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The early relations between the Lydians and the Asiatic Greeks, anterior to the reign of Gyges, are and not better known to us than those of the Phrygians. Their native music became partly incorporated with the Greek, as the Phrygian music was; to which it was very analogous, both in instruments and in character, though the Lydian mode was considered by the ancients as more effeminate and enervating. The flute was used alike by Phrygians and Lydians, passing from both of them to the Greeks; but the magadis or pectis (a harp with sometimes as many as twenty strings, sounded two together in octave) is said to have been borrowed by the Lesbian Terpander from the Lydian banquets1. The fluteplayers who acquired esteem among the early Asiatic Greeks were often Phrygian or Lydian slaves; and even the poet Alkman, who gained for himself permanent renown among the Greek lyric poets, though not a slave born at Sardis, as is sometimes said, was probably of Lydian extraction.

It has been already mentioned that Homer knows nothing of Lydia or Lydians. He names Maeonians in juxtaposition with Carians, and we are told by Herodotus that the people once called Maeonian received the new appellation of Lydian from Lydus son of Atys. Sardis, whose almost inexpugnable citadel was situated on a precipitous rock on the northern side of the ridge of Tmolus, overhanging the plain of the river Hermus, was the capital of the Lydian kings: it is not named by Homer, though he mentions both Tmolus and the neighbouring Gygaean lake: the fortification of it was ascribed to an old Lydian king named Meles, and strange legends were told concerning it. Its possessors were enriched by the neighbourhood of the river Paktolus, which flowed down from Mount Tmolus towards the Hermus, and brought with it considerable quantities of gold in its sands. To this cause historians often ascribe the abundant treasure belonging to Croesus and his predecessors; but Croesus possessed, besides, other mines near Pergamus; and another cause of wealth is also to be found in the general industry of the Lydian people, which the circumstances mentioned respecting them seem to attest. They were the first people (according to Herodotus) who ever carried on retail trade; and the first to coin money of gold and silver.

The archaeologists of Sardis in the time of Herodotus (a century after the Persian conquest) carried very far back the antiquity of the Lydian monarchy, by means of a series of names which are in great part, if not altogether, divine and heroic. Herodotus gives us first Manes, Atys, and Lydus—next a line of kings beginning with Herakles, twenty-two in number, succeeding each other from father to son and lasting for 505 years. The first of this line of Herakleid kings was Agron, descended from Herakles in the fourth generation—Herakles, Alkaeus, Ninus, Belus, and Agron. The twenty-second prince of this Herakleid family, after an uninterrupted succession of father and son during 505 years, was Kandaules, called by the Greeks Myrsilus the son of Myrsus: with him the dynasty ended, and ended by one of those curious incidents which Herodotus has narrated with his usual dramatic, yet unaffected, emphasis. It was the divine will that Kandaules should be destroyed, and he lost his rational judgment: having a wife the most beautiful woman in Lydia, his vanity could not be satisfied without exhibiting her naked person to Gyges son of Daskylus, his principal confidant and the commander of his guards. In spite of the vehement repugnance of Gyges, this resolution was executed; but the wife became aware of the inexpiable affront, and took her measures to avenge it. Surrounded by her most faithful domestics, she sent for Gyges, and addressed him,—“Two ways are now open to thee, Gyges: take which thou wilt. Either kill Kandaules, wed me, and acquire the kingdom of Lydia—or else thou must at once perish. For thou hast seen forbidden things, and either thou, or the man who contrived it for thee, must die.” Gyges in vain entreated to be spared so terrible an alternative: he was driven to the option, and he chose that which promised safety to himself. The queen planted him in ambush behind the bed-chamber door, in the very spot where Kandaules had placed him as a spectator, and armed him with a dagger, which he plunged into the heart of the sleeping king.

Thus ended the dynasty of the Herakleids; but there was a large party in Lydia who indignantly resented the death of Kandaules, and took arms against Gyges. A civil war ensued, which both parties at length consented to terminate by reference to the Delphian oracle. The decision of that holy referee was given in favour of Gyges, and the kingdom of Lydia thus passed to his dynasty, called the Mermnadae. But the oracle accompanied its verdict with an intimation, that in the person of the fifth descendant of Gyges, the murder of Kandaules would be avenged—a warning of which (Herodotus innocently remarks) no one took any notice, until it was actually fulfilled in the person of Croesus.

In this curious legend, which marks the commencement of the dynasty called Mermnadae, the historical kings of Lydia—we cannot determine how much, or whether any part, is historical. Gyges was probably a real man, contemporary with the youth of the poet Archilochus; but the name Gyges is also an heroic name in Lydian archaeology. He is the eponymus of the Gygaean lake near Sardis; and of the many legends told respecting him, Plato has preserved one, according to which, Gyges is a mere herdsman of the king of Lydia: after a terrible storm and earthquake he sees near him a chasm in the earth, into which he descends and finds a vast horse of brass, hollow and partly open, wherein there lies a gigantic corpse with a golden ring. This ring he carries away, and discovers unexpectedly that it possesses the miraculous property of rendering him invisible at pleasure. Being sent on a message to the king, he makes the magic ring available to his ambition: he first possesses himself of the person of the queen, then with her aid assassinates the king, and finally seizes the sceptre.

The legend thus recounted by Plato, different in almost all points from the Herodotean, has this one circumstance in common, that the adventurer Gyges, through the favour and help of the queen, destroys the king and becomes his successor. Feminine preference and patronage is the cause of his prosperity. Klausen has shown that this “aphrodisiac influence” runs in a peculiar manner through many of the Asiatic legends, both divine and heroic. The Phrygian Midas or Gordius (as before recounted) acquires the throne by marriage with a divinely privileged maiden: the favour, shown by Aphrodite to Anchises, confers upon the Aeneadae sovereignty in the Troad: moreover the great Phrygian and Lydian goddess Rhea or Cybele has always her favoured and self-devoting youth Atys, who is worshiped along with her, and who serves as a sort of mediator between her and mankind. The feminine element appears predominant in Asiatic myths: Midas, Sardanapalus, Sandon, and even Herakles, are described as clothed in women’s attire and working at the loom; while on the other hand the Amazons and Semiramis achieve great conquests.

Admitting therefore the historical character of the Lydian kings called Mermnadae, beginning with Gyges about 715-690 b.c., and ending with Croesus, we find nothing but legend to explain to us the circumstances which led to their accession. Still less can we make out anything respecting the preceding kings, or determine whether Lydia was ever in former times connected with or dependent upon the kingdom of Assyria, as Ktesias affirmed. Nor can we certify the reality or dates of the old Lydian kings named by the native historian Xanthus,—Alkimus, Kambles, Adramytds. One piece of valuable information, however, we acquire from Xanthus—the distribution of Lydia into two parts, Lydia proper and Torrhebia, which he traces to the two sons of Atys—Lydus and Torrhebus ; he states that the dialect of the Lydians and Torrhebians differed much in the same degree as that of Doric and Ionic Greeks. Torrhebia appears to have included the valley of the Kaister, south of Tmolus, and near to the frontiers of Caria.

With Gyges, the Mermnad king, commences the series of aggressions from Sardis upon the Asiatic Greeks, which ultimately ended in their subjection. Gyges invaded the territories of Miletus and Smyrna, and even took the city (probably not the citadel) of Kolophon. Though he thus however made war upon the Asiatic Greeks, he was munificent in his donations to the Grecian god of Delphi, and his numerous as well as costly offerings were seen in the temple by Herodotus. Elegiac compositions of the poet Mimnermus celebrated the valour of the Smyrnaeans in their battle with Gyges. We hear also, in a story which bears the impress of Lydian more than of Grecian fancy, of a beautiful youth of Smyrna named Magnus, to whom Gyges was attached, and who incurred the displeasure of his countrymen for having composed verses in celebration of the victories of the Lydians over the Amazons. To avenge the ill-treatment received by this youth, Gyges attacked the territory of Magnesia (probably Magnesia on Sipylus) and after a considerable struggle took the city.

How far the Lydian kingdom of Sardis extended during the reign of Gyges, we have no means of ascertaining. Strabo alleges that the whole Troad belonged to him, and that the Greek settlement of Abydus on the Hellespont was established by the Milesians only under his auspices. On what authority this statement is made, we are not told, and it appears doubtful, especially as so many legendary anecdotes are connected with the name of Gyges. This prince reigned (according to Herodotus) thirty-eight years, and was succeeded by his son Ardys, who reigned forty-nine years (about b.c. 678-629). We learn that he attacked the Milesians, and took the Ionic city of Priene, but this possession cannot have been maintained, for the city appears afterwards as autonomous. His long reign however was signalised by two events, both of considerable moment to the Asiatic Greeks; the invasion of the Cimmerians—and the first approach to collision (at least the first of which we have any historical knowledge) between the inhabitants of Lydia and those of Upper Asia under the Median kings.

It is affirmed by all authors that the Medes were originally numbered among the subjects of the great Assyrian empire, of which Nineveh (or Ninos as the Greeks call it) was the chief town, and Babylon one of the principal portions. That the population and power of these two great cities (as well as of several others which the Ten Thousand Greeks in their march found ruined and deserted in those same regions) is of high antiquity9, there is no room for doubting; but it is noway incumbent upon a historian of Greece to entangle himself in the mazes of Assyrian chronology, or to weigh the degree of credit to which the conflicting statements of Herodotus, Ktesias, Berosus, Abydenus, &c. are entitled. With the Assyrian empire—which lasted, according to Herodotus, 520 years, according to Ktesias, 1360 years—the Greeks have no ascertainable connection: the city of Nineveh appears to have been taken by the Medes a little before the year 600 b.c. (insofar as the chronology can be made out), and exercised no influence upon Grecian affairs. Those inhabitants of Upper Asia, with whom the early Greeks had relation, were the Medes, and the Assyrians or Chaldeans of Babylon —both originally subject to the Assyrians of Nineveh—both afterwards acquiring independence— and both ultimately embodied in the Persian empire. At what time either of them became first independent, we do not know: the astronomical canon which gives a list of kings of Babylon beginning with what is called the sera of Nabonassar, or 747 b.c., does not prove at what epoch these Babylonian chiefs became independent of Nineveh: and the catalogue of Median kings, which Herodotus begins with Deioces, about 709-711 b.c., is commenced by Ktesias more than a century earlier —moreover the names in the two lists are different almost from first to last.

First Median king— Deioces.

For the historian of Greece, the Medes first begin to acquire importance about 656 b.c., under a king whom Herodotus calls Phraortes, son of Deioces. Respecting Deioces himself, Herodotus recounts to us how he came to be first chosen king. The seven tribes of Medes dwelt dispersed in separate villages, without any common authority, and the mischiefs of anarchy were painfully felt among them: Dioces having acquired great reputation in his own village as a just man, was invoked gradually by all the adjoining villages to settle their disputes. As soon as his efficiency in this vocation, and the improvement which he brought about, had become felt throughout all the tribes, he artfully threw up his post and retired again into privacy,—upon which the evils of anarchy revived in a manner more intolerable than before. The Medes had now no choice except to elect a king—the friends of Dioces expatiated warmly upon his virtues, and he was the person chosen. The first step of the new king was to exact from the people a body of guards selected by himself; next, he commanded them to build the city of Ecbatana, upon a hill surrounded with seven concentric circles of walls, his own palace being at the top and in the innermost. He farther organised the scheme of Median despotism; the king, though bis person was constantly secluded in his fortified palace, inviting written communications from all aggrieved persons, and administering to each the decision or the redress which it required —informing himself, moreover, of passing events by means of ubiquitous spies and officials, who seized all wrong-doers and brought them to the palace for condign punishment. Dioces farther constrained the Medes to abandon their separate abodes and concentrate themselves in Ecbatana, from whence all the powers of government branched out; and the seven distinct fortified circles in the town, coinciding as they do with the number of the Median tribes, were probably conceived by Herodotus as intended each for one distinct tribe —the tribe of Dioces occupying the innermost along with himself.

Except the successive steps of this well-laid political plan, we hear of no other acts ascribed to Dioces: he is said to have held the government for fifty-three years, and then dying, was succeeded by his son Phraortes. Of the real history of Dioces, we cannot be said to know anything. For the interesting narrative of Herodotus, of which the above is an abridgment, presents to us in all its points Grecian society and ideas, not Oriental: it is like the discussion which the historian ascribes to the seven Persian conspirators, previous to the accession of Darius—whether they shall adopt an oligarchical, a democratical, or a monarchical form of government1; or it may be compared, perhaps more aptly still, to the Cyropaedia of Xenophon, who beautifully and elaborately works out an ideal which Herodotus exhibits in brief outline. The story of Dioces describes what may be called the despot’s progress, first as candidate and afterwards as fully established. Amidst the active political discussion carried on by intelligent Greeks in the days of Herodotus, there were doubtless many stories of the successful arts of ambitious despots, and much remark as to the probable means conducive to their success, of a nature similar to those in the Politics of Aristotle: one of these tales Herodotus has employed to decorate the birth and infancy of the Median monarchy. His Dioces begins like a clever Greek among other Greeks, equal, free and disorderly. He is athirst for despotism from the beginning, and is forward in manifesting his rectitude and justice, “as beseems a candidate for command”, he passes into a despot by the public vote, and receives what to the Greeks was the great symbol and instrument of such transition, a personal body-guard; he ends by organising both the machinery and the etiquette of a despotism in the Oriental fashion, like the Cyrus of Xenophon, only that both these authors maintain the superiority of their Grecian ideal over Oriental reality by ascribing both to Dioces and Cyrus a just, systematic and laborious administration, such as their own experience did not present to them in Asia. Probably Herodotus had visited Ecbatana (which he describes and measures like an eye-witness, comparing its circuit to that of Athens), and there heard that Dioces was the builder of the city, the earliest known Median king, and the first author of those public customs which struck him as peculiar, after the revolt from Assyria: the interval might then be easily filled up, between Median autonomy and Median despotism, by intermediate incidents such as would have accompanied that transition in the longitude of Greece. The features of these inhabitants of Upper Asia, for a thousand years forward from the time at which we are now arrived—under the descendants of Dioces, of Cyrus, of Arsaces, and of Ardshir—are so unvarying, that we are much assisted in detecting those occasions in which Herodotus or others infuse into their history indigenous Grecian ideas.

Phraortes. —Cyaxares.

Phraortes (658-636 b.c.), having extended the dominion of the Medes over a large portion of Upper Asia, and conquered both the Persians and several other nations, was ultimately defeated and slain in a war against the Assyrians of Nineveh; who, though deprived of their external dependencies, were yet brave and powerful by themselves. His son Cyaxares (636-595 b.c.) followed up with still greater energy the same plans of conquest, and is said to have been the first who introduced any organisation into the military force—before his time, archers, spearmen and cavalry had been confounded together indiscriminately, until this monarch established separate divisions for each. He extended the Median dominion to the eastern bank of the Halys, which river afterwards, by the conquests of the Lydian king Croesus, became the boundary between the Lydian and Median empires; and be carried on war for six years with Alyattes king of Lydia, in consequence of the refusal of the latter to give up a band of Scythian Nomads, who, having quitted the territory of Cyaxares in order to escape severities with which they were menaced, had sought refuge as suppliants in Lydia. The war, indecisive as respects success, was brought to its close by a remarkable incident: in the midst of a battle between the Median and Lydian armies there happened a total eclipse of the sun, which occasioned equal alarm to both parties, and induced them immediately to cease hostilities. The Cilician prince Syennesis, and the Babylonian prince Labynetus, interposed their mediation, and effected a reconciliation between Cyaxares and Alyattes, one of the conditions of which was, that Alyattes gave his daughter Aryenis in marriage to Astyages son of Cyaxares. In this manner began the connection between the Lydian and Median kings which afterwards proved so ruinous to Croesus. It is affirmed that the Greek philosopher Thales foretold this eclipse; but we may reasonably consider the supposed prediction as not less apocryphal than some others ascribed to him, and doubt whether at that time any living Greek possessed either knowledge or scientific capacity sufficient for such a calculation. The eclipse itself, and its terrific working upon the minds of the combatants, are facts not to be called in question; though the diversity of opinion among chronologists, respecting the date of it, is astonishing.

Nineveh— invasion of the Scythians and Cimmerians.

It was after this peace with Alyattes, as far as we can make out the series of events in Herodotus, that Cyaxares collected all his forces and laid siege to Nineveh, but was obliged to desist by the unexpected inroad of the Scythians. Nearly at the same time that Upper Asia was desolated by these formidable Nomads, Asia Minor too was overrun by other Nomads—the Cimmerians—Ardys being then king of Lydia; and the two invasions, both spreading extreme disaster, are presented to us as indirectly connected together in the way of cause and effect.

The name Cimmerians appears in the Odyssey—the fable describes them as dwelling beyond the ocean-stream, immersed in darkness and unblest by the rays of Helios. Of this people as existent we can render no account, for they had passed away, or lost their identity and become subject, previous to the commencement of trustworthy authorities; but they seem to have been the chief occupants of the Tauric Chersonesus (Crimea) and of the territory between that peninsula and the river Tyras (Dniester), at the time when the Greeks first commenced their permanent settlements on those coasts in the seventh century b.c. The numerous localities which bore their name, even in the time of Herodotus, after they had ceased to exist as a nation—as well as the tombs of the Cimmerian kings then shown near the Tyras—sufficiently attest this fact; and there is reason to believe that they were (like their conquerors and successors the Scythians) a nomadic people, mare-milkers moving about with their tents and herds, suitably to the nature of those unbroken steppes which their territory presented, and which offered little except herbage in profusion. Strabo tells us (on what authority we do not know) that they, as well as the Treres and other Thracians, had desolated Asia Minor more than once before the time of Ardys, and even earlier than Homer.

The Cimmerians thus belong partly to legend, partly to history; but the Scythians formed for several centuries an important section of the Grecian contemporary world. Their name, unnoticed by Homer, occurs for the first time in the Hesiodic poems. When the Homeric Zeus in the Iliad turns his eye away from Troy towards Thrace, he sees, besides the Thracians and Mysians, other tribes whose names cannot be made out, but whom the poet knows as milk-eaters and mare-milkers; and the same characteristic attributes, coupled with that of “having waggons for their dwelling-houses,” appear in Hesiod connected with the name of the Scythians. The navigation of the Greeks into the Euxine gradually became more and more frequent, and during the last half of the seventh century b.c. their first settlements on its coasts were established. The foundation of Byzantium, as well as of the Pontic Herakleia (at a short distance to the east of the Thracian Bosphorus) by the Megarians, is assigned to the thirtieth Olympiad, or 658 b.c.; and the succession of colonies founded by the enterprise of Milesian citizens on the western coast of the Euxine, seem to fall not very long after this date—at least within the following century. Istria, Tyras, and Olbia or Borysthenes, were planted respectively near the mouths of the three great rivers Danube, Dniester, and Bog: Kruni, Odessus, Tomi, Kallatis, and Apollonia, were also planted on the south-western or Thracian coast, northward of the dangerous land of Salmydessus, so frequent in wrecks, but south of the Danube. According to the turn of Grecian religious faith, the colonists took out with them the worship of the hero Achilles (from whom perhaps the oekist and some of the expatriating chiefs professed to be descended), which they established with great solemnity both in the various towns and on the small adjoining islands: and the earliest proof which we find of Scythia, as a territory familiar to Grecian ideas and feeling, is found in a fragment of the poet Alkaeus (about b.c. 600), wherein be addresses Achilles as “sovereign of Scythia.” There were, besides, several other Milesian foundations on or near the Tauric Chersonese (Crimea) which brought the Greeks into conjunction with the Scythians—Herakleia Chersonesus and Theodosia, on the southern coast and the south-western corner of the peninsula—Pantikapaeum and the Teian colony of Phanagoria (these two on the European and Asiatic sides of the Cimmerian Bosphorus respectively), and Kepi, Hermonassa, &c. not far from Phanagoria, on the Asiatic coast of the Euxine: last of all, there was, even at the extremity of the Palus Maeotis (Sea of Azof), the Grecian settlement of Tanais. All or most of these seem to have been founded during the course of the sixth century b.c., though the precise dates of most of them cannot be named; probably several of them anterior to the time of the mystic poet Aristeas of Prokonneus, about 540 b.c. His long voyage from the Palus Maeotis (Sea of Azof) into the interior of Asia as far as the country of the Issedones (described in the poem, now lost, called the Arimaspian verses), implies an habitual intercourse between Scythians and Greeks which could not well have existed without Grecian establishments on the Cimmerian Bosphorus.

Hekataeus of Mildtus appears to have given much geographical information respecting the Scythian tribes; but Herodotus, who personally visited the town of Olbia, together with the inland regions adjoining to it, and probably other Grecian settlements in the Euxine (at a time which we may presume to have been about 450-440 b.c.)—and who conversed with both Scythians and Greeks competent to give him information—has left us far more valuable statements respecting the Scythian people, dominion, and manners, as they stood in bis day. His conception of the Scythians, as well as that of Hippokrates, is precise and well-defined—very different from that of the later authors, who use the word almost indiscriminately to denote all barbarous Nomads. His territory called Scythia is a square area, twenty days’ journey or 4000 stadia (somewhat less than 500 English miles) in each direction—bounded by the Danube (the course of which river he conceives in a direction from N.W. to S.E.), the Euxine, and the Pains Maeotis with the river Tanais, on three sides respectively—and on the fourth or north side by the nations called Agathyrsi, Neuri, Androphagi and Melancblaeni. However imperfect his idea of the figure of this territory may be found, if we compare it with a good modern map, the limits which he gives us are beyond all dispute: from the Lower Danube and the mountains eastward of Transylvania to the Lower Tanais, the whole area was either occupied by or subject to the Scythians. And this name comprised tribes differing materially in habits and civilization. The great mass of the people who bore it, strictly Nomadic in their habits—neither sowing nor planting, but living only on food derived from animals, especially mare’s milk and cheese—moved from place to place, carrying their families in waggons covered with wicker and leather, themselves always on horseback with their flocks and herds, between the Borysthenes and the Palus Maeotis; they hardly even reached so far westward as the Borysthenes, since a river (not easily identified) which Herodotus calls Pantikapes, flowing into the Borysthenes from the eastward, formed their boundary. These Nomads were the genuine Scythians, possessing the marked attributes of the race, and including among their number the Regal Scythians—hordes so much more populous and more effective in war than the rest; as to maintain undisputed ascendency, and to account all other Scythians no better than their slaves. It was to these that the Scythian kings belonged, by whom the religious and political unity of the name was maintained—each horde having its separate chief and to a certain extent separate worship and customs. But besides these Nomads, there were also agricultural Scythians, with fixed abodes, living more or less upon bread, and raising corn for exportation, along the banks of the Borysthenes and the Hypanis. And such had been the influence of the Grecian settlement of Olbia at the mouth of the latter river in creating new tastes and habits, that two tribes on its western banks, the Kallippidae and the Alazones, had become completely accustomed both to tillage and to vegetable food, and had in other respects so much departed from their Scythian rudeness as to be called Hellenic-Scythians, many Greeks being seemingly domiciled among them. Northward of the Alazones lay those called the agricultural Scythians, who sowed corn, not for food, but for sale.

Tribes of Scythians.

Such stationary cultivators were doubtless regarded by the predominant mass of the Scythians as degenerate brethren; and some historians maintain that they belonged to a foreign race, standing to the Scythians merely in the relation of subjects—an hypothesis contradicted implicitly, if not directly, by the words of Herodotus, and no way necessary in the present case. It is not from them however that Herodotus draws his vivid picture of the people, with their inhuman rites and repulsive personal features. It is the purely Nomadic Scythians whom he depicts, the earliest specimens of the Mongolian race (so it seems probable) known history, and prototypes of the Huns and Bulgarians of later centuries. The Sword, in the literal sense of the word, was their chief god—an iron scimitar solemnly elevated upon a wide and lofty platform, which was supported on masses of faggots piled underneath—to whom sheep, horses, and a portion of their prisoners taken in war, were offered up in sacrifice: Herodotus treats this sword as the image of the god Ares, thus putting an Hellenic interpretation upon that which he describes literally as a barbaric rite. The scalps and the skins of slain enemies, and sometimes the skull formed into a drinking-cup, constituted the decoration of a Scythian warrior: whoever had not slain an enemy, was excluded from participation in the annual festival and bowl of wine prepared by the chief of each separate horde. The ceremonies which took place during the sickness and funeral obsequies of the Scythian kings (who were buried at Gerrhi at the extreme point to which navigation extended up the Borysthenes) partook of the same sanguinary disposition. It was the Scythian practice to put out the eyes of all their slaves; and the awkwardness of the Scythian frame, often overloaded with fat, together with extreme dirt of body, and the absence of all discriminating feature between one man and another, complete the brutish portrait. Mare’s milk (with cheese made from it) seems to have been their chief luxury, and probably served the same purpose of procuring the intoxicating drink called kumiss, as at present among the Bashkirs and the Kalmucks.

If the habits of the Scythians were such as to create in the near observer no other feeling than repugnance, their force at least inspired terror. They appeared in the eyes of Thucydides so numerous and so formidable, that he pronounces them irresistible, if they could but unite, by any other nation within his knowledge. Herodotus, too, conceived the same idea of a race among whom every man was a warrior and a practised horse-bowman, and who were placed by their mode of life out of all reach of an enemy’s attack. Moreover, Herodotus does not speak meanly of their intelligence, contrasting them in favourable terms with the general stupidity of the other nations bordering on the Euxine. In this respect Thucydides seems to differ from him.

On the east, the Scythians of the time of Herodotus were separated only by the river Tanais from the Sarmatians, who occupied the territory for several days’ journey north-east of the Palus Maeotis: on the south, they were divided by the Danube from the section of Thracians called Getae. Both these nations were Nomadic, analogous to the Scythians in habits, military efficiency, and fierceness: indeed Herodotus and Hippokrates distinctly intimate that the Sarmatians were nothing but a branch of Scythians, speaking a Scythian dialect, and distinguished from their neighbours on the other side of the Tanais chiefly by this peculiarity—that the women among them were warriors hardly less daring and expert than the men. This attribute of Sarmatian women, as a matter of fact, is well attested—though Herodotus has thrown over it an air of suspicion not properly belonging to it, by his explanatory genealogical myth, deducing the Sarmatians from a mixed breed between the Scythians and the Amazons.

The wide extent of steppe eastward and north-eastward of the Tanais, between the Ural mountains and the Caspian, and beyond the possessions of the Sarmatians, was traversed by Grecian traders, even to a good distance in the direction of the Altai mountains—the rich produce of gold, both in Altai and Ural, being the great temptation. First (according to Herodotus) came the indigenous Nomadic nation called Budini, who dwelt to the northward of the Sarmatians, and among whom were established a colony of Pontic Greeks intermixed with natives and called Geloni; these latter inhabited a spacious town, built entirely of wood. Beyond the Budini eastward dwelt the Thyssagetae and the Jurkae, tribes of hunters, and even a body of Scythians who had migrated from the territories of the Regal Scythians. The Issedones were the easternmost people respecting whom any definite information reached the Greeks; beyond them we find nothing but fable—the one-eyed Arimaspians, the gold-guarding Grypes or Griffins, and the bald-headed Argippaei. It is impossible to fix with precision the geography of these different tribes, or to do more than comprehend approximatively their local bearings and relations to each other.

But the best known of all is the situation of the Tauri (perhaps a remnant of the expelled Cimmerians), who dwelt in the southern portion of the Tauric Chersonesus (or Crimea), and who immolated human sacrifices to their native virgin goddess—identified by the Greeks with Artemis, and serving as a basis for the affecting legend of Iphigeneia. The Tauri are distinguished by Herodotus from Scythians, but their manners and state of civilization seem to have been very analogous. It appears also that the powerful and numerous Massagetae, who dwelt in Asia on the plains eastward of the Caspian and southward of the Issedones, were so analogous to the Scythians as to be reckoned as members of the same race by many of the contemporaries of Herodotus.

This short enumeration of the various tribes near the Euxine and the Caspian, as well as we can make them out, from the seventh to the fifth century b.c., is necessary for the comprehension of that double invasion of Scythians and Cimmerians which laid waste Asia between 630 and 610 b.c. We are not to expect from Herodotus, born a century and a half afterwards, any very clear explanations of this event, nor were all his informants unanimous respecting the causes which brought it about. But it is a fact perfectly within the range of historical analogy, that accidental aggregations of number, development of aggressive spirit, or failure in the means of subsistence, among the Nomadic tribes of the Asiatic plains, have brought on the civilised nations of Southern Europe calamitous invasions of which the prime moving cause was remote and unknown. Sometimes a weaker tribe, flying before a stronger, has been in this manner precipitated upon the territory of a richer and less military population, so that an impulse originating in the distant plains of Central Tartary has been propagated until it reached the southern extremity of Europe, through successive intermediate tribes—a phenomenon especially exhibited during the fourth and fifth centuries of the Christian era, in the declining years of the Roman empire. A pressure so transmitted onward is said to have brought down the Cimmerians and Scythians upon the more southerly regions of Asia. The most ancient story in explanation of this incident seems to have been contained in the epic poem (now lost) called Arimaspia, of the mystic Aristeas of Prokonnesus, composed apparently about 540 b.c. This poet, under the inspiration of Apollo, undertook a pilgrimage to visit the sacred Hyperboreans (especial votaries of that god) in their elysium beyond the Rhipean mountains; but he did not reach farther than the Issedones. According to him, the movement, whereby the Cimmerians had been expelled from their possessions on the Euxine Sea, began with the Grypes or Griffins in the extreme north— the sacred character of the Hyperboreans beyond was incompatible with aggression or bloodshed. The Grypes invaded the Arimaspians, who on their part assailed their neighbours the Issedones; these latter moved southward or westward and drove the Scythians across the Tanais, while the Scythians, carried forward by this onset, expelled the Cimmerians from their territories along the Palus Maeotis and the Euxine.

We see thus that Aristeas referred the attack of the Scythians upon the Cimmerians to a distant impulse proceeding in the first instance from the Grypes or Griffins; but Herodotus had heard it explained in another way which he seems to think more correct—the Scythians, originally occupants of Asia, or the regions east of the Caspian, had been driven across the Araxes, in consequence of un unsuccessful war with the Massagetae, and precipitated upon the Cimmerians in Europe.

When the Scythian host approached, the Cimmerians were not agreed among themselves whether to resist or retire: the majority of the people were dismayed and wished to evacuate the territory, while the kings of the different tribes resolved to fight and perish at home. Those who were animated with this fierce despair, divided themselves along with the kings into two equal bodies and perished by each other’s hands near the river Tyras, where the sepulchres of the kings were yet shown in the time of Herodotus. The mass of the Cimmerians fled and abandoned their country to the Scythians; who however, not content with possession of the country, followed the fugitives across the Cimmerian Bosphorus from west to east, under the command of their prince Madyes son of Protothyes. The Cimmerians, coasting along the east of the Euxine Sea and passing to the west of Mount Caucasus, made their way first into Colchis, and next into Asia Minor, where they established themselves on the peninsula on the northern coast, near the site of the subsequent Grecian city of Sinope. But the Scythian pursuers, mistaking the course taken by the fugitives, followed the more circuitous route east of Mount Caucasus near to the Caspian Sea; which brought them, not into Asia Minor, but into Media. Both Asia Minor and Media became thus exposed nearly at the same time to the ravages of northern Nomads.

These two stories, representing the belief of Herodotus and Aristeas, involve the assumption that the Scythians were comparatively recent immigrants into the territory between the Ister and the Palus Maeotis. But the legends of the Scythians themselves, as well as those of the Pontic Greeks, imply the contrary of this assumption; and describe the Scythians as primitive and indigenous inhabitants of the country. Both legends are so framed as to explain a triple division, which probably may have prevailed, of the Scythian aggregate nationality, traced up to three heroic brothers: both also agree in awarding the predominance to the youngest brother of the three, though in other respects, the names and incidents of the two are altogether different. The Scythians called themselves Skoloti.

Such material differences, in the various accounts given to Herodotus of the Scythian and Cimmerian invasions of Asia, are by no means wonderful, seeing that nearly two centuries had elapsed between that event and his visit to the Pontus. That the Cimmerians (perhaps the northernmost portion of the great Thracian name and conterminous with the Getae on the Danube) were the previous tenants of much of the territory between the Ister and the Palus Maeotis, and that they were expelled in the seventh century b.c. by the Scythians, we may follow Herodotus in believing; but Niebuhr has shown that there is great intrinsic improbability in his narrative of the march of the Cimmerians into Asia Minor, and in the pursuit of these fugitives by the Scythians. That the latter would pursue at all, when an extensive territory was abandoned to them without resistance, is hardly supposable: that they should pursue and mistake their way, is still more difficult to believe: nor can we overlook the great difficulties of the road and the Caucasian passes, in the route ascribed to the Cimmerians. Niebuhr supposes the latter to have marched into Asia Minor by the western side of the Euxine and across the Thracian Bosphorus, after having been defeated in a decisive battle by the Scythians near the river Tyras, where their last kings fell and were interred1. Though this is both an easier route, and more in accordance with the analogy of other occupants expelled from the same territory, we must, in the absence of positive evidence, treat the point as unauthenticated.

The inroad of the Cimmerians into Asia Minor was doubtless connected with their expulsion from the northern coast of the Euxine by the Scythians, but we may well doubt whether it was at all connected (as Herodotus had been told that it was) with the invasion of Media by the Scythians, except as happening near about the same time. The same great evolution of Scythian power, or propulsion by other tribes behind, may have occasioned both events,—brought about by different bodies of Scythians, but nearly contemporaneous.

Herodotus tells us two facts respecting the Cimmerian immigrants into Asia Minor. They committed destructive, though transient, ravages in many parts of Paphlagonia, Phrygia, Lydia and Ionia—and they occupied permanently the northern peninsula, whereon the Greek city of Sinope was afterwards planted. Had the elegies of the contemporary Ephesian poet Kallinus been preserved, we should have known better how to appreciate these trying times: he strove to keep alive the energy of his countrymen against the formidable invaders. From later authors (who probably had these poems before them) we learn that the Cimmerian host, having occupied the Lydian chief town Sardis (its inaccessible acropolis defied them), poured with their waggons into the fertile valley of the Kaister, took and sacked Magnesia on the Maeander, and even threatened the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. But the goddess so well protected her own town and sanctuary1, that Lygdamis the leader of the Cimmerians, whose name marks him for a Greek, after a season of prosperous depredation in Lydia and Ionia, conducting his host into the mountainous regions of Cilicia, was there overwhelmed and slain. But though these marauders perished, the Cimmerian settlers in the territory near Sinope remained; and Ambron, the first Milesian oekist who tried to colonise that spot, was slain by them, if we may believe Skymnus. They are not mentioned afterwards, but it seems not unreasonable to believe that they appear under the name of the Chalybes, whom Herodotus mentions along that coast between the Mariandynians and Paphlagonians, and whom Mela notices as adjacent to Sinope and Amisus. Other authors place the Chalybes on several different points, more to the east, though along the same parallel of latitude —between the Mosynoeki and Tibareni—near the river Thermdon—and on the northern boundary of Armenia, near the sources of the Araxes; but it is only Herodotus and Mela who recognise Chalybes westward of the river Halys and the Paphlagonians, near to Sinope. These Chalybes were brave mountaineers, though savage in manners; distinguished as producers and workers of the iron which their mountains afforded. In the conceptions of the Greeks, as manifested in a variety of fabulous notices, they are plainly connected with Scythians or Cimmerians; whence it seems probable that this connection was present to the mind of Herodotus in regard to the inland population near Sinope.


Herodotus seems to have conceived only one invasion of Asia by the Cimmerians, during the reign of Ardys in Lydia. Ardys was succeeded by his son Sadyattes, who reigned twelve years; and it was Alyattes, son and successor of Sadyattes, (according to Herodotus) who expelled the Cimmerians from Asia. But Strabo seems to speak of several invasions, in which the Treres, a Thracian tribe, were concerned, and which are not clearly discriminated; while Callisthenes affirmed that Sardis had been taken by the Treres and Lycians. We see only that a large and fair portion of Asia Minor was for much of this seventh century b.c. in possession of these destroying Nomads, who, while on the one hand they afflicted the Ionic Greeks, on the other hand indirectly befriended them by retarding the growth of the Lydian monarchy.

The invasion of Upper Asia by the Scythians appears to have been nearly simultaneous with that of Asia Minor by the Cimmerians, but more ruinous and longer protracted. The Median king Cyaxares, called away from the siege of Nineveh to oppose them, was totally defeated; and the Scythians became full masters of the country. They spread themselves over the whole of Upper Asia, as far as Palestine and the borders of Egypt, where Psammetichus the Egyptian king met them, and only redeemed his kingdom from invasion by prayers and costly presents. In their return a detachment of them sacked the temple of Aphrodite at Askalon; an act of sacrilege which the goddess avenged both upon the plunderers and their descendants, to the third and fourth generation. Twenty-eight years did their dominion in Upper Asia continue, with intolerable cruelty and oppression; until at length Cyaxares and the Medes found means to entrap the chiefs into a banquet, and slew them in the hour of intoxication. The Scythian host once expelled, the Medes resumed their empire. Herodotus tells us that these Scythians returned to the Tauric Chersonese, where they found that during their long absence, their wives had intermarried with the slaves, while the new offspring which had grown up refused to readmit them. A deep trench had been drawn across a line over which their march lay, and the new-grown youth defended it with bravery, until at length (so the story runs) the returning masters took up their whips instead of arms, and scourged the rebellious slaves into submission.

Little as we know about the particulars of these Cimmerian and Scythian inroads, they deserve notice as the first (at least the first historically known) among the numerous invasions of cultivated Asia and Europe by the Nomads of Tartary. Huns, Avars, Bulgarians, Magyars, Turks, Mongols, Tartars, &c. are found in subsequent centuries repeating the same infliction, and establishing a dominion both more durable, and not less destructive, than the transient scourge of the Scythians during the reign of Cyaxares.

After the expulsion of the Scythians from Asia, the full extent and power of the Median empire was re-established; and Cyaxares was enabled again to besiege Nineveh. He took that great city, and reduced under his dominion all the Assyrians except those who formed the kingdom of Babylon. This conquest was achieved towards the close of his reign, and be bequeathed the Median empire, at the maximum of its grandeur, to bis son Astyages, in 595 b.c.

Lydian kings Sadyattes and Alyattes—war against Miletus.

As the dominion of the Scythians in Upper Asia lasted twenty-eight years before they were expelled by Cyaxares, so also the inroads of the Cimmerians through Asia Minor, which had begun during the reign of the Lydian king Ardys, continued through the twelve years of the reign of his son Sadyattes (629-617 b.c.), and were finally terminated by Alyattes, son of the latter. Notwithstanding the Cimmerians, however, Sadyattes was in a condition to prosecute a war against the Grecian city of Miletus, which continued during the last seven years of his reign, and which he bequeathed to his son and successor. Alyattes continued the war for five years longer. So feeble was the sentiment of union among the various Grecian towns on the Asiatic coast, that none of them would lend any aid to Miletus except the Chians, who were under special obligations to Miletus for previous aid in a contest against Erythrae: and the Milesians unassisted were no match for the Lydian army in the field, though their great naval strength placed them out of all danger of a blockade; and we must presume that the erection of those mounds of earth against the walls, whereby the Persian Harpagus vanquished the Ionian cities half a century afterwards, was then unknown to the Lydians. For twelve successive years the Milesian territory was annually overrun and ravaged previous to the gathering in of the crop. The inhabitants, after having been defeated in two ruinous battles, gave up all hope of resisting the devastation, so that the task of the invaders became easy, and the Lydian army pursued their destructive march to the sound of flutes and harps. They ruined the crops and the fruit-trees, but Alyattes would not allow the farm-buildings or country-houses to be burnt, in order that the means of production might still be preserved, to be again destroyed during the following season. By such unremitting devastation the Milesians were reduced to distress and famine, in spite of their command of the sea; and the fate which afterwards overtook them during the reign of Croesus, of becoming tributary subjects to the throne of Sardis, would have begun half a century earlier, had not Alyattes unintentionally committed a profanation against the goddess Athene. Her temple at Assessus accidentally took fire, and was consumed, when his soldiers on a windy day were burning the Milesian standing corn. Though no one took notice of this incident at the time, yet Alyattes on his return to Sardis was smitten with prolonged sickness. Unable to obtain relief, he despatched envoys to seek humble advice from the god at Delphi; but the Pythian priestess refused to furnish any healing suggestions until he should have rebuilt the burnt temple of Athene,—and Periander, at that time despot of Corinth, having learnt the tenor of this reply, transmitted private information of it to Thrasybulus despot of Miletus, with whom he was intimately allied. Presently there arrived at Miletus a herald on the part of Alyattes, proposing a truce for the special purpose of enabling him to rebuild the destroyed temple—the Lydian monarch believing the Milesians to be so poorly furnished with subsistence that they would gladly embrace this temporary relief. But the herald on his arrival found abundance of corn heaped up in the agora, and the citizens engaged in feasting and enjoyment ; for Thrasybulus had caused all the provision in the town, both public and private, to be brought out, in order that the herald might see the Milesians in a condition of apparent plenty, and carry the news of it to his master. The stratagem succeeded. Alyattes, under the persuasion that his repeated devastations inflicted upon the Milesians no sensible privations, abandoned bis hostile designs, and concluded with them a treaty of amity and alliance. It was his first proceeding to build two temples to Athene, in place of the one which had been destroyed, and he then forthwith recovered from his protracted malady. His gratitude for the cure was testified by the transmission of a large silver bowl, with an iron foots and welded together by the Chian artist Glaucus—the inventor of the art of thus joining together pieces of iron.

Alyattes is said to have carried on other operation against some of the Ionic Greeks: he took Smyrna, but was defeated in an inroad on the territory of Klazomenae. But on the whole bis long reign of fifty-seven years was one of tranquillity to the Grecian cities on the coast, though we hear of an expedition which he undertook against Caria. He is reported to have been during youth of overweening insolence, but to have acquired afterwards a just and improved character. By an Ionian wife he became father of Croesus, whom even during his lifetime he appointed satrap of the town of Adramyttium and the neighbouring plain of Thebe. But he had also other wives and other sons, and one of the latter, Adramytus, is reported as the founder of Adramyttium. How far his dominion in the interior of Asia Minor extended, we do not know, but very probably his long and comparatively inactive reign may have favoured the accumulation of those treasures which afterwards rendered the wealth of Croesus so proverbial. His monument, an enormous pyramidal mound upon a stone base, erected near Sardis by the joint efforts of the whole Sardian population, was the most memorable curiosity in Lydia during the time of Herodotus; it was inferior only to the gigantic edifices of Egypt and Babylon.

Croesus obtained the throne, at the death of his father, by appointment from the latter. But there was a party among the Lydians who had favoured the pretensions of his brother Pantaleon; one of the richest chiefs of which party was put to death afterwards by the new king, under the cruel torture of a spiked carding machine—his property confiscated. The aggressive reign of Croesus, lasting fourteen years (559-545 b.c.), formed a marked contrast to the long quiescence of his father during a reign of fifty-seven years.

Pretences being easily found for war against the Asiatic Greeks, Croesus attacked them one after the other. Unfortunately we know neither the particulars of these successive aggressions, nor the previous history of the Ionic cities, so as to be able to explain how it was that the fifth of the Mermnad kings of Sardis met with such unqualified success, in an enterprise which his predecessors had attempted in vain. Miletus alone, with the aid of Chios, had resisted Alyattes and Sadyattes for eleven years—and Croesus possessed no naval force, any more than his father and grandfather. But on this occasion, not one of the towns can have displayed the like individual energy. In regard to the Milesians, we may perhaps suspect that the period now under consideration was comprised in that long duration of intestine conflict which Herodotus represents (though without defining exactly when) to have crippled the forces of the city for two generations, and which was at length appeased by a memorable decision of some arbitrators invited from Paros. These latter, called in by mutual consent of the exhausted antagonist parties at Miletus, found both the city and her territory in a state of general neglect and ruin. But on surveying the lands, they discovered some which still appeared to be tilled with undiminished diligence and skill: to the proprietors of these lands they consigned the government of the town, in the belief that they would manage the public affairs with as much success as their own. Such a state of intestine weakness would partly explain the easy subjugation of the Milesians by Croesus; while there was little in the habits of the Ionic cities to present the chance of united efforts against a common enemy. These cities, far from keeping up any effective political confederation, were in a state of habitual jealousy of each other, and not unfrequently in actual war. The common religious festivals—the Deliac festival as well as the Pan-Ionia, and afterwards the Ephesia in place of the Delia—seem to have been regularly frequented by all the cities throughout the worst of times. But these assemblies had no direct political function, nor were they permitted to control that sentiment of separate city autonomy which was paramount in the Greek mind—though their influence was extremely precious in calling forth social sympathies. Apart from the periodical festival, meetings for special emergences were held at the Pan-Ionic temple; but from such meetings any city, not directly implicated, kept aloof1. As in this case, so in others not less critical throughout the historical period, the incapacity of large political combination was the source of constant danger, and ultimately proved the cause of ruin, to  the independence of all the Grecian states. Herodotus warmly commends the advice given by Thales to his Ionic countrymen,—and given (to use his remarkable expression) “before the ruin of Ionia’”— that a common senate, invested with authority over all the twelve cities, should be formed within the walls of Teos, as the most central in position; and that all the other cities should account themselves mere demes of this aggregate commonwealth or Polis. Nor can we doubt that such was the unavailing aspiration of many a patriot of Miletus or Ephesus, even before the final operations of Croesus were opened against them.

That prince attacked the Greek cities successively, finding or making different pretences for hostility against each. He began with Ephesus, which is said to have been then governed by a despot of harsh and oppressive character, named Pindarus, whose father Melas had married a daughter of Alyattes, and who was therefore himself nephew of Croesus. The latter, having in vain invited Pindarus and the Ephesians to surrender the town, brought up his forces and attacked the walls: one of the towers being overthrown, the Ephesians abandoned all hope of defending their town, and sought safety by placing it under the guardianship of Artemis, to whose temple they carried a rope from the walls—a distance not less than seven furlongs. They at the same time sent a message of supplication to Croesus, who is said to have granted them the preservation of their liberties, out of reverence to the protection of Artemis; exacting at the same time that Pindarus should quit the place. Such is the tale of which we find a confused mention in Aelian and Polyaenus; but Herodotus, while he notices the fact of the long rope whereby the Ephesians sought to place themselves in contact with their divine protectress, does not indicate that Croesus was induced to treat them more favourably. Ephesus, like all the other Grecian towns on the coast, was brought under subjection and tribute to him. How he dealt with them, and what degree of coercive precaution he employed either to ensure subjection or collect tribute, the brevity of the historian does not acquaint us. But they were required partially at least, if not entirely, to raze their fortifications; for on occasion of the danger which supervened a few years afterwards from Cyrus, they are found practically unfortified.

Thus completely successful in his aggressions on the continental Asiatic Greeks, Croesus conceived the idea of assembling a fleet, for the purpose of attacking the islanders of Chios and Samos, but was convinced (as some said, by the sarcastic remark of one of the seven Greek sages, Bias or Pittakus) of the impracticability of the project. He carried his arms, however, with full success, over other parts of the continent of Asia Minor, until he had subdued the whole territory within the river Halys, excepting only the Cilicians and the Lycians.  The Lydian empire thus reached the maximum of its power, comprehending, besides the Aeolic, Ionic, and Doric Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor, the Phrygians, Mysians, Mariandynians, Chalybes, Paphlagonians, Thynian and Bithynian Thracians, Carians, and Pamphylians. And the treasures amassed by Croesus at Sardis, derived partly from this great number of tributaries, partly from mines in various places as well as the auriferous sands of the Paktolus, exceeded anything which the Greeks had ever before known.

We learn, from the brief but valuable observations of Herodotus, to appreciate the great importance of these conquests of Croesus, with reference not merely to the Grecian cities actually subjected, but also indirectly to the whole Grecian world.

“Before the reign of Croesus (observes the historian) all the Greeks were free: it was by him first that Greeks were subdued into tribute.” And he treats this event as the initial phenomenon of the series, out of which grew the hostile relations between the Greeks on one side, and Asia as represented by the Persians on the other, which were uppermost in the minds of himself and his contemporaries.

It was in the case of Croesus that the Greeks were first called upon to deal with a tolerably large barbaric aggregate under a warlike and enterprising prince, and the result was such as to manifest the inherent weakness of their political system, from its incapacity of large combination. The separated autonomous cities could only maintain their independence either through similar disunion on the part of barbaric adversaries, or by superiority on their own side of military organisation as well as of geographical position. The situation of Greece proper and of the islands was favourable to the maintenance of such a system—not so the shores of Asia with a wide interior country behind. The Ionic Greeks were at this time different from what they became during the ensuing century, little inferior in energy to Athens or to the general body of European Greeks, and could doubtless have maintained their independence, had they cordially combined. But it will be seen hereafter that the Greek colonies—planted as isolated settlements, and indisposed to political union, even when neighbours—all of them fell into dependence so soon as attack from the interior came to be powerfully organised; especially if that organisation was conducted by leaders partially improved through contact with the Greeks themselves. Small autonomous cities maintain themselves so long as they have only enemies of the like strength to deal with: but to resist larger aggregates requires such a concurrence of favourable circumstances as can hardly remain long without interruption. And the ultimate subjection of entire Greece, under the kings of Macedon, was only an exemplification on the widest scale of this same principle.

The Lydian monarchy under Croesus, the largest with which the Greeks had come into contact down to that moment, was very soon absorbed into a still larger—the Persian; of which the Ionic Greeks, after unavailing resistance, became the subjects. The partial sympathy and aid which they obtained from the independent or European Greeks, their western neighbours, followed by the fruitless attempt on the part of the Persian king to add these latter to his empire, gave an entirely new turn to Grecian history and proceedings. First, it necessitated a degree of central action against the Persians which was foreign to Greek political instinct; next, it opened to the noblest and most enterprising section of the Hellenic name—the Athenians—an opportunity of placing themselves at the head of this centralising tendency; while a concurrence of circumstances, foreign and domestic, imparted to them at the same time that extraordinary and many-sided impulse, combining action with organisation, which gave such brilliancy to the period of Herodotus and Thucydides. It is thus that most of the splendid phenomena of Grecian history grew, directly or indirectly, out of the reluctant dependence in which the Asiatic Greeks were held by the inland barbaric powers, beginning with Croesus.

These few observations will suffice to intimate that a new phase of Grecian history is now on the point of opening. Down to the time of Croesus, almost everything which is done or suffered by the Grecian cities bears only upon one or other of them separately: the instinct of the Greeks repudiates even the modified forms of political centralisation, and there are no circumstances in operation to force it upon them. Relation of power and subjection exists, between a strong and a weak state, but no tendency to standing political coordination. From this time forward, we shall see partial causes at work, tending in this direction, and not without considerable influence; though always at war with the indestructible instinct of the nation, and frequently counteracted by selfishness and misconduct on the part of the leading cities.