BY REV. JAMES BAIKIE, F.R.A.S.
WITH 32 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS
ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK
TO MY SISTERS AND MY BROTHERS
The object aimed at in the following pages has been to offer to the general reader a plain account of the wonderful investigations which have revolutionized all ideas as to the antiquity and the level of the earliest European culture, and to endeavour to make intelligible the bearing and significance of the results of these investigations. In the hope that the extraordinary resurrection of the first European civilization may appeal to a more extended constituency than that of professed students of ancient origins, the book has been kept as free as possible from technicalities and the discussion of controverted points; and throughout I have endeavoured to write for those who, while from their school days they have loved the noble and romantic story of Ancient Greece, have been denied the opportunity of a more thorough study of it than comes within the limits of an ordinary education.
In the first chapter this standpoint may seem to have been unduly emphasized, and the retelling of the ancient legends may be accounted mere surplusage. Such, no doubt, it will be to some readers, but perhaps they may be balanced by others whose recollection of the great stories of Classic Greece has grown a little faint with the lapse of years, and who are not unwilling to have it prompted again. Reference to the legends was in any case unavoidable, since one of the most remarkable results of the explorations has been the disclosure of the solid basis of historic fact on which they rested; and, if the book was to accomplish its purpose for the readers for whom it was designed, reference seemed almost necessarily to involve retelling.
I have to acknowledge extensive obligations to the writings and reports of the various investigators who have accomplished so wonderful a resurrection of this ancient world. My debt to the works of Dr. A. J. Evans will be manifest to all who have any acquaintance with the subject; but to such authors as Mrs. H. B. Hawes, Dr. Mackenzie, Professors Burrows, Murray, and Browne, and Messrs. D. G. Hogarth and H. R. Hall, to name only a few among many, my obligations are only less than to the acknowledged chief of Cretan explorers.
To the Rev. James Kennedy, D.D., librarian of the New College, Edinburgh, and to the Rev. C. J. M. Middleton, M.A., Crailing, my thanks are due for invaluable help afforded in the collection of material, and I have been not less indebted to Mr. A. Brown, Galashiels, and to Messrs. C. H. Brown and C. R. A. Howden, Edinburgh, and others, for their assistance in the preparation of the illustrations. To Mr. A. Brown in particular are due plates II., III., IV., V., IX., X., XV., XVI., XX., XXIII., XXIV., and XXV.; and to Messrs. C. H. Brown and C. R. A. Howden Plates I., VII., VIII., XI., XII., XVII. (I), and XXI. I have to record my hearty thanks to the Council of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies for the use of Plates XXIX. and XXX., reproduced by their permission from the Journal of Hellenic Studies; to the Committee of the British School at Athens for the use of Plate XIX. and the plan of Knossos from their Annual; and to Dr. A. J. Evans and Mr. John Murray for Plates VI., XIII., and XIV., from the Monthly Review, March, 1901. For the redrawing and adaptation of the plan of Knossos I am indebted to Mr. H. Baikie, B.Sc., Edinburgh, and for the sketch-map of Crete to my wife.
THE HOMERIC CIVILIZATION
SCHLIEMANN AND HIS WORK
THE PALACE OF 'BROAD KNOSSOS'
THE PALACE OF 'BROAD KNOSSOS'—continued
PHAESTOS, HAGIA TRIADA, AND EASTERN CRETE
CRETE AND EGYPT
THE PERIODS OF MINOAN CULTURE
LIFE UNDER THE SEA-KINGS
LETTERS AND RELIGION
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PLATE I. The Throne of Minos II. (1) The Ramp, Troy, Second City; (2) the Circle-Graves, Mycenae III. Wall of Sixth City, Troy IV. The Lion Gate, Mycenae V. (1) Vaulted Passage in Wall, Tiryns; (2) Beehive Tomb (Treasury of Atreus), Mycenae VI. The Cup-Bearer, Knossos VII. The Long Gallery, Knossos VIII. A Magazine with Jars and Kaselles, Knossos IX. (1) Magazine with Jars and Kaselles; (2) Great Jar with Trickle Ornament X. (1) Part of Dolphin Fresco; (2) A Great Jar, Knossos XI. Pillar of the Double Axes XII. (1) Minoan Paved Road; (2) North Entrance, Knossos XIII. Relief of Bull's Head XIV. Clay Tablet with Linear Script, Knossos XV. (1) Palace Wall, West Side, Mount Juktas in Background; (2) Bathroom, Knossos XVI. A Flight of the Quadruple Staircase; (2) Wall with Drain XVII. (1) Hall of the Double Axes; (2) Great Staircase, Knossos XVIII. The King's Gaming-Board XIX. Ivory Figurines XX. (1) Main Drain, Knossos; (2) Terra-cotta Drain-Pipes XXI. Theatral Area, Knossos: Before Restoration XXII. Theatral Area, Knossos: Restored XXIII. Great Jar with Papyrus Reliefs XXIV. The Royal Villa: (1) The Basilica; (2) Stone Lamp XXV. (1) Knossos Valley; (2) Excavating at Knossos XXVI. Great Staircase, Phaestos XXVII. The Harvester Vase, Hagia Triada XXVIII. Sarcophagus from Hagia Triada XXIX. Minoan Pottery XXX. Late Minoan Vase from Mycenae XXXI. Kamares Vases from Phaestos and Hagia Triada XXXII. Goldsmiths' Work from Beehive Tombs, Phaestos
SKETCH MAP OF CRETE
PLAN OF KNOSSOS
THE SEA-KINGS OF CRETE
PREHISTORIC CIVILIZATION OF GREECE
The resurrection of the prehistoric age of Greece, and the disclosure of the astonishing standard of civilization which had been attained on the mainland and in the isles of the AEgean at a period at least 2,000 years earlier than that at which Greek history, as hitherto understood, begins, may be reckoned as among the most interesting results of modern research into the relics of the life of past ages. The present generation has witnessed remarkable discoveries in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, but neither Niffur nor Abydos disclosed a world so entirely new and unexpected as that which has been revealed by the work of Schliemann and his successors at Troy, Mycenae, and Tiryns, and by that of Evans and the other explorers—Italian, British, and American—in Crete. The Mesopotamian and Egyptian discoveries traced back a little farther streams which had already been followed far up their course; those of Schliemann and Evans revealed the reality of one which, so to speak, had hitherto been believed to flow only through the dreamland of legend. It was obvious that mighty men must have existed before Agamemnon, but what manner of men they were, and in what manner of world they lived, were matters absolutely unknown, and, to all appearance, likely to remain so. An abundant wealth of legend told of great Kings and heroes, of stately palaces, and mighty armies, and powerful fleets, and the whole material of an advanced civilization. But the legends were manifestly largely imaginative—deities and demi-gods, men and fabulous monsters, were mingled in them on the same plane—and it seemed impossible that we should ever get back to the solid ground, if solid ground had ever existed, on which these ancient stories first rested.
For the historian of the middle of the nineteenth century Greek history began with the First Olympiad in 776 B.C. Before that the story of the return of the Herakleids and the Dorian conquest of the men of the Bronze Age might very probably embody, in a fanciful form, a genuine historical fact; the Homeric poems were to be treated with respect, not only on account of their supreme poetical merit, but as possibly representing a credible tradition, though, of course, their pictures of advanced civilization were more or less imaginative projections upon the past of the culture of the writer's own period or periods. Beyond that lay the great waste land of legend, in which gods and godlike heroes moved and enacted their romances among 'Gorgons and Hydras and Chimeras dire.' What proportion of fact, if any, lay in the stories of Minos, the great lawgiver, and his war fleet, and his Labyrinth, with its monstrous occupant; of Theseus and Ariadne and the Minotaur; of Daedalus, the first aeronaut, and his wonderful works of art and science; or of any other of the thousand and one beautiful or tragic romances of ancient Hellas, to attempt to determine this lay utterly beyond the sphere of the serious historian. 'To analyze the fables,' says Grote, 'and to elicit from them any trustworthy particular facts, appears to me a fruitless attempt. The religious recollections, the romantic inventions, and the items of matter of fact, if any such there be, must for ever remain indissolubly amalgamated, as the poet originally blended them, for the amusement or edification of his auditors.... It was one of the agreeable dreams of the Grecian epic that the man who travelled far enough northward beyond the Rhiphaean Mountains would in time reach the delicious country and genial climate of the virtuous Hyperboreans, the votaries and favourites of Apollo, who dwelt in the extreme north, beyond the chilling blasts of Boreas. Now, the hope that we may, by carrying our researches up the stream of time, exhaust the limits of fiction, and land ultimately upon some points of solid truth, appears to me no less illusory than this northward journey in quest of the Hyperborean elysium.' Grote's frankly sceptical attitude represents fairly well the general opinion of the middle of last century. The myths were beautiful, but their value was not in any sense historical; it arose from the light which they cast upon the workings of the active Greek mind, and the revelation which they gave of the innate poetic faculty which created myths so far excelling those of any other nation.
Within the last forty years all this has been changed. Opinions like that so dogmatically expressed by our great historian are no longer held by anyone who has followed the current of modern investigations, and remain only as monuments of the danger of dogmatizing on matters concerning which all preconceived ideas may be upset by the results of a single season's spade-work on some ancient site; and he would be a bold man who would venture to-day to call 'illusory' the search for 'points of solid truth' in the old legends, or to assert that 'the items of matter of fact, if any such there be,' are inextricable from the mass of romantic inventions in which they are embedded. The work, of course, is by no means complete; very probably it is scarcely more than well begun; but already the dark gulf of time that lay behind the Dorian conquest is beginning to yield up the unquestionable evidences of a great, and splendid, and almost incredibly ancient civilization, which neither for its antiquity nor for its actual attainment has any cause to shrink from comparison with the great historic civilizations of Mesopotamia or the Nile Valley; and while the process of disentangling the historic nucleus of the legends from their merely mythical and romantic elements cannot yet be undertaken with any approach to certainty, it is becoming continually more apparent, not only that in many cases there was such a nucleus, but also what were some of the historic elements around which the poetic fancy of later times drew the fanciful wrappings of the heroic tales as we know them. It is not yet possible to trace and identify the actual figures of the heroes of prehistoric Greece: probably it never will be possible, unless the as yet untranslated Cretan script should furnish the records of a more ancient Herodotus, and a new Champollion should arise to decipher them; but there can scarcely be any reasonable doubt that genuine men and women of AEgean stock filled the roles of these ancient romances, and that the wondrous story of their deeds is, in part at least, the record of actual achievements.
In this remarkable resurrection of the past the most important and convincing part has been played by the evidence from Crete. The discoveries which were made during the last quarter of the nineteenth century by Schliemann and his successors at Mycencae, Tiryns, Orchomenos, and elsewhere, were quite conclusive as to the former existence of a civilization quite equal to, and in all probability the original of, that which is described for us in the Homeric poems; but it was not until the treasures of Knossos and Phaestos began to be revealed in 1900 and the subsequent years that it became manifest that what was known as the Mycenaean civilization was itself only the decadence of a far richer and fuller culture, whose fountain-head and whose chief sphere of development had been in Crete. And it has been in Crete that exploration and discovery have led to the most striking illustration of many of the statements in the legends and traditions, and have made it practically certain that much of what used to be considered mere romantic fable represents, with, of course, many embellishments of fancy, a good deal of historic fact.
Our first task, therefore, is to gather together the main features of what the ancient legends of Greece narrated about Crete and its inhabitants, and their relations to the rest of the AEgean world. The position of Crete—'a halfway house between three continents, flanked by the great Libyan promontory, and linked by smaller island stepping-stones to the Peloponnese and the mainland of Anatolia'—marks it out as designed by Nature to be a centre of development in the culture of the early AEgean race, and, in point of fact, ancient traditions unanimously pointed to the great island as being the birthplace of Greek civilization. The most ambitious tradition boldly transcended the limits of human occupation, and gave to Divinity itself a place of nurture in the fastnesses of the Cretan mountains. That many-sided deity, the supreme god of the Greek theology, had in one of his aspects a special connection with the island. The great son of Kronos and Rhea, threatened by his unnatural father with the same doom which had overtaken his brethren, was said to have been saved by his mother, who substituted for him a stone, which her unsuspecting spouse devoured, thinking it to be his son. Rhea fled to Crete to bear her son, either in the Idaean or the Dictaean cave, where he was nourished with honey and goat's milk by the nymph Amaltheia until the time was ripe for his vengeance upon his father. (It has been suggested that in this somewhat grotesque legend we have a parabolic representation of one of the great religious facts of that ancient world—the supersession by the new anthropomorphic faith of the older cult, whose objects of adoration, made without hands, and devoid of human likeness, were sacred stones or trees. Kronos, the representative of the old faith, clung to his sacred stone, while the new human God was being born, before whose worship the ancient cult of the pillar and the tree should pass away.)
In the Dictaean cave, also, Zeus grown to maturity, was united to Europa, the daughter of man, in the sacred marriage from which sprang Minos, the great legendary figure of Crete. And to Crete the island god returned to close his divine life. Primitive legend asserted that his tomb was on Mount Juktas, the conical hill which overlooks the ruins of the city of Minos, his son, his friend, and his priest. It was this surprising claim of the Cretans to possess the burial-place of the supreme God of Hellas which first attached to them the unenviable reputation for falsehood which clung to them throughout the classical period, and was crystallized by Callimachus in the form adopted by St. Paul in the Epistle to Titus—'The Cretans are alway liars.'
It is round Minos, the son of Zeus and Europa, that the bulk of the Cretan legends gathers. The suggestion has been made, with great probability, that the name Minos is not so much the name of a single person as the title of a race of kings. 'I suspect,' says Professor Murray, 'that Minos was a name, like "Pharaoh" or "Caesar," given to all Cretan Kings of a certain type.' With that, however, we need not concern ourselves at present, further than to notice that the bearer of the name appears in the legends in many different characters, scarcely consistent with one another, or with his being a single person. According to the story, Minos is not only the son but also the 'gossip' of Zeus; he is, like Abraham, 'the friend of God.' He receives from the hand of God, like another Moses, the code of laws which becomes the basis of all subsequent legislation; he holds frequent and familiar intercourse with God, and, once in every nine years, he goes up to the Dictaean cave of the Bull-God 'to converse with Zeus,' to receive new commandments, and to give account of his stewardship during the intervening period. Finally, at the close of his life, he is transferred to the underworld, and the great human lawgiver becomes the judge of the dead in Hades.
That is one side of the Minos legend, perhaps the most ancient; but along with it there exists another group of stories of a very different character, so different as to lend colour to the suggestion that we are now dealing, not with the individual Minos who first gave the name its vogue, but with a successor or successors in the same title. The Minos who is most familiar to us in Greek story is not so much the lawgiver and priest of God as the great sea-King and tyrant, the overlord of the AEgean, whose vengeance was defeated by the bravery of the Athenian hero, Theseus. From this point of view, Minos was the first of men who recognized the importance of sea-power, and used it to establish the supremacy of his island kingdom. 'The first person known to us as having established a navy,' says Thucydides, 'is Minos. He made himself master of what is now called the Hellenic sea, and ruled over the Cyclades, into most of which he sent the first colonies, expelling the Carians, and appointing his own sons governors; and thus did his best to put down piracy in those waters, a necessary step to secure the revenues for his own use.' To Herodotus also, Minos, though obviously a shadowy figure, is the first great Thalassokrat. 'Polykrates is the first of the Grecians of whom we know who formed a design to make himself master of the sea, except Minos the Knossian.' But the evidence for the existence of this early Sea-King and his power rests on surer grounds than the vague tradition recorded by the two great historians. The power of Minos has left its imprint in unmistakable fashion in the places which were called by his name. Each of the Minoas which appear so numerously on the coasts of the Mediterranean, from Sicily on the west to Gaza on the east, marks a spot where the King or Kings who bore the name of Minos once held a garrison or a trading-station, and their number shows how wide-reaching was the power of the Cretan sea-Kings.
But the great King was by no means so fortunate in his domestic relationships as in his foreign adventures. The domestic skeleton in his case was the composite monster the Minotaur, half man, half bull, fabled to have been the fruit of a monstrous passion on the part of the King's wife, Pasiphae. This monster was kept shut up within a vast and intricate building called the Labyrinth, contrived for Minos by his renowned artificer, Daedalus. Further, when his own son, Androgeos, had gone to Athens to contend in the Panathenaic games, having overcome all the other Greeks in the sports, he fell a victim to the suspicion of AEgeus, the King of Athens, who caused him to be slain, either by waylaying him on the road to Thebes, or by sending him against the Marathonian bull. In his sorrow and righteous anger, Minos, who had already conquered Megara by the treachery of Scylla, raised a great fleet, and levied war upon Athens; and, having wasted Attica with fire and sword, he at length reduced the land to such straits that King AEgeus and his Athenians were glad to submit to the hard terms which were asked of them. The demand of Minos was that every ninth year Athens should send him as tribute seven youths and seven maidens. These were selected by lot, or, according to another version of the legend, chosen by Minos himself, and on their arrival in Crete were cast into the Labyrinth, to become the prey of the monstrous Minotaur.
The first and second instalments of this ghastly tribute had already been paid; but when the time of the third tribute was drawing nigh, the predestined deliverer of Athens appeared in the person of the hero Theseus. Theseus was the unacknowledged son of King AEgeus and the Princess Aithra of Troezen. He had been brought up by his mother at Troezen, and on arriving at early manhood had set out to make his way to the Court of AEgeus and secure acknowledgment as the rightful son of the Athenian King. The legend tells how on his way to Athens he cleared the lands through which he journeyed of the pests which had infested them. Sinnis, the pine-bender, who tied his miserable victims to the tops of two pine-trees bent towards one another and then allowed the trees to spring back, the young hero dealt with as he had dealt with others; Kerkuon, the wrestler, was slain by him in a wrestling bout; Procrustes, who enticed travellers to his house and made them fit his bed, stretching the short upon the rack and lopping the limbs of the over-tall, had his own measure meted to him; and various other plagues of society were abated by the young hero. Not long after his arrival at Athens and acknowledgment by his father, the time came round when the Minoan heralds should come to Athens to claim the victims for the Minotaur. Seeing the grief that prevailed in the city, and the anger of the people against his father, AEgeus, whom they accounted the cause of their misfortune, Theseus determined that, if possible, he would make an end of this humiliation and misery, and accordingly offered himself as one of the seven youths who were to be devoted to the Minotaur. AEgeus was loth to part with his newly-found son, but at length he consented to the venture; and it was agreed that if Theseus succeeded in vanquishing the Minotaur and bringing back his comrades in safety, he should hoist white sails on his returning galley instead of the black ones which she had always borne in token of her melancholy mission.
So at length the sorrowful ship came to the harbour in the bay below broad Knossos where Minos reigned, and when the King had viewed his captives they were cast into prison to await their dreadful doom. But fair-haired Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, had marked Theseus as he stood before the King, and love to him had risen up in her heart, and pity at the thought of his fate; and so by night she came to his dungeon, and when she could not persuade him to save himself by flight, because that he had sworn to kill the Minotaur and save his companions, she gave him a clue of thread by which he might be able to retrace his way through all the dark and winding passages of the Labyrinth, and a sword wherewith to deal with the Minotaur when he encountered him. So Theseus was led away by the guards, and put into the Labyrinth to meet his fate; and he went on, with the clue which he had fastened to his arm unwinding itself as he passed through passage after passage, until at last he met the dreadful monster; and there, in the depths of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur, who had slain so many, was himself slain. Then Theseus and his companions escaped, taking Ariadne with them, and fled to their black ship, and set sail for Attica again; and landing for awhile in the island of Naxos, Ariadne there became the hero's wife. But she never came to Athens with Theseus, but was either deserted by him in Naxos, or, as some say, was taken from him there by force. So, without her, Theseus sailed again for Athens. But in their excitement at the hope of seeing once more the home they had thought to have looked their last upon, he and his companions forgot to hoist the white sail; and old AEgeus, straining his eyes on Sunium day after day for the returning ship, saw her at last come back black-winged as he had feared; and in his grief he fell, or cast himself, into the sea, and so died, and thus the sea is called the AEgean to this day. Another tradition, recorded by the poet Bacchylides, tells how Theseus, at the challenge of Minos, descended to the palace of Amphitrite below the sea, and brought back with him the ring, 'the splendour of gold,' which the King had thrown into the deep.
So runs the great story which links Minos and Crete with the favourite hero of Athens. But other legends, not so famous nor so romantic, carry on the story of the great Cretan King to a miserable close. Daedalus, his famous artificer, was also an Athenian, and the most cunning of all men. To him was ascribed the invention of the plumb-line and the auger, the wedge and the level; and it was he who first set masts in ships and bent sails upon them. But having slain, through jealousy, his nephew Perdix, who promised to excel him in skill, he was forced to flee from Athens, and so came to the Court of Minos. For the Cretan King he wrought many wonderful works, rearing for him the Labyrinth, and the Choros, or dancing-ground, which, as Homer tells us, he 'wrought in broad Knossos for fair-haired Ariadne.' But for his share in the great crime of Pasiphae Minos hated him, and shut him up in the Labyrinth which he himself had made. Then Daedalus made wings for himself and his son Icarus, and fastened them with wax, and together the two flew from their prison-house high above the pursuit of the King's warfleet. But Icarus flew too near the sun, and the wax that fastened his wings melted, and he fell into the sea. So Daedalus alone came safely to Sicily, and was there hospitably received by King Kokalos of Kamikos, for whom, as for Minos, he executed many marvellous works. Then Minos, still thirsting for revenge, sailed with his fleet for Kamikos, to demand the surrender of Daedalus; and Kokalos, affecting willingness to give up the fugitive, received Minos with seeming friendship, and ordered the bath to be prepared for his royal guest. But the three daughters of the Sicilian King, eager to protect Daedalus, drowned the Cretan in the bath, and so he perished miserably. And many of the men who had sailed with him remained in Sicily, and founded there a town which they named Minoa, in memory of their murdered King.
Herodotus has preserved for us another echo of the story of Minos in the shape of the reasons which led the Cretans to refuse aid to the rest of the Greeks during the Persian invasion. The Delphian oracle, which they consulted at this crisis, suggested to them that they had known enough of the misery caused by foreign expeditions. 'Fools, you complain of all the woes that Minos in his anger sent you, for aiding Menelaus, because they would not assist you in avenging his death at Kamikos, and yet you assisted them in avenging a woman who was carried off from Sparta by a barbarian.' In commentary on this saying Herodotus gives the explanation which was given to him by the inhabitants of Praesos, in Crete. After the death of Minos, the Cretans, with a great armada, invaded Sicily, and besieged Kamikos ineffectually for five years; but finding themselves unable to continue the siege, and being driven ashore on the Italian coast during their retreat, they founded there the city of Hyria. Crete, being thus left desolate, was repeopled by other tribes, 'especially the Grecians'; and in the third generation after the death of Minos the new Cretan people sent a contingent to help Agamemnon in the Trojan War, as a punishment for which famine and pestilence fell on them, and the island was depopulated a second time, so that the Cretans of the time of the Persian invasion are the third race to inhabit the island. In this tradition we may see a distorted reflection of the various vicissitudes which, as we shall see later, appear to have befallen the Minoan kingdom, and of the incursions which, after the fall of Knossos, gradually changed the character of the island population.
Such, then, are the most familiar of the legends and traditions associated with prehistoric Crete. Some of these, touching on the personality of Minos and his relationship with Zeus, have their own significance in connection with the little that is known of the Minoan religion, and will fall to be discussed later from that point of view. The famous story of Theseus and the Minotaur, though it, too, may have its connection with the religious conceptions which gather round the name of Minos, seems at first sight to move entirely in the realm of pure romance. Yet the conviction of its reality was very strong with the Athenians, and was indeed expressed in a ceremony which held its own to a late stage in Athenian history. The ship in which Theseus was said to pave made his voyage was preserved with the utmost care till at least the beginning of the third century B.C., her timbers being constantly 'so pieced and new-framed with strong plank that it afforded an example to the philosophers in their disputations concerning the identity of things that are changed by growth, some contending that it was the same, and others that it was not.' It was this galley, or the vessel which tradition affirmed to be the galley of Theseus, which was sent every year from Athens to Delos with solemn sacrifices and specially nominated envoys. One of her voyages has become for ever memorable owing to the fact that the death of Socrates was postponed for thirty days because of the galley's absence; for so great was the reverence in which this annual ceremony was held that during the time of her voyage the city was obliged to abstain from all acts carrying with them public impurity, so that it was not lawful to put a condemned man to death until the galley returned. The mere fact of such a tradition as that of the galley is at least presumptive evidence that some historic ground lay behind a belief so persistent, however the story may have been added to and adorned with supernatural details by later imagination; and it is difficult to see how Grote, on the very threshold of recounting the Athenians' conviction about the ship, and their solemn sacrificial use of her, should pause to reaffirm his unbelief in the existence of any historic ground for the main feature of the legend—the tribute of human victims paid by Athens to Crete.
Later Athenian writers of a rationalizing turn endeavoured to bring down the noble old legend to the level of the commonplace by transforming the Minotaur into a mere general or famous athlete named Taurus, whom Theseus vanquished in Crete. But the rationalistic version never found much favour, and the Athenian potter was always sure of a market for his vases with pictures of the bull-headed Minotaur falling to the sword of the national hero. No more fortunate has been the German attempt to resolve the story of Minos and the Minotaur, the Labyrinth and Pasiphae, into a clumsy solar myth. The whole legend of the Minotaur, on this theory, was connected with the worship of the heavenly host. The Minotaur was the Sun; Pasiphae, 'the very bright one,' wife of Minos, was the Moon; and the Labyrinth was the tower on whose walls the astronomers of the day traced the wanderings of the heavenly bodies, 'an image of the starry heaven, with its infinitely winding paths, in which, nevertheless, the sun and moon so surely move about.' Among rationalizing explanations this must surely hold the palm for cumbrousness and complexity, and we may be thankful that the explorer's spade has demolished it along with other theories, and given back to us, as we shall see, at least the elements of a romance such as that which was so dear to the Athenian public.
THE HOMERIC CIVILIZATION
Between the Greece of such legends as those which we have been considering and the Greece of the earliest historic period there has always been a great gulf of darkness. On the one side a land of seemingly fabulous Kings and heroes and monsters, of fabulous palaces and cities; on the other side. Greece as we know it in the infant stages of its development, with a totally different state of society, a totally different organization and culture; and in the interval no one could say how many generations, concerning which, and their conditions and developments, there was nothing but blank ignorance. So that it seemed as though the marvellous fabric of Greek civilization as we know it were indeed something unexampled, rising almost at once out of nothing to its height of splendour, as the walls of Ilium were fabled to have risen beneath the hands of their divine builders. Indeed, a certain section of students seemed rather to glory in the fact of this seeming isolation of Greek culture, and to deem it little short of profanity to seek any pre-existing sources for it. 'The fathering of the Greek on the pre-existing profane cultures has been scouted by perfervid Hellenists in terms which implied that they hold it little else than impiety. Allowing no causation more earthly than vague local influences of air and light, mountain and sea, they would have Hellenism born into the world by a miracle of generation, like its own Athena from the head of Zeus.'[*] But a great civilization can never be accounted for in this miraculous fashion. The origins of even Egyptian culture have begun to yield themselves to patient research, and it is not permissible to believe that the Greek nation was born in a day into its great inheritance, or that it derived nothing from earlier ages and races.
[Footnote *: D. G. Hogarth, 'Ionia and the East,' p. 21.]
Indeed, the supreme monument of the matchless literature of Hellas bore witness to the fact that, prior to the beginnings of Greek history, there had existed on Greek soil a civilization of a very high type, differing from, in some respects even superior to, that which succeeded it, but manifestly refusing to be left out of consideration in any attempt to describe the beginnings of Greek culture. The Homeric poems shone like a beacon light across the dark gulf which separated the Hellas of myth from the Hellas of history, testifying to a splendour that had been before the darkness, and prophesying of a splendour that should be when the darkness had passed. But the very brilliance of their pictures and the magnificence of the society with which they dealt only added to the complication of the question, and emphasized the difficulty of deriving the culture of historic Greece by legitimate filiation from a past which seemed to have no connection and no community of character with it. For the Homeric civilization was not a different stage of development of that same civilization which appears when the first beginnings of what we are accustomed to call Hellenism are presented to us; it was totally diverse, and in many respects more complex and more splendid.
From the eighth century onwards we are on moderately safe ground when dealing with the history of Hellas and its culture. We know something of the actual facts of its history, literary and political. The chronicles of the more important cities are known with a definiteness fairly comparable to what we might expect at such a stage of development. But the Homeric poems take us away from all that into a world in which a totally different state of things prevails. The very geography is not that of the historical Hellenic period. The names that are familiar to us as those of the chief Greek cities and states are of comparatively minor importance in the Homeric world; Athens is mentioned, but not with any prominence; Corinth is merely a dependency of its neighbour Mycenae; Sparta only ranks along with other towns of Laconia; Delphi and Olympia have not yet assumed anything like the place which they afterwards occupy as religious centres during the historic period. The chief cities of Hellas are Mycenae, Tiryns, and Orchomenos. Crete, although its chiefs, Idomeneus and Meriones, are only of secondary rank among the heroes of the Iliad, is obviously one of the most important of Grecian lands. It sends eighty ships to the Achaean fleet at Troy, it is described both in the Iliad and the Odyssey as being very populous (a hundred cities, Iliad II.; ninety cities, Odyssey XIX.), and to its capital, Knossos, alone among Greek cities does Homer apply the epithet 'great.' All which offers a striking contrast to the comparative insignificance of the towns of the Argolid in later Greek history, and to the uninfluential part played by Crete.
The centres of power, then, in the Homeric story are widely different from those of the historic period. The same divergence from later realities is manifest when we come to look at the social organization contemplated in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Homeric state of society is, in some respects, rude enough. Piracy, for instance, is recognized as, if not a laudable, at all events a quite ordinary method of gaining a livelihood. 'Who are you?' says Nestor to Telemachus. 'Whence do you come? Are you engaged in trade, or do you rove at adventure as sea-robbers who wander at hazard of their lives, bringing bane to strangers?' The same question is addressed to Odysseus by Polyphemus, and was plainly the first thing thought of when a seafaring stranger was encountered. As among the Highlanders and Borderers of Scotland, cattle-lifting was looked upon as a perfectly respectable form of employment, and stolen cattle were considered a quite proper gift for a prospective bridegroom to offer to his father-in-law. The power of the strong hand was, in most respects, supreme, and the rights of a tribe or a city were respected more on account of the ability of its men to defend them than because of any moral obligation. 'We will sack a town for you,' says Menelaus to Telemachus, as an inducement to him to settle in Laconia.
Along with this primitive rudeness goes, on the other hand, a strongly aristocratic constitution of society. The great leaders and chiefs, the long-haired Achaeans, are absolutely separated from the common people, not in rank only, but to all appearance in race. They are a superior caste, and of a different breed. Even to their King their subjection is not much more than nominal, and he has to be very careful of offending their susceptibilities or wounding their sense of their own importance, while their treatment of the commons beneath them is sufficiently disdainful. Though the commons are summoned sometimes to the Council, their function there is merely a passive one; they are called to hear what has been determined, and to approve of it, if they so desire, but in no case have they any alternative to accepting it, even should they disapprove. Altogether the superiority of the Achaean nobles, and the haughtiness with which they bear themselves, is such as to suggest that they hold the position, not of tribal chieftains ruling over clansmen of the same stock as themselves, but of a separate and conquering race holding dominion over, and using the services of, the vanquished, much after the manner of the Norman lordship in Sicily.
All this is sufficiently different from the state of things during the historic period. It is not an undeveloped condition of the same society that is in contemplation; it is a totally distinct social organization. With regard to the position of woman, the facts are even more remarkable, for if the Homeric picture be a true one, historic Hellas, instead of representing an advance upon the prehistoric age, presents a distinct retrogression. In the Homeric poems woman occupies a position, not only important, but even comparable in many respects to that held by her in modern life. She is not secluded from sight and kept in the background, as in later Hellenic society; on the contrary, she mixes freely with the other sex in private and in public, and is uniformly depicted as exercising a very strong, and generally beneficent, influence. The very names of Andromache, Penelope, Nausicaa, stand as types of all that is purest and sweetest in womanhood. The fact that a wife is purchased by bride-gifts does not militate against the respect in which she is held or the regard which is paid to her rights. The contrast between this state of affairs and that prevailing in later Greek society is sufficiently marked to render comment unnecessary.
But perhaps the most striking feature of the setting of the Homeric story is the type of material civilization which is described in the poems. We are confronted with a society not by any means in a primitive stage of development, but, on the contrary, far advanced in the arts of peace, and capable of the highest achievements in art and architecture. Some of the proofs of its advancement may be briefly noticed. Into the vexed question of the Homeric palace, its form, and the conditions of life thereby indicated, there is no need to enter; for about the point which chiefly concerns our immediate purpose there is no question at all. The Homeric palace, described at some length in at least three instances, is a building not merely large and commodious, but of somewhat imposing magnificence. The palace of Alcinous, for example, is pictured for us as gleaming with the splendour of the sun and moon, with walls of bronze, a frieze of kuanos (blue glass paste), and golden doors, with lintels and door-posts of silver, while the approaches to it are guarded by dogs wrought in silver. The whole reminds one rather of the description of one of the vast Egyptian temples of the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Dynasty than of what one would have imagined the palace of an island chieftain. The Palaces of Priam at Troy, and of Odysseus at Ithaca, less gorgeously adorned in detail, are not less stately, and even the abode of Menelaus in comparatively insignificant Sparta is described as 'gleaming with gold, amber, silver, and ivory.' The minor appointments of these splendid homes are in keeping with their structural magnificence. Great vessels of gold, silver, and bronze are in common use, the richly dyed and wrought robes of the chiefs and their wives and daughters are stored in chests splendidly decorated and inlaid, and the adornments of the women are of costly and beautiful fabric in gold and silver. In the manners and customs of the inhabitants of these stately houses there is a certain patriarchal simplicity. The Princess Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous, conducts the family washing as a regular and expected part of her work, while the great chieftains themselves are men of their hands not only on the battle-field, but in the common labours of peace. Odysseus is a capable plough man, carpenter, and shipwright, as well as a good soldier. But the simplicity is by no means rudeness; it consists with a highly developed code of manners, and even a considerable refinement. Brutes like Penelope's suitors may, in half-drunken anger, fling the furniture or an ox-hoof at the object of their scorn; but there are brutes in every society, and the manners of the Achaeans in general are stately and dignified.
On the field of war there is still evidence of an advanced stage of civilization. The whole question of the equipment of the Homeric heroes has been the subject of perhaps even more dispute than that of the Homeric house. Infinite pains have been spent in the effort to show, on the one hand, that the equipment worn by the heroes of the Iliad was of the more ancient type, consisting mainly of a great shield of ox-hide large enough to cover the whole body, behind which the warrior crouched, wearing for defensive armour no more than a linen corselet and leathern cap and gaiters, and on the other that the hero wore practically the complete panoply of the later Hellenic hoplite, the small round shield, the bronze helmet, with metal cuirass, belt, and greaves; while the question of whether the offensive weapons were of iron or of bronze has been debated with equal pertinacity. The discussion of such details is beyond our purpose, and it is sufficient to say that the poems seem to contemplate both forms of defensive equipment, the old form of large shield and light body armour, and the later form of small shield and metal panoply, as being in common use, while on the question of iron versus bronze, the evidence seems to indicate that the age contemplated by the bulk of the references is, in the main, a bronze-using one, though the knowledge of the superiority of iron is beginning to make itself evident.
But the point which is of importance for our present purpose is the magnificence with which the arms of the Hellenic heroes, when of metal, are wrought and decorated. The polished helmets, with their horse-hair plumes of various colours, the in-wrought breastplates, and the greaves with their silver fastenings, are not only weapons, but works of art as well. The supreme instance is, of course, the armour of Achilles, fabricated, according to the poet, by the hands of Hephaestos, but none the less to be regarded as the ideal of what the highly wrought armour of the time should be. The shield of Achilles, with its gorgeous representations of various scenes of peace and war, seems almost to transcend the possibilities of actual metal work at such a period; yet we may believe that the poet was not merely drawing upon his imagination, but giving a heightened picture of what he had himself witnessed in the way of the armourer's art. Chiefly to be noticed with regard to it is the way in which he describes the method used by Hephaestos in producing his effects—the inlaying of various metals to get the colours desired, for instance, in the vineyard scene with its dangling clusters of purple grapes, its poles, and ditch, and fence. Would any poet have imagined this had he been entirely unacquainted with similar products of the armourer's art? As we shall see, it is precisely this use of the inlaying of metal with metal, to represent the different colours of the various figures involved, which is characteristic of the skilled armourer's work in the Mycenaean period.
Such, then, are a few of the outstanding features of the state of society described for us in the Homeric poems. We are brought by them face to face with a civilization which has very distinct and pronounced characteristics of its own. It is certainly not the civilization of the earliest historic period of Greece; political organization, the relative importance of states and cities, social life, art and warfare—all are different from anything we find in the Hellas of history; in many respects this world of the poems is at a higher stage of development than that which succeeded it; but certainly it is different. Now, the question of importance for us is—Had this poetic world of the Iliad and Odyssey any basis in fact, or was it merely the creation of the poet or poets who were responsible for the tales of Ilium and of Odysseus? Were they describing things which they had seen, or of which the tradition at least had been handed down to them by those who had seen them, or were they telling of things which never had any existence save in their own minds?
This question, of course, is plainly quite distinct from that of whether the tales they tell are history or romance. The stories of the flight of Helen, of the siege of Troy, the anger of Achilles, the valour of Hector, and the love of Andromache, of the wanderings of much-enduring Odysseus, and the trials of his faithful wife, Penelope, may be fact, or they may be fiction, or, more probably perhaps than either, they may be fact largely mingled with fiction; but that is not the point. It is the medium in which these stories are set, the background of human life and society upon which they are projected. Here is a world, astonishingly real in appearance, and, if real, supremely interesting to us, as representing what the subsequent ages knew or had heard by tradition of the earliest phases of the greatest European civilization. Can we trust the picture, or must we believe it to be but a dream of a state of things which never really existed? It is, to say the least of it, extremely hard to believe that the Homeric world is entirely the product of the poetic imagination. Imagination can work wonders, but it requires to have a certain amount of material in fact to start upon in its workings. If it creates a world entirely out of its own consciousness, that world may be one of extreme beauty and splendour, but it is most unlikely that it will present any verisimilitude to actual life. It will be either vague and shadowy, or else so grandiose and unearthly in its magnificence as to have no point of connection with ordinary terrestrial life. But it is exactly here that the realism of the Homeric world strikes the student. It is not vague—on the contrary, the preciseness of its detail is almost as striking, sometimes almost as prosaic, as the detail which makes Robinson Crusoe the most realistic of all works of fiction; and while its splendours are such as we look for in vain in early historic Greece, and are certainly not borrowed from the great civilizations of Mesopotamia or the Nile Valley, they are such as we can perfectly well believe to have existed, and such as can be perfectly well paralleled, though in widely different styles, by Babylonia or by Thebes.
Was it not more likely that a picture so precise in its outlines, and so coherent, so thinkable and possible even in its most gorgeous details, should have had behind it something, probably a great deal, of fact actually seen and known, than that it should have been the mere mirage of a poet's dream? 'The picture presented to us of the Homeric heroes and their surroundings,' says Father Browne, 'is not merely vivid and complete; it is grand, though with a grandeur which is homely and simple. Hence the fascination which we find in the subject of the poems as distinct from the poems themselves. It may be that this effect is due to the art of the bards, which well knew how to efface itself in order to ravish the listener the more. But allowing much to the power of art, the mind was not yet satisfied. We have said the poems seemed to carry with them their own evidence that they were not undiluted fiction, but contained at least an element of objective, perhaps traditional, truth. It was a beautiful world they told of, and yet it was a world apart. Agamemnon in the field and Achilles in his tent; Priam in his palace; Odysseus in his travels; Alcinous with his retainers, and Arete with her daughter; Penelope and Telemachus in the midst of the wicked suitors, and the old swineherd and the faithful nurse; the very shades of the Dead beyond the streams of Oceanus—how could the bards describe all these wonders if they had not lived in a world of their own, or at least acquired the knowledge of it from their immediate predecessors? The gorgeous palaces of the Kings, with their walls of bronze, their gold and silver ewers and basins, and their carven bedsteads and chairs of state and footstools; and all the glittering raiment and the golden-studded sceptres, and golden-hilted swords, and silvern ankle-bands, and the ivory and amber and inlaid metal-work, and the iron-axled chariots with eight spokes to the wheel, and the crimson-cheeked ships and the fair-cheeked maidens, and the stateliness and grace amid the splendour of it all—why should we obstinately refuse to believe that these bards knew more than we—that they had seen the vision with their mortal eye before they took the brush in hand to paint the picture?[*]
[Footnote *: H. Browne, 'Homeric Study,' pp. 242, 243.]
Two lines of evidence, then, if given their fair weight, seemed to point in the same direction. On the one hand, there were the legends of a prehistoric age of heroes, with their travels and expeditions and wars, legends with which Greek literature teemed, and which, however inextricably blended with fancy, and with details obviously monstrous and impossible, can scarcely be supposed to have sprung into being without something behind them to account for their existence. On the other hand, there was this strange, wonderful, realistic world of the Homeric poems, no longer existing, it is true, even at the earliest stage of Greek history, but almost absolutely refusing to be dismissed as a mere figment of the imagination. Was it, then, impossible to believe that in the bosom of the great gulf which separated the Hellas of legend from the Hellas of history there lay a civilization, real, and once living, of which the legends and the Homeric pictures preserved but the scanty surviving ruins and relics?
Here we have to recall two facts of importance. First, that universal Greek tradition affirmed that before the birth of historic Greece there lay a Dark Age, its darkness caused by the descent from the North of the rude, iron-using Dorian tribes, who found in the lands which they invaded a civilization of the Bronze Age, far more advanced than their own, and, by the help of their superior weapons, conquered and indeed destroyed it. And second, that even in the gorgeous picture given by the Homeric poems of the period with which they deal, there is a constant tendency to regard that period as being only the decadent and inferior heir of a civilization which had preceded it. Nothing is plainer in Homer than the suggestion that the men of the age before the Trojan Wars were greater, stronger, wiser, better in every respect than even the heroes who fought on 'the ringing plains of windy Troy,' even as these were greater than the men of the poet's own degenerate days. Does it not seem as though we were being led towards the conclusion that the Homeric civilization is itself the representation of a very real fact of history, the picture of a state of things which was submerged and swept away by the coming of the Dorians, or by whatever inrush of wild northern tribes the Greeks may have called by that general title, but which was itself only the last decadent stage of an antecedent culture, still greater and more highly developed—that of the legendary period? The answer to this question has come in the most surprising and romantic fashion from the archaeological discoveries of the last forty years.
SCHLIEMANN AND HIS WORK
The man whose labours were to give a new impetus to the study of Greek origins, and to be the beginning of the revelation of an unknown world of ancient days, was born on January 6, 1822, at Neu Buckow in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He was the son of a clergyman who himself had a deep love for the great tales of antiquity, for his son has told how his father used often vividly to narrate the stories of the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and of the Trojan War. When Schliemann was barely seven years old he received a present of a child's history of the world, in which the picture of the destruction of Troy and the flight of AEneas made a profound impression upon his young mind, and roused in him a passionate desire to go and see for himself what remained of the ancient splendours of Ilium. He found it impossible to believe that the massive fortifications of Troy had vanished without leaving a trace of their existence. When his father admitted that the walls were once as huge as those depicted in his history book, but asserted that they were now totally destroyed, he retorted: 'Father, if such walls once existed, they cannot possibly have been completely destroyed; vast ruins of them must still remain, but they are hidden beneath the dust of ages.' Already he had made the resolution that some day he would excavate Troy.
The romance of bygone days and of hidden treasure surrounded the boy's early years, and no doubt had its own influence in determining his bent. A pond just behind his father's garden had its legend of a maiden who rose from its waters each midnight, bearing a silver bowl. In the village an ancient barrow had its story of a robber knight who had buried his favourite child there in a golden cradle; and near by was the old castle of Henning von Holstein, who, when besieged by the Duke of Mecklenburg, had buried his treasures close to the keep of his stronghold. On such romantic legends Schliemann's young imagination was nourished. By the time he was ten years old he had produced a Latin essay on the Trojan War. Such things, which in another might have been mere childish precocities, were in him the indications of an enthusiasm for antiquity, which was destined to be the ruling passion of his whole life.
Yet the beginnings of his career in the world were unromantic to the last degree. His father's poverty forced him to give up the hope of a learned life, and at the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a small grocer in a country village, in whose employment, surely uncongenial enough for such a spirit, he spent five and a half years, selling butter, herrings, potato-brandy and the like, and occupying his spare moments in tidying out the little shop. Even in such circumstances his passion for the Homeric story found means, sufficiently quaint, for its gratification. There came one evening to the shop a miller's man, who had been well educated, but had fallen into poor circumstances, and had taken to drink, yet even in his degradation had not forgotten his Homer. 'That evening,' says Schliemann, 'he recited to us about a hundred lines of the poet, observing the rhythmic cadence of the verses. Although I did not understand a syllable, the melodious sound of the words made a deep impression upon me, and I wept bitter tears over my unhappy fate. Three times over did I get him to repeat to me those divine verses, rewarding his trouble with three glasses of whisky, which I bought with the few pence that made up my whole wealth. From that moment I never ceased to pray God that by His grace I might yet have the happiness of learning Greek.'
To one whose heart was filled with such a passion for learning, no obstacle could prove insuperable. Yet for many a day the Fates seemed most unpropitious. Ill-health drove him to emigrate to Venezuela, but his ship was wrecked on the Dutch coast, and he became the errand-boy of a business house in Amsterdam. Here in his first year of service he managed, while going on his master's errands, to learn English in the first six months and French in the next, and incidentally to save for intellectual purposes one half of his salary of 800 francs. The mental training of the first year enabled him to learn Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese with much greater rapidity, each language being acquired in six weeks. In 1846 he was sent by another firm as their agent to St. Petersburg, where in the next year he founded a business house of his own, and from that time all went well with him. The Crimean War brought him opportunities which he utilized with such ingenuity as to derive considerable profit from them. By 1858 he considered that the fortune he had made was sufficient to warrant him in devoting himself entirely to archaeology, and though exceptional circumstances obliged him to return to business for a little, he finally cut himself loose from it in 1863, and took up the task which was to occupy the remainder of his busy life.
His Greek studies had led him to two convictions on which his whole exploring work was based. First, that the site of ancient Troy was on the spot called in classical days New Ilium, the Hill of Hissarlik, near the coast of the AEgean; and second, that the Greek traveller, Pausanias, was right in stating that the murdered Agamemnon and his kin were buried within the walls of the Acropolis at Mycenae, and not without it. In both these opinions he ran counter to the prevailing views of his time. It was generally believed that, if Troy had ever any real existence at all, its site was to be looked for not at Hissarlik, but far inland near Bunarbashi; while the authority of Pausanias as to the graves of the Atreidae was held to be quite unreliable.
Schliemann resolved to put his convictions to the test of actual excavation. In April, 1870, he cut the first sod of his excavation at Hissarlik. The work went on with varying, but never brilliant, fortune, until the year 1873, when his faith and constancy began at last to meet with their reward. On the south-west of the site a great city gate was uncovered, lines of wall, already partly disclosed, began to show themselves more plainly, and quite close to the gate there was discovered the famous 'Treasure of Priam,' so called, a considerable mass of vessels and ornaments in gold and silver, with a number of spearheads, axes, daggers, and cups, wrought in copper. As the excavations progressed, it became evident that not one city, but many cities, had stood upon this ancient site. The First City, reached, of course, at the lowest level of the excavation, immediately above the virgin soil, belonged to a very early stage of human development. Its remains yielded such objects as stone axes and flint knives, together with the black, hand-made, polished pottery, known as 'bucchero,' which is characteristic of Neolithic sites in the AEgean, ornamented frequently with incised patterns which are filled in with a white chalky substance. The stratum of debris belonging to the First City averages about 8 feet in depth.
Above this lay a layer of soil about 1 foot 9 inches in depth, and then, on the top of a great layer of debris, by which the site had been levelled and extended, came the walls of the Second City. Here were the remains of a fortified gate with a ramp, paved with stone, leading up to it (Plate II. 1), and a strong wall of sun-dried brick resting upon a scarped stone substructure. This, with its projecting towers, had evidently once formed the enclosure of an Acropolis; and within the wall lay the remains of a large building which appeared to have been a house or palace. The separate finds included the great treasure already mentioned, and numerous other articles of use and adornment, golden hair-pins, bracelets, ear-pendants, a very primitive leaden idol of female form, and abundance of pottery, of which some specimens belong to the class of vases with long spouts, known to archaeologists as 'Schnabelkanne,' or 'beak-jugs.' Above the stratum of the Second City lay the remains of no fewer than seven other settlements, more or less clearly marked, ending at the uppermost layer with the ruins of Roman Ilium, and its marble temple of Athena.
The gate and walls of the Second City—the fact that it had been undoubtedly destroyed by fire, and the evidence of wealth and artistic faculty offered by the golden treasure—seemed to Dr. Schliemann decisive evidence of the fact that this had been the Ilion of the Homeric poems. The treasure was named 'Priam's Treasure,' the largest building, 'Priam's Palace,' and the gate, 'The Scaean Gate.' It quickly became apparent, however, that the Second City could not claim Homeric honours, but must be of yet more venerable antiquity. The style, alike of the city buildings and of the articles found, was much too primitive for the Homeric period, and pointed to a date much earlier—probably, indeed, about a thousand years earlier than that of the Trojan War. The great treasure, whose workmanship seemed to militate against this conclusion, was suspected to have somehow slipped down during the excavations from the level of the Sixth City to that of the Second, as it seemed impossible that such fine work could belong to the very early period of the Burnt City; but subsequent discoveries, particularly those of Mr. Seager on the little island of Mokhlos, off the coast of Crete, have paralleled the splendour of the Trojan treasure with work which is undoubtedly of the same early date as the Second City, so that Schliemann's accuracy has been confirmed in this instance. The citadel itself seemed far too small to fill the place which Troy occupies in Homer's description, even allowing for poetic exaggeration. In 1890, the year of his death, Schliemann was on the way to the solution of the problem, and in 1892, his coadjutor, Professor Doerpfeld, finally proved that the Sixth City, lying four strata above Schliemann's Troy, was the true Ilion of the great epic. Its wider circuit had been missed by Schliemann in his earlier excavations owing to the fact that, at the centre of the site where he was working, the debris had been planed and levelled away by the Romans to make room for the buildings of their New Ilium. The pottery of the Sixth City was of the type which in the meantime had come to be called Mycenaean, from the discoveries in the plain of Argos, and its massive circuit wall, enclosing an area two and a half times greater than that of the Second City, is quite worthy of the fame of Homeric Troy. Without much risk of mistake, we may conclude that we have before us in Plate III. the actual wall from whose summit Andromache beheld the corpse of the gallant Hector dragged behind the chariot of his relentless foe. The mere fact of his having to some extent misinterpreted the evidence of his discoveries can scarcely be said, however, to take anything from the credit justly due to Schliemann. Had he been spared for but a year or two longer he could not have failed to complete his work, and to prove, as his fellow-worker did, that on the site which he had from the first contended to be that of Troy, there had stood a large and splendidly built city, which assuredly belongs to the period of the Trojan War.
The work at Troy, however, had not gone on uninterruptedly between 1870 and Schliemann's death in 1890, and the discoveries which occupied some of the intervening years were of even greater scientific importance, though the glamour of romance attaching to the name of Troy drew perhaps more attention to the work there. A dispute with the Turkish Government over the disposal of 'Priam's Treasure' led to obstacles being placed by the Porte in the way of the resumption of work on the plain of Troy, and in July, 1876, he settled down to excavate at Mycenae, the historic capital of the King of men, Agamemnon, with a view to the proving of his second theory—the burial of the Atreidae within the Acropolis of Mycenae. The ancient citadel of Agamemnon stands in the plain of Argos, on an isolated hill 912 feet in height. Before Schliemann turned his attention to it, it was already well known to students of archaeology from the remains of its walls, and particularly from the splendid Lion Gate (Plate IV.) with its famous relief of the sacred pillar supported by two colossal lions, and from the great beehive tombs of the lower city—the so-called 'Treasuries.' But the chief thing which drew the explorer to Mycenae was not these remains; it was the statement of Pausanias already referred to. 'Some remains of the circuit wall,' says Pausanias, 'are still to be seen, and the gate which has lions over it. These were built, they say, by the Cyclopes, who made the wall at Tiryns for Proitos. Among the ruins at Mycenae is the fountain called Perseia, and some subterranean buildings belonging to Atreus and his children, where their treasures were kept. There is the tomb of Atreus, and of those whom Aigisthos slew at the banquet, on their return from Ilion with Agamemnon.... There is also the tomb of Agamemnon, and that of Eurymedon the charioteer, and the joint tomb of Teledamos and Pelops, the twin children of Kassandra, whom Aigisthos slew with their parents while still mere babes.... Klytemnestra and Aigisthos were buried a little way outside the walls, for they were not thought worthy to be within, where Agamemnon lay and those who fell with him.'
Persuaded in his own mind of the truth of this statement, Schliemann, while clearing the Lion Gate, and investigating the already rifted tomb known as the Treasury of Atreus, caused a great pit, 113 feet square, to be dug within the walls at a distance of about 40 feet from the Lion Gate. With the most extraordinary good fortune he had hit upon the exact spot which he sought, and had even almost exactly proportioned his pit to the area within which the treasures lay. After only a few days' digging, slabs of stone, vertically placed, began to come to light, and before long a complete double ring of stone slabs, 87 feet in diameter, was disclosed (Plate II. 2). Schliemann's first idea was that he had discovered the Agora of Mycenae, the 'well-polished circle of stones' on which the elders of the city sat for councilor judgment, as Hephaestos depicted them on the shield of Achilles; but even this discovery did not satisfy him; he was resolved to go down to virgin soil or rock, and his perseverance was rewarded.
First there came into view a circular altar, and several steles of soft stone with rude carvings in relief, which seemed to point to interments beneath, and a system of offerings to, or on behalf of, the dead. Three feet below the altar, and 23 feet below the surface level, there came to light the top of the first of a group of five rock-hewn graves. The graves were rectangular, varied in depth from 10 to 16 feet, and ranged in size from 9 by 10 feet to 16 by 22 feet. They had been carefully lined with a wall of small quarry-stones and clay, and roofed over with slate slabs; but the roofing had broken down, owing to the decay of the beams which supported it, and the graves were filled with earth and pebbles. Mingled with the debris brought down by the collapse of the roofs lay human bodies, one in the smallest grave, five in the largest, and three in each of the others; and along with them had been buried one of the most remarkable hoards of treasure that ever greeted the eye of a discoverer.
Gold was there in profusion, beaten into masks for the faces of the dead (perhaps to protect them from the evil eye), into head-bands, breast-pieces, plaques of all shapes and sizes, and wrought into bracelets, rings, pins, baldrics, and dagger and sword hilts. Along with the gold was store of wrought ivory, amber, silver, bronze, and alabaster. One grave alone contained no fewer than sixty swords and daggers; another, in which women only were buried, held six diadems, fifteen pendants, eleven neck-coils, eight hair ornaments, ten gold grasshoppers with gold chains, one butterfly, four griffins, four lions, ten ornaments, each consisting of two stags, ten with representations of two lions attacking an ox, three fine intaglios, two pairs of gold scales, fifty-one embossed ornaments, and more than seven hundred ornaments for sewing on garments! A few scattered objects and a sixth grave were found later, the latter, however, not by Dr. Schliemann. The mere money-value of the finds amounted to something like four thousand pounds sterling!
Money-value, however, was nothing in Schliemann's eyes compared with the thought that he had discovered the actual graves which Pausanias saw, and in which Agamemnon and his companions were buried after their tragic end at the hands of Aigisthos and Klytemnestra. To his eager enthusiasm many of the circumstances of the discovery seemed to lend probability to such a supposition. The disorder in which the bodies were found, one with its head crushed down upon the bosom, the half-shut eye of one of the mute company, and other indications, seemed to point to such haste in the interment as might have been expected in the case of a King and his companions who had met with so tragic a fate. Accordingly, the discoverer announced in his famous telegram to the King of the Hellenes, and maintained in his works, that he had found Agamemnon and his household. For a time this view and his enthusiastic advocacy of it gained the ear of the public; but gradually it became apparent that the disorder of the graves and the condition of the corpses was due, not to hasty interment, but to the collapse of the roofs of the graves; the grave furniture was shown not to belong by any means entirely to one period; and the number and sex of the persons interred did not agree with the legend, or with the account of Pausanias. Admiration turned to incredulity, and even to undeserved ridicule of the enthusiastic explorer; but the lapse of time has made critics less inclined to mock at Schliemann's eager belief, and it is largely conceded now that while perhaps the tombs may not be actually those of the great King of the Achaeans and his friends, they are at least those which were long held to be such by tradition, and which Pausanias intended to denote by his descriptions. In any case, the question of whether the explorer discovered the body of one dead King or of another is of entirely minor importance. To find Agamemnon would have been a romantic exploit thoroughly in accordance with the bent of Schliemann's mind, and a fitting crown to a life which in itself was the very romance of exploration. But Schliemann had done something infinitely more important than to make the find of a dead King, even though that King had reigned for more than two and a half millenniums in the greatest poem of the world; he had begun the resurrection of a dead civilization.
Besides the great discovery of the Shaft-Graves, Schliemann carried on the exploration of the famous beehive tombs in the lower city of Mycenae. One of these, the largest, was already well known by the name of the 'Treasury of Atreus' (Plate V. 2). It consists of a long entrance passage running back into the hillside, and leading to a great vaulted chamber excavated out of the hill, and shaped like a beehive. The entrance passage is 20 feet broad and 115 feet long, and is lined on either side with walls of massive masonry which increase in height as the hill rises. This passage leads to a vertical facade 46 feet high, pierced by a door between 17 and 18 feet in height, which was bordered by columns carrying a cornice, above which was a triangular relieving space, masked by slabs of red porphyry adorned with spiral decorations, while the whole facade appears to have been enriched with bronze ornaments and coloured marbles. The massive lintel of the door is 29 feet 6 inches long, 16 feet 6 inches deep, and 3 feet 4 inches high, with a weight of about 120 tons—a mass of stone fairly comparable with some of the gigantic blocks in which Egyptian architects delighted. It is, for instance, about ten tons heavier than the quartzite block which forms the sepulchral chamber in the pyramid of Amenemhat III. at Hawara. The great chamber of the tomb consists of an impressive circular vault 48 feet in diameter and in height. Its construction is not that of true vaulting; but each of the thirty-three courses projects a little beyond the one below it, until at last they approach closely at the apex, which is closed by a single slab. The courses, after being laid, were hewn to a perfectly smooth curve, and carefully polished, and it appears that the whole of the dome was decorated with rosettes of bronze, a scheme of adornment which recalls the bronze walls of the Palace of Alcinous. From the great chamber a side door, bearing traces of rich decoration, leads to a square room, 27 feet square by 19 feet high, which may possibly have been the actual place of interment. Curtius found 'this lofty and solemn vault' the most imposing of all the monuments of ancient Greece.
In the same hillside as the Treasury of Atreus, but some 400 yards north of it, stands the tomb known as the 'Tomb of Klytemnestra,' or 'Mrs. Schliemann's Treasury'—the latter title being due to the fact that it was partially excavated in 1876 by Dr. Schliemann's wife. In size it very closely corresponds to the better known tomb, while its columns of dark green alabaster, its door-lintel of leek-green marble, and the slabs of red marble which closed the relieving triangle above the door show that it had been not less magnificent than its neighbour.
Following up his excavations at Mycenae, Schliemann, in 1880-81, excavated at Orchomenos in Boeotia the so-called 'Treasury of Minyas,' discovering in its square side-chamber a beautiful ceiling formed of slabs of slate sculptured with an exquisite pattern of rosettes and spirals, which shows very distinct traces of Egyptian artistic influence (unless, as Mr. H. R. Hall has now come to believe, we are to trace the origin of the spiral as a decorative motive, not to Egypt, but to the Minoans of Crete). At Tiryns, Schliemann began in 1884 another series of excavations which laid bare the whole ground-plan of the citadel palace of that ancient fortress town with its halls and separate apartments for men and women, and the colossal enclosing wall, in some parts 57 feet thick, with its towers and galleries and chambers constructed in the thickness of the wall (Plate V. 1). The palace revealed evidences of considerable skill in the decorative arts. A beautiful frieze of alabaster carved in rosettes and palmettes, inlaid with blue paste, made plain what Homer meant when he wrote of the Palace of Alcinous: 'Brazen were the walls which ran this way and that from the threshold to the inmost chamber, and round them was a frieze of blue' (kuanos); while fresco paintings in several of the rooms exhibited the spiral and rosette decoration of Orchomenos and Egypt. But perhaps the most interesting find was the remains of a great wall-painting in which a mighty bull is represented charging at full speed, while an athlete, clinging to the monster's horn with one hand, vaults over his back—a picture which is the first important example of the now well-known and numerous set of similar representations which have given us a clue to something of the meaning of the old legend of the man-destroying Minotaur and his tribute of human victims.
Schliemann's discoveries, notwithstanding all the incredulity aroused by his sometimes rather headlong enthusiasm, created an extraordinary amount of interest among scholars and students of early European culture. It was felt at once that he had brought the world face to face with facts which must profoundly modify all opinions hitherto held as to the origins of Greek civilization; for the advanced and fully ripened art which was disclosed, especially in the wonderful finds from the Shaft- or Circle-Graves, stood on an entirely different plane from any art which had hitherto been associated with the early age of Greece; and it was evident, not only that the date at which civilization began to reveal itself in Hellas must be pushed back several centuries, but also that the great differences between the mature Mycenaean art and the infant art of Greece required explanation. To the discoverer himself, the supreme interest of his finds always lay in the thought that they were the direct prototypes, if not the actual originals, of the civilization described in the Homeric poems; but to the question whether this was so or not, a question interesting in itself, but largely academic, there succeeded a much more important one. Here was proof of the existence of a civilization, obviously great and long-enduring, whose products could not be identified with those of any other art known to exist. To what race of men were the achievements of this early culture to be ascribed, and what relation did they hold to the Hellenes of history?
The work of Schliemann was continued and extended by successors such as Doerpfeld, Tsountas, Mackenzie, and others, and by the end of the nineteenth century it had become apparent that the culture of which the first important traces had been found at Mycenae had extended to some extent over all Hellas, but chiefly over the south-eastern portion of the mainland and over the Cyclades. The principal find-spots in Greece proper were in the Argolid and in Attica; but, besides these, abundant material was discovered at Enkomi (Cyprus) and at Phylakopi (Melos), while from Vaphio, near Amyklae in Laconia, there came, among other treasures, a pair of most wonderful gold cups, whose workmanship surpassed anything that could have been imagined of such an early period, and is only to be matched by the goldsmith work of the Renaissance. Hissarlik, under Dr. Doerpfeld's hands, yielded from the Sixth City the evidence of an Asiatic civilization truly contemporaneous with that of Mycenae. Even before the end of the century it became apparent that Crete was destined to prove a focus of this early culture, and the promise, as we shall see later, has been more than fulfilled. In Egypt Professor Petrie found deposits of prehistoric AEgean pottery in the Delta, the Fayum, and even in Middle Egypt, proving that this civilization, whatever its origin, had been in contact with the ancient civilization of the Nile Valley, while even in the Western Mediterranean, in Sicily particularly, in Italy, Sardinia, and Spain, finds, less plentiful, but quite unmistakable, bore witness to the wide diffusion of Mycenaean culture.
Roughly, the result came to this: 'that before the epoch at which we are used to place the beginnings of Greek civilization—that is, the opening centuries of the last millennial period B.C.—we must allow for an immensely long record of human artistic productivity, going back into the Neolithic Age, and culminating towards the close of the age of Bronze in a culture more fecund and more refined than any we are to find again in the same lands till the age of Iron was far advanced. Man in Hellas was more highly civilized before history than when history begins to record his state; and there existed human society in the Hellenic area, organized and productive, to a period so remote that its origins were more distant from the age of Pericles than that age is from our own. We have probably to deal with a total period of civilization in the AEgean not much shorter than in the Nile Valley.[*]