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The history of Greek civilization forms the centre of the history of Antiquity. In the East, advanced civilizations with settled states had existed for thousands of years; and as the populations of Western Asia and of Egypt gradually came into closer political relations, these civilizations, in spite of all local differences in customs, religion, and habits of thought, gradually grew together into a uniform sphere of culture. This development reached its culmination in the rise of the great Persian universal monarchy, the “kingdom of the lands”, i.e. “of the world”. But from the very beginning these oriental civilizations are so completely dominated by the effort to maintain what has been won that all progress beyond this point is prevented. And although we can distinguish an individual, active, and progressive intellectual movement among many nations,—as in Egypt, among the Iranians and Indians, while among the Babylonians and Phoenicians nothing of the sort is thus far known,— nevertheless the forces that represent tradition are in the end everywhere victorious over it and force it to bow to their yoke. Hence, all oriental civilizations culminate in the creation of a theological system which governs all the relations and the whole field of thought of man, and is everywhere recognized as having existed from all eternity and as being inviolable to all future time.

With the cessation of political life and the establishment of the universal monarchy, the nationality and the distinctive civilization of the separate districts are restricted to religion, which has become theology. The development of oriental civilization then subsides in the competition of these religions and the unavoidable coalescence consequent thereupon. This is true even of that nation which experienced the richest intellectual development, and did the most important work of all oriental peoples—the Israelites. When the great political storms from which the universal monarchy arose have spent their rage, Israel, the nation, has developed into Judaism; and under the Persian rule and with the help of the kingdom it organizes itself as a church which seeks to put an end to all free individual movement, upon which the greatness of ancient Israel rests.

It was just the same with the ruling nation, the Persians, however vigorous their entrance into history under Cyrus. The Persian kingdom is, indeed, a civilized state, but the civilizations that it includes lack the highest that a civilization can offer: an energetic, independent life, a combination of the firm institutions and permanent attainments of the past with the free, progressive, and creative movement of individuality. So the East, after the Persian period, was unable of its own force to create anything new. It stagnated, and, had it not received new elements from without, had it been left permanently to itself, would perhaps in the course of centuries have altered its external form again and again, but would hardly have produced anything new or have progressed a step beyond what had already been attained.

But when Cyrus and Darius founded the Persian kingdom, the East no longer stood alone. The nations and kingdoms of the East came into communication with the coast of the Mediterranean very early—not later than the beginning of the second millennium B.C.; and under their influence, about 1500 B.C., a civilization arose among the Greeks bordering the Aegean. We call it the Mycenaean, and in spite of its formal dependence upon the East it could, in the field of art (where alone we have an exact knowledge of it), take an independent and equal place beside the great civilizations of the East.

How Greek civilization continued to advance from step to step for many centuries in the field of politics and society as well as in that of the intellect, how it spread simultaneously over all the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean, from Massalia on the coast of the Ligurians and Cumae in the land of the Oscans to the Crimea and the eastern coast of the Black Sea, and in the south as far as Cyprus and Cilicia; how Greek culture at the same time took root in much more remote districts, especially in Asia Minor; and how under its influence an energetic civilization arose among the tribes of Italy, cannot be depicted here.

When the Persian kingdom was founded the Hellenes had developed from a group of linguistically related tribes into a nation possessing a completely independent culture whose equal the world had never yet seen, a culture whose mainspring was that very political and intellectual freedom of the individual which was completely lacking in the East.

Hence its character was purely human, its aim the complete and harmonious development of man, and if for that very reason it always strove to be moderate and to adapt itself to the moral and cosmical forces that govern human life, nevertheless it could accomplish this only in free subordination, by absorbing the moral commandment into its own will. Therefore it did not permit the opposing theological tendencies to gain control, strong as was their development in considerable districts of Greece in the sixth century. At that very period, on the other hand, it was stretching out to grasp the apples on the tree of knowledge; in the most advanced regions of Hellas science and philosophy were opposing theology. National as it was, this culture lacked but one thing: the political unity of the nation, the coordination of all its powers in the vigorous organism of a great state.

The instinct of freedom itself, upon which the greatness of this civilization rested, favoured by the geographical conformation of the Greek soil, had caused a constantly increasing political disunion, which saw in the complete and unlimited autonomy of every individual community, even of the tiniest of the hundreds of city states into which Hellas was divided, the highest ideal of liberty, the only fit existence for a Hellene. And, internally, every one of these dwarf states was eaten by the canker of political and social contrasts which could not be permanently suppressed by any attempt to introduce a just political order founded upon a codified law and a written constitution—whether the ideal were the rule of the “best”, the rule of the whole, i.e. of the actual masses, or that of a mixed constitution. The smaller the city and its territory, the more apt were these attempts to become bloody revolutions. Lively as was the public spirit, clearly as the justice of the demand for subordination to law was recognized, every individual and every party interpreted it according to its own conception and its own judgment, and at all times there were not a few who were ready to seize for themselves all that the moment offered.

To be sure, manifold and successful attempts to found a greater political power were brought about by the advancing growth of industry and culture, as well as by the development of the citizen army of hoplites, which had a firm tactical structure and was well schooled in the art of war. In the Peloponnesus Sparta brought the whole south under the rule of its citizens and not only effected the union of almost the whole peninsula into a league, but established its right, as the first military power of Hellas, to leadership in all common affairs.

In middle Greece, Thebes succeeded in uniting Boeotia into a federal state, while its neighbour Athens, which had maintained the unity of the Attic district since the beginning of history, began to annex the neighbouring districts of Megara, Boeotia, and Euboea, and laid the foundation of a colonial power, as Corinth had formerly done. In the north the Thessalians acquired leadership over all surrounding tribes. In the west, in Sicily, usurpers had founded larger monarchical unified states, especially in Syracuse and Agrigentum.

But all these combinations were after all only of very limited extent and by no means firmly united; on the contrary, the weaker communities felt even the loosest kind of federation, to say nothing of dependence, as an oppressive fetter which impaired the ideal of the individual destiny of the autonomous state, and which at least one party,—generally the one that happened to be out of power,—felt justified in bursting at the first opportunity.

However, as things lay, the nation found itself forced, with this sort of constitution, to take up the struggle for its political independence. The Greeks of Asia Minor, formerly subjects of the kings of Sardis, had become subjects of the Persian kingdom under Cyrus; the free Hellenes had the most varied relations with the latter, and more than once gave him occasion to intervene in their affairs. The Persian kingdom, which under Darius no longer attempted conquests that were not necessary for the maintenance of its own existence, took no advantage of these provocations until the revolt of the Greeks of Asia Minor, supported by Athens, made war inevitable.

After the first attempt had failed Xerxes repeated it on the greatest scale. Against the Hellenic nation, whose alien character was everywhere a hindrance in its path, the Orient arose in the east and the west for a decisive struggle; the Phoenician city of Carthage, the great sea power of the west, was in alliance with the Persian kingdom. Only the minority of the Hellenes joined in the defense; in the west the princes of Syracuse and Agrigentum, in the east Sparta and the Peloponnesian league, Athens, the cities of Euboea and a few smaller powers. But in both fields of operation the Hellenes won a complete victory; the Carthaginians were defeated on the Himera, in the east Themistocles broke the base of the Persian position by destroying their sea power with the Athenian fleet that he had created, and on the battlefield of Plataea the Persian land forces were defeated by the superiority of the Greek armies of hoplites.

Thus the Hellenes had won the leading position in the world. For the moment there was no other power that could oppose them by land or sea; the Asiatic king never again ventured an attack on Greece. Her absolute military superiority was founded upon the national character, the energetic public spirit, the voluntary subordination to law and discipline and the capacity for conceiving and realizing great political ideas. The Hellenes could gain and assert permanently the ascendency over the entire Mediterranean world, and impress upon it for all time the stamp of their nationality, provided only that they were united and saw the way to gather together all their resources into a single firmly great power.

But the Greeks were not able to meet this first and most urgent demand; though the days of particularism were irrevocably past, the idea which was so inseparably bound up with the very nature of Hellenism still exerted a powerful influence. As the individual communities were no longer able to maintain an independent existence, they gathered about the two powers that had gained the leadership, and each of which was striving for supremacy: the patriarchal military state of Sparta and the new progressive great power of Athens.

With the victory over the East it had been decided that the individuality of Hellenic culture, the intellectual liberty which gives free play to all vigorous powers in both material and intellectual life, had asserted itself, the future lay only along this way. Mighty was the advance that in all fields carried Greece along with gigantic strides; after only a few decades the time before the Persian wars seemed like a remote and long past antiquity.

But mighty as were the advancing strides of the nation in trade and industry, in wealth and all the luxury of civilization, in art and science, all these attainments finally became factors of political disintegration. They furthered the unlimited development of individualism, which in custom and law and political life recognizes no other rule than its own ego and its claims. The ideal world of the time of the sophists and the politics of an Alcibiades and a Lysander are the results of this development.

Athens perceived the political tasks that were set for the Hellenic people and ventured an attempt to perform them. They could be accomplished only by admitting the new ideas into the programme of democracy, by the foundation and extension of sea power, by an aggressive policy which aimed more and more at the subjection of the Greek world under the hegemony of one city. In consequence all opposing elements were forced under the banner of Sparta, which adopted the programme of conservatism and particularism, in order to strengthen its resistance, and restrict and, if possible, overcome its rival.

The conflict was inevitable, though both sides were reluctant to enter upon it; twenty years after the battle of Salamis it broke out. The fact that Athens was trying at the same time to continue the war against Persia and wrest Cyprus and Egypt from it gave her opponents the advantage; she had far overestimated her strength. After a struggle of eleven years (460—449 b.c.) Athens found herself compelled to make peace with Persia and free the Greek mainland, only retaining absolute control over the sea.

Under the rule of Pericles she consolidated her power, and the ideals that lived in her were embodied in splendid creations. She proved herself equal, in spite of all internal instability and crises, to a second attack of her Greek opponents (431—421 B.c.). But it again became evident that the radical democracy, which was now at the helm, had no grasp of the realities of the political situation; for the second time it stretched out its hand for the hegemony over all Hellas, in unnatural alliance with Alcibiades, the conscienceless, ambitious man who was aiming at the crown of Athens and Hellas.

Mighty indeed was the plan to subdue the Western world, Sicily first of all; then with doubled power first to crush the opponents at home and then gain the supremacy over the whole Mediterranean world. But what a united Hellas might have accomplished was far beyond the resources of Athens, even if the democrats had not overthrown their dangerous ally at the first opportunity, and thus lamed the undertaking at the outset.

The catastrophe of the Athenians before Syracuse (413 B.C.) is the turning-point of Greek history. All the opponents of Athens united, and the Persian king, who saw that the hour had come to regain his former power without a struggle, made an alliance with them. Only through his subsidies was it possible for Sparta and her allies to reduce Athens—until she lay prostrate. And the gain fell to Persia alone, however feeble the kingdom had meanwhile become internally. Sparta, after overthrowing the despotism of Lysander, made an honest attempt to reorganize the Greek world after the conservative programme, and to fulfil the task laid upon the nation in the contest with Persia. But she only furnished her opponents at home, and particularism, which now immediately turned against its former ally, an occasion for a fresh uprising, which Sparta could master only by forming a new alliance with Persia. After the peace of 386 the king of Asia utters the decisive word even in the affairs of the Greek mother-country.

Here dissolution is going rapidly forward. Every power that has once more for a short time possessed some importance in Greece succumbs to it in turn; first Sparta, then Thebes and Athens. The attempts to establish permanent and assured conditions by local unions in small districts, as in Chalcidice under Olynthus, in Boeotia and Arcadia, were never able to hold out more than a short time. It was useless to look longer for the fulfilment of the national destiny. Feeble as the Persian kingdom was internally, every revolt against it, to say nothing of an attempt to make conquests and acquire a new field of colonization in Asia,—the programme that Isocrates repeatedly urged upon the nation,—was made impossible by internal strife. Prosperity was ruined, the energy of the nation was exhausted in the wild feuds of brigands, the most desolate conditions prevailed in all commu­nities. Greek history ends in chaos, in a hopeless struggle of all against all.

In this same period, to be sure, the positive, constructive criticism of Socrates and his school rose in opposition to the negative tendencies of sophistry; and made the attempt to put an end to the political misery, to create by a proper education the true citizen who looks only to the common welfare in place of the ignorant citizen of the existing states, who was governed only by self-interest. These efforts resulted in the development of science and the preservation for all future time of the highest achievements of the intellectual life of Hellas, but they could not produce an internal transformation of men and states, whose earthly life does not lie within the sphere of the problems of theoretical perception, but in that of the problems of will and power. So at the same time that Greek culture has reached the highest point of its development, prepared to become the culture of the world, the Greek nation is condemned to complete impotence.

For the development in the West, different as was its course, led to no other result. In the fifth century Greece controlled almost all Sicily except the western point, the whole south of Italy up to Tarentum, Elea and Posidonia and the coast of Campania. Nowhere was an enemy to be seen that might have become dangerous. The Carthaginians were repulsed, and the power of the Etruscans, who in the sixth century had striven for the hegemony in Italy, decayed partly from internal weakness, partly in consequence of the revolt of their subjects, especially the Romans and the Sabines. The Cumaeans under Aristodemus with the Sabines as their allies defeated Aruns, the son of Porsena of Clusium, at Aricia about 500 B.C., and in the year 474 the Etruscan sea power suffered defeat at Cumae from the fleet of Hiero of Syracuse.

The cities of western Greece stood then as if founded for all eternity; they were adorned with splendid buildings, the gayest and most luxurious life developed in their streets, and they had leisure enough, after the Greek manner, to dissipate their energies, which were not claimed by external enemies, in internal strife and in struggles for the hegemony. Only the bold attempts which Phocaea made in the sixth century to turn the western basin of the Mediterranean likewise into a Greek sea, to get a firm footing in Corsica and southern Spain, had succumbed to the resistance of the Carthaginians, who were in alliance with the Etruscans. Only in the north, on the coast of Liguria from the Alps to the Pyrenees, Massalia maintained its independence. Southern Spain, Gades, and the coast of the land of Tarshish (Tartessus) were occupied by the Carthaginians about the middle of the fifth century; and the Greeks and all foreign mariners in general were cut off from the navigation of the ocean, as well as from the coasts of North Africa and Sardinia.

In the fourth century the political situation is totally changed in both east and west. The Greeks are reduced to the defensive and lose one position after the other. A few years after the destruction of the Athenian expedition the Carthaginians stretched out their hands for Sicily; in the years 409 and 406 they take and destroy Selinus, Himera, and Agrigentum; in the wars of the following years every other Greek city of the island except Syracuse was temporarily occupied and plundered by them.

In Italy after the middle of the fifth century a new people made their entrance into history, the Sabellian (Oscan) mountain tribes. From the valleys of the Abruzzi and the Samnitic Apennines they pressed forward towards the rich plains of the coast, and the land of civilization with its inhabitants succumbed to them almost everywhere. To be sure, the Sabines under Rome defended themselves against the Aequians and Volscians, and so did the Apulians in the east against the Frentanians and Pentrians of Samnium. But the Etruscans of Capua and Nola and the Greeks of Cumae were overcome (438 and 421 B.C.) by the Sabellian Campanians, and Naples alone in this district was able to preserve its independence. In the south the Lucanians advanced farther and farther, took Posidonia (Paestum) in 400 B.C., Pyxus, Laos, and harassed the Greek cities of the east coast and the south.

From between these hostile powers, the Carthaginians and the Sabellians, an energetic ruler, Dionysius of Syracuse (405—367 B.C.), once more rescued Hellenism. In great battles, with heavy losses to be sure, and only by the employment of the military power of the Oscans, of Campanian mercenary troops and of the Lucanians, he succeeded in setting up once more a powerful Greek kingdom, including two-thirds of Sicily, the south of Italy as far as Crotona and Terina; he held Carthage in restraint, scourged the Etruscans in the western sea and at the same time occupied a number of important points on the Adriatic, Lissus and Pharos in Illyria, several Apulian towns, Ancona, and Hadria at the mouth of the Po in Italy. Dionysius had covered his rear by a close alliance with Sparta, which not only insured him against any republican uprising, but made possible an uninterrupted recruiting of mercenaries from the Peloponnesus. In return Dionysius supported the Spartans in carrying through the King’s Peace and against their enemies elsewhere.

The kingdom of Dionysius seemed to rest on a firm and permanent foundation. Had it continued to exist the whole course of the world’s history would have been different; Hellenism could have maintained its position in the West, which might even have received again a Greek impress instead of becoming Italic and Roman.

But the kingdom of Dionysius was in the most direct opposition to all that Greek political theory demanded; it was a despotic state which made the free self-government of communities an empty form in the capital Syracuse, and in the subject territories, for the most part, simply abolished the city-state, the polis. The necessity of a strong government that would protect Hellenism in the West against its external enemies was indeed recognized by the discerning, but internally it seemed possible to relax and to effect a more ideal political formation.

Under the successor of the old despot, Dionysius II, Plato’s pupil, Dion, and Plato himself, made an attempt at reform, first with the ruler’s support, and then in opposition to him. The result was, that the west Grecian king­dom was shattered (357—353 b.c.), while the establishment of the ideal state was not successful; instead anarchy appeared again, and the struggle of all against all. Only the enemies of the nation gained. In Sicily, to be sure, Timoleon (345—337) was able to establish a certain degree of order; he overthrew the tyrants, repulsed the Carthaginians, restored the cities and gave them a modified democratic constitution. But the federation of these republics had no permanence. On the death of Timoleon the internal and external strife began anew, and the final verdict was uttered by the governor of the Carthaginian province.

In Italy, on the other hand, the majority of the Greek cities were conquered by the Lucanians or the newly risen Bruttians. On the west coast only Naples and Elea were left, in the south Rhegium; in the east Locri, Crotona, and Thurii had great difficulty in defending themselves against the Bruttians. Tarentum alone (upon which Heraclea and Metapontum were dependent) possessed a considerable power, owing to its incomparable situation on a sea-girt peninsula and to the trade and wealth which furnished it the means again and again to enlist Greek chieftains and mercenaries in its service for the struggle against its enemies.

It was as Plato wrote to the Syracusans in the year 352 B.C. If matters go on in this way, no end can be foreseen “until the whole population, supporters of tyrants and democrats, alike, has been destroyed, the Greek language has disappeared from Sicily and the island fallen under the power and rule of the Phoenicians or Oscans”. In a century the prophecy was fulfilled. But its range extends a great deal farther than Plato dreamed; it is the fate not only of the western Greeks, but of the whole Hellenic nation, that he foretells here.

The Greek states were not equal to the task of maintaining the position of their nation as a world-power and gaining control of the world for their civilization. When they had completely failed, a half-Greek neighboring people, the Macedonians, attempted to carry out this mission. The impotence of the Greek world gave King Philip (359-386) the opportunity, which he seized with the greatest skill and energy, of establishing a strong Macedonian kingdom, including all Thrace as far as the Danube, extending on the west to the Ionian Sea, and finally, on the basis of a general peace, of uniting the Hellenic world of the mother-country in a firm league under Macedonian hegemony (337 B.C.).

Philip adopted the national programme of the Hellenes proposed by Isocrates and began war in Asia against the Persians (336 B.C.). His youthful son Alexander then carried it out on a far greater scale than his father had ever intended. His aim was to subdue the whole known world, simultaneously to Macedonian rule and Hellenic civilization. Moreover, as the descendant of Hercules and Achilles, as king of Macedonia and leader of the Hellenic league, imbued by education with Hellenic culture, the triumphs of which he had enthusiastically absorbed, he felt himself called as none other to this work. Darius III, after the victory of Issus (November 333 B.C.), offered him the surrender of Western Asia as far as the Euphrates; and the interests of his native state and also,—we must not fail to note,—the true interests of Hellenic culture would have been far better served by such self-restraint than by the ways that Alexander followed.

But he would go farther, out into the immeasurable; the attraction to the infinite, to the comprehension and mastery of the universe, both intellectual and material, that lies in the nature of the yet inchoate uniform world-culture, finds its most vivid expression in its champion. When, indeed, he would advance farther and farther, from the Punjab to the Ganges and to the ends of the world, his instrument, his army, failed him; he had to turn back. But the Persian kingdom, Asia as far as the Indus, he conquered, brought permanently under Macedonian rule, and laid the foundation for its Hellenization. With this, however, only the smaller portion of his mission was fulfilled. The East everywhere offered further tasks which had in part been undertaken by the Persian kingdom at the height of its power under Darius I—the exploration of Arabia, of the Indian Ocean, and of the Caspian Sea, the subjugation of the predatory nomads of the great steppe that extends from the Danube through southern Russia and Turania as far as the Jaxartes.

It was of far more importance that Hellenism had a task in the West like that in the East; to save the Greeks of Italy and Sicily, to overcome the Carthaginians and the tribes of Italy, to turn the whole Mediterranean into a Greek sea, was just as urgently necessary as the conquest of Western Asia. It was the aim that Alcibiades had set himself and on which Athens had gone to wreck.

In the same years in which the Macedonian king was conquering the Persians, his brother-in-law, Alexander of Epirus, at the request of Tarentum, had devoted himself to this task. After some success at the beginning he had been overcome by the Lucanians and Bruttians and the opposition of Hellenic particularism (334-331 B.C.).

Now the Macedonian king made preparations to take up this work also and thus complete his conquest of the world. That the resources of Macedonia were inadequate for this purpose was perfectly clear to him. Since he had rejected the proposals of Darius he had employed the conquered Asiatics in the government of his empire, and above all had endeavoured to form an auxiliary force to his army out of the people that had previously ruled Asia. In his native overvaluation of education, due to the Socratic belief in the omnipotence of the intellect, he thought he could make Macedonians out of the young Persians. But as ruler of the world he must no longer bear the fetters which the usage of his people and the terms of the Hellenic league put upon him. He must stand above all men and peoples, his will must be law to them, like the commandment of the gods. The march to Ammon (331 B.C.), which at the time enjoyed the highest regard in the Greek world, inaugurated this departure. This elevation of the kingship to divinity was not an outgrowth of oriental views, although it resembles them, but of political necessity and of the loftiest ideas of Greek culture—of the teaching of Greek philosophy, common to all Socratic schools, of the unlimited sovereignty of the true sage, whose judgment no commandment can fetter; he is no other than the true king.

Henceforth this view is inseparable from the idea of kingship among all occidental nations down to our own times. It returns in the absolute monarchy that Caesar wished to found at Rome and which then gradually develops out of the principate of Augustus, until Diocletian and Constantine bring it to perfection; it returns, only apparently modified by Christian views, in the absolute monarchy of modern times, in kingship by the grace of God as well as in the universal monarchy of Napoleon, and in the divine foundation of the autocracy of the Czar.

But Alexander was not able to bring his state to completion. In the midst of his plans, in the full vigor of youth, just as a boundless future seemed to lie before him, he was carried off by death at Babylon, on the thirteenth of June, 323 B.C., in the thirty-third year of his age.

With the death of Alexander his plans were buried. He left no heir who could have held the empire together; his generals fought for the spoils. The result of the mighty struggles of the period of the Diadochi, which covers almost fifty years (323-277 B.C.), is, that the Macedonian empire is divided into three great powers; the kingdom of the Lagidae, who from the seaport of Alexandria on the extreme western border of Egypt control the eastern Mediterranean with all its coasts, and the valley of the Nile; the kingdom of the Seleucidae, who strive in continual wars to hold Asia together; and the kingdom of the Antigonidae, who obtained possession of Macedonia, depopulated by the conquest of the world and again by the fearful Celtic invasion (280), and who, when they wish to assert themselves as a great power, must attempt to acquire an ascendency in some form or other over Greece and the Aegean Sea.

Of these three powers the kingdom of the Lagidae is most firmly welded together, being in full possession of all the resources that trade and sea power, money and politics, afford. To re-establish the universal monarchy was never its aim, even when circumstances seemed to tempt to it. But as long as strong rulers wear the crown it always stands on the offensive against the other two; it harasses them continually, hinders them at every step from consolidating, wrests from the Seleucidae almost all the coast towns of Palestine and Phoenicia as far as Thrace, temporarily gains control of the islands of the Aegean, and supports every hostile movement that is made in Greece against Macedonia. The Greek mother-country is thus con­tinually forced anew into the struggle, the play of intrigue between the court of Alexandria and the Macedonian state never gives it an opportunity to become settled. All revolts of the Greek world received the support of Alexandria; the uprising of Athens and Sparta in the war of Chremonides (264), the attempt of Aratus to give the Peloponnesus an independent organization by means of the Achaean league (beginning in 252), and finally the uprising of Sparta under Cleomenes. The aim of giving the Greek world an independent form was never attained; finally, when at the end of the reign of Ptolemy III Evergetes (221) the kingdom of the Lagidae withdraws and lets Cleomenes fall, the peninsula comes anew under the supremacy of the Macedonians, whom Aratus the “liberator” had himself brought back to the citadel of Corinth. But neither can the Macedonian king attain the full power that Philip and Alexander had possessed a century earlier; in particular, its resources are insufficient, even in alliance with the Achaeans, to overthrow the warlike, piratical Aetolian state, which is constantly increasing in power. So Greece never gets out of these hopeless conditions; on the contrary, indeed, through the emigration of the population to the Asiatic colonies, through the decay of a vigorous peasant population which began as early as in the fourth century, through the economic decline of commerce and industry caused by the shifting of the centre of gravity to the east, its situation becomes more and more wretched and the population constantly diminishes. It can never attain peace of itself, but only through an energetic and ruthlessly despotic foreign rule.

In the East, on the contrary, an active and hopeful life developed. The great kings of the Lagidaean kingdom, the first three Ptolemies, fully appreciated the importance of intellectual life to the position of their kingdom in the world. All that Greek culture offered they tried to attract to Alexandria, and they managed to win for their capital the leading position in literature and science. But in other respects the kingdom of the Lagidae is by no means the state in which the life of the new time reaches its full development. However much, in opposition to the Greek world, in conflict with Macedonia, they coquette with the Hellenic idea of liberty, within their own jurisdiction they cannot endure the independence and the free constitution of the Greek polis, and their subjects are by no means initiated into the new world-culture, but are kept in complete subjugation, sharply distinguished from the ruling classes, the Macedonians and Greeks, to whom also no freedom of political movement whatever is granted.

The development in Asia follows a very different course. Here, through the activity of the great founders of cities, Antigonus, Lysimachus, Seleucus I, and Antiochus I, one Greek city arises after another, from the Hellespont through Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Media, as far as Bactria and India, and from them grow the great centres of culture, full of independent life, by which the Asiatic population is introduced to the modern world-civilization and becomes Hellenized. Antigonus deliberately supported the independence of the cities within the great organic body of the kingdom, thus following on the lines of the Hellenic league under Philip and Alexander. By the pressure of political necessity and the fact that they could maintain their power only by winning the attachment and fidelity of their subjects, the Seleucidae were forced into the same ways. And side by side with the great kingdom the political struggle creates a great number of powers of the second rank, in part pure Greek communities, like Rhodes, Chios, Cyzicus, Byzantium, Heraclea, in part newly formed states of Greek origin, like the kingdom of Pergamus and later the Bactrian kingdom, in part fragments of the old Persian kingdom, like Bithynia, Pontus, Cappadocia, Armenia, Atropatene, and not much later the Parthian kingdom. Among these states the eastern retain their oriental character, while the western are forced to pass more and more into the culture of Hellenism.

Destructive as were the effects of the continual wars, and especially of the raids of the Celtic hordes in Asia Minor, nevertheless there pulsates here a fresh, progressive life, to which the future seems to belong. To be sure, there is no lack of counter disturbance; beneath the surface of Hellenism, the native population that is absorbed into the Greek life everywhere preserves its own character, not through active resistance, but through the passivity of its nature. When the orientals become Hellenised, Hellenism itself begins at the same time to take on an oriental impress.

But in this there lies no danger as yet. Hellenism everywhere retains the upper hand and seems to come nearer and nearer to the goal of its mission for the world. In all fields of intellectual life the cultured classes have undisputed control and can look down with absolute contempt on the currents that move the masses far beneath them; the exponents of philosophical enlightenment may imagine they have completely dominated them. When the great ideas upon which Hellenism is based have been created by the classical period and new ones can no longer be placed beside them, the new time sets to work to perfect what it has inherited. The third century is the culmination of ancient science.

However, this whole civilization lacks one thing, and that is a state of natural growth. Of all the states that developed out of Alexander’s empire, the kingdom of the Antigonidae in Macedonia was the only one that had a national basis; and therefore, in spite of the scantiness of its resources, it was also the most capable of resistance of them all. All others, on the contrary, were purely artificial political combinations, lacking that innate necessity vital to the full power of a state. They might have been altogether different, or they might not have been at all. The separation of state and nationality, which is the result of the development of the ancient East, exists in them also; they are not supported by the population, which, by the contingencies of political development, is for the moment included in them, and their subjects, so far as the individual man or community is not bound to them by personal advantage, have no further interest in their existence. To be sure, had they maintained their existence for centuries, the power of custom might have sufficed to give them a firmer constitution, such as many later similar political formations have acquired and such as the Austrian monarchy possesses yesterday; and as a matter of fact we find the loyalty of subjects to the reigning dynasty already quite strongly developed in the kingdom of the Seleucidae. But a national state can never arise on the basis of a universal, denationalised civilization, and the unity is consequently only political, based only upon the dynasty and its political successes. Therefore, except in Macedonia, none of these states can, even in the struggle for existence, set in motion the full national force supplied by internal unity.

The resources at the command of the Macedonio-Hellenic states were consumed in the struggle with one another; nothing was left for the great task that was set them in the West. The remains of Greek nationality, still maintaining their existence here, looked, in vain for a deliverer to come from the East. An attempt made by the Spartan prince Cleonymus, in response to the appeal of Tarentum, to take up the struggle in Italy against the Lucanians and Romans, failed miserably through the incapacity of its leader (303-302 b.c.). In Sicily, to be sure, the gifted general and statesman Agathocles (317-289) had once more established, amid streams of blood, and by mighty and ruthless battles against both internal enemies and rivals and against Carthage, a strong Greek kingdom that reached even to Italy and the Ionian Sea. But he was never able to attain the position taken by Dionysius, and at his death his kingdom goes to pieces. At this point also the role of the Sicilian Greeks in the history of the world is played out; they disappear from the number of independent powers capable of maintaining themselves by their own resources.


THE HEROIC AGE [ca. 1400-1200 B.C.]

IN thinking of the mythical period with its citations of fables about gods and goddesses galore and heroes unnumbered, one is apt to become the victim of a mental mirage. One can hardly escape imagining the period in question thus veiled in mystery and peopled with half mythical and altogether mystical figures as really having been a time when men and women lived an idyllic life. As one contemplates the period he intuitively falls into a day-dream in which there dance before him light-robed artistic figures moving in arcadian bowers, tenanted by nymphs and satyrs and centaurs. But when one awakes to a practical view he recognises of course that all this is an illusion. Reason tells him that this was a mythical age, simply because the people were not sufficiently civilised to make permanent historical records. They were half barbarians, living as pastoral peoples everywhere live, striving for food against wild beasts, protecting their herds, cultivating the soil, fighting their enemies. And yet, in a sense, their life was idyllic. Heroic elements were not altogether lacking ; the men were trained athletes, whose developed muscles were a joy to look upon, and no doubt the women, despite a certain coarseness, shared something of that figure. Then the people themselves believed in the gods and nymphs and satyrs and centaurs of which we dream, and so in a sense their world was peopled with them : in a sense they did dwell in Arcady. Still one cannot disguise the fact that it was an Arcady which no modern, placed under similar restrictions, would care to enter.

In that early day writing was an unknown art in Hellas, and so the people as they emerged from their time of semi-civilisation brought with them no specific tangible records of the life of that period, but only fables and traditions to take the place of sober historical records. To the people themselves these fables and traditions bore, for a long time at any rate, a stamp of veritable truth. Even the most extravagant of their narratives of gods and godlike heroes were believed as implicitly, no doubt, by the major part of the people even at a comparatively late historical period, as we today believe the stories of an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon. As time went on these fables became even more intimately fixed in the minds of the people through becoming embalmed in the verses of the poet and the lines of the tragedian. Here and there, to be sure, there was a man who questioned the authenticity of these tales as recitals of fact, but we may well believe that the generality of people, even of the most cultured class, preferred throughout the entire period of antiquity to accept the myths at their face value. Not only so, but for many generations later, throughout the period sometimes spoken of as the "Age of Faith" of the western world, a somewhat similar estimate was put upon the Greek myths as recited by the classical authors. Even after the growth of scepticism and the development of the scientific spirit rendered the acceptance of the myths as recitals of fact impossible, for a long time it seemed little less than a sacrilege to think of severing them altogether from the realm of fact.


That, considered as historical narratives, they had been elaborated and their bald facts distorted by the creative imagination of a marvellous people, was clearly evident. No one, for example, in recent days would be expected to believe that the hero Achilles had been plunged into the river Styx by his mother and rendered thereby invulnerable except as to the heel by which he was held. But to doubt that the hero Achilles lived and accomplished such feats as were narrated in the Iliad would seem almost a blow at the existence of the most fascinating people of antiquity. There came a time, however, in comparatively recent generations when scepticism no longer hesitated to invade the ranks of the most time-honoured and best-beloved traditions, and when a warfare of words began between a set of critics, who would wipe the whole mass of Greek myths from the pages of history, and the champions of those myths who were but little disposed to give them up. Thus scepticism found an obvious measure of support in the clear fact that the mythical narratives could not possibly be received as authentic in their entirety. Further support was given to the sceptical party a little later by the study of comparative mythology, which showed to the surprise of many scholars that the Greek myths were by no means so unique in their character as had been supposed. It was shown that in the main they are closely paralleled by myths of other nations, and a theory was developed and advocated with much plausibility that they had been developed out of a superstitious regard of the sun and moon and elements, that most of them were, in short, what came to be called solar myths, and that they had no association whatever with the deeds of human historic personages.

Looking at the subject in the broadest way it, perhaps, does not greatly matter which view, as to the status of myths, is the true one. After all, the main purport of history in all its phases has value, not for what it tells us of the deeds of individual men or the conflicts of individual nations, but for what it can reveal of the process of the evolution of civilisation. Weighed by this standard, the beautiful myths of the Greeks are of value chiefly as revealing to us the essential status of the Greek mind in the early historical period, and the stage of evolution of that mind.

The beautiful myths of Greece cannot and must not be given up, and fortunately they need not. The view which Grote and the host of his followers maintained, practically solves the problem for the historian. He may retain the legend and gain from it the fullest measure of imaginative satisfaction ; he may draw from it inferences of the greatest value as to the mental status of the Greek people at the time when the legends were crystallised into their final form ; he may even believe that, in the main, the legends have been built upon a substructure of historical fact, and he may leave to specialists the controversy as to the exact relations which this substructure bears to the finished whole, content to accept the decision of the greatest critical historians of Greece that this question is insoluble.

From the period of myth pure and simple when the gods and goddesses themselves roved the earth achieving miracles, taking various shapes, slaying pythons, titans, and other monsters, and exercising their amorous fancies among the men and women of earth from this period we come to the semi-historical time of the activity of the demi-gods and the men who, superior to the ordinary clay, were called Heroes.

The term "Heroic Age" has passed into general use with the historian as applying to the period of Grecian history immediately preceding and including the Trojan wars. As there are very few reliable documents at hand relating to this period there were none at all until recently it is clear that this age is in reality only the latter part of that mythical period to which we have just referred. Recent historians tend to treat it much more sceptically than did the historians of an earlier epoch ; some are even disposed practically to ignore it. But the term has passed far too generally into use to be altogether abandoned ; and, indeed, it is not desirable that it should be quite given up, for, however vague the details of the history it connotes, it is after all the shadowy record of a real epoch of history. We shall, perhaps, do best, therefore, to view it through the eyes of a distinguished historian of an earlier generation, remembering only that what is here narrated is still only half history that is to say, history only half emerged from the realm of legend.

The real limits of this period cannot be exactly defined ; but still, so far as its traditions admit of anything like a chronological connection, its duration may be estimated at six generations, or about two hundred years. The history of the heroic age is the history of the most celebrated persons belonging to this class, who, in the language of poetry, are called heroes. The term "hero" is of doubtful origin, though it was clearly a title of honour ; but in the poems of Homer, it is applied not only to the chiefs, but also to their followers. In later times its use was narrowed, and in some degree altered ; it was restricted to persons, whether of the Heroic or of after ages, who were believed to be endowed with a superhuman, though not a divine, nature, and who were honoured with sacred rites, and were imagined to have the power of dispensing good or evil to their worshippers ; and it was gradually combined with the notion of prodigious strength and gigantic stature. Here however we have only to do with the heroes as men. The history of their age is filled with their wars, expeditions, and adventures ; and this is the great mine from which the materials of the Greek poetry were almost entirely drawn. But the richer a period is in poetical materials, the more difficult it usually is to extract from it any that are fit for the use of the historian ; and this is especially true in the present instance. We must content ourselves with touching on some which appear most worthy of notice, either from their celebrity, or for the light they throw on the general character of the period, or their connection, real or supposed, with subsequent historical events.


We must pass very hastily over the exploits of Bellerophon and Perseus, and we mention them only for the sake of one remark. The scene of their principal adventures is laid out of Greece, in the East. The former, whose father Glaucus is the son of Sisyphus, having chanced to stain his hands with the blood of a kinsman, flies to Argos, where he excites the jealousy of Proetus, and is sent by him to Lycia, the country where Proetus himself had been hospitably entertained in his exile. It is in the adjacent regions of Asia that the Corinthian hero proves his valour by vanquishing ferocious tribes and terrible monsters. Perseus too has been sent over the sea by his grandfather Acrisius, and his achievements follow the same direction, but take a wider range ; he is carried along the coasts of Syria to Egypt, where Herodotus heard of him from the priests, and into the unknown lands of the South. There can be no doubt that these fables owed many of their leading features to the Argive colonies whicli were planted at a later period in Rhodes, and on the southwest coast of Asia. But still it is not improbable that the connection implied by them between Argolis and the nearest parts of Asia may not be wholly without foundation. We proceed however to a much more celebrated name, on which we must dwell a little longer that of Hercules.


It has been a subject of long dispute, whether Hercules was a real or a purely fictitious personage ; but it seeins clear that the question, according to the sense in which it is understood, may admit of two contrary answers, both equally true. When we survey the whole mass of the actions ascribed to him, we find that they fall under two classes. The one carries us back into the infancy of society, when it is engaged in its first struggles with nature for existence and security : we see him cleaving rocks, turning the course of rivers, opening or stopping the subterraneous outlets of lakes, clearing the earth of noxious animals, and, in a word, by his single arm effecting works which properly belong to the united labours of a young community. The other class exhibits a state of things comparatively settled and mature, when the first victory has been gained, and the contest is now between one tribe and another, for possession or dominion ; we see him maintaining the cause of the weak against the strong, of the innocent against the oppressor, punishing wrong, and robbery, and sacrilege, subduing tyrants, exterminating his enemies, and bestowing kingdoms on his friends. It would be futile to inquire, who the person was to whom deeds of the former kind were attributed ; but it is an interesting question, whether the first conception of such a being was formed in the mind of the Greeks by their own unassisted imagination, or was suggested to them by a different people.

It is sufficient to throw a single glance at the fabulous adventures called the "labours" of Hercules, to be convinced that a part of them at least belongs to the Phoenicians, and their wandering god, in whose honour they built temples in all their principal settlements along the coast of the Mediterranean. To him must be attributed all the journeys of Hercules round the shores of western Europe, which did not become known to the Greeks for many centuries after they had been explored by the Phoenician navigators. The number to which those labours are confined by the legend, is evidently an astronomical period, and thus itself points to the course of the sun which the Phoenician god represented. The event which closes the career of the Greek hero, who rises to immortality from the flames of the pile on which he lays himself, is a prominent feature in the same Eastern mythology, and may therefore be safely considered as borrowed from it. All these tales may indeed be regarded as additions made at a late period to the Greek legend, after it had sprung up independently at home. But it is at least a remarkable coincidence, that the birth of Hercules is assigned to the city of Cadmus ; and the great works ascribed to him, so far as they were really accomplished by human labour, may seem to correspond better with the art and industry of the Phoenicians, than with the skill and power of a less civilised race. But in whatever way the origin of the name and idea of Hercules may be explained, he appears, without any ambiguity, as a Greek hero ; and here it may reasonably be asked, whether all or any part of the adventures they describe, really happened to a single person, who either properly bore the name of Hercules, or received it as a title of honour.

We must briefly mention the manner in which these adventures are linked together in the common story. Amphitryon, the reputed father of Hercules, was the son of Alcaeus, who is named first among the children born to Perseus at Mycenae. The hero's mother, Alcinene, was the daughter of Electryon, another son of Perseus, who had succeeded to the kingdom. In his reign, the Taphians, a piratical people who inhabited the islands called Echinades, near the mouth of the Achelous, landed in Argolis, and carried off the king's herds. While Electryon was preparing to avenge himself by invading their land, after he had committed his kingdom and his daughter to the charge of Amphitryon, a chance like that which caused the death of Acrisius stained the hands of the nephew with his uncle's blood. Sthenelus, a third son of Perseus, laid hold of this pretext to force Amphitryon and Alcmene to quit the country, and they took refuge in Thebes : thus it happened that Hercules, though an Argive by descent, and, by his mortal parentage, legitimate heir to the throne of Mycenae, was, as to his birthplace, a Theban. Hence Boeotia is the scene of his youthful exploits : bred up among the herdsmen of Cithaeron, like Cyrus and Romulus, he delivers Thespite from the lion which made havoc among its cattle. He then frees Thebes from the yoke of its more powerful neighbour, Orchoraenos : and here we find something which has more the look of a historical tradition, though it is no less poetical in its form. The king of Orchomenos had been killed, in the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestus, by a Theban. His successor, Erginus, imposes a tribute on Thebes ; but Hercules mutilates his heralds when they come to exact it, and then marching against Orchomenos, slays Erginus, and forces the Minyans to pay twice the tribute which they had hitherto received. According to a Theban legend, it was on this occasion that he stopped the subterraneous outlet of the Cephisus, and thus formed the lake which covered the greater part of the plain of Orchomeiios. In the meanwhile Sthenelus had been succeeded by his son Eurystheus, the destined enemy of Hercules and his race, at whose command the hero undertakes his labours. This voluntary subjection of the rightful prince to the weak and timid usurper is represented as an expiation, ordained by the Delphic oracle, for a fit of frenzy, in which Hercules had destroyed his wife and children.

This, as a poetical or religious fiction, is very happily conceived ; but when we are seeking for a historical thread to connect the Boeotian legends of Hercules with those of the Peloponnesus, it must be set entirely aside ; and yet it is not only the oldest form of the story, but no other has hitherto been found or devised to fill its place with a greater appearance of probability. The supposed right of Hercules to the throne of Mycenae was, as we shall see, the ground on which the Dorians, some generations later, claimed the dominion of Peloponnesus. Yet, in any other than a poetical view, his enmity to Eurystheus is utterly inconsistent with the exploits ascribed to him in the peninsula. It is also remarkable, that while the adventures which he undertakes at the bidding of his rival are prodigious and supernatural, belonging to the first of the two classes above distinguished, he is described as during the same period engaged in expeditions which are only accidentally connected with these marvellous labours, and which, if they stood alone, might be taken for traditional facts. In these he appears in the light of an independent prince, and a powerful conqueror. He leads an army against Augeas, king of Elis, and having slain him, bestows his kingdom on one of his sons, who had condemned his father's injustice. So he invades Pylus to avenge an insult which he had received from Neleus, and puts him to death, with all his children, except Nestor, who was absent, or had escaped to Gerenia. Again he carries his conquering arms into Laconia, where he exterminates the family of the king Hippocoon, and places Tyndareus on the throne. Here, if anywhere in the legend of Hercules, we might seem to be reading an account of real events. Yet who can believe, that while he was overthrowing these hostile dynasties, and giving away sceptres, he suffered himself to be excluded from his own kingdom ?

It was the fate of Hercules to be incessantly forced into dangerous and arduous enterprises ; and hence every part of Greece is in its turn the scene of his achievements. Thus we have already seen him, in Thessaly, the ally of the Dorians, laying the foundation of a perpetual union between the people and his own descendants, as if he had either abandoned all hope of recovering the crown of Mycenae, or had foreseen that his posterity would require the aid of the Dorians for that purpose. In Aetolia, too he appears as a friend and a protector of the royal house, and fights its battles against the Thesprotians of Epirus. These perpetual wanderings, these successive alliances with so many different races, excite no surprise, so long as we view them in a poetical light, as issuing out of one source, the implacable hate with which Juno persecutes the son of Jove. They may also be understood as real events, if they are supposed to have been perfectly independent of each other, and connected only by being referred to one fabulous name. But when the poetical motive is rejected, it seems impossible to frame any rational scheme according to which they may be regarded as incidents in the life of one man, unless we imagine Hercules, in the purest spirit of knight-errantry, sallying forth in quest of adventures, without any definite object, or any impulse but that of disinterested benevolence. It will be safer, after rejecting those features in the legend which manifestly belong to Eastern religions, to distinguish the Theban Hercules from the Dorian, and the Peloponnesian hero. In the story of each some historical fragments have most probably been preserved, and perhaps least disfigured in the Theban and Dorian legends. In those of Peloponnesus it is difficult to say to what extent their original form may not have been distorted from political motives. If we might place any reliance on them, we should be inclined to conjecture that they contain traces of the struggles by which the kingdom of Mycenae attained to that influence over the rest of the peninsula, which is attributed to it by Homer, and which we shall have occasion to notice when we come to speak of the Trojan war.


The name of Hercules immediately suggests that of Theseus, according to the mythical chronology his younger contemporary, and only second to him in renown. It was not without reason that Theseus was said to have given rise to the proverb, another Hercules ; for not only is there a strong resemblance between them in many particular features, but it also seems clear that Theseus was to Attica what Hercules was to the rest of Greece, and that his career likewise represents the events of a period which cannot have been exactly measured by any human life, and probably includes many centuries. His legend is chiefly interesting to us, so far as it may be regarded as a poetical outline of the early history of Attica [where it will be recounted in detail].

The legend of his Cretan expedition most probably preserves some genuine historical recollections. But the only fact which appears to be plainly indicated by it, is a temporary connection between Crete and Attica. Whether this intercourse was grounded solely on religion, or was the result of a partial dominion exercised by Crete over Athens, it would be useless to inquire; and still less can we pretend to determine the nature of the Athenian tribute, or that of the Cretan worship to which it related. That part of the legend which belongs to Naxos and Delos was probably introduced after these islands were occupied by the lonians. A part is assigned in these traditions to Minos, who is represented by the general voice of antiquity as having raised Crete to a higher degree of prosperity and power than it ever reached at any subsequent period [and whom we shall also discuss later in connection with Cretan history].

Our plan obliges us to pass over a great number of wars, expeditions, and achievements of these ages, which were highly celebrated in heroic song, not because we deem them to contain less of historical reality than others which we mention, but because they appear not to have been attended with any important or lasting consequences. We might otherwise have been induced to notice the quarrel which divided the royal house of Thebes, and led to a series of wars between Thebes and Argos, which terminated in the destruction of the former city, and the temporary expulsion of the Cadmeans, its ancient inhabitants. Hercules and Theseus undertook their adventures either alone, or with the aid of a single comrade ; but in these Theban wars we find a union of seven chiefs; and such confederacies appear to have become frequent in the latter part of the heroic age. So a numerous band of heroes was combined in the enterprise, which, whatever may have been its real nature, became renowned as the chase of the Calydonian boar. Some suspects that this was in reality a military expedition against some of the savage Aetolian tribes, and that the name of one of them (the Aperantii) suggested the legend. We proceed to speak of two expeditions much more celebrated, conducted like these by a league of independent chieftains, but directed, not to any part of Greece, but against distant lands ; we mean the voyage of the Argonauts, and the siege of Troy, which will conclude our review of the mythical period of Grecian history.


The Argonautic expedition, when viewed in the light in which it has usually been considered, is an event which a critical historian, if he feels himself compelled to believe it, may think it his duty to notice, but which he is glad to pass rapidly over as a perplexing and unprofitable riddle. For even when the ancient legend has been pared down into a historical form, and its marvellous and poetical features have been all effaced, so that nothing is left but what may appear to belong to its pith and substance, it becomes indeed dry and meagre enough, but not much more intelligible than before. It relates an adventure, incomprehensible in its design, astonishing in its execution, connected with no conceivable cause, and with no sensible effect. The narrative, reduced to the shape in which it has often been thought worthy of a place in history, runs as follows :

In the generation before the Trojan war, Jason, a young Thessalian prince, had incurred the jealousy of his kinsman Pelias, who reigned at Iolcus. The crafty king encouraged the adventurous youth to embark in a maritime expedition full of difficulty and danger. It was to be directed to a point far beyond the most remote which Greek navigation had hitherto reached in the same quarter ; to the eastern corner of the sea, so celebrated in ancient times for the ferocity of the barbarians inhabiting its coasts, that it was commonly supposed to have derived from them the name of "Axenus," the inhospitable, before it acquired the opposite name of the "Euxine," from the civilisation which was ut length introduced by Greek settlers. Here, in the land of the Colchians, lay the goal, because this contained the prize, from which the voyage has been frequently called the adventure of the golden fleece. Jason having built a vessel of uncommon size, in more precise terms, the first 50-oared galley his countrymen had ever launched, and having manned it with a band of heroes, who assembled from various parts of Greece to share the glory of the enterprise, sailed to Colchis, where he not only succeeded in the principal object of his expedition, whatever this may have been, but carried off Medea, the daughter of the Colchian king, Aetes.

Though this is an artificial statement, framed to reconcile the main incidents of a wonderful story with nature and probability, it still contains many points which can scarcely be explained or believed. It carries us back to a period when navigation was in its infancy among the Greeks ; yet their first essay at maritime discovery is supposed at once to have reached the extreme limit, which was long after attained by the adventurers who gradually explored the same formidable sea, and gained a footing on its coasts. The success of the undertaking however is not so surprising as the project itself ; for this implies a previous knowledge of the country to be explored, which it is very difficult to account for. But the end proposed is still more mysterious; and indeed can only be explained with the aid of a conjecture. Such an explanation was attempted by some of the later writers among the ancients, who perceived that the whole story turned on the Golden Fleece, the supposed motive of the voyage, and that this feature had not a sufficiently historical appearance. But the mountain torrents of Colchis were said to sweep down particles of gold, which the natives used to detain by fleeces dipped in the streams.

This report suggested a mode of translating the fable into historical Language. It was conjectured that the Argonauts had been attracted by the metallic treasures of the country, and that the Golden Fleece was a poetical description of the process which they had observed, or perhaps had practised : an interpretation certainly more ingenious, or at least less absurd, than those by which Diodorus transforms the fire-breathing bulls which Jason was said to have yoked at the bidding of Aetes, into a band of Taurians, who guarded the fleece, and the sleepless dragon which watched over it, into their commander Draco ; but yet not more satisfactory ; for it explains a casual, immaterial circumstance, while it leaves the essential point in the legend wholly untouched. The epithet "golden," to which it relates, is merely poetical and ornamental, and signified nothing more as to the nature of the fleece than the epithets white or purple, which were also applied to it by early poets. According to the original and genuine tradition, the fleece was a sacred relic, and its importance arose entirely out of its connection with the tragical story of Phrixus, the main feature of which is the human sacrifice which the gods had required from the house of Athamas. His son Phrixus either offered himself, or was selected through the artifices of his stepmother Ino, as the victim; but at the critical moment, as ho stood before the altar, the marvellous ram was sent for his deliverance, and transported him over the sea, according to the received account, to Colchis, where Phrixus, on his arrival, sacrificed the ram to Jupiter, as the god who had favoured his escape ; the fleece was nailed to an oak in the grove of Mars, where it was kept by Aetes as a sacred treasure, or palladium.

But the tradition must have had a historical foundation in some real voyages and adventures, without which it could scarcely have arisen at all, and could never have become so generally current as to be little inferior in celebrity to the tale of Troy itself. If however the fleece had no existence but in popular belief, the land where it was to be sought was a circumstance of no moment. In the earlier form of the legend, it might not have been named at all, but only have been described as the distant, the unknown, land ; and after it had been named, it might have been made to vary with the gradual enlargement of geographical information. But in this case the voyage of the Argonauts can no longer be considered as an isolated adventure, for which no adequate motive is left ; but must be regarded, like the expedition of the Tyrian Hercules, as representing a succession of enterprises, which may have been the employment of several generations. And this is perfectly consistent with the manner in which the adventurers are most properly described. They are Minyans ; a branch of the Greek nation, whose attention was very early drawn by their situation, not perhaps without some influence from the example and intercourse of the Phoenicians, to maritime pursuits. The form which the legend assumed was probably determined by the course of their earliest naval expeditions. They were naturally attracted towards the northeast, first by the islands that lay before the entrance of the Hellespont, and then by the shores of the Propontis and its two straits. Their successive colonies, or spots signalised either by hostilities or peaceful transactions with the natives, would become the landing-places of the Argonauts. That such a colony existed at Lemnos, seems unquestionable; though it does not follow that Euneus, the son of Jason, who is described in the Iliad as reigning there during the siege of Troy, was a historical personage.

If however it should be asked, in what light the hero and heroine of the legend are to be viewed on this hypothesis, it must be answered that both are most probably purely ideal personages, connected with the religion of the people to whose poetry they belong. Jason was perhaps no other than the Samothracian god or hero Jasion, whose name was sometimes written in the same manner, the favourite of Demeter, as his namesake was of Hera, and the protector of mariners as the Thessalian hero was the chief of the Argonauts. Medea seems to have been originally another form of Hera herself, and to have descended, by a common transition, from the rank of a goddess into that of a heroine, when an epithet had been mistaken for a distinct name. We have already seen that the Corinthian tradition claimed her as belonging properly to Corinth, one of the principal seats of the Minyan race. The tragical scenes which rendered her stay there so celebrated were commemorated by religious rites, which continued to be observed until the city was destroyed by the Romans. According to the local legend, she had not murdered her children ; they had been killed by the Corinthians ; and the public guilt was expiated by annual sacrifices offered to Hera, in whose temple fourteen boys, chosen every twelve-month from noble families, were appointed to spend a yeur in all the ceremonies of solemn mourning. But we cannot here pursue this part of the subject any further. The historical side of the legend seems to exhibit an opening intercourse between the opposite shores of the Aegean. If however it was begun by the northern Greeks, it was probably not long confined to them, but was early shared by those of the Peloponnesus. It would be inconsistent with the piratical habits of the early navigators, to suppose that this intercourse was always of a friendly nature ; and it may therefore not have been without a real ground, that the Argonautio expedition was sometimes represented as the occasion of the first conflict between the Greeks and Trojans. We therefore pass by a natural transition out of the mythical circle we have just been tracing, into that of the Trojan war, and the light in which we have viewed the one may serve to guide us in forming a judgment on the historical import of the other.

We have already seen in what manner Eurystheus, the son of Sthenelus, had usurped the inheritance which belonged of right to Hercules, as the legitimate representative of Perseus. Sthenelus had reserved Mycenae and Tiryns for himself ; but he had bestowed the neighbouring town of Midea on Atreus and Thyestes, the sons of Pelops, and uncles of Eurystheus. On the death of Hercules, Eurystheus pursued his orphan children from one place of refuge to another, until they found an asylum in Attica. Theseus refused to surrender them, and Eurystheus then invaded Attica in person; but his army was routed, and he himself slain by Hyllus, the eldest son of Hercules, in his flight through the isthmus. Atreus succeeded to the throne of his nephew, whose children had been all cut off in this disastrous expedition; and thus, when his sceptre descended to his son Agamemnon, it conveyed the sovereignty of an ample realm. While the house of Pelops was here enriched with the spoils of Hercules, it enjoyed the fruits of his triumphant valour in another quarter. He had bestowed Laconia on Tyndareus, the father of Helen ; and when Agamemnon's brother, Menelaus, had been preferred to all the other suitors of this beautiful princess, Tyndareus resigned his dominions to his son-in-law. In the meanwhile a flourishing state had risen up on the eastern side of the Hellespont. Its capital, Troy, had been taken by Hercules, with the assistance of Telamon, son of Eacus, but had been restored to Priam, the son of its conquered king, Laomedon, who reigned there in peace and prosperity over a number of little tribes, until his son Paris, attracted to Laconia by the fame of Helen's beauty, abused the hospitality of Menelaus by carrying off his queen in his absence. All the chiefs of Greece combined their forces, under the command of Agamemnon, to avenge this outrage, and sailed with a great armament to Troy. Their enterprise, famous for all time as the Trojan War, stands quite by itself in interest and importance among the traditions of the Heroic Age, and demands exceptional treatment here.


Historic criticism is almost a pendulum in its motion. Nowhere has this been more vividly seen than in the attitude of prominent historians toward the Trojan War and the poetical chronicle of it known as Homer's Iliad. Scholarly belief has passed through all imaginable grades of opinion ranging between a flat denial that there was ever such a place as Troy, such a war as the Trojan, or such a man as Homer, to an acceptance of them all with an unquestioning credulity matching that of the early Greeks.

It was textual criticism, the deadly work of the critical scalpel in the verbal form of the poems that first destroyed the good standing of the Homeric legend. It is the revivifying work of the pickaxe and shovel in the actual ground as wielded by the excavator and archaelologist that have brought back the repute of Homer. A few years ago and a Gladstone arguing for the reality of a Homer and of an Homeric epic was dismissed by the professor as an old-fashioried ignoramus. Today almost the same terms are applied to those who cling to the fashion of yesterday and claim that the Trojan War and Homer himself are myths. In the new swing of the pendulum, however, the cautious will still avoid extremes.

What has already been said about the status of Greek myth applies in the main to the Homeric poems. They are legends doubtless with some measure of historical foundation, but they cannot be accepted by the critical student of today as historical narratives in the narrow sense. But the Homeric poems have an interest of quite another kind which gives them a place apart among the legends of antiquity. This interest centres about the personality of the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. From the earliest historic periods of Grecian life the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey was unquestionably ascribed to a poet named Homer. If doubts ever arose in the mind of any sceptical or critical person as to the reality of Homer, such doubts were quite submerged by the popular verdict. It was not generally claimed that Homer himself had written the works ascribed to him, it was long held, indeed, that he must have lived at a period prior to the introduction of writing into Greece, but that the person whom tradition loved to speak of as the blind bard had invented and recited his narratives in toto, and that these, memorised by others, had been brought down through succeeding generations until they were finally given permanence in writing, were accepted as the most unequivocal of historical facts.

But in the latter half of the 18th century, these supposed historical facts began to be called in question. Critical students of Homer were struck with numerous anomalies in his writings that seemed to them inconsistent with the idea that the Iliad and Odyssey had been composed at one time and by one person. To cite but a single illustration, it was noted that the various parts of these poems were not all written in the same dialect, and it seemed highly improbable that any one person should have employed different dialects in a single composition. Such a suggestion as this naturally led to bitter controversies controversies which have by no means altogether subsided after the lapse of a century. Later scholarhip denies the "stratification of language" in the poems. But the controversy did not confine itself to the mere question whether such a person as Homer had lived and written, it came presently to involve also the subject of the Homeric poems, in particular, of the Iliad.

Certain details aside, the Trojan War had been looked upon as an historical event, quite as fully credited by the modern historian as it had been by Alexander when he stopped to offer sacrifices at the site of Troy. But now the iconoclastic movement being under way there was a school of students who openly maintained that the whole recital, by whomsoever written, was nothing but a fable which the historian must utterly discard. It was even questioned whether such a place as Troy had ever existed. Such a scepticism as this seemed, naturally enough, a clear sacrilege to a large body of scholars, but for several generations no successful efforts were made to meet it with any weapons more tangible than words. Then came a champion of the historical verity of the Homeric narrative who set to work to prove his case in the most practical way. Curiously enough the man who thus championed the cause of the closet scholars and poets and visionaries was himself a practical man of affairs, no less experienced and no less successful in dealing with the affairs of an everyday business than had been the man from whom the iconoclastic movement had gained its chief support. This man was also a German, Heinrich Schliemann.

Having amassed a fortune, the income from which was more than sufficient for all his needs, he retired from active business and devoted the remainder of his life to a self-imposed task, which had been an ambition with him all his life, the search, namely, for the site of Ancient Troy. How well he succeeded all the world knows. But in opposition to the opinions of many scholars he selected the hill of Hissarlik as the site of ancient Ilium, and his excavations there soon demonstrated that at least it had been the site not of one alone but of at least seven different cities in antiquity one being built above the ruins of another at long intervals of time. One of these cities, the sixth from the top, or to put it otherwise, the most ancient but one, was, he became firmly convinced, Ilium itself.

The story of his achievements cannot be told here in detail, and it is necessary to point the warning that Dr. Schliemann's excavations wonderful as are their results do not, perhaps, when critically viewed, demonstrate quite so much as might at first sight appear. There is, indeed, a high degree of probability that the city which he excavated was really the one intended in the Homeric descriptions, but it must be clear to any one who scrutinises the matter somewhat closely, that this fact goes but a little way towards substantiating the Homeric narrative as a whole. The city of Ilium may have existed without giving rise to any such series of events as that narrated in the Iliad. Dr. Schliemann himself was led to realise this fact, and to modify somewhat in later years the exact tenor of some of his more enthusiastic earlier views, yet the fact remains that the excavations at Hissarlik must be reckoned with by whoever in future discusses the status of the Homeric story.

This is not the place to enter into a statement of the multitudinous phases scepticism has taken in dealing with the Trojan legend. The story, whether pure fancy, as some have thought it, or a dramatised and romantic version of actual history, is indispensable to any chronicle of Greece or of Grecian influence. Taking Homer as a basis, it may be outlined as follows:

The Town of Troy

The origin of Dardanus, founder of the Trojan state, has been very variously related ; but the testimony of Homer to the utter uncertainty of his birth and native country, delivered in the terms that he was the son of Jupiter, may seem best entitled to belief. Thus however it appears that the Greeks not unwillingly acknowledged consanguinity with the Trojans; for many, indeed most, of the Grecian heroes also claimed their descent from Jupiter. It is moreover remarkable that, among the many genealogies which Homer has transmitted, none is traced so far into antiquity as that of the royal family of Troy. Dardanus was ancestor in the sixth degree to Hector, and may thus have lived from a hundred and fifty to two hundred years before that hero. On one of the many ridges projecting from the foot of the lofty mountain of Ida in the northwestern part of Asia Minor, he founded a town, or perhaps rather a castle, which from his own name was called Dardania.

The situation commanded the narrow but highly fruitful plain, watered by the streams of Simois and Scamancler, arid stretching from the roots of Ida to the Hellespont northward, and the Aegean Sea westward. His son Erichthonius, who succeeded him in the sovereignty of this territory, hud the reputation of being the richest man of his age. Much of his wealth seems to have been derived from a large stock of brood mares, to the number, according to the poet, of three thousand, which the fertility of his soil enabled him to maintain, and which by his care and judgment in the choice of stallions produced a breed of horses superior to any of the surrounding countries. Tros, son of Erichthonius, probably extended, or in some other way improved, the territory of Dardania ; since the appellation by which it was known to posterity was derived from his name. With the riches the population of the state of course increased. Ilus, son of Tros, therefore, venturing to move his residence from the mountain, founded, on a rising ground beneath, that celebrated city called from his name Ilion [or Ilium], but more familiarly known in modern languages by the name of Troy, derived from his father.

Twice before that war which Homer has made so famous Troy is said to have been taken and plundered : and for its second capture by Hercules, in the reign of Laomedon, son of Ilus, we have Homer's authority. The government however revived, and still advanced in power and splendour. Laomedon after his misfortune fortified the city in a manner so superior to what was common in his age that the walls of Troy were said to be a work of the gods. Under his son Priam, the Trojan state was very flourishing and of considerable extent ; containing, under the name of Phrygia, the country afterwards called Troas, together with both shores of the Hellespont and the large and fertile island of Lesbos.

A frequent communication, sometimes friendly, but oftener hostile, was maintained between the eastern and western coasts of the Aegean Sea ; each being an object of piracy more than of commerce to the inhabitants of the opposite country. Cattle and slaves constituting the principal riches of the times, men, women, and children, together with swine, sheep, goats, oxen, and horses, were principal objects of plunder. But scarcely was any crime more common than rapes ; and it seems to have been a kind of fashion, in consequence of which the leaders of piratical expeditions gratified their vanity in the highest degree when they could carry off a lady of superior rank. How usual these outrages were among the Greeks, may be gathered from the condition said to have been exacted by Tyndareus, king of Sparta, father of the celebrated Helen, from the chieftains who came to ask his daughter in marriage; he required of all, as a preliminary, to bind themselves by solemn oaths that, should she be stolen, they would assist with their utmost power to recover her. This tradition, with many other stories of Grecian rapes, on whatsoever founded, indicates with certainty the opinion of the later Greeks, among whom they were popular, concerning the manners of their ancestors. But it does not follow that the Greeks were more vicious than other people equally unhabituated to constant, vigorous, and wellregulated exertions of law and government. Equal licentiousness but a few centuries ago prevailed throughout western Europe. Hence those gloomy habitations of the ancient nobility, which excite the wonder of the traveller, particularly in the southern parts, where, in the midst of the finest countries, he often finds them in situations so very inconvenient and uncomfortable, except for what was then the one great object, security, that now the houseless peasant will scarcely go to them for shelter. From the licentiousness were derived the manners, and even the virtues, of the times ; and hence knight-errantry with its whimsical consequences.

Paris and Helen

The expedition of Paris, son of Priam king of Troy, into Greece, appears to have been a marauding adventure, such as was then usual. It is said indeed that he was received very hospitably, and entertained very kindly, by Menelaus king of Sparta. But this also was consonant to the spirit of the times; for hospitality has always been the virtue of barbarous ages : it is at this day no less characteristic of the wild Arabs than their spirit of robbery ; and in the Scottish highlands we know robbery and hospitality flourished together till very lately. Hospitality indeed will be generally found in different ages and countries very nearly in proportion to the need of it ; that is, in proportion to the deficiency of jurisprudence, and the weakness of government. Paris concluded his visit at Sparta with carrying off Helen, wife of Menelaus, together with a considerable treasure : and whether this was effected by fraud, or as some have supposed, by open violence, it is probable enough that as Herodotus relates, it was first concerted, and afterward supported, in revenge for some similar injury done by the Greeks to the Trojans.

An outrage however so grossly injurious to one of the greatest princes of Greece, especially if attended with a breach of the rights of hospitality, might not unreasonably be urged as a cause requiring the united revenge of all the Grecian chieftains. But there were other motives to engage them in the quarrel. The hope of returning laden with the spoil of the richer provinces of Asia was a strong incentive to leaders poor at home, and bred to rapine. The authority and influence of Agamemnon, king of Argos, brother of Menelaus, were also weighty. The spirit of the age, his own temper, the extent of his power, the natural desire of exerting it on a splendid occasion, would all incite this prince eagerly to adopt his brother's quarrel. He is besides represented by character qualified to create and command a powerful league ; ambitious, active, brave, generous, humane ; vain indeed and haughty, sometimes to his own injury; yet commonly repressing those hurtful qualities, and watchful to cultivate popularity. Under this leader all the Grecian chieftains from the end of Peloponnesus to the end of Thessaly, together with Idomeneus from Crete, and other commanders from some of the smaller islands, assembled at Aulis, a seaport of Bceotia. The Acarnanians alone, separated from the rest of Greece by lofty mountains and a sea at that time little navigated, had no share in the expedition.

The Siege of Troy

A story acquired celebrity in aftertimes, that, the fleet being long detained at Aulis by contrary winds, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia as a propitiatory offering to obtain from the gods a safe and speedy passage to the Trojan coast. To the credit of his character however it is added that he submitted to this abominable cruelty with extreme reluctance, compelled by the clamours of the army, who were persuaded that the gods required the victim ; nor were there wanting those who asserted that by a humane fraud the princess was at last saved, under favour of a report that a fawn was miraculously sent by the goddess Diana to be sacrificed in her stead. Indeed the story, though of such fame, and so warranted by early authorities, that some notice of it seemed requisite, wants, it must be confessed, wholly the best authentication for matters of that very early age ; for neither Homer, though he enumerates Agamemnon's daughters, nor Hesiod, who not only mentions the assembling of the Grecian forces under his command at Aulis, but specifics their detentions by bad weather, has left one word about so remarkable an event as this sacrifice.

The fleet at length had a prosperous voyage. It consisted of about twelve hundred open vessels, each carrying from fifty to a hundred and twenty men. The number of men in the whole armament, computed from the mean of those two numbers mentioned by Homer as the complement of different ships, would be something more than a hundred thousand ; and Thucydides, whose opinion is of the highest authority, has reckoned this within the bounds of probability ; though a poet, he adds, would go to the utmost of current reports. The army, landing on the Trojan coast, was immediately so superior to the enemy as to oblige them to seek shelter within the city walls : but here the operations were at a stand. The hazards to which unfortified and solitary dwellings were exposed from pirates and freebooters had driven the more peaceable of mankind to assemble in towns for mutual security. To erect lofty walls around those towns for defence was then an obvious resource, requiring little more than labour for the execution. More thought, more art, more experience were necessary for forcing the rudest fortification, if defended with vigilance and courage. But the Trojan walls were singularly strong: Agamemnon's army could make no impression upon them. He was therefore reduced to the method most common for ages after, of turning the siege into a blockade, and patiently waiting till want of necessaries should force the enemy to quit their shelter. But neither did the policy of the times amount by many degrees to the art of subsisting so numerous an army for any length of time, nor would the revenues of Greece have been equal to it with more knowledge, nor indeed would the state of things have admitted it, scarcely with any wealth, or by any means. For in countries without commerce, the people providing for their own wants only, supplies cannot be found equal to the maintenance of a superadded army. No sooner therefore did the Trojans shut themselves within theii walls than the Greeks were obliged to give their principal attention to the means of subsisting their numerous forces. The common method of the times was to ravage the adjacent countries ; and this was immediately put in practice. But such a resource soon destroys itself. To have therefore a more permanent and certain supply, a part of their army was sent to cultivate the vales of the Thracian Chersonesus, then abandoned by the inhabitants on account of the frequent and destructive incursions of the wild people who occupied the interior of that continent.

Large bodies being thus detached from the army, the remainder scarcely sufficed to deter the Trojans from taking the field again, and could not prevent succour and supplies from being carried into the town. Thus the siege was protracted to the enormous length of ten years. It was probably their success in marauding marches and pirating voyages that induced the Greeks to persevere so long. Achilles is said to have plundered no less than twelve maritime and eleven inland towns. Lesbos, then under the dominion of the monarch of Troy, was among his conquests ; and the women of that island were apportioned to the victorious army as a part of the booty. But these circumstances alarming all neighbouring people contributed to procure numerous and powerful allies to the Trojans. Not only the Asiatic states, to a great extent eastward and southward, sent auxiliary troops, but also the European, westward, as far as the Paeonians of that country about the river Axius, which afterwards became Macedonia.

At length, in the tenth year of the war, after great exertions of valour and the slaughter of numbers on both sides, among whom were many of the highest rank, Troy yielded to its fate. Yet was it not then overcome by open force ; stratagem is reported by Homer ; fraud and treachery have been supposed by later writers. It was, however, taken and plundered : the venerable monarch was slain : the queen and her daughters, together with only one son remaining of a very numerous male progeny, were led into captivity. According to some, the city was totally destroyed, and the survivors of the people so dispersed that their very name was from that time lost. But the tradition supported by better authority, and in no small degree by that of Homer himself, whose words upon the occasion seem indeed scarcely doubtful, is, that Aneas and his posterity reigned over the Trojan country and people for some generations ; the seat of government however being removed from Troy to Scepsis : and Xenophon has marked his respect for this tradition, ascribing the final ruin of the Trojan state and name to that following inundation of Greeks called the Aeolic emigration.

Agamemnon's Sad Home-coming

Agamemnon, we are told, triumphed over Troy ; and the historical evidence to the fact is large. But the Grecian poets themselves universally acknowledge that it was a dear-bought, a mournful triumph. Few of the princes, who survived to partake of it, had any enjoyment of their hardearned glory in their native country. None expecting that the war would detain them so long from home, had made due provision for the regular administration of their affairs during such an absence. It is indeed probable that the utmost wisdom and forethought would have been unequal to the purpose. For, in the half-formed governments of those days, the constant presence of the prince as supreme regulator was necessary towards keeping the whole from running presently into utter confusion. Seditions and revolutions accordingly remain recorded almost as numerous as the cities of Greece. Many of the princes on their return were compelled to embark again with their adherents, to seek settlements in distant countries. A more tragical fate awaited Agamemnon. His queen, Clytemnestra, having given her affection to his kinsman Aegisthus, concurred in a plot against her husband, and the unfortunate monarch on his return to Argos was assassinated ; those of his friends who escaped the massacre were compelled to fly with his son Orestes ; and, so strong was the party which their long possession of the government had enabled the conspirators to form, the usurper obtained complete possession of the throne. Orestes found refuge at Athens ; where alone among the Grecian states there seems to have been then a constitution capable of bearing both the absence and the return of the army and its commander without any essential derangement.

Such were the Trojan war and its consequences, according to the best of the unconnected and defective accounts remaining, among which those of Homer have always held the first rank. In modern times, as we have seen, the authority of the great poet as an historian has been more questioned. It is of highest importance to the history of the early ages that it should have its due weight; and it may therefore be proper to mention here some of the circumstances which principally establish its authority; others will occur hereafter. It should be observed then that in Homer's age poets were the only historians ; whence, though it does not at all follow that poets would so adhere to certain truth as not to introduce ornament, yet it necessarily follows that veracity in historical narration would make a large share of a poet's merit in public opinion, a circumstance which the common use of written records and prose histories instantly and totally altered. The probability and the very remarkable consistency of Homer's historical anecdotes, variously dispersed as they are among his poetical details and embellishments, form a second and powerful testimony. Indeed, the connection and the clearness of Grecian history, through the very early times of which Homer has treated, appear very extraordinary when compared with the darkness and uncertainty that begin in the instant of our losing his guidance, and continue through ages.


In the tales of Grecian mythology a great difference is apparent between the earlier and later centuries of the heroic age. They show us a considerable progress in culture during the course of the period. The legends of Perseus, Hercules, and Theseus, or of the battle of the Lapithae and Centauri, depict the early Greeks as a half wild race tormented by fierce animals, robbers, and tyrants. Giants, fearful snakes, and other monsters, also adventures in the nether world, often appear in these legends, and the Grecians seem to be engaged in a battle with the wildness of nature and with their own crudity. The same land appears utterly different in the legends and poems of the Trojan war and the other events of the later heroic age. In these legends the manners of the Greeks are represented as friendlier and more peaceful, and, with a few exceptions, we find no more real miracles, but everything points to a quieter time and a more orderly state of affairs.

We have a poetical, yet essentially faithful, description of these last centuries in the Iliad and Odyssey, the two oldest extant Grecian literary works. Both poems are, besides the recital of a part of the heroic legends, a true picture of the customs, the conquering spirit, and the domestic as well as public life of the Greeks at the time of the Trojan war and immediately after it. The Grecians at that time do not seem to have been a very numerous people. They lived in small states, with central cities in active intercourse with one another, not differing much in their ways of life, customs, and language. They were a rustic, warlike race, who rejoiced in simple customs and led a happy existence under a friendly sky. The similarity of religion, language, and customs made the Greeks of that time, as it were, members of a great organism, holding together although divided into many tribes and states. At the end of the heroic age some of the tribes were brought even closer together by near relationship and by means of temples and feasts in common. But the link that held them all together had not as yet become a clear conviction; therefore, so far there was no joint name for the Greek nation.

Agriculture and cattle raising were the principal occupations of the people. Besides this they had few industries. Other sources of wealth were the chase, fishing, and war. The agriculture consisted of corn and wine-growing and horticulture. The ox was the draught animal, donkeys and mules were used for transport, horses were but seldom used for riding, but they drew the chariots in time of war. The herds consisted principally of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. Slaves were used for the lower work. These were purchased from sea-robbers, obtained in victorious wars, or born in the house. They had a knowledge of navigation, although their ships generally had no decks, and were worked more by means of oars than sails. There was no commerce on a large scale ; war and piracy served instead as a means of obtaining riches. Many metals were known ; they used iron, the working of which was still difficult. Coinage was not used at all, or, at all events, very little. Weaving was the work of women ; the best woven stuffs, however, were obtained from the Phoenicians, who were the reigning commercial people of the Grecian seas. They made various kinds of arms, which were in part of artistic workmanship, ornaments and vessels of metal, ivory, clay, and wood. The descriptions of these objects show that the taste for plastic art, that is, the representation of beautiful forms, was already awakened among them. They possessed further a knowledge of architeture; towns and villages are mentioned, also walls with towers and gates. The houses of princes were built of stone ; they contained large and lofty rooms, as well as gardens and halls.

Caste was unknown to the Grecians. The people in the heroic age, to be sure, consisted of nobles and commons, but the latter took part in all public affairs of importance, and the privileges of the former did not rest upon their birth alone ; an acquisition of great strength, bravery, and adroitness was also necessary virtues which are accessible to all. The difference between the two classes was, therefore, not grounded, like the oriental establishment of caste, on superstition and deception, but on the belief that certain families possessed bodily strength and warlike abilities, and were therefore appointed by the gods as protectors of the country ; that their only right to superiority over others lay in their actual greater capacity for ruling and fighting.

The system of government was aristocratic monarchy, supported by the personal feelings and co-operative opinions of all free men. The state was thus merely a warlike assembly of vigorous men, consisting of nobles and freemen, having a leader at their head. The latter was bound to follow the decisions of the nobility, and in important affairs had to ask the consent of the people.

The king was only the first of the nobility, and the only rights he possessed which were not shared by them was that of commander in battle and high priest. Therefore, if he wished to excel others as real ruler, everything depended on his personality he had to surpass others in riches, bodily strength, bravery, discernment, and experience. The king brought the sacrifice to the gods for the totality and directed the religious ceremonies. He also sat in judgment, but mostly in company with experienced old men from the nobility, being really arbitrator and protector of the weak against the strong; for if no plaintiff appeared there was no trial at the public judgment-seat. It was the king's duty to offer hospitality to the ambassadors of other states and to be hospitable to strangers generally. His revenues consisted only of the voluntary donations of his subjects, of a larger share in the spoils of war, and of the produce of certain lands assigned to him. The only signs of his royalty were the sceptre and the herald that went before him. He took the first place at all assemblies and feasts, and at the sacrificial repasts he received a double helping of food and drink. He was addressed in terms of veneration, but otherwise one associated with him as with any other noble, and there was no trace of the oriental forms of homage towards kings among the ancient Greeks.

The nobility was composed of men of certain families to whom especial strength and dexterity were attributed as hereditary prerogatives; they sought to keep these up by means of knightly practices and to prove them on the battle-field. As has already been said, they took part in the government of the country. The common people or free citizens of the second class were assembled on all important occasions, to give their votes for peace or war, or any other matter of importance. The assemblies of the people described in the Iliad and Odyssey show the same general participation in public affairs and that lively activity which later reached such a high development in the Grecian republics. Beside this, at that time bravery and strength showed what every man was worth, and still more than mere bodily strength, experience, eloquence, and a judicious insight into life and its circumstances brought to any one honour and importance.

In time of war the decision depended more upon the bravery of the kings and nobles than upon the fighting of the people, who arranged themselves in close masses on the battlefield. The chiefs were not trained to be generals or leaders, but rather brave and skilled fighters. Swiftness in running, strength and certainty in throw, and skill in wrestling as in the use of arms, of the lance and the sword, were the most important items. Every leader had his own chariot, with a young companion by his side to hold the reins, while he himself fought with a javelin. The fortifications of the towns consisted of a trench and a wall with towers. As yet they had no knowledge of how to conduct a siege. They knew of no implement which would serve in the taking of a town.

Music and poetry played an important part in the lives of these warlike people. These were inseparable from their meals, their feasts, and military expeditions. The lyre, the flute, and the pipe were the musical instruments in the heroic age; the trumpet was not used until the end of that time. Flute and pipe were the instruments of shepherds and peasants. The lyre, on the other hand, was played by poets and singers and even by many of the kings and nobles, and always served as the accompaniment of songs. The subjects of their songs were the deeds of living or past heroes. There were singers or bards who composed these songs and sang them while men stood round to listen and these bards were held in great esteem.

Religion and politics were closely connected; but there was no trace of a priesthood with predominant influence. The king was the director of sacrifices, the presence of a priest not being required. There already existed, to be sure, besides the ancient oracle of Dodoiia, the oracle of Delphi in Phocis, which became so celebrated at a later period; but neither had any great influence in the heroic age. On the other hand, there were so-called soothsayers, who were supposed to possess much wisdom and at the same time a kind of association with the gods. For this reason they were consulted, so as to foretell the results of important undertakings, and to discover the cause of general misfortunes as well as a means of removing them.

The most renowned of these men were Orpheus, who played the part of prophet in the expedition of the Argonauts; Amphiaraus, who joined the expedition of the Seven against Thebes in the same character; Tirsias, who was the prophet of the Thebans both at that time and in the war of the Epigoni; and lastly Calchas, the soothsayer of the Greeks in the Trojan war. Even these men had no influence to be compared with the oriental priesthood. They were really only looked upon as pacifiers of the outraged godhead and as advisers their soothsayings were not always respected, and when their prophecies were unsatisfactory they had to face the anger of those in power.

The religious belief of the heroic age was the origin of the later national religion. It sprang probably from various sources. Therefore it cannot be distinguished by any special belief like that of the Indians and Egyptians. The religion of the Greeks was never a perfected system and therefore not free from contradictions, especially as oriental conceptions were introduced into it from ancient times. The Grecians of this time believed heaven, or rather the summit of the towering Mount Olympus, to be inhabited by beings, like the earth; they imagined that these beings resembled human beings in appearance and inner nature, but with the difference that they ascribed to them invisibility, greater strength, freedom from the barriers of mortality, and a powerful influence over earthly things. The life of the gods, according to the representation of the heroic age, only differed from that of men in the fact that it had a more beautiful colouring and higher pleasures. They therefore looked upon the gods as personal beings and had that form of religion known as anthropomorphism, the essential characteristic of which is the belief that the gods resemble men. But joined in an inexplicable manner with this view, was the idea that the gods were at the same time natural phenomena and powers of nature. For instance Zeus, the king and ruler in the kingdom of the gods, was alse regarded as the god of the atmosphere; Apollo of the sun; Poseidon the god of the sea; and the woods, wells, valleys, and hills were believed to be inhabited by divine beings called nymphs. The king offered sacrifice for the people and every father for his house and family. The religious ceremonies consisted chiefly of sacrifices and prayers. There were but few temples, but on the other hand every town had a piece of land set apart, on which there was an altar. They did not feel bound to these holy places for the worship of the gods, but often built an altar on some spot in the open field for prayer and sacrifice. The sacrifice consisted in burning some pieces of flesh to the gods and the pouring of wine into the fire ; while the rest was consumed at a general and merry feast. Even the appointed religious feast days had quite a festive colouring : they feasted, drank, joked, held tournaments, and listened while bards sang of the deeds of heroes. There was no trace to be found among the religious ceremonies of the heroic Greeks of that wild, intoxicating character which generally existed at the feasts of the oriental people.

This was how the character of the later Grecian heroic age was formed. They were a vigorous people, with warlike tastes and simple customs, living under a mild heaven. All took part in public affairs, all were free, and, in spite of a certain inequality among them, they were all connected; and divided by no great contrasts in education, the community felt no kind of oppression. The limited population of the country and the possession of slaves permitted a careless and merry way of life. Rough work was unknown to the greater part of the populace. They exercised their bodies and steeled their strength witli warlike undertakings, hunting, practice with arms, and wrestling. Their mental intelligence was directed to higher things through religious customs and soothsayers, and developed rapidly by means of the merry association of the nobility, frequent consultations about public affairs, and mutual military expeditions; and, above all, by means of the poetical stories related by the bards, who put into pleasant form what all felt, and were the real teachers of a higher mental culture; and lastly by means of the elevating power of music.

The Greek, under his bright heaven, looked upon life in the kind sunlight of the upper world as a real life; but that of the lower regions seemed to him, even if he obtained the greatest honours, and reigned like Achilles "over the entire dead as king," only a sombre picture as compared with the upper world : he loved life and did not throw it ostentatiously away, where there was no necessity. He did not look upon flying from a stronger foe as disgrace; swiftness of foot was regarded by him as a heroic merit, like cunning and a mighty arm.


If we endeavour to ascertain the extent of Homer's geographical knowledge, we find ourselves almost confined to Greece and the Aegean. Beyond this circle all is foreign and obscure: and the looseness with which he describes the more distant regions, especially when contrasted with his accurate delineation of those which were familiar to him, indicates that as to the others he was mostly left to depend on vague rumours, which he might mould at his pleasure. In the catalogue indeed of the Trojan auxiliaries, which probably comprises all the information which the Greeks had acquired concerning that part of the world at the time it was composed, the names of several nations in the interior of Asia Minor are enumerated. The remotest are probably the Halizonians of Alyba, whose country may, as Strabo supposes, be that of the Chaldeans on the Euxine. On the southern side of the peninsula the Lycians appear as a very distant race, whose land is therefore a fit scene for fabulous adventures : on its confines are the haunts of the monstrous Chimaera, and the territory of the Amazons : farther eastward the mountains of the fierce Solymi, from which Poseidon, on his return from the Ethiopians, descries the bark of Ulysses sailing on the western sea. These Ethiopians are placed by the poet at the extremity of the earth ; but as they are visited by Menelaus in the course of his wanderings, they must be supposed to reach across to the shores of the inner sea, and to border on the Phoenicians. Ulysses describes a voyage which he performed in five days, from Crete to Egypt : and the Taphians, though they inhabit the western side of Greece, tire represented as engaged in piratical adventures on the coast of Phoenicia. But as to Egypt, it seems clear that the poet's information was confined to what he had heard of a river Egyptus, and a great city called Thebes.

On the western side of Europe, the compass of his knowledge seems to be bounded by a few points not very far distant from the coast of Greece. The northern part of the Adriatic he appears to have considered as a vast open sea. Farther westward, Sicily and the southern extremity of Italy are represented as the limits of all ordinary navigation. Beyond lies a vast sea, which spreads to the very confines of nature and space. Sicily itself, at least its more remote parts, is inhabited by various races of gigantic cannibals: whether, at the same time, any of the tribes who really preceded the Greeks in the occupation of the island were known to be settled on the eastern side, is not certain, though the Sicels and Sicania are mentioned in the Odyssey. Italy, as well as Greece, appears, according to the poet's notions, to be bounded on the north by a formidable waste of waters.

When we proceed to inquire how the imagination of the people filled up the void of its experience, and determined the form of the unknown world, we find that the rudeness of its conceptions corresponds to the scantiness of its information. The part of the earth exposed to the beams of the sun was undoubtedly considered, not as a spherical, but as a plane surface, only varied by its heights and hollows ; and, as little can it be doubted, that the form of this surface was determined by that of the visible horizon. The whole orb is girt by the ocean, not a larger sea, but a deep river, which, circulating with constant but gentle flux, separates the world of light and life from the realms of darkness, dreams, and death. No feature in the Homeric chart is more distinctly prominent than this : hence the divine artist terminates the shield of Achilles with a circular stripe, representing "the mighty strength of the river Ocean" and all the epithets which the poet applies to it are such as belong exclusively to a river. Homer describes all the other rivers, all springs and wells, and the salt main itself, as issuing from the ocean stream, which might be supposed to feed them by subterraneous channels. Still it is very difficult to form a clear conception of this river, or to say how the poet supposed it to be bounded. Ulysses passes into it from the western sea; but whether the point at which he enters is a mouth or opening, or the two waters are only separated by an invisible line, admits of much doubt. On the farther side however is land : but a land of darkness, which the sun cannot pierce, a land of Cimmerians, the realm of Hades, inhabited by the shades of the departed, and by the family of dreams. As to the other dimensions of the earth, the poet affords us no information, and it would be difficult to decide whether a cylinder or a cone approaches nearest to the figure which he may have assigned to it : and as little does he intimate in what manner he conceives it to be supported. But within it was hollowed another vast receptacle for departed spirits, perhaps the proper abode of Hades. Beneath this, and as far below the earth as heaven was above it, lay the still more murky pit of Tartarus, secured by its iron gates and brazen floor, the dungeon reserved by Jupiter for his implacable enemies.

Some of the epithets which Homer applies to the heaven, seem to imply that he considered it as a solid vault of metal. But it is not necessary to construe these epithets so literally, nor to draw any such inference from his description of Atlas, who "holds the lofty pillars which keep earth and heaven asunder." Yet it would seem, from the manner in which the height of heaven is compared with the depth of Tartarus, that the region of light was thought to have certain bounds. The summit of the Thessalian Olympus was regarded as the highest point on the earth, and it is not always carefully distinguished from the acrian regions above. The idea of a seat of the gods, perhaps derived from a more ancient tradition, in which it was not attached to any geographical site, seems to be indistinctly blended in the poet's mind with that of a real mountain. Hence Hephaestus, when hurled from the threshold of Jupiter's palace, falls "from morn to noon, from noon to dewy eve," before he drops on Lemnos ; and Jupiter speaks of suspending the earth by a chain from the top of Olympus.


A wider compass of geographical knowledge, and more enlarged views of nature, would scarcely have been consistent with the state of navigation and commerce which the Homeric poems represent. The poet expresses the common feelings of an age when the voyages of the Greeks were mostly confined to the Aegean. The vessels of the heroes, and probably of the poet's contemporaries, were slender half-decked boats : according to the calculation of Thucydides, who seems to suspect exaggeration, the largest contained one hundred and twenty men, the greatest number of rowers mentioned in the catalogue : but we find twenty rowers spoken of as a usual complement of a good ship. The mast was movable, and was only hoisted to take advantage of a fair wind, and at the end of a day's voyage was again deposited in its appropriate receptacle. In the day-time, the Greek mariner commonly followed the windings of the coasts, or shot across from headland to headland, or from isle to isle : at night his vessel was usually put into port, or hauled up on the beach ; for though on clear nights he might prosecute his voyage as well as by day, yet should the sky be overcast his course was inevitably lost. Engagements at sea are never mentioned by Homer, though he so frequently alludes to piratical excursions. They were probably of rare occurrence : but as they must sometimes have been inevitable, the galleys were provided with long poles for such occasions. The approach of winter put a stop to all ordinary navigation. Hesiod fixes the time for laying up the merchant ship, covering it with stones, taking out the rigging, and hanging the rudder up by the fire. According to him, the fair season lasts only fifty days : some indeed venture earlier to sea, but a prudent man will not then trust his substance to the waves.

The practical astronomy of the early Greeks consisted of a few observations on the heavenly bodies, the appearances of which were most conspicuously connected with the common occupations of life. The succession of light and darkness, the recurring phases of the moon, and the vicissitude of the seasons, presented three regular periods of time, which, though all equally forced on the attention, were not all marked with equal distinctness by sensible limits. From the first, and down to the age of Solon, the Greeks seem to have measured their months in the natural way, by the interval between one appearance of the new moon and the next. Hence, their months were of unequal duration ; yet they might be described in round numbers as consisting of thirty days. It was soon observed that the revolutions of the moon were far from affording an exact measure of the apparent annual revolution of the sun, and that if this were taken to be equal to twelve of the former, the seasons would pass in succession through all the months of the year. This in itself would have been no evil, and would have occasioned no disturbance in the business of life. Seen under the Greek sky, the stars were scarcely less conspicuous objects than the moon itself : some of the most striking groups were early observed and named, and served, by their risings and settings, to regulate the labours of the husbandman and the adventures of the seaman.


Commerce appears in Homer's descriptions to be familiar enough to the Greeks of the heroic age, but not to be held in great esteem. Yet in the Odyssey we find the goddess, who assumes the person of a Taphian chief, professing that she is on her way to Temesa with a cargo of iron to be exchanged for copper : and in the Iliad Jason's son, the prince of Lemnos, appears to carry on an active traffic with the Greeks before Troy. He sends a number of ships freighted with wine, for which the purchasers pay, some in copper, some in iron, some in hides, some in cattle, some in slaves. Of the use of money the poet gives no hint, either in this description or elsewhere. He speaks of the precious metals only as commodities, the value of which was in all cases determined by weight. The Odyssey represents Phoenician traders as regularly frequenting the Greek ports; but as Phoenician slaves are sometimes brought to Greece, so the Phoenicians do not scruple, even where they are received as friendly merchants, to carry away Greek children into slavery.

The general impression which the Homeric pictures of society leave on the reader is, that many of the useful arts, that is, those subservient to the animal wants or enjoyments of life, had already reached such a stage of refinement as enabled the affluent to live, not merely in rude plenty, but in a considerable degree of luxury and splendour. The dwellings, furniture, clothing, armour, and other such property of the chiefs, are commonly described as magnificent, costly, and elegant, both as to the materials and workmanship. We are struck, not only by the apparent profusion of the precious metals and other rare and dazzling objects in the houses of the great, but by the skill and ingenuity which seem to be exerted in working them up into convenient and graceful forms. Great caution, however, is evidently necessary in drawing inferences from these descriptions as to the state of the arts in the heroic ages. The poet has treasures at his disposal which, as they cost him nothing, he may scatter with an unsparing hand. The shield made by Hephaestus for Achilles cannot be considered as a specimen of the progress of art, since it is not only the work of a god, but is fabricated on an extraordinary occasion, to excite the admiration of men. It is clear that the poet attributes a superiority to several Eastern nations, more especially to the Phoenicians, not only in wealth, but in knowledge and skill, that, compared with their progress, the arts of Greece seem to be in their infancy. The description of a Phoenician vessel, which comes to a Greek island freighted with trinkets, and of the manner in which a lady of the highest rank, and her servants, handle and gaze on one of the foreign ornaments, present the image of such a commerce as Europeans carry on with the islanders of the South Sea. It looks as if articles of this kind, at least, were eagerly coveted, and that there were no means of procuring them at home.

It is possible that Homer's pictures of the heroic style of living may be too highly coloured, but there is reason to believe that they were drawn from the life. He may have been somewhat too lavish of the precious metals; but some of the others, particularly copper, were perhaps more abundant than in later times; beside copper and iron, we find steel and tin, which the Phoenicians appear already to have brought from the west of Europe, frequently mentioned. There can be no doubt that the industry of the Greeks had long been employed on these materials. We may therefore readily believe that, even in the heroic times, the works of Greek artisans already bore the stamp of the national genius. In some important points, the truth of Homer's descriptions hus been confirmed by monuments, brought to light within our own memory, of an architecture which was most probably contemporary with the events which he celebrated. The remains of Mycenae and other ancient cities seem sufficiently to attest the fidelity with which he has represented the general character of that magnificence which the heroic chieftains loved to display. On the other hand, the same poems afford several strong indications that, though in the uge which they describe such arts were, perhaps, rapidly advancing, they cannot then have been so long familiar to the Greeks as to be very commonly practised; and that a skilful artificer was rarely found, and was consequently viewed with great admiration, and occupied a high rank in society. Thus, the craft of the carpenter appears to be exceedingly honourable. He is classed with the soothsayer, the physician, and the bard, and like them is frequently sent for from a distance. The son of a person eminent in this craft is not mixed with the crowd on the field of battle, but comes forward among the most distinguished warriors. And as in itself it seems to confer a sort of nobility, so it is practised by the most illustrious chiefs. Ulysses is represented as a very skilful carpenter. He not only builds the boat in which he leaves the island of Calypso, but in his own palace carves a singular bedstead out of the trunk of a tree, which he inlays with gold, silver, and ivory. Another chief, Epeus, was celebrated as the builder of the wooden horse in which the heroes were concealed at the taking of Troy. The goddess Athene was held to preside over this, as over all manual arts, and to favour those who excelled in it with her inspiring counsels.

The chances of war give occasion, as might be expected, for frequent allusions to the healing art. The Greek army contains two chiefs who have inherited consummate skill in this art from their father Aesculapius; and Achilles has been so well instructed in it by Chiron, that Patroclus, to whom he has imparted his knowledge, is able to supply their place. But the processes described in this and other cases show that these might often be the least danger from the treatment of the most unpractised hands. The operation of extracting a weapon from the wound, with a knife, seems not to have been considered as one which demanded peculiar skill; the science of the physician was chiefly displayed in the application of medicinal herbs, by which he stanched the blood, and eased the pain. When Ulysses has been gored by a wild boar, his friends first bind up the hurt, and then use a charm for stopping the flow of blood. The healing art, such as it was, was frequently and successfully practised by the women.

We have already seen that several of the arts which originally ministered only to physical wants, had been so far refined before the time of Homer, that their productions gratified the sense of beauty, and served for ornament as well as for use. Hence our curiosity is awakened to inquire to what extent those arts, which became in later times the highest glory of Greece, in which she yet stands unrivalled, were cultivated in the same period. Unfortunately, the information which the poet affords on this subject is so scanty and obscure, as to leave room on many points for a wide difference of opinion. If we begin with his own art, of which his own poetry is the most ancient specimen extant, we find several hints of its earlier condition. It was held in the highest honour among the heroes. The bard is one of those persons whom men send for to very distant parts; his presence is welcome at every feast; it seems as if one was attached to the service of every great family, and treated with an almost religious respect; Agamemnon, when he sets out on the expedition to Troy, reposes the most important of all trusts in the bard whom he leaves at home. It would even seem as if poetry and music were thought fit to form part of a princely education; for Achilles is found amusing himself with singing, while he touches the same instrument with which the bards constantly accompany their strains. The general character of this heroic poetry is also distinctly marked; it is of the narrative kind, and its subjects are drawn from the exploits or adventures of renowned men. Each song is described as a short extemporaneous effusion, but yet seems to have been rounded into a little whole, such as to satisfy the hearer's immediate curiosity.

The Graphic Arts

An interesting and difficult question presents itself, as to the degree in which Homer and his contemporaries were conversant with the imitative arts, and particularly with representations of the human form. We find such representations, on a small scale, frequently described. The garment woven by Helen contained a number of battle scenes; as one presented by Penelope to Ulysses was embroidered with a picture of a chase, wrought with gold threads. The shield of Achilles was divided into compartments exhibiting many complicated groups of figures: and though this was a masterpiece of Hephaestus, it would lead us to believe that the poet must have seen many less elaborate and diflicult works of a like nature. But throughout the Homeric poems there occurs only one distinct allusion to a statue, as a work of human art. The robe which the Trojan queen offers to Athene in her temple, is placed by the priestess on the knees of the goddess, who was therefore represented in a sitting posture. Even this, it may be said, proves nothing as to the Greeks. They can only be admitted as additional indications that the poet was not a stranger to such objects.

To pictures, or the art of painting, properly so called, the poet makes no allusion, though he speaks of the colouring of ivory, as an art in which the Carian and Mseonian women excelled. It must, however, be considered that there is only one passage in which lie expressly mentions any kind of delineation, and there in a very obscure manner, though he has described so many works which imply a previous design.


The art of war is among the arts of necessity, which all people, the rudest equally and the most polished, must cultivate, or ruin will follow the neglect. The circumstances of Greece were in some respects peculiarly favourable to the improvement of this art. Divided into little states, the capital of each, with the greater part of the territory, generally within a day's march of several neighbouring states which might be enemies and seldom were thoroughly to be trusted as friends, while from the establishment of slavery arose everywhere perpetual danger of a domestic foe, it was of peculiar necessity both for every individual to be a soldier, and for the community to pay unremitting attention to military affairs. Accordingly we find that so early as Homer's time the Greeks had improved considerably upon that tumultuary warfare alone known to main barbarous nations, who yet have prided themselves in the practice of war for successive centuries. Several terms used by the poet, together with his descriptions of marches, indicate that orders of battle were in his time regularly formed in rank and file. Steadiness in the soldier, that foundation of all those powers which distinguish an army from a mob, and which to this day forms the highest praise of the best troops, we find in great perfection in the Iliad. "The Grecian phalanges," says the poet, "marched in close order, the leaders directing each his own band. The rest were mute : insomuch that you would say in so great a multitude there was no voice. Such was the silence with which they respectfully watched for the word of command from their officers."

Considering the deficiency of iron, the Grecian troops appear to have been very well armed both for offence and defence. Their defensive armour consisted of a helmet, a breastplate, and greaves, all of brass, and a shield, commonly of bull's hide, but often strengthened with brass. The breastplate appears to have met the belt, which was a considerable defence to the belly and groin, and with an appendant skirt guarded also the thighs. All together covered the forepart of the soldier from the throat to the ankle; and the shield was a superadded protection for every part. The bulk of the Grecian troops were infantry thus heavily armed, and formed in close order many ranks deep. Any body formed in ranks and files, close and deep, without regard to a specific number of either ranks or files, was generally termed a phalanx. But the Locrians, under Oilean Ajax, were all light-armed : bows were their principal weapons ; and they never engaged in close fight.

Riding on horseback was yet little practised, though it appears to have been not unknown. Some centuries, however, passed before it was generally applied in Greece to military purposes; the mountainous ruggedness of the country preventing any extensive use of cavalry, except among the Thessalians, whose territory was a large plain. But in the Homeric armies no chief was without his chariot, drawn generally by two, sometimes by three horses; and these chariots of war make a principal figure in Homer's battles. Nestor, forming the army for action, composes the first line of chariots only. In the second he places that part of the infantry in which he has least confidence; and then forms a third line, or reserve, of the most approved troops. It seems extraordinary that chariots should have been so extensively used in war as we find they were in the early ages. In the wide plains of Asia, indeed, we may account for their introduction, as we may give them credit for utility : but how they should become so general among the inhabitants of rocky, mountainous Greece, how the distant Britons should arrive at that surprising perfection in the use of them which they possessed when the Roman legions first invaded this island, especially as the same mode of fighting was little if at all practised among the Gauls and Germans, is less obvious to conjecture.

The combat of the chiefs, so repeatedly described by Homer, advancing to engage singly in front of their line of battle, is apt to strike a modern reader with an appearance of absurdity perhaps much beyond the reality. Before the use of fire-arms, that practice was not uncommon when the art of war was at its greatest perfection. In Caesar's Commentaries we have a very particular account of an advanced combat, in which, not generals indeed, but two centurions of his army engaged. The Grecian chiefs of the heroic age, like the knights of the times of chivalry, had armour apparently very superior to that of the common soldiers; which, with the skill acquired by assiduous practice amid unbounded leisure, might enable them to obviate much of the seeming danger of such skirmishes. Nor might the effect be unimportant. Like the sharp-shooters of modern days, a few men of superior strength, activity, and skill, superior also by the excellence of their defensive armour, might prepare a victory by creating disorder in the close array of the enemy's phalanx. They threw their weighty javelins from a distance, while none dared advance to meet them but chiefs equally well-armed with themselve : and from the soldiers in the ranks they had little to fear; because, in that close order, the dart could not be thrown with any advantage. Occasionally, indeed, we find some person of inferior name advancing to throw his javelin at a chief occupied against some other, but retreating again immediately into the ranks : a resource not disdained by the greatest heroes when danger pressed. Hector himself, having thrown his javelin ineffectually at Ajax, retires toward his phalanx, but is overtaken by a stone of enormous weight, which brings him to the ground. If from the death or wounds of chiefs, or slaughter in the foremost rank of soldiers, any confusion arose in the phalanx, the shock of the enemy's phalanx, advancing in perfect order, must be irresistible.

Another practice common in Homer's time is by no means equally defensible, but on the contrary marks great barbarism; that of stopping in the heat of action to strip the slain. Often this paltry passion for possessing the spoil of the enemy superseded all other, even the most important and most deeply interesting objects of battle. The poet himself was not unaware of the danger and inconveniency of the practice, and seems even to have aimed at a reformation of it. We find indeed in Homer's warfare a remarkable mixture of barbarism with regularity. Though the art of forming an army in phalanx was known and commonly practised, yet the business of a general, in directing its operations, was lost in the passion, or we may call it fashion, of the great men to signalise themselves by acts of personal courage and skill in arms. Achilles and Hector, the first heroes of the Iliad, excel only in the character of fighting soldiers : as generals and directors of the war, they are inferior to many. Excepting indeed in the single circumstance of forming the army in order of battle, so far from the general, we scarcely ever discover even the officer among Homer's heroes. It is not till most of the principal Grecian leaders are disabled for the duty of soldiers that at length they so far take upon themselves that of officers as to endeavour to restore order among their broken phalanges.

We might, however, yet more wonder at another deficiency in Homer's art of war, were it not still universal throughout those rich and populous countries where mankind was first civilised. Even among the Turks, who, far as they have spread over the finest part of Europe, retain pertinaciously every defect of their ancient Asiatic customs, the easy and apparently obvious precaution of posting and relieving sentries, so essential to the safety of armies, has never obtained. When, in the ill turn of the Grecian affairs, constant readiness for defence became more especially necessary, it is mentioned as an instance of soldiership in the active Diomedes, that he slept on his arms without his tent: but no kind of watch was kept; all his men were at the same time asleep around him: and the other leaders were yet less prepared against surprise. A guard indeed selected from the army was set, in the manner of a modern grand-guard or out-post; but though commanded by two officers high both in rank and reputation, yet the commander-in-chief expresses his fear that, overcome with fatigue, the whole might fall asleep and totally forget their duty. The Trojans, who at the same time, after their success, slept on the field of battle, had no guard appointed by authority, but depended wholly upon the interest which every one had in preventing a surprise; "They exhorted one another to be watchful," says the poet. But the allies all slept; and he subjoins the reason, "For they had no children or wives at hand." However, though Homer does not expressly blame the defect, or propose a remedy, yet he gives, in the surprise of Rhesus, an instance of the disasters to which armies are exposed by intermission of watching, that might admonish his fellow-countrymen to improve their practice.

The Greeks, and equally the Trojans and their allies, encamped with great regularity; and fortified, if in danger of an attack from a superior enemy. Indeed Homer ascribes no superiority in the art of war, or even in personal courage, to his fellow-countrymen. Even those inland Asiatics, afterwards so unwarlike, are put by him upon a level with the bravest people. Tents, like those now in use, seem to have been a late invention. The ancients, on desultory expeditions, and in marching through a country, slept with no shelter but their cloaks; as our light troops often carry none but a blanket a practice which Bonaparte extended to his whole army, thereby providing a speedy and miserable death for thousands in his retreat from Russia. When the ancients remained long on a spot they hutted. Achilles' tent or hut was built of fir, and thatched with reeds; and it seems to have had several apartments.


There are two special veins of estimable sentiment, on which it may be interesting to contrast heroic and historical Greece, and which exhibit the latter as an improvement on the former, not less in the affections than in the intellect.

The law of Athens was peculiarly watchful and provident with respect both to the persons and the property of orphan minors; but the description given in the Iliad of the utter and hopeless destitution of the orphan boy, despoiled of his paternal inheritance and abandoned by all the friends of his father, whom he urgently supplicates, and who all harshly cast him off, is one of the most pathetic morsels in the whole poem. In reference again to the treatment of the dead body of an enemy, we find all the Greek chiefs who come near (not to mention the conduct of Achilles himself) piercing with their spears the corpse of the slain Hector, while some of them even pass disgusting taunts upon it. We may add, from the lost epics, the mutilation of the dead bodies of Paris and Deiphobus by the hand of Menelaus. But at the time of the Persian invasion, it was regarded as unworthy of a rightminded Greek to maltreat in any way the dead body of an enemy, even where such a deed might seem to be justified on the plea of retaliation.

The different manner of dealing with homicide presents a third test, perhaps more striking yet, of the change in Grecian feelings and manners during the three centuries preceding the Persian invasion. That which the murderer in the Homeric times had to dread, was, not public prosecution and punishment, but the personal vengeance of the kinsmen and friends of the deceased, who wore stimulated by the keenest impulses of honour and obligation to avenge the deed, and were considered by the public as specially privileged to do so. To escape from this danger, he is obliged to flee the country, unless he can prevail upon the incensed kinsmen to accept of a valuable payment (we must not speak of coined money, in the days of Homer) as satisfaction for their slain comrade. They may, if they please, decline the offer, and persist in their right of revenge; but if they accept, they are bound to leave the offender unmolested, and he accordingly remains at home without farther consequences. The chiefs in agora do not seem to interfere, except to insure payment of the stipulated sum.

In historical Athens, this right of private revenge was discountenanced and put out of sight, even so early as the Draconian legislation, and at last restricted to a few extreme and special cases; while the murderer came to be considered, first as having sinned against the gods, next as having deeply injured the society, and thus at once as requiring absolution and deserving punishment. On the first of these two grounds, he is interdicted from the agora and from all holy places, as well as from public functions, even while yet untried and simply a suspected person; for if this were not done, the wrath of the gods would manifest itself in bad crops and other national calamities. On the second ground, he is tried before the council of Areopagus, and if found guilty, is condemned to death, or perhaps to disfranehisement and banishment. The idea of a propitiatory payment to the relatives of the deceased has ceased altogether to be admitted : it is the protection of society which dictates, and the force of society which inflicts, a measure of punishment calculated to deter for the future.

The society of legendary Greece includes, besides the chiefs, the general mass of freemen, among whom stand out by special names certain professional men, such as the carpenter, the smith, the leather-dresser, the leech, the prophet, the bard, and the fisherman. We have no means of appreciating their condition. Though lots of arable land were assigned in special property to individuals, with boundaries both carefully marked and jealously watched, yet the larger proportion of surface was devoted to pasture. Cattle formed both the chief item in the substance of a wealthy man, the chief means of making payments, and the common ground of quarrels bread and meat, in large quantities, being the constant food of every one. The estates of the owners were tilled, and their cattle tended, mostly by bought slaves, but to a certain degree also by poor freemen called thetes, working for hire and for stated periods. The principal slaves, who were entrusted with the care of large herds of oxen, swine, or goats, were of necessity men worthy of confidence, their duties placing them away from their master's immediate eye. They had other slaves subordinate to them, and appear to have been welltreated : the deep and unshaken attachment of Eumaeus the swineherd and Philoetius the neatherd to the family and affairs of the absent Ulysses, is among the most interesting points in the ancient epic. Slavery was a calamity, which in that period of insecurity might befall any one : the chief who conducted a freebooting expedition, if he succeeded, brought back with him a numerous troop of slaves, as many as he could seize if he failed, became very likely a slave himself : so that the slave was often by birth of equal dignity with his master Eumseus was himself the son of a chief, conveyed away when a child by his nurse, and sold by Phoenician kidnappers to Laertes. A slave of this character, if he conducted himself well, might often expect to be enfranchised by his master and placed in an independent holding.

On the whole, the slavery of legendary Greece does not present itself as existing under a peculiarly harsh form, especially if we consider that all the classes of society were then very much upon a level in point of taste, sentiment, and instruction. In the absence of legal security or an effective social sanction, it is probable that the condition of a slave under an average master, may have been as good as that of the free Thete. The class of slaves whose lot appears to have been the most pitiable were the females more numerous than the males, and performing the principal work in the interior of the house. Not only do they seem to have been more harshly treated than the males, but they were charged with the hardest and most exhausting labour which the establishment of a Greek chief required; they brought in water from the spring, and turned by hand the house-mills, which ground the large quantity of flour consumed in his family. This oppressive task was performed generally by female slaves, in historical as well as in legendary Greece. Spinning and weaving was the constant occupation of women, whether free or slave, of every rank and station; all the garments worn both by men and women were fashioned at home, and Helen as well as Penelope is expert and assiduous at the occupation. The daughters of Celeus at Eleusis go to the well with their basins for water, and Nausicaa, daughter of Alcinous, joins her female slaves in the business of washing her garments in the river. If we are obliged to point out the fierceness and insecurity of an early society, we may at the same time note with pleasure its characteristic simplicity of manners: Rebecca, Rachel, and the daughters of Jethro, in the early Mosaic narrative, as well as the wife of the native Macedonian chief (with whom the Temenid Perdiccas, ancestor of Philip and Alexander, first took service on retiring from Argos), baking her own cakes on the hearth, exhibit a parallel in this respect to the Homeric pictures.

We obtain no particulars respecting either the common freemen generally, or the particular class of them called thetes. These latter, engaged for special jobs, or at the harvest and other busy seasons of field labour, seem to have given their labour in exchange for board and clothing : they are mentioned in the same line with the slaves, and were (as has been just observed) probably on the whole little better off. The condition of a poor freeman in those days, without a lot of land of his own, going about from one temporary job to another, and having no powerful family and no social authority to look up to for protection, must have been sufficiently miserable. When Eumaeus indulged his expectation of being manumitted by his masters, he thought at the same time that they would give him a wife, a house, and a lot of land near to themselves; without which collateral advantages simple manumission might perhaps have been no improvement in his condition. To be thete in the service of a very poor farmer is selected by Achilles as the maximum of human hardship.


The Trojan war gives a great shock to Greece and hurls it for the first time against Asia. Herodotus saw very well in this war, still mixed with fables, but certain in its principal events and in its issue, the first act of this long struggle between Greece and Asia, which will have for end the expedition of Alexander.

The Eastern armies are richer, the habits more slack, the spirit less active and less enterprising. Greece already lived its own life, it was conscious of itself and practised in its own centre that military and intellectual activity of which the Trojan War was the first development.

Marriage is no longer, as in the East, a sale, where the woman is considered as a thing; an exchange of presents between the two families seems to indicate a certain equality between the husband and wife. The legitimate wife, in this society where the scourge of polygamy has not passed, has a dignity and influence unknown in Greece. Penelope is the companion of Ulysses. The nobleness of her sorrow, her authority, are signs of the new destiny of women. The wife of Alcinous rules the domestic affairs. Helen herself, after her return to family life, will come and sit down, free and respected by the hearth of her spouse. Lastly, Andromache is the true companion of Hector, and seems worthy of sharing in all his fortune. But the woman is still far from being the equal of man. Favourite slaves frequently take from her her influence, and slavery, which the chances of war can bring down on the noblest, vilifies her at every instant. That tripod, given to a victor in a contest, is worth twelve oxen. We see the princes Iphitus and Ulysses, labourers and shepherds, Anchises, who is shepherd and hunter. The shield of Achilles shows us a king harvesting. Neleus gives his daughter in marriage for a flock; Andromache herself takes care of Hector's horses; and Nausicaa, at a later and more civilised period than the Odyssey, is depicted to us washing the linen of the royal family.

The guest almost makes part of the family; it is the gods who send him, a touching and wholesome belief in that time of brigandage and of difficult communications. You are going to spurn this guest; take care I perhaps it is Jupiter himself. How many times have the gods not come thus to try mortals? Also hospitality formed a sacred link which united, in the most distant tribes, those who had received it to those who had given it. This gave rise to duties of gratitude and friendship that nothing could efface, and which kept their sway even to the encounters on the battlefield. Glaucus and Diomedes met in the midst of the conflict and exchanged weapons, which they would have a horror of staining with the blood of a guest. It is not in vain that Hercules and Theseus travelled over Greece, punishing the violators of hospitality. There were no castes in the Grecian society, but slavery from the most ancient times, with the right of life and death for sanction. War was the most ordinary cause of servitude. The enemy spared became the slave of the victor; it is thus that Briseis fell to the power of Achilles. There was no town taken without slaves, and the inhabitants formed part of the booty. Hector predicted slavery for his wife and his sons, and depicts Andromache as fetching water from the fountain, and spinning wool in the house of a Greek. The carrying off of children by pirates, who made a regular trade of them, already maintained slavery; it is thus that Eumaeus was sold at Ithaca. This custom of taking away children from the inhabitants of the coasts, lasted as long as the ancient world. The Greek comedy, and after it Roman comedy, made of this carrying off the most ordinary source of their intrigues. But if servitude was already rooted in Greek civilisation, it was at least then singularly softened by the simplicity of the customs, and above all by the rural and agricultural life, which brought together in common works master and slave.

Poetry was already a fashion in these rising societies, and in the middle of these hard wars the pleasures of the mind had their place. The warriors, seated in circles, listened with an eagerness, full of patience, to the interminable recitals of the cedes or singers. Competitions of music and religious poetry are already instituted in the small towns, which call the rising art to their ceremonies. These poetries were sung with the accompaniment of the lyre, and there was no king who had not his singer. Agamemnon treated his with honour, and in leaving, entrusted to him his wife and his treasures. This religious and heroic poetry preceded Homer, who found established rules and fixed types. As to the beauty of this primitive poetry, it must be judged by the immortal creations of its most illustrious representative. Certainly there were not many Homers, but he was not the only poet, and the imposing simplicity of his poetry could not bo a unique fact in this age of chanted legends. Art and sciences were in infancy, but the curiosity and admiration that the poets testify for the still imperfect work of the artists, and for the fabulous tales of travellers, remind us that we see at its beginning the most industrious and the most inventive race of antiquity.

THE DORIANS [ca. 1100-1000 B.C.]

From the earliest period there were two peoples of Greece who seem, at least in the eye of later generations, to have been preeminent —the Dori­ans and the lonians. Of the former the leaders are the Spartans; of the latter, the Athenians. In the main, so preponderant are these two cities that, viewed retrospectively, Greek history comes to seem the history of Athens and Sparta. This appears a curious anomaly when one considers that these cities were not great world emporiums like Babylon and Nineveh and Rome, but at best only moderate-sized towns. Yet they influenced humanity for all time to come; and our study of Greek history perforce resolves itself largely into the doings of the citizens of these two little communities. We shall first consider the history of the Dorians, who, though in the long run the less important of the two, were the earlier to appear prominently on the stage of history.

The Dorians derived their origin from those districts in which the Grecian nation bordered towards the north upon numerous and dissimilar races of barbarians. As to the tribes which dwelt beyond these boundaries we are indeed wholly destitute of information; nor is there the slightest trace of any memorial or tradition that the Greeks originally came from those quarters. On these frontiers, however, the events took place-which effected an entire alteration in the internal condition of the whole Grecian nation, and here were given many of those impulses, of which the effects were so long and generally experienced. The prevailing character of the events alluded to, was a perpetual pressing forward of the barbarous races, particularly of the Illyrians, into more southern districts.

To begin then by laying down a boundary line, which may be afterwards modified for the sake of greater accuracy, we shall suppose this to be the mountain ridge, which stretches from Mount Olympus to the west as far as the Acroceraunian Mountains (comprehending the Cambunian ridge and Mount Lacmon), and in the middle comes in contact with the Pindus chain, which stretches in a direction from north to south. The western part of this chain separates the farthest Grecian tribes from the great Illyrian nation, which extended back as far as the Celts in the south of Germany.

In the fashion of wearing the mantle and dressing the hair, and also in their dialect, the Macedonians bore a great resemblance to the Illyrians, whence it is evident that the Macedonians belonged to the Illyrian nation. Notwithstanding which, there can be no doubt that the Greeks were aboriginal inhabitants of this district. The plains of Emathia, the most beautiful district of the country, were occupied by the Pelasgi, who, according to Herodotus, also possessed Creston above Chalcidice, to which place they had come from Thessaliotis. Hence the Macedonian dialect was full of primitive Greek words. And that these had not been introduced by the royal family (which was Hellenic by descent or adoption of manners) is evi­dent from the fact, that many signs of the most simple ideas (which no lan­guage ever borrows from another) were the same in both, as well as from the circumstance that these words do not appear in their Greek form, but have been modified according to a native dialect. In the Macedonian dialect there occur grammatical forms which are commonly called Aeolic, together with many Arcadian and Thessalian words: and what perhaps is still more decisive, several words, which, though not to be found in the Greek, have been preserved in the Latin language. There does not appear to be any peculiar connection with the Doric dialect: hence we do not give much credit to the otherwise unsupported assertion of Herodotus, of an original identity of the Dorian and Maccdnian (Macedonian) nations. In other authors Macednus is called the son of Lycaon, from whom the Arcadians were descended, or Macedon is the brother of Magnes, or a son of AEOLUS, according to Hesiod and Ilellanicus, which are merely various attempts to form a genealogical connection between this semi-barbarian race and the rest of the Greek nation.

The Thessalians as well as the Macedonians were, as it appears, an Illyrian race, who subdued a native Greek population; but in this case the body of the interlopers was smaller, while the numbers and civilisation of the aboriginal inhabitants were considerable. Hence the Thessalians resembled the Greeks more than any of the northern races with which they were connected: hence their language in particular was almost purely Grecian, and indeed bore perhaps a greater affinity to the language of the ancient epic poets than any other dialect. But the chief peculiarities of this nation with which we are acquainted were not of a Grecian character. Of this their national dress, which consisted in part of the flat and broad­brimmed hat (jeawia) and the mantle (which last was common to both nations, but was unknown to the Greeks of Homer’s time, and indeed long afterwards, until adopted as the costume of the equestrian order at Athens), is a sufficient example. The Thessalians moreover were beyond a doubt the first to introduce into Greece the use of cavalry. More important distinctions however than that first alleged are perhaps to be found in their impetu­ous and passionate character, and the low and degraded state of their mental faculties. The taste for the arts shown by the rich family of the Scopadm proves no more that such was the disposition of the whole people, than the existence of the same qualities in Archelaus argues their prevalence in Macedonia. This is sufficient to distinguish them from the race of the Greeks, so highly endowed by nature. We are therefore induced to conjecture that this nation, which a short time before the expedition of the Heraclidte, mi­grated from Thesprotia, and indeed from the territory of Ephyra (Cichyrus) into the plain of the Peneus, had originally come from Illyria. On the other hand indeed, many points of similarity in the customs of the Thessalians and Dorians might be brought forward. Thus, for example, the love for the male sex (that usage peculiar to the Dorians) was also common among the Illyrians, and the objects of affection were, as at Sparta, called atrai; the women also, as amongst the Dorians, were addressed by the title of ladies, a title uncommon in Greece, and expressive of the estimation in which they were held. A great freedom in the manners of the female sex was nevertheless customary among the Illyrians, who in this respect bore a nearer resemblance to the northern nations. Upon the whole, however, these migrations from the north had the effect of disseminating among the Greeks manners and institutions which were entirely unknown to their ancestors, as represented by Homer.

We will now proceed to inquire what was the extent of territory gained by the Illyrians in the west of Greece. A great part of Epirus had in early times been inhabited by Pelasgi, to which race the inhabitants of Dodona are likewise affirmed by the best authorities to have belonged, as well as the whole nation of Thesprotians; also the Chaonians at the foot of the Acroceraunian Mountains, and the Cliones, Oenotri, and Peucetii on the opposite coast of Italy, are said to have been of this race. The ancient buildings, institutions, and religious worship of the Epirotes are also mani­festly of Pclasgic origin. We suppose always that the Pelasgi were Greeks, and spoke the Grecian language, an opinion however in support of which we will on this occasion only adduce a few arguments. It must then be borne in mind, that all the races whose migrations took place at a late period, such as the Acheans, Ionians, Dorians, were not (the last in particular) sufficiently powerful or numerous to effect a complete change in the customs of a barbarous population; that many districts, Arcadia and Perrhaebia for instance, remained entirely Pelasgic, without being inhabited by any nation not of Grecian origin; that the most ancient names, either of Grecian places or mentioned in their traditions, belonged indeed to a differ­ent era of the dialect, but not to another language; that finally, the great similarity between the Latin and Greek can only be explained by supposing the Pelasgic language to have formed the connecting link. Now the nations of Epirus were almost reduced to a complete state of barbarism by the operation of causes, which could only have had their origin in Illyria; and in the historic age, the Ambraoian Bay was the boundary of Greece. In later times more than half of Aetolia ceased to be Grecian, and without doubt adopted the manners and language of the Illyrians, from which point the Athamanes, an Epirote and Illyrian nation, pressed into the south of Thessaly. Migrations and predatory expeditions, such as the Encheleans had undertaken in the fabulous times, continued without intermission to repress and keep down the genuine population of Greece.

The Illyrians were in these ancient times also bounded on the east by the Phrygians and Thracians, as well as by the Pelasgi. The Phrygians were at this time the immediate neighbours of the Macedonians in Lebaea, by whom they were called Brygians; they dwelt at the foot of the snowy Bermius, where the fabulous rose-gardens of King Midas were situated, while walking in which the wise Silenus was fabled to have been taken prisoner. They also fought from this place (as the Tele- gonia of Eugamon related) with the Thesprotians of Epirus. At no great distance from hence were the Mygdonians, the people nearest related to the Phrygians. According to Xanthus, this nation did not migrate to Asia until after the Trojan War. But, in the first place, the Cretan traditions begin with religious ceremonies and fables, which appear from the most ancient testimonies to have been derived from Phrygians of Asia; and secondly the Armenians, who were beyond a doubt of a kindred race to the Phrygians, were considered as an aboriginal nation in their own territory. It will therefore be sufficient to recognise the same race of men in Armenia, Asia Minor, and at the foot of Mount Bermius, without supposing that all the Armenians and Phrygians emigrated from the latter settlement on the Macedonian coast. The intermediate space between Illyria and Asia, a district across which numerous nations migrated in ancient times, was peopled irregularly from so many sides, that the national uniformity which seems to have once existed in those parts was speedily deranged. The most important documents respecting the connection between the Phrygian and other nations are the traces that remain of its dialect. It was well known in Plato’s time that many primitive words of the Grecian language were to be recognised with a slight alteration in the Phrygian; and the great similarity of grammatical structure which the Armenian now displays with the Greek, must be referred to this original connection. The Phrygians in Asia have, however, been without doubt intermixed with Syrians, who not only established themselves on the right bank of the Ilalys, but on the left also in Lycaonia, and as far as Lycia, and accordingly adopted much of the Syrian language and religion. Their enthusiastic and frantic ceremonies, however, had doubtless always formed part of their religion; these they had in common with their immediate neighbours, the Thracians: but the ancient Greeks appear to have been almost entirely unacquainted with such rites.

The Thracians, who settled in Pieria at the foot of Mount Olympus, and from thence came down to Mount Helicon, as being the originators of the worship of Bacchus and the Muses, and the fathers of Grecian poetry, are a nation of the highest importance in the history of civilisation. We cannot but suppose that they spoke a dialect very similar to the Greek, since otherwise they could not have had any considerable influence upon the latter people. They were in all probability derived originally from the country called Thrace in later times, where the Bessi, a tribe of the nation of the Satrie, at the foot of Mount Pangaeum, presided over the oracle of Bacchus. Whether the whole of the populous races of Edones, Odomantes, Odrysi, Treres, etc., are to be considered as identical with the Thracians in Pieria, or whether it is not more probable that these barbarous nations received from the Greeks their general name of Thracians, with which they had been familiar from early times, are questions which we shall not attempt to determine. Into these nations, however, a large number of Paeonians subsequently penetrated, who had passed over at the time of a very ancient migration of the Teucrians together with the Mysians. To this Paeonian race the Pelagonians, on the banks of the Axius, belonged; who also advanced into Thessaly, as will be shown hereafter. Of the Teucrians, however, we know nothing excepting that, in concert with (Pelasgic) Dar- danians, they founded the city of Troy—where the language in use was probably allied to the Grecian, and distinct from the Phrygian.

Now it is within the mountainous barriers above described that we must look for the origin of the nations which in the heroic mythology are always represented as possessing dominion and power, and are always contrasted with an aboriginal population. These, in our opinion, were northern branches of the Grecian nation, which had overrun and subdued the Greeks who dwelt farther south. The most ancient abode of the Hellenes proper (who in mythology are merely a small nation in Phthia) was situated, according to Aristotle, in Epirus, near Dodona, to whose god Achilles prays, as being the ancient protector of his family. In all probability the Achaeans, the ruling nation both of Thessaly and of the Peloponnesus in fabulous times, were of the same race and origin as the Hellenes. The Minyans, Phlegyans, Lapithae, and Jfolians of Corinth and Salmone, came originally from the districts above Pieria, on the frontiers of Macedonia, where the very ancient Orchomenus, Minya,and Salmonia or Halmopia were situated. Nor is there less obscurity with regard to the northern settlements of the Ionians; they appear, as it were, to have fallen from heaven into Attica and Aegialea; they were not, however, by any means identical with the aboriginal inhabitants of these districts, and had perhaps detached themselves from some northern, probably Achasan, race. Lastly, the Dorians are mentioned in ancient legends and poems as established in one extremity of the great mountain chain of Upper Greece, viz. at the foot of Mount Olympus: there are, how­ever, reasons for supposing that at an earlier period they had dwelt at its other northern extremity, at the farthest limit of the Grecian nation.

We now turn our attention to the singular nation of the Hylleans, which is supposed to have dwelt in Illyria, but is in many respects connected in a remarkable manner with the Dorians. The real place of its abode can hardly be laid down ; as the Hylleans are never men­tioned in any historical narrative, but always in mythological legends; and they appear to have been known to the geographers only from mythological writers. Yet they are generally placed in the islands of Melita and Black- Corcyra, to the south of Liburnia. Now the name of the Hylleans agrees strikingly with that of the first and most noble tribe of the Dorians. Besides which, it is stated, that though dwelling among Illyrian races, these Hylleans were nevertheless genuine Greeks. Moreover they, as well as the Doric Hylleans, were supposed to have sprung from IIvllus, a son of Hercules, whom that hero begot upon Melite, the daughter of Aegaeus : here the name Aegaeus refers to a river in Corcyra, Melite to the island just mentioned. Apollo was the chief god of the Dorians; and so likewise these Hylleans were said to have concealed under the earth, as the sign of inviolable sanctity, that instrument of such importance in the religion of Apollo, a tripod. The country of the Hylleans is described as a large peninsula, and compared to the Peloponnesus: it is said to have contained fifteen cities; which how­ever had not a more real existence, than the peninsula as large as the Peloponnesus on the Illyrian coast. How all these statements are to be understood is hard to say. It appears however that they can only be reconciled as follows : the Doric Hylleans had a tradition, that they came originally from these northern districts, which then bordered on the Illyrians, and were afterwards occupied by that people; and there still remained in those parts some members of their tribe, some other Hylleans. This notion of Greek Hylleans in the very north of Greece, who also were descended from Hercules, and also worshipped Apollo, was taken up and embellished by the poets : although it is not likely that any one had really ever seen these Hylleans and visited their country. Like the Hyperboreans, they existed merely in tradition and imagination. It is possible also that the Corcyraeans, in whose island there was an “Syllceanharbour, may have contributed to the formation of these legends, as is shown by some circumstances pointed out above ; but it cannot be supposed that the whole tradition arose from Corcyraean colonies.

Here we might conclude our remarks on this subject, did not the following question (one indeed of great importance) deserve some consideration. What relation can we suppose to have existed between the races which migrated into those northern districts, and the native tribes, and what between the different races of Greece itself ? All inquiries on this subject lead us back to the Pelasgi, who although not found in every part of ancient Greece (for tradition makes so wide a distinction between them and many other nations, that no confusion ever takes place), yet occur almost universally wherever early civilisation, ancient settlements, and worships of peculiar sanctity and importance existed. And in fact there is no doubt that most of the ancient religions of Greece owed their origin to this race. The Jupiter and Dione of Dodona; Jupiter and Juno of Argos; Vulcan and Minerva of Athens; Ceres and Proserpine of Eleusis; Mercury and Diana of Arcadia, together with Cadmus and the Cabiri of Thebes, cannot, if properly examined, he referred to any other origin. We must therefore attribute to that nation an excessive readiness in creating and metamorphosing objects of religious worship, so that the same fundamental conceptions were variously developed in different places, a variety which was chiefly caused by the arbitrary neglect of, or adherence to, particular parts of the same legend. In many places also we may recognise the sameness of character which per­vaded the different worships of the above gods; everywhere we see manifested in symbols, names, rites, and legends, an uniform character of ideas and feelings. The religions introduced from Phrygia and Thrace, such as that of the Cretan Jupiter and Dionysus or Bacchus, may be easily distinguished by their more enthusiastic character from the native Pelasgic worship. The Phoenician and Egyptian religions lay at a great distance from the early Greeks, were almost unknown even where they existed in the immediate neighbourhood, were almost unintelligible when the Greeks attempted to learn them, and repugnant to their nature when understood. On the whole, the Pelasgic worship appears to form part of a simple elementary religion, which easily represented the various forms produced by the changes of nature in different climates and seasons, and which abounded in expressive signs for all the shades of feeling which these phenomena awakened.

On the other hand, the religion of the northern races (who as being of Hellenic descent are put in contrast with the Pelasgi) had in early times taken a more moral turn, to which their political relations had doubtless contributed. The heroic life (which is no fable of the poets), the fondness for vigorous and active exertion, the disinclination to the harmless occupations of husbandry, which is so remarkably seen in the conquering race of the Hellenes, necessarily awakened and cherished an entirely different train of religious feeling. Hence the Jupiter Hellanius of Aeacus, the Jupiter Laphystius of Athamas, and, finally, the Doric Jupiter, whose son is Apollo, the prophet and warrior, are rather representations of the moral order and harmony of the universe, after the ancient method, than of the creative powers of nature. We do not however deny, that there was a time when these different views had not as yet taken a separate direction. Thus it may be shown, that the Apollo Lyceus of the Dorians conveyed nearly the same notions as the Jupiter Lycaeus of the Arcadians, although the worship of either deity was developed independently of that of the other. Thus also certain ancient Arcadian and Doric usages had, in their main features, a considerable affinity. The points of resemblance in these different worships can be only perceived by comparison: tradition presents, at the very first outset, an innumerable collection of discordant forms of worship belonging to the several races, but without explaining to us how they came to be thus separated. For these different rites were not united into a whole until they had been first divided; and both by the connection of worships and by the influence of poetry new combinations were introduced, which differed essentially from those of an earlier date.

The language of the ancient Grecian race (which, together with its religion, forms the most ancient record of its history) must, if we may judge from the varieties of dialect and from a comparison with the Latin language, have been very perfect in its structure, and rich and expressive in its flexions and formations; though much of this was polished off by the Greeks of later ages : in early times, distinctness and precision in marking the primi­tive words and the inflections being more attended to than facility of utterance. Wherever the ancient forms had been preserved, they sounded foreign and uncouth to more modern ears; and the language of later times was greatly softened, in comparison with the Latin. But the peculiarities of the pure Doric dialect are (wherever they were not owing to a faithful preservation of archaic forms) actual deviations from the original dialect, and consequently they do not occur in Latin ; they bear a northern character. The use of the article, which did not exist in the Latin language or in that of epic poetry, can be ascribed to no other cause than to immigrations of new tribes, and especially to that of the Dorians. Its introduction must, nearly as in the Roman languages, be considered as the sign of a great revo­lution. The peculiarities of the Doric dialect must have existed before the period of the migration ; since thus only can it be explained how peculiar forms of the Doric dialect were common to Crete, Argos, and Sparta: the same is also true of the dialects which are generally considered as subdivisions of the Aeolic; the only reason for the resemblance of the language of Lesbos to that of Boeotia being, that Boeotians migrated at that period to Lesbos. The peculiarities of the Ionic dialect may, on the other hand, be viewed in great part as deviations caused by the genial climate of Asia ; for the language of the Attic race, to which the latter were most nearly related, could hardly have differed so widely from that of the colonies of Athens, if the latter had not been greatly changed.


It is with the advance of the Dorians that the power of the mountain peoples makes its appearance from the north to take its share in the history of nations. For centuries they had lagged behind the coast and maritime races, but now they stepped in with all the greater impress of sheer natural force, and all that was transformed and reformed as a consequence of their conquering march, had a durability which lasted throughout the whole period of Greek history. This is the reason that in contradistinction to the Heroic Age ancient historians begin the historical period with the first deeds of the Dorians.

But, for all that, the information concerning these deeds is none the less scanty. On the contrary : as this epoch approaches, the old sources dry up, and new ones are not opened. Homer knows nothing of the march ot the Heraclidae [i.e., descendants of Heracles or Hercules]. The Achaean emigrants lived entirely in the memory of past days, and cherished it beyond the sea in the faithful memorials of song. For those who remained behind, who had to submit themselves to a strange and powerful rule, it was no time for poetry. The Dorians themselves have always been sparing in the matter of tradition; it was not their way to use many words about what they had done; they had not the soaring enthusiasm of the Achaean race, and still less were they capable of spinning out their experiences at a pleasing length, in tlie fashion of the Ionians. Their inclination and ability were directed to prac­tical existence, to the fulfilment of definite tasks, to earnest occupations.

Thus, then, the great incidents of the Dorian emigration were left to chance tradition, of which all but a few faint traces have been lost, and this is why our whole information on the conquest of the peninsula is as poor in names as in facts. For it was only at a later date, when the national epos itself had long died out, that an attempt was made to recover the beginnings of Peloponnesian history.

But these later poets could no longer find any fresh and living fountain of tradition; nor is theirs that pure and unrestrained delight in the images of the olden time, which constitutes the very breath of life in the Homeric poem; but there is a conscious effort to fill out the gaps in tradition, and to join the torn threads connecting the Achaean and the Dorian period. They sought to unify the legends of various places, to restore the missing links, to reconcile contradictions; and thus arose a history of the march of the Heraclidie, in which things that had come about gradually and in the course of centuries, were related together with dogmatic brevity.

The Dorians crossed over from the mainland in successive troops, accompanied by their wives and children; they spread slowly over the country; but wherever they gained a footing the result was a complete transformation of the conditions of life by their agency. They brought with them their household and tribal institutions; they clung with tenacious obstinacy to their peculiarities of speech and custom; proud and shy, they held aloof from the other Greeks, and instead of becoming absorbed, as the Ionians did, into the older population, they impressed on the new home the character of their own race. The peninsula became Dorian.

But this transmutation came about in a very varied fashion; it did not start from one point, but had three chief centres. The legend of the Peloponnesus has expressed it in this wise: three brothers, Temenus, Aristodemus, and Cresphontes, who were of the race of Heracles [Hercules], the old rightful heir to the dominion of Argos, asserted the claims of their ancestor. They offered common sacrifices on the three altars of Zeus Patrous and cast lots among themselves for the various lordships in the country. Argos was the principal lot, and it fell to Temenus; Lacedaemon, the second, came to the children of Aristodemus, who were minors, whilst the beautiful Messenia passed, by craft, into the third brother’s possession.

This tale of the drawing of lots by the Heraclidae, arose in the Peloponnesus after the states had assumed their peculiar constitution. It contains the reasons, derived from the old heroic past, for the erection of the three metropolitan towns; the mythical authority for the Peloponnesian claims of the Heraclidte, and for the new state organisation. The historical kernel of the legend is that, from the very beginning, the Dorians represented, not the interests of their own race, but the interests of their leaders, who were not Dorians, but Achaeans; this is why the god, under whose authority the division of the land was made, was none other than the ancient god of the race of Aeacidse. Further, the foundation of the legend lies in the fact that the Dorians, in order to gain possession of the three chief plains of the peninsula, divided, soon after their arrival into three hosts.

Each had its Heraclid as leader of the people. Each was composed of three races, the Hylleans, Dymanes, and Pamphylians. Each host was an image of the entire race. Thus the whole subsequent development of Peloponnesian history depended on the manner in which the different hosts now established themselves in the new regions; on the extent to which, in the midst of the ancient people of the country and in spite of the subservience of their forces to foreign leadership, they remained faithful to themselves and their native customs; and on the method by which mutual relations were established.


The new states were in part, also new territories, as was, for instance, Messenia. For in the Homeric Peloponnesus there is no country of this name: its eastern portion where the waters of the Pamisus connect a higher and lower plain with one another, belongs to the lordship of Menelaus, and the western half to the kingdom of the Neleides which has its centre on the coast. The Dorians came from the north into the upper plain, and there obtained a footing in Stenyclarus. Thence they spread farther and drove the Thessalian Neleides towards the sea. The high, island-like ocean citadel of old Navarino, seems to have been the last spot on the coast where the latter maintained themselves, till finally, being more and more closely pressed, they forsook the land for the sea. The island-plain of Stenyclarus now became the kernel of the newly-formed district, and could thence be called Messene—that is, the middle or inner country.

With the exception of this great supplanting of one nation by another the change was effected more peacefully than in most other quarters. At least the native legend knows nothing of forcible conquest. A certain portion of arable land and pasture was to be given up to the Dorians; the remainder was to be left to the inhabitants in undisturbed possession. The victorious visitors laid claim to no special and favoured position; the new princes were by no means regarded as foreign conquerors, but were received with friendliness by the nation as relatives of the ancient jEolian kings, and on account of the dislike to the house of the Pelopidaj. With full confidence they and their following settled among the Messenians, and evidently with the idea that under their protection the old and new inhabitants might peace­fully amalgamate into one community.

But after this their relations did not develop in the same harmless man­ner. The Dorians believed themselves betrayed by their leaders, and in consequence of a Dorian reaction Cresphontes found himself compelled to overthrow the old order of things; to abolish equality before the law; to unite the Dorians in one close society in Stenyclarus, and to make this place the capital of the country, while the rest of Messenia was reduced to the position of a conquered district. The disturbances went on. Cresphontes himself became the victim of a bloody insurrection; his family were overthrown and no Cresphontidae followed. Aepytus succeeded. He is by name and race an Arcadian, brought up in Arcadia whence he penetrated into Messenia, then on the verge of dissolution. He gave order and direction to the development of the country, and hence its subsequent kings are called Aepytidae. But the whole direction henceforth taken by the history of the country is different, non-Dorian, unwarlike. The Aepytidae are no soldier-princes, but creators of order, and founders of forms of religious worship. And these forms are not those of the Dorians, but decidedly non-Dorian, old Peloponnesian, like those of Demeter, Aesculapius, the Aesculapidae. The high festival of the country was a mystery-service of the so-called “great deities” and unknown to the Dorian race, while at Ithome, the lofty citadel of the country, which raises its commanding height between the two plains of the district, ruled the Pelasgic Zeus, whose worship was considered the distinctive mark of the Messenian people.

Scanty as are the relics preserved of the history of the Messenian country, some very important facts undoubtedly underlie them. From the first a remarkable insecurity reigned in this Dorian foundation; a deep gulf between the commander of the army and the people, which had its origin in the king’s connection with the ancient pre-Achaean population. He did not succeed in founding a dynasty, for it is only in subsequent legend, which here, as in the case of all Greek pedigrees, seeks to disguise a violent break, that Aepytus is made to be the son of Cresphontes. But the warlike Dorian nation must have become so weakened by internal conflicts, that it was not in a position to assert itself; the transformation of Messenia into a Dorian country was not carried into effect, and thus the main lines of its history were determined. For rich though the district was in natural resources, uniting as it did two of the finest watersheds with a coast stretching be­tween two seas and well provided with harbours; yet the development of the State was from the first unfortunate. There was here no complete renewal, no powerful Hellenic revival in the district.

It was with far different success that a second host of Dorian warriors pressed down the long valley of the Eurotas, which from a narrow gorge gradually widens to the smiling plain of cornfields at the foot of Taygetus, the “Hollow Lacedaemon.” There is no Greek territory in which one plain is so decidedly the very kernel of the whole as it is here. Sunk deep be­tween rugged mountains and severed from the surrounding country by high passes, it holds in its lap all the means of comfort and well-being. Here on the hillocks on the Eurotas above Amyclae the Dorians pitched their camp, from which grew up the town of Sparta, the youngest city of the plain.

If the Dorian Sparta and the Achaean Amyclae existed for centuries side by side, it is manifest that no uninterrupted state of war continued during this period. Here, no more than in Messenia, can a thorough occupation of the whole district have taken place, but the relations between the old and new inhabitants must have been arranged by agreement. Here, too, the Dorians dispersed through different places and mingled with the foreign nation.


The third state has its kernel in the plain of the Inachus, which was regarded as the portion of the first-born of the Heraclids. For the fame of Atrides’ might, though it was chiefly fixed at Mycenae, also extended over the state which was founded on the ruins of the Mycenaean kingdom. The nucleus of the Dorian Argos was on the coast, where between the sandy estuary of the Inachus, and that of the copious stream of the Erasinus, a tract of firm land rises in the swampy soil. Here the Dorians had their camp and their sanctuaries; here their commander Temenus had died and had been buried before he had seen his people in secure possession of the upper plain; and after him this coast town preserved the name of Temenium. Its situation shows that the citadels and passes farther inland were maintained by the Achaeans with a more steadfast resistance, so that the Dorians were for a long time compelled to content themselves with a thoroughly disadvantage­ous situation. For it was only by degrees that the whole strip of shore was rendered habitable, and the swampy character of the soil was, according to Aristotle, the main reason why the sovereign town of the Pelopid was placed so far back in the upper plain. Now by the advance of the Dorian might, the high rock citadel of Larissa also became the political centre of the district, and the Pelasgian Argos at its foot, which had been the oldest place of assembly for the population, was once more the capital. It came to be the seat of the reigning family of the line of Temenus, and the starting-point for the further extension of their power.

This extension did not result from the uniform conquest of the district and the annihilation of the earlier settlements, but from the despatch of Dorian bands which established themselves at the chief points between the Ionian and Achaean populations. This was also effected in different ways, more or less violent, and radiating in two directions, on the one side towards the Corinthian, on the other towards the Saronic Sea.

Low passes lead from Argos into the Asopus Valley. Rhegnidas the Temenid led Dorian armies into the upper valley, where, under the blessing of Dionysus, flourished the old Ionian Phlius, while Phalces chose the lower vale at whose entrance, Sicyon, the ancient capital of the coast district of Aegialea, spread itself over a stately plateau. At both places a peaceful division of the soil appears to have taken place ; and the same was the case in the neighbourhood of the Phliasians, at Cleon.

It must be confessed that it is incredible that, in this narrow and thickly populated territory, lordless acres were to be found with which to satisfy the strangers’ desire for territory, and even more so that the former land­owners willingly vacated their hereditary possessions; but the sense of the tradition is that only certain wealthy families were compelled to give place in consequence of the Dorian immigration, whilst the rest of the population continued in their former situation and were exempted from political change. The passion for emigration which had taken possession of the Ionian families throughout the north of the peninsula softened the effects of the transfer. The hope of finding fairer homes and a wider future beyond the sea, drove them to a distance. Thus llippasus the ancestor of Pythagoras, left the narrow valley of Phlius to find in Samos a new home for him and his.

In this way it came about that good arable lands were left unoccupied in all the coast districts, so that the governments of the small states, which either retained their power or entered upon it in the place of the emigrants, were able to portion out fields and hand them over to the members of the warrior race of Dorians. For the latter were not anxious to overthrow the ancient order and to assert new principles of government, but only required a sufficiency of landed property for themselves and their belongings, together with the civil rights that belonged to it. Therefore the similarities be­tween their worship of gods and heroes were utilised as a means of forming peaceful bonds of union. Thus it is expressly declared of Sicyon that from ancient times the Heraclidae had ruled in this very place : therefore Phalces, when he penetrated thither with his Dorians, had allowed the ruling family to retain its offices and titles and had come to an understanding with it by peaceful agreement.

Towards the coast of the Saronic Gulf marched two hosts from Argos, under Deiphontes and Agaios, who transformed the old Ionian Epidaurus and Troezen into Dorian towns; but from Epidaurus the march was contin­ued to the isthmus, where, in the strong and important city of Corinth, whose citadel was the key of the whole peninsula, the series of Temenid settlements found its limit.

These settlements unquestionably form the most brilliant part of the war­like march of the Dorians through the Peloponnesus. By the energy of these Dorians and their leaders of the race of Hercules, who must have joined in these undertakings in specially large numbers, all parts of the many sections into which the country was split up were successfully occupied, and the new Argos, stretching from the island of Cythera as far as the Attic frontiers, far exceeded the bounds of the modest settlements on the Pamisus and Eurotas. For even if the leaders of the armies had not everywhere founded new states, still those existing had all become homogeneous by the acceptance of a Dorian element, which formed the military and preponderating section of the population.

This transformation had started from Argos, and consequently all these settlements stood in a filial relation to the mother city, so that we may regard Argos, Phlius, Sicyon, Troezen, Epidaurus, and Corinth as a Dorian hexapolis forming a confederation like that in Caria.

Moreover this organisation was not an entirely new one. In Achaaen times Mycenae had formed with Heraeum the centre of the country; in the Heraeum Agamemnon had received the oath of fealty from his vassals. This was why the goddess Hera [Juno] is said to have preceded the Temenids to Sicyon, when they sought to revive the union between the towns which had become estranged from one another. Thus here also the remodel­ling was connected with the ancient tradition.

But now a central point for the confederacy was found in the worship of Apollo, which the Dorians had found established in Argos and had merely reconstituted, in the guise of the Delphic or Pythian god, through whose influence they had become an active people and under whose auspices they had hitherto been led. The towns sent their yearly offerings to the temple of Apollo Pythaeus, which stood in Argos at the foot of the Larissa, but the mother city possessed the rights of a chief town as well as the government of the sanctuary.

In the meantime the size of Argos and the splendour of her new foundations, constituted a dangerous superiority. For the extension of power implied its division, and this was in the highest degree increased by the natural peculiarities of the Argive territory, which is more broken than any other Peloponnesian country.

In regard to the internal relations of the different states, great complica­tions prevailed from the time that the older and younger population had mutually arranged themselves. For where the victory of the Dorians had been decided by force of arms, the old occupants had been driven from rights and possessions; an Achaeo-Dorian town was formed and none were citizens save those belonging to the three tribes.

But in most cases it was otherwise. For example where, as in Phlius and Sicyon, a prosperity founded on agriculture, industrial activity, and commerce already existed; there the population did not, at least for any length of time, submit to be oppressed and thrust on one side. They remained no nameless and insignificant mass, but were recognised as forming one or several tribes, side by side with the three Dorian divisions, though not with the same rights. Where, therefore, more than three phyla or tribes are met with; where, besides the Hylleans, Dymanes and Pamphylians, there are also mentioned “Hyrnethians” as in Argos, or “Aegialaeans” (shore people) as in Sicyon, or a “Chthonophyle” (which was perhaps the tribal name of the natives in Phlius), it may be concluded that the immigrants had not left the older people entirely outside the newly-founded commonwealth, but had sooner or later given them a certain recognised standing. However insignificant the latter might be, it was still the germ of important developments, and the existence of such co-tribes suffices to indicate a peculiar history for those states in which they occur.

Originally the various tribes also occupied different localities. As the diverse sections of the army had been separated in the camp, so the Pamphylians, the Dymanes and the Hylleans had their special quarters in Argos, and these long subsisted as such; when the Hyrnethians were admitted into the municipal commonwealth, they formed a fourth quarter. How long a period generally elapsed before the various elements of the population became amalgamated, is most clearly shown by the fact that places like Mycence continued their quiet existence as Achaean communities. Here the ancient traditions of the age of the Pelopids lived on undisturbed on the very spot where they had been enacted; here the anniversary of Agamemnon’s death was celebrated year after year at the place of his burial, and even during the Persian War, we see the men of Mycenae and Tiryns, mindful of their old hero kings, as they take their part in the national quarrel against Asia.

Thus under the Dorian influence three new states were founded in the south and cast of the peninsula, namely Messenia, Laconia, and Argos, which differed greatly even at the outset, and early diverged upon separate lines.


At the same time great changes were taking place on the remote west coast. The states north and south of the Alpheus with which Homer is acquainted, were overthrown and Aetolian families, who honoured Oxylus as their ancestor, founded new lordships on the territory of the Epeans and Pylaeans. These foundations had no apparent connection with the marches of the Dorian armies, and it is only a legendary poem of later date which speaks of Oxylus as having stipulated for the western land as his share in reward for services rendered to the Dorians. This betrays that it was a subsequent invention, by the fact that the new settlements on the peninsula are represented in this and similar fables as a result of a great and carefully planned undertaking; a representation which stands in complete contradiction to the facts of history. And when it is further related that the Dorians were conducted by their crafty leader, not along the flat coast road but across country through Arcadia, so that they might not be roused to envy or tempted to break their compact altogether, by the sight of the tracts of land conceded to Oxylus; this is but a tale invented with the object of explaining the erection of a state in Elis independently of the Dorian immigration, and the grounds for it are to be sought in the circumstance that the whole west coast, from the straits by Rhium down to Navarino, is distinguished by easy tracts of level country, such as are scarcely found elsewhere in Greek territory.

The best cornland lies at the foot of the Erymanthus Mountains, a broad plain through which the Peneus flows and which is surrounded by vine-clad hills stretching towards the neighbouring groups of islands. At the spot where the Peneus issues from the Arcadian mountains and flows into the coast-plain there rises on the left bank a stately height which looks clear over land and island sea and on this account was called in the Middle Ages, Calascope, or Belvidere. This height was selected by the Aetolian immigrants as their chief citadel; it became the royal fortress of the Oxylidae and their following, into whose hands fell the best estates.

From here the Aetolian state, under the territorial name of Elis spread southward over the whole low country, where on the banks of the Alpheus the Epeans and Pylaeans had once fought out those petty feuds of which Nestor was so fond of telling. On the decay of that maritime kingdom of the Neleidae which was attacked on the south by the Messenian Dorians and on the north by the Epeans, Aetolian tribes pressed forward from the interior of the island; these were the Minyans who being expelled from Taygetus took possession of the mountains which run farthest in the direction of the Sicilian Sea from Arcadia. Here they settled themselves in six fortified towns, united by a common worship of Poseidon; Macistus and Lapreus, were the most distinguished. Thus between the Alpheus and the Neda, in what was afterwards the so-called Triphylia, or “country of three tribes,” a new Minyan state was formed.

Finally the nucleus of a new state was also planted in the valley of the Alpheus, where scattered families of Achteans under Agorius of Ilelice allied themselves with JEtolian houses, and founded the state of Pisa.

Thus on the western coast, partly through conquest by the northern tribes and partly by arrivals from other parts of the peninsula, three new states arose, namely Elis, Pisa, and Triphylia; and in this way the whole coast district of the Peloponnesus was gradually newly populated and parti­tioned out afresh. Only in the district in the heart of the peninsula, did the country remain undisturbed in its existing state.

Arcadia was regarded by the ancients as a pre-eminently Pelasgian country, and here it was thought the autoclithonic condition of the aboriginal inhabitants had been longest preserved and had suffered the least dis­turbance. Nevertheless the native legends themselves distinctly indicate that here also immigrations took place, interrupting the uniform condition of Pelasgian life, and occasioning a fusion of races, of different character and origin. Here too there is no mistaking the epoch at which, as in all other Greek states, the historical movement began.

After Pelasgus and his sons, Areas, as ancestor of the Arcadians, stands at the beginning of a new era in the prehistoric life of the country. But Arcadians were to be found in Phrygia and Bithynia as well as in Crete and Cyprus, and the fact that colonists from the islands and shores of the eastern sea ascended into the highlands of the Peloponnesus that they might settle there in the beautiful valleys, is manifested by many tokens. The Cretan myths about Zeus are repeated in the closest manner of the Arcadian Lycaeum; Tegea and Gortys are Cretan as well as Arcadian towns, with identical forms of worship, ancient legends connect Tegea and Paphos and the Cyprian dialect, which has only very recently been learnt from the native monuments, shows a great likeness to the Arcadian. Arcadians were known as navigators both in the western and in the eastern sea, and Nauplius, the hero of the oldest Peloponnesian seaport town appears as the servant of the Tegeatic kings, to whose house Argonauts like Ancaeus also belong.

There are remains of old traditions, which show that even the interior of the Peloponnesus was not so remote or isolated as is commonly supposed; that here too there were immigrations and that in consequence in the rural districts, and particularly in the fruitful ravines of the eastern side, a series of towns grew up, which, on account of the natural barriers of their frontiers, early formed isolated city domains; such as those of Pheneus, Stynphalus, Orchomenus, Cleitor and afterwards the towns of Mantinea, Aiea, Caphyas, and Gortys. In the southwest portion of Arcadia, in the forest range of Lyceum, and in the valley of the Alpheus were also to be found ancient fortress towns, such as Lycosura; but these fortresses never became political centres of the districts. The mass of the people remained scattered and were only connected with the community by very slight bonds.

Thus the whole of Arcadia consisted of a numerous group of municipal and rural cantons. It was only the former which could attain historical importance, and among them especially Tegea, which lying as it did in the most fertile part of the great Arcadian plateau, must from the earliest times have assumed something of the position of a capital city. Thus it was a Tegeatic king, Echemus, the steadfast, who is said to have prevented the Dorians from entering the peninsula. Yet the Tegeatae never succeeded in giving a unity to the whole island. Its natural conformation was too multiform, too diversified, and too much cut up by high mountain ridges into numerous and sharply defined portions for it to be able to attain to a common territorial history. It was only certain forms of worship, with which customs and institutions were bound up, that were universal among the whole Arca­dian people. These were, in the north country the worship of Artemis Hymnia and in the south that of Zeus Lycaeus, on the Lycaeum, whose summit had been honoured as the holy mountain of Arcadia from primeval Pelasgian times.

The country was in this condition when the Pelopids founded their states; and so it still remained when the Dorians invaded the peninsula. A wild, impracticable mountain country, thickly populated by a sturdy people, Arcadia offered little prospect of easy success to races in search of territory, and could not detain them from their attempts on the river plains of the southern and western districts. According to the legend they were granted a free passage through the Arcadian fields. Nothing was changed except that the Arcadians were pushed farther and farther back from the sea, and therefore driven farther and farther from the advance Hellenic civilisation.

If we take a glance at the peninsula as a whole, and the political govern­ment which, in consequence of the immigration, it acquired for all time, we shall find, first, the interior persisting in its former condition unshaken, secondly, three districts, Lacedaemon, Messenia, and Argos, which had undergone a thorough metamorphosis directly due to the immigrating races; and finally the two strips of land along the north and west coasts, which had been left untouched by the Dorians, but in part were resettled by the ancient tribes whom the Dorians displaced, as was the case with Triphylia and Achaoa, and in part transformed by arrivals of another kind, as happened at Elis.

Thus complicated were the results which followed the Dorian migration. They show sufficiently how little we have here to do with a transformation effected at one blow, like the result of a fortunate campaign. After the races had long wandered up and down in a varying series of territorial disputes and mutual agreements, the fate of the peninsula was gradually decided. Only when men had forgotten the tedious period of unrest and ferment, which memory can adorn with no incidents, could the reconstitu­tion of the peninsula be regarded as a sudden turn of events by which the Peloponnesus had become Dorian.

Even in those districts which the invaders especially contended for and occupied, the transformation of the people into a Dorian population was only effected very gradually and in a very imperfect fashion. How could it have been otherwise? Even the conquering hosts themselves were not of purely Dorian blood, but intermixed with people of all sorts of races. Nor was it as Dorians but as relatives of the Achaean princes that the leaders of their armies laid claim to power and rule. Thus Plato saw in the march of the Heraclids a union between Dorians and Achaeans, dating from the times of the movement of the Greek peoples, and how little unity originally existed between the commander and his men is shown by a series of undoubted facts. For no sooner had the force of the warriors won a firm footing in the dis­tricts, than the interests of Heraclids and Dorians diverged and such dissen­sions broke out as either endangered or nullified the whole success of the colony.

The leaders sought to effect amalgamation of the old and new populations, that they might thus attain a broader foundation for tlieir power and place themselves in a position independent of the influence of the Dorian warriors. Everywhere do we find the same phenomena, and most distinctly in Messcnia. But in Laconia also, the Heraclids made themselves detested by their warriors, by trying to assimilate the non-Dorian to the Dorian people, and in Argolis we see the Heraclid Deiphontes, whose name is thoroughly Ionic, allied with Hyrnetho, who is the representative of the original population of the coast district. It is this same Deiphontes who helps to establish the throne of the Teinenids in Argos, to the indignation of the other Heraclids and of the Dorians: here, therefore, their new kingdom undoubtedly rests on the support of the pre-Dorian population.

Thus the bonds between the Heraclids and the Dorians were loosened in all three countries, soon after their occupation. The political institutions were established in spite of the Dorians, and if the newly imported popular force was to have a fruitful and beneficial effect on the soil of the country, it required the art of a wise legislation to conciliate opposition and regulate the forces which threatened to destroy it. The first example of such legislation was given, as far as we know, on the island of Crete.


Dorians in considerable numbers had passed over into Crete from Argos and Laconia, and if in other cases islands and seacoast were not a soil on which the Dorian races felt at home, here it was otherwise.

Crete is rather a continent than an island. With the wealth of resources of every kind which distinguishes the country, the Cretan towns were able to preserve themselves from the restlessness belonging to the life of a sea­port, and quietly to unfold the new germs of life which the Dorians brought to the island. Here, too, they came as invaders : massed in great hosts they overpowered the island people, whom no bonds of union held together. We find Dorian tribes in Cydonia, the first place in which the new arrivals from Cy thera established themselves. Then Knossos, and especially Lyctus, whose Dorian people hailed from Laconia, became the chief towns of the new settlement.

The Dorians had here reached the land of an ancient civilisation, whose fertility was not yet exhausted. They found towns with definite constitutions and families well versed in the art of rule. State government and religious worship had here, under quieter conditions, retained their original connection and in especial the religion of Apollo, administered by the old priestly families, displayed its organising, civilising, and intellectual influence in entirety. The Dorians brought nothing but their tempestuous courage and the strength of their spears; compared with the Cretan nobility they were the merest children in all that concerns the art of government and legislation. They demanded land and left it to others to find out the ways and means of satisfying their requirements, for the overthrow of the ancient government signified nothing to them. But that the Dorians nevertheless did not behave as reckless conquerors; that they did not overturn the ancient state and found new ones, is manifest from the mere fact that the organisation of Dorian Crete is nowhere referred to a Dorian originator.

On the contrary, Aristotle testifies that the inhabitants of the Cretan town of Lyctus, where the Dorian institutions were most completely devel­oped, preserved the existing institutions of the country; according to unanimous tradition, there was no break, no gap between the Dorian and the pre-Dorian period; so that the name of Minos, the representative of Cretan civilisation, could be associated both with the old and the new.

Patrician houses whose rights had come down to them from the royal period, remained in possession of the government. Now as formerly it was from them that the ten chief rulers of the state, “the Kosmoi,” were taken in the different towns; from them that the senate was chosen, whose members retained their dignity for life and were answerable to none. These families held rule in the towns when the Dorians invaded them. They concluded treaties with them, which took account of the interests of both sides, they made themselves subservient to the foreign power, by assigning the immigrants a sufficient share of the land which the state had to dispose of, not without the accompanying obligation of military service and the right, as the fighting portion of the community, to a voice in all important deci­sions but especially when it was a question of war and peace.

The Dorians took their place as the fighting element in the state. For this reason, the boys as they grew up, were placed under state discipline ; united in troops; trained according to regulation, in the public gymnasia, and schooled in the use of weapons; they were inured to hard living and prepared by warlike games for real combats. Thus, remote from all effeminate influences, the military qualities peculiar to the Dorian race were to be imparted; there was also, however, some intermixture of Cretan customs, as for instance, the use of the bow, which was previously unknown to the Dorian. The grown youths and men, even if they possessed households of their own, were expected to be sensible first of all of the fact that they were comrades in arms, and prepared to march at any moment as though in a camp. Accordingly at the men’s daily meal they sat together by troops, as they served in the army, and in the same way they slept in common dormitories. The costs were met through the state from a common chest, but this chest was supplied by each delivering the tenth part of the fruit of his possession to the fraternity to which he belonged, and this tithe was then handed over to the state chest. In return, the state undertook to support the war­riors, as well as the women who had charge of the house with the children and servants, in times both of peace and war. I believe it is plain that we have here an arrangement agreed on by treaty between the older and newer members of the state.

In order, however, that the Dorian fighting element might be able to devote itself wholly to its calling, its members had to be entirely exempt from the necessity of personally cultivating their share of the soil; otherwise they would not only have been impoverished by its neglect in war-time, but in peace they would have been detained from military exercises, and the equally valuable hunting excursions after the plentiful game of the Ida Mountains. Consequently the work of agriculture was imposed on a special class of men, who, by the chance .of war, had fallen into the condition of servitude and were deprived of civil rights. When and how this element of serfdom was formed, is not indicated; but there were two classes of them. The one tilled those fields which had been preserved by the state as public property; these were the so-called Mnoetae; the others, the Clarotss dwelt on the lands which had passed by donation into the hereditary possession of the immigrants. The Dorian landowners were their masters and had the right to demand of them the fruit of the field at a fixed date, while it was their duty to see that the soil was properly improved, so that nothing might be lost to the state. Otherwise the military class lived without care, unconcerned for the maintenance of existence, and could say, as the proverbial lines of the Cretan Hybrias have it, “Here are my sword, spear and shield; my whole treasure; herewith I plough and gather the harvest.”

What they learned was the use of weapons and self-command; their art, discipline, and obedience, obedience of the younger to the older, of the soldier to his superior, of all to the state. Higher and more liberal culture appeared unnecessary and even dangerous, and we may suppose that the ruling fam­ilies of Crete had intentionally laid down a one-sided and narrow education for the Dorian community, in order that they might not feel tempted to out­step their soldierly calling, and contest the guidance of the state with the native races.

Beside these however there remained on the peninsula a considerable part of the older population, whose position was entirely unaffected by the Dorian immigration; the people on the mountains and in the rural towns, who were dependent on the larger cities of the island and paid according to an ancient usage a yearly tax to their governments; and rural peasants and cattle­breeders, tradesmen, fishers, and sailors who had nothing to do with the State except willingly to submit to its ordinances, and to pursue their occupations in a peaceful fashion.

It is on the whole, an unmistakable fact that a Greek state organisation of a very remarkable character was here called into being, and formed a com­bination in which old and new, foreign and native, were amalgamated; an organization which Plato judged worthy to form the groundwork for the plan of his ideal state. For here we actually have the latter’s three classes: the class equipped with the wise foresight becoming the rulers of the state; the class of “guards,” in which the virtue of courage, with exclusion from a more liberal development by means of art and science, was the object to be attained; and, finally, the industrial class, the element which provided the necessaries of life, and to which a disproportionately larger amount of arbi­trary freedom was permitted; it had but to provide for the physical support of itself and the community generally. The first and third classes might have formed the state by themselves, inasmuch as they sufficiently represented the mutual relations of governing and governed. Between the two the guards, or armed element, had thrust itself in, to the increase of stability and durability. On this wise it came to pass that Crete was the first country to succeed in assigning to the Dorian race a share in the ancient community, and thus for the second time the island of Minos became a typical starting ­point for the Hellenic state organisation.

The later Crete is also better known to us by the effects which proceeded from it, than in its internal condition like a heavenly body the abundance of whose light is measured by its reflection on other objects. Crete became for the Hellenes the cradle of a complicated civilisation. Thence sprang a series of men who founded the art of sculpture in the peculiar Hellenic form, and strewed its seeds in all Greek countries— for Dipoenus and Scyllis, the earliest masters in marble sculptures, derived their origin from Crete, the home of Dtedalus. Other Cretans distinguished themselves as masters in the art of divination, and as singers and musicians who, educated in the service of Apollo, obtained such power over the human soul, that they were summoned by foreign states to interpose their aid in a disordered condition of the community and lay the foundations of a sound system of government. These Cretan masters, such as Tlialetas and Epimenides, are not, however, sprung from the Dorian race any more than are the sculptors; the new shoots had sprouted from the old root of native culture, even if the admix­ture of various Greek races had essentially contributed to the impulse of new vital activity.

In spite of the fact that the population of Crete received such a reinforce­ment and that she had so well understood how to employ it to strengthen her states, none the less, after the time of Minos, she never again attained to a political influence extending over all her shores. The chief cause lies in the condition of the island which made the formation of a great state an impossi­bility. The territories of the various towns among which the Dorians were divided, Cydonia in the west, Knossos and Lyctus in the north and Gortys in the south of the island, held suspiciously aloof from one another, or were at open feud; thus the Dorian strength was squandered in the interests of petty towns. Added to this that the Dorians, when they immigrated across the sea, of course came only in small bands, and for the most part, unaccom­panied by women, so that for this reason alone they could not retain their racial characteristics to the same extent as on the mainland. Finally, even in the seats of Dorian habitation across the sea, we sometimes find, that not all three races, but only one of them had settled in the same town; thus in Halicarnassus there were only Dymanes; in Cydonia, as it seems, only Hylleans. Thus a fresh dispersal and weakening of the Dorian strength must have supervened, and it is easy to understand why the continental settlements of the Dorians, especially those of the Peloponnesus, still remained the most important and the ones fraught with most consequence for history.

In the Peloponnesus, however, it was, once again, at a single point that a Dorian history of independent and far-reaching importance developed itself. And that point was Sparta.



The characteristic development of Sparta depends partly on the nature of the land and partly on the relations formed there by strange conquerors.

Sparta is a peninsular land, enclosed by an almost uninterrupted line of mountains, a hundred miles square in area, which opens itself out southwards towards the sea between two necks of land. On the west side are the steep walls of Taygetus, which before entering into the Tamarian promontory are penetrated by a pass which leads into Messenia; to the east on the coast is the chain of Parnon. Between these mountains, which enclose many cultivable valleys, the valley of the Elirotas runs from north to south and is narrow in its upper part to below the defile in which Sparta lies; south of this it extends itself in the shape of a trough into a fertile plain which again narrows itself towards the sea; there are no good ports. Therefore on all sides Sparta was not easily accessible to the enemy, or even to friends; and had produce enough for its inhabitants.

Sparta had three classes of inhabitants. They were:

(1)the Helots, those old inhabitants of the land who in consequence of their obstinate resistance were made slaves; and were not so much oppressed as hated and despised; they had to pay a “fixed and moderate rent” for the land on which they abound to the soil) dwelt, nevertheless they were partly public and partly private slaves and could only go about in a special slave costume; the so-called crypteia was a yearly campaign against them when they showed themselves refractory; it served as military exercise or manteuvres to the youthful conquerors.

(2) The Laconians stood under far more favourable relations; they were the populations of the hundred towns of the province; a portion of them were strangers who had joined the Dorians at the conquest, but, for the greater part, they were old inhabitants who early enough subjected themselves to the conquerors. They stood in the relation of subjects, and had no political rights, but were in no way oppressed; they had landed property for which they paid rent to the state; and they carried on trade and art.

(3) The Dorian conquerors, the real Spartans, dwelt in the capital, which remained an “open camp,” all the more so as they formed only a small part of the whole population and could keep the land in subjection only by arms. They were the ruling citizens, possessed the best lands which were in the vicinity of the capital, and had these cultivated by slaves (helots) whilst they dedicated themselves to war and the affairs of state.

These relations certainly existed in the beginnings of the Dorian conquest, but they were only brought about by circumstances, without being regulated by law. Many errors must have arisen through this, and they seem to have given rise to the “Legislation of Lycurgus.”

While modern criticism makes few inroads upon the accepted stories of the Spartan regime it assails the very existence of Lycurgus, the so-called creator of it. The earliest accounts of his legislation are three centuries later than the time of his alleged career. The old Spartan poet Tyrtaeus does not seem to have mentioned him. Pindar credits his edicts to Aegimius the mythical ancestor of the Dorians. Hellanicus and Thucydides do not credit them to Lycurgus, and the “argument from silence” is strong against him. His name means “wolf-repeller,” and it is thought that from being originally a god of protection worshipped by the predecessors of the Dorians, he came to be accepted finally as a man and a lawgiver. But historical cities have denied the existence of other heroes of tradition only to restore them later to their old glory, and it is necessary to present here the Lycurgus of venerable story, as all the traditions of early Spartan communal life centre about his name; and their alleged ancient lawgiver becomes, therefore, one of the most important personages in Grecian history. As to his personality—accepting him for the nonce as a reality—opinions differ according to the bias of the individual historian. We shall perhaps be in best position to gain a judicious idea of the subject by first following the biography of Lycurgus by Plutarch, and afterward turning to modern investigators for an estimate of the man and his laws. Whatever our individual opinion as to the personality of the hero himself, we shall at least gain an insight into the actual customs of the Spartans ; and it perhaps does not greatly matter if we are left in doubt as to the share which any single man—be his name Lycurgus or what not—had in shaping them.

Plutarch’s account of lycurgus

Of Lycurgus, the lawgiver, says Plutarch, we have nothing to relate that is certain and uncontroverted. For there are different accounts of his birth, his travels, his death, and especially of the laws and form of government which he established. But least of all are the times agreed upon in which this great man lived. For some say he flourished at the same time with Iphitus, and joined with him in settling the cessation of arms during the Olympic Games. Among these is Aristotle the philosopher, who alleges for proof an Olympic quoit, on which was preserved the inscription of Lycurgus’ name. But others who, with Eratosthenes and Apollodorus, compute the time by the succession of the Spartan kings, place him much earlier than the first Olympiad. Timaeus, however, supposes, that, as there were two Lycurguses in Sparta at different times, the actions of both are ascribed to one, on account of his particular renown; and that the more ancient of them lived not long after Homer : Nay, some say he had seen him. Xenophon, too, confirms the opinion of his antiquity, when he makes him contemporary with the Heraclids. It is true, the latest of the Lacedaemonian kings were of the lineage of the Heraclids; but Xenophon there seems to speak of the first and more immediate descendants of Hercules. As the history of those times is thus involved, in relating the circumstances of Lycurgus’ life, we shall endeavour to select such as are least controverted, and follow authors of the greatest credit.

For a long time anarchy and confusion prevailed in Sparta, by which one of its kings, the father of Lycurgus, lost his life. For while he was endeavouring to part some persons who were concerned in a fray, he received a wound by a kitchen knife, of which he died, leaving the kingdom to his eldest son Polydectes.

But he, too, dying soon after, the general voice gave it for Lycurgus to ascend the throne; and he actually did so, till it appeared that his brother’s widow was pregnant. As soon as he perceived this, he declared that the kingdom belonged to her issue, provided it were male, and he kept the administration in his hands only as his guardian. This he did with the title of Prodicos, which the Lacedaemonians give to the guardians of infant kings. Soon after, the queen made him a private overture, that she would destroy her child, upon condition that he would marry her when king of Sparta. Though he detested her wickedness, he said nothing against the proposal, but pretending to approve it, charged her not to take any drugs to procure an abortion, lest she should endanger her own health or life; for he would take care that the child, as soon as born, should be destroyed. Thus he artfully drew on the woman to her full time, and, when he heard she was in labour, he sent persons to attend and watch her delivery, with orders, if it were a girl, to give it to the women, but if a boy, to bring it to him, in whatever business he might be engaged. It happened that he was at supper with the magistrates when she was delivered of a boy, and his servants, who were present, carried the child to him. When he received it, he is reported to have said to the company, “Spartans, see here your new-born king.” He then laid him down upon the chair of state, and named him Charilaus, because of the joy and admiration of his magnanimity and justice testified by all present. Thus the reign of Lycurgus lasted only eight months. But the citizens had a great veneration for him on other accounts, and there were more that paid him their attentions, and were ready to execute his commands, out of regard to his virtues, than those that obeyed him as a guardian to the King, and director of the administration. There were not, however, wanting those that envied him, and opposed his advancement, as too high for so young a man; particularly the relations and friends of the queen­mother, who seemed to have been treated with contempt. Her brother Leonidas one day boldly attacked him with virulent language, and scrupled not to tell him, that he was well assured he would soon be king. Insinuations of the same kind were likewise spread by the queen-mother. Moved with this ill treatment, and fearing some dark design, he determined to get clear of all suspicion, by travelling into other countries, till his nephew should be grown up, and have a son to succeed him in the kingdom.

He set sail, therefore, and landed in Crete. There having observed the forms of government, and conversed with the most illustrious personages, he was struck with admiration of some of their laws, and resolved at his return to make use of them in Sparta. Some others he rejected. From Crete Lycurgus passed to Asia, desirous, as is said, to compare the Ionian expense and luxury with the Cretan frugality and hard diet, so as to judge what effect each had on their several manners and governments. The Egyptians likewise suppose that he visited them ; and as of all their institutions he was most pleased with their distinguishing the military men from the rest of the people, he took the same method at Sparta, and, by separating from these the mechanics and artificers, he rendered the constitution more noble and more of a piece.

Returning, he immediately applied himself to alter the whole frame of the constitution; sensible that a partial change, and the introducing of some new laws, would be of no sort of advantage, he applied to the nobility, and desired them to put their hands to the work; addressing himself privately at first to his friends, and afterwards, by degrees, trying the disposition of others, and preparing them to concur in the business. When matters were ripe, he ordered thirty of the principal citizens to appear armed in the market­place by break of day, to strike terror into such as might desire to oppose him. Upon the first alarm, King Charilaus, apprehending it to be a design against his person, took refuge in the Chalcioicos [brazen temple]. But he was soon satisfied, and accepted their oath, and joined in the undertaking.

The Institutions of Lycurgus

Among the many new institutions of Lycurgus, the first and most important was that of a senate; which sharing, as Plato says, in the power of the kings, too imperious and unrestrained before, and having equal authority with them, was the means of keeping them within the bounds of moderation, and highly contributed to the preservation of the state. For before, it had been veering and unsettled, sometimes inclining to arbitrary power, and sometimes towards a pure democracy; but this establishment of a senate, an intermediate body, like ballast, kept in it a just equilibrium, and put it in a safe posture: the twenty-eight senators adhering to the kings, whenever they saw the people too encroaching, and, on the other hand, supporting the people, when the kings attempted to make themselves absolute. This, according to Aristotle, was the number of senators fixed upon, because two of the thirty associates of Lycurgus deserted the business through fear.

He had this institution so much at heart, that he obtained from Delphi an oracle in its behalf called rhetra, or the decree.

Though the government was thus tempered by Lycurgus, yet soon after it degenerated into an oligarchy, whose power was exercised with such wantonness and violence, that it wanted indeed a bridle, as Plato expresses it. This curb they found in the authority of the ephori, about one hundred and thirty years after Lycurgus.

A second and bolder political enterprise of Lycurgus, was a new division of the lands. For he found a prodigious inequality, the city over-charged with many indigent persons, who had no land, and the wealth centred in the hands of a few. Determined, therefore, to root out the evils of insolence, envy, avarice, and luxury, and those distempers of a state still more inveterate and fatal, mean poverty and riches, he persuaded them to cancel all former divisions of land, and to make new ones, in such a manner that they might he perfectly equal in their possessions and way of living. Hence, if they were ambitious of distinction they might seek it in virtue, as no other difference was left between them, but that which arises from the dishonour of base actions and the praise of good ones. His proposal was put in practice.

After this, he attempted to divide also the movables, in order to take away all appearance of inequality; but he soon perceived that they could not bear to have their goods directly taken from them, and therefore took another method, counterworking their avarice by a stratagem. First he stopped the currency of the gold and silver coin, and ordered that they should make use of iron money only : then to a great quantity and weight of this he assigned but a small value; so that to lay up ten minae a whole room was required, and to remove it nothing less than a yoke of oxen. When this became current, many kinds of injustice ceased in Lacedaemon. Who would steal or take a bribe, who would defraud or rob, when he could not conceal the booty? Their iron coin would not pass in the rest of Greece, but was ridiculed and despised; so that the Spartans had no means of purchasing any foreign or curious wares; nor did any merchant­ship unlade in their harbours. There wore not even to be found in all their country either sophists, wandering fortune-tellers, keepers of infamous houses, or dealers in gold and silver trinkets, because there was no money. Thus luxury, losing by degrees the means that cherished and supported it, died away of itself: even they who had great possessions, had no advantage from them, since they could not be displayed in public, but must lie useless, in unregarded repositories.

Desirous to complete the conquest of luxury, and exterminate the love of riches, he introduced a third institution, which was wisely enough and ingeniously contrived. This was the use of public tables, where all were to eat in common of the same meat, and such kinds of it as were appointed by law. At the same time, they were forbidden to eat at home, upon expensive couches and tables, to call in the assistance of butchers and cooks, or to fatten like voracious animals in private. For so not only their manners would be corrupted, but their bodies disordered; abandoned to all manner of sensuality and dissoluteness, they would require long sleep, warm baths, and the same indulgence as in perpetual sickness. To effect this was certainly very great; but it was greater still to secure riches from rapine and from envy, as Theophrastus expresses it, or rather by their eating in common, and by the frugality of their table, to take from riches their very being. For what use or enjoyment of them, what peculiar display of magnificence could there be, where the poor man went to the same refreshment with the rich ?

The rich, therefore (we are told), were more offended with this regulation than with any other, and, rising in a body, they loudly expressed their indignation: nay, they proceeded so far as to assault Lycurgus with stones, so that he was forced to fly from the assembly and take refuge in a temple.

The public repasts were called by the Cretans andria; but the Lacedaemonians styled them phiditia, either from their tendency to friendship and mutual benevolence, phiditia being used instead of philitia; or else from their teaching frugality and parsimony, which the word pheido signifies. But it is not at all impossible, that the first letter might by some means or other be added, and so phiditia take place of editia, which barely signifies eating. There were fifteen persons to a table, or a few more or less. Each of them was obliged to bring in monthly a bushel of meal, eight gallons of wine, five pounds of cheese, two pounds and a half of figs, and a little money to buy flesh and fish. If any of them happened to offer a sacrifice of first fruits, or to kill venison, he sent a part of it to the public table: for after a sacrifice or hunting, he was at liberty to sup at home: but the rest were to appear at the usual place. For a long time this eating in common was observed with great exactness: so that when King Agis returned from a successful expedition against the Athenians, and from a desire to sup with his wife, requested to have his portion at home, the polemarchs refused to send it: nay, when, through resentment, he neglected the day following to offer the sacrifice usual on occasion of victory, they set a fine upon him. Children were also introduced at these public tables, as so many schools of sobriety. There they heard discourses concerning government, and were instructed in the most liberal breeding. There they were allowed to jest without scurrility, and were not to take it ill when the raillery was returned. For it was reckoned worthy of a Lacediem on ian to bear a jest: but if any one’s patience failed, he had only to desire them to be quiet, and they left off immediately. After they had drunk moderately, they went home without lights. Indeed, they were forbidden to walk with a light either on this or any other occasion, that they might accustom themselves to march in the darkest night boldly and resolutely. Such was the order of their public repasts.

Lycurgus left none of his laws in writing ; it was ordered in one of the rhetrae that none should be written. For what he thought most conducive to the virtue and happiness of a city, was principles interwoven with the manners and breeding of the people. As for smaller matters, it was better not to reduce these to a written form and unalterable method, but to suffer them to change with the times, and to admit of additions or retrenchments at the pleasure of persons so well educated. For he resolved the whole business of legislation into the bringing up of youth. And this, as we have observed, was the reason why one of his ordinances forbade them to have any written laws.

Another ordinance levelled against magnificence and expense, directed that the ceilings of houses should be wrought with no tool but the axe, and the doors with nothing but the saw.

Regulations Regarding Marriage and the Conduct of Women

As for the education of youth, which he looked upon as the greatest and most glorious work of a lawgiver, he began with it at the very source, taking into consideration their conception and birth, by regulating the marriages. For he did not (as Aristotle says) desist from his attempt to bring the women under sober rules. They had, indeed, assumed great liberty and power on account of the frequent expeditions of their husbands, during which they were left sole mistresses at home, and so gained an undue deference and improper titles; but notwithstanding this lie took all possible care of them. He ordered the virgins to exercise themselves in running, wrestling, and throwing quoits and darts; that their bodies being strong and vigorous, the children afterwards produced from them might be the same; and that, thus fortified by exercise, they might the better support the pangs of childbirth, and be delivered with safety. In order to take away the excessive tender­ness and delicacy of the sex, the consequence of a recluse life, he accustomed the virgins occasionally to be seen naked as well as the young men, and to dance and sing in their presence on certain festivals. There they sometimes indulged in a little raillery upon those that had misbehaved themselves, and sometimes they sung encomiums on such as deserved them, thus exciting in the young men a useful emulation and love of glory. For he who was praised for his bravery and celebrated among the virgins, went away perfectly happy: while their satirical glances thrown out in sport, were no less cutting than serious admonitions; especially as the kings and senate went with the other citizens to see all that passed. As for the virgins appearing naked, there was nothing disgraceful in it, because everything was conducted with modesty, and without one indecent word or action. Nay, it caused a simplicity of manners and an emulation for the best habit of body; their ideas, too, were naturally enlarged, while they were not excluded from their share of bravery and honour. Hence they were furnished with sentiments and language, such as Gorgo the wife of Leonidas is said to have made use of. When a woman of another country said to her, “You of Lacedaemon are the only women in the world that rule the men” : she answered, “We are the only women that bring forth men.”

Those public dances and other exercises of the young maidens naked, in sight of the young men, were, moreover, incentives to marriage; and, to use Plato’s expression, drew them almost as necessarily by the attractions of love, as a geometrical conclusion follows from the premises. To encourage it still more, some marks of infamy were set upon those that continued bachelors. For they were not permitted to see these exercises of the naked virgins; and the magistrates commanded them to march naked round the market-place in the winter, and to sing a song composed against themselves, which expressed how justly they were punished for their disobedience to the laws. They were also deprived of that honour and respect which the younger people paid to the old; so that nobody found fault with what was said to Dercyllidas, though an eminent commander. It seems, when he came one day into company, a young man, instead of rising up and giving place, told him, “You have no child to give place to me, when I am old.”

In their marriages the bridegroom carried off the bride by violence; and she was never chosen in a tender age, but when she had arrived at full maturity. Then the woman that had the direction of the wedding, cut the bride’s hair close to the skin, dressed her in man’s clothes, laid her upon a mattress, and left her in the dark. The bridegroom, neither oppressed with wine nor enervated with luxury, but perfectly sober, as having always supped at the common table, went in privately, untied her girdle, and carried her to another bed. Having stayed there a short time, he modestly retired to his usual apartment, to sleep with the other young men: and observed the same conduct afterwards, spending the day with his companions, and reposing himself with them in the night, nor even visiting his bride but with great caution and apprehensions of being discovered by the rest of the family; the bride at the same time exerted all her art to contrive convenient opportunities for their private meetings. And this they did not for a short time only, but some of them even had children before they had an interview with their wives in the day-time. This kind of commerce not only exercised their temperance and chastity, but kept their bodies fruitful, and the first ardour of their love fresh and unabated; for as they were not satiated like those that are always with their wives, there still was place for unextinguished desire.

When he had thus established a proper regard to modesty and decorum with respect to marriage, he was equally studious to drive from that state the vain and womanish passion of jealousy; by making it quite as reputable to have children in common with persons of merit, as to avoid all offensive freedom in their own behaviour to their wives. He laughed at those who revenge with wars and bloodshed the communication of a married woman’s favours; and allowed, that if a man in years should have a young wife, he might introduce to her some handsome and honest young man, whom he most approved of, and when she had a child of this generous race, bring it up as his own. On the other hand, he allowed, if a man of character should entertain a passion for a married woman on account of her modesty and the beauty of her children, he might treat with her husband for admission to her company, that so planting in a beauty-bearing soil, he might produce excellent children, the congenial offspring of excellent parents.

For in the first place, Lycurgus considered children, not so much the property of their parents, as of the state; and therefore he would not have them begot by ordinary persons, but by the best men in it. In the next place, he observed the vanity and absurdity of other nations, where people study to have their horses and dogs of the finest breed they can procure, either by interest or money ; and yet keep their wives shut up, that they may have children by none but themselves, though they may happen to be doting, decrepit, or infirm. As if children, when sprung from a bad stock, and consequently good for nothing, were no detriment to those whom they belong to, and who have the trouble of bringing them up, nor any advantage, when well descended and of a generous disposition. These regulations tending to secure a healthy offspring, and consequently beneficial to the state, were so far from encouraging that licentiousness of the women which prevailed afterwards, that adultery was not known amongst them.

The Rearing of Children

It was not left to the father to rear what children he pleased, but he was obliged to carry the child to a place called Lesche, to be examined by the most ancient men of the tribe, who were assembled there. If it was strong and well proportioned, they gave orders for its education, and assigned it one of the nine thousand shares of land; but if it was weakly and deformed, they ordered it to be thrown into the place called Apothetae, which is a deep cavern near the mountain Taygetus : concluding that its life could be no advantage either to itself or to the public, since nature had not given it at first any strength or goodness of constitution. For the same reason the women did not wash their new-born infants with water, but with wine, thus making some trial of their habit of body; imagining that sickly and epileptic children sink and die under the experiment, while healthy became more vigorous and hardy. Great care and art was also exerted by the nurses; for, as they never swathed the infants, their limbs had a freer turn, and their countenances a more liberal air ; besides, they used them to any sort of meat, to have no terrors in the dark, nor to be afraid of being alone, and to leave all ill humour and unmanly crying. Hence people of other coun­tries purchased Lacedaemonian nurses for their children.

The Spartan children were not in that manner, under tutors purchased or hired with money, nor were the parents at liberty to educate them as they pleased: but as soon as they were seven years old, Lycurgus ordered them to be enrolled in companies, where they were all kept under the same order and discipline, and had their exercises and recreations in common. He who showed the most conduct and courage amongst them, was made captain of the company. The rest kept their eyes upon him, obeyed his orders, and bore with patience the punishment he inflicted: so that their whole education was an exercise of obedience. The old men were present at their diversions, and often suggested some occasion of dispute or quarrel, that they might observe with exactness the spirit of each, and their firmness in battle.

As for learning, they had just what was absolutely necessary. All the rest of their education was calculated to make them subject to command, to endure labour, to fight and conquer. They added, therefore, to their discipline, as they advanced in age; cutting their hair very close, making them go barefoot, and play, for the most part, quite naked. At twelve years of age, their under garment was taken away, and but one upper one a year allowed them. Hence they were necessarily dirty in their persons, and not indulged the great favour of baths and oils, except on some particular days of the year. They slept in companies, on beds made of the tops of reeds, which they gathered with their own hands, without knives, and brought from the banks of the Eurotas. In winter they were permitted to add a little thistle-down, as that seemed to have some warmth in it.

They steal, too, whatever victuals they possibly can, ingeniously contriving to do it when persons are asleep, or keep but indifferent watch. If they are discovered, they are punished not only with whipping, but with hunger. Indeed, their supper is but slender at all times, that, to fence against want, they may be forced to exercise their courage and address. This is the first intention of their spare diet: a subordinate one is, to make them grow tall. For when the animal spirits are not too much oppressed by a great quantity of food, which stretches itself out in breadth and thickness, they mount up­wards by their natural lightness, and the body easily and freely shoots up in height. This also contributes to make them handsome: for thin and slender habits yield more freely to nature, which then gives a fine proportion to the limbs; whilst the heavy and gross resist her by their weight.

The boys steal with so much caution, that one of them, having conveyed a young fox under his garment, suffered the creature to tear out his bowels with his teeth and claws, choosing rather to die than to be detected. Nor does this appear incredible, if wo consider what their young men can endure to this day ; for we have seen many of them expire under the lash at the altar of Diana Orthia.

The Famed Laconic Discourse; Spartan Discipline

The boys were also taught to use sharp repartee, seasoned with humour, and whatever they said was to be concise and pithy. For Lycurgus, as we have observed, fixed but a small value on a considerable quantity of his iron money; but on the contrary, the worth of speech was to consist in its being comprised in a few plain words, pregnant with a great deal of sense : and he contrived that by long silence they might learn to be sententious and acute in their replies. As debauchery often causes weakness and sterility in the body, so the intemperance of the tongue makes conversation empty and insipid. King Agis, therefore, when a certain Athenian laughed at the Lacedaemonian short swords and said, “The jugglers would swallow them with ease upon the stage,” answered in his laconic way, “And yet we can reach our enemies’ hearts with them.” Indeed, to me there seems to be something in this concise manner of speaking which immediately reaches the object aimed at, and forcibly strikes the mind of the hearer.

Lycurgus himself was short and sententious in his discourse, if we may judge by some of his answers which are recorded: that, for instance, concerning the constitution. When one advised him to establish a popular government in Lacedaemon, “Go,” said he, “and first make a trial of it in thy own family.” That again, concerning sacrifices to the deity, when he was asked why he appointed them so trifling and of so little value, “That we may never be in want,” said he, “of something to offer him.” Once more, when they inquired of him, what sort of martial exercises he allowed of, he answered, “All, except those in which you stretch out your palms.” Several such like replies of his are said to be taken from the letters which he wrote to his countrymen : as to their question, “How shall we best guard against the invasion of an enemy?” “By continuing poor, and not desiring in your possessions to be one above another.” And to the question, whether they should enclose Sparta with walls, “That city is well fortified which has a wall of men instead of brick.” Whether these and some other letters ascribed to him arc genuine or not, is no easy matter to determine.

Even when they indulged a vein of pleasantry, one might perceive, that they would not use one unnecessary word, nor let an expression escape them that had not some sense worth attending to. For one being asked to go and hear a person who imitated the nightingale to perfection, answered, “I have heard the nightingale herself.”

Nor were poetry and music less cultivated among them, than a concise dignity of expression. Their songs had a spirit, which could rouse the soul, and impel it in an enthusiastic manner to action. The language was plain and manly, the subject serious and moral. For they consisted chiefly of the praises of heroes that had died for Sparta, or else of expressions of detestation for such wretches as had declined the glorious opportunity, and rather chose to drag on life in misery and contempt. Nor did they forget to express an ambition for glory suitable to their respective ages.

Hippias the sophist tells us, that Lycurgus himself was a man of great personal valour, and an experienced commander. Philostephanus also ascribes to him the first division of cavalry into troops of fifty, who were drawn up in a square body. But Demetrius the Phalerean says, that he never had any military employment, and that there was the profoundest peace imaginable when he established the Constitution of Sparta. His pro­viding for a cessation of arms during the Olympic Games is likewise a mark of the humane and peaceable man.

The discipline of the Lacedaemonians continued after they were arrived at years of maturity. For no man was at liberty to live as he pleased; the city being like one great camp, where all had their stated allowance, and knew their public charge, each man concluding that he was born, not for himself, but for his country. Hence, if they had no particular orders, they employed themselves in inspecting the boys, and teaching them something useful, or in learning of those that were older than themselves. One of the greatest privileges that Lycurgus procured his countrymen, was the enjoy­ment of leisure, the consequence of his forbidding them to exercise any mechanic trade. It was not worth their while to take great pains to raise a fortune, sines riches there were of no account: and the helots, who tilled the ground, were answerable for the produce above-mentioned.

Lawsuits were banished from Lacedaemon with money. The Spartans knew neither riches nor poverty, but possessed an equal competency, and had a cheap and easy way of supplying their few wants. Hence, when they were not engaged in war, their time was taken up with dancing, feasting, hunting, or meeting to exercise or converse. They went not to market under thirty years of age, all their necessary concerns being managed by their relations and adopters. Nor was it reckoned a credit to the old to be seen sauntering in the market-place; it was deemed more suitable for them to pass great part of the day in the schools of exercise, or places of conversa­tion. Their discourse seldom turned upon money, or business, or trade, but upon the praise of the excellent, or the contempt of the worthless; and the last was expressed with that pleasantry and humour, which conveyed instruction and correction without seeming to intend it. Nor was Lycurgus him­self immoderately severe in his manner; but, as Sosibius tells us, he dedicated a little statue to the god of laughter in each hall. He considered facetiousness as a seasoning of their hard exercise and diet, and therefore ordered it to take place on all proper occasions, in their common entertainments and parties of pleasures. Upon the whole, he taught his citizens to think nothing more disagreeable than to live by (or for) themselves.

The Senate; Burial Customs; Home-Staying; The Ambuscade

The Senate, as said before, consisted at first of those that were assistants to Lycurgus in his great enterprise. Afterwards, to fill up any vacancy that might happen, he ordered the most worthy men to be selected, of those that were full threescore years old. This was the most respectable dispute in the world, and the contest was truly glorious : for it was not who should be swiftest among the swift, or strongest of the strong, but who was the wisest and best among the good and wise. He who had the preference was to bear this mark of superior excellence through life, this great authority, which put into his hands the lives and honour of the citizens, and every other important affair. The manner of the election was this : When the people were assembled, some persons appointed for the purpose were shut up in a room near the place; where they could neither see nor be seen, and only hear the shouts of the constituents : for by them they decided this and most other affairs. Each candidate walked silently through the assembly, one after another according to lot. Those that were shut up had writing tables, in which they set down in different columns the number and loudness of the shouts, without knowing whom they were for; only they marked them as first, second, third, and so on, according to the number of the competitors. He that had the most and loudest acclamations, was declared duly elected. Then he was crowned with a garland, and went round to give thanks to the gods: a number of young men followed, striving which should extol him most, and the women celebrated his virtues in their songs, and blessed liis worthy life and conduct. Each of liis relations offered him a repast, and their address on the occasion was, “Sparta honours you with this collation.” When he had finished the procession, he went to the common table, and lived as before. Only two portions were set before him, one of which he carried away: and as all the women related to him attended at the gates of the public hall, he called her for whom he had the greatest esteem, and presented her with the portion, saying at the same time, “That which I received as a mark of honour, I give to you.” Then she was conducted home with great applause by the rest of the women.

Lycurgus likewise made good regulations with respect to burials. In the first place, to take away all superstition, he ordered the dead to be buried in the city, and even permitted their monuments to be erected near the temples; accustoming the youth to such sights from their infancy, that they might have no uneasiness from them nor any horror for death, as if people were polluted with the touch of a dead body, or with treading upon a grave. In the next place, he suffered nothing to be buried with the corpse, except the red cloth and the olive leaves in which it was wrapped. Nor would he suffer the relations to inscribe any names upon the tombs, except of those men that fell in battle, or those women who died in some sacred office. He fixed eleven days for the time of mourning : on the twelfth they were to put an end to it, after offering sacrifice to Ceres. No part of life was left vacant and unimproved, but even with their necessary actions he interwove the praise of virtue and the contempt of vice : and he so filled the city with living examples, that it was next to impossible for persons who had these from their infancy before their eyes, not to be drawn and formed to honour.

For the same reason he would not permit all that desired to go abroad and see other countries, lest they should contract foreign manners, gain traces of a life of little discipline, and of a different form of government. He forbade strangers, too, to resort to Sparta, who could not assign a good reason for their coming; not, as Thucydides says, out of fear they should imitate the constitution of that city, and make improvements in virtue, but lest they should teach his own people some evil. For along with foreigners come new subjects of discourse; new discourse produces new opinions; and from these there necessarily spring new passions and desires, which, like discords in music, would disturb the established government. He, therefore, thought it more expedient for the city, to keep out of it corrupt customs and manners, than even to prevent the introduction of a pestilence.

Thus far, then, we can perceive no vestiges of a disregard to right and wrong, which is the fault some people find with the laws of Lycurgus, allowing them well enough calculated to produce valour, but not to promote justice. Perhaps it was the crypteia, as they called it, or ambuscade, if that was really one of this lawgiver's institutions, as Aristotle says it was, which gave Plato so bad an impression both of Lycurgus and his laws. The governors of the youth ordered the shrewdest of them from time to time to disperse themselves in the country, provided only with daggers and some necessary provisions. In the day-time they hid themselves, and rested in the most private places they could find, but at night they sallied out into the roads, and killed all the helots they could meet with. Nay, sometimes by day, they fell upon them in the fields, and murdered the ablest and strongest of them. Thucydides relates, in his history of the Peloponnesian War, that the Spartans selected such of them as were distinguished for their courage, to the number of two thousand or more, declared them free, crowned them with garlands, and conducted them to the temples of the gods ; but soon after they all disappeared ; and no one could, either then or since, give account in what manner they were destroyed. Aristotle particularly says, that the ephori, as soon as they were invested in their office, declared war against the helots, that they might be massacred under pretence of law. In other respects they treated them with great inhumanity: sometimes they made them drink till they were intoxicated, and in that condition led them into the public halls, to show the young men what drunkenness was. They ordered them, too, to sing mean songs, and to dance ridiculous dances, but not to meddle with any that were genteel and graceful. Thus they tell us, that when the Thebans afterwards invaded Laconia, and took a great number of the helots prisoners, they ordered them to sing the odes of Terpander, Aleman, or Spendon the Lacedaemonian, but they excused themselves, alleging that it was forbidden by their masters. Those who say, that a freeman in Sparta was most a freeman, and a slave most a slave, seem well to have considered the difference of states. But in my opinion, it was in aftertimes that these cruelties took place among the Lacedaemonians; chiefly after the great earthquake, when, as history informs us, the helots, joining the Messenians, attacked them, did infinite damage to the country, and brought the city to the greatest extremity. I can never ascribe to Lycurgus so abominable an act as that of the ambuscade. I would judge in this case by the mildness and justice which appeared in the rest of his conduct.

Lycurgus' Subterfuge to Perpetuate His Laws

When his principal institutions had taken root in the manners of the people, and the government was come to such maturity as to be able to support and preserve itself, then, as Plato says of the Deity, that he rejoiced when he had created the world, and given it its first motion; so Lycurgus was charmed with the beauty and greatness of his political establishment, when he saw it exemplified in fact, and move on in due order. He was next desirous to make it immortal, so far as human wisdom could effect it, and to deliver it down unchanged to the latest times. For this purpose he assembled all the people, and told them, the provisions lie had already made for the state were indeed sufficient for virtue and happiness, but the greatest and most important matter was still behind, which he could not disclose to them till he had consulted the oracle ; that they must therefore inviolably observe his laws, without altering anything in them, till he returned from Delphi; and then he would acquaint them with the pleasure of Apollo. When they had promised to do so, he took an oath of the kings and senators, and afterwards of all the citizens, that they would abide by the present establishment till Lycurgus came back. He then took his journey to Delphi.

When he arrived there, he offered sacrifice to the gods, and consulted the oracle, whether his laws were sufficient to promote virtue, and secure the happiness of the state. Apollo answered, that the laws were excellent, and that the city which kept to the constitution he had established, would be the most glorious in the world. This oracle Lycurgus took down in writing, and sent it to Sparta. He then offered another sacrifice, and embraced his friends and his son, determined never to release his citizens from their oath, but voluntarily there to put a period to his life; while he was yet of an age when life was not a burden, when death was not desirable, and while he was not unhappy in any one circumstance. He, therefore, destroyed himself by abstaining from food, persuaded that the very death of lawgivers, should have its use, and their exit, so far from being insignificant, have its share of virtue, and be considered as a great action. To him, indeed, whose perform­ances were so illustrious, the conclusion of life was the crown of happiness, and his death was left guardian of those invaluable blessings he had procured his countrymen through life, as they had taken an oath not to depart from his establishment till his return. Nor was he deceived in his expectations. Sparta continued superior to the rest of Greece, both in its government at home and reputation abroad, so long as it retained the institution of Lycur­gus ; and this it did during the space of five hundred years, and the reign of fourteen successive kings, down to Agis the son of Archidamus. As for the appointment of the ephors, it was so far from weakening the constitution, that it gave it additional vigour, and though it seemed to be established in favour of the people, it strengthened the aristocracy.


Thus far we have followed Plutarch; now let us see what modern authority will say of the influence of Lycurgus.

The best commentary on the laws of Lycurgus is the history of Sparta; let us read it and judge the tree by its fruits.

Lycurgus, if we unite under his name all the laws mentioned, without pausing to make sure that they are rightfully attributed, had operated with rare sagacity to render Sparta immutable and its constitution immortal. But there exists an arch-enemy to the things of this world that call themselves eternal—the old man with the white beard and denuded scalp that antiquity armed with a scythe. Legislators like, no better than poets, to take him into account; they are ready enough to declare that they have erected an edifice more solid than brass. Time advances and the whole structure crumbles to the earth. Sparta braved him through several centuries, by sacrificing the liberty of her citizens whom she kept bowed under the severest discipline. She lasted long, but never truly lived. As soon as her inflexible, and in some respects immoral, constitution, established outside the usual con­ditions under which society exists, was shaken, her decadence was rapid and irrevocable.

Lycurgus had desired to make fixed, population, lands, and the number and fortune of citizens; as it turned out never was there a city where property changed hands more frequently, where the condition of citizens was more unstable, or their number subject to more steady diminution. He had singularly restricted individual property rights to strengthen the power of the state; and Aristotle says : “In Sparta the state is poor, the individual rich and avaricious.” He had failed to recognise the laws of nature in the education and destiny of women; and Aristotle, charging the Spartan women with immorality, with greed, and even calling into question their courage, sees in the license they allowed themselves one of the causes of Lacedaemon’s downfall.

He made the helots tremble under his rule, and finally sent them back to their masters. He prohibited long wars; but he had made war attractive by freeing the soldiers from the heavy rules laid upon the citizen, and it was by war and victory that his republic perished. He withdrew from his fellow-citizens all power of initiative, assigning to each moment of their lives its particular duty; in a word,to speak with Rousseau, who was also a master of political paradox, “His laws completely changed the nature of man to make of him a citizen.” Yet Sparta, become a revolutionary city, per­ished for want of men. He proscribed gold and silver that there might be no corruption, and nowhere since the Median wars, was venality so pronounced and shameless.

He banished the arts, except for the adornment of his temple of Apollo at Amyclas; and in this he succeeded. Pausanias makes note of some fifty temples in Lacedaemonia, but not a stone of them remains. Rustic piety and not art erected them. Save for a certain taste in music, the dance, and a severe style of poetry, Sparta stands alone as a barbarian city in the middle of Greece, a spot of darkness where all else is light; she did not even know thoroughly the only art she practised, that of war ; at least she always remained ignorant of certain features of it.

As Aristotle says : “Trained for war, Lacedemonia, like a sword in its scabbard, rests in peace.” All her institutions taught her to fight, not one to live the life of the spirit. Savage and egotistical, she satisfied the pride of her children, and won the praise of those who admire power and success, but what did she do for the world? A war machine perfectly fitted to destroy but incapable of production, what has she left behind her? Not an artist nor a man of genius, not even a ruin that bears her name; she is dead in every part as Thucydides predicted, while Athens, calumniated by rhetoricians of all ages, still has to show the majestic ruins of her temples, source of inspiration to modern art in two worlds, as her poets and philosophers are the source of eternal beauty.

To sum up, and this is the lesson taught by this history: rigidly as Lycurgus might decree for Sparta equality of possessions, an end contrary to natural as to social conditions, nowhere in Greece was social inequality so marked. Something of her discipline subsisted longer, and it was this strange social ordonnance that won for Lacedaemon her power and renown, striking as it did all other populations with astonishment.

The Spartans have further set a noble example of sobriety, and of contempt for passion, pain, and death. They could obey and they could die. Law was for them, according to the felicitous expression of Pindarus and of Montaigne: “Queen and Empress of the World.” Let us accord to them one more virtue which does them honour, respect for those upon whoso head Time has placed the crown of whitened locks.

The aristocratic poet of Boeotia who like another Dorian, Theognis of Megara hated the masses, admired the city where reigned under a line of hereditary kings, “The wisdom of old men, and the lances of young, the choirs of the Muse and sweet harmony.” Simonides more clearly recognises the true reason of Sparta’s greatness; he called Lacedaemon “the city which tames men.” Empire over oneself usually gives empire over others, and for a long time the Spartan possessed both.