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Among the Ionic portion of Hellas are to be reckoned (besides Athens) Euboea, and the numerous group of islands included between the southernmost Euboean promontory, the eastern coast of Peloponnesus and the north-western coast of Crete. Of these islands some are to be considered as outlying prolongations, in a south-easterly direction, of the mountain-system of Attica; others, of that of Euboea; while a certain number of them lie apart from either system, and seem referable to a volcanic origin. To the first class belong Keos, Kythnus, Seriphus, Pholegandrus, Sikinus, Gyarus, Syra, Paros, and Antiparos; to the second class, Andros, Tenos, Mykonos, Delos, Naxos, Amorgos; to the third class, Kimolus, Melos, Thera. These islands passed amongst the ancients by the general name of the Cyclades and the Sporades; the former denomination being commonly understood to comprise those which immediately surrounded the sacred island of Delos,—the latter being given to those which lay more scattered and apart. But the names are not applied with uniformity or steadiness even in ancient times: at present, the whole group are usually known by the title of Cyclades.

The population of these islands was called Ionic—with the exception of Styra and Karystus in the southern part of Euboea, and the island of Kythnus, which were peopled by Dryopes, the same tribe as those who have been already remarked in the Argolic peninsula; and with the exception also of Melos and Thera, which were colonies from Sparta.

The island of Euboea, long and narrow like Crete, and exhibiting a continuous backbone of lofty mountains from north-west to south-east, is separated from Boeotia at one point by a strait so narrow (celebrated in antiquity under the name of the Euripus), that the two were connected by a bridge for a large portion of the historical period of Greece, erected during the later times of the Peloponnesian war by the inhabitants of Chalcis. Its general want of breadth leaves little room for plains: the area of the island consists principally of mountain, rock, dell, and ravine, suited in many parts for pasture, but rarely convenient for grain-culture or town habitations. Some plains there were, however, of great fertility, especially that of Lelantum, bordering on the sea near Chalcis, and continuing from that city in a southerly direction towards Eretria. Chalcis and Eretria, both situated on the western coast, and both occupying parts of this fertile plain, were the two principal places in the island: the domain of each seems to have extended across the island from sea to sea. Towards the northern end of the island were situated Histiaea, afterwards called Oreus—as well as Kerinthus and Dium: Athdnae Diades, Aedepsus, Aegae, and Orobiae, are also mentioned on the north-western coast, over against Locris. Dystus, Styra, and Karystus are made known to us in the portion of the island south of Eretria—the two latter opposite to the Attic demes Halae Araphenides and Prasiae. The large extent of the island of Euboea was thus distributed between six or seven cities, the larger and central portion belonging to Chalcis and Eretria. But the extensive mountain lands, applicable only for pastures in the summer—for the most part public lands, let out for pasture to such proprietors as had the means of providing winter sustenance elsewhere for their cattle,—were never visited by any one except the shepherds; and were hardly better known to the citizens resident in Chalcis and Eretria than if they had been situated on the other side of the Aegean.

The towns above enumerated in Euboea, excepting Athenae Diades, all find a place in the Iliad. Of their history we know no particulars until considerably after 776 b.c., and they are first introduced to us as Ionic, though in Homer the population are called Abantes. The Greek authors are never at a loss to give us the etymology of a name. While Aristotle tells us that the Abantes were Thracians who had passed over into the island from Abae in Phocis, Hesiod deduces the name of Euboea from the cow Io. Hellopia, a district near Histiaea, was said to have been founded by Hellops son of Ion: according to others, Aeklus and Kothus, two Athenians, were the founders, the former of Eretria, the latter of Chalcis and Kerinthus: and we are told, that among the demes of Attica, there were two named Histiaea and Eretria, from whence some contended that the appellations of the two Euboean towns were derived. Though Herodotus represents the population of Styra as Dryopian, there were others who contended that it bad originally been peopled from Marathon and the Tetrapolis of Atica, partly from the deme called Steireis. The principal writers whom Strabo consulted seem to trace the population of Euboea, by one means or another, to an Attic origin, though there were peculiarities in the Eretrian dialect which gave rise to the supposition that they had been joined by settlers from Elis, or from the Triphylian Makistus.

Our earliest historical intimations represent Chalcis and Eretria as the wealthiest, most powerful, and most enterprising Ionic cities in European Greece—apparently surpassing Athens, and not inferior to Samos or Miletus. Besides the fertility of the plain Lelantum, Chalkis possessed the advantage of copper and iron ore, obtained in immediate proximity both to the city and to the sea— which her citizens smelted and converted into arms and other implements, with a very profitable result: the Chalcidic sword acquired a distinctive renown4. In this mineral source of wealth several of the other islands shared: iron ore is found in Keos, Kythnus, and Seriphus, and traces are still evident in the latter island of extensive smelting formerly practised. Moreover in Siphnus, there were in early times veins of silver and gold, by which the inhabitants were greatly enriched; though their large acquisitions, attested by the magnitude of the tithe which they offered at the Delphian temple, were only of temporary duration, and belong particularly to the seventh and sixth centuries before the Christian sera. The island of Naxos too was at an early day wealthy and populous. Andros, T6nos, Ke6s, and several other islands, were at one time reduced to dependence upon Eretria9: other islands seem to have been in like manner dependent upon Naxos, which at the time immediately preceding the Ionic revolt possessed a considerable maritime force, and could muster 8000 heavy-armed citizens—a very large force for any single Grecian city. Nor was the military force of Eretria much inferior; for in the temple of the Amarynthian Artemis, nearly a mile from the city, to which the Eretrians were in the habit of marching in solemn procession to celebrate the festival of the goddess, there stood an ancient column, setting forth that the procession had been performed by no less than 3000 hoplites, 600 horsemen, and 60 chariots. The date of this inscription cannot be known, but it can hardly be earlier than the 45th Olympiad, or 600 b.c.—near about the time of the Solonian legislation. Chalcis was still more powerful than Eretria: both were in early times governed by an oligarchy, which among the Chalcidians was called the Hippobotae or Horsefeeders—proprietors probably of most part of the plain called Lelantum, and employing the adjoining mountains as summer pasture for their herds. The extent of their property is attested by the large number of 4000 Kleruchs or out-freemen, whom Athens quartered upon their lands, after the victory gained over them when they assisted the expelled Hippias in his efforts to regain the Athenian sceptre.

Confining our attention, as we now do, to the first two centuries of Grecian history, or the interval between 776 b.c. and 560 b.c., there are scarce any facts which we can produce to ascertain the condition of these Ionic islands. Two or three circumstances however may be named which go to confirm our idea of their early wealth and importance.

1. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo presents to us the island of Delos as the centre of a great periodical festival in honour of Apollo, celebrated by all the cities, insular and continental, of the Ionic name. What the date of this hymn is, we have no means of determining: Thucydides quotes it without hesitation as the production of Homer, and doubtless it was in his time universally accepted as such—though modern critics concur in regarding both that and the other hymns as much later than the Iliad and Odyssey: it cannot probably be later than 600 b.c. The description of the Ionic visitors presented to us in this hymn is splendid and imposing: the number of their ships, the display of their finery, the beauty of their women, the athletic exhibitions as well as the matches of song and dance—all these are represented as making an ineffaceable impression on the spectator: “the assembled Ionians look as if they were beyond the reach of old age or death.” Such was the magnificence of which Delos was the periodical theatre, and which called forth the voices and poetical genius not merely of itinerant bards, but also of the Delian maidens in the temple of Apollo, during the century preceding 560 b.c. At that time it was the great central festival of the Ionians in Asia and Europe; frequented by the twelve Ionic cities in and near Asia Minor, as well as by Athens and Chalcis in Europe: it had not yet been superseded by the Ephesia as the exclusive festival of the former, nor had the Panathenaea of Athens reached the importance which afterwards came to belong to them during the plenitude of the Athenian power.

We find both Polycrates of Samos, and Peisistratus of Athens, taking a warm interest in the sanctity of Delo’s and the celebrity of this festival. But it was partly the rise of these two great Ionian despots, partly the conquests of the Persians in Asia Minor, which broke up the independence of the numerous petty Ionian cities, during the last half of the sixth century before the Christian aera; hence the great festival at Delos gradually declined in importance. Though never wholly intermitted, it was shorn of much of its previous ornament, and especially of that which constituted the first of all ornaments—the crowd of joyous visitors. And Thucydides, when he notices the attempt made by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian war, in the height of their naval supremacy, to revive the Delian festival, quotes the Homeric Hymn to Apollo as a certificate of its foregone and long-forgotten splendour. We perceive that even he could find no better evidence than this hymn, for Grecian transactions of a century anterior to Peisistratus—and we may therefore judge how imperfectly the history of this period was known to the men who took part in the Peloponnesian war. The hymn is exceedingly precious as an historical document, because it attests to us a transitory glory and extensive association of the Ionic Greeks on both sides of the Aegean Sea, which the conquests of the Lydians first, and of the Persians afterwards, overthrew—a time when the hair of the wealthy Athenian was decorated with golden ornaments, and his tunic made of linen, like that of the Milesians and Ephesians, instead of the more sober costume and woollen clothing which he subsequently copied from Sparta and Peloponnesus—a time too when the Ionic name had not yet contracted that stain of effeminacy and cowardice which stood imprinted upon it in the time of Herodotus and Thucydides, and which grew partly out of the subjugation of the Asiatic Ionians by Persia, partly out of the antipathy of the Peloponnesian Dorians to Athens. The author of the Homeric hymn, in describing the proud Ionians who thronged in his day to the Delian festival, could hardly have anticipated a time to come when the name Ionian would become a reproach, such as the European Greeks, to whom it really belonged, were desirous of disclaiming.

2. Another illustrative fact, in reference both to the Ionians generally and to Chalcis and Eretria in  particular during the century anterior to Peisistratus, is to be found in the war between these two  cities respecting the fertile plain Lelantum which lay between them. In general, it appears, these two important towns maintained harmonious relations; but there were some occasions of dispute, and one in particular, wherein a formidable war ensued between them. Several allies joined with each, and it is remarkable that this was the only war known to Thucydides (anterior to the Persian conquest) which had risen above the dignity of a mere quarrel between neighbours; and in which so many different states manifested a disposition to interfere, as to impart to it a semi-Hellenic character. Of the allies of each party on this occasion we know only that the Milesians lent assistance to Eretria, and the Samians, as well as the Thessalians and the Chalcidic colonies in Thrace, to Chalcis. A column, still visible during the time of Strabo in the temple of the Amarynthian Artemis near Eretria, recorded the covenant entered into mutually by the two belligerents, to abstain from missiles, and to employ nothing but hand-weapons. The Eretrians are said to have been superior in horse, but they were vanquished in the battle: the tomb of Kleomachus of Pharsalus, a distinguished warrior who had perished in the cause of the Chalcidians, was erected in the agora of Chalcis. We know nothing of the date, the duration, or the particulars of this war1; but it seems that the Eretrians were worsted, though their city always maintained its dignity as the second state in the island. Chalcis was decidedly the first, and continued to be flourishing, populous and commercial, long after it had lost its political importance, throughout all the period of Grecian independent history.

3. Of the importance of Chalcis and Eretria, during the seventh and part of the eighth century before the Christian sera, we gather other evidences—partly in the numerous colonies founded by them (which I shall advert to in a subsequent chapter),— partly in the prevalence throughout a large portion of Greece, of the Euboic scale of weight and money. What the quantities and proportions of this scale were, has been first shown by M. Boeckh in his ‘Metrologie’. It was of Eastern origin, and the gold collected by Darius in tribute throughout the vast Persian empire was ordered to be delivered in Euboic talents. Its divisions—the talent equal to 60 minae, the mina equal to 100 drachms, the drachm equal to 6 obols—were the same as those of the scale called Aeginaean, introduced by Pheidon of Argos; but the six obols of the Euboic drachm contained a weight of silver equal only to five Aeginaean obols, so that the Euboic denominations—drachm, mina, and talent—were equal only to five-sixths of the same denominations in the Aiginaean scale. It was the Euboic scale which prevailed at Athens before the debasement introduced by Solon; which debasement (amounting to about 27 per cent., as has been mentioned in a previous chapter,) created a third scale, called the Attic, distinct both from the Aeginaean and Euboic— standing to the former in the ratio of 3 : 5, and to the latter in the ratio of 18 : 25. It seems plain that the Euboic scale was adopted by the Ionians through their intercourse with the Lydians1 and other Asiatics, and that it became naturalised among their cities under the name of the Euboic, because Chalcis and Eretria were the most actively commercial states in the Aegean—just as the superior commerce of Aegina, among the Dorian states, had given to the scale introduced by Pheidon of Argos the name of Aeginaean. The fact of its being so called indicates a time when these two Euboean cities surpassed Athens in maritime power and extended commercial relations, and when they stood among the foremost of the Ionic cities throughout Greece. The Euboic scale, after having been debased by Solon in reference to coinage and money, still continued in use at Athens for merchandise: the Attic mercantile mina retained its primitive Euboic weight.