translated by H. W. and F. G. Fowler)

II Among the Philosophers. (From the "Fisher: A Resurrection Piece." Translated by H. W. and F. G. Fowler)

III Of Liars and Lying. (From the "Liar." Translated by H. W. and F. G. Fowler)

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484 B.C.—200 A.D.


Born in Asia Minor, probably in 484 B.C.; died in Italy, probably in 424; commonly called the "Father of History"; assisted in the expulsion of the tyrant Lygdamis from Halicarnassus; traveled in Persia, Egypt, and Greece; lived afterward in Samos and Athens, settling in Thurii, Italy, about 444 B.C.; his history of the Persian invasion of Greece, extending to 479 B.C., was first printed in Greek by Aldus Manutius in 1502, but a Latin version had appeared in 1474.[1]



When all these conquests had been added to the Lydian empire, and the prosperity of Sardis[3] was now at its height, there came thither, one after another, all the sages of Greece living at the time, and among them Solon, the Athenian. He was on his travels, having left Athens to be absent ten years, under the pretense of wishing to see the world, but really to avoid being forced to repeal any of the laws which at the request of the Athenians he had made for them. Without his sanction the Athenians could not repeal them, as they had bound themselves under a heavy curse to be governed for ten years by the laws which should be imposed on them by Solon.

On this account, as well as to see the world, Solon set out upon his travels, in the course of which he went to Egypt to the court of Amasis,[4] and also paid a visit to Croesus at Sardis. Croesus received him as his guest, and lodged him in the royal palace. On the third or fourth day after, he bade his servants conduct Solon over his treasuries and show him all their greatness and magnificence. When he had seen them all, and so far as time allowed inspected them, Croesus addrest this question to him: "Stranger of Athens, we have heard much of thy wisdom and of thy travels through many lands, from love of knowledge and a wish to see the world. I am curious therefore to inquire of thee, whom of all the men that thou hast seen thou deemest the most happy?"

This he asked because he thought himself the happiest of mortals; but Solon answered him without flattery, according to his true sentiments, "Tellus of Athens, sire." Full of astonishment at what he had heard Croesus demanded sharply, "And wherefore dost thou deem Tellus happiest?" To this the other replied: "First, because his country was flourishing in his days, and he himself had sons both beautiful and good, and he lived to see children born to each of them, and these children all grew up; and further, because after a life spent in what our people look upon as comfort, his end was surpassingly glorious. In a battle between the Athenians and their neighbors near Eleusis, he came to the assistance of his countrymen, routed the foe, and died upon the field most gallantly. The Athenians gave him a public funeral on the spot where he fell, and paid him the highest honors."

Thus did Solon admonish Croesus by the example of Tellus, enumerating the manifold particulars of his happiness. When he had ended, Croesus inquired a second time, who after Tellus seemed to him the happiest, expecting that at any rate he would be given the second place. "Cleobis and Bito," Solon answered: "they were of Argive race; their fortune was enough for their wants, and they were besides endowed with so much bodily strength that they had both gained prizes at the games. Also, this tale is told of them: There was a great festival in honor of the goddess Juno at Argos, to which their mother must needs be taken in a car. Now, the oxen did not come home from the field in time; so the youths, fearful of being too late, put the yoke on their own necks, and themselves drew the car in which their mother rode. Five and forty furlongs did they draw her, and stopt before the temple. This deed of theirs was witnessed by the whole assembly of worshipers, and then their life closed in the best possible way. Herein, too, God showed forth most evidently how much better a thing for man death is than life. For the Argive men stood thick around the car and extolled the vast strength of the youths; and the Argive women extolled the mother who was blest with such a pair of sons; and the mother herself, overjoyed at the deed and at the praises it had won, standing straight before the image, besought the goddess to bestow on Cleobis and Bito, the sons who had so mightily honored her, the highest blessing to which mortals can attain. Her prayer ended, they offered sacrifice and partook of the holy banquet, after which the two youths fell asleep in the temple. They never woke again, but so passed from the earth. The Argives, looking on them as among the best of men, caused statues of them to be made, which they gave to the shrine at Delphi."

When Solon had thus assigned these youths the second place Croesus broke in angrily, "What, stranger of Athens! is my happiness then so utterly set at naught by thee that thou dost not even put me on a level with private men?"

"O Croesus," replied the other, "thou askedst a question concerning the condition of man, of one who knows that the Power above us is full of jealousy, and fond of troubling our lot. A long life gives one to witness much, and experience much oneself, that one would not choose. Seventy years I regard as the limit of the life of man. In these seventy years are contained, without reckoning intercalary months, twenty-five thousand and two hundred days. Add an intercalary month to every other year, that the seasons may come round at the right time, and there will be, besides the seventy years, thirty-five such months, making an addition of one thousand and fifty days. The whole number of the days contained in the seventy years will thus be twenty-six thousand two hundred and fifty, whereof not one but will produce events unlike the rest. Hence man is wholly accident.

"For thyself, O Croesus, I see that thou art wonderfully rich, and art the lord of many nations; but with respect to that whereon thou questionest me, I have no answer to give, until I hear that thou hast closed thy life happily. For assuredly he who possesses great store of riches is no nearer happiness than he who has what suffices for his daily needs, unless it so hap that luck attend upon him, and so he continue in the enjoyment of all his good things to the end of life. For many of the wealthiest men have been unfavored of fortune, and many whose means were moderate have had excellent luck. Men of the former class excel those of the latter but in two respects; these last excel the former in many. The wealthy man is better able to content his desires, and to bear up against a sudden buffet of calamity. The other has less ability to withstand these evils (from which, however, his good luck keeps him clear), but he enjoys all these following blessings: he is whole of limb, a stranger to disease, free from misfortune, happy in his children, and comely to look upon.

"If in addition to all this he ends his life well, he is of a truth the man of whom thou art in search, the man who may rightly be termed happy. Call him, however, until he die, not happy but fortunate. Scarcely indeed can any man unite all these advantages: as there is no country which contains within it all that it needs, but each while it possesses some things lacks others, and the best country is that which contains the most, so no single human being is complete in every respect—something is always lacking. He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably—that man alone, sire, is in my judgment entitled to bear the name of 'happy.' But in every matter it behooves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin."

Such was the speech which Solon addrest to Croesus, a speech which brought him neither largess nor honor. The king with much indifference saw Solon depart, since the former thought that a man must be an arrant fool who made no account of present good, but bade men always wait and mark the end.


[Footnote 1: Herodotus, at a certain period in his life, came under the influence of Pericles and his contemporaries, but it is clear from his writings that he received from Attic thought and style little definite inspiration. J. P. Mahaffy has likened him to Goldsmith in his aloofness from his environment. Often ridiculed by his friends for simplicity, Goldsmith far exceeded his clever critics in directness and pathos, and thus gained a place in literature which contemporaries never dreamed would be his. The narrative of Herodotus, adds Mahaffy, gives us more information about the state of the ancient nations and their culture than all other Greek historians put together. His purpose, as Herodotus himself declares, was to narrate the great conflict between the Greeks and barbarians, in order that the causes might be known and glorious deeds might not perish. Readers are imprest by the perfect ease and mastery with which a great variety of subjects are dealt with, his story "advancing with epic grandeur to its close." Mahaffy pronounces Herodotus an Ionic story-writer, who never became an Attic one—the chief master of Ionic, as Thucydides was of Attic prose.]

[Footnote 2: From Book I of the "History." Translated by George Rawlinson. Croesus reigned from 560 B.C. to 546. The visit of Solon was made some time before 559.]

[Footnote 3: The capital of Lydia, in Asia Minor, and a flourishing city in the time of Croesus. It was several times destroyed, the last time by Tamerlane. Its site is now a village.]

[Footnote 4: Amasis came to the Egyptian throne in 569 B.C., and reigned 44 years.]



Assyria contains many large cities; but of these Babylon, to which, after the destruction of Nineveh, the seat of government was removed, is by far the most renowned and the most strongly fortified. Babylon is situated in an extensive plain. Each side of the city, which forms a square, measures one hundred and twenty stadia (about fourteen miles), making the entire circuit of the city four hundred and eighty stadia—such is the magnitude of this city Babylon! and in magnificence also it surpassed every city of which we have any knowledge. It is surrounded by a trench, deep, wide, and full of water. Within this is a wall, the width of which is fifty royal cubits, and its height two hundred cubits.[6] The royal cubit exceeds the common measure by three fingers' breadth.

It is proper I should say in what manner the earth removed from the trench was disposed of, and how the wall was constructed. The earth, as fast as it was removed from the trench, was converted into bricks and baked in furnaces: when thus prepared, melted bitumen was used instead of mortar; and between every thirtieth course of bricks there was inserted a layer of reeds. The sides of the trench were first lined with brickwork, and then the wall raised in the manner described. On the upper edges of the wall, and opposite to one another, were constructed turrets; between these turrets a space was left wide enough for a chariot and four horses to pass and turn. In the walls were one hundred gates, all of brass, with posts and upper lintels of the same. Eight days' journey from Babylon is a city named Is, near which runs a small river of the same name, discharging itself into the Euphrates; this river brings down with its waters clots of bitumen in large quantities. From this source was derived the bitumen used in cementing the walls of Babylon.

Such are the fortifications of Babylon. The city is divided into two portions by the river Euphrates, which runs through the midst of it. This river rises in Armenia, and throughout its course is wide, deep, and swift; it empties itself into the Red sea.[7] Each of the city walls is extended to the river, where it makes an angle, and, with a coating of burnt bricks, lines the sides of the river. The city is filled with houses of three or four stories, forming streets in straight lines, and running parallel with one another, the cross streets opening upon the river through as many smaller brazen gates, placed in the breastwork of the river walls. Within the principal wall just mentioned is a second, not much inferior to the first in strength, tho less in width.

In the center of each portion of the city is an enclosed space—the one occupied by the royal palace, a building of vast extent and great strength; in the other stands the temple of Jupiter Belus, with its brazen gates, remaining in my time: it is a square structure; each side measures two stadia. Within the enclosure is erected a solid tower, measuring a stadium both in width and depth; upon this tower is raised another, and then another, and another, making eight in all. The ascent is by a path which is formed on the outside of the towers; midway in the ascent is a resting-place, furnished with easy chairs, in which those who ascend repose themselves. On the summit of the topmost tower stands a large temple; and in this temple is a great couch, handsomely fitted up; and near it stands a golden table: no statue whatever is erected in the temple, nor does any man ever pass the night there; but a woman only, chosen from the people by the god, as the Chaldeans, who are the priests of the temple affirm. The same persons say—tho I give no credit to the story—that the god himself comes to the temple and reposes on the bed, in like manner as at Thebes in Egypt, where also, in the temple of Jupiter, a woman passes the night. A similar custom is observed at Pataris, in Lycia, where there is at times an oracle, on which occasions the priestess is shut up by night in the temple.

Within the precincts of the temple at Babylon there is a smaller sacred edifice on the ground, containing an immense golden statue of Jupiter in a sitting posture: around the statue are large tables, which, with the steps and throne, are all of gold, and, as the Chaldeans affirm, contain eight hundred talents of gold. Without this edifice is a golden altar; there is also another altar of great size, on which are offered full-grown animals: upon the golden altar it is not lawful to offer sacrifices except sucklings. Once in every year, when the festival of this god is celebrated, the Chaldeans burn upon the greater altar a thousand talents of frankincense. There was also, not long since, in this sacred enclosure a statue of solid gold, twelve cubits in height; at least so the Chaldeans affirm: I did not myself see it. This figure Darius Hystaspes would fain have taken, but dared not execute his wishes; however, his son Xerxes not only took it, but put to death the priests who endeavored to prevent its removal. Such was the magnificence of this temple, which contained also many private offerings.

Of this Babylon there were several monarchs—as I shall mention in my history of the Assyrians—who adorned the city and its temples. Among these, two young women must be mentioned. The former, named Semiramis,[8] reigned five generations before the latter. This queen raised an embankment worthy of admiration through the plain to confine the river, which heretofore often spread over the level like a lake. The latter of these two queens, named Nitocris,[9] excelled the former in intelligence: she left monuments, some of which I must describe. Seeing the Medes already possest of extensive empire, and restlessly extending their power, by taking city after city, among which was Nineveh, she resolved in good time to secure herself against them in the best manner possible. In the first place, therefore, as the river Euphrates ran in a straight course through the city, she formed excavations at a distance above it, by which means its course became so tortuous that it three times passed a certain town of Assyria, called Ardericca; travelers from our sea,[10] in descending the Euphrates toward Babylon, three times arrive at that town in the course of three days. She also raised both banks of the river to an amazing height and thickness. At some distance above Babylon, and near the river, she dug a reservoir in the marsh, of such depth as to drain it. The width of this excavation was such as to make its circuit four hundred and twenty stadia. The earth removed from it was taken to raise the banks of the river; this done, she brought stones, with which the sides of the lake were lined. Both these works—the diverting of the river and the reservoir—were formed with the intention of rendering the current less rapid by its many windings, which broke its force, and at the same time made the navigation more circuitous; so that those who descended toward Babylon by water might have to make a long circuit around the lake. These works were effective on that side which was exposed to the inroads of the Medes, and where the distance between her dominions and theirs was the least; for she wished to cut off all communication with them, and to keep them in ignorance of her movements.

Thus did this princess raise from the depths a fortification, within which she was included. The city being divided into two portions by the river in former times, whoever wished to pass from one to the other was obliged to take a boat, which manifestly was a great inconvenience. This defect she supplied. When she had dug the lake in the marsh, she availed herself of the occasion to construct another monument also, by which her fame will be perpetuated. She caused stones of great magnitude to be hewn, and when they were ready, the lake being empty, she turned the waters of the Euphrates into it; which, as it filled, left the old channel dry. Then she lined both sides of the river and the descent from the gates with burnt bricks, in like manner as the city walls; and with the stones already mentioned she constructed, as near the middle of the city as possible, a bridge, binding the stones together with iron and lead. During the day, planks of wood were extended from pier to pier, so as to form a pathway; these were withdrawn at night, to prevent the people from passing over to plunder one another. This bridge was, as we have said, formed by withdrawing the water of the Euphrates into the artificial lake; when completed, the river was restored to its ancient channel; the propriety of this mode of proceeding then become apparent, by means of which the citizens obtained the accommodation of a bridge.

The same queen also executed the following machination: she constructed for herself a tomb, aloft upon a gate in one of the most frequented ways of the city; upon the sepulcher she engraved this inscription: "If any one of my successors, the kings of Babylon, shall lack money, let him open the sepulcher, and take what treasures he pleases. But let him beware of opening it from any other cause than necessity; for in such a case it shall not turn to his advantage." This sepulcher remained undisturbed till Darius ascended the throne. To this king it seemed a grievance both that this gate should remain useless, and that the wealth deposited in it, and which invited research, should not be appropriated. The gate was not used, because no one could pass through it without having a dead body over his head. He therefore opened the tomb, in which he found—of treasures indeed nothing, but the corpse, and an inscription to this effect: "If thou hadst not been insatiably eager for riches, and greedy of filthy lucre, thou wouldst not have opened the depository of the dead." So much for this queen and the reports that have been handed down concerning her.

It was against the son of this woman that Cyrus made war; he was named (like his father) Labynetus, and reigned over the Assyrians. When the Great King[11] goes out to battle, he is attended by ample provisions and cattle drawn from the home stock; and even water from the Choaspian spring at Susa,[12] of which alone the king drinks, is carried about for his use; for he can taste no other stream. This Choaspian water, after having been boiled, is put into vases of silver, which are transported in four-wheeled wagons drawn by mules, following him wherever he goes.

Cyrus advancing toward Babylon arrived at the river Gyndes, which, rising in the Matienian hills and running through the country of the Dardanians (or Darnians), empties itself into the Tigris; and this river, passing by the city Opis, discharges its waters into the Red Sea.[13] When Cyrus attempted to pass this river Gyndes, which could only be done by boats, one of the white horses called sacred, full of mettle, plunged into the stream and endeavored to reach the opposite bank; but, being submerged in the current, it was carried away. Cyrus, enraged at the river for this injury, threatened to reduce it so low that in future women should ford it with ease, not wetting their knees. Having uttered this threat, he delayed the progress of his army toward Babylon, and, dividing his forces into two bodies, measured out one hundred and eighty channels to be cut from both banks of the river, thus diverting the Gyndes on all sides. He enjoined upon his army the work of digging these trenches, and by their numbers they completed it; but the whole summer was spent there in the labor.

Cyrus having in this manner punished the river Gyndes, by distributing its waters into three hundred and sixty trenches, as soon as the next spring appeared, advanced toward Babylon. The Babylonians, coming out in battle-array, waited his approach; when he drew nigh to the city they engaged him, but, being defeated, retired within the walls. Some time before, well knowing the restless intentions of Cyrus, and seeing him attack one nation after another, they had brought into the city an abundance of corn for many years. They therefore disregarded the siege. But Cyrus, beset with difficulties, saw a long time pass away without his making any progress toward the accomplishment of his object.

At length, either at the suggestion of some one else or from a thought of his own, he resorted to the following means: He disposed the whole of his army, by placing one part above the city, where the river enters it, and another part below, where it makes its exit, commanding them as soon as they should perceive the river to be sufficiently shallow to enter by that way. This order being given, he himself went off with the inferior troops of the army. Arriving at the lake, he did what had been done before by the queen of Babylon in the marsh; for, by making a trench from the river to the empty reservoir, he diverted the water from the ancient channel, till it so far subsided as to become fordable.

As soon as this happened, the Persians who had been appointed for this purpose entered Babylon by the bed of the river, the water of which was little more than knee-deep. If the Babylonians had been before apprized of the intentions of Cyrus, or if they had learned at the moment what he was doing, they would not have suffered the Persians to enter the city, nor would the Babylonians have perished so shamefully; for if they had closed all the gates by the river's side, and ascended the walls which ran along it, they might have taken the Persians as in a net. But the Persians came upon their opponents quite unexpectedly; and from the great extent of the city—as it has been affirmed by some of the inhabitants—those who dwelt in the outskirts of the city were made prisoners before the people in the center of Babylon knew that the place was taken. But, as it happened, they were celebrating a festival, and were dancing and feasting when they learned what had happened. Thus was Babylon the first time taken.


[Footnote 5: From Book I of the "History." Translated by Isaac Taylor. Cyrus, after capturing Babylon, did not destroy it; it was Darius Hystaspes who razed its walls and towers. Darius Hystaspes was the father of that Darius who succeeded to the Persian throne after the failure of male heirs to Cyrus. Xerxes carried further the work of destruction at Babylon. Its permanent decay was accelerated still more by the founding, in its neighborhood, of Seleucia in 300 B.C. In the time of Pliny it had become a dismal and silent place.]

[Footnote 6: Equivalents in English feet for these measurements have been estimated as eighty-five feet for the width and three hundred and thirty-five feet for the height.]

[Footnote 7: Now called the Persian Gulf.]

[Footnote 8: Semiramis is regarded by modern antiquarians as a fabulous personage. By some of them she has been identified with the goddess Astarte.]

[Footnote 9: Antiquarians have great doubts as to the identity of this queen. By some she is thought to have been the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, who began to reign in 604 B.C., and the mother or grandmother of Belshazzar, the last of the kings of Babylon.]

[Footnote 10: That is, from the sea which encircled Greece.]

[Footnote 11: Herodotus means by this the King of Persia.]

[Footnote 12: Susa was the capital of Susiana, a country lying at the head of the Persian Gulf.]

[Footnote 13: Here again for Red Sea we must read Persian Gulf.]



Till the death of Rhampsinitus, the priests said, Egypt was excellently governed, and flourished greatly; but after him Cheops succeeded to the throne, and plunged into all manner of wickedness. He closed the temples and forbade the Egyptians to offer sacrifice, compelling them instead to labor, one and all, in his service. Some were required to drag blocks of stone down to the Nile from the quarries in the Arabian range of hills; others received the blocks after they had been conveyed in boats across the river, and drew them to the range of hills called the Libyan. A hundred thousand men labored constantly, and were relieved every three months by a fresh lot. It took ten years' oppression of the people to make the causeway for the conveyance of the stones, a work not much inferior, in my judgment, to the pyramid itself. This causeway is five furlongs in length, ten fathoms wide, and in height, at the highest part, eight fathoms. It is built of polished stone, and is covered with carvings of animals. To make it took ten years, as I said—or rather to make the causeway, the works on the mound where the pyramid stands, and the underground chambers, which Cheops intended as vaults for his own use; these last were built on a sort of island, surrounded by water introduced from the Nile by a canal. The pyramid itself was twenty years in building. It is a square, eight hundred feet each way, and the height the game, built entirely of polished stone, fitted together with the utmost care. The stones of which it is composed are none of them less than thirty feet in length.

The pyramid was built in steps, battlement-wise, as it is called, or, according to others, altar-wise. After laying the stones for the base, they raised the remaining stones to their places by means of machines formed of short wooden planks. The first machine raised them from the ground to the top of the first step. On this there was another machine, which received the stone upon its arrival, and conveyed it to the second step, whence a third machine advanced it still higher. Either they had as many machines as there were steps in the pyramid or possibly they had but a single machine, which, being easily moved, was transferred from tier to tier as the stone rose—both accounts are given, and therefore I mention both. The upper portion of the pyramid was finished first, then the middle, and finally the part which was lowest and nearest the ground. There is an inscription in Egyptian characters on the pyramid which records the quantity of radishes, onions, and garlic consumed by the laborers who constructed it; and I perfectly well remember that the interpreter who read the writing to me said that the money expended in this way was 1,600 talents of silver. If this then is a true record, what a vast sum must have been spent on the iron tools used in the work, and on the feeding and clothing of the laborers, considering the length of time the work lasted, which has already been stated, and the additional time—no small space, I imagine—which must have been occupied by the quarrying of the stones, their conveyance, and the formation of the underground apartments!


[Footnote 14: From Book II of the "History." Translated by George Rawlinson. The Pyramid of Cheops was built about 3,500 B.C. Cheops, according to Herodotus, reigned fifty years.]



After Periander had put to death his wife Melissa, it chanced that on his first affliction a second followed of a different kind. His wife had borne him two sons, and one of them had now reached the age of seventeen, the other of eighteen years, when their mother's father, Procles, tyrant of Epidaurus,[16] asked them to his court. They went, and Procles treated them with much kindness, as was natural, considering they were his own daughter's children. At length, when the time for parting came, Procles as he was sending them on their way said, "Know you now, my children, who it was that caused your mother's death?" The elder son took no account of this speech, but the younger, whose name was Lycophron, was sorely troubled at it—so much so that when he got back to Corinth, looking upon his father as his mother's murderer, he would neither speak to him nor answer when spoken to nor utter a word in reply to all his father's questionings. So Periander, at last growing furious at such behavior, banished his son from his house.

The younger son gone, he turned to the elder and asked him what it was that their grandfather had said to them. Then the son related in how kind and friendly a fashion the grandfather had received them; but, not having taken any notice of the speech which Procles had uttered at parting, he quite forgot to mention it. Periander insisted that it was not possible this should be all—their grandfather must have given them some hint or other—and he went on pressing his son till at last he remembered the parting speech and told it. Periander, after he had turned the whole matter over in his thoughts and felt unwilling to give way at all, sent a messenger to the persons who had opened their houses to his outcast son and forbade them to harbor him. Then the boy, when he had been driven from one friend, sought refuge with another, but was forced from shelter to shelter by the threats of his father, who menaced all those that took him in, and commanded them to shut their doors against him. Still, as fast as he was forced to leave one house he went to another, and was received by the inmates; for his acquaintances, altho in no small alarm, yet gave him shelter, as he was Periander's son.

At last Periander made proclamation that whoever harbored his son, or even spoke to him, should forfeit a certain sum of money to Apollo. On hearing this no one any longer liked to take him in, or even to hold converse with him, and he himself did not think it right to seek to do what was forbidden; so, abiding by his resolve, he made his lodging in the public porticoes. When four days had passed in this way, Periander, seeing how wretched his son was, that he neither washed nor took any food, felt moved with compassion toward him; wherefore, foregoing his anger, he approached the lad, and said, "Which is better, oh, my son, to fare as now thou farest or to receive my crown and all the good things that I possess, on the one condition of submitting thyself to thy father? See, now, tho my own child, and lord of this wealthy Corinth, thou hast brought thyself to a beggar's life, because thou must resist and treat with anger him whom it least behooves thee to oppose. If there has been a calamity, and thou bearest me ill will on that account, bethink thee that I too feel it, and am the greater sufferer, inasmuch as it was by me that the deed was done. For thyself, now that thou knowest how much better a thing it is to be envied than pitied, and how dangerous it is to indulge anger against parents and superiors, come back with me to thy home." With such words as these did Periander chide his son; but the latter made no reply except to remind his father that he was indebted to the god in the penalty for coming and holding converse with him. Then Periander knew there was no cure for the youth's malady, nor means of overcoming it; so he prepared a ship and sent him away out of his sight to Corcyra,[17] which island at that time belonged to him. As for Procles, Periander, regarding him as the true author of all his present troubles, went to war with him as soon as his son was gone, and not only made himself master of his kingdom, Epidaurus, but also took Procles himself, and carried him into captivity.

As time went on, and Periander came to be old, he found himself no longer equal to the oversight and management of affairs. Seeing therefore in his elder son no manner of ability, but knowing him to be dull and blockish, he sent to Corcyra and recalled Lycophron to take the kingdom. Lycophron, however, did not even deign to ask the bearer of this message a question. But Periander's heart was set upon the youth, so he sent again to him, this time by his own daughter, the sister of Lycophron, who would, he thought, have more power to persuade him than any other person. Then the daughter, when she had reached Corcyra, spoke thus with her brother: "Dost thou wish the kingdom, brother, to pass into strange hands, and our father's wealth to be made a prey rather than thyself return to enjoy it? Come back home with me, and cease to punish thyself. It is scant gain, this obstinacy. Why seek to cure evil by evil? Mercy, remember, is by many set above justice. Many, also while pushing their mother's claims have forfeited their father's fortune. Power is a slippery thing—it has many suitors; and he is old and stricken in years—let not thy own inheritance go to another."

Thus did the sister, who had been tutored by Periander what to say, urge all the arguments most likely to have weight with her brother. He, however, made answer that so long as he knew his father to be still alive, he would never go back to Corinth. When the sister brought Periander this reply, he sent to his son a third time by a herald, and said he would come himself to Corcyra, and let his son take his place at Corinth, as heir to his kingdom. To these terms Lycophron agreed; and Periander was making ready to pass into Corcyra and his son to return to Corinth, when the Corcyreans, being informed of what was taking place, to keep Periander away, put the young man to death. For this reason it was that Periander took vengeance on the Corcyreans.


[Footnote 15: From Book III of the "History." Translated by George Rawlinson. Periander was tyrant of Corinth, succeeding to power about 625 B.C. He is believed to have reigned forty years.]

[Footnote 16: A city on the coast of Argolis, one of the states of southern Greece.]

[Footnote 17: Now known as Corfu, an island lying off the western coast of Greece, adjacent to Epirus.]


Born in Athens about 471 B.C.; died about 401; celebrated as a historian; claimed blood relationship with Miltiades and Cimon; possest an ample fortune; in 424 commanded an expedition against Brasidas, but failing in it went into exile, returning to Athens twenty years later; did not live to finish his "History of the Peloponnesian War," the narrative ending seven years before the war closed; the Greek text first printed by Aldus at Venice in 1502.[18]



Such were the causes of ill feeling which at this time existed between the Athenians and Peloponnesians;[20] the Corinthians complaining that the Athenians were blockading their colony of Potidaea, which was occupied by a Corinthian and Peloponnesian garrison; the Athenians rejoining that the Peloponnesians had excited to revolt a state which was an ally and tributary of theirs, and that they had now openly joined the Potidaeans, and were fighting on their side. The Peloponnesian war, however, had not yet broken out; the peace still continued; for thus far the Corinthians had acted alone.

But now, seeing Potidaea[21] besieged, they bestirred themselves in earnest. Corinthian troops were shut up within the walls, and they were afraid of losing the town; so without delay they invited the allies to meet at Sparta. There they inveighed against the Athenians, whom they affirmed to have broken the treaty and to have wronged the Peloponnesians.... The Megarians alleged, among other grounds of complaint, that they were excluded from all harbors within the Athenian dominion and from the Athenian market, contrary to the treaty. The Corinthians waited until the other allies had stirred up the Lacedaemonians; at length they came forward, and, last of all, spoke as follows:

"The spirit of trust, Lacedaemonians, which animates your own political and social life makes you distrust others who, like ourselves, have something unpleasant to say, and this temper of mind, tho favorable to moderation, too often leaves you in ignorance of what is going on outside your own country. Time after time we have warned you of the mischief which the Athenians would do to us, but instead of taking our words to heart, you chose to suspect that we spoke only from interested motives. And this is the reason why you have brought the allies to Sparta, too late, not before but after the injury has been inflicted, and when they are smarting under the sense of it. Which of them all has a better right to speak than ourselves, who have the heaviest accusations to make, outraged as we are by the Athenians, and neglected by you? If the crimes which they are committing against Hellas were being done in a corner, then you might be ignorant, and we should have to inform you of them; but now, what need of many words? Some of us, as you see, have been already enslaved; they are at this moment intriguing against others, notably against allies of ours; and long ago they had made all their preparations in expectation of war. Else why did they seduce from her allegiance Corcyra, which they still hold in defiance of us, and why are they blockading Potidaea, the latter a most advantageous post for the command of the Thracian peninsula, the former a great naval power which might have assisted the Peloponnesians?

"And the blame of all this rests on you; for you originally allowed them to fortify their city after the Persian war, and afterward to build their Long Walls;[22] and to this hour you have gone on defrauding of liberty their unfortunate subjects, and are now beginning to take it away from your own allies. For the true enslaver of a people is he who can put an end to their slavery, but has no care about it; and all the more, if he be reputed the champion of liberty in Hellas. And so we have met at last, but with what difficulty! and even now we have no definite object. By this time we ought to have been considering, not whether we are wronged, but how we are to be revenged. The aggressor is not now threatening, but advancing; he has made up his mind, while we are resolved about nothing. And we know too well how by slow degrees and with stealthy steps the Athenians encroach upon their neighbors. While they think that you are too dull to observe them, they are more careful; but, when they know that you wilfully overlook their aggressions, they will strike you and not spare. Of all Hellenes, Lacedaemonians, you are the only people who never do anything; on the approach of an enemy, you are content to defend yourselves against him, not by acts, but by intentions, and seek to overthrow him, not in the infancy but in the fulness of his strength. How came you to be considered safe? That reputation of yours was never justified by facts. We all know that the Persian made his way from the ends of the earth against Peloponnesus before you encountered him in a worthy manner; and now you are blind to the doings of the Athenians, who are not at a distance, as he was, but close at hand. Instead of attacking your enemy, you wait to be attacked, and take the chances of a struggle which has been deferred until his power is doubled. And you know that the barbarian miscarried chiefly through his own errors, and that we have oftener been delivered from these very Athenians by blunders of their own than by any aid from you. Some have already been ruined by the hopes which you inspired in them; for so entirely did they trust you that they took no precautions themselves. These things we say in no accusing or hostile spirit—let that be understood—but by way of expostulation. For men expostulate with erring friends; they bring accusations against enemies who have done them a wrong.

"And surely we have a right to find fault with our neighbors if any one ever had. There are important interests at stake to which, as far as we can see, you are insensible. And you have never considered what manner of men are these Athenians with whom you will have to fight, and how utterly unlike yourselves. They are revolutionary, equally quick in the conception and in the execution of every new plan; while you are conservative—careful only to keep what you have, originating nothing, and not acting even when action is most necessary. They are bold beyond their strength; they run risks which prudence would condemn; and in the midst of misfortune they are full of hope. Whereas it is your nature, tho strong, to act feebly; when your plans are most prudent, to distrust them; and when calamities come upon you, to think that you will never be delivered from them. They are impetuous, and you are dilatory; they are always abroad, and you are always at home. For they hope to gain something by leaving their homes; but you are afraid that any new enterprise may imperil what you have already. When conquerors, they pursue their victory to the utmost; when defeated, they fall back the least. Their bodies they devote to their country as tho they belonged to other men; their true self is in their mind, which is most truly their own when employed in her service. When they do not carry out an intention which they have formed, they seem to have sustained a personal bereavement; when an enterprise succeeds, they have gained a mere instalment of what is to come; but if they fail, they at once conceive new hopes and so fill up the void. With them alone to hope is to have, for they lose not a moment in the execution of an idea. This is the lifelong task, full of danger and toil, which they are always imposing upon themselves. None enjoy their good things less, because they are always seeking for more. To do their duty is their only holiday, and they deem the quiet of inaction to be as disagreeable as the most tiresome business. If a man should say to them, in a word, that they were born neither to have peace themselves nor to allow peace to other men, he would simply speak the truth.

"In the face of such an enemy, Lacedaemonians, you persist in doing nothing. You do not see that peace is best secured by those who use their strength justly, but whose attitude shows that they have no intention of submitting to wrong. Justice with you seems to consist in giving no annoyance to others and in defending yourselves only against positive injury. But this policy would hardly be successful, even if your neighbors were like yourselves; and in the present case, as we pointed out just now, your ways compared with theirs are old-fashioned. And, as in the arts, so also in politics, the new must always prevail over the old. In settled times the traditions of government should be observed; but when circumstances are changing and men are compelled to meet them, much originality is required.

"The Athenians have had a wider experience, and therefore the administration of their state has improved faster than yours. But here let your procrastination end; send an army at once into Attica and assist your allies, especially the Potidaeans, to whom your word is pledged. Do not allow friends and kindred to fall into the hands of their worst enemies, or drive us in despair to seek the alliance of others; in taking such a course we should be doing wrong either before the gods who are witnesses of our oaths or before men whose eyes are upon us. For the true breakers of treaties are not only those who, when forsaken, turn to others, but those who forsake allies whom they have sworn to defend. We will remain your friends if you choose to bestir yourselves; for we should be guilty of an impiety if we deserted you without cause; and we shall not easily find allies equally congenial to us. Take heed then; you have inherited from your fathers the leadership of Peloponnesus; see that her greatness suffers no diminution at your hands."

Thus spake the Corinthians. Now there happened to be staying at Lacedaemon an Athenian embassy which had come on other business, and when the envoys heard what the Corinthians had said, they felt bound to go before the Lacedaemonian assembly, not with the views of answering the accusations brought against them by the cities, but they wanted to put before the Lacedaemonians the whole question, and make them understand that they should take time to deliberate and not be rash. They desired also to set forth the greatness of their city, reminding the elder men of what they knew, and informing the younger of what lay beyond their experience. They thought that their words would sway the Lacedaemonians in the direction of peace. So they came and said that, if they might be allowed, they too would like to address the people. The Lacedaemonians invited them to come forward, and they spoke as follows:

"We were not sent here to argue with your allies, but on a special mission; observing, however, that no small outcry has arisen against us, we have come forward, not to answer the accusations which they bring (for you are not judges before whom either we or they have to plead), but to prevent you from lending too ready an ear to their bad advice and so deciding wrongly about a very serious question. We propose also, in reply to the wider charges which are raised against us, to show that what we have acquired we hold rightfully.

"Of the ancient deeds handed down by tradition and which no eye of any one who hears us ever saw, why should we speak? But of the Persian war, and other events which you yourselves remember, speak we must, altho we have brought them forward so often that the repetition of them is disagreeable to us. When we faced those perils we did so for the common benefit; in the solid good you shared, and of the glory, whatever good there may be in that, we would not be wholly deprived. Our words are not designed to deprecate hostility, but to set forth in evidence the character of the city with which, unless you are very careful, you will soon be involved in war. We tell you that we, first and alone, dared to engage with the barbarian at Marathon,[23] and that, when he came again, being too weak to defend ourselves by land, we and our whole people embarked on shipboard and shared with the other Hellenes in the victory of Salamis.[24] Thereby he was prevented from sailing to the Peloponnesus and ravaging city after city; for against so mighty a fleet how could you have helped one another? He himself is the best witness of our words; for when he was once defeated at sea, he felt that his power was gone and quickly retreated with the greater part of his army.

"The event proved undeniably that the fate of Hellas depended on her navy. And the three chief elements of success were contributed by us; namely, the greatest number of ships, the ablest general, the most devoted patriotism. The ships in all numbered four hundred, and of these, our own contingent amounted to nearly two-thirds. To the influence of Themistocles, our general, it was chiefly due that we fought in the strait, which was confessedly our salvation; and for this service you yourselves honored him above any stranger who ever visited you. Thirdly, we displayed the most extraordinary courage and devotion; there was no one to help us by land; for up to our frontier those who lay in the enemy's path were already slaves; so we determined to leave our city and sacrifice our homes. Even in that extremity we did not choose to desert the cause of the allies who still resisted, and by dispersing ourselves to become useless to them; but we embarked and fought, taking no offense at your failure to assist us sooner. We maintain then that we rendered you a service at least as great as you rendered us. The cities from which you came to help us were still inhabited and you might hope to return to them; your concern was for yourselves and not for us; at any rate, you remained at a distance while we had anything to lose. But we went forth from a city which was no more, and fought for one of which there was small hope; and yet we saved ourselves, and bore our part in saving you. If, in order to preserve our land, like other states, we had gone over to the Persians at first, or afterward had not ventured to embark because our ruin was already complete, it would have been useless for you with your weak navy to fight at sea, but everything would have gone quietly just as the Persian desired.

"Considering, Lacedaemonians, the energy and sagacity which we then displayed, do we deserve to be so bitterly hated by the other Hellenes merely because we have an empire? That empire was not acquired by force; but you would not stay and make an end of the barbarian, and the allies came of their own accord and asked us to be their leaders. The subsequent development of our power was originally forced upon us by circumstances; fear was our first motive; afterward ambition, and then interest stept in. And when we had incurred the hatred of most of our allies, when some of them had already revolted and been subjugated, and you were no longer the friends to us which you once had been, but suspicious and ill-disposed, how could we without great risk relax our hold? For the cities as fast as they fell away from us would have gone over to you. And no man is to be reproached who seizes every possible advantage when the danger is so great.

"At all events, Lacedaemonians, we may retort that you, in the exercise of your supremacy, manage the cities of Peloponnesus to suit your own views, and that if you, and not we, had persevered in the command of the allies long enough to be hated, you would have been quite as intolerable to them as we are, and would have been compelled, for the sake of your own safety, to rule with a strong hand. An empire was offered to us: can you wonder that, acting as human nature always will, we accepted it, and refused to give it up again, constrained by three all powerful motives, ambition, fear, interest? We are not the first who have aspired to rule; the world has ever held that the weaker must be kept down by the stronger. And we think that we are worthy of power; and there was a time when you thought so too; but now when you mean expediency you talk about justice. Did justice ever deter any one from taking by force whatever he could? Men who indulge the natural ambition of empire deserve credit if they are in any degree more careful of justice than they need be. How moderate we are would speedily appear if others took our place; indeed, our very moderation, which should be our glory, has been unjustly converted into a reproach.

"For because in our suits with our allies, regulated by treaty, we do not even stand upon our rights, but have instituted the practise of deciding them at Athens and by Athenian law, we are supposed to be litigious. None of our opponents observes why others, who exercise dominion elsewhere and are less moderate than we are in their dealings with their subjects, escape this reproach. Why is it? Because men who practise violence have no longer any need of law. But we are in the habit of meeting our allies on terms of equality, and, therefore, if through some legal decision of ours, or exercise of our imperial power, contrary to their own ideas of right, they suffer ever so little, they are not grateful for our moderation in leaving them so much, but are far more offended at their trifling loss than if we had from the first plundered them in the face of day, laying aside all thought of law. For then they would themselves have admitted that the weaker must give way to the stronger. Mankind resents injustice more than violence, because the one seems to be an unfair advantage taken by an equal, the other is the irresistible force of a superior. They were patient under the yoke of the Persian, who inflicted on them far more grievous wrongs; but now our dominion is odious in their eyes. And no wonder: the ruler of the day is always detested by his subjects. And should your empire supplant ours, may not you lose the good-will which you owe to the fear of us? Lose it you certainly will, if you mean again to exhibit the temper of which you gave a specimen when, for a short time, you led the confederacy against the Persian. For the institutions under which you live are incompatible with those of foreign states; and further, when any of you goes abroad, he respects neither these nor any other Hellenic laws.

"Do not then be hasty in deciding a question which is serious; and do not, by listening to the misrepresentations and complaints of others, bring trouble upon yourselves. Realize, while there is time, the inscrutable nature of war; and how when protracted it generally ends in becoming a mere matter of chance, over which neither of us can have any control, the event being equally unknown and equally hazardous to both. The misfortune is that in their hurry to go to war, men begin with blows, and when a reverse comes upon them, then have recourse to words. But neither you nor we have as yet committed this mistake; and therefore while both of us can still choose the prudent part, we tell you not to break the peace or violate your oaths. Let our differences be determined by arbitration, according to the treaty. If you refuse, we call to witness the gods by whom you have sworn that you are the authors of the war; and we will do our best to strike in return."

When the Lacedaemonians had heard the charges brought by the allies against the Athenians, and their rejoinder, they ordered everybody but themselves to withdraw, and deliberated alone. The majority were agreed that there was now a clear case against the Athenians, and that they must fight at once.[25]


[Footnote 18: Jowett says Thucydides "stands absolutely alone among historians, not only of Hellas, but of the world, in his impartiality and love of truth." Macaulay's enthusiasm for him is well known. Mahaffy says his work was intended to be a military history, compiled from original documents and from personal observations made by himself and other eye-witnesses. "There can not be the smallest doubt," adds Mahaffy, "that, in the hands of Thucydides, the art of writing history made an extraordinary stride and attained a perfection which no subsequent Hellenic, and few modern writers have attained." He is praised for the "lofty dignity" which he imparts to every subject. His temper is so solemn and severe as to be "strangely un-Attic." Among his great and enduring merits is the fact that he has "taught us to know more of Greek interpolitical life than all other Greek writers put together." No historian has been greater than he, not only in dignity of language, but in calmness of judgment, in intellectual force, and in breadth and acuteness of observation.]

[Footnote 19: From Book I of the "History of the Peloponnesian War." Translated by Benjamin Jowett.]

[Footnote 20: The Peloponnesians were the people of the peninsula which forms the southern part of Greece, and which is now known as Morea. In ancient times this territory was called the Peloponnesus. Its people comprized the inhabitants of several political domains called Achaia, Sicyonia, Corinthia, Argolis, Arcadia, Laconia, Messenia, and Elis. Laconia was otherwise, and quite anciently, known as Lacedaemon, its capital being the city of Sparta.]

[Footnote 21: Potidaea, the modern Pinaka, had revolted from Athens in 432 B.C., but did not capitulate until the end of the second year of the Peloponnesian war. It was a rich and flourishing town, originally Dorian, but colonized later from Corinth. During one of the Eastern invasions of Greece, it fell into Persian hands.]

[Footnote 22: These walls connected Athens with its port, the Piraeus, and were each about five miles long. They ran parallel and were separated from each other by about 500 feet of space. This intervening land was used for a carriage road, on either side of which were houses. Thus was formed a continuous walled street from Athens to the sea, so that communication in case of war was made secure.]

[Footnote 23: The battle of Marathon was fought in September, 490. It ended the attempts of Darius to subdue Greece.]

[Footnote 24: The battle of Salamis took place in September, 480, and was fought in waters lying between the Piraeus and the island of Salamis. Themistocles commanded the Greeks. The Persian ships were practically annihilated. Byron's lines on this battle, in his poem "The Isles of Greece," will be recalled.]


THE PLAGUE AT ATHENS[26] (430—425 B.C.)

They [the enemy] had not been there [in Attica] many days when the plague broke out at Athens for the first time. A similar disorder is said to have previously smitten many places, particularly Lemnos;[27] but there is no record of such a pestilence occurring elsewhere, or of so great a destruction of human life. For a while physicians, in ignorance of the nature of the disease, sought to apply remedies; but it was in vain, and they themselves were among the first victims, because they oftenest came into contact with it. No human art was of any avail, and as to supplications in temples, inquiries of oracles, and the like, they were utterly useless, and at last men were overpowered by the calamity and gave up all remedies.

The disease is said to have begun south of Egypt in Ethiopia; thence it descended into Egypt and Libya, and after spreading over the greater part of the Persian empire, suddenly fell upon Athens. It first attacked the inhabitants of the Piraeus, and it was supposed that the Peloponnesians had poisoned the cisterns, no conduits having as yet been made there. It afterward reached the upper city, and then the mortality became far greater. As to its probable origin or the causes which might or could have produced such a disturbance of nature, every man, whether a physician or not, will give his own opinion. But I shall describe its actual course, and the symptoms by which any one who knows them beforehand may recognize the disorder should it ever reappear. For I was myself attacked, and witnessed the sufferings of others.

The season was admitted to have been remarkably free from ordinary sickness; and if anybody was already ill of any other disease, it was absorbed in this. Many who were in perfect health, all in a moment, and without any apparent reason, were seized with violent heats in the head and with redness and inflammation of the eyes. Internally the throat and the tongue were quickly suffused with blood, and the breath became unnatural and fetid. There followed sneezing and hoarseness; in a short time the disorder, accompanied by a violent cough, reached the chest; then fastening lower down, it would move the stomach and bring on all the vomits of bile to which physicians have ever given names; and they were very distressing. An ineffectual retching producing violent convulsions attacked most of the sufferers; some as soon as the previous symptoms had abated, others not until long afterward. The body externally was not so very hot to the touch, nor yet pale; it was of a livid color inclining to red, and breaking out in pustules and ulcers. But the internal fever was intense; the sufferers could not bear to have on them even the finest linen garment; they insisted on being naked, and there was nothing which they longed for more eagerly than to throw themselves into cold water. And many of those who had no one to look after them actually plunged into the cisterns, for they were tormented by unceasing thirst, which was not in the least assuaged whether they drank little or much. They could not sleep; a restlessness which was intolerable never left them.

While the disease was at its height the body, instead of wasting away, held out amid these sufferings in a marvelous manner, and either they died on the seventh or ninth day, not of weakness, for their strength was not exhausted, but of internal fever, which was the end of most; or, if they survived, then the disease descended into the bowels and there produced violent ulcerations; severe diarrhea at the same time set in, and at a later stage caused exhaustion, which finally with few exceptions carried them off. For the disorder, which had originally settled in the head, passed gradually through the whole body, and, if a person got over the worst, would often seize the extremities and leave its mark, attacking the privy parts and the fingers and the toes; and some escaped with the loss of these, some with the loss of their eyes. Some, again, had no sooner recovered than they were seized with a forgetfulness of all things and knew neither themselves nor their friends.

The malady took a form not to be described, and the fury with which it fastened upon each sufferer was too much for human nature to endure. There was one circumstance in particular which distinguished it from ordinary diseases. The birds and animals, which feed on human flesh, altho so many bodies were lying unburied, either never went near them or died if they touched them. This was proved by a remarkable disappearance of the birds of prey, which were not to be seen either about the bodies or anywhere else; while in the case of the dogs the fact was even more obvious, because they live with man.

Such was the general nature of the disease; I omit many strange peculiarities which characterized individual cases. None of the ordinary sicknesses attacked any one while it lasted, or, if they did, they ended in the plague. Some of the sufferers died from want of care, others equally who were receiving the greatest attention. No single remedy could be deemed a specific; for that which did good to one did harm to another. No constitution was of itself strong enough to resist or weak enough to escape the attacks; the disease carried off all alike and defied every mode of treatment. Most appalling was the despondency which seized upon any one who felt himself sickening; for he instantly abandoned his mind to despair and, instead of holding out, absolutely threw away his chance of life. Appalling too was the rapidity with which men caught the infection, dying like sheep if they attended on one another, and this was the principal cause of mortality. When they were afraid to visit one another, the sufferers died in their solitude, so that many houses were empty because there had been no one left to take care of the sick; or if they ventured they perished, especially those who aspired to heroism. For they went to see their friends without thought of themselves and were ashamed to leave them, even at a time when the very relatives of the dying were at last growing weary and ceased to make lamentations, overwhelmed by the vastness of the calamity. But whatever instances there may have been of such devotion, more often the sick and the dying were tended by the pitying care of those who had recovered, because they knew the course of the disease and were themselves free from apprehension. For no one was ever attacked a second time, or not with a fatal result. All men congratulated them; and they themselves, in the excess of their joy at the moment, had an innocent fancy that they could not die of any other sickness.

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