The army began to move in November 327. The navigation lasted several months, but was accomplished without any serious opposition, except from the tribe of the Malli, who are conjectured to have occupied the site of the present MOOLTAN. At the storming of their town the life of Alexander was exposed to imminent danger. He was the first to scale the walls of the citadel, and was followed by four officers; but before a fifth man could mount, the ladder broke, and Alexander was left exposed on the wall to the missiles of the enemy. Leaping down into the citadel among the enemy, he placed his back to the wall, where he succeeded in keeping the enemy at bay, and slew two of their chiefs who had ventured within reach of his sword. But an arrow which pierced his corslet brought him to the ground, fainting with loss of blood. Two of his followers, who had jumped down after him, now stood over and defended him; till at length, more soldiers having scaled the walls and opened one of the gates, sufficient numbers poured in not only to rescue their monarch, but to capture the citadel; when every living being within the place was put to the sword. Upon arriving at the mouth of the Indus, Nearchus with the fleet was directed to explore the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates, with the view of establishing a maritime communication between India and Persia. Alexander himself proceeded with his army, in the autumn of 326, through the burning deserts of Gedrosia towards Persepolis; marching himself on foot, and sharing the privations and fatigues of the meanest soldier. In these regions the very atmosphere seems to be composed of a fine dust which, on the slightest wind, penetrates into the mouth and nose, whilst the soil affords no firm footing to the traveller. The march through this inhospitable region lasted 60 days, during which numbers of the soldiers perished from fatigue or disease. At length they emerged into the fertile province of Carmania. Whilst in this country Alexander was rejoined by Nearchus, who had arrived with his fleet at Harmozia (ORMUZ); but who subsequently prosecuted his voyage to the head of the Persian Gulf.
Upon reaching Susa (B.C. 325) Alexander allowed his soldiers to repose from their fatigues, and amused them with a series of brilliant festivities. It was here that he adopted various measures with the view of consolidating his empire. One of the most important was to form the Greeks and Persians into one people by means of intermarriages. He himself celebrated his nuptials with Statira the eldest daughter of Darius, and bestowed the hand of her sister, Drypetis, on Hephaestion. Other marriages were made between Alexander's officers and Asiatic women, to the number, it is said, of about a hundred; whilst no fewer than 10,000 of the common soldiers followed their example and took native wives. As another means of amalgamating the Europeans and Asiatics, he caused numbers of the latter to be admitted into the army, and to be armed and trained in the Macedonian fashion. But these innovations were regarded with a jealous eye by most of the Macedonian veterans; and this feeling was increased by the conduct of Alexander himself, who assumed every day more and more of the state and manners of an eastern despot. Their long-stifled dissatisfaction broke out into open mutiny and rebellion at a review which took place at Opis on the Tigris. But the mutiny was quelled by the decisive conduct of Alexander. He immediately ordered thirteen of the ringleaders to be seized and executed, and then, addressing the remainder, pointed out to them how, by his own and his father's exertions, they had been raised from the condition of scattered herdsmen to be the masters of Greece and the lords of Asia; and that, whilst he had abandoned to them the richest and most valuable fruits of his conquest, he had reserved nothing but the diadem for himself, as the mark of his superior labours and more imminent perils. He then secluded himself for two whole days, during which his Macedonian guard was exchanged for a Persian one, whilst nobles of the same nation were appointed to the most confidential posts about his person. Overcome by these marks of alienation on the part of their sovereign, the Macedonians now supplicated with tears to be restored to favour. A solemn reconciliation was effected, and 10,000 veterans were dismissed to their homes under the conduct of Craterus. That general was also appointed to the government of Macedonia in place of Antipater, who was ordered to repair to Asia with fresh reinforcements.
Soon after these occurrences Alexander proceeded to Ecbatana, where during the autumn he solemnised the festival of Dionysus with extraordinary splendour. But his enjoyment was suddenly converted into bitterness by the death of his friend Hephaestion, who was carried off by a fever. This event threw Alexander into a deep melancholy, from which he never entirely recovered. The memory of Hephaestion was honoured by extravagant marks of public mourning, and his body was conveyed to Babylon, to be there interred with the utmost magnificence.
Alexander entered Babylon in the spring of 324, notwithstanding the warnings of the priests of Belus, who predicted some serious evil to him if he entered the city at that time. Babylon was now to witness the consummation of his triumphs and of his life. Ambassadors from all parts of Greece, from Libya, Italy, and probably from still more distant regions, were waiting to salute him, and to do homage to him as the conqueror of Asia; the fleet under Nearchus had arrived after its long and enterprising voyage; whilst for the reception of this navy, which seemed to turn the inland capital of his empire into a port, a magnificent harbour was in process of construction. The mind of Alexander was still occupied with plans of conquest and ambition; his next design was the subjugation of Arabia; which, however, was to be only the stepping-stone to the conquest of the whole known world. He despatched three expeditions to survey the coast of Arabia; ordered a fleet to be built to explore the Caspian sea; and engaged himself in surveying the course of the Euphrates, and in devising improvements of its navigation. The period for commencing the Arabian campaign had already arrived; solemn sacrifices were offered up for its success, and grand banquets were given previous to departure. At these carousals Alexander drank deep; and at the termination of the one given by his favourite, Medius, he was seized with unequivocal symptoms of fever. For some days, however, he neglected the disorder, and continued to occupy himself with the necessary preparations for the march. But in eleven days the malady had gained a fatal strength, and terminated his life on the 28th of June, B.C. 323, at the early age of 32. Whilst he lay speechless on his deathbed his favourite troops were admitted to see him; but he could offer them no other token of recognition than by stretching out his hand.
Few of the great characters of history have been so differently judged as Alexander. Of the magnitude of his exploits, indeed, and of the justice with which, according to the usual sentiments of mankind, they confer upon him the title of "Great," there can be but one opinion. His military renown, however, consists more in the seemingly extravagant boldness of his enterprises than in the real power of the foes whom he overcame. The resistance he met with was not greater than that which a European army experiences in the present day from one composed of Asiatics; and the empire of the East was decided by the two battles of Issus and Arbela. His chief difficulties were the geographical difficulties of distance, climate, and the nature of the ground traversed. But this is no proof that he was incompetent to meet a foe more worthy of his military skill; and his proceedings in Greece before his departure show the reverse. His motive, it must be allowed, seem rather to have sprung from the love of personal glory and the excitement of conquest, than from any wish to benefit his subjects. Yet on the whole his achievements, though they undoubtedly occasioned great partial misery, must be regarded as beneficial to the human race. By his conquests the two continents were put into closer communication with one another; and both, but particularly Asia, were the gainers. The language, the arts, and the literature of Greece were introduced into the East; and after the death of Alexander, Greek kingdoms were formed in the western parts of Asia, which continued to exist for many generations.
FROM THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT TO THE CONQUEST OF GREECE BY THE ROMANS, B.C. 323-146.
The vast empire of Alexander the Great was divided, at his death, among his generals; but, before relating their history, it is necessary to take a brief retrospective glance at the affairs of Greece. Three years after Alexander had quitted Europe the Spartans made a vigorous effort to throw off the Macedonian yoke. They were joined by most of the Peloponnesian states; but though they met with some success at first, they were finally defeated with great slaughter by Antipater near Megalopolis. Agis fell in the battle, and the chains of Greece were riveted more firmly than ever. This victory, and the successes of Alexander in the East, encouraged the Macedonian party in Athens to take active measures against Demosthenes; and AEschines revived an old charge against him which had lain dormant for several years. Soon after the battle of Chaeronea, Ctesiphon had proposed that Demosthenes should be presented with a golden crown in the theatre during the great Dionysiac festival, on account of the services he had conferred upon his country. For proposing this decree AEschines indicted Ctesiphon; but though the latter was the nominal defendant, it was Demosthenes who was really put upon his trial. The case was decided in 330 B.C., and has been immortalised by the memorable and still extant speeches of AEschines 'Against Ctesiphon' and of Demosthenes 'On the Crown.' AEschines, who did not obtain a fifth part of the votes, and consequently became himself liable to a penalty, was so chagrined at his defeat that he retired to Rhodes.
In B.C. 325 Harpalus arrived in Athens. He had been left by Alexander at Ecbatana in charge of the royal treasures, and appears also to have held the important satrapy of Babylon. During the absence of Alexander in India he gave himself up to the most extravagant luxury and profusion, squandering the treasures intrusted to him, at the same time that he alienated the people subject to his rule by his lustful excesses and extortions. He had probably thought that Alexander would never return from the remote regions of the East into which he had penetrated; but when he at length learnt that the king was on his march back to Susa, and had visited with unsparing rigour those of his officers who had been guilty of any excesses during his absence, he at once saw that his only resource was in flight. Collecting together all the treasures which he could, and assembling a body of 6000 mercenaries, he hastened to the coast of Asia, and from thence crossed over to Attica, At first the Athenians refused to receive him; but bribes administered to some of the principal orators induced them to alter their determination. Such a step was tantamount to an act of hostility against Macedonia itself; and accordingly Antipater called upon the Athenians to deliver up Harpalus, and to bring to trial those who had accepted his bribes. The Athenians did not venture to disobey these demands. Harpalus was put into confinement, but succeeded in making his escape from prison. Demosthenes was among the orators who were brought to trial for corruption. He was declared to be guilty, and was condemned to pay a fine of 50 talents. Not being able to raise that sum, he was thrown into prison; but he contrived to make his escape, and went into exile. There are, however, good grounds for doubting his guilt; and it is more probable that he fell a victim to the implacable hatred of the Macedonian party. Upon quitting Athens Demosthenes resided chiefly at AEgina or Troezen, in sight of his native land, and whenever he looked towards her shores it was observed that he shed tears.
When the news of Alexander's death reached Athens, the anti-Macedonian party, which, since the exile of Demosthenes, was led by Hyperides, carried all before it. The people in a decree declared their determination to support the liberty of Greece. Envoys were despatched to all the Grecian states to announce the determination of Athens, and to exhort them to struggle with her for their independence. This call was responded to in the Peloponnesus only by the smaller states, whilst Sparta, Arcadia, and Achaia kept aloof. In northern Greece the confederacy was joined by most of the states except the Boaotians; and Leosthenes was appointed commander-in-chief of the allied forces.
The allied army assembled in the neighbourhood of Thermopylae. Antipater now advanced from the north, and offered battle in the vale of the Spercheus; but being deserted by his Thessalian cavalry, who went over to his opponents during the heat of the engagement, he was obliged to retreat and threw himself into Lamia, a strong fortress on the Malian gulf. Leosthenes, desirous to finish the war at a blow, pressed the siege with the utmost vigour; but his assaults were repulsed, and he was compelled to resort to the slower method of a blockade. From this town the contest between Antipater and the allied Greeks has been called the Lamian War.
The novelty of a victory over the Macedonian arms was received with boundless exultation at Athens, and this feeling was raised to a still higher pitch by the arrival of an embassy from Antipater to sue for peace. But the Athenians were so elated with their good fortune, that they would listen to no terms but the unconditional surrender of Antipater. Meantime Demosthenes, though still an exile, exerted himself in various parts of the Peloponnesus in counteracting the envoys of Antipater, and in endeavouring to gain adherents to the cause of Athens and the allies. The Athenians in return invited Demosthenes back to his native country, and a ship was sent to convey him to Piraeus, where he was received with extraordinary honours.
Meanwhile Leonnatus, governor of the Hellespontine Phrygia, had appeared on the theatre of war with an army of 20,000 foot and 2500 horse. Leosthenes had been slain at Lamia in a sally of the besieged; and Antiphilus, on whom the command of the allied army devolved, hastened to offer battle to Leonnatus before he could arrive at Lamia. The hostile armies met in one of the plains of Thessaly, where Leonnatus was killed and his troops defeated. Antipater, as soon as the blockade of Lamia was raised, had pursued Antiphilus, and on the day after the battle he effected a junction with the beaten army of Leonnatus.
Shortly afterwards Antipater was still further reinforced by the arrival of Craterus with a considerable force from Asia; and being now at the head of an army which outnumbered the forces of the allies, he marched against them and gained a decisive victory over them near Crannon in Thessaly, on the 7th of August, B.C. 322. The allies were now compelled to sue for peace; but Antipater refused to treat with them except as separate states, foreseeing that by this means many would be detached from the confederacy. The result answered his expectations. One by one the various states submitted, till at length all had laid down their arms. Athens, the original instigator of the insurrection, now lay at the mercy of the conqueror. As Antipater advanced, Phocion used all the influence which he possessed with the Macedonians in favour of his countrymen; but he could obtain no other terms than an unconditional surrender. On a second mission Phocion received the final demands of Antipater; which were, that the Athenians should deliver up a certain number of their orators, among whom were Demosthenes and Hyperides; that their political franchise should be limited by a property qualification; that they should receive a Macedonian garrison in Munychia; and that they should defray the expenses of the war. Such was the result of the Lamian war, which riveted the Macedonian fetters more firmly than ever.
After the return of the envoys bringing the ultimatum of Antipater, the sycophant Demades procured a decree for the death of the denounced orators. Demosthenes, and the other persons compromised, made their escape from Athens before the Macedonian garrison arrived. AEgina was their first place of refuge, but they soon parted in different directions. Hyperides fled to the temple of Demeter (Ceres) at Hermione in Peloponnesus, whilst Demosthenes took refuge in that of Poseidon (Neptune) in the isle of Calaurea, near Troezen. But the satellites of Antipater, under the guidance of a Thurian named Archias who had formerly been an actor, tore them from their sanctuaries. Hyperides was carried to Athens, and it is said that Antipater took the brutal and cowardly revenge of ordering his tongue to be cut out, and his remains to be thrown to the dogs. Demosthenes contrived at least to escape the insults of the tyrannical conqueror. Archias at first endeavoured to entice him from his sanctuary by the blandest promises, But Demosthenes, forewarned, it is said, by a dream, fixing his eyes intently on him, exclaimed, "Your acting, Archias, never touched me formerly, nor do your promises now." And when Archias began to employ threats, "Good," said Demosthenes; "now you speak as from the Macedonian tripod; before you were only playing a part. But wait awhile, and let me write my last directions to my family." So taking his writing materials, he put the reed into his mouth, and bit it for some time, as was his custom when composing; after which he covered his head with his garment and reclined against a pillar. The guards who accompanied Archias, imagining this to be a mere trick, laughed and called him coward, whilst Archias began to renew his false persuasions. Demosthenes, feeling the poison work—for such it was that he had concealed in the reed now bade him lead on. "You may now," said he, "enact the part of Creon, and cast me out unburied; but at least, O gracious Poseidon, I have not polluted thy temple by my death which Antipater and his Macedonians would not have scrupled at." But whilst he was endeavouring to walk out, he fell down by the altar and expired.
The history of Alexander's successors is marked from first to last by dissension, crimes, and unscrupulous ambition. It is only necessary for the purpose of the present work to mention very briefly the most important events.
Alexander on his death-bed is said to have given his signet-ring to Perdiccas, but he had left no legitimate heir to his throne, though his wife Roxana was pregnant. On the day after Alexander's death a military council was assembled, in which Perdiccas assumed a leading part; and in which, after much debate, an arrangement was at length effected on the following basis: That Philip Arrhidaeus, a young man of weak intellect, the half-brother of Alexander (being the son of Philip by a Thessalian woman named Philinna), should be declared king, reserving however to the child of Roxana if a son should be born, a share in the sovereignty: that the government of Macedonia and Greece should be divided between Antipater and Craterus: that Ptolemy should preside over Egypt and the adjacent countries: that Antigonus should have Phrygia Proper, Lycia, and Pamphylia: that the Hellespontine Phrygia should be assigned to Leonnatus: that Eumenes should have the satrapy of Paphlagonia and Cappadocia, which countries, however, still remained to be subdued: and that Thrace should be committed to Lysimachus. Perdiccas reserved for himself the command of the horse-guards, the post before held by Hephaestion, in virtue of which he became the guardian of Philip Arrhidaeus, the nominal sovereign. It was not for some time after these arrangements had been completed that the last rites were paid to Alexander's remains. They were conveyed to Alexandria, and deposited in a cemetery which afterwards became the burial-place of the Ptolemies. Nothing could exceed the magnificence of the funeral car, which was adorned with ornaments of massive gold, and was so heavy, that it was more than a year in being conveyed from Babylon to Syria, though drawn by 84 mules. In due time Roxana was delivered of a son, to whom the name of Alexander was given, and who was declared the partner of Arrhidaeus in the empire. Roxana had previously inveigled Statira and her sister Drypetis to Babylon, where she caused them to be secretly assassinated.
Perdiccas possessed more power than any of Alexander's generals, and he now aspired to the Macedonian throne. His designs, however, were not unknown to Antigonus and Ptolemy; and when he attempted to bring Antigonus to trial for some offence in the government of his satrapy, that general made his escape to Macedonia, where he revealed to Antipater the full extent of the ambitious schemes of Perdiccas, and thus at once induced Antipater and Craterus to unite in a league with him and Ptolemy, and openly declare war against the regent. Thus assailed on all sides, Perdiccas resolved to direct his arms in the first instance against Ptolemy. In the spring of B.C. 321 he accordingly set out on his march against Egypt, at the head of a formidable army, and accompanied by Philip Arrhidaeus, and Roxana and her infant son. He advanced without opposition as far as Pelusium, but he found the banks of the Nile strongly fortified and guarded by Ptolemy, and was repulsed in repeated attempts to force the passage of the river; in the last of which, near Memphis, he lost great numbers of men by the depth and rapidity of the current. Perdiccas had never been popular with the soldiery, and these disasters completely alienated their affections. A conspiracy was formed against him, and some of his chief officers murdered him in his tent.
The death of Perdiccas was followed by a fresh distribution of the provinces of the empire. At a meeting of the generals held at Triparadisus in Syria, towards the end of the year 321 B.C., Antipater was declared regent, retaining the government of Macedonia and Greece; Ptolemy was continued in the government of Egypt; Seleucus received the satrapy of Babylon; whilst Antigonus not only retained his old province, but was rewarded with that of Susiana.
Antipater did not long survive these events. He died in the year 318, at the advanced age of 80, leaving Polysperchon, one of Alexander's oldest generals, regent; much to the surprise and mortification of his son Cassander, who received only the secondary dignity of Chiliarch, or commander of the cavalry. Cassander was now bent on obtaining the regency; but seeing no hope of success in Macedonia, he went over to Asia to solicit the assistance of Antigonus.
Polysperchon, on his side, sought to conciliate the friendship of the Grecian states, by proclaiming them all free and independent, and by abolishing the oligarchies which had been set up by Antipater. In order to enforce these measures, Polysperchon prepared to march into Greece, whilst his son Alexander was despatched beforehand with an army towards Athens to compel the Macedonian garrison under the command of Nicanor to evacuate Munychia. Nicanor, however, refused to move without orders from Cassander, whose general he declared himself to be. Phocion was suspected of intriguing in favour of Nicanor, and being accused of treason, fled to Alexander, now encamped before the walls of Athens. Alexander sent Phocion to his father, who sent him back to Athens in chains, to be tried by the Athenian people. The theatre, where his trial was to take place, was soon full to overflowing. Phocion was assailed on every side by the clamours of his enemies, which prevented his defence; from being heard, and he was condemned to death by a show of hands. To the last Phocion maintained his calm and dignified, but somewhat contemptuous bearing. When some wretched man spat upon him as he passed to the prison, "Will no one," said he, "check this fellow's indecency?" To one who asked him whether he had any message to leave for his son Phocus, he answered, "Only that he bear no grudge against the Athenians." And when the hemlock which had been prepared was found insufficient for all the condemned, and the jailer would not furnish more unless he was paid for it, "Give the man his money," said Phocion to one of his friends, "since at Athens one cannot even die for nothing." He died in B.C. 317, at the age of 85. The Athenians afterwards repented of their conduct towards Phocion. His bones, which had been cast out on the frontiers of Megara, were brought back to Athens, and a bronze statue was erected to his memory.
Whilst Alexander was negotiating with Nicanor about the surrender of Munychia, Cassander arrived in the Piraeus with a considerable army, with which Antigonus had supplied him. Polysperchon was obliged to retire from Athens, and Cassander established an oligarchical government in the city under the presidency of Demetrius of Phalerus.
Although Polysperchon was supported by Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, he proved no match for Cassander, who became master of Macedonia after the fall of Pydna in B.C. 316. In this city Olympias had taken refuge together with Roxana and her son; but after a blockade of some months it was obliged to surrender. Olympias had stipulated that her life should be spared, but Cassander soon afterwards caused her to be murdered, and kept Roxana and her son in custody in the citadel of Amphipolis. Shortly afterwards Cassander began the restoration of Thebes (B.C. 315), in the twentieth year after its destruction by Alexander, a measure highly popular with the Greeks.
A new war now broke out in the East. Antigonus had become the most powerful of Alexander's successors. He had conquered Eumenes, who had long defied his arms, and he now began to dispose of the provinces as he thought fit. His increasing power and ambitious projects led to a general coalition against him, consisting of Ptolemy, Seleucus, Cassander, and Lysimachus, the governor of Thrace. The war began in the year 315, and was carried on with great vehemence and alternate success in Syria, Phoenicia, Asia Minor, and Greece. After four years all parties became exhausted with the struggle, and peace was accordingly concluded in 311, on condition that the Greek cities should be free, that Cassander should retain his authority in Europe till Alexander came of age, that Ptolemy and Lysimachus should keep possession of Egypt and Thrace respectively, and that Antigonus should have the government of all Asia. This hollow peace, which had been merely patched up for the convenience of the parties concerned, was not of long duration. It seems to have been the immediate cause of another of those crimes which disgrace the history of Alexander's successors. His son, Alexander, who had now attained the age of sixteen, was still shut up with his mother Roxana in Amphipolis; and his partisans, with injudicious zeal, loudly expressed their wish that he should be released and placed upon the throne. In order to avert this event Cassander contrived the secret murder both of the mother and the son.
This abominable act, however, does not appear to have caused a breach of the peace. Ptolemy was the first to break it (B.C. 310), under the pretext that Antigonus, by keeping his garrisons in the Greek cities of Asia and the islands, had not respected that article of the treaty which guaranteed Grecian freedom. After the war had lasted three years Antigonus resolved to make a vigorous effort to wrest Greece from the hands of Cassander and Ptolemy, who held all the principal towns in it. Accordingly, in the summer of 307 B.C. he despatched his son Demetrius from Ephesus to Athens, with a fleet of 250 sail, and 5000 talents in money. Demetrius, who afterwards obtained the surname of "Poliorcetes," or "Besieger of Cities," was a young man of ardent temperament and great abilities. Upon arriving at the Piraeus he immediately proclaimed the object of his expedition to be the liberation of Athens and the expulsion of the Macedonian garrison. Supported by the Macedonians, Demetrius the Phalerean had now ruled Athens for a period of more than ten years. Of mean birth, Demetrius the Phalerean owed his elevation entirely to his talents and perseverance. His skill as an orator raised him to distinction among his countrymen; and his politics, which led him to embrace the party of Phocion, recommended him to Cassander and the Macedonians. He cultivated many branches of literature, and was at once an historian, a philosopher, and a poet; but none of his works have come down to us. The Athenians heard with pleasure the proclamations of the son of Antigonus his namesake, the Phalerean was obliged to surrender the city to him, and to close his political career by retiring to Thebes. The Macedonian garrison in Munychia offered a slight resistance, which was soon overcome, Demetrius Poliorcetes then formally announced to the Athenian assembly the restoration of their ancient constitution, and promised them a large donative of corn and ship-timber. This munificence was repaid by the Athenians with the basest and most abject flattery. Both Demetrius and his father were deified, and two new tribes, those of Antigonias and Demetrias, were added to the existing ten which derived their names from the ancient heroes of Attica.
Demetrius Poliorcetes did not, however, remain long at Athens. Early in 306 B.C. he was recalled by his father, and, sailing to Cyprus, undertook the siege of Salamis. Ptolemy hastened to its relief with 140 vessels and 10,000 troops. The battle that ensued was one of the most memorable in the annals of ancient naval warfare, more particularly on account of the vast size of the vessels engaged. Ptolemy was completely defeated; and so important was the victory deemed by Antigonus, that on the strength of it he assumed the title of king, which he also conferred upon his son. This example was followed by Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus.
Demetrius now undertook an expedition against Rhodes, which had refused its aid in the attack upon Ptolemy. It was from the memorable siege of Rhodes that Demetrius obtained his name of "Poliorcetes." After in vain attempting to take the town from the sea-side, by means of floating batteries, from which stones of enormous weight were hurled from engines with incredible force against the walls, he determined to alter his plan and invest it on the land-side. With the assistance of Epimachus, an Athenian engineer, he constructed a machine which, in anticipation of its effect, was called Helepolis, or "the city-taker." This was a square wooden tower, 150 feet high, and divided into nine stories, filled with armed men, who discharged missiles through apertures in the sides. When armed and prepared for attack, it required the strength of 2300 men to set this enormous machine in motion. But though it was assisted by the operation of two battering-rams, each 150 feet long and propelled by the labour of 1000 men, the Rhodians were so active in repairing the breaches made in their walls, that, after a year spent in the vain attempt to take the town, Demetrius was forced to retire and grant the Rhodians peace.
In 301 B.C., the struggle between Antigonus and his rivals was brought to a close by the battle of Ipsus in Phrygia, in which Antigonus was killed, and his army completely defeated. He had attained the age of 81 at the time of his death. A third partition of the empire of Alexander was now made. Seleucus and Lysimachus shared between them the possessions of Antigonus. Lysimachus seems to have had the greater part of Asia Minor, whilst the whole country from the coast of Syria to the Euphrates, as well as a part of Phrygia and Cappadocia, fell to the share of Seleucus. The latter founded on the Orontes a new capital of his empire, which he named Antioch, after his father Antiochus, and which long continued to be one of the most important Greek cities in Asia. The fall of Antigonus secured Cassander in the possession of Greece.
Demetrius was now a fugitive, but in the following year he was agreeably surprised by receiving an embassy from Seleucus, by which that monarch solicited his daughter Stratonice in marriage. Demetrius gladly granted the request, and found himself so much strengthened by this alliance, that in the spring of the year 296 he was in a condition to attack Athens, which he captured after a long siege, and drove out the bloodthirsty tyrant Lachares, who had been established there by Cassander.
Meanwhile Cassander had died shortly before the siege of Athens, and was succeeded on the throne of Macedon by his eldest son, Philip IV. [Philip Arrhidaeus is called Philip III.] But that young prince died in 295, and the succession was disputed between his two brothers, Antipater and Alexander. Demetrius availed himself of the distracted state of Macedonia to make himself master of that country (B.C. 294). He reigned over Macedonia, and the greater part of Greece, about seven years. He aimed at recovering the whole of his father's dominions in Asia; but before he was ready to take the field, his adversaries, alarmed at his preparations, determined to forestall him. In the spring of B.C. 287 Ptolemy sent a powerful fleet against Greece, while Pyrrhus on the one side and Lysimachus on the other simultaneously invaded Macedonia. Demetrius had completely alienated his own subjects by his proud and haughty bearing, and by his lavish expenditure on his own luxuries; while Pyrrhus by his generosity, affability, and daring courage, had become the hero of the Macedonians, who looked upon him as a second Alexander. The appearance of Pyrrhus was the signal for revolt: the Macedonian troops flocked to his standard and Demetrius was compelled to fly. Pyrrhus now ascended the throne of Macedonia; but his reign was of brief duration; and at the end of seven months he was in turn driven out by Lysimachus. Demetrius made several attempts to regain his power in Greece, and then set sail for Asia, where he successively endeavoured to establish himself in the territories of Lysimachus, and of his son-in-law Seleucus. Falling at length into the hands of the latter, he was kept in a kind of magnificent captivity in a royal residence in Syria; where, in 283, at the early age of 55, his chequered career was brought to a close, partly by chagrin, and partly by the sensual indulgences with which he endeavoured to divert it.
Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy now divided the empire of Alexander between them. In Egypt the aged Ptolemy had abdicated in 285 in favour of his son by Berenice afterwards known as Ptolemy Philadelphus, and to the exclusion of his eldest son, Ptolemy Ceraunus, by his wife Eurydice. Ptolemy Ceraunus quitted Egypt in disgust, and fled to the court of Lysimachus; and Arsinoe, the wife of Lysimachus, jealous of her stepson Agathocles, the heir apparent to the throne, and desirous of securing the succession for her own children, conspired with Ptolemy Ceraunus against the life of Agathocles. She even procured the consent of Lysimachus to his murder; and after some vain attempts to make away with him by poison, he was flung into prison, where Ptolemy Ceraunus despatched him with his own hand. Lysandra, the mother of Agathocles, fled with the rest of her family to Seleucus, to demand from him protection and vengeance; and Seleucus, induced by the hopes of success, inspired by the discontent and dissensions which so foul an act had excited among the subjects of Lysimachus, espoused her cause. The hostilities which ensued between him and Lysimachus were brought to a termination by the battle of Corupedion, fought near Sardis in 281, in which Lysimachus was defeated and slain. By this victory, Macedonia, and the whole of Alexander's empire, with the exception of Egypt, southern Syria, Cyprus, and part of Phoenicia, fell under the sceptre of Seleucus.
That monarch, who had not beheld his native land since he first joined the expedition of Alexander, now crossed the Hellespont to take possession of Macedonia. Ptolemy Ceraunus, who after the battle of Corupedion had thrown himself on the mercy of Seleucus, and had been received with forgiveness and favour, accompanied him on this journey. The murder of Agathocles had not been committed by Ptolemy merely to oblige Arsinoe. He had even then designs upon the supreme power, which he now completed by another crime. As Seleucus stopped to sacrifice at a celebrated altar near Lysimachia in Thrace, Ptolemy treacherously assassinated him by stabbing him in the back (280). After this base and cowardly act, Ptolemy Ceraunus, who gave himself out as the avenger of Lysimachus, was, by one of those movements wholly inexplicable to our modern notions, saluted king by the army; but the Asiatic dominions of Seleucus fell to his son Antiochus, surnamed Soter. The crime of Ptolemy, however, was speedily overtaken by a just punishment. In the very same year his kingdom of Macedonia and Thrace was invaded by an immense host of Celts, and Ptolemy fell at the head of the forces which he led against them. A second invasion of the same barbarians compelled the Greeks to raise a force for their defence, which was intrusted to the command of the Athenian Callippus (B.C. 279). On this occasion the Celts attracted by the report of treasures which were now perhaps little more than an empty name, penetrated as far southwards as Delphi, with the view of plundering the temple. The god, it is said, vindicated his sanctuary on this occasion in the same supernatural manner as when it was attacked by the Persians: it is at all events certain that the Celts were repulsed with great loss, including that of their leader Brennus. Nevertheless some of their tribes succeeded in establishing themselves near the Danube; others settled on the sea-coast of Thrace whilst a third portion passed over into Asia, and gave their name to the country called Galatia.
After the death of Ptolemy Ceraunus, Macedonia fell for some time into a state of anarchy and confusion, and the crown was disputed by several pretenders. At length, in 278, Antigonus Gonatas, son of Demetrius Poliorcetes, succeeded in establishing himself on the throne of Macedonia; and, with the exception of two or three years (274-272) during which he was temporarily expelled by Pyrrhus, he continued to retain possession of it till his death in 239. The struggle between Antigonus and Pyrrhus was brought to a close at Argos in 272. Pyrrhus had marched into the Peloponnesus with a large force in order to make war upon Sparta, but with the collateral design of reducing the places which still held out for Antigonus. Pyrrhus having failed in an attempt to take Sparta, marched against Argos, where Antigonus also arrived with his forces. Both armies entered the city by opposite gates; and in a battle which ensued in the streets Pyrrhus was struck from his horse by a tile hurled by a woman from a house-top, and was then despatched by some soldiers of Antigonus. Such was the inglorious end of one of the bravest and most warlike monarchs of antiquity; whose character for moral virtue, though it would not stand the test of modern scrutiny, shone out conspicuously in comparison with that of contemporary sovereigns.
Antigonus Gonatas now made himself master of the greater part of Peloponnesus, which he governed by means of tyrants whom he established in various cities.
While all Greece, with the exception of Sparta, seemed hopelessly prostrate at the feet of Macedonia, a new political power, which sheds a lustre on the declining period of Grecian history, arose in a small province in Peloponnesus, of which the very name has been hitherto rarely mentioned since the heroic age. In Achaia, a narrow slip of country upon the shores of the Corinthian gulf, a league, chiefly for religious purposes, had existed from a very early period among the twelve chief cities of the province. The league, however, had never possessed much political importance, and it had been suppressed by the Macedonians. At the time of which we are speaking Antigonus Gonatas was in possession of all the cities formerly belonging to the league, either by means of his garrisons or of the tyrants who were subservient to him. It was, however, this very oppression that led to a revival of the league. The Achaean towns, now only ten in number, as two had been destroyed by earthquakes, began gradually to coalesce again; but Aratus of Sicyon, one of the most remarkable characters of this period of Grecian history, was the man who, about the year 251 B.C., first called the new league into active political existence. He had long lived in exile at Argos, whilst his native city groaned under the dominion of a succession of tyrants. Having collected a band of exiles, he surprised Sicyon in the night time, and drove out the last and most unpopular of these tyrants. Instead of seizing the tyranny for himself, as he might easily have done, Aratus consulted only the advantage of his country, and with this view united Sicyon with the Achaean league. The accession of so important a town does not appear to have altered the constitution of the confederacy. The league was governed by a STRATEGUS, or general, whose functions were both military and civil; a GRAMMATEUS, or secretary; and a council of ten DEMIURGI. The sovereignty, however, resided in the general assembly, which met twice a year in a sacred grove near AEgium. It was composed of every Achaean who had attained the age of thirty, and possessed the right of electing the officers of the league, and of deciding all questions of war, peace, foreign alliances, and the like. In the year 245 B.C. Aratus was elected STRATEGUS of the league, and again in 243. In the latter of these years he succeeded in wresting Corinth from the Macedonians by another nocturnal surprise, and uniting it to the league. The confederacy now spread with wonderful rapidity. It was soon joined by Troezen, Epidaurus, Hermione and other cities; and ultimately embraced Athens, Megara, AEgina, Salamis, and the whole Peloponnesus, with the exception of Sparta, Elis, and some of the Arcadian towns.
Sparta, it is true, still continued to retain her independence, but without a shadow of her former greatness and power. The primitive simplicity of Spartan manners had been completely destroyed by the collection of wealth into a few hands, and by the consequent progress of luxury. The number of Spartan citizens had been reduced to 700; but even of these there were not above a hundred who possessed a sufficient quantity of land to maintain themselves in independence. The young king, Agis IV., who succeeded to the crown in 244, attempted to revive the ancient Spartan virtue, by restoring the institutions of Lycurgus, by cancelling all debts, and by making a new distribution of lands; and with this view he relinquished all his own property, as well as that of his family, for the public good. But Agis perished in this attempt, and was put to death as a traitor to his order. A few years afterwards, however, Cleomenes, the son of Leonidas, succeeded in effecting the reforms which had been contemplated by Agis, as well as several others which regarded military discipline. The effect of these new measures soon became visible in the increased success of the Spartan arms. Aratus was so hard pressed that he was compelled to solicit the assistance of the Macedonians. Both Antigonus Gonatas and his son Demetrius II.—who had reigned in Macedonia from 239 to 229 B.C. were now dead, and the government was administered by Antigonus Doson, as guardian of Philip, the youthful son of Demetrius II. Antigonus Doson was the grandson of Demetrius Poliorcetes, and the nephew of Antigonus Gonatas. The Macedonians compelled him to accept the crown; but he remained faithful to his trust as guardian of Philip, whose mother he married; and though he had children of his own by her, yet Philip succeeded him on his death. It was to Antigonus Doson that Aratus applied for assistance; and though Cleomenes maintained his ground for some time, he was finally defeated by Antigonus Doson in the fatal battle of Sellasia in Laconia (B.C. 221). The army of Cleomenes was almost totally annihilated; he himself was obliged to fly to Egypt; and Sparta, which for many centuries bad remained unconquered, fell into the hands of the victor.
The succession of Macedonian kings from Alexander the Great to the extinction of the monarchy will be seen from the following table:—
B.C. Philip III. Arrhidaeus . . . . . . . . 323-316 Cassander . . . . . . . . 316-296 Philip IV. . . . . . . . . 296-295 Demetrius I. Poliorcetes . . . . . . . . 294-287 Pyrrhus . . . . . . . . 287-286 Lysimachus . . . . . . . . 286-280 Ptolemy Ceraunus and others . . . . . . . . 280-277 Antigonus Gonatas . . . . . . . . 277-239 Demetrius II . . . . . . . . 239-229 Antigonus Doson . . . . . . . . 229-220 Philip V . . . . . . . . 220-178 Perseus . . . . . . . . 178-167
In the following year Antigonus was succeeded by Philip V., the son of Demetrius II., who was then about sixteen or seventeen years of age. His youth encouraged the AEtolians to make predatory incursions into the Peloponnesus. That people were a species of freebooters, and the terror of their neighbours; yet they were united, like the Achaeans, in a confederacy or league. The Aetolian League was a confederation of tribes instead of cities, like the Achaean. The diet or council of the league, called the Panaetolicum, assembled every autumn, generally at Thermon, to elect the strategus and other officers; but the details of its affairs were conducted by a committee called APOCLETI, who seem to have formed a sort of permanent council, The AEtolians had availed themselves of the disorganised state of Greece consequent upon the death of Alexander to extend their power, and had gradually made themselves masters of Locris, Phocis, Boeotia, together with portions of Acarnania, Thessaly, and Epirus. Thus both the Amphictyonic Council and the oracle of Delphi were in their power. They had early wrested Naupactus from the Achaeans, and had subsequently acquired several Peloponnesian cities.
Such was the condition of the AEtolians at the time of Philip's accession. Soon after that event we find them, under the leadership of Dorimachus, engaged in a series of freebooting expeditions in Messenia, and other parts of Peloponnesus. Aratus marched to the assistance of the Messenians at the head of the Achaean forces, but was totally defeated in a battle near Caphyae. The Achaeans now saw no hope of safety except through the assistance of Philip. That young monarch was ambitious and enterprising possessing considerable military ability and much political sagacity. He readily listened to the application of the Achaeans, and in 220 entered into an alliance with them. The war which ensued between the AEtolians on the one side, and the Achaeans, assisted by Philip, on the other, and which lasted about three years, has been called the Social War. Philip gained several victories over the AEtolians, but he concluded a treaty of peace with them in 217, because he was anxious to turn his arms against another and more formidable power.
The great struggle now going on between Rome and Carthage attracted the attention of the whole civilized world. If was evident that Greece, distracted by intestine quarrels, must be soon swallowed up by whichever of those great states might prove successful; and of the two, the ambition of the Romans, who had already gained a footing on the eastern shores of the Adriatic was by far the more formidable to Greece. After the conclusion of the peace with the AEtolians Philip prepared a large fleet, which he employed to watch the movements of the Romans, and in the following year (216) he concluded a treaty with Hannibal, which, among other clauses, provided that the Romans should not be allowed to retain their conquests on the eastern side of the Adriatic. He even meditated an invasion of Italy, and with that view endeavoured to make himself master of Apollonia and Oricum. But though he succeeded in taking the latter city, the Romans surprised his camp whilst he was besieging Apollonia, and compelled him to burn his ships and retire. Meanwhile Philip had acted in a most arbitrary manner in the affairs of Greece; and when Aratus remonstrated with him respecting his proceedings, he got rid of his former friend and counsellor by means of a slow and secret poison (B.C. 213).
In B.C., 209 the Achaeans, being hard pressed by the AEtolians, were again induced to call in the aid of Philip. The spirit of the Achaeans was at this time revived by Philopoemen, one of the few noble characters of the period, and who has been styled by Plutarch "the last of the Greeks." He was a native of Megalopolis in Arcadia, and in 208 was elected Strategus of the league. In both these posts Philopoemen made great alterations and improvements in the arms and discipline of the Achaean forces, which he assimilated to those of the Macedonian phalanx. These reforms, as well as the public spirit with which he had inspired the Achaeans were attended with the most beneficial results. In 207 Philopoemen gained at Mantinea a signal victory over the Lacedaemonians, who had joined the Roman alliance; 4000 of them were left upon the field, and among them Machanidas who had made himself tyrant of Sparta. This decisive battle, combined with the withdrawal of the Romans, who, being desirous of turning their undivided attention towards Carthage, had made peace with Philip (205), secured for a few years the tranquillity of Greece. It also raised the fame of Philopoemen to its highest point; and in the next Nemean festival, being a second time general of the league, he was hailed by the assembled Greeks as the liberator of their country.
Upon the conclusion of the second Punic war the Romans renewed their enterprises in Greece, and declared war against Philip (B.C. 200). For some time the war lingered on without any decided success on either side; but in 198 the consul T. Quinctius Flamininus succeeded in gaining over the Achaean league to the Roman alliance; and as the AEtolians had previously deserted Philip, both those powers fought for a short time on the same side. In 197 the struggle was brought to a termination by the battle of Cynoscephalae, near Scotussa, in Thessaly, which decided the fate of the Macedonian monarchy. Philip was obliged to sue for peace, and in the following year (196) a treaty was ratified by which the Macedonians were compelled to renounce their supremacy, to withdraw their garrisons from the Grecian towns, to surrender their fleet, and to pay 1000 talents for the expenses of the war. At the ensuing Isthmian games Flamininus solemnly proclaimed the freedom of the Greeks, and was received by them with overwhelming joy and gratitude.
The AEtolians, dissatisfied with these arrangements, persuaded Antiochus III., king of Syria, to enter into a league against the Romans. He passed over into Greece with a wholly inadequate force, and was defeated by the Romans at Thermopylae (B.C. 191). The AEtolians were now compelled to make head against the Romans by themselves. After some ineffectual attempts at resistance they were reduced to sue for peace, which they at length obtained, but on the most humiliating conditions (B.C. 189). They were required to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome, to renounce all the conquests they had recently made, to pay an indemnity of 500 talents and to engage in future to aid the Romans in their wars. The power of the AEtolian league was thus for ever crushed, though it seems to have existed, in name at least, till a much later period.
The Achaean league still subsisted but was destined before long to experience the same fate as its rival. At first, indeed, it enjoyed the protection of the Romans, and even acquired an extension of members through their influence, but this protectorate involved a state of almost absolute dependence. Philopoemen also had succeeded, in the year 192, in adding Sparta to the league, which now embraced the whole of Peloponnesus. But Sparta having displayed symptoms of insubordination, Philopoemen marched against it in 188, and captured the city; when he put to death eighty of the leading men, razed the walls and fortifications, abolished the institutions of Lycurgus, and compelled the citizens to adopt the democratic constitution of the Achaeans. Meanwhile the Romans regarded with satisfaction the internal dissensions of Greece, which they foresaw would only render her an easier prey, and neglected to answer the appeals of the Spartans for protection. In 183 the Messenians, under the leadership of Dinocrates, having revolted from the league, Philopoemen, who had now attained the age of 70, led an expedition against them; but having fallen from his horse in a skirmish of cavalry, he was captured, and conveyed with many circumstances of ignominy to Messene, where, after a sort of mock trial, he was executed. His fate was avenged by Lycortas, the commander of the Achaean cavalry, the father of the historian Polybius.
In B.C. 179 Philip died, and was succeeded by his son Perseus, the last monarch of Macedonia. The latter years of the reign of Philip had been spent in preparations for a renewal of the war, which he foresaw to be inevitable; yet a period of seven years elapsed after the accession of Perseus before the mutual enmity of the two powers broke out into open hostilities. The war was protracted three years without any decisive result; but was brought to a conclusion in 168 by the consul L. AEmilius Paulus, who defeated Perseus with great loss near Pydna. Perseus was carried to Rome to adorn the triumph of Paulus (167), and was permitted to spend the remainder of his life in a sort of honourable captivity at Alba. Such was the end of the Macedonian empire, which was now divided into four districts, each under the jurisdiction of an oligarchical council.
The Roman commissioners deputed to arrange the affairs of Macedonia did not confine their attention to that province, but evinced their design of bringing all Greece under the Roman sway. In these views they were assisted by various despots and traitors in different Grecian cities, and especially by Callicrates, a man of great influence among the Achaeans, and who for many years lent himself as the base tool of the Romans to effect the enslavement of his country. After the fall of Macedonia, Callicrates denounced more than a thousand leading Achaeans who had favoured the cause of Perseus. These, among whom was Polybius the historian, were apprehended and sent to Rome for trial. A still harder fate was experienced by AEtolia, Boeotia, Acarnania, and Epirus. In the last-named country, especially, no fewer than seventy of the principal towns were abandoned by Paulus to his soldiers for pillage, and 150,000 persons are said to have been sold into slavery.
A quarrel between the Achaeans and Sparta afforded the Romans a pretence for crushing the small remains of Grecian independence by the destruction of the Achaean league.
The Spartans, feeling themselves incompetent to resist the Achaeans, appealed to the Romans for assistance; and in 147 two Roman commissioners were sent to Greece to settle the disputes between the two states. These commissioners decided that not only Sparta, but Corinth, and all the other cities, except those of Achaia, should be restored to their independence. This decision occasioned serious riots at Corinth, the most important city of the league. All the Spartans in the town were seized, and even the Roman commissioners narrowly escaped violence. On their return to Rome a fresh embassy was despatched to demand satisfaction for these outrages. But the violent and impolitic conduct of Critolaus, then Strategus of the league, rendered all attempts at accommodation fruitless, and after the return of the ambassadors the Senate declared war against the league. The cowardice and incompetence of Critolaus as a general were only equalled by his previous insolence. On the approach of the Romans under Metellus from Macedonia he did not even venture to make a stand at Thermopylae; and being overtaken by them near Scarphea in Locris, he was totally defeated, and never again heard of. Diaeus, who succeeded him as Strategus, displayed rather more energy and courage. But a fresh Roman force under Mummius having landed on the isthmus, Diaeus was overthrown in a battle near Corinth; and that city was immediately evacuated not only by the troops of the league, but also by the greater part of the inhabitants. On entering it Mummius put the few males who remained to the sword; sold the women and children as slaves and having carried away all its treasures, consigned it to the flames (B.C. 146). Corinth was filled with masterpieces of ancient art; but Mummius was so insensible to their surpassing excellence as to stipulate with those who contracted to convey them to Italy, that, if any were lost in the passage, they should be replaced by others of equal value! Mummius then employed himself in chastising and regulating the whole of Greece; and ten commissioners were sent from Rome to settle its future condition. The whole country, to the borders of Macedonia and Epirus, was formed into a Roman province, under the name of ACHAIA, derived from that confederacy which had made the last struggle for its political existence.
SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF GREEK LITERATURE FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE REIGN OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
The Greeks possessed two large collections of epic poetry. The one comprised poems relating to the great events and enterprises of the Heroic age, and characterised by a certain poetical unity; the other included works tamer in character and more desultory in their mode of treatment, containing the genealogies of men and gods, narratives of the exploits of separate heroes, and descriptions of the ordinary pursuits of life. The poems of the former class passed under the name of Homer; while those of the latter were in the same general way ascribed to Hesiod. The former were the productions of the Ionic and AEolic minstrels in Asia Minor, among whom Homer stood pre-eminent and eclipsed the brightness of the rest: the latter were the compositions of a school of bards in the neighbourhood of Mount Helicon in Boeotia, among whom in like manner Hesiod enjoyed the greatest celebrity. The poems of both schools were composed in the hexameter metre and in a similar dialect; but they differed widely in almost every other feature.
Of the Homeric poems the Iliad and the Odyssey were the most distinguished and have alone come down to us. The subject of the Iliad was the exploits of Achilles and of the other Grecian heroes before Ilium or Troy; that of the Odyssey was the wanderings and adventures of Odysseus or Ulysses after the capture of Troy on his return to his native island. Throughout the flourishing period of Greek literature these unrivalled works were universally regarded as the productions of a single mind; but there was very little agreement respecting the place of the poet's birth the details of his life, or the time in which he lived. Seven cities laid claim to Homer's birth, and most of them had legends to tell respecting his romantic parentage, his alleged blindness, and his life of an itinerant bard acquainted with poverty and sorrow. It cannot be disputed that he was an Asiatic Greek; but this is the only fact in his life which can be regarded as certain. Several of the best writers of antiquity supposed him to have been a native of the island of Chios; but most modern scholars believe Smyrna to have been his birthplace. His most probable date is about B.C. 850.
The mode in which these poems were preserved has occasioned great controversy in modern times. Even if they were committed to writing by the poet himself, and were handed down to posterity in this manner, it is certain that they were rarely read. We must endeavour to realise the difference between ancient Greece and our own times. During the most flourishing period of Athenian literature manuscripts were indifferently written, without division into parts, and without marks of punctuation. They were scarce and costly, could be obtained only by the wealthy, and read only by those who had had considerable literary training. Under these circumstances the Greeks could never become a reading people; and thus the great mass even of the Athenians became acquainted with the productions of the leading poets of Greece only by hearing them recited at their solemn festivals and on other public occasions. This was more strikingly the case at an earlier period. The Iliad and the Odyssey were not read by individuals in private, but were sung or recited at festivals or to assembled companies. The bard originally sung his own lays to the accompaniment of his lyre. He was succeeded by a body of professional reciters, called Rhapsodists, who rehearsed the poems of others, and who appear at early times to have had exclusive possession of the Homeric poems. But in the seventh century before the Christian era literary culture began to prevail among the Greeks; and men of education and wealth were naturally desirous of obtaining copies of the great poet of the nation. From this cause copies came to be circulated among the Greeks; but most of them contained only separate portions of the poems, or single rhapsodes, as they were called. Pisistratus, the tyrant or despot of Athens, is said to have been the first person who collected and arranged the poems in their present form, in order that they might be recited at the great Panathenaic festival at Athens.
Three works have come down to us bearing the name of Hesiod—the 'Works and Days,' the 'Theogony,' and a description of the 'Shield of Hercules.' Many ancient critics believed the 'Works and Days' to be the only genuine work of Hesiod, and their opinion has been adopted by most modern scholars. We learn from this work that Hesiod was a native of Ascra, a village at the foot of Mount Helicon, to which his father had migrated from the AEolian Cyme in Asia Minor. He further tells us that he gained the prize at Chalcis in a poetical contest; and that he was robbed of a fair share of his heritage by the unrighteous decision of judges who had been bribed by his brother Perses. The latter became afterwards reduced in circumstances, and applied to his brother for relief; and it is to him that Hesiod addresses his didactic poem of the 'Works and Days,' in which he lays down various moral and social maxims for the regulation of his conduct and his life. It contains an interesting representation of the feelings, habits, and superstitions of the rural population of Greece in the earlier ages. Respecting the date of Hesiod nothing certain can be affirmed. Modern writers usually suppose him to have flourished two or three generations later than Homer.
The commencement of Greek lyric poetry as a cultivated species of composition dates from the middle of the seventh century before the Christian era. No important event either in the public or private life of a Greek could dispense with this accompaniment; and the lyric song was equally needed to solemnize the worship of the gods, to cheer the march to battle, or to enliven the festive board. The lyric poetry, with the exception of that of Pindar, has almost entirely perished, and all that we possess of it; consists of a few songs and isolated fragments.
The great satirist ARCHILOCHUS was one of the earliest and most celebrated of all the lyric poets. He was a native of the island of Paros, and flourished about the year 700 B.C. His fame rests chiefly on his terrible satires, composed in the Iambic metre, in which he gave vent to the bitterness of a disappointed man.
TYRTAEUS and ALCMAN were the two great lyric poets of Sparta, though neither of them was a native of Lacedaemon. The personal history of Tyrtaeus, and his warlike songs which roused the fainting courage of the Spartans during the second Messenian war, have already been mentioned. Alcman was originally a Lydian slave in a Spartan family, and was emancipated by his master. He lived shortly after the second Messenian war. His poems partake of the character of this period, which was one of repose and enjoyment after the fatigues and perils of war. Many of his songs celebrate the pleasures of good eating and drinking; but the more important were intended to be sung by a chorus at the public festivals of Sparta.
ARION was a native of Methymna in Lesbos, and lived some time at the court of Periander, tyrant of Corinth, who began to reign B.C. 625. Nothing is known of his life beyond the beautiful story of his escape from the sailors with whom he sailed from Sicily to Corinth. On one occasion, thus runs the story, Arion went to Sicily to take part in a musical contest. He won the prize, and, laden with presents, he embarked in a Corinthian ship to return to his friend Periander. The rude sailors coveted his treasures, and meditated his murder. After imploring them in vain to spare his life, he obtained permission to play for the last time on his beloved lyre. In festal attire he placed himself on the prow of the vessel, invoked the gods in inspired strains, and then threw himself into the sea. But many song-loving dolphins had assembled round the vessel, and one of them now took the bard on its back, and carried him to Taenarum, from whence he returned to Corinth in safety, and related his adventure to Periander. Upon the arrival of the Corinthian vessel, Periander inquired of the sailors after Arion, who replied that he had remained behind at Tarentum; but when Arion, at the bidding of Periander, came forward, the sailors owned their guilt, and were punished according to their desert. The great improvement in lyric poetry ascribed to Arion is the invention of the Dithyramb. This was a choral song and dance in honour of the god Dionysus, and is of great interest in the history of poetry, since it was the germ from which sprung at a later time the magnificent productions of the tragic Muse at Athens.
ALCAEUS and SAPPHO were both natives of Mytilene in the island of Lesbos, and flourished about B.C. 610-580. Their songs were composed for a single voice, and not for the chorus, and they were each the inventor of a new metre, which bears their name, and is familiar to us by the well-known odes of Horace. Their poetry was the warm outpouring of the writers' inmost feelings, and present the lyric poetry of the AEolians at its highest point.
Alcaeus took an active part in the civil dissensions of his native state, and warmly espoused the cause of the aristocratical party, to which he belonged by birth. When the nobles were driven into exile, he endeavoured to cheer their spirits by a number of most animated odes, full of invectives against the popular party and its leaders.
Of the events of Sappho's life we have scarcely any information; and the common story that, being in love with Phaon and finding her love unrequited, she leaped down from the Leucadian rock, seems to have been an invention of later times.
ANACREON was a native of the Ionian city of Teos. He spent part of his life at Samos, under the patronage of Polycrates; and after the death of this despot he went to Athens at the invitation of Hipparchus. The universal tradition of antiquity represents Anacreon as a consummate voluptuary; and his poems prove the truth of the tradition. His death was worthy of his life, if we may believe the account that he was choked by a grape-stone.
SIMONIDES, of the island of Ceos, was born B.C. 556, and reached a great age. He lived many years at Athens, both at the court of Hipparchus, together with Anacreon, and subsequently under the democracy during the Persian wars. The struggles of Greece for her independence furnished him with a noble subject for his muse. He carried away the prize from AEschylus with an elegy upon the warriors who had fallen at the battle of Marathon. Subsequently we find him celebrating the heroes of Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis, and Plataea. He was upwards of 80 when his long poetical career at Athens was closed with the victory which he gained with the dithyrambic chorus in B.C. 477, making the 56th prize that he had carried off. Shortly after this event he repaired to Syracuse at the invitation of Hiero. Here he spent the remaining ten years of his life, not only entertaining Hiero with his poetry, but instructing him by his wisdom; for Simonides was a philosopher as well as a poet, and is reckoned amongst the sophists.
PINDAR, though the contemporary of Simonides, was considerably his junior: He was born either at, or in the neighbourhood of, Thebes in Boeotia, about the year 522 B.C. Later writers tell us that his future glory as a poet was miraculously foreshadowed by a swarm of bees which rested upon his lips while he was asleep, and that this miracle first led him to compose poetry. He commenced his professional career at an early age, and soon acquired so great a reputation, that he was employed by various states and princes of the Hellenic race to compose choral songs. He was courted especially by Alexander, king of Macedonia, and by Hiero, despot of Syracuse. The praises which he bestowed upon Alexander are said to have been the chief reason which led his descendant, Alexander the Great, to spare the house of the poet when he destroyed the rest of Thebes. The estimation in which Pindar was held is also shown by the honours conferred upon him by the free states of Greece. Although a Theban, he was always a great favourite with the Athenians, whom he frequently praised in his poems, and who testified their gratitude by making him their public guest, and by giving him 10,000 drachmas. The only poems of Pindar which have come down to us entire are his Epinicia or triumphal odes, composed in commemoration of victories gained in the great public games. But these were only a small portion of his works. He also wrote hymns, paeans, dithyrambs, odes for processions, songs of maidens, mimic dancing songs, drinking songs, dirges and encomia, or panegyrics on princes.
The Greeks had arrived at a high pitch of civilization before they can be said to have possessed a HISTORY. The first essays in literary prose cannot be placed earlier than the sixth century before the Christian aera; but the first writer who deserves the name of an historian is HERODOTUS, hence called the Father of History. Herodotus was born in the Dorian colony of Halicarnassus in Caria, in the year 484 B.C., and accordingly about the time of the Persian expeditions into Greece. He resided some years in Samos, and also undertook extensive travels, of which he speaks in his work. There was scarcely a town in Greece or on the coasts of Asia Minor with which he was not acquainted; he had explored Thrace and the coasts of the Black Sea; in Egypt he had penetrated as far south as Elephantine; and in Asia he had visited the cities of Babylon, Ecbatana, and Susa. The latter part of his life was spent at Thurii, a colony founded by the Athenians in Italy in B.C. 443. According to a well-known story in Lucian, Herodotus, when he had completed his work, recited it publicly at the great Olympic festival, as the best means of procuring for it that celebrity to which he felt that it was entitled. The effect is described as immediate and complete. The delighted audience at once assigned the names of the nine Muses to the nine books into which it is divided. A still later author (Suidas) adds, that Thucydides, then a boy, was present at the festival with his father Olorus, and was so affected by the recital as to shed tears; upon which Herodotus congratulated Olorus on having a son who possessed so early such a zeal for knowledge. But there are many objections to the probability of these tales.
Herodotus interwove into his history all the varied and extensive knowledge acquired in his travels, and by big own personal researches. But the real subject of the work is the conflict between the Greek race, in the widest sense of the term, and including the Greeks of Asia Minor, with the Asiatics. Thus the historian had a vast epic subject presented to him, which was brought to a natural and glorious termination by the defeat of the Persians in their attempts upon Greece. The work concludes with the reduction of Sestos by the Athenians, B.C. 478. Herodotus wrote in the Ionic dialect, and his style is marked by an ease and simplicity which lend it an indescribable charm.
THUCYDIDES, the greatest of the Greek historians, was an Athenian, and was born in the year 471 B.C. His family was connected with that of Miltiades and Cimon. He possessed gold-mines in Thrace, and enjoyed great influence in that country. He commanded an Athenian squadron of seven ships at Thasos, in 424 B.C., at the time when Brasidas was besieging Amphipolis; and having failed to relieve that city in time, he went into a voluntary exile, in order probably to avoid the punishment of death. He appears to have spent 20 years in banishment, principally in the Peloponnesus, or in places under the dominion or influence of Sparta. He perhaps returned to Athens in B.C. 403, the date of its liberation by Thrasybulus. According to the unanimous testimony of antiquity he met with a violent end, and it seems probable that he was assassinated at Athens, since it cannot be doubted that his tomb existed there. From the beginning of the Peloponnesian war he had designed to write its history, and he employed himself in collecting materials for that purpose during its continuance; but it is most likely that the work was not actually composed till after the conclusion of the war, and that he was engaged upon it at the time of his death. The first book of his History is introductory, and contains a rapid sketch of Grecian history from the remotest times to the breaking out of the war. The remaining seven books are filled with the details of the war, related according to the division into summers and winters, into which all campaigns naturally fall; and the work breaks off abruptly in the middle of the 21st year of the war (B.C. 411). The materials of Thucydides were collected with the most scrupulous care; the events are related with the strictest impartiality; and the work probably offers a more exact account of a long and eventful period than any other contemporary history, whether ancient or modern, of an equally long and important aera. The style of Thucydides is brief and sententious, and whether in moral or political reasoning, or in description, gains wonderful force from its condensation. But this characteristic is sometimes carried to a faulty extent, so as to render his style harsh, and his meaning obscure.
XENOPHON, the son of Gryllus, was also an Athenian, and was probably born about B.C. 444. He was a pupil of Socrates, who saved his life at the battle of Delium (B.C. 424). His accompanying Cyrus the younger in his expedition against his brother Artaxerxes, king of Persia, formed a striking episode in his life, and has been recorded by himself in his ANABASIS. He seems to have been still in Asia at the time of the death of Socrates in 399 B.C., and was probably banished from Athens soon after that period, in consequence of his close connexion with the Lacedaemonians. He accompanied Agesilaus, the Spartan king, on the return of the latter from Asia to Greece; and he fought along with the Lacedaemonians against his own countrymen at the battle of Coronea in 394 B.C. After this battle he went with Agesilaus to Sparta, and soon afterwards settled at Scillus in Elis, near Olympia. He is said to have lived to more than 90 years of age, and he mentions an event which occurred as late as 357 B.C.
Probably all the works of Xenophon are still extant. The ANABASIS is the work on which his fame as an historian chiefly rests. It is written in a simple and agreeable style, and conveys much curious and striking information. The HELLENICA is a continuation of the history of Thucydides, and comprehends in seven books a space of about 48 years; namely, from the time when Thucydides breaks off, B.C. 411, to the battle of Mantinea in 362. The subject is treated in a very dry and uninteresting style; and his evident partiality to Sparta, and dislike of Athens, have frequently warped his judgment, and must cause his statements to be received with some suspicion. The CYROPAEDIA, one of the most pleasing and popular of his works, professes to be a history of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian monarchy, but is in reality a kind of political romance, and possesses no authority whatever as an historical work. The design of the author seems to have been to draw a picture of a perfect state; and though the scene is laid in Persia, the materials of the work are derived from his own philosophical notions and the usages of Sparta engrafted on the popularly current stories respecting Cyrus. Xenophon displays in this work his dislike of democratic institutions like those of Athens, and his preference for an aristocracy, or even a monarchy. Xenophon was also the author of several minor works; but the only other treatise which we need mention is the MEMORABILIA of Socrates, in four books, intended as a defence of his master against the charges which occasioned his death, and which undoubtedly contains a genuine picture of Socrates and his philosophy. The genius of Xenophon was not of the highest order; it was practical rather than speculative; but he is distinguished for his good sense, his moderate views, his humane temper, and his earnest piety.
The DRAMA pre-eminently distinguished Athenian literature. The democracy demanded a literature of a popular kind, the vivacity of the people a literature that made a lively impression; and both these conditions were fulfilled by the drama. But though brought to perfection among the Athenians, tragedy and comedy, in their rude and early origin, were Dorian inventions. Both arose out of the worship of Dionysus. There was at first but little distinction between these two species of the drama, except that comedy belonged more to the rural celebration of the Dionysiac festivals, and tragedy to that in cities. The name of TRAGEDY was far from signifying any thing mournful, being derived from the goat-like appearance of those who, disguised as Satyrs, performed the old Dionysiac songs and dances. In like manner, COMEDY was called after the song of the band of revellers who celebrated the vintage festivals of Dionysus, and vented the rude merriment inspired by the occasion in jibes and extempore witticisms levelled at the spectators. Tragedy, in its more perfect form, was the offspring of the dithyrambic odes with which that worship was celebrated. These were not always of a joyous cast. Some of them expressed the sufferings of Dionysus; and it was from this more mournful species of dithyramb that tragedy, properly so called, arose. The dithyrambic odes formed a kind of lyrical tragedy, and were sung by a chorus of fifty men, dancing round the altar of Dionysus. The improvements in the dithyramb were introduced by Arion at Corinth; and it was chiefly among the Dorian states of the Peloponnesus that these choral dithyrambic songs prevailed. Hence, even in attic tragedy, the chorus, which was the foundation of the drama, was written in the Doric dialect, thus clearly betraying the source from which the Athenians derived it.
In Attica an important alteration was made in the old tragedy in the time of Pisistratus, in consequence of which it obtained a new and dramatic character. This innovation is ascribed to THESPIS, a native of the Attic village of Icaria, B.C. 535. It consisted in the introduction of an actor for the purpose of giving rest to the chorus. Thespis was succeeded by Choerilus and Phrynichus, the latter of whom gained his first prize in the dramatic contests in 511 B.C. The Dorian Pratinas, a native of Philius, but who exhibited his tragedies at Athens, introduced an improvement in tragedy by separating the Satyric from the tragic drama. As neither the popular taste nor the ancient religious associations connected with the festivals of Dionysus would have permitted the chorus of Satyrs to be entirely banished from the tragic representations, Pratinas avoided this by the invention of what is called the Satyric drama; that is, a species of play in which the ordinary subjects of tragedy were treated in a lively and farcical manner, and in which the chorus consisted of a band of Satyrs in appropriate dresses and masks. After this period it became customary to exhibit dramas in TETRALOGIES, or sets of four; namely, a tragic trilogy, or series of three tragedies, followed by a Satyric play. These were often on connected subjects; and the Satyric drama at the end served like a merry after-piece to relieve the minds of the spectators.
The subjects of Greek tragedy were taken, with few exceptions, from the national mythology. Hence the plot and story were of necessity known to the spectators, a circumstance which strongly distinguished the ancient tragedy from the modern. It must also be recollected that the representation of tragedies did not take place every day, but only, after certain fixed intervals, at the festivals of Dionysus, of which they formed one of the greatest attractions. During the whole day the Athenian public sat in the theatre witnessing tragedy after tragedy; and a prize was awarded by judges appointed for the purpose to the poet who produced the best set of dramas.
Such was Attic tragedy when it came into the hands of AESCHYLUS, who, from the great improvements which he introduced, was regarded by the Athenians as its father or founder, just as Homer was of Epic poetry, and Herodotus of History. AEschylus was born at Eleusis in Attica in B.C. 525, and was thus contemporary with Simonides and Pindar. He fought with his brother Cynaegirus at the battle of Marathon, and also at those of Artemisium, Salamis, and Plataea. In B.C. 484 he gained his first tragic prize. In 468 he was defeated in a tragic contest by his younger rival Sophocles; shortly afterwards he retired to the court of king Hiero, at Syracuse, He died at Gela, in Sicily, in 456, in the 69th year of his age. It is unanimously related that an eagle, mistaking the poet's bald head for a stone, let a tortoise fall upon it in order to break the shell, thus fulfilling an oracle predicting that he was to die by a blow from heaven. The improvements introduced into tragedy by AEschylus concerned both its form and composition, and its manner of representation. In the former his principal innovation was the introduction of a second actor; whence arose the dialogue, properly so called, and the limitation of the choral parts, which now became subsidiary. His improvements in the manner of representing tragedy consisted in the introduction of painted scenes, drawn according to the rules of perspective. He furnished the actors with more appropriate and more magnificent dresses, invented for them more various and expressive masks, and raised their stature to the heroic size by providing them with thick-soled cothurni or buskins. AEschylus excels in representing the superhuman, in depicting demigods and heroes, and in tracing the irresistible march of fate. His style resembles the ideas which it clothes: it is bold, sublime, and full of gorgeous imagery, but sometimes borders on the turgid.