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WE now pass from the northern members to the heart and head of Greece, — Peloponnesus and Attica, taking the former first in order, and giving as much as can be ascertained respecting its early historical phenomena.

The traveller who entered Peloponnesus from Boeotia during the youthful days of Herodotus and Thucydides, found an array of powerful Doric cities conterminous to each other, and beginning at the isthmus of Corinth. First came Megara, stretching across the isthmus from sea to sea, and occupying the high and rugged mountain-ridge called Geraneia; next Corinth, with its strong and conspicuous acropolis, and its territory including Mount Oneion as well as the portion of the isthmus at once most level and narrowest, which divided its two harbors called Lechaeum and Kenchreae. Westward of Corinth, along the Corinthian gulf, stood Sicyon, with a plain of uncommon fertility, between the two towns: southward of Sicyon and Corinth were Phlius and Kleonae, both conterminous, as well as Corinth, with Argos and the Argolis peninsula. The inmost bend of the Argolic gulf, including a considerable space of flat and marshy ground adjoining to the sea, was possessed by Argos; the Argolis peninsula was divided by Argos with the Doric cities of Epidaurus and Troezen, and the Dryopian city of Hermione, the latter possessing the south-western corner. Proceeding southward along the Western coast of the gulf, and passing over the little river called Tanos, the traveller found himself in the dominion of Sparta, which comprised the entire southern region of the peninsula from its eastern to its western sea, where the river Neda flows into the latter. He first passed from Argos across the difficult mountain range called Parnon (which bounds to the west the southern portion of Argolis), until he found himself in the valley of the river Oenus, which he followed until it joined the Eurotas. In the larger valley of the Eurotas, far removed from the sea, and accessible only through the most impracticable mountain roads, lay the five unwalled, unadorned, adjoining villages, which bore collectively the formidable name of Sparta. The whole valley of the Eurotas, from Skiritis and Beleminatis at the border of Arcadia, to the Laconian gulf; — expanding in several parts into fertile plain, especially near to its mouth, where the towns of Gythium and Helos were found,— belonged to Sparta; together with the cold and high mountain range to the eastward, which projects into the promontory of Malea,—and the still loftier chain of Taygetus to the westward, which ends in the promontory of Taenarus. On the other side of Taygetus, on the banks of the river Pamisus, which there flows into the Messenian gulf, lay the plain of Messene, the richest land in the peninsula. This plain had once yielded its ample produce to the free Messenians Dorians, resident in the towns of Stenyklerus and Andania. But in the time of which we speak, the name of Messenians was borne only by a body of brave but homeless exiles, whose restoration to the land of their forefathers over passed even the exile's proverbially sanguine hope. Their land was confounded with the western portion of Laconia, which reached in a south-westerly direction down to the extreme point of Cape Akritas, and northward as far as the river Neda.

Throughout his whole journey to the point last mentioned, from the borders of Boeotia and Megaris, the traveller would only step from one Dorian state into another. But on crossing from the south to the north bank of the river Neda, at a point near to its mouth, he would find himself out of Doric land altogether : first, in the territory called Triphylia, —next, in that of Pisa, or the Pisatid,— thirdly, in the more spacious and powerful state called Elis; these three comprising the coast-land of Peloponnesus from the mouth of the Neda to that of the Larissus. The Triphylians, distributed into a number of small townships, the largest of which was Lepreon,—and the Pisatans, equally destitute of any centralizing city,—had both, at the period of which we are now speaking, been conquered by their more powerful northern neighbors of Elis, who enjoyed the advantage of a spacious territory united under one government; the middle portion, called the Hollow Elis, being for the most part fertile, though the tracts near the sea were more sandy and barren. The Eleians were a section of Aetolian emigrants into Peloponnesus, but the Pisatans and Triphylians had both been originally independent inhabitants of the peninsula,—the latter being affirmed to belong to the same race as the Minyae who had occupied the ante-Boeotian Orchomenus : both, too, bore the ascendency of Elis with perpetual murmur and occasional resistance.

Crossing the river Larissus, and pursuing the northern coast of Peloponnesus south of the Corinthian gulf, the traveller would pass into Achaia,— a name which designated the narrow strip of level land, and the projecting spurs and declivities, between that gulf and the northernmost mountains of the peninsula,—Skollis, Erymanthus, Aroania, Krathis, and the towering eminence called Kyllene. Achaean cities,—twelve in number at least, if not more,—divided this long strip of land amongst them, from the mouth of the Larissus and the north-western Cape Araxus on one side, to the western boundary of the Sicyonian territory on the other. According to the accounts of the ancient legends and the belief of Herodotus, this territory had once been occupied by Ionian inhabitants whom the Achaeans had expelled.

In making this journey, the traveller would have finished the circuit of Peloponnesus; but he would still have left untrodden the great central region, enclosed between the territories just enumerated,—approaching nearest to the sea on the borders of Triphylia, but never touching it anywhere. This region was Arcadia, possessed by inhabitants who are uniformly represented as all of one race, and all aboriginal. It was high and bleak, full of wild mountain, rock, and forest, and abounding, to a degree unusual even in Greece, with those land-locked basins from whence the water finds only a subterraneous issue. It was distributed among a large number of distinct villages and cities. Many of the village tribes,—the Maenalii, Parrhasii, Azanes, etc., occupying the central and the western regions, were numbered among the rudest of the Greeks : but along its eastern frontier there were several Arcadian cities which ranked deservedly among the more civilized Peloponnesians. Tegea, Mantineia, Orchomenus, Stymphalus, Pheneus, possessed the whole eastern frontier of Arcadia from the borders of Laconia to those of Sicyon and Pellene in Achaia: Phigaleia at the south western corner, near the borders of Triphylia, and Heraea, on the north bank of the Alpheius, near the place where that river quits Arcadia to enter the Pisatis, were also towns deserving of notice. Towards the north of this cold and thinly-peopled region, near Pheneos, was situated the small town of Nonakris, adjoining to which rose the hardly accessible crags where the rivulet of Styx flowed down : a point of common feeling for all Arcadians, from the terrific sanction which this water was understood to impart to their oaths.

The distribution of Peloponnesus here sketched, suitable to the Persian invasion and the succeeding half century, may also be said (with some allowances) to be adapted to the whole interval between about BC 550-370; from the time of the conquest of Thyreatis by Sparta to the battle of Leuctra. But it is not the earliest distribution which history presents to us. Not presuming to criticize the Homeric map of Peloponnesus, and going back only to 776 BC, we find this material difference, — that Sparta occupies only a very small fraction of the large territory above described as belonging to her. Westward of the summit of Mount Taygetus are found another section of Dorians, independent of Sparta: the Messenian Dorians, whose city is on the bill of Stenyklerus, near the south-western boundary of Arcadia, and whose possessions cover the fertile plain of Messene along the river Pamisus to its mouth in the Messenian gulf: it is to be noted that Messene was then the name of the plain generally, and that no town so called existed until after the battle of Leuctra. Again, eastward of the valley of the Eurotas, the mountainous region and the western shores of the Argolic gulf down to Cape Malea are also independent of Sparta; belonging to Argos, or rather to Dorian towns in unison with Argos. All the great Dorian towns, from the borders of the Megarid to the eastern frontier of Arcadia, as above enumerated, appear to have existed in 776 BC; Achaia was in the same condition, so far as we are able to judge, as well as Arcadia, except in regard to its southern frontier, conterminous with Sparta, of which more will hereafter be said. In respect to the western portion of Peloponnesus, Elis (properly so called) appears to have embraced the same territory in 776 BC as in 550 BC : but the Pisatid had been recently conquered, and was yet imperfectly subjected by the Eleians; while Triphylia seems to have been quite independent of them. Respecting the south-western promontory of Peloponnesus down to Cape Akritas, we are altogether without information : reasons will hereafter be given for believing that it did not at that time form part of the territory of the Messenian Dorians.

Of the different races or people whom Herodotus knew in Peloponnesus, he believed three to be aboriginal,—the Arcadians, the Achaeans, and the Kynurians. The Achaeans, though belonging indigenously to the peninsula, had yet removed from the southern portion of it to the northern, expelling the previous Ionian tenants : this is a part of the legend respecting the Dorian conquest, or Return of the Herakleids, and we can neither verify nor contradict it. But neither the Arcadians nor the Kynurians had ever changed their abodes. Of the latter, I have not before spoken, because they were never (so far as history knows them) an independent population. They occupied the larger portion of the territory of Argolis, from Orneae, near the northern or Phliasian border, to Thyrea and the Thyreatis, on the Laconian border : and though belonging originally (as Herodotus imagines rather than asserts) to the Ionic race — they had been so long subjects of Argos in his time, that almost all evidence of their ante-Dorian condition had vanished.

But the great Dorian states in Peloponnesus—the capital powers in the peninsula—were all originally emigrants, according to the belief not only of Herodotus, but of all the Grecian world : so also were the Aetolians of Elis, the Triphylians, and the Dryopes at Hermione and Asine. All these emigrations are so described as to give them a root in the Grecian legendary world : the Triphylians are traced back to Lemnos, as the offspring of the Argonautic heroes, and we are too uninformed about them to venture upon any historical guesses. But respecting the Dorians, it may perhaps be possible, by examining the first historical situation in which they are presented to us, to offer some conjectures as to the probable circumstances under which they arrived. The legendary narrative of it has already been given in the first chapter of this volume, — that great mythical event called the Return of the Children of Heracles, by which the first establishment of the Dorians in the promised land of Peloponnesus was explained to the full satisfaction of Grecian faith. One single armament and expedition, acting by the special direction of the Delphian god, and conducted by three brothers, lineal descendants of the principal Achaeo-Dorian heroes through Hyllus, (the eponymous of the principal tribe) — the national heroes of the preexisting population vanquished and expelled, and the greater part of the peninsula both acquired and partitioned at a stroke,— the circumstances of the partition adjusted to the historical relations of Laconia and Messenia, — the friendly power of Aetolian Elis, with its Olympic games as the bond of union in Peloponnesus, attached to this event as an appendage, in the person of Oxylus,—all these particulars compose a narrative well calculated to impress the retrospective imagination of a Greek. They exhibit an epical fitness and sufficiency which it would be unseasonable to impair by historical criticism.

The Alexandrine chronology sets down a period of 328 years from the Return of the Herakleids to the first Olympiad (1104 BC-776 BC), — a period measured by the lists of the kings of Sparta, on the trustworthiness of which some remarks have already been offered. Of these 328 years, the first 250, at the least, are altogether barren of facts; and even if we admitted them to be historical, we should have nothing to recount except a succession of royal names. Being unable either to guarantee the entire list, or to discover any valid test for discriminating the historical and the non-historical items, I here enumerate the Lacedaemonian kings as they appear in Mr. Clinton’s Fasti Hellenici. There were two joint kings at Sparta, throughout nearly all the historical time of independent Greece, deducing their descent from Heracles through Eurysthenes and Prokles, the twin sons of Aristodemus; the latter being one of those three Herakleid brothers to whom the conquest of the peninsula is ascribed : —



Line of Eurysthenes.
Line of Prokles
Eurysthenes reigned 42 years Prokles reigned 51 year
Agis 31 Sous
Echestratus 35 Eurypon
Labotas 37 Prytanis 49
Doryssus 29 Eunomus 45
Agesilaus 44 Charilaus 60
Archelaus 60 Nikander 38
Teleklus 40 Theopompus 10
Alkamenes 10


Both Theopompus and Alkamenes reigned considerably longer, but the chronologists affirm that the year 776 BC (or the first Olympiad) occurred in the tenth year of each of their reigns. It is necessary to add, with regard to this list, that there are some material discrepancies between different authors even as to the names of individual kings, and still more as to the duration of their reigns, as may be seen both in Mr. Clinton's chronology and in Müller's Appendix to the History of the Dorians. The alleged sum total cannot be made to agree with the items without great license of conjecture. O. Müller observes, in reference to this Alexandrine chronology, "that our materials only enable us to restore it to its original state, not to verify its correctness". In point of fact they are insufficient even for the former purpose, as the dissensions among learned critics attest.

We have a succession of names, still more barren of facts, in the case of the Dorian sovereigns of Corinth. This city had its own line of Herakleids, descended from Heracles, but not through Hyllus. Hippotes, the progenitor of the Corinthian Herakleids, was reported in the legend to have originally joined the Dorian invaders of the Peloponnesus, but to have quitted them in consequence of having slain the prophet Karnus. The three brothers, when they became masters of the peninsula, sent for Aletes, the son of Hippotes, and placed him in possession of Corinth, over which the chronologists make him begin to reign thirty years after the Herakleid conquest. His successors are thus given -

Aletes ..... reigned 38 years

Ixion .................... 38

Agelas.................. 37


Bacchis .............. 35

Agelas................. 30

Euclemus........... 25

Aristomedes ..... 35

Agemon ............ 16

Alexander ........ 25

Telestes ........... 12

Antomenes ...... 1


Total =............ 327

Such was the celebrity of Bacchis, we are told, that those who succeeded him took the name of Bacchiads in place of Aletiads or Herakleids. One year after the accession of Automenes, the family of the Bacchiads generally, amounting to 200 persons, determined to abolish royalty, to constitute themselves a standing oligarchy, and to elect out of their own number an annual Prytanis. Thus commenced the oligarchy of the Bacchiads, which lasted for ninety years, until it was subverted by Kypselus in 657 BC. Reckoning the thirty years previous to the beginning of the reign of Aletes, the chronologists thus provide an interval of 447 years between the Return of the Herakleids and the accession of Kypselus, and 357 years between the same period and the commencement of the Bacchiad oligarchy. The Bacchiad oligarchy is unquestionably historical; the conquest of the Herakleids belongs to the legendary world; while the interval between the two is filled up, as in so many other cases, by a mere barren genealogy.

When we jump this vacant space, and place ourselves at the first opening of history, we find that, although ultimately Sparta came to hold the first place, not only in Peloponnesus, but in all Hellas, this was not the case at the earliest moment of which we have historical cognizance. Argos, and the neighboring towns connected with her by a bond of semi-religious, semi-political union,—Sicyon, Phlius, Epidaurus, and Troezen,— were at first of greater power and consideration than Sparta; a fact which the legend of the Herakleids seems to recognize by making Temenus the eldest brother of the three. And Herodotus assures us that at one time all the eastern coast of Peloponnesus down to Cape Melea, including the island of Cythera, all which came afterwards to constitute a material part of Laconia, had belonged to Argos. Down to the time of the first Messenian war, the comparative importance of the Dorian establishments in Peloponnesus appears to have been in the order in which the legend placed them, — Argos first, Sparta second, Messene third. It will be seen hereafter that the Argeians never lost the recollection of this early preeminence, from which the growth of Sparta had extruded them; and the liberties of entire Hellas were more than once in danger from their disastrous jealousy of a more fortunate competitor.

At a short distance of about three miles from Argos, and at the exact point where that city approaches nearest to the sea, was situated the isolated hillock called Temenion, noticed both by Strabo and Pausanias. It was a small village, deriving both its name and its celebrity from the chapel and tomb of the hero Temenus, who was there worshipped by the Dorians; and the statement which Pausanias heard was, that Temenus, with his invading Dorians, had seized and fortified the spot, and employed it as an armed post to make war upon Tisamenus and the Achaeans. What renders this report deserving of the greater attention, is, that the same thing is affirmed with regard to the eminence called Solygeius, near Corinth : this too was believed to be the place which the Dorian assailants had occupied and fortified against the preexisting Corinthians in the city. Situated close upon the Saronic gulf, it was the spot which invaders landing from that gulf would naturally seize upon, and which Nikias with his powerful Athenian fleet did actually seize and occupy against Corinth in the Peloponnesian war. In early days, the only way of overpowering the inhabitants of a fortified town, generally also planted in a position itself very defensible, was, — that the invaders, entrenching themselves in the neighborhood, harassed the inhabitants and ruined their produce until they brought them to terms. Even during the Peloponnesian war, when the art of besieging had made some progress, we read of several instances in which this mode of aggressive warfare was adopted with efficient results. We may readily believe that the Dorians obtained admittance both into Argos and Corinth in this manner. And it is remarkable that, except Sicyon (which is affirmed to have been surprised by night), these were the only towns in the Argolic region which are said to have resisted them; the story being, that Phlius, Epidaurus, and Troezen had admitted the Dorian intruders without opposition, although a certain portion of the previous inhabitants seceded. We shall hereafter see that the non-Dorian population of Sicyon and Corinth still remained considerable.

The separate statements which we thus find, and the position of the Temenion and the Solygeius, lead to two conjectures, first, that the acquisitions of the Dorians in Peloponnesus were also isolated and gradual, not at all conformable to the rapid strides of the old Herakleid legend; next, that the Dorian invaders of Argos and Corinth made their attack from the Argolic and the Saronic gulfs, — by sea and not by land. It is, indeed, difficult to see how they can have got to the Temenion in any other way than by sea; and a glance at the map will show that the eminence Solygeius presents itself, with reference to Corinth, as the nearest and most convenient holding-ground for a maritime invader, conformably to the scheme of operations laid by Nikias. To illustrate the supposition of a Dorian attack by sea on Corinth, we may refer to a story quoted from Aristotle (which we find embodied in the explanation of an old adage), representing Hippotes the father of Aletes as having crossed the Maliac gulf (the sea immediately bordering on the ancient Maleans, Dryopians, and Dorians) in ships, for the purpose of colonizing. And if it be safe to trust the mention of Dorians in the Odyssey, as a part of the population of the island of Crete, we there have an example of Dorian settlements which must have been effected by sea, and that too at a very early period. “We must suppose (observes O. Müller, in reference to these Kretan Dorians) that the Dorians, pressed by want or restless from inactivity, constructed piratical canoes, manned these frail and narrow barks with soldiers who themselves worked at the oar, and thus being changed from mountaineers into seamen, — the Normans of Greece, — set sail for the distant island of Crete”. In the same manner, we may conceive the expeditions of the Dorians against Argos and Corinth to have been effected; and whatever difficulties may attach to this hypothesis, certain it is that the difficulties of a long land-march, along such a territory as Greece, are still more serious.

The supposition of Dorian emigrations by sea, from the Maliac gulf to the north-eastern promontory of Peloponnesus, is farther borne out by the analogy of the Dryopes, or Dryopians. During the historical times, this people occupied several detached settlements in various parts of Greece, all maritime, and some insular;— they were found at Hermione, Asine, and Eion, in the Argolic peninsula (very near to the important Dorian towns constituting the Amphiktyony of Argos)—at Styra and Karystus in the island of Euboea,—in the island of Kythnus, and even at Cyprus. These dispersed colonies can only have been planted by expeditions over the sea. Now we are told that the original Dryopis, the native country of this people, comprehended both the territory near the river Spercheius, and north of Oeta, afterwards occupied by the Malians, as well as the neighboring district south of Oeta, which was afterwards called Doris. From hence the Dryopians were expelled, — according to one story, by the Dorians,— according to another, by Heracles and the Malians : however this may be, it was from the Maliac gulf that they started on shipboard in quest of new homes, which some of them found on the headlands of the Argolic peninsula. And it was from this very country, according to Herodotus, that the Dorians also set forth, in order to reach Peloponnesus. Nor does it seem unreasonable to imagine, that the same means of conveyance, which bore the Dryopians from the Maliac gulf to Hermione and Asine, also carried the Dorians from the same place to the Temenion, and the hill Solygeius.

The legend represents Sikyon, Epidaurus, Troezen, Phlius, and Kleonae, as all occupied by Dorian colonists from Argos, under the different sons of Temenus : the first three are on the sea, and fit places for the occupation of maritime invaders. Argos and the Dorian towns in and near the Argolic peninsula are to be regarded as a cluster of settlements by themselves, completely distinct from Sparta and the Messenian Stenyklerus, which appear to have been formed under totally different conditions. First, both of them are very far inland, — Stenyklerus not easy, Sparta very difficult of access from the sea; next, we know that the conquests of Sparta were gradually made down the valley of the Eurotas seaward. Both these acquisitions present the appearance of having been made from the land-side, and perhaps in the direction which the Herakleid legend describes, by warriors entering Peloponnesus across the narrow mouth of the Corinthian gulf, through the aid or invitation of those Aetolian settlers who at the same time colonized Elis. The early and intimate connection (on which I shall touch presently) between Sparta and the Olympic games as administered by the Eleians, as well as the leading part ascribed to Lycurgus in the constitution of the solemn Olympic truce, tend to strengthen such a persuasion.

In considering the early affairs of the Dorians in Peloponnesus, we are apt to have our minds biased, first, by the Herakleid legend, which imparts to them an impressive, but deceitful, epical unity; next, by the aspect of the later and better-known history, which presents the Spartan power as unquestionably preponderant, and Argos only as second by a long interval. But the first view (as I have already remarked) which opens to us, of real Grecian history, a little before 776 BC, exhibits Argos with its alliance or confederacy of neighboring cities colonized from itself, as the great seat of Dorian power in the peninsula, and Sparta as an outlying state of inferior consequence. The recollection of this state of things lasted after it had ceased to be a reality, and kept alive pretensions on the part of Argos to the headship of the Greeks as a matter of right, which she became quite incapable of sustaining either by adequate power or by statesmanlike sagacity. The growth of Spartan power was a succession of encroachments upon Argos.

How Sparta came constantly to gain upon Argos will be matter for future explanation : at present, it is sufficient to remark, that the ascendency of Argos was derived not exclusively from her own territory, but came in part from her position as metropolis of an alliance of autonomous neighboring cities, all Dorian and all colonized from herself,—and this was an element of power essentially fluctuating. What Thebes was to the cities of Boeotia, of which she either was, or professed to have been, the founder, the same was Argos in reference to Kleonae, Phlius, Sikyon, Epidaurus, Troezen, and Aegina. These towns formed, in mythical language, “the lot of Temenus”,—in real matter of fact, the confederated allies or subordinates of Argos the first four of them were said to have been Dorized by the sons or immediate relatives of Temenus; and the kings of Argos, as acknowledged descendants of the latter, claimed and exercised a sort of suzeraineté over them. Hermione, Asine, and Nauplia seem also to have been under the supremacy of Argos, though not colonies. But this supremacy was not claimed directly and nakedly : agreeably to the ideas of the time, the ostensible purposes of the Argeian confederacy or Amphiktyony were religious, though its secondary and not less real effects, were political. The great patron-god of the league was Apollo Pythaeus, in whose name the obligations incumbent on the members of the league were imposed. While in each of the confederated cities there was a temple to this god, his most holy and central sanctuary was on the Larissa or acropolis of Argos. At this central Argeian sanctuary, solemn sacrifices were offered by Epidaurus as well as by other members of the confederacy, and, as it should seem, accompanied by moneypayments,—which the Argeians, as chief administrators on behalf of the common god, took upon them to enforce against defaulters, and actually tried to enforce during the Peloponnesian war against Epidaurus. On another occasion, during the 66th Olympiad (BC 514), they imposed the large fine of 500 talents upon each of the two states Sikyon and Aegina, for having lent ships to the Spartan king Kleomenes, wherewith he invaded the Argeian territory. The Aeginetans set the claim at defiance, but the Sicyonians acknowledged its justice, and only demurred to its amount, professing themselves ready to pay 100 talents. There can be no doubt that, at this later period, the ascendency of Argos over the members of her primitive confederacy had become practically inoperative; but the tenor of the cases mentioned shows that her claims were revivals of bygone privileges, which had once been effective and valuable.

How valuable the privileges of Argos were, before the great rise of the Spartan power, — how important an ascendency they conferred, in the hands of an energetic man, and how easily they admitted of being used in furtherance of ambitious views, is shown by the remarkable case of Pheidon, the Temenid. The few facts which we learn respecting this prince exhibit to us, for the first time, something like a real position of parties in the Peloponnesus, wherein the actual conflict of living historical men and cities, comes out in tolerable distinctness.

Pheidon was designated by Ephorus as the tenth, and by Theopompus as the sixth, in lineal descent from Temenus. Respecting the date of his existence, opinions the most discrepant and irreconcilable have been delivered; but there seems good reason for referring him to the period a little before and a little after the 8th Olympiad, — between 770 BC. and 730 BC. Of the preceding kings of Argos we hear little: one of them, Eratus, is said to have expelled the Dryopian inhabitants of Asine from their town on the Argolic peninsula, in consequence of their having cooperated with the Spartan king, Nikander, when he invaded the Argeian territory, seemingly during the generation preceding Pheidon; there is another, Damokratidas, whose date cannot be positively determined, but he appears rather as subsequent than as anterior to Pheidon. We are informed, however, that these anterior kings, even beginning with Medon, the grandson of Temenus, had been forced to submit to great abridgment of their power and privileges, and that a form of government substantially popular, though nominally regal, had been established.3Pheidon, breaking through the limits imposed, made himself despot of Argos. He then reestablished the power of Argos over all the cities of her confederacy, which had before been so nearly dissolved as to leave all the members practically independent. Next, he is said to have acquired dominion over Corinth, and to have endeavored to assure it, by treacherously entrapping a thousand of her warlike citizens; but his artifice was divulged and frustrated by Abron, one of his confidential friends. He is farther reported to have aimed at extending his sway over the greater part of Peloponnesus, — laying claim, as the descendant of Heracles, through the eldest son of Hyllus, to all the cities which that restless and irresistible hero had ever taken. According to Grecian ideas, this legendary title was always seriously construed, and often admitted as conclusive; though of course, where there were strong opposing interests, reasons would be found to elude it. Pheidon would have the same ground of right as that which, two hundred and fifty years afterwards, determined the Herakleid Dorieus, brother of Cleomenes king of Sparta, to acquire for himself the territory near Mount Eryx in Sicily, because his progenitor, Heracles, had conquered it before him. So numerous, however, were the legends respecting the conquests of Heracles, that the claim of Pheidon must have covered the greater part of Peloponnesus, except Sparta and the plain of Messene, which were already in the hands of Herakleids.

Nor was the ambition of Pheidon satisfied even with these large pretensions. He farther claimed the right of presiding at the celebration of those religious games, or Agones, which had been instituted by Herakles, —and among these was numbered the Olympic Agon, then, however, enjoying but a slender fraction of the lustre which afterwards came to attach to it. The presidency of any of the more celebrated festivals current throughout Greece, was a privilege immensely prized. It was at once dignified and lucrative, and the course of our history will present more than one example in which blood was shed to determine what state should enjoy it. Phedon marched to Olympia, at the epoch of the 8th recorded Olympiad, or 747 BC; on the occasion of which event we are made acquainted with the real state of parties in the peninsula.

The plain of Olympia,—now ennobled only by immortal recollections, but once crowded with all the decorations of religion and art, and forming for many centuries the brightest centre of attraction known in the ancient world,—was situated on the river Alpheius, in the territory called the Pisatid, hard by the borders of Arcadia. At what time its agonistic festival, recurring every fifth year, at the first full moon after the summer solstice, first began or first acquired its character of special sanctity, we have no means of determining. As with so many of the native waters of Greece, — we follow the stream upward to a certain point, but the fountain-head, and the earlier flow of history, is buried under mountains of unsearchable legend. The first celebration of the Olympic contests was ascribed by Grecian legendary faith to Heracles,— and the site of the place, in the middle of the Pisatid, with its eight small townships, is quite sufficient to prove that the inhabitants of that little territory were warranted in describing themselves as the original administrators of the ceremony. But this state of things seems to have been altered by the Aetolian settlement in Elis, which is represented as having been conducted by Oxylus and identified with the Return of the Herakleids. The Aetolo-Eleians, bordering upon the Pisatid to the north, employed their superior power in subduing their weaker neighbors, who thus lost their autonomy and became annexed to the territory of Elis. It was the general rule throughout Greece, that a victorious state undertook to performs the current services of the conquered people towards the gods, such services being conceived as attaching to the soil : hence, the celebration of the Olympic games became numbered among the incumbencies of Elis, just in the same way as the worship of the Eleusinian Demeter, when Eleusis lost its autonomy, was included among the religious obligations of Athens. The Pisatans, however, never willingly acquiesced in this absorption of what had once been their separate privilege; they long maintained their conviction, that the celebration of the games was their right, and strove on several occasions to regain it. On those occasions, the earliest, so far as we hear, was connected with the intervention of Pheidon. It was at their invitation that the king of Argos went to Olympia, and celebrated the games himself; in conjunction with the Pisatans, as the lineal successor of Heracles; while the Eleians, being thus forcibly dispossessed, refused to include the 8th Olympiad in their register of the victorious runners. But their humiliation did not last long, for the Spartans took their part, and the contest ended in the defeat of Pheidon. In the next Olympiad, the Eleian management and the regular enrolment appear as before, and the Spartans are even said to have confirmed Elis in her possession both of Pisatis and Triphylia.

Unfortunately, these scanty particulars are all which we learn respecting the armed conflict at the 8th Olympiad, in which the religious and the political grounds of quarrel are so intimately blended, —as we shall find to be often the case in Grecian history. But there is one act of Pheidon yet more memorable, of which also nothing beyond a meagre notice has come down to us. He first coined both copper and silver money in Aegina, and first established a scale of weights and measures, which, through his influence, became adopted throughout Peloponnesus, and acquired, ultimately, footing both in all the Dorian states, and in Boeotia, Thessaly, northern Hellas generally, and Macedonia, — under the name of the Aeginaean Scale. There arose subsequently another rival scale in Greece, called the Euboic, differing considerably from the Aeginaean. We do not know at what time it was introduced, but it was employed both at Athens and in the Ionic cities generally, as well as in Euboea, — being modified at Athens, so far as money was concerned, by Solon's debasement of the coinage.

The copious and valuable information contained in M. Boeckh’s recent publication on Metrology, has thrown new light upon these monetary and statical scales. He has shown that both the Aeginaean and the Euboic scales — the former standing to the latter in the proportion of 6 : 5 —had contemporaneous currency in different parts of the Persian empire; the divisions and denominations of the scale being the same in both, 100 drachma: to a mina, and 60 mime to a talent. The Babylonian talent, mina, and drachma are identical with the Aeginaean : the word mina is of Asiatic origin; and it has now been rendered highly probable, that the scale circulated by Pheidon was borrowed immediately from the Phoenicians, and by them originally from the Babylonians. The Babylonian, Hebraic, Phoenician, Egyptian, and Grecian scales of weight (which were subsequently followed wherever coined money was introduced) are found to be so nearly conformable, as to warrant a belief that they are all deduced from one common origin; and that origin the Chaldean priesthood of Babylon. It is to Pheidon, and to his position as chief of the Argeian confederacy, that the Greeks owe the first introduction of the Babylonian scale of weight, and the first employment of coined and stamped money.

If we maturely weigh the few, but striking acts of Pheidon which have been preserved to us, and which there is no reason to discredit, we shall find ourselves introduced to an early historical state of Peloponnesus very different from that to which another century will bring us. That Argos, with the federative cities attached to her, was at this early time decidedly the commanding power in that peninsula, is sufficiently shown by the establishment and reception of the Pheidonian weights, measures, and monetary system,—while the other incidents mentioned completely harmonize with the same idea. Against the oppressions of Elis, the Pisatans invoked Pheidon, —partly as exercising a primacy in Peloponnesus, just as the inhabitants of Lepreum in Triphylia, three centuries afterwards, called in the aid of Sparta for the same object, at a time when Sparta possessed the headship,—and partly as the lineal representative of Heracles, who had founded those games from the management of which they had been unjustly extruded. On the other hand, Sparta appears as a second-rate power. The Aeginaean scale of weight and measure was adopted there as elsewhere—the Messenian Dorians were still equal and independent, — and we find Sparta interfering to assist Elis by virtue of an obligation growing (so the legend represents it) out of the common Aetolo-Dorian emigration; not at all from any acknowledged primacy, such as we shall see her enjoying hereafter. The first coinage of copper and silver money is a capital event in Grecian history, and must be held to imply considerable commerce as well as those extensive views which belong only to a conspicuous and leading position. The ambition of Pheidon to resume all the acquisitions made by his ancestor Heracles, suggests the same large estimate of his actual power. He is characterized as a despot, and even as the most insolent of all despots : how far he deserved such a reputation, we have no means of judging. We may remark, however, that he lived before the age of despots or tyrants, properly so called, and before the Herakleid lineage had yet lost its primary, half-political, half-religious character. Moreover, the later historians have invested his actions with a color of exorbitant aggression, by applying them to a state of things which belonged to their time and not to his. Thus Ephorus represents him as having deprived the Lacedaemonians of the headship of Peloponnesus, which they never possessed until long after him, — and also as setting at naught the sworn inviolability of the territory of the Eleians, enjoyed by the latter as celebrators of the Olympic games; whereas the Agonothesia, or right of superintendence claimed by Elis, had not at that time acquired the sanction of prescription, —while the conquest of Pisa by the Eleians themselves had proved that this sacred function did not protect the territory of a weaker people.

How Pheidon fell, and how the Argeians lost that supremacy which they once evidently possessed, we have no positive details to inform us : with respect to the latter point, however, we can discern a sufficient explanation. The Argeians stood predominant as an entire and unanimous confederacy, which required a vigorous and able hand to render its internal organization effective or its ascendency respected without. No such leader afterwards appeared at Argos, the whole history of which city is destitute of eminent individuals : her line of kings continued at least down to the Persian war, but seemingly with only titular functions, for the government had long been decidedly popular. The statements, which represent the government as popular anterior to the time of Pheidon, appear unworthy of trust. That prince is rather to be taken as wielding the old, undiminished prerogatives of the Herakleid kings, but wielding them with unusual effect,—enforcing relaxed privileges, and appealing to the old heroic sentiment in reference to Heracles, rather than revolutionizing the existing relations either of Argos or of Peloponnesus. It was in fact the great and steady growth of Sparta, for three centuries after the Lycurgean institutions, which operated as a cause of subversion to the previous order of command and obedience in Greece.


The assertion made by Herodotus,— that, in earlier times, the whole eastern coast of Laconia as far as Cape Malea, including the island of Cythera and several other islands, had belonged to Argos,— is referred by O. Müller to about the 50th Olympiad, or 580 BC. Perhaps it had ceased to be true at that period; but that it was true in the age of Pheidon, there seem good grounds for believing. What is probably meant is, that the Dorian towns on this coast, Prasiae, Zarex, Epidaurus Limera, and Boeae, were once autonomous, and members of the Argeian confederacy,—a fact highly probable, on independent evidence, with respect to Epidaurus Limera, inasmuch as that town was a settlement from Epidaurus in the Argolic peninsula: and Boeae too had its own oekist and eponymous, the Herakleid Boeus, noway connected with Sparta,— perhaps derived from the same source as the name of the town Boeon in Doris. The Argeian confederated towns would thus comprehend the whole coast of the Argolic and Saronic gulfs, from Cythera as far as Aegina, besides other islands which we do not know : Aegina had received a colony of Dorians from Argos and Epidaurus, upon which latter town it continued for some time in a state of dependence. It will at once be seen that this extent of coast implies a considerable degree of commerce and maritime activity. We have besides to consider the range of Doric colonies in the southern islands of the Aegean and in the south-western corner of Asia Minor,—Crete, Kos, Rhodes (with its three distinct cities), Halicarnassus, Knidus, Myndus, Nisyrus, Syme, Karpathos, Kalydna, etc. Of the Doric establishments here named, several are connected (as has been before stated) with the great emigration of the Temenid Althaemenes from Argos : but what we particularly observe is, that they are often referred as colonies promiscuously to Argos, Troezen, Epidauras — more frequently however, as it seems, to Argos. All these settlements are doubtless older than Pheidon, and we may conceive them as proceeding conjointly from the allied Dorian towns in the Argolic peninsula, at a time when they were more in the habit of united action than they afterwards became : a captain of emigrants selected from the line of Heracles and Temenus was suitable to the feelings of all of them. We may thus look back to a period, at the very beginning of the Olympiads, when the maritime Dorians on the east of Peloponnesus maintained a considerable intercourse and commerce, not only among themselves, but also with their settlements on the Asiatic coast and islands. That the Argolic peninsula formed an early centre for maritime rendezvous, we may farther infer from the very ancient Amphiktyony of the seven cities (Hermione, Epidaurus, Aegina, Athens, Prasiae, Nauplia, and the Minyeian Orchomenus), on the holy island of Kalauria, off the harbor of Troezen.

The view here given of the early ascendency of Argos, as the head of the Peloponnesian Dorians and the metropolis of the Asiatic Dorians, enables us to understand the capital innovation of Pheidon, —the first coinage, and the first determinate scale of weight and measure, known in Greece. Of the value of such improvements, in the history of Grecian civilization, it is superfluous to speak, especially when we recollect that the Hellenic states, having no political unity, were only held together by the aggregate of spontaneous uniformities, in language, religion, sympathies, recreations, and general habits. We see both how Pheidon came to contract the wish, and how he acquired the power, to introduce throughout so much of the Grecian world an uniform scale; we also see that the Asiatic Dorians form the link between him and Phoenicia, from whence the scale was derived, just as the Euboic scale came, in all probability, through the Ionic cities in Asia, from Lydia. It is asserted by Ephorus, and admitted even by the ablest modern critics, that Pheidon first coined money "in Aegina"; other authors (erroneously believing that his scale was the Euboic scale) alleged that his coinage had been carried on “in a place of Argos called Euboea”. Now both these statements appear highly improbable, and both are traceable to the same mistake,—of supposing that the title, by which the scale had come to be commonly known, must necessarily be derived from the place in which the coinage had been struck. There is every reason to conclude, that what Pheidon did was done in Argos, and nowhere else : his coinage and scale were the earliest known in Greece, and seem to have been known by his own name, “the Pheidonian measures”, under which designation they were described by Aristotle, in his account of the constitution of Argos. They probably did not come to bear the specific epithet of Aeginaean until there was another scale in vogue, the Euboic, from which to distinguish the ; and both the epithets were probably derived, not from the place where the scale first originated, but from the people whose commercial activity tended to make them most generally known, — in the one case, the Aginetans; in the other case, the inhabitants of Chalcis and Eretria. I think, therefore, that we are to look upon the Pheidonian measures as emanating from Argos, and as having no greater connection, originally, with Aegina, than with any other city dependent upon Argos.

There is, moreover, another point which deserves notice. What was known by the name of the Aegimean scale, as contrasted with and standing in a definite ratio (6 : 5) with the Euboic scale, related only to weight and money, so far as our knowledge extends : we have no evidence to show that the same ratio extended either to measures of length or measures of capacity. But there seems ground for believing that the Pheidonian regulations, taken in their full comprehension, embraced measures of capacity as well as weights : Pheidon, at the same time when he determined the talent, mina, and drachm, seems also to have fixed the dry and liquid measures,—the medimnus and metretes, with their parts and multiples : and there existed Pheidonian measures of capacity, though not of length, so far as we know. The Aeginaean scale may thus have comprised only a portion of what was established by Pheidon, namely, that which related to weight and money.