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Sect. 1. Sparta and her Constitution

The Dorian settlers from the north, who took possession of the valley of the Eurotas, established themselves in a number of village communities throughout the land, and bore the name of Lacedaemonians. In the course of time, a city-state grew up in their midst and won dominion over the rest. The town was formed by the union of five villages which, after their union, still continued to preserve their identity, as separate units within the larger unity. The city was called Sparta, and took the dominant place in Laconia which had been formerly held by Amyclae. The other Lacedaemonian communities were called the perioeci, or "dwellers round about" the ruling city, and, though they were free and managed their local affairs, they had no political rights in the Spartan state. The chief burdens which fell on them were military service and the farming ot the royal domains.

The Spartans were always noted for their conservative spirit. Hence we find in their constitution, which was remarkable in many ways, survivals of an old order of things which existed in the days of Homeric poetry, but has passed away in most places when trustworthy history begins. The most striking of these survivals was royalty; Sparta was nominally ruled by kings.

This conservative spirit of the Spartans rendered them anxious to believe, and others willing to accept the view, that their constitution had existed from very ancient times in just the same shape and feature which it displayed in the days of recorded history. We are, however, forced to suspect that this was not the case. There can be little doubt that the Spartan state developed up to the end of the seventh century on the same general lines as other Greek states, though with some remarkable peculiarities. There can be little doubt that, like most other states, it passed through the stages of royalty and aristocracy; and that the final form of the constitution was the result of a struggle between the nobles and the people. The remarkable thing was that throughout these changes hereditary kingship survived.

The machine of the Spartan constitution, as we know it when it was fully developed, had four parts: the Kings, the Council, the Assembly, and the Ephors. The first three are the original institutions, which were common, as we saw, to the whole Greek race; the Ephors were a later institution, and were peculiar to Sparta.

We saw that towards the end of the Homeric period the powers of the king were limited, and that this limited monarchy then died out, sometimes leaving a trace behind it, perhaps in the name of a magistracy—like the king-archon at Athens. In a few places it survived, and Sparta was one of them. But, if it survived here, its powers were limited in a twofold way. It was limited not only by the other institutions of the state, but by its own dual character. For there were two kings at Sparta, and had been since the memory of men. It seems possible that the origin of this double kingship lay in the coalition of two distinct communities, each of which had its own king. One tribe dwelt about Sparta, and its kings belonged to the clan of the Agidae. The other tribe, we may guess, was settled somewhere in southern Laconia, and its royal clan was that of the Eurypontidae. These two tribes must have united to form a large city-state at Sparta; and the terms of the union were that neither tribe should give up its king, but that two kings, with coequal authority, should rule over the joint community. The kingship passed from father to son in the two royal houses of the Agids and Eurypontids; and if the Agid kings possessed a slight superiority in public estimation over their colleagues, this may have been due to the fact that the Eurypontids were the strangers who migrated to Sparta. According to a pedigree which was made out for them in later days, when the myth of the return of the Heraclidae had become current, both dynasties traced themselves back to Heracles.

It seems probable that it was partly because there were two kings, the one a check upon the other, that kingship was not abolished in Sparta, or reduced to a mere magistracy. But the powers of the' kings were largely curtailed; and we may suppose that the limitations were introduced by degrees during that epoch in which throughout Greece generally, monarchies were giving way to aristocratic republics. Of the religious, military, and judicial functions, which belonged to them and to all other Greek kings, they lost some and retained others.

They were privileged to hold certain priesthoods; they offered solemn sacrifices for the city every month to Apollo; they prepared the necessary sacrifices before warlike expeditions and battles; they were priests, though not the sole priests, of the community.

They were the supreme commanders of the army. They had the right of making war upon whatever country they chose, and penalties were laid on any Spartan who presumed to hinder them. In the field they had unlimited right of life and death; and they had a bodyguard of a hundred men. It is clear that these large powers were always limited by the double nature of the kingship. But at a later period it was defined by law that only one of the kings, to be chosen on each occasion by the people, should lead the army in time of war, and moreover they were made responsible to the community for their conduct in their campaigns.

But while they enjoyed this supreme position as high-priests and leaders of the host, they could hardly be considered judges any longer. The right of dealing out dooms like the Homeric Agamemnon had passed away from them; only in three special cases had they still judicial or legal powers. They presided at the adoption of children; they decided who was to marry an heiress whose father had died without betrothing her; and they judged in all matters concerning public roads.

There were royal domains in the territory of the perioeci from which the kings derived their revenue. But they also had perquisites at public sacrifices; on such occasions they were (like Homeric kings) given the first seat at the banquet, were served first, and received a double portion of everything, and the hides of the slaughtered beasts. The pious sentiment with which royalty, as a hallowed institution, was regarded, is illustrated by the honours which were paid to the kings when they died. "Horsemen," says Herodotus, "carry round the tidings of the event through all Laconia, and in the city women go about beating a cauldron. And at this sign, two free persons of each house, a man and a woman, must put on mourning garb, and if any fail to do this great pains are imposed". The funeral was attended by a fixed number of the perioeci, and it was part of the stated ceremony that the dead king should be praised by the mourners as better than all who had gone before him. Public business was not resumed for ten days after the burial. The king was succeeded by his eldest son, but a son born before his father's accession to the kingship had to give way to the eldest of those who were born after the accession. If there were no children, the succession fell to the nearest male kinsman, who was likewise the regent in the case of a minority.

The gerontes or elders whom we find in Homer advising the king and also acting as judges have developed at Sparta into a body of fixed number, forming a definite part of the constitution, called the gerusia. This Council consisted of thirty members, including the two kings, who belonged to it by virtue of their kingship. The other twenty-eight must be over sixty years of age, so that the council was a body of elders in the strict sense of the word. They held their office for life and were chosen by acclamation in the general assembly of citizens, whose choice was supposed to fall on him whose moral merits were greatest; membership of the Council was described as a "prize for virtue". The Council prepared matters which were to come before the Assembly; it exercised, as an advising body, a great influence on political affairs; and it formed a court of justice for criminal cases.

But though the Councillors were elected by the people, they were not elected from the people. Nobility of birth retained at Sparta its political significance; and only men of the noble families could be chosen members of the Council. And thus the Council formed an oligarchical element in the Lacedaemonian constitution.

Every Spartan who had passed his thirtieth year was a member of the Apella, or Assembly of Citizens, which met every month between the bridge of Babyka and the stream of Knakion. In old days, no doubt, it was summoned by the kings, but in historical times we find that this right has passed to the ephors. The assembly did not debate, but having heard the proposals of kings or ephors, signified its will by acclamation. If it seemed doubtful to which opinion the majority of the voices inclined, recourse was had to a division. The people elected the members of the Gerusia, the ephors and other magistrates; determined, questions of war and peace, and foreign politics; and decided disputed successions to the kingly office. Thus, theoretically, the Spartan constitution was a democracy. No Spartan was excluded from the apella of the people; and the will of the people expressed at their apella was supreme. "To the people," runs an old statute, shall belong the decision and the power". But the same statute granted to the executive authorities—the elders and magistrates—a power which restricted this apparent supremacy of the people. It allowed them "to be seceders, if the people make a crooked decree". It seems that the will of the people, declared by their acclamations, did not receive the force of law, unless it were then formally proclaimed before the assembly was formally dissolved. If the elders and magistrates did not approve of the decision of the majority of the assembly, they could annul the proceedings by refusing to proclaim it—"seceding" and dissolving the meeting, without waiting for the regular dissolution by king or ephor.

The five ephors were the most characteristic part of the political constitution of Sparta. The origin of the office is veiled in obscurity; it was supposed to have been instituted in the first half of the eighth century. But we must distinguish between the first institution of the office and the beginning of its political importance. It is probable that, in the course of the eighth century, the kings finding it impossible to attend to all their duties were constrained to give up the civil jurisdiction, and that the ephors or "overseers" were appointed for this purpose. The number of the ephors would seem to be connected with the number of the five demes or villages whose union formed the city; and perhaps each one of the ephors was assigned originally to one of the villages. But it cannot have been till the seventh century that the ephors won their great political power. They must have won that power in a conflict between the nobility who governed in conjunction with the kings, and the people who had no share in the government. In that struggle the kings represented the cause of the nobility, while the ephors were the representatives of the people. A compromise, as the result of such a conflict, is implied in the oaths which were every month exchanged between the kings and the ephors. The king swore that he would observe the laws of the state in discharging his royal functions; the ephor that he would maintain the royal power undiminished, so long as the king was true to his oath. In this ceremony we have the record of an acute conflict between the government and people. The democratic character of the ephorate appears from the fact that any Spartan might be elected. The mode of election, which is described by Aristotle as "very childish", was practically equivalent to an election by lot. When the five ephors did not agree among themselves, the minority gave way.

The ephors entered upon their office at the beginning of the Laconian year, which fell on the first new moon after the autumnal equinox. As chosen guardians of the rights of the people, they were called upon to watch jealously the conduct of the kings. With this object two ephors always accompanied the king on warlike expeditions. They had the power of indicting the king and summoning him to appear before them. The judicial functions which the kings lost passed partly to the ephors, partly to the Council. The ephors were the supreme civil court; the Council, as we have seen, formed the supreme criminal court. But in the case of the Perioeci the ephors were criminal judges also. They were moreover responsible for the strict maintenance of the order and discipline of the Spartan state, and, when they entered upon office, they issued a proclamation to the citizens to "shave their upper lips and obey the laws."

This unique constitution cannot be placed under any general head, cannot be called kingdom, oligarchy, or democracy, without misleading. None of these names is applicable to it, but it participated in all three. A stranger who saw the kings going forth with power at the head of the host, or honoured above all at the public feasts in the city, would have described Sparta as a kingdom. If one of the kings themselves had been asked to define the constitution, it is probable that he would have regretfully called it a democracy. Yet the close Council, taken from a privileged class, exercising an important influence on public affairs, and deferring to an Assembly which could not debate, might be alleged to prove that Sparta was an oligarchy. The secret of this complex character of the Spartan constitution lies in the fact that, while Sparta developed on the same general path as other states and had to face the same political crises, she overcame each crisis with less violence and showed a more conservative spirit. When she ought to have passed from royalty to aristocracy, she diminished the power of the kings, but she preserved hereditary kingship as a part of the aristocratic government. When she ought to have advanced to democracy, she gave indeed enormous power to the representatives of the people, but she still preserved both her hereditary kings and the Council of her nobles.



Sect. 2. Spartan Conquest of Messenia


In the growth of Sparta the first and most decisive step was the conquest of Messenia. The southern portion of the Peloponnesus is divided into two parts by Mount Taygetus. Of these, the eastern part is again severed by Mount Parnon into two regions: the vale of the river Eurotas, and the rugged strip of coast between Parnon and the sea. The western country is less mountainous, more fruitful, and Messenia, blessed by a milder climate, nor is it divided in the same way by a mountain chain; the hills rise irregularly, and the river Pamisos waters the central plain of Stenyclarus where the Greek invaders are said to have fixed their abode. The natural fortress of the country was the lofty rock of Ithome which rises to the west of the river. It is probable that under its protection a town grew up at an early period, whose name Messene was afterwards transferred to the whole country.

The fruitful soil of Messenia, " good to plant and good to ear", as one of her poets sang, could not but excite the covetousness of her martial neighbours. It is impossible to determine the date of the First Messenian War with greater precision than the eighth century. Legends grew up freely as to its causes and its course. All that we know with certainty is that the Spartan king, under whose auspices it was waged, was named Theopompus; that it was decided by the capture of the great fortress of Ithome; and that the eastern part of the land became Laconian. A poet writing at the beginning of the seventh century would have naturally spoken of Messene or Pherae as being "in Lacedaemon". When the Second War broke out towards the end of the seventh century, it was either history or legend that the previous war had lasted twenty years. Legends grew up around it in which the chief figure was a Messenian hero named Aristodemus. The tale was that he offered his daughter as a sacrifice to save his country, in obedience to the demand of an oracle. Her lover made a despairing effort to save her life by spreading a report that the maiden was about to become a mother, and the calumny so incensed Aristodemus that he slew her with his own hand. Afterwards, terrified by evil dreams and portents, and persuaded that his country was doomed, he killed himself upon his daughter's tomb.

As the object of the Spartans was to increase the number of the lots of land for their citizens, many of the conquered Messenians were reduced to the condition of Helots, and servitude was hard sentans' though their plight might have been harder. They paid to their lords only one-half of the produce of the lands which they tilled, whereas in Attica at the same period the free tillers of the soil had to pay five-sixths. The Spartan poet Tyrtaeus describes how the Messenians endured the insolence of their masters :—


As asses worn by loads intolerable,

So them did stress of cruel force compel,

Of all the fruits the well-tilled land affords,

The moiety to bear to their proud lords.


For some generations they submitted patiently, but at length, when victorious Sparta felt secure, a rebellion was organised in the northern district of Andania. The rebels were supported by their neighbours in Arcadia and Pisatis, and they are said to have found of an able and ardent leader in Aristomenes, sprung from an old Messenian family. The revolt was at first successful. (c. 7th Century BC). The Spartans fared ill, and their young men experienced the disgrace of defeat. The hopes of the serfs rose, and Sparta despaired of recovering the land. But a leader and a poet arose amongst them. The lame Tyrtaeus is recorded to have inspired his countrymen with such martial vigour that the tide of fortune turned, and Sparta began to retrieve her losses and recover her reputation. Some scraps of the poems of Tyrtaeus have been preserved, and they supply the only trustworthy material we have for the history of the Messenian wars; and he won such fame by the practical successes of his art that at a later time the Athenians sought to claim him as one of their sons and gave out that Sparta, by the counsel of an oracle, had sent for him. The warriors advanced to battle singing his "marches" to the sound of flutes, while his elegies, composed in the conventional epic dialect, are said to have been recited in the tents after the evening meal. But we learn from himself that his strategy was as effective as his poetry, and the Messenians were presently defeated in the Battle of the Great Foss. They then retired to the northern stronghold of Eira on the river Nedon, which plays the same part in the second war that Ithome played in the first, while Aristomenes takes the place of Aristodemus. As to Eira, indeed, we possess no record on the contemporary authority of Tyrtaeus, whose extant fragments notice none of the adventures, nor even the name, of the hero Aristomenes. Yet Eira may well have been the place where the last stand was made; for the Spartans had rased the fortifications of Ithome, which is not mentioned in connection with the second war. At Eira the defenders were near their Arcadian supporters and within reach of Pylos which seems not to have been yet Lacedaemonian. But Eira fell; legend says that it was beleaguered for eleven years. Aristomenes was the soul of the defence, and his wonderful escapes became the argument of a stirring tale. On one occasion he was thrown, with fifty fellow-countrymen, captured by the Spartans, into a deep pit. His comrades perished, and Aristomenes awaited certain death. But by following the track of a fox he found a passage in the rocky wall of his prison and appeared on the following day at Eira. When the Spartans surprised that fortress, he made his escape wounded to Arcadia. He died in Rhodes, but two hundred and fifty years later, on the field of Leuctra, he reappeared against the Spartans to avenge his defeat.

Those Messenians who were left in the land were mostly reduced again to the condition of Helots, but the maritime communities and even a few in the interior remained free, as perioeci, in the possession of their estates. Many escaped to Arcadia, while some of the inhabitants of the coast-towns may have taken ship and sailed to other places.

At this time Sparta, like most other Greek states, suffered from domestic discontent. There was a pressing land question, with which Tyrtaeus dealt in a poem named Eunomia, or Law and Order. This question was partly solved by the conquest of the whole land of Messenia, and doubtless the foundation of the colony of Taras in southern Italy was undertaken for the purpose of relieving an excessive population.

The Messenian war, as recorded by Tyrtaeus, shows us that the power of the privileged classes had been already undermined by a great change in the method of warfare. The fighting is done, and the victory won, by regiments of mailed foot-lancers, who march and fight together in close ranks. The secret has been discovered that such well-drilled spearsmen — hoplites as they were called—were superior to cavalry; and much about the same period in Ionia, we find the infantry of Smyrna holding their own against the Lydian horsemen of Gyges. The recognition of serried bodies of foot, as a useful weapon in battle, can be traced in the later parts of the Iliad; but it was in Sparta first that their value was fully appreciated. There they became the main part of the military establishment. The city no longer depended chiefly on her nobles in time of war; she depended on her whole people. The progress of metal-smiths in their trade, which accompanied the general industrial advance of Greece, rendered possible this transformation in the art of war. very well-to-do citizen could now provide himself with an outfit of armour and go forth to battle in panoply. The transformation was distinctly levelling and democratic; for it placed the noble and the ordinary citizen on an equality in the field. We shall not be wrong in connecting this military development with those aspirations of the people for a popular constitution, which resulted in the investment of the ephorate with its great political powers.

From Sparta, where it was brought to a perfection which in the days of Tyrtaeus it had not yet attained, the institution of the heavy foot-lancers spread throughout Greece, and its natural tendency everywhere was to promote the progress to democracy. It is significant that in Thessaly, where the system of hoplites was not introduced and cavalry was always the kernel of the army, democratic ideas never made way.

Sect. 3. Internal Development of Sparta and her Institutions

In the seventh century one could not have foretold what Sparta was destined to be. Her nobles lived luxuriously, like the nobles of other lands; the individual was free, as in other cities, to order his life as he willed. She showed some promise of other than military interests. Lyric poetry was transported from its home in Lesbos to find for a while a second home on the banks of the Eurotas. Songs to be sung at banquets, at weddings, at harvest feasts, and at festivals of the gods, by single singers or choirs of men or maidens, were older than memory could reach; but with the development of music and the improvement of musical instruments the composition of these songs became an art, and lyric poetry was created. The introduction of a lyre of seven strings instead of the old tetrachord was attributed to Terpander of Lesbos, who was at all events an historical person, and both a poet and a musician. He visited Sparta, and is said to have instituted the musical contest at the Carnea, the great festival of Lacedaemon. His music was certainly welcomed there, and Sparta soon had a poet, who, though not her own, was at least her adopted, son. Alcman from Lydian Sardis made Sparta his home, and we have some fragments of songs which he composed for choirs of Laconian maidens. Sparta had her epic poet too in Cinaethon. But this promise of a school of music and poetry was not to be fulfilled.

When Sparta emerges into the full light of history we find her under an iron discipline, which invades every part of a man's life and controls all his actions from his cradle to his death-bed. Everything is subordinated to the art of war, and the sole aim of the state is to create invincible warriors. The martial element was doubtless, from the very beginning, stronger in Sparta than in other states; and as a city ruling over a large discontented population of subjects and serfs, she must always be prepared to fight; but we shall probably never know how, and under what influences, the singular Sparta discipline which we have now to examine was introduced. Nor can we, in describing the Spartan society, distinguish always between older and later institutions.

The whole Spartan people formed a military caste; the life of a Spartan citizen was devoted to the service of the state. In order to carry out this ideal it was necessary that every citizen should be freed from the care of providing for himself and his family. The nobles owned family domains of their own; but the Spartan community also came into possession of common land, which was divided into a number of lots. Each Spartan obtained a lot, which passed from father to son, but could not be either sold or divided; thus a citizen could never be reduced to poverty. The original inhabitants, whom the Lacedaemonians dispossessed and reduced to the state of serfs, cultivated the land for their lords. Every year the owner of a lot was entitled to receive seventy medimni of corn for himself, twelve for his wife, and a stated portion of wine and fruit. All that the land produced beyond this, the Helot was allowed to retain for his own use. Thus the Spartan need take no thought for his support; he could give all his time to the affairs of public life. Though the Helots were not driven by taskmasters, and had the right of acquiring private property, their condition seems to have been hard; at all events, they were always bitterly dissatisfied and ready to rebel, whenever an occasion presented itself. The system of Helotry was a source of danger from the earliest times, but especially after the conquest of Messenia; and the state of constant military preparation in which the Spartans lived may have been partly due to the consciousness of this peril perpetually at their doors. The Krypteia or secret police was instituted — it is uncertain at what date—to deal with this danger. Young Spartans were sent into the country and empowered to kill every Helot whom they had reason to regard with suspicion. Closely connected with this system was the remarkable custom that the ephors, in whose hands lay the general control over the Helots, should every year on entering office proclaim war against them. By this device, the youths could slay dangerous Helots without any scruple or fear of the guilt of manslaughter. But notwithstanding these precautions serious revolts broke out again and again. A Spartan had no power to grant freedom to the Helot who worked on his lot, nor yet to sell him to another. Only the state could emancipate. As the Helots were called upon to serve as light-armed troops in time of war, they had then an opportunity of exhibiting bravery and loyalty in the service of the city, and those who conspicuously distinguished themselves might be rewarded by the city with the meed of freedom. Thus arose a class of freedmen called neodamôdes, or new demesmen. There was also another class of persons, neither serfs nor citizens, called mothônes, who probably sprang from illegitimate unions of citizens with Helot women.   

Thus relieved from the necessity of gaining a livelihood, the Spartans devoted themselves to the good of the state, and the aim of the state was the cultivation of the art of war. Sparta was a large military school. Education, marriage, the details of daily life were all strictly regulated with a view to the maintenance of a perfectly efficient army. Every citizen was to be a soldier, and the discipline began from birth. When a child was born it was submitted to the inspection of the heads of the tribe, and if they judged it to be unhealthy or weak, it was exposed to die on the wild slopes of Mount Taygetos. At the age of seven years, the boy was consigned to the care of a state-officer, and the course of his education was entirely determined by the purpose of inuring him to bear hardships, training him to endure an exacting discipline, and instilling into his heart a sentiment of devotion to the state. The boys, up to the age of twenty, were marshalled in a huge school formed on the model of an army. The captains and prefects who instructed and controlled them were young men who had passed their twentieth year, but had not yet reached the thirtieth, which admitted them to the rights of citizenship. Warm friendships often sprang up between the young men and the boys whom they were training; and this was the one place in Spartan life where there was room for romance.

At the age of twenty the Spartan entered upon military service and was permitted to marry. But he could not yet enjoy home-life; he had to live in "barracks" with his companions, and could only pay stolen and fugitive visits to his wife. In his thirtieth year, having completed his training, he became a "man", and obtained the full rights of citizenship. The Homoioi or peers, as the Spartan citizens were called, dined together in tents in the Hyacinthian Street. These public messes were in old days called andreia or "men's meals", and in later times phiditia. Each member of a common tent made a fixed monthly contribution, derived from the produce of his lot, consisting of barley, cheese, wine, and pigs, and the members of the same mess-tent shared the same tent in the field in time of war. These public messes are a survival, adapted to military purposes, of the old custom of public banquets, at which all the burghers gathered together at a table spread for the gods of the city.

Of the organisation of the Spartan hoplites in early times we have no definite knowledge. Three hundred "horsemen", chosen from the Spartan youths, formed the king's bodyguard; but though, as their name shows, they were originally mounted, in later times they fought on foot. The light infantry was supplied by the Perioeci and Helots.

Spartan discipline extended itself to the women too, with the purpose of producing mothers who should be both physically strong and saturated with the Spartan spirit. The girls, in common with the boys, went through a gymnastic training; and it was not considered immodest for them to practise their exercises almost nude. They enjoyed a freedom which was in marked contrast with the seclusion of women in other Greek states. They had a high repute for chastity; but if the government directed them to breed children for the state, they had no scruples in obeying the command, though it should involve a violation of the sanctity of the marriage-tie. They were, proverbially, ready to sacrifice their maternal instincts to the welfare of their country. Such was the spirit of the place.

Thus Sparta was a camp in which the highest object of every man's life was to be ready at any moment to fight with the utmost efficiency for his city. The aim of every law, the end of the whole social order was to fashion good soldiers. Private luxury was strictly forbidden; Spartan simplicity became proverbial. The individual man, entirely lost in the state, had no life of his own; he had no problems of human existence to solve for himself. Sparta was not a place for thinkers or theorists; the whole duty of man and the highest ideal of life were contained for a Spartan in the laws of his city. Warfare being the object of all the Spartan laws and institutions, one might expect to find the city in a perpetual state of war. One might look to see her sons always ready to strive with their neighbours without any ulterior object, war being for them an end in itself. But it was not so; they did not wage war more lightly than other men; we cannot rank them with barbarians who care only for fighting and hunting. We may attribute the original motive of their institutions, in some measure at least, to the situation of a small dominant class in the midst of ill-contented subjects and hostile serfs. They must always be prepared to meet a rebellion of Perioeci or a revolt of Helots, and a surprise would have been fatal. Forming a permanent camp in a country which was far from friendly, they were compelled to be always on their guard. But there was something more in the vitality and conservation of the Spartan constitution, than precaution against the danger of a possible insurrection. It appealed to the Greek sense of beauty. There was a certain completeness and simplicity about the constitution itself, a completeness and simplicity about the manner of life enforced by the laws, a completeness and simplicity too about the type of character developed by them, which Greeks of other cities never failed to contemplate with genuine, if distant, admiration. Shut away in "hollow many-clefted Lacedaemon", out of the world and not sharing in the progress of other Greek cities, Sparta seemed to remain at a standstill; and a stranger from Athens or Miletus in the fifth century visiting the straggling villages which formed her unwalled unpretentious city must have had a feeling of being transported into an age long past, when men were braver, better, and simpler, unspoiled by wealth, undisturbed by ideas. To a philosopher, like Plato, speculating in political science, the Spartan state seemed the nearest approach to the ideal. The ordinary Greek looked upon it as a structure of severe and simple beauty, a Dorian city stately as a Dorian temple, far nobler than his own abode but not so comfortable to dwell in. If this was the effect produced upon strangers, we can imagine what a perpetual joy to a Spartan peer was the contemplation of the Spartan constitution; how he felt a sense of superiority in being a citizen of that city, and a pride in living up to its ideal and fulfilling the obligations of his nobility. In his mouth "not beautiful" meant "contrary to the Spartan laws", which were believed to have been inspired by Apollo. This deep admiration for their constitution as an ideally beautiful creation, the conviction that it was incapable of improvement—being, in truth, wonderfully effective in realising its aims—is bound up with the conservative spirit of the Spartans, shown so conspicuously in their use of their old iron coins down to the time of Alexander the Great.

It was inevitable that, as time went on, there should be many fallings away, and that some of the harder laws should, by tacit agreement, be ignored. The other Greeks were always happy to point to the weak spots in the Spartan armour. From an early period it seems to have been a permitted thing for a citizen to acquire land in addition to his original lot. As such lands were not, like the original lot, inalienable, but could be sold or divided, inequalities in wealth necessarily arose, and the "communism" which we observed in the life of the citizens was only superficial. But it was specially provided by law that no Spartan should possess wealth in the form of gold or silver. This law was at first eluded by the device of depositing money in foreign temples, and it ultimately became a dead letter; Spartans even gained throughout Greece an evil reputation for avarice. By the fourth century they had greatly degenerated, and those who wrote studies of the Lacedaemonian constitution contrasted Sparta as it should be and used to be with Sparta as it was.

There is no doubt that the Spartan system of discipline grew up by degrees; yet the argument from design might be plausibly used to prove that it was the original creation of a single lawgiver. We may observe how well articulated and how closely interdependent were its various parts. The whole discipline of the society necessitated the existence of Helots; and on the other hand the existence of Helots necessitated such a discipline. The ephorate was the keystone of the structure; and in the dual kingship one might see a cunning intention to secure the powers of the ephors by perpetual jealousy between the kings. In the whole fabric one might trace an artistic unity which might be thought to argue the work of a single mind. And until lately this was generally believed to be the case; some still maintain the belief. A certain Lycurgus was said to have framed the Spartan institutions and enacted the Spartan laws about the beginning of the ninth century.

But the grounds for believing that a Spartan lawgiver named Lycurgus ever existed are of the slenderest kind The earliest statements as to the origin of the constitution date from the fifth century, and their discrepancy shows that they were mere guesses, and that the true origins were buried completely in the obscurity of the past. Pindar attributed the Lacedaemonian institutions to Aegimius, the mythical ancestor of the Dorian tribes; the historian Hellanicus regarded them as the creation of the two first kings of Sparta, Procles and Eurysthenes. The more critical Thucydides, less ready to record conjectures, contents himself with saying that the Lacedaemonian constitution had existed for rather more than 400 years at the end of the Peloponnesian war. Herodotus states that the Spartans declared Lycurgus to have been the guardian of one of their early kings, and to have introduced from Crete their laws and institutions. But the divergent accounts of this historian's contemporaries, who ignore Lycurgus altogether, prove that it was simply one of many guesses and not a generally accepted tradition. It may be added that if the old Spartan poet Tyrtaeus had mentioned Lycurgus as a lawgiver his words would certainly have been quoted by later writers; and may fairly conclude that he knew nothing of such a tradition.

Lycurgus, or to give him his name in its true form Lyco-vorgos, was not a man; he was only a god. He was an Arcadian deity or "hero,"—perhaps some form of the Arcadian Zeus Lycaeus, god of the wolf-mountain; and his name meant "wolf-repeller." He was worshipped at Lacedaemon where he had a shrine, and we may conjecture that his cult was adopted by the Spartans from the older inhabitants whom they displaced. He may have also been connected with Olympia, for his name was inscribed on a very ancient quoit—the so-called quoit of Iphitus—which was preserved there, and perhaps dated from the seventh century. The belief that this deity was a Spartan lawgiver, inspired by the Delphic oracle, gradually gained ground and in the fourth century generally prevailed. Aristotle believed it, and made use of the old quoit to fix the date of the Lycurgean legislation to the first half of the eighth century. But while everybody regarded Lycurgus as unquestionably an historical personage, candid investigation confessed that nothing certain was known concerning him, and the views about his chronology were many and various.


Sect. 4. The Cretan Constitutions

Ancient Greek students of constitutional history were struck by some obvious and remarkable resemblances between the Spartan and the Cretan states, and it was believed by many that the Spartan constitution was derived from Crete, though there are notable differences as well as notable likenesses. It will be convenient to glance here at the political condition of this island, to which we shall seldom have to recur, since, owing to its geographical situation and the lack of political union, it was isolated and withdrawn from the main course of Greek history.

In a passage in the Odyssey the inhabitants of Crete are divided into five classes: Achaeans, Eteo-Cretans, Cydonians, Dorians, and Pelasgians. Of these the Eteo-Cretans, as we saw, were the original people who dwelled in the island before the Greeks came, like the Eteo-Carpathians of Carpathus. They survived chiefly in the eastern part of the island and they continued to speak their own tongue in historical times, writing it, however, not in their ancient pictorial script but in Greek characters. A specimen of it—but we have no key to the meaning—has been preserved in an inscription sfound at Praesus, their most important city. The people of Cydonia were perhaps ancient settlers from the Peloponnesus. The Achaeans and Pelasgians point to Thessaly, and there are some links which seem to connect Cretan towns with Perrhaebia. We may consider it probable that early settlers from Thessaly found their way to Crete.

But the most important settlers belonged to the Dorian branch of the Greek race, easily recognised by the three tribes, Hylleis, Pamphyli, and Dymanes, which always accompanied its migrations. These three tribes can be traced in many Cretan cities, and we saw that this island was one of the first places to receive the Dorian wanderers. But at a later time there seems to have been a further infusion of the "Dorian" element. New settlers came from Argolis and Laconia and mingled with the older inhabitants, refounding many cities. Thus Gortyn in the south of the island, in the valley of the river Lethaeus, was re-settled; and her neighbour Phaestos, distinguished by a mention in Homer, was invaded by newcomers from Argolis. "Well-built Lyttus", in its central site, also of Homeric fame, and Polyrrhenion, "rich in sheep", in the north-western corner, a haunt of the divine huntress Dictynna, were both colonised from Laconia. In the mid part of the north coast, Cnosus "the great city" of Minos, Cnosus "the broad," set on a hill, had existed in the heroic age but was re-peopled by Dorians.     

The island then, colonised first by a folk closely akin to those who conquered Lacedaemon and Argos, colonised again by those very conquerors, may be said to be doubly "Dorian"; and there is thus a double reason for resemblances between Laconian and Cretan institutions. In the Cretan cities themselves there were of course many local divergences, but the general resemblances are so close, wherever we can trace the facts, that for our purpose we may safely follow the example of the ancients in assuming a general type of Cretan polity.

The population of a Cretan state consisted of two classes, warriors and serfs. In a few cases where one city had subjugated another, the people of the subject city held somewhat the same position as the Laconian Perioeci and formed a third class, but these cases were exceptional. In general, one of the main differences between a Cretan state and Sparta was that the Cretan state had no perioeci. There were two kinds of serfs, mnoitai and aphamiotai. The mnoites belonged to the state, while the aphamiotes, also called clarotes or "lot-men", were attached to the lots of the citizens, and belonged to the owners of the lots. These bondsmen cultivated the land themselves and could possess private property, like the Spartan Helots, but though we do not know exactly what their obligations were, they seem to have been in some ways in a better condition than the bondsmen of Laconia. If the pastas or lord of a Cretan serf died childless, the serf had an interest in his property. He could contract a legal marriage, and his family was recognised by law. The two privileges from which he was always jealously excluded were the carrying of arms and the practice of athletic exercises in the gymnasia. Unlike the Helots, the Cretan serfs found their condition tolerable, and we never hear that they revolted. The geographical conditions of the Cretans enabled them to excuse their slaves from military service.

Of the monarchical period in Crete we know nothing. In the sixth century we find that monarchy has been abolished by the aristocracy, and that the executive governments are in the hands of boards of ten annual magistrates, entitled kosmoi. The kosmoi were chosen from certain important clans (startoi), and the military as well as the other functions of the king had passed into their hands. They were assisted by the advice of the Council of elders which was elected from those who had filled the office of kosmos. The resolves of the kosmoi and Council were laid before the agorai or general assemblies of citizens, who merely voted and had no right to propose or discuss.

There is a superficial resemblance between this constitution, which prevailed in most Cretan cities, and that of Sparta. The Cretan agora answers to the Spartan apella, the Cretan to the Spartan gerusia, and the kosmoi to the ephors. The most obvious difference is that in Crete there was no royalty. But there is another important difference. The democratic feature of the Spartan constitution is absent in Crete. While the ephors were chosen from all the citizens, in a Cretan state only certain noble families were eligible to the office of kosmos; and, as the gerusia was chosen from the kosmoi, it is clear that the whole power of the state resided in a privileged class consisting of those families or clans. Thus the Cretan state was a close aristocracy.

The true likeness between Sparta and Crete lies in the circumstance that the laws and institutions of both countries aimed at creating a class of warriors. Boys were taught to read and write, and to recite certain songs ordained by law; but the chief part of their training was bodily, with a view to making them good soldiers. At the age of seventeen they were admitted into "herds", agelai, answering to the Spartan buai, which were organised by sons of noble houses and supported at the expense of the state. The members of these associations went through a training in the public gymnasia or dromoi, and hence were called dromeis. Great days were held, on which sham fights took place between these "herds" to the sound of lyres and flutes. The dromeus was of age in the eyes of the law, and he was bound to marry, but his wife continued to live in the house of her father and kinsman, until he passed out of the state of a dromeus and became a "man." The men dined at public messes called andreia, corresponding to the Spartan phiditia, but the boys were also permitted to join them. These meals were not defrayed altogether, as at Sparta, by the contributions of the members, but were partly at least paid for by the state; and the state also made provision for the sustenance of the women. The public income, which defrayed these and other such burdens and maintained the worship of the gods, must have been derived from public land cultivated by the mnoites, and distinct from the land which was apportioned in lots among the citizens.

We see then that in the discipline and education of the citizens, in the common meals of the men, in general political objects, there is a close and significant likeness between Sparta and Crete. But otherwise there are great differences. (1) In Crete there were, as a rule, no Perioeci; (2) the Cretan serfs lived under more favourable conditions than the Helots, and were not a constant source of danger; (3) kingship did not survive in Crete, and consequently (4) the functions which in Sparta were divided between kings and ephors were in Crete united in the hands of the kosmoi; (5) the Cretan state was an aristocracy, while Sparta, so far as the city itself was concerned, was a limited democracy; a difference which clearly reveals itself in (6) the modes of electing kosmoi and ephors; (7) there is a more advanced form of communism in Crete, in so far as state stores contribute largely to the maintenance of the citizens. If one city had become dominant in Crete and reduced the others to subjection, the resemblance between Laconia and Crete would have been much greater. A class of Cretan perioeci would have forthwith been formed.


Sect. 5. The Supremacy and Decline of Argos. The Olympian Games


The rebellion of Messenia had been especially formidable to Sparta, because the rebels had been supported by two foreign powers, Arcadia and Pisa. Part of Arcadia seems to have been united at this time under the lordship of the king of the Arcadian Orchomenus.

The king of Pisa on the Alpheus had recently risen to new power and honour with the help of Argos; and Argos itself had been playing a prominent part in the peninsula under the leadership of her king Pheidon. The reign of this king was the last epoch of Argos as an active power of the first rank. We know little about him, but his name became so famous that in later times the royal house of distant Macedonia, when it reached the height of its success in Alexander the Great, was anxious to connect its line of descent with Pheidon. Under his auspices a system of measures was introduced into Argos and the Peloponnesus. These measures were called after his name Pheidonian, and were likewise adopted at Athens; they seem to have been closely connected with the Aeginetan system of weights. But the only clear action of Pheidon is his expedition to the west. He led an Argive army across Arcadia to the banks of the Alpheus, and presided there over the celebration of the Olympian festival, which is now for the first time heard of in the history of Greece.

The altis or sacred grove of Olympia lay,under the wooded mount 0f Cronus, where the river Cladeus flows into the Alpheus, in the angle between the two streams. It was dedicated to the worship of Zeus; but the spot was probably sacred to Pelops, before Zeus claimed it for himself, and Pelops, degraded to the rank of a hero, kept his own sacred precinct within the larger enclosure. The sanctuary was in belongs to the territory of Pisa, and there is no doubt that the care of the worship and the conduct of the festivals belonged originally to the Pisan community. But the men of Elis, the northern neighbours of Pisa, set their hearts on having the control of the Olympian sanctuary, which, though it is not once mentioned, as DelPhi and Dodona are mentioned, in the poems of Homer, must by the seventh century    have won a high prestige in the Peloponnesus and drawn many visitors. As Elis was stronger than Pisa, the Eleans finally succeeded in usurping the conduct of the festival. Games were the chief feature of the festival, which was held every fourth year, at the time of the second full moon after midsummer's day. The games at first included foot-races, boxing, and wrestling; chariot-races and horse-races were added later. Such contests were an ancient institution in Greece. We know not how far back they go, or in what circumstances they were first introduced, but the funeral games of Patroclus, described in the Iliad, permit us to infer that they were a feature of Ionian life in the ninth century. We can see but dimly into the political relations of Pheidon's age; but we can discern at least that Sparta lent her countenance to Elis in this usurpation, and that Argos, jealous of the growing power of Sparta, espoused the cause of Pisa. This was the purpose of king Pheidon's expedition to Olympia. He took the management of the games out of the hands of Elis and t0 restored it to Pisa. And for many years Pisa maintained her rights.

She maintained them so long as Sparta, absorbed in the Messenian strife, had no help to spare for Elis; and during that time she did what she could to help the foes of Sparta. But when the revolt was suppressed, it was inevitable that Elis should again, with Spartan help, win the control of the games, for Argos, declining under the successors of Pheidon, could give no aid to Pisa.

When king Pheidon held his state at Olympia, the most impressive shrine in the altis was the temple of Hera and Zeus; and this is the most ancient temple of which the foundations are still preserved on the soil of Hellas. It was built of sun-baked bricks, upon lower courses of stone, and the Doric columns were of wood. The days of stone temples were at hand; but it was not till two centuries later that the elder shrine was overshadowed by the great stone temple of Zeus. The temple of Hera is supposed by some to have been founded in the eleventh or tenth century; it is hardly likely to be so old; but it was certainly very old, like the games of the place. The mythical institution of the games was ascribed to Pelops or to Heracles; and, when the Eleans usurped the presidency, the story gradually took shape that the celebration had been revived by the Spartan Lycurgus and the Elean Iphitus in the year 776 B.C., and this year was reckoned as the first Olympiad. From that year until the visit of Pheidon, the Eleans professed to have presided over the feast; and their account of the matter won its way into general belief.

It is possible that king Pheidon reorganised the games and inaugurated a new stage in the history of the festival. At all events, by the beginning of the sixth century the festival was no longer an event of merely Peloponnesian interest. It had become famous wherever the Greek tongue was spoken, and, when the feast-tide came round in each cycle of four years, there thronged to the banks of the Alpheus, from all quarters of the Greek world, athletes and horses to compete in the contests and spectators to behold them. During the celebration of the festival a sacred truce was observed, and the men of Elis claimed that in those days their territory was inviolable. The prize for victory in the games was a wreath of wild olive; but rich rewards always awaited the victor when he returned home in triumph and laid the Olympian crown in the chief temple of his city.

It may seem strange that the greatest and most glorious of all Panhellenic festivals should have been celebrated near the western shores of the Peloponnesus. One might have looked to find it nearer the Aegean. But situated where it was, the scene of the great games was all the nearer to the Greeks beyond the western sea; and none of the peoples of the mother-country vied more eagerly or more often in the contests of Olympia than the children who had found new homes far away on Sicilian and Italian soil. This nearness of Olympia to the western colonies comes into one's thoughts, when standing in the sacred altis one beholds the terrace on the northern side of the precinct, and the scanty remains of the row of twelve treasure-houses which once stood there. For of those twelve treasuries five at least were dedicated by Sicilian and Italian cities. Thus the Olympian festival helped the colonies of the west to keep in touch with the mother-country; it furnished a centre where Greeks of all parts met and exchanged their ideas and experiences; it was one of the institutions which expressed and quickened the consciousness of fellowship among the scattered folks of the Greek race; and it became a model, as we shall see, for other festivals of the same kind, which concurred in promoting a feeling of national unity.

The final success of Sparta in the long struggle with Messenia marks the period at which the balance of power among the Peloponnesian states began to shift. In the seventh century, Argos is the leading state. She has reduced Mycenae; she has annihilated Asine; she has made Tiryns an Argive fort; she has defeated Sparta at Hysiae. There can be little doubt that Pheidon's authority extended over all Argolis; possibly his influence was felt in Aegina, and the Laconian island of Cythera may have been an Argive possession, as well as the whole eastern coast of Laconia. But his reign is the last manifestation of the greatness of the southern Argos. Fifty years after the subjugation of Messenia, the Spartans become the strongest state in the Peloponnesus, and the Argives sink into the position of a second-rate power—always able to maintain their independence, always a thorn in the side of Sparta, always to be reckoned with as a foe and welcomed as a friend, but never leading, dominant, or originative.


Sect. 6. Democratic Movements. Lawgivers and Tyrants

It is clear that there is no security that equal justice will be meted out to all, so long as the laws by which the judge is supposed to act are not accessible to all. A written code of laws is a condition of just judgment, however just the laws themselves may be. It was therefore natural that one of the first demands the people in Greek cities pressed upon their aristocratic governments, and one of the first concessions those governments were forced to make, was a written law. It must be borne in mind that in old days deeds which injured only the individual and did not touch the gods or the state, were left to the injured person to deal with as he chose or could. The state did not interfere. Even in the case of blood- shedding, it devolved upon the kinsfolk of the slain man to wreak punishment upon the slayer. Then, as social order developed along with centralisation, the state took justice partly into its own hands; and the injured man, before he could punish the wrong-doer, was obliged to charge him before a judge, who decided the punishment. But it must be noted that no crime could come before a judge, unless the injured person came forward as accuser. The case of blood-shedding was exceptional, owing to the religious ideas connected with it. It was felt that the shedder of blood was not only impure himself, but had also defiled the gods of the community; so that, as a consequence of this theory, manslaughter of every form came under the class of crimes against the religion of the state.

The work of writing down the laws, and fixing customs in legal shape, was probably in most cases combined with the work of reforming; and thus the great codifiers of the seventh century were also lawgivers. Among them the most famous were the misty figures of Zaleucus who made laws for the western Locrians, and Charondas the legislator of Catane; the clearer figure of the Athenian Dracon, of whom more will be said hereafter, and, most famous of all, Solon the Wise. But other cities in the elder Greece had their lawgivers too, men of knowledge and experience; the names of some are preserved but they are mere names. It is probable that the laws of Sparta herself, which she afterwards attributed to the light-god, were first shaped and written down at this period. The cities of Crete too were affected by the prevalent spirit of law-shaping, and some fragments are preserved of the early laws of Gortyn, which were the beginning of an epoch of legislative activity culminating in the Gortynian Code which has come down to us on tablets of stone.

In many cases the legislation was accompanied by political concessions to the people, and it was part of the lawgiver's task to modify the constitution. But for the most part this was only the beginning of a long political conflict; the people striving for freedom and equality, the privileged classes struggling to retain their exclusive rights. The social distress, touched on in a previous chapter, was the sharp spur which drove the people on in this effort towards popular government. The struggle was in some cases to end in the establishment of a democracy; in many cases, the oligarchy succeeded in maintaining itself and keeping the people dow ; in most cases, perhaps, the result was a perpetual oscillation between oligarchy and democracy—an endless series of revolutions, too often sullied by violence. But though democracy was not everywhere victorious—though even the states in which it was most firmly established were exposed to the danger of oligarchical conspiracies—yet everywhere the people aspired to it; and we may say that the chief feature of the domestic history of most Greek cities, from the end of the seventh century forward, is an endeavour, here successful, yonder frustrated, to establish or maintain popular government In this sense then we have now reached a period in which the Greek world is striving and tending to pass from the aristocratic to the democratic commonwealth. The movement passed by some states, like Thessaly,—just as there had been some exceptions, like Argos, to the general fall of the monarchies; while remote kingdoms like Macedonia and Molossia were not affected.

As usually, or at least frequently, happens in such circumstances, the popular movement received help from within the camp of the adversary. It was help indeed for which there was no reason to be grateful to those who gave it; for it was not given for love of the people. In many cities feuds existed between some of the power-holding families; and, when one family was in the ascendant, its rivals were tempted to make use of the popular discontent in order to subvert it. Thus discontented nobles came forward to be the leaders of the discontented masses. But when the government was overthrown, the revolution generally resulted in a temporary return to monarchy. The noble leader seized the supreme power and maintained it by armed might. The mass of the people were not yet ripe for taking the power into their own hands; and they were generally glad to entrust it to the man who had helped them to overthrow the hated government of the nobles. This new kind of monarchy was very different from the old; for the position of the monarch did not rest on hereditary right but on physical force.

Such illegitimate monarchs were called tyrants, to distinguish them from the hereditary kings, and this form of monarchy was called a tyrannis. The name "tyrant" was perhaps derived from Lydia, and first used by Greeks in designating the Lydian monarchs; Archilochus, in whose fragments we first meet "tyrannis", applied it to the sovereignty of Gyges. The word was in itself morally neutral and did not imply that the monarch was bad or cruel; there was nothing self-contradictory in a good tyrant, and many tyrants were beneficent. But the isolation of these rulers, who, being without the support of legitimacy, depended on armed force, so often urged them to be suspicious and cruel, that the tyrannis came into bad odour; arbitrary acts of oppression were associated with the name : and "tyrant" inclined to the evil sense in which modern languages have adopted it. For the Greek dislike of the tyrannis there was however a deeper cause than the fact that many tyrants were oppressors. It placed in the hands of an unconstitutional ruler arbitrary control, whether he exercised it or not, over the lives and fortunes of the citizens. It was thus repugnant to the Greek love of freedom, and it seemed to arrest their constitutional growth. As a matter of fact, this temporary arrest during the period when the first tyrannies prevailed may have been useful; for the tyrannis, though its direct political effect was retarding, forwarded the progress of the people in other directions. And even from a constitutional point of view it may have had its uses at this period. In some cases, it secured an interval of repose and growth, during which the people won experience and knowledge to fit them for self-government.

The period which saw the fall of the aristocracies is often called the age of the tyrants. The expression is unhappy, because it might easily mislead. The tyrany first came into existence at this period; there was a large crop of tyrants much about the same time in different parts of Greece; they all performed the same function of overthrowing aristocracies, and in many cases they paved the way for democracies. But on the other hand, the tyrannis was not a form of government which appeared only at this transitional crisis, and then passed away. There is no age in the subsequent history of Greece which might not see, and did not actually see, the rise of tyrants here and there. Tyranny was always with the Greeks. It, as well as oligarchy, was a danger by which their democracies were threatened at all periods.

Ionia seems to have been the original home of the tyrannis, and in this may have been partly due to the seductive example of the rich court of the Lydian "tyrants" at Sardis. But of the Ionian tyrannies we know little. We hear of factions and feuds in the cities, of aristocratic houses overthrown and despotisms established in various states. A tyrant of Ephesus marries the daughter of the Lydian monarch Alyattes. The most famous of these tyrants was Thrasybulus of Miletus, under whose rule that city held a more brilliant position than ever. Abroad, he took part in planting some of the colonies on the Black Sea, and successfully resisted the menaces of Lydia. At home, he developed the craft of tyranny to a fine art.

In Lesbian Mytilene we see the tyrannis and also a method by which it might be avoided. Mytilene had won great commercial prosperity; its ruling nobles, the Penthilids, were wealthy and luxurious and oppressed the people. Tyrants rose and fell in rapid succession; the echoes of hatred and jubilation still ring to us from relics of the lyric poems of Aleaeus. "Let us drink and reel, for Myrsilus is dead." The poet was a noble and a fighter; but in a war with the Athenians on the coast of the Hellespont he threw away his shield, like Archilochus, and it hung as a trophy at Sigeum. He plotted with Pittacus against the tyrant, but Pittacus was not a noble and his friendship with Aleaeus was not enduring. Pittacus however, who distinguished himself for bravery in the same war with Athens, was to be the saviour of the state. He gained the trust of the people and was elected ruler for a period of ten years in order to heal the sores of the city. Such a governor, possessing supreme power but for a limited time, was called an aesymnetes. Pittacus gained the reputation of a wise lawgiver and a firm, moderate ruler. He banished the nobles who opposed him, among others the two most famous of all Lesbians, the poets Aleaeus and Sappho. At the end of ten years he laid down his office, to be enrolled after his death in the number of the Seven Wise Men. The ship of state had reached the haven, to apply a metaphor of Aleaeus, and the exiles could safely be allowed to return.

This was the brilliant period of the history of Lesbos, and a few surviving fragments of its two great poets, who struck new notes and devised new cadences of lyric song, give a glimpse ot the free and luxurious life of the Aeolian island. The radiant genius of Sappho was inspired by her passionate attachments to young Lesbian maidens; the songs of Aleaeus, mirroring the commotions of party warfare, rang with the clatter of arms and the clinking of drinking-cups.

Sect. 7. The Tyrannies of Central Greece

I. Corinth.

About the middle of the seventh century, three tyrannies arose in central Greece in the neighbourhood of the Isthmus : at Corinth, at Sicyon, and at Megara. In each case the development was different, and is in each case instructive. In Sicyon the tyranny is brilliant and beneficent, in Corinth brilliant and oppressive, in Megara short­lived and followed by long intestine struggles.

The ruling clan of the Bacchiads at Corinth was overthrown by Cvpselus, who had put himself at the head of the people. A characteristic legend was formed at an early time about the birth of Cypselus, suggested by the connection of his name with kupsela, a jar. His mother was a Bacchiad lady named Labda, who, being lame and consequently compelled to wed out of her own class, married a certain Eetion, a man of the people. Having no children and consulting the Delphic oracle on the matter, Eetion received this reply :—

High honour is thy due, Eetion,

Yet no man doth thee honour, as were right.

Labda thy wife will bear a huge millstone,

Destined to fall on them who rule alone,

And free thy Corinth from their rightless might.


The prophecy came to the ears of the Bacchiads and was confirmed to them by another oracle. So, as soon as Labda's child was born, they sent ten men to slay it. When the men came to the court of Eetion's dwelling they found that he was not at home, and they asked Labda for the infant. Suspecting nothing, she gave it to one of them to take in his arms, but, as he was about to dash it to the ground, the child smiled at him and he had not the heart to slay it. He passed it on to the second, but he too was moved with pity; and so it was passed round from hand to hand, and none of the ten could find it in his heart to destroy it. Then giving the infant back to the mother, and going out into the courtyard, they reviled each other for their weakness, and resolved to go in again and do the deed together. But Labda listening at the door overheard what they said, and hid the child in a jar, where none of them thought of looking. Thus the boy was saved, but the men falsely reported to the Bacchiads that they had performed their errand.

The Bacchiads were banished and their property confiscated; dangerous persons were executed, and Cypselus took the reins of government into his own hands. Of the rule of Cypselus himself we know little; he is variously represented as harsh and mild. His son Periander succeeded, and of him more is recorded. The general features of the Cypselid tyrannis were a vigorous colonial and commercial policy, and the encouragement of art.

One of the earliest triumphs of Cypselus was probably the reduction of Corcyra, which had formed a fleet of its own and had grown to be a rival of its mother in the Ionian seas. It has been already mentioned that the earliest battle of ships between two Greek states was supposed to have been fought between Corinth and Corcyra. The attempt of Corinth to form a colonial empire was an interesting experiment. The idea of Cypselus corresponded to our modern colonial system, in which the colonies are in a relation of dependence to the mother-country, and not to that of the Greeks, in which the colony was an independent sovereign state. Geographical conditions alone rendered it out of the question to apply the new principle to Syracuse, but the success at Corcyra was followed up by a development of Corinthian influence in the north-west of Greece. The Acarnanian peninsula of Leucas was occupied and made into an island by piercing a channel through the narrow isthmus. Anactorion was founded on the south side of the Ambracian gulf, and inland, on the north side, Ambracia. Apollonia was planted on the coast of Epirus; and farther north Corcyra, under the auspices of her mother-city, colonised Epidamnus. At a later period, and in another quarter of the Greek world, a son of Periander founded Potidaea in the Chalcidic peninsula.

Cypselus and Periander did their utmost to promote the commercial activity of their city. In the middle of the seventh century the rival Euboean cities, Chalcis and Eretria, were the most important merchant states of Greece. But fifty years later they had somewhat declined; Corinth and Aegina were taking their place. Their decline was brought about by their rivalry, which led to an s exhausting war for the Lelantine plain. It is said that this struggle assumed the larger proportions of a Greek mercantile war, involving on one side Corinth and Samos as allies of Chalcis, on the other Megara and Miletus as allies of Eretria. The dates are uncertain, but the fact seems to be that the strife was protracted and interrupted, and at some points in its course it may have led to consequences beyond Euboea. Archilochus sang how


Euboea's spear-famed lords

Shoot not with slings or bows, but smite with swords;


and Theognis of Megara at a much later date speaks of the end of the war as a recent event :—


Cerinthus fallen; the Lelantine plain

Waste, and the vineyards; all the Good have fled ;

The city in the power of evil men!

O might the Cypselids even so be sped !


an utterance which shows that the end of the war was complicated by domestic factions. Eretria suffered most in the struggle; she lost her share in the Lelantine plain, and she presently lost also her continental territory, the plain of Oropus, which in the course of the sixth century passed under the power of Thebes. Moreover her sway over the islands of Andros, Tenos, and Ceos was undermined, and they came after a while under Athenian influence.

The decline of Chalcis was perhaps promoted by a radical change in the foreign policy of Corinth. This city had formerly cultivated the alliance of Samos. She now deserted this alliance and formed a friendship with her old foe Miletus. The causeof this change was, at least in great measure, the natural sympathy of tyrannies. Thrasybulus thepowerful tyrant of Miletus sympathised with Periander the powerful tyrant of Corinth. This change in policy is connected with the change in the balance of mercantile power. Corinth is more prosperous than ever; and Aegina is beginning to share with her the place which was hitherto held by the cities of Euboea.

The foreign relations of Periander extended to Egypt, and there are two indications of his intercourse with the Egyptian monarchs Necho and Psammetichus II. His nephew and successor was called after the last-named king. Moreover we may guess that the canal works of Necho suggested to Periander undertakings of the same kind—the small canal which he actually cut at Leucas, and the great canal which he designed to cut through the isthmus of Corinth itself. But a Greek tyrant had not at his command the slave-labour of which an Egyptian king disposed, and the design fell through—an enterprise more than once attempted since, but not accomplished till our own day. Had Periander had the resources to carry out his idea, the subsequent history of Greek military and naval operations would have been largely changed.

While the most successful of the tyrants, like Periander, furthered material civilization, they often manifested an interest in intellectual pursuits, and did something for the promotion of art. A new form of poetry called the dithyramb was developed at Corinth during this period, the rude strains which were sung at vintage-feasts in honour of Dionysus being moulded into an artistic shape. The discovery was attributed to Arion, a mythical minstrel, who was said to have leaped into the sea under the compulsion of mariners who robbed him, and to have been carried to Corinth on the back of a dolphin, the fish of Dionysus.

In architecture, Corinthian skill had made an important contribution to the development of the temple. In the course of the seventh century men began to translate into stone the old shrine of brick and wood; and stone temples arose in all parts of the Greek world—the lighter "Ionic" form in Ionia, the heavier "Doric" in the elder Greece. By the invention of roof-tiles, Corinthian workmen rendered it practicable to give a considerable inclination to the roof; and thus in each gable of the temple a large triangular space was left, inviting the sculptor to fill it with a story in marble. The pediment, as we name it, was called by the Greeks the "eagle ; and thus it was said that Corinth had discovered the eagle.

Seven great columns of limestone, which till the other day were almost the only sign that marked the site of ancient Corinth, are probably a relic of the reign of Periander. They belonged to the colonnade of a large Doric temple, with two separate chambers in which two gods were worshipped; one was Apollo, the other, we may guess, was Artemis, his sister. The dedicatory offerings of the Cypselids at Delphi and Olympia were rich and remarkable. The treasure-house of the Corinthians at Delphi was ascribed to Cypselus. More famous, on account of the legend which was in later times attached to it, was a large chest of cedar-wood, which was dedicated, probably by Periander, in the shrine of Hera at Olympia. It was called the chest of Cypselus, and was said to have been the place in which Labda hid her child. This story overlooked the fact that a chest was an obvious place to search in, and fabricated the theory that the Corinthians called a chest a "jar". Three sides of the chest were ornamented with mythological scenes which ran round in five bands. It was still in existence eight centuries later, and a traveller who saw it then has left a minute description, which enables us to form a notion how Greek art in the days of Periander attempted the treatment of legend.

Judged by a modern standard, the government of Periander was strict, though in accordance with the practice in other cities and with the Greek views of the time. There were laws forbidding men to acquire large staffs of slaves or to live beyond their income; suppressing excessive luxury and idleness; hindering country people from fixing their abode in the city.

In his home-life Periander was unlucky. He married Melissa, the daughter of Procles, who had made himself tyrant of Epidaurus. It was believed that he put her to death, and this led to an irreconcilable quarrel with his son Lycophron. The story is that Procles invited his two grandchildren, Lycophron and an elder brother  t0 his court. When they were leaving he said to them, "Do ye know, boys, who killed your mother?" The elder was dull and did not understand; but the word sank into the heart of Lycophron, and henceforward he showed dislike and suspicion towards his father. Periander, pressing him, discovered what Procles had said; and the affair ended, for the time, in a war with Epidaurus, in which Procles was captured, and the banishment of Lycophron to Corcyra. As years went on and Periander was at . growing old, seeing that his elder son was dull of wit, he desired to hand over the government to Lycophron. But the son was implacable, and did not deign even to answer his father's messenger. Then Periander sent his daughter to intercede, but Lycophron replied that he would never come to Corinth while his father was there. Periander then decided to go himself to Corcyra and leave Corinth to his son, but the Corcyraeans were so terrified at the idea of having the tyrant among them that they slew Lycophron in order to foil the plan. For this act Periander chastised them heavily.

The great tyrant died and was succeeded by his nephew Psammetichus, who having ruled for a few years was slain. With him the tyranny of the Cypselids came to an end, and an aristocracy of merchants was firmly established. At the same time the Cypselid colonial system partly broke down, for Corcyra became independent and hostile, while the Ambraciots set up a democracy. But over her other colonies Corinth retained her influence, and was on friendly terms with all of them.


II.  Megara.      

The natural sympathy of tyrannies affected the relations of Corinth and Megara. Some time after the inauguration of the Cypselid tyranny, a similar constitutional change occurred at Megara, and a friendship sprang up between the two cities. The mercantile development of Megara, famous for her weavers, had enriched the nobles, who held the political power and oppressed the peasants with Theagenes, a grinding despotism. Then Theagenes arose as a deliverer and made himself tyrant. The example of Cypselus, and probably his direct influence and help, had something to do with the enterprise of Theagenes. A connection between the tyrannies of Corinth and Megara seems implied in the rancorous reference which the Megarian poet Theognis makes to the Cypselids. Having obtained a body­guard, Theagenes surprised and massacred the aristocrats. His term of tyranny was marked by one solid work, the construction of an aqueduct. He was overthrown and did not, like Cypselus, transmit his power to his descendants. Then followed a political struggle between the aristocracy, which had regained its power, and the people. But the time for an unmitigated aristocracy had gone by; the demos could not be ignored or brushed aside. Concessions were wrung from the government. The economical condition of the peasants was relieved by a measure which forced the capitalists to pay back the interest which they had extorted, while the political disabilities were relieved by extending citizenship to the country population and admitting the tillers of the soil to the Assembly. These conflicts and social changes are reflected in the poems of Theognis, who meditated and lamented them. He sang in the early part of the sixth century, pouring out his heart to Cyrnus, a young noble of the Polypaid family. He had made an unsuccessful voyage, lost his land and fortune, and consequently his influence. He judges severely the short-sighted, greedy policy of his own caste, and sees that it is likely to lead to another tyranny. On the other hand, his sympathies are with an aristocratic form of government, and he discerns with dismay the growth of democratic tendencies, and the changed condition of the country folk, whom he regarded with true aristocratic contempt. The exclusiveness of the nobility was breaking down in the new circumstances, and mixed marriages were coming in. He cries:


Unchanged the walls, but, ah, how changed the folk!

The base, who knew erstwhile nor law nor right,

But dwelled like deer, with goatskin for a cloak,

Are now ennobled; and, O sorry plight!

The nobles are made base in all men's sight.


It was not long before the importance of Megara as a power in Greece dwindled. The war with Athens which resulted in the loss of the island of Salamis was decisive for her own decline and for the rise of her rival.


III. Sycion

The rise of a tyranny in agricultural Sicyon seems to have occurred much about the same time as at mercantile Corinth. We know nothing of the circumstances. The name of the first founder, who was of low birth, is said to have been Orthagoras. The first of the house of whom we have any historical record is Cleisthenes, who ruled in the first quarter of the sixth century. His hostility to Argos, which claimed lordship over Sicyon, the part he took in the Sacred War of Delphi, and the splendour of his court are the chief facts of which we know. He was engaged in an Argive war. He would not permit rhapsodists to recite the Homeric poems at Sicyon, because there was so much in them about Argos and Argives; and he did away with the worship of the Argive hero Adrastus, whose cult in Sicyon had been conspicuous. It is also stated that not wishing that the tribes of Sicyon and Argos should have the same names, he substituted for the Dorian tribes—Hylleis, Pamphyli, Dymanes—the insulting names Swine-ites, Assites, and Pigites, and called his own tribe Archelaoi, "Rulers"; and that this nomenclature endured for sixty years after his death, when the old Dorian names were restored and Archelaoi changed to Aigialeis. In this form the story seems highly unlikely, for such a change would have been a greater slight to the mass of the Sicyonians than to the Argives. But it is quite possible that the tyrant changed the name of his own tribe Aigialeis to Archelaoi, and we can understand how the story might have arisen out of a word spoken in jest: "I have changed my Goats into Rulers of the folk; I have a mind to change those Argive and the rest of them into Swine and Asses."

Cleisthenes married his daughter Agarista to an Athenian noble, Megacles, of the famous family of the Alcmaeonids. A legend is told of the wooing of Agarista which illustrates the tyrant's wealth and hospitality and the social ideas of the age. On the occasion of an Olympian festival at which he had himself won in the chariot-race, Cleisthenes made proclamation to the Greeks that all who aspired to the hand of his daughter should assemble at Sicyon, sixty days hence, and be entertained at his court for a year. At the end of the year he would decide who was most worthy of his daughter. Then there came to Sicyon all the Greeks who had a high opinion of themselves or of their families. From Sybaris and Siris in the far west, from Epidamnus and Aetolia, Arcadia and Elis, Argos and Athens, Euboea and Thessaly, the suitors for the hand of Agarista came. Cleisthenes tested their accomplishments for a year. He tried them in gymnastic exercises, but laid most stress on their social qualities. The two Athenians, Hippocleides and Megacles, pleased him best, but to Hippocleides of these two he most inclined. The day appointed for the choice of the husband came, and Cleisthenes sacrificed a hundred oxen and feasted all the suitors and all the folk of Sicyon. After the dinner, the wooers competed in music and general conversation. Hippocleides was the most brilliant, and, as his success seemed assured, he bade the flute-player strike up and began to dance. Cleisthenes was surprised and disconcerted at this behaviour, and his surprise became disgust when Hippocleides, who thought he was making a decisive impression, called for a table and danced Spartan and Athenian figures on it. The host controlled his feelings, but, when Hippocleides proceeded to dance on his head, he could no longer resist, and called out, "O son of Tisander, you have danced away your bride". But the Athenian only replied, "Hippocleides careth not," and danced on. Megacles was chosen for Agarista and rich presents were given to the disappointed suitors.


Sect. 8. The Sacred War. The Panhellenic Games

The most important achievement of Cleisthenes, and that which won him most fame in the Greek world, was his championship of the Delphic oracle.

The temple of Delphi, or Pytho, lay in the territory of the Phocian town of Crisa. A Delphic Hymn tells how Apollo came " to Crisa, a hill facing to westward, under snowy Parnassus; a beetling cliff overhangs it, beneath is a hollow, rugged glen. Here," he said, "I will make me a fair temple, to be an oracle for men". The poet's picture is perfect The sanctuary of "rocky Pytho" was terraced on a steep slope, hard under the bare sheer cliffs of Parnassus, looking down upon the deep glen of the Pleistus; an austere and majestic scene, supremely fitted for the utterance of the oracles of God. The city of Crisa lay on a vine-tressed hill to the west of the temple, and commanded its own plain which stretched southward to the sea. The men of Crisa claimed control over the Delphians and the oracle, and levied dues on the visitors who came to consult the deity. The Delphians desired to free themselves from the control of the Crisaeans, and they naturally looked for help to the great league of the north, in which the Thessalians, the ancient foes of the Phocians, were now the dominant member. The folks who belonged to this religious union were the "dwellers around" the shrine of Demeter at Anthela, close to the pass of Thermopylae; and hence they were called the Amphictiones of Anthela or Pylae. The league was probably old; it was formed, at all events, before the Thessalians had incorporated Achaean Phthiotis in Thessaly; for the people of Phthiotis were an independent member of the league, which included the Locrians, Phocians, Boeotians, and Athenians, as well as the Dorians, Malians, Dolopians, Enianes, Thessalians, Perrhaebians, and Magnetes. The members of the league were bound not to destroy, or cut off running water from, any city which belonged to it.

The Amphictions espoused warmly the cause of Apollo and his Delphian servants, and declared a holy war against the men of Crisa who had violated the sacred territory. And Delphi found a champion in the south as well as in the north. The tyrant of Sicyon across the gulf went forth against the impious city. It was not enough to conquer Crisa and force her to make terms or promises. As she was situated in such a strong position, commanding the road from the sea to the sanctuary, it was plain that the utter destruction of the city was the only conclusion of the war which could lead to the assured independence of the oracle. The Amphictions and Sicyonians took the city after a sore struggle, rased it to the ground, and slew the indwellers. The Crisaean plain was dedicated to the god; solemn and heavy curses were pronounced against whosoever should till it. The great gulf which sunders northern Greece from the Peloponnesus, and whose old name "Crisaean" testified to the greatness of the Phocian city, received, after this, its familiar name "Corinthian" from the city of the Isthmus.

One of the consequences of this war was the establishment of a close connexion between Delphi and the Amphictiony of Anthela. The Delphic shrine became a second place of meeting, and the league was often called the Delphic Amphictiony. The temple was taken under the protection of the league; the administration of the property of the god was placed in the hands of the Hieromnemones or sacred councillors, who met twice a year in spring and autumn, both at Anthela and at Delphi. Two Hieromnemones were sent as its representatives by each member of the league. The oracle and the priestly nobles of Delphi thus won a position of independence; their great career of prosperity and power began. The Pythian games were now reorganised on a more splendid scale, and the ordering of them was one of the duties of the Amphictions. The festival became,  like the Olympian, a four-yearly celebration, being held in the middle of each Olympiad; gymnastic contests were introduced, whereas before there had been only a musical competition; and money-prizes were abolished for a wreath of bay. Cleisthenes won the laurel in the first chariot-race in the new hippodrome which was built in the plain below the ruins of Crisa. Hard by was the stadion or racecourse in which the athletes ran and wrestled; and it was not till after many years had passed that the new stadion was built high up above Delphi itself, close under the cliffs. Cleisthenes was remembered as having taken a prominent part both in the Sacred War and in the institution of the games; and he commemorated the occasion of his victory by founding Pythian games at Sicyon, which afterwards, by a stroke of the irony of history, became associated with the hated hero Adrastus.

Before the Sacred War it would seem that Sicyon had a treasure-house within the Delphic precinct; some traces of its round form, some traces possibly of its primitive sculptures, have been discovered; but not long after the war, the old building had to make way for a larger house in the shape of a Doric temple, and it is hard not to believe that it was Cleisthenes himself who erected this lordlier treasury for Sicyon.

Much about the same time two other Panhellenic festivals were instituted at Isthmus and at Nemea. It is uncertain whether the Isthmian games in honour of Poseidon were founded by Periander, or in commemoration of the abolition of tyranny at Corinth after the death of Psammetichus. The games in honour of Nemean Zeus were administered by the little town of Cleonae, and seem to have been established by the influence of Cleisthenes. Both the Isthmian and the Nemean festivals were two-yearly. Thus from the beginning of the sixth century four Panhellenic festivals are celebrated, two in the Peloponnesus, one on the isthmus, one in the north; and throughout the course of Grecian history the prestige of these gatherings never wanes.

These four Panhellenic festivals helped to maintain a feeling of fellowship among all the Greeks; and we may suspect that the promotion of this feeling was the deliberate policy of the rulers who raised these games to Panhellenic dignity. But it must not be over­looked that the festivals were themselves only a manifestation of a tendency towards unity, which had begun in the eighth century. We have already seen how this tendency was promoted by colonization, and confirmed by the introduction of a common name for the Greek race. About the middle of the seventh century, we meet the name "Panhellenes" in a poem of Archilochus. The Panhellenic idea, the conception of a common Hellenic race with common interests, was displayed above all in the reconstruction of the history of the past. The Trojan war had come to be regarded as a common enterprise of all the Greeks; and this, as we saw, was the idea which inspired the composer of the Homeric Catalogue of the Ships, a work of the seventh century. This poet was studious that nearly all the states of Greece should be represented at Troy; and, as the Catalogue became part of the Iliad in its final shape, the fiction won universal acceptance. The Homeric poems were a bond among all men of Greek speech. The feeling of community was also displayed in the recognition of the Pythian Apollo as the chief and supreme oracle of Greece. The growth of the prestige of the Delphic god might almost have been used as a touchstone for measuring the growth of the feeling of community. As a meeting-place for pilgrims and envoys from all quarters of the Greek world, Delphi served to keep distant cities in touch with one another, and to spread news; purposes which were effected in a less degree by the Panhellenic the festivals. The tendencies to unity were also shown by the leagues, chiefly of a religious kind, which were formed among neighbouring states. The maritime league of Calauria is an instance; the northern Amphictiony of Anthela is another; and we shall presently have a glimpse of the Ionic federation of Delos. Early in the sixth century we find the cities of Italy bound together by a sort of commercial league, which was indicated in the character of their coinage. We shall soon see Sparta uniting a large part of the Peloponnesus in a confederacy under her presidency.

These tendencies to unity never resulted in a political union of all Hellas. The Greek race never became a Greek nation; for the Panhellenic idea was weaker than the love of local independence. But an ideal unity was realised; it was realised in those beliefs and institutions which we have just been considering. They fostered in the hearts of the Greeks a lively feeling of fellowship and a deep pride in Hellas; though there was no political tie. And it is to be noted that the Delphic oracle made no efforts to promote political unity, though unintentionally it promoted unity of another kind. If it had made any such efforts, they would certainly have failed; for the oracle had little influence in initiation. Greek states did not ask Apollo to originate or direct their policy; they only sought his authority for what they had already determined.

We saw that the Boeotians were a member of the northern Amphictiony. The unity of Boeotia itself had taken the form of a federation, in which Thebes was the dominant power, being not only the federal capital, but—at all events in later times—being represented by two members on the board of Boeotarchs, as the federal magistrates were called, whereas each of the other cities returned only one Boeotarch. Its religious centre—for like all old Greek federations it was religious before it became political—was the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestus. In the seventh century it did not yet include all Boeotia; Orchomenus still resisted. But at length Thebes forced Orchomenus to join, and in the course of the sixth century the Graian land of Oropus was annexed. The unity of Boeotia, thus completed, had its weak points; its maintenance depended upon the power of Thebes; some of the cities were reluctant members. Above all, Plataea chafed; she had kept herself pure from mixture with the Boeotian settlers, and her whole history—of which some remarkable episodes will pass before us—may be regarded as an isolated continuation of the ancient struggle between the elder Greek inhabitants of the land and the Boeotian conquerors.