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THE preceding volume brought down the history of Sparta to the period marked by the reign of Peisistratus at Athens; at which time she had attained her maximum of territory, was confessedly the most powerful state in Greece, and enjoyed a proportionate degree of deference from the rest. I now proceed to touch upon the three Dorian cities on and near to the Isthmus—Corinth, Sicyon, and Megara, as they existed at this same period.

Even amidst the scanty information which has reached us, we trace the marks of considerable maritime energy and commerce among the Corinthians, as far back as the eighth century B.C. The foundation of Corcyra and Syracuse, in the eleventh Olympiad, or 734 B.C. (of which I shall speak farther in connection with Grecian colonization generally), by expeditions from Corinth, affords a good proof that they knew how to turn to account the excellent situation which connected them with the sea on both sides of Peloponnesus: and Thucydides, while he notices them as the chief liberators of the sea in early times from pirates, also tells us that the first great improvement in ship-building—the construction of the trireme, or ship of war, with a full deck and triple banks for the rowers—was the fruit of Corinthian ingenuity. It was in the year 703 B.C., that the Corinthian Ameinocles built four triremes for the Samians, the first which those islanders had ever possessed: the notice of this fact attests as well the importance attached to the new invention, as the humble scale on which the naval force in those early days was equipped. And it is a fact of not less moment, in proof of the maritime vigour of Corinth in the seventh century B.C., that the earliest naval battle known to Thucydides was one which took place between the Corinthians and the Corcyraeans, 664 B.C.

It has already been stated, in the preceding  volume, that the line of Heracleid kings in Corinth subsides gradually, through a series of empty names, into the oligarchy denominated Bacchiadae or Bacchiads, under whom our first historical knowledge of the city begins. The persons so named were all accounted descendants of Herakles, and formed the governing caste in the city; intermarrying usually among themselves, and choosing from their own number an annual prytanis, or president, for the administration of affairs. Of their internal government we have no accounts, except the tale respecting Archias the founder of Syracuse, one of their number, who had made himself so detested by an act of brutal violence terminating in the death of the beautiful youth Actaeon, as to be forced to expatriate. That such a man should have been placed in the distinguished post of Oekist of the colony of Syracuse, gives us no favourable idea of the Bacchiad oligarchy: we do not however know upon what original authority the story depends, nor can we be sure that it is accurately recounted. But Corinth under their government was already a powerful commercial and maritime city, as has already been stated.

Megara, the last Dorian state in this direction eastward, and conterminous with Attica at the point where the mountains called Kerata descend to Eleusis and the Thriasian plain, is affirmed to have been originally settled by the Dorians of Corinth, and to have remained for some time a dependency of that city. It is farther said to have been at first merely one of five separate villages—Megara, Heraea, Peiraea, Kynosura, Tripodiskus—inhabited by a kindred population, and generally on friendly terms, yet sometimes distracted by quarrels, and on those occasions carrying on war with a degree of lenity and chivalrous confidence which reverses the proverbial affirmation respecting the sanguinary character of enmities between kindred. Both these two statements are transmitted to us (we know not from what primitive source) as explanatory of certain current phrases: the author of the latter cannot have agreed with the author of the former in considering the Corinthians as masters of the Megarid, because he represents them as fomenting wars among these five villages for the purpose of acquiring that territory. Whatever may be the truth respecting this alleged early subjection of Megara, we know it in the historical age, and that too as early as the fourteenth Olympiad, only as an independent Dorian city, maintaining the integrity of its territory under its leader Orsippus the famous Olympic runner, against some powerful enemies, probably the Corinthians. It was of no mean consideration, possessing a territory which extended across Mount Geraneia to the Corinthian Gulf, on which the fortified town and port of Pegae, belonging to the Megarians, was situated; it was mother of early and distant colonies,—and competent, during the time of Solon, to carry on a protracted contest with the Athenians, for the possession of Salamis, wherein, although the latter were at last victorious, it was not without an intermediate period of ill-success and despair.

Of the early history of Sicyon, from the period when it became Dorian down to the seventh century B.C., we know nothing. Our first information respecting it, concerns the establishment of the despotism of Orthagoras, about 680-670 B.C.  And it is a point deserving of notice, that all the three above-mentioned towns—Corinth, Sicyon, and Megara—underwent during the course of this same century a similar change of government. In each of them a despot established himself: Orthagoras in Sicyon; Kypselus in Corinth; Theagenes in Megara.

Unfortunately we have too little evidence as to the state of things by which this change of government was preceded and brought about, to be able to appreciate fully its bearing. But what draws our attention to it more particularly is, that the like phenomenon seems to have occurred contemporaneously throughout a large number of cities, continental, insular and colonial, in many different parts of the Grecian world. The period between 650 and 500 B.C., witnessed the rise and downfall of many despots and despotic dynasties, each in its own separate city. During the succeeding interval between 500 and 350 B.C., new despots, though occasionally springing up, become more rare: political dispute takes another turn, and the question is raised directly and ostensibly between the many and the few—the people and the oligarchy. But in the still later times which follow the battle of Chaeroneia, in proportion as Greece, declining in civic not less than in military spirit, is driven to the constant employment of mercenary troops, and humbled by the overruling interference of foreigners —the despot with his standing foreign body-guard becomes again a characteristic of the time; a tendency partially counteracted, but never wholly subdued, by Aratus and the Achaean league of the third century B.C.

It would have been instructive if we possessed a faithful record of these changes of government in some of the more considerable of the Grecian towns; but in the absence of such evidence, we can do little more than collect the brief sentences of Aristotle and others respecting the causes which produced them. For as the like change of government was common, near about the same time, to cities very different in locality, in race of inhabitants, in tastes and habits, and in wealth, it must partly have depended upon certain general causes which admit of being assigned and explained.

In the preceding volume I tried to elucidate the heroic government of Greece, so far as it could be known from the epic poems—a government founded (if we may employ modern phraseology) upon divine right as opposed to the sovereignty of the people, but requiring, as an essential condition, that the king shall possess force, both of body and mind, not unworthy of the exalted breed to which he belongs. In this government the authority, which pervades the whole society, all resides in the king: but on important occasions it is exercised through the forms of publicity: he consults, and even discusses, with the council of chiefs or elders—he communicates after such consultation with the assembled Agora,—who hear and approve, perhaps hear and murmur, but are not understood to exercise an option or to reject. In giving an account of the Lycurgian system, I remarked that the old primitive Rhetrae (or charters of compact) indicated the existence of these same elements; a king of superhuman lineage (in this particular case two coordinate kings)—a senate of twenty-eight old men, besides the kings who sat in it—and an Ekklesia or public assembly of citizens, convened for the purpose of approving or rejecting propositions submitted to them, with little or no liberty of discussion. The elements of the heroic government of Greece are thus found to be substantially the same as those existing in the primitive Lycurgian constitution; in both cases the predominant force residing in the kings—and the functions of the senate, still more those of the public assembly, being comparatively narrow and restricted: in both cases the regal authority being upheld by a certain religious sentiment, which tended to exclude rivalry and to ensure submission in the people up to a certain point, in spite of misconduct or deficiency in the reigning individual. Among the principal Epirotic tribes this government subsisted down to the third century B.C., though some of them had passed out of it, and were in the habit of electing annually a president out of the gens to which the king belonged.

Starting from these points, common to the Grecian heroic government, and to the original Lycurgian system, we find that in the Grecian cities generally the king, is replaced by an oligarchy, consisting of a limited number of families—while at Sparta the kingly authority, though greatly curtailed, is never abolished. And the different turn of events at Sparta admits of being partially explained. It so happened that for five centuries neither of the two coordinate lines of Spartan kings was ever without some male representatives, so that the sentiment of divine right, upon which their pre-eminence was founded, always proceeded in an undeviating channel. That sentiment never wholly died out in the tenacious mind of Sparta, but it became sufficiently enfeebled to occasion a demand for guarantees against abuse. If the senate had been a more numerous body, composed of a few principal families, and comprising men of all ages, it might perhaps have extended its powers so much as to absorb those of the king: but a council of twenty-eight very old men, chosen indiscriminately from all Spartan families, was essentially an adjunct and secondary force. It was insufficient even as a restraint upon the king—still less was it competent to become his rival; and it served indirectly even as a support to him, by preventing the formation of any other privileged order powerful enough to be an overmatch for his authority. This insufficiency on the part of the senate was one of the causes which occasioned the formation of the annually renewed Council of Five, called the Ephors; originally a defensive board like the Roman Tribunes, intended as a restraint upon abuse of power in the kings, but afterwards expanding into a paramount and unresponsible Executive Directory. Assisted by endless dissensions between the two coordinate kings, the Ephors encroached upon their power on every side, limited them to certain special functions, and even rendered them accountable and liable to punishment, but never aspired to abolish the dignity. That which the regal authority lost in extent (to borrow the just remark of king Theopompus) it gained in durability: the descendants of the twins Eurysthenes and Prokles continued in possession of their double sceptre from the earliest historical times down to the revolutions of Agis III and Kleomenes III—generals of the military force, growing richer and richer, and reverenced as well as influential in the state, though the Directory of Ephors were their superiors. And the Ephors became in time quite as despotic, in reference to internal affairs, as the kings could ever have been before them; for the Spartan mind, deeply possessed with the feelings of command and obedience, remained comparatively insensible to the ideas of control and responsibility, and even averse to that open discussion and censure of public measures or officers which such ideas imply. We must recollect that the Spartan political constitution was both simplified in its character and aided in its working by the comprehensive range of the Lycurgian discipline, with its rigorous equal pressure upon rich and poor, which averted many of the causes elsewhere productive of sedition—habituating the proudest and most refractory citizen to a life of undeviating obedience—satisfying such demand as existed for system and regularity—rendering Spartan personal habits of life much more equal than even democratical Athens could parallel; but contributing at the same time to engender a contempt for talkers, and a dislike of methodical and prolonged speech, which of itself sufficed to exclude all regular interference of the collective citizens, either in political or judicial affairs.

Such were the facts at Sparta: but in the rest of Greece the primitive heroic government was modified in a very different manner: the people outgrew, much more decidedly, that feeling of divine right and personal reverence which originally gave authority to the king. Willing submission ceased on the part of the people, and still more on the part of the inferior chiefs, and with it ceased the heroic royalty. Something like a system or constitution came to be demanded.

Of this discontinuance of kingship, so universal in the political march of Hellas, the prime cause is doubtless to be sought in the smallness and concentrated residence of each distinct Hellenic society. A single chief, perpetual and unresponsible, was no way essential for the maintenance of union. In modern Europe, for the most part, the different political societies which grew up out of the extinction of the Roman empire embraced each a considerable population and a wide extent of territory; and the monarchical form presented itself as the only known means of union between the parts; the only visible and imposing symbol of a national identity. Both the military character of the Teutonic invaders, as well as the traditions of the Roman empire which they dismembered, tended towards the establishment of a monarchical chief, the abolition of whose dignity would have been looked upon as equivalent, and would really have been equivalent, to the breaking up of the nation, since the maintenance of a collective union by means of general assemblies was so burdensome, that the kings themselves vainly tried to exact it by force, and representative government was then unknown.

The history of the Middle Ages, though exhibiting constant resistance on the part of powerful subjects, frequent deposition of individual kings, and occasional changes of dynasty, contains few instances of any attempt to maintain a large political aggregate united without a king, either hereditary or elective. Even towards the close of the last century, at the period when the federal constitution of the United States of America was first formed, many reasoners regarded as an impossibility the application of any other system than the monarchical to a territory of large size and population, so as to combine union of the whole with equal privileges and securities to each of the parts: and it might perhaps be a real impossibility among any rude people, with strong local peculiarities, difficult means of communication, and habits of representative government not yet acquired. Hence throughout all the larger nations of mediaeval and modern Europe, with few exceptions, the prevailing sentiment has been favourable to monarchy; but wherever any single city or district, or cluster of villages, whether in the plains of Lombardy or in the mountains of Switzerland, has acquired independence—wherever any small fraction has severed itself from the aggregate—the opposite sentiment has been found, and the natural tendency has been towards some modification of republican government; out of which indeed, as in Greece, a despot has often been engendered, but always through some unnatural mixture of force and fraud. The feudal system, evolved out of the disordered state of Europe between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, always presumed a permanent suzerain, vested with large rights of a mixed personal and proprietary character over his vassals, though subject also to certain obligations towards them: the immediate vassals of the king had subordinate vassals of their own, to whom they stood in the same relation: and in this hierarchy of power, property, and territory blended together, the rights of the chief, whether king, duke, or baron, were always conceived as constituting a status apart, and neither conferred originally by the grant, nor revocable at the pleasure, of those over whom they were exercised. This view of the essential nature of political authority was a point in which the three great elements of modern European society—the Teutonic, the Roman, and the Christian—all concurred, though each in a different way and with different modifications; and the result was, a variety of attempts on the part of subjects to compromise with their chief, without any idea of substituting a delegated executive in his place. On particular points of these feudal monarchies there grew up gradually towns with a concentrated population, among whom was seen the remarkable combination of a republican feeling, demanding collective and responsible management in their own local affairs, with a necessity of union and subordination towards the great monarchical whole; and hence again arose a new force tending both to maintain the form, and to predetermine the march, of kingly government. And it has been found in practice possible to attain this latter object—to combine regal government with fixity of administration, equal law impartially executed, security to person and property, and freedom of discussion under representative forms,—in a degree which the wisest ancient Greek would have deemed hopeless. Such an improvement in the practical working of this species of government, speaking always comparatively with the kings of ancient times in Syria, Egypt, Judaea, the Grecian cities, and Rome,—coupled with the increased force of all established routine, and the greater durability of all institutions and creeds which have once obtained footing throughout any wide extent of territory and people, has caused the monarchical sentiment to remain predominant in the European mind (though not without vigorous occasional dissent) throughout the increased knowledge and the enlarged political experience of the last two centuries.

It is important to show that the monarchical institutions and monarchical tendencies prevalent throughout mediaeval and modern Europe have been both generated and perpetuated by causes peculiar to those societies, whilst in the Hellenic societies such causes had no place—in order that we may approach Hellenic phenomena in the proper spirit, and with an impartial estimate of the feeling universal among Greeks towards the idea of a king. The primitive sentiment entertained towards the heroic king died out, passing first into indifference, next—after experience of the despots—into determined antipathy.

To an historian like Mr. Mitford, full of English ideas respecting government, this anti-monarchical feeling appears of the nature of insanity, and the Grecian communities like madmen without a keeper: while the greatest of all benefactors is the hereditary king who conquers them from without—the second-best is the home-despot who seizes the acropolis and puts his fellow-citizens under coercion. There cannot be a more certain way of misinterpreting and distorting Grecian phaenomena than to read them in this spirit, which reverses the maxims both of prudence and morality current in the ancient world. The hatred of kings as it stood among the Greeks (whatever may be thought about a similar feeling now) was a pre-eminent virtue, flowing directly from the noblest and wisest part of their nature : it was a consequence of their deep conviction of the necessity of universal legal restraint—it was a direct expression of that regulated sociality which required the control of individual passion from every one without exception, and most of all from him to whom power was confided. The conception which the Greeks formed of an unresponsible One, or of a king who could do no wrong, may be expressed in the pregnant words of Herodotus: “He subverts the customs of the country: he violates women: he puts men to death without trial.” No other conception of the probable tendencies of kingship was justified either by a general knowledge of human nature, or by political experience as it stood from Solon downward : no other feeling than abhorrence could be entertained for the character so conceived: no other than a man of unprincipled ambition would ever seek to invest himself with it.

Our larger political experience has taught us to modify this opinion, by showing that under the conditions of monarchy in the best governments of modern Europe the enormities described by Herodotus do not take place—and that it is possible, by means of representative constitutions acting under a certain force of manners, customs, and historical recollection, to obviate many of the mischiefs likely to flow from proclaiming the duty of peremptory obedience to an hereditary and unresponsible king, who cannot be changed without extra-constitutional force. But such larger observation was not open to Aristotle, the wisest as well as the most cautious of ancient theorists; nor if it had been open, could he have applied with assurance its lessons to the governments of the single cities of Greece. The theory of a constitutional king, especially, as it exists in England, would have appeared to him impracticable : to establish a king who will reign without governing—in whose name all government is carried on, yet whose personal will is in practice of little or no effect—exempt from all responsibility, without making use of the exemption—receiving from every one unmeasured demonstrations of homage, which are never translated into act except within the bounds of a known law—surrounded with all the paraphernalia of power, yet acting as a passive instrument in the hands of ministers marked out for his choice by indications which he is not at liberty to resist. This remarkable combination of the fiction of superhuman grandeur and licence with the reality of an invisible strait-waistcoat, is what an Englishman has in his mind when he speaks of a constitutional king : the events of our history have brought it to pass in England, amidst an aristocracy the most powerful that the world has yet seen—but we have still to learn whether it can be made to exist elsewhere, or whether the occurrence of a single king, at once able, aggressive, and resolute, may not suffice to break it up. To Aristotle, certainly, it could not have appeared otherwise than unintelligible and impracticable: not likely even in a single case—but altogether inconceivable as a permanent system and with all the diversities of temper inherent in the successive members of an hereditary dynasty. When the Greeks thought of a man exempt from legal responsibility, they conceived him as really and truly such, indeed as well as in name, with a defenceless community exposed to his oppressions; and their fear and hatred of him was measured by their reverence for a government of equal law and free speech, with the ascendency of which their whole hopes of security were associated,—in the democracy of Athens more perhaps than in any other portion of Greece. And this feeling, as it was one of the best in the Greek mind, so it was also one of the most widely spread,—a point of unanimity highly valuable amidst so many points of dissension. We cannot construe or criticise it by reference to the feelings of modem Europe, still less to the very peculiar feelings of England, respecting kingship: and it is the application, sometimes explicit and sometimes tacit, of this unsuitable standard, which renders Mr. Mitford’s appreciation of Greek politics so often incorrect and unfair.

When we try to explain the course of Grecian affairs, not from the circumstances of other societies, but from those of the Greeks themselves, we shall see good reason for the discontinuance as well as for the dislike of kingship. Had the Greek mind been as stationary and unimproving as that of the Orientals, the discontent with individual kings might have led to no other change than the deposition of a bad king in favour of one who promised to be better, without ever extending the views of the people to any higher conception than that of a personal government. But the Greek mind was of a progressive character, capable of conceiving and gradually of realizing amended social combinations. Moreover it is in the nature of things that any government—regal, oligarchical or democratical—which comprises only a single city, is far less stable than if it embraced a wider surface and a larger population: and when that semi-religious and mechanical submission, which made up for the personal deficiencies of the heroic king, became too feeble to serve as a working principle, the petty prince was in too close contact with his people, and too humbly furnished out in every way, to get up a prestige or delusion of any other kind: he had no means of overawing their imaginations by that combination of pomp, seclusion, and mystery, which Herodotus and Xenophon so well appreciate among the artifices of kingcraft. As there was no new feeling upon which a perpetual chief could rest bis power, so there was nothing in the circumstances of the community which rendered the maintenance of such a dignity necessary for visible and effective union: in a single city, and a small circumjacent community, collective deliberation and general rules, with temporary and responsible magistrates, were practicable without difficulty.

To maintain an unresponsible king, and then to contrive accompaniments which shall extract from him the benefits of responsible government, is in reality a highly complicated system, though, as has been remarked, we have become familiar with it in modern Europe: the more simple and obvious change is, to substitute one or more temporary and responsible magistrates in place of the king himself. Such was the course which affairs took in Greece. The inferior chiefs, who had originally served as council to the king, found it possible to supersede him, and to alternate the functions of administration among themselves; retaining probably the occasional convocation of the general assembly, as it had existed before, and with as little practical efficacy. Such was in substance the character of that mutation which occurred generally throughout the Grecian states, apart from Sparta: kingship was abolished, and an oligarchy took its place —a council deliberating collectively, deciding general matters by the majority of voices, and selecting some individuals of their own body as temporary and accountable administrators. It was always an oligarchy which arose on the defeasance of the heroic kingdom: the age of democratical movement was yet far distant, and the condition of the people —the general body of freemen—was not immediately altered, either for better or worse, by the revolution; the small number of privileged persons, among whom the kingly attributes were distributed and put in rotation, being those nearest in rank to the king himself, perhaps members of the same large gens with him, and pretending to a common divine or heroic descent. As far as we can make out, this change seems to have taken place in the natural course of events and without violence. Sometimes the kingly lineage died out and was not replaced; sometimes, on the death of a king, his son and successor was acknowledged only as archon, or perhaps set aside altogether to make room for a Prytanis or president out of the men of rank around.

At Athens, we are told that Kodrus was the last king, and that his descendants were recognised only as archons for life; after some years, the archons for life were replaced by archons for ten years, taken from the body of Eupatridae or nobles; subsequently, the duration of the archonship was further shortened to one year. At Corinth, the ancient kings are said to have passed in like manner into the oligarchy of the Bacchiads, out of whom an annual Prytanis was chosen. We are only able to make out the general fact of such a change, without knowing how it was brought about—our first historical acquaintance with the Grecian cities beginning with these oligarchies.

Such oligarchical governments, varying in their details but analogous in general features, were common throughout the cities of Greece Proper as well as of the colonies, throughout the seventh century B.C. Though they had little immediate tendency to benefit the mass of the freemen, yet when we compare them with the antecedent heroic government, they indicate an important advance —the first adoption of a deliberate and preconceived system in the management of public affairs. They exhibit the first evidences of new and important political ideas in the Greek mind—the separation of legislative and executive powers; the former vested in a collective body, not merely deliberating but also finally deciding—while the latter is confided to temporary individual magistrates, responsible to that body at the end of their period of office. We are first introduced to a community of citizens, according to the definition of Aristotle—men qualified, and thinking themselves qualified, to take turns in command and obedience: the collective sovereign, called The City, is thus constituted. It is true that this first community of citizens comprised only a small proportion of the men personally free, but the ideas upon which it was founded began gradually to dawn upon the minds of all. Political power had lost its heaven-appointed character, and had become an attribute legally communicable as well as determined to certain definite ends: and the ground was thus laid for those thousand questions which agitated so many of the Grecian cities during the ensuing three centuries, partly respecting its apportionment, partly respecting its employment,—questions sometimes raised among the members of the privileged oligarchy itself, sometimes between that order as a whole and the non-privileged Many. The seeds of those popular movements, which called forth so much profound emotion, so much bitter antipathy, so much energy and talent, throughout the Grecian world, with different modifications in each particular city, may thus be traced back to that early revolution which erected the primitive oligarchy upon the ruins of the heroic kingdom.

How these first oligarchies were administered we have no direct information; but the narrow and anti-popular interests naturally belonging to a privileged few, together with the general violence of private manners and passions, leave us no ground for presuming favourably respecting either their prudence or their good feeling; and the facts which we learn respecting the condition of Attica prior to the Solonian legislation (to be recounted in the next chapter) raise inferences all of an unfavourable character.

The first shock which they received, and by which so many of them were subverted, arose from the usurpers called Despots, who employed the prevalent discontents both as pretexts and as aids for their own personal ambition, while their very frequent success seems to imply that such discontents were widespread as well as serious. These despots arose out of the bosom of the oligarchies, but not all in the same manner. Sometimes the executive magistrate, upon whom the oligarchy themselves had devolved important administrative powers for a certain temporary period, became unfaithful to his choosers, and acquired sufficient ascendency to retain his dignity permanently in spite of them—perhaps even to transmit it to his son. In other places, and seemingly more often, there arose that noted character called the Demagogue, of whom historians both ancient and modern commonly draw so repulsive a picture: a man of energy and ambition, sometimes even a member of the oligarchy itself, who stood forward as champion of the grievances and sufferings of the non-privileged. Many, acquired their favour, and employed their strength so effectively as to put down the oligarchy by force, and constitute himself despot. A third form of despot, some presumptuous wealthy man, like Kylon at Athens, without even the pretence of popularity was occasionally emboldened by the success of similar adventurers in other places to hire a troop of retainers and seize the acropolis; and there were examples, though rare, of a fourth variety—the lineal descendant of the ancient kings—who, instead of suffering himself to be restricted or placed under control by the oligarchy, found means to subjugate them, and to extort by force an ascendency as great as that which his forefathers had enjoyed by consent. To these must be added, in several Grecian states, the Aesymnete or Dictator, a citizen formally invested with supreme and unresponsible power, placed in command of the military force, and armed with a standing bodyguard, but only for a time named, and in order to deal with some urgent peril or ruinous internal dissension. The person thus exalted, always enjoying a large measure of confidence, and generally a man of ability, was sometimes so successful, or made himself so essential to the community, that the term of his office was prolonged, and he became practically despot for life; or even if the community were not disposed to concede to him this permanent ascendency, he was often strong enough to keep it against their will. 

Such were the different modes in which the numerous Greek despots of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. acquired their power. Though we know thus much in general terms from the brief statements of Aristotle, yet unhappily we have no contemporary picture of any one of these communities, so as to give us the means of appreciating the change in detail. Of those persons who, possessing inherited kingly dignity, stretched their paternal power so far as to become despots, Aristotle gives us Pheidon of Argos as an example, whose reign has been already narrated in the preceding volume: of those who made themselves despots by means of official power previously held under an oligarchy, he names Phalaris at Agrigentum and the despots at Miletus and other cities of the Ionic Greeks: of those who raised themselves by becoming demagogues, e specifies Panaetius in the Sicilian town of Leontini, Kypselus at Corinth, and Peisistratus at Athens: of Aesymnetes or chosen despots, Pittacus of Mytilene is the prominent instance. The military and aggressive demagogue, subverting an oligarchy which had degraded and ill-used him, governing as a cruel despot for several years, and at last dethroned and slain, is farther depicted by Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the history of Aristodemus of the Italian Cumae.

From the general statement of Thucydides as well as of Aristotle, we learn that the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. were centuries of progress for the Greek cities generally, in wealth, in power, and in population; and the numerous colonies founded during this period (of which I shall speak in a future chapter) will furnish further illustration of such progressive tendencies. Now the changes just mentioned in the Grecian governments, imperfectly as we know them, are on the whole decided evidences of advancing citizenship. For the heroic government, with which Grecian communities begin, is the rudest and most infantine of all governments; destitute even of the .pretence of system or security, incapable of being in any way foreknown, and depending only upon the accidental variations in the character of the reigning individual, who in most cases, far from serving as a protection to the poor against the rich and great, was likely to indulge his passions in the same unrestrained way as the latter, and with still greater impunity.

The despots, who in so many towns succeeded they governed on principles usually narrow and selfish, and often oppressively cruel, “taking no thought (to use the emphatic words of Thucydides) except for their own body and their own family”— yet since they were not strong enough to crush the Greek mind, imprinted upon it a painful but improving political lesson, and contributed much to enlarge the range of experience as well as to determine the subsequent cast of feeling. They partly broke down the wall of distinction between the people—properly so called, the general mass of freemen—and the oligarchy: indeed the demagogue-despots are interesting as the first evidence of the growing importance of the people in political affairs. The demagogue stood forward as representing the feelings and interests of the people against the governing few, probably availing himself of some special cases of ill-usage, and taking pains to be conciliatory and generous in his own personal behaviour: and when the people by their armed aid had enabled him to overthrow the existing rulers, they had thus the satisfaction of seeing their own chief in possession of the supreme power, but they acquired no political rights and no increased securities for themselves. What measure of positive advantage they may have reaped, beyond that of seeing their previous oppressors humiliated, we know too little to determine1; but even the worst of despots was more formidable to the rich than to the poor, and the latter may perhaps have gained by the change, in comparative importance, notwithstanding their share in the rigours and exactions of a government which had no other permanent foundation than naked fear.

A remark made by Aristotle deserves especial notice here, as illustrating the political advance and education of the Grecian communities. He draws a marked distinction between the early demagogue of the seventh and sixth centuries, and the later demagogue, such as he himself and the generations immediately preceding had witnessed: the former was a military chief, daring and full of resource, who took arms at the head of a body of popular insurgents, put down the government by force, and made himself the master both of those whom he deposed and of those by whose aid he deposed them; while the latter was a speaker, possessed of all the talents necessary for moving an audience, but neither inclined to, nor qualified for, armed attack—accomplishing all his purposes by pacific and constitutional methods. This valuable change—substituting discussion and the vote of an assembly in place of an appeal to arms, and procuring for the pronounced decision of the assembly such an influence over men’s minds as to render it final and respected even by dissentients—arose from the continued practical working of democratical institutions. I shall have occasion, at a later period of this history, to estimate the value of that unmeasured obloquy which has been heaped on the Athenian demagogues of the Peloponnesian war—Kleon and Hyperbolus; but assuming the whole to be well-founded, it will not be the less true that these men were a material improvement on the earlier demagogues such as Kypselus and Peisistratus, who employed the armed agency of the people for the purpose of subverting the established government and acquiring despotic authority for themselves. The demagogue was essentially a leader of opposition, who gained his influence by denouncing the men in real ascendency, and in actual executive functions. Now under the early oligarchies his opposition could be shown only by armed insurrection, and it conducted him either to personal sovereignty or to destruction; but the growth of democratical institutions ensured both to him and to his political opponents full liberty of speech, and a paramount assembly to determine between them; whilst it both limited the range of his ambition, and set aside the appeal to armed force. The railing demagogue of Athens at the time of the Peloponnesian war (even if we accept literally the representations of his worst enemies) was thus a far less mischievous and dangerous person than the fighting demagogue of the earlier centuries; and the “growth of habits of public speaking” (to use Aristotle’s expression) was the cause of the difference: the opposition of the tongue was a beneficial substitute for the opposition of the sword.

The rise of these despots on the ruins of the previous oligarchies was, in appearance, a return to the principles of the heroic age—the restoration of a government of personal will in place of that systematic arrangement known as the City. But the Greek mind had so far outgrown those early principles, that no new government founded thereupon could meet with willing acquiescence, except under some temporary excitement. At first doubtless the popularity of the usurper—combined with the fervour of his partisans and the expulsion or intimidation of opponents, and further enhanced by the punishment of rich oppressors—was sufficient to procure for him obedience; and prudence on his part might prolong this undisputed rule for a considerable period, perhaps even throughout his whole life. But Aristotle intimates that these governments, even when they began well, had a constant tendency to become worse and worse: discontent manifested itself, and was aggravated rather than repressed by the violence employed against it, until at length the despot became a prey to mistrustful and malevolent anxiety, losing any measure of equity or benevolent sympathy which might once have animated him. If he was fortunate enough to bequeath his authority to his son, the latter, educated in a corrupt atmosphere and surrounded by parasites, contracted dispositions yet more noxious and unsocial: his youthful appetites were more ungovernable, while he was deficient in the prudence and vigour which bad been indispensable to the self-accomplished rise of his father. For such a position, mercenary guards and a fortified acropolis were the only stay—guards fed at the expense of the citizens, and thus requiring constant exactions on behalf of that which was nothing better than a hostile garrison. It was essential to the security of the despot that he should keep down the spirit of the free people whom he governed; that he should isolate them from each other, and prevent those meetings and mutual communications which Grecian cities habitually presented in the School, the Lesche, or the Palaestra; that he should strike off the overtopping ears of corn in the field (to use the Greek locution) or crush the exalted and enterprising minds. Nay, he had even to a certain extent an interest in degrading and impoverishing them, or at least in debarring them from the acquisition either of wealth or leisure: and the extensive constructions undertaken by Polycrates at Samos, as well as the rich donations of Periander to the temple at Olympia, are considered by Aristotle to have been extorted by these despots with the express view of engrossing the time and exhausting the means of their subjects.

It is not to be imagined that all were alike cruel or unprincipled; but the perpetual supremacy of one man and one family had become so offensive to the jealousy of those who felt themselves to be his equals, and to the general feeling of the people, that repression and severity were inevitable, whether originally intended or not. And even if an usurper, having once entered upon this career of violence, grew sick and averse to its continuance, abdication only left him in imminent peril, exposed to the vengeance1 of those whom he had injured—unless indeed he could clothe himself with the mantle of religion, and stipulate with the people to become priest of some temple and deity; in which case his new function protected him, just as the tonsure and the monastery sheltered a dethroned prince in the middle ages. Several of the despots were patrons of music and poetry and courted the goodwill of contemporary intellectual men by invitation as well as by reward; and there were some cases, such as that of Peisistratus and his sons at Athens, in which an attempt was made (analogous to that of Augustus at Rome) to reconcile the reality of personal omnipotence with a certain respect for pre-existing forms. In such instances the administration, though not unstained by guilt, never otherwise than unpopular, and carried on by means of foreign mercenaries, was doubtless practically milder. But cases of this character were rare, and the maxims usual with Grecian despots were personified in Periander the Kypselid of Corinth—a harsh and brutal person, but not destitute either of vigour or intelligence.

The position of a Grecian despot, as depicted by Plato, by Xenophon and by Aristotle, and farther sustained by the indications in Herodotus, Thucydides, and Isocrates, though always coveted by ambitious men, reveals clearly enough “those wounds and lacerations of mind” whereby the internal Erinnys avenged the community upon the usurper who trampled them down. Far from considering success in usurpation as a justification of the attempt (according to the theories now prevalent respecting Cromwell and Bonaparte, who are often blamed because they kept out a legitimate king, but never because they seized an unauthorized power over the people), these philosophers regard the despot as among the greatest of criminals: the man who assassinated him was an object of public honour and reward, and a virtuous Greek would seldom have scrupled to carry his sword concealed in myrtle branches, like Harmodius and Aristogeiton, for the execution of the deed. A station, which overtopped the restraints and obligations involved in citizenship, was understood at the same time to forfeit all title to the common sympathy and protection, so that it was unsafe for the despot to visit in person those great Pan-Hellenic games in which his own chariot might perhaps have gained the prize, and in which the Theors or sacred envoys, whom he sent as representatives of his Hellenic city, appeared with ostentatious pomp. A government carried on under these unpropitious circumstances could never be otherwise than short-lived. Though the individual daring enough to seize it, often found means to preserve it for the term of his own life, yet the sight of a despot living to old age was rare, and the transmission of his power to his son still more so.

Amidst the numerous points of contention in Grecian political morality, this rooted antipathy to a permanent hereditary ruler stood apart as a sentiment almost unanimous, in which the thirst for pre-eminence felt by the wealthy few, and the love of equal freedom in the bosoms of the many, alike concurred. It first began among the oligarchies of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., a complete reversal of that pronounced monarchical sentiment which we now read in the Iliad; and it was transmitted by them to the democracies, which did not arise until a later period. The conflict between oligarchy and despotism preceded that between oligarchy and democracy, the Lacedaemonians standing forward actively on both occasions to uphold the oligarchical principle: a mingled sentiment of fear and repugnance led them to put down despotism in several cities of Greece during the sixth century b.c., just as during their contest with Athens in the following century, they assisted the oligarchical party wherever they could to overthrow democracy. And it was thus that the demagogue despot of these earlier times, bringing out the name of the people as a pretext, and the arms of the people as a means of accomplishment, for his own ambitious designs, served as a preface to the reality of democracy which manifested itself at Athens a short time before the Persian war, as a development of the seed planted by Solon.

As far as our imperfect information enables us to trace, the early oligarchies of the Grecian states, against which the first usurping despots contended, contained in themselves far more repulsive elements of inequality, and more mischievous barriers between the component parts of the population, than the oligarchies of later days. What was true of Hellas as an aggregate, was true, though in a less degree, of each separate community which went to compose that aggregate: each included a variety of clans, orders, religious brotherhoods, and local or professional sections, which were very imperfectly cemented together: and the oligarchy was not (like the government so denominated in subsequent times) the government of a rich few over the less rich and the poor, but that of a peculiar order, sometimes a Patrician order, over all the remaining society. In such a case the subject Many might number opulent and substantial proprietors as well as the governing Few; but these subject Many would themselves be broken into different heterogeneous fractions not heartily sympathising with each other, perhaps not intermarrying together, nor partaking of the same religious rites. The country-population or villagers who tilled the land seem in these early times to have been held to a painful dependence on the proprietors who lived in the fortified town, and to have been distinguished by a dress and habits of their own, which often drew upon them an unfriendly nickname. These town proprietors seem to have often composed the governing class in early Grecian states, while their subjects consisted,—1. Of the dependent cultivators living in the district around, by whom their lands were tilled. 2. Of a certain number of small self-working proprietors, whose possessions were too scanty to maintain more than themselves by the labour of their own hands on their own plot of ground—residing either in the country or the town, as the case might be. 3. Of those who lived in the town, having no land, but exercising handicraft, arts, or commerce.

The governing proprietors went by the name of the Gamori or Geomori, according as the Doric or Ionic dialect might be used in describing them, since they were found in states belonging to one race as well as to the other. They appear to have constituted a close order, transmitting their privileges to their children, but admitting no new members to a participation—for the principle called by Greek thinkers a Timocracy (the apportionment of political rights and privileges according to comparative property) appears to have been little, if at all, applied in the earlier times, and we know no example of it earlier than Solon. So that by the natural multiplication of families and mutation of property, there would come to be many individual Gamori possessing no land at all, and perhaps worse off than those small freeholders who did not belong to the order; while some of these latter freeholders, and some of the artisans and traders in the towns, might at the same time be rising in wealth and importance. Under a political classification such as this, of which the repulsive inequality was aggravated by a rude state of manners, and which had no flexibility to meet the changes in relative position amongst individual inhabitants, discontent and outbreaks were unavoidable, and the earliest despot, usually a wealthy man of the disfranchised class, became champion and leader of the malcontents. However oppressive his rule might be, at least it was an oppression which bore with indiscriminate severity upon all the fractions of the population; and when the hour of reaction against him or against his successor arrived, so that the common enemy was expelled by the united efforts of all, it was hardly possible to revive the pre-existing system of exclusion and inequality without some considerable abatements.

As a general rule, every Greek city-community included in its population, independent of bought slaves, the three elements above noticed,—considerable land-proprietors with rustic dependents, small self-working proprietors, and town-artisans,—the three elements being found everywhere in different proportions. But the progress of events in Greece, from the seventh century B.C. downwards, tended continually to elevate the comparative importance of the two latter, while in those early days the ascendency of the former was at its maximum, and Military altered only to decline. The military force of most  of the cities was at first in the hands of the great of proprietors, and formed by them; it consisted of  cavalry, themselves and their retainers, with horses fed upon their lands. Such was the primitive oligarchical militia, as it was constituted in the seventh and sixth centuries b.c. at Chalcis and Eretria in Euboea, as well as at Colophon and other cities in Ionia, and as it continued in Thessaly down to the fourth century b.c.; but the gradual rise of the small proprietors and town-artisans was marked by the substitution of heavy-armed infantry in place of cavalry; and a further change not less important took place when the resistance to Persia led to  the great multiplication of Grecian ships of war, manned by a host of seamen who dwelt in the maritime towns. All the changes which we are able to trace in the Grecian communities tended to break up the close and exclusive oligarchies with which our first historical knowledge commences, and to conduct them either to oligarchies rather more open, embracing all men of a certain amount of property, or else to democracies. But the transition in both cases was usually attained through the interlude of the despot.

In enumerating the distinct and unharmonious elements of which the population of these early Grecian communities was made up, we must not forget one further element which was to be found in the Dorian states generally—men of Dorian, as contrasted with men of non-Dorian race. The Dorian  were in all cases immigrants and conquerors, establishing themselves along with and at the expense of the prior inhabitants. Upon what terms the cohabitation was established, and in what proportions invaders and invaded came together, we are without information, and important as this circumstance is in the history of these Dorian communities, we know it only as a general fact, and are unable to follow its results in detail. But we see enough to satisfy ourselves that in those revolutions which overthrew the oligarchies both at Corinth and Sicyon—perhaps also at Megara—the Dorian and non-Dorian elements of the community came into conflict more or less direct.

The despots of Sicyon are the earliest of whom we have any distinct mention: their dynasty lasted 100 years, a longer period than any other Grecian despots known to Aristotle; they are said moreover to have governed with mildness and with much practical respect to the pre-existing laws. Orthagoras, the beginner of the dynasty, raised himself to the position of despot about 676 B.C., subverting the pre-existing Dorian oligarchy; but the cause and circumstances of this revolution are not preserved. He is said to have been originally a cook. In his line of successors, we find mention of Andreas, Myron, Aristonymus and Cleisthenes; but we know nothing of any of them until the last, except that Myron gained a chariot victory at Olympia in the 33rd Olympiad (648 B.C.), and built at the same holy place a thesaurus containing two ornamented alcoves of copper for the reception of commemorative offerings from himself and his family. Respecting Cleisthenes (whose age must be placed between 600-560 b.c., but can hardly be determined accurately), some facts are reported to us highly curious, but of a nature not altogether easy to follow or verify.

We learn from the narrative of Herodotus that violent the tribe to which Cleisthenes himself (and of course his progenitors Orthagoras and the other Orthagorids also) belonged, was distinct from the three Dorian tribes, who have been already named in my previous chapter respecting the Lycurgian constitution at Sparta—the Hylleis, Pamphyli, and Dymanes. We also learn that these tribes were common to the Sicyonians and the Argeians; and Cleisthenes, being in a state of bitter hostility with Argos, tried in several ways to abolish the points of community between the two. Sicyon, originally dorised by settlers from Argos, was included in the “lot of Temenus,” or among the towns of the Argeian confederacy: the coherence of this confederacy had become weaker and weaker, partly without doubt through the influence of the predecessors of Cleisthenes; but the Argeians may perhaps have tried to revive it, thus placing themselves in a state of war with the latter, and inducing him to disconnect palpably and violently Sicyon from Argos. There were two anchors by which the connection held—first, legendary and religious sympathy; next, the civil rites and denominations current among the Sicyonian Dorians: both of them were torn up by Cleisthenes. He changed the names both of the three Dorian tribes, and of that non-Dorian tribe to which he himself belonged: the last he called by the complimentary title of Archelai (commanders of the people); the first three he styled by the insulting names of Hyatae, Oneatae, and Choereatae, from the three Greek words signifying a boar, an ass, and a little pig. The extreme bitterness of this insult can only be appreciated when we fancy to ourselves the reverence with which the tribes in a Grecian city regarded the hero from whom their name was borrowed. That these new denominations, given by Cleisthenes, involved an intentional degradation of the Dorian tribes as well as an assumption of superiority for his own, is affirmed by Herodotus, and seems well-deserving of credit.

But the violence of which Cleisthenes was capable in his anti-Argeian antipathy, is manifested still more plainly in his proceedings with respect to the hero Adrastus and to the legendary sentiment of the people. Something has already been said in my former volume1 about this remarkable incident, which must however be here again briefly noticed. The hero Adrastus, whose chapel Herodotus himself saw in the Sicyonian agora, was common both to Argos and to Sicyon, and was the object of special reverence at both : he figures in the legend as king of Argos, and as the grandson and heir of Polybus king of Sicyon. He was the unhappy leader of the two sieges of Thebes, so famous in the ancient epic—and the Sicyonians listened with delight both to the exploits of the Argeians against Thebes, as celebrated in the recitations of the epical rhapsodes, and to the mournful tale of Adrastus and bis family misfortunes, as sung in the tragic chorus. Cleisthenes not only forbade the rhapsodes to come to Sicyon, but further resolved to expel Adrastus himself from the country—such is the literal Greek expression, the hero himself being believed to be actually present and domiciled among the people. He first applied to the Delphian oracle for permission to carry this banishment into direct effect, but the Pythian priestess returned an answer of indignant refusal,—“Adrastus is king of the Sicyonians, but thou art a ruffian.” Thus baffled, he put in practice a stratagem calculated to induce Adrastus to depart of his own accord. He sent to Thebes to beg that he might be allowed to introduce into Sicyon the hero Melanippus, and the permission was granted. Now Melanippus was celebrated in the legend as the puissant champion of Thebes against Adrastus and the Argeian besiegers, and as having slain both Mekisteus the brother, and Tydeus the son-in-law, of Adrastus; and he was therefore pre-eminently odious to the latter. Cleisthenes brought this anti-national hero into Sicyon, assigning to him consecrated ground in the prytaneium or government-house, and even in that part which was most strongly fortified: (for it seems that Adrastus was conceived as likely to assail and do battle with the intruder)—moreover he took away both the tragic choruses and the sacrifice from Adrastus, assigning the former to the god Dionysus, and the latter to Melanippus.

The religious manifestations of Sicyon being thus transferred from Adrastus to his mortal foe, and from the cause of the Argeians in the siege of Thebes to that of the Thebans, Adrastus was presumed to have voluntarily retired from the place, and the purpose which Cleisthenes contemplated, of breaking the community of feeling between Sicyon and Argos, was in part accomplished.

A ruler who could do such violence to the religious and legendary sentiment of his community may well be supposed capable of inflicting that deliberate insult upon the Dorian tribes which is implied in their new appellations. As we are uninformed, however, of the state of things which preceded, we know not how far it may have been a retaliation for previous insult in the opposite direction. It is plain that the Dorians of Sicyon maintained themselves and their ancient tribes quite apart from the remaining community, though what the other constituent portions of the population were, or in what relation they stood to these Dorians, we are not enabled to make out. We hear indeed of a dependent rural population in the territory of Sicyon, as well as in that of Argos and Epidaurus, analogous to the Helots in Laconia. In Sicyon this class was termed the Korynephori (club-men) or the Katonakophori, from the thick woollen mantle which they wore, with a sheepskin sewn on to the skirt: in Argos they were called Gymnesii, from their not possessing the military panoply or the use of regular arms; in Epidaurus, Konipodes or the Dusty-footed. We may conclude that a similar class existed in Corinth, in Megara, and in each of the Dorian towns of the Argolic Akte. But besides the Dorian tribes and these rustics, there must probably have existed non-Dorian proprietors and town residents, and upon them we may suppose that the power of the Orthagoridae and of Kleisthenes was founded, perhaps more friendly and indulgent to the rustic serfs than that of the Dorians had been previously. The moderation, which Aristotle ascribes to the Orthagoridae generally, is belied by the proceedings of Cleisthenes; but we may probably believe that his predecessors, content with maintaining the real predominance of the non-Dorian over the Dorian population, meddled very little with the separate position and civil habits of the latter—while Kleisthenes, provoked or alarmed by some attempt on their part to strengthen alliance with the Argeians, resorted both to repressive measures and to that offensive nomenclature which has been above cited. The preservation of the power of Kleisthenes was due to his military energy (according to Aristotle) even more than to his moderation and popular conduct; it was aided probably by his magnificent displays at the public games for he was victor in the chariot-race at the Pythian games 582 B.C., as well as at the Olympic games besides. Moreover he was in fact the last of the race, nor did he transmit his power to any successor.

The reigns of the early Orthagoridae then may be considered as marking a predominance, newly acquired but quietly exercised, of the non-Dorians over the Dorians in Sicyon: the reign of Cleisthenes, as displaying a strong explosion of antipathy from the former towards the latter; and though this antipathy, and the application of those opprobrious tribe-names in which it was conveyed, stand ascribed to Cleisthenes personally, we may see that the non-Dorians in Sicyon shared it generally, because these same tribe-names continued to be applied not only during the reign of that despot, but also for sixty years longer, after his death. Of course, it is needless to remark that such denominations could never have been acknowledged or employed among the Dorians themselves. After the lapse of sixty years from the death of Cleisthenes, the Sicyonians came to an amicable adjustment of the feud, and placed the tribe-names on a footing satisfactory to all parties: the old Dorian denominations (Hylleis, Pamphyli, and Dymanes) were re-established, and the name of the fourth tribe, or non-Dorians, was changed from Archelai to Aegialeis—Aegialeus son of Adrastus being constituted their eponymus. This choice of the son of Adrastus for an eponymus seems to show that the worship of Adrastus himself was then revived in Sicyon, since it existed in the time of Herodotus.

Of the war which Cleisthenes helped to conduct against Kirrha, for the protection of the Delphian temple, I shall speak in another place. His death and the cessation of his dynasty seem to have occurred about 560 b.c., as far as the chronology can be made out. That he was put down by the history of Cleisthenes as given in Herodotus, we are unable to say.

Contemporaneous with the Orthagoridae at Sicyon—but beginning a little later and closing somewhat earlier—we find the despots Kypselus and Periander at Corinth. The former appears as the subverter of the oligarchy called the Bacchiadae. Of the manner in which he accomplished his object we find no information: and this historical blank is inadequately filled up by various religious prognostics and oracles, foreshadowing the rise, the harsh rule, and the dethronement after two generations, of these powerful despots.

According to an idea deeply seated in the Greek mind, the destruction of a great prince or of a great power is usually signified to him by the gods beforehand, though either through hardness of heart or inadvertence no heed is taken of the warning. In reference to Kypselus and the Bacchiadae, we are informed that Melas, the ancestor of the former, was one of the original settlers at Corinth who accompanied the first Dorian chief Aletes, and that Aletes was in vain warned by an oracle not to admit him; again too, immediately before Kypselus was born, the Bacchiadae received notice that his mother was about to give birth to one who would prove their ruin: the dangerous infant escaped destruction only by a hair’s breadth, being preserved from the intent of bis destroyers by lucky concealment in a chest. Labda, the mother of Kypselus, was daughter of Amphionwho belonged to the gens or sept of the Bacchiadae; but she was lame, and none of the gens would consent to marry her with that deformity. Aetion son of Echekrates, who became her husband, belonged to a different, yet hardly less distinguished heroic genealogy : he was of the Lapithae, descended from Kaeneus, and dwelling in the Corinthian deme called Petra. We see thus that Kypselus was not only a high-born man in the city, but a Bacchiad by half-birth: both of these circumstances were likely to make exclusion from the government intolerable to him. He rendered himself highly popular with the people, and by their aid overthrew and expelled the Bacchiadae, continuing as despot at Corinth for thirty years until his death (655-625). According to Aristotle, he maintained throughout life the same conciliatory behaviour by which bis power bad first been acquired; and his popularity was so effectually sustained that he had never any occasion for a bodyguard. But the Corinthian oligarchy of the century of Herodotus (whose tale that historian has embodied in the oration of the Corinthian envoy Sosikles to the Spartans) gave a very different description, and depicted Kypselus as a cruel ruler, who banished, robbed and murdered by wholesale.

His son and successor Periander, though energetic as a warrior, distinguished as an encourager of poetry and music, and even numbered by some among the seven wise men of Greece—is nevertheless uniformly represented as oppressive and inhuman in his treatment of subjects. The revolting stories which are told respecting his private life, and his relations with his mother and his wife, may for the most part be regarded as calumnies suggested by odious associations with his memory; but there seems good reason for imputing to him tyranny of the worst character, and the sanguinary maxims of precaution so often acted upon by Grecian despots were traced back in ordinary belief to Periander and his contemporary Thrasybulus despot of Miletus. He maintained a powerful bodyguard, shed much blood, and was exorbitant in his exactions, a part of which was employed in votive offerings at Olympia; and this munificence to the gods was considered by Aristotle and others as part of a deliberate system, with the view of keeping his subjects both hard at work and poor. On one occasion we are told that he invited the women of Corinth to assemble for the celebration of a religious festival, and then stripped them of their rich attire and ornaments. By some later writers he is painted as the stern foe of everything like luxury and dissolute habits—enforcing industry, compelling every man to render account of bis means of livelihood, and causing the procuresses of Corinth to be thrown into the sea. Though the general features of his character, his cruel tyranny no less than his vigour and ability, may be sufficiently relied on, yet the particular incidents connected with his name are all extremely dubious: the most credible of all seems to be the tale of his inexpiable quarrel with his son and his brutal treatment of many noble Corcyrian youths, as related in Herodotus. Periander is said to have put to death his wife Melissa, daughter of Prokids despot of Epidaurus; and his son Lykophron, informed of this deed, contracted an incurable antipathy against him. After vainly trying, both by rigour and by conciliation, to conquer this feeling on the part of his son, Periander sent him to reside at Corcyra, then dependent upon his rule; but when he found himself growing old and disabled, he recalled him to Corinth, in order to ensure the continuance of the dynasty. Lykophron still obstinately declined all personal communication with his father, upon which the latter desired him to come to Corinth, and engaged himself to go over to Corcyra. So terrified were the Corcyrians at the idea of a visit from this formidable old man, that they put Lykophron to death—a deed which Periander avenged by seizing three hundred youths of their noblest families, and sending them over to the Lydian king Alyattes at Sardis, in order that they might be castrated and made to serve as eunuchs. The Corinthian vessels in which the youths were despatched fortunately touched at Samos in the way; where the Samians and Knidians, shocked at a proceeding which outraged all Hellenic sentiment, contrived to rescue the youths from the miserable fate intended for them, and after the death of Periander sent them back to their native island.

While we turn with displeasure from the political life of this man, we are at the same time made acquainted with the great extent of his power—greater than that which was ever possessed by Corinth after the extinction of his dynasty. Corcyra, Ambracia, Leukas, and Anaktorium, all Corinthian colonies, but in the next century independent states, appear in his time dependencies of Corinth. Ambracia is said to have been under the rule of another despot named Periander, probably also a Kypselid by birth. It seems indeed that the towns of Anaktorium, Leukas, and Apollonia in the Ionian Gulf, were either founded by the Kypselids, or received reinforcements of Corinthian colonists, during their dynasty, though Corcyra was established considerably earlier.

The reign of Periander lasted for forty years (b.c. 625-585): Psammetichus son of Gordius, who succeeded him, reigned three years, and the Kypselid dynasty is then said to have closed, after having continued for seventy-three years. In respect of power, magnificent display, and widespread connections both in Asia and in Italy, they evidently stood high among the Greeks of their time. Their offerings consecrated at Olympia excited great admiration, especially the gilt colossal statue of Zeus and the large chest of cedar wood dedicated in the temple of Here, overlaid with various figures in gold and ivory: the figures were borrowed from mythical and legendary story, and the chest was a commemoration both of the name of Kypselus and of the tale of his marvellous preservation in infancy. If Plutarch is correct, this powerful dynasty is to be numbered among the despots put down by Sparta; yet such intervention of the Spartans, granting it to have been matter of fact, can hardly have been known to Herodotus.

Coincident in point of time with the commencement of Periander’s reign at Corinth, we find Theagenes despot at Megara, who is also said to have acquired his power by demagogic arts, as well as by violent aggressions against the rich proprietors, whose cattle he destroyed in their pastures by the side of the river. We are not told by what previous conduct on the part of the rich this hatred of the people had been earned, but Theagenes carried the popular feeling completely along with him, obtained by public vote a body of guards ostensibly for his personal safety, and employed them to overthrow the oligarchy. But he did not maintain his power even for his own life: a second revolution dethroned and expelled him, on which occasion, after a short interval of temperate government, the people are said to have renewed in a still more marked way their antipathies against the rich; banishing some of them with confiscation of property, intruding into the houses of others with demands for forced hospitality, and even passing a formal Palintokia—or decree to require, from the rich who had lent money on interest, the refunding of all past interest paid to them by their debtors. To appreciate correctly such a demand, we must recollect that the practice of taking interest for money lent was regarded by a large proportion of early ancient society with feelings of unqualified reprobation; and it will be seen, when we come to the legislation of Solon, how much such violent reactionary feeling against the creditor was provoked by the antecedent working of the harsh law determining his rights.

We hear in general terms of more than one revolution in the government of Megara—a disorderly democracy subverted by returning oligarchical exiles, and these again unable long to maintain themselves; but we are alike uninformed as to dates and details. And in respect to one of these struggles we are admitted to the outpourings of a contemporary and a sufferer—the Megarian poet Theognis. Unfortunately his elegiac verses as we possess them are in a state so broken, incoherent and interpolated, that we make out no distinct conception of the events which call them forth—still less can we discover in the verses of Theognis that strength and peculiarity of pure Dorian feeling, which, since the publication of O. Moller’s History of the Dorians, it has been the fashion to look for so extensively. But we see that the poet was connected with an oligarchy, of birth and not of wealth, which had recently been subverted by the breaking in of the rustic population previously subject and degraded—that these subjects were content to submit to a single-headed despot, in order to escape from their former rulers—and that Theognis had himself been betrayed by his own friends and companions, stripped of his property and exiled, through the wrong doing “of enemies whose blood he hopes one day to be permitted to drink.” The condition of the subject cultivators previous to this revolution he depicts in sad colours: they “dwelt without the city, clad in goatskins, and ignorant of judicial sanctions or laws”: after it, they had become citizens, and their importance had been immensely enhanced. And thus (according to his impression) the vile breed has trodden down the noble—the bad have become masters, and the good are no longer of any account. The bitterness and humiliation which attend upon poverty, and the undue ascendency which wealth confers even upon the most worthless of mankind, are among the prominent subjects of his complaint, and his keen personal feeling on this point would be alone sufficient to show that the recent revolution had no way overthrown the influence of property; in contradiction to the opinion of Weicker, who infers without ground, from a passage of uncertain meaning, that the land of the state had been formally re-divided. The Megarian revolution, so far as we apprehend it from Theognis, appears to have improved materially the condition of the cultivators around the town, and to have strengthened a certain class whom he considers “the bad rich”—while it extinguished the privileges of that governing order, to which he himself belonged, denominated in his language “the good and the virtuous,” with ruinous effect upon his own individual fortunes. How far this governing order was exclusively Dorian, we have no means of determining. The political change by which Theognis suffered, and the new despot whom he indicates as either actually installed or nearly impending, must have come considerably after the despotism of Theagenes; for the life of the poet seems to fail between 570-490, while Theagenes must have ruled about 630-600. From the unfavourable picture therefore, which the poet gives as his own early experience, of the condition of the rural cultivators, it is evident that the despot Theagenes had neither conferred upon them any permanent benefit, nor given them access to the judicial protection of the city.

It is thus that the despots of Corinth, Sicyon and Megara serve as samples of those revolutionary influence which towards the beginning of the sixth century b.c. seem to have shaken or overturned the oligarchical governments in very many cities throughout the Grecian world. There existed a certain sympathy and alliance between the despots of Corinth and Sicyon: how far such feeling was further extended to Megara, we do not know. The latter city seems evidently to have been more populous and powerful during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., than we shall afterwards find her throughout the two brilliant centuries of Grecian history: her colonies, found as far distant as Bithynia and the Thracian Bosphorus on one side, and as Sicily on the other, argue an extent of trade as well as naval force once not inferior to Athens: so that we shall be the less surprised when we approach the life of Solon, to find her in possession of the island of Salamis, and long maintaining it, at one time with every promise of triumph, against the entire force of the Athenians.