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Sect. 1. The Completion of the Athenian Democracy


To the Greeks of Cimon’s day it might have seemed that the Athenian constitution as it had been fixed by Cleisthenes and further reformed after the battle of Marathon was as democratic as it well could be. But the supreme people was to become in still fuller measure lord in its own house, under the guidance of Ephialtes, whose career was suddenly cut short, and of Pericles, son of Xanthippus, who was to be the most prominent figure in Greece for thirty years. The mother of Pericles belonged to the family, and bore the name, of the daughter of the Sicyonian tyrant, the Agarista whose wooing had been so famous. She was the niece of Cleisthenes the lawgiver, and of Megacles who had been ostracized as a friend of the Pisistratids. The young statesman had a military training, but he came under the influence of two distinguished teachers, to whom he owed much. One was a countryman of his own, Damon of Oa, one of the most intellectual Athenians of his day, and renowned as a master of the theory of music. The other was an outlander and a philosopher, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, whose mechanical theory of the material universe, once for all set in motion by an act of unchangeable mind, freed Pericles from the superstitions of the multitude whom it was his task to guide. To these masters the statesman partly owed his intellectual aloofness; but he did not owe them either his political ideas or the gift of lucid and persuasive speech which was essential to his success. He was indeed a striking contrast to Cimon, the loose and genial boon companion. He seldom walked abroad; he was strict in the economy of his household; he avoided convivial parties; and jealously maintained the dignity of his reserve. His portrait was chiselled by Cresilas. It is something to have the round pedestal on which the original image was set, but we also possess a copy of the portrait. It shows us, not the lofty “Olympian” statesman, but the passionless contemplative face of the friend of Anaxagoras.

The most conservative institution in Athens was the Council of Areopagus, for it was filled up from the archons who were taken from the two richest classes in the state. This institution was incompatible with the development of democracy, and it was inevitable that it should be ended or mended. Ephialtes had prepared the way for an attack by accusing individual Areopagites of corruption and fraudulent practices; and then, taking advantage of Cimon's absence in Messenia, he introduced a series of laws which deprived the ancient council of all its powers that had any political significance. Its right to punish the public ministers and officers if they violated the laws, its duties of supervising the administration and seeing that the laws were obeyed, were taken away and transferred to the people. The censorial powers which enabled it to inquire into the lives of private citizens were abolished. Nothing was left to the venerable body but its jurisdiction in homicidal cases, the care of the sacred olive-trees of Athena, and a voice in the supervision of the property of the Eleusinian deities. The functions which it lost passed to the Council of Five Hundred, the Assembly, and the popular law-courts. All impeachments for crimes which threatened the public weal were henceforward brought before the Council or the Assembly; and henceforward the people tried in their own courts officials who had failed to give a satisfactory account of their administration.

We have a notable monument of the excitement which this radical change caused at Athens, in a drama of Aeschylus which was Performed a few years later. The Eumenides describes the trial of Orestes on the hill of Ares for the murder of his mother, and the institution of the court of the Areopagus. The significance of the drama has been often misunderstood. It is no protest after the event; it is no cry to undo what had been done. On the contrary, Aeschylus, so far as his poetical motive permits him to suggest a criticism of recent events, approves of the reform. The Areopagus, he suggests, was instituted as a court, not as a council; its true purpose is to pass a judgment on homicides, like Orestes. The Eumenides was calculated to tranquillise those who, awed by the dark and solemn associations which hovered over the hill of Ares, regarded the attack upon it as an impiety.

The dismantling of the Areopagus was an indirect blow to the dignity of the archons, who, by virtue of their office, became Areopagites. About the same time another step was taken on the path of democracy by making the archonship a paid office. Once this was done, there was no longer any reason for confining the post to the two richer classes. The third class, the Zeugitae, were presently made eligible; and it cannot have been long before the Thetes, whose distinction from the third class seems to have been yearly becoming fainter, were admitted also.

The two engines of the democratic development were lot and pay. Lot had been long ago introduced; but it had not been introduced in its purest form. The archons and other lesser officers, and the members of the council, were taken by lot from a select number of candidates; but these candidates were chosen by deliberate election. This mixed system was now abolished; the preliminary election was done away with; and the Council of Five Hundred, as well as the archons, were appointed by lot from all the eligible citizens. By this means every citizen had an equal chance of holding political office, and taking a part in the conduct of public affairs.

It is clear that this system could not work unless the offices were paid; for the poor citizens would have been unable to give up their time to the service of the state. Accordingly pay was introduced not only for the archonship, but for the members of the Council The payment of state offices was the leading feature of the democratic reforms of Pericles.

It was a feature which naturally won him popularity with the masses, especially when it was adopted in the case of the popular courts of justice. At the time of the attack on the Areopagus, Pericles carried a measure that the judges should receive a remuneration of an obol a day. Though the measure had the immediate political object of gaining popular support for the attack on the Areopagus, it was a measure which was ultimately inevitable. The amount of judicial business was growing so enormously that it would have been impossible to find a sufficient number of judges ready to attend day after day in the courts without any compensation. But the easily earned pay attracted the poor and idle, who found it pleasant to sit in court listening to curious cases, their sense of self­importance tickled by the flattering respect of the pleaders. Every citizen who wished could place his name on a list from which the list of judges was selected by lot, so many from each tribe; and the courts were empanelled from this list.

It was now to the interest of every Athenian that there should be as few citizens as possible to participate in the new privileges and profits of citizenship. Accordingly, about ten years later the rolls of the burghers were stringently revised; and a law was passed that the name of no child should be admitted whose father and mother were not Athenian citizens legitimately wedded. It was a law which would have excluded Themistocles and Cleisthenes the lawgiver, whose mothers were foreigners.

It was a matter of course that in cases of a political character the judges of the heliaea should be swayed by their own political opinions and by the eloquence of the pleaders working upon their emotions. It was inevitable that the legal aspect of such cases should be often lost to sight, and the facts often misjudged. It was an essential part of the democratic intention that the sovereign people should make its anger felt; and if its anger were sometimes, like a king’s anger, unfair, that could not be helped. But it was far more serious that in private cases the ends of justice were liable to be defeated, not through intention but through ignorance. We can have no better evidence as to the working of the popular courts than the speeches by which the pleaders hoped to influence the decisions of the judges. Litigants at Athens had to plead their own cases; there was no such institution as court-advocates. But a man might learn off a speech which had been composed for him by another, and recite it in court. Hence there arose a class of professional speech-writers, and many of their speeches have been preserved. From these models of judicial eloquence we learn how pleaders expected to gain sentences in their favour. They make a large use of arguments which are perfectly irrelevant to the case; a plaintiff, for example, will try to demonstrate at great length that he has rendered services to the state and that his opponent has performed none. There was thus no question of simply administering the law. The judges heard each party interpreting the law in its own sense; but they had themselves no knowledge of the law, and therefore, however impartial they sought to be, their decision was unduly influenced by the dexterity of an eloquent pleader, and affected by considerations which had nothing to do with the matter at issue. And there was no appeal from their judgment.

A feature of the Athenian democracy, not to be lost sight of, is that public burdens were laid upon the rich burghers, which did not fall upon the poor. These were no regular taxes on income or capital, but burdens which were highly characteristic of ancient society, and which might fall to a man’s lot only once or twice in his life. We have already seen how trierarchs were taken from the richer classes to equip and man triremes, in which they were themselves obliged to sail, and for which they were entirely responsible. It was a duty which entailed not only an outlay of money, but a considerable sacrifice of time and trouble. There were other burdens also. For example, when the city sent solemn deputations on some religious errand, whether to the yearly feast of Apollo at Delos, or to one of the great Panhellenic festivals, or to the oracle of Delphi, a wealthy citizen was chosen to eke out at his cost the money supplied for the purpose by the public treasury, and to conduct the deputation and equip it with magnificence worthy of the occasion. But none of the liturgies, as these public burdens were called, was more important or more characteristic of Athenian life than that of providing the choruses for the festivals of Dionysus. Every year each tribe named one of its wealthy tribesmen to be a choregos, and his duties were to furnish and array a chorus and provide a skilled trainer to teach it the dances and songs of the drama which it was to perform. Rivalry spurred the choregoi to ungrudging outlay. He whose chorus was victorious in the tragic or the comic competition was crowned and received a bronze tripod, which he used to set up, inscribed with his own name and that of his tribe, upon a pillar, or sometimes upon a miniature round temple. On the east side of the Acropolis, leading to the theatre, a long street of these choregic monuments recorded the public spirit of the citizens, and this Street of Tripods showed, perhaps more impressively than any other evidence, how much significance the state attached to the theatre and the worship of Dionysus. Never was piety more fully approved as wisdom. The state’s endowment of religion turned out to be an endowment of brilliant genius; and the rich men who were called upon to spend their time and money in furnishing the dancers did service to the great masters of tragedy and comedy, and thereby served the whole world.


Sect. 2. War of Athens with the Peloponnesians


The banishment of Cimon was the signal for a complete change in the foreign policy of Athens. She abandoned the alliance with the Lacedaemonians and formed a new alliance with their enemies, Argos and Thessaly. The new friendship of the Athenian and Argive peoples is reflected in the trilogy which Aeschylus composed about this time on the murder of Agamemnon and the vengeance (458 B.C.) of Orestes. The dramatist plays pointedly upon the alliance, and perhaps it is a not undesigned compliment to the new ally that he makes Agamemnon lord of Argos and not of newly-destroyed Mycenae. So far, indeed, as the main interests of Athens were concerned, she was not brought into direct collision with Sparta. But these interests forced her into deadly rivalry with two of Sparta’s allies. The naval empire of Athens and the growth of her sea­power were rapidly extending her trade and opening new visions of commercial ambition in all quarters of the Greek world. She was competing with, and it seemed likely that she would outstrip, the two great cities of traffic, Corinth and Aegina. With Aegina there had already been a struggle, and now that Athens had grown in power and wealth another struggle was inevitable. The competition of Athenian merchants with Corinth in the west was active, and it was about this time that an Athenian general took Naupactus from the Ozolian Locrians, and secured a naval station which gave Athens a considerable control over the mouth of the Corinthian Gulf. This was a blow which struck home; Athens had now the means of intercepting and harassing the Corinthian argosies which sailed forth with merchandise for the far west. War was a question of months, and the occasion soon came.

The Megarians, on account of a frontier dispute with Corinth, deserted the Peloponnesian league and placed themselves under Athenian protection. Nothing could be more welcome to Athens than the adhesion of Megara. Holding Megara, she had a strong frontier against the Peloponnesus, commanding the isthmus from Pagae on the Corinthian, to Nisaea on the Saronic, bay. Without any delays she set about the building of a double line of wall from the hill of Megara down to the haven of Nisaea, which faces Salamis, and she garrisoned these “Long Walls” with her own troops. Thus the eastern coast-road was under her control, and Attica had a strong bulwark against invasion by land. 

The occupation of Megara was a new offence to Corinth; and it was an offence to the mistress of the Peloponnesian league. War soon broke out, but at first Sparta took no active part. On the events of the war we are ill-instructed. We find an Athenian squadron making a descent on Halieis, and gaining an advantage Halieis, over some Corinthian and Epidaurian troops. Then the little island of Cecryphalea, which lies between Aegina and the Argive shore, becomes the scene of a naval combat with a Peloponnesian fleet, and the Athenians prevail. At this point the Aeginetans enter the struggle. They saw that if Corinth sustained a severe defeat, their own fate was sealed; Athens would become absolute mistress in the Saronic sea. A great naval battle was fought near Aegina; the allies of both Aegina and Athens were engaged; and the Athenians, having taken seventy ships, landed on the island and blockaded the town. Thereupon the Peloponnesians sent a force of hoplites to help the Aeginetans; while the Corinthians, advancing over the heights of Geranea, descended into the Megarid, expecting that the Athenians would find it impossible to protect Megara and blockade Aegina at the same time. But they reckoned without a true knowledge of the Athenian spirit. The citizens who were below and above the regular military age were formed into an extraordinary army and marched to the Megarid under the strategos Myronides. A battle was fought; both sides claimed the victory; but, when the Corinthians withdrew, the Athenians raised a trophy. Urged by the taunts of their fellow-citizens, the Corinthian soldiers returned in twelve days and began to set up a counter-trophy, but as they were at work the Athenians rushed forth from Megara and inflicted a severe defeat.

This warfare, round the shores and in the waters of the Saronic bay, is the prelude to more warfare in other parts of Greece; but it is a prelude which has a unity of its own. Athens is opposed indeed to the Peloponnesian alliance; but the war is, so far, mainly conducted by a concert of three states, whose interests lie in the neighbourhood of the Saronic Bay—Corinth, Epidaurus, and Aegina. These states have indeed the Peloponnesian league behind them, and are helped by “Peloponnesian ships” and “Peloponnesian hoplites”; but at the same time, the war has not yet assumed a fully Peloponnesian character.

The year of these successes was a year of intense excitement and strain for Athens; it might fairly be described as an annus mirabilis in her history. The victories of Cecryphalea and Aegina were won with only a portion of her fleet. For, in the very hour when she was about to be brought face to face with the armed opposition of rival Greek powers against the growth of her empire and the expansion of her trade, she had embarked in an enterprise beyond the limits of the Greek world. It was an expedition to Egypt, one of the most daring ventures she ever undertook.

A fleet of 200 Athenian and Confederate galleys was operating against Persia in Cyprian seas, when it was invited to cross over to Egypt. The call came from Inaros, a Libyan potentate, who had stirred up the lands of the lower Nile to revolt against their Persian masters. The murder of Xerxes had been followed by troubles at the Persian court, and it was some time before Artaxerxes was safely seated on his throne; the rebellion of Egypt was one of the consequences of this situation. The invitation of Inaros was most alluring. It meant that, if Athens delivered Egypt from Persian rule, she would secure the chief control of the foreign trade with the Nile valley and be able to establish a naval station on the coast; by one stroke she would far outstrip all the rival merchant cities of Hellas. The nameless generals of the Aegean fleet accepted the call of the Libyan prince. As in the days of remote antiquity, the “peoples of the north” were now to help the Libyans in an attempt to overthrow the lords of Egypt. Of those remote episodes the Greeks knew nothing, but they might remember how Carian and Ionian adventurers had once placed an Egyptian king upon the throne. In another way, an attack on Egypt was a step in a new path. Hitherto the Confederate ships had sailed in waters which were wholly or partly Greek, and had confined their purpose to the deliverance of Greek cities or cities which, like the Carian and Lycian, were in close touch with Greek civilisation. The shores of Cyprus, where Greek and Phoenician were side by side, invited above other shores a squadron of Greek deliverers. But when the squadron crossed over to Egypt, it entered a new sphere and undertook a new kind of work. The Egyptian expedition was an attempt to carry the struggle with Persia into another stage—a stage in which Greece is the aggressor and the invader. This attempt was not destined to prosper; more than a century was still to elapse before the invasion of Xerxes would be avenged. But it is well to remember that the Athenians, in moving on Egypt, anticipated Alexander the Great, and that success was not impossible if Cimon had been their general.

The Athenians sailed up the Nile to find Inaros triumphant, having gained a great victory in the Delta over a Persian army, which had been sent to quell him. Sailing up they won possession 459 of the city of Memphis, except the citadel, the “White Castle,” in which the Persian garrison held out. After this achievement, we lose sight of the war in Egypt for more than two years, and beyond the protracted blockade of the White Castle we have no record how the Athenian forces were employed. But it was a fatal coincidence that the power of Athens should have been divided at this moment. With her full forces she might have inflicted a crushing blow on the Peloponnesians; with her full forces she might have prospered in Egypt. It was a triumph for the political party which had driven Cimon into banishment that, when half the Athenian fleet was on the banks of the Nile, the hostilities of Corinth and Aegina and their friends should have been so bravely repelled. Nothing impresses one more with the energy of Athens at this crisis than the stone which records the names of the citizens belonging to one of tribes, who fell in this memorable year:


Of the Erechtheid tribe,

These are they who died in the war, in Cyprus, in Egypt, in Phoenice, at Halieis, in Aegina, at Megara, in the same year;


and the names follow.

The siege of Aegina was continued, and, within two years after the battle, the Aeginetans capitulated, and agreed to surrender their fleet and pay tribute to Athens. Few successes can have been more welcome or profitable to the Athenians than this. The island which offended their eyes and attracted their desires when they looked forth from their hill across the waters of their bay was at length powerless in their hands. They had lamed one of their most formidable commercial rivals; they had overthrown one of the most influential cities of Dorian Greece. In the Confederacy, Aegina took her rank with Thasos as the richest of the subject states. For these two island cities the burden of yearly tribute was thirty talents, incomparably larger than the sum paid by any of the other cities whose tribute we know.

In the meantime events in another part of Greece had led the Lacedaemonians themselves to take part in the war, and had transported the main interest of the struggle from the Saronic Gulf to Boeotia. The errand of the Lacedaemonians was an errand of piety, to succour their mother people, the Dorians of the north, one of whose three little towns had been taken by the Phocians. To force the aggressors to restore the place was an easy task for a force which consisted of 1500 Lacedaemonian hoplites and 10,000 troops of the allies. The real work of the expedition lay in Boeotia. It was clearly the policy of Sparta to raise up here a powerful state to hold Athens in check; and this could only be effected by strengthening Thebes and making her mistress of the Boeotian federation. Accordingly Sparta now set up the power of Thebes again, revising the league, and forcing the Boeotian cities to join it. When the army had done its work in Boeotia, its return to the Peloponnesus was beset by difficulties. To march through the Megarid was dangerous, for the Athenians held the passes, and had redoubled their precautions. And it was not safe to cross the Corinthian Gulf—the way by which they probably had come—for Athenian vessels were now on the watch to intercept them. In this embarrassment they seem to have resolved to march straight upon Athens, where the people were now engaged on the building of Long Walls from the city to the harbour. This course was probably suggested by an Athenian party of oligarchs, who were always abiding an opportunity to overthrow the democracy. The Peloponnesian army advanced to Tanagra, near the Attic frontier; but before they crossed the borders the Athenians went forth to meet them, 14,000 strong, including 1000 Argives and some Thessalian cavalry. The banished statesman, Cimon, now came to the Athenian camp, pitched on Boeotian soil, and sought leave to fight for his country—against Sparta. The request was hastily referred to the Council of Five Hundred at Athens; it was not granted; and all that Cimon could do was to exhort his partisans to fight valiantly. This act of Cimon prepared the way for his recall; in the battle which followed, his friends fought so stubbornly that none of them survived. There was great slaughter on both sides; but the Thessalian horsemen deserted during the combat, and the Lacedaemonians gained the victory. But the battle saved Athens, and the victory only enabled the victors to return by the Isthmus and cut down the fruit trees of the Megarid.

Athens now desired to make a truce with Sparta in order to gain time. No man was more fitted to compass this than the exile Cimon; whose recent conduct had shown that he was the foe of the foes of Athens, even if those foes were Spartans. The people, at the instance of Pericles, passed a decree recalling him; but when Cimon had negotiated the truce, he withdrew to a distance from Athens, with a tact which we might hardly have expected. 

The Lacedaemonians celebrated their victory by a golden shield which they set above the gable of the new temple of Zeus in the altis of Olympia, as a gift from the spoils of Tanagra. But the victory did not even secure Boeotia. Two months after the battle, the Athenians made an expedition into Boeotia under the command of Myronides. A decisive battle was fought at Oenophyta, and the Athenians became masters of the whole land except Thebes. The Boeotian cities were not enrolled in the maritime Confederacy of Delos, but their dependence on Athens was expressed in the obligation of furnishing contingents to her armies. At the same time the Phocians entered into the alliance of Athens, and the Opuntian Locrians were constrained to acknowledge her supremacy. Such were the consequences of Oenophyta and Tanagra. Athens could now quietly complete the building of her Long Walls.

These brilliant successes were crowned, as we have seen, by the capture of Aegina; and probably about the same time the acquisition of Troezen gave the Athenians an important post on the Argolic shore. But in the far south their arms were not so prosperous. Since the capture of Memphis, no success seems to have been gained, and the White Castle still held out. After an ineffectual attempt to induce Sparta to cause a diversion by invading Attica, king Artaxerxes sent a large army to Egypt under Megabyzus, who was supported by a Phoenician fleet. Having won a battle, he drove the Greeks out of Memphis and shut them up in Prosopitis, an island formed by a canal which intersected the Canopic and Sebennytic channels of the Nile. Here he blockaded them for eighteen months. At last he drained the canal and turned aside the water, so that the 454 ac. Greek ships were left high and dry, and almost the whole island was reconnected with the banks. Thus the Persians were able to march across to the island. The Greeks having burned their ships retreated to Byblos, where they capitulated to Megabyzus and were allowed to depart. A tedious march brought them to friendly Cyrene, where they found means of returning to their homes. Inaros who kindled the revolt was crucified, though his life had been spared by the terms of the capitulation. Soon afterwards a relief squadron of fifty triremes arrived from Athens. It was attacked by the powerful Phoenician fleet in the Mendesian mouth of the Nile, and only a few ships escaped. The Persian authority was restored throughout the land; the day for Greek control of Egypt had not yet come.

But though the Athenians lost ships and treasure in this daring, ill-fated enterprise, their empire was now at the height of its power. They were even able to make the disaster in Egypt a pretext for converting the Delian confederacy into an undisguised Athenian empire. The triumphant Persian fleet might sail into the Aegean sea; Delos was not a safe treasury; the funds of the league must be removed to the Athenian Acropolis.

The empire of Athens now included a continental as well as a maritime dominion. The two countries which marched on her frontiers, Boeotia and Megara, had become her subjects. Beyond Boeotia, her dominion extended over Phocis and Locris to the pass of Thermopylae. In Argos her influence was predominant, Aegina had been added to her Aegean empire, the ships of Aegina to her navy. Through the subjection of Megara, the conquest of Aegina, and the capture of Troezen, the Saronic bay had almost been converted into an Attic lake.

The great commercial city of the isthmus was the chief and most dangerous enemy of Athens, and the next object of the policy of Pericles was to convert the Corinthian Gulf into an Attic lake also, and so hem in Corinth on both her seas. The possession of the Megarid and Boeotia, and especially the station at Naupactus, gave Athens control of the northern shores of the gulf, from within the gate up to the isthmus. But the southern seaboard was still entirely Peloponnesian; and outside the gate, on the Acarnanian coast, there were posts which ought to be secured. The general Tolmides made a beginning by capturing the Corinthian colony Chalcis, opposite Patrae. Then Pericles himself conducted an expedition to continue the work of Tolmides. Having failed to reduce Sicyon he laid siege to Oeniadae, an important and strong-walled mart on the Acarnanian coast, but was unable to take it. Though no military success was gained, the expedition created a sensation, and it seems to have led to the adhesion of the Achaean cities to the Athenian alliance. It is certain at least that shortly afterwards Achaea was an Athenian dependency; and for a few years Athenian vessels could sail with a sense of dominion in the Corinthian as well as in the Saronic bay.


Sect. 3. Conclusion of Peace with Persia


The warfare of recent years had been an enormous strain on the resources of Athens, and it was found necessary to increase the burden of tribute imposed on her allies. She wanted a relief from the strain, but after the expedition of Pericles three or four years elapsed before peace was concluded. During that interval there seems to have been by mutual consent of the combatants a cessation from military operations. Lacedaemon and Argos first concluded a treaty of peace for thirty years; and then Cimon, who had returned to Athens, negotiated a truce, which was fixed for five years, between the Athenians and Peloponnesians.

As soon as the peace was arranged, Athens and her allies were able to resume their warfare against Persia, and to no man could that warfare be more safely or fitly entrusted than to the hero of the Eurymedon river. Pericles may have been well pleased to use Cimon’s military experience; and an amicable arrangement seems to have been made, Cimon undertaking not to interfere with the policy of Pericles. Gossip said that Cimon’s sister had much to do with bringing to pass the reconciliation. “The charms as well as the intrigues of Elpinice appear to have figured conspicuously in the memoirs of Athenian biographers: they were employed by one party as a means of calumniating Cimon, by the other for discrediting Pericles.” But we need not heed the gossip. Women played no part in the history of Athena’s city.

The Phoenician fleet, which had put down the Egyptian rebellion, was afterwards sent to re-establish the authority of Artaxerxes in the. island of Cyprus; and accordingly Cimon sailed thither with a squadron of 200 vessels. He detached sixty to help a princelet who had succeeded in defying the Persians in the fens of the Delta of the Nile; for the Athenians, even after their calamity, had not entirely abandoned the thought of Egyptian conquest. Then he laid siege to Cition. It was the last enterprise of the man who had conducted the war against Persia ever since the battle of Mycale. He died during the blockade; and his death marks the beginning of a new period in which hostilities between Greek and Persian slumber. But one final success was gained. Raising the siege of Cition, because there was no food, the fleet arrived off Salamis, and the Greeks gained a double victory by sea and land over the Phoenician and Cilician ships.

But this victory did not encourage the Athenians to continue the war. We have no glimpse of the counsels of their statesmen at this moment; but the facts of the situation enable us to understand their resolution to make peace with the Great King. The events of recent years had proved to them that it was beyond the strength of Athens to carry on war at the same time, in any effectual way, with the common enemy of all the Greeks and with her rivals among the Greeks themselves. It was therefore necessary to choose between peace with Persia and peace in Greece. But an enduring peace in Greece could only be purchased by the surrender of those successes which Athens had lately gained. Corinth would never acquiesce, until she had won back her old predominant position in her western gulf; so long as she was hemmed in, as Athens had hemmed her in, she would inevitably seize any favourable hour to strike for her release. Some Athenian politicians would have been ready to retreat from the positions which had been recently seized and of which the occupation was most galling to Corinth. But Pericles, who had won those positions, was a strong imperialist. The aim of his statesmanship was to increase the Athenian empire and to spread the political influence of Athens within the borders of Greece. He was unwilling to let any part of her empire go, for the sake of earning new successes against the barbarian. The death of Cimon, who had been the soul of the Persian war, may have helped Pericles to carry through his determination to bring that war to an end. And the Great King on his side was disposed to negotiate; for the Greek victory of Cyprian Salamis had been followed by a revolt of Megabyzus, the general who had quelled the insurrection of Egypt.

Accordingly peace was made with Persia. There is a dark mist about the negotiations, so dark that it has been questioned whether a formal treaty was ever concluded. But there can be no reasonable doubt that Athens came to an understanding with Artaxerxes, and that peace ensued; and it is equally certain that there was a definite contract, by which Persia undertook not to send ships of war into the Aegean, and Athens gave a similar pledge securing the coasts of the Persian empire against attack. An embassy from Athens and her allies must have waited on the Great King at Susa; and the terms of the arrangement must have been put in writing. But, on the other hand, there was no treaty as between two Greek states. The Great King would never have consented to treat either with a Greek city or a federation of Greek cities as an equal. And he certainly did not stoop to the humiliation of formally acknowledging the independence of the Greek cities of Asia. It was enough that he should graciously promise to make certain concessions. But, whatever were the diplomatic forms of the agreement, both parties meant peace, and peace was maintained. It has been called the Peace of Callias; and we have a record which makes it probable that the chief ambassador was Callias, the richest man at Athens, and the husband of Cimon’s sister.

The first act in the strife of Greece and Persia thus closes. All the cities of Hellas which had come under barbarian sway had been reunited to the world of free Hellenic states; except in one outlying corner. The Greek cities of Cyprus were left to struggle with the Phoenicians as best they might; and the Phoenicians soon got the upper hand and held it for many years. They tried to extirpate Greek civilisation from the island; but Greek civilisation was a hardy growth, and we shall hereafter see Greek dynasties again in power.


Sect. 4. Athenian Reverses. The Thirty Years’ Peace


The peace with Persia, however, was not followed by further Athenian expansion within the defined limit ; on the contrary, some of the most recent acquisitions of the Athenian empire began to fall away. Orchomenus and Chaeronea and some other towns in western Boeotia were seized by exiled oligarchs; and it was necessary for Athens to intervene promptly. The general Tolmides went forth with a wholly inadequate number of troops. He took and garrisoned Chaeronea, but did not attempt Orchomenus. On his way home he was set upon by the exiles from Orchomenus and some others, in the neighbourhood of Coronea, and defeated. He was himself slain; many of the hoplites were taken prisoners; and the Athenians in order to obtain their release resigned Boeotia. Thus the battle of Coronea undid the work of Oenophyta.

Athens had little reason to regret this loss; for dominion in Boeotia was not really conducive to the consolidation of her empire. To maintain control over the numerous city-states of the Boeotian country would have been a constant strain on her military resources, which would hardly have been remunerative. The loss of Boeotia was followed by the loss of Phocis and Locris. It was strange enough that Phocis should fall away. A few years before the Phocians had taken possession of Delphi. The Spartans had sent army to rescue the shrine from their hands, and give it back to the Delphians; but as soon as the Spartans had gone, an Athenian army came, led by Pericles, and restored the sanctuary to the Phocians. It was a Sacred War, but so conducted that it did not make a breach of the Five Years’ Truce. Yet, although their position at Delphi seemed to depend on the support of Athens, the Phocians now deserted her alliance. The change was due to an oligarchical reaction in the Phocian cities, consequent on the oligarchical rising in Boeotia.

The defeat of Coronea dimmed the prestige of Athenian arms; and still more serious results ensued. Euboea and Megara revolted at the same moment; here too oligarchical parties were at work. Pericles, who was a general, immediately went to Euboea with the regiments of seven of the tribes, while those of the remaining three marched into the Megarid. But he had no sooner reached the island than he was overtaken by the news that the garrison in the city of Megara had been massacred and that a Peloponnesian army was threatening Attica. He promptly returned, and his first object was to unite his forces with the troops in the Megarid, which were under the command of Andocides. But king Pleistoanax and the Lacedaemonians were, between them, commanding the east coast-road. Andocides was compelled to return to Attica by creeping round the corner of the Corinthian Gulf at Aegosthenae and passing through Boeotia. The troops were guided by a man of Megara named Pythion, and the gratitude of the three tribes “whom he saved by leading them from Pagae, through Boeotia, to Athens” was recorded on his funeral monument. The stone has survived, and the verses written upon it are a touching reminiscence of a moment of great peril. But when the whole army united in Attica, the peril was passed. The return of Pericles had disconcerted king Pleistoanax, who commanded the Lacedaemonians, and having advanced only as far as the Thriasian plain he withdrew, deeming it useless to strike at Athens. Pericles was thus set free to carry out the reduction of Euboea. Histiaea, the city in the north of the island, was most hardly dealt with, probably because her resistance was most obstinate; the people were driven out, their territory annexed to Athens; and the new settlement of Oreos took the place of Histiaea. In other cases the position of each state was settled by an agreement; and the arrangements which were made with Chalcis are still preserved on stone. The alarm of the Athenians is reflected in reductions of tribute which they allowed to their subject states; they feared that the example of Euboea might spread. The truce of five years was now approaching its end, and peace was felt to be so indispensable that they resigned themselves to purchasing a more durable treaty by considerable concessions. They had lost Megara, but they still held the two ports, Nisaea and Pagae. These, as well as Achaea, they agreed to surrender, and on this basis a peace was concluded for thirty years between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians. All the allies of both sides were enumerated in the treaty, and it was stipulated that neither Athens nor Lacedaemon was to admit into her alliance an ally of the other, while neutral states might join whichever alliance they chose. (446-445 B-.C.)

It was a humiliating peace for Athens, and perhaps would not have been concluded but for the alarm which had been caused by the inroad of the Peloponnesians into Attic territory. While the loss of Boeotia was probably a gain, and the evacuation of Achaea might be lightly endured, the loss of the Megarid was a serious blow. For, while Athens held the long walls and the passes of Geranea, she had complete immunity from Peloponnesian invasions of her soil. Henceforth Attica was always exposed to such aggressions. Besides this, her position in the Crisaean Gulf was greatly weakened. The attempt which she had made to win a land-empire had succeeded only for a brief space; the lesson was that she must devote her whole energy to maintaining her maritime dominion. It was a gloomy moment for the Athenians; and it must have required all the tact and eloquence of Pericles to restore the shaken confidence and revive the drooping spirits. Euboea at all events was safe, and men might look back over sixty years to that victory which had been won by their ancestors, in a critical hour, over a joint attack of the Boeotians and Chalcidians. On that occasion a tithe of the spoil had been dedicated to Athena. Pericles now set up a bronze chariot with this tithe, and so associated the earlier victory with his own. The parallel was close; for the rebellion of Euboea had been mainly instigated by the Boeotian oligarchs who freed their own land from Athenian control. The marble base on which the chariot stood, on the Acropolis, has been found, and a few letters of the inscribed verses, which Herodotus read and copied, can be made out. The recollection that the sons of the Athenians “quenched the insolence” of the Boeotians, as those verses have it, was indeed the only consolation that could be offered for the defeat of Coronea. While he made the most of the reduction of Euboea, Pericles may have also dwelt on the prospects of the Attic sea-empire. He may have elated them by words such as he is reported to have used at a later moment of despondency. “Of the two divisions of the world accessible to man, the land and the sea, there is one of which you are absolute masters, and have, or may have, the dominion to any extent you please. Neither the Great King nor any nation on earth can hinder a navy like yours from penetrating whithersoever you choose to sail.”


Sect. 5. The Imperialism of Pericles, and the Opposition to his Policy


The cities of the Athenian alliance might have claimed, when the Persian war was ended, that the “Confederacy” should be broken up and that they should resume their original and rightful freedom. The fair answer to this claim would have been, that peace had indeed come, but that it would endure only so long as a power was maintained strong enough to stand up against the might of Persia. Dissolve the Confederacy, and the cities will severally and speedily become the prey of the barbarian. But in any case, the Confederacy had become an Empire, and Athens was in the full career of an ambitious “imperialist” state. The tributes which she imposed on her subjects were probably not oppressive, and were constantly revised; when the Five Years’ Truce was about to be concluded, she reduced the tribute, which had been increased under the stress of the war, to its former amount. She did not force her own coinage upon her subjects; every city might have its own mint, and most of them had. But there was much that was galling in her empire, to communities in which the love of freedom was strongly developed. The revolt and reduction of Euboea showed in its undisguised shape the rule of might. It must however be remembered, in judging of the feelings of the cities towards their mistress, that in nearly every city there were an oligarchical and a democratical party. The democracy was supported by Athens and was generally friendly to her; the oligarchs were always on the watch for an opportunity to rebel. And for this reason, a revolt is not in itself evidence that Athens was unpopular among her allies. The Carian and Lycian cities began to fall away after the peace with Persia; but most of them were only superficially Hellenized, and Athens let them go, not thinking it worth while to take measures for retaining her control of them.

Pericles had been the guide of the Athenian people in the recent war; his counsels had directed their imperial policy. But that policy had not been unchallenged; his leadership had not been unopposed. There was a strong oligarchical party at Athens which not only disliked the democracy of their city, but arraigned her empire. Most of this party attacked the imperialist policy of Pericles purely from party motives, and for the purpose of attacking him; but there was one man at least who may claim the credit of having honestly espoused the cause of the allied cities against the unscrupulous selfishness of his own city. This was Thucydides, the son of Melesias, a man who had connexions with many of the allies. He maintained that the tribute should be reserved exclusively for the purpose for which it was levied, the defence of Greece against Persia, and that Athens had no right to spend it on other things, especially on things which concerned herself alone, and did not benefit the cities. It was an injustice that these cities should have to defray any part of the costs of an Athenian campaign in Boeotia or of a new temple in Athens. This was a just view, but justice is never entirely compatible with the growth of a country to political greatness, and Pericles was resolved to make his country great at all hazards. For this purpose his policy towards the allied cities was—in a phrase which seems to have been his own—“to keep them well in hand.” It is pleasant to find that voices were raised against his unscrupulous imperialism.

The more extreme section of the party which supported Thucydides would not have hesitated to betray Athens into the hands of her foes for the sake of overthrowing the democracy. They had tried to do this at the time of the battle of Tanagra. Much less would they have scrupled to give secret help to the oligarchical parties which worked against Athenian rule in the subject cities. Oligarchy had raised its head in many places during the Five Years’ Truce. Oligarchical movements had led to the loss of Boeotia; oligarchical movements had caused the revolts of Megara and Euboea; oligarchy had even prevailed in Phocis. There can be little doubt that this widespread oligarchical activity had its echo in Athens; and that in these years the party opposed to Pericles was loud and aggressive. He met that opposition with remarkable dexterity. He introduced a new policy, which, while it was thoroughly imperialist, was so popular at Athens that his adversaries were silenced.

Among the measures which Pericles initiated to strengthen the empire of his city, none was more important in its results than the system of settling Athenian citizens abroad. Like measures of many  great statesmen, this policy effected the solution of two diverse problems. The colonies which were thus sent to different parts of the empire, served as garrisons in the lands of subject allies, and they also helped to provide for part of the superfluous population of Athens. The first of these Periclean cleruchies was established in the Thracian Chersonese, under the personal supervision of Pericles himself. Lands were bought from the allied cities of the peninsula, and a thousand Athenian citizens, chiefly of the poor and unemployed, were allotted  farms and assigned to the several cities The payment for the land was made in the shape of a reduction of the tribute. At the same time Pericles restored the wall which Miltiades had built across the isthmus, to protect the country against the Thracians; in view of the rising power of the Thracian prince Teres, this precaution was wise.

The out-settlements in the Chersonese—which were probably followed by out-settlements in Lemnos and Imbros, the island warders of the gate of the Propontis—were the most important of all. The same policy was at the same time adopted in Euboea and some of the islands of the Aegean, and in a mysterious place, the Thracian Brea, which probably lay west of the Strymon. The original act of the colonisation of Brea has been preserved, and the provision that all the settlers shall belong to the two poorest classes of the people, on the Solonian classification, illustrates the character of the Periclean cleruchies. The policy was naturally popular at Athens, since it provided for thousands of unemployed who cumbered the streets; and perhaps it may be regarded as one of the happiest strokes devised by Pericles for increasing his ascendency and confounding his opponents. But it was a policy which was highly unpopular among the allies, in whose territories the settlements were made; and it gave perhaps more dissatisfaction than any other feature of Athenian rule. Most Athenian citizens were naturally allured by a policy of expansion which made their city great and powerful without exacting heavy sacrifices from themselves. The day had not yet come when they were unwilling to undertake military service, and they were content as long as the cost of maintaining the empire did not tax their purses. The empire furthered the extension of their trade, and increased their prosperity. The average Athenian burgher was not hindered by his own full measure of freedom from being willing to press, with as little scruple as any tyrant, the yoke of his city upon the necks of other communities. So long as the profits of empire were many and its burdens light, the Athenian democracy would feel few searchings of heart in adopting the imperialism of Pericles.

That imperialism was indeed of a lofty kind. The aim of the statesman who guided the destinies of Athens in these days of her greatness was to make her the queen of Hellas; to spread her sway on the mainland as well as beyond the seas; and to make her political influence felt in those states which it would have been unwise and perhaps impossible to draw within the borders of her empire. The full achievement of this ideal would have meant the union of all the Greeks, an union held together by the power of Athens, but having a natural support in a common religion, common traditions, common customs, and a common language.

Shortly before the loss of Boeotia through the defeat of Coronea, Athens addressed to Greece an open declaration of her Panhellenic ambition. She invited the Greek states to send representatives to an Hellenic congress at Athens, for the purpose of discussing certain matters of common interest. To restore the temples which had been burned by the Persians, to pay the votive offerings which were due to the gods for great deliverance, and to take common by the measures for clearing the seas of piracy;—this was the programme which Athens proposed to the consideration of Greece. The invitation did not go to the west, for the Italiots and Siceliots were not directly concerned in the Persian war, but it went to all the cities of old Greece, and to the cities and islands which belonged to the Athenian empire. If the congress had taken place it would have inaugurated an amphictiony of all Hellas, and Athens would have been the centre of this vast religious union. It was a sublime project, but it could not be. It was not to be expected that Sparta would fall in with a project which, however noble and pious it sounded, might tempt or help Athens to strike out new and perilous paths of ambition and aggrandisement. The Athenian envoys were rebuffed in the Peloponnesus, and the plan fell through. Immediately after this, the revolution in Boeotia deprived Athens of her empire on the mainland.


Sect. 6. The Restoration of the Temples


It remained then for Athens to carry out that part of the programme which concerned herself, and restore in greater splendour the architectural monuments which now began to rise under the adirection and influence of Pericles, if we do not clearly grasp their under historical motive, and recognise their immediate connexion with the Persian war. It devolved upon the city, as a religious duty, to make good the injuries which the barbarian had inflicted upon the habitations of her gods, and fully to pay her debt of gratitude to heaven for the defeat of the Mede. And seeing that Athens had won her great empire through that defeat, the gods might well expect that she would perform this duty on no small scale and in no niggardly spirit. In this, above all, was the greatness of Pericles displayed, that he discerned the importance of performing them on a grand scale. He recognised that the city by ennobling the houses of her gods would ennoble herself; and that she could express her own might and her ideals in no worthier way than by the erection of beautiful temples. His architectural plans went farther than this, and we can see that he was influenced by the example of the Pisistratids; but the chief buildings of the Periclean age, it should always be remembered, were, like the Athenian empire itself, the direct consequence of the Persian invasion.

Of the monuments which in the course of twenty years changed the appearance of the Acropolis, one of the first was a gigantic statue of Athena, wrought in bronze. The goddess stood near the west brow of her own hill, looking south-westward, and her helmet and the tip of her lance flashing in the sun could be seen far off at sea. But nothing was so pressing as to carry to completion the new house of the goddess, which had been begun in the days of Themistocles and never finished. The work was now resumed on the same site, and the same foundations; but it was resumed on an entirely different plan, which was drawn up by the gifted architect Ictinus. The new temple was slightly broader but considerably shorter than it would have been if the old design had been carried out, and instead of foreign Parian marble, native Attic from the quarries of Pentelicus was employed. Callicrates, another expert architect, superintended the execution of the plan which Ictinus had conceived. It is not within our province to enter here into the architectural beauties of this perfect Dorian temple, which came afterwards to be generally known as the Parthenon. The building contained two rooms, between which there was no communication. The eastern room into which one entered from the pronaos was the temple proper, and contained the statue of the goddess. It was about a hundred feet long, and was hence officially called the Hecatompedos. The door of the small western room was on the west side of the temple. This chamber was perhaps designed for the habitation of invisible maidens who attend the maiden goddess; it is at least certain that it was called the Parthenon. It is easy to imagine how a word which designated as the room of the Maidens part of the house of the Maiden, could soon come to be associated popularly with the whole building, and the name Parthenon came to mean for the ordinary ear, in defiance of official usage, the temple of Athena Parthenos, and not the chamber of her virgins.

The goddess stood in her dwelling, majestic and smiling, her colossal figure arrayed in a golden robe, a helmet on her head, her right hand holding a golden Victory, and her left resting on her shield, while the snake Erichthonius was coiled at her feet. It was a wooden statue covered with ivory and gold—ivory for the exposed flesh, gold for the raiment—and hence called chryselephantine. It was wrought by the Athenian sculptor of genius who has given his name to the plastic art of the Periclean age, Phidias, the son of Charmides. He had already made his fame by another beautiful statue of the goddess of the city, which the out-settlers who went forth to colonise Lemnos dedicated on the Acropolis. The Lemnian Athena was wrought in bronze and it revealed Athena to her people in the guise of their friend, while the image of the Parthenon showed her rather as their queen. Both these creations have perished, but copies have been preserved from which we can frame some far- off idea of the sculptor’s work.

To Phidias too was entrusted the task of designing and carrying out those plastic decorations which were necessary to the completion of a great temple. With the metopes of the lofty entablature, from which Centaurs and Giants stood out in high relief, the great master had probably little to do. But in the two pediments and on the frieze which ran round the wall of the temple, within the colonnade, he left monuments of his genius and his skill, for mankind to adore. The triangle above the eastern portal was adorned with the scene of the birth of Athena, who has sprung from the head of Zeus, at the rising of the sun and the setting of the moon; and Iris the heavenly messenger was shown, going forth to carry the good news to the ends of the world. The pediment of the western end was occupied with the passage in the life of the goddess, that specially appertained to Attica—her triumph on the Acropolis in her contest with her rival Poseidon, for the lordship of the land. The olive which came forth from the earth by her enchantment was probably shown; and we should like to believe that at the northern and southern ends reclined the two river gods, Eridanus and Ilisus, each at the side which was nearest his own waters. The subject of the wonderful frieze which encircled the temple from end to end was the most solemn of all the ceremonies which the Athenians performed in honour of their queen. At the great Panathenaic festival, every fourth year, they went up in long procession to her temple to present her with a new robe. The advance of this procession, starting from the western side, and moving simultaneously along the northern and southern sides, to meet at the eastern entrance, was vividly shown on the frieze of the Parthenon. Walking along the peristyle and looking upwards, the spectator saw the Athenian knights—beautiful young men—on horseback, charioteers, citizens on foot, musicians, kine and sheep led for sacrifice, stately maidens with sacred vessels, the nine archons of the city, all advancing to the house of Athena where she entertains the celestials on her feast-day. The high gods are seated on thrones, Zeus on one side of Athena, Hephaestus on the other; and near the goddess is a peplos—perhaps the old peplos—in the hands of a priest. The western side of the frieze is still in its place, but the rest has been removed—the greater part to our own island.

Athena Polias had now two houses side by side on her hill. For the old restored temple was not destroyed, nor was her old image removed from it. But in her character of Victory, yet another small habitation was built for her by the architect Callicrates, about the same time, on the bastion which the hill throws out on its south-western side. It was an appropriate spot for the house of Victory. The Athenian standing on that platform saw Salamis and Aegina near him; his eye ranged along the Argolic coast, to the distant citadel of Corinth and the mountains of the Megarid; under the shadow of Victory he could lose himself in reveries of memory and dreams of hope. The motive of the temple, as a memorial of the Persian war, was written clear in the frieze. Whereas the sculptures of other temples of this period only alluded indirectly to that great struggle, by the representation of mythical wars—such as the war of Greek and Amazons, or of Lapiths and Centaurs, or of gods and giants; on the frieze of Athena Nike a battle between the Greeks and Persians is portrayed. It is the battle of Platae ; for Greeks are shown fighting in the Persian host.

But there were other shrines of other gods in Athens and Attica, which had been wrecked by the Persians, and which were now to be terestored. From the west side of the Acropolis, as one looks down on the western quarter of the city, no building is so prominent, or can ever have been so prominent, as the Dorian temple of Pentelic marble which crowns the hill of Colonus, and replaced an older temple of the limestone of Piraeus. It is the temple which “the sons of Hephaestus” built for their sire, the god of handicraftsmen, who was always worshipped with special devotion at Athens—it is significant that on the frieze of the Parthenon he sits next the lady of the land. This house of Hephaestus is the only Greek temple that is not a ruin. About the same time, a marble temple of Poseidon rose on the extreme point of southern Attica, the promontory of Sunium. The Persian invasion had probably been fatal to the old temple of poros-stone. Here the sea-god, “to whom men pray at Sunium,” seems to have had his own house, looking down upon his own domain; he was not forced here, as on the Acropolis, to share a sanctuary with Athena; but the goddess had a separate temple of her own hard by.

At the other extremity of the Attic land, the shrine of the goddesses of Eleusis had likewise been destroyed by the barbarians.  The rebuilding had been soon begun, but, like the new temple of Athena on the Acropolis, the work had been discontinued owing to the claims of war on the revenue of the state. Under Pericles it was taken up again and completed; Ictinus made the design and Coroebus carried it out. The new Hall of Mysteries was built of the dark stone of Eleusis; one side of it was formed by the rock of the hill under which it was built; and the stone steps around the walls would have seated about 3000. As the place was close to the Megarian frontier, a strong wall with towers was erected round the precincts of the shrine; so that the place had the aspect of a fortress.

These splendid buildings required a large outlay of money, and Opposition thus gave the political opponents of Pericles a welcome handle against him. Thucydides was the leader of the outcry. He accused Pericles not merely of squandering the resources of the state which ought to be kept as a reserve for war, but of misappropriating the money of the Confederacy for purely Athenian purposes. Athens, it was said, was “like a vain woman, adorning herself with pendants of precious stones, and statues, and temples that cost a thousand talents”. It is certainly true that some money was taken from the treasury of the Hellenotamiae for the new buildings, but this was only a very small part of the cost, which was mainly defrayed by the treasury of Athena and by the public treasury of Athens. There was however a good case against Pericles both on grounds of policy and on grounds of justice. The plea for taking a part of the tribute (perhaps a sixtieth—besides the sixtieth which was consecrated to Athena) doubtless was that the restoration of Greek temples destroyed by the Persians was a duty which devolved upon all the Greeks. But Pericles, with bold sophistry, argued that the allies had no reason to complain, so long as Athens defended them efficiently ; this was the contract, and they had no right to interfere in her disposition of the funds. Three years after the Thirty Years’ Peace, Thucydides thought that he could bring the question to an issue, and he asked the people to adjudicate by the sherd. But the people voted for the ostracism of Thucydides, and henceforward Pericles had no opponent of influence to thwart his policy or cross his way. The buildings already begun could now be continued without criticism and new works could be undertaken. A great Hall of Music or Odeon, intended for the musical contests which had been recently added to the Panathenaic celebrations, was now erected on the east side of the Theatre of Dionysus. Its roof, made of the masts and arms of captured Persian ships, was pointed like a tent, and wits compared it to the helmet of Pericles the strategos. “The trial by sherd is over,” says someone in a play which the comic poet Cratinus put on the stage at this time; “so here comes Pericles, our peak-headed Zeus, with the Odeon set on his crown.”

Though Cimon, when he constructed the southern wall of the Acropolis, also built a new entrance-gate facing south-westward, it was too small and unimposing to relieve the frowning aspect of the walled hill. A more worthy approach, worthy of the Parthenon, was devised by the architect Mnesicles and met the approbation of Pericles. The buildings designed by Mnesicles occupied the whole west side of the hill. In the centre, on the brow of the height and facing westward, was to be the entrance with five gates, and on either side of this two vast columned halls—reaching to the north and south brinks of the hill—in which the Athenians could walk sheltered from sun and rain. Thrown out on the projecting cliffs in front of these trails were to be two spacious wings, flanking the ascent to the central gate. But the plan of Mnesicles took no account of the sanctuaries on the south-western part of the Acropolis, on which his new buildings would encroach. The southern colonnade would have cut short the precinct of Artemis Brauronia and the adjacent southern wing would have infringed on the enclosure of Athena Nike. On the north side there were no such impediments. The priests of these goddesses raised objections to the execution of the architect’s plan at the expense of their sacred precincts, and in consequence the grand idea of Mnesicles was only partly carried out. But even after the building had been begun, Pericles and his architect never abandoned the hope that the scruples of the priests might ultimately be overcome; and, while they omitted altogether the southern colonnade and reduced the proportions of the southern wing, they built in such a way that at some future time the structure might be easily enlarged to the measures of the original design. On the northern side, too, the idea of Mnesicles was not completed, but for a different reason. The covered colonnade was never built; it was left to the last, and, when the time came, Athens was threatened by a great war, and deemed it unwise to undertake any further outlay on building. But the north-western wing was built and was adorned with paintings. The greatest paintings that Athens possessed were however not on the hill but in buildings below; and they belonged to a somewhat earlier age. It was Cimon who brought Polygnotus of Thasos to Athens, and it was when Cimon was in power that he, at Athens, in collaboration with Micon, another eminent painter, decorated with life-size frescoes the new Theseum and the Anaceum, on the north side of the Acropolis, and the walls of the Painted Portico in the market-place. We have already cast a glance at the picture of the Battle of Marathon. The most famous of the pictures of the Thasian master was executed, after he had left Athens, for the speech­hall of the Cnidians at Delphi. Its subject was the underworld visited by Odysseus.

If it was vain for Athens to hope that Greece would yield her any formal acknowledgment of headship, she might at all events have the triumph of exerting intellectual influence even in the lands which were least ready to admit her claims. And in the field of art she partly fulfilled the ambition of Pericles, who, when he could not make her the queen, desired that she should be the instructress, of Hellas. When Phidias had completed the great statue of Athena in gold and ivory, and had seen it set up in the new temple, he went forth, invited by the men of Elis, to make the image for the temple of Zeus at Olympia. For five years in his workshop in the Altis the Athenian sculptor wrought at the “great chryselephantine god,” and the colossal image which came from his hands was probably the highest creation ever achieved by the plastic art of Greece. The Pan-hellenic god, seated on a lofty throne, and clad in a golden robe, held a Victory in his right hand, a sceptre in his left. He was bearded, and his hair was wreathed with a branch of olive. Many have borne witness to the impression which the serene aspect of this manifest divinity always produced upon the heart of the beholder. “Let a man sick and weary in his soul, who has passed through many distresses and sorrows, whose pillow is unvisited by kindly sleep, stand in front of this image; he will, I deem, forget all the terrors and troubles of human life.” An Athenian had wrought, for one of the two great centres of Hellenic religion, the most sublime expression of the Greek ideal of godhead. Nor was Phidias the only Athenian artist who worked abroad; we also find the architect Ictinus engaged in designing temples in the Peloponnesus.


Sect. 7. The Piraeus. Growth of Athenian Trade

The Piraeus had grown enormously since it had been fortified by The Themistocles; it was now one of the great ports and cheaping-towns “in the midst of Hellas,” and Pericles took in hand to make it a greater and fairer place. There was one weak point in the common defences of Piraeus and Athens. Between Munychia and the extreme end of the southern wall which ran down to the strand of Phaleron, there was an unfortified piece of marshy shore, where an enemy might land at night This defect might have been remedied by building a cross-wall, but a wholly different plan was adopted. A new long wall was built, running parallel and close to the northern wall, and, like it, joining the fortification of Piraeus with the “upper city,” as Athens was locally called. The southern or Phaleron wall consequently ceased to be part of the system of defence and was allowed to fall into disrepair. Round the three harbours shipsteads were constructed, in which the vessels could lie high and dry; and on the wharfs and quays new storehouses and buildings of sundry kinds arose for the convenience of shipping and trade. On the east side of the great Harbour the chief traffic was carried on in the Place of Commerce. This mart was marked off by boundary stones, some of which are still preserved, and was subject to the control of a special board of officers. The most famous of the buildings in the Place of Commerce was the colonnade known as the Deigma or Show-place, where merchants showed their wares. But Pericles was not content with the erection of new buildings; the whole town, which crept up the slopes of Munychia from the quays of the great Harbour, was laid out on a completely new system, which created considerable interest in Greece. It was the rectangular system, on which the main streets run parallel and are cut by cross streets at right angles. The Piraeus was the first town in Europe where this plan was adopted, which we now see carried out on a large scale in many modem cities. The idea was due to Hippodamus, an architect of Miletus, a man of a speculative as well as practical turn, who tried with less success to apply his principles of symmetry to politics, and sketched the scheme of a model state whose institutions were as precisely correlated as the streets of his model town.

The increase of Athenian trade was largely due to the decline of the merchant cities of Ionia, as well as to the blow which was struck to Phoenician commerce by the victory of Greece over Persia. The decay of Ionian commerce is strikingly reflected in the tribute-records of the Athenian Confederacy, where the small sums paid by the Ionians are contrasted with the larger tributes of the cities on the shores of the Propontis. Lampsacus contributes twice as much as Ephesus. Both trade and industry migrated from the eastern to the western and northern shores of the Aegean; and as this change coincided with the rise of her empire, it was Athens that it chiefly profited. The population of Athens and her harbour multiplied; and about this time the whole number of the inhabitants of Attica seems to have been about 250,000—perhaps more than twice as large as the population of the Corinthian state. But nearly half of these inhabitants were slaves; for one consequence of the growth of manufactures was the inflowing of slave “hands” into the manufacturing towns. In towns where the people subsisted on the fruits of agriculture the demand for slaves remained small. It should be observed that, although Greece, and especially Athens, consumed large quantities of corn brought from beyond the seas, this did not ruin the agriculture of Greece; the costs of transport were so great that home-grown corn could still be profitable.

Except in remote or unusually conservative regions, money had now entirely displaced more primitive standards of exchange and valuation. Most Greek states of any size issued their own coins, and their money at this time was in almost all cases silver. Silver had become plentiful, and prices had necessarily gone up. Thus the price of barley and wheat had become two or three times dearer than a hundred years before. Far more remarkable was the increase in the price of stock. In the days of Solon a sheep could be bought for a drachma; in the days of Pericles, its cost might approach fifty drachmae. As money was cheap, interest should have been low; but mercantile enterprise was so active, the demand for capital so great, and security so inadequate, that the usual price of a loan was twelve per cent.


Sect. 8. Athenian Enterprise in Italy


In the far west Athens was spreading her influence and pushing her trade. She supplied Etruria with her black red-figured pottery, and there was a market for these products of her industry even in the remote valley of the Po. Her ships brought back metal-works from Tuscany, carpets and cushions from Carthage, corn, cheese and pork from Sicily. The Greek cities of Sicily had gradually adopted the Attic standard for their currency; and in the little Italian republic on the Tiber, which was afterwards destined to make laws for the whole world, the fame of the legislation of Solon was so high that envoys were sent to Athens to obtain a copy of the code. Thus Athens had stepped into the place of Chalcis; she was now the chief Ionian trader with Italian and Sicilian lands. Her rival in this western commerce was Corinth, but she was beginning to out­distance the great Dorian merchant-city. In this competition Athens had one advantage. By the possession of Naupactus she could control the entrance to the Corinthian gulf—a perpetual menace to Corinth; while the hatred which existed between Corinth and her colony Corcyra prevented this island from being as useful as it should have been to the Corinthian traffic with the west. On the other hand, Corinth had the advantage of having important colonies in the west, with which she maintained intimate relations, especially Syracuse; and these maritime cities were centres of her trade and influence. Next to Athens herself, Syracuse was probably the largest and most populous city in the Greek world. Athens had no colonies and no such centres. The disadvantage was felt by Themistocles, and his active brain devised the occupation of the site of Siris, which had been destroyed by its neighbours, but the scheme was not realised. At length the opportunity came, when Pericles was at the head of affairs; here, as in other cases, it fell upon him to execute ideas of Themistocles.

The men of old Sybaris, who since the destruction of their own town had dwelled in neighbouring cities, thought that they might at length return to build a new Sybaris on the old site; but within five years their old foes, the men of Croton, went up and drove them out. Yet they did not despair, but hoped to compass with the help of others what they had failed to accomplish by themselves. They Sybarites invited Athens and Sparta to take part in founding a new city. For Sparta the offer had no attraction; but for Athens it was a welcome opportunity. The land of Sybaris was famous for its fertility, and the position was suitable for Athenian commerce. But Pericles determined to give the enterprise an international significance; it was to be more than a mere Athenian speculation. It was proclaimed throughout the Peloponnesus that whosoever wished might take part in the foundation of the new colony. The Peloponnesus—and especially Achaea, with whose cities Athens had been closely connected in recent years—was the mother country of the Greek colonies which fringed the Tarentine gulf; and the idea of Pericles was that the mother country, under the auspices of Athens, should establish the new city. Achaea, Arcadia, and Elis responded to the call; New Sybaris was founded; and the Athenian predominance was expressed in the image of Athena with Attic helmet on the coins of the young city. 

But the men of old Sybaris were not content to stand on an equal footing with the colonists who had come to help them from the mother-country. They thought that their old connexion with the place entitled them to a privileged position; they claimed an exclusive right to the most important offices in the state. Such claims could not be tolerated; a battle was fought; and the Sybarites were driven out. But, when the city was thus deplenished, there was a pressing need for men; and for the second time an appeal was made to Athens, but this time from her own children.

To the second appeal Athens, under the guidance of Pericles, responded by an enterprise on a still greater scale. All Greece was now invited to take part in founding a Panhellenic colony. In carrying out this project the right-hand man of Pericles was the Seer and Interpreter (Exegete) Lampon, who was closely connected with the Eleusinian worship, and was the highest authority in Athens on all matters pertaining to religion. He obtained from the Delphic god an oracle touching the new colony; it was to be planted where men could drink water by measure and eat bread without measure. At Athens the enemies of Pericles opposed the project, and especially the Panhellenic character which he sought to impress upon it. Cratinus brought out a play deriding Lampon, and asking whether Pericles was a second Theseus who wanted to synoecize the whole of Greece. But Greece responded to the Athenian proposal, and the colony went forth under the guidance of Lampon. Not far from the site of Sybaris they found a stream gushing from a bronze pipe, 443 B.C., which was locally known as the Bushel. Here clearly was the measured water to which the oracle pointed; while the land was so fruitful that it might well be said to furnish bread without measure. The place was named Thurii, and the new city was designed by Hippodamus, the architect who had laid out the Piraeus in rectangular streets. The constitution of Thurii was naturally a democracy; but though the influence of the Athenian model might be recognised, the colony adopted not the laws of Solon, but those of Zaleucus, the lawgiver of Locri. Some years after the foundation, the question was asked, Who was the founder? and the Delphic god himself claimed the honour. The coins of Thurii were stamped with Athena’s head and an olive branch; and the place became, as it was intended, a centre of Athenian influence in Italy, although the Attic element in the population failed to maintain its predominance.


Sect. 9. Athenian Policy in Thrace and the Euxine

But Athens had greater and more immediate interests in the eastern sea where she succeeded Miletus than in the western where she succeeded Chalcis. The importance of the imports from the Pontus, especially corn, fish, and wood, was more vital than that of the wares which came to her from the west; and hence there was nothing of higher consequence in the eyes of a clear-sighted statesman than the assurance of the line of communication between Athens and the Euxine sea, and the occupation of strong and favourable points on the coasts of the Euxine itself. The outer gate of the Euxine was secured by the possession of the Chersonese which Pericles strengthened, and the inner gate by the control of Byzantium and Chalcedon, members of the Athenian Confederacy. In the Euxine, Athens relied on the Greek towns which, fringing the shores at distant intervals, looked to her for support against the neighbouring barbarians. The corn-market in the Athenian agora was sensitive to every political movement in Thrace and Scythia; and it was necessary to be ever ready to support the ships of trade by the presence of ships of war. The growth of a large Thracian kingdom under Teres and his son Sitalces demanded the attention of Athenian statesmen to these regions more pressingly than ever. The power of Teres reached to the Danube, and his influence to the Dnieper; for he married his daughter to the king of the neighbouring Scythians.

It was in order to impress the barbarians of the Euxine regions with a just sense of the greatness of the Athenian sea-power that Pericles sailed himself to the Pontus, in command of an imposing squadron. Of that voyage we know little. It is ascertained that he visits the visited Sinope, and that in consequence of his visit the Athenians gained a permanent footing at that important point. It is probable that he also sailed to the Cimmerian Bosphorus and visited the Archaeanactid lords of Panticapaeum, who were distinguished for many a long year by their abiding friendship to Athens in her good and evil days alike. As Panticapaeum was the centre of the Euxine corn trade, this intimacy was of the highest importance.

The union of the Thracian tribes under a powerful king constrained Athens also to keep a watchful eye upon the north coast of the Aegean and the eastern frontier of Macedonia. The most important point on that coast both from a commercial and a strategic point of view was the mouth of the Strymon, where the Athenians possessed the fortress of Eion. Not far from the mouth was the bridge over which all the trade between Thrace and Macedonia passed to and fro; and up the Strymon valley ran the chief roads into the “Hinterland.” The mountains of the neighbourhood were famous for the veins of gold and silver stored in their recesses; the Macedonian king Alexander had tapped a mine near Lake Prasias which yielded daily a silver talent. In the days of Cimon, Athens had attempted to strengthen Eion by establishing a colony at the Nine Ways, by the Strymon bridge. We saw how that attempt roused the opposition of Thasos, whose interests it menaced; and, though Thasos was subdued, the colony of the Nine Ways was destroyed by the neighbouring barbarians. Thirty years later, Pericles resumed the project with greater success. Hagnon, son of Nicias, led forth a colony, of Athenians and others, and founded a new city, surrounded on three sides by the Strymon-stream, and called its name Amphipolis. It flourished and became, as was inevitable, the most important place on the coast. But a local feeling grew up unfavourable to the mother-country, and the city was lost to Athens within fifteen years of its foundation, as we shall see hereafter.


Sect.10. The Revolt of Samos

After the ostracism of Thucydides, Pericles reigned, the undisputed leader Athenian policy, for nearly fifteen years. He ruled as absolutely as a tyrant, and folk might have said that his rule was a continuation of the tyranny of the Pisistratids. But his position was entirely constitutional, and it had the stablest foundation, his moral influence over the sovereign people. He had the power of persuading them to do whatever he thought good, and every year for fifteen years after his rival’s banishment he was elected one of the generals. Although all the ten generals nominally possessed equal powers, yet the man who possessed the supreme political influence and enjoyed the confidence of the people was practically chief of the ten and had the conduct of foreign affairs in his hands. Pericles was not irresponsible; for at the end of any official year the people could decline to re-elect him and call him to account for his actions. When he had once gained the undisputed mastery, the only forces which he used to maintain it were wisdom and eloquence. Whatever devices he may have employed in his earlier career for party purposes, he rejected now all vulgar means of courting popularity or catching votes. He believed in himself; and he sought to raise the people to his own wisdom, he would not stoop to their folly. The desire of autocratic authority was doubtless part of his nature; but his spirit was fine enough to feel that it was a greater thing to be leader of freemen whom he must convince by speech than despot of subjects who must obey his nod. Yet this leader of democracy was disdainful of the vulgar herd; and perhaps no one knew more exactly than he the weak points in a democratic constitution. There is no better equipment for the highest statesmanship than the temper which holds aloof from the public and shows a front of good-natured indifference towards unfriendly criticism; and we may be sure that this quality in the temperament of Pericles helped to establish his success and maintain his supremacy.

Pericles was a man of finer fibre than Themistocles, but he was not like Themistocles a statesman of originative genius. He originated little; he elaborated the ideas of others. He brought to perfection the sovereignty of the people which had been fully established in principle long ago; he raised to its height the empire which had been already founded. As an orator he may have had true genius; of that we cannot judge. It was his privilege to guide the policy of his country at a time when she had poets and artists who stand alone and eminent not only in her own annals and those of Greece, but in the history of mankind. The Periclean age, the age of Sophocles and Euripides, Ictinus and Phidias, was not made by Pericles. But Pericles, though not creative, was one of its most interesting figures. Perhaps his best service to Greece was one which is often overlooked: the preservation of peace for twelve years between Athens and her jealous continental neighbours—an achievement which demanded statesmanship of no ordinary tact.

In his military operations he seems to have been competent, though we have not material to criticise them minutely; he was at least generally successful. Five years after the Thirty Years’ Peace, he was called upon to display his generalship. Athens was, involved in a war with one of the strongest members of her Confederacy, the island of Samos. The occasion of this war was a dispute which Samos had with another member, Miletus, about the possession of Priene. It appears that Athens, some years before, had settled the constitution of Miletus and placed a garrison in the city; and yet we now find Miletus engaged in a struggle with a non-tributary ally, and, when she is worsted, appealing to Athens. The case shows how little we know of the various orderings of the relations between Athens and her allies and subjects. One would have thought the decision of such a case would have rested with Athens from the first. On the appeal, she decided in favour of Miletus, and Pericles sailed with forty-four triremes to Samos where he overthrew the aristocracy, carried away a number of hostages, and established a democratic constitution, leaving a garrison to protect it. The nobles who fled to the mainland returned one night, captured the garrison and handed them over to the Persian satrap of Sardis, with whom they were intriguing. They also recovered the hostages who had been lodged in the island of Lemnos. Athens received another blow at the same time by the revolt of Byzantium.

Pericles sailed speedily back to Samos and invested it with a large fleet. Hearing that a Phoenician squadron was coming to assist the Samians, he raised the siege and with a part of his armament went to meet it. During his absence the Samians gained some successes against the Athenian ships which were anchored close to the harbour. At the end of two weeks Pericles returned; either the Phoenicians had not appeared after all, or they had been induced to sail home. Well-nigh 200 warships now blockaded Samos, and at the end of nine months the city surrendered. The Samians undertook to pull down their walls, to surrender their ships, and pay a war indemnity which amounted to 1500 talents or thereabouts. They became subject to Athens and were obliged to furnish soldiers to her armies, but they were not made tributary.

The Athenian citizens who fell in the war received a public burial at Athens. Pericles pronounced the funeral oration, and it may have been on this occasion that he used a famous phrase of the young men who had fallen. The spring, he said, was taken out of the year.

Byzantium also came back to the confederacy. It had been a trying moment for Athens; for she had some reason to fear Peloponnesian intervention. Sparta and her allies had met to consider the situation; and the Corinthians afterwards claimed, whether truly or not, that they deprecated any interference, on the general principle that every state should be left to deal with her own rebellious allies. However the Corinthians may have acted on this occasion, it was chiefly the commercial jealousy existing between Athens and Corinth that brought on the ultimate outbreak of hostilities between the Athenians and Peloponnesians, which led to the destruction of the Athenian empire.

It seems that during the excitement of the Samian war, Pericles deemed it expedient to place some restraints upon the licence of the comic drama. What he feared was the effect which the free criticisms of the comic poets on his policy might have, not upon the Athenians themselves, but upon the strangers who were present in the theatre, and especially upon citizens of the subject states. The precaution shows that the situation was critical; though the restraints were withdrawn as soon as possible, for they were contrary to the spirit of the time. Henceforward the only check on the comic poet was that he might be prosecuted before the Council of Five Hundred for “doing wrong to the people,” if his jests against the officers of the people went too far.

Comedy had grown up in Athens out of the mummeries of masked revellers who kept the feasts of Dionysus by singing phallic songs and flinging coarse jests at the folk. It was not till after the Persian war that the state recognised it. Then a place was given at the great festival of Dionysus to comic competitions. To the three days which were devoted to the competitions of tragedies a fourth was added for the new contest. The comic drama then assumed form and shape. Magnes and Chionides were its first masters; but they were eclipsed by Cratinus, the most brilliant comic poet of the age of Pericles.

There is no more significant symptom of the political and social health of the Athenian state in the period of its empire, than the perfect freedom which was accorded to the comic stage, to laugh at everything in earth and heaven, and splash with ridicule every institution of the city and every movement of the day, to libel the statesmen and even jest at the gods. Such license is never permitted in an age of decadence even under the shelter of religious usage. It can only prevail in a free country where men’s belief in their owm strength and virtue, in the excellence of their institutions and their ideals, is still true, deep, and fervent; then they can afford to laugh at themselves. The Old Comedy is a most telling witness to the greatness of Athens.


Sect. 11. Higher Education. The Sophists

Since the days of Nestor and Odysseus, the art of persuasive speech was held in honour by the Greeks. With the rise of the democratic commonwealths it became more important, and the greater attention which was paid to the cultivation of oratory may perhaps be reflected in the introduction of a new class of proper names, which refer to excellence in addressing public assemblies. The institutions of a Greek democratic city presupposed in the average citizen the faculty of speaking in public, and for anyone who was ambitious for a political career it was indispensable. If a man was hauled into a law-court by his enemies, and knew not how to speak, he was like an unarmed civilian attacked by soldiers in panoply. The power of clearly expressing ideas in such a way as to persuade an audience, was an art to be learned and taught. But it was not enough to gain command of a vocabulary; it was necessary to learn how to argue, and to exercise one’s self in the discussion of political and ethical questions. There was a demand for higher education.

This tendency of democracy corresponded to the growth of that spirit of inquiry which had first revealed itself in Ionia in the field of natural philosophy. The study of nature had passed into a higher stage in the hands of two men of genius, whose speculations have had an abiding effect on science. Empedocles distinguished the “four elements,” and explained the development of the universe by the forces of attraction and repulsion which have held their place till today in scientific theory. He also foreshadowed the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. Democritus, of Abdera, a man of vast learning, originated the atomic theory, which was in later days popularised by Epicurus, and in still later by the Roman Lucretius. The scientific imagination of Democritus generated the world from atoms, like in quality but different in size and weight, existing in void space. Such advances in the explanation of nature implied and promoted a new conception of what may be called “methodized” knowledge, and this conception was applied to every subject. The second half of the fifth century was an age of technical treatises; oratory and cookery were alike reduced to systems; political institutions and received morality became the subject of scientific inquiry. Desire of knowledge had led the Greeks to seek more information about foreign lands and peoples; they had begun both to know more of the world and to regard it with a more critical mind; enlightenment was spreading, prejudices were being dispelled. Herodotus, who was far from being a sceptic, fully appreciates the instructiveness of the story which he tells, how Darius asked some Greeks for what price they would be willing to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. When they cry that nothing would induce them to do so, the king calls a tribe of Indians who eat their parents, and asks them what price they would accept to bum the bodies of their fathers. The Indians exclaim against the bare thought of such a horror. Custom, Pindar had said and Herodotus echoes, is king of the world; and men began to distinguish between custom and nature. They felt that their own conventions and institutions required justification; the authority of usage and antiquity was not enough; and they compared human society with nature. The appeal to nature led indeed to very opposite theories. In the sight of nature, it was said, all are equal; birth and wealth are indifferent; therefore the state should be built on the basis of perfect equality. On the other hand, it was argued that in the state of nature the strong man subdues the weaker and rules over them; therefore monarchy is the natural constitution. But it matters little what particular inferences were drawn; for no attempt was made to put them into practice. The main point is that the questioning spirit was active; there were clever men everywhere, who refused to take anything on authority; who always asked, how do you know? and claimed to discuss all things in heaven and earth.

It was in this atmosphere of critical inquiry and scepticism that Greece had to provide for the higher education of her youth, which the practical conditions of the democracy demanded. The demand was met by teachers who travelled about and gave general instruction in the art of speaking and in the art of reasoning, and, out of their encyclopaedic knowledge, lectured on all possible subjects. They received fees for their course, and were called Sophists, of which name perhaps our best equivalent is “professors”. Properly a sophist meant one who was eminently proficient in some particular art—in poetry, for instance, or cookery. As applied to the teachers who educated the youths who were able to pay, the name acquired a slightly unfavourable colour—partly owing to the distrust felt by the masses towards men who know too much, partly to the prejudice which in Greece always existed more or less against those who gave their services for pay, partly too to the jealousy of those who were too poor to pay the fees and were consequently at a great disadvantage in public life compared with men whom a sophist had trained. But this haze of contempt which hung about the sophistic profession did not imply the idea that the professors were impostors, who deliberately sought to hoodwink the public by arguments in which they did not believe themselves. That suggestion—which has determined the modern meaning of “sophist” and “sophistry”—was first made by the philosopher Plato, and it is entirely unhistorical.

The sophists did not confine themselves to teaching. They wrote much; they discussed occasional topics, criticised political affairs, diffused ideas; and it has been said that this part of their activity supplied in some measure the place of modern journalism. But the greatest of the professors were much more than either teachers or journalists. They not only diffused but set afloat ideas; they enriched the world with contributions to knowledge. They were all alike rationalists, spreaders of enlightenment; but they were very various in their views and doctrines. Gorgias of Leontini, Protagoras of Abdera, Prodicus of Ceos, Hippias of Elis, Socrates of Athens, each had his own strongly marked individuality. To Socrates, who has a place apart from the others, we shall revert in a later chapter. Prodicus of Ceos was a pessimist; and it was doubtless he whom the poet Euripides meant by the man who considered the ills of men to be more in number than their good things. It was Prodicus who invented the famous fable of Heracles at the crossway choosing between virtue and pleasure. Of all the sophists Protagoras was perhaps the greatest. He first distinguished the parts of speech and founded the science of grammar for Europe. His activity as a teacher was chiefly at Athens, where he seems to have been intimate with Pericles. The story that Pericles and Protagoras spent a whole day arguing on the theory of punishment—a question which is still unsettled—illustrates the services which the sophists rendered to speculation. The retributive theory of justice, which logically enough led to the trial and punishment of animals and inanimate things, was called in question; and a counter theory started that the object of punishment was to deter. Protagoras was a victim of the religious prejudices of the Athenians. He wrote a theological book, which he published by reading it aloud before a chosen audience in the house of his friend Euripides. The thesis of the work is probably contained in the first sentence: “In regard to the gods I cannot know that they exist, nor yet that they do not exist; for many things hinder such knowledge,—the obscurity of the matter, and the shortness of human life”.  Protagoras may have himself believed in the gods; what he asserted was that their existence could not be a matter of knowledge. Unluckily the book itself has perished. For a certain Pythodorus came forward as the standard-bearer of the state religion, and accused Protagoras of impiety. The philosopher deemed it wise to flee from Athens; he sailed for Sicily and was lost at sea. When Euripides makes the choir of Thracian women in his play of Palamedes cry bitterly, “Ye have slain, O Greeks, ye have slain the nightingale of the Muses, the wizard bird that did no wrong”,  the poet was thinking of the dead friend who had come from the Thracian city. The sale of the book of Protagoras was forbidden in Athens, and all copies that could be found were publicly burned.

The case of Protagoras was not the only case of the kind. Years before, the philosopher Anaxagoras had been condemned for impiety; years after, Socrates would be condemned. These cases show that the Athenians were not more enlightened than other peoples, or less prejudiced. The attitude of Protagoras to theology was perfectly compatible with a fervent devotion to the religion of the state; but an Athenian jury was not sufficiently well-educated to discern this. When we admire the spread of knowledge and reasoning in the fifth century, we must remember that the mass of citizens was not reached by the new light; they were still sunk in ignorance, suspicious and jealous of the training which could be got only by sons of the comparatively well-to-do, or those who were exceptionally intellectual.

Gorgias was a philosophical thinker and a politician, but he won his renown as an orator and a stylist. He taught Greece how to write a new kind of prose — not the cold style which appeals only to the understanding, but a brilliant style, rhythmic, flowery in diction, full of figures, speaking to the sense and imagination. In the inscription of a statue which his grand-nephew erected to him at Olympia, it is. said : “No mortal ever invented a fairer art, to temper the soul for manlihood and virtue”. Wherever he went he was received with enthusiasm; we shall presently meet him as an ambassador at Athens.

The sophists were the chief, the professional expounders of the intellectual movement. But the exaltation of reason had a no less powerful supporter in the poet Euripides. He used the tragic stage to disseminate rationalism; he undermined the popular religion from the very steps of the altar. By the necessity of the case he accomplished his work indirectly, but with consummate dexterity. Aeschylus and Sophocles had reverently modified religious legend, adapting it to their own ideals, interpreting it so as to satisfy their own moral standard. Euripides takes the myths just as he finds them, and contrives his dramas so as to bring the absurdities into relief. He does not acquiesce, like the older tragic poets, in the ways of the gods with men; he is not content to be a resigned pessimist. He will receive nothing on authority; he declines to bow to the orthodox opinions of his respectable fellow-countrymen, on such matters as the institution of slavery, or the position of women in society. He refuses to endorse the inveterate prejudice which prevailed even at Athens in favour of noble birth. But perhaps nothing is so significant as his attitude to the contempt which the Greeks universally felt for other races than their own. Nowhere is Euripides more sarcastic than when, in his Medea, he makes Jason pose as a benefactor of the woman whom he has basely betrayed, on the ground that he has brought her out of an obscure barbarian home, and enabled her to enjoy the privilege of—living in Greece.

Yet we need not go to the most daring thinkers, to Euripides and the sophists, to discern the spirit of criticism at work. The Periclean age has left us few more significant, and certainly no more beautiful, monuments than a tragic drama which won the first prize at the great Dionysia a few years after the Thirty Years’ Peace. The soul of Sophocles was in untroubled harmony with the received religion; but, living in an atmosphere of criticism and speculation, even he could not keep his mind aloof from the questions which were debated by the thoughtful men of his time. He took as the motive of his Antigone a deep and difficult question of political and of ethical science—the relation of the individual citizen to the state. What shall a man do if his duty of obedience to the government of his country conflicts with other duties? Are there any obligations higher than that of loyalty to the laws of his city? The poet answers that there are such,—for instance, certain obligations of religion. He justifies Antigone in her disobedience to the king’s decree. The motive lends itself to dramatic treatment, and never has it been handled with such consummate art as by him who first saw its possibilities. But it is worth observing that the Antigone, besides its importance in the history of dramatic poetry, has a high significance in the development of European thought, as the first presentation of a problem which both touches the very roots of ethical theory and is, in daily practice, constantly clamouring for solution.