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THE territory indicated in the last chapter—south of Mount Olympus, and south of the line which connects the city of Ambracia with Mount Pindus—was occupied during the historical period by the central stock of the Hellens, or Greeks, from which their numerous outlying colonies were planted out.

Both metropolitans and colonists styled themselves Hellens, and were recognized as such by each other; all glorying in the name as the prominent symbol of fraternity; all describing non-Hellenic men, or cities, by a word which involved associations of repugnance. Our term barbarian, borrowed from this latter word, does not express the same idea; for the Greeks spoke thus indiscriminately of the extra-Hellenic world, with all its inhabitants; whatever might be the gentleness of their character, and whatever might be their degree of civilization. The rulers and people of Egyptian Thebes, with their ancient and gigantic monuments, the wealthy Tyrians and Carthaginians, the Phil-Hellene Arganthonius of Tartessus, and the well-disciplined patricians of Rome (to the indignation of old Cato) were all comprised in it. At first, it seemed to have expressed more of repugnance than of contempt, and repugnance especially towards the sound of a foreign language. Afterwards, a feeling of their own superior intelligence (in part well justified) arose among the Greeks, and their term barbarian was used so as to imply a low state of the temper and intelligence; in which sense it was retained by the semi-Hellenized Romans, as the proper antithesis to their state of civilization. The want of a suitable word, corresponding to barbarian, as the Greeks originally used it, is so inconvenient in the description of Grecian phenomena and sentiments, that I may be obliged occasionally to use the word in its primitive sense.

The Hellens were all of common blood and parentage, were all descendants of the common patriarch Helen. In treating of the historical Greeks, we have to accept this as a datum: it represents the sentiment under the influence of which they moved and acted. It is placed by Herodotus in the front rank, as the chief of those four ties which bound together the Hellenic aggregate: 1. Fellowship of blood; 2. Fellowship of language; 3. Fixed domiciles of gods, and sacrifices, common to all; 4. Like manners and dispositions.

These (say the Athenians, in their reply to the Spartan envoys, in the very crisis of the Persian invasion) "Athens will never disgrace herself by betraying". And Zeus Hellenius was recognized as the god watching over and enforcing the fraternity time constituted.

Hekataeus, Herodotus, and Thucydides, all believed that there had been an ante-Hellenic period, when different languages, mutually unintelligible, were spoken between Mount Olympus and Cape Malea. However this may be, during the historical times the Greek language was universal throughout these limits, branching out, however, into a great variety of dialects, which were roughly classified by later literary men into Ionic, Doric, Aeolic, and Attic. But the classification presents a semblance of regularity, which in point of fact does not seem to have been realized; each town, each smaller subdivision of the Hellenic name, having peculiarities of dialect belonging to itself. Now the lettered men who framed the quadruple division took notice chiefly, if not exclusively, of the written dialects, those which had been ennobled by poets or other authors; the mere spoken idioms were for the most part neglected. That there was no such thing as one Ionic dialect in the speech of the people called Ionic Greek, we know from the indisputable testimony of Herodotus, who tells us that there were four capital varieties of speech among the twelve Asiatic towns especially known as Ionic. Of course, the varieties would have been much more numerous if he had given us the impressions of his ear in Euboea, the Cyclades, Massalia, Rhegium, and Olbia, all numbered as Greeks and as Ionians. The Ionic dialect of the grammarians was an extract from Homer, Hekataeus, Herodotus, Hippocrates, etc.; to what living speech it made the nearest approach, amidst those divergences which the historian has made known to us, we cannot tell. Sappho and Alkaeus in Lesbos, Myrtis and Korinna in Boeotia, were the great sources of reference for the Lesbian and Boeotian varieties of the Aeolic dialect, of which there was a third variety, untouched by the poets, in Thessaly. The analogy between the different manifestations of Doric and Aeolic, as well as that between the Doric generally and the Aeolic generally, contrasted with the Attic, is only to be taken as rough and approximative.

But all these different dialects are nothing more than dialects, distinguished as modifications of one and the same language, and exhibiting evidence of certain laws and principles pervading them all. They seem capable of being traced back to a certain ideal mother-language, peculiar in itself and distinguishable from, though cognate with, the Latin; a substantive member of what has been called the Indo-European family of languages. This truth has been brought out, in recent times, by the comparative examination applied to the Sanscrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, German, and Lithuanian languages, as well as by the more accurate analysis of the Greek language itself to which such studies have given rise, in a manner much more clear than could have been imagined by the ancients themselves. It is needless to dwell upon the importance of this uniformity of language in holding together the race, and in rendering the genius of its most favored members available to the civilization of all. Except in the rarest cases, the divergences of dialect were not such as to prevent every Greek from understanding, and being understood by, every other Greek, a fact remarkable, when we consider how many of their outlying colonists, not having taken out women in their emigration, intermarried with non-Hellenic wives. And the perfection and popularity of their early epic poems, was here of inestimable value for the diffusion of a common type of language, and for thus keeping together the sympathies of the Hellenic world. The Homeric dialect became the standard followed by all Greek poets for the hexameter, as may be seen particularly from the example of Hesio,— who adheres to it in the main, though his father was a native of the Aeolic Kyme, and he himself resident at Askra, in the Aeolic Boeotia, and the early iambic and elegiac compositions are framed on the same model. Intellectual Greeks in all cities, even the most distant outcasts from the central hearth, became early accustomed to one type of literary speech, and possessors of a common stock of legends, maxims, and metaphors.


That community of religious sentiments, localities, and sacrifices, which Herodotus names as the third bond of union among the Greeks, was a phenomenon, not (like the race and the language) interwoven with their primitive constitution, but of gradual growth. In the time of Herodotus, and even a century earlier, it was at its full maturity : but there had been a period when no religious meetings common to the whole Hellenic body existed. What are called the Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian games, (the four most conspicuous amidst many others analogous,) were, in reality, great religious festivals, for the gods then gave their special sanction, name, and presence, to recreative meetings, the closest association then prevailed between the feelings of common worship and the sympathy in common amusement.

Though this association is now no longer recognized, it is, nevertheless, essential that we should keep it fully before us, if we desire to understand the life and proceedings of the Greeks. To Herodotus and his contemporaries, these great festivals, then frequented by crowds from every part of Greece, were of overwhelming importance and interest; yet they had once been purely local, attracting no visitors except from a very narrow neighborhood. In the Homeric poems, much is said about the common gods, and about special places consecrated to and occupied by several of them: the chiefs celebrate funeral games in honor of a deceased father, which are visited by competitors from different parts of Greece, but nothing appears to manifest public or town festivals open to Grecian visitors generally. And, though the rocky Pytho, with its temple, stands out in the Iliad as a place both venerated and rich, the Pythian games, under the superintendence of the Amphiktyons, with continuous enrolment of victors, and a Pan-Hellenic reputation, do not begin until after the Sacred War, in the 48th Olympiad, or 586 BC.

The Olympic games, more conspicuous than the Pythian, as well as considerably older, are also remarkable on another ground, inasmuch as they supplied historical computers with the oldest backward record of continuous time. It was in the year 776 BC, that the Eleians inscribed the name of their countryman, Koroebus, as victor in the competition of runners, and that they began the practice of inscribing in like manner, in each Olympic, or fifth recurring year, the name of the runner who won the prize. Even for a long time after this, however, the Olympic games seem to have remained a local festival; the prize being uniformly carried off, at the first twelve Olympiads, by some competitor either of Elis or its immediate neighborhood. The Nemean and Isthmian games did not become notorious or frequented until later even than the Pythian. Solon, in his legislation, proclaimed the large reward of five hundred drachms for every Athenian who gained an Olympic prize, and the lower sum of one hundred drachms for an Isthmiac prize. He counts the former, as Pan-Hellenic rank and renown, an ornament even to the city of which the victor was a member, the latter, as partial, and confined to the neighborhood.

Of the beginnings of these great solemnities, we cannot presume to speak, except in mythical language: we know them only in their comparative maturity. But the habit of common sacrifice, on a small scale, and between near neighbors, is a part of the earliest habits of Greece. The sentiment of fraternity, between two tribes or villages, first manifested itself by sending a sacred legation, or Theoria, to offer sacrifice at each other's festivals, and to partake in the recreations which followed; thus establishing a truce with solemn guarantee, and bringing themselves into direct connection each with the god of the other under his appropriate local surname. The pacific communion so fostered, and the increased assurance of intercourse, as Greece gradually emerged from the turbulence and pugnacity of the heroic age, operated especially in extending the range of this ancient habit: the village festivals became town festivals, largely frequented by the citizens of other towns, and sometimes with special invitations sent round to attract Theors from every Hellenic community, and thus these once humble assemblages gradually swelled into the pomp and immense confluence of the Olympic and Pythian games. The city administering such holy ceremonies enjoyed inviolability of territory during the month of their occurrence, being itself under obligation at that time to refrain from all aggression, as well as to notify by heralds the commencement of the truce to all other cities not in avowed hostility with it. Elis imposed heavy fines upon other towns—even on the powerful Lacedaemon—for violation of the Olympic truce, on pain of exclusion from the festival in case of nonpayment.

Sometimes this tendency to religious fraternity took a form called an Amphiktyony, different from the common festival. A certain number of towns entered into an exclusive religious partnership, for the celebration of sacrifices periodically to the god of a particular temple, which was supposed to be the common property, and under the common protection of all, though one of the number was often named as permanent administrator; while all other Greeks were excluded. That there were many religious partnerships of this sort, which have never acquired a place in history, among the early Grecian villages, we may, perhaps, gather from the etymology of the word, (Amphiktyons designates residents around, or neighbors, considered in the point of view of fellow-religionists,) as well as from the indications preserved to us in reference to various parts of the country. Thus there was an Amphiktyony of seven cities at the holy island of Kalauria, close to the harbor of Troezen. Hermione, Epidaurus, Aegina, Athens, Prasiae, Nauplia, and Orchomenus, jointly maintained the temple and sanctuary of Poseidon in that island, (with which it would seem that the city of Treezen, though close at hand, had no connection,) meeting there at stated periods, to offer formal sacrifices. These seven cities, indeed, were not immediate neighbors, but the specialty and exclusiveness of their interest in the temple is seen from the fact, that when the Argeians took Nauplia, they adopted and fulfilled these religious obligations on behalf of the prior inhabitants : so, also, did the Lacedaemonians, when they had captured Prasiae. Again, in Triphylia, situated between the Pisatid and Messenia, in the western part of Peloponnesus, there was a similar religious meeting and partnership of the Triphylians on Cape Samikon, at the temple of the Samian Poseidon. Here, the inhabitants of Makiston were entrusted with the details of superintendence, as well as with the duty of notifying beforehand the exact time of meeting, (a precaution essential amidst the diversities and irregularities of the Greek calendar,) and also of proclaiming what was called the Samian truce,—a temporary abstinence from hostilities, which bound all Triphylians during the holy period. This latter custom discloses the salutary influence of such institutions in presenting to men's minds a common object of reverence, common duties, and common enjoyments; thus generating sympathies and feelings of mutual obligation amidst petty communities not less fierce than suspicious. So, too, the twelve chief Ionic cities in and near Asia Minor, had their Pan-Ionic Amphiktyony peculiar to themselves: the six Doric cities, in and near the southern corner of that peninsula, combined for the like purpose at the temple of the Triopian Apollo; and the feeling of special partnership is here particularly illustrated by the fact, that Halikarnassus, one of the six, was formally extruded by the remaining five, in consequence of a violation of the rules. There was also an Amphiktyonic union at Onchestus in Boeotia, in the venerated grove and temple of Poseidon : of whom it consisted, we are not informed. These are some specimens of the sort of special religious conventions and assemblies which seem to have been frequent throughout Greece. Nor ought we to omit those religious meetings and sacrifices which were common to all the members of one Hellenic subdivision, such as the Pam-Boeotia to all the Boeotians, celebrated at the temple of the Itonian Athena near Koroneia,—the common observances, rendered to the temple of Apollo Pythaeus at Argos, by all those neighboring towns which had once been attached by this religious thread to the Argeians,— the similar periodical ceremonies, frequented by all who bore the Achaean or Aetolian name, — and the splendid and exhilarating festivals, so favorable to the diffusion of the early Grecian poetry, which brought all Ionians at stated intervals to the sacred island of Delos. This latter class of Festivals agreed with the Amphiktyony, in being of a special and exclusive character, not open to all Greeks.


But there was one amongst these many Amphiktyonies, which, though starting from the smallest beginnings, gradually expanded into so comprehensive a character, and acquired so marked a predominance over the rest, as to be called The Amphiktyonic Assembly, and even to have been mistaken by some authors for a sort of federal Hellenic Diet. Twelve sub-races, out of the number which made up entire Hellas, belonged to this ancient Amphiktyony, the meetings of which were held twice in every year : in spring, at the temple of Apollo at Delphi; in autumn, at Thermopylae, in the sacred precinct of Demeter Amphiktyonis. Sacred deputies, including a chief called the Hieromnemon, and subordinates called the Pylagoraae, attended at these meetings from each of the twelve races : a crowd of volunteers seem to have accompanied them, for purposes of sacrifice, trade, or enjoyment. Their special, and most important function, consisted in watching over the Delphian temple, in which all the twelve sub-races had a joint interest; and it was the immense wealth and national ascendency of this temple, which enhanced to so great a pitch the dignity of its acknowledged administrators.

The twelve constituent members were as follows : Thessalians, Boeotians, Dorians, Ionians, Perrhaebians, Magnetes, Lokrians, Oetaeans, Achaeans, Phokians, Dolopes, and Malians. All are counted as races, (if we treat the Hellenes as a race, we must call these sub-races), no mention being made of cities : all count equally in respect to voting, two votes being given by the deputies from each of the twelve: moreover, we are told that, in determining the deputies to be sent, or the manner in which the votes of each race should be given, the powerful Athens, Sparta, and Thebes, had no more influence than the humblest Ionian, Dorian, or Boeotian city. This latter fact is distinctly stated by Aeschines, himself a pylagore sent to Delphi by Athens. And so, doubtless, the theory of the case stood : the votes of the Ionic races counted for neither more nor less than two, whether given by deputies from Athens, or from the small towns of Erythrae and Priene; and, in like manner the Dorian votes were as good in the division, when given by deputies from Boeon and Kytinion in the little territory of Doris, as if the men delivering them had been Spartans. But there can be as little question that, in practice, the little Ionic cities, and the little Doric cities, pretended to no share in the Amphiktyonic deliberations. As the Ionic vote came to be substantially the vote of Athens, so, if Sparta was ever obstructed in the management of the Doric vote, it must have been by powerful Doric cities like Argos or Corinth, not by the insignificant towns of Doris. But the theory of Amphiktyonic suffrage, as laid down by Aeschines, however little realized in practice during his day, is important, inasmuch as it shows in full evidence the primitive and original constitution. The first establishment of the Amphiktyonic convocation dates from a time when all the twelve members were on a footing of equal independence, and when there were no overwhelming cities (such as Sparta and Athens) to cast in the shade the bumbler members, — when Sparta was only one Doric city, and Athens only one Ionic city, among various others of consideration, not much inferior.

There are also other proofs which show the high antiquity of this Amphiktyonic convocation. Aeschines gives us an extract from the oath which had been taken by the sacred deputies, who attended on behalf of their respective races, ever since its first establishment, and which still apparently continued to be taken in his day. The antique simplicity of this oath, and of the conditions to which the members bind themselves, betrays the early age in which it originated, as well as the humble resources of those towns to which it was applied. "We will not destroy any Amphiktyonic town, we will not cut off any Amphiktyonic town from running water",— such are the two prominent obligations which Aeschines specifies out of the old oath. The second of the two carries us back to the simplest state of society, and to towns of the smallest size, when the maidens went out with their basins to fetch water from the spring, like the daughters of Keleos at Eleusis, or those of Athens from the fountain of Kallirrhoe. We may even conceive that the special mention of this detail, in the covenant between the twelve races, is borrowed literally from agreements still earlier, among the villages or little towns in which the members of each race were distributed. At any rate, it proves satisfactorily the very ancient date to which the commencement of the Amphiktyonic convocation must be referred. The belief of Aeschines (perhaps, also, the belief general in his time) was, that it commenced simultaneously with the first foundation of the Delphian temple,—an event of which we have no historical knowledge; but there seems reason to suppose that its original establishment is connected with Thermopylae and Demeter Amphiktyonis, rather than with Delphi and Apollo. The special surname by which Demeter and her temple at Thermopylae was known, — the temple of the hero Amphiktyon which stood at its side,— the word Pylae, which obtained footing in the language to designate the half-yearly meeting of the deputies both at Thermopylae and at these indications point to Thermopylae (the real central point for all the twelve) as the primary place of meeting, and to the Delphian half-year as something secondary and super-added. On such a matter, however, we cannot go beyond a conjecture.

The hero Amphiktyon, whose temple stood at Thermopylae, passed in mythical genealogy for the brother of Hellen. And it may be affirmed, with truth, that the habit of forming Amphiktyonic unions, and of frequenting each other's religious festivals was the great means of creating and fostering the primitive feeling of brotherhood among the children of Hellen, in those early times when rudeness, insecurity, and pugnacity did so much to isolate them. A certain number of salutary habits and sentiments, such as that which the Amphiktyonic oath embodies, in regard to abstinence from injury, as well as to mutual protection, gradually found their way into men's minds : the obligations thus brought into play, acquired a substantive efficacy of their own, and the religious feeling which always remained connected with them, came afterwards to be only one out of many complex agencies by which the later historical Greek was moved. Athens and Sparta in the days of their might, and the inferior cities in relation to them, played each their own political game, in which religious considerations will be found to bear only a subordinate part.


The special function of the Amphiktyonic council, so far as we know it, consisted in watching over the safety, the interests, and the treasures of the Delphian temple. "If any one shall plunder the property of the god, or shall be cognizant thereof, or shall take treacherous counsel against the things in the temple, we will punish him with foot, and hand, and voice, and by every means in our power." So ran the old Amphiktyonic oath, with an energetic imprecation attached to it. And there are some examples in which the council construes its functions so largely as to receive and adjudicate upon complaints against entire cities, for offences against the religious and patriotic sentiment of the Greeks generally. But for the most part its interference relates directly to the Delphian temple. The earliest case in which it is brought to our view, is the Sacred War against Kirrha, in the 46th Olympiad, or 595 BC, conducted by Eurylochus, the Thessalian, and Cleisthenes of Sikyon, and proposed by Solon of Athens : we find the Amphiktyons also, about half a century afterwards, undertaking the duty of collecting subscriptions throughout the Hellenic world, and making the contract with the Alkmaeonids for rebuilding the temple after a conflagration. But the influence of this council is essentially of a fluctuating and intermittent character. Sometimes it appears forward to decide, and its decisions command respect; but such occasions are rare, taking the general course of known Grecian history; while there are other occasions, and those too especially affecting the Delphian temple, on which we are surprised to find nothing said about it. In the long and perturbed period which Thucydides describes, he never once mentioned the Amphiktyons, though the temple and the safety of its treasures form the repeated subject as well of dispute as of express stipulation between Athens and Sparta; moreover, among the twelve constituent members of the council, we find three, the Perrhaebians, the Magnetes, and the Achaeans of Phthia, who were not even independent, but subject to the Thessalians, so that its meetings, when they were not matters of mere form, probably expressed only the feelings of the three or four leading members. When one or more of these great powers had a party purpose to accomplish against others,—when Philip of Macedon wished to extrude one of the members in order to procure admission for himself; — it became convenient to turn this ancient form into a serious reality, and we shall see the Athenian Aschines providing a pretext for Philip to meddle in favor of the minor Boeotian cities against Thebes, by alleging that these cities were under the protection of the old Amphiktyonic oath.

It is thus that we have to consider the council as an element in Grecian affairs,—an ancient institution, one amongst many instances of the primitive habit of religious fraternization, but wider and more comprehensive than the rest,—at first, purely religious, then religious and political at once; lastly, more the latter than the former,—highly valuable in the infancy, but unsuited to the maturity of Greece, and called into real working only on rare occasions, when its efficiency happened to fall in with the views of Athens, Thebes, or the king of Macedon. In such special moments it shines with a transient light which affords a partial pretense for the imposing title bestowed on it by Cicero, —“commune Graeciae concilium”, but we should completely misinterpret Grecian history if we regarded it as a federal council, habitually directing or habitually obeyed. Had there existed any such “commune concilium” of tolerable wisdom and patriotism, and had the tendencies of the Hellenic mind been capable of adapting themselves to it, the whole course of later Grecian history would probably have been altered; the Macedonian kings would have remained only as respectable neighbors, borrowing civilization from Greece, and expending their military energies upon Thracians and Illyrians; while united Hellas might even have maintained her own territory against the conquering legions of Rome.

The twelve constituent Amphiktyonic races remained unchanged until the Sacred War against the Phocaeans (BC 355), after which, though the number twelve was continued, the Phokians were disfranchised, and their votes transferred to Philip of Macedon. It has been already mentioned that these twelve did not exhaust the whole of Hellas. Arcadians, Eleans, Pisans, Minyae, Dryopes, Aetolians, all genuine Hellens, are not comprehended in it; but all of them had a right to make use of the temple of Delphi, and to contend in the Pythian and Olympic games. The Pythian games, celebrated near Delphi, were under the superintendence of the Amphiktyons, or of some acting magistrate chosen by and presumed to represent them : like the Olympic games, they came round every four years (the interval between one celebration and another being four complete years, which the Greeks called a Pentaeteris) : the Isthmian and Nemean games recurred every two years. In its first humble form, of a competition among bards to sing a hymn in praise of Apollo, this festival was doubtless of immemorial antiquity; but the first extension of it into Pan-Hellenic notoriety (as I have already remarked), the first multiplication of the subjects of competition, and the first introduction of a continuous record of the conquerors, date only from the time when it came under the presidency of the Amphiktyons, at the close of the Sacred War against Kirrha. What is called the first Pythian contest coincides with the third year of the 48th Olympiad, or 585 BC. From that period forward, the games become crowded and celebrated : but the date just named, nearly two centuries after the first Olympiad, is a proof that the habit of periodical frequentation of festivals, by numbers and from distant parts, grew up but slowly in the Grecian world.

The foundation of the temple of Delphi itself reaches far beyond all historical knowledge, forming one of the aboriginal institutions of Hellas. It is a sanctified and wealthy place, even in the Iliad : the legislation of Lykurgus at Sparta is introduced under its auspices, and the earliest Grecian colonies, those of Sicily and Italy in the eighth century BC, are established in consonance with its mandate. Delphi and Dodona appear, in the most ancient circumstances of Greece, as universally venerated oracles and sanctuaries : and Delphi not only receives honors and donations, but also answers questions, from Lydians, Phrygians, Etruscans, Romans, etc.: it is not exclusively Hellenic. One of the valuable services which a Greek looked for from this and other great religious establishments was, that it should resolve his doubts in cases of perplexity, — that it should advise him whether to begin a new, or to persist in an old project,— that it should foretell what would be his fate under given circumstances, and inform him, if suffering under distress, on what conditions the gods would grant him relief. The three priestesses of Dodona with their venerable oak, and the priestess of Delphi sitting on her tripod under the influence of a certain gas or vapor exhaling from the rock, were alike competent to determine these difficult points : and we shall have constant occasion to notice in this history, with what complete faith both the question was put and the answer treasured up,— what serious influence it often exercised both upon public and private proceeding. The hexameter verses, in which the Pythian priestess delivered herself, were, indeed, often so equivocal or unintelligible, that the most serious believer, with all anxiety to interpret and obey them, often found himself ruined by the result; yet the general faith in the oracle was no way shaken by such painful experience. For as the unfortunate issue always admitted of being explained upon two hypotheses,— either that the god had spoken falsely, or that his meaning had not been correctly understood, — no man of genuine piety ever hesitated to adopt the latter. There were many other oracles throughout Greece besides Delphi and Dodona: Apollo was open to the inquiries of the faithful at Ptoon in Boeotia, at Abae in Phocis, at Branchidae near Miletus, at Patara in Lycia, and other places : in like manner, Zeus gave answers at Olympia, Poseidon at Taenarus, Amphiaraus at Thebes, Amphilochus at Mallas, etc. And this habit of consulting the oracle formed part of the still more general tendency of the Greek mind to undertake no enterprise without having first ascertained how the gods viewed it, and what measures they were likely to take. Sacrifices were offered, and the interior of the victim carefully examined, with the same intent : omens, prodigies, unlooked-for coincidences, casual expressions, etc., were all construed as significant of the divine will. To sacrifice with a view to this or that undertaking, or to consult the oracle with the same view, are familiar expressions embodied in the language. Nor could any man set about a scheme with comfort, until he had satisfied himself in some manner or other that the gods were favorable to it.


The disposition here adverted to is one of those mental analogies pervading the whole Hellenic nation, which Herodotus indicates. And the common habit among all Greeks, of respectfully listening to the oracle of Delphi, will be found on many occasions useful in maintaining unanimity among men not accustomed to obey the same political superior. In the numerous colonies especially, founded by mixed multitudes from distant parts of Greece, the minds of the emigrants were greatly determined towards cordial cooperation by their knowledge that the expedition had been directed, the oekist indicated, and the spot either chosen or approved, by Apollo of Delphi. Such in most cases was the fact: that god, according to the conception of the Greeks, “takes delight always in the foundation of new cities, and himself in person lays the first stone”.

These are the elements of union—over and above the common territory, described in the last chapter—with which the historical Hellens take their start : community of blood, language, religious point of view, legends, sacrifices, festivals, and also (with certain allowances) of manners and character. The analogy of manners and character between the rude inhabitants of the Arcadian Kynaetha and the polite Athens, was indeed accompanied with wide differences: yet if we compare the two with foreign contemporaries, we shall find certain negative characteristics, of much importance, common to both. In no city of historical Greece did there prevail either human sacrifices, or deliberate mutilation, such as cutting off the nose, ears, hands, feet, etc., or castration, or selling of children into slavery, or polygamy, or the feeling of unlimited obedience towards one man : all customs which might be pointed out as existing among the contemporary Carthaginians, Egyptians, Persians, Thracians, etc. The habit of running, wrestling, boxing, etc., in gymnastic contests, with the body perfectly naked, was common to all Greeks, having been first adopted as a Lacedaemonian fashion in the fourteenth Olympiad : Thucydides and Herodotus remark, that it was not only not practiced, but even regarded as unseemly, among non-Hellens. Of such customs, indeed, at once common to all the Greeks, and peculiar to them as distinguished from others, we cannot specify a great number; but we may see enough to convince ourselves that there did really exist, in spite of local differences, a general Hellenic sentiment and character, which counted among the cementing causes of an union apparently so little assured.

For we must recollect that, in respect to political sovereignty, complete disunion was among their most cherished principles. The only source of supreme authority to which a Greek felt respect and attachment, was to be sought within the walls of his own city. Authority seated in another city might operate upon his fears, might procure for him increased security and advantages, as we shall have occasion hereafter to show with regard to Athens and her subject allies, might even be mildly exercised, and inspire no special aversion; but, still, the principle of it was repugnant to the rooted sentiment of his mind, and he is always found gravitating towards the distinct sovereignty of his own boulé or ekklesia. This is a disposition common both to democracies and oligarchies, and operative even among the different towns belonging to the same subdivision of the Hellenic name, Achaeans, Phocians, Boeotians, etc. The twelve Achaean cities are harmonious allies, with a periodical festival which partakes of the character of a congress, but equal and independent political communities; the Boeotian towns, under the presidency of Thebes, their reputed metropolis, recognize certain common obligations, and obey, on various particular matters, chosen officers named boeotarchs, but we shall see, in this, as in other cases, the centrifugal tendencies constantly manifesting themselves, and resisted chiefly by the interests and power of Thebes. That great, successful, and fortunate revolution, which merged the several independent political communities of Attica into the single unity of Athens, took place before the time of authentic history: it is connected with the name of the hero Theseus, but we know not how it was effected, while its comparatively large size and extent, render it a signal exception to Hellenic tendencies generally.

Political disunion—sovereign authority within the city walls—thus formed a settled maxim in the Greek mind. The relation between one city and another was an international relation, not a relation subsisting between members of a common political aggregate. Within a few miles from his own city-walls, an Athenian found himself in the territory of another city, wherein he was nothing more than an alien, where he could not acquire property in house or land, nor contract a legal marriage with any native woman, nor sue for legal protection against injury, except through the mediation of some friendly citizen. The right of intermarriage, and of acquiring landed property, was occasionally granted by a city to some individual non-freeman, as matter of special favor, and sometimes (though very rarely) reciprocated generally between two separate cities. But the obligations between one city and another, or between the citizen of the one and the citizen of the other, are all matters of special covenant, agreed to by the sovereign authority in each. Such coexistence of entire political severance with so much fellowship in other ways, is perplexing in modern ideas, and modern language, is not well furnished with expressions to describe Greek political phenomena. We may say that an Athenian citizen was an alien when he arrived as a visitor in Corinth, but we can hardly say that he was a foreigner; and though the relations between Corinth and Athens were in principle international, yet that word would be obviously unsuitable to the numerous petty autonomies of Hellas, besides that we require it for describing the relations of Hellenes generally with Persians or Carthaginians. We are compelled to use a word such as interpolitical, to describe the transactions between separate Greek cities, so numerous in the course of this history.


As, on the one hand, a Greek will not consent to look for sovereign authority beyond the limits of his own city, so, on the other hand, he must have a city to look to scattered villages will not satisfy in his mind the exigencies of social order, security, and dignity. Though the coalescence of smaller towns into a larger is repugnant to his feelings, that of villages into a town appears to him a manifest advance in the scale of civilization. Such, at least, is the governing sentiment of Greece throughout the historical period; for there was always a certain portion of the Hellenic aggregate—the rudest and least advanced among them—who dwelt in unfortified villages, and upon whom the citizen of Athens, Corinth, or Thebes, looked down as inferiors. Such village residence was the character of the Epirots universally, and prevailed throughout Hellas itself, in those very early and even ante-Homeric times upon which Thucydides looked back as deplorably barbarous; times of universal poverty and insecurity, absence of pacific intercourse, petty warfare and plunder, compelling every man to pass his life armed, endless migration without any local attachments. Many of the considerable cities of Greece are mentioned as aggregations of preexisting villages, some of them in times comparatively recent. Tegea and Mantinea in Arcadia, represent, in this way, the confluence of eight villages, and five villages respectively; Dyme in Achaia was brought together out of eight villages, and Elis in the same manner, at a period even later than the Persian invasion; the like seems to have happened with Megara and Tanagra. A large proportion of the Arcadians continued their village life down to the time of the battle of Leuctra, and it suited the purposes of Sparta to keep them thus disunited; a policy which we shall see hereafter illustrated by the dismemberment of Mantinea (into its primitive component villages), which Agesilaus carried into effect, but which was reversed as soon as the power of Sparta was no longer paramount, as well as by the foundation of Megalopolis out of a large number of petty Arcadian towns and villages, one of the capital measures of Epameinondas. As this measure was an elevation of Arcadian importance, so the reverse proceeding—the breaking up of a city into its elementary villages—was not only a sentence of privation and suffering, but also a complete extinction of Grecian rank and dignity.

The Ozolian Locrians, the Aetolians, and the Acarnanians maintained their separate village residence down to a still later period, preserving along with it their primitive rudeness and disorderly pugnacity. Their villages were unfortified, and defended only by comparative inaccessibility; in case of need, they fled for safety with their cattle into the woods and mountains. Amidst such inauspicious circumstances, there was no room for that expansion of the social and political feelings to which protected intramural residence and increased numbers gave birth; there was no consecrated acropolis or agora, no ornamented temples and porticos, exhibiting the continued offerings of successive generations, no theatre for music or recitation, no gymnasium for athletic exercises, none of those fixed arrangements, for transacting public business with regularity and decorum, which the Greek citizen, with his powerful sentiment of locality, deemed essential to a dignified existence. The village was nothing more than a fraction and a subordinate, appertaining as a limb to the organized body called the city. But the city and the state are in his mind, and in his language, one and the same. While no organization less than the city can satisfy the exigencies of an intelligent freeman, the city is itself a perfect and self-sufficient whole, admitting no incorporation into any higher political unity. It deserves notice that Sparta, even in the days of her greatest power, was not (properly speaking) a city, but a mere agglutination of five adjacent villages, retaining unchanged its old-fashioned trim: for the extreme defensibility of its frontier and the military prowess of its inhabitants, supplied the absence of walls, while the discipline imposed upon the Spartan, exceeded in rigor and minuteness anything known in Greece. And thus Sparta, though less than a city in respect to external appearance, was more than a city in respect to perfection of drilling and fixity of political routine. The contrast between the humble appearance and the mighty reality, is pointed out by Thucydides. The inhabitants of the small territory of Pisa, wherein Olympia is situated, had once enjoyed the honorable privilege of administering the Olympic festival. Having been robbed of it, and subjected by the more powerful Eleians, they took advantage of various movements and tendencies among the larger Grecian powers to try and regain it; and on one of these occasions, we find their claim repudiated because they were villagers, and unworthy of so great a distinction. There was nothing to be called a city in the Pisatid territory.

In going through historical Greece, we are compelled to accept the Hellenic aggregate with its constituent elements as a primary fact to start from, because the state of our information does not enable us to ascend any higher. By what circumstances, or out of what preexisting elements, this aggregate was brought together and modified, we find no evidence entitled to credit. There are, indeed, various names which are affirmed to designate ante-Hellenic inhabitants of many parts of Greece,— the Pelasgi, the Leleges, the Kuretes, the Kaukones, the Aones, the Temmikes, the Hyantes, the Telchines, the Boeotian Thracians, the Teleboae, the Ephyri, the Phlegyae, etc. These are names belonging to legendary, not to historical Greece, extracted out of a variety of conflicting legends, by the logographers and subsequent historians, who strung together out of them a supposed history of the past, at a time when the conditions of historical evidence were very little understood. That these names designated real nations, may be true, but here our knowledge ends. We have no well-informed witness to tell us their times, their limits of residence, their acts, or their character; nor do we know how far they are identical with or diverse from the historical Hellens, whom we are warranted in calling, not, indeed, the first inhabitants of the country, but the first known to us upon any tolerable evidence. If any man is inclined to call the unknown ante-Hellenic period of Greece by the name of Pelasgic, it is open to him to do so; but this is a name carrying with it no assured predicates, noway enlarging our insight into real history, nor enabling us to explain—what would be the real historical problem—how or from whom the Hellens acquired that stock of dispositions, aptitudes, arts, etc., with which they begin their career. Whoever has examined the many conflicting systems respecting the Pelasgi,—from the literal belief of Clavier, Larcher, and Raoul Rochette, (which appears to me, at least, the most consistent way of proceeding,) to the interpretative and half-incredulous processes applied by abler men, such as Niebuhr, or 0. Muller, or Dr. Thirlwall,— will not be displeased with my resolution to decline so insoluble a problem. No attested facts are now present to us —none were present to Herodotus and Thucydides, even in their age—on which to build trustworthy affirmations respecting the ante-Hellenic Pelasgians. And where such is the ease, we may without impropriety apply the remark of Herodotus, respecting one of the theories which he had heard for explaining the inundation of the Nile by a supposed connection with the circumfluous Ocean, —that "the man who carries up his story into the invisible world, passes out of the range of criticism."


As far as our knowledge extends, there were no towns or villages called Pelasgian, in Greece proper, since 776 BC. But there still existed in two different places, even in the age of Herodotus, people whom he believed to be Pelasgians. One portion of these occupied the towns of Plakia and Skylake near Kyzikus, on the Propontis; another dwelt in a town called Kreston, near the Thermaic gulf. There were, moreover, certain other Pelasgian townships which he does not specify, it seems, indeed, from Thucydides, that there were some little Pelasgian townships on the peninsula of Athos. Now, Herodotus acquaints us with the remarkable fact, that the people of Kreston, those of Plakia and Skylake, and those of the other unnamed Pelasgian townships, all spoke the same language, and each of them respectively a different language from their neighbors around them. He informs us, moreover, that their language was a barbarous (i.e. a non-Hellenic) language; and this fact he quotes as an evidence to prove that the ancient Pelasgian language was a barbarous language, or distinct from the Hellenic. He at the same time states expressly that he has no positive knowledge what language the ancient Pelasgians spoke, —one proof, among others, that no memorials nor means of distinct information concerning that people, could have been open to him.

This is the one single fact, amidst so many conjectures concerning the Pelasgians, which we can be said to know upon the testimony of a competent and contemporary witness : the few townships—scattered and inconsiderable, but all that Herodotus in his day knew as Pelasgian— spoke a barbarous language. And upon such a point, he must be regarded as an excellent judge. If, then, (infers the historian,) all the early Pelasgians spoke the same language as those of Kreston and Plakia, they must have changed their language at the time when they passed into the Hellenic aggregate, or became Hellens. Now, Herodotus conceives that aggregate to have been gradually enlarged to its great actual size by incorporating with itself not only the Pelasgians, but several other nations once barbarians; the Hellens having been originally an inconsiderable people. Among those other nations once barbarian, whom Herodotus supposes to have become Hellenized, we may probably number the Leleges; and with respect to them, as well as to the Pelasgians, we have contemporary testimony proving the existence of barbarian Leleges in later times. Philippus, the Carian historian, attested the present existence, and believed in the past existence, of Leleges in his country, as serfs or dependent cultivators under the Carians, analogous to the Helots in Laconia, or the Penestae in Thessaly. We may be very sure that there were no Hellens—no men speaking the Hellenic tongue—standing in such a relation to the Carians. Among those many barbaric-speaking nations whom Herodotus believed to have changed their language and passed into Hellens, we may, therefore, fairly consider the Leleges to have been included. For next to the Pelasgians and Pelasgus, the Leleges and Leleae figure most conspicuously in the legendary genealogies and both together cover the larger portion of the Hellenic soil.

Confining myself to historical evidence, and believing that no assured results can be derived from the attempt to transform legend into history, I accept the statement of Herodotus with confidence, as to the barbaric language spoken by the Pelasgians of his day; and I believe the same with regard to the historical Leleges, but without presuming to determine anything in regard to the legendary Pelasgians and Leleges, the supposed ante-Hellenic inhabitants of Greece. And I think this course more consonant to the laws of historical inquiry than that which comes recommended by the high authority of Dr. Thirlwall, who softens and explains away the statement of Herodotus, until it is made to mean only that the Pelasgians of Plakia and Kreston spoke a very bad Greek. The affirmation of Herodotus is distinct, and twice repeated, that the Pelasgians of these towns, and of his own time, spoke a barbaric language; and that word appears to me to admit of but one interpretation. To suppose that a man, who, like Herodotus, had heard almost every variety of Greek, in the course of his long travels, as well as Egyptian, Phoenician, Assyrian, Lydian, and other languages, did not know bow to distinguish bad Hellenic from non-Hellenic, is, in my judgment, inadmissible; at any rate, the supposition is not to be adopted without more cogent evidence than any which is here found.


As I do not presume to determine what were the antecedent internal elements out of which the Hellenic aggregate was formed, so I confess myself equally uninformed with regard to its external constituents. Cadmus, Danaus, Kekrops,—the eponyms of the Cadmeians, of the Danaans, and of the Attic Kekropia,—present themselves to my vision as creatures of legend, and in that character I have already adverted to them. That there may have been very early settlements in continental Greece, from Phoenicia and Egypt, is nowise impossible; but I see neither positive proof, nor ground for probable inference, that there were any such, though traces of Phoenician settlements in some of the islands may doubtless be pointed out. And if we examine the character and aptitudes of Greeks, as compared either with Egyptians or Phoenicians, it will appear that there is not only no analogy, but an obvious and fundamental contrast: the Greek may occasionally be found as a borrower from these ultramarine contemporaries, but he cannot be looked upon as their offspring or derivative. Nor can I bring myself to accept an hypothesis which implies (unless we are to regard the supposed foreign emigrants as very few in number, in which case the question loses most of its importance) that the Hellenic language—the noblest among the many varieties of human speech, and possessing within itself a pervading symmetry and organization—is a mere confluence of two foreign barbaric languages (Phoenician and Egyptian) with two or more internal barbaric languages,—Pelasgian, Lelegian, etc. In the mode of investigation pursued by different historians into this question of early foreign colonies, there is great difference (as in the case of the Pelasgi) between the different authors,—from the acquiescent Euemerism of Raoul Rochette to the refined distillation of Dr. Thirlwall, in the third chapter of his History. It will be found that the amount of positive knowledge which Dr. Thirlwall guarantees to his readers in that chapter is extremely inconsiderable; for though he proceeds upon the general theory (different from that which I hold) that historical matter may be distinguished and elicited from the legends, yet when the question arises respecting any definite historical result, his canon of credibility is too just to permit him to overlook the absence of positive evidence, even when all intrinsic incredibility is removed. That which I note as Terra Incognita, is in his view a land which may be known up to a certain point; but the map which he draws of it contains so few ascertained places as to differ very little from absolute vacuity.

The most ancient district called Hellas is affirmed by Aristotle to have been near Dodona and the river Achelous,—a description which would have been unintelligible (since the river does not flow near Dodona), if it had not been qualified by the remark, that the river had often in former times changed its course. He states, moreover, that the deluge of Deukalion took place chiefly in this district, which was in those early days inhabited by the Selli, and by the people then called Graeci, but now Hellenes. The Selli (called by Pindar, Helli) are mentioned in the Iliad as the ministers of the Dodonaean Zeus,—"men who slept on the ground, and never washed their feet"; and Hesiod, in one of the lost poems (the Eoiai), speaks of the fat land and rich pastures of the land called Hellopia, wherein Dodona was situated. On what authority Aristotle made his statement, we do not know; but the general feeling of the Greeks was different, — connecting Deukalion, Hellen, and the Hellenes, primarily and specially with the territory called Achaia Phthiotis, between Mount Othrys and Oeta. Nor can we either affirm or deny his assertion that the people in the neighborhood of Dodona were called Graeci before they were called Hellenes. There is no ascertained instance of the mention of a people called Graeci, in any author earlier than this Aristotelian treatise; for the allusions to Alkman and Sophokles prove nothing to the point. Nor can we explain how it came to pass that the Hellenes were known to the Romans only under the name of Graeci, or Graii. But the name by which a people is known to foreigners is often completely different from its own domestic name, and we are not less at a loss to assign the reason, how the Rasena of Etruria came to be known to the Romans by the name of Tuscans, or Etruscans.