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Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Complete
by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
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CHAPTER IV.

The Successors of Theseus.—The Fate of Codrus.—The Emigration of Nileus.—The Archons.—Draco.

I. The reputed period of the Trojan war follows close on the age of Hercules and Theseus; and Menestheus, who succeeded the latter hero on the throne of Athens, led his countrymen to the immortal war. Plutarch and succeeding historians have not failed to notice the expression of Homer, in which he applies the word demus or "people" to the Athenians, as a proof of the popular government established in that state. But while the line has been considered an interpolation, as late at least as the time of Solon, we may observe that it was never used by Homer in the popular and political sense it afterward received. And he applies it not only to the state of Athens, but to that of Ithaca, certainly no democracy. [94]

The demagogue king appears to have been a man of much warlike renown and skill, and is mentioned as the first who marshalled an army in rank and file. Returning from Troy, he died in the Isle of Melos, and was succeeded by Demophoon, one of the sons of Theseus, who had also fought with the Grecian army in the Trojan siege. In his time a dispute between the Athenians and Argives was referred to fifty arbiters of each nation, called Ephetae, the origin of the court so styled, and afterward re-established with new powers by Draco.

To Demophoon succeeded his son Oxyntes, and to Oxyntes, Aphidas, murdered by his bastard brother Thymaetes. Thymaetes was the last of the race of Theseus who reigned in Athens. A dispute arose between the Boeotians and the Athenians respecting the confines of their several territories; it was proposed to decide the difference by a single combat between Thymaetes and the King of the Boeotians. Thymaetes declined the contest. A Messenian exile, named Melanthus, accepted it, slew his antagonist by a stratagem, and, deposing the cowardly Athenian, obtained the sovereignty of Athens. With Melanthus, who was of the race of Nestor, passed into Athens two nobles of the same house, Paeon and Alcmaeon, who were the founders of the Paeonids and Alcmaeonids, two powerful families, whose names often occur in the subsequent history of Athens, and who, if they did not create a new order of nobility, at least sought to confine to their own families the chief privileges of that which was established.

II. Melanthus was succeeded by his son Codrus, a man whose fame finds more competitors in Roman than Grecian history. During his reign the Dorians invaded Attica. They were assured of success by the Delphian oracle, on condition that they did not slay the Athenian king. Informed of the response, Codrus disguised himself as a peasant, and, repairing to the hostile force, sought a quarrel with some of the soldiers, and was slain by them not far from the banks of the Ilissus [95]. The Athenians sent to demand the body of their king; and the Dorians, no longer hoping of success, since the condition of the oracle was thus violated, broke up their encampment and relinquished their design. Some of the Dorians had already by night secretly entered the city and concealed themselves within its walls; but, as the day dawned, and they found themselves abandoned by their associates and surrounded by the foe, they fled to the Areopagus and the altars of the Furies; the refuge was deemed inviolable, and the Dorians were dismissed unscathed—a proof of the awe already attached to the rites of sanctuary [96]. Still, however, this invasion was attended with the success of what might have been the principal object of the invaders. Megara [97], which had hitherto been associated with Attica, was now seized by the Dorians, and became afterward a colony of Corinth. This gallant but petty state had considerable influence on some of the earlier events of Athenian history.

III. Codrus was the last of the Athenian kings. The Athenians affected the motives of reverence to his memory as an excuse for forbidding to the illustrious martyr the chance of an unworthy successor. But the aristocratic constitution had been morally strengthened by the extinction of the race of Theseus and the jealousy of a foreign line; and the abolition of the monarchy was rather caused by the ambition of the nobles than the popular veneration for the patriotism of Codrus. The name of king was changed into that of archon (magistrate or governor); the succession was still made hereditary, but the power of the ruler was placed under new limits, and he was obliged to render to the people, or rather to the eupatrids, an account of his government whenever they deemed it advisable to demand it.

IV. Medon, the son of Codrus, was the first of these perpetual archons. In that age bodily strength was still deemed an essential virtue in a chief; and Nileus, a younger brother of Medon, attempted to depose the archon on no other pretence than that of his lameness.

A large portion of the people took advantage of the quarrel between the brothers to assert that they would have no king but Jupiter. At length Medon had recourse to the oracle, which decided in his favour; and Nileus, with all the younger sons of Codrus, and accompanied by a numerous force, departed from Athens, and colonized that part of Asia Minor celebrated in history under the name of Ionia. The rise, power, and influence of these Asiatic colonies we shall find a more convenient opportunity to notice. Medon's reign, thus freed from the more stirring spirits of his time, appears to have been prosperous and popular; it was an era in the ancient world, when the lameness of a ruler was discovered to be unconnected with his intellect! Then follows a long train of archons—peaceable and obscure. During a period estimated at three hundred years, the Athenians performed little that has descended to posterity—brief notices of petty skirmishes, and trivial dissensions with their neighbours, alone diversify that great interval. Meanwhile, the Ionian colonies rise rapidly into eminence and power. At length, on the death of Alcmaeon —the thirteenth and last perpetual archon—a new and more popular change was introduced into the government. The sway of the archon was limited to ten years. This change slowly prepared the way to changes still more important. Hitherto the office had been confined to the two Neleid houses of Codrus and Alcmaeon;—in the archonship of Hippomenes it was thrown open to other distinguished families; and at length, on the death of Eryxias, the last of the race of Codrus, the failure of that ancient house in its direct line (indirectly it still continued, and the blood of Codrus flowed through the veins of Solon) probably gave excuse and occasion for abolishing the investment of the supreme power in one magistrate; nine were appointed, each with the title of archon (though the name was more emphatically given to the chief of the number), and each with separate functions. This institution continued to the last days of Athenian freedom. This change took place in the 24th Olympiad.

V. In the 39th Olympiad, Draco, being chief archon, was deputed to institute new laws in B. C. 621. He was a man concerning whom history is singularly brief; we know only that he was of a virtuous and austere renown—that he wrote a great number of verses, as little durable as his laws [98]. As for the latter—when we learn that they were stern and bloody beyond precedent—we have little difficulty in believing that they were inefficient.

VI. I have hastened over this ambiguous and uninteresting period with a rapidity I trust all but antiquaries will forgive. Hitherto we have been in the land of shadow—we approach the light. The empty names of apocryphal beings which we have enumerated are for the most part as spectres, so dimly seen as to be probably delusions—invoked to please a fanciful curiosity, but without an object to satisfy the reason or excuse the apparition. If I am blamed for not imitating those who have sought, by weaving together disconnected hints and subtle conjectures, to make a history from legends, to overturn what has been popularly believed, by systems equally contradictory, though more learnedly fabricated;—if I am told that I might have made the chronicle thus briefly given extend to a greater space, and sparkle with more novel speculation, I answer that I am writing the history of men and not of names—to the people and not to scholars—and that no researches however elaborate, no conjectures however ingenious, could draw any real or solid moral from records which leave us ignorant both of the characters of men and the causes of events. What matters who was Ion, or whence the first worship of Apollo? what matter revolutions or dynasties, ten or twelve centuries before Athens emerged from a deserved obscurity?—they had no influence upon her after greatness; enigmas impossible to solve—if solved, but scholastic frivolities.

Fortunately, as we desire the history of a people, so it is when the Athenians become a people, that we pass at once from tradition into history.

I pause to take a brief survey of the condition of the rest of Greece prior to the age of Solon.



CHAPTER V.

A General Survey of Greece and the East previous to the time of Solon.—The Grecian Colonies.—The Isles.—Brief account of the States on the Continent.—Elis and the Olympic Games.

I. On the north, Greece is separated from Macedonia by the Cambunian mountains; on the west spreads the Ionian, on the south and east the Aegean Sea. Its greatest length is two hundred and twenty geographical miles; its greatest width one hundred and forty. No contrast can be more startling than the speck of earth which Greece occupies in the map of the world, compared to the space claimed by the Grecian influences in the history of the human mind. In that contrast itself is the moral which Greece has left us—nor can volumes more emphatically describe the triumph of the Intellectual over the Material. But as nations, resembling individuals, do not become illustrious from their mere physical proportions; as in both, renown has its moral sources; so, in examining the causes which conduced to the eminence of Greece, we cease to wonder at the insignificance of its territories or the splendour of its fame. Even in geographical circumstance Nature had endowed the country of the Hellenes with gifts which amply atoned the narrow girth of its confines. The most southern part of the continent of Europe, it contained within itself all the advantages of sea and land; its soil, though unequal in its product, is for the most part fertile and abundant; it is intersected by numerous streams, and protected by chains of mountains; its plains and valleys are adapted to every product most necessary to the support of the human species; and the sun that mellows the fruits of nature is sufficiently tempered not to relax the energies of man. Bordered on three sides by the sea, its broad and winding extent of coast early conduced to the spirit of enterprise; and, by innumerable bays and harbours, proffered every allurement to that desire of gain which is the parent of commerce and the basis of civilization. At the period in which Greece rose to eminence it was in the very centre of the most advanced and flourishing states of Europe and of Asia. The attention of its earlier adventurers was directed not only to the shores of Italy, but to the gorgeous cities of the East, and the wise and hoary institutions of Egypt. If from other nations they borrowed less than has been popularly supposed, the very intercourse with those nations alone sufficed to impel and develop the faculties of an imitative and youthful people;—while, as the spirit of liberty broke out in all the Grecian states, producing a restless competition both among the citizens in each city and the cities one with another, no energy was allowed to sleep until the operations of an intellect, perpetually roused and never crippled, carried the universal civilization to its height. Nature herself set the boundaries of the river and the mountain to the confines of the several states—the smallness of each concentrated power into a focus—the number of all heightened emulation to a fever. The Greek cities had therefore, above all other nations, the advantage of a perpetual collision of mind—a perpetual intercourse with numerous neighbours, with whom intellect was ever at work—with whom experiment knew no rest. Greece, taken collectively, was the only free country (with the exception of Phoenician states and colonies perhaps equally civilized) in the midst of enlightened despotisms; and in the ancient world, despotism invented and sheltered the arts which liberty refined and perfected [99]: Thus considered, her greatness ceases to be a marvel—the very narrowness of her dominions was a principal cause of it—and to the most favourable circumstances of nature were added circumstances the most favourable of time.

If, previous to the age of Solon, we survey the histories of Asia, we find that quarter of the globe subjected to great and terrible revolutions, which confined and curbed the power of its various despotisms. Its empires for the most part built up by the successful invasions of Nomad tribes, contained in their very vastness the elements of dissolution. The Assyrian Nineveh had been conquered by the Babylonians and the Medes (B. C. 606); and Babylon, under the new Chaldaean dynasty, was attaining the dominant power of western Asia. The Median monarchy was scarce recovering from the pressure of barbarian foes, and Cyrus had not as yet arisen to establish the throne of Persia. In Asia Minor, it is true, the Lydian empire had attained to great wealth and luxury, and was the most formidable enemy of the Asiatic Greeks, yet it served to civilize them even while it awed. The commercial and enterprising Phoenicians, now foreboding the march of the Babylonian king, who had "taken counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth," at all times were precluded from the desire of conquest by their divided states [100], formidable neighbours, and trading habits.

In Egypt a great change had operated upon the ancient character; the splendid dynasty of the Pharaohs was no more. The empire, rent into an oligarchy of twelve princes, had been again united under the sceptre of one by the swords of Grecian mercenaries (B. C. 616); and Neco, the son of the usurper—a man of mighty intellect and vast designs—while he had already adulterated the old Egyptian customs with the spirit of Phoenician and Greek adventure, found his field of action only in the East (defeats Josiah B. C. 609). As yet, then, no foreign enemy had disturbed the early rise of the several states of Greece; they were suffered to form their individual demarcations tranquilly and indelibly; and to progress to that point between social amenities and chivalric hardihood, when, while war is the most sternly encountered, it the most rapidly enlightens. The peace that follows the first war of a half-civilized nation is usually the great era of its intellectual eminence.

II. At this time the colonies in Asia Minor were far advanced in civilization beyond the Grecian continent. Along the western coast of that delicious district—on a shore more fertile, under a heaven more bright, than those of the parent states—the Aeolians, Ionians, and Dorians, in a remoter age, had planted settlements and founded cities (probably commenced under Penthilus, son of Orestes, about B. C. 1068). The Aeolian colonies (the result of the Dorian immigrations) [101] occupied the coasts of commenced Mysia and Caria—on the mainland twelve cities—the most renowned of which were Cyme and Smyrna; and the islands of the Heccatonnesi, Tenedos, and Lesbos, the last illustrious above the rest, and consecrated by the muses of Sappho and Alcaeus. They had also settlements about Mount Ida. Their various towns were independent of each other; but Mitylene, in the Isle of Lesbos, was regarded as their common capital. The trade of Mitylene was extensive—its navy formidable.

The Ionian colonies (probably commenced about 988 B. C.), founded subsequently to the Aeolian, but also (though less immediately) a consequence of the Dorian revolution, were peopled not only by Ionians, but by various nations, led by the sons of Codrus. In the islands of Samos and Chios, on the southern coast of Lydia, where Caria stretches to the north, they established their voluptuous settlements known by the name "Ionia." Theirs were the cities of Myus, and Priene, Colophon, Ephesus, Lebedus, Teos, Clazomene, Erythrae, Phocae, and Miletus:—in the islands of Samos and Chios were two cities of the same name as the isles themselves. The chief of the Ionian cities at the time on which we enter, and second perhaps in trade and in civilization to none but the great Phoenician states, was the celebrated Miletus—founded first by the Carians—exalted to her renown by the Ionians (Naval dominion of Miletus commenced B. C. 750). Her streets were the mart of the world; along the Euxine and the Palus Maeotis, her ships rode in the harbours of a hundred of her colonies. Here broke the first light of the Greek philosophy. But if inferior to this, their imperial city, each of the Ionian towns had its title to renown. Here flourished already music, and art, and song. The trade of Phocae extended to the coasts of Italy and Gaul. Ephesus had not yet risen to its meridian—it was the successor of Miletus and Phocaea. These Ionian states, each independent of the other, were united by a common sanctuary—the Panionium (Temple of Neptune), which might be seen far off on the headland of that Mycale afterward the witness of one of the proudest feats of Grecian valour. Long free, Ionia became tributary to the Lydian kings, and afterward to the great Persian monarchy.

In the islands of Cos and Rhodes, and on the southern shores of Caria, spread the Dorian colonies—planted subsequently to the Ionian by gradual immigrations. If in importance and wealth the Aeolian were inferior to the Ionian colonies, so were the Dorian colonies to the Aeolian. Six cities (Ialyssus, Camirus, and Lindus, in Rhodes; in Cos, a city called from the island; Cnidus and Halicarnassus, on the mainland) were united, like the Ionians, by a common sanctuary—the Temple of Apollo Triopius.

Besides these colonies—the Black Sea, the Palus Maeotis, the Propontis, the coasts of Lower Italy, the eastern and southern shores of Sicily [102], Syracuse, the mightiest of Grecian offspring, and the daughter of Corinth,—the African Cyrene,—not enumerating settlements more probably referable to a later date, attested the active spirit and extended navigation of early Greece.

The effect of so vast and flourishing a colonization was necessarily prodigious upon the moral and intellectual spirit of the mother land. The seeds scattered over the earth bore their harvests to her garner.

III. Among the Grecian isles, the glory of Minos had long passed from Crete (about 800 B. C.). The monarchical form of government had yielded to the republican, but in its worst shape—the oligarchic. But the old Cretan institutions still lingered in the habits of private life;—while the jealousies and commotions of its several cities, each independent, exhausted within itself those powers which, properly concentrated and wisely directed, might have placed Crete at the head of Greece.

Cyprus, equally favoured by situation with Crete, and civilized by the constant influence of the Phoenicians, once its masters, was attached to its independence, but not addicted to warlike enterprise. It was, like Crete, an instance of a state which seemed unconscious of the facilities for command and power which it had received from nature. The Island of Corcyra (a Corinthian colony) had not yet arrived at its day of power. This was reserved for that period when, after the Persian war, it exchanged an oligarchic for a democratic action, which wore away, indeed, the greatness of the country in its struggles for supremacy, obstinately and fatally resisted by the antagonist principle.

Of the Cyclades—those beautiful daughters of Crete—Delos, sacred to Apollo, and possessed principally by the Ionians, was the most eminent. But Paros boasted not only its marble quarries, but the valour of its inhabitants, and the vehement song of Archilochus.

Euboea, neighbouring Attica, possessed two chief cities, Eretria and Chalcis, governed apparently by timocracies, and frequently at war with each other. Though of importance as connected with the subsequent history of Athens, and though the colonization of Chalcis was considerable, the fame of Euboea was scarcely proportioned to its extent as one of the largest islands of the Aegean; and was far outshone by the small and rocky Aegina—the rival of Athens, and at this time her superior in maritime power and commercial enterprise. Colonized by Epidaurus, Aegina soon became independent; but the violence of party, and the power of the oligarchy, while feeding its energies, prepared its downfall.

IV. As I profess only to delineate in this work the rise and fall of the Athenians, so I shall not deem it at present necessary to do more than glance at the condition of the continent of Greece previous to the time of Solon. Sparta alone will demand a more attentive survey.

Taking our station on the citadel of Athens, we behold, far projecting into the sea, the neighbouring country of Megaris, with Megara for its city. It was originally governed by twelve kings; the last, Hyperion, being assassinated, its affairs were administered by magistrates, and it was one of the earliest of the countries of Greece which adopted republican institutions. Nevertheless, during the reigns of the earlier kings of Attica, it was tributary to them [103]. We have seen how the Dorians subsequently wrested it from the Athenians [104]; and it underwent long and frequent warfare for the preservation of its independence from the Dorians of Corinth. About the year 640, a powerful citizen named Theagenes wrested the supreme power from the stern aristocracy which the Dorian conquest had bequeathed, though the yoke of Corinth was shaken off. The tyrant—for such was the appellation given to a successful usurper—was subsequently deposed, and the democratic government restored; and although that democracy was one of the most turbulent in Greece, it did not prevent this little state from ranking among the most brilliant actors in the Persian war.

V. Between Attica and Megaris we survey the Isle of Salamis—the right to which we shall find contested both by Athens and the Megarians.

VI. Turning our eyes now to the land, we may behold, bordering Attica—from which a mountainous tract divides it—the mythological Boeotia, the domain of the Phoenician Cadmus, and the birthplace of Polynices and Oedipus. Here rise the immemorial mountains of Helicon and Cithaeron—the haunt of the muses; here Pentheus fell beneath the raging bands of the Bacchanals, and Actaeon endured the wrath of the Goddess of the Woods; here rose the walls of Thebes to the harmony of Amphion's lyre—and still, in the time of Pausanias, the Thebans showed, to the admiration of the traveller, the place where Cadmus sowed the dragon-seed—the images of the witches sent by Juno to lengthen the pains of Alcmena—the wooden statue wrought by Daedalus— and the chambers of Harmonia and of Semele. No land was more sanctified by all the golden legends of poetry—and of all Greece no people was less alive to the poetical inspiration. Devoted, for the most part, to pastoral pursuits, the Boeotians were ridiculed by their lively neighbours for an inert and sluggish disposition—a reproach which neither the song of Hesiod and Pindar, nor the glories of Thebes and Plataea, were sufficient to repel. As early as the twelfth century (B. C.) royalty was abolished in Boeotia—its territory was divided into several independent states, of which Thebes was the principal, and Plataea and Cheronaea among the next in importance. Each had its own peculiar government; and, before the Persian war, oligarchies had obtained the ascendency in these several states. They were united in a league, of which Thebes was the head; but the ambition and power of that city kept the rest in perpetual jealousy, and weakened, by a common fear and ill-smothered dissensions, a country otherwise, from the size of its territories [105] and the number of its inhabitants, calculated to be the principal power of Greece. Its affairs were administered by eleven magistrates, or boeotarchs, elected by four assemblies held in the four districts into which Boeotia was divided.

VII. Beyond Boeotia lies Phocis, originally colonized, according to the popular tradition, by Phocus from Corinth. Shortly after the Dorian irruption, monarchy was abolished and republican institutions substituted. In Phocis were more than twenty states independent of the general Phocian government, but united in a congress held at stated times on the road between Daulis and Delphi. Phocis contained also the city of Crissa, with its harbour and the surrounding territory inhabited by a fierce and piratical population, and the sacred city of Delphi, on the southwest of Parnassus.

VIII. Of the oracle of Delphi I have before spoken—it remains only now to point out to the reader the great political cause of its rise into importance. It had been long established, but without any brilliant celebrity, when happened that Dorian revolution which is called the "Return of the Heraclidae." The Dorian conquerors had early steered their course by the advice of the Delphian oracle, which appeared artfully to favour their pretensions, and which, adjoining the province of Doris, had imposed upon them the awe, and perhaps felt for them the benevolence, of a sacred neighbour. Their ultimate triumph not only gave a striking and supreme repute to the oracle, but secured the protection and respect of a race now become the most powerful of Greece. From that time no Dorian city ever undertook an enterprise without consulting the Pythian voice; the example became general, and the shrine of the deity was enriched by offerings not only from the piety of Greece, but the credulous awe of barbarian kings. Perhaps, though its wealth was afterward greater, its authority was never so unquestioned as for a period dating from about a century preceding the laws of Solon to the end of the Persian war. Delphi was wholly an independent state, administered by a rigid aristocracy [106]; and though protected by the Amphictyonic council, received from its power none of those haughty admonitions with which the defenders of a modern church have often insulted their charge. The temple was so enriched by jewels, statues, and vessels of gold, that at the time of the invasion of Xerxes its wealth was said to equal in value the whole of the Persian armament and so wonderful was its magnificence, that it appeared more like the Olympus of the gods than a human temple in their honour. On the ancient Delphi stands now the monastery of Kastri. But still you discover the terraces once crowded by fans—still, amid gloomy chasms, bubbles the Castalian spring—and yet permitted to the pilgrim's gaze is the rocky bath of the Pythia, and the lofty halls of the Corycian Cave.

IX. Beyond Phocis lies the country of the Locrians, divided into three tribes independent of each other—the Locri Ozolae, the Locri Opuntii, the Locri Epicnemidii. The Locrians (undistinguished in history) changed in early times royal for aristocratic institutions.

The nurse of the Dorian race—the small province of Doris—borders the Locrian territory to the south of Mount Oeta; while to the west of Locris spreads the mountainous Aetolia, ranging northward from Pindus to the Ambracian Bay. Aetolia gave to the heroic age the names of Meleager and Diomed, but subsequently fell into complete obscurity. The inhabitants were rude and savage, divided into tribes, nor emerged into importance until the latest era of the Grecian history. The political constitution of Aetolia, in the time referred to, is unknown.

X. Acarnania, the most western country of central Greece, appears little less obscure at this period than Aetolia, on which it borders; with Aetolia it arose into eminence in the Macedonian epoch of Greek history.

XI. Northern Greece contains two countries—Thessaly and Epirus.

In Thessaly was situated the long and lofty mountain of the divine Olympus, and to the more southern extreme rose Pindus and Oeta. Its inhabitants were wild and hardy, and it produced the most celebrated breed of horses in Greece. It was from Thessaly that the Hellenes commenced their progress over Greece—it was in the kingdoms of Thessaly that the race of Achilles held their sway; but its later history was not calculated to revive the fame of the Homeric hero; it appears to have shared but little of the republican spirit of the more famous states of Greece. Divided into four districts (Thessaliotis, Pelasgiotis, Phthiotis, and Hestiaeotis), the various states of Thessaly were governed either by hereditary princes or nobles of vast possessions. An immense population of serfs, or penestae, contributed to render the chiefs of Thessaly powerful in war and magnificent in peace. Their common country fell into insignificance from the want of a people—but their several courts were splendid from the wealth of a nobility.

XII. Epirus was of somewhat less extent than Thessaly, and far less fertile; it was inhabited by various tribes, some Greek, some barbarian, the chief of which was the Molossi, governed by kings who boasted their descent from Achilles. Epirus has little importance or interest in history until the sun of Athens had set, during the ascendency of the Macedonian kings. It contained the independent state of Ambracia, peopled from Corinth, and governed by republican institutions. Here also were the sacred oaks of the oracular Dodona.

XIII. We now come to the states of the Peloponnesus, which contained eight countries.

Beyond Megaris lay the territory of Corinth: its broad bay adapted it for commerce, of which it availed itself early; even in the time of Homer it was noted for its wealth. It was subdued by the Dorians, and for five generations the royal power rested with the descendants of Aletes [107], of the family of the Heraclidae. By a revolution, the causes of which are unknown to us, the kingdom then passed to Bacchis, the founder of an illustrious race (the Bacchiadae), who reigned first as kings, and subsequently as yearly magistrates, under the name of Prytanes. In the latter period the Bacchiadae were certainly not a single family, but a privileged class—they intermarried only with each other,—the administrative powers were strictly confined to them —and their policy, if exclusive, seems to have been vigorous and brilliant. This government was destroyed, as under its sway the people increased in wealth and importance; a popular movement, headed by Cypselus, a man of birth and fortune, replaced an able oligarchy by an abler demagogue (B. C. 655). Cypselus was succeeded by the celebrated Heriander (B. C. 625), a man, whose vices were perhaps exaggerated, whose genius was indisputable. Under his nephew Psammetichus, Corinth afterward regained its freedom. The Corinthians, in spite of every change in the population, retained their luxury to the last, and the epistles of Alciphron, in the second century after Christ, note the ostentation of the few and the poverty of the many. At the time now referred to, Corinth—the Genoa of Greece—was high in civilization, possessed of a considerable naval power, and in art and commerce was the sole rival on the Grecian continent to the graceful genius and extensive trade of the Ionian colonies.

XIV. Stretching from Corinth along the coast opposite Attica, we behold the ancient Argolis. Its three principal cities were Argos, Mycenae, and Epidaurus. Mycenae, at the time of the Trojan war, was the most powerful of the states of Greece; and Argos, next to Sicyori, was reputed the most ancient. Argolis suffered from the Dorian revolution, and shortly afterward the regal power, gradually diminishing, lapsed into republicanism [108]. Argolis contained various independent states—one to every principal city.

XV. On the other side of Corinth, almost opposite Argolis, we find the petty state of Sicyon. This was the most ancient of the Grecian states, and was conjoined to the kingdom of Agamemnon at the Trojan war. At first it was possessed by Ionians, expelled subsequently by the Dorians, and not long after seems to have lapsed into a democratic republic. A man of low birth, Orthagoras, obtained the tyranny, and it continued in his family for a century, the longest tyranny in Greece, because the gentlest. Sicyon was of no marked influence at the period we are about to enter, though governed by an able tyrant, Clisthenes, whose policy it was to break the Dorian nobility, while uniting, as in a common interest, popular laws and regal authority.

XVI. Beyond Sicyon we arrive at Achaia. We have already seen that this district was formerly possessed by the Ionians, who were expelled by some of the Achaeans who escaped the Dorian yoke. Governed first by a king, it was afterward divided into twelve republics, leagued together. It was long before Achaia appeared on that heated stage of action, which allured the more restless spirits of Athens and Lacedaemon.

XVII. We now pause at Elis, which had also felt the revolution of the Heraclidae, and was possessed by their comrades the Aetolians.

The state of Elis underwent the general change from monarchy to republicanism; but republicanism in its most aristocratic form;— growing more popular at the period of the Persian wars, but, without the convulsions which usually mark the progress of democracy. The magistrates of the commonwealth were the superintendents of the Sacred Games. And here, diversifying this rapid, but perhaps to the general reader somewhat tedious survey of the political and geographical aspect of the states of Greece, we will take this occasion to examine the nature and the influence of those celebrated contests, which gave to Elis its true title to immortality.

XVIII. The origin of the Olympic Games is lost in darkness. The legends which attribute their first foundation to the times of demigods and heroes, are so far consonant with truth, that exhibitions of physical strength made the favourite diversion of that wild and barbarous age which is consecrated to the heroic. It is easy to perceive that the origin of athletic games preceded the date of civilization; that, associated with occasions of festival, they, like festivals, assumed a sacred character, and that, whether first instituted in honour of a funeral, or in celebration of a victory, or in reverence to a god,—religion combined with policy to transmit an inspiring custom to a more polished posterity. And though we cannot literally give credit to the tradition which assigns the restoration of these games to Lycurgus, in concert with Iphitus, king of Elis, and Cleosthenes of Pisa, we may suppose at least that to Elis, to Pisa, and to Sparta, the institution was indebted for its revival.

The Dorian Oracle of Delphi gave its sanction to a ceremony, the restoration of which was intended to impose a check upon the wars and disorders of the Peloponnesus. Thus authorized, the festival was solemnized at the temple of Jupiter, at Olympia, near Pisa, a town in Elis. It was held every fifth year; it lasted four days. It consisted in the celebration of games in honour of Jupiter and Hercules. The interval between each festival was called, an Olympiad. After the fiftieth Olympiad (B. C. 580), the whole management of the games, and the choice of the judges, were monopolized by the Eleans. Previous to each festival, officers, deputed by the Eleans, proclaimed a sacred truce. Whatever hostilities were existent in Greece, terminated for the time; sufficient interval was allowed to attend and to return from the games. [109]

During this period the sacred territory of Elis was regarded as under the protection of the gods—none might traverse it armed. The Eleans arrogated indeed the right of a constant sanctity to perpetual peace; and the right, though sometimes invaded, seems generally to have been conceded. The people of this territory became, as it were, the guardians of a sanctuary; they interfered little in the turbulent commotions of the rest of Greece; they did not fortify their capital; and, the wealthiest people of the Peloponnesus, they enjoyed their opulence in tranquillity;—their holy character contenting their ambition. And a wonderful thing it was in the midst of those warlike, stirring, restless tribes—that solitary land, with its plane grove bordering the Alpheus, adorned with innumerable and hallowed monuments and statues—unvisited by foreign wars and civil commotion—a whole state one temple!

At first only the foot-race was exhibited; afterward were added wrestling, leaping, quoiting, darting, boxing, a more complicated species of foot-race (the Diaulus and Dolichus), and the chariot and horse-races. The Pentathlon was a contest of five gymnastic exercises combined. The chariot-races [110] preceded those of the riding horses, as in Grecian war the use of chariots preceded the more scientific employment of cavalry, and were the most attractive and splendid part of the exhibition. Sometimes there were no less than forty chariots on the ground. The rarity of horses, and the expense of their training, confined, without any law to that effect, the chariot-race to the highborn and the wealthy. It was consistent with the vain Alcibiades to decline the gymnastic contests in which his physical endowments might have ensured him success, because his competitors were not the equals to the long-descended heir of the Alcmaeonidae. In the equestrian contests his success was unprecedented. He brought seven chariots into the field, and bore off at the same time the first, second, and fourth prize [111]. Although women [112], with the exception of the priestesses of the neighbouring fane of Ceres, were not permitted to witness the engagements, they were yet allowed to contend by proxy in the chariot-races; and the ladies of Macedon especially availed themselves of the privilege. No sanguinary contest with weapons, no gratuitous ferocities, no struggle between man and beast (the graceless butcheries of Rome), polluted the festival dedicated to the Olympian god. Even boxing with the cestus was less esteemed than the other athletic exercises, and was excluded from the games exhibited by Alexander in his Asiatic invasions [113]. Neither did any of those haughty assumptions of lineage or knightly blood, which characterize the feudal tournament, distinguish between Greek and Greek. The equestrian contests were indeed, from their expense, limited to the opulent, but the others were impartially free to the poor as to the rich, the peasant as the noble,—the Greeks forbade monopoly in glory. But although thus open to all Greeks, the stadium was impenetrably closed to barbarians. Taken from his plough, the boor obtained the garland for which the monarchs of the East were held unworthy to contend, and to which the kings of the neighbouring Macedon were forbidden to aspire till their Hellenic descent had been clearly proved [114]. Thus periodically were the several states reminded of their common race, and thus the national name and character were solemnly preserved: yet, like the Amphictyonic league, while the Olympic festival served to maintain the great distinction between foreigners and Greeks, it had but little influence in preventing the hostile contests of Greeks themselves. The very emulation between the several states stimulated their jealousy of each other: and still, if the Greeks found their countrymen in Greeks they found also in Greeks their rivals.

We can scarcely conceive the vast importance attached to victory in these games [115]; it not only immortalized the winner, it shed glory upon his tribe. It is curious to see the different honours characteristically assigned to the conqueror in different states. If Athenian, he was entitled to a place by the magistrates in the Prytaneum; if a Spartan, to a prominent station in the field. To conquer at Elis was renown for life, "no less illustrious to a Greek than consulship to a Roman!" [116] The haughtiest nobles, the wealthiest princes, the most successful generals, contended for the prize [117]. And the prize (after the seventh Olympiad) was a wreath of the wild olive!

Numerous other and similar games were established throughout Greece. Of these, next to the Olympic, the most celebrated, and the only national ones, were the Pythian at Delphi, the Nemean in Argolis, the Isthmian in Corinth; yet elsewhere the prize was of value; at all the national ones it was but a garland—a type of the eternal truth, that praise is the only guerdon of renown. The olive-crown was nothing!— the shouts of assembled Greece—the showers of herbs and flowers—the banquet set apart for the victor—the odes of imperishable poets—the public register which transmitted to posterity his name—the privilege of a statue in the Altis—the return home through a breach in the walls (denoting by a noble metaphor, "that a city which boasts such men has slight need of walls" [118]), the first seat in all public spectacles; the fame, in short, extended to his native city— bequeathed to his children—confirmed by the universal voice wherever the Greek civilization spread; this was the true olive-crown to the Olympic conqueror!

No other clime can furnish a likeness to these festivals: born of a savage time, they retained the vigorous character of an age of heroes, but they took every adjunct from the arts and the graces of civilization. To the sacred ground flocked all the power, and the rank, and the wealth, and the intellect, of Greece. To that gorgeous spectacle came men inspired by a nobler ambition than that of the arena. Here the poet and the musician could summon an audience to their art. If to them it was not a field for emulation [119], it was at least a theatre of display.

XIX. The uses of these games were threefold;—1st, The uniting all Greeks by one sentiment of national pride, and the memory of a common race; 2dly, The inculcation of hardy discipline—of physical education throughout every state, by teaching that the body had its honours as well as the intellect—a theory conducive to health in peace—and in those ages when men fought hand to hand, and individual strength and skill were the nerves of the army, to success in war; but, 3dly, and principally, its uses were in sustaining and feeding as a passion, as a motive, as an irresistible incentive—the desire of glory! That desire spread through all classes—it animated all tribes—it taught that true rewards are not in gold and gems, but in men's opinions. The ambition of the Altis established fame as a common principle of action. What chivalry did for the few, the Olympic contests effected for the many—they made a knighthood of a people.

If, warmed for a moment from the gravity of the historic muse, we might conjure up the picture of this festival, we would invoke the imagination of the reader to that sacred ground decorated with the profusest triumphs of Grecian art—all Greece assembled from her continent, her colonies, her isles—war suspended—a Sabbath of solemnity and rejoicing—the Spartan no longer grave, the Athenian forgetful of the forum—the highborn Thessalian, the gay Corinthian— the lively gestures of the Asiatic Ionian;—suffering the various events of various times to confound themselves in one recollection of the past, he may see every eye turned from the combatants to one majestic figure—hear every lip murmuring a single name [120]— glorious in greater fields: Olympia itself is forgotten. Who is the spectacle of the day? Themistocles, the conqueror of Salamis, and the saviour of Greece! Again—the huzzas of countless thousands following the chariot-wheels of the competitors—whose name is shouted forth, the victor without a rival!—it is Alcibiades, the destroyer of Athens! Turn to the temple of the Olympian god, pass the brazen gates, proceed through the columned aisles [121], what arrests the awe and wonder of the crowd! Seated on a throne of ebon and of ivory, of gold and gems—the olive-crown on his head, in his right hand the statue of Victory, in his left; wrought of all metals, the cloud-compelling sceptre, behold the colossal masterpiece of Phidias, the Homeric dream imbodied [122]—the majesty of the Olympian Jove! Enter the banquet-room of the conquerors—to whose verse, hymned in a solemn and mighty chorus, bends the listening Spartan—it is the verse of the Dorian Pindar! In that motley and glittering space (the fair of Olympia, the mart of every commerce, the focus of all intellect), join the throng, earnest and breathless, gathered round that sunburnt traveller;—now drinking in the wild account of Babylonian gardens, or of temples whose awful deity no lip may name—now, with clinched hands and glowing cheeks, tracking the march of Xerxes along exhausted rivers, and over bridges that spanned the sea—what moves, what hushes that mighty audience? It is Herodotus reading his history! [123]

Let us resume our survey.

XX. Midland, in the Peloponnesus, lies the pastoral Arcady. Besides the rivers of Alpheus and Erymanthus, it is watered by the gloomy stream of Styx; and its western part, intersected by innumerable brooks, is the land of Pan. Its inhabitants were long devoted to the pursuits of the herdsman and the shepherd, and its ancient government was apparently monarchical. The Dorian irruption spared this land of poetical tradition, which the oracle of Delphi took under no unsuitable protection, and it remained the eldest and most unviolated sanctuary of the old Pelasgic name. But not very long after the return of the Heraclidae, we find the last king stoned by his subjects, and democratic institutions established. It was then parcelled out into small states, of which Tegea and Mantinea were the chief.

XXI. Messenia, a fertile and level district, which lies to the west of Sparta, underwent many struggles with the latter power; and this part of its history, which is full of interest, the reader will find briefly narrated in that of the Spartans, by whom it was finally subdued. Being then incorporated with that country, we cannot, at the period of history we are about to enter, consider Messenia as a separate and independent state. [124]

And now, completing the survey of the Peloponnesus, we rest at Laconia, the country of the Spartans.



CHAPTER VI.

Return of the Heraclidae.—The Spartan Constitution and Habits.—The first and second Messenian War.

I. We have already seen, that while the Dorians remained in Thessaly, the Achaeans possessed the greater part of the Peloponnesus. But, under the title of the Return of the Heraclidae (or the descendants of Hercules), an important and lasting revolution established the Dorians in the kingdoms of Agamemnon and Menelaus. The true nature of this revolution has only been rendered more obscure by modern ingenuity, which has abandoned the popular accounts for suppositions still more improbable and romantic. The popular accounts run thus:—Persecuted by Eurystheus, king of Argos, the sons of Hercules, with their friends and followers, are compelled to take refuge in Attica. Assisted by the Athenians, they defeat and slay Eurystheus, and regain the Peloponnesus. A pestilence, regarded as an ominous messenger from offended heaven, drives them again into Attica. An oracle declares that they shall succeed after the third fruit by the narrow passage at sea. Wrongly interpreting the oracle, in the third year they make for the Corinthian Isthmus. At the entrance of the Peloponnesus they are met by the assembled arms of the Achaeans, Ionians, and Arcadians. Hyllus, the eldest son of Hercules, proposes the issue of a single combat. Echemus, king of Tegea, is selected by the Peloponnesians. He meets and slays Hyllus, and the Heraclidae engage not to renew the invasion for one hundred years. Nevertheless, Cleodaeus, the son, and Aristomachus, the grandson, of Hyllus, successively attempt to renew the enterprise, and in vain. The three sons of Aristomachus (Aristodemus, Temenus, and Cresphontes), receive from Apollo himself the rightful interpretation of the oracle. It was by the Straits of Rhium, across a channel which rendered the distance between the opposing shores only five stadia, that they were ordained to pass; and by the Return of the third fruit, the third generation was denoted. The time had now arrived:—with the assistance of the Dorians, the Aetolians, and the Locrians, the descendants of Hercules crossed the strait, and established their settlement in Peloponnesus (B. C. 1048).

II. Whether in the previous expeditions the Dorians had assisted the Heraclidae, is a matter of dispute—it is not a matter of importance. Whether these Heraclidae were really descendants of the Achaean prince, and the rightful heritors of a Peloponnesian throne, is a point equally contested and equally frivolous. It is probable enough that the bold and warlike tribe of Thessaly might have been easily allured, by the pretext of reinstating the true royal line, into an enterprise which might plant them in safer and more wide domains, and that while the prince got the throne, the confederates obtained the country [125]. All of consequence to establish is, that the Dorians shared in the expedition, which was successful—that by time and valour they obtained nearly the whole of the Peloponnesus—that they transplanted the Doric character and institutions to their new possessions, and that the Return of the Heraclidae is, in fact, the popular name for the conquest of the Dorians. Whatever distinction existed between the Achaean Heraclidae and the Doric race, had probably been much effaced during the long absence of the former among foreign tribes, and after their establishment in the Peloponnesus it soon became entirely lost. But still the legend that assigned the blood of Hercules to the royalty of Sparta received early and implicit credence, and Cleomenes, king of that state, some centuries afterward, declared himself not Doric, but Achaean.

Of the time employed in consummating the conquest of the invaders we are unable to determine—but, by degrees, Sparta, Argos, Corinth, and Messene, became possessed by the Dorians; the Aetolian confederates obtained Elis. Some of the Achaeans expelled the Ionians from the territory they held in the Peloponnesus, and gave to it the name it afterward retained, of Achaia. The expelled Ionians took refuge with the Athenians, their kindred race.

The fated house of Pelops swept away by this irruption, Sparta fell to the lot of Procles and Eurysthenes [126], sons of Aristodemus, fifth in descent from Hercules; between these princes the royal power was divided, so that the constitution always acknowledged two kings—one from each of the Heracleid families. The elder house was called the Agids, or descendants of Agis, son of Eurysthenes; the latter, the Eurypontids, from Eurypon, descendant of Procles. Although Sparta, under the new dynasty, appears to have soon arrogated the pre-eminence over the other states of the Peloponnesus, it was long before she achieved the conquest even of the cities in her immediate neighbourhood. The Achaeans retained the possession of Amyclae, built upon a steep rock, and less than three miles from Sparta, for more than two centuries and a half after the first invasion of the Dorians. And here the Achaeans guarded the venerable tombs of Cassandra and Agamemnon.

III. The consequences of the Dorian invasion, if slowly developed, were great and lasting. That revolution not only changed the character of the Peloponnesus—it not only called into existence the iron race of Sparta—but the migrations which it caused made the origin of the Grecian colonies in Asia Minor. It developed also those seeds of latent republicanism which belonged to the Dorian aristocracies, and which finally supplanted the monarchical government—through nearly the whole of civilized Greece. The revolution once peacefully consummated, migrations no longer disturbed to any extent the continent of Greece, and the various tribes became settled in their historic homes.

IV. The history of Sparta, till the time of Lycurgus, is that of a state maintaining itself with difficulty amid surrounding and hostile neighbours; the power of the chiefs diminished the authority of the kings; and while all without was danger, all within was turbulence. Still the very evils to which the Spartans were subjected—their paucity of numbers—their dissensions with their neighbours—their pent up and encompassed situation in their mountainous confines—even the preponderating power of the warlike chiefs, among whom the unequal divisions of property produced constant feuds—served to keep alive the elements of the great Doric character; and left it the task of the first legislative genius rather to restore and to harmonize, than to invent and create.

As I am writing the history, not of Greece, but of Athens, I do not consider it necessary that I should detail the legendary life of Lycurgus. Modern writers have doubted his existence, but without sufficient reason:—such assaults on our belief are but the amusements of skepticism. All the popular accounts of Lycurgus agree in this— that he was the uncle of the king (Charilaus, an infant), and held the rank of protector—that unable successfully to confront a powerful faction raised against him, he left Sparta and travelled into Crete, where all the ancient Doric laws and manners were yet preserved, vigorous and unadulterated. There studying the institutions of Minos, he beheld the model for those of Sparta. Thence he is said to have passed into Asia Minor, and to have been the first who collected and transported to Greece the poems of Homer [127], hitherto only partially known in that country. According to some writers, he travelled also into Egypt; and could we credit one authority, which does not satisfy even the credulous Plutarch, he penetrated into Spain and Libya, and held converse with the Gymnosophists of India.

Returned to Sparta, after many solicitations, he found the state in disorder: no definite constitution appears to have existed; no laws were written. The division of the regal authority between two kings must have produced jealousy—and jealousy, faction. And the power so divided weakened the monarchic energy without adding to the liberties of the people. A turbulent nobility—rude, haughty mountain chiefs— made the only part of the community that could benefit by the weakness of the crown, and feuds among themselves prevented their power from becoming the regular and organized authority of a government [128]. Such disorders induced prince and people to desire a reform; the interference of Lycurgus was solicited; his rank and his travels gave him importance; and he had the wisdom to increase it by obtaining from Delphi (the object of the implicit reverence of the Dorians) an oracle in his favour.

Thus called upon and thus encouraged, Lycurgus commenced his task. I enter not into the discussion whether he framed an entirely new constitution, or whether he restored the spirit of one common to his race and not unfamiliar to Sparta. Common sense seems to me sufficient to assure us of the latter. Let those who please believe that one man, without the intervention of arms—not as a conqueror, but a friend—could succeed in establishing a constitution, resting not upon laws, but manners—not upon force, but usage—utterly hostile to all the tastes, desires, and affections of human nature: moulding every the minutest detail of social life into one system—that system offering no temptation to sense, to ambition, to the desire of pleasure, or the love of gain, or the propensity to ease—but painful, hard, steril, and unjoyous;—let those who please believe that a system so created could at once be received, be popularly embraced, and last uninterrupted, unbroken, and without exciting even the desire of change for four hundred years, without having had any previous foundation in the habits of a people—without being previously rooted by time, custom, superstition, and character into their breasts. For my part, I know that all history furnishes no other such example; and I believe that no man was ever so miraculously endowed with the power to conquer nature. [129]

But we have not the smallest reason, the slightest excuse, for so pliant a credulity. We look to Crete, in which, previous to Lycurgus, the Dorians had established their laws and customs, and we see at once the resemblance to the leading features of the institutions of Lycurgus; we come with Aristotle to the natural conclusion, that what was familiar to the Dorian Crete was not unknown to the Dorian Sparta, and that Lycurgus did not innovate, but restore and develop, the laws and the manners which, under domestic dissensions, might have undergone a temporary and superficial change, but which were deeply implanted in the national character and the Doric habits. That the regulations of Lycurgus were not regarded as peculiar to Sparta, but as the most perfect development of the Dorian constitution, we learn from Pindar [130], when he tells us that "the descendants of Pamphylus and of the Heraclidae wish always to retain the Doric institutions of Aegimius." Thus regarded, the legislation of Lycurgus loses its miraculous and improbable character, while we still acknowledge Lycurgus himself as a great and profound statesman, adopting the only theory by which reform can be permanently wrought, and suiting the spirit of his laws to the spirit of the people they were to govern. When we know that his laws were not written, that he preferred engraving them only on the hearts of his countrymen, we know at once that he must have legislated in strict conformity to their early prepossessions and favourite notions. That the laws were unwritten would alone be a proof how little he introduced of what was alien and unknown.

V. I proceed to give a brief, but I trust a sufficient outline, of the Spartan constitution, social and political, without entering into prolix and frivolous discussions as to what was effected or restored by Lycurgus—what by a later policy.

There was at Sparta a public assembly of the people (called alia), as common to other Doric states, which usually met every full moon—upon great occasions more often. The decision of peace and war—the final ratification of all treaties with foreign powers—the appointment to the office of counsellor, and other important dignities—the imposition of new laws—a disputed succession to the throne,—were among those matters which required the assent of the people. Thus there was the show and semblance of a democracy, but we shall find that the intention and origin of the constitution were far from democratic. "If the people should opine perversely, the elders and the princes shall dissent." Such was an addition to the Rhetra of Lycurgus. The popular assembly ratified laws, but it could propose none—it could not even alter or amend the decrees that were laid before it. It appears that only the princes, the magistrates, and foreign ambassadors had the privilege to address it.

The main business of the state was prepared by the Gerusia, or council of elders, a senate consisting of thirty members, inclusive of the two kings, who had each but a simple vote in the assembly. This council was in its outline like the assemblies common to every Dorian state. Each senator was required to have reached the age of sixty; he was chosen by the popular assembly, not by vote, but by acclamation. The mode of election was curious. The candidates presented themselves successively before the assembly, while certain judges were enclosed in an adjacent room where they could hear the clamour of the people without seeing the person, of the candidate. On him whom they adjudged to have been most applauded the election fell. A mode of election open to every species of fraud, and justly condemned by Aristotle as frivolous and puerile [131]. Once elected, the senator retained his dignity for life: he was even removed from all responsibility to the people. That Mueller should consider this an admirable institution, "a splendid monument of early Grecian customs," seems to me not a little extraordinary. I can conceive no elective council less practically good than one to which election is for life, and in which power is irresponsible. That the institution was felt to be faulty is apparent, not because it was abolished, but because its more important functions became gradually invaded and superseded by a third legislative power, of which I shall speak presently.

The original duties of the Gerusia were to prepare the decrees and business to be submitted to the people; they had the power of inflicting death or degradation without written laws, they interpreted custom, and were intended to preserve and transmit it. The power of the kings may be divided into two heads—power at home—power abroad: power as a prince—power as a general. In the first it was limited and inconsiderable. Although the kings presided over a separate tribunal, the cases brought before their court related only to repairs of roads, to the superintendence of the intercourse with other states, and to questions of inheritance and adoption.

When present at the council they officiated as presidents, but without any power of dictation; and, if absent, their place seems easily to have been supplied. They united the priestly with the regal character; and to the descendants of a demigod a certain sanctity was attached, visible in the ceremonies both at demise and at the accession to the throne, which appeared to Herodotus to savour rather of Oriental than Hellenic origin. But the respect which the Spartan monarch received neither endowed him with luxury nor exempted him from control. He was undistinguished by his garb—his mode of life, from the rest of the citizens. He was subjected to other authorities, could be reprimanded, fined, suspended, exiled, put to death. If he went as ambassador to foreign states, spies were not unfrequently sent with him, and colleagues the most avowedly hostile to his person associated in the mission. Thus curbed and thus confined was his authority at home, and his prerogative as a king. But by law he was the leader of the Spartan armies. He assumed the command—he crossed the boundaries, and the limited magistrate became at once an imperial despot! [132] No man could question—no law circumscribed his power. He raised armies, collected money in foreign states, and condemned to death without even the formality of a trial. Nothing, in short, curbed his authority, save his responsibility on return. He might be a tyrant as a general; but he was to account for the tyranny when he relapsed into a king. But this distinction was one of the wisest parts of the Spartan system; for war requires in a leader all the license of a despot; and triumph, decision, and energy can only be secured by the unfettered exercise of a single will. Nor did early Rome owe the extent of her conquests to any cause more effective than the unlicensed discretion reposed by the senate in the general. [133]

VI. We have now to examine the most active and efficient part of the government, viz., the Institution of the Ephors. Like the other components of the Spartan constitution, the name and the office of ephor were familiar to other states in the great Dorian family; but in Sparta the institution soon assumed peculiar features, or rather, while the inherent principles of the monarchy and the gerusia remained stationary, those of the ephors became expanded and developed. It is clear that the later authority of the ephors was never designed by Lycurgus or the earlier legislators. It is entirely at variance with the confined aristocracy which was the aim of the Spartan, and of nearly every genuine Doric [134] constitution. It made a democracy as it were by stealth. This powerful body consisted of five persons, chosen annually by the people. In fact, they may be called the representatives of the popular will—the committee, as it were, of the popular council. Their original power seems to have been imperfectly designed; it soon became extensive and encroaching. At first the ephoralty was a tribunal for civil, as the gerusia was for criminal, causes; it exercised a jurisdiction over the Helots and Perioeci, over the public market, and the public revenue. But its character consisted in this:—it was strictly a popular body, chosen by the people for the maintenance of their interests. Agreeably to this character, it soon appears arrogating the privilege of instituting an inquiry into the conduct of all officials except the counsellors. Every eighth year, selecting a dark night when the moon withheld her light, the ephors watched the aspect of the heavens, and if any shooting star were visible in the expanse, the kings were adjudged to have offended the Deity and were suspended from their office until acquitted of their guilt by the oracle of Delphi or the priests at Olympia. Nor was this prerogative of adjudging the descendants of Hercules confined to a superstitious practice: they summoned the king before them, no less than the meanest of the magistrates, to account for imputed crimes. In a court composed of the counsellors (or gerusia), and various other magistrates, they appeared at once as accusers and judges; and, dispensing with appeal to a popular assembly, subjected even royalty to a trial of life and death. Before the Persian war they sat in judgment on the King Cleomenes for an accusation of bribery;—just after the Persian war, they resolved upon the execution of the Regent Pausanias. In lesser offences they acted without the formality of this council, and fined or reprimanded their kings for the affability of their manners, or the size [135] of their wives. Over education—over social habits-over the regulations relative to ambassadors and strangers—over even the marshalling of armies and the number of troops, they extended their inquisitorial jurisdiction. They became, in fact, the actual government of the state.

It is easy to perceive that it was in the nature of things that the institution of the ephors should thus encroach until it became the prevalent power. Its influence was the result of the vicious constitution of the gerusia, or council. Had that assembly been properly constituted, there would have been no occasion for the ephors. The gerusia was evidently meant, by the policy of Lycurgus, and by its popular mode of election, for the only representative assembly. But the absurdity of election for life, with irresponsible powers, was sufficient to limit its acceptation among the people. Of two assemblies—the ephors and the gerusia—we see the one elected annually, the other for life—the one responsible to the people, the other not—the one composed of men, busy, stirring, ambitious, in the vigour of life—the other of veterans, past the ordinary stimulus of exertion, and regarding the dignity of office rather as the reward of a life than the opening to ambition. Of two such assemblies it is easy to foretell which would lose, and which would augment, authority. It is also easy to see, that as the ephors increased in importance, they, and not the gerusia, would become the check to the kingly authority. To whom was the king accountable? To the people:—the ephors were the people's representatives! This part of the Spartan constitution has not, I think, been sufficiently considered in what seems to me its true light; namely, that of a representative government. The ephoralty was the focus of the popular power. Like an American Congress or an English House of Commons, it prevented the action of the people by acting in behalf of the people. To representatives annually chosen, the multitude cheerfully left the management of their interests [136]. Thus it was true that the ephors prevented the encroachments of the popular assembly;—but how? by encroaching themselves, and in the name of the people! When we are told that Sparta was free from those democratic innovations constant in Ionian states, we are not told truly. The Spartan populace was constantly innovating, not openly, as in the noisy Agora of Athens, but silently and ceaselessly, through their delegated ephors. And these dread and tyrant FIVE—an oligarchy constructed upon principles the most liberal—went on increasing their authority, as civilization, itself increasing, rendered the public business more extensive and multifarious, until they at length became the agents of that fate which makes the principle of change at once the vital and the consuming element of states. The ephors gradually destroyed the constitution of Sparta; but, without the ephors, it may be reasonably doubted whether the constitution would have survived half as long. Aristotle (whose mighty intellect is never more luminously displayed than when adjudging the practical workings of various forms of government) paints the evils of the ephoral magistrature, but acknowledges that it gave strength and durability to the state. "For," [137] he says, "the people were contented on account of their ephors, who were chosen from the whole body." He might have added, that men so chosen, rarely too selected from the chiefs, but often from the lower ranks, were the ablest and most active of the community, and that the fewness of their numbers gave energy and unity to their councils. Had the other part of the Spartan constitution (absurdly panegyrized) been so formed as to harmonize with, even in checking, the power of the ephors; and, above all, had it not been for the lamentable errors of a social system, which, by seeking to exclude the desire of gain, created a terrible reaction, and made the Spartan magistrature the most venal and corrupt in Greece—the ephors might have sufficed to develop all the best principles of government. For they went nearly to recognise the soundest philosophy of the representative system, being the smallest number of representatives chosen, without restriction, from the greatest number of electors, for short periods, and under strong responsibilities. [138]

I pass now to the social system of the Spartans.

VII. If we consider the situation of the Spartans at the time of Lycurgus, and during a long subsequent period, we see at once that to enable them to live at all, they must be accustomed to the life of a camp;—they were a little colony of soldiers, supporting themselves, hand and foot, in a hostile country, over a population that detested them. In such a situation certain qualities were not praiseworthy alone—they were necessary. To be always prepared for a foe—to be constitutionally averse to indolence—to be brave, temperate, and hardy, were the only means by which to escape the sword of the Messenian and to master the hatred of the Helot. Sentinels they were, and they required the virtues of sentinels: fortunately, these necessary qualities were inherent in the bold mountain tribes that had long roved among the crags of Thessaly, and wrestled for life with the martial Lapithae. But it now remained to mould these qualities into a system, and to educate each individual in the habits which could best preserve the community. Accordingly the child was reared, from the earliest age, to a life of hardship, discipline, and privation; he was starved into abstinence;—he was beaten into fortitude;—he was punished without offence, that he might be trained to bear without a groan;—the older he grew, till he reached manhood, the severer the discipline he underwent. The intellectual education was little attended to: for what had sentinels to do with the sciences or the arts? But the youth was taught acuteness, promptness, and discernment—for such are qualities essential to the soldier. He was stimulated to condense his thoughts, and to be ready in reply; to say little, and to the point. An aphorism bounded his philosophy. Such an education produced its results in an athletic frame, in simple and hardy habits—in indomitable patience—in quick sagacity. But there were other qualities necessary to the position of the Spartan, and those scarce so praiseworthy—viz., craft and simulation. He was one of a scanty, if a valiant, race. No single citizen could be spared the state: it was often better to dupe than to fight an enemy. Accordingly, the boy was trained to cunning as to courage. He was driven by hunger, or the orders of the leader over him, to obtain his food, in house or in field, by stealth;—if undiscovered, he was applauded; if detected, punished. Two main-springs of action were constructed within him—the dread of shame and the love of country. These were motives, it is true, common to all the Grecian states, but they seem to have been especially powerful in Sparta. But the last produced its abuse in one of the worst vices of the national character. The absorbing love for his native Sparta rendered the citizen singularly selfish towards other states, even kindred to that which he belonged to. Fearless as a Spartan,—when Sparta was unmenaced he was lukewarm as a Greek. And this exaggerated yet sectarian patriotism, almost peculiar to Sparta, was centred, not only in the safety and greatness of the state, but in the inalienable preservation of its institutions;—a feeling carefully sustained by a policy exceedingly jealous of strangers [139]. Spartans were not permitted to travel. Foreigners were but rarely permitted a residence within the city: and the Spartan dislike to Athens arose rather from fear of the contamination of her principles than from envy at the lustre of her fame. When we find (as our history proceeds) the Spartans dismissing their Athenian ally from the siege of Ithome, we recognise their jealousy of the innovating character of their brilliant neighbour;—they feared the infection of the democracy of the Agora. This attachment to one exclusive system of government characterized all the foreign policy of Sparta, and crippled the national sense by the narrowest bigotry and the obtusest prejudice. Wherever she conquered, she enforced her own constitution, no matter how inimical to the habits of the people, never dreaming that what was good for Sparta might be bad for any other state. Thus, when she imposed the Thirty Tyrants on Athens, she sought, in fact, to establish her own gerusia; and, no doubt, she imagined it would become, not a curse, but a blessing to a people accustomed to the wildest freedom of a popular assembly. Though herself, through the tyranny of the ephors, the unconscious puppet of the democratic action, she recoiled from all other and more open forms of democracy as from a pestilence. The simple habits of the Spartan life assisted to confirm the Spartan prejudices. A dinner, a fine house, these sturdy Dorians regarded as a pitiable sign of folly. They had no respect for any other cultivation of the mind than that which produced bold men and short sentences. Them, nor the science of Aristotle, nor the dreams of Plato were fitted to delight. Music and dancing were indeed cultivated among them, and with success and skill; but the music and the dance were always of one kind—it was a crime to vary an air [140] or invent a measure. A martial, haughty, and superstitious tribe can scarcely fail to be attached to poetry,—war is ever the inspiration of song,—and the eve of battle to a Spartan was the season of sacrifice to the Muses. The poetical temperament seems to have been common among this singular people. But the dread of innovation, when carried to excess, has even worse effect upon literary genius than legislative science; and though Sparta produced a few poets gifted, doubtless, with the skill to charm the audience they addressed, not a single one of the number has bequeathed to us any other memorial than his name. Greece, which preserved, as in a common treasury, whatever was approved by her unerring taste, her wonderful appreciation of the beautiful, regarded the Spartan poetry with an indifference which convinces us of its want of value. Thebes, and not Sparta, has transmitted to us the Dorian spirit in its noblest shape: and in Pindar we find how lofty the verse that was inspired by its pride, its daring, and its sublime reverence for glory and the gods. As for commerce, manufactures, agriculture,—the manual arts—such peaceful occupations were beneath the dignity of a Spartan—they were strictly prohibited by law as by pride, and were left to the Perioeci or the Helots.

VIII. It was evidently necessary to this little colony to be united. Nothing unites men more than living together in common. The syssitia, or public tables, an institution which was common in Crete, in Corinth [141], and in Megara, effected this object in a mode agreeable to the Dorian manners. The society at each table was composed of men belonging to the same tribe or clan. New members could only be elected by consent of the rest. Each head of a family in Sparta paid for his own admission and that of the other members of his house. Men only belonged to them. The youths and boys had their own separate table. The young children, however, sat with their parents on low stools, and received a half share. Women were excluded. Despite the celebrated black broth, the table seems to have been sufficiently, if not elegantly, furnished. And the second course, consisting of voluntary gifts, which was supplied by the poorer members from the produce of the chase—by the wealthier from their flocks, orchards, poultry, etc., furnished what by Spartans were considered dainties. Conversation was familiar, and even jocose, and relieved by songs. Thus the public tables (which even the kings were ordinarily obliged to attend) were rendered agreeable and inviting by the attractions of intimate friendship and unrestrained intercourse.

IX. The obscurest question relative to the Spartan system is that connected with property. It was evidently the intention of Lycurgus or the earlier legislators to render all the divisions of land and wealth as equal as possible. But no law can effect what society forbids. The equality of one generation cannot be transmitted to another. It may be easy to prevent a great accumulation of wealth, but what can prevent poverty? While the acquisition of lands by purchase was forbidden, no check was imposed on its acquisition by gift or testament; and in the time of Aristotle land had become the monopoly of the few. Sparta, like other states, had consequently her inequalities—her comparative rich and her positive poor—from an early period in her known history. As land descended to women, so marriages alone established great disparities of property. "Were the whole territory," says Aristotle, "divided into five portions, two would belong to the women." The regulation by which the man who could not pay his quota to the syssitia was excluded from the public tables, proves that it was not an uncommon occurrence to be so excluded; and indeed that exclusion grew at last so common, that the public tables became an aristocratic instead of a democratic institution. Aristotle, in later times, makes it an objection to the ephoral government that poor men were chosen ephors, and that their venality arose from their indigence—a moral proof that poverty in Sparta must have been more common than has generally been supposed [142];—men of property would not have chosen their judges and dictators in paupers. Land was held and cultivated by the Helots, who paid a certain fixed proportion of the produce to their masters. It is said that Lycurgus forbade the use of gold and silver, and ordained an iron coinage; but gold and silver were at that time unknown as coins in Sparta, and iron was a common medium of exchange throughout Greece. The interdiction of the precious metals was therefore of later origin. It seems to have only related to private Spartans. For those who, not being Spartans of the city—that is to say, for the Laconians or Perioeci— engaged in commerce, the interdiction could not have existed. A more pernicious regulation it is impossible to conceive. While it effectually served to cramp the effects of emulation—to stint the arts—to limit industry and enterprise—it produced the direct object it was intended to prevent;—it infected the whole state with the desire of gold—it forbade wealth to be spent, in order that wealth might be hoarded; every man seems to have desired gold precisely because he could make very little use of it! From the king to the Helot [143], the spirit of covetousness spread like a disease. No state in Greece was so open to bribery—no magistracy so corrupt as the ephors. Sparta became a nation of misers precisely because it could not become a nation of spendthrifts. Such are the results which man produces when his legislation deposes nature!

X. In their domestic life the Spartans, like the rest of the Greeks, had but little pleasure in the society of their wives. At first the young husband only visited his bride by stealth—to be seen in company with her was a disgrace. But the women enjoyed a much greater freedom and received a higher respect in Sparta than elsewhere; the soft Asiatic distinctions in dignity between the respective sexes did not reach the hardy mountaineers of Lacedaemon; the wife was the mother of men! Brought up in robust habits, accustomed to athletic exercises, her person exposed in public processions and dances, which, but for the custom that made decorous even indecency itself, would have been indeed licentious, the Spartan maiden, strong, hardy, and half a partaker in the ceremonies of public life, shared the habits, aided the emulation, imbibed the patriotism, of her future consort. And, by her sympathy with his habits and pursuits, she obtained an influence and ascendency over him which was unknown in the rest of Greece. Dignified on public occasions, the Spartan matron was deemed, however, a virago in private life; and she who had no sorrow for a slaughtered son, had very little deference for a living husband. Her obedience to her spouse appears to have been the most cheerfully rendered upon those delicate emergencies when the service of the state required her submission to the embraces of another! [144]

XI. We now come to the most melancholy and gloomy part of the Spartan system—the condition of the Helots.

The whole fabric of the Spartan character rested upon slavery. If it were beneath a Spartan to labour—to maintain himself—to cultivate land—to build a house—to exercise an art;—to do aught else than to fight an enemy—to choose an ephor—to pass from the chase or the palaestra to the public tables—to live a hero in war—an aristocrat in peace,—it was clearly a supreme necessity to his very existence as a citizen, and even as a human being, that there should be a subordinate class of persons employed in the occupations rejected by himself, and engaged in providing for the wants of this privileged citizen. Without Helots the Spartan was the most helpless of human beings. Slavery taken from the Spartan state, the state would fall at once! It is no wonder, therefore, that this institution should have been guarded with an extraordinary jealousy—nor that extraordinary jealousy should have produced extraordinary harshness. It is exactly in proportion to the fear of losing power that men are generally tyrannical in the exercise of it. Nor is it from cruelty of disposition, but from the anxious curse of living among men whom social circumstances make his enemies because his slaves, that a despot usually grows ferocious, and that the urgings of suspicion create the reign of terror. Besides the political necessity of a strict and unrelaxed slavery, a Spartan would also be callous to the sufferings, from his contempt for the degradation, of the slave; as he despised the employments abandoned to the Helot, even so would he despise the wretch that exercised them. Thus the motives that render power most intolerant combined in the Spartan in his relations to the Helot—viz., 1st, necessity for his services, lost perhaps if the curb were ever relaxed—2dly, consummate contempt for the individual he debased. The habit of tyranny makes tyranny necessary. When the slave has been long maddened by your yoke, if you lighten it for a moment he rebels. He has become your deadliest foe, and self-preservation renders it necessary that him whom you provoke to vengeance you should crush to impotence. The longer, therefore, the Spartan government endured, the more cruel became the condition of the Helots. Not in Sparta were those fine distinctions of rank which exist where slavery is unknown, binding class with class by ties of mutual sympathy and dependance—so that Poverty itself may be a benefactor to Destitution. Even among the poor the Helot had no brotherhood! he was as necessary to the meanest as to the highest Spartan—his wrongs gave its very existence to the commonwealth. We cannot, then, wonder at the extreme barbarity with which the Spartans treated this miserable race; and we can even find something of excuse for a cruelty which became at last the instinct of self-preservation. Revolt and massacre were perpetually before a Spartan's eyes; and what man will be gentle and unsuspecting to those who wait only the moment to murder him?

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