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Title: Greek Women
Author: Carroll, Mitchell, 1870-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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In all ages and in all countries



Professor of Classical Philology in the George
Washington University

_Copyrighted 1907-1908_


The history of woman is the history of the world. Strait orthodoxy may
remind us that man preceded woman in the scheme of creation and that
therefore history does not begin with woman; but this is a specious
plea. The first historical information that we gain regarding Adam is
concerned with the creation of woman, and there is nothing to show us
that prior to that time Adam was more active in mind or even in body
than a mollusc. It was not until the coming of woman that history began
to exist; and if the first recorded act of the woman was disastrous in
its consequences, at least it possesses the distinction of making
history. So that it may well be said that all that we are we owe to
woman. Whether or not the story of the Garden of Eden is to be
implicitly accepted, there can be no doubt that from the moment of the
first appearance of mankind on the scene woman has been the ruling cause
of all effect.

The record of woman is one of extremes. There is an average woman, but
she has not been found except in theory. The typical woman, as she is
seen in the pages of history, is either very good or very bad. We find
women saints and we find women demons; but we rarely find a mean. Herein
is a cardinal distinction between the sexes. The man of history is
rarely altogether good or evil; he has a distinct middle ground, in
which we are most apt to find him in his truest aspect. There are
exceptions, and many; but this may be taken as a rule. Even in the
instances of the best and noblest men of whom we have record this rule
will hold. Saint Peter was bold and cautious, brave and cowardly, loving
and a traitor; Saint Paul was boastful and meek, tender and severe;
Saint John cognized beyond all others the power of love, and wished to
call down fire from heaven upon a village which refused to hear the
Gospel; and it is most probable that the true Peter and Paul and John
lived between these extremes. Not so with the women of the same story.
They were throughout consistent with themselves; they were utterly pure
and holy, as Mary Magdalene,--to whose character great wrong has been
done in the past by careless commentary,--or utterly vile, as Herodias.
Extremism is a chief feminine characteristic. Extremist though she be,
woman is always consistent in her extremes; hence her power for good and
for evil.

It is a mistaken idea which places the "emancipation" of woman at a late
date in the world's history. From time immemorial, woman has been
actively engaged in guiding the destinies of mankind. It is true that
the advent of Christianity undoubtedly broadened the sphere of woman and
that she was then given her true place as the companion and helper
rather than the toy of man; but long before this period woman had
asserted her right to be heard in the councils of the wise, and the
right seems to have been conceded in the cases where the demand was
made. Those who look upon the present as the emancipation period in the
history of woman have surely forgotten Deborah, whose chant of triumph
was sung in the congregation of the people and was considered worthy of
preservation for all future ages to read; Semiramis, who led her armies
to battle when the Great King, Ninus, had let fall the sceptre from his
weary hand, and who ruled her people with wisdom and justice; and others
whose fame, even if legendary in its details, has come down to us.
Through all the ages there was opportunity for woman, when she chose to
seize it; and in many cases it was thus seized. Rarely indeed do we find
the history of any age unconcerned with its women. Though their part may
at times seem but minor, yet do they stand out to the observant eye as
the prime causes of many of the great events which make or mark epochs.
When we think of the Trojan War, it is Agamemnon and Priam, Achilles and
Hector, who rise up before our mental vision as the protagonists in that
great struggle; but if there had been no Helen, there would have been no
war, and therefore no Iliad or Odyssey. We read Macaulay's stirring
ballad of_ Horatius at the Bridge, _and we thrill at the recital of
strength and daring; but if it had not been for the virtue of Lucretia,
there would have been no combat for the bridge, and the Tarquins might
have ended their days in peace in the Eternal City. And, in later times,
though Mirabeau and Robespierre and Danton and Marat fill the eye of the
student of the cataclysmic events of the French Revolution, it was the
folly of Marie Antoinette that gave these men their opportunity and even
paved the way for the rise and meteoric career of a greater than them

These are instances of mediate influence upon great events; but there
have been many women who ham exerted immediate influence upon the story
of mankind. That which is usually mistermed weakness is generally held
to be a feminine attribute; and if we replace the term by the truer
word,--gentleness,--the statement may be conceded. But there have been
many women who have been strong in the general sense; and these have
usually been terribly strong. Look at Catherine of Russia, vicious to
the core, but powerful in intellect and will above the standard of
masculine rulers. Look at Elizabeth of England, crafty and false, full
of a ridiculous vanity, yet strong with a strength before which even
such men as Burleigh and Essex and Leicester were compelled to bow.
Look at Margaret of Lancaster, fighting in her husband's stead for the
crown of England and by her undaunted spirit plucking victory again and
again from the jaws of defeat, and yielding at last only when deserted
by every adherent. Look at Clytemmstra and Lady Macbeth, creatures of
the poet's fancy if you will, yet true types of a class of femininity.
They have had prototypes and antitypes, and many.

Women have achieved their most decisive and remarkable effects upon the
history of mankind by reaching and clinging to extremes. Extremism is
always a mark of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm accomplishes effects which
must have been left forever unattained by mere regulated and
conscientious effort. The stories of the Christian martyrs show in
golden letters the devotion of women to a cause; and I have no doubt
whatever that it was in the deaths of young maidens, in their hideous
sufferings borne with resignation and even joy, that there came the
conviction of truth which is known as the seed which was sown in the
blood of the martyrs. The high enthusiasm which supported a Catherine
and a Cecilia in their hours of trial was strong to persuade where the
death of a man for his convictions would have been looked upon as a
matter of course. It is from this enthusiasm and extremism that there
sounds one of the key-notes of woman's nature--her loyalty. Loyalty is
one of the blending traits of the sexes; yet, if I were compelled to
attribute it distinctively to one sex, I should class it as feminine in
its nature.

Loyalty to one idea, to one ideal, has been a predominant characteristic
of woman from time immemorial. Sometimes this loyalty takes the form of
patriotism, sometimes of altruism, sometimes of piety in true sense; but
always it has its origin and life in love. The love may be diffused or
concentrated, general or particular, but it is always the soul of the
true woman, and without it she cannot live. Love for her God, love for
her race, love for her country, love for the man whom she delights to
honor--these may exist separately or as one, but exist for her they
must, or her life is barren and her soul but a dead thing. Love, in the
true sense of the word, is the essence of the woman-soul; it is the soul
itself. She must love, or she is dead, however she may seem to live.
That she does not always ask whether the object of her love, be it
abstract or concrete, be worthy of her devotion is not to be attributed
to her as a fault, but rather as a virtue, since the love itself expands
and vivifies her soul if itself be worthy. It is at once the expression
and the expenditure of the unsounded depths of her soul; it is through
its power over her that she recognises her own nature, that she knows
herself for what she is. The woman who has not loved, even in the
ordinary human and limited meaning of the word, has no conception of her
own soul.

Thus far I have spoken of love in its broad sense, as the highest
impulse of the human soul. But there is another and a lower aspect of
love, and this is the one most usually meant when we use the word,--the
attraction of sex. Even thus, though in this aspect love becomes a far
lesser thing, it possesses no less power. The passion of man for woman
has been the underlying cause of all history in its phenomenal aspects.
The favorite example of this power has always been that of Cleopatra and
Mark Antony; but history is full of equally convincing instances.

To love and to be loved; such is the ultimate lot of woman. It matters
not what accessories of existence fate may have to offer; this is the
supreme meaning of life to woman, and it is here that she finds her true
value in the world. She may read that meaning in divers manners; she may
make of her place in life a curse or a blessing to mankind. It matters
not; all returns to the same cause, the same source of power_. _The
strongest woman is weak if she be not loved, for she lacks her chief
weapon with which to conquer; the weakest is strong if she truly have
won love, for through this she can work miracles. Her strength is more
than doubled; heart and brain and hand are in equal measure, for that
with which the heart inspires the brain will be transmitted by the heart
to the hand, and the message will be too imperative to fear failure.

It is a strange thing--though not inexplicable--that your ambitious
woman is far more ruthless, far more unscrupulous, far more determined
to win at any cost, than is the most ambitious of men. Again comes the
law of extreme to show cause that this should be; but the fact is so
sure that cause is of less interest. Not Machiavelli was so false, not
Caligula was so cruel, not Cæsar was so careless of right, as the woman
whose political ambition has taken form and strength. That which bars
her path must be swept aside, be it man or notion or principle. She sees
but the one object, her goal, looming large before her; and she moves on
with her eyes fixed, crushing beneath her feet all that would turn her

I have spoken of the cruelty of an ambitious woman; and it is worth
while to pause a moment to consider this trait as displayed in
women--not as a means, but as an end. There have been men who loved
cruelty for its own sake; but they are few, and their methods crude,
compared with the woman who have felt this strange passion. In the days
of human sacrifices, it was the women who most thronged to the
spectacles, who most eagerly fastened their eyes upon the expiring
victims. In the gladiatorial combats, it was the women who greeted each
mortal thrust with applause, and whose reversed thumbs won the majority
for the signal of death to the vanquished. In the days of terror in
France, it was the woman who led the mob that threatened the king and
queen, and hanged Foulard to a lamp post after almost tearing him to
pieces; it was the women who sat in rows around the guillotine, day
after day, and placidly knit their terrible records of death; it was the
women who cried for more victims, even after the legal murderers of the
tribunals grew weary of their hideous task of condemnation.

Not only thus--not only under the influence of excitement and
passion--but in cold blood, there are instances among women of such
ghastly cruelty that men recoil from the contemplation of such deeds.
There is record of a Slavonic countess whose favorite amusement was to
sit in the garden of her country palace, in the rigors of a Russian
winter, while young girls were stripped by her attendants and water
poured slowly over their bodies, thus giving them a death of enduring
agony and providing the countess with new, though unsubstantial, statues
for her grounds. This not more than two centuries ago, and in the
atmosphere of so-termed Christianity. The annals of the Spanish
Inquisition would be ransacked in vain for such ingenuity of torture;
and though the Inquisitors may have grown to love cruelty for its own
sake, they at least alleged reason for their deeds; the Russian countess
frankly sought amusement alone.

Yet in these things there is to be found no general accusation of women.
That cruelty should be carried by them to its extreme, that they should
love it for its own sake, is but the development of extremism, and is
isolated in examples, at least by periods. The Russian countess was not
cruel because she was a woman, but, being cruel of nature, she was the
more so because of her sex. The ladies of imperial Rome did not love the
sight of flowing blood because they were women, but, being women, they
carried their acquired taste to bounds unknown to the less impulsive and
less ardent nature of men.

Yet there comes a question. Is this lust for blood, this love of
cruelty; latent in every woman and but restrained, by the gentler
teachings and promptings of her more developed nature in its highest
presentation? So some psychists would have us believe; but they have
only slight ground for their sweeping assertion. That civilisation is
but restrained savagery may perhaps be conceded; but if the restraint
has grown to be the ever-dominant impulse, then has the savage been
slain. It is not, as some teach, that such isolated idiosyncrasies as we
have considered are glimpses of the tiger that sleeps in every human
heart and sometimes breaks its chain and runs riot. As a rule, these
things are matters of atmosphere. Setting aside such pure isolations as
that of the Russian countess, it will almost invariably be found that
the display of feminine cruelty, or of any vice, is of a time and place.
There has never been a universal rule of feminine depravity in any age.
Babylon, Carthage, Greece, Rome, and all the olden civilisations have
had their periods when female virtue was a matter of laughter, when
women outvied men in their moral degradation, when evil seemed
triumphant everywhere; but there always remained a few to "redeem the
time," and salvation always came from those few. Moreover, the sphere of
immorality and crime was always limited. The Roman world, when it was
the world indeed, might be given up to vice and sin, displayed in their
most atrocious forms by the women of the Empire; but there still stood
the North, calm, virtuous, patient, awaiting its opportunity to "root
out the evil thing" and to give the world once more a standard of purity
and righteousness. The leaven of Christianity was effective in its work
upon the moral degradation of the Roman Empire; but it was not until the
scourge of the Northmen was sent to the aid of the principle that
success was fully won. So the North was not of the same day with Rome in
civilised vice, and the reign of evil in the Latin Empire was but the
effect of conditions, not the instincts of humanity. Rome was taught
evil by long and steadfast evolution; it did not spring up in a day
with its deadly blight, but was the result of progressive causation.

It may be doubted if the feminine intellect has increased since the dawn
of civilisation. To-day woman stands on a different plane of
recognition, but by reason of assertiveness, not because of increased
mental ability. As with that of man, the possibilities of woman's
intellect were long latent; but they existed, and the result is
development, not creation of fibre. I repeat that I do not believe that
the feminine intellect has grown in power. I doubt if the present age
can show a mind superior in natural strength to that of Sappho; I do not
believe that the present Empress of China, strong woman as she is, is
greater than Semiramis, or that even Elizabeth of England was the equal
of the warrior-queen of Babylon. But there can be no doubt that there
exists a broader culture to-day than ever before and that thus the
intellectual sum of women is always growing, though there comes no
increase in the mental powers of the individual. It has been so with
man. We boast of the mighty achievements of our age; but we have not yet
built such a structure as that of the Temple of the Sun at Baalbec, or
the Pyramid of Cheops at Ghizeh. We pride ourselves upon our letters;
but the grandest poem ever written by man was also the first of which we
have record--the Book of Job, and we do not even know the name of the
poet who thus set a standard which has never since been reached. We may
claim Shakespeare as the equal of Homer in expression; but it requires
true hero worship among his admirers to place the Elizabethan singer
upon an equality with the old Greek in any other respect. There has been
no growth of individual intellect in either sex since the days of which
we first find record; but there has been an increase of average and a
definition of tendency which are productive of higher general result.
And the natural consequence of this state of things is found in the fact
that even a Sappho in the world of letters would not stand out so
prominently, would not be considered such a prodigy, were she to come in
these days. We should admire her genius and her powers without feeling
the sensation of wonder that these should be possessed by a woman. It is
in the recognition of this fact that we are better enabled to understand
the changing aspect in the relations of women to men during these latter
years. There has been no alteration in the possibilities within the
grasp of the individual, but great change within those which can be
claimed by the sex at large. Women can do no more now than in the olden
days when they were considered as almost inferior to animals; but woman
has profited by the opportunities of her time, and is every day
developing powers until now unsuspected.

[Illustration 12 _ASPASIA After the painting by Henry Holiday. Aspasia
was born in Miletus. At an early age, accompanied by another young girl,
Thargelia, she went to Athens. Their beauty and talents soon won them
distinction--Thargelia married a king of Thessaly, and Aspasia married
Pericles, "more than a king," says Plutarch. The home of Aspasia in
Athens was frequent by the_ élite _of the city and state, attracted by
her beauty, her art of speaking, and her influence. Socrates valued her
great mind, and even called himself one of her disciples. Plato speaks
of her great reputation. She was born in the fifth century before
Christ. The date of her death is not known._]

The whole value of history is in teaching us to understand our own time
and to prognosticate the future with some degree of correctness. More
especially is this true of all class history, and the story of sex
development may be so rated. It is to find the reason of what is and the
nature of what is to come that we turn to the records of the past and
ask them concerning their message to us of these things. In our
retrospective view of woman, we shall, if we are alive to suggestion,
find steadfast tendencies of development. It is true that these
tendencies do not always remain in the light; like rivers, they
sometimes plunge underground and for a time find their paths in
subterranean channels where they are lost to sight; but they always
reëmerge, and at last they find their way to the central sea of the
present. Future ages will doubtless mark the course of those tendencies
not only up to but through our own age; for though I have spoken of a
central sea, the simile is hardly correct, inasmuch as the true ocean
which is the goal of these rivers is not yet in the sight of humanity.
But we at least find promise of that ocean in the steadfast and
determined course of the streams which flow toward it; progress has
always a goal, though it may be one long undiscerned by the abettors of
that progress. So it is with the story of woman. We know what she has
been; we see what she is; and it is possible dimly to forecast what she
will be. Yet I dare to assert that there will be no radical change;
there may be new direction for effort, new lines of development, but the
essential nature will remain unaltered. It is not, however, with this
informing spirit that we have to do in such a work as this. There have
been many misconceptions regarding woman; I would not venture to claim
that none now exist. Yet there is a general consensus of agreement
concerning her dominating and effective characteristics, and the
probability is that in these general laws so laid down the common
opinion is of truth.

Of course, I would not dare to make such an absurd claim that there
exists, or has ever existed, a man who could truthfully say that he knew
woman in the abstract; but that does not necessarily mean that knowledge
of the tendencies and characteristics of the sex is impossible. The
reason of the dense ignorance which prevails among men concerning women
is that the men attempt to apply general laws to particular cases; and
that is fatal. It is absolutely necessary, if we are to gather wisdom
and not merely knowledge from our researches in history, that we should
take into account the result of combination of traits. Otherwise we
should not only find nothing but inconsistency as a consequence of our
study, but we should utterly fail to understand the tendencies of that
which we learn. We must be broad in our judgments if we are to judge
truly. When we read of the Spartan women sending forth their sons to die
for their country, we must not believe that they were lacking in the
depth of maternal affection which is one of the most beautiful
characteristics of the feminine nature. Doubtless they suffered as
keenly as does the modern mother at the death of her son; but they were
trained to subordinate their feelings in this wise, and their training
stood them in stead of stoicism. Nay, even when we read of the
profligacy of the women of imperial Rome, we must not look upon these
women as by nature imbruted and degraded, but we must understand that
they but yielded to the spirit of their environment and their schooling.
They were not different at heart, those reckless Mænads and votaries of
Venus, from the chaste Lucretias or holy Catherines of another day; they
simply lacked direction of impulse in right method, and so missed the
culmination of their highest possibilities.

There is an old saying which tells us that women are what men make them.
Thus generally stated, the saying may be summed up as a slander; but it
has an application in history. There can be no doubt that for
millenniums of the world's adolescence women were controlled and their
bearing and place in society modified by the thought of their times,
which thought was of masculine origin and formation. This state of
affairs has long since passed away, and it may be said that for at least
a thousand years, in adaptation of the saying which I have quoted, the
times have been what women have made them. It was the influence of women
which brought about the outgrowths of civilisation in the dawn of
Christianity that have survived until now. It was the influence, if not
the actual activity, of women that was responsible for the birth of
chivalry and the rise of the spirit of purity. It was the influence of
women that made possible such characters as those of Bayard and Sir
Philip Sydney. It was the influence of women that softened the roughness
and licentiousness of a past day into the refinement and virtue which
are the possessions of the present age.

There has always, in the worst days, been an undercurrent of good, and
its source and strength are to be found in the eternal feminine spirit,
which in its true aspects always makes for righteousness.

The world's statues have, with few exceptions, been raised to men, the
world's elegies have been sung of men, the world's acclamations have
been given to men. This is world justice, blind as well as with bandaged
eyes. Were true justice done--were the best results, the results which
live, commemorated in stone, the world itself, to adapt the hyperbole of
the Evangelist, could hardly contain the statues which would be reared
to women. But it is precisely in the cause for this neglect that there
lies the value of the work which has been done by woman for the welfare
of mankind. It is one of the truths of history that the greatest and
most enduring effects have always been accomplished in the least
conspicuous manner.

The man who searches effect for cause must find his goal most often in
the influence of a woman. Not always for good; that could not be. But it
would seem that all that has endured has been for good, and that the
evil which has been wrought by woman--and it has not been slight--has
been ephemeral in all respects. I know of no enduring evil that can be
traced to a woman as its source; but I know of no constant good which
did not find either its beginning or its fostering in a woman's thought
or work. Poppæa leaves but a name; Agrippina leaves an example. It may
be true of men that the evil that they do lives after them, while the
good is oft interred with their bones; but it is not true of women. Of
course, there is a sense in which it is true--in the descent from mother
to son of the spirit of the unrighteous mother; but even this would not
seem to hold as a rule, and the effects are often modified by the
influence of a love for a higher nature. The sum of woman's influence
upon the destinies of the world is good, the balance inclines steadily
toward the best. Woman is the hope of the world.

It is to find the persistence of this influence that we search her
history. Sometimes we shall find strange factors in the equation that
gives the sum, strange methods of attaining the result; but the result
itself is always plain. Nor is there ever entire lack of contemporary
influence of good, even when the evil seems predominant. If we read of
an Argive Helen bringing war and desolation upon a nation, we shall find
in those same pages record of a Penelope teaching the world the beauty
of faith and constancy. If we trace the story of a Cleopatra ruining men
with a smile, we shall find in the same day an Octavia and a Portia. If
we hear of the Capitol betrayed by a Tarpeia, we have not far to seek
for a Cornelia, known to all time as the Mother of the Gracchi. And it
is those who made for good whose names have come down to us as
incentives and examples. The more closely we read our history, the more
surely are we convinced that the tendency has always been upward; the
progress has been steadfast from the beginning, and it has carried the
world with it.

As I began with the statement that the history of woman is the history
of the world, so I end. This truth at least is sure. The earth is very
old; it has seen the coming and the going of many races, it has
witnessed the rise and fall of uncounted dynasties, it has survived
physical and social cataclysms innumerable; and it still holds on its
way, serenely awaiting its end in the purpose of its Creator. What that
end shall be no man may know; but it is the end to which woman shall
lead it.

Johns Hopkins University.


It is the purpose of this volume to give a simple sketch of the history
of Greek womanhood from the Heroic Age down to Roman times, so far as it
can be gathered from ancient Greek literature and from other available
sources for a knowledge of antique life. Greek civilization was
essentially a masculine one; and it is really remarkable how scant are
the references to feminine life in Greek writers, and how few books have
been written by modern scholars on this subject. In the preparation of
this work, the author has consulted all the authorities bearing on old
Greek life, acknowledgment of which can only be made in general terms.
He feels, however, particularly indebted to the following works: Mlle.
Clarisse Bader, _La Femme Grecque_, Paris, 1872; Jos. Cal. Poestion,
_Griechische Philosophinnen_, Norden, 1885; ibid., _Griechische
Dichterinnen_, Leipzig, 1876; E. Notor, _La Femme dans l'Antiquité
Grecque_, Paris, 1901; R. Lallier, _De la Condition de la Femme
Athénienne au Veme et au IVeme Siècle_, Paris, 1875; Ivo Bruns,
_Frauenemancipation in Athen_, Kiel, 1900; Walter Copeland Perry, _The
Women of Homer_, New York, 1898; Albert Galloway Keller, _Homeric
Society_, London, 1902; and Mahaffy's various works, especially _Social
Life in Greece from Homer to Menander_, and _Greek Life and Thought_. In
making quotations from Greek authors, standard translations have been
used, of which especial acknowledgment cannot always be given, but Lang,
Leaf and Myers' _Iliad_, Butcher's and Lang's _Odyssey_, Wharton's
_Sappho_, and Way's _Euripides_, call for particular mention.

In the spelling of Greek proper names the author has endeavored to adapt
himself to the convenience of his readers by being consistently Roman,
and has used in most cases the Latin forms. He has retained, however,
the Greek forms where usage has made them current, as Poseidon, Lesbos,
Samos, etc., and has invariably adopted forms, neither Greek nor Latin,
which have become universal, as Athens, Constantinople, Rhodes, and the
like. The Greek names of Greek divinities have been preferred to their
Roman equivalents.

To conclude, my thanks are due to the publishers for their uniform
courtesy and help, and to Mr. J.A. Burgan for the careful reading of the
proof; nor could I have undertaken and carried through the work without
the sympathetic aid and encouragement of my wife.

_The George Washington University_.



Whenever culture or art or beauty is theme for thought, the fancy at
once wanders back to the Ancient Greeks, whom we regard as the ultimate
source of all the æsthetic influences which surround us. To them we look
for instruction in philosophy, in poetry, in oratory, in many of the
problems of science. But it is in their arts that the Greeks have left
us their richest and most beneficent legacy; and when we consider how
much they have contributed to the world's civilization, we wonder what
manner of men and women they must have been to attain such achievements.

Though woman's influence is exercised silently and unobtrusively, it is
none the less potent in determining the character and destiny of a
people. Historians do not take note of it, men overlook and undervalue
it, and yet it is ever present; and in a civilization like that of the
Greeks, where the feminine element manifests itself in all its higher
activities,--in its literature, its art, its religion,--it becomes an
interesting problem to inquire into the character and status of woman
among the Greek peoples. We do not desire to know merely the purely
external features of feminine life among the Greeks, such as their
dress, their ornaments, their home surroundings; we would, above all,
investigate the subjective side of their life--how they regarded
themselves, and were regarded by men; how they reasoned, and felt, and
loved; how they experienced the joys and sorrows of life; what part they
took in the social life of the times; how their conduct influenced the
actions of men and determined the course of history; what were their
moral and spiritual endowments;--in short, we should like to know the
Greek woman in all those phases of life which make the modern woman
interesting and influential and the conserving force in human society.
Yet, when we estimate our sources of information, we find that there is
no problem in the whole range of Greek life so difficult of solution as
that concerning the status and character of Greek women.

The first condition of a successful study of Greek women is to
familiarize one's self with the _milieu_ in which they lived and moved.
To do this we must adapt ourselves to a manner of life and to
conceptions and feelings widely different from our own. The Greek spirit
of the fifth century before the Christian era has but little in common
with the spirit of the twentieth century; and unless we gain some
insight into the spirit of the Greeks, we cannot understand the
fundamental differences between the life of the Greek woman and that of
the modern woman. Let us note a few respects in which this difference
shows itself.

The Greek attitude toward nature was that of reverent children who saw
everywhere therein manifestations of the divine. To them everything was
what we call supernatural. If wine gladdened the heart of man, it was
the influence of a god. If love stirred the breast, a god was inspiring
man with a sweet influence, and the divine power must not be resisted.
The gods themselves yielded to the impulses of love; why should not men?
Furthermore, Greek thought conceived of the human being as the noblest
creation of nature. Christian theology conceives of the body as the
prison house of the soul, from which the soul must escape to attain its
highest development; the Greeks, on the other hand, regarded body and
soul as forming a complete, inseparable, and harmonious unit. There was
no impulse toward distinguishing between the two, no restless reaching
out toward something regarded as higher and nobler; seeing infinite
possibilities in man as man, the Greek sought only the idealization of
the human being as such, the completion and realization of the highest
type of humanity, physical and spiritual. Because of this peculiar
conception of man, the gods of the Greeks rose out of nature and did not
transcend it. Some of them were personifications of the forces of
nature; others were merely, according to Greek ideas, the highest
conceptions of what was admirable in man and woman. When we consider the
goddesses of the Olympian Pantheon, we see that this conception of the
ideal in woman must have been very high, manifesting itself in the
characters of Hera, the goddess of marriage and of the birth of
children; Athena, "intellect unmoved by fleshly lust, the perfection of
serene, unclouded wisdom;" Demeter, goddess of agriculture and of the
domestic life; Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty and the
idealization of feminine graces and charm; Artemis, the maiden divinity
never conquered by love, and the protectress of maidens; and Hestia,
goddess of the hearth and preserver of the sanctity of the home.

It is difficult for us to appreciate the passionate love of beauty which
animated the Greeks.

      "What is good and fair
      Shall ever be our care.
      That shall never be our care
      Which is neither good nor fair."

This immortal burden from the stanzas of Theognis, sung by the Muses and
Graces at the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia, "strikes," says Symonds,
"the keynote to the music of the Greek genius." This innate love of
beauty, fostered by natural surroundings and held in restraint by a
sense of measure, was the most salient characteristic of the Greek
people. It is impossible for us to realize the intensity of the Greek
feeling for beauty; and to them the human body was the noblest form of
earthly loveliness. To illustrate, we may recall the incident of
Phryne's trial before the judges. Hyperides, her advocate, failing in
his other arguments, drew aside her tunic and revealed to them a bosom
perfectly marvellous in its beauty. Phryne was at once acquitted, not
from any prurient motives, but because "the judges beheld in such an
exquisite form not an ordinary mortal, but a priestess and prophetess of
the divine Aphrodite. They were inspired with awe, and would have deemed
it sacrilege to mar or destroy such a perfect masterpiece of creative
power." Nor was the Greek conception of beauty purely sensual. Through
the perfection of human loveliness they had glimpses of divine beauty,
and "the fleshly vehicle was but the means to lead on the soul to what
is eternally and imperishably beautiful." Thus the lesson of the
_Phædrus_ and _Symposium_ of Plato is that "the passion which grovels in
the filth of sensual grossness may be transformed into a glorious
enthusiasm, a winged splendor, capable of rising to the contemplation of
eternal verities and reuniting the soul of man to God."

This last reflection leads us to the most important difference between
ancient and modern conceptions, that in regard to the relations between
the sexes. We of the Christian era have a clear doctrine of right and
wrong to guide us, a law given from without ourselves, the result of
revelation. The Greeks, on the other hand, "had to interrogate nature
and their own hearts for the mode of action to be pursued. They did not
feel or think that one definite course of action was right and the
others wrong; but they had to judge in each case whether the action was
becoming, whether it was in harmony with the nobler side of human
nature, whether it was beautiful or useful. Utility, appropriateness,
and the sense of the beautiful were the only guides which the Greeks
could find to direct them in the relations of the sexes to each other."
Hence we find that the Greeks deemed permissible much which offends the
modern sense of propriety; for example, when maidens captured in war
became for a time the concubines of the victors, as Chryseis in the
Iliad, and were afterward restored to their homes, they were not thought
in the least disgraced by their misfortune; "for if such a stain happen
to a woman by force of circumstances," says Xenophon, "men honor her
none the less if her affection seems to them to remain untainted."

How, then, are we to bridge over the gulf which separates us from the
Greeks? What are our sources of knowledge of Greek woman and her manner
of life?

We must first of all know the country of the Greeks. The influence of
country and climate on the Greek nationality has been frequently
emphasized, and the physical phenomena which moulded the characters of
the men must also have affected the women. A climate so mild that, as
Euripides says, "the cold of winter is without rigor, and the shafts of
Phoebus do not wound;" a soil midway between harsh sterility and
luxurious vegetation; a system of fertile plains and rugged plateaus and
varied mountain chains; a coast indented with innumerable inlets and
gulfs and bays--these were the physical characteristics which moulded
the destinies of Greek women. Furthermore, the modern Greek people trace
the threads of their history unbroken back to ancient times, in spite
of the incursions of alien peoples and years of subjugation to the Turk.
Many ancient customs survive, such as the giving of a dowry and the
bathing of the bride before the wedding ceremony. On the islands of the
Ægean, where there has been but little intercourse with foreigners, the
type of features so familiar to us from Greek sculpture still prevails,
and the visitor can see beautiful maidens who might have served as
models for Phidias and Praxiteles. The configuration of the land led to
the Greek conception of the city-state--the feature of internal polity
which had most to do with the seclusion of women.

Greek literature, however, is our chief source of knowledge in this
regard, yet even the information afforded by that literature is
inadequate and unsatisfactory in the glimpses it gives of the life of
woman. All that we know about Greek women, with the exception of the
fragments of Sappho's poems, is derived from chronicles written by men.
Now, men never write dispassionately about women. They either love or
hate them; they either idealize or caricature them. Furthermore, Greek
literature was not only written by men, but also by men for men. The
Greek reading public, the audience at the theatre, the gathering in the
Assembly and in the law courts, were almost exclusively masculine.
Remarks indicating the inferiority of the frailer but more fascinating
sex are even in our day not altogether displeasing to the average man,
and constitute one of the stock _motifs_ of humor; hence it is not to be
taken too seriously that on the Greek stage there was much abuse of
woman--though this is offset by passages in which the sex is
extravagantly praised. Euripides was once called a woman hater in the
presence of Sophocles. "Yes," was the clever response, "in his

Then, aside from the point of view of the writer, only meagre facts can
be gleaned here and there from Greek literature regarding the life of
Greek women. Only by gathering and comparing disparate passages
collected from writers of different views, of different States, and of
different periods, can we get anything like a systematic presentation of
the outward aspect of feminine life. We are more fortunate, however,
when we consider the subjective side; for the Greek epos and drama
present feminine portraitures which necessarily reflect, more or less
clearly, the thought and feelings of woman in the age in which the poet
flourished. Homer gives an accurate portrayal of the Heroic Age, on the
borderland of which his own life was passed, while memories of it were
still fresh in the minds of men. The Athenian tragedians also locate
their plots in the Heroic Age, but they endow their characters with a
depth of thought, with a power of reflection, with an insight into the
problems of life, which were altogether foreign to men and women in the
childhood of the world, and were characteristic of Athens in its
brilliant intellectual epoch. Hence a history of Greek womanhood must
draw largely from the works of the poets, and must endeavor to give a
picture of the women who figure in the Iliad and the Odyssey and in the
dramas of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The lyric poets of Greece
are also of unique importance in the study of ancient humanity, for they
reveal the hearts of men and women and make known the conflicts of the
soul. The historical women of Hellas are few in number, and are known to
us only through meagre passages in the historians, orators, and

A third source of information is Greek art. When woman figures so
largely in the few relics of antiquity which have come down to us
intact, what a commentary on ancient womanhood must the art of the
Greeks have been, before the ruthless hands of Romans and barbarians and
the tooth of time effaced her most precious treasures! The vase
paintings of the Greeks illustrate every phase of private life, and
abound in representations of the maiden and the matron, in the home, at
the loom, in the bridal procession, at the wedding. And Greek sculpture
presents ideal types of woman, perfect physically and highly endowed
with every intellectual and sensuous charm. From these works of plastic
art, abounding in the museums of Europe, we know that the Greek woman
was beautiful, the peer of man in physical excellence. In form, the
Greek woman was so perfect as to be still taken as the type of her sex.
"Her beauty, from whatever cause, bordered closely upon the ideal, or
rather was that which, because now only found in works of art, we call
the ideal. But our conceptions of form never transcend what is found in
nature. She bounds our ideas by a circle over which we cannot step. The
sculptors of Greece represented nothing but what they saw; and even when
the cunning of their hand was most felicitous, even when love and grace
and all the poetry of womanhood appeared to breathe from their marbles,
the inferiority of their imitation to the creations of God, in
properties belonging to form, in mere contour, in the grouping and
development of features, must have sufficed to impress even upon
Phidias, that high priest of art, how childish it was to rise above
nature." But it is not merely physical perfection which appeals to us in
these masterpieces of plastic art. Love and tenderness and every womanly
charm find expression in every feature of the countenance; and there is,
above all, a moral dignity, an elevation of soul, a spiritual fervor,
which lift us from things of earth and impart aspirations toward the
eternal. The women who gave insight and inspiration to the sculptor in
his portrayal of Hera and of Athena and of Aphrodite must have possessed
in some measure the qualities imparted by the artist to his works. The
status of woman among the Greeks differs according to the period, tribe,
and form of government, and all the various phases of life and
civilization arising from these must be taken into consideration in
reaching our conclusions. Greek history falls into certain well-defined
periods which are distinct in culture and civilization. There is first
the Heroic Age, portrayed in Greek mythology and in the Homeric poems,
the age of demigods and valiant warriors and noble women. This is the
monarchical period in Greek history. Kings presided over the destinies
of men, and about them were gathered the nobles. Society was
aristocratic; the life portrayed was the life of courts. A court made a
queen necessary; and where there is a queen, woman is always a source of
influence and power for good or evil, and wins either the deference and
regard, or the fear and resentment of men. Succeeding the Heroic Age,
there followed the "storm and stress" period in Greek life, when
monarchies were overturned and gave place to oligarchies, and they, in
turn, to tyrannies; when commerce was developing, colonies were being
sent out to distant parts of the Mediterranean, and the aristocratic
classes were enjoying the results of wealth and travel and the
interchange of social courtesies. In this period, epic poetry declined,
and lyric poetry took its place in the three forms of elegiac, iambic,
and melic; the arts, too, were beginning to be cultivated. This is the
Transition Age of Greece. In aristocratic circles, among the families of
the oligarchs and in the courts of tyrants, woman continued to hold a
prominent place; but among the poorer classes, who were ground down by
the aristocrats, life was hard and bitter, and woman was censured as
the source of many of the ills of mankind.

The Transition Age constitutes the portal admitting to Historical Greece
proper. In most communities, the levelling process has gone on, and
democracies have taken the place of oligarchies and tyrannies. The
people have asserted themselves and are regnant. It is a noteworthy fact
in Greek history that where democracy prevailed woman was least highly
regarded and had fewest privileges. In Athens, where democracy was
all-controlling, feminine activities were confined largely to the
women's apartments of the house. In other cities, oligarchies continued
to have power, and an aristocracy was still recognized, as at Sparta;
and here the privileges and freedom of woman were very great.

The early tribal divisions among the Greeks must also be taken into
consideration. The Achæans are closely identified with the Heroic Age;
they built up the powerful States in the Peloponnesus, and undertook the
first great national expedition of Hellas. Thus the Achæans are the
representative Homeric people, with its monarchical life and the
prominent social status of its women. The Achæan civilization gave way
before the Dorian migration, and ceased to be a factor in Greek history.
Of the three remaining divisions, the Æolians inhabited parts of
Thessaly, Boeotia, and especially the island of Lesbos, and the Greek
colonies of Asia Minor along the shores of the North Ægean. Their most
brilliant period was during the Transition Age, when Lesbos was ruled by
a wealthy and powerful aristocracy and later by a tyranny, and when
lyric poetry reached its perfect bloom in the verses of Sappho. Æolian
culture was marked by its devotion to music and poetry and by its
richness and voluptuousness. At no other time and place in the whole
history of Hellas did woman possess so much freedom and enjoy all the
benefits of wealth and culture in so marked a degree as among the Æolian
people of Lesbos.

The Dorian and the Ionian peoples occupied the arena during the
historical period; and, representing as they did opposing tendencies,
they were continually in conflict. The Dorians mainly occupied the
Southern and Western Peloponnesus, Argos, Corinth, Megara, Ægina, Magna
Græcia, and the southern coast of Asia Minor; the Ionians inhabited
Attica, Euboea, most of the islands of the Ægean, and the famous twelve
Ionian cities along the coast of Asia Minor. The chief city of the
Dorians was Sparta; but Sparta had a form of government peculiar to
itself, which must not be taken as representing all the Dorian States.
Yet among the Dorian States in general there was much the same degree of
freedom enjoyed by women as in Sparta, though they were not subjected to
the same harsh discipline.

The Ionian cities of Asia Minor were greatly influenced by Asiatic love
of ease and luxury, and they introduced into Greece many aspects of the
civilization and art of Asia. There is a tradition that when the Ionians
migrated from Hellas to Asia Minor they did not take their wives with
them, as did the Dorians and Æolians, and, consequently, they were
compelled to wed the native women of the conquered districts. As they
looked upon the wives thus acquired as inferior, they were glad to shut
them up in the women's apartments, following the Oriental custom, and to
treat them as domestics rather than as companions. Thus is supposed to
have arisen the custom of secluding the women of the household, which
rapidly spread among Ionian peoples, even in Continental Greece.

Athens was the chief city among the Ionian peoples, but it developed a
civilization peculiarly its own, known as the Attic-Ionian, combining
much of the rugged strength and vigor of the Dorians with the
refinement, delicacy, and versatility of the Ionians. Yet the status of
woman in the city of the violet crown was a reproach to its otherwise
unapproachable preeminence. Nowhere else in entire Hellas were Greek
women in like measure repressed and excluded from the higher life of the
men as among the Athenians. Consequently, the name of no great Athenian
woman is known to us. But the Ionian repression of women of honorable
station led to the rise of a class of "emancipated" women, who threw off
the shackles that had bound their sex and united their fortunes with men
in unlawful relations as hetæræ, or "companions." Owing to their pursuit
of the higher learning of the times and their cultivation of all the
feminine arts and graces, the hetæræ constituted a most interesting
phenomenon in the social life of Greece, and played an important role in
Greek culture, especially in Athens. As the centre of culture for
Hellas, and as the exponent of literature and art for the civilized
world, Athens demands especial attention in its treatment of women.

The classical period of Greek history was succeeded by the Hellenistic
Age, an epoch introduced by the spread of the Greek language and culture
over the vast empire of Alexander the Great. The theory of the
city-state had been one of the chief causes of the seclusion of women;
and as Alexander broke down the barriers between the Greek cities and
introduced uniformity of life and manners throughout his empire, from
this time on the status of woman is gradually elevated, her attention to
the higher education becomes more general, and she takes a more
prominent part in culture and politics and all the living interests of
the day. Alexandria usurps the place of Athens as the chief centre of
Greek life and thought, and here the Greek woman plays a conspicuous
and prominent role. Then, as Rome spread her conquests over the Orient,
the Græco-Roman period succeeds the Hellenistic, and through the
intermingling of alien civilizations a womanhood of purely Greek culture
is merged into the cosmopolitan womanhood of the Roman world.
Christianity rapidly becomes the leaven that permeates the lump of the
Roman Empire, and, appealing as it did to all that was highest and best
in feminine character, finds ready acceptance among the women of
Hellenic lands. The woman of Greek culture, with rare exceptions, ceases
to exist, and our subject reaches its natural termination.



The life of the earliest Greeks is mirrored in their legends. Though not
exact history, the heroic epics of Greece are of great value as pictures
of life and manners. Hence we may turn to them as valuable memorials of
that state of society which must be for us the starting point of the
history of the Greek woman.

The evidence of Homer regarding the Heroic Age is comprehensive and
accurate. The discoveries of recent years are making Troy and Mycenæ and
other cities of Homeric life very real to us. We find that Homer
accurately described the material surroundings of his heroes and
heroines--their houses and clothing and weapons and jewels. The royal
palaces at Troy and Tiryns and Mycenæ have been unearthed, and we know
that their human occupants must have been persons of the character
described by Homer, for only such could have made proper use of the
objects of utility and adornment found in these palaces and now to be
studied in the museums of Europe. Hence we are driven to the conclusion
that though Agamemnon be a myth and Helen a poet's fancy, yet men and
women like Agamemnon and Helen must once have lived and loved and
suffered on Greek soil.

Furthermore, great movements in the world's history are brought about
only by great men and great women. The great epics of the world tell the
stories of national heroes, not as they actually were, but idealized and
deified by generations of admiring descendants. Hence, behind all the
marvellous stories in myth and legend were doubtless actual figures of
men and women who influenced the course of events and left behind them
reputations of sufficient magnitude to give at least a basis for the
heroic figures of epic poetry.

To appreciate the elements from which the immortal types of Greek Epic
were composed, a comparison with the Book of Judges is apposite. In
Judges we have represented, though in disconnected narrative, the heroic
age of Ancient Israel, and from material such as this the national epic
of the Hebrew people might have been written. In such an epic, women
like Deborah and Jephthah's Daughter and Delilah would be the idealized
heroines, as are Penelope and Andromache and Helen in Homeric poems. It
is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that in the Achæan Age there
lived actual women, of heroic qualities, who were the prototypes of the
idealized figures presented by Homer and the dramatic poets.

Woman must have played a prominent role in the childhood of the Greek
world, for much of the romantic interest which Greek legend inspires is
derived from the mention of the women. Helen and Penelope, Clytemnestra
and Andromache, and the other celebrated dames of heroic times, stand in
the foreground of the picture, and are noted for their beauty, their
virtues, their crimes, or their sufferings. Thus, a study of the history
of woman in Ancient Greece properly begins with a contemplation of
feminine life as it is presented in the poems of Homer.

Homer's portrayal of the Achæan Age is complete and satisfactory,
largely because he devotes so much attention to woman and the conditions
of her life. His chivalrous spirit manifests itself in his attitude
toward the weaker sex. Homer's men are frequently childish and
impulsive; Homer's women present the characteristics universally
regarded as essential to true womanhood. They even seem strangely
modern; the general tone of culture, the relation of the sexes, the
motives that govern men and women, present striking parallels to what we
find in modern times.

Homer has presented to us eternal types of womanhood, which are in
consequence worthy of the immortality they have acquired. At present, we
shall merely seek to learn from these works as much as possible about
the life of woman as seen in the customs of society, and in
archæological and ethnographic details.

That which strikes us as most noticeable in the organization of society
in heroic times is its patriarchal simplicity. Monarchy is the
prevailing form of government. "Basileus," "leader of the people," is
the title of the sovereign, and every Basileus rules by right hereditary
and divine: the sceptre of his house is derived from Zeus. The king is
leader in war, head of the Council and of the Assembly of the people,
and supreme judge in all matters involving equity. The "elders"
constitute the Council, and the people are gathered together in Assembly
to endorse the actions of their chiefs. The Iliad describes the life of
a Greek camp; but Agamemnon, the suzerain, has under him men who are
kings at home. The Odyssey describes civil life in the centres where the
chieftains at Ilium are royal rulers. The two epics are chiefly
concerned with the lives of these kings and their families. It is the
life of courts and kings, of the aristocracy, with which Homer makes us
familiar; and in the monarchies of Homer the status of woman is always
elevated and her influence great. The wife shares the position of her
husband, and his family are treated with all the deference due the head.
As the king derives his authority by divine right, the people live
peaceably under the government of their chief as under the authority and
protection of the gods. Such are the salient features of the Homeric

With what inimitable grace does the poet initiate us even into the life
of the little girl at her mother's side. Achilles is chiding Patroclus
for his tears: "Wherefore weepest thou, Patroclus, like a fond little
maid that runs by her mother's side and bids her mother take her up, and
tearfully looks at her till the mother takes her up?" Now, let us note
the maiden at the dawn of womanhood. The mother had prayed that her
daughter might grow up like Aphrodite in beauty and charm, and like
Athena in wisdom and skill in handiwork. Father and mother observe with
happiness her radiant youth; and her brothers care tenderly for her. Her
pastimes consist in singing and dancing and playing ball and the various
forms of outdoor recreation. Young men and maidens join together in
these sports. Homer represented such scenes on the Shield of Achilles:
"Also did the lame god devise a dancing place like unto that which once
in wide Cnossos Dædalus wrought for Ariadne of the lovely tresses. There
were youths dancing and maidens of costly wooing, their hands upon one
another's wrists. Fine linen the maidens had on, and the youths
well-woven doublets, faintly glistening with oil. Fair wreaths had the
maidens, and the youths daggers of gold hanging from silver baldrics.
And now they would run round with deft feet exceeding lightly, as when a
potter sitting by his wheel that fitteth between his hands maketh trial
of it whether it will run: and now anon they would run in line to meet
each other." Such were their pastimes, and equally joyous were their
occupations. To the maidens seem to have been chiefly assigned the
outdoor tasks of the household, which would contribute to their physical
development. Thus the Princess Nausicaa and her girl friends wash in the
river the garments of fathers and brothers; and the Shield of Achilles
represented a vintage scene where "maidens and striplings in childish
glee bear the sweet fruit in plaited baskets, and in the midst of them a
boy made pleasant music on a clear-toned viol, and sang thereto a sweet
Linus-song, while the rest with feet falling together kept time with the
music and the song."

The education of the girls was of the simplest character. They grew up
in the apartment of the mother, and learned from her simple piety toward
the gods a modest bearing, skill in needlework, and efficiency in the
management of a household.

While enjoying a freedom far greater than that allowed to maidens in the
classical period, the Homeric girls did not take part in the feasts and
pastimes of court life. Thus the poet tells us that Nausicaa, who is a
perfect picture of the Greek girl in the springtime of her youth and
beauty, "retired to her chamber upon her return to the palace, and
supper was served to her by a nurse in her apartments," while Odysseus
was being graciously entertained by her father and mother in the court
below. Strict attention to the _convenances_ of their sex and station
was required of these primitive women; and the high-minded maiden
Nausicaa feared evil report should the stranger, Odysseus, be seen with
her in the streets of the city, as such intimacy would be a "shame" to
her, a maiden; while it was also a "shame" for a married woman to go
alone into the presence of men, even when in her own house, though she
could enter their presence when attended by her handmaidens. Thus
Penelope is followed by her maidens when she goes to the hall of the men
to hear the minstrel Phemius. "Bid Antinoë and Hippodamia," says she,
"come to stand by my side in the halls, for alone I will not go among
men, for I am ashamed." Nor did Helen and Andromache ever appear in
public without their handmaidens. In seeming opposition to this
excessive modesty was that office of hospitality which ofttimes required
young women to bathe and anoint the distinguished strangers who were
guests in the house. Thus Polycaste, the beautiful daughter of Nestor,
bathed and anointed Telemachus, and put on him a cloak and vest. Helen
performed like offices for Odysseus when he came in disguise into Troy,
and Circe later for the same hero. Though the poet's statements may at
times, in matters of outward appearance, do violence to modern social
rules, yet, because life in heroic times was simpler and less
conventional, there could innocently be greater freedom of expression
between the sexes regarding many matters which are tabooed in good
society in this very conventional age. Hence such passages as those
cited are to be taken rather as an evidence of the innocence and
ingenuousness of Homer's maidens than as an imputation of lack of

There are many indications pointing to the universal beauty of Homeric
women. Thus a favorite epithet of the country is "Hellas, famed for fair
women." There are also numerous epithets applied to Homeric characters
significant of beauty, as "fair in form," "with beautiful cheeks," "with
beautiful locks," "with beautiful breasts," and the like, demonstrating
the universal love of physical beauty as well as the prevalence of
beautiful types.

Marriage was a highly honorable estate, and both young men and maidens
looked forward to it as a natural and desirable step in the sequence of
life. The preliminaries were of a distinctly patriarchal type. The
marriage was usually a matter of arrangement between the suitor and his
intended father-in-law. Sometimes a man might win his bride by heroic
deed or personal merit; but usually the successful suitor was he who
brought the most costly wedding gifts. Thus the characteristic feature
was wife purchase. Usually these gifts were offered to the bride's
father or family; but in the case of the (supposed) widow Penelope, they
were presented to the woman herself. The gifts were added to the wealth
of the bride's household. The idea of dower as such is foreign to the
Homeric poems, though the poet occasionally represents the bride as
receiving from parents rich gifts, which apparently were to be her
personal property, in addition to the nuptial gifts from her family,
consisting of herds or jewels or precious raiment.

From the eagerness with which suitors sought to win the regard of the
maiden, it would seem that she had some choice in the selection of a
husband; but in general the father decided whom he would have for his
son-in-law, though at times the maiden was given her choice from a
number of young men approved by her father. Widows were expected to
remarry; and in their case considerable freedom of choice existed.

The marriage ceremonies were of a social rather than religious or civil
character. The wedding day was celebrated by a feast provided by the
groom in the house of the bride's father. All the guests were clad in
their most costly raiment, and they brought presents to the young
couple. In these patriarchal times, when the father was both chief and
pontiff, so that his approval gave a sacred character to the union, the
leading away of the bride from the house of her father seems to have
constituted the most important act of the marriage ceremony. In the
description of the Shield of Achilles, Homer gives us a glimpse of this
solemnity. Under the glow of torches, surrounded by a joyous company,
dancing and singing hymeneal songs, the bride was led to the house of
her future husband. She was veiled, a custom that was a survival of the
old attempt to avoid angering the ancestral spirits by withdrawing
unceremoniously from their surveillance. The gods presided over
marriage, but no priest or sacrifice was needed; no ceremonies have been
recorded which confirm the theory of bride capture, so often said to be
at the basis of Homeric marriages, nor is there mention of any
ceremonial rites on the wedding night.

Marriage among the Homeric Greeks had primarily two distinct objects in
view: the preservation of a pure line of descent, and the protection of
the property rights of the family. Hence the wife and mother had in her
hands all the sacred traditions of the family; if these were preserved
by her, she added to their glory; if violated, the prestige of the
family suffered untold loss. In consequence, there was no polygamy and
no divorce. Monogamy could be the only sanctioned form of marriage where
such conceptions of wedded life prevailed. Concubinage existed,
especially when the husband was long absent from home; but it was looked
upon with disfavor and frequently led to unfortunate consequences, as in
the cases of Phoenix and Agamemnon. Hetairism and prostitution did not
receive in the Homeric days the recognized place that was later accorded
them in the social structure of the Greeks. The many instances of
conjugal devotion in the Iliad and the Odyssey, as seen, for example, in
Hector and Andromache, Odysseus and Penelope, Alcinous and Arete, show
the high average of marital fidelity in heroic times. There are also
many minor indications that the ties of the family were very sacred
among the Achæans, and that conjugal affection was very strong. One of
the lamented hardships of the long siege was separation from one's wife:
"For he that stayeth away but one single month far from his wife in his
benched ship fretteth himself when winter storms and the furious sea
imprison him; but for us the ninth year of our stay here is upon us in
its course." And the prayer of Odysseus for Nausicaa shows the Greek
love of home and happy married life: "And may the gods grant thee all
thy heart's desire: a husband and a home, and a mind at one with his may
they give--a good gift; for there is nothing mightier and nobler than
when man and wife are of one heart and mind in a house, a grief to their
foes, and to their friends great joy, but their own hearts know it

The view taken of adultery is a good test of the position of woman in
society. In Homeric times, adultery was regarded as the violation of a
property right. There are few harsh words in the Iliad against Helen;
all the anger of the Greeks was concentrated against Paris, who had
violated the bond of guest friendship, and had alienated his host's
property. Menelaus readily pardoned Helen, when material reparation had
been exacted; there is no moral reprehension of the adultery itself.
Clytemnestra was violently condemned, less because she yielded to the
seductions of Ægisthus than because her crime led to the murder of her
husband. There seems to have been also a natural perpetuity of the
marriage contract. To the Greeks, Helen was always the wife of Menelaus.
The ideal for the wife was single-hearted loyalty toward her husband;
faithfulness and submission were the principal virtues of women. Moral
lapses by men were frequent, and the same standard of marital rectitude
was not required from them as from the women of the heroic days.

The social manners of the time, and especially the elevated position of
the matron, may be gathered from Homer's account of Telemachus's
reception at the palace of King Menelaus in Sparta. He and his friend
Pisistratus are conducted into the great hall, where, after having
bathed and anointed themselves and put on fresh raiment, they are
received by their host, Menelaus. They are placed on chairs beside him,
and a repast is brought, of which they are invited to partake. Menelaus
does not yet know who his guests are, but he has observed that
Telemachus weeps when Odysseus is mentioned in conversation.

While he is pondering on this, Helen comes forth into the hall from her
"fragrant vaulted chamber" in the inner or woman's part of the house.
With her are three handmaids, one of whom sets for her the well-wrought
chair, a second brings a rug of soft wool, while the third places at her
side a silver basket on wheels, across which is laid a golden distaff
charged with wool of violet blue. Helen immediately takes a leading part
in the entertainment of the guests, one of whom, with woman's intuition,
she is the first to recognize, and they converse far into the night.
Then good cheer is spread before them, and Helen casts into the wine
whereof they drink "a drug to lull all pain and anger and bring
forgetfulness to every sorrow." Presently Helen bids her handmaids show
with torches the guests to their beds beneath the corridors, where
bedsteads have been set with purple blankets and coverlets and thin
mantles upon them.

Here, in her royal palace, Helen is in every sense a queen. Endowed with
charms of intellect, as well as of person, she regulates the life and
determines the tone of the society about her; and she is but an example
of the high social position of the Homeric women.

The Homeric matron had as her regular duties the management of the
household, and was trained in every domestic occupation. Spinning and
weaving were her chief accomplishments, and all the Homeric heroines
were highly skilled in the textile arts. The garments worn by the men
were fashioned at home by handmaidens under the superintendence of their
mistress, who herself engaged in the work. Penelope had fifty slave
maidens to direct in the various duties of the household. The daughters
of Celeus, like Rebecca of old, went to the well to draw water for
household use; and the clothes washing of the Princess Nausicaa and her
maidens has been already mentioned. So, by the side of the refinement
and elegance of the Homeric Age we have a simplicity of manners that but
adds to the charm.

In spite of these beautiful instances of domestic harmony and affection,
the women of Homer had really no rights, in the modern sense of the
term. Throughout the whole of life their position was subject to the
will or the whims of men. At marriage, woman merely passed from the
tutelage of her father to that of her husband, who had absolute power
over her. But though the power of the husband was absolute, yet he was
generally deferential toward the wife he loved, and was frequently
guided by her opinions. Thus, the Phæacians say of Queen Arete:
"Friends, this speech of our wise queen is not wide of the mark, nor far
from our deeming, so hearken thereto. But on Alcinous here both word and
work depend." With Arete lay the real seat of authority, though she
could claim no rights, and doubtless the tactful and clever Homeric
woman was, as a rule, the dominating influence in the palace.

When the husband died, the grown-up son succeeded to his rights, and it
was in his power, if he saw fit, to give his widowed mother again in
marriage. Penelope's obedience to her son Telemachus is one of the
striking features of the Odyssey. He had it in his power to give her in
marriage to any of the suitors, but he refrained, from filial affection
and mercenary motives. "It can in no wise be that I thrust forth from
the house, against her will, the woman that bare me and reared me," says
Telemachus; and he continues: "Moreover, it is hard for me to make heavy
restitution to Icarius, as needs I must if, of my own will, I send my
mother away."

Far worse, however, was the lot of the widow whose husband had been
slain in battle. She became at once the slave of the conqueror, to be
dealt with as he wished. Hector draws a gloomy picture of the fate of
Andromache in case he should be slain: "Yea, of a surety I know this in
heart and soul; the day shall come for holy Ilium to be laid low, and
Priam and the folk of Priam of the good ashen spear. Yet doth the
anguish of the Trojans hereafter not so much trouble me, neither
Hecuba's own, neither King Priam's, neither my brethren's, the many and
brave that shall fall in the dust before their foemen, as doth thine
anguish in the day when some mail-clad Achæan shall lead thee weeping
and rob thee of the light of freedom. So shalt thou abide in Argos and
ply the loom at another woman's bidding, and bear water from Fount
Messeis or Hyperia, being grievously entreated, and sore constraint
shall be laid upon thee. And then shall one say that beholdeth thee
weep: 'This is the wife of Hector, that was foremost in battle of the
horse-training Trojans, when men fought about Ilium.' Thus shall one say
hereafter, and fresh grief will be thine for lack of such an husband as
thou hadst to ward off the day of thraldom. But me in death may the
heaped-up earth be covering, ere I hear thy crying and thy carrying into
captivity." Similar lamentations over the harsh treatment of the widows
and the sad lot of the orphans, when the natural protector had been
slain, occur again and again. When taken captive, the noblest ladies
became the concubines of the victor, and were disposed of at his
pleasure. Briseis is a striking instance of this. She was a maiden of
princely descent, whose husband and brother had been slain by Achilles.
Yet she looked upon her position as a captive as quite in the natural
order of things. She manifestly became much attached to her captor, and
left "all unwillingly" when she was carried off to Agamemnon's tent.
When she was restored to Achilles, she laments the fallen Patroclus, who
had promised to make her godlike Achilles's wedded wife.

Many female slaves of noble descent are mentioned by Homer, and their
positions in the households of their mistresses are frequently of
importance. Thus Euryclea, who had nurtured Odysseus and reared
Telemachus, was practically at the head of the domestic affairs of the
palace, and her relations with Penelope were most affectionate. The
other slaves were divided into several classes, according to their
different qualities and abilities. To some were assigned the menial
offices, such as turning the handmills, drawing the water, and preparing
the food for their master; while others were engaged in spinning and
weaving, under the direct oversight of their lady mistress.

It is but natural that the great ladies of heroic times, reared in the
luxury of courts, attended by numerous slaves, and exercising an
elevating influence over their husbands through their personal charms,
should devote great attention to the elegancies of the costume and the
toilet. The Greek love of beauty led to love of dress. Numerous
epithets point to this characteristic of Homeric ladies; as "with
beautiful peplus," "well-girdled," "with beautiful zone," "with
beautiful veil," "with beautiful sandal," and the like; and care in
dressing the hair is seen in such phrases as "with goodly locks," "with
glossy locks."

The Homeric poems describe for us the dress of the Æolico-Ionians down
to the ninth or eighth centuries before Christ, and it differs in many
important particulars from that of the classical period as seen in the
Parthenon marbles.

The women wore only one outer garment, the peplus, brought to Hellas
from Asia by the Aryans, which garment the Dorian women continued to
wear until a late period. The peplus in its simplest form consisted of
an oblong piece of the primitive homemade woollen cloth, unshapen and
unsewn, open at the sides, and fastened on the shoulders by _fibulæ_,
and bound by a girdle; but, undoubtedly, as worn by Homeric princesses
it assumed a much more regular pattern and was richly embroidered. The
pharos was probably a linen garment of Egyptian origin, which was
sometimes worn instead of the peplus. Thus the nymph Calypso "donned a
great shining pharos, light of woof and gracious, and about her waist
she cast a fair golden girdle, and a veil withal on her head." Both
these garments left the arms bare, and, while frequently of some length
behind, as seen in the epithet "the robe-trailing Trojan dames," were
short enough in front to allow the feet to appear.

As the peplus was open at the sides, the girdle was the second most
important article of feminine attire. This was frequently of gold, as in
Calypso's case, and adorned with tassels, as was Hera's girdle with its
hundred tassels "of pure gold, all deftly woven, and each one worth an
hundred oxen." But the girdle of girdles was the magic cestus of golden
Aphrodite, which Hera borrowed in order to captivate Zeus. The tightened
girdle made the dress full over the bosom, so that the epithet
"deep-bosomed"--that is, with full, swelling bosom--became frequent.
Another characteristic article of dress was the _kredemnon_, a kind of
veil, of linen or of silk, in color generally white, though at times
dark blue. It was worn over the head, and allowed to fall down the back
and the sides of the head, leaving the face uncovered. There was no
garment, like a cloak, to be worn over the peplus. For freer movement
women would cast off the mantle-like _kredemnon_, which answered all the
purposes of a shawl. Thus Nausicaa and her companions, when preparing
for the game of ball, "cast off their tires and began the song," and
Hecuba, in her violent grief, "tore her hair and cast from her the
shining veil." There were also metal ornaments for the head, the
_stephané_, or coronal, and the _ampyx_, a headband or frontlet. The
_kekryphalos_ was probably a caplike net, bound by a woven band;
Andromache "shook off from her head the bright attire thereof, the net,
and woven band." Other feminine ornaments were: the _isthmion_, a
necklace, fitting close to the neck; the _hormos_, a long chain,
sometimes of gold and amber, hanging from the nape of the neck over the
breast; and _peronæ_, or brooches, and ear-rings of various shapes,
either globular, spiral, or in the form of a cup, Helen, for example,
"set ear-rings in her pierced ear, ear-rings of three drops and
glistening; therefrom shone grace abundant."

To embrace in one general description these various articles of feminine
attire, "we may think of Helen as arrayed in a colored peplus, richly
embroidered and perfumed, the corners of which were drawn tightly over
the shoulders and fastened together by the _perone_. The waist was
closely encircled by the zone, which was, no doubt, of rich material
and design. Over her bosom hung the _hormos_ of dark red amber set in
gold. Her hair hung down in artificial plaits, and on her head was the
high, stiff _kekryphalos_, of which we have spoken above, bound in the
middle by the _plekté anadesme_. Over the forehead was the shining
_ampyx_, or tiara, of gold; and from the top of the head fell the
_kredemnon_, or veil, over the shoulders and back, affording a quiet
foil to the glitter of gold and jewels."

Such is the picture of the Heroic Age as drawn for us by Homer. It is a
bright picture in the main, though the treatment of the widows and the
captive maidens throws on it dark shadows. But when we become acquainted
with the heroines of this age, and study their characters in the
environment in which Homer places them, we shall be all the more
impressed with the high status maintained by the gentler sex at the dawn
of Greek civilization.

Before treating of the heroines of Homer, however, let us briefly notice
the maidens and matrons of Greek mythology who do not figure so
conspicuously in the Chronicles of the Trojan War, but who have won a
permanent place in art and in literature.

We should not fail to mention the mortal loves who became through Zeus
the mothers of heroes,--Europa, whom he wooed in the form of a white
bull, and carried away to Crete, where she became the mother of Minos,
Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon; Semele, who was overcome with terror when
Zeus appeared in all his godlike array, and who gave birth to Dionysus,
god of the vine; Leda, wooed by Zeus in the guise of a snow-white swan,
the mother of Helen, and of Castor and Pollux; Alcmene, mother of
Heracles; Callisto, changed, with her little son Arcas, because of the
jealousy of Hera, into the constellations known as the Great and the
Little Bear; and, finally, Danaë, daughter of Acrisius, King of Argos,
locked up by her tyrannical father in a brazen tower, but visited by
Zeus as a golden shower. The offspring of this union was the hero
Perseus. King Acrisius, in dread of a prophecy that he was destined to
be slain by his grandson, had the mother and helpless infant enclosed in
an empty cask, which was consigned to the fury of the sea. Terrified at
the sound of the great waves beating over their heads, Danaë prayed to
the gods to watch over them and bring them to some friendly shore. Her
piteous prayers were answered, and mother and child were rescued and
found a hospitable haven on the island of Seriphos,

      "When rude around the high-wrought ark
       The tempests raged, the waters dark
       Around the mother tossed and swelled;
       With not unmoistened cheek she held
       Her Perseus in her arms and said:
       'What sorrows bow this hapless head!
       Thou sleepst the while, thy gentle breast
       Is heaving in unbroken rest,
       In this our dark, unjoyous home,
       Clamped with the rugged brass, the gloom
       Scarce broken by the doubtful light
       That gleams from yon dim fires of night.
       But thou, unwet thy clustering hair,
         Heedst not the billows raging wild,
       The moanings of the bitter air,
         Wrapt in thy purple robe, my beauteous child!
       Oh! seemed this peril perilous to thee,
         How sadly to my words of fear
         Wouldst thou bend down thy listening ear!
       But now sleep on, my child! sleep thou, wide sea!
       Sleep, my unutterable agony!
         Oh! change thy counsels, Jove, our sorrows end!
         And if my rash, intemperate zeal offend,
       For my child's sake, his father, pardon me!'"

The god Apollo, too, had his mortal loves: the fair maiden Coronis, whom
in a fit of jealousy he shot through the heart,--the mother of
Æsculapius, the god of healing; Daphne, the beautiful nymph, who would
not listen to his entreaties, and was finally changed into a laurel
tree; and the muse Calliope, by whom he became the father of Orpheus,
who inherited his parent's musical and poetical gifts. The story of the
loves of Orpheus and his beautiful wife, Eurydice, is one of the most
touching in all literature: how she died from the bite of a venomous
serpent, and her spirit was conducted down to the gloomy realms of
Hades, leaving Orpheus broken-hearted; how Zeus gave him permission to
go down into the infernal regions to seek his wife; how he appeased even
Cerberus's rage by his music, and Hades and Proserpina consented to
restore Eurydice to life and to her husband's care, but on the one
condition that he should leave the infernal regions without once turning
to look into the face of his beloved wife; and how he observed the
mandate until just before he reached the earth, when he turned, only to
behold the vanishing form of the wife he had so nearly snatched from the
grave. The rest of his days were passed in sadness, and finally some
Bacchantes, enraged at his sad notes, tore him limb from limb, and cast
his mangled remains into the river Hebrus. "As the poet-musician's head
floated down the stream, the pallid lips still murmured 'Eurydice!' for
even in death he could not forget his wife; and as his spirit floated on
to join her, he incessantly called upon her name, until the brooks,
trees, and fountains he had loved so well caught up the longing cry and
repeated it again and again."

The story of Niobe is one of the best-known Greek legends, because of
its exquisite portrayal in art. Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, the mother
of fourteen children,--seven manly sons and seven beautiful
daughters,--in her pride taunted the goddess Latona, mother of Apollo
and Artemis, because her offspring numbered only two. She even went so
far as to forbid her people to worship the two deities, and ordered that
all the statues of them in her kingdom should be torn down and
destroyed. Enraged at the insult, Latona called her children to her, and
bade them slay all the children of Niobe. Apollo, therefore, coming upon
the seven lads as they were hunting, slew them with his unfailing
arrows; and while the mother was grieving for the loss of her sons,
Artemis began to slay her daughters. In vain did the mother strive to
protect them, and one by one they fell, never to rise again. Then the
gods, touched by her woe, changed her into stone just as she stood, with
upturned face, streaming eyes, and quivering lips.

Three other heroines of mythology deserve to be enrolled within this
brief chronicle: Andromeda, Ariadne, and Atalanta. The Princess
Andromeda, a lovely maiden, was being offered as a sacrifice to a
terrible sea monster who was devastating the coast. She was chained fast
to an overhanging rock, above the foaming billows that continually
dashed their spray over her fair limbs. As the monster was about to
carry her off as his prey, the hero Perseus, returning from his conquest
of Medusa, suddenly appeared as a deliverer, slew the monster, freed
Andromeda from her chains, restored her to the arms of her overjoyed
parent, and thus won the princess as his bride.

Far more pathetic is the story of the Princess Ariadne, daughter of King
Minos of Crete, who fell in love with the Athenian hero Theseus when he
came to rescue the Athenian youths and maidens from the terrible
Minotaur. She provided him with a sword and with a ball of twine,
enabling him to slay the monster and to thread his way out of the
inextricable mazes of the labyrinth. Theseus in gratitude carried her
off as his bride; but on the island of Naxos he basely deserted her,
and Ariadne was left disconsolate. Violent was her grief; but in the
place of a fickle mortal lover, she became the fair bride of an
immortal, the genial god Dionysus, who discovered her on the island and
wooed and won her.

Atalanta, the third of this illustrious group, the daughter of Iasius,
King of Arcadia, was a famous runner and sportswoman. She took part with
Meleager in the grand hunt for the Calydonian boar, and it was she who
at last brought the boar to bay and gave him a mortal wound. When
Atalanta returned to her father's court, she had numberless suitors for
her hand; but, anxious to preserve her freedom, she imposed the
condition that every suitor should engage with her in a footrace: if he
were beaten, his life was forfeited; if successful, she would become his
bride. Many had thus lost their lives. Finally, Hippomenes, a youth
under the protection of Aphrodite, who had bestowed on him three golden
apples, desired to race with the princess. Atalanta soon passed her
antagonist, but, as she did so, a golden apple fell at her feet. She
stooped to pick it up, and Hippomenes regained the lead. Again she
passed him, and again a golden apple caused her to pause, and Hippomenes
shot ahead. Finally, just as she was about to reach the goal, the third
golden apple tempted her to stop once more, and Hippomenes won the race
and a peerless bride.



The reader of the Iliad and the Odyssey finds himself in an atmosphere
altogether human. As he peruses these pages, so rich in pictures of the
life and manners of heroic times, it matters little to him whether the
men and women of epic song had merely a mythical existence, or were, in
fact, historical figures. The contemporaries of Homer and later Greeks
had an unshaken belief in the reality of those men and women; and the
poet has breathed into them the breath of genius, which gives life and

We have in these poems the most ancient expression of the national
sentiment of the Greeks, and from them we can form a correct idea of the
relations of men and women in prehistoric times, and of the character
and status of woman in the childhood of the Greek world.

It is a noteworthy fact that the plots of both the Iliad and the
Odyssey--as well as the most interesting episodes they contain--turn
upon love for women; and a clear idea of the importance of woman in the
Heroic Age could not be given better than by briefly reviewing the
brilliant panorama of warlike and domestic scenes in which woman

We are first introduced to a Greek camp in Troy land. During ten long
years the hosts of the Achæans have been gathered before the walls of
Ilium. What is the cause of this long struggle? A woman! Paris, son of
King Priam, had carried off to his native city Queen Helen, wife of
Menelaus, King of Sparta. Aided by the wiles of Aphrodite, to whom he
had awarded the golden apple as the fairest in the contest of the three
goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, Paris succeeded in winning the
heart of this fairest of Greek women and in persuading her to desert
husband and daughter to follow the fortunes of a handsome stranger. On
the isle of Cranaë their nuptial rites were celebrated, and after much
voyaging they reached their new home in Troy, where King Priam,
fascinated with the beauty and grace of this new daughter, in spite of
his dread of the consequences, graciously received the errant pair. The
Greek chieftains bound themselves by an inviolable oath to assist the
forsaken husband to recover his spouse, and, marshalling their forces,
they entered upon the long and tedious war. Thus, a woman was the cause
of the first great struggle between Orient and Occident, of the
assembling of the mighty hosts of the Achæans under King Agamemnon, of
ten years of siege and struggle and innumerable wars, of the hurling of
many valiant souls to Hades, of the fall of Troy, and of the varied
wanderings and dire fortunes of the surviving heroes and heroines of the
epic story.

The Iliad does not tell the whole story of the Trojan War; Homer invites
the muse to sing of but one episode thereof--the dire wrath of Achilles.
The cause of that violent outburst is also a woman. The Greek chieftains
are gathered in the place of assembly, along the banks of the Scamander.
In their midst is an aged priest of the town of Chryse, bearing in his
hand the fillets of Apollo, the Far-darter, upon a golden staff. He
beseeches the Greeks to restore to him his dear child, the maiden
Chryseis, their captive, and to accept in return the proffered ransom,
reverencing the god. There is a sympathetic murmur among the chieftains,
who urge the granting of the petition; but the thing pleases not the
heart of Agamemnon, king of men, who had received the beautiful captive
as his own share of the booty, and for love of her will not give her up.
So he roughly sends the old man away, and lays stern charge upon him not
to be seen again near the ships of the Achæans. Outraged in his dignity
as a priest and in his tenderness as a father, the aged sire prays to
Apollo, who at once sends dire pestilence upon the Greeks; and the pyres
of the dead burn continually in multitude. Nine days speed the god's
shafts throughout the host, and on the tenth the valiant warrior
Achilles summons the folk to assembly, and bids Calchas, "most excellent
of augurs," declare the cause of the pestilence. Calchas, after much
hesitation, responds that the Far-darter has brought war upon the Greeks
because Agamemnon has done despite to the priest, and has not set his
daughter free and accepted the ransom.

Agamemnon is violently enraged at the seer; his dark heart within him is
greatly filled with anger, and his eyes are like flashing fire. He
charges the seer with never saying anything that is pleasant for him to
hear. And as for Chryseis, he would fain keep her himself in his
household; for he prefers her even before Clytemnestra, his wedded wife,
to whom she is nowise inferior, neither in favor nor stature nor wit nor
skill. Yet if she be taken away from him for the good of the people, he
demands another prize forthwith, that alone of the Greeks he may not be
without reward. Then is the valiant Achilles enraged at the covetousness
of his chief, and a violent quarrel ensues. At last, Agamemnon asserts
that he will send back Chryseis, but he will come and take in return
Achilles's meed of honor, Briseis of the fair cheeks, that Achilles may
know how far the mightier is he and that no other may hereafter dare to
rival him to his face.

Then is the son of Peleus the more enraged, and, had not the goddess
Athena appeared and restrained his wrath, he would have assailed
Agamemnon on the spot. However, he speaks again with bitter words and
declares that hereafter longing for Achilles will come upon the Achæans
one and all; for no more will he fight with the Greeks against the
Trojans. So the assembly breaks up, after this battle of violent words
between the twain. Achilles returns to his huts and trim ships, with
Patroclus and his company; and Agamemnon sends forth Odysseus and others
on a fleet ship to bear back to her father the lovely Chryseis, and to
offer a hecatomb to Apollo. Thus Chryseis is restored to her father's
arms, and appears no more in the story.

But Atrides ceases not from the strife with which he has threatened
Achilles. He summons straightway two heralds, and bids them go to the
tent of Achilles and take Briseis of the fair cheeks by the hand and
lead her to him. Unwillingly they go on their mission, and find the
young warrior sitting sorrowfully beside his hut and black ship. He
knows wherefore they come, and bids his friend Patroclus bring forth the
damsel and give them her to lead away. And Patroclus hearkens to his
dear companion, and leads forth from the hut Briseis of the fair cheeks,
and gives her to the heralds. And the twain take their way back along
the ships of the Achæans and with them goes the maiden, all unwilling.

In this moment of grief at the loss of the woman he loves, Achilles
bethinks him of his dear mother, the Nereid Thetis, and, stretching
forth his hand toward the sea, he prays to her to hearken to him. His
lady mother hears him as she sits in the sea depths beside her aged
sire, and with speed she arises from the gray sea, and sits down beside
him and strokes him with her hand and inquires the cause of his sorrow.
Into her sympathetic ear he tells all the story of his wrongs, and the
goddess shows herself the tenderest and most loving of mothers. He bids
her seek justice for him at the throne of mighty Zeus, with whom she is
potent on account of favors she has done him. She bewails with her son
that she has borne him to brief life and evil destiny; but she bids him
continue wroth with the Achæans, and refrain utterly from battle, while
she will early fare to Zeus's palace upon Mount Olympus, and she thinks
to win him. True to her promise, she betakes herself to sunny Olympus
and finds the father of gods and men sitting apart from all the rest
upon the topmost peak. She clasps his knees with one hand as a suppliant
and with the other strokes his chin, and prays him to do honor to her
son and exalt him with recompense for the gross wrong he has suffered.
And Zeus, though he knows that it will lead to strife with Lady Hera,
his spouse, promises to heap just vengeance upon Agamemnon.

Thus, upon the very threshold of the Iliad, the chord of maternal
affection is struck; and when the wild passions of early manhood have
led to sorrow and humiliation, the mother appears, affording sympathy
and comfort, and is ready to traverse sea and earth and heaven to
intercede for her wronged and grief-stricken son.

Achilles remains away from battle, sulking beside the ships. The odds
are now in favor of the Trojans in the conflict that is being waged.
Both sides are weary of continual fighting, and a single combat is
arranged between Menelaus and Paris, the wronged husband and the
present lord of Helen. The meed of victory is to be Helen herself, with
all her treasures, she now appearing for the first time in the Epos.

Helen is summoned from her palace to witness the combat. So she hastens
from her chamber, attended by two handmaidens, and comes to the place of
the Scæan gates, where are gathered King Priam and the elders of the

Homer nowhere attempts to describe Helen's beauty in detail, but
impresses it upon the reader merely by showing the bewitching effect of
her presence upon others. Even these sage old men fall under the spell
of her divine beauty, and, when they see her coming upon the towers,
softly speak winged words, one to the other:

"Small blame is it that Trojans and well-greaved Achæans should for such
a woman long time suffer hardships; marvellously like is she to the
immortal goddesses to look upon. Yet even so, though she be so goodly,
let her go upon their ships and not stay to vex us and our children
after us."

Priam, however, addresses his beautiful daughter-in-law with gentle
words, laying the blame, not on her, but on the gods, for the dolorous
war of the Achæans. Helen utters expressions of self-reproach, and then,
at Priam's request, points out the famous warriors of the invading host.

Paris is vanquished in the single combat, and Menelaus would have slain
his foe, and in that moment have regained Helen, had not the goddess
Aphrodite snatched up Paris in a cloud and transported him to his
chamber. Aphrodite then appears to Helen, in the form of an aged dame,
and bids her return to her lord. Helen recognizes the goddess, and her
scornful, bitter reply shows how the high-spirited lady rebelled at the
chains with which Aphrodite bound her. The wrath and menace of
Aphrodite, however, overcome her noble resolution, and she reluctantly
returns. When she sees her husband, she chides him scornfully for his
cowardice, and regrets that he had not perished at the hands of
Menelaus. But Paris is unaffected by her reproaches. His thoughts, as
ever, are not of war, but of love, and Helen, owing to the subtle power
of Aphrodite, cannot long resist his caresses. Meanwhile, the injured
husband rages through the host like a wild beast, if anywhere he might
set his eyes on and slay the wanton Paris.

We are now approaching a series of domestic scenes, in which figure the
three principal female characters of the Iliad. Owing to the abortive
issue of the single combat, the truce between Greeks and Trojans is
declared at an end, and the forces once more array themselves in
conflict. The Trojans are being hard pressed. Hector returns to the city
to command Hecuba, his mother, to assemble the aged dames of Troy, who
should go to Athena's temple and supplicate the goddess to have
compassion on them. At the gates the Trojans' wives and daughters gather
about him, inquiring of their loved ones. As he enters the royal palace,
his beautiful mother meets him and clasps him by the hand, and bids him,
weary of battle, pause to take refreshments. But Hector resists her
solicitous entreaties, urges her to gather the aged wives together, and,
with the most beautiful robe in the palace as an offering, to go to the
temple and supplicate Athena to have mercy. Hecuba does as he commands,
and the solemn procession mounts the citadel and implores the goddess to
have mercy on them and turn the tide of combat. The goddess, however, is
inflexible: she denies their prayer.

Hector, meanwhile, stops at the palace of Paris. He finds Helen seated
among her handmaidens, distributing to them their tasks, and Paris
polishing his beautiful armor. Hector severely rebukes his brother; but
words of scorn make but little impression on the smooth and courteous
Paris. Helen now addresses Hector, for whom she has a sisterly love and
admiration that contrasts painfully with her contempt for her cowardly
lord; and her words reveal the bitterness of her heart, because of her
evil destiny and because "even in days to come we may be a song in the
ears of men that shall be hereafter." Hector responds with sympathetic
regard to the sisterly confidence of Helen, and bids her rouse her
husband once more to enter the combat, while in the meantime he will go
to his own house to behold his dear wife and infant boy; for he knows
not if he shall return home to them again, or if the gods will now
overthrow him at the hands of the Achæans.

When Hector comes to his palace, he finds not his beautiful wife,
white-armed Andromache, within; upon inquiry he learns that, through
anxiety because of the battle, like one frenzied, she had gone in haste
to the wall, and the nurse bearing the child was with her. Hector
hastens to the Scæan gates, and as he approaches them there came his
dear-won wife, running to meet him, and with her the handmaid bearing in
her bosom the tender boy, Hector's loved son Astyanax. Hector smiles and
gazes at the boy; while Andromache stands by his side weeping and clasps
his hand in hers, and urges him to take thought for himself and to have
pity on her, forlorn, and on their infant boy. Hector tells her that he
takes thought of all this, that his greatest grief is the thought of her
anguish in the day when some mail-clad Achæan shall lead her away and
rob her of the light of freedom, but it is his part to fight in the
forefront of the Trojans. He lays his son in his dear wife's bosom, and,
as she smiles tearfully upon the lad, her husband has pity to see her,
and gently caresses her with his hand and seeks to console her. He bids
her return to her own tasks, the loom and distaff, while he provides for
war. So part these heroic souls. Hector sets out for the battlefield;
and his dear wife departs to her home, oft looking back and letting fall
big tears. When she reaches her house, she gathers her handmaidens about
her, and stirs lamentations in them all. "So bewailed they Hector, while
yet he lived, within his house; for they deemed that he would no more
come home to them from battle nor escape the fury of the hands of the

The closing scenes of the dramatic recital time and again present these
three women--Hecuba, Helen, and Andromache. Achilles continues to sulk
away from battle, in spite of Agamemnon's attempt at reconciliation. The
Trojans are winning victory after victory. Achilles's comrade Patroclus
finally gets permission to don the great warrior's armor, and he enters
the conflict. Hector, supposing him to be Achilles, engages with him in
combat and finally slays him. Achilles is overwhelmed with grief at the
death of Patroclus. His lady mother, Thetis, rises from the depths of
the sea to console him, and provides him a suit of armor fashioned by
Hephæstus. Agamemnon and Achilles are reconciled before the assembly of
the Achæans, and fair-faced Briseis is restored to her lover. She utters
shrill laments over the body of Patroclus, who had been ever kind to
her. Achilles enters the combat, clad in the armor of Hephæstus. Hector
alone dares to face him, and he is slain, and his lifeless body is
dragged behind Achilles's chariot as he drives exultantly toward the
ships. Piteous wailings are heard from the walls, wailings of the aged
Priam, and of the sorrowful Hecuba, whose cry is the full bitterness of
maternal grief.

Within the city, in the inner chamber of her palace, a young wife is
engaged in weaving a double purple web and directing the work of her
handmaidens. Her thoughts are all of her warrior husband, and she has
had a servant set a great tripod upon the fire that Hector might have
warm washing when he comes home out of the battle--fond heart all
unaware how, far from all washings, bright-eyed Athena has slain him by
the hand of Achilles! But suddenly she hears shrieks and groans from the
battlements, and her limbs tremble and the shuttle falls from her hands
to earth. She dreads terribly lest Hector has met his fate at the hand
of Achilles. Accompanied by her handmaidens, she rushes to the
battlements, and beholds his lifeless body dragged by swift horses
toward the hollow ships. Then dark night comes on her eyes and shrouds
her, and she falls backward and gasps forth her spirit; and when at last
her soul returns into her breast, she bewails her own sad lot and that
of her child, deprived of such a husband and father.

The succeeding days are spent in gloom and sorrow, each side bewailing
the loss of a favorite warrior. King Priam finally recovers the body of
Hector from Achilles, and brings it back to Hector's palace, where the
women gather about the corpse--and among them white-armed Andromache
leads the lamentation, while in her hands she holds the head of Hector,
slayer of men. Hecuba, too, grieves for Hector, of all her children the
dearest to her heart; and, lastly, Helen joins in the sore lament,
sorrowing for the loss of the dearest of her brethren in Troy, who had
never spoken despiteful word to her, but had always been kind and
considerate. Here the long story reaches its natural conclusion. The
Iliad opens with a scene of wrath occasioned by man's passion for woman,
and closes with a scene of mourning--women grieving for the loss of a
slain husband and son and friend--knightly Hector.

Before we bid farewell to the martial tableaux presented to us in the
Iliad, and direct our attention to the domestic scenes of the Odyssey,
let us take a final glance at the heroines who have appeared in the
first Homeric epos.

Worthy of note is the atmosphere of beauty and delicacy and charm with
which the poet has enveloped Helen of Troy. She has committed a grievous
fault, but there is in the recital nothing which offends the moral
sense. This is because the poet has portrayed her with none of the
seductions of vice, but with all the allurements of penitence. She has
sinned, but it has been because of the mysterious and irresistible bond
which united her to the goddess of love; her moral nature has not been
perverted, and she is filled with shame and remorse because of the
reproach that has been cast upon her name. By a long and bitter
expiation, she has atoned for her fault; and memories of the days long
past abide with her in all their sweetness and purity. One can but
contrast the difference of attitude with which she addresses Priam and
Hector on the one hand, and Aphrodite and Paris on the other. For the
former she has the utmost consideration and respect, and in their
presence she feels most keenly how compromised is her position; for the
latter, the causes of her fall, she has nothing but the scorn and
contempt of a cultivated and high-spirited queen. In portraying the
regret of Helen for her first husband, and her contempt toward her
second; in representing Menelaus and the Greeks as fighting to avenge
"the longings and the groans of Helen"; and in subtly suggesting how
inevitable are the chains with which Aphrodite has bound her, the poet
wins for her our sympathy and admiration. Homer nowhere tells us of the
reconciliation of Menelaus and Helen, after the fall of Troy; but in the
Odyssey he presents a beautiful picture of Helen in Sparta, a queen once
more, beloved of husband and attendants, and presiding over her palace
with courtly grace and dignity; and in the prophecy of Proteus, the Old
Man of the Sea, the destiny of the fair queen is suggested in that of
her faithful spouse: "But thou, Menelaus, son of Zeus, art not ordained
to die and meet thy fate in Argos, the pasture land of horses; for the
deathless gods will convey thee to the Elysian plains and to the world's
end, where is Rhadamanthus of the fair hair, where life is easiest for
men. No snow is there, nor yet great storm, nor any rain, but always
ocean sendeth forth the breeze of the shrill blast to blow cool on men;
yea, for thou hast Helen to wife, and thereby they deem thee son to

Thus, because wedded to Zeus-begotten Helen, Menelaus himself is
deathless and immortal, and Homer meant, no doubt, to picture the royal
couple passing together in the Isles of the Blest the æons of eternity.

Homer provided the literary types for all succeeding Greek poets, and it
is but natural that so bewitching a conception as Helen should be
frequently portrayed and adopted. But with the change in form of
government from monarchy to oligarchy, and from oligarchy to democracy,
the old epic conception of heroes and heroines frequently suffers
disparagement. In later periods, men began to meditate on moral
questions, and poets who sought to weigh the problems of human life and
destiny saw in Helen's career the old, old story of sin and sufering,
and they could not with Homeric chivalry gloze over that fatal step
which caused the wreck of empires and brought infinite woes to men.

Stesichorus was the first poet to charge Helen with all the guilt and
suffering of Hellas and of Troy; but for this offence against the
daughter of Zeus, says tradition, he was smitten with blindness, and did
not recover his sight until he had written the recantation beginning:
"Not true is that tale; nor didst thou journey in benched ships, nor
come to town of Troy,"--in which he adopted the theory that the real
Helen remained in Egypt, while a phantom accompanied Paris to Troy.

Æschylus searches into the dire consequences of Helen's sin, and on her
shoulders lays all the sufferings of Agamemnon and his descendants.
"Rightly is she called Helen," says he; "a hell of ships, hell of men,
hell of cities." He regards her as the very incarnation of evil, the
curse of two great nations. Yet even stern Æschylus yields due reverence
to her all-conquering beauty:

            "Ah! silent, see she stands;
      Each glowing tint, each radiant grace,
      That charm th' enraptur'd eye, we trace;
      And still the blooming form commands,
             Still honor'd, still ador'd,
      Though careless of her former loves,
      Far o'er the rolling sea the wanton roves."

He also represents her forsaken husband ever dreaming of her, enraptured
of her beauty:

      "Oft as short slumbers close his eyes,
      His sad soul sooth'd to rest,
      The dream-created visions rise
      With all her charms imprest:
      But vain th' ideal scene that smiles
      With rapt'rous love and warm delight;
      Vain his fond hopes; his eager arms
      The fleeting form beguiles,
      On sleep's quick pinions passing light."

Æschylus is not the only one of the early dramatists to whom Helen
furnished a worthy theme; the titles of four lost plays show that
Sophocles wrote of the Argive queen. There is no means of knowing,
however, how this master dealt with the romance. Judging from his
treatment of the Antigone legend, it is probable that Sophocles treated
Helen as a woman of rare beauty and power, more sinned against than
sinning, and subjected her character to the most profound analysis.

While Æschylus deprived Helen of something of the delicacy and charm
with which Homer had invested her, Euripides, in a number of his plays,
goes even further, and brings her down to the level of common life. Upon
her beautiful head were heaped the reproaches of the unfortunate maidens
and matrons of Greece and Troy for the woes they had to suffer, and we
must not always take the sentiments of a Hecuba or a Clytemnestra as
expressing the poet's own convictions. In the _Daughters of Troy_, he
represents her in violent debate with her mother-in-law, Hecuba, before
Menelaus, leaving with the reader the impression that she is a guilty,
wilful woman of ignoble traits, and in other plays he lays on her the
load of guilt for all the dire consequences of her act; yet in his
treatment of Helen there is always an ethereal element, hard to define,
but recognizable. She causes ruin and destruction, she is roundly abused
and reproached, yet she herself does not deal in invective and is proof
against all physical ill, being finally deified as the daughter of Zeus,
while suffering is invariably the fate of those who abuse and censure
her. And, like Stesichorus, Euripides in his old age makes a
recantation. In the _Helen_, he follows the Stesichorean version, and
dramatizes the legend that, after she was promised to Paris by
Aphrodite, Hera in revenge fashioned like to Queen Helen a breathing
phantom out of cloud land wrought for Priam's princely son; while Hermes
caught her away and transferred her to the halls of Proteus, King of
Egypt, to keep her pure for Menelaus. Thus it was for a phantom Helen
that Greek and Trojan fought at Troy; while the real Helen passed her
days amid the palm gardens of Egypt, eagerly awaiting the return of
Menelaus, and bewailing her ill name, though she was clean of sin. After
the war, she is happily reunited with her lord.

It is hard, however, to besmirch a conception of ideal beauty, and later
writers, casting aside the imputations of the dramatists, returned to
the Homeric type. The Greek rhetoricians found in Helen a fruitful
subject for panegyric, and made her synonymous with the Greek ideal of
beauty and feminine perfection. Isocrates praises her as the incarnation
of ideal loveliness and grace; beauty is all powerful, he says, and the
Helen legend shows how beauty is the most desirable of all human gifts.
Theocritus, in his exquisite _Epithalamium_, pays an unalloyed tribute
to her beauty and goodness. She is "peerless among all Achæan women that
walk the earth;--rose-red Helen, the glory of Lacedæmon;--no one is so
gifted as she in goodly handiwork;--yea, and of a truth, none other
smites the lyre, hymning Artemis and broad-breasted Athena, with such
skill as Helen, within whose eyes dwell all the Loves."

Quintus Smyrnæus, of the fourth century of our era, who wrote a
_Post-Homerica_, emphasizes the demonic influence that controlled the
fate of Helen, and lays her frailty to the charge of Aphrodite. He gives
a beautiful picture of the queen as she is being led to the ships of the
Achæans: "Now, Helen lamented not, but shame dwelt in her dark eyes and
reddened her lovely cheeks ... while round her the people marvelled as
they beheld the flawless grace and winsome beauty of the woman, and none
dared upbraid her with secret taunt or open rebuke. Nay, as she had been
a goddess, they beheld her gladly, for dear and desired was she in their

Thus the Helen legend became the allegory of Greek beauty, and so
exquisite an ideal, uplifting the spirit and satisfying one's longing
for higher things, strikes a responsive chord in the hearts of lovers of
beauty in every clime. The romance of Helen, after lying dormant for
centuries, came to life again in the legend of Faust. Marlowe treated
merely the external phases of the Faust legend; Goethe allegorized the
whole, and in the loves of Faust and Helen symbolized the passion of the
Renaissance for the Greek ideal of beauty; the fruit of the union of the
two is Euphorion, the genius of romantic art. Nor has Helen exerted less
influence on modern English poets. Landor, in numerous poems, portrays
the sweetness of her character and the omnipotence of her beauty and
charm; Swinburne dwells on the innocence and joyfulness of her
childhood; Tennyson speaks of her as

      "A daughter of the gods, divinely tall,
      And most divinely fair;"

and Andrew Lang has written a lengthy poem on the Helen legend, in which
he ascribes her frailty to the irresistible power of Aphrodite. Thus
Homer and the Homeric Age are inextricably entwined about the name of
Helen. It is significant in the study of Greek women that at the very
dawn of Greek civilization we should find such an ideal conception of
womanhood--one that universally captivates the fancy and has exerted an
influence through all succeeding ages.

Let us now pause a moment to contemplate the most lovable of all the
women of Homer, Hector's spouse, white-armed Andromache. Homer does not
devote much space to her--only the famous parting scene and the two
lamentations which she utters over her fallen husband. Yet, as the ideal
type of the soldier's wife, the loving mother, she has taken a hold on
the modern imagination and is the best known of all the female
characters of Greek epos. We know that she must have been beautiful,
though Homer uses only one epithet to describe her; we know that she
must have been brave and devoted and domestic, for Homer has painted for
us an ideal picture which portrays her with all these and many other
lovable attributes. Andromache is neither Trojan nor Greek; she is
universal; and wherever there are scenes of husband parted from wife, of
uncertainty as to the issue of the combat and the destiny of the
children, Andromache will be the great prototype. Andromache feels in
her heart that sacred Ilium is doomed, and, in those cruel times when
might was right, she knew but too well what was to be the fate of
herself and the lad Astyanax. Euripides tells us how the forebodings of
Andromache came true, and dwells on those sad days for the daughters of
Troy when the mailed hand of the Achæans carried them off captive after
the fall of the city and determined their destiny by lot.

Andromache was apportioned to Neoptolemus, Achilles's valiant son, and
in Euripides's _Daughters of Troy_ she reappears, with her child in her
arms, haled forth to her new bondage. Sadly she bewails her lost Hector,
who could have warded off from her the curse of thraldom. The Greek
herald, Talthybius, demands from her the lad Astyanax, whom the Greeks
have decided to hurl from the battlements of Troy. The child is
ruthlessly torn from his mother's embrace, and she is led off to the
hollow ships. Neoptolemus takes her over sea to his home in Thessaly,
and loves her and treats her with a kindness and consideration that are
sweetly perfect. To him she bears a son in her captivity; but not of her
own will does she share his couch, for her heart is true to the memory
of Hector. After many years, Neoptolemus weds Hermione, daughter of
Menelaus and Helen, a princess of Sparta. To them no child is born, and
Hermione's heart is filled with anger and jealousy toward the thrall,
whom her husband still treats tenderly. With her father, Menelaus,
Hermione, during Neoptolemus's absence, plots the destruction of
Andromache and her boy, but the aged Peleus protects the defenceless
ones. Neoptolemus is slain at Delphi, and Thetis, who appears at the
close of the _Andromache_, thus solves the problem of fate:

      "And that war-captive dame, Andromache,
      In the Molossian land must find a home
      In lawful wedlock joined to Helenus,
      With that child who alone is left alive
      Of AEacus' line. And kings Molossian
      From him one after other long shall reign
      In bliss."

Readers of Virgil will recall how Æneas found Andromache in the
Molossian land, and how her heart yearned for the lad Ascanius, who
reminded her of the lost Astyanax. Euripides has been true, in the main,
to the Homeric conception of Andromache, and endows her in her captivity
with the same womanliness and domestic traits that won our hearts in the
Iliad; nevertheless, there is about her the infinite sadness that is
natural to one who has lost all that life holds dear. Yet Euripides
falls so infinitely below the master that the picture which will abide
longest in the memory is the parting scene in the Iliad.

Homer endows his minor characters with an interest that is no less real
to us than that given to Helen and Andromache. Of these lesser
characters, a few stand out insistent of our notice. At the threshold of
the story, Chryseis and Briseis appear as the innocent causes of the
quarrel of the chieftains. Chryseis is still a maiden, as far as can be
inferred, and had not lost kindred and friends when taken captive; for
her father, the priest of sacred Chryse, comes to beg her release, with
boundless ransoms. Hence her day of captivity is brief, and the aged
father joyously welcomes his beloved daughter. She must have been
beautiful and clever, for Agamemnon prized her far above Clytemnestra.

The story of Briseis is a much sadder one, and graphically illustrates
the fate of a gentlewoman who fell into the hands of the foe. She was a
captive widow, husband and kindred having been slain by Achilles. But
her captor loved her devotedly, and to him she was a wife in all but in
name; and Patroclus had promised her that she should in time become the
wedded wife of Achilles. The young warrior weeps bitterly when she is
taken from him, but at the close of the Iliad we see them happily
reunited. She is remembered because of the great passions that gathered
about her.

Homer presents two pictures of heroic motherhood in sorrow,--Hecuba and
Thetis; for the latter, though a goddess, is perfectly human in her
devotion to her fated son, Achilles. To her he goes for comfort, and she
is ever resourceful in responding to his wants. She weeps over his
destiny, but, since he has chosen the better part, she nobly supports
him in every struggle. Hecuba is truly the companion of her husband,
King Priam, associated with him in his projects, and sharing his
counsels. She has borne him nineteen children, and these she has seen
slain, one after another, by the hand of the foe. Hector is her favorite
son, in whose courage she recognizes the bulwark of Ilium. When she sees
him exposed to certain death, her anxiety overcomes her pride and she
beseeches him to come within the walls; and when at last her son has
succumbed, we find in her the same mingling of grief and of pride. Her
wild despair seems to be assuaged by the thought that her son died
gloriously. This heroic sentiment sustains her before the corpse of
Hector, and even in her lamentation she voices her calm courage.



Ten years have passed since the fall of Ilium, and the various heroes of
the Greeks have met with diverse fortunes. Agamemnon, king of men, has
returned to his fatherland, but merely to find treason and death at the
hands of Ægisthus, the new lord of Clytemnestra, his wife. Menelaus,
after long wanderings, especially in Egypt, has reestablished his
kingdom in Sparta, with Helen as his queen. Odysseus, King of Ithaca,
had the longest and most perilous voyage homeward, and, after meeting
with various misadventures, has been detained for nearly eight long
years, consuming his own heart, in the island paradise of Calypso,
Meanwhile, on his own island, Ithaca, things have begun to go amiss. The
island chiefs, men of the younger generation, begin to woo Penelope and
to harass her son, Telemachus. The wooers, after being rebuffed for
years by the fair queen, are becoming insolent, quartering themselves
upon her, and devouring her substance. At this time the action of the
Odyssey begins.

The determined time has now arrived when, by the counsels of the gods,
Odysseus is to be brought home to free his house, to avenge himself on
the wooers, and to recover his kingdom, Pallas Athena is the chief
agent in the restoration of Odysseus to his fatherland. She beseeches
Zeus that he may be delivered, and in accordance with this prayer Hermes
is sent to Calypso to bid her release Odysseus. Meanwhile, the goddess,
in human form, visits Telemachus in Ithaca, and urges the young prince
to withstand the suitors who are devastating his house, and to go in
search of his father. Touched by the words of the goddess, youth rapidly
gives way to manhood, and Telemachus determines to assert his rights and
to find his father.

After the departure of the goddess, the prince enters the court where
the suitors are gathered, listening to the singing of the renowned
minstrel Phemius; and his song was of the pitiful return of the Achæans.
We now have our first vision of discreet Penelope. From her upper
chamber she hears the glorious strain, and she descends the high stairs
from her apartments, accompanied by two of her handmaids. "Now, when the
fair lady had come unto the wooers, she stood by the doorpost of the
well-builded roof, holding up her glistening tire before her face; and a
faithful maiden stood on either side of her." She begs Phemius to cease
from this sorrowful strain, which wastes her heart within her breast,
since to her, above all women, hath come a sorrow comfortless, because
she holds in constant memory so dear a head,--even that man whose fame
is noised abroad from Hellas to mid-Argos. Telemachus gently rebukes his
mother for interrupting the song of the minstrel, and bids her return to
her chamber and to her own housewiferies, the loom and distaff, and bid
the handmaids ply their tasks. Then in amaze she goes back to her
chamber, for she lays up the wise saying of her son in her heart. She
ascends to the upper chamber with the women, her handmaids, and there
bewails Odysseus, her dear lord, till gray-eyed Athena casts sweet sleep
upon her eyelids.

Telemachus begins to assert himself before the violent suitors. When
night falls and each goes to his own house to lie down to rest, the
young prince is attended to his chamber by the aged Euryclea, who had
nursed him when a little one. She bears the burning torches, and
prepares the chamber for her young master; and when he takes off his
soft doublet, she folds and smooths it and hangs it on a pin by the
jointed bedstead. Then she goes forth from the room, and there, all
night long, wrapped in a fleece of wool, Telemachus meditates in his
heart upon the journey that Athena has shown him.

The next day, after a stormy meeting of the assembly, Telemachus
secretly sets sail for Pylus, accompanied by the goddess Athena, in the
form of Mentor. Only Euryclea, the youth's faithful nurse, knows of his
journey, and she has taken a great oath not to reveal it to his mother
till the eleventh or twelfth day. Nestor graciously receives Telemachus
at Pylus, and, as he himself has no news of Odysseus, sends him on to
Sparta, to King Menelaus, in the company of his own son, Pisistratus.
The young men are graciously received by Menelaus and Helen, and
Telemachus learns that Odysseus was a captive on an island of the deep
in the halls of the nymph Calypso.

Meanwhile, the suitors in Ithaca learn of Telemachus's departure and lay
an ambush to intercept him on his return. Discreet Penelope, too, learns
by chance of his absence, and of the plots of the wooers, and her heart
melts within her at the thought of danger to her child. The good nurse
Euryclea tells her of Telemachus's plan, and lulls her queen's grief.
Penelope returns to her chamber and prays to Athena to save her dear son
and ward off from him the malice of the suitors. As she lies there in
her upper chamber, fasting, and tasting neither meat nor drink, and
musing over the fate of her dear son, gray-eyed Athena makes a phantom
in the likeness of Penelope's sister, Iphthime, and sends her to comfort
Penelope amid her sorrow and lamenting. Reassured by the phantom
concerning her son, the devoted matron begs for news of her husband,
pleading to know whether he be alive or dead, but this information is
denied her. Yet the heart of the disconsolate wife and mother is
cheered, so sweet was the vision that came to her in the dead of night.

Homer now transports us to an assembly of the gods. Athena tells the
tale of the many woes of Odysseus, and Zeus commands Hermes, the
messenger god, to bid Calypso release Odysseus and start him on his
voyage to the Phæacians, who are destined to return the wanderer to his
own dear country. Hermes quickly reaches the far-off isle of Ogygia,
where was the grotto of the nymph of the braided tresses. The fair
goddess at once knows him, and, after giving him entertainment, inquires
his message. Calypso regretfully and well-nigh rebelliously receives the
command of Zeus, and complains of the jealousy of the gods, who forbid
goddesses openly to mate with men. Yet, as none can make void the
purpose of Zeus, she will obey the command. Hermes departs, and the
nymph goes on her way to the great-hearted Odysseus. She finds him
sitting on the shore; his eyes were never dry of tears, his sweet life
was ebbing away as he mourned for his return, and through his tears he
looked wistfully over the unharvested deep. Calypso bids him sorrow no
more, for she will send him away, and directs him how to prepare a barge
on which to make the voyage. Four days are devoted to the making of the
barge, and on the fifth the goddess sends him on his way, providing him
with food and drink for his journey, and causing a gentle wind to blow.

Goodly Odysseus joyously sets his sail to the breeze, and keeps his eye
on the star Orion, which the fair goddess had bidden him to keep ever on
his left as he traverses the deep.

Seventeen days he sails placidly along, and on the eighteenth appear the
shadowy hills of the land of the Phæacians, whither he is bound. Then
spies him his old enemy, Poseidon, and the earth shaker gathers the
clouds and rouses the storms, and down speeds night from heaven. The
great waves smite down upon Odysseus, and he loses the helm from his
hand and the mast is broken. He is thrown from his raft; but, again
clutching it, clambers upon it, avoiding grim death. Woman is again
destined to be the means of salvation for the hero. Ino of the fair
ankles, daughter of Cadmus, in time past a mortal maiden, but now a sea
nymph, Leucothea, marks his dire straits and takes pity upon him, and
gives him her veil to wind about him when he throws himself into the
deep. When his raft is at last broken asunder, he wraps the veil about
him; and for two days and nights it bears him up until at length he
makes the rugged shore. Throwing the veil into the stream, to be wafted
back to fair-ankled Ino, Odysseus, bruised and battered, clambers among
the reeds on the bank. He finds a resting place underneath two olive
trees, and Athena sheds sweet sleep upon his eyelids.

That same night, the daughter of the king of the Phæacians, Nausicaa,
beautiful like the goddesses, was sleeping in a sumptuous chamber. For
it was to the island domain of King Alcinous, Scheria, land of the
Phæacians, that Odysseus had come. To the palace of the king went
Athena, devising a return for the great-hearted Odysseus.

"She betook her to the rich-wrought bower, wherein was sleeping a maiden
like to the gods in form and comeliness, Nausicaa, the daughter of
Alcinous, high of heart. Beside her, on each hand of the pillars of the
door, were two handmaids, dowered with beauty from the Graces, and the
shining doors were shut.

"But the goddess, fleet as the breath of the wind, swept toward the
couch of the maiden, and stood above her head."

In the semblance of Nausicaa's favorite girl friend and comrade, the
goddess addresses her:

"'Nausicaa, how hath thy mother so heedless a maiden to her daughter?
Lo! thou hast shining raiment that lies by thee uncared for, and thy
marriage day is near at hand, when thou thyself must needs go
beautifully clad, and have garments to give to them who shall lead thee
to the house of the bridegroom. And, behold, these are the things whence
a good report goes abroad among men, wherein a father and lady mother
take delight. But come, let us arise and go a-washing with the breaking
of the day, and I will follow thee to be thy mate in the toil, that
without delay thou mayst get thee ready, since truly thou art not long
to be a maiden. Lo! already they are wooing thee, the noblest youths of
all the Phæacians, among that people whence thou thyself dost draw thy
lineage. So come, beseech thy noble father betimes in the morning to
furnish thee with mules and a wain to carry the men's raiment, and the
robes, and the shining coverlets. Yea, and for thyself it is seemlier
far to go thus than on foot, for the places where we must wash are a
great way from the town.'"

So spake the gray-eyed Athena, and departed to Olympus, seat of the

"Anon came the throned Dawn, and awakened Nausicaa of the fair robes,
who straightway marvelled on the dream, and went through the halls to
tell her parents, her father dear and her mother. And she found them
within, her mother sitting by the hearth with the women, her handmaids,
spinning yarn of sea-purple stain, but her father she met as he was
going forth to the renowned kings in their council, whither the noble
Phæacians called him. Standing close by her dear father, she spake,
saying: 'Father, dear, couldst thou not lend me a high wagon with strong
wheels, that I may take the goodly raiment to the river to wash, so much
as I have lying soiled? Yea, and it is seemly that thou thyself, when
thou art with the princes in council, shouldst have fresh raiment to
wear. Also, there are five dear sons of thine in the halls, two married,
but three are lusty bachelors, and these are always eager for new-washen
garments wherein to go to the dances; for all these things have I taken

"This she said, because she was ashamed to speak of glad marriage to her
father; but he saw all and answered, saying:

"'Neither the mules nor aught else do I grudge thee, my child. Go thy
ways, and the thralls shall get thee ready a high wagon with good
wheels, and fitted with an upper frame.'"

So, in obedience to the king's command, the mule team is made ready in
the courtyard, and the maiden and her mother store in the wagon the
raiment, a basket filled with all manner of food, and wine in a goatskin
bottle, and olive oil in a golden cruse, that the princess and her
maidens might anoint themselves after the bath. Then Nausicaa herself
takes the whip and the reins, and she and her attendants start off for a
joyous holiday. When they reach the stream of the river, the maidens
unharness the mules and turn them loose to graze on the honey-sweet
clover. Then they take out the garments, wash and cleanse them from all
stains, and spread them out along the shore to dry. Work over, they
bathe, anoint themselves with olive oil, and partake of their noonday
meal on the river banks. Now for an afternoon of maidenly pastime. They
indulge in the choral game of ball, laying aside their headdresses, and
among them Nausicaa of the white arms, who outshone in beauty her maiden
company, began the song.

But Athena is overruling this girlish frolic, for the rescue of her
hero. The princess throws the ball at one of her companions, but it
misses her and falls into the eddying river, whereat the maidens all
raise a piercing scream, as only maidens can. Odysseus is awakened, and,
sitting up, wonders into what sort of land he is come; surely it was the
shrill cry of maidens, but whether of nymphs or of mortals he cannot
tell. He will make essay, however; and, tearing a leafy bough from a
tree to cover him, he sallies forth from the thicket like a
mountain-bred lion. Loathsome and terrible, being disfigured by the
brine of the sea, does he appear to the maidens, and they flee cowering
here and there about the shore. Only Alcinous's daughter stands firm,
for Athena gives her courage of heart and takes all trembling from her
limbs. Odysseus does not venture to approach in the attitude of a
suppliant, but, standing aloof, beseeches her compassion with sweet and
cunning words:

"I supplicate thee, O queen, whether thou art a goddess or a mortal! If
indeed thou art a goddess of them that keep the wide heaven, then to
Artemis, the daughter of great Zeus, I mainly liken thee, for beauty and
stature and shapeliness. But if thou art one of the daughters of men who
dwell on earth, thrice blessed are thy father and thy lady mother, and
thrice blessed thy brethren. Surely their souls ever glow with gladness
for thy sake each time they see thee entering the dance, so fair a
flower of maidens! But he is of heart the most blessed beyond all other
who shall prevail with gifts of wooing, and lead thee to his home. Never
have mine eyes beheld such an one among mortals, neither man nor woman;
great awe comes upon me as I look on thee.

"But, queen, have pity on me; for, after many trials and sore, to thee
first of all am I come, and of the other folk who hold this city and
land I know no man. Nay, show me the town, give me an old garment to
cast about me, if thou hadst, when thou camest here, any wrap for the
linen. And may the gods grant thee all thy heart's desire: a husband and
a home, and a mind at one with his may they give--a good gift; for there
is nothing mightier and nobler than when man and wife are of one heart
and mind in a house, a grief to their foes, and to their friends great
joy, but their own hearts know it best."

Then Nausicaa of the white arms answered him, and said: "Stranger,
forasmuch as thou seemest no evil man nor foolish--and it is Olympian
Zeus himself that giveth weal to men, to the good and to the evil, to
each one as he will, and this thy lot doubtless is of him, and so thou
must in any wise endure it:--now, since thou hast come to our city and
our land, thou shalt not lack raiment, nor aught else that is the due of
a hapless suppliant, when he has met them who can befriend him. And I
will show thee the town, and name the name of the people. The Phæacians
hold this city and land, and I am the daughter of Alcinous, great of
heart, on whom all the might and force of the Phæacians depend."

The princess then calls her maidens and bids them give the stranger meat
and drink, and olive oil for his bath, and raiment to put on. And when
he had bathed and anointed himself, and had put on the raiment, Athena
"made him greater and more mighty to behold, and from his head caused
deep, curling locks to flow, like the hyacinth flower," shedding grace
about his head and shoulders.

"Then to the shore of the sea went Odysseus apart, and sat down, glowing
in beauty and grace; and the princess marvelled at him, and spake among
her fair-tressed maidens, saying:

"'Listen, my white-armed maidens, and I will say somewhat. Not without
the will of all the gods who hold Olympus hath this man come among the
godlike Phæacians. Erewhile he seemed to me uncomely, but now he is like
the gods that keep the wide heaven. Would that such an one might be
called my husband, dwelling here, and that it might please him here to
abide! But come, my maidens, give the stranger meat and drink.'"

Food is set before the famishing Odysseus, and, after his hunger is
appeased, Nausicaa prepares for the homeward return. She addresses the
hero, and gives him full directions how to reach her father's palace;
part of the way he may accompany her, but not when they approach a
populous part of the city; for she dreads the unfriendly comments of
loungers and passers-by.

[Illustration 80 _CIRCE After the painting by Henri P. Motte. The myth
of Circe turning the companions of Ulysses into swines shows the
religious belief, in ancient Greece, in magical transformation of human
beings into animals._]

"And some one of the baser sort might meet me and say: 'Who is this that
goes with Nausicaa, this tall and goodly stranger? Where found she him?
Her husband he will be, her very own. Either she has taken in some
shipwrecked wanderer of strange men, for no men dwell near us; or some
god has come in answer to her instant prayer; from heaven has he
descended, and will have her to wife for evermore. Better so, if herself
she has ranged abroad and found a lord from a strange land; for verily
she holds in no regard the Phæacians here in this country, the many men
and noble who are her wooers.' So will they speak, and this would turn
to my reproach. Yea, and I myself would think it blame of another
maiden who did such things in despite of her friends, her father and
mother being still alive, and was conversant with men before the day of
open wedlock. But, stranger, heed well what I say, that as soon as may
be thou mayst gain at my father's hands an escort and a safe return.
Thou shalt find a fair grove of Athena, a poplar grove near the road,
and a spring wells forth therein, and a meadow lies all around. There is
my father's demesne, and his fruitful close, within the sound of a man's
shout from the city. Sit thee down there, and wait until such time as we
may have come into the city and reached the house of my father. But when
thou deemest that we are got to the palace, then go up to the city of
the Phæacians, and ask for the house of my father Alcinous, high of
heart. It is easily known, and a young child could be thy guide, for
nowise like it are builded the houses of the Phæacians, so goodly is the
palace of the hero Alcinous. But when thou art within the shadow of the
halls and the court, pass quickly through the great chamber, till thou
comest to my mother, who sits at the hearth in the light of the fire,
weaving yarn of sea-purple stain, a wonder to behold. Her chair is
leaned against a pillar, and her maidens sit behind her. And there my
father's throne leans close to hers, wherein he sits and drinks his
wine, like an immortal. Pass thou by him, and cast thy hands about my
mother's knees, that thou mayst see quickly and with joy the day of thy
returning, even if thou art from a very far country. If but her heart be
kindly disposed toward thee, then is there hope that thou shalt see thy
friends, and come to thy well-builded house and to thine own country."
The clever maiden had already learned where lies the real seat of

Soon stranger and maiden part, and Nausicaa drives to the gateway of the
palace, and her brothers loose the mules from the car and carry the
raiment within; then the maiden passes to her chamber, where her
attendant Eurymedusa meets her and prepares her supper. And at this
point Nausicaa slips out of the main thread of the story, for maidens
were not allowed to take part in the public functions with which the
king entertained his guest.

When Odysseus has met with a favorable reception from the royal pair,
the queen recognizes the garments which he wears, and this leads to the
story of his rescue, but as yet he withholds his name. Alcinous is
inclined to censure his daughter for not bringing the rescued one to the
house when she returned with her maidens, but Odysseus gallantly defends
the blameless maiden. And Alcinous, moved by his princely bearing,
expresses the wish that so goodly a man would wed his daughter, and be
called his son, there abiding. But the king does not insist, and the
invitation was probably merely a courteous form of expression customary
in those early days.

Only one more glimpse do we have of the Princess Nausicaa. After a day
of athletic contests and various entertainments, Odysseus has arrayed
himself for the evening, and is going to join the chiefs at their wine.

"And Nausicaa, dowered with beauty by the gods, stood by the doorpost of
the well-builded hall, and marvelled at Odysseus, beholding him before
her eyes, and she uttered her voice and spake to him winged words:

"'Farewell, stranger, and even in thine own country bethink thee of me
upon a time, for that to me first thou owest the ransom of life.'

"And Odysseus of many counsels answered her, saying: 'Nausicaa, daughter
of great-hearted Alcinous, yea, may Zeus, the thunderer, the lord of
Hera, grant me to reach my home and see the day of my returning; so
would I, even there, do thee worship as to a god, all my days for
evermore, for thou, lady, hast given me my life.'"

Thus delicately did Odysseus make a patron saint of the pure-hearted
maiden, who had so innocently shown her fondness for him.

Royally was Odysseus entertained by King Alcinous and his noble-hearted
queen, Arete, daughter of his brother, who "was honored by him as no
other woman in the world is honored, of all that nowadays keep house
under the hand of their lords. Thus she hath, and hath ever had, all
worship heartily from her dear children and from her lord Alcinous and
from all the folk, who look on her as on a goddess, and greet her with
reverent speech when she goes about the town. Yea, for she, too, hath no
lack of understanding. To whomsoever she shows favor, even if they be
men, she ends their feuds."

After the feast, Demodocus the minstrel sang the story of the Wooden
Horse; and at the memory of all he had suffered, the heart of Odysseus
melted and the tears wet his cheeks beneath his eyelids. His host marked
his grief, and begged him to tell the story of his adventures. Odysseus
complied by giving an account of his wanderings, from the fall of Troy
up to his arrival among the Phæacians. The hero had struggled time and
again against men, against giants and monsters, against the forces of
nature, and finally against an adversary yet more powerful--the love of

Among his adventures was the story of his trip to the isle of Æa, where
dwelt Circe, an awful goddess, of mortal speech, own sister of the
wizard Æetes, and aunt of the more terrible enchantress Medea. She dwelt
in a house of polished stone, and all round her palace mountain-bred
wolves and lions were roaming, whom she herself had bewitched with evil
drugs. As half his band approached the house, they heard Circe singing
in a sweet voice as she passed to and fro before the great web,
imperishable, such as is the handiwork of goddesses, fine of woof and
full of grace and splendor; truly a fascinating goddess was she, though
rather gruesome in her surroundings. When the comrades of Odysseus
called to her, she graciously invited them in. "So she led them in and
set them upon chairs and high seats, and made them a mess of cheese and
barley meal and yellow honey with Pramnian wine, and mixed harmful drugs
with the food to make them utterly forget their own country. Now, when
she had given them the cup and they had drunk it off, presently she
smote them with a wand, and in the sties of the swine she penned them.
So they had the head and voice, the bristles and the shape, of swine,
but their mind abode even as of old. Thus were they penned there
weeping, and Circe flung them acorns and mast and fruit of the cornel
tree to eat, whereon wallowing swine do always batten."

Only one had been wise enough not to enter, and he rushed back to tell
the tale to his lord. Odysseus started off alone to rescue his comrades;
and Hermes met him on the way, in the likeness of a young man, and gave
him _moly_, a magic herb, and full directions for its use, to ward off

Fair Circe receives him most graciously and prepares also for him the
magic potion, but for once her charm fails. He draws his sword to slay
her, and then she becomes the suppliant. She has found her match, and at
once, as if she were a mortal, falls in love with him. Her bonhomie is
now her greatest charm. She swears a great oath not to harm him or his
companions, and restores to the natural form those whom she had already
bewitched. Royal entertainment and gracious hospitality and words of
counsel are now the order of the day--attendant nymphs, delicious
baths, and sumptuous banquets. So there they remained for a full year,
feasting on abundant flesh and sweetest wine.

Lady Circe proved herself to be the counsellor and friend of Odysseus,
and showed him how to carry out his fond desire of visiting the realm of
Hades, to seek the spirit of Theban Tiresias, that he might unfold to
the wanderer his future. Then, clad in a great, shining robe, light of
woof and gracious, with a fair golden girdle about her waist, and a veil
upon her head, she bade farewell to Odysseus and his crew, and sent a
favoring wind as a kindly escort to the dark-prowed ship.

During his descent into Hades, Odysseus discourses with the Theban seer,
who makes known to him his destiny, and also with the wraith of his
mother, who tells him that faithful Penelope abides with steadfast
spirit in his halls, and wearily for her the nights wane always and the
days in the shedding of tears; and how she herself was reft of sweet
life through her sore longing for him.

And, after her, there appears a great company of the famous women of
heroic times, wives and daughters of mighty men, who had been beloved of
gods and illustrious mortals,--Tyro, ancestress of Nestor's house; and
Antiope, mother of Amphion and Zethus, founders of seven-gated Thebes;
and Alcmene, mother of Heracles; and Epicaste, mother of Oedipus, who
was wedded to her own son; and lovely Chloris, wife of Neleus; and Leda,
mother of Castor and Pollux; and Iphimedia, and Phædra, and Procris, and
Mæra, and Clymene, and hateful Eriphyle, and innumerable other wives and
daughters of heroes,--Homer's _Catalogue of Famous Women_, who had
exerted mighty influence in heroic times.

Upon Odysseus's return to the island of Æa, Circe greets them, and once
more they enjoy meat and bread in plenty and dark red wine. And our
hero Circe leads apart and makes him sit down, and lays herself at his
feet and asks all his tale. She then warns him of the dangers he has yet
to encounter, and tells him how to meet them. Then, with words of
farewell, she sends the travellers on their voyage with a favoring
breeze. First, Odysseus encounters the Sirens, whose enchanting strains
he enjoys while he is bound tight to the mast, and the ears of his
companions are deafened with wax; he evades the Clashing Rocks, escapes
Scylla and Charybdis; and at last, on the Isle of the Sun, his comrades
slaughter and devour the sacred cattle of Helios--in violation of the
warnings of Tiresias and Circe. All are in consequence lost in a
shipwreck, save Odysseus, who, after floating about for ten days on a
raft, reaches the island of Ogygia, abode of the fair nymph Calypso, who
holds him as her beloved for eight long years and would make him

Thus the tale ended--all are spellbound throughout the shadowy halls at
the story, and Alcinous and his courtiers offer all manner of gifts to
Odysseus. The next day, a ship is got ready for its voyage to far-off
Ithaca; the gifts are stored on board, a farewell feast is held, and
Odysseus bids farewell to his gracious hosts:

"My lord Alcinous, most notable of all the people, pour ye the drink
offering, and send me safe upon my way; and as for you, fare ye well.
For now have I all that my heart desired, an escort and loving gifts.
May the gods of heaven give me good fortune with them, and may I find my
noble wife in my home with my friends unharmed, while ye, for your part,
abide here and make glad your gentle wives and children; and may the
gods vouchsafe all manner of good, and may no evil come nigh the

Then, after a grateful farewell to Queen Arete, the hero is conducted to
the waiting ship, and there left reclining upon the soft rugs that have
been spread for him, and soon a sound sleep, very sweet, falls upon his

When Odysseus awakes, he is in his dear native land, though he does not
recognize it until the goddess Athena appears and tells him how he is to
regain wife and kingdom. For us, the rest of the story centres about
Queen Penelope, who for so many, m'any years has been awaiting the
return of her lord.

Odysseus, disguised by the goddess in the form of an aged beggar, goes
to the hut of the swineherd Eumæus, with whose aid the plot for the
destruction of the wooers is to be carried out; and Athena summons
Telemachus to return from Lacedæmon to meet his father and bear his part
in the final scenes. When the young man returns to the palace, after his
interview with his father, "the nurse Euryclea saw him far before the
rest, as she was strewing skin coverlets upon the carven chairs; and
straightway she drew near him, weeping, and all the other maidens of
Odysseus, of the hardy heart, gathered about him, and kissed him
lovingly on the head and shoulders. Now wise Penelope came forth from
her chamber, like Artemis or golden Aphrodite, and cast her arms about
her dear son, and fell a-weeping, and kissed his face and both his
beautiful eyes, and wept aloud, and spake to him winged words:

"'Thou art come, Telemachus, sweet light of mine eyes; methought I should
see thee never again, after thou hadst gone in thy ship to Pylus,
secretly, and without my will, to seek tidings of thy dear father. Come
now, tell me, what sign didst thou get of him?'"

Telemachus tells his mother of his journey, and his friend Theoclymenus,
who has the gift of second-sight, prophesies the speedy return of
Odysseus. Soon the hero himself appears as a beggar in his own halls,
and is roughly treated by the haughty wooers. He soundly whips the
braggart beggar Irus, and the story of his presence is noised throughout
the house.

Constant Penelope is ever anxious to hear some word of her lord, and
every wandering stranger with a tale to tell could win rich gifts from
her by devising some story of Odysseus. She has heard of the beggar in
her halls, and summons him to her presence and questions him, and tells
him of her grief and her longing for more news of the absent one. When
crafty Odysseus fashioned a story of his entertaining her lord in Crete,
her tears flowed as she listened, and she wept for her own lord who was
sitting by her. The disguised hero had compassion for his wife; but he
craftily hid his tears, and described the appearance of Odysseus so
fully that she could not deny the certain likeness.

Then the aged nurse Euryclea, who had tended him in his youth, is asked
to wash the feet of the old man. As the crone makes ready the caldron, a
sudden fear seizes Odysseus lest when she handles his foot she might
know the scar of the wound that the boar had dealt him with its white
tusk in his boyhood. When the old woman took the scarred limb, she knew
it by the touch, and grief and joy seized her, and she called him
Odysseus, her dear child. Then would she have revealed the glad news to
Penelope, had Odysseus not seized her by the throat and made her swear
to keep his presence secret until the slaying of the lordly wooers.

Next day occurs the famous trial of the bow of Odysseus, which none of
the suitors can draw; then Odysseus gets the bow into his hands, strings
it, sends the arrow through the axheads, and finally, leaping on the
stone threshold, deals his shafts among the wooers. The wretched
company are all slaughtered, the faithless women of the household are
hanged, and ominous silence reigns over the palace of Odysseus.

Euryclea hastens to the upper chamber to bring to Queen Penelope the
good news that Odysseus has surely come and has slain the haughty
wooers. The fair lady can with difficulty believe the tidings, but she
is finally persuaded to go down to see the wooers dead and him that slew

"With the word, she went down from the upper chamber, and much her heart
debated whether she should stand apart and question her dear lord or
draw nigh and clasp his head and hands. But when she had come within and
had crossed the threshold of stone, she sat down over against Odysseus,
in the light of the fire, by the further wall. Now, he was sitting by
the tall pillar, looking down and waiting to know if perchance his noble
wife would speak to him, when her eyes beheld him. But she sat long in
silence, and amazement came upon her soul, and now she would look upon
him steadfastly with her eyes, and now again she knew him not, for that
he was clad in vile raiment. And Telemachus rebuked her, and spake and
hailed her:

"'Mother mine, ill mother, of an ungentle heart, why turnest thou thus
away from my father, and dost not sit by him and question him and ask
him all? No other woman in the world would harden her heart to stand
thus aloof from her lord, who, after much travail and sore, had come to
her in the twentieth year to his own country. But thy heart is ever
harder than stone.'

"Then wise Penelope answered him, saying: 'Child, my mind is amazed
within me, and I have no strength to speak, or to ask him aught, nay, or
to look on him face to face. But if in truth this be Odysseus, and he
hath indeed come home, verily we shall be aware of each other the more
surely; for we have tokens that we twain know of, even we, secret from
all others.'

"So she spake, and the steadfast, goodly Odysseus smiled, and quickly he
spake to Telemachus winged words: 'Telemachus, leave now thy mother to
make trial of me within the chambers; so shall she soon come to a better
knowledge than heretofore.'

"Meanwhile, the housedame Eurynome had bathed the great-hearted Odysseus
within his house, and anointed him with olive oil, and cast about him a
goodly mantle and a doublet. Moreover, Athena shed great beauty from his
head downwards, and made him greater and more mighty to behold, and from
his head caused deep, curling locks to flow, like the hyacinth flower.
And as when some skilful man overlays gold upon silver, one that
Hephæstus and Pallas Athena have taught all manner of craft, and full of
grace is his handiwork, even so did Athena shed grace about his head and
shoulders; and forth from the bath he came, in form like to the
immortals. Then he sat down again on the high seat, whence he had
arisen, over against his wife, and spake to her, saying:

"'Strange lady, surely to thee, above all womankind, the Olympians have
given a heart that cannot be softened. No other woman in the world would
harden her heart to stand thus aloof from her husband, who, after much
travail and sore, had come to her, in the twentieth year, to his own
country.--Nay, come, nurse strew a bed for me to lie all alone, for
assuredly her spirit within her is as iron.'

"Then wise Penelope answered him again: 'Strange man, I have no proud
thoughts, nor do I think scorn of thee, nor am I too greatly astonished,
but I know right well what manner of man thou wert when thou wentest
forth out of Ithaca, on the long-oared galley.--But come, Euryclea,
spread for him the good bedstead outside the stablished bridal chamber
that he built himself. Thither bring ye forth the good bedstead, and
cast bedding thereon, even fleeces and rugs and shining blankets.'

"So she spake and made trial of her lord, but Odysseus in sore
displeasure spake to his true wife, saying: 'Verily, a bitter word is
this, lady, that thou hast spoken. Who has set my bed otherwhere? Hard
would it be for one, how skilled soever, unless a god were to come that
might easily set it in another place, if so he would. But of men there
is none living, howsoever strong in his youth, that could lightly
upheave it; for a great marvel is wrought in the fashion of the bed, and
it was I that made it, and none other. There was growing a bush of
olive, long of leaf, and most goodly of growth, within the inner court,
and the stem as large as a pillar. Round about this I built the chamber,
till I had finished it, with stones close set, and I roofed it over well
and added thereto compacted doors fitting well. Next I sheared off all
the light wood of the long-leaved olive, and rough-hewed the trunk
upwards from the root, and smoothed it around with the adze, well and
skilfully, and made straight the line thereto and so fashioned it into
the bedpost, and I bored it all with the auger. Beginning from this
headpost, I wrought at the bedstead till I had finished it, and made it
fair with inlaid work of gold and of silver and of ivory. Then I made
fast therein a bright purple band of oxhide. Even so I declare to thee
this token, and I know not, lady, if the bedstead be yet fast in its
place, or if some man has cut away the stem of the olive tree and set
the bedstead otherwhere.'

"So he spake, and at once her knees were loosened, and her heart melted
within her, as she knew the sure tokens that Odysseus showed her. Then
she fell a-weeping, and ran straight towards him and cast her hands
about his neck, and kissed his head and spake, saying:

"'Murmur not against me, Odysseus, for thou wert ever at other times the
wisest of men. It is the gods that gave us sorrow, the gods who were
jealous that we should abide together and have joy of our youth and come
to the threshold of old age. So now be not wroth with me hereat nor full
of indignation because I did not welcome thee gladly as now, when I
first saw thee. For always my heart within my breast shuddered for fear
lest some man should come and deceive me with his words, for many there
be that devise gainful schemes and evil. Nay, even Argive Helen,
daughter of Zeus, would not have lain with a stranger, and taken him for
a lover, had she known that the warlike sons of the Achæans would bring
her home again to her own dear country. Howsoever, it was the god that
set her upon this shameful deed; nor ever, ere that, did she lay up in
her heart the thought of this folly, a bitter folly, whence on us, too,
first came sorrow. But now that thou hast told all the sure tokens of
our bed, which never was seen by mortal man, save by thee and me, and
one maiden only, the daughter of Actor, that my father gave me ere yet I
had come hither, she who kept the doors of our strong bridal chamber,
even now dost thou bend my soul, all ungentle as it is.'

"Thus she spake, and in his heart she stirred yet a greater longing to
lament, and he wept as he embraced his beloved wife and true. And even
as when the sight of land is welcome to swimmers, whose well-wrought
ship Poseidon hath smitten on the deep, all driven with the wind and
swelling waves, and but a remnant hath escaped the gray sea water and
swum to the shore, and their bodies are all crusted with the brine, and
gladly have they set foot on land and escaped an evil end; so welcome
to her was the sight of her lord, and her white arms she would never
quite let go from his neck.

"Now when the twain had taken their fill of sweet love, they had delight
in the tales which they told one to the other. The fair lady spake of
all that she had endured in the halls at the sight of the ruinous throng
of wooers, who for her sake slew many cattle, kine, and goodly sheep;
and many a cask of wine was broached. And, in turn, Odysseus, of the
seed of Zeus, recounted all the griefs he had wrought on men, and all
his own travail and sorrow; and she was delighted with the story, and
sweet sleep fell not upon her eyelids till the tale was ended."

Filled with incidents of domestic life in heroic times, the Odyssey
presents us a galaxy of women, if not more impressive, at any rate more
brilliant than that of the Iliad. Of these attractive figures, who
should first merit our consideration, if not the heroine of the poem?

Queen, wife, mother, the sentiment which most characterizes Penelope is
love of husband, child, and home; her chief intellectual trait is
prudence. We find in her the rare combination of warmth of temperament
and sanity of judgment. Her sense of prudence does not exclude depth of
devotion, longings for the absent one, and outbursts of indignation at
the wrongs inflicted on her son. Her love for Odysseus is intense and
constant. There is a beautiful legend that when Odysseus came to carry
off his bride, her father entreated her to remain with him in his old
age. The chariot is ready to bear her away, and the maiden pauses just a
moment, hesitating 'twixt love and duty. Odysseus gives her her choice;
but, drawing down her veil, she signifies that where her lover goes
there will she go. This intensity of affection marks the twenty long
years of separation. Every night, she bewails Odysseus, her dear lord,
till gray-eyed Athena casts sweet sleep upon her eyelids. She ever longs
for, though at times despairs of, his return; and she inquires of every
stranger, that she may learn something of the wanderer. Penelope is also
a devoted mother. Ever anxious about her son, she grieves for him when
absent, and when at home guards him as far as possible from the
insolence of the wooers. In her obedience to her son, she seems to have
followed the Greek custom expected of a widow.

In her relations with the wooers, Penelope adopted the only attitude
which was possible for a woman who would wait indefinitely for the
return of her lord. Parents and son, Greek custom and precedents, all
expected that a widow should remarry after so long an interval. And the
wooers were insolent, overwhelming the palace and rapidly making away
with the patrimony of Telemachus. Hence, only by coquettish dallying
could she postpone the evil day.

In all things Penelope was a model housewife, ever engaged in feminine
tasks, overseeing her maidens at their work, watching over the younger
servants with the solicitude of a mother, and observing toward the aged
slave the deference of a daughter. But when the uncivil Melantho is
deficient in respect, the queen calls her severely to a sense of her
duty. When her husband returns, for whom she has waited during twenty
long years of widowhood, she does not throw herself straightway into his
arms. She fears a god may deceive her, and, the better to preserve for
Odysseus the treasures of the tenderness stored up in her heart, she
devises every cunning test to make sure it is really he. Never was there
in woman's heart a more ardent flame of love and devotion; never in a
woman's head intelligence so subtle, judgment so sure. When we fully
appreciate the charm of Penelope's character, we better understand how
the hero should sacrifice the devotion of a goddess for the love of such
a woman.

"These two meet at last together, he after his long wanderings, and she
after having suffered the insistence of suitors in her palace; and this
is the pathos of the Odyssey. The woman, in spite of her withered youth
and tearful years of widowhood, is still expectant of her lord. He,
unconquered by the pleasures cast across his path, unterrified by all
the dangers he endures, clings in thought to the bride whom he led
forth, a blushing maiden, from her father's halls. O just, subtle, and
mighty Homer! There is nothing of Greek here more than of Hebrew, or of
Latin, or of German. It is pure humanity."

Closely interwoven with the plot of the Odyssey is the aged and touching
figure of the faithful slave Euryclea, who by her devotion has become a
member of the family she serves. Taken captive in her girlhood, she had
nursed Odysseus in his childhood, and, later, his own son, Telemachus.
Thus she is to both a second mother. She assists the queen in managing
the house, in bringing up her son, in succoring the stranger. When she
recognizes her master, how ravishing is her joy, how she longs to share
it with her mistress! Yet she knows how to keep a secret.

Circe and Calypso are styled goddesses, yet they are brought down to
earth in their love for Odysseus, and are thoroughly human in their
traits. Calypso feeds on ambrosia and nectar, and lives in a mysterious
grotto on an enchanted island; yet she loves like any mortal woman, and
bitter is her wail when she receives the command of the gods to let
Odysseus go. The enchantress Circe is much more dangerous, and takes a
ghoulish delight in metamorphosing men into swine; yet, when she falls
in love with Odysseus, she is the queenly lady, considerate of his
comrades, and in every way his guide, philosopher, and friend. Unlike
Calypso, she seeks not to detain Odysseus against the will of the gods,
but after the expiration of a year sends him on his way.

To return to the domestic heroines: Queen Arete of Phæacia is, like
Penelope, an example of the elevated position held by women in the royal
houses of heroic times. She exerts over the subjects of her husband the
same influence she exercises in the family circle. Her children share
the reverence and affection she has from husband and people. To her
Odysseus makes supplication; for if he win her favor, sure is his return
to his native land; she bids her people prepare gifts for her guest
friend at his departure, and to her Odysseus extends the pledging cup in
saying farewell.

Where can one find phrases sufficiently subtle, expressions sufficiently
delicate, to reproduce the sweet picture of Nausicaa? Of all the
creations of poetic fancy, none equals her in perennial charm. "She is
simply," says Symonds, "the most perfect maiden, the purest, freshest
lightest-hearted girl of Greek romance." This immortal child of the
poetic imagination will, with two real women,--Lesbian Sappho, and Mary,
Queen of Scots,--have lovers in every age and in every clime. Though
merely a poet's fancy, Nausicaa is absolutely human and full of life,
and thus differs from the heroine of _The Tempest_, who of all poetic
creations most resembles her. Note her naive grace and charm, her
girlish vivacity and joy, at the beginning of the scene; and when the
occasion demands it, the girl becomes the woman, and with unaffected
simplicity and dignity she addresses the hero. No wonder that Odysseus
should seem the Prince Charming for whom she had been waiting; and there
may have been a slight chill of disappointment when, in expressing his
gratitude for his deliverance, he made her his patron saint instead of
his sweetheart. Yet, no doubt, she soon learned that the unknown hero
was the great Odysseus, husband of faithful Penelope, and hers was too
buoyant, too healthy a nature to pine away and die at the shattering of
a dream. Then, even if he had been a widower, he was too old for this
bright beauty. But what an ideal father-in-law he would make! And if the
young Telemachus should only come to Scheria!--and how do we know that
he did not later arrive there, sent a-courting by Odysseus after the
restoration of his realm? Eustathius preserves a tradition, based on
such good authorities as Hellanicus and Aristotle, that Telemachus
actually did wed the Princess Nausicaa; and the Athenian orator
Andocides claimed to be a descendant of this illustrious pair.

So beautiful a legend could not escape treatment by later poets. Alcman,
one of the earliest lyric composers, describes in a poem the meeting of
Odysseus and Nausicaa, and Sophocles wrote a drama entitled _Nausicaa_,
or _The Washers_; and there is a tradition that, contrary to his usual
custom, the poet himself "appeared as an actor, winning much applause by
his beauty and grace in the dancing and rhythmic ball play, in the
character of Nausicaa herself." Lucian names her among the heroines of
mythical times who, through their goodness of heart, humanity,
gentleness of demeanor, and compassion toward the needy, deserve to rank
as patterns of womanly virtue.

With such brilliant pictures of domestic life--the queens Penelope,
Helen, and Arete, exerting a womanly influence in the palaces, the
goddess-lovers Circe and Calypso on their enchanted islands, the slave
Euryclea tenderly caring for mistress and young master, and the maiden
Nausicaa, engaged in occupation and in pastime with her girl
friends--the Odyssey is a mirror reflecting the character of the Heroic
Age of Greece.



From the fascinating visions of the heroic past as they are presented in
the Homeric poems, we must now prepare to descend to the actualities of
life as they disclose themselves at the dawn of Greek history. Hesiod,
the epic poet of Boeotia, constitutes the bridge, as regards social
conditions, between the Heroic Age and the early historical periods of
the various peoples and cities of Greece. He describes the actual
conditions about him, and gives us glimpses of the life of the Greek
people which prepare us for the great changes that have taken place
through the overturning of monarchies, the spread of commerce and
colonization, and the awakening of the common people to a sense of their
rights and their power. Hence we may expect to find in his poetry much
light on the status of woman in remote times.

Hesiod is usually ascribed to the second half of the ninth century
before the Christian Era. He lived at Ascra, near Mount Helicon, in
Boeotia, the original home of the Æolians. Amid agricultural
surroundings the poet grew up. Defrauded by his brother Perses of part
of his inheritance, he experienced hardships that quickened his sympathy
for the plain people and led him to reflection on life and its problems.
He was commissioned by the Muses, who appeared to him on Mount Helicon,
to _utter true things to men_--a phrase which strikes the keynote to his
poetry, for he dealt in realities and sought to alleviate the social
conditions of his times. His principal works are the _Works and Days_
and the _Theogony_; there was also a Hesiodic _Catalogue of Women_,
attested by many allusions in classical writers, but, unfortunately for
our purpose, altogether lost to us. Very probably in this work, Hesiod
or his school told of the aristocratic women of Greek mythology, from
whose union with gods had sprung heroes. Lacking this, Hesiod is to us
"the poet of the Helots," and we gain from him only knowledge of the
common people of Boeotia and their manner of life.

Hesiod's estimate of women is vastly inferior to that of Homer. Homer,
who sang for aristocratic ladies at the court of kings, has introduced
us into a society where women presided over their houses with grace and
dignity, and softened and refined the rough, warlike manners of men.
Hesiod, the poet of the plain people, is impressed with the hopelessness
of the conditions about him. The people are oppressed by the nobles; it
is impossible for them to obtain justice; the world seems all wrong. And
in seeking the causes of existing evils, the poet traces them back to
the one great evil which the gods have inflicted upon men; and that

This indictment first finds expression in his version, of the myth of
Pandora, the Mother Eve of Greek legend.

Hesiod tells us in this poem that in old days the human race had the use
of fire, and in gratitude to the gods offered burnt sacrifice. But
Prometheus had defrauded the gods of their just share of the sacrifices
and had compelled Zeus to be content with merely the bones and fat; and,
in return for this deception, Zeus devised grievous troubles for mortals
by depriving them of fire. Prometheus then stole fire from heaven.
Zeus, angered at being outwitted by the crafty Prometheus, determined to
inflict on men a bane from which they would not quickly recover. He
straightway commanded Hephæstus to mix earth and water, to endow the
plastic form with human voice and powers, and to liken it to a heavenly
goddess--virginal, winning, and fair. Athena was commanded to teach her
the domestic virtues; Aphrodite, to endow her with beauty, eager desire,
and passion that wastes the bodies of mortals; and Hermes, to bestow on
her a shameless mind and a treacherous nature. All obeyed the command of
Zeus, and in this manner was fashioned the first woman. Then Athena
added a girdle and ornaments; the Graces and Persuasion hung their
golden chains over her body, and the Hours wove for her garlands of
spring flowers. The name given this fascinating creature was Pandora,
because each of the gods had bestowed on her gifts to make her a fatal
bane unto mortals.

Hermes then led her down to earth to present her to Epimetheus, whom his
brother Prometheus had bidden never to receive any presents from
Olympian Zeus. Epimetheus, however, was captivated by Pandora's beauty
and received her, and only after the evil befell did he remember his
brother's command. Until the advent of woman, men, it is said, had lived
secure from trouble, free from wearisome labor, and safe from painful
diseases that bring death to mankind. But now Pandora with her hands
lifted the lid from the great jar with which the gods had dowered her,
the great jar wherein these evils had been securely imprisoned, and let
them loose upon the earth. With the sorrows, hope had been confined; but
when they were loosed, hope flew not forth, for too soon Pandora closed
the lid of the vessel. Hence, laments Hesiod, hopeless is the lot of
humanity, while innumerable ills pass hither and thither among hopeless
men. Such is the mythus of the fall of man, as imagined by the early
Greeks. Man was punished for rebelling against the will of heaven. Woman
is the instrument of his chastisement, thrust upon him by the angry
deity. She possesses every charm, every allurement, but her very
fascination is a chief cause of ill to man. He in his folly receives
her, and thence befall him all the ills of life. The whole argument of
Hesiod in this passage indicates that he regarded woman as "a necessary
deduction from the happiness of life," as "the rift in the lute that
spoils its music." Contrasted with the Hebrew story, the Greek
represents woman as closing the door of hope to man; while the Hebrew
version sees in her seed the hope of the salvation that is to overcome
the evils of the fall. Even stronger is Hesiod's invective against the
female sex in the _Theogony_, where he repeats the story of Pandora, and
concludes with the following reflections:

      "From her the sex of tender woman springs;
       Pernicious is the race; the woman tribe
       Dwells upon earth, a mighty bane to men;
       No mates for wasting want but luxury;
       And as within the close-roofed hive, the drones,
       Helpers of sloth, are pampered by the bees;
       These all the day, till sinks the ruddy sun,
       Haste on the wing, 'their murmuring labors ply,'
       And still cement the white and waxen comb;
       Those lurk within the covered hive, and reap
       With glutted maw the fruits of others' toil;
       Such evil did the Thunderer send to man
       In woman's form, and so he gave the sex,
       Ill helpmates of intolerable toils.
       Yet more of ill instead of good he gave:
       The man who shunning wedlock thinks to shun
       The vexing cares that haunt the woman-state,
       And lonely waxes old, shall feel the want
       Of one to foster his declining years;
       Though not his life be needy, yet his death
       Shall scatter his possessions to strange heirs,
       And aliens from his blood. Or if his lot
       Be marriage and his spouse of modest fame
       Congenial to his heart, e'en then shall ill
       Forever struggle with the partial good,
       And cling to his condition. But the man
       Who gains the woman of injurious kind
       Lives bearing in his secret soul and heart
       Inevitable sorrow: ills so deep
       As all the balms of medicine cannot cure."

This passage contains in brief Hesiod's general ideas concerning woman.
Pandora brought infinite ills to mortals, for from her sprang the tribe
of woman, "a mighty bane to men." If a man marry, he will be sorry; and
if he refrain from marriage, he will regret it. A wretched old age
awaits the bachelor; and his possessions, at his death, are dissipated
by indifferent kindred. Even if he marry, and get a good wife, sorrows
and blessings are mingled in his lot; while if his wife be bad, ills so
deep are his "as all the balms of medicine cannot cure." So woman is a
being whose presence is a necessary evil; without her, man's destiny is
not complete, but he must endure the ills she brings for the sake of the
possible blessing that may come by sharing one's lot with her. A man,
says the bard of Ascra, cannot be too cautious in choosing his helpmate,
as the following sage counsel indicates:

      "Take to thy house a woman for thy bride
       When in the ripeness of thy manhood's pride;
       Thrice ten thy sum of years, the nuptial prime;
       Nor fall far short nor far exceed the time.
       Four years the ripening virgin shall consume,
       And wed the fifth of her expanding bloom.
       A virgin choose: and mould her manners chaste;
       Chief be some neighboring maid by thee embraced;
       Look circumspect and long; lest thou be found
       The merry mock of all the dwellers round.
       No better lot has Providence assigned
       Than a fair woman with a virtuous mind;
       Nor can a worse befall than when thy fate
       Allots a worthless, feast-contriving mate.
       She with no torch of mere material flame
       Shall burn to tinder thy care-wasted frame;
       Shall send a fire thy vigorous bones within
       And age unripe in bloom of years begin."

The vein of contempt for woman which runs through the verses of Hesiod
finds many echoes in later writers, which indicates that in this
transition period, especially in Ionian Greece, evil influences were at
work, causing men to rebel against the shackles of wedded life and to
fail to realize the happiness they desired in the home and in the
family. It seems strange that Hesiod, in describing farm duties, should
not tell us more of the important function of the housewife. Yet in one
passage he merely emphasizes the importance of starting with "a house,
a wife, and an ox to plow," and in other passages speaks disparagingly
of woman and her work. So that even in lines where he might well have
commended her virtues the words of praise are left unsaid.

The two centuries of Greek history following Hesiod are chiefly known to
us through the lyric poets, as epic poetry declined and the writing of
history had not yet begun. Lyric poetry is an index to the hearts of the
people: for in lyric poetry are expressed the thoughts and feelings of
reflective man. Woman is the great mainspring of existence; she it is
who is the general cause of man's thoughts, emotions, passions, joys,
and sorrows. Hence, as lyric poetry is the poetry of the heart, we find
recorded in the verses of Grecian lyrists man's attitude toward woman in
this period of "storm and stress" in the development of Greek

Archilochus is the father of iambic poetry, and he made it the medium of
expression of personal passion and satire. With all the ardor of his
nature, he loved Neobule, daughter of Lycambes, of the island of Paros,
where the poet had made his home. Certain fragments of his poems, still
extant, indicate the intensity of the flame with which he was consumed.
Archilochus has left us an exquisite picture of his loved one, clad in
all the beauty and grace a poetic lover could portray, with a rose and a
myrtle branch in her hand, and her tresses falling caressingly over her
shoulders. He sighed "were it to touch but her hand," and she seems at
first to have returned his affection. The lovers were betrothed, but
suddenly the father objected, and the match was broken off. Love
immediately turned into hate, and passion changed into rage. Thereupon,
as Horace says:

      _"Archilochum proprio rabies armavit iambo,"_

Archilochus used the iambic metre as his weapon of attack. As his love
had been ardent, so, when betrayed, his rage was uncontrollable. Every
possible taunt was cast at those who had deceived him. "Each verse he
wrote was polished and pointed like an arrow head. Each line was steeped
in the poison of hideous charges against his sweetheart, her sister, and
her father. The set of poems which he produced, and, as it would appear,
recited publicly at the festival of Demeter, was so charged with wit and
fire that the country rang with them. The daughters of Lycambes,
tradition avers, went straightway and hanged themselves--unable to
endure the flight of fiery serpents that had fallen upon them; for, to
quote the words of Browning, Archilochus had the art of writing verse
that 'bit into the live man's flesh like parchment,' that sent him
wandering, branded and forever shamed, about his native fields and

Archilochus's verses indicate that, in the eighth century before our
era, there was in Greece a certain freedom of intercourse between the
sexes, and that love was, at times at least, the basis for betrothal; it
also shows the absolute control of the father over the hand of his
daughter. The poet's story is also the earliest we have of love
betrayed, and the name of Neobule is inextricably intertwined with the
rise of satiric verse.

A different note is struck by Archilochus's contemporary, Semonides of
Amorgus, who takes up and continues the tradition of Hesiod in speaking
of woman in tones of contempt and disparagement. He composed a
celebrated satire on woman, in which her various temperaments are
ascribed to a kinship with different domestic animals,--the hog, the
fox, the dog, the ass, the mare, the ape,--or are compared to mud, sea
water, and the bee.

Semonides first deals with the class of women of the hog variety: "God
made the mind of woman in the beginning of different qualities; for one
he fashioned like a bristly hog, in whose house everything tumbles about
in disorder, bespattered with mud, and rolls upon the ground; she,
dirty, with unwashed clothes, sits and grows fat on a dungheap."

The woman like mud is thus satirized: "This woman is ignorant of
everything, both good and bad; her only accomplishment is eating: cold
though the winters be, she is too stupid to draw near the fire."

Here is the poet's picture of the woman who resembles the sea: "She has
two minds; when she laughs and is glad, the stranger seeing her at home
will give her praise--there is nothing better than this on the earth,
no, nor fairer; but another day she is unbearable, not to be looked at
or approached, for she is raging mad. To friend and foe she is alike
implacable and odious. Thus, as the sea is often calm and innocent, a
great delight to sailors in summertime, and oftentimes again is
frantic, tearing along with roaring billows, so is this woman in her

The woman who resembles a mare offers other disagreeable qualities: She
is "delicate and long-haired, unfit for drudgery or toil; she would not
touch the mill, or lift the sieve, or clean the house out! She bathes
twice or thrice a day, and anoints herself with myrrh; then she wears
her hair combed out long and wavy, dressed with flowers. It follows that
this woman is a rare sight to one's guests; but to her husband she is a
curse, unless he be a tyrant who prides himself on such expensive

The ape-like wife is perhaps the worst of the lot: "This one, above all,
has Zeus given as the greatest evil to men. Her face is most hateful.
Such a woman goes through the city a laughing-stock to all the men.
Short of neck, with narrow hips, withered of limb, she moves about with
difficulty. O wretched man, who weds such a woman! She knows every
cunning art, just like an ape, nor is ridicule a concern to her. To no
one would she do a kindness, but every day she schemes to this end,--how
she may work some one the greatest injury."

But at last we reach the bee: "The man who gets her is lucky; to her
alone belongs no censure; one's household goods thrive and increase
under her management; loving, with a loving spouse, she grows old, the
mother of a fair and famous race. She is preeminent among all women, and
a heavenly grace attends her. She cares not to sit among the women when
they indulge in lascivious chatter. Such wives are the best and wisest
mates Zeus grants to men."

Only one woman in ten has been found in some measure desirable, and the
poet concludes with a lengthy and comprehensive dunciad of the female
sex, the gist of which is as follows: "Zeus made this supreme
evil--woman: even though she seem to be a blessing, when a man has
wedded one she becomes a plague."

How much truth is there in Semonides's views on the women of his time?
The poet agrees with Hesiod in regarding woman as a necessary evil. Nine
women out of ten he finds altogether bad, and the tenth is prized only
for her domestic virtues. Industrious, quiet, economical, the mother of
children, she is merely the good housewife, which seems to have been the
primitive ideal of the perfect woman. The poem treats of women of the
middle class, and is important in showing the freedom of movement, and
appearance in public, of the married woman. She is not shut up in the
harem; but in the use of her tongue, and in her capacity as a busybody,
there seems to be no restraint upon her. Semonides's range of vision was
narrow, and he probably knew not much beyond his own little island, but
we may credit him with expressing the prevalent views of the honest
burghers of Amorgus.

Phocylides of Miletus, a successor of Semonides by rather more than a
century, composed in the same strain an epigrammatic satire on woman. It
is manifestly an imitation of the tirade of Semonides.

"The tribe of women," says he, "is of these four kinds,--that of a dog,
that of a bee, that of a burly sow, and that of a long-maned mare. This
last is manageable, quick, fond of gadding about, fine of figure; the
sow kind is neither good nor bad; that of the dog is difficult and
snarling; but the bee-like woman is a good housekeeper, and knows how to
work. This desirable marriage, pray to obtain, dear friend."

The bitterest of all the observations against woman by the iambic
writers, however, is that of Hipponax, a brilliant satirist of the sixth
century before Christ, He says:

"Two happy days a woman brings a man: the first, when he marries her;
the second, when he bears her to the grave."

Theognis is another of the poets of Greece who took a gloomy view of
life, and was not happy in his matrimonial ties. He laments that
marriages in his native town of Megara are made for money, and avers
that such marriages are the bane of the city. Says Theognis:

"Rams and asses, Cyrnus, and horses, we choose of good breed, and wish
them to have good pedigrees; but a noble man does not hesitate to wed a
baseborn girl if she bring him much money; nor does a noble woman refuse
to be the wife of a base but wealthy man, but she chooses the rich
instead of the noble. For they honor money; and the noble weds the
baseborn, and the base the highborn; wealth has mixed the race. So, do
not wonder, Polypaides, that the race of the citizens deteriorates, for
the bad is mixed with the good."

To sum up this cursory survey of the iambic poets, we find that in their
period woman is still regarded as the determining factor of man's weal
or woe, but that there exists in the sex every variety of woman which
lack of education and, especially, lack of appreciation can produce.
Woman is prized by man only for her domestic virtues; and any endeavor
she may make to step beyond the narrow circle of the home is resented by
the lords of creation. Man looks down on her as his inferior, and gives
her no share in his larger life. Among the aristocratic the bane of
wealth has entered, and marriages of convenience are the prevailing

When we pass from the iambic to the elegiac poets, we begin to note the
causes why wedded life, especially among the Ionian Greeks, does not
present the beautiful pictures of domestic bliss and conjugal
comradeship so attractive in heroic times. The martial elegists show
how woman could still inspire man to deeds of valor, but the erotic
poets give us glimpses of the root of the evil that was undermining the
very foundations of domestic life. The Greek woman did not develop under
enlarged conditions with the same rapidity as the Greek man; the wife
was expected to be merely the mother of her husband's children and the
keeper of his house; for companionship and pleasure he looked elsewhere.
The free woman, or the hetæra, has entered upon the stage. Poets were
inspired by love, but romantic love between husband and wife is being
replaced by the love of the beautiful and highly educated "companion,"
or the natural place of the highborn woman is being invaded by the baser
passion for "those fair and stately youths, with their virgin looks and
maiden modesty "--two classes that were to play so large a rôle in
society in the greatest days of Greece, and who were to bring about its

In the fragments of Alcman are many allusions to his passion for his
sweetheart Megalostrata; and many of the elegies of Mimnermus are said
to have been addressed to a flute player, Nanno, who, according to one
account, did not return his passion. The following, translated by
Symonds, shows the intensity of his love:

      "What's life or pleasure wanting Aphrodite?
       When to the gold-haired goddess cold am I,
       When love and love's soft gifts no more delight me,
       Nor stolen dalliance, then I fain would die!
       Ah! fair and lovely bloom the flowers of youth;
       On man and maids they beautifully smile:
       But soon comes doleful eld, who, void of ruth,
       Indifferently afflicts the fair and vile.
       Then cares wear out the heart; old eyes forlorn
       Scarce serve the very sunshine to behold--
       Unloved of youths, of every maid the scorn--
       So hard a lot gods lay upon the old."

Even from Solon the Sage, maker of constitutions, we possess some
amorous verses, of so questionable a character that it would hardly be
fitting to present them in this volume. They are ascribed to his early
youth. They afforded much comfort to the libertines of antiquity, who
were glad to be able to cite so respectable an exemplar; but the good
people were scandalized by these couplets.

Ibycus resembles Sappho in the intensity of his passion and in his
conception of Eros as a concrete existence. "Love once again looking
upon me from his cloud-black brows, with languishing glances drives me
by enchantments of all kinds to the endless nets of Cypris. Verily, I
tremble at his onset as a chariot horse, which hath won prizes, in old
age goes grudgingly to try his speed in the swift race of cars."

Anacreon, to English readers the best known of the erotic poets of
Greece, had as his mistress the golden-haired Eurypyle. He was very
susceptible to the influence of love, and, owing to the grace and
sweetness and ease of expression in his verses, has won an enduring
fame. Many of his verses and numerous imitations of his poems are
extant, and in these love is the constant theme.

Stesichorus was the composer of love poems with a plot, which were
highly popular among the ladies of ancient days. As forerunners of the
Greek Romance they possess unique literary importance, and as love
stories of an early day they throw much light on the status and ideals
of woman. Aristoxenus had preserved an outline of the plot of the
_Calyce:_ "The maiden Calyce having fallen madly in love with a youth,
prays to Apollo that she may become his lawful wife; and when he
continues to be indifferent to her, she commits suicide." Ancient
critics favorably comment on the purity and modesty of the maiden, and
the story indicates that marriages were not always a matter of
arrangement, that love at times determined one's choice, and that to the
ancient highborn maiden death was preferable to dishonor. Another of
these romantic poems, called _Rhadina_, tells also a tale of unhappy
love, how a Samian brother and sister were put to death by a cruel
tyrant because the sister resisted his advances.

Yet we cannot hold that woman had in this period universally assumed a
lower status than that accorded her in the Homeric poems. Among Ionian
peoples, this was doubtless true; but among Æolians and Dorians, woman
had not only attained a greater degree of freedom than was permitted her
in the Heroic Age, but had also shown herself the equal of man in
literary and æsthetic pursuits. In this transition age, the name of one
woman--Sappho--presents itself as the bright morning star in the history
of cultured womanhood.



Toward the close of the seventh century before Christ, a singular
phenomenon presented itself in the history of Greek womanhood.
Heretofore Greek women have been beautiful; they have been fascinating;
they have exerted great influence on the course of events; but it cannot
be said that they have been intellectual. At the time mentioned, there
occurred an unusual movement in the intellectual realm. This remarkable
movement centres about the name of the first great historical woman of
Greece--Lesbian Sappho, "the Tenth Muse." In the history of universal
woman, Sappho holds a position altogether unique; for she is not only
regarded as the greatest of lyric poets, but she was also the founder of
the first woman's club of which we have any record. Sappho consecrated
herself heart and soul to the elevation of her sex. As poetry and art
constitute the natural channels for the aesthetic cultivation of woman,
she trained her pupils to be poets like herself. The result of her
lifelong devotion to the service of Aphrodite and the Muses was that she
herself not only achieved an immortal reputation as a poet, but through
her inspiring influence her pupils carried the love of poetry and of
intellectual and artistic pursuits back to their distant homes. Hence,
it is not surprising to learn that from this time there were to be
found here and there in the Greek world women who in intellectual
pursuits were the peers of their male compeers, and that there should be
found among women the nine terrestrial Muses, so called as a counterpart
to the celestial Nine.

Sappho's unique greatness is best appreciated when we consider how she
has been regarded by the great men of antiquity and of modern times.

Among the Greeks, she possessed the unique renown of being called "The
Poetess," just as Homer was "The Poet." Solon, hearing one of her poems,
prayed that he might not see death until he had learned it. Plato
numbered her among the wise. Aristotle quotes without reservation a
judgment that placed her in the same rank as Homer and Archilochus.
Plutarch likens her "to the heart of a volcano," and says that the grace
of her poems acted on her listeners like an enchantment, and that when
he read them he set aside the drinking cup in very shame. Strabo called
her "a wonderful something," and says that "at no period within memory
has any woman been known who, in any way, even the least degree, could
be compared to her for poetry." Demetrius of Phaleron adds his word of
praise: "Wherefore Sappho is eloquent and sweet when she sings of beauty
and of love and spring, and of the kingfisher; and every beautiful
expression is woven into her poetry besides what she herself invented."

Writers in the Greek Anthology continually sing her praises, calling her
"the Tenth Muse," "pride of Hellas," "comrade of Apollo," "child of
Aphrodite and Eros," "nursling of the Graces and Persuasion." Nor have
modern critics been less restrained in their praises, notwithstanding
the fact that they possess merely a handful of fragments by which to
judge "The Poetess." Addison, for example, says: "Among the mutilated
poets of antiquity there is none whose fragments are so beautiful as
those of Sappho." John Addington Symonds is even more enthusiastic. "The
world has suffered no greater literary loss," says he, "than the loss of
Sappho's poems. So perfect are the smallest fragments preserved, that we
muse in a sad rapture of astonishment to think what the complete poems
must have been." And Swinburne, her best modern interpreter, calls
Sappho "the unapproachable poetess," and says: "Her remaining verses are
the supreme success, the final achievement, of the poetic art."

Sappho was at the zenith of her fame about the beginning of the sixth
century before the Christian era. Her home was at Mytilene, on the
island of Lesbos. The lapse of twenty-five centuries has left us few
authentic records of her life. There is a tradition that she was born at
Eresus, on the island of Lesbos, and later established herself in the
capital city, Mytilene. She was of a wealthy and aristocratic family.
Herodotus says that she was the daughter of Scamandronymus, and Suidas
states that her mother's name was Cleis, that she was the wife of a rich
citizen of Andros, Cercylas or Cercolas by name, and that she had a
daughter named after her grandmother, Cleis. Sappho refers to a daughter
by this name in one of the extant fragments, but none of these other
statements are corroborated. She had two brothers, Larichus, a public
cupbearer at Mytilene,--an office reserved for noble youths,--and
Charaxus, a wine merchant, of whom we shall speak more fully later. From
one source we learn that she went into exile to Sicily along with other
aristocrats of Lesbos, but the date is a matter of conjecture. Pittacus
was tyrant of Mytilene at this time, and Sappho probably returned to
Lesbos at the time when he granted amnesty to political exiles. How
long she lived we cannot tell, while how and when she died are also
unknown. Judging from the allusions of the writers in the Anthology, her
tomb, erected in the city of her adoption, was for centuries afterward
regularly visited by her votaries.

These are the few facts we can positively state regarding the life of
Sappho; but myth and legend have supplied what was lacking, and those
scandalmongers, the Greek comic poets, have woven all sorts of stories
about her manner of life. These stories centre chiefly about the names
of three men,--Alcæus and Anacreon, the poets, and Phaon, the mythical
boatman of Mytilene, endowed by Aphrodite with extraordinary and
irresistible beauty.

Alcæus, the poet of love and wine and war, was a native of Mytilene, and
a contemporary of Sappho, and the two poets no doubt knew each other
well. The comic poets made them lovers. There is still extant the
opening of a poem which Alcæus addressed to Sappho:

      "Violet-crowned, chaste, sweet-smiling Sappho,
       I fain would speak; but bashfulness forbids."

To which she replied:

      "Had thy wish been pure and manly,
       And no evil on thy tongue,
       Shame had not possessed thine eyelids;
       From thy lips the right had rung."

Anacreon, the lyric poet, was also represented as a lover of Sappho; and
two poems are preserved, one of which he is said to have addressed to
her, while the other is said to be her reply. But there is no doubt
whatever that Anacreon flourished at least a generation after Sappho, so
that the two could never have met. It seems to have been one of the
stock motifs of the comic poets to represent Greek lyrists as being
lovers of the Lesbian; thus Diphilus, in his _Sappho_, pictured
Archilochus and Hipponax, her predecessors by a generation, as her

The story of Sappho's love for Phaon and her leap from the Leucadian
rock in consequence of his disdaining her, though it has been so long
implicitly believed, rests on no historical basis. The perpetuation of
the story is due chiefly to Ovid, who, in his epistle, _Sappho to
Phaon_, tells of her unquenchable love and of her determination to
attempt the leap. The story is best told by Addison:

"Sappho, the Lesbian, in love with Phaon, arrived at the temple of
Apollo, habited like a bride, in garments white as snow. She wore a
garland of myrtle on her head, and carried in her hand the little
musical instrument of her own invention. After having sung a hymn to
Apollo, she hung up her garland on one side of his altar, and her harp
on the other. She then tucked up her vestments, like a Spartan virgin,
and amidst thousands of spectators, who were anxious for her safety and
offered up vows for her deliverance, marched directly forward to the
utmost summit of the promontory, where, after having repeated a stanza
of her own verses, she threw herself off the rock with such an
intrepidity as was never observed before in any who had attempted that
leap. Many who were present related that they saw her fall into the sea,
from whence she never rose again; though there were others who affirmed
that she never came to the bottom of her leap, but that she was changed
to a swan as she fell, and that they saw her hovering in the air under
that shape. But whether or not the whiteness and fluttering of her
garments might not deceive those who looked upon her, or whether she
might not really be metamorphosed into that musical and melancholy bird,
is still a doubt among the Lesbians."

Modern critics justly set aside the whole story as fabulous, explaining
it as derived from the myth of Aphrodite and Adonis, who in the Greek
version was called Phaethon or Phaon. The leap from the Leucadian
rock--the promontory of Santa Maura, or Leucate, in Sicily, known to
this day as "Sappho's Leap"--was used by other poets, notably
Stesichorus and Anacreon, as a metaphorical expression to denote
complete despair, and Sappho herself may have used it in this sense. The
legend did not connect itself with Sappho until two centuries after her
death, and then only in the comic poets; hence it can have no basis in
fact. The tradition of Sappho's Æolian grave, preserved in the
Anthology, indicates strongly that she died a peaceful death on her own
island. "Sappho," says Edwin Arnold, "loved, and loved more than once,
to the point of desperate sorrow; though it did not come to the mad and
fatal leap from Leucate, as the unnecessary legend pretends. There are,
nevertheless, worse steeps than Leucate down which the heart may fall;
and colder seas of despair than the Adriatic in which to engulf it."

The whole story of her love for Phaon is an instance of how her name was
maligned by the comic poets of the later Attic school. It was impossible
for the Athenians, who kept their women in seclusion, to understand how
a woman could enjoy the freedom of life and movement that Sappho enjoyed
and yet remain chaste. Consequently, she became a sort of stock
character of the licentious drama, and even modern writers have used her
name as the synonym for the brilliant, beautiful, but licentious woman.
As says Daudet, who of all recent writers has done most to degrade the
name: "The word Sappho itself, by the force of rolling descent through
ages, is encrusted with unclean legends, and has degenerated from the
name of a goddess to that of a malady." The Greek comic poets invented
the misrepresentation; the early Christian writers accepted it, and
exaggerated it in their tirades against heathenism; and thus the
tradition that Sappho was a woman of low moral character became fixed.

Only in the present century have the ancient calumnies against Sappho
been seriously investigated. A German scholar, Friedrich Gottlieb
Welcker, was the first to show that they were based on altogether
insufficient evidence. Colonel Mure, with great lack of gallantry,
endeavored, without success, to expose fallacies in Welcker's arguments.
Professor Comparetti has more recently gone laboriously over the whole
ground, and his work substantiates in the main the conclusions of
Welcker. The whole tendency of modern scholarship is to vindicate the
name of Sappho.

We cannot claim that Sappho was a woman of austere virtue; but she was
one of the best of her race, and there is no trace of wantonness in any
stanza of hers preserved to us. She repulsed Alcæus when he made
improper advances, while a recently discovered papyrus fragment shows
how keenly she felt a brother's disgrace, and this aversion to the
dishonorable would hardly have existed had her own life been open to

Sappho's brother Charaxus, who was a Lesbian wine merchant, fell
violently in love with the famous courtesan Rhodopis, then a slave in
Naucratis, and subsequently the most noted beauty of her day. He
ransomed her from slavery, devoted himself exclusively to her whims, and
squandered all his substance upon her maintenance. Sappho was violently
incensed at his conduct, and resorted to verse for the expression of her
anger and humiliation. According to the story in Ovid, Charaxus was
fiercely provoked by her ill treatment of him, and would listen to no
attempts at reconciliation made by his poet-sister after her anger had
cooled, though she reproached herself for the estrangement and did all
she could to win him back.

A twenty-line fragment of a poem, found a few years ago among the
Oxyrhynchus papyri, in a reference to the poet's brother, in its tone of
reproach, in its expression of a desire for reconciliation, in dialect
and in metre, indicates its origin as a part of an ode addressed by
Sappho to her brother Charaxus. It is conceived by its editors and
translators to be one of her vain appeals that he would forget the past:

      "Sweet Nereids, grant to me
       That home unscathed my brother may return,
       And every end for which his soul shall yearn,
       Accomplished see!

      "And thou, immortal Queen,
       Blot out the past, that thus his friends may know
       Joy, shame his foes--nay, rather, let no foe
       By us be seen!

      "And may he have the will
       To me his sister some regard to show,
       To assuage the pain he brought, whose cruel blow
       My soul did kill,

      "Yea, mine, for that ill name
       Whose biting edge, to shun the festal throng
       Compelling, ceased a while; yet back ere long
       To goad us came!"

Was Sappho's beauty a myth? Greek standards of feminine beauty included
height and stateliness. Homer celebrates the characteristic beauty of
Lesbian women in speaking of seven Lesbian captives whom Agamemnon
offered to Achilles, "surpassing womankind in beauty." Plato, in the
Phaedrus, calls Sappho "beautiful," but he was probably referring to the
sweetness of her songs. Democharis, in the Anthology, in an epigram on a
statue of Sappho, speaks of her bright eyes and compares her beauty
with that of Aphrodite. According to Maximus of Tyre, who preserves the
traditions of the comic poets, she was "small and dark," a phrase
immortalized by Swinburne:

      "The small dark body's Lesbian loveliness,
       That held the fire eternal."

The problem, therefore, is whether she conformed to the Greek ideal of
beauty or was small and dark. Our only evidence in this matter is that
furnished by art. The portrait of Sappho is preserved on coins of
Mytilene, which present a face exquisite in contour. A fifth century
vase, preserved in Munich, gives us representations of Alcæus and
Sappho, in which Sappho is taller than Alcæus, of imposing figure and
exceedingly beautiful. She was frequently portrayed in plastic art.
According to Cicero, a bronze statue of Sappho, made by Silanion, stood
in the prytaneum at Syracuse, and was stolen by Verres. In the fifth
century of our era, there was a statue of her in the gymnasium of
Zeuxippus, in Byzantium. The Vatican bust is that of a woman with Greek
features, but, of course, lends no corroborating testimony as to her
size and complexion.

Alma-Tadema has fixed the current tradition in his ideal representation
of Sappho's school at Lesbos--a marble exedra on the seashore at
Mytilene. The poetess is seated on the front row of seats, with her
favorite pupil, Erinna, standing by her side. Her chin rests on her
hands as she leans forward against the desk, listening intently as
Alcæus plays the lyre. She is small, dark, beautiful, intense; and the
artist has "subtly caught the prophetic light of her soul, her eager
intellect, her unconscious grace, and the slumbering passion in her
eloquent eyes."

[Illustration 120 _SAPPHO IN HER SCHOOL OF POETRY IN LESBOS. After the
painting by Hector Leroux. Wharton, in his great_ Memoir of Sappho,
_says she "seems to have been the centre of society in
Mitylene,--capital of Lesbos,--a kind of æsthetic club devoted to the
service of the Muses. Around her gathered maidens from even
comparatively distant places, attracted by her fame, to study, under her
guidance, all that related to poetry and music". In the memoir he
defends her character and speaks of "the fervor of her love and the
purity of her life." The_ Encyclopedia Britannica _ranks her as
"incomparably the greatest poetess the world has ever seen."_]

Let us now consider the conditions under which Sappho's genius blossomed
to fruition.

There is a legend that after the Thracian women's murder of Orpheus, the
mythical singer of Hellas, his head and his lyre were thrown into the
sea and were wafted upon its waves to the island of Lesbos. This legend
is an allegory of the island's supremacy in song, and of the unbroken
continuity of lyric poetry from its budding in prehistoric times up to
its full flower among the Lesbian poets of the sixth century before the
Christian era. Every condition existed in Lesbos for the fostering of
the love of beauty and the cultivation of all the refinements of life.
The land itself presented mountain and coast, hill and dale, in pleasing
and harmonious variety, while about it billowed a brilliant sapphire
sea. The island was renowned for the salubrity of its climate, the
purity of its atmosphere, and the transparency of its skies. Its
inhabitants, owing to the variety of the products of the soil and their
attention to commerce, enjoyed unbounded prosperity. They gave
themselves up to the enjoyments of life, and cultivated everything that
contributed to luxury, elegance, and material well-being. The men
devoted their energies to politics and war and the pursuits of pleasure.
The women, who were remarkable for their beauty and grace, enjoyed a
freedom and rank accorded them nowhere else in Greece. Symonds thus
vividly describes the free and artistic life of Æolian women:

"Æolian women were not confined to the harem, like Ionians, or subjected
to the rigorous discipline of the Spartans. While mixing freely with
male society, they were highly educated, and accustomed to express their
sentiments to an extent unknown elsewhere in history--until, indeed, the
present time. The Lesbian ladies applied themselves successfully to
literature. They formed clubs for the cultivation of poetry and music.
They studied the art of beauty, and sought to refine metrical form and
diction. Nor did they confine themselves to the scientific side of art.
Unrestrained by public opinion, and avid for the beautiful, they
cultivated their senses and emotions, and developed their wildest
passions. All the luxuries and elegancies of life which the climate and
the rich valleys of Lesbos could afford were at their disposal;
exquisite gardens in which the rose and hyacinth spread perfume; river
beds ablaze with the oleander and wild pomegranate; olive groves and
fountains, where the cyclamen and violet flowered with feathery
maiden-hair; pine-shadowed coves, where they might bathe in the calm of
a tideless sea; fruits such as only the southern sea and sea wind can
mature; marble cliffs, starred with jonquil and anemone in spring,
aromatic with myrtle and lentisk and samphire and wild rosemary through
all the months; nightingales that sang in May; temples dim with dusky
gold and bright with ivory; statues and frescoes of heroic forms. In
such scenes as these, the Lesbian poets lived and thought of love. When
we read their poems, we seem to have the perfumes, colors, sounds, and
lights of that luxurious land distilled in verse."

Amid such surroundings, burning Sappho sang:

      "Songs that move the heart of the shaken heaven,
       Songs that break the heart of the earth with pity,
       Hearing, to hear them."

The complete works of Sappho must have been considerable. She was the
greatest erotic poet of antiquity, the chief composer of epithalamia, or
wedding songs, the writer of epigrams and elegies, invocatory hymns,
iambics, and monodies. Nine books of her lyric odes existed in ancient
times, and were known to Horace, who frequently imitated her style and
metre, and who doubtless at times in his odes directly translated her
poems. But of all this we have only two poems which may be said to be in
any way complete: a considerable portion of the ode to her brother
Charaxus, already quoted, and somewhat over a hundred and fifty
fragments, the total comprising not more than three hundred lines.
Within the last few months, Doctor Schubart, of the Egyptian Section of
the Royal Museum in Berlin, has discovered in papyri, recently added to
its collection, several hitherto unknown poems of Sappho.

"Few, indeed, but those roses," as says Meleager, in the Anthology, are
the precious verses spared to us in spite of the unholy zeal of
antipaganism. And, strange to relate, we are indebted for what we have
to the quotations of grammarians and lexicographers, who preserved the
verses, not usually for their poetic beauty, but to illustrate a point
in syntax or metre. But, though so few and fragmentary, they are, as
Professor Palgrave says, "grains of golden sand which the torrent of
Time has carried down to us."

Sappho wrote in the Æolic dialect, noted for the soft quality of its
vowel sounds; and her poems were undoubtedly written for recitation to
the accompaniment of the lyre, being the earliest specimens of the song
or ballad so popular in modern times.

Predecessors of the melic poetry of Sappho are to be found in the chants
and hymns in honor of Apollo prevalent throughout Greece, in the popular
songs of Hellas, and in the songs sung in the home and at religious
festivals by Lesbian men and women,--children's rhymes, songs at vintage
festivals, plaints of shepherds expressive of rustic love, epithalamia
or bridal songs, dirges, threnodies and laments for Adonis, typifying
the passing of spring and summer.

The form and melody of Sappho's poems are due to the fact that they were
to accompany vocal and instrumental music, which, thanks to the
innovations of Terpander of Lesbos, was at that time exquisitely adapted
to the purposes of the lyric. Terpander introduced the seven-stringed
lyre, or cithara, with its compass of a diapason, or Greek octave, and
this became the peculiar instrument of Sappho and her school. The choice
of the musical measure determined the tone of the poem. Terpander united
the music of Asia Minor with that of Greece proper, and the resulting
product of Æolian poetry was the union of Oriental voluptuousness with
Greek self-restraint and art. Of Sappho's numerous songs, two odes alone
are presented to us in anything like their entirety, one dedicated to
the service of Aphrodite, and the other composed in honor of a girl
friend, Anactoria. Dionysius of Halicarnassus embodies the first in one
of his rhetorical works, as a perfect illustration of the elaborately
finished style of poetry, and comments on the fact that its grace and
beauty lie in the subtle harmony between the words and the ideas. Edwin
Arnold renders it as follows:

      "Splendor-throned Queen, immortal Aphrodite,
       Daughter of Jove, Enchantress, I implore thee
       Vex not my soul with agonies and anguish;
                 Slay me not, Goddess!
       Come in thy pity--come, if I have prayed thee;
       Come at the cry of my sorrow; in the old times
       Oft thou hast heard, and left thy father's heaven,
                 Left the gold houses,
       Yoking thy chariot. Swiftly did the doves fly,
       Swiftly they brought thee, waving plumes of wonder--
       Waving their dark plumes all across the æther,
                 All down the azure.
       Very soon they lighted. Then didst thou, Divine one,
       Laugh a bright laugh from lips and eyes immortal,
       Ask me 'What ailed me--wherefore out of heaven,
                 Thus I had called thee?
       What was it made me madden in my heart so?'
       Question me smiling--say to me, 'My Sappho,
       Who is it wrongs thee? Tell me who refuses
                Thee, vainly sighing.
       Be it who it may be, he that flies shall follow;
       He that rejects gifts, he shall bring thee many;
       He that hates now shall love thee dearly, madly--
                Aye, though thou wouldst not'
       So once again come, Mistress; and, releasing
       Me from my sadness, give me what I sue for,
       Grant me my prayer, and be as heretofore now
                Friend and protectress."

The ode to Anactoria is quoted by the author of the treatise on _The
Sublime_ as an illustration of the perfection of the sublime in poetry.
John Addington Symonds thus renders it in English:

      "Peer of gods he seemeth to me, the blissful
       Man who sits and gazes at thee before him,
       Close beside thee sits, and in silence hears thee
                  Silverly speaking,
       Laughing love's low laughter. Oh this, this only
       Stirs the troubled heart in my breast to tremble I
       For should I but see thee a little moment,
                  Straight is my voice hushed;
       Yea, my tongue is broken, and through and through me
       'Neath the flesh impalpable fire runs tingling;
       Nothing see mine eyes, and a noise of roaring
                  Waves in my ear sounds;
       Sweat runs down in rivers, a tremor seizes
       All my limbs, and paler than grass in autumn,
       Caught by pains of menacing death, I falter,
                  Lost in the love-trance."

Epithalamia, or wedding songs, were the most numerous of all Sappho's
works, and in them she attained an excellence unequalled by any other
poet. Catullus, in despair, seems to have been content with adapting in
his marriage odes well-known songs of Sappho. The poet seems to have
described all the stages in the ceremony--the Greek maidens leading the
pale bride to the expectant bridegroom, chanting their simple chorus to
Hymen, the god of marriage. At one time, they sing the approach of the

      "Raise high the roof-beam, carpenters,
       Like Ares comes the bridegroom,
       Taller far than a tall man,

But their thoughts are all for the rejoicing bride, who blushes "as
sweet as the apple on the end of the bough."

            "O fair--O sweet!
      As the sweet apple blooms high on the bough,
      High as the highest, forgot of the gatherers:
            So thou:--
      Yet not so: nor forgot of the gatherers;
      High o'er their reach in the golden air,
            O sweet--O fair!"

We shall arrange the briefer fragments according to subject, not
according to metre, in order that through them we may gain a clear
conception of Sappho's attitude toward life and nature, that we may know
the poetess in her love and friendship, her longings and her sorrows,
her sensibility to the influences of nature and art.

Her conception of love has been already noticed in the longer poems just
quoted. A number of the fragments indicate a similar intensity of
emotion. Thus she says:

      "Lo, Love once more, the limb-dissolving king,
       The bitter-sweet, impracticable thing,
       Wild-beast-like rends me with fierce quivering."

In another:

      "Lo, Love once more my soul within me rends
       Like wind that on the mountain oak descends."

A being so intense as Sappho, with sensibilities so refined and
intuitions so keen, naturally possessed an ardent love of nature. Her
power of expressing its charm is shown in a number of fragments. Every
aspect of nature seems to have appealed to her.

Of the morning she says:

      "Early uprose the golden-sandalled Dawn."

And of the evening:

      "Evening, all things thou bringest
       Which Dawn spreads apart from each other;
       The lamb and the kid thou bringest,
       Thou bringest the boy to his mother."

And of the night:

      "And dark-eyed Sleep, child of Night"

She sings to us also of the

      "Rainbow, shot with a thousand hues."

And of the stars:

      "Stars that shine around the refulgent full moon
       Pale, and hide their glory of lesser lustre
       When she pours her silvery plenilunar
       Light on the orbed earth."

And again of the moon and the Pleiades:

      "The moon has left the sky;
       Lost is the Pleiads' light;
           It is midnight
           And time slips by;
       But on my couch alone I lie."

Trees and flowers and plants appeal to her as if they were endowed with
life, and by her mention of them she calls up to the imagination a
tropical summer with its attendant recreations. Thus she sings of the
breeze murmuring cool through the apple boughs:

      "From the sound of cool waters heard through the green boughs
       Of the fruit-bearing trees,
       And the rustling breeze,
       Deep sleep, as a trance, down over me flows."

Sappho loves flowers with a personal sympathy. She feels for the

      "As when the shepherds on the hills
       Tread under foot the hyacinth,
       And on the ground the purple flower lies crushed."

She sings also of the golden pulse that grows on the shores, and of the
pure, soft bloom of the grass trampled under foot by the Cretan women as
they dance round the fair altar of Aphrodite. The rose seems to have
been her favorite flower, for, says Philostratus, "Sappho loves the
rose, and always crowns it with some praise, likening beautiful maidens
to it."

The birds, too, found in her a most sympathetic friend. Her ear is open

      "Spring's messenger, the sweet-voiced nightingale,"

and she pities the wood-doves as "their heart turns cold and their wings
fall," under the stroke from the arrow of the archer.

Sappho's love for nature is only surpassed by her love for art, for
splendor and festivity, as they appeal to the æsthetic nature. She loves
her lyre, the song and the dance, garlands, purple robes, and all that
attended the worship of Aphrodite and the Muses. Her lyre she thus

      "Come, then, my lyre divine!
       Let speech be thine."

And to Aphrodite she utters this appeal:

      "Come, Queen of Cyprus, pour the stream
       Of nectar, mingled lusciously
       With merriment, in cups of gold."

She also calls about her the Muses and the Graces:

      "Hither come, ye dainty Graces
       And ye fair-haired Muses now!"

And again:

      "Come, rosy-armed, chaste Graces! come,
             Daughter of Jove."

And yet again:

      "Hither, hither come, ye Muses!
       Leave the golden sky."

In the worship of Aphrodite and the Graces, garlands are appropriate for
the devotees:

      "Of foliage and flowers love-laden
       Twine wreaths for thy flowing hair
       With thine own soft fingers, maiden,
       Weave garlands of parsley fair;

      "For flowers are sweet, and the Graces
       On suppliants wreathed with may
       Look down from their heavenly places,
       But turn from the crownless away."

Such was the joy of the devotees of the Muses. Sappho believed in the
adornment of the soul as well as of the body, and she thus addresses one
who neglected the services of the Muses:

      "Yea, thou shalt die,
       And lie
       Dumb in the silent tomb;
       Nor of thy name
       Shall there be any fame
       In ages yet to be or years to come;
       For of the flowering Rose,
       Which on Pieria blows,
       Thou hast no share:
       But in sad Hades' house
       Unknown, inglorious
       'Mid the dark shades that wander there
       Shalt thou flit forth and haunt the filmy air."

"I think there will be memory of us yet in after days," said Sappho, and
the sentiment is one which later poets have often imitated. Thus the
poetess had intimations of the immortality that is justly hers, and the
reader will heartily enter into the spirit of Swinburne's paraphrase:

      "I, Sappho, shall be one with all these things,
       With all things high forever; and my face
       Seen once, my songs once heard in a strange place,
       Cleave to men's lives, and waste the days thereof
       In gladness, and much sadness and long love."

Sappho sings of love and its manifestations, of longing and passion, of
grief and regret, of natural beauty in sea and sky, by day and by night,
of the birds and trees and flowers, and "all this is told us in language
at once overpowering and delicate, in verse as symmetrical as it is
exquisite, free, and fervid, through metaphor simple or sublime; each
word, each line, expressive of the writer's inmost sense; with an art
that, in its Greek constraint, comparison, and sweetness, and in its
Oriental fervor, is faultless and unerring."

Not only as a poet is Sappho of interest to the women of our day, but
also because she was the founder of the first woman's club of which we
have knowledge. This Lesbian literary club did not engage, however, in
the study of current topics, or seek to gather sheaves of knowledge from
the field of science and history, but was consecrated strictly to the
service of the Muses. Sappho attracted by her fame young women of Lesbos
and of neighboring cities. She gathered them about her, gave them
instruction in poetry and music, and incited them to the cultivation of
all the arts and graces. Many of these maidens from a distance doubtless
sought the society of Sappho because they were weary of the low drudgery
and monotonous routine of home life that fell to the lot of women in
Ionian cities, and because they felt the need of a freer atmosphere and
more inspiring surroundings.

Sappho eagerly sought to elevate her sex. She showed them that, through
the more perfect training of mind and body, their horizon would be
enlarged, their resources for happiness increased, and their homes
become centres of inspiring influences for husband and children.

Never was there a teacher more eager to possess her pupils' love and
confidence. Maximus of Tyre compares her relations with her girl friends
to Socrates's relations with young men. At times, men have seen fit to
censure these intimate friendships of Socrates and Sappho with their
pupils, and to see in them immoral relations such as characterized the
passionate devotion of many Greek men to beautiful youths; but there is
no ground for such imputations. While manifesting the beauty and
sweetness and satisfaction in woman's love for woman, Sappho did not
attempt to make this love a substitute for the love of men. She herself
was married; and there are intimations in her poems that certain of her
girl friends exchanged the pleasures of aesthetic comradeship for the
joys of wedded life.

From the fragments of her songs, we know the names of at least fourteen
of her pupils, and it pleases the fancy to attempt to reconstruct a
picture of that delightful band of girl friends, who spent their days in
the study of poetry and music and their evenings in every elevating form
of recreation. A writer has thus sketched the picture: "Let us call
around her in fancy the maidens who have come from different parts of
Greece to learn of her. Anactoria is here from Miletus, Eunica from
Salamis, Gongyle from Colophon, and others from Pamphylia, and the isle
of Telos. Erinna and Damophyla study together the composition of Sapphic
metres. Atthis learns how to strike the harp with the plectrum, Sappho's
invention; Mnasidica embroiders a sacred robe for the temple. The
teacher meanwhile corrects the measures of the one, the notes of
another, the strophes of a third; then summons all from their work, to
rehearse together some sacred chorus or temple ritual; then stops to
read a verse of her own, or to denounce a rival preceptress. Throughout
her intercourse with these maidens her conduct is characterized by
passionate love, as between equals in mind and heart, and is expressed
in fervid and high-wrought language embodying a purity that cannot be
misunderstood or cavilled away."



It was from Sparta that Paris in the Heroic Age bore away to his
Phrygian home Argive Helen, fairest of mortals, the Greek ideal of
feminine beauty and charm. But never since that fateful day--as, indeed,
never before it--was there in Sparta any woman to compare with her; for
the Spartan maidens of historical times, though comely and vigorous and
noted for physical beauty, were cast in a firmer, sturdier mould than
that which characterized Helen, the flower of grace and loveliness. Yet
the traveller in Sparta in her prime must have marvelled at the splendid
maidens and matrons he saw amid the hills of Lacedæmon--trained in
athletic exercises, fleet of foot, vigorous and well-proportioned, and
showing in their very bearing how important they were to the well-being
of the State.

In Sparta, woman was the equal of man--in Athens, his inferior. In this
fact lies the secret of the training that was given her, for the
character of the education of woman is an index to the position assigned
her by the spirit of the State. Spartan legislation concerning woman was
controlled by one idea--to develop in the maiden the mother-to-be. This
idea is so beautiful, so profound, that, after all the centuries which
have elapsed, one cannot find a better principle for feminine education.
Like mother, like son--and the Spartan ideal of the son was the warrior
strong, brave, and resolute, enduring hardship and living solely for
the State. Hence the mother must be strong, brave, and resolute,
sacrificing every womanly tenderness to the prevailing conception of

Great is the contrast between the women of the various peoples of
Greece. The Achæan woman, in Homeric times, played no prominent part in
public affairs; her home was her palace, and she manifested those
domestic traits and womanly qualities that in this day still constitute
womanly charm. The life of the Ionian woman was a secluded one; she was
under the domination of the sterner sex, and compelled to devote herself
largely to the varied duties of the household. The Æolian woman, on the
contrary, had asserted her freedom, and lived on terms of social and
intellectual comradeship with men. She devoted herself to the
cultivation of every womanly grace, and was the earnest follower of
Aphrodite and the Muses. In contrast to these, the Spartan woman
presents an altogether unique type. She was merely a creature of the
State, the cultivation of her higher nature being under the control of a
rigid system. As such, she contributed in a large degree to the public
welfare, but it was at the sacrifice of many feminine attributes. In
her, natural affection and womanly sympathy were sacrificed to a single
virtue--patriotism. But one function was emphasized--that of motherhood.
All her training was devoted to but one end--that of producing soldiers.
The life of the individual was strictly subordinated to the good of the
State. Such a system evolved a remarkable type of womanhood, and the
Spartan matron has won an immortal name in history.

From the central mass of the mountain system of the Peloponnesus in
Arcadia, two chains, Taÿgetus and Parnon, detach themselves and extend
southward, terminating in the two dangerous promontories of Tænarum and
Malea. Between the two ridges the river Eurotas winds its way in a
southeasterly course. In the undulating valley formed by the bed of the
stream, and shut in by the mountain ranges, lay ancient Sparta. The
country, by nature and climate, was such as to make men hardy and
determined. Euripides styles it "a country rich in productions, but
difficult to cultivate; shut in on all sides by a barrier of stern
mountains; almost inaccessible to the foe." Its hidden situation in the
Eurotas valley made it a well-guarded camp, and the Dorian conquerors of
the Peloponnesus, surrounded by enemies and threatened by warlike
neighbors, soon saw that the only hope of holding their conquests and
extending their power lay in the maintenance of a warlike race.

Lycurgus, usually reputed to have lived in the ninth century before
Christ, was the founder of the legislation which constituted the
greatness of Sparta. He was one of the originators of the principle, so
characteristic of antiquity and in such contrast to the spirit of modern
times: "The citizen is born and lives for the State; to it his time, his
strength, and all his powers belong." Nowhere was this maxim so rigidly
enforced as at Sparta. Lycurgus established institutions of a public
nature which gave a centralized administration of the most rigid sort,
and regulations relating to private life which would develop a warlike
type of citizen, the whole system tending to make Sparta supreme in the
Peloponnesus, and her soldiers invincible in war. To accomplish this
end, the daily life of every individual, both male and female, was under
the control of the State. The effect of such a system on the character
has been happily expressed by Rousseau: "He strengthened the citizen by
taking away the human traits from the man."

Lycurgus saw that the salvation of Sparta depended on its citizens being
a nation of warriors. Only by being always ready for war and by
possessing an invincible body of soldiery could the State fulfil its
destiny in the work of the world. He realized further that the natural
antecedent of a nation of men strong physically and intellectually is a
race of healthy, sturdy, able-bodied women. Hence his training of the
daughters of Sparta was the corner-stone of his system. Valuing woman
only for her fruitfulness, his legislation in regard to her had but one
object in view--fitting her to be the mother of a powerful race of men.
Maidens, therefore, as well as youths, were subjected to the most rigid
physical training.

From the moment of birth, the Spartan boy or girl was in the hands of
the State. The infant was exposed in the place of public assembly, and
if the elders considered it frail and unpromising, or for any reason
regarded its existence of no value to the State, the child was thrown
off a cliff of Mount Taÿgetus,--a usage shocking to modern
sensibilities, but accepted as a necessity by Plato, Aristotle, and
other ancient philosophers. The able-bodied child was restored to its
mother, and she directed the early training of her charge under the eye
of the magistrates. Though the Spartan girl was not, as the youth,
removed altogether from the mother at the age of seven and brought up in
the barracks, yet her training was scarcely less severe than that of the
boys. The feminine tasks of spinning and weaving, customary for free
women of other peoples, were by the Spartans committed to female slaves,
and the State so ordered the lives of the free maidens that they might
become in the future the mothers of robust children. "He [Lycurgus]
directed the maidens," says Plutarch, "to exercise themselves with
wrestling, running, throwing the quoit, and casting the dart, to the
end that the fruit they conceived might in strong and healthy bodies
take firmer root and find better growth." These gymnastic exercises they
practised in public, clad in little else save their own modesty, thus
overcoming fear of exposure to the air, as well as overgreat tenderness
and shyness. Similarly clad, they took part in processions along with
the young men, and were trained in singing and dancing in the public
choruses. This carefully regulated comradeship between youths and
maidens was encouraged with a view to stimulating the young men to deeds
of valor. The maidens on these occasions would make, by means of jests,
befitting reflections on the young men who had misbehaved themselves in
the wars, and would sing encomiums upon those who had done gallant
actions. Thus the young men were spurred on to greater endeavor by the
dread of feminine ridicule, and were inspired by feminine praise to the
performance of great deeds. It was always the part of the Spartan
maiden, then, to keep bright the fires of patriotism and heroic
endeavor. The mother, by precept and example, taught the daughter to
repress every emotion of womanly tenderness, to elevate the State to the
first place in her heart and life, and to find her destiny in bearing
brave sons to defend her country. Thus admitted to the freedom of
companionship with their brothers in the games and processions, and
stimulated by the instructions of their mothers, they early caught the
spirit and purpose which animated one and all--the spirit of unselfish
patriotism. It was natural, therefore, that they accepted without a
murmur the tyranny of a single idea and found in it their glory and
pride. Many stories are told of their remarkable devotion to the State.
A Spartan mother who has lost her boy in battle exclaims: "Did I not
bear him that he might die for Sparta?" To another, waiting for tidings
of the battle, comes a messenger announcing that her five sons have
perished. "You contemptible slave," she replies, "that is not what I
wish to hear. How fares my country?" On hearing that Sparta is
victorious, she adds, without a tremor: "Willingly, then, do I hear of
the death of my sons."

Marriage is the determining factor in the economic conditions of
society, and the regulations prescribed concerning it are an excellent
index to the character of any people. Under the Lycurgan system,
marriage was strictly under the control of the State. The goddess of
love was practically banished from Sparta. Only one temple to Aphrodite
stood in Lacedæmon; and in this the goddess was represented armed, not
with her magic girdle, but with a sword, and seated with a veil over her
head and fetters upon her feet, symbolizing that she was under
restraint. History records many instances of affection between husband
and wife, but considerations of love did not enter into the marriage
contract. No frail woman was allowed to marry. The age of marriage was
fixed at the period which was considered best for the perfection of the
offspring, usually about thirty years in the case of the men, and about
twenty for the maidens. Plutarch describes in uncolored language the
chief features of the marriage relations of the Spartans:

"In their marriages, the husband carried off his bride by a sort of
force; nor were brides ever small and of tender years, but in their full
bloom and ripeness. After this, she who superintended the wedding comes
and clips the hair of the bride close round her head, dresses her up in
man's clothes, and leaves her upon a mattress in the dark; afterward
comes the bridegroom, in his everyday clothes, sober and composed, as
having supped at the common table; and entering privately into the room
where the bride lies, unties her virgin zone, and takes her to himself;
and after staying some time together, he returns composedly to his own
apartment, to sleep as usual with the other young men. And so he
continues to do, spending his days and indeed his nights with them,
visiting his bride in fear and shame and with circumspection, when he
thought he should not be observed; she also, on her part, using her wit
to help to find favorable opportunities for their meeting, when company
was out of the way. In this manner they lived a long time, insomuch that
they sometimes had children by their wives before ever they saw their
faces by daylight. Their interviews being thus difficult and rare,
served not only for continual exercise of their self-control, but
brought them together with their bodies healthy and vigorous, and their
affections fresh and lively, unsated and undulled by easy access and
long continuance with each other, while their partings were always early
enough to leave behind unextinguished in each of them some remaining
fire of longing and mutual delight.

"After guarding marriage with this modesty and reserve, Lycurgus was
equally careful to banish empty and womanish jealousy. For this object,
excluding all licentious disorders, he made it nevertheless honorable
for men to give the use of their wives to those whom they should think
fit, that so they might have children by them; ridiculing those in whose
opinion such favors are so unfit for participation as to fight and shed
blood and go to war therefor. Lycurgus allowed a man, who was advanced
in years and had a young wife, to recommend some virtuous and approved
young man, that she might have a child by him, who might inherit the
good qualities of the father, and be a son to himself. On the other
side, an honest man who had love for a married woman upon account of her
modesty and the well-favoredness of her children might, without
formality, beg her company of her husband, that he might raise, as it
were, from this plot of good ground worthy and well-allied children for

Regulations such as these, though shocking to modern sensibilities, seem
not to have been detrimental to public morals while Sparta submitted to
the severe austerity of the laws. It seems surprising that, while a
woman might lawfully be the recognized wife of two husbands, no such
duplication of spouses was allowed to a man. This rule is illustrated by
its one historical exception In the case of King Anaxandrides, who, says
Herodotus, when the royal Heraclidæan line of Eurystheus was in danger
of becoming extinct, married his niece, who bore him no children. The
people besought him to divorce her, and to contract another marriage;
but, owing to his love for his wife, he positively refused. Upon this,
they made a suggestion to him as follows: "Since then we perceive thou
art firmly attached to the wife whom thou now hast, consent to do this,
and set not thyself against it, lest the Spartans take some counsel
against thee other than might be wished. We do not ask of thee the
putting away of the wife thou now hast; but do thou give to her all that
thou givest now, and at the same time take to thy house another wife in
addition to this one, to bear thee children." When they spoke to him
after this manner, Anaxandrides consented, and from this time forth he
kept two separate households, having two wives, a thing which, we are
told, was not by any means after the Spartan fashion.

Every inducement was offered to encourage matrimony, and bachelors were
the objects of general scorn and derision. "Those who continued
bachelors," says Plutarch, "were in a degree disfranchised by law; for
they were excluded from the sight of the public processions in which the
young men and maidens danced naked, and in the winter-time the officers
compelled them to walk naked round the market place, singing, as they
went, a certain song to their own disgrace, that they justly suffered
this punishment for disobeying the laws." Furthermore, at a certain
festival the women themselves sought to bring these misguided
individuals to a proper sense of their duty by dragging them round an
altar and continually inflicting blows upon them. Without doubt, the
maidens were all inclined to matrimony, as it enhanced their influence
and enabled them to fulfil their mission; and the rulers were ever ready
to provide husbands for them.

A kind of disgrace attached to childlessness. Men who were not fathers
were denied the respect and observance which the young men of Sparta
regularly paid their elders. On one occasion, Dercyllidas, a commander
of great renown, entered an assembly. A young Spartan, contrary to
custom, failed to rise at his approach. The veteran soldier was
surprised. "You have no sons," said the youth, "who will one day pay the
same honor to me." And public opinion justified the excuse.

The effects of the athletic training upon the physical nature of woman
were most commendable. The Spartan maiden was renowned throughout Greece
for preeminence in vigor of body and beauty of form. Even the Athenian
was impressed by this. Lysistrata, in the play of Aristophanes, in
greeting Lampito, the delegate from Sparta, who has come to a women's
conference, speaks thus:

"O dearest Laconian, O Lampito, welcome! How beautiful you look,
sweetest one! What a fresh color! How vigorous your body is! What
beautiful breasts you have! Why, you could throttle an ox!" To this
greeting comes the reply:

"Yes, I think I could, by Castor and Pollux! for I practise gymnastics
and leap high."

Ideals of beauty differ in different ages and countries, and there is no
doubt that Lampito was a magnificent specimen of woman; yet it may be
doubted whether such masculine vigor is consonant with the highest moral
and spiritual development, which, after all, is the chief factor in
womanly charm. Spartan women were in demand everywhere as nurses, and
were universally respected for their vigor and prowess; yet it was the
equally healthy, but more graceful, Ionian woman who was chosen as the
model of the statues of the goddess of love and beauty.

Spartan discipline produced beautiful animals, but any system which
dulled the sensibilities could hardly inculcate that grace and sweetness
and warmth of temperament which are essential to beauty.

As to the moral nature of the Spartan woman, there is no doubt that the
unselfish devotion to the State, and the subordination of individual
inclination to the good of the whole, would tend to promote a rigid
morality. Yet the free intercourse between the sexes shocked the
Athenians; and Euripides, in the _Andromache_, has put into the mouth of
Peleus a severe indictment of the Spartan woman:

                  "Though one should essay,
      Virtuous could daughter of Sparta never be.
      They gad abroad with young men from their homes,
      And--with bare thighs and loose, disgirdled vesture-Race,
      wrestle with them--things intolerable
      To me! And is it wonder-worthy then
      That ye train not your women to be chaste?"

The Spartan laws, it is true, permitted and encouraged certain practices
regarded as morally wrong in this day, yet that which was lawful could
not well be considered immoral. Xenophon and Plutarch were ardent
admirers of the Spartan system, and strongly affirm the uprightness and
nobility of the Spartans. Plutarch tells an incident to illustrate
Spartan virtue in the old days. Geradas, a very ancient Spartan, being
asked by a stranger what punishment their law had appointed for
adulterers, answered: "There are no adulterers in our country." "But,"
replied the stranger, "suppose there were." "Then," answered he, "the
offender would have to give the plaintiff a bull with a neck so long
that he might drink from the top of Taygetus of the Eurotas River below
it." The man, surprised at this, said: "Why, 'tis impossible to find
such a bull." Geradas smilingly replied: "It is as impossible to find an
adulterer in Sparta."

Though we have to recognize much in the Spartan polity which is
repugnant to our ideas of the sacredness of family ties, yet we must
feel the utmost respect for the Spartan matron in the best days of
Lacedæmon. This rigid system provided for four or five centuries "a
succession of the strongest men that possibly ever existed on the face
of the earth," and the strength of character of the mothers made the
sons what they were. Only the Roman matron can be fitly compared to the
Spartan mother.

It is not surprising that such mothers possessed an influence envied
throughout Greece. "You Spartan women are the only ones who rule over
men," said a stranger to Gorgo, wife of Leonidas. "True," she rejoined;
"for we are the only ones who are the mothers of men."

For several centuries, owing to her peculiar discipline, Sparta was,
excepting Athens, the foremost State of Greece. But time is an enemy
often not taken sufficiently into consideration by men who establish
peculiar systems. And Lycurgus, who wished to make his system perpetual,
did not fully consider the disintegrating effects which time exerts on
all things temporal. "_Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret_
[You may repress natural propensities by force, but they will be
certain to reappear]," says Horace, the wisest of Roman satirists; and
the Spartan polity had attempted to repress nature in men and women and
to control it by law. The great fault in the Lacedæmonian constitution
was in effect the violation of the eternal laws which assign to each
creature his rôle in the harmony of the world. Men are made for war, but
they are made for peace as well. Therefore, as Lycurgus made the city an
armed camp, in periods of peace the Spartan man "rusted like an unused
sword in its scabbard," and in idleness at home or in garrison duty
abroad fell an easy victim to avarice and lust.

In his legislation concerning women, Lycurgus violated natural
propensities to an even greater extent than he had in his laws governing
the conduct of men. Woman was destined primarily for domestic life. She
was created to bear children; but her kingdom is the home, with its
manifold duties, and rearing children is as much her function as bearing
them. Yet the Spartan lad was taken forcibly from his mother at the
tender age of seven, and the Spartan maiden, while living at home, was
subject to stringent regulations formulated and enforced by the State.

Woman is intuitively interested in domestic duties, in housekeeping and
clothes mending, and in caring for the innumerable wants of husband and
children. Yet the _Syssitia_, or public meals, deprived her of the
society of husband and sons, and took from her domestic cares because
they were deemed too menial for a free Spartan. "Female slaves," averred
Lycurgus, "are good enough to sit at home spinning and weaving; but who
can expect a splendid offspring--the appropriate mission and duty of a
free Spartan woman toward her country--from mothers brought up in such

Although the Spartan system prescribed rigid discipline for the Spartan
woman up to the time of motherhood, after that time it left her life
altogether unregulated by law. Plato, who was in many respects a great
admirer of the Spartans, criticises this singular defect. He found fault
with a system which regarded woman only as a mother, and consequently,
when children had been born and turned over to the State, did not by law
provide occupation for the mothers or in any way regulate their conduct.
There was nothing to restrain their luxury or keep them loyal to duty
and probity. Higher culture was discouraged, intercourse with strangers
was forbidden, and woman was left largely to her own devices for
employment and recreation; but she was deprived in large measure of the
usual feminine occupations. During the old days, when the State was the
all in all of the citizens, and the mothers were urging on husbands and
sons to valiant deeds, the evils of the Lycurgan system did not show
themselves; but when the crisis came, and Sparta lost her supremacy in
Greek affairs, then old manners gave way, vice and weakness rushed in,
and men and women alike were debauched and evil.

Aristotle, who was at his zenith during the latter part of the fourth
century before Christ, is severe in his denunciations of the license of
the Spartan women. This he regards as defeating the intention of the
Spartan constitution and subversive of the good order of the State. He
argues that, while Lycurgus sought to make the whole State hardy and
temperate, and succeeded in the case of the men, he had not done so with
the women, who lived in every sort of intemperance and luxury. He
charges that the Spartan men are under the domination of their
wives--Ares being ever susceptible to the wishes and inclinations of
Aphrodite. And the result is the same, he adds, "whether women rule or
the rulers are ruled by women." He also attacks the courage of the
women, stating that in a Theban invasion they had been utterly useless
and caused more confusion than the enemy. He finds them prone to
avarice, and regrets that, owing to the inequality of the laws governing
property, more than two-fifths of the whole country was already in the
hands of women.

Nature in the end asserted herself, and the evils inherent in the
Lycurgan system brought about the fall of the State. Sparta had
sacrificed the liberties of her citizens, she had despised the laws of
nature in the destiny and education of women, she had banished the arts,
and had sought to keep out every humanizing influence. Consequently,
when that constitution, inflexible and in certain respects immoral and
unnatural, was impaired, her decline was rapid. Sad it is that Aristotle
should have perceived in the immorality, the greed, the misconduct, of
the women, one of the causes of the fall of Sparta!

Sparta had become degenerate, but she was not to die without a final
struggle. In the middle of the third century before Christ, two kings of
Sparta, inspired by the stories of her early days, endeavored to
overcome the luxury and vice that were rampant and to restore the State
to its primitive simplicity and greatness. In their meritorious efforts
to accomplish the impossible, they enlisted the efforts of noble women,
who by their self-sacrificing devotion cast a momentary radiance over
the dying State.

The earliest of these two kings was the young and gentle Agis. In the
corrupt state of society he saw need of reforms, and wished to begin at
the root of the evil by annulling debts and redistributing the land. One
of the first counsellors whom he consulted in his projected reforms was
his mother, Agesistrata, a woman of great wealth and power, who had
many of the Spartans in her debt and would be seriously affected by the
change. Yet, becoming conscious of the need of reforms, she, with the
grandmother of the young king, entered heartily into his plans to
restore the greatness of Sparta. Agesistrata urged other aristocratic
women to join in the movement, "knowing well that the Lacedæmonian wives
always had great power with their husbands." These, however, violently
opposed the scheme, because at this time most of the money of Sparta was
in the women's hands and was the main support of their credit and power.
Leonidas, the other king, was the head of the opposition, and a deadly
struggle followed between Agis and Leonidas--the one standing for the
people, the other for the aristocrats. Agis was at first successful, and
Leonidas was deposed, Cleombrotus, his son-in-law, being elevated to the
kingship in his stead. Another woman now comes to the front. Chilonis,
Cleombrotus's wife and Leonidas's daughter, seeing her aged father in
exile and distress, leaves her husband in the height of his power and
devotes herself to her aged father.

However, the wheel of fortune again turns, and Leonidas is restored to
power. Agis and Cleombrotus flee for their lives, and become
suppliants--the one at the temple of the Brazen House, the other at the
temple of Poseidon. Leonidas, being more incensed against his
son-in-law, leaves Agis for the time and goes with his soldiers to
Cleombrotus's sanctuary to reproach him for having conspired with his
enemies, usurped his throne, and driven him from his country. Chilonis,
perceiving the great danger threatening her husband, leaves her father
and seeks to aid and comfort the fugitive. Plutarch thus tells her

"Cleombrotus, having little to say for himself, sat silent. His wife,
Chilonis, the daughter of Leonidas, had chosen to follow her father in
his sufferings; for when Cleombrotus usurped the kingdom, she forsook
him and wholly devoted herself to comforting her father in his
affliction; whilst he still remained in Sparta, she remained also, as a
suppliant, with him; and when he fled, she fled with him, bewailing his
misfortune, and extremely displeased with Cleombrotus. But now, upon
this turn of fortune, she changed in like manner, and was seen sitting
now, as a suppliant, with her husband, embracing him with her arms, and
having her two little children beside her. All men were full of wonder
at the piety and tender affection of the young woman, who, pointing to
her robes and her hair, both alike neglected and unattended to, said to
Leonidas: 'I am not brought, my father, to this condition you see me in,
on account of the present misfortune of Cleombrotus; my mourning habit
is long since familiar to me; it was put on to condole with you in your
banishment; and now you are restored to your country, and to your
kingdom, must I still remain in grief and misery? Or would you have me
attired in my royal ornaments, that I may rejoice with you when you have
killed, within my arms, the man to whom you gave me for a wife? Either
Cleombrotus must appease you by mine and my children's tears, or he must
suffer a punishment greater than you propose for his faults, and shall
see me, whom he loves so well, die before him. To what end should I
live, or how shall I appear among the Spartan women, when it shall so
manifestly be seen that I have not been able to move to compassion
either a husband or a father? I was born, it seems, to participate in
the ill fortune and in the disgrace, both as a wife and a daughter, of
those nearest and dearest to me. As for Cleombrotus, I sufficiently
surrendered any honorable plea on his behalf when I forsook him to
follow you; but you yourself offer the fairest excuse for his
proceedings, by showing to the world that for the sake of a kingdom it
is just to kill a son-in-law and be regardless of a daughter.' Chilonis,
having ended this lamentation, rested her face on her husband's head,
and looked round with her weeping and woe-begone eyes upon those who
stood before her.

"Leonidas, touched with compassion, withdrew a while to advise with his
friends; then, returning, bade Cleombrotus leave the sanctuary and go
into banishment; 'Chilonis,' he said, 'ought to stay with him, it not
being just that she should forsake a father whose affection had granted
to her the life of a husband.' But all he could say would not prevail.
She rose up immediately, and taking one of her children in her arms,
gave the other to her husband, and making her reverence to the altar of
the deity, went out and followed him. So that, in a word, if Cleombrotus
were not utterly blinded by ambition, he would surely choose to be
banished with so excellent a woman rather than without her to possess a

Having disposed of Cleombrotus, Leonidas next proceeded to consider how
he might entrap Agis. Agis, however, held his sanctuary until he was
finally betrayed by the treachery of three pretended friends, Amphares,
Damochares, and Arcesilaus. He was led off to prison and executed.

Plutarch says: "Immediately after he was dead, Amphares went out of the
prison gate, where he found Agesistrata, who, believing him still the
same friend as before, threw herself at his feet. He gently raised her
up, and assured her she need not fear any further violence or danger of
death for her son, and that, if she pleased, she might go in and see
him. She begged her mother might also have the favor to be admitted, and
he replied that nobody should hinder it. When they were entered, he
commanded the gate should again be locked, and Archidamia, the
grandmother, to be first introduced; she was now grown to be very old,
and had lived all her days in the highest repute among her fellows. As
soon as Amphares thought she was despatched, he told Agesistrata she
might now go in if she pleased. She entered; and beholding her son's
body stretched on the ground, and her mother's hanging by the neck, the
first thing she did was, with her own hand, to assist the officers in
taking down the body; then, covering it decently, she laid it out by her
son's, whom then embracing, and kissing his cheeks, 'O my son,' said
she, 'it was thy too great mercy and goodness which brought thee and us
to ruin.' Amphares, who stood watching behind the door, on hearing this,
broke in, and said angrily to her, 'Since you approve so well of your
son's actions, it is fit you should partake in his reward.' She, rising
up to offer herself to the noose, said only, 'I pray that it may redound
to the good of Sparta.'"

Thus was defeated the first effort for the reformation of Sparta. In the
city's long history, Agis was the first king who had been put to death
by the order of the ephors. When the bodies of the gentle king and his
noble mother and grandmother were exposed, the horror of the people knew
no bounds, and the aged Leonidas and Amphares became the objects of
public detestation.

The second attempt at the reformation of Sparta is also remarkable for
the unselfishness and nobility of the women who took part.

After the execution of King Agis, his wife, Agiatis, was compelled by
Leonidas to become the wife of his son Cleomenes, though the latter was
as yet too young to marry. As Agiatis was the heiress of the great
estate of her father, Gylippus, the old king was unwilling that she
should be the wife of anyone but his son. Agiatis was, says Plutarch,
"in person the most youthful and beautiful woman in all Greece, and
well-conducted in her habits of life." She resisted the union as long as
she could; but when forced to marry, she became to the youth a kind and
obliging wife. Cleomenes loved her very dearly, and often asked her
about the reforms of Agis; and she did not fail to inspire him with the
lofty ideals of her former gentle and high-minded husband. Cleomenes
himself, in consequence, fell in love with the old ways, and, after
Leonidas's death, attempted to carry out the reforms in which Agis had
failed. His mother, Cratesiclea, was also very zealous to promote his
ambitions; and in order that she might effectually assist him in his
plans, she accepted as her husband one of the foremost in wealth and
power among the citizens. With her help, the king succeeded in breaking
the power of the ephors, and a return to the system of Lycurgus was
partially accomplished. But Cleomenes had aroused a formidable enemy in
the person of Aratus, head of the Achæan League. He carried into Achæa
the war against Aratus, and made himself master of almost all
Peloponnesus, but, through the persistence of his enemies, almost as
quickly lost that territory. In the midst of his misfortunes, he
received news of the death of his wife, to whom he was devotedly
attached. "This news afflicted him extremely," says Plutarch, "and he
grieved as a young man would do, for the loss of a very beautiful and
excellent wife." When all seemed lost, he received promise of assistance
from King Ptolemy of Egypt, but only on condition that he send the
latter his mother and children as hostages. Plutarch thus continues the

"Now Ptolemy, the King of Egypt, promised him assistance, but demanded
his mother and children for hostages. This, for a considerable time, he
was ashamed to discover to his mother; and though he often went to her
on purpose, and was just upon the discourse, yet he still refrained, and
kept it to himself; so that she began to suspect, and asked his friend
whether Cleomenes had something to say to her which he was afraid to
speak. At last, Cleomenes venturing to tell her, she laughed aloud, and
said: 'Was this the thing that you had so often a mind to tell me, but
were afraid? Make haste and put me on shipboard, and send this carcass
where it may be most serviceable to Sparta, before age destroys it
unprofitably here,' Therefore, all things being provided for the voyage,
they went by land to Tænarum, and the army waited on them. Cratesiclea,
when she was ready to go on board, took Cleomenes aside into Poseidon's
temple, and, embracing him, who was much dejected and extremely
discomposed, she said: 'Go to, King of Sparta; when we come forth at the
door, let none see us weep or show any passion that is unworthy of
Sparta, for that alone is in our power; as for success or
disappointment, those wait on us as the deity decrees,' Having this
said, and composed her countenance, she went to the ship with her little
grandson, and bade the pilot put out at once to sea. When she came to
Egypt, and understood that Ptolemy entertained proposals and overtures
of peace from Antigonus, and that Cleomenes, though the Achæans invited
and urged him to an agreement, was afraid for her sake to come to any
without Ptolemy's consent, she wrote to him, advising him to do that
which was most becoming and most profitable for Sparta, and not, for the
sake of an old woman and a little child, stand always in fear of
Ptolemy. This character she maintained in her misfortunes."

Cleomenes, however, soon realized how little reliance is to be put in
the favors of princes. Antigonus of Syria took the part of Aratus
against him, and Ptolemy, who had been ever ready to help the valiant
Spartan, did not care to invite the hostility of a greater foe.
Cleomenes was defeated by Antigonus, and became an exile at the court of
Ptolemy, but it proved to be a prison instead of a home. Upon the death
of the elder Ptolemy, his son kept Cleomenes and his friends under
restraint, and, to please Antigonus, purposed putting them to death.
Cleomenes and his companions, knowing that a tragic end awaited them,
determined to break through their prison bars and to rouse the populace
to a revolt against Ptolemy. They easily made their escape, but the
people could not be persuaded to undertake any struggle for liberty; and
so the devoted band resolved to die. Then each one killed himself,
except Panteus, the youngest and handsomest of them all, who was
selected by Cleomenes to wait till the rest were dead, so that he might
perform for them the last offices. He carefully arranged all the bodies
of his comrades, and then, kissing his beloved king and throwing his
arms about him, slew himself. The news of this sad event, having spread
through the city, finally reached the aged mother, Cratesiclea, who,
though a woman of great spirit, could hardly bear up against the weight
of this affliction, especially as she knew that an equally tragic fate
awaited her grandchildren.

The Egyptian king ordered that Cleomenes's body should be flayed, and
that his children, his mother, and the women that were with her, should
be put to death. Among these was the wife of Panteus, still very young
and exquisitely beautiful, who had but lately been married. Her parents
would not suffer her to embark with Panteus for Egypt so soon after they
had been married, though she eagerly desired it, and her father had shut
her up and kept her forcibly at home. But she found means of escape. A
few days after Panteus's departure, she slipped out by night, mounted a
horse and rode to Taenarum, and there embarked on a vessel sailing for
Egypt, where she soon found her husband, and with him cheerfully endured
all the sufferings and hardships that befell them in a hostile country.
She was now the moral support of the whole company of helpless women.
She moved about among them, comforting and consoling. She gave her hand
to Cratesiclea, as the latter was being led out by the soldiers to
execution, held up her robe, and begged her to be courageous, being
herself not in the least afraid of death, and desiring nothing else than
to be killed before the children were put to death. When they reached
the place of execution, the children were first killed before
Cratesiclea's eyes; and afterward she herself suffered death, with these
pathetic words on her lips: "O children, whither are you gone?"
Panteus's wife, as her husband did for the men, performed the last
offices for the women. In silence and perfect composure, she looked
after every one that was slain, and laid out the bodies as decently as
circumstances would permit. And then, after all were killed, adjusting
her own robe so that she might fall becomingly, she courageously
submitted to the stroke of the executioner.

Thus ended the second great movement for the reformation of Sparta, and
henceforth Sparta, as an independent State; disappears from history. The
story of the fall of Sparta owes its human interest chiefly to the women
involved, and Plutarch recognizes this fact when, in concluding his
story of Cleomenes, he, with the Greek dramatic contests before his
mind, says: "Thus Lacedaemon, exhibiting a dramatic contest in which the
women vied with the men, showed in her last days that virtue cannot be
insulted by fortune."

Chilonis, Agesistrata, Agiatis, Cratesiclea, the wife of Panteus,--what
a pity that we do not know her name!--constitute the most admirable
feminine group that Greek history offers us. What especially charms us
is that they unite with the strength and self-abnegation of the ancient
Spartan matron a sweetness, a tenderness, a womanliness, which we have
not been accustomed to attribute to Spartan women. They are Spartans,
but they are, above all, women.



Divergent views have been entertained by writers who have discussed the
social position of woman at Athens and the estimation in which she was
held by man. Many scholars have asserted that women were held in a
durance not unlike that of the Oriental harem, that their life was a
species of vassalage, and that they were treated with contempt by the
other sex; while the few have contended that there existed a degree of
emancipation differing but slightly from that of the female sex in
modern times. As is usually the case, the truth lies in the golden mean
between these two extremes; and a careful perusal of Greek authors, with
the judgment directed to the spirit of their references to women rather
than to a literal interpretation of disparate passages, will show that
the status of the freeborn Athenian woman, while by no means ideal or
conforming to our present standards, was far better than is usually
conceded by the writers upon Greek life.

It cannot be denied, however, that the social position of the Athenian
woman was far inferior to that of the woman of the Heroic Age, and that,
despite the boasted democracy and freedom of thought of the period,
woman's status in the years of republican Athens was a reproach to the
advanced culture and love of the good and the beautiful of which the
city of the violet crown was the exponent. There had been a revolution
in the habits of life of the Greeks since the days when Homer sang of
the women of heroic Greece, and the student does not have to search far
to discover the principal causes of the change.

The chief of these is the Greek idea of the city-state, which reached
its highest development in Athens. Citizenship was, as a rule,
hereditary, and every possible legal measure was taken to preserve its
purity. The main principle of this hereditary citizenship was that the
union from which the child was sprung must be one recognized by the
State. This was accomplished by requiring a legitimate marriage, either
through betrothal by a parent or guardian, or through assignment by a
magistrate. Pericles revised the old conditions, which had become lax
during the tyranny, by passing a measure limiting citizenship to those
who were born of two Athenian parents. Greater stress was laid on the
citizenship of the mother than on that of the father, as the child was
regarded as belonging naturally to the mother. It was possible to
increase the citizen body by a vote of the people; but in the best days
of Athens her citizenship was regarded as so high a privilege that the
franchise was most jealously guarded. Consequently, in the fifth century
we see in Athens and Attica a population of about four hundred thousand,
of which not more than fifty thousand were citizens; the rest consisted
of minors, of resident aliens numbering some fifteen thousand, and of
slaves, of whom there were about two hundred thousand in the Periclean

To preserve the purity of the citizenship in so large a population of
residents, increased by thousands of visitors and strangers who
frequented the metropolis, every precaution was taken that the daughters
of Athens should not be wedded to foreigners, and that no spurious
offspring should be palmed off on the State. Hence marriage by a citizen
was restricted to a union with a legitimate Athenian maiden with full
birthright. The marriage of an Athenian maiden with a stranger, or of a
citizen with a foreigner, was strictly forbidden, and the offspring of
such a union was illegitimate.

Under such a conception of polity, marriage lay at the very basis of the
State; and respect for the local deities, obligations of citizenship,
and regard for one's race and lineage, demanded that every safeguard
should be thrown about it, and that the women of Athens should conform
to those enactments and customs which would fit them to be the mothers
of citizens and would keep from them every entangling intrigue with

The result of this polity was a singular phenomenon: there were in
Athens two classes of women--one carefully secluded and restricted,
under the rigid surveillance of law and custom; the other, free to do
whatever it pleased, except to marry citizens. Yet the latter class
would gladly have exchanged places with the former; while the former, no
doubt, envied the freedom and social accomplishments of the latter. The
one class consisted of the highborn matrons of Athens, glorying in their
birthright, and rulers of the home; the other, of the resident aliens of
the female sex, unmarried, emancipated intellectually as untrammelled
morally, who could become the "companions" of the great men of the city.
Thus, owing to the Athenian conception of the city-state, the natural
functions of woman--domesticity and companionship, which should be
united in one person, were divided, the Athenian man looking to his wife
merely for the care of the home and the bearing and rearing of children,
and to the hetæra for comradeship and intellectual sympathy. This evil
was the canker-worm which gnawed out the core of the social life of
Athens and caused the unhappiness of the female sex.

At the birth of a girl in Athens, woollen fillets were hung upon the
door of the house to indicate the sex of the child, the olive wreath
being used to proclaim the birth of a boy. This custom demonstrates the
relative importance of son and daughter in the eyes of the parents and
the public. The son was destined for all the victories that public life
and the prestige of the State can give; therefore, the olive, symbol of
victory, served to make known his advent. The daughter's life was to be
one of domestic duties, hence the band of wool, with its connotation of
spinning and weaving, was a fitting emblem of the career for which the
babe was destined. The plan of a Greek house indicates how secluded
woman's whole life was to be. In the interior part of the Greek mansion,
separated from the front of the building by a door, lay the
_gyncæconitis_, or women's apartments, usually built around a court.
Here were bedrooms, dining-rooms, the nursery, the rooms for spinning
and weaving, where the lady of the house sat at her wheel. This was, in
brief, the feminine domain.

In the seclusion of the _gyncæconitis_, the girl-child was reared by its
mother and nurse. Her playthings--dishes, toy spindles, and dolls--were
such as to cultivate her taste for domestic duties. No regular public
and systematized instruction was provided for a girl; no education was
deemed necessary, for her life was to be devoted to the household, away
from the world of affairs. But though there were no schools for maidens
to attend, reading and writing and the fundamentals of knowledge were
regularly imparted by a loving mother or a faithful nurse. The frescoed
walls made the girls acquainted with the stories of mythology, and music
and the recitation of poetry were frequent sources of instruction and
recreation in the homes of the well-to-do. The maidens were, above all,
made proficient in the strictly feminine arts of housekeeping, spinning,
weaving, and embroidery. They were rigidly excluded from any intercourse
with the other sex, and their contact with the outside world was
confined to participation in the religious festivals, which occupied so
large a part in the everyday life of the Greeks. "When I was seven years
of age," says the chorus of Athenian women in the _Lysistrata_ of
Aristophanes, "I carried the mystic box in the procession; then, when I
was ten, I ground the cakes for our patron goddess; and, clad in a
saffron-colored robe, I was the bear at the Brauronian festival; and I
carried the sacred basket when I became a beautiful girl." Such were the
opportunities granted to the highborn Athenian maiden for occasional
glimpses of the splendor and activity of her native city; and can we
doubt that on such occasions she was impressed by the sublimity of the
temples and works of art, and that there were cast many modest glances
at the handsome youths on horseback, who, in turn, were fascinated by
the beauty and freshness of these tenderly nurtured maidens?

The seclusion of Athenian girls and the careful rearing which they
received at the hands of mothers and nurses were such as to fit them to
rule the home. The Athenian maiden was noted throughout Hellas for her
modesty and sweetness. The intelligence was not cultivated, but the
heart and sensibilities had ample scope for development in the duties
and recreations of the _gynæconitis_ and in the participation in
religious exercises. Such a simple and peaceful rearing tended to
preserve the delicacy of the soul and to keep unstained innocence and
purity. When comparison is instituted with the Spartan system,
preference must be given to the Athenian method of education, with all
its defects. The sweet modesty imparted by seclusion was far more
womanly than the boldness of bearing acquired by athletic exercises in
the presence of young men. The Spartan system trained the woman for
public life, to be the patriotic mother of warriors; the Athenian system
prepared the maiden to be the guardian of the home, the affectionate and
devoted mother.

When the maiden reached the age of fifteen, her parents began
negotiations for her marriage. An Athenian marriage was essentially a
matter of convenience, and was usually arranged by contract between the
respective fathers of the youth and maiden. Equality of birth and
fortune were generally the chief considerations in the selection of the
son-in-law or the daughter-in-law; and in an atmosphere where the
attractions of a maiden were so little known, a professional matchmaker
frequently brought the interested parties together. Thus the rustic
Strepsiades, in Aristophanes's _Clouds_, expresses the wish that the
feminine matchmaker had perished miserably who had induced him to marry
the haughty, luxurious, citified niece of aristocratic Megacles, son of

The Homeric custom of bringing valuable presents or of performing
valiant deeds to win a maiden's hand had long passed away, and, in the
great days of Athens, the father had to provide a dowry consisting
partly of cash, partly of clothes, jewelry, and slaves. Solon, who, as
Plutarch tells us, wished to have marriages contracted from motives of
pure love or kind affection, and to further the birth of children,
rather than for mercenary considerations, decreed that no dowries should
be given and that the bride should have only three changes of clothes;
but this good custom had passed away with the era of simple living. So
distinctly was the dowry the indispensable condition of marriage, that
poor girls were often endowed by generous relatives, or the State
itself would provide a wedding portion for the daughters of men
deserving well of their country. For example, when the Athenians heard
that the granddaughter of Aristogiton, the Tyrannicide, was in needy
circumstances in the isle of Lemnos, and was so poor that nobody would
marry her, they brought her back to Athens, married her to a man of good
birth, and gave her a farm at Potamos for a marriage portion. The dowry
was generally secured to the wife by rigid restrictions; in most cases
of separation, the dowry reverted to the wife's parents; and though the
husband's fortune might be confiscated, the marriage portion of the wife
was exempt.

Of the ceremonies and formalities of marriage, the solemn betrothal was
the first and most important, as it established the legality of the
union; and it was at this ceremony that the dowry was settled upon the
bride. In the presence of the two families, the father of the maiden
addressed the bridegroom in the following formula: "That legitimate
children may be born, I present you my daughter." The betrothed then
exchanged vows by clasping their right hands or by embracing each other,
and the maiden received a gift from her affianced as a token of love.
The marriage usually followed close upon the betrothal.

The favorite month for the ceremony was named Gamelion, or the "marriage
month"; this included part of our January and part of February. On the
eve of the wedding, the good will of the divinities protecting marriage,
especially Zeus Teleios, Hera Teleia, and Artemis Eukleia, was invoked
by prayer and sacrifices.

Strange to say, the wedding itself, though given a religious character
by its attendant ceremonies, was neither a religious nor a legal act.
The legality of the marriage was established by the betrothal, while
its religious aspect was found solely in the rites in honor of the
marriage gods.

A second ceremony, universally observed, was the bridal bath, taken
individually by both bride and bridegroom previously to their union. In
Athens, from time immemorial, the water for this bath was taken from the
sacred fountain, Callirrhoë, called since its enclosure by Pisistratus
"Enneacrunus," or "the Nine Spouts." Authorities differ as to whether a
boy or a girl served as water carrier on this occasion; but the latter
supposition is supported by an archaic picture on a hydria, representing
the holy fountain Callirrhoë flowing from the head of a lion under a
Doric superstructure. A girl, holding in her hand branches of laurel or
myrtle, looks musingly down on a hydria, which is being filled with the
bridal water. Five other maidens are grouped about the fountain, some
with empty pitchers awaiting their turn, others about to go home with
their filled pitchers. No doubt it is in the month of marriage, and many
maidens are preparing for the happy event.

On the wedding day, toward dark, a feast was held at the parental home,
at which were gathered all the bridal party--for this was one of the few
occasions in Athenian life when men and women dined together. Here the
bride and groom appeared, clad in purple and crowned with flowers sacred
to Aphrodite. The distinctive mark of the bride was the veil, which
covered her head and partly concealed her face. All the guests wore
wreaths in honor of the joyous event. With her own hand the bride
plucked the poppies and sesame which were to crown her forehead, for it
would have been an ill omen to wear a nuptial wreath that had been

Soon the banquet is concluded with libations and prayer, just as night
begins to fall. Then the bride leaves the festively adorned parental
home, and takes her place in a chariot, between the bridegroom and his
best man, for the wedding journey to her new abode. The place of honor
in the procession that follows is held by the bride's mother, who walks
behind the chariot, carrying the wedding torches, which have been
kindled at the family hearth, that the bride may have the sacred fire of
her own home continued in her new dwelling. The festal company join in
singing the wedding song to Hymenæus to the sound of flutes as the
chariot leads slowly toward the bridegroom's house. At the close of the
_Birds_ of Aristophanes, when occurs the wedding of Pisthetærus and
Basileia, the chorus attends the wedded pair with the following lines:

      "Jupiter, that god sublime,
      When the Fates in former time
      Matched him with the Queen of Heaven
      At a solemn banquet given,
      Such a feast was held above,
      And the charming God of Love
      Being present in command,
      As a bridegroom took his stand
      With the golden reins in hand,
      Hymen, Hymen, Ho!"

The new home, like that of the bride's father, is adorned with garlands
of laurel and ivy--the laurel for the husband, as the symbol of victory,
and the delicate and graceful ivy for the bride, embodying her
attachment for her husband, as that of the ivy for the sturdy oak. At
the door, the bridegroom's mother is awaiting the young couple, with the
burning torches in her hand. As the spouses enter, a shower of
sweetmeats is poured upon their heads, partly in jest, partly to
symbolize the abundance and prosperity invoked upon them. To typify the
bride's new duties as mistress of the house, a pestle used for bruising
corn has been hung up near the bridal chamber; and in conformity to
another custom, prevailing since the days of Solon, she is expected to
eat a quince, which was considered to be a symbol of fruitfulness. Soon
the bridegroom's mother attends the couple to the _thalamos_, or nuptial
chamber, where, for the first time, the bride unveils herself to her
husband. Meanwhile, before the door, the bride's attendants, crowned
with hyacinth, join in the epithalamium, or marriage hymn, a
characteristic specimen of which we possess in the bridal hymn to Helen,
by Theocritus:

      "Slumberest so soon, sweet bridegroom?
      Art thou overfond of sleep?
      Or hast thou leaden-weighted limbs?
      Or hast thou drunk too deep
      When thou didst fling thee to thy lair?
      Betimes thou shouldst have sped,
      If sleep were all thy purpose,
      Unto thy bachelor's bed,
      And left her in her mother's arms,
      To nestle and to play,
      A girl among her girlish mates,
      Till deep into the day:--
      For not alone for this night,
      Nor for the next alone,
      But through the days and through the years
      Thou hast her for thine own."

And it ends thus:

      "Sleep on, and love and longing
      Breathe in each other's breast,
      But fail not when the morn returns
      To rouse you from your rest;
      With dawn shall we be stirring,
      When, lifting high his fair
      And feathered neck, the earliest bird
      To clarion to the dawn is heard.
      O God of brides and bridals,
      Sing, 'Happy, happy pair!'"

A fragment of Anacreon has preserved for us an example of the morning
nuptial chant, sung by the chorus to greet the bride and groom on their

"Aphrodite, queen of goddesses; Love, powerful conqueror; Hymen, source
of life: it is of you that I sing in my verses. 'Tis of you I chant,
Love, Hymen, and Aphrodite. Behold, young man, behold thy wife! Arise, O
Straticlus, favored of Aphrodite, husband of Myrilla, admire thy bride!
Her freshness, her grace, her charms, make her shine among all women.
The rose is queen of flowers; Myrilla is a rose midst her companions.
Mayst thou see grow in thy house a son like to thee!"

Then begins a second fête day for the bridal pair. Husband and wife
receive visits and gifts from relatives and friends, and exchange
presents with each other. The festivities are concluded with a banquet
in the husband's home, at which the wife's position in the clan of her
husband's family is recognized; and she may now appear without her veil,
as the mistress of her new home.

Wedding scenes are frequently the subject of illustration in antique
art. The most remarkable of these is the splendid wall painting known as
the _Aldobrandini Wedding_, preserved in the Vatican. It represents,
painted on one surface, three different scenes of the marriage ceremony.
The central picture represents a chamber of the _gynoe onitis_, where
the bride, chastely veiled, reclines on a beautiful couch; "Peitho, the
goddess of persuasion, sits by her side, as appears from the crown on
her head and from the many-folded peplus falling over her back. She
pleads the bridegroom's cause, and seems to encourage the timorous
maiden. A third female figure, to the left of the group, leaning on a
piece of a column, seems to expect the girl's surrender; for she is
pouring ointment from an alabastron into a vase made of shell, so as to
have it ready for use after the bridal bath. Most likely she represents
the second handmaiden of Aphrodite, Charis, who, according to the myth,
bathed and anointed her mistress with ambrosial oil in the holy grove of
Paphos. The pillar at the back of Charis indicates the partition wall
between this chamber and the one next to it on the left. We here see a
large basin filled with water, standing on a columnar base. The water is
perhaps that of the well Callirrhoë, fetched by the young girl standing
close by for the nuptial bath. The girl seems to look inquiringly at the
matronly figure approaching the basin on the other side, and putting her
fingers into the water as if to test its warmth. Her sublime form and
priestly dress, together with the leaf-shaped instrument in her hand
(probably the instrument used at lustrations), seem to portray her as
Hera Teleia, the protecting goddess of marriage, in the act of examining
and blessing the bridal bath. The third scene of the picture is placed
at the entrance of the bride's house. The bridegroom, crowned with vine
branches, is sitting on the threshold, as if listening impatiently for
the close of the ceremony inside the house. In front of him is a group
of three maidens, one of whom seems to be making an offering at a
portable altar, while the other two begin the hymenæus to the
accompaniment of the cithara."

With the completion of the marriage ceremonies, the maiden has passed
from the _gynæconitis_ of her father to that of her husband; but, though
still under masculine control, she is absolute mistress of her limited
sphere; yet she is expected to refrain from manifesting interest in the
public affairs of her husband and to confine her attention to her
domestic duties.

      "Good women must abide within the house;
      Those whom we meet abroad are nothing worth,"

writes the poet; and this couplet expresses the Athenian husband's idea
of the wife's proper sphere of activity. His life is essentially an
outdoor one. The market place, a the law courts, the numerous colonnades,
are the centres of his activity, where he passes his time in attending
to business, in discussing politics, in telling or hearing some new
thing. His recreations consist in visiting the _palæstræ_ or the
_gymnasia_, the clubhouses of ancient Greece, and in participating with
his chosen friends in banquets at which beautiful flute players and
cultivated hetæræ afford pastime and amusement. He passes but little
time at home.

Meanwhile, the wife superintends the slaves and assigns them their
several duties; she looks after the stores, utensils, and furnishings of
the household; she presides over the kitchen; she nurses the sick; and,
above all, she devotes her attention to the careful rearing of the
children, whose prattle breaks the otherwise monotonous existence of the
women's apartments. Occasionally, she visits her friends, or receives
them in her house; but the gathering of women was discouraged by the
husbands, who believed the effect of gossip to be matrimonial

Religious ceremonies occupied a large part of feminine life, and women
over sixty might attend any funerals to which inclination called them;
and funerals among the Greeks, save in isolated cases, were not
hopelessly solemn affairs. These elderly women were also privileged to
attend memorial exercises in honor of the distinguished dead, and it was
on an occasion such as this that Thucydides puts into the mouth of
Pericles the famous dictum, expressing so aptly the Athenian conception
of the ideal woman: "The best wife is the one of whom the least is said,
either of good or evil." The tortoise was the symbol of feminine
life--the creature that never goes out of her shell. Lycurgus draws a
dramatic picture of the receipt of the news at Athens of the fateful
day at Chæronea, when the Athenian women stood in the doors of their
houses, making inquiries concerning husbands and brothers and fathers,
but not, as might have been expected, gathering in the streets to
discuss the terrible tidings.

Although their opportunities for social life were so limited, the
Athenian women devoted much time to their toilet. Bathing was a daily
habit, and was attended by anointing with oils and fragrant essences.
The dignity and grace of Athenian dress are admirably illustrated by the
drapery of the female forms which support the roof of the southern
portico of the Erechtheum. The tunic, with its overhanging _diplois_,
fastened round the hips by means of a girdle, was gracefully arranged in
symmetrical folds. Linen was usually the material employed, and white
was the favorite color among modest Greek women; yet particolored
Oriental garments were also worn. Dresses were frequently adorned with
inwoven patterns and attached borders and embroideries. The outer
garment was the mantle, or _peplos_, shaped like a shawl and capable of
a variety of picturesque drapings. The headdress of women was simple.
Hats were not worn, except on journeys, and, beyond the customary veil,
the chief ornament was a band for holding together the plentiful hair.
This was frequently knotted at the top of the head and fastened by pins
of gold and silver, the tops of which were shaped like the pineapple or
the lotus flower; sometimes the front hair was arranged in small
ringlets, while the back hair partly fell smoothly over the neck, and
partly descended below the shoulders in long curls. Frequently, ribbons
were used to bind the hair, adorned, where it rested on the forehead,
with a plaque of metal formed like a frontal, called the _stephané_; or
a band of cloth or leather was used, broad in the centre and growing
narrower at the ends, styled _sphendoné_ from its similarity to a
sling. Sandals were the usual form of footwear, and variety was given by
the length and graceful folding of the straps. Exquisite simplicity was
also seen in the jewelry. The chief ornament was the necklace; these
were sometimes composed of balls of gold and garnets intermingled, or of
emeralds alternating with fine pearls and attached by little chains.
Bracelets owe their Greek name to the form they were generally
given--that of a serpent. They were usually worn on the wrist, sometimes
on the upper arm, and sometimes even about the ankle. At times,
bracelets were merely circlets of gold. Sometimes they were adorned with
medallions at intervals, sometimes they were set with emeralds, garnets,
or pearls. The ear-rings were of graceful form, sometimes representing a
swan in black enamel, with bill, wings, feet, and tail of gold,
sometimes a dove on a delicate pedestal, a bunch of grapes with a golden
stem, or a sphinx, or a panther's head. The clasps or buckles which
bound the tunic or the peplus, usually shaped in the form of an arc,
exhibited rare beauty. Rings, set with carnelian, agate, sardonyx,
amethyst, and other gems, and brooches of every variety, completed the
ornaments in the jewel cases of the Athenian women.

In disclosing the secrets of the Athenian toilet, love of truth compels
us to state that these fair dames had recourse to the use of cosmetics,
perhaps to overcome the paleness of complexion incident to lack of
outdoor life. Cheeks and lips were given a ruddy hue by the use of
_minium_, or the root of the alkanet; eyebrows were darkened by applying
pulverized antimony; and dark hair could be changed to blonde by the use
of a certain powder, which gave a golden tint, much sung of by poets.

When one reads of the great attention paid by the Athenian women to the
cultivation of grace of form, of taste in dress, and of beauty of
feature, it is hard to realize that such charms were confined to the
women's apartments, and merely revealed themselves to the outside world
on festive occasions.

Though the gallantry of modern times was not a part of the habitual
equipment of an Athenian gentleman, yet he was very careful as to his
behavior in the presence of ladies. There was strict observance of the
etiquette which controlled the relations of the sexes. No gentleman
would enter an abode of women in the absence of the master, and
unbecoming language in the presence of women was a gross offence. The
husband carefully abstained in his wife's presence from doing anything
that might lower her estimation of his dignity. A certain distance was
apparently maintained between married persons, and cordial familiarity
was sometimes sacrificed to love of social forms. No doubt, too, fine
breeding and true courtesy were generally shown the wife and ruler of
his home by the Athenian husband who, like Agathon in the _Symposium_ of
Plato, exhibited the most delicate tact and sentiment in his treatment
of men.

In the peaceful atmosphere of the home, the Athenian gentlewoman was
expected to live an irreproachable life. Infidelity on the part of the
husband was regarded as a venial office, but the wife who violated her
marriage vows was punished with the most terrible disgrace. Should she
marry again, the man who ventured to wed her was disfranchised. She was
to all intents and purposes an outcast from society. If she appeared in
a temple, she might be subjected to any indignity short of death.
Furthermore, a man could divorce his wife on the slightest pretext;
while the wife, to obtain a divorce, was compelled to lodge with the
archon a complaint against her husband and a prayer for the return of
her dowry, and in the ensuing process she was subjected to many delays
and inconveniences. Then, as she was still a minor in the eyes of the
law, a wife who had left her husband was obliged to return to a state of
tutelage under her father or brother; and many a suffering wife endured
in silence neglect or ill usage rather than thus return to her father's
control. Yet many a high-spirited woman revolted against the
infidelities of her husband. The saddest incident of this marital
inequality that we find in Greek literature is the story of Alcibiades's
wife, Hipparete, and her case shows how difficult it was for a wife to
assert her rights. Hipparete's early death leaves on the reader the
impression that her heart was broken by her brilliant husband's
inconstancy and brutality.

"Hipparete," writes Plutarch, "was a virtuous and dutiful wife, but at
last growing impatient because of the outrages done to her by her
husband's continual entertaining of hetæræ, strangers as well as
Athenians, she departed from him and retired to her brother's house.
Alcibiades seemed not at all concerned at this, and lived on still in
the same luxury; but the law required that she should deliver to the
archon, in person, and not by proxy, the instrument by which she claimed
a divorce; and when, in obedience thereto, she presented herself before
the archon to perform this, Alcibiades came in, caught her up, and
carried her home through the market place, no one daring to oppose him
or to take her from him. She continued with him till her death, which
happened not long after, when Alcibiades had gone to Ephesus."

We find in Xenophon's remarkable treatise on _Domestic Economy_ an
interesting description of the method pursued by a model Greek gentleman
in training for her domestic duties his young wife, a tender girl of
fifteen, reared under the strictest restraint to the end that she might
"see as little, hear as little, and ask as few questions as possible."

He was not content that his young wife should simply know the ordinary
household duties of spinning and weaving, and directing her maid, but he
wished to educate her so that she might have larger conceptions of her
sphere as well as the ability to understand what was desirable for the
happiness of both. The account which the model husband, Ischomachus,
gives in his dialogue with Socrates of his experience in wife training
throws many sidelights on the marriage relations of the Athenians and
the philosophy of their system. As soon as the child-wife was properly
domesticated, so that she dared to converse freely, her husband began to
talk to her of their mutual responsibilities and to inculcate those
lessons which would be to their mutual advantage. She was now, he goes
on, the mistress of his house; henceforth everything should be theirs in
common--the caring for their fortune, as well as the education of the
children whom the gods might grant them. He will never question which of
them has done the more to increase their common store, but each shall
strive to contribute largely to that fortune.

The young wife, in her astonishment at such words, asks: "How can I help
you in this, or wherein can the little power I have do you any good? For
my mother told me that both my fortune as well as yours was wholly at
your command, and that it must be my chief care to live virtuously and

ISCHOMACHUS.--This is true, good wife; but it is the part of a sober
husband and virtuous wife not only to preserve the fortune they are
possessed of, but to contribute equally to improve it.

WIFE.--And what do you see in me that you believe me capable of
assisting in the improvement of your fortune? ISCHOMACHUS.--Use your
endeavor, good wife, to do those things which are acceptable to the gods
and are appointed by the law for you to do.

WIFE.--And what are those things, dear husband?

Ischomachus then enumerates the things which are acceptable to the gods
and appointed by the law, and determines the limits which separate the
duties of man from those of woman. He says: "The wisdom of the divinity
has prepared the union of the two sexes, and has made of marriage an
association useful to each one,--a union which will secure for them, in
their children, support in their old age.

"It is man's duty to acquire food, to be busied with field work, to care
for flocks, and to defend himself against enemies. Therefore the god has
given him strength and courage. The woman must care for and prepare the
food, weave garments, and rear the children. Therefore the god has given
her a delicate physique which will keep her in the home, an exquisite
tenderness of heart which brings about her maternal care and love and a
watchful vigilance for the safety of her little ones.

"Since they are united for their common advantage, they are endowed with
the same faculties of memory and diligence. Both are endowed with the
same force of soul to refrain from things harmful, and the one who
practises this virtue the more has, by the grace of the divinity, the
better recompense. However," he adds, "as they are not equally perfect,
they have the more occasion for each other's assistance; for when man
and woman are thus united, what the one has occasion for is supplied by
the other."

Ischomachus then shows that in well performing their respective
functions husband and wife conform themselves to the rules of the good
and the beautiful. If the wife leave the home, or the husband remain
there, he or she is violating the laws of nature. He compares the duties
of the wife to those of the queen bee, which, without leaving the hive,
extends her activity around her, sends others to the field, receives and
stores away provisions as they are brought, watches over the
construction of cells, and brings up the little bees.

There is one duty of which he tells her with hesitation--the caring for
the slaves when they may be ill. But to his great joy she responds:
"That is surely an act of charity, and becoming every good-natured
mistress, for we cannot oblige people more than by helping them when
they are sick. This will surely engage the love of our servants to us
and make them doubly diligent to us on every occasion."

He answers: "By reason of the good care and tenderness of the queen bee,
all the rest of the hive are so affectionate to her, that whenever she
is disposed to go abroad the whole colony belonging to her accompany and
attend upon their queen."

The thought of being queen startles the young girl, whose education has
taught her that passive obedience is the first duty of a wife. Her
husband has placed in her hands a sceptre which she thinks herself
unable to wield. She therefore says:

"Dear Ischomachus, tell me, is not the business of the mistress bee what
you ought to do rather than myself? or have you not a share in it? For
my keeping at home and directing my servants will be of little account,
unless you send home such provisions as are necessary to employ us."

ISCHOMACHUS.--And my providence would be of little use, unless there is
one at home who is ready to receive and take care of those goods that I
send home. Have you not observed what pity people show to those who are
punished by being sentenced to pour water into sieves until they are
full? The occasion of pity is because those people labor in vain.

WIFE.--I esteem those people to be truly miserable who have no benefit
from their labors.

[Illustration 176 _THE GRECIAN TOILETTE From an antique vase The Greek
women took great care of their bodies. It was their habit after bathing
to anoint themselves with perfume, pastes or liquids, pomades, and oils.
Nos. 1, 2 and 6 exhibits the basin, supplied with perfumed water. The
figure at No. 6 is washing from her hair the color of powder which had
been applied the evening before. The colors used might be black, red,
silver, gold, or any other tint, according to taste. The eyebrows were
tinted to harmonize. Nos. 9 and 10 represent the application of oil,
which followed completion of the coiffure. Nos. 3 and 4 exhibit the
slave's simple dress and the rich transparent costume of the lady. The
mirrors, Nos. 4, 5, and 11, were framed in ivory or chiselled silver,
ornamented with precious stones. One of the fêtes in honor of Minerva
was that of the Parasols, which were often made of silk, see No. 7._]

ISCHOMACHUS.--Suppose, dear wife, you take into your service one who can
neither card nor spin, and you teach her to do those things, will it not
be an honor to you? Or if you take a servant who is negligent and does
not understand how to do her business, or has been given to pilfering,
and you make her diligent and instruct her in the manners of a good
servant, and teach her honesty, will you not rejoice in your success,
and will you not be pleased with your action? So, when you see your
servants sober and discreet, you should encourage and show them favor.
But those who are incorrigible and will not follow your directions you
must punish. Consider how laudable it will be for you to excel others in
the well-ordering of your house. Be therefore diligent, virtuous, and
modest, and give your necessary attendance on me, your children, and
your house, and your name shall be honorably esteemed, even after your
death; for it is not the beauty of your face and form, but your virtue
and goodness, which will bring you honor and esteem that will last

Thus does he conclude his first discourse with his wife on the subject
of her duties, and she is diligent to learn and to practise what has
been taught her. When, a little later, he asks her to find him a parcel
which he had brought home, and she, with flushed cheeks and troubled
look, has to confess that she is unable to find it, he takes this
occasion to talk to her on order and harmony in all things. He tells her
not to be grieved over her failure to find the parcel, as it is his
fault for not having assigned a definite place for each thing. He shows
her how everything is perfectly arranged in a chorus, in a large army,
and in the crew of a vessel, that all may be done harmoniously and in
order. "Let us therefore fix upon a proper place where our stores may be
laid up, not only in security, but where they may be so disposed that we
may know where to look for every particular thing. By this means, we
shall know what we gain and what we lose; and in surveying our
storehouses, we shall be able to judge what is necessary to be brought
in or what may want repairing and what will be impaired by keeping."
With the simplicity natural to men of high intelligence, he does not
hesitate to confess that he finds beauty even in kitchen utensils
orderly arranged.

The young wife is enchanted at his idea, and they go through the house
assigning a place for each thing; they distribute duties to the slaves,
and give them other instructions, with the endeavor to win their
affections and elevate their characters. Ischomachus then tells her that
all care will be useless if the mistress of the house do not watch to
see that the established order is not disturbed. Comparing her to
magistrates who make the laws of a city respected, he adds: "This, dear
wife, I chiefly commend to you, that you may look upon yourself as chief
overseer of the laws within our house."

He tells her that it is within her jurisdiction to oversee everything in
the house, as a garrison commander inspects his soldiers; that she has
as great power in her own home as a queen, to distribute rewards to the
virtuous and diligent and to punish those who deserve it. He desires her
not to be displeased that he has intrusted more to her than to any of
the servants, for they have not the same incentive to preserve those
things which are not their own but hers.

Up to this time, it is the loving and inexperienced child who has been
conversing with her husband. Now, it is the woman, the mistress of the
house, who says:

"It would have been a great grief to me if, instead of those good rules
you instruct me in for the welfare of our house, you had directed me to
have no regard to the possessions I am endowed with; for as it is
natural for a good woman to be careful and diligent about her own
children rather than to have a disregard for them, so it is no less
agreeable and pleasant to a woman, who has any share of sense, to look
after the affairs of her family rather than to neglect them."

The great Socrates admires much the wisdom of his friend's wife, and
adds, asking Ischomachus to continue the narrative: "It is far more
delightful to hear the virtuous woman described than if the famous
painter Zeuxis were to show me the portrait of the fairest woman in the

This dialogue between husband and wife is doubtless typical of the
relations between married couples in the Athenian household, and in the
girl-wife one may recognize the innocence and ingenuousness of the
average maiden of fifteen transferred from the seclusion of her girlhood
life at home to the seclusion of married life in her husband's house. It
is noticeable that in the training provided by Ischomachus no provision
whatever is made for intellectual discipline, or for social obligations,
which leaves the reader to infer that the career of the wife was to be a
purely domestic one, and that her aspirations must be confined within
the walls of her house.

While such implicit obedience was the rule, however, there were notable
exceptions to such ingenuousness on the part of the wife, and there were
doubtless many instances where the wife was the ruling power of the
household because of mental superiority, domineering disposition, or
amount of dower. Human nature is much the same the world over, and
strong personality in women demanded expression in ancient as well as in
modern times. It is also true that there were instances of beautiful
affection between husband and wife, though the fact that such were much
talked of proves that conjugal love was the exception, not the rule.

It is a pity that we do not know more of the wives and sisters and
mothers of great Athenians, as the few of whom we know are of unusual
interest. Many wives enjoyed the hearty admiration and companionship of
their husbands. Cimon, in spite of occasional lapses on his part, had an
unusually passionate affection for his wife, Isodice, and was filled
with bitterest grief at her death. Socrates mentions Niceratus as "one
who was in love with his wife and loved by her." There is a pleasing
anecdote of Themistocles, told us by Plutarch, which shows where in his
household lay the seat of authority. "Laughing at his own son, who got
his mother, and, through his mother, his father also, to indulge him, he
told him he had the most power of anyone in Greece, 'for the Athenians
command the rest of Greece, I command the Athenians, your mother
commands me, and you command your mother.'"

Plutarch also relates of the great statesman that of two who made love
to his daughter, he preferred the man of worth to the one who was rich,
saying that he desired a man without riches rather than riches without a
man! The most pleasing, however, among the wives of great Athenians is
the wife of Phocion, the incorruptible, as she is presented to us in the
pages of Plutarch. The latter describes Phocion's simple way of living,
and speaks of his wife as employed in kneading bread with her own
hands. "She was," he continues, "renowned no less among the Athenians
for her virtues and simple living than was Phocion for his probity." It
happened once when the people were entertained with a new tragedy, that
the actor, as he was about to enter the stage to perform the part of a
queen, demanded to have a number of attendants, sumptuously dressed, to
follow in his train; and when they were not provided, he became sullen
and refused to act, keeping the audience waiting, till at last
Melanthius, who had to furnish the chorus, pushed him on the stage,
crying out: "What! don't you know that Phocion's wife is never attended
by more than a single waiting-woman, but you must needs be grand, and
fill our women's heads with vanity?" This speech, spoken loud enough to
be heard, was received with great applause. Phocion's wife herself once
said to a visitor from Ionia, who showed her all her rich ornaments made
of gold and set with jewels, her wreaths, necklaces, and the like: "For
my part, all my ornament is my husband Phocion, now for the twentieth
year in office as general at Athens."

Aristotle said many things which are quoted as suggesting his low
estimate of the weaker sex, but he loved with great tenderness his wife
Pythias, niece and adopted daughter of his friend Hermias, ruler of
Atarneus and Assos in Mysia. When she died after a few brief years of
wedded life, Aristotle gave directions that at his own death the two
bodies should be placed side by side in the same tomb. When his own
death came, he left behind a second wife, Herpyllis, whose virtues he
esteemed, and he besought his friends to care for her, and to provide
her with another husband should she wish to marry again.

These instances of domestic affection dissolve the cold logic of rigid
theory, and prove how, in spite of legislation and convention, love is
lord of all, and that among the Athenians happy married life was not

Nor was the strong-minded woman altogether lacking in Athens, for there
was Elpinice, sister of Cimon, who, taking the Spartan women as her
model, went about alone, and did many other things which shocked the
staid Athenian matrons. Unpleasant remarks were made about her--as in
the case of every woman who defies convention: among them, that she was
over intimate with Polygnotus the painter, who portrayed her as Laodice
in his fresco of the Trojan women in the Stoa Poikile. But the essence
of this scandal may have been merely that she served the painter as a
model, at a time when few women would have dared to visit an artist's
studio. To her brother Cimon she proved a devoted sister. Once, when he
was on trial for his life, she pleaded with Pericles so earnestly that
acquittal was the result; and later she arranged with this great rival
the negotiations that led to Cimon's return from banishment. So lovable
was she that Callias, one of the richest men in Athens, fell violently
in love with her, and offered to pay the fine to which her father was
condemned, if he could obtain the daughter in marriage; and with
Elpinice's own consent, Cimon betrothed her to Callias.

We have reserved a brief consideration of the best known of all Athenian
women, one who defies all out notions regarding the prevailing
conventions--Xanthippe, wife of the philosopher Socrates. From all
accounts, it seems likely that she was an aristocratic lady, in reduced
circumstances, who had married Socrates when advanced in life, she
herself being beyond the years at which women usually marry, yet a score
of years younger than her husband. Socrates once said he married her for
the excitement of conquest, just as one would enjoy the breaking of a
high-spirited horse; but, at any rate, the philosopher was worsted, and
Xanthippe ruled the household. Xanthippe has acquired the reputation of
being the typical scold of antiquity. Doubtless this reputation is not
without foundation, yet she should have our sympathy, for the strangest
and most difficult of husbands fell to her lot. Her naturally infirm
temper must have been tried beyond endurance by the calm unconcern of
her husband toward the domestic problem of "making both ends meet."
Ugly, careless of dress, keeping bad company, given to trances, utterly
neglectful of his family--can one be surprised that the wife of such a
man should lose all patience with him, and through repeated failures to
improve him should by degrees become an arch termagant? Yet the stories
of Xanthippe's temper rest on uncertain authority, and her reputation
may be due largely to the fact that it was necessary for the
story mongers to provide a foil for the always serene and placid
philosopher. Plato, the most reliable authority, tells us nothing
disparaging of Xanthippe, and the violent grief he attributes to her at
the last parting suggests a high degree of affection for her phlegmatic
spouse. Socrates preferred philosophical discussions with his friends to
the society of his wife in his last hours of life, but he committed her
and her children tenderly to their care. Thus parted the ill-assorted
pair, each of whom has attained world-wide celebrity--the one as the
world's philosopher, the other as the proverbial shrew.

In the early days of the Athenian democracy, women were powerful
influences in civic matters, as is instanced in the case of Cylon and
his conspirators, all of whom were ruthlessly slain except those who
fell at the feet of the archons' wives, who in pity saved them.
Herodotus tells a story which shows the intense interest of the
Athenian women in public affairs in early times. There was always great
rivalry between Athens and the neighboring island of Ægina. At one time,
the Athenians demanded of the Æginetans the fulfilment of certain
conditions regarding the statues of Attic olive wood which the latter
had stolen from the Epidaurians. "The people of Ægina refused; and the
members of an expedition sent against them, attempting to drag away the
sacred statues with ropes, were seized with madness and destroyed, one
after another, so that only one man returned alive to Athens. This man,
recounting the disasters, was surrounded by the women whose husbands had
been killed, and each one pierced him with the bodkin that fastened her
garment; so that he died under their hands. The conduct of these women
filled the Athenians with horror, and, as a punishment, they obliged all
the women of Athens to give up the Dorian dress which they wore, and
instead to clothe themselves with the Ionian tunic, which had no need of
any pin to fasten it."

Under the tyrants, the women of aristocratic families throughout Hellas
possessed an influence which was lost under the levelling process of
democracy. Pisistratus, after his first banishment, furthered the
reestablishment of his tyranny by wedding the daughter of Megacles, and
thus winning for himself the influence of the powerful Alcmæonidæ. He
worshipped Athena as his patron goddess, and, to give proper religious
sanction to his return, arranged a singular ceremony, which Herodotus
regards as "the most ridiculous that was ever imagined," but which
introduces to us the most beautiful Athenian maiden of the times:

"In the Pæanian tribe, there was a woman named Phya, four cubits tall,
and in other respects handsome. Having dressed this woman in a complete
suit of armor, and placed her in a chariot, and instructed her how to
assume a becoming demeanor, the followers of Pisistratus drove her to
the city, having sent heralds before to proclaim: 'O Athenians, welcome
back Pisistratus, whom Athena herself, honoring above all men, now
conducts back to her own citadel!' Thus the report was spread about that
the goddess Athena was bringing back Pisistratus; and the people,
believing it to be true, paid worship to the woman, and allowed
Pisistratus to return." The return was most happily effected, and, soon
after, the usurper celebrated the marriage of this "counterfeit
presentment" of the goddess to one of his sons.

Woman was to continue to play a fateful part in the history of the
usurped power of Pisistratus. The tyrant ill-treated his young wife, and
this threw her father, Megacles, again into the party of the opposition.
Pisistratus was once more driven from Athens, and this time from Attica
as well. But he returned a third time, and established his power so
firmly that at his death he bequeathed it to his sons unimpaired.
Hippias and Hipparchus ruled wisely at first, and carried on the many
public works in which Pisistratus had engaged; but their downfall
finally came through an insult to a highborn Athenian maiden, and the
story as told by Thucydides shows how highly a sister's honor was
cherished at Athens.

Harmodius, an aristocratic young Athenian, had rejected the friendship
of Hipparchus, preferring that of Aristogiton, a citizen of modest
station. The tyrant basely avenged himself. After summoning a sister of
Harmodius to come to take part in a certain procession as bearer of one
of the sacred vessels, Hippias and Hipparchus publicly rejected the
maiden when she presented herself in her festal dress, asserting that
they had not invited her to participate, as she was unworthy of the

Harmodius was very indignant at this insult, and with his friend, who
was equally incensed, formed a plot which led to the death of
Hipparchus, though Harmodius was also killed in the prosecution of the
plan. Aristogiton was put to the torture; and tradition relates that
Leæna, his mistress, was also tortured, and fearing lest in her agony
she might betray any of the conspirators bit off her tongue. After the
expulsion of the Pisistratidæ, the Athenians honored her memory by a
bronze statue of a lioness without a tongue, which was set up on the
Acropolis. The Athenians by this act showed their delight in a play on
names, as _Leæna_ is the Greek word for "lioness."

The Athenian woman has never had the reputation for patriotism that
characterized her Spartan sister, yet at times she showed an almost
superhuman devotion to the State. After the sack of Athens by Mardonius
and his troops in the Persian War, a senator, Lycidas, advised his
fellow countrymen to accept the terms which were offered them by the
Persian general. The Athenians in scorn stoned to death the man who
could suggest such a cowardly deed. And the women, hearing what their
husbands had done, passed the word on to one another, and, gathering
together, they went of their own accord to the house of Lycidas and
inflicted the same punishment on his wife and children--a cruel act, but
one showing their love of country and their hatred of treason.

These women, who could be so ruthless when patriotism was involved, knew
how to be genuine comforters when their own loved ones were in trouble.
The orator Andocides and his companions were tried and imprisoned for
impiety in violating the Eleusinian mysteries. "When," says Isocrates,
"we had all been bound in the same chamber, and it was night, and the
prison had been closed, there came to one his mother, to another his
sister, to another his wife and children, and there was woe and
lamentation as they wept over their misfortunes."

In so brilliant a race, it was impossible that some women should not
rise above the surface and, by extraordinary virtue and by intellectual
and spiritual endowments of a high order, win the lasting regard of



The period in Greek history when the intellectual and artistic life of
Hellas reached its zenith is known as the Golden Age of Pericles. The
lofty ideals of this greatest of Greek statesmen incited him to make
Athens the seat of a mighty empire that should spread the noblest and
most elevating influences throughout all Hellas. He called to his
assistance all the great men of his native city, and made also the fine
arts serve as handmaidens of Athens and contribute to her power and
splendor. Every condition was present for the realization of an
intellectual and artistic epoch such as the world had never witnessed.
At the disposal of Pericles was an inexhaustible treasury--the
accumulation of the tribute of subject allies. The quarries of
Pentelicon offered in great abundance the material necessary for the
erection of public buildings which might express in sensuous form the
noblest ideals of the Greek race. There were in Athens statesmen,
philosophers, artists, dramatists, historians, men preeminent in all
departments of the higher life. Foremost among these was Pericles's
friend and counsellor, Phidias, a "king in the domain of art, as
Pericles was in political life."

"What an age it was, truly, when, as the companions of Pericles, there
were assembled in one city Sophocles and Euripides, Herodotus and
Thucydides, Meton and Hippocrates, Aristophanes and Phidias, Socrates
and Anaxagoras, Appollodorus and Zeuxis, Polygnotus and Parrhasius;--in
a city which had but lately lost Æschylus, and was soon to possess
Xenophon, Plato, and Aristotle; a city which, moreover, to make the
illustrious dead its own, erected statues to their memory!"

"What should we expect the pupils of such masters to be? What they
were,--the masters of Greece. Thucydides says that Athens was at this
time the instructress of Greece, as she was the source of its supplies.
Behold this fine democracy going from the theatre of Sophocles to the
Parthenon of Phidias, or to the Bema where Pericles speaks to them in
the language of the gods; listening to Herodotus, who recounts the great
collision between Europe and Asia; Hippocrates of Cos, and the Athenian
Meton, of whom one founded the science of medicine, and the other,
mathematical astronomy; Anaxagoras, who eliminates the idea of God as
distinct from matter; Socrates, who establishes the principles of
morals! What lessons were these! Art, history, poetry, philosophy--all
take a sublime flight. There is no place for second-rate talent here.
The art that Athens honors most is the greatest of all
arts--architecture; her poetry is the drama--the highest expression of
poetic genius, for it unites all forms in itself, as architecture calls
all the other arts to its service. At this fortunate moment all is
great, the power of Athens as well as the genius of the eminent men who
guide the city and do it honor."

Such, in brief, is the picture of Athens in her greatest days, as drawn
by an eminent historian. The splendor and supremacy of the city in this
epoch were largely due to the constructive genius of one man--Pericles;
and if we study his private life to the end that we may discover the
formative influences which contributed to his greatness, we find that
the chief source of his inspiration was a woman--the Milesian Aspasia,
the most brilliant and cultured woman of classic times.

Aspasia ranks as one of the most remarkable women of all antiquity; and
her ascendency as one of the foremost of her sex is due to the fact that
she is the only woman whose name appears in the brilliant galaxy of the
Periclean age and that the greatest leaders in that coterie of great men
were glad to acknowledge their indebtedness to her for Instruction and
inspiration. She is the only woman prominent in the life of Athens of
whom much is known to us, and she has won for herself a place altogether
unique in the history of Greek womanhood.

She was the daughter of one Axiochus, and was born and reared in
Miletus, the most pleasure-loving and artistic of the cities of Asia
Minor. The story of her childhood and youth is a closed book, but we
know that she was carefully trained in rhetoric, music, and the fine
arts, and became the possessor of every feminine accomplishment. Her
preceptress is said to have been the celebrated Thargelia, also of
Miletus, who exerted her power for the Great King during the Persian War
and finally married one of the kings in Thessaly. How Aspasia was drawn
to Athens is not known, but the most probable theory is that she settled
there as a young and brilliant teacher of rhetoric, following the
precedent established by Anaxagoras in philosophy and by Protagoras and
other men in rhetoric, who found in Athens the most profitable field for
the exercise of their talents. Here Aspasia gathered about her all the
learned and accomplished men of Athens. She was no mere creature of
pleasure, who ministered to luxury and lust; but by her beauty and
culture she sought to draw to her the first men of the town, that she
might learn of them as they of her. "Nor was it long before it was
recognized that she enchained the souls of men by no mere arts of
deception of which she had learned the trick. Hers was a lofty and
richly endowed nature, with a perfect sense of the beautiful, and hers a
harmonious and felicitous development. For the first time, the treasures
of Hellenic culture were found in the possession of a woman, surrounded
by the grace of her womanhood, a phenomenon which all men looked upon
with eyes of wonder. She was able to converse with irresistible grace on
politics, philosophy, and art, so that the most serious Athenians, even
such men as Socrates, sought her out in order to listen to her

There could be nothing more natural than that when Pericles and Aspasia
met the soul of each should discover in the other its affinity, Pericles
was married to an Athenian kinswoman, but they did not find conjugal
life altogether congenial, and by mutual agreement their marriage ties
were dissolved and Pericles found for his wife another husband. He then
took Aspasia to his home and called her his wife. They could not wed,
for she was a foreigner, and their union in consequence lacked civil
sanction; yet it was a real marriage in all but in name, based on the
truest and tenderest affection, and dissolved only by death.

So remarkable was Pericles's devotion to Aspasia, that Plutarch records,
as an indication of its sincerity, that the great Athenian kissed
Aspasia upon going out in the morning and upon his return home--clearly
an unusual occurrence in Athenian homes, or it would not have seemed
worthy of mention. The possession of so rare a woman was doubtless in
many respects invaluable to the great statesman. Plutarch states that
the latter was first attracted to the Milesian by her wisdom and
political sagacity. Socrates, who confessed also his own indebtedness
to Aspasia, states that she was Pericles's teacher in the art of
rhetoric, and could even write his speeches. Pericles was a reserved
man, who devoted himself strictly to his official cares and refrained
from social intercourse with those about him. Hence he found in Aspasia
not only the delight of his leisure moments and a sympathizing friend
and counsellor hi his perplexities, but also the link that connected him
with the daily life about him. She knew how to be at ease in every kind
of society; how to keep informed of everything that took place in the
city that Pericles should know; how to keep in touch with the great
movements throughout Hellas and to make them contribute to the glory of
Athens: and in all these, and in many other respects, she proved of use
to him in his political life.

It is probable that Aspasia was still in her twenties when Pericles
first met her, while he himself was much older. She must have possessed
a fascinating personality which at once captivated the great statesman;
but, aside from her intellectual gifts, it is difficult in this day to
analyze her charm. There is no positive evidence that she was beautiful,
according to Greek standards, though this is the natural inference.
Ancient writers call her the good, the wise, the eloquent; they speak of
her "honey-colored" or golden hair, of her "silvery voice," of her
"small, high-arched foot," but no writer of the time has expressly said
that she was beautiful. In the museums of Europe, there are various
busts on which her name is inscribed, but they impress us rather by the
expression of earnest and deep thought, by the delicacy and distinction
of the features, than by mere beauty. Her charm lay, no doubt, rather in
her wisdom, her vivacity, her sweetness of utterance, than in perfection
of form and feature. Aspasia made the home of Pericles the first salon
that history has made known to us; and what woman ever gathered about
her a more brilliant coterie of friends? With Phidias and his group of
eminent artists, she talked of the embellishment of the Acropolis with
beautiful temples and statues; with Anaxagoras and Socrates, she
discussed the problems of philosophy and the narrow conservatism of the
Athenians; with Sophocles and Euripides, she conversed concerning the
works of the dramatists and the ideal women presented in their plays.
Herodotus, perhaps, was the inimitable story teller of this learned
circle, and the melancholy Thucydides dwelt on the dark tragedy
underlying human events; no doubt the satirical Aristophanes sometimes
attended, for the Platonic dialogues show us the social side of his
nature, and, while in his plays he scorns the philosophical set, he
found among them intellectual companionship; and the young and gay
Alcibiades was doubtless frequently present, talking with the hostess of
the latest events in the high life of the city, of betrothals and
marriages, of scandals and escapades.

One of the sons of Pericles scoffed at this circle of intellectual
lights, and made fun of their metaphysical speculations and learned
talk; but this merely indicates that such a salon was an innovation in
Athens, and, therefore, led to harsh criticism and unseemly gossip on
the part of those who could not appreciate its privileges. Music,
poetry, and wit relieved the serious discussion of politics, philosophy,
and literature. The salon of Aspasia must have been altogether decorous,
for many men broke the traditions of their fathers and brought their
wives to converse about wifely duties with the famous hetæra. She seems
to have thought earnestly and deeply on the duties and destiny of woman,
to have realized how contracted were the lives of Athenian women, and to
have wished to better their condition, Æschines, in one of his
dialogues, gives us in her conversation with Xenophon and his wife
Philesia a glimpse of her method.

"Tell me, Philesia," said Aspasia, "whether if your neighbor had a piece
of gold of more value than your own, you would not choose it before your
own?" "Yes," answered Philesia. "If she had a gown, or any of the female
ornaments, better than yours, would not you choose them rather than your
own?" "Yes," answered she. "But," said Aspasia, "if she had a husband of
more merit than your own, would not you choose the former?" Upon this,
Philesia blushed. Aspasia then addressed herself to Xenophon. "If your
neighbor, Xenophon, had a horse better than your own, would you not
choose him preferably to your own?" "Yes," answered he. "If he had an
estate or a farm of more value than your own, which would you choose?"
"The former," answered he; "that is, that which is of more value." "But
if his wife were better than your own, would not you choose your
neighbor's?" Xenophon was silent upon this question. Aspasia therefore
proceeded thus: "Since both of you, then, have refused to answer me in
that point only which I wanted you to satisfy me in, I will tell you
myself what you both think: you, Philesia, would have the best of
husbands, and you, Xenophon, the best of wives. And, therefore, if you
do not endeavor that there be not a better husband and wife in the world
than yourselves, you will always be wishing for that which you shall
think best: you, Xenophon, will wish you might be married to the best of
wives, and Philesia, that she might have the best of husbands."

Thus this brilliant and withal domestic woman would counsel women to be
the best of wives, and men the most considerate of husbands, that each
might find in the joys of home and in conjugal harmony their greatest
felicity. Doubtless many a wife went away from her with higher
conceptions of wifely duty than custom had taught her, and sought to
make her home a more congenial retreat for her husband. Many, however,
looked askance at these gatherings of men and women and could see
nothing but evil in their violations of custom. Husbands, too, saw in
these novel proceedings dangerous tendencies; for if their wives became
emancipated, there would be a limit to their own pleasant indulgences.
It was Aspasia who preeminently labored to this end. The status of woman
at Athens was far from ideal, and the need tor reform was great; and if
we endeavor to discover who was chiefly responsible for the agitation
which had for its purpose the emancipation of woman from the thraldom in
which she was held, we find that it was the wise and far-seeing Aspasia.

Owing to the intellectual awakening at Athens during the Periclean Age
and the influx of new ideas from the various Hellenic countries, a
liberal party had arisen in the city, chiefly under the leadership of
Pericles and Anaxagoras--a radical party, headed by men of culture and
science, who taught that knowledge was power, who despised the
established religion, and who set at naught the domestic manners of the
day by seeking to elevate woman. Socrates, also, was heartily in
sympathy with the objects of this party, as was the dramatist Euripides.
On the other side were the ultra-conservatives, of whom Cimon and
Aristophanes were representatives. The latter frequently made Pericles,
Aspasia, Socrates, and Euripides the subjects of his satire. These
Tories of the day saw in the tenets of the new party the subversion of
all the principles of the old democracy, and they fought most bitterly
to preserve established institutions. Toward the close of Xenophon's
treatise on _Domestic Economy_, Critobulus, who has been impressed by
the story of Ischomachus, wishes to learn how he too, may educate his
young wife, and Socrates advises him to consult with Aspasia. The
profound deference in which she was held by all the philosophers is a
further indication that from her they had derived many of their advanced
ideas regarding the relations of the sexes. Hence while positive
evidence is lacking, incidental touches and sidelights on the Woman
Question point unerringly to the one great woman of ancient Athens as
the originator of the first movement for the emancipation of woman
recorded in history.

As Aspasia, through her intercourse with the great, had attained
unbounded influence in the State, and as her circle was the exponent of
the ideas which offended the conventional spirit, it was natural that
she should be involved in the storm of criticism that befell the leaders
of thought. As a woman who had stepped out of the beaten track of
womanhood, she was made the subject of the coarsest slanders. She was
called the Hera to this Zeus, Pericles, the Omphale, the Deianira of the
Heracles of the day; her girl friends and pupils, who enjoyed the same
liberty she claimed for herself, were most violently defamed; she was
said to have induced, for the basest of reasons, Pericles to bring on
the Peloponnesian and Samian wars. The comic poets, as the chief organs
of the opposition, engaged in this most merciless and unjust tirade
against the party of the philosophers. None of their charges, however,
can be said to have had any basis in fact, and all may easily be
accounted for when the envy and hatred of the ignorant toward the
beautiful and accomplished and independent woman is taken into
consideration. In the Athens of the fifth century before our era, when
people were just beginning to break away from the narrow conservatism
of centuries, a woman who enjoyed an unheard-of degree of liberty, and
because of her talents was regarded with admiration by the greatest men
of the city, might well be the target for the grossest abuse. A vicious
woman would be the last to undertake, as did Aspasia, the study of
philosophy, which, with Socrates, was the study of virtue.

The party of the philosophers suffered for their opinions, Phidias was
accused of theft, and died in prison; Anaxagoras, to escape the charges
against him, went into voluntary exile; and Aspasia was brought to trial
on a charge of impiety, which merely meant that she, as others of her
circle, set at naught the polytheism of the multitude, and recognized
but one creative mind in the government of the universe, an accusation
under which Socrates later suffered martyrdom. She was brought before
the judges, and Pericles pleaded her cause. Plutarch says that he
pleaded with tears; and as the people could not resist the emotion of
their great leader, she was acquitted.

Perides's last days were passed in the gloom of the outbreak of the
Peloponnesian War, of the plague that depopulated the city, and of the
discontent of his beloved people. No brilliant sun ever had a more
gloomy setting. Yet in his last moments his thoughts were of the two
beloved objects that had absorbed his tenderest affections. "Athens has
intrusted her greatness and Aspasia her happiness to me," Pericles said,
when dying; and there could be no stronger testimony to the purity of
Aspasia's character, to the influence of her life on his, to the role
she had played in that Golden Age of Athens.

Athens and Aspasia--these were linked in the thoughts of the dying
statesman; and as he made the one great, so he made the other immortal.
Had his life not been blessed with union with hers, had his temperament
not been sweetened by her companionship, had his policy not been moulded
partly by her counsel and her wisdom, had his taste not been made so
subtle and refined by communion with her artistic temperament, Athens
would not have been embellished by the works of art which have made that
city the unapproachable ruler in the domain of the spirit. Woman's
influence, where it has counted most, has always been a silent one, and
has worked through man. Is not Aspasia worthy of the laurel wreath for
the results of her life on "the city of the violet crown"?



For the proper understanding of the status of woman among the Greeks of
ancient times, it becomes necessary for the historian of Greek womanhood
to call attention to a conspicuous social phenomenon pervading the life
of all the nations of antiquity, but nowhere else so marked a feature of
the higher life as in the lands of Hellas--a phenomenon bringing about
social conditions that divided the female population of Greece into two
sharply distinguished classes: the citizen-woman and the courtesan or

This notable aspect of Greek life is due to the fact that the ancient
Hellene, as a rule, sought recreation and pleasure, not at the domestic
hearth, but in the society of clever women, who had not only cultivated
their physical charms, but had also trained their intellects and
sensibilities so as to become _virtuosi_ in all the arts of pleasure.
Their pleasing forms of intercourse, their light and vivacious
conversation, lent to association with them a peculiar seductiveness and

To designate this class of women in a manner which would distinguish
them from the citizen-women on the one hand and the debased prostitute
on the other, they were euphemistically called "hetæræ," or companions.
The term _hetæræ_ had been originally a most honorable one, and Sappho
had used it, in the highest and best sense, of her girl friends as
implying companions of like rank and interests. It is not known when it
was first used with sinister suggestion, but, like our word _mistress_,
it fell from its honorable estate and became the usual term to describe
these women of pleasure.

The causes of the extent of hetairism among the Greeks are to be found
in their religious conceptions, their political institutions, and the
innate sensualism of the Greek peoples.

The Greeks were worshippers of the productive forces of nature as
manifested in animal and plant life. Aphrodite is the female and
Dionysius the male personification of the generative principles, and in
consequence the religious ceremonials of these two deities assumed at
times a most licentious aspect. In course of time, a distinction arose
in the conception of Aphrodite, expressed by the surname applied to her.
Thus Aphrodite Urania came to be generally regarded as the goddess of
the highest love, especially of wedded love and fruitfulness, in
contrast to Aphrodite Pandemus, the goddess of sensual lust and the
patron deity of courtesans.

We could hardly expect high moral ideas in regard to sexual relations
among the Greeks, whose deities were so lax. Zeus himself was given to
illicit intercourse with mortal maidens and was continually arousing the
jealousy of his prudent wife, the Lady Hera. Aphrodite was not faithful
to her liege lord, Hephæstus, but was given to escapades with the
warlike Ares. Apollo had his mortal loves, and Hades abducted the
beautiful Proserpina. A people who from their childhood were taught such
stories could hardly be expected to be more moral than their deities.

As has been shown in a previous chapter, the Greek conception of the
city-state lay at the basis of laws and customs which repressed the
citizen-woman and prevented proper attention to her education and to
the full and well-rounded cultivation of womanly graces. The State
hedged itself about with the most rigid safeguards to preserve the
purity of the citizen blood. Stringent laws were passed prohibiting any
citizen-man from marrying a stranger-woman, or any stranger-man from
marrying a citizen-woman. To enforce these laws, it was necessary to
keep the wives and daughters of the State within the narrow bounds of
the gynæceum; and they were forbidden a knowledge of public affairs,
which would make them more interesting to men. Hence the limitations of
their culture made it impossible for them to be in every sense the
companions of their husbands. But it is not natural for men to be
deprived of the sympathy and inspiration that is found in association
with cultivated women; hence there was, especially in Athens, a peculiar
sphere for the cultivated hetæra. The men of the city recognized the
need of feminine society in their recreations, in their political life,
and on military expeditions. The hetæra entered this sphere, from which
the citizen-woman was excluded.

A further reason for the predominance of hetairism is seen in the
artistic impulses of the Greek people. These courtesans made an art of
the life of pleasure. Cultivating every feminine grace, carefully
attentive to all the little niceties of social intercourse, studying in
every way how to be agreeable to the men, adepts in conversation,
devotees of the Muses and the Graces, they knew how to make their
relations with men answer to all the impulses of a beauty-loving people.
And as the Greeks found æsthetic satisfaction in their masterpieces of
prose and poetry, in their works of architecture and sculpture and
painting, so they found it in their association with the hetæræ.

Owing to such conditions, there arose a most unnatural division of the
admitted functions of woman in the world-order. Says the great orator
Demosthenes: "We take a hetæra for our pleasure, a concubine for daily
attention to our physical wants, a wife to give us legitimate children
and a respected house"--an utterance narrowly defining the status of the
hetæra as contrasted with that of the honorable wife. The latter was the
housewife and mother, nothing more, though surrounded by all the
dignities and privileges of her high station; the former was the
companion, the comrade in whose society were found recreation and
sympathy and intellectual delight, but she was outside the pale of
society, not respected, yet not altogether despised.

It is difficult to ascertain the beginnings of hetairism among the
Greeks. There is a noteworthy absence of it in the Homeric poems, though
the Greek chieftains frequently had concubines, who were slaves captured
in war.

Allusions in the lyric poets show that as early as the sixth century
before our era the hetæra had made her appearance. The earliest
reference to the social evil in the history of Athens is found in the
administration of the lawgiver Solon, who was the first to legalize
prostitution. With the avowed purpose of forestalling the seduction of
virgins and wives, he bought slave girls in the markets of Asia Minor
and placed them in public houses in Athens. This regulation for the
protection of the home was generally regarded as deserving of praise.
Thus speaks the comic poet Philemon:

      "But you did well for every man, O Solon:
      For they do say you were the first to see
      The justice of a public-spirited measure,
      The saviour of the State (and it is fit
      For me to utter this avowal, Solon);
      You, seeing that the State was full of men,
      Young, and possessed of all the natural appetites,
      And wandering in their lusts where they'd no business.

      Bought women and in certain spots did place them,
      Common to be and ready for all comers.
      They naked stood: look well at them, my youth,--
      Do not deceive yourself; aren't you well off?
      You're ready, so are they: the door is open--
      The price an obol: enter straight--there's
      No nonsense here, no cheat or trickery;
      But do just what you like, how you like.
      You're off: wish her good-bye; she's no more claim on you."

In the early days antedating the Persian War, before the Athenians had
been corrupted by power and by extensive intercourse with the outside
world, it was regarded as shameful for a married man to associate with a
hetæra. When the husband was guilty of such conduct, the insulted wife
could obtain a decree of separation, which involved the return to the
wife's family of the full dowry, while the enmity of the wife's kindred
was visited upon the unfaithful husband. During the Golden Age of
Pericles, however, Athens departed from her earlier simplicity, and the
increase of wealth and the influx of foreigners swept away the
old-fashioned standards of morality. The influence of Pericles and
Aspasia on smaller minds seems to have been unfortunate. Reverential
regard for the marriage bond became a thing of the past, and hetairism
became the common practice. Almost all the great men of Athens had
relations with hetærsæ; the young men gave themselves up to the life of
pleasure; and with the disruption of family ties began the downfall of
the State.

In Corinth, hetairism was invested with all the sanctity of religion,
and these votaries of pleasure enjoyed a distinction accorded them in no
other Greek city. When Xerxes was advancing against Hellas with his vast
armament, the courtesans of Corinth betook themselves in solemn
procession to the temple of Aphrodite, the patron deity of the city, and
implored her aid for the preservation of the fatherland, dedicating
their services to her in return for a favorable answer to their prayers,
and vowing to reward with their unpurchased embraces the victorious
warriors upon their return. The goddess was supposed to have heard their
petitions, and out of gratitude the Corinthians dedicated to Aphrodite a
painting, in which were represented various hetaerae who had supplicated
the goddess, while beneath were inscribed the following verses of

      "These damsels, in behalf of Greece, and all
      Their gallant countrymen, stood nobly forth,
      Praying to Venus, the all-powerful goddess;
      Nor was the queen of beauty willing ever
      To leave the citadel of Greece to fall
      Beneath the arrows of the unwarlike Persians."

Private individuals frequently vowed, upon the fortunate issue of some
undertaking, to dedicate to the goddess of love a certain number of
hetæræ. These votaries of Aphrodite were called _hierodulæ_, or temple
attendants. Pindar in his immortal verses thus describes them:

      "O hospitable damsels, fairest train
      Of soft Persuasion,--
      Ornament of the wealthy Corinth,
      Bearing in willing hands the golden drops
      That from the frankincense distil, and flying
      To the fair mother of the Loves,
      Who dwelleth in the sky,
      The lovely Venus,--you do bring to us
      Comfort and hope in danger, that we may
      Hereafter, in the delicate beds of Love,
      Reap the long-wished-for fruits of joy
      Lovely and necessary to all mortal men."

Strabo states that there were over a thousand _hierodulæ_ in the Corinth
of his day. Because of the enormous number of such damsels and of the
respect which was accorded them, Corinth became the most noted hetæra
city. Here dwelt the wealthiest and most beautiful hetæræ. As the most
important commercial centre of Greece, the city was the abiding place of
wealthy merchants and travellers; these fell victims to the voluptuous
and licentious life of the place, and the vast fortunes accumulated by
the professional courtesans were acquired by the ruin of many a
merchant. The expression "Corinthian maiden" denoted the acme of
voluptuousness, and to "Corinthianize" became synonymous with leading
the most dissolute life.

In other prominent commercial centres of Hellas and of the Greek
colonies hetairism also flourished. Piræus, the harbor of Athens, had
its demi-monde quarter, and the number of courtesans in Athens and its
harbor town was only surpassed by that of Corinth.

The inland cities were much more moral in this regard. From Sparta, in
its best days, hetæræ were rigidly excluded. Plutarch records a saying
of the Spartans, that when Aphrodite passed over the Eurotas River she
put off her gewgaws and female ornaments, and for the sake of Lycurgus
armed herself with shield and spear. This _Venus armata_ of the
Spartans, as well as their sturdy morals, forbade the presence of the
seductive strangers in their midst; but Ares was ever susceptible to
Aphrodite, and the Spartan warrior, when located in the voluptuous
Ionian cities, frequently forgot his early training, and fell a victim
to his environment.

There were in Athens, in the fifth and fourth centuries, four classes of
hetæræ, graded according to political standing. The first and lowest
class was that of the public prostitute--slaves bought by the State for
the public houses, which were taxed for the benefit of the city and were
under the supervision of city inspectors. These unfortunate women were
gathered from the slave markets of Samos, Lesbos, Cyprus, and the
Ionian cities, where every year large numbers of wretched human beings,
who had been torn from their homes, usually as a result of war, were
exposed for sale. These included many young girls who had been taken
captive in the sacking of cities or had been stolen from their homes by
the fiends in human form who made it a business to secure maidens of
promising beauty or charm for the bawdy houses of the Greek cities. From
these markets, too, came usually the hetæræ of the second class, who
were likewise slaves, but were the property of panders or procuresses,
who bought girls of tender age and educated them for the sake of the
wealth to be acquired from traffic in lust. Aged and faded hetæræ, who
had passed their lives in gross licentiousness and had finally lost
their hold on the public, especially devoted themselves to this horrible
trade. They owned their own houses, and had in conjunction with them
regular schools or institutes for the training of hetæræ. In these
institutes the girls were trained in physical culture, in music and
dancing, and frequently in all the branches of learning that were
popular at the time. They became experts in all the arts of pleasure,
and were offered every advantage that would make them pleasing to men.
From these institutes often emerged young women who played an important
role in the social and intellectual life of the day, as Leontium,
Gnathæna, Pythionice, and others. The names of certain of these
establishments are preserved, as those of Nicarete, of Bacchis, and of
the Thracian Sinope, who removed her institute from Ægina to Athens.
Girls in such establishments remained at all times in the relation of
slaves, and were compelled always to surrender to the mistresses or the
panders the funds they collected from the sale of their favors. As young
girls they acted as musicians or dancers at the banquets of the men,
and as they developed into womanhood they entered upon their careers as
regular courtesans. Often they were hired out for a considerable time;
or if a good purchaser presented himself, they were sold outright, and
lived as the kept mistress of a single lover. From him they usually
obtained their freedom, in time, either as a mark of favor, or as the
readiest means of ridding himself of a burden when the lover had wearied
of the hetæra's charm.

Slave girls who obtained their freedom belonged to the third and most
numerous hetæra class; they lived on a fully independent footing, and
conducted their business on their own account. This class attached
themselves especially to young and inexperienced men, preferably to
youths who were still under parental control. They frequented the
schools of rhetoricians and philosophers and the studios of artists, and
sought in every way possible to make themselves interesting and
indispensable to men. The _jeunesse dorée_ of the day found in
association with these young and beautiful and independent damsels their
especial delight. At the banquets and drinking bouts of the young men,
they were invited to take part; and the gay and frivolous youths would
assemble in numbers at their houses, or take them on pleasure trips in
the suburbs of the city, and would frequently engage in serenades and
torchlight processions in their honor. Such a life was full of pitfalls
for the young men, and they frequently brought down on themselves the
rage of parents for their intercourse with these sirens. The avarice and
greed of women of this class was such that they led their lovers into
every form of deceit to obtain for them money and presents. To purloin
and sell a mother's jewels and to contract debts in a father's name were
frequent devices to which youths resorted whose parents kept a tight
hold on the purse strings. These heroines of the demi-monde also sought
to draw their lovers away from serious pursuits. Lucian, in his
_Dialogues of Courtesans_, recounts an interesting conversation between
two hetæræ, Chelidonion [Little Swallow] and Drosis [Dewdrop], about a
youth whom his father had suddenly checked in his wild career and placed
in the hands of a wise and artful tutor, to the end that he might be
drawn away from his wild associations and given instruction in

The fourth and most elevated hetæra class was that of freeborn women,
who were attracted to this calling because of dissatisfaction with the
restraint of home and longing for the ease and independent life which it
seemed to offer. Frequently, the daughters of citizens, through the
poverty or greed of their parents, or their own wilfulness, were driven
to a life of shame. Usually, they changed their names, to bring
forgetfulness of their former standing, and they sought by outward
splendor to make up for the loss of virtue. To us in this day such a
change seems most disgraceful; but to the Greeks it appeared to be in
many instances nothing more serious than a change of patron goddess.
Thus the maiden transferred herself from the protection of one of the
austere virgin goddesses, Artemis and Athena, to that of the gracious
and seductive Paphian goddess; or the widow, who with the death of her
husband had lost her means of subsistence, would renounce Hera, the
goddess of wedded love, for the frivolous and light-minded Aphrodite.
This transfer was usually accompanied with solemn religious ceremonies,
Greek epigrammatists frequently give us a poetical treatment of such
life histories, and we thereby gain glimpses into the woes of many a
feminine heart; thus we have a pathetic genre picture of a maiden, who,
weary of the spindle and the service of Athena, betakes herself to the
patron goddess of the hetæræ and pledges to her for her protection a
tithe of all her earnings in her new calling.

The giving of votive offerings to Aphrodite for successes and rich gains
in their dealings with men was a customary act of "pious" hetæræ. Toilet
articles which enhance beauty, and costly gifts, such as statues, were
frequently dedicated to the goddess. The hetæræ who followed in the wake
of the Athenian army led by Pericles to Samos built a temple to
Aphrodite from the tithes of their gains. This giving of votive
offerings is frequently the subject of Greek epigrams.

The daughters or widows of citizens constituted but the smaller number
of hetæræ of this class. The larger number were stranger-women, chiefly
from Ionia, who came to Athens, attracted by its prominence in politics
and the arts, that they might play their role on a larger and more
brilliant stage. In the various cities of Asia Minor, there were groups
of freeborn women who had broken away from the conventional bonds and
had devoted themselves to intellectual and artistic pursuits and to the
cultivation of every personal grace and charm. It was natural that they
and others like them from other parts of Hellas should flock to Athens.
Such women, though they were politically only resident aliens, were
granted great freedom and had the benefit of all the intellectual
advantages the city afforded. Marriage was the only political sin these
beautiful and cultivated strangers could commit; they might do anything
else that they liked. Hence they entered into relations with citizens as
"companions," and soon became an important factor in the social life of
the day. Bringing with them from their homes all the attractions and
graces that attended the service of the Muses, they undoubtedly
exercised a beneficial influence on the social customs and manners, but
they also contributed much to the general demoralization of the Athenian

From the number of these women of foreign birth came the most beautiful
and distinguished, as also the most selfish and proud, representatives
of the hetæra class. Through their beauty and the outward splendor of
their station they posed as veritable priestesses of Aphrodite, while
through their intellectual brilliancy and their social charms they
exercised a great influence over the daily life of the Athenians.

To this class belonged the celebrated "daughters of the people," for
whose favor the most prominent and dignified men of the State became
suppliants. As Propertius sang of Lais, they could literally boast that
"all Hellas lay before their doors." Among these hetæræ we see the high
life of the day on a most brilliant scale. Their dwellings were most
sumptuous in their appointments; the walls were painted in frescoes,
pieces of statuary and rich tapestries embellished their apartments,
while the grounds about their houses were laid off with flower beds and
beautiful fountains. Their apparel was of the richest fabrics and was
made up in the most fashionable styles. They possessed numberless jewels
and ornaments of enormous value. They never appeared in public without
an imposing cortége of female slaves and eunuchs. Much of the etiquette
of the courts of princes was maintained in their establishments.

To keep up this elaborate state, they sold their favors at almost
shameless prices. Thus the elder Lais, Gnathæna, and Phryne were
celebrated for their incredible demands. There is a story that the
orator Demosthenes made a trip to Corinth and paid ten thousand drachmæ
for a single evening with the younger Lais. As has been intimated,
Corinth possessed the most voluptuous, Athens the most highly cultivated
hetæræ. The excessive charges of "the Corinthian maiden" gave occasion
for the proverb: "Not every man can journey to Corinth." Not only the
celebrated beauties made such exorbitant demands, but even the ordinary
courtesans asked prices which forbade to men of moderate means
intercourse with them.

Beauty and wealth were the factors which determined the social status of
the hetæræ, and with the fading of beauty and the squandering of their
gains many celebrated hetæræ fell from the highest to the lowest

The principal classification of the queens of the demi-monde, however,
was into "domestic" and "learned" hetæræ. The former attracted chiefly
by their beauty and their social grace; the latter, by their native wit,
their vivacity, and their intellectual endowments. These gifted women
entered into intimate relations with the philosophers and rhetoricians
of the day; they visited the lecture halls, devoted themselves to
earnest study, and carried on their prostitution under the protection of
philosophy. They allied themselves with the various philosophical
schools, and by their manner of bestowing their favors sought to advance
the interests of the sect they espoused.

They found, too, in the pursuit of philosophy the justification of their
calling. The hetæræ of the Academy claimed that they were merely putting
into practice Plato's doctrine of the community of women. The followers
of the Cyrenaic school, with its doctrine of moderation in the pursuit
of pleasure, maintained that they carried out the maxims of Aristippus
in their pursuit of the joys of love. The female adherents of the
Cynics, or "the Bitches," as they were called, sought to surpass one
another in taking the beasts as models of imitation. The Dialecticians
found in their system the widest range for feminine cleverness of
speech, and defended hetairism with the greatest subtlety and the most
ingenious sophism. The feminine Epicureans saw in the teachings of their
school, with its doctrine of friendship and of the broadest cultivation
of the sensibilities, the fullest justification for the pursuit of
sexual enjoyment, and they sought to illustrate the greatest
voluptuousness and refinement in their methods of gratifying animal

The hetæræ of the various schools surpassed the men in their imitation
of the jargon and the manners of the leading lights of their systems.
Many of the philosophers yielded themselves readily to the seductions of
their beautiful and clever adherents; yet there were some choice spirits
who deplored the demoralizing tendencies which hetairism brought into
serious pursuits, and protested in no uncertain language.

These philosopher-hetæræ were indisputably the most interesting
phenomenon in the social life of ancient times, to which the later Greek
world and modern times afford no adequate parallel. They were present
always at theatrical exhibitions and on all public occasions when
respectable women remained at home. They took an absorbing interest in
politics and in all public affairs; they discussed with the citizens the
burning questions of the day; they criticised the acts of statesmen, the
speeches of orators, the dramas of the poets, the productions of
painters and sculptors. They exerted, in a word, an enormous influence
for good or ill on the social and political life of the day; while they
themselves had the consciousness of a mission to perform in having in
their hands the real power of their sex.

Almost every great man in Athens had his "companion," usually in
addition to a lawful wife. Plato had Archeanassa, to whom he wrote
sonnets; but we know not what were her attractions. "For dear to me
Theoris is," sings Sophocles; and we should like to know more of
Archippa, to whom he left his fortune. Aristotle had his Herpyllis, and
the eloquent Isocrates his Metaneira. Speusippus, Plato's successor,
found a "companion" in Lasthenia, and Epicurus in Leontium. It is
difficult to believe that all these for whom the learned men of the day
showed such regard were vicious women; in fact, some of them are
described as noble and high-minded.

      "She was a citizen, without a guardian
      Or any near relations, and her manner
      Pure, and on virtue's strictest model form'd,
      A genuine mistress [Greek: heraira]: for the rest of the crew
      Bring into disrepute, by their vile manner,
      A name which in itself has nothing wrong."

But if the careers of the learned hetæræ were influential, they did not
equal in brilliancy and power those of the more celebrated domestic
hetæræ. The vastness of the influence of this latter class is best shown
by naming the prominent rulers of various periods who were under the
domination of their "companions." We have in an earlier chapter called
attention to the work of Thargelia in moulding Persian sentiment before
the invasions of Darius and Xerxes, and to the influence of Aspasia
during the Periclean Age. Many later hetæræ played prominent roles in
the courts of princes and kings, and not infrequently enjoyed royal
honors, Leæna, Myrrhine, and Lamia were favorites of Demetrius the
Besieger, and the latter shared with him all except the throne. Thais,
for a time beloved of Alexander the Great, and at whose nod he set fire
to the palace of the Persian kings, later bore two sons and a daughter
to Ptolemy Soter, the first Macedonian king of Egypt. Pythionice and
Glycera were in high favor at the court of Harpalus. Hieronymus of
Syracuse elevated a beautiful prostitute named Pytho from the bawdy
house to his palace and throne. Ptolemy Philadelphus was celebrated for
the number of his mistresses, among them being a Didyma, a Blistyche, a
Stratonice, a Myrtion. Ptolemy Philopator was under the degrading
influence of an Agathoclea, daughter of the procuress Oenanthe, both of
whom, in the trenchant phrase of Plutarch, trod diadems under their feet
and were finally murdered by the Alexandrian mob.

Some hetæræ inspired such regard that they were honored with public
monuments. The first instance of this in Athens was in the case of
Leæna, who, after the murder of the tyrant Hipparchus, bit out her
tongue rather than reveal the accomplices of her lover, Aristogiton. The
Athenians at this early date felt a reluctance to erect a statue
representing a hetæra, but they placed on the Acropolis a bronze lioness
to commemorate perpetually the name of Leæna, and to preserve the memory
of her noble deed. In honor of Phryne there was a marble statue at
Thespian sculptured by Praxiteles, as well as another of gold at Delphi.
In Sparta, in her degenerate days, there was a monument to the
celebrated hetæra Cottine. There were also famous statues of Lais,
Glycera, Pythionice, Neæra, Clino, Blistyche, Stratonice, and other
women of pleasure. To Lamia, the renowned flute player, and to her
rival, Leæna of Corinth, favorites of Demetrius the Besieger, the
servile Athenians erected temples, in which they were revered as
goddesses. There was also in Athens a most beautiful and costly tomb in
honor of Pythionice, erected by the Macedonian governor Harpalus,
described by Pausanias as "the best worth seeing of all ancient tombs."
Such are instances of the tributes offered by the beauty-loving Greeks
to these beautiful but light-minded women, who were regarded as
incarnations, as it were, of the goddess Aphrodite herself.

      "'Tis not for nothing that where'er we go
      We find a temple of hetæræ there,
      But nowhere one to any wedded wife,"

sings one of the poets of the Anthology.

The characteristic traits of these reigning queens of the demi-monde
were in almost all cases the same. The principal attributes of their
characters were selfishness and greed. With all their outward good
nature and apparent warmth of disposition, they were at all times
"marble-hearted," cold, incapable of any noble emotion, and impervious
to the stirrings of true love. There are a few exceptional cases of
self-sacrificing devotion, as of Leæna, and of Timandra, who stood by
Alcibiades in all his misfortune, but their exceeding rarity proves the
rule. A few were of good character and were faithful to the relations
which they had formed; many were merely fair and frail; while most of
them descended to the lowest depths of corruption and depravity. While
the deportment of those hetæræ who cultivated every womanly charm
presents much that is attractive, yet their manner of life has been
aptly compared to baskets of noxious weeds and garbage, covered over
with roses. Extravagance, debauchery, and dissolute habits were sure to
work out in time the attendant ills of wretchedness, destitution, and
penury. Realizing that for them there was possible no such thing as true
love and domestic happiness, they became rapacious and vindictive,
cynical and ill-tempered. Nothing could be mare fearful than the
pictures which the comic poets and satirists draw of some of these
women; Anaxilas, for example, thus describes them as a class:

      "The man whoe'er has loved a courtesan,
      Will say that no more lawless, worthless race
      Can anywhere be found: for what ferocious,
      Unsociable she-dragon, what Chimæra,
      Though it breathe fire from its mouth, what Charybdis,
      What three-headed Scylla, dog o' the sea,
      Or hydra, sphynx, or raging lioness,
      Or viper, or winged harpy (greedy race),
      Could go beyond those most accursed harlots?
      There is no monster greater. They alone
      Surpass all other evils put together."

Their outward behavior and manner were characterized by great elegance.
One comic poet remarks that they took their food most delicately and not
like the citizen-women, who "stuffed their cheeks and tore off the
meat." Their speech, however, was unrestrained, and they delighted in
indelicate witticisms and _doubles entendres_. Machon made a collection
of the witty remarks of the most celebrated hetæræ, in his book of
anecdotes. In Athenæus we also have specimens of their witticisms.
Sinope of Ægina was particularly famous for her coarse wit, and had many
clever encounters with the brilliant men of her day. To preserve or to
enhance their natural beauty, the hetæræ were given to the use of
cosmetics. Eubulus, in a fragment, thus represents a citizen-woman
reviling the much-hated class:

      "By Jove, we are not painted with vermilion,
      Nor with dark mulberry juice, as you are often:
      And then, if in the summer you go out,
      Two rivulets of dark, discolored hue
      Flow from your eyes, and sweat drops from your jaws
      And makes a scarlet furrow down your neck,
      And the light hair which wantons o'er your face
      Seems gray, so thickly is it plastered o'er."

The secret mysteries of hetairism, which were celebrated chiefly by the
Lesbian and Samlan hetæræ and which occasioned a hetasra literature,
prepared in part by such members of the craft as Philænis, Elephantine,
Niko, and others, constitute an important aspect of our subject, which
must be briefly noticed. Suffice it to say that the women of pleasure of
Lesbos and Samos excelled in the invention and practice of shameful,
unnatural arts, and that the lasciviousness of the Lesbian courtesans
led to the loathsome form of lust known as "Lesbian love," which has
become proverbial.

Plutarch expressly distinguishes from the hetæræ a class known as
"emancipated women," whose preeminent virtue, however, was certainly not
modesty. To this class belonged many of the flower girls, wreath
weavers, painters' and sculptors' models, who earned a living by means
of their good looks, though they did not follow a life of shame. The
best known representative of this class was Glycera, whom Goethe has
immortalized. She was a native of Sicyon, and supported herself by the
sale of flower wreaths, which she knew how to make most artistically,
for use at banquets, funerals, and for adornment of the door of one's
sweetheart. The painter Pausias, likewise a native of Sicyon, loved her
passionately and used to enter into competition with her, whether she
could wreathe flowers more artistically than he himself could paint
them. He painted a portrait which represented her seated with a flower
wreath; it was so excellent that the Roman general Lucullus, after the
Mithridatic War, when he was making a collection of statues and
paintings, paid two talents for a copy.

It is not strange that many of the hetæræ, noted for their superlative
beauty and for their cultivation of art and literature and the
refinements of life, should attain historical celebrity and, as
heroines of the demi-monde, should influence for weal or woe the
destinies of Greece. We shall briefly notice important incidents in the
careers of a few of the members of this prominent class.

Gnathæna, daughter of the panderess Sinope, was one of the most
keen-witted and clever of Athenian hetæræ. She was noted for her happy
play on words. She also devised a set of rules for the conduct of
dinners and banquets, which lovers had to observe when they visited her
or her daughter, Gnathænion. In this she imitated the most cultured
hosts of Athens, and exhibited a regard for social forms which throws a
commendable light on the deportment of the more cultivated hetæræ.
Gnathænion, the daughter, was for some time the favorite of the comic
poet Diphilus, and he had many a brilliant passage of repartee with the
mother on the occasion of his visits to the daughter.

Melitta was another famous hetæræ, beloved for her beautiful figure and
voice as well as for her pleasing conversation and sprightliness. As
each of her lovers said, "the fair Melitta was his madness," she was
also called Mania. She was one of the many favorites of Demetrius the
Besieger. More celebrated, however, than Melitta as a favorite of
Demetrius was the beautiful Lamia, the most renowned flute player of
antiquity. She was the daughter of a prominent Athenian citizen, by name
Cleanor, and, choosing to follow the independent life of a hetæræ, she
made her native city the first scene of her exploits. From here she
journeyed to Alexandria, where by her art and her beauty she speedily
won recognition at the court of Ptolemy. Accompanying Ptolemy Soter in
his naval war against Antigonus and Demetrius, she fell a prisoner into
the hands of the latter. Although her youth and beauty were already on
the wane, she succeeded in captivating Demetrius, who was much younger
than herself, so that, as Plutarch states, he appeared to be actually
her lover, while with other women he was only the object of love. Lamia
ruled him completely and led him into many excesses. Thus he once
compelled the Athenians to collect for him at short notice two hundred
and fifty talents, and when it was finally brought to him he sent it
straightway to Lamia and her companions, "for pin money," Lamia herself
on one occasion exacted from the citizens an enormous sum of money to
prepare a magnificent banquet for Demetrius. This banquet, because of
the exorbitant expenses which it occasioned, was so extraordinarily
notorious that Lycurgus of Samos wrote a book about it. On this account,
a comic poet characterized Lamia as the true _Helepolis_, or city
destroyer, the name of one of the most famous engines of war of
Demetrius. Demetrius remained passionately enamored of her, even after
her beauty had faded. As a means of flattering Demetrius, the Athenians
erected altars to her, made propitiatory offerings, and celebrated her
festival. The Thebans went so far as to erect a temple in her honor, and
worshipped her as Aphrodite Lamia.

Pythionice, the favorite of Harpalus, the friend and confidant of
Alexander the Great, partook of honors which rivalled those of Lamia.
During the most brilliant period of Harpalus's career, Pythionice was
summoned to Babylon, where she shared his honors and bore the title of a
queen of Babylon. A letter from the historian Theopompus to Alexander is
extant, in which he speaks of the passionate devotion of Harpalus to his
favorite, and thus alludes to her: "To this Pythionice, a slave of the
flute player Bacchis, who in turn was a slave of the hetæra Sinope,
Harpalus erected two monuments, one at Athens and one at Babylon, at a
cost of more than two hundred talents, which seemed cheap to that
spend-thrift; and, in addition, he had a precinct and a sanctuary
dedicated to her, which he named the temple and altar of Aphrodite
Pythionice. She bore him a daughter, and died before the sudden change
which came in his fortunes."

Another favorite of Harpalus, and later of the celebrated deformed comic
poet Menander, was Glycera, the daughter of Thalassis. She was a native
of Athens, and passed most of her time in the company of littérateurs
and philosophers. The Megarian philosopher Stilpo once accused her, at a
banquet, of misleading the youth through her seductive art. She made the
reply: "Stilpo, we are in this under like condemnation. It is said of
you that you impart to your pupils profitless and eristic sophisms, of
me that I teach them erotic sophisms." Some of Glycera's letters to her
poet lover Menander, still extant, show how warm a sympathy existed
between the two, and how delicate a sentiment could characterize such a

One of the names of hetæræ famous in both ancient and modern times is
that of Lais, which belonged to two Greek women celebrated for their
extraordinary beauty, who are differentiated by being known as Lais the
Elder and Lais the Younger.

The elder and indisputably more famous of the two was the daughter of
that hetæra, Timandra, who remained faithful to Alcibiades in his evil
fortunes. As a seven-year-old maiden, Lais was taken captive by the
Athenians during the sack of her birthplace, Hyccara in Sicily, and was
brought as a slave to Corinth. Here she was early initiated into the
arts of gallantry and was given a thorough training in the culture of
the day.

The physical charms of Lais developed into a beauty rarely witnessed.
Her bosom was of such indescribable perfection that sculptors and
painters took it as a model in their creations of the ideal female
form. She was regarded as surpassing not only all her contemporaries,
but also all the famous beauties of earlier times; and later ages
regarded her as the prototype of womanly beauty, and delighted in giving
lengthy and minute descriptions of her charms, as, for example, that by
the sophist Aristænetus in the first of his fifty erotic epistles.

Soon after her first appearance, Lais was talked of, was celebrated, was
deified, in all Hellenic lands. It was considered good fortune, as a
Greek poet expressed it, that Lais, the most beautiful of her sex,
adopted the hetæra life; for were she not accessible to all, there would
have been in Greece a conflict comparable only to that over Argive

The reputation of her beauty occasioned in a short time a formidable
immigration to Corinth of the most wealthy and distinguished men, partly
to enjoy her favor, partly to gaze in wonder at her charms, and partly
to study this paragon of female beauty for imitation in works of art.
From the homage that she received, and especially the wealth that was
poured at her feet by her lovers, she was soon rendered so proud and
selfish that she secluded herself from all except the richest. Her proud
heart, however, was not entirely closed to emotions of love. She took a
fancy to the Cynic philosopher Diogenes, in spite of his filth and
brusqueness; and Ælian tells the story of her inclination for a young
athlete, Eubatas of Cyrene, who had come to Corinth for the games,
leaving behind a most beautiful and beloved wife. "When Lais became
acquainted with Eubatas of Cyrene," says Ælian, "she was so enamored of
him that she made a proposal of marriage. In order not to bring down on
himself the vengeance of the powerful hetæra, he became betrothed to
her, but yet continued to live a continent life. At the conclusion of
the games, he had to fulfil his promise. But after he had been declared
victor, in order to avoid the appearance of breaking faith with the
courtesan, he had a picture of Lais painted, and took it with him to
Cyrene, affirming that he had not broken his promise, but had brought
Lais home with him. As a reward for his fidelity, his virtuous wife in
Cyrene had a statue erected in his honor."

Aristippus, the founder of the Cyrenaic school of philosophy, tried in
vain to win the love of this beautiful hetæra, though, of all her
lovers, he passed the most time in her society, and on her lavished
considerable sums of money.

Lais gained much knowledge from intercourse with this learned
philosopher, so that she ranked not only as the most beautiful, but also
as one of the most brilliant women of her time. She allied herself with
the Cyrenaic school, whose system of philosophy appealed to her much
more naturally than did the gross system of her favorite, Diogenes, who
on his side sought in every way to win the celebrated beauty to
Cynicism. Lais had nothing but contempt, however, for the moral claims
of philosophy. "I do not understand," she said, "what is meant by the
austerity of philosophers; for they of this fine name are as much in my
power as the rest of the citizens."

The charms of Lais, though so unapproachable in their bloom, yet proved
transient, and pitiable was the metamorphosis which the brilliancy of
the famous beauty underwent with their fading. Wealthy admirers became
fewer and fewer, and finally they ceased to appear, and with them her
resources failed. The once proud beauty became the plaything of every
man. She sought to drown her sorrow in the wine cup--a practice
altogether too common among Greek women of disreputable life. At this
sad period of her career, Lais dedicated her mirror, as being an
unpleasant reminder of her lost beauty, to the goddess to whose service
she had devoted her life. In her later years, she followed the vile
trade of a procuress.

After her death, the Corinthians remembered what a reputation it had
given their city to be the abiding place of so famous a woman, and they
erected to her a mausoleum at Craneion, a cypress grove near the city,
on which a lioness tearing a kid in pieces symbolized the rapacity of
the deceased hetæra.

Lais the Younger was a contemporary of the orator Demosthenes and the
painter Apelles, and flourished nearly a century after her more
celebrated namesake. She too lived at Corinth, and was famous for her
beauty and her association with distinguished men. She was born out of
wedlock, and the names of both her father and mother are unknown. As she
grew up, a waif in the dissolute city, Apelles, the celebrated painter,
is said to have been the first to have noticed her budding beauty and to
have educated her. According to the prevailing tradition, Apelles saw
her when, as a young girl, she was drawing water from the fountain
Pirene, and was at once so captivated by her beauty that he took her
with him to a banquet whither he was going. When his friends jestingly
reproached him because, instead of bringing a hetæra, as was usual, he
had brought a child to the feast, he rejoined: "Be not surprised. I will
show her again to you before three years have passed; you can then see
how beautiful and vivacious she has become."

Before this period had passed, Lais became the most celebrated hetæra of
the city. Her name was on everyone's lips, in the baths, in the
theatres, and on the streets and public squares. Her fame spread
throughout Hellas, and the richest men of Hellas flocked to Corinth.
She was surpassed in the number and prominence of her lovers only by her
contemporary, Phryne of Athens.

When at the height of her triumph, this celebrated and petted hetæra,
"who inflamed all Hellas with love, and for whose favors two seas
contended," suddenly disappeared from the scene of her conquests. A
Thessalian, by name Hippolochus, had taught her the meaning of true
love. She fled with him from the company of her other lovers, and lived
in honorable marriage in Thessaly. Her beauty, however, caused a sad
ending to this pleasing romance. From envy and jealousy, the Thessalian
women enticed her into the temple of Aphrodite and there stoned her to
death. Some historians relate that she had many Thessalian lovers; this
aroused the jealousy of the women, and they took her life at a festival
of Aphrodite at which no men were present. After her murder, a
pestilence is said to have broken out in Thessaly, which did not end
until in expiation a temple had been erected to Aphrodite.

Phryne was the most beautiful woman of all antiquity. She was born at
Thespiæ in Boeotia, but flourished at Athens toward the latter part of
the fourth century before our era. The name Phryne belongs essentially
to the history of Greek art, for all her life was associated with the
activities of the most eminent painters and sculptors. In her youth she
was loved by the sculptor Praxiteles. Pausanias tells a story how "once
when Phryne asked for the most beautiful of his works, Praxiteles,
lover-like, promised to give it to her, but would not tell which he
thought the most beautiful. So a servant of Phryne ran in, declaring
that the sculptor's studio had caught fire, and that most, but not all,
of his works had perished. Praxiteles at once ran for the door,
protesting that all his labor was lost if the flames had reached the
_Satyr_ and the _Love_. But Phryne bade him stay and be of good cheer,
telling him that he had suffered no loss, but had only been entrapped
into saying which were the most beautiful of his works. So she chose the

Either this or a similar statue of Eros was dedicated by Phryne in
Thespiæ, the city of her birth. Later, Praxiteles made of her a statue
of gold, which was set up at Delphi between those of two kings. She also
served as his model for the celebrated Aphrodite of Cnidos, which Pliny
describes as "the finest statue, not only by Praxiteles, but in the
whole world." The inhabitants of Cnidos placed the image, which they
believed had been made under the direct inspiration of the goddess of
love herself, in a beautiful shrine surrounded by myrtle trees, so
arranged that the figure might be seen from many different points of
view; "and from all sides," adds Pliny, "it was equally admired." Hither
came Greeks from all parts of the world merely to behold the statue and
to worship at the shrine of the goddess. King Nicomedes of Bithynia, in
his eagerness to possess the statue, offered to pay for it the whole
public debt of the island, which was enormous; but the Cnidians
preferred to suffer anything rather than give up their treasure; and
with good reason, "for by that statue Praxiteles made Cnidos famous."
Writers of epigrams were fond of extolling the statue; and many of the
extant statues of Venus are but replicas or adaptations of this great
prototype, modelled after the form of Phryne. The most celebrated copy
of the Cnidian statue is in the Vatican, disfigured, however, by false
drapery. The statue gives us some idea of the superlative beauty of
Phryne. It is very pure, very unconscious of its charms, and captivates
the beholder by its simple grace and naturalness. Lucian, the æsthetic
critic, in the construction of his ideal statue selected for description
the head of the Aphrodite of Cnidos. He particularly admired the finely
pencilled telling him that he had suffered no loss, but had only been
entrapped into saying which were the most beautiful of his works. So she
chose the _Love_."

Either this or a similar statue of Eros was dedicated by Phryne in
Thespiæ, the city of her birth. Later, Praxiteles made of her a statue
of gold, which was set up at Delphi between those of two kings. She also
served as his model for the celebrated Aphrodite of Cnidos, which Pliny
describes as "the finest statue, not only by Praxiteles, but in the
whole world." The inhabitants of Cnidos placed the image, which they
believed had been made under the direct inspiration of the goddess of
love herself, in a beautiful shrine surrounded by myrtle trees, so
arranged that the figure might be seen from many different points of
view; "and from all sides," adds Pliny, "it was equally admired." Hither
came Greeks from all parts of the world merely to behold the statue and
to worship at the shrine of the goddess. King Nicomedes of Bithynia, in
his eagerness to possess the statue, offered to pay for it the whole
public debt of the island, which was enormous; but the Cnidians
preferred to suffer anything rather than give up their treasure; and
with good reason, "for by that statue Praxiteles made Cnidos famous."
Writers of epigrams were fond of extolling the statue; and many of the
extant statues of Venus are but replicas or adaptations of this great
prototype, modelled after the form of Phryne. The most celebrated copy
of the Cnidian statue is in the Vatican, disfigured, however, by false
drapery. The statue gives us some idea of the superlative beauty of
Phryne. It is very pure, very unconscious of its charms, and captivates
the beholder by its simple grace and naturalness. Lucian, the æsthetic
critic, in the construction of his ideal statue selected for description
the head of the Aphrodite of Cnidos. He particularly admired the finely
pencilled eyebrows and the melting gaze of the eyes, with their sweet,
joyous expression.

Phryne, with a modesty one would not expect in a woman of her class, was
very careful to keep her beautiful figure concealed, avoiding the public
baths and having her body always enveloped in a long and graceful tunic.
But on two occasions the beauty-loving Greeks had displayed to them the
charms of her person. The first was at the solemn assembly at Eleusis,
on the feast of the Poseidonia. Having loosened her beautiful hair and
let fall her drapery, Phryne plunged into the sea in the sight of all
the assembled Greeks. Apelles, the painter, transported with admiration
at the sight, retired at once to his studio and transferred to canvas
the mental image which was indelibly impressed upon his fancy; and the
resulting picture was the _Aphrodite Anadyomene_, the most celebrated of
his paintings.

The second exhibition was before the austere court of the Heliasts.
Phryne had been cited to appear before the tribunal on the charge of
profaning the Eleusinian mysteries, and Hyperides, the brilliant young
orator, was her advocate. Failing to move the judges by his arguments,
he tore the tunic from her bosom and revealed to them the perfection of
her figure. The judges, beholding as it were the goddess of love
incarnate, and moved by a superstitious fear, could not dare to condemn
to death "a prophetess and priestess of Aphrodite." They saw and they
pardoned, and, amid the applause of the people, Phryne was carried in
triumph to the temple of Aphrodite. To us in this day such a scene
appears highly theatrical, but Aphrodite is no longer esteemed among
men, and the Greek worship of beauty is something not understood in this
material age.

Phryne's life was by no means free from blame, and as the result of her
popularity she acquired great riches. She is said to have offered to
rebuild the walls of Thebes, which had been torn down by Alexander, on
condition that she might place on them the inscription: _Alexander
destroyed Thebes; but Phryne, the hetæra, rebuilt it;_ but the offer was
rejected, showing that though the times were corrupt, yet shame had not
altogether departed from men.

One cannot emphasize in too trenchant terms the demoralizing influences
of hetairism on the social life of the Greeks, or fail to see in the
gross immorality of the sexes one of the paramount causes of the
downfall of the Greek peoples.

Yet it is a truism that feminine shamelessness was most advantageous for
the arts of sculpture and painting. Sensuousness is close akin to
sensuality, and from their passion for these "priestesses of Aphrodite"
the Greek artists, without doubt, derived much of their inspiration,
while the opportunities which hetairism offered for the study of the
female form enabled Praxiteles and his contemporaries and successors to
produce masterpieces which equalled in idealism the works of æsthetic
art produced in the preceding century.

To become the ideal for the painter and the sculptor was the greatest
ambition of the beautiful and cultivated hetæra. In permitting the
artist to portray her charms she not only performed a lasting service
for art, but she also rendered herself celebrated and immortal. The fame
of her beauty was spread throughout all Hellenic lands, and the national
devotion to the goddess Aphrodite was at once extended to her earthly
counterpart. If she united intellectual brilliancy with beauty, fortune
at once cast its most precious gifts at her feet. The most celebrated
men of every city contested for her favors, poets made her the theme of
their verses, artists portrayed her charms with chisel and with brush,
and the wealthy filled her coffers with gold and precious stones.



Anyone who makes a careful perusal of the philosophical literature of
Athens in the fourth century before our era will be struck with the
amount of attention that has been paid to the question of the social and
domestic position of woman. If he trace the subject back, he will
observe that in the dramatic literature of the latter part of the
previous century the same problems received the consideration of
Euripides and Aristophanes. And the conviction will be forced upon him
that this agitation was rooted in a sociological movement of great
import, and that the dramatic and philosophical writers merely gave a
literary form to the debates which profoundly stirred Athenian society
in the fifth century.

This discussion of woman's rights is a subject of perennial interest,
and the underlying currents in such movements are usually the same in
every age. They take their rise, too, not in the efforts of
philanthropic men who recognize that the status of woman is not what it
should be, but in the efforts of the members of the sex themselves, who
are sufficiently intelligent to see that they, while having an abundant
share of the burdens, have not a fair share of the emoluments of life,
and consequently endeavor to better the conditions which environ
themselves and their sisters.

In this chapter we shall make a study of the dramatists and philosophers
of Athens, in so far as they give insight into the social life of the
city in its most important epoch, and outline what they contribute to
our knowledge of Greek woman and the ever-present Woman Question.

For the early part of this brilliant period we must rely on the ideal
pictures of tragedy for the higher side, and the ribald travesties of
comedy for the lower side of feminine life, Æschylus flourished just
before and during the glorious period following the Persian War,--the
good days before the influx of foreigners and the new education
corrupted the life and undermined the faith of the citizens. In his
seven extant plays he has presented to us only three feminine characters
of any importance,--Clytemnestra, Electra, and Cassandra,--all belonging
to the cycle of tragedies treating of the fate of King Agamemnon and his
royal house at Mycenæ. The dramatist's pictures of home life show his
high conception of the ability and the importance of women and of the
large part they play in human history. His Clytemnestra is a ruling
queen exercising all the functions of royalty, but her powerful nature
has been debased by grief and sin. She identifies herself with the
"ancient bitter Alastor," who visits on Agamemnon the curse of his
house. She is self-sufficingness, adamantine purpose, studied craft, and
cold disdain incarnate. With fulsome speech and consummate flattery she
welcomes her husband home; and when the deed is done and he lies dead by
her hand, in exultant tones she rejoices in the blood upon her robe as
"a cornfield in the dews of spring." Truly she is the most powerful
portrait of feminine guilt that dramatic literature affords us. Æschylus
drew his scenery and his characters largely from the conditions of the
Heroic Age as pictured by Homer, and was little affected by the current
of everyday life about him.

As Æschylus has given us Clytemnestra for an ideal type of feminine
power and wickedness, so Sophocles has presented two immortal heroines,
Antigone and Electra, who are statuesque in the beauty and grandeur of
their characters. In Antigone we observe two fundamental
qualities,--enthusiasm in the performance of duty, and intensity of
domestic affection, as seen in her efforts to reconcile her brothers,
Polynices and Eteocles, her desire to shield her sister Ismene, her
self-sacrifice for the sake of her brother Polynices, and her filial
devotion to her aged father. Electra also is an ideal type of sisterly
love. Ill-treated by her unnatural mother, abused by the cowardly and
brutal tyrant who had usurped her father's place, only one ray of hope
was left her, that her brother Orestes would return to avenge their
wrongs upon the guilty pair. When the deed is done, and Orestes is
pursued by the Furies, she proves herself a devoted and unselfish
sister. In these two characters we have sublime conceptions of heroic
devotion to duty, but the more human womanly traits have been lost in
the poet's delineation of them as the embodiment of lofty ideals.

Mahaffy finds in these two heroines something hard and masculine, traits
which would not stir the sympathies of the reader or hearer and lead to
emulation. He prefers Sophocles's Deianira and Tecmessa as being "truly
'female women,' as Homer would say, gentle and loving, not above
jealousy, and for that reason a finer and clearer contrast to the heroes
than are the coarser and more dominant heroines." ... "If these
criticisms be just," he adds, "they will show that, in the most perfect
and exclusive Athenian society--that is to say, among Thucydides's and
Sophocles's set, the ideal of female character had degenerated; that to
these men, whose affections were centred on very different objects, the
notion of a true heroine was no longer natural, but was supplanted by a
hard and masculine type. The old free, noble woman, whom Æschylus had,
in early days, still known, was banished from their city life to make
way for the domestic slave of the Attic household, called 'mistress,'
but as such contrasted with the 'companions,' who gradually supplanted
her in Athenian society."

The types of womanhood presented by Æschylus and Sophocles belonged to a
state of society which had passed away, and were too remote from the
life of their own day to be ideals for the daughters of Athens. These
dramatists did not touch upon the problems which were then engaging the
thoughts of enlightened men and women. There is nothing in Æschylus,
absorbed as he was in the problems of destiny, to show that he felt the
many weighty problems that confronted the social life of his time; and
the serene Sophocles gives no hint that the world about him was not the
best of all possible worlds. But how was it with the sombre and
melancholy Euripides? What insight does he give us into the social life
of the times?

There was a famous saying of Sophocles that "he himself represented men
as they ought to be--Euripides, men as they are." This means that
Euripides, while making the old legends the foundation of his tragedies,
attributed to his heroes and heroines the faults and passions of
ordinary men and women and utilized his plots to present the problems
which confronted society as he knew it. As a follower of Anaxagoras and
a member of the party of philosophers, he was dissatisfied with the
conditions of life about him, and endeavored, through his dramas, to
assist the movements for reform. He was, in many respects, a daring
innovator, and this explains the bitter hostility which Aristophanes,
the ultra-conservative, exhibited toward him. The glaring fault in
Athenian social life was the status of woman, and to the solution of
this problem Euripides bent all his energies. He used woman and the
moral conflicts originating through the relations of the sexes as a
_motif_ for his poetry, and the whole body of his plays is a commentary
on the Woman Question. He found in the portrayal of woman a new field
for his genius, as well as a new means of advocating an unpopular but
righteous cause.

Yet we are confronted by the prevailing opinion that Euripides was a
woman hater who utilized his tragedies to present his unfavorable
opinion of the sex. This view, presented by many modern writers, rests,
however, on false assumptions. To exhibit the low views of woman held by
the men of his day, the poet attributes to certain of his characters
condemnations of the sex as a whole; and these are taken to be
expressions of the personal opinion of the author. Thus Hippolytus
engages in a lengthy tirade beginning:

      "Why hast thou given a home beneath the sun,
       Zeus, unto woman, specious curse to man?"

[Illustration 232 _PHRYNE After the painting by Henry I. Siemiradsky.
Phryne, with a modesty one would not expect in a woman of her class, was
very careful to keep her beautiful figure concealed, avoiding the public
baths and having her body always enveloped in a long and graceful tunic.
But on two occasions the beauty-loving Greeks had displayed to them the
charms of her person. The fist was at the solemn assembly at Eleusis, on
the feast of the Poseidonia. Having loosened her beautiful hair and let
fall her drapery, Phryne plunged into the sea in the sight of all the
assembled Greeks._

_Phryne was of very humble origin, and originally obtained her
livelihood by gathering capers; but her beauty afterward gained great
wealth for her. At Delphi there was erected a statue in gold of her._]

But Hippolytus throughout is characterized as a pronounced misogynist,
and this and similar passages found their inspiration in the characters
and the situation and produce a well-defined dramatic effect.
Furthermore, while the poet's unfavorable opinions of women are
frequently cited out of their connection, his complimentary expressions
are lost sight of. In contrast to the harsh criticisms of men who vent
their spleen against those whom they have injured, or of women who find
fault with their sex where the dramatic purpose justifies the
expressions used, there can be cited passages in which maidenly modesty
and wifely fidelity are commended; or one might quote the deeply
emotional words of Admetus or Theseus concerning the joys of happy
married life, or the tender expressions which fathers, like Agamemnon,
utter in reference to their daughters. In the fragments also occur
passages friendly and unfriendly to woman, but, as these are without
their context, it is difficult to judge them fairly. Hence the
conclusion from a study of the dialogues of Euripides is that every
unfavorable judgment of woman finds its full justification in the
economy of the drama; nowhere is there convincing indication that the
poet himself had any hatred for the sex.

If we turn from the dialogues to the choruses, we may expect to find the
author's true opinions, and here occur no traces whatever of unfriendly
criticism. Male choruses sing of the unbounded happiness which is gained
in the possession of a good wife; female choruses sing of entrancing
love, of the blessings of a happy married life, while faithlessness and
sinful passion are condemned. They refer at times to evil report
concerning women, but always with indignation and in manifest effort to
correct a wrong judgment. Thus, for example, the chorus of the _Ion_:

      "Mark--ye whose strains of slander
         Scourge evermore
       Woman in song, and brand her
         Wanton and whore,--
       How high in virtue's place
       We pass men's lawless race,
         Nor spit in viper-lays your venom-store.
       But let the Muse of taunting
         On men's heads pour
       Her indignation, chanting
         Her treason-lore;
       Sing of the outraged maid;
       Tell of the wife betrayed
         Of him who hath displayed his false heart's core--"

The nature of the characters of Euripides is the most important of all
the testimony of the plays as evidence of the social life of Athens,
since the poet drew them from real life, and consequently his men and
his women are necessarily fair specimens of the men and women to be
found in Athenian society. It is noticeable that the men are, as a rule,
far inferior to the women, both in manners and in nobility of character,
and are not to be compared with the heroes of Æschylus and Sophocles.
Hippolytus is indeed a notable example of youthful purity; Pylades, of
unselfish friendship; Achilles, of courtly chivalry; Ion, of youthful
piety; Theseus, of devoted patriotism; and the peasant husband of
Electra, of knightly regard; but the majority of the male characters are
selfish, quarrelsome, and ordinary. How different do we find the case
when we consider the dramatist's women!

Differing from his countrymen in the conception of the character,
capabilities, and rights of woman, Euripides has in his plays presented
ideals of a womanhood which would give woman something higher to live
for than the drudgery of household duties, and would raise the sex in
the estimation of men. Heroism in everyday life is the lesson he
constantly teaches by the examples of such women as Alcestis, the
devoted wife and mother; as Polyxena, the brave martyr-maiden; as
Andromache, faithful in thraldom to the memory of her valiant husband;
as Macaria and Iphigenia, sacrificing themselves for the sake of a great
cause; and as Electra, the devoted sister. Nowhere can one find a longer
catalogue of noble women, not heroines of prehistoric days living in a
golden age, but women who in character and sentiments were like to those
met with every day in every community. Euripides's heart was burdened by
the sorrows and wrongs of the sex; and he combated the social system
which was at the root of the evil, not by violent assaults upon it, not
by seeking to overturn that which was the product of centuries and was
a natural result of the Greek idea of the city-state, but by showing
women how they could better their condition and by giving men more
exalted ideas of the nature of woman. Says Mr. Arthur S. Way, the
translator and ardent advocate of Euripides, who, of all Greek scholars,
has most profoundly and sympathetically investigated this question:

"Euripides set himself to appeal to human hearts as he found them, to
exalt men's estimate of woman, to redeem women from despair of
themselves, by uplifting before them inspiring ideals of womanhood which
might be types and examples for all time. And, first, he gave them those
transcendent four--who in the union of the sweetness and lovable
gentleness of the pure womanly with the magnificent exaltation of the
highest heroism are unapproached by Homer's Penelope and Andromache, or
by Sophocles's Antigone. He gave them Alcestis, who surrendered her life
freely, not so much for her husband as for wifely duty's sake, and never
flinched nor faltered as the horror of great darkness swallowed her up,
but by strength of a mother's love stayed up the feet that were sinking
into Hades, till her dying breath had made her children's future sure,
and then in death's grasp quietly laid her hand, and so was drawn down,
faintly and ever more faintly murmuring love. He gave them Iphigenia,
who, summoned from the cloistered shelter of her home as to a bridal,
found herself set without warning before the altar of death, and yet
shrank and shuddered only till the full import of the great sacrifice
demanded dawned upon her, and then sprang full-statured to the height of
a godlike resolve; who grasped in her pure hands the scales of national
justice, who bore up with her slender wrists the fate of her fatherland,
and sang the triumph pasan of Hellas as she paced to death. He gave them
Macaria, who attained a height of selfless heroism unimagined till that
hour, in that unasked she gave her life for the salvation of a noble
house and of alien helpers; who refused to hearken to the suggestion
which whispered a hope of escape, but with unreverted eyes turned from
all joys and all hopes of young life, and spent her last breath in
consolation and encouragement to those who clung with adoring love and
passionate tears about her parting feet. He gave them Polyxena, the most
pathetic figure of all, sustained by no proud consciousness of salvation
wrought from suffering, but only welcoming death as an angel of
deliverance from shame and long regrets, who stood on the grave-mound,
arrayed in spotless innocence, with modest lips that calmly made in the
name of honor their last request, and so gave her throat to the sword,
while the fierce men who but now had clamored for her blood acclaimed
her of all maidens noblest of soul.

"He brought before them women in all the relations of life, everywhere
surpassing the men in goodness, in constancy, in wisdom, in counsel.
They watched the ministering angel who sat by a brother's bed, and wiped
the dew of agony from his brow and the foam of madness from his lips;
they held their breath while a gentle-hearted priestess bemoaned to her
unknown brother the cruel destiny which even then drew her to the verge
of fratricide. They saw the wife who hailed a death of fire to be
reunited to her slain lord, and the wife who devoted herself to save, or
die with, her husband. They heard one mother plead the cause of honor
and right against cold statecraft; they listened as another besought her
doomed sons to be reconciled. They thrilled beholding the princess-slave
whose love was stronger than death and whose highborn spirit flashed
defiance to a treacherous foe; and that other, who, remembering her
hero-husband, would not suffer the imminent death to make herself or
her children play a craven part, but mingled proud scorn of the
murderous usurper with regrets for hopes foregone. In the noble words of
Professor Mahaffy: 'These are the women who have so raised the ideal of
the sex, that in looking upon them the world has passed from neglect to
courtesy, from courtesy to veneration; these are they, who, across many
centuries, first of frivolity and sensuality, then of rudeness and
barbarism, join hands with the ideals of our religion and our chivalry,
the martyred saints, the chaste and holy virgins of romance--nay, more,
with the true wives, the devoted mothers, of our own day.'

"But there are female characters in his plays which have been pointed to
as proving a very different attitude toward women. Of these, Phædra was
the best-abused by his enemies, who wilfully shut their eyes to her true
character. She is, by the very plot of the play, the helpless victim of
the malice of a goddess. With her brain beclouded by fever frenzy, she
agonizes for clear vision and wails for peace of mind. She is a
pure-souled, true-hearted woman, who tingles with shame and shudders
with horror at the hideous thing that has been born in her. She is
driven by the imminence of ruin to a desperate expedient to shield her
name from the unmerited dishonor which she might well believe, from the
ambiguously worded threat with which Hippolytus departed, was to be cast
upon her. He gave her cause to think that he would accuse her to his
father of a crime of which she knew herself innocent. In her despair,
she saw no help but to forestall him by an accusation equally false.

"Medea and Creusa--even Clytemnestra and Hermione--are not portrayed as
transgressors without excuse: in each case, the audience heard the woman
plead her cause and proclaim the doctrine that woman has rights as well
as man, that what man avenges as the inexpiable wrong is not a light
offence against her. It may well be that they were not ripe for the
reception of ideas so unheard-of, that many of them mistook his drift;
but the seed sank in, to bear fruit in due time.

"In each instance the sinner is a woman deeply wronged, or in sore
straits, or under dæmoniac influence: there are no such gratuitously
wicked characters as Goneril, Lady Macbeth, or Tamora. Yet no one calls
Shakespeare a misogynist. Why, then, was it possible for Euripides's
enemies to charge him with being one, a charge doubtless echoed by a
good many thoughtless and stupid people in his day, but little
creditable to modern scholarship? For three reasons: first, the wilful
or obtuse misunderstanding of such characters as Phædra--the
representation of these by Euripides was the main ground on which
Aristophanes alleged that the tendency of his plays was immoral.
Secondly, we occasionally come upon the censures of the faults and
foibles of women--their proneness to scandal, to uncharitable judgments
of their fellows, their pettiness, frivolity, and so forth. It must be
admitted, too, that the context sometimes justifies us in concluding
that the poet is uttering his own sentiments. It was, indeed, to be
expected that a thinker who had so high a conception of what women might
be should be painfully impressed by the contrast presented by what they
too often were. Nor is it matter for wonder that he should take
opportunities of bringing the same feeling home to them. It is not
enough to set noble ideals before people who are not yet conscious of
the incompatibility of their present habits and aims with the emulation
of those ideals. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, as indeed these
were, compared with the hideous presentments of female morality in which
Aristophanes revels, till his readers might imagine that pure and
temperate women were quite the exception in the Athens of his day. And
was he not a friend to women who gave, for the sake of his sisters for
whom heroic ideals might seem set too high, this winsome model, 'not too
fair and good for human nature's daily food'?

"'Beauty wins not love for woman from the yokemate of her life:
Many an one by goodness wins it; for to each true-hearted wife,
Knit in love unto her husband, is Discretion's secret told.
These her gifts are: though her lord be all uncomely to behold,
To her heart and eyes shall he be comely, so her wit be sound;
('Tis not eyes that judge the _man_; within is true discernment found):
Whensoever he speaks, or holds his peace, shall she his sense commend,
Prompt with sweet suggestion when with speech he fain would please a friend:
Glad she is, if aught untoward hap, to show she feels his care:
Joy and sorrow of the husband aye the loyal wife will share:
Yea, if thou art sick, in spirit will thy wife be sick with thee,
Bear the half of all thy burdens--naught unsweet accounteth she:
For with those we love our duty bids us taste the cup of bliss
Not alone, the cup of sorrow also--what is love but this?'"

The ill-deserved reputation of being a misogynist which attaches to
Euripides is due, not to his own plays, but to the satire and drollery
of his rival, the comedian Aristophanes, who, in B. C. 411 or 410,
produced the _Thesmophoriazusæ_, a play so cleverly constructed that,
while it seemed to defend the female sex against the charges of
Euripides, really presented them in a more disgusting light.
Aristophanes represents the world of women as thrown into consternation
and revolt through the production of the tragedies of Euripides, such as
the _Hippolytus_, wherein the female sex is so severely arraigned.
Unable to endure his accusations, an assembly of women is called at the
Thesmophoria to plan the destruction of their arch enemy. Euripides,
however, hears of the assembly, and prevails on his father-in-law,
Mnesilochus, to disguise himself as a woman and seek admittance, that he
may plead the cause of the tragedian. The humor of the debate lies in
the fact that, after several women have roundly abused Euripides for
slandering their sex, Mnesilochus, attired in rustic female garb,
eloquently reminds them of the truths which Euripides might have
divulged had he chosen to do so. One sin after another is glibly and
facetiously piled up against the feminine record, until the few
calumnies attributed to Euripides seem insignificant beside the mountain
of crimes and foibles the supposed matron heaps up against her sisters.
The picture which Aristophanes, in his clever bit of satire, presents of
the women of his day is an exceedingly repulsive one. They are
represented as profligate, licentious, stupid, fond of drink, thieves
and liars. No other Greek writer has given them so base a character. But
we must remember that we are reading comedy. "The point of the
_Thesmophoriazusæ_, so far as the women are concerned, is that, while
Aristophanes pretends to pillory Euripides for his abuse of them, his
own satire is far more searching and penetrates more deeply into the
secrets of domestic life."

The grotesque distortion by Aristophanes of the character of the
philosopher Socrates is sufficiently well known; the contrast between
the sentiments which he attributes to Euripides and the tragic poet's
own views as presented in his plays is very striking; hence the pictures
that he draws of the life and manners of women must not be accepted
without important allowances. Aristophanes was writing to make people
laugh, not to reveal the secrets of the household, and his plays were
exclusively for an audience of men. Hence coarseness and buffoonery, as
elements of comic effect, are continually availed of, and Aristophanes
considered that he was witty in maligning the female sex. It would
clearly be unfair and even absurd to regard Aristophanes as an accurate
expositor of feminine life in Athens. But it is a noticeable fact that,
from B. C. 411 onward, there is, as seen in the extant plays of
Aristophanes, a marked prominence given to the female sex. Women, who
heretofore have played but a subordinate rôle in comedy, now frequently
have the principal parts. Comedy, more truly than any other department
of literature, reflects the current thought; and while the characters of
comedy play a rôle that is the reverse of actuality, comic invention
deals with real movements, and this intentional prominence of the
usually neglected sex can have but one interpretation: the Woman
Question had become a problem which profoundly engaged the attention of
the society of the time.

It is a difficult task to attempt to trace in the comedies of
Aristophanes the thread of a social movement. He utilized the events and
opinions of the day for fun making, and did not greatly concern himself
with the serious aspects of social problems. He was an
ultra-conservative, and desired to bring the new thought of the day into
disrepute by exhibiting its ludicrous side. Hence he makes use of the
woman's rights movement to give free rein to his fancy, and to delight
the public with obscene jokes on the vices and weaknesses of women and
with clever caricatures of their leaders. Yet the attentive reader can
get glimpses here and there into the more serious aspects of the
question, and can recognize behind some of the distorted, caricatured
figures types which are not in themselves comic.

The other two plays of Aristophanes in which women figure prominently
are the _Lysistrata_ and the _Ecclesiazusæ_. In each of these the
company of women is directed by a leader who in talents and
aggressiveness is far superior to her fellows. These two have not the
many small weaknesses of the other dames; they have the collective
interest of their sex at heart; and they know how to form a plan and
how to carry it through. The other women, in spite of their
thoughtlessness and weakness of character, are dominated by the strong
personalities of their self-appointed leaders. Hence, by a study of the
controlling spirit of each play, in spite of the caricature in the
poet's delineation, we may be able to form some conception of the
currents of thought of the day as they affected women.

Lysistrata is the wife of an Athenian magistrate, and has been strongly
affected by the ill success of the Peloponnesian War. She has meditated
long over the experiences of the female sex in general during the last
decade of the war. During the first ten years, the Grecian women had
borne in silence and without forming any opinions, in the narrow
confines of the home, the mistakes of their husbands; but gradually they
had observed how politics, in the hands of the men, was going from bad
to worse, and how want was increasing year by year. They began to ask
questions, to find fault in a mild way, though only with the result that
the men sent them back to their domestic duties with the brusque answer:
"War shall be a care to men." That which finally roused the women to
action was the realization that the men, in the face of events, had
unanimously recognized their own helplessness. Lysistrata therefore, in
Aristophanes's play, counsels the women to break their chains, seize the
reins of government, and bring the dreadful war to an end. She tells the
assembled women that they have carried a double burden in the war. As
mothers, they have borne sons whom they have been compelled to send
forth to death; while as wives, they have been deprived of their
husbands; even the maidens have grown old in single blessedness, on
account of the absence of men available as husbands. With such words as
these she arouses the spirit of her comrades. They, in turn, speak of
their virtues, their natural gifts, and their love for their native
country, to which they are so much indebted, and in duty to it they are
ready to turn their attention to things of war; for, say they: "The
Attic woman is no slave, and has sufficient courage to take up arms in
her country's cause: now, war shall be a care to women."

These reflections have a decided importance in a consideration of the
social history of the times by suggesting how the female sex developed
under the trying conditions of war.

In the poet's delineation of Lysistrata, the scene in which she
describes to the assembled Athenian and Laconian deputies their
political sins gains special importance. She possesses historical
insight. By recounting historical facts, she reminds them of what the
Laconians have done for the Athenians, and what the latter for the
Laconians, and awakens them to general Pan-Hellenic interests, for which
they should labor in common instead of weakening their power in
fratricidal war. In this address she characterizes herself as follows:
"I am a woman, it is true; but I have understanding; and of myself I am
not badly off in respect of intellect. By having often heard the remarks
of my father and my elders, I have not been ill educated."

We have then in the _Lysistrata_ the women of the day led on in a great
patriotic movement by an educated and eloquent woman. The play exhibits
a constant battle of words between men and women, each grouped in a
chorus. The women seize the Acropolis and make themselves experts in the
science of war. Their plans succeed; and the husbands are reduced to a
terrible plight by the novel resolution adopted by their wives to bring
them to terms. Envoys at length come from the belligerent parties, and
peace is concluded under the direction of the clever Lysistrata.

If from the unbridled drollery and serious moral of the drama we
endeavor to reach conclusions regarding the Woman Question, they will be
found to be about as follows. There were at this time certain prominent
women who were endeavoring to have the natural capabilities of the
female sex more justly esteemed, and energetic voices were being raised
against the humble status of woman in society and in public affairs.
This movement was quickened in the latter part of the century, owing to
the mistakes of the Peloponnesian War, but the efforts of women to
assert their rights were met by the violent opposition of the
conservative party. The leader in the _Lysistrata_, in her gift of
speech and breadth of understanding, typifies some historical women who
took a prominent part in the movement, and these were, probably, some
aristocratic ladies who had been influenced by Aspasia.

The unique importance of the _Lysistrata_ consists in its portraiture of
the leaders of the woman's rights movement and in its suggestion of the
ambitious projects they were prepared to undertake. The _Ecclesiazusæ_
is, like the _Lysistrata_, a picture of woman's ascendency, but it goes
further in satirizing some of the schemes which in daily conversation
and in the works of the philosophers were being presented for bettering
the conditions of society and improving the status of women. The success
of such a play presupposes that the minds of the audience were prepared
for it by the informal discussion of such questions in everyday life.
The Athenian ladies, in the _Ecdesiazusæ_, under the leadership of
Praxagora,--who is endowed with much the same gifts as Lysistrata, and
is, in fact, a replica of that clever woman,--disguise themselves as men
and crowd the public assembly; by means of the majority of votes which
they have thus fraudulently obtained, they overturn the government of
the men and proclaim the supremacy of the women in the State.
Praxagora, the leading agitator, is chosen _strategis_, and she
immediately proclaims, as the fundamental principles of the new State,
community of property and free trade between the sexes--ideas which were
prominent in the ideal _Republic_ of Plato and had been earlier
projected by Protagoras. "The point of the satire consists in this: that
the arguments by which the women get the upper hand all turn on their
avowed conservatism; men change and shift, women preserve their old
customs and will maintain the _ethos_ of the State; but no sooner have
they got authority than they show themselves more democratic than the
demagogues, more new-fangled in their political notions than the
philosophers. They upset time-honored institutions and make new ones to
suit their own caprices, squaring the laws according to the logic of
feminine instinct. Of course, speculations like those of Plato's
_Republic_ are satirized in the farcical scenes which illustrate the
consequences of this female revolution. But perhaps the finest point
about the comedy is its harmonious insight into the workings of women's
minds--a clear sense of what a topsy-turvy world we should have to live
in if women were the lawgivers and governors."

We have thus briefly sketched the indications of the prevalence of the
Woman Question in Athens, as presented in the plays of Aristophanes.
This writer furthermore affords us many ludicrous pictures of woman in
private life, which indicate that the fair sex were not always as weak
as men would have them. The chorus of the _Thesmophoriazusæ_ resent the
many ill things said of the race of women,--"that we are an utter evil
to men, and that all evils spring from us, strifes, quarrels, seditions,
painful grief, and war. Come, now, if we are an evil, why do you marry
us, if indeed we are really an evil, and forbid any of us either to go
out, or to be caught peeping out, but wish to guard the evil thing with
so great diligence? And if the wife should go out any whither, and you
then should discover her to be out of doors, you rage with madness, who
ought to offer libations and rejoice, if indeed you really find the evil
thing to be gone away from the house and do not find it at home. And if
we sleep in other peoples' houses, when we play and when we are tired,
everyone searches for this evil thing, going round about the beds. And
if we peep out of a window, everyone seeks to get a sight of the evil
thing. And if we retire again, being ashamed, so much the more does
everyone desire to see the evil thing peep out again. So manifestly are
we much better than you." As portrayed by Aristophanes, the women of his
day manifestly knew how to assert their equality. Feminine foibles and
weaknesses do not escape his satiric pen. Women are overfond of dress,
and no brilliant or prudent action can be expected of them,

      "Who sit deck'd out with flowers, and bearing robes
       Of saffron hue, and richly border'd o'er
       With loose Cimmerian vests and circling sandals."

Furthermore, they are fond of drink, and this vice is mercilessly
satirized. The inexorable oath administered by Lysistrata to her
comrades, in entering upon their crusade to bring about peace, is one
which no Athenian woman would incur the penalty of breaking: "If I
violate my pledge, may the cup be filled with water!"

Occasionally a man found he had married a wife who set aside his
conjugal authority and ruled the household. Thus Strepsiades, the
country gentleman of Aristophanes's _Clouds_, quarrelled with his
luxurious, city-bred wife, of the aristocratic house of Megacles, over
the naming of their son, which was the father's right, and, woman-like,
she carried her point; and this son she brought up to despise his
father's country ways and to squander his father's substance in horse

Aristophanes was not the only comic poet who indulged in gibes at the
female sex, for the object of comedy was to amuse, and the Athenian
audience of men ever found delight in the portrayal of the weaknesses
and foibles of the opposite sex. Even his predecessor Susarion, who was
the first to compose comedy in verse, and is usually called the inventor
of comedy, gave expression to the current abuse: "Hear, O ye people!
Susarion says this, the son of Philinus, the Megarian, of Tripodiscus:
women are an evil; and yet, my countrymen, one cannot set up house
without evil; for to be married or not to be married is alike bad." It
is unfortunate for our purpose that so little survives of the numberless
plays of the Middle and New Comedy, especially the latter, for this
comedy of manners presented a close and faithful picture of domestic
life and would have been an almost inexhaustible mine of information on
Attic life in general, full as it was of illustrations of the manners,
feelings, prejudices, and ways of thinking of the Ancient Greeks.

The fragments preserved to us are sufficient, however, to give us
glimpses of the manner in which woman was treated on the stage; and,
while there was much harsh criticism, it is gratifying to note that her
good qualities were at times recognized. Says the poet Antiphanes:

      "What! when you court concealment, will you tell
       The matter to a woman? Just as well
       Tell all the criers in the public squares I
       'Tis hard to say which of them louder blares."

"Great Zeus," says another poet, "may I perish, if I ever spoke against
woman, the most precious of all acquisitions. For if Medea was an
objectionable person, surely Penelope was an excellent creature. Does
anyone abuse Clytemnestra? I oppose the admirable Alcestis. But perhaps
someone may abuse Phaedra; then I say, by Zeus! what a capital person
was.... Oh, dear! the catalogue of good women is already exhausted,
while there remains a crowd of bad ones that might be mentioned."
"Woman's a necessary and undying evil," says Philemon; and in another

      "A good wife's duty 'tis, Nicostratus,
       Not to command, but to obey her spouse;
       Most mischievous a wife who rules her husband."

Menander, the greatest representative of the New Comedy, has been
compared to a mirror, so clear were the images he presented of human
life. His epigrammatic sayings are justly famous, and many of them refer
to woman. "Manner, not money, makes a woman's charm," says he in one
passage; and in another:

      "When thou fair woman seest, marvel not;
       Great beauty's oft to countless faults allied."

"Where women are, there every ill is found," is still another
disparaging sentiment, as is his repetition of the frequent gibe at

      "Marriage, if truth be told (of this be sure),
       An evil is--but one we must endure."

Yet the poet was also appreciative of the good qualities in woman, as is
seen in the sentiment: "A good woman is the rudder of her household;"
with which we may compare the words of another poet:

      "A sympathetic wife is man's chiefest treasure;"

and at times Menander notes how even a woman of serious faults may prove
to be the greatest blessing:

      "How burdensome a wife extravagant;
       Not as he would may he who's ta'en her live.
       Yet this of good she has: she bears him children;
       She watches o'er his couch, if he be sick,
       With tender care; she's ever by his side
       When fortune frowns; and should he chance to die,
       The last sad rites with honor due she pays."

Surely a touching portraiture of woman's gentle ministry, and worthy to
be compared with Scott's famous lines! In spite of the numerous
complaints against woman, the plays of the New Comedy usually ended in a
happy marriage--the wild youth falls in love with the penniless maiden,
reforms, discovers her to be wellborn, and wins over the angry parent;
then follow joyous wedding festivities, and happiness ever afterward.
Such is the usual course of the plot. Satirical reflections on woman,
especially when made in poetry, must not be taken too seriously; and
where romantic love is also the theme for song, we may be sure that
woman, though much abused, is yet tenderly regarded and highly esteemed
among men.

A social movement for the emancipation of woman, which had occupied the
attention of thinking men and women of Athens in the latter half of the
fifth century before Christ, which had been started by Aspasia in her
salon, which had been discussed by Socrates and the Socratics,
especially Æschines, and which had brought about a battle royal between
the dramatists Euripides and Aristophanes, naturally called for
scientific treatment at the hands of the philosophers. The works of
Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon accordingly devote much space to the
consideration of the Woman Question. The female sex, hitherto
"accustomed to live cowed and in obscurity,"--as Plato puts it,--justly
claimed more favorable conditions; and the philosophers who endeavored
to bring about a better social status asserted that woman deserved
proper recognition at the hands of men.

Plato had taken seriously to heart the lessons of the Peloponnesian War.
He was keenly sensitive to the evils of democracy as then existent, and
recognized the need of governmental and social reform. He felt that in
the disregard of women at least half the citizen population had been
neglected, and we have in his works the strongest assertion of the
equality of the sexes.

"And so," he says, in one of his dialogues, "in the administration of a
State, neither a woman as a woman nor a man as a man has any special
function, but the gifts of nature are equally diffused in both sexes;
all the pursuits of men are the pursuits of women also, and in all of
these woman is only a lesser man." "Very true." "Then are we to impose
all our enactments on men and none on women?" "That will never do." "One
woman has a gift of healing, another not; one is a musician, another is
not." "Very true." "And one woman has a turn for gymnastic and military
exercises, while another is unwarlike and hates gymnastics." "Beyond
question." "And one woman is a philosopher, and another is an enemy of
philosophy; one has spirit, and another is without spirit." "This is
also true."

From these premises, recognizing the diversity of gifts among women and
the correspondence of their talents with those of men, though less in
degree, Plato affirms that women should receive a training similar to
that accorded to men; to them should be given the same education and
assigned the same duties, though the lighter tasks should fall to them
as being less strong physically.

"There shall be compulsory education," says Plato, in his Laws, "for
females as well as males; they shall both go through the same exercises.
I assert, without fear of contradiction, that gymnastic exercises and
horsemanship are as suitable to women as to men. I further affirm that
nothing can be more absurd than the practice which prevails in our
country, of men and women not following the same pursuits with all their
strength and with one mind, for thus the State, instead of being a
whole, is reduced to a half."

The view of Plato, as stated in his _Republic_, which aroused the most
hostile criticism was his theory of the community of women as well as of
property. But this grew out of the fundamental thesis in his theory of
government: that the State must be developed into a perfect unity. The
family as a private possession disturbed this unity, and must therefore
be dispensed with.

This theory, however, proved too extreme, even for Plato himself, and in
his Laws he returns to the idea of marriage, but he follows the Spartan
system by putting marriage under the constant surveillance of
legislation. He wishes every man to contract that marriage which is most
beneficial to the State, not that which is most pleasing to himself. He
urges that people of opposing temperaments and of different conditions
in life should wed,--the stronger with the weaker, the richer with the
poorer,--"perceiving that the city ought to be well mingled, like a cup
in which the maddening wine is hot and fiery, but, when chastened by a
soberer god, receives a fair associate and becomes an excellent and
temperate drink." By such arguments he endeavors to beguile the spirits
of men into believing that the equability of their children's
disposition is of more importance than equality when they marry.

The philosopher does not seem to see the humor in his proposal to bring
together contrary natures, nor the pain he would inflict on the parties
most concerned. With him the interest of the State is supreme, and to
that everything must yield.

However, even amid such extreme doctrines we find wise counsel, inspired
by a more practical and humane spirit. Plato finds fault with the
prevailing custom of not giving young people an opportunity to become
acquainted with each other before marriage; and he recognizes, from the
excellent influence of the wife's activity in the home, how much she
might contribute to the well-being of the State if she were taken out of
seclusion and intimately associated with the life of her husband.

The woman's rights movement reached its high-water mark in the works of
Plato. Thenceforth there were a gradual decline in the conception of
woman's capacities and a lessening of the demands for her emancipation.

Aristotle is less generous than Plato in his concessions to woman. "The
male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; the one rules, the
other is ruled; this principle of necessity is extended to all mankind."
Thus he asserts woman's inferiority to man and he insists upon her
silent and passive obedience. The difference of functions and duties he
bases upon difference of nature. "The temperance and courage of a man
are other than those of a woman. For a man who is courageous only as a
woman is will seem timid, and a woman will seem impudent if she has
merely the reserve and modesty of an honest man. Thus, in a family, a
woman's duties differ from a man's--his it is to acquire, hers to
preserve." Each woman, however, has her part in the State, and should be
prepared for it. "In women the qualities of the body are beauty and
height; those of the soul are temperance and love of work, without
baseness. An individual and a State should desire each of these
qualities in both men and women." Yet, while asserting woman's
inferiority, Aristotle recognizes the sanctity of marriage and of the
family, and preaches to men faithfulness and regard and appreciation in
their attitude toward women. In his _Ethics_ he dwells with delicacy on
the affectionate regard husband and wife should each have for the other.
They should bear with and encourage each other in all the events of
life. And while he insists upon the limitations of woman's intelligence
and reasoning powers, he yet recognizes her superiority to man in
qualities of the heart; and when he wishes to give an example of
disinterested and ideal affection, it is woman who serves as his model.
On the whole, Aristotle draws a more pleasing picture of woman's
character and position than Plato, in spite of the greater equality
granted by the latter. Plato's philosophy was primarily the product of
imagination, Aristotle's of experience; Plato was essentially
theoretical, Aristotle practical. Hence the teachings of the Stagirite
were doubtless based on examples of conjugal unity and felicity which he
saw about him, and he extended to the Athenian people in general the
views of marital relations that prevailed in his own circle.

Xenophon's treatise on _Domestic Economy_ was probably intended to be a
contribution to the current discussion of the Woman Question; in it he
sought to prove the falsity of the views of Plato and Aristotle, who
advocated greater freedom for woman, and at the same time endeavored to
reform existing conditions without materially changing them. In his
_Recollections of Socrates_, he expresses, as the views of that
philosopher, opinions of the high value of the sex, but only in purely
domestic relations. Socrates insists upon reverence for and obedience to
the mother, who watches over her children with tender affection and
unwearied solicitude; who, when they are capable of receiving
instruction, endeavors to instil into their minds the knowledge which
will best conduce to their future welfare. "For the man who is wanting
in respect to parents," he adds, "public punishments are appointed; the
laws yield him no longer their protection, neither is he permitted any
share in the administration; since they think no sacrifice offered by a
hand so impious can be acceptable to the gods or beneficial to man."
These and other passages show that the Socrates of Xenophon entertained
very delicate sentiments regarding the domestic life. He saw in woman
the diligent mother and industrious housekeeper, watchful of her house
and its management. He leaves her in her seclusion, occupied with her
quiet domestic duties, but at the same time he recognizes the charm as
well as the usefulness of her presence in the home. Her economy,
vigilance, and care are of inestimable value to her husband. He regards
marriage as a union in which husband and wife have each his or her own
duties as well as authority. His views are a contrast to those of his
time, when the rights were all on one side, while on the other were only
duty and submission.

The _Domestic Economy_ of Xenophon is but an exposition and illustration
of the views which the author here attributes to Socrates. The most
remarkable feature in Xenophon's system of woman training is the utter
absence of any intellectual discipline. Manifestly, he did not believe
in the mental equality of the sexes. His was a purely industrial system
of education, one merely designed to fit woman for the duties of the

It is not improbable that in this work is embodied the view which
pleased the majority of the Athenian public regarding the aspirations of
women. Thus, after more than half a century of discussion, the agitation
for the emancipation of woman seems not to have accomplished any
demonstrable change in her social life, but to have resolved itself
merely into a plea for better equipment for her domestic duties. Yet
even this was something gained; and if all the husbands of Athens were
as conscientious as Ischomachus in training their wives for the duties
of home, and gave them the companionship which such an education
involved, there must have been marked improvement in the social status
of woman.

Perhaps it was impossible for women to be accorded greater liberty of
action while the ancient conception of the city-state obtained. Woman's
harmonious development regularly keeps pace with her freedom, and the
intellectual possibilities of the sex are only limited by the
opportunities afforded. The men who were responsible for the system
could hurl their shafts of satire at the uncultivated women confined to
their apartments and their domestic cares; but whenever the least
liberty of action was granted those women, they proved themselves fully
equal to the men in intellectual capacity, and the Greek woman always
exceeded her brothers in moral sublimity and unselfishness. The root of
the evil was the system of government. Soon Philip and Alexander were to
put an end with their legions to the exclusiveness of the city-state,
and the Greek woman of the Hellenistic period was destined to enjoy
greater freedom and greater influence.



More spiritual by nature, more inclined to mysticism, with keener
intuitions, woman has ever taken a more prominent part in religious
matters than man. Hence, even in such a country as Hellas, where woman
was excluded from so many lines of human activity, we find that in
religious observance she had equal freedom with man, and far exceeded
him in devoutness and religious fervor. The Greeks, though they had only
the light of nature to guide them, were essentially a spiritual people.
They saw the hand of the Unseen everywhere manifesting itself in natural
phenomena: they recognized divinities in the fertility of the soil, in
the stars of the heavens, in the crystal waters of the spring, in the
rain and in the storm cloud, in the winds of the forest. They even
personified abstractions, and deified emotions and virtues. Nor were
they merely content with inward piety, but endeavored in every way by
outward observance to worship the deities which were the creations of
their own myth-making faculties; and in all the religious ceremonials of
the Greeks woman played a prominent role.

All the Greek peoples gloried in being of the same blood and language
and religion. Though widely separated politically and engaged in endless
wars among themselves, the chief bond of union known to them was the
common cult of some divinity and participation in the same religious
festivals. The oracles, the temples, the games, the processions in honor
of their gods, tended to maintain the unity of Greece and were the
promoters of national sentiment. Woman's part in these bonds of union
made her influential in the welfare of the common country, and religious
ceremonies were to her occasions in which she could feel herself an
essential factor in Greek life.

In the childhood of the world, man, who reached conclusions by a long
process of reasoning, stood in awe of the intuitive faculty in woman
that enabled her to arrive at a truth without apparent effort. Hence the
spirit of divination was thought to be inherent in the sex, and women
were prophetesses from remote ages. Among pagan peoples, the earliest
manifestations of the prophetic instinct in woman were recognized in the
persons of certain seers to whom was given the name of Sibyls. The word
in its etymology signifies the "will of God," and was applied to the
inspired prophetesses of some deity, chiefly of Apollo. The Sibyls were
generally represented as maidens, dwelling in lonely caverns or by
sacred springs, who were possessed of the spirit of divination and gave
forth prophetic utterances while under the influence of enthusiastic
frenzy. Their number, their names, their countries, their times, are
matters about which we have no certain knowledge; but twelve are
mentioned by ancient writers, of whom three were certainly Greek--the
Delphian, the Erythrean, and the Samian. Herophila, the Erythrean Sibyl,
was the most celebrated of them all, and she is represented as wandering
from her Ionian home, by manifold journeyings, to Cumæ, in Magna Græcia,
whence she became known as the Cumæan Sibyl. She it was whom Æneas
consulted before his descent into Hades, and who later sold to the last
Tarquin the prophetic books. It was believed that her age reached a
thousand years.

Women also were priestesses at the oracles of Hellas, which were seats
of the worship of certain divinities, where prophecies were imparted to
inquiring souls through the instrumentality of the attendants of the
deity. The oldest and most venerated of the oracles was that of Zeus at
Dodona, mentioned by Homer. Here, among the prophetic oaks, priestesses
read the future in the rustling of the leaves and in the creaking of the
branches, in the bubbling of a spring and in the sounds made by brazen
cymbals hung near the sacred shrine. Herodotus visited this oracle, and
gives the names of the three priestesses who officiated in his time.
These priestesses--Promenia, Timarete, Nicandra--related to him a very
interesting story concerning the origin of the oracle. They traced its
sacred legends back to the worship in the famous temple of Thebes in
Egypt. Two doves, they said, flew away one day from the city of Thebes
and took their flight into distant lands. One alighted in Libya, on the
spot where the oracle of Jupiter Ammon was later established; while the
other, crossing the sea, flew as far as Dodona, where, perching on an
oak, in human voice she commanded those that heard her to establish
there an oracle of Zeus. For this reason the priestesses were known as
Peliades, or doves. When, however, Herodotus inquired of the priests in
Thebes about the tradition, they told a different story: that two
priestesses of their temple had once been carried off from Egypt by the
Phoenicians and sold into slavery, and that one of these priestesses
finally established herself at Dodona. So, whether dove or priestess,
the tradition of the Egyptian origin of the oracle seemed confirmed.

Apollo, however, rather than Zeus, was the god of prophecy, and it was
generally in connection with his shrines that oracles were spoken.
Usually, fountains whose water was supposed to influence the workings of
the mind, or caverns whence escaped a gas producing delirium or
hallucination, were regarded as places where the divinity was present.
Hence there existed numerous oracles of Apollo in Greece proper and in
Asia Minor. The most celebrated of the latter was the oracle of the
Didymæan Apollo at Branchidæ, near Miletus, where a priestess uttered
prophecies, seated on a wheel-shaped disk, after she had bathed the hem
of her robe and her feet in the sacred spring and had breathed the
vapors arising from it.

The most illustrious of all the oracles of ancient Hellas was at Delphi,
which is situated, like a vast amphitheatre, above the beautiful plain
of Cirrha in Phocis, with the double summits of Parnassus forming the
background. Delphi became the centre of the Hellenic religion, and the
fame of its oracle extended as far as to Lydia in the east, and to Rome
and the Etruscans in the west. At first, a young maiden took the part of
the priestess of Apollo who gave the responses; but the authorities
realizing the dangers to which the beauty of the priestess might lead, a
woman of at least fifty years of age was later selected for the honor,
and finally, as one prophetess was not sufficient to answer the
questions of the vast crowd of pilgrims that assembled to consult the
oracle, three were chosen. The name given to the inspired priestess was
always the same, that of Pythia.

To prepare the priestess for the ordeal which was to make known the will
of the god, she was kept fasting for a number of days--a condition
favorable to hallucinations, and then was given laurel leaves to chew
because of their narcotic virtue. Then the Pythia was seated on a
tripod, placed in the middle of the sanctuary, over an opening in the
ground whence mephitic vapors were escaping. Her head was crowned with
a garland made from the tree of Apollo, and about the tripod coiled a
snake, the emblem of the art of divination. The exhalations from the
abyss were deemed to be the very breath of the god, with which he
inspired his priestess. Soon she grew pale and trembled with convulsive
movements; her only utterances at first were groans and sighs; and now,
with eyes aflame, with hair dishevelled, and with foam on her lips, amid
shrieks of anguish she gave forth a few incoherent, disconnected words.
The god had at last spoken through his priestess. The words were
carefully written down by the attendant priest, who gave a rhythmic form
to the response, and thus a revelation of the future was made known to
the anxious inquirer.

The Pythia was consulted by all the peoples of Greece, as well as by
kings and strangers from foreign lands. Colonies to Italy, to Africa, to
the regions about the Black Sea, were sent at her command; she
sanctioned laws; she taught Lycurgus that the best laws were those which
obliged rulers to rule well and subjects to obey well. To the conquered,
she counselled resignation and hope. Peoples lusting for conquest, she
bade revive their piety toward the gods and seek the mercy of heaven by
showing themselves merciful. She was also the guardian of individual
morality. To a king desiring peace of mind, she declared that his
unhappiness was due to his and his predecessors' wrong-doings, and
recommended the exercise of clemency when he returned home. Being asked:
"Who is the happiest of men?" she replied: "Phædrus, who has died for
his country," A man named Glaucus wished to withhold a treasure which
had been confided to him, but decided first to get the sanction of the
oracle; the Pythia revealed to him the woes reserved for the perjured.
To the lot of Gyges, the wealthy and powerful king, she preferred that
of a poor Arcadian farmer who cultivated his plot of ground in peace of
mind. By pure and elevated moral teachings, the Pythia instructed the
bands of pilgrims who assembled at Delphi. Such was the power in the
hands of a woman. Frail and nervous, she yet represented a religious
institution the most influential in the pagan world; she largely
determined the destiny of Greeks and barbarians alike. The wisdom of
this oracular centre is generally ascribed in modern times to the
college of priests assembled at Delphi, who interpreted the responses of
the Pythia; but, whatever the nature of the mechanism by which this
oracle retained its influence for centuries, the people in general had,
for ages, perfect faith that the responses came directly from the god of
prophecy through his inspired priestess. It is undoubtedly true that the
Greeks, as well as the Hindoos, Gauls, and Germans, attributed to woman
the gift of second-sight; and the immaculate life which the Pythia was
required to lead attests the fact that to receive the inspiration of the
god of light there were needed a purity of heart and a devoutness of
spirit which could only be found in a woman. Strange to say, it was the
law that no woman could consult this oracle of Apollo, whose divine will
was revealed through a woman; women could, however, indirectly receive a
response through the mediation of a man.

The Greeks were fond of the pomp and splendor of religious festivals.
They celebrated such festivals whenever occasion offered, and during
their continuance all regular occupations ceased. Plato saw in the
prevailing custom other advantages besides the purely religious effect.
"The gods," he says, "touched with compassion for the human race, which
nature condemns to labor, have provided for intervals of repose in the
regular succession of festivals instituted in their own honor." These
festivities were not only a feature of the national religion; they were
the schools of patriotism, of poetry, and of art. Each city had its own
special festivals, and there were also those national celebrations in
which all people joined. Zeus was the national deity of the Greeks;
Olympia was his most sacred seat; and the Olympian festival was the
greatest event in Greece.

In the district of Elis, on the western side of the Peloponnesus, the
river Alpheus, after dashing and splashing down the mountains of
Arcadia, slackens its speed and meanders westwardly through the valley
in fantastic curves and windings. Soon it meets the quiet waters of the
Cladeus coming from the north. Between the two, and not far from their
confluence, lie the wooded slopes of Mount Cronion. In the triangular
space thus formed by the rivers and the mountain is situated the sacred
grove known as the Altis, the hallowed precinct of Olympian Zeus. Here
was his temple, and not far from it the shrine of his consort Hera; and
just outside the sacred precinct lay the racecourse, where were
celebrated the Olympic games which have made the name of Olympia famous
throughout the world. This was the national centre of Greece, where
citizens from all parts of the Greek world assembled to join in friendly
contests of physical prowess and poetry and song. The situation was
indeed a beautiful one. Northward and westward were the mountain peaks
of Achæa and the high tablelands of Arcadia; southward, the rugged
mountain chain of Messene; westward, the Ionian sea. The well-watered
valley, bounded by undulating hills, was covered with luxuriant
vegetation. The pine woods of Mount Cronion, the dense grove of plane
trees within and about the sacred precinct, the vine, the olive and the
myrtle of the valley, and the quiet waters of the sacred streams, were
elements that constituted a landscape of indescribable beauty, renowned
in ancient times and the delight of modern travellers.

The festival in honor of Olympian Zeus recurred every four years, at the
time of the full moon following the summer solstice. Sacred heralds
carried to all parts of the Greek world the official message announcing
the festival, and a sacred truce was declared for a sufficient length of
time to allow all desirous of doing so to attend the gathering and to
return home. As the great day approached, men and youths, matrons and
maidens, set out to take part in or to witness the various features of
the festival. Cities sent sacred embassies, or _theoriæ_, resplendent in
purple and gold, bearing offerings to the god. Artists and poets,
merchants and manufacturers, found in this gathering of the Greeks a
great mart in which they could make known their talents or their wares
and receive lucrative orders, the former for a statue or an ode, the
latter for the sale of their merchandise. Tents stood in rows upon the
plain, and everywhere were scenes of busy traffic or of social

We are not concerned here with the various exercises that constituted
the festival, nor with the games which were celebrated in the stadium,
nor with the horse and chariot races in the hippodrome, except in so far
as women were participants; and their part was but slight. When the
games were held, a priestess of Demeter was present, seated on an altar
of white marble opposite the umpires' seats, but she was the only woman
to whom this privilege was granted. While their loved ones were
contending in the stadium, mothers and wives and sisters had to remain
on the southern bank of the Alpheus. Only one instance is recounted
where this rule was broken. "Pherenice, daughter of a celebrated
Rhodian wrestler, whose family boasted that they were descended from
Hercules, could not bear to leave her son while the contest was going
on, and disguising herself as a man, and pretending to be a teacher of
gymnastics, she mingled with the groups of gymnasts. When her son was
proclaimed victor, however, her feelings carried her away, and forgetful
of prudence she rushed to embrace her child. In her haste her robes
became disordered, and her sex was revealed. The law was explicit: every
woman found within the sacred precinct was condemned to death.
Nevertheless, the judges acquitted her, in recognition of the fame her
family had won; but to prevent any repetition of the occurrence, the
masters, as well as their pupils, had thenceforth to present themselves

Women could, however, run their horses in the hippodrome and thus win a
prize, as was done by Cynisca, daughter of Archidamnus, King of Sparta,
who was the first woman that bred horses and gained a chariot victory at
Olympia. After her, other women, chiefly Spartans, won Olympic
victories, but none of them attained such fame as did Cynisca. So
honored was she by her people that a shrine was erected to her at her
death; there was also erected at Sparta a statue of the maiden Euryleon,
who won an Olympic victory with a two-horse chariot.

Though excluded from the games at the great festival of Zeus, there were
yet some games at Olympia in which women took part. These were a feature
of the festival of Hera, whose temple was also in the Altis. At this
festival, sixteen women, duly appointed, wove a robe for the goddess and
conducted games called the Heræa, participated in by the maidens of Elis
and surrounding districts. Pausanias thus describes the spectacle: "The
games consist of a race between virgins. The virgins are not all of the
same age; but the youngest run first, the next in age run next, and the
eldest virgins run last of all. They run thus: their hair hangs down,
they wear a shirt that reaches to a little above the knee, the right
shoulder is bare to the breast. The course assigned to them for the
contest is the Olympic stadium; but the course is shortened by about
one-sixth of the stadium. The winners receive crowns of olive and a
share of the cow which is sacrificed to Hera; moreover, they are allowed
to dedicate statues of themselves, with their names engraved on them."

From a consideration of woman's part in the religious ceremonials at the
national centres of Greece,--Delphi and Olympia,--we must now turn to
Athens, with whose festive calendar we are much better acquainted. The
Athenians were rightly characterized by the Apostle Paul as being very
religious. In all parts of the city were temples and statues; according
to one writer, it was easier to find there a god than a man. More than
eighty days out of each year were given up to religious festivities.
Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, was the patron goddess of Athens, and
the Acropolis was her sacred precinct; but other deities were
worshipped, even on the Acropolis, and throughout the city there were
shrines to numberless gods and goddesses.

From earliest times, women were intimately associated with the worship
of Athena. Varro preserves a tradition which records that it was women's
votes that determined the choice of Athena over Poseidon as patron deity
of Athens. Originally, women took part in the public councils with men
and had a voice therein, and when the weighty question of the rivalry of
the two divinities came up they outvoted the men by a majority of one in
favor of the goddess. Poseidon was angered, and submerged the land of
Attica. To appease the god, the citizens deprived the women of the right
to vote and forbade them in future to transmit their names to their
children and to be called Athenians. But though their political rights
were thus sadly infringed and they were relegated to ignorance and
obscurity, they retained their part in the exercises of religion,
especially in the worship of their patron goddess. Little is known of
the various priestesses of Athena, who figured so prominently in the art
of Athens and who presided at the goddess's temples on the Acropolis. It
was an important office and was always held by a woman of great wisdom,
high moral character, and mature years. Under her direction were the
maidens of the city who were chosen from time to time from the noblest
families to take part in the festivals of the goddess. Pausanias gives
us a glimpse of the duties of certain of these maidens, and we could
wish that he had cleared up the mystery that surrounded their office.
"Two maidens," said he, "dwell not far from the temple of the Polias;
the Athenians call them Arrephoræ. They are lodged for a time with the
goddess; but when the festival comes around, they perform the following
ceremony by night. They put on their heads the things which the
priestess of Athena gives them to carry, but what it is she gives is
known neither to her who gives nor to them who carry. Now, there is in
the city an enclosure, not far from the sanctuary of Aphrodite, called
Aphrodite in the Gardens, and there is a natural underground descent
through it. Down this way the maidens go. Below, they leave their
burdens; and getting something else which is wrapped up, they bring it
back. These maidens are then discharged and others are brought to the
Acropolis in their stead." Other maidens resided for a time on the
Acropolis, engaged in weaving the saffron-colored peplus which was to be
presented to the goddess at the Great Panathenæa--the most brilliant
festival of the Athenians. This was the highest honor that could be
conferred on Athenian maidens, and while engaged in this work they
shared in the deference shown the goddess. They dwelt with the great
priestess, and were under her immediate direction when they appeared in
public; they were clad in tunics of white, with cloaks of gold, and were
universally recognized as votaries of Athena. It has been conjectured
that the mysterious bundles which the Arrephoræ carried down from the
Acropolis contained the remnants of the wool which had served to make
the peplus of the preceding year, and that they brought back the
material destined for the future peplus; but of this there is no
positive evidence. Certain it is, however, that the garment intended for
the goddess was a masterpiece of the textile art, woven of the finest
fabrics and embroidered in gold with scenes of Athena battling with the
gods against the giants, and of such other incidents as the State had
judged worthy to figure beside her exploits. Athena was, among her many
functions, also the goddess of weaving and other feminine arts, and as
such had a shrine on the Acropolis, where she was worshipped under the
title of Athena Ergane. Within this precinct were statues to Lysippe,
Timostrata, and Aristomache, maidens thus honored because of their skill
in womanly occupations.

For the origin of the Panathenæa--the greatest of Athenian festivals--we
must go back to the heroic days of Athens when King Erechtheus dedicated
on the Acropolis the archaic wooden statue of Athena, reputed to have
fallen from heaven, and established the custom of offering to the image
once a year a new mantle, embroidered by noble maidens of the city.
Later, Theseus united the various tribes under one rule, with the
Acropolis as its centre, A festival to celebrate this event was united
with the festival to Athena, and the enlarged festival was known as the
Panathenæa, symbolizing the union and political power of Athens and the
sovereignty of the goddess. Pisistratus increased the splendor of this
festival, and, in the golden days of Athens after the Persian War,
Pericles added to its pomp and magnificence. He erected on the Acropolis
an imposing temple to the goddess, the Parthenon, and placed within it
her image of gold and ivory. The worship of Athena and the political
supremacy of Athens now became synonymous. Her festival was the highest
expression of the ideals of Athens in its greatest epoch. The greater
Panathenaæ was Athens in its glory, possessed of an overflowing
treasury, supreme among the States of Greece, the exponent of poetry and
art and beauty.

There was great rejoicing when the sacred peplus was at length completed
by the maidens, and there arrived the season of the festival, which was
to culminate on Athena's birthday, the twenty-seventh of the month
Boëdromion, which corresponded nearly to our September. The earlier days
were spent in gymnastic games, horse and chariot races, and contests in
music and poetry. On the fifth and last day occurred the most brilliant
feature of the entire festival, the solemn procession which attended the
delivery of the sacred peplus to the priestess of Athena that she might
place it around the wooden image of the goddess. So important was this
procession that Phidias selected it as the theme to be portrayed on the
frieze of the Parthenon. The procession formed in the Outer Ceramicus,
just outside the principal gate of the city, and the peplus was placed
on a miniature ship (for which it served as a sail), which was set on
wheels and drawn by sailors. Through the market place, round the western
slope of the Areopagus, along its southern side, the procession wended
its way till it reached the western approach to the Acropolis. Then the
peplus was removed from the ship, and, borne by those chosen for this
service, it was carried at the head of the procession up the western
slope, through the Propylæa, and delivered to the magistrate appointed
to receive it before the temple of Athena. The frieze of the Parthenon
presents the most important details of the procession. Its western end
shows the stage of preparation--the flower of Athenian youth and
nobility preparing to mount or just mounting their steeds to join in the
cavalcade. As we turn to the northern and southern sides, we observe
that the procession has formed and is now in motion. The cavalcade is
composed of youthful horsemen, who move forward in compact array, with
all the dash and spirit of youth. Just ahead of the horsemen are the
chariots, driven by their charioteers, with the warriors either standing
by the driver or just stepping into the moving chariot. As the eastern
end of the temple is approached, restlessness of movement gives place to
solemnity, and impatient riders and charioteers are succeeded by more
stately figures. Elderly men, bearers of olive branches; representatives
of the foreign residents, carrying trays filled with offerings of cakes;
attendants, bearing on their shoulders vessels filled with the sacred
wine; musicians, playing on flutes or lyres-march in slow, measured
steps. In advance of them are the cows and sheep led to sacrifice,
conducted by a number of attendants.

The frieze on the eastern end of the temple represents the culmination
of the festival. The crowning act is about to be performed, and the
solemnity becomes absolute. Figures at one end are balanced by
corresponding figures at the other, all advancing toward a common point.
First come slowly moving maidens, who are carrying the sacrificial
utensils--their noble birth manifesting itself in their dignity of
demeanor. The five maidens in the rear bear the ewers used in the
libations; those forming the central group carry, in pairs, large
objects resembling candlesticks, whose uses are not definitely known;
while in the lead, on each side, are two maidens, bearing nothing in
their hands--probably the Arrephoræ, whose duties have been already
performed. Both in costume and in coiffure these maidens represent what
was characteristic of their age and sex in Athens during the supremacy
of Pericles. Next comes a group of men, probably the magistrates
appointed to await the arrival of the procession on the Acropolis. They
border the seated divinities who have assembled to do honor to Athens at
its greatest festival--seven figures on each side of the central slab,
directly over the door of the temple, whereon is represented the climax
of the solemn occasion,--the delivery of the new peplus to the priest or
magistrate, whose office it was to receive it; while at his side stands
the priestess of Athena, receiving from two attendants certain objects
of unknown significance.

Other pieces of sculpture on the Acropolis magnify the office of woman
in the religious ceremonials in honor of the patron goddess. One of the
porticoes of the Erectheum represents maidens of dignified mien and
great beauty holding up the entablature with perfect ease and stately
grace. These figures are usually called Caryatides, a name applied by
the architect Vitruvius to designate figures of this kind; he ascribes
its origin to the destruction of the town of Carya, in the Peloponnesus,
by the Athenians, because it espoused the Persian side, the women of the
town being sold into slavery; but surely the Athenians would not have so
honored the disgraced women of a hostile city. Could they not portray,
in marble, the Arrephoric maidens, and could not the basket-like
burdens on their heads represent the burdens which they carried down
from the Acropolis, and those which they received instead? The
Athenians, indeed, called the figures merely _Korai_, or "the maidens."

Furthermore, excavations at Athens made in 1886 brought to light a
number of statues of maidens, which now adorn one of the rooms of the
Acropolis Museum. They are all of one type,--life-size figures of young
women, all standing in the same attitude, with one arm extended from the
elbow, while the other hand holds the long and elegant drapery close
about the figure; their hair is elaborately arranged, and ringlets fall
over their necks and shoulders. These statues are relics of days before
the Persian War. The Persians sacked Athens in B.C. 480, and wrought
general havoc on the Acropolis, burning temples, throwing down columns,
demolishing statues. When the Athenians, flushed with victory, returned
to their ruined homes, they regarded as unhallowed all that had been
touched by the hands of the barbarian, and therefore, in building up
anew the Acropolis as the sacred precinct of Athena, they extended and
levelled its surface and filled in the hollows thus made with the debris
of the Acropolis--architectural blocks, statues, and vessels; and these
relics of pre-Persian art lay thus securely buried for ages, to be
revealed to modern eyes by the pickaxe of the archæologist. Now, who are
these maidens, standing in conventional pose, with regular and finely
moulded features, and with richly adorned drapery and elaborate
headdress? They cannot represent priestesses of Athena, for the
priestess was always an elderly lady, who, after being chosen, held
office for the rest of her life. Nor can they represent the goddess
herself, for all her usual attributes--the ægis, the spear, the helmet,
the snake--are absent. Hence we probably have in these statues
portraits of votaries of Athena, young women of the aristocratic
families of Athens, who placed statues of themselves in the sacred
precinct of the goddess to serve as symbols of perpetual homage.

Finally, certain maidens of Athens of the Heroic Age were later deified
and themselves given sacred precincts on the Acropolis. King Cecrops had
three daughters--- Aglauros, Herse, and Pandrosus. When Erectheus, the
son of Earth by Hephæstus, was born, half of his form being like that of
a snake,--a sign of his origin,--the child was put into a chest by
Athena, who then gave it to the daughters of Cecrops to take care of, at
the same time forbidding them to open it. Aglauros and Herse disobeyed,
and, in terror at the serpent-shaped child, went mad and threw
themselves from the rock of the Acropolis. Pandrosus, the faithful
maiden, was rewarded by being made the first priestess of Athena, and
was later honored by having a sanctuary of her own, next to that of the
goddess; while Aglauros had to rest content with a cavern on the
northern slope of the Acropolis, near where she had thrown herself down.

The celebrations in honor of Dionysus, the god of luxuriant fertility
and especially of the grape, were exceedingly simple at first, according
to Plutarch, being merely "a rustic procession carrying a vine-wreathed
jar and a basket of figs"; but later there was a festival at every stage
in the growth of the grape and in the making of the wine, and especially
at the approach of vintage time, and when the vintage was put into the
press. There were processions and rustic dances, and all the usual
features of the carnival, as the revellers became more and more under
the influence of the god. In these revels, women consecrated to this
divinity, and called Bacchantes or Mænads, formed a special group. The
symbol of their worship was a thyrsus--a pole ending with a bunch of
vine or ivy leaves, or with a pine cone and a fillet. At intervals the
procession would stop, and one of the revellers would mount a wagon or a
platform and recount to those below, disguised as Pans and Satyrs, the
adventures of the god of wine and joy. From these rustic masquerades
emerged in time both Tragedy and Comedy.

Of the festivals in the city, the Anthesteria, or Feast of Flowers, was
of most interest to the fair sex. This festival occurred in the
spring--when the preceding year's wine was tasted for the first
time--and lasted three days. Its principal feature was the Feast of
Beakers, which began at sunset with a great procession. Those who took
part in it appeared, wearing wreaths of ivy and bearing torches, in the
Outer Ceramicus. This festival was in the especial charge of the
king-archon, and the wife of that magistrate played the chief role in
the ceremonies. Maidens and matrons appeared, disguised as Horæ, Nymphs,
or Bacchantes, and crowded round the triumphant car on which the ancient
image of Dionysus, was conveyed to the town. At a certain stage in the
procession, the king-archon's wife, known as the Basilissa, was given a
seat in the car, beside the image of Dionysus, for on this day she was
the symbolical bride of the god. Thus, on this joyous wedding day, the
nuptial procession conducted the car to the temple of the god in Limnai.

In the inmost shrine of the temple a mystic sacrifice for the welfare of
the State was offered by the Basilissa and the fourteen ladies of honor
expressly appointed by the archon for this purpose. After the sacrifice,
with which numerous secret ceremonies were connected, the mystic union
of Dionysus, and the Basilissa was celebrated, symbolizing the sacred
marriage of the god with his much-loved city. On the following day,
among other ceremonies, the ladies of honor offered sacrifices to
Dionysus, on various specially erected altars.

These were joyous occasions; there were, however, sombre Dionysia, which
were celebrated by night, in the winter season, when the god was thought
to be absent or dead; because the vine was then withered and lifeless.
Such celebrations commemorated only grief and regret. At this season,
women of Athens left their homes and sought the slopes of Mount
Parnassus, to join the women of Delphi in savage rites celebrating the
sufferings of Dionysus. In these Bacchantes, religious fervor was
transformed into the wildest delirium. "With dishevelled hair and torn
garments they ran through the woods, bearing torches and beating
cymbals, with savage screams and violent gestures. A nervous excitement
brought distraction to the senses and to the mind, and showed itself in
wild language and gestures, and the coarsest excesses were acts of
devotion. When the Mænads danced madly through the woods, with serpents
wreathed about their arms, or a dagger in their hands, with which they
struck at those whom they met; when intoxication and the sight of blood
drove the excited throng to frenzy--it was the god acting in them, and
consecrating them as his priestesses. Woe to the man who should come
upon these mysteries! he was torn to pieces; even animals were thus
killed, and the Mænads devoured their quivering flesh and drank their
warm blood." In the ardor inspired by their mad orgies, these votaries
did not distinguish between man and beast, and a mother once tore to
pieces her son, whom she mistook for a young lion, and proudly placed on
the end of her thyrsus the bleeding head of her offspring. Euripides, in
his _Bacchanals_, has drawn a sombre picture of the excesses into which
the wine god led his inspired followers. Similar orgies, which took
their rise in Lydia, were held on the summits of Taÿgetus and in the
plains of Macedon and Thrace.

Though certain Attic women, under the frenzy of religious enthusiasm,
would join the Delphian women in their wild rites of Dionysus, this
orgiastic worship was never popular at Athens. The Athenian ladies much
preferred the worship of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and of
domestic life.

The Thesmophoria, the festival in honor of Demeter and her daughter,
Persephone, contrasted greatly with the Panathenæa. The latter was
public and was participated in by all; the former was secret, and only
married women could take part in it. The Panathenæa celebrated the
political and intellectual supremacy of the State, as symbolized in its
patron goddess; the Thesmophoria was the festival of domestic life, held
in honor of the goddess of virtuous marriage and the author of the
earth's fertility.

This festival was celebrated in October, at the period of the autumnal
sowing. Every citizen of Athens who possessed property to the amount of
three talents was compelled to furnish his wife with sufficient money to
enable her to celebrate the Thesmophoria; this was the extent of male
participation. For many days, the women had to prepare themselves for
the solemn rites by fasting, abstinence, and purifications; two of their
number were chosen from each tribe by their companions to prepare and
preside over the various features of the celebration. On the first day
of the Thesmophoria, the women went to the primitive seat of the
celebration at Halimus, near the promontory of Colias, not in a formal
procession, but in small groups, and at the hour of nightfall. The comic
side of the Demeter festivals exhibited itself on the way, as the
participants recognized each other with jests and raillery, recalling by
this the pleasantries with which the maiden lambé caused Demeter to
smile, when the latter was afflicted with melancholy over the loss of
her daughter; and woe to the man who met these women! for he became the
victim of the most scornful mockery and sarcasm. At Halimus, in the
sanctuary of Demeter, the mysteries were celebrated by night; the
following day was spent in taking purifying baths in the sea and in
playing and dancing on the shore. After enjoying their freedom here for
a day or more, the women set out in a long procession for Athens, while
priestesses bore in caskets on their heads the _Thesmai_, or the laws of
Demeter, whence the festival took its name.

The remainder of the celebration took place in the city, either in the
sanctuary of Demeter or on the Pnyx, which was on this occasion
exclusively turned over to the women for the celebration. The first day
after their return was called the "day of fasting," for during the whole
day the women sat in deep mourning on the ground and took no food
whatsoever, while they sang dirges and observed other customs common in
case of death; they also sacrificed swine to the infernal deities. The
rites of the next day were of a more general character. The name given
the day was "Calligenia," signifying "bearer of a fair offspring," and
on this day they offered a sacrifice to Demeter and prayed her to give
to women the blessing of fair children. We know but little of the
sacrifices, dances, and merry games which occupied this final day of the
festival. This worship of Demeter was one of the most elevating
influences in the social life of Athens; and the Thesmophoria was but a
prelude to the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries, into which women
as well as men were initiated.

The ceremonies at Eleusis seem to have consisted primarily in a dramatic
representation of the beautiful legend of Demeter and Persephone, from
which many moral lessons could be drawn. Homer has preserved to us this
legend in the Homeric hymn beginning:

"I begin to sing fair-haired Demeter, a hallowed goddess,--herself and
her slim-ankled daughter whom Hades snatched away from golden-sworded
Demeter, renowned for fruits, as the maiden sported with the
deep-bosomed daughters of Oceanus, culling flowers through the soft
meadow--roses and crocuses and beautiful violets, hyacinths, the iris
and the narcissus, which Earth, at the command of Zeus, favoring the
All-Receiver [Hades], brought forth as a snare to the maiden. From its
root an hundred heads sprung forth, and the whole wide heaven above was
scented with its fragrance, and the whole earth laughed, and the briny
wave of the sea. And the girl stretched out both her hands to seize the
pretty plaything, when the wide-winged earth yawned in the Mysian plain
where the all-receiving king, the many-named son of Cronus, leaped forth
with his immortal steeds and snatched her away, unwilling, in his golden
chariot, weeping and shrieking aloud, calling upon her father, the son
of Cronus."

The hymn then recounts how the goddess-mother roamed for nine days over
the earth, seeking her lost daughter, till on the tenth she learned the
truth from the all-seeing Sun. Angered at Zeus for permitting the
violence, she wandered about among men in the form of an old woman, till
at length, at Eleusis, in Attica, she was kindly received at the house
of King Celeus, and acted as nurse for his newborn son, Demophon. She
would have made the lad immortal by giving him a bath of fire; but being
surprised and prevented by the mother, she revealed her deity, and
caused to be erected in her honor a temple, in which she gave herself up
to her sorrow. In anger, she made the earth barren, and would not allow
the crops to spring up again until her daughter was allowed to spend
two-thirds of the year with her mother among the Immortals, devoting
the remaining third to her gloomy spouse in the realms of Hades. Upon
her return to Olympus, Demeter left the gift of corn, of agriculture,
and of her holy mysteries, with her host, and sent Triptolemus the
Eleusinian about the earth to make known to men the knowledge of
agriculture, of civil order, and of holy wedlock. Thus the worship of
Demeter, as the founder of law and order and marriage, became prevalent,
and exerted a most helpful influence throughout Hellas.

The mysteries of Eleusis inculcated the moral lessons which would
promote right living among the people. They were in charge of a
priesthood consisting of both men and women. The chief priest, the
hierophant, was a man of irreproachable character, and held the office
for life on condition of celibacy. The priestesses had in charge
especially the initiation of the women, but their duties were not
restricted to this.

The candidates for initiation, the Mystai, had to spend a year in
preparation. Homicides, courtesans, barbarians, all who had any stain
upon their lives, were excluded from these rites; only Hellenes "of pure
soul and pure hands" were eligible for initiation. On the days preceding
the festival, expiatory ceremonies were performed, of which the most
notable was one in which a girl or boy, styled "the child of the
hearth," performed certain rites of purification for those who were
desirous of being admitted into the mysteries. Finally, on the twentieth
day of the month Boëdromion, corresponding nearly to our September, the
great procession set forth from Athens for Eleusis, along the Sacred
Way. In this procession the women took part in great numbers, and it
afforded excellent opportunities for the display of beautiful toilettes.
Aristocratic ladies were usually driven in chariots. As the crowd of
pilgrims passed over the Cephissus Bridge, there was, as in the
Thesmophoria, much banter and raillery in memory of the manner in which
the goddess was once diverted from her grief; and all along the road
there were stations for sacrifices and oblations, where the maidens
engaged in singing and graceful dances. Eleusis was finally reached at
night by torchlight, and the following days were spent by the initiated
in their religious duties and by the candidates in further preparation.

We have unfortunately but meagre glimpses into the Eleusinian mysteries,
and cannot follow the order of ceremonies. Suffice it to say that,
besides promoting good living and happiness in this life, they gave hope
for the life to come. "The man purified by initiation," says Pindar,
"has understood before his death the beginning and end of life, and
after death dwells with the gods."

In Polygnotus's famous painting of the infernal regions, in the Lesché
at Delphi, two women were represented trying to carry water in jars that
have no bottoms; an inscription states that they were never initiated,
and the moral was "that without initiation life is altogether wasted and
lost." In the worship of Demeter and in the Eleusinian mysteries there
was everything to appeal to woman--the sanctity of marriage, deified
motherhood, exaltation of the home and of domestic duties--and the zeal
manifested by Athenian women in these religious rites doubtless promoted
a feminine piety and a natural devoutness which ennobled the Athenian
home and softened parental discipline.

The Thesmophoria was the festival of the married women; but young girls
and even children had their festivals in the Brauronia and the
Artemisia, celebrated in honor of Artemis, the special patron of
virgins. The Brauronia was celebrated every fifth year, in the little
town of Brauron. Chosen Athenian maidens between the ages of five and
ten years, dressed in saffron-colored garments, went in solemn
procession to the sanctuary of the goddess, where they performed a
propitiatory rite, in which they imitated bears, an animal sacred to
Artemis. Every maiden of Athens, before she could marry, must have once
taken part in this festival and consecrated herself to the goddess.
There was also a precinct of Artemis Brauronia on the Acropolis, and
doubtless this ceremony was also performed there. Almost everywhere this
virgin goddess was revered by young girls as the guardian of their
maiden years, and before marriage it was the custom that the bride
should dedicate to Artemis a lock of her hair, her girdle, and her
maiden tunic.

Maidens also took part in the worship of the twin brother of Artemis,
Apollo, in the island of Delos, which was the birthplace of the god and
goddess. The celebration was a festival of youth and beauty, of poetry
and art. Aristocratic maidens of Athens joined with those of the seat of
the Delphian confederacy over which Athens presided in making the
occasion emphasize the power and splendor of Athens in the height of its

"Once every five years, in the spring, a solemn festival recalled the
anniversary of the birth of the god. The maidens of Delos, wearing their
richest attire, and crowned with flowers, united in joyous chorus around
the altar, and represented in sacred dances the story of the birth of
Apollo. Others, with garlands of flowers in their hands, went to hang
them on the ancient statue of the goddess, which Theseus had, according
to tradition, brought from Crete to Delos. From all parts of Greece,
from the islands, and from Asia, solemn embassies, sacred _theoriæ_,
landed in the harbor. The most brilliant was that of the Athenians, who
were long the suzerains of the island. Each year, a State vessel, the
Paralian galley, conveyed the sacred embassy to Delos; the crew was
composed of free men, the vessel decked with flowers. At the moment of
its departure, the whole town was purified; the priests of Apollo
bestowed on the galley a solemn benediction, and the law forbade that
the purified town should be defiled by any sentence of death until the
return of the vessel. The members of the embassy were chosen from the
chief families of the city, and they were accompanied by a chorus of
young men and maidens, who were to chant the sacred hymns in honor of
Apollo and perform around the altar of the Horns, one of the marvels of
Delos and of the world, an ancient and solemn dance--the _geranos_. The
day of the arrival of these theoriæ was a festival in Delos. Amid the
acclamations of an enthusiastic crowd, the embassy disembarked in the
harbor; and such was the joy and impatience of the people, that
sometimes its members had not even time to don their robes of ceremony
and to crown themselves with flowers. Over the bridge wound the sacred
procession of the Athenians, with its splendidly dressed musicians, its
chorus chanting the sacred hymns, its rich offerings destined for the
god; received at the end of the bridge by the official charged with the
reception of these pious embassies, it pursued its way to the temple,
there to present its offerings and prayers, and to pour out on the altar
the blood of its hecatombs. During the rest of the day, feasts were
provided for the people, and games and contests filled the island with
the sounds of rejoicing."

After the celebration, the Paralia returned to Athens, bearing homeward
the beautiful maidens who had done honor to the god and had added to the
glory of their native city.

Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and of pleasure, also had her festivals
in which women took part. Certain of these were of a lascivious
character and were celebrated chiefly by the demi-monde; they were held
especially at the temple of Aphrodite Pandemus on the promontory of
Colias. But the ladies of Athens took part in the Adonia, in honor of
Adonis, beloved of Aphrodite. The ceremonies of the first day were of a
mournful character, as they commemorated the death of Adonis; but the
second day was one of rejoicing and entertainment, as Adonis was
conceived of as returning to life to spend six months with Aphrodite. In
his death and resurrection the changes of the seasons were poetically
symbolized. Women of the leading families were expected to participate
in the magnificent solemnities, which took place at the summer solstice.
A long procession of priests and of maidens acting as canephorse,
bearing vases for libations, baskets, perfumes, and flowers, approached
a colossal catafalque, over which were spread beautiful purple
coverlets. On these lay a statue of Adonis, pale in death, but still
beautifull Over this mournful figure a beautiful woman gave expression in
every way to the most bitter grief and sang a hymn to Adonis, telling
his sad story. The women round about were clad in mourning and
celebrated the plaintive funeral dance; while on all sides was heard the
mournful cry: "Alas! alas! Adonis is dead!"

The hymn or psalm to Adonis was a distinguished and most popular feature
of the celebration of the Adonia; Theocritus, in Idyl XV., gives its
rendering on the occasion when Arsinoe, queen of Ptolemy Philadelphus,
decorated the image of Adonis. In a later chapter of the present
volume,--that on The Alexandrian Woman,--an English version of this
psalm is given, into which the spirit of the original is most aptly
infused; and in connection therewith is a lively and forceful picture of
the attitude and manners of the ladies of the day.



It is by no means a matter of surprise that among a people so highly
cultured as the Greeks there should be women of the highest intellectual
attainments. Sappho has already furnished us an example, and her
ascendency over her pupils was such as to start a train of influences
that stimulated her sex in every part of Hellas to engage in the study
and composition of poetry.

Furthermore, among the famous men of Hellas there were, from time to
time, ardent advocates of the higher education of women. As early as the
seventh century before the Christian era, Cleobulus, one of the seven
sages of Greece, insisted that maidens should have the same intellectual
training as youths, and illustrated his doctrine in the careful
education of his daughter, Cleobuline, who became a poetess of wide

Pythagoras, who in the sixth century founded his celebrated
philosophical sect in Southern Italy, fully recognized the equality of
the sexes and devised a system of education for women, which made his
feminine followers not only most efficient in all domestic relations,
but also preeminent in philosophical and literary culture. Plato spent
considerable time in Magna Græcia, and became imbued with the spirit of
Pythagorean philosophy. He must have been impressed with its elevating
influence on the status of woman, for in his _Dialogues_ he urged that
women should receive the same education as men, and he himself admitted
members of the gentler sex to the lectures of the Academy.

After Plato's time, accordingly, we find many women engaged in the study
of philosophy, not only among the Academicians, but also in the other
philosophical schools, especially the Cyrenaic, the Megarian, and the
Epicurean. The Peripatetic and the Stoic doctrines seem not to have
appealed to the fair sex.

Alexander's empire, in overthrowing the exclusive State laws of the
various cities, accomplished much for the emancipation of women, and
from that time forward we find women engaged in almost all the branches
of the higher learning. In Alexandria, especially, the daughters of
scholars pursued studies in philosophy, in philology, and in
archaeology, and some of them became celebrated. In the Græco-Roman
period, Plutarch was a constant advocate of female education, and the
circle of learned women that he has made known to us indicates how
general was the spread of education among the women of his day.

Aspasia had set the fashion for hetaaræ in Athens to devote attention to
rhetoric and philosophy; consequently, many of the blue-stockings of
Greece belonged to the hetæra class. Some acquaintance with the higher
learning, however, became fashionable also in the retirement of the
gynæceum, and many maidens and matrons of honorable station employed
their leisure moments in reading the works of philosophers and poets,
and received, if not public, at least private instruction from
professional lecturers.

The variety of intellectual pursuits among the women was marked. Poetry
was their natural field, and philosophy appealed to them as being the
most learned vocation of the times. Even in the Heroic Age, women were
skilled in the uses of plants for purposes of witchcraft and of healing;
and in historic times, when medicine became a science, women engaged in
various medical pursuits. Similar tastes led many also to follow the
different branches of natural science, and in Alexandrian times, when
philology was the prevailing study, history and grammar and literary
criticism became favorite studies with the daughters of the learned.

In a previous chapter, we have described the Lesbian Sappho's seminary
of the Muses, to which maidens flocked from all Hellenic lands for the
study of poetry and art. The natural beauties of the isle of Lesbos, the
luxurious life of the aristocratic classes, the brilliancy and zeal of
Sappho herself, and her ardent affection for her girl friends, were
influences favorable to the pursuits of the Muses and the Graces.

It is not surprising that, amid such surroundings and with such a
teacher, women should acquire a love of poetry and of all that appeals
to the æsthetic nature. There is a vague tradition that there were
seventy-six women poets among the Ancient Greeks. Unfortunately, the
names of but few of these are preserved to us. We have authentic
information concerning only the nine most distinguished poetesses, to
whom the Greeks gave the title of the Terrestrial Muses.

The second of the nine Terrestrial Muses--for Sappho was, of course, the
first--was the poetess's favorite and most promising pupil, Erinna of
the isle of Telos. She aroused among Greek poets a most respectful and
tender sentiment, and they frequently sounded her praises. Her most
noted production was a poem called _The Distaff_, and the poets compared
it to the honeycomb, which the gracious bee had gathered from the
flowers of Helicon; they perceived in this production of a maiden the
freshness and perfume of spring, and they likened her delicate notes to
the sweet voice of a swan as he sings his death song--a comparison only
too just, for she died at the tender age of nineteen years. A poet of
the Anthology thus laments her untimely taking-off:

      "These are Erinna's songs: how sweet, though slight!
      For she was but a girl of nineteen years:--
      Yet stronger far than what most men can write:
      Had death delayed, what fame had equalled hers?"

The names of the next two of the Terrestrial Nine are closely associated
with that of Pindar of Thebes,--Myrtis and Corinna, the one the
instructor, the other the rival, of the great composer. Myrtis was the
eldest of the three, and probably gave instruction to her younger
contemporaries. She later entered the lists in a poetic contest with
Pindar, and for this she was censured by Corinna. The younger woman, who
defeated Pindar five times in poetic contests, gave her rival some good
advice, by which he profited in his later productions. She reproached
him for devoting too much attention to the form and neglecting the soul
of the poem. When, following her counsel, Pindar brought to her a poem
abounding in mythological allusions, Corinna smiled, and remarked to him
that in future he should "sow by the handful, not with the whole sack."

Pausanias saw the tomb of Corinna in a conspicuous part of her native
town of Tanagra; and also a picture of her in the gymnasium,
representing her binding a fillet about her head in honor of the victory
she had gained over Pindar at Thebes. But he ungallantly ascribes her
victory partly to her dialect--for she composed not in Doric, like
Pindar, but in a dialect which Æolians would understand--and partly to
her beauty; for, judging from her portrait, she was the fairest woman of
her time.

Telesilla of Argos was not only a poet, but an antique Joan of Arc as
well. Being of feeble constitution, she was told by the oracle to devote
herself to the service of the Muses, and in this salutary mental
exercise she found health and preeminence among her fellows. Famous
hymns to Apollo and to Artemis were composed by her. Her love of beauty
also inspired her with noble ideals of patriotism and self-sacrifice,
and in the crisis of the war between her native town and Sparta she
armed her countrywomen and led them forth to victory against the enemy.
As a memorial of this noble action, her statue was erected in the temple
of Aphrodite at Argos.

Praxilla of Sicyon was placed by ancient critics by the side of Anacreon
for the softness and delicacy of her verses, and she was honored in her
native city with a statue from the hand of Lysippus. She sang beautiful
songs of Aphrodite and retold in passionate verse the legend of Adonis.

The next name on this immortal list takes us to Locris, in Italy, and
down to the fourth century before Christ. Like Sappho, Nossis "of
womanly accents" is a love poetess, and twelve epigrams attributed to
her are found in the Anthology. Her poetry was symbolized by the
_fleur-de-lis_ with its penetrating perfume. In praising the portrait of
her child she sees the reflection of her own beauty, and in the epitaph
which she composed for her tomb she declares herself equal to Sappho;
hence humility cannot be classed among the many virtues which caused her
to be adored by her contemporaries.

The little poems of Anyte of Tegea and Moero of Byzantium, the last two
of the Terrestrial Nine, are often symbolized by the lilies for their
purity and delicacy. These poets flourished in the third century of our
era. Antipater surnames Anyte "a feminine Homer"; rather should she be
called "a feminine Simonides," though even this is too high praise. Her
soul was simple and pure, and her sweet sentiments are reflected in a
style as limpid as a running stream. Charm and freshness characterize
her invitation to some passer-by to repose under the trees and taste of
the cool water; deep and melancholy emotions pervade the poem in which
she bewails the death of a young maiden; and a masculine philosophy of
life is manifest in the epitaph of a slave whom death has made equal
with the Great King. Moero's range was not so great, nor her touch so
delicate. A heroic poem, _Mnemosyne_, was the most ambitious of her
works; she also composed elegies and epigrams, and two of the latter
have been preserved to us, revealing a soul sensitive to natural beauty.

Here and there, other names and occasional verses of Greek poetesses are
found--Cleobuline of Rhodes, Megalostrata and Clitagora, of Sparta, and
others; but they did not attain the fame of the Terrestrial Muses.

As the verses of the Greek women were to be sung to the accompaniment of
the lyre, the daughters of the Muses were as celebrated in music as they
were in poetry. Nor were the maidens of Greece without distinction in
other arts. It is in part to a Corinthian maiden that legend ascribes
the invention of modelling in clay. Cora, daughter of Butades, is about
to say farewell--perhaps forever--to her lover, who is going on a long
journey. The light of a lamp throws his shadow on the wall, and, to
preserve at least this image of him, she deftly sketches the outline of
the shadow. Her father, with the instinct of an artist, observes the
outline and fills it in with potter's clay, and then bakes the model
which he has obtained. There are no names recorded of Greek women who
were sculptors, but doubtless in the studio of many an artist a
daughter delighted in assisting him at his work.

Many Greek women distinguished themselves in painting. Timarete, the
daughter of Micon, produced an image of Artemis, which was long to be
seen at Ephesus; it was one of the most ancient monuments of this art,
and the goddess was probably represented under a strange and symbolic
form, such as she had in her sanctuary in Ephesus. Eleusis possessed a
painting made by Irene, daughter of Cratinus, representing the figure of
a young girl, perhaps a priestess initiated into the mysteries of the
great goddesses. Calypso, Alcisthene, Aristarete, and Olympias are the
names of other female painters, whose memories at least have been

The most celebrated of all, however, was Lalla, a native of the city of
Cyzicus, to which Apollo had accorded the gift of arts. Though she
worked with extreme rapidity, this did not detract from the merits of
her work, and she was considered the first painter of her time. Painting
with pencil and on ivory were equally familiar to her. The portraits
which she painted were principally of persons of her own sex. Pliny
mentions a portrait, which was at Naples during his life, in which Lalla
had represented an old woman. He adds that she had reproduced in this
her own picture reflected in a mirror. There has been found at Pompeii a
painting of an artist which is believed to be a portrait of Lalla,
probably painted by herself. It represents a young woman seated on a
stool on a little porch, with her eyes fixed on a statue of Bacchus,
which she is reproducing on a tablet held by a child. In her right hand
is a pencil, which she plunges into a small box evidently containing her
colors; in her left hand she holds a palette. Her garments are elegantly
draped around her; a band encircles her waving hair, which falls over
her neck and shoulders, A deep, intellectual look illuminates her
delicate features. If this be really a picture of Lalla, she was
wonderfully beautiful.

Not only in poetry and the fine arts, but also in philosophy and
intellectual pursuits did the Greek woman show herself capable of great
achievements. In the schools of Pythagoras, established at Croton in
Magna Græcia, women were freely admitted and took a prominent part in
the exercises, together with their husbands and brothers.

There is a tradition that the ascendency of Pythagoras at Croton was so
great that the ladies of the city brought their rich apparel, their
jewels, necklaces and bracelets, to the temple of Hera, and dedicated
them as an offering to domestic virtue, vowing that henceforth prudence
and modesty, not luxurious apparel, were to be the true ornaments of
their sex. Whether this story be true or not, there is no doubt that
Pythagoras had a large number of women among his disciples, and that the
"Pythagorean Women" attained throughout the Greek world a great and
enviable reputation. Pythagoras's friendly attitude toward the sex was
probably in part the result of his cordial relations with the Delphian
priestess Aristoclea, renowned for her amiability and her wisdom, with
whom he carried on a learned correspondence. The general results of his
teachings upon woman were a high ideal of feminine morality, careful
attention to household duties, and the elevation of the conception of
motherhood, especially in the careful rearing of children.

Existing fragments of the works of "Pythagorean Women" indicate their
lofty views of moral perfection and harmony, and their practical
judgment in everyday affairs. _Sophrosyne_ is constantly commended as
the chief feminine virtue, a term connoting moderation,
self-containedness, modesty, and wifely fidelity--in a word, all that
is essentially womanly.

The Neo-pythagorean philosopher, Iamblichus, in his biography of
Pythagoras mentions fifteen celebrated women of the School. Other
writers name other female adepts in Pythagorean philosophy, who lived
during and after the time of Pythagoras. The number was so large that
the comic poets Alexis and Cratinus the Younger, who, like most
Athenians, had a genuine contempt for blue-stockings, made them the
object of much drollery and ridicule.

Of all the Pythagorean Women, none attained such exalted rank as
Pythagoras's wife, the high-minded Theano. She combined virtue and
wisdom in such perfect harmony that she was regarded in antiquity not
only as the foremost representative of feminine scholarship, but also as
the brilliant prototype of true womanhood. Of the life of Theano we know
only a few characteristic incidents, and these give insight into her
character mainly by relating "sayings" uttered by her on certain
occasions. She was once asked for what she wished to be distinguished.
She replied by quoting a verse of Homer (II. 1:31): "Minding the spindle
and tending my marriage bed." Another time, she was asked what most
became a wife; she answered: "to live entirely for her husband."--Again,
she was asked what was love; "the sickness of a longing soul," was her
answer. Once, while she was throwing off her mantle, it happened that
her arm was exposed. A gentleman, struck by its beauty and shapeliness,
exclaimed: "What a beautiful arm!" "But not for the public gaze,"
replied the wise Theano, while she hastily adjusted her robes. This
remark has been quoted by Plutarch, by two Church Fathers, Clement of
Alexandria and Theodoret, and by the Byzantine authoress Anna Comnena,
as a noteworthy apothegm, tending to promote womanly modesty and

Theano was both prose writer and poetess. Of a long epic poem written by
her in hexameters we have not even a fragment; of her philosophical
works, there are still extant three letters of great charm and a
fragment of a philosophic and didactic work _On Piety_. This fragment is
too short for us to distinguish in it anything more than the highly
developed reasoning power of the author; in her letters, however,
discussing the rearing of children, the treatment of servants, and the
suppression of jealousy, the sentiments are forceful, and the style has
a familiar grace and tenderness. The relics that we have abound in
axiomatic expressions, emphasizing womanly virtues and manifesting the
lofty morality and high culture of the writer.

After the death of Pythagoras, Theano, in conjunction with her two sons,
Telauges and Mnesarchus, kept up the secret order; and Theano, as
teacher and as writer, promulgated her husband's doctrines. The time and
circumstances of her death are unknown.

Theano's three daughters followed in their mothers footsteps. Myia, the
most distinguished, had been so carefully reared and was of such
preeminent virtue that she was chosen as a virgin to lead the chorus of
maidens, and as a wife the chorus of matrons, at all the sacred
festivals of Croton, and she knelt at the head of her companions before
the altars of the gods. She was the wife of Malon, the celebrated
athlete, also of the Pythagorean order; their union was in all respects
a happy one. Myia was also a writer, but we have only one letter
attributed to her. Her work in the spirit of her father was so brilliant
that she spread the fame of his teachings throughout all Hellenic lands.
There was probably an extensive literature about her in antiquity, for
Lucian, several centuries later, says he had much to tell of her, but
that her history was already generally known.

Not without distinction were also Myia's sisters, of whom Arignote
attained a great reputation as a philosopher and writer of epigrams,
while Damo distinguished herself by her fidelity to her father's dying
request. The story goes that he consigned to her his most precious
treasure,--his memoirs,--with the injunction that she should keep them
secret from all who were not of the family. Though offered large sums
for them, she never yielded, preferring poverty to disobedience. At her
death she turned the works over to her daughter Bistalia, with the same
mandate her father had given herself. The granddaughter remained equally
faithful, and these invaluable works perished with the family. Some
ancient writers mention as another daughter of Pythagoras, Theano the
Younger, of Thurii, but, according to Suidas, she was a daughter of
Lycophron. She was a clever philosopher and a prolific authoress.

Other Pythagorean Women of whom we know more than the mere name are
Phintys, Perictyone, Melissa, Ptolemais, and Timycha. Phintys wrote a
book _On Womanly Virtue_; Perictyone--often erroneously identified with
the mother of Plato--composed a work _On Wisdom_, much prized by
Aristotle, and another _Concerning the Harmony of Women_,--that is,
concerning the accord of life and thought, of feelings and actions, the
right relations between body and spirit. Fragments of these works show
the Pythagorean idea concerning the mission of woman. They connect the
duties of woman with the propensities and faculties peculiarly her own.
To the men, they leave the defence of the country and the administration
of public affairs; to the women, they assign the government of the
home, the guardianship of the family hearth, and the education of
children. Personality is regarded as the dominating virtue of
man--chastity, of woman.

Melissa is known only by a short fragment on feminine love of adornment;
and Ptolemais was a specialist in music and an authority on the
Pythagorean theory of music in its relation to life. Of Timycha we have
a characteristic story. She lived in the time of Dionysius of Syracuse.
A party of Pythagorean pilgrims, while on their way to Metapontum to
celebrate certain rites, were attacked by a band of Syracusans. They at
first fled; but when they saw they must pass through a field of beans,
they suddenly stopped and fought till the last one was killed. The
Syracusans shortly after came upon Mylias of Croton and his wife,
Timycha, who, on account of her delicate condition, had been left behind
by the rest of their party. They were arrested and brought before the
tyrant. Dionysius promised them liberty and an escort to their
destination if they would tell him why the deceased Pythagoreans refused
to tread on the beans. But they refused to tell. Dionysius's curiosity
was all the more excited, and he had the husband taken aside, that he
might question the wife alone, feeling convinced that he could compel
her to answer his question. Threatened with the torture, and fearing
lest in her weakness she might be overcome, Timycha bit out her tongue
rather than reveal the secrets of her order.

In these Pythagorean Women, we observe the perfect blending of
intellectual beauty with moral elevation. Perhaps no later age has
presented a higher ideal of feminine perfection. Their system of culture
taught them how to pursue at the same time the most abstruse
philosophical speculations and the most insignificant duties of
practical life, and the higher learning in their hands never led to a
sacrifice of true womanliness.

Passing from Croton to Athens, Socrates, the father of the various
philosophical schools, had no female disciples, so far as we are
informed; but he is credited with saying that he learned the ait of love
from the priestess Diotima, and that of eloquence from Aspasia. Xenophon
also recounts a lengthy conversation of Socrates with the hetsera
Theodota concerning the art of winning men. His most eminent disciple,
Plato, had numerous pupils of the gentler sex. Plato possessed in large
measure the _ewig weibliche_, which Goethe deems an essential element in
all great men. As a young man he was given to composing love poems, but
the names of his youthful sweethearts are not known. His visits to
Southern Italy made him sympathetic with woman's literary aspirations;
and when he opened the door of the Academy to them, women flocked to his
lecture room from various cities of Hellas. It was the first known
instance in Athens of women engaging in philosophy.

The female members of the Academy did not attain to such distinction as
did the Pythagorean Women. The latter were of Dorian blood, and lived,
according to the rules of their order, in the greatest simplicity and
industry; the former were chiefly of Ionian stock and were more inclined
to lives of ease and luxury. Consequently, they did not cultivate those
domestic virtues which made the Pythagorean Women so superior. Athens
was not the place for feminine ambition to receive proper recognition,
and the honorable maids and matrons could not, if they wished, pursue
the study of philosophy in association with the male sex; hence the
feminine element of the Academy was composed of strangers, who were
attracted to Athens by the fame of the philosopher.

Of Plato's immediate family, only his sister Potone, the mother of his
pupil and successor Speusippus, appears to have engaged in
philosophical studies. Of the strangers associated with the Academy,
under Plato and later under Speusippus, two gained especial
distinction--Axiothea and Lasthenia.

Axiothea, who was also called Phlisia, was a native of Phlius, a small
Peloponnesian town in the district of Sicyon, whence came the poetess
Praxilla. The story goes that some works of Plato fell into the maiden's
hands, and she read them with great zeal and industry. His _Republic_
finally aroused her enthusiasm to such a pitch that her desire for
personal instruction from the philosopher could no longer be resisted.
So she assumed masculine attire, made the journey alone to Athens, and
was received into the Academy. She continued the use of men's clothing,
and for a long time concealed her sex, becoming one of the most
prominent and zealous members of the school. Plato was so impressed with
her ability that, as tradition says, he would postpone his lectures if
Axiothea chanced to be absent. When he was asked the reason for such an
interruption, he replied: "The intellect sufficient to grasp the subject
is not yet present"--meaning Axiothea. She frequented the Academy also
under Speusippus, and became herself a teacher of philosophy. Nothing
but What is commendable is known of her, but her reputation has suffered
from the association of her name with that of Lasthenia. The latter came
from Arcadia to Athens to hear Plato, attracted, as was her fellow
student, by the fame of the philosopher. The prevailing life of the
stranger-women in Athens, however, undermined her moral principles, and
she played in the Academy a similar rôle to that played by Leontium
later among the Epicureans. Speusippus himself was her lover. Though
better known for her adventures as a hetæra, she also possessed some
reputation as a philosopher. Dionysius once wrote to Speusippus: "One
can also learn philosophy from your Arcadian pupil."

The Cyrenaic School, founded by Aristippus, the forerunner of the
Epicurean in its doctrine of pleasure, naturally attracted women,
especially courtesans, into its membership. The celebrated Lais the
Elder was numbered among the Cyrenaics; but there were also high-minded
women among its disciples.

Arete, daughter of Aristippus, continued the latter's teachings after
his death. Her father had given her a most thorough education, and
himself instructed her in philosophy. She was taught to despise riches
and luxury and to observe moderation in all things. Aristippus once
said: "The greatest thing which my daughter Arete has to thank me for is
that I have taught her to set a value on nothing she can do without."
Arete was also learned in natural history and in other branches of
science. She passed her time partly in Athens, partly in Cyrene and
other Greek cities; and wherever she went she aroused great interest by
the charm of her beauty and amiability. There is no reproach whatever
upon her good name: she appears to have been an ingenuous, highly
endowed woman, devoted to science and philosophy. As head of the
Cyrenaic School after her father's death, she had many distinguished
pupils, among them Theodorus and Aristippus the Younger. She was a
prolific writer; forty works are attributed to her, on philosophy, on
agriculture, on the wars of the Athenians, on the life of Socrates, and
various other subjects, showing the wide range of her interests. She
died at Cyrene, in the seventy-seventh year of her age; and in the
inscription over her grave she was styled a "light of Hellas."

The coarse doctrines of the Cynic school, founded by Antisthenes, were
not attractive to women, yet the school had one female representative
who has become famous and has been in recent years the subject of a racy
romantic poem. This Cynic was Hipparchia.

The ugly and ill-shapen Crates of Thebes was one of the successors of
Antisthenes. A beautiful and popular maiden, Hipparchia, with her
brother Metrocles, heard the lectures of Crates, and she was so
captivated by his teachings and his manner of life that she became not
only his most zealous disciple, but fell violently in love with her
teacher. She scorned all her younger, richer, more handsome suitors, and
declared that she would have only Crates. She threatened to kill herself
if her parents did not secure Crates for her husband. They tried to
dissuade her; even Crates, at the request of her parents, sought to make
her abandon her purpose. Yet every effort was fruitless. Finally Crates,
throwing off his clothing, appeared before her and said: "Such is the
shape of your bridegroom: this is all he possesses. Take careful counsel
with yourself, for you cannot become my wife unless you accept my whole
manner of life. Ponder it well, that you may later have no pretext for
ill feeling." "Already a long time," answered the maiden, "have I
anticipated this and thought over it; I can nowhere on earth find a
richer or handsomer husband than you. Take me, then, with you, wherever
you may go." Seeing that her mind was made up, the parents finally gave
their consent to the marriage of their daughter with the philosopher.

Crates, as a true Cynic, straightway led his wife into one of the
colonnades, and publicly celebrated his nuptials. Hipparchia entered
fully into the manner of life of her husband. She clad herself in coarse
garments like his, accompanied him everywhere, and bore many privations.
Many cynical sophisms and apothegms are attributed to Hipparchia, who
became one of the most prominent members of the school. We know but
little of her later life, beyond the fact that she was the mother of one
son, Pasicles, and of several daughters.

The Megarian school of philosophy, founded by Euclides of Megara, a
pupil of Socrates, practised dialectic, and was called the Eristic, or
disputatious, sect. The art of disputation appealed to the female sex,
and a number of women allied themselves with this school. The first
female Dialecticians were the five daughters of Diodorus, an eminent
disciple of Euclides, and they conferred much honor on the school. Argia
was the most celebrated of the sisters for her mental endowments and
dialectic skill, but unfortunately there are but scant records of the
philosophical activity of Argia and her four sisters, Artemisia,
Menexena, Theognis, and Pantaclea. Hieronymus commends the five for
their modesty as well as for their intellectual attainments, and they
must have aroused general enthusiasm, as Philo, a disciple of their
father, wrote a book about them. Euclides was succeeded by Stilpo as
head of the school, and among his hearers was Nicarete of Megara, the
daughter of prominent parents, who became renowned for her cleverness
and profound learning. She adopted the hetaera life, and was the
"companion" of Stilpo himself. The relation was tender and enduring, but
she did not restrict herself to one lover. Her favors, however, were not
to be won, as usual, by the payment of gold, but through the invention
or solution of a difficult sophism.

The philosophy of Epicurus was a comfortable and pleasing doctrine for
people of light morals, and in consequence we meet with the names of a
large number of young and beautiful hetaerae who infested the Gardens of
Epicurus, among whom were a Boidion, Hedia, Nicidion, Erotion,
Marmarion, and the celebrated Leontium. Their presence gave the enemies
of the Epicurean sect justification for characterizing their philosophy
as a system of immorality; and the strict moralist and academician
Plutarch violently censured the Epicureans "who lived with the hetaera
Hedeia or Leontium, spat in the face of virtue, and found the _summum
bonum_ in the flesh and in sensuality." While nothing but the names of
the other Epicurean hetaeras have survived, Leontium, by her varied
accomplishments, has won an abiding prominence in the intellectual

Leontium, "the little lioness," is indisputably the most remarkable and
attractive personality in the philosophical demi-monde of Ancient
Greece. Of her home and her family, history is silent; but she was the
product of a hetaera seminary which imparted to its pupils a thorough
intellectual discipline in addition to the secrets of "gallantry" and
the knowledge of cosmetic arts. When she became a favorite of Epicurus
and began to study philosophy, she continued the practice of hetairism,
which occasioned great vexation to the master, not because he deplored
her light morals, but because he was himself passionately enamored of
the highly gifted maiden. The aged and broken Epicurus could not attach
to himself alone the high-spirited creature, who preferred the beautiful
and wealthy Timarchus. One of her early lovers was the poet Hermesianax
of Colophon, to whom she owed her literary training. He dedicated to her
three books of elegies, entitled _Leontium_, fragments of which are
extant. Leontium's fame is due most of all to her activity as an
authoress. Theophrastus the Peripatetic published a work _On Marriage_
in which he severely handled the female sex. Leontium wrote a reply in
which she displayed so much subtlety, learning, and argumentative power
that Theophrastus was thoroughly routed. This work caused general
admiration, Cicero commends it, and Pliny pays a tribute to its
excellence. Unfortunately for our study of the social status of Greek
women, the work is lost. Leontium had a daughter, Danaë by name, who was
also a hetæra and a consistent Epicurean. She became the favorite of
Sophron, Prefect of Ephesus.

Though the Epicurean hetæræ have brought reproach upon the sect, yet
there were honorable women of irreproachable reputation who became
members of the school. The chief of these was Themista, wife of Leontius
of Lampsacus, styled by Strabo "the most excellent man of the city."
Epicurus became acquainted with the couple during his four years'
sojourn in Lampsacus and was much influenced by their learning and
culture. He won them to his system of philosophy, and he ever afterward
carried on a most industrious correspondence with them, and especially
with Themista. Her name became widely known both within and without
Epicurean circles. The Church Father Lactantius regarded her as a model
of feminine culture and as the only true philosopher among the heathen
Greeks. Themista was very active as an author, and there was in
antiquity an extensive Themista literature, which has entirely

As the various schools of philosophy thus far mentioned began to lose
their hold upon mankind, there were two tendencies manifest among
thoughtful people: the first, to doubt whether it was possible to
ascertain truth,--the spirit of scepticism; the second, to combine from
earlier systems whatever seemed most worthy of credence,--the spirit of

The two systems which appealed most to enlightened pagans during the
earlier Christian centuries were those of Pythagoras and Plato, which
offered many points of likeness. By the union of these with certain
Hebraic or Oriental elements, there arose the philosophical amalgam
known as Neo-platonism. Plotinus is regarded as the founder of this
system in the third century of our era. Through his attractive
personality and the timeliness of his teachings, Plotinus rapidly gained
a great following among the learned, especially philosophers, statesmen,
physicians, and ladies of high social station. He passed many years in
Rome, where a large number of noble ladies, including the Empress
Salomina, were among his hearers. From Rome, Neo-platonism spread over
the Empire; and in the beginning of the fourth century, we find the
theosophist Iamblichus, who united the Neo-platonic philosophy with
thaumaturgy, attracting to himself large numbers of highly cultured men
and women, who still clung to paganism. Syria was the centre of this
movement, which reached across Asia Minor and became popular even in
Athens and Alexandria. Among the followers of Iamblichus in Asia was an
excellent and learned woman, who became celebrated by her intense
devotion to this philosophy. Sosipatra was the beautiful and
noble-hearted wife of Eustathius, Prefect of Cappadocia. After the death
of Eustathius, she became the wife of a kinsman, by name Philometor, and
dedicated the rest of her life to the promotion of science and
philosophy and to the education of her children, whom she herself
instructed and of whom she made ardent and intelligent disciples of
Neo-platonism. At Athens, where philosophical studies had for a long
period declined, Platonism was revived by the Emperor Julian the
Apostate, who appointed Plutarchus the first head of the New Academy.
Plutarchus had a daughter, Asclepigenia by name, who had been initiated
into all the mysteries of Neo-platonism and thaumaturgy, and who played
a prominent rôle in the new school. It is related of her that after the
death of her father she kept alive the knowledge of the great orgies and
all the secret lore of thaumaturgy. In association with her brother
Hierius, she became the head of the New Academy, and through her
personality and her lectures she exercised a great influence over the
philosophic youth of the day. Her daughter, Asclepigenia the Younger,
was likewise a devoted Neo-platonist, and continued the traditions of
the school. But the appearance of the two Asclepigenias in the history
of philosophy cannot be regarded as of much importance, as the system of
thaumaturgy which they advocated was scientifically worthless.

About the same time, however, there lived in Alexandria a beautiful and
learned pagan, who ranks as the last brilliant star in the philosophical
firmament before the twilight of the gods. Charles Kingsley's historical
romance, _Hypatia, or New Foes with an Old Face_, has depicted in an
impressive manner the womanly graces, the learning, the elevating
influence, and the tragic fate, of the last of the Greek women, and has
made the name of Hypatia a household word. His vivid portrayal of social
life in Alexandria at the dawn of the fifth century brings out most
strongly the phases of the closing conflict between paganism and
Christianity, and invests with an atmosphere of aërial clearness and
radiance the heroine, who almost singly and alone fights the battle for
the old gods.

About the year 370, to Theon, a noted astronomer and mathematician of
Alexandria, a daughter was born, to whom he gave the name Hypatia. The
child very early exhibited extraordinary intellectual endowments, and
Theon himself took charge of her education. She rapidly mastered his own
favorite subjects of mathematics and astronomy, and the most celebrated
teachers of the day were called in to give her instruction in the
various branches of rhetoric and philosophy. All the ancient
philosophical systems were pursued by the devoted and zealous maiden,
and the prevailing system of the time, that of Neo-platonism, appealed
especially to her spirit.

As she attained to womanhood, Hypatia united with the charm of
extraordinary beauty all the rarest traits of spirit and character. She
became the object of flattering regard on the part of the cultured; the
common people reverenced her as a superior being, and even the
Christians respected her learning and her demeanor. Hypatia was worthy
of all the admiration that she excited. Amid the widespread corruption
of the age, she lived as spotless as a vestal. The philosophy she
professed preserved her from pollution and inspired her with the love of
beauty, truth, and goodness.

With her intense devotion to the gods of her fathers, with her
extraordinary endowments and wide learning, with her preëminent virtues
and the charm of her whole personality, this celebrated maiden appeared
to the pagan world as a higher being sent by the gods to defend the
ancient faith against the subverting teachings of the Christians,--a
herald, who with the weapons of exalted wisdom and moral sublimity
should win the victory and restore the worship of the gods to its former
splendor. This was also the ambition of the virgin philosopher.

Hypatia's early womanhood was passed in the period when hostility to
paganism reached its height. She was barely twenty-one when Theodosius
I. issued an edict commanding the destruction of heathen temples and
images at Alexandria, and from this time the patriarchs of the city
endeavored to exercise both spiritual and temporal authority and to root
out every vestige of paganism.

Against such an opposition Hypatia sought to contend. Her weapons were
not carnal, but intellectual. By a spread of the knowledge of Greek
philosophy and literature, she sought to quicken the sensibilities of
the people and to reawaken a reverence for the Greek gods. It seemed at
first as if her efforts would be crowned with success. Her lecture hall
was crowded with the clever and intellectual men of the day, and many
came from distant parts, attracted by the reputation of her beauty and
learning. Hypatia soon surpassed all her contemporaries in wisdom and
influence, and rapidly became the soul of the rather numerous pagan
community at Alexandria. This remarkable maiden was honored with a
devotion which almost bordered on idolatry. Orestes, the prefect of the
city, though professedly a Christian, often came to her for counsel. The
learned and eloquent Synesius of Cyrene, afterward a Church Father, was
one of her devoted followers, and even after his conversion to
Christianity maintained a correspondence with her and showed in manifold
ways his regard for his former teacher. Numerous panegyrics and epigrams
were composed, lauding her in most exalted terms.

Thus Hypatia, by moral suasion and by avoiding all open opposition,
sought to wean the people from Christianity and to revive their faith in
the ancient gods. Her success in attracting to paganism both the
cultured and the plain people naturally caused her to be an object of
hatred and jealousy to those who strove to promote Christianity by
violence and force.

The name of Cyril, among the Church Fathers, is the synonym for
fanaticism and bigotry. Elevated to the archi-episcopal chair of
Alexandria to succeed his uncle, Theophilus, he sought to attain supreme
power in the city and to make the power of the Church dominant in
temporal affairs. He succeeded in expelling the Jews, and then turned
his attention to the extermination of paganism. As Hypatia was the
chief exponent of the old gods, and as her influence extended even to
the palace of the prefect, Cyril hated her with all the zeal of bigotry
and was eager for her downfall. Irreproachable in conduct, beloved of
all, influential with the civil power, she was not subject to attack in
any open manner, and Cyril finally countenanced an inhuman and
disgusting plot of assassination devised by the most violent of his
followers--the deacon Peter.

One day in March of the year 415, Peter secretly gathered in an alley
not far from the lecture hall of Hypatia a band of savage monks from the
Nitrian desert. When the customary lecture hour approached, Hypatia,
unconscious of danger, left her house and entered her chariot to drive
to the lecture hall. Soon the mob of zealots, headed by Peter, rush out
from the alley, seize the horses, tear the helpless woman from her seat,
and drag her into a neighboring church. Here, more like savage beasts
than men, Peter's frenzied followers remove from her every shred of
clothing, and at the foot of the bleeding image of the Saviour of
mankind do to death the virgin martyr in the most horrible manner with
fragments of tiles and mussel shells. The limbs are torn from the still
quivering body, and, when life is extinct, the howling mob gather up and
burn the fragments of the mutilated corpse.

It was a horrible deed. The life of a beautiful and talented maiden was
sacrificed for the cause which she professed, and, like many a Christian
maiden, she attained by her death the sanctity of martyrdom. The purity
and nobility of her character invested her with an enduring fame, and,
though her end marks the doom of the old gods, Hypatia herself will
never be forgotten. Judged by the abiding results of her activity,
Hypatia was, like Shelley, "a beautiful and ineffectual angel beating in
the void her luminous wings in vain," but as the embodiment of the
highest and best elements of Greek culture she deserves to rank as one
of the most typical of Greek women.

       *       *       *       *       *

A peculiar and deep-rooted trait in woman's nature is tender compassion
and sympathetic devotion to suffering humanity. Hence from heroic times
onward through the various epochs of Greek history we find women at the
bedside of the sick and the wounded, acting as attendant, nurse, or
physician. Thus it is not surprising that we should find Greek women
preeminent in the art of medicine.

In the Heroic Age, Homeric heroines were gifted with a knowledge of
plants and their virtues. Hecate, wife of King Æetes of Colchis, her
daughter Medea, and Circe were so celebrated in this respect that they
passed for enchantresses. One has but to recall the transformation of
Odysseus's companions into swine as an evidence of Circe's peculiar
power. All the daughters of Asclepius the physician--Hygiea, Panacea,
Iaso, and Ægle--were specialists in medicine. Helen of Troy knew how to
compound her celebrated potion, Nepenthe, which made men forget all care
and enjoy sound slumbers; and OEnone, the forsaken wife of Paris, and
Agamede, daughter of a king of Elis, were skilled in the use of simples.

In historical times, the Thessalian women were noted for their knowledge
of the virtues of plants, and were acquainted with all forms of
witchcraft. They were frequently consulted for the preparation of "love
potions," and, as midwives, were in demand throughout Hellas. Women
naturally preferred women's services in those ailments which are
peculiar to the sex; but in ancient Athens, so unfriendly to the female
sex in its laws, there was a statute forbidding the practice of
gynæcology by women as a profession. Women rebelled, but their
complaints were without avail.

Agnodice, whose date is not known, was the name of the courageous maiden
who broke the prevailing traditions and won a natural right for her sex.
She conceived the idea of studying medicine in secret until she became
an expert, and then of offering her services to women, also in secret,
for medical treatment, especially in cases of maternity. To this end,
she cut off her hair, adopted masculine apparel, and, as a promising
youth, took instruction in medicine from Hierophilus, a celebrated
physician. Her progress was rapid, and when she was pronounced
sufficiently equipped for independent practice she revealed her identity
to prospective mothers, who gladly availed themselves of her services,
so that she soon obtained the monopoly of this kind of practice. The
other physicians were naturally overcome with jealousy and chagrin that
the young doctor should supplant them, and finally they brought charges
of malpractice against the supposed youth. Agnodice was brought to
trial, and in self-defence was compelled to reveal her sex. The older
physicians then endeavored to have the laws enforced against her; but
all the prominent ladies of the city took her part, and the obnoxious
laws were repealed.

From that time forward, large numbers of women studied medicine, the
majority devoting their attention to the diseases of women and children.
These female physicians frequently appear as medical writers, especially
on gynæcology and pediatrics. They also produced many treatises on
cosmetics, which ranked as a branch of hygiene and was cultivated most
diligently by many eminent physicians. These women rivalled one another
in the discovery of an endless variety of toilet preparations, beauty
wafers, skin and hair ointments, pastes and powders, and wine essences
for the removal of pimples and freckles.

In later and more immoral times, female physicians lent their talents
gladly to demoralization and license, and wrote treatises on love
potions and abortives--a disreputable form of literature very popular
with the hetseræ, and which, according to Pliny, found diligent readers
among the great ladies of Rome. Of all the numerous works of the
feminine doctors, only fragments and excerpts have come down to us, and
their loss is not greatly to be regretted. Yet credit is due to these
women as pioneers in female emancipation, and the most eminent of them
deserve to be rescued from oblivion.

The greatest was Aspasia--not the favorite of Pericles nor the devoted
companion of Cyrus the Younger, but the "medical" Aspasia, who was a
prominent figure in the Athens of the fourth century before the
Christian era. She attained great fame, not only in women's diseases,
but also in surgery and other branches of medicine, as may be judged
from the titles of her works, preserved by Aëtius, a physician and
writer of the fifth century of our era. It seems clear from what is
known of her that the Athenian women saw nothing criminal in giving and
using abortives. Even Aristotle desired to have a law regulating the
number of children that might be borne by woman.

Antiochis, to whom Heraclides of Tarentum, one of the best physicians of
antiquity, dedicated his works, was a practising female physician in
Magna Græcia, in the third century before Christ, who devoted especial
attention to salves and plaster cures. To the great Cleopatra has been
ascribed the authorship of a work "on the medical means of preserving
beauty"; but there were probably one or more physicians of this name, as
there are various treatises ascribed to "Cleopatra." Other female
physicians, of whom we know little more than the name and the titles of
their works, are Olympias of Boeotia, Salpe, Elephantis, Sotira,
Pamphile, Myro, Spendusa, Maia, and Berenice.

Space will not suffer us to do more than call attention to many wise and
able women of Hellas who were eminent in other branches of learning. In
historical writings, Thucydides's daughter is worthy of mention, as she
is said to have composed the eighth book of her father's history of the
Peloponnesian War; Nicobule, the author of a history of Alexander the
Great, was another excellent woman writer. Plutarch gathered about him a
learned circle of women, of whom the chief was Clea, the clever matron
of Delphi, to whom he dedicated several of his works, and Eurydice, who
enjoyed his instruction. Aganice, daughter of Hegetor of Thessaly,
possessed an astonishing knowledge of astronomy, and was regarded as an
enchantress. To Melanippe, the sculptor Lysistratus erected a monument
as a tribute to her learning.

Alexandria, with its vast number of scholars, its libraries and museums,
and its intellectual freedom for women, naturally produced a large
number of women eminent in history and philology. Frequently
philologists' daughters were trained from childhood by their fathers,
and afterward became their companions and secretaries in literary
labors. The most prominent of these literary feminine grammarians was
doubtless Hestiæa of Alexandria, a Homeric scholar of note, who was the
first to devote scientific attention to the topography of the Iliad and
to throw doubt on the generally accepted view that New Ilium was the
site of Ancient Troy. Pamphile, daughter of the grammarian Soteridas and
wife of the scholar Socratidas, was a woman of wide erudition,
celebrated especially as essayist and historian. Others whose names are
associated with similar labors are Agallis, Theodora, and Theosebia.

When one reflects on the varied activity of Greek women, the conclusion
forces itself upon him that they were intellectually as acquisitive and
as brilliant as the Greek men, who have set the standard for the world
in the realm of literature and science. Cleverness is the most salient
characteristic of the Greek intelligence, and this trait belonged as
truly to the female sex as to the male. The Renaissance furnishes
examples of women renowned for their erudition and culture; but perhaps
only the present age furnishes an adequate parallel to the varied
intellectual activities of Greek women in the centuries that followed
the decline of Greek independence and that saw the spread of Greek
culture among all civilized peoples. Modern women can therefore learn
much from their Greek sisters in all that pertains to the so-called
emancipation of the sex.



Separated from the lands of the Hellenes by the range of the Cambunian
Mountains which extended north of Thessaly from Mount Olympus on the
east to Mount Lacmon on the west, there lay a rugged country, whose
inhabitants were destined to play a prominent role and become a powerful
factor in the later history of Greece. This country, divided into many
basins by spurs which branch off from the higher mountain chains, by its
mountain system not only shut the people off from the outside world, but
also forbade any extended intercourse between the dwellers in the
various cantons. The wide and fertile valleys, however, and the mountain
slopes abounding in extensive forests, the haunts of wild game, mark the
land as the country of a great people, who by generations of seclusion
were storing up strength and vitality to be of vast influence whenever
they should break through their narrow confines.

Such a people dwelt there, but it required strong leaders to bring them
in touch with the rich Hellenic life to the south of them and to make
them a powerful factor in the history of the world. Philip, lord of
Macedon, and his mightier son, Alexander, were the great men who were to
accomplish the work of grafting the new blood and energy of Macedon
upon the decaying stock of Greek culture, and to diffuse the spirit of
Hellenism throughout the civilized world. With them the old order of
things, as represented in Athens and Sparta, passed away, and a new
order, with new ideals, new motives, new views of life, was born. Hence,
the people of Macedon, themselves Greek by race, have a large place in
the consideration of any phase of Greek life. When the Hellenes
originally migrated into Greece, a branch of the race found its way into
the southwestern part of Macedon behind the barriers of Olympus, and
later, by intermixture with the Illyrians and other barbarous races,
these invaders lost some of their national characteristics and, shut off
as they were, failed to share in the history and development of their
kinsmen to the south. In language, in institutions, and in aspirations,
however, they gave indisputable evidence of their right to be considered
as members of the great Hellenic family.

The people were a hardy, peasant folk, devoted to hunting, to grazing,
and to agriculture, and they preserved the patriarchal institutions
which obtained among the earliest Greeks. They were divided into many
tribes, each with its own chief and leader. Among some of the hardier
tribes, the man who had not slain a wild boar was not allowed to recline
at table with the warriors, and not to have slain an enemy was regarded
as a mark of disgrace. In the tribal organization and in the institution
of the kingship, we are carried back to the society of Homeric times,
and in manifold ways the public and private life of the Macedonians
reflects the life portrayed in the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Aristotle remarks that the ancient kingship survived only among the
Spartans, the Molossians, and the Macedonians, of all the Greek peoples;
and only among the last mentioned did the office retain all its
prerogatives. As in the Heroic Age, so in Macedon, the king was supreme
judge, military commander-in-chief, and at the head of the religion of
the State. But he was no Oriental despot. The people were conscious of
their liberty and sensitive as to their rights. By the side of the king
stood the nobles, who were closely associated with him at all times,
constituting his council, accompanying him to war, and sharing with him
his dangers and his honors. As the population was largely rural, there
were present none of the conditions which tend to nullify clan
distinctions and create a democracy. The lines between noble and peasant
were very broad. Hence, Macedon was essentially a dynastic State, and
its history is largely the history of its royal family. As we have
frequently noted, in monarchies woman is ever a most influential factor,
A king must have a court, and there can be no court without a queen. The
queen's life has necessarily its public, political, and military
aspects; and the part she plays largely determines the weal or woe of
both king and people. Hence it is with the royal family of Macedon, and
with those queens and princesses who make up a large part of its
history, that we are now chiefly concerned.

The royal family of Macedon claimed descent from members of the ancient
Heracleid family of Argos, which had taken refuge in the north; and this
descent was so capable of proof, that, on the basis of it, one of the
earlier kings was admitted to the Olympic games. Herodotus, the great
story teller, relates the incident of the founding of the dynasty.
According to his narration, three brothers of the royal race of
Temenus,--the fourth in descent from Heracles,--Gauanes, Eropus, and
Perdiccas, exiles from Argos, went into Illyria, and thence into upper
Macedon, where they placed themselves, as herdsmen, at the service of
Lebea, one of the local kings. Now, when the queen baked the bread for
their food, she always noticed that the loaf destined for Perdiccas
doubled its weight; she made this marvel known to her husband, who saw
danger in it, and ordered the three brothers to depart from the country.
They replied that they would go as soon as they had received their
wages. Thereupon the king, who was sitting by the hearth, on which fell
sunlight through the opening of the roof, as if by divine inspiration
said to the brothers, pointing to the light on the floor: "I will give
you that; that is your wages." Upon this, the two elder brothers stood
speechless; but the younger, who held a knife in his hand, said: "Very
well; we accept it." And having traced with his knife a circle on the
floor surrounding the rays, he stooped down thrice, feigning each time
to take up the sunshine and place it in the folds of his garment and to
distribute it to his brothers; after which, they all went away. One of
those who sat by called the attention of the king to this conduct on the
part of the young man, and the manner in which he accepted what was
offered him; and the king, becoming anxious and angry, sent horsemen to
follow the brothers and slay them. Now in that country is a river, to
which the descendants of these Argives offer sacrifice as to a god. This
river, after the fugitives had crossed it, became suddenly so swollen
that the horsemen dared not follow. The brothers arrived in another part
of Macedon and established themselves near the lake called the Gardens
of Midas, and, when they had subjugated the country in those parts, they
went thence to conquer the rest of Macedon.

Herodotus states that Perdiccas I. founded the reigning dynasty in
Macedon, and he mentions as his successors Argæus, Philip, Eropus,
Alcetas, and Amyntas I., whose son, Alexander "the Philheliene," the
Greeks permitted to take part in the Olympic games. This Alexander on
one occasion visited dire punishment upon a party of Persian envoys who
at a banquet forgot the respect due to the ladies at the court of
Macedon; he caused them to be assassinated by a company of young men
whom he had disguised in women's attire. When the Persians sent to
require the punishment of the guilty, Alexander won over the envoy by
giving him his sister in marriage.

This Alexander, who became king in the year 500 before the Christian
era, begins the series of those Macedonian kings who felt the need of
Hellenizing their people, and his reign accordingly marks a turning
point in the history of Macedon. Perdiccas II., Archelaus I., and
Amyntas II. were his successors, who continued this policy; but this
forced civilization by no means reached the mass of the people, and,
while it refined the nobility and the court and paved the way for the
Macedonian inroads into Greece, it also introduced luxury and
corruption. Amyntas II. left three sons, Alexander II., Perdiccas III.,
and Philip, the last of whom was the one so well known to fame; and
Eurydice, the mother of these three valiant sons, was the first of that
series of remarkable women, noted for their power, their beauty, or
their crimes, who from this time on fill the annals of Macedonian

In her barbarous instincts, Eurydice gives evidence of the non-Hellenic
blood in her veins. Her career in crime was such as to place her among
the Messalinas and Lucrezia Borgias of history. To begin with, she was
implicated in a conspiracy with a paramour, Ptolemæus of Alorus, against
her husband's life; but when the plot was detected, she was, out of
regard for their three sons, mercifully spared by her husband.
Alexander, the eldest, succeeded his father, but, after reigning two
years, was assassinated by Ptolemæus, with his own mother as an
accomplice of the murderer. When Perdiccas grew to manhood, he avenged
his brother's death and his mother's disgrace by slaying Ptolemæus; but
he himself, a few years later, fell in battle against the Illyrians, or,
as was asserted, at the hand of an assassin hired by his mother
Eurydice. Philip, the next in succession, then ascended the throne, and
succeeded in securing himself against the attempts of his mother and in
conciliating all factions. Eurydice then disappears from the scene, and
the manner of her death is unknown. Heredity, without doubt, had much to
do with the cruelty in Philip's nature, and in spite of her crimes he
seems to have had much respect for his sanguinary mother, for he placed
a figure of her among the gold-and-ivory statues embellishing the
monument he erected to commemorate his victory over the Athenians and
Thebans at Chæronea.

We are not concerned here with the rise of Philip's power over Hellas,
nor with the history of his son Alexander and the empire he established,
except in so far as the spread of Hellenism and the union of the world
under one dominion brought about changes in social conditions which
affected the status of woman. We shall, for the present, confine our
attention to the consideration of those women, chiefly royal princesses,
whose names group themselves about the careers of Philip and Alexander
and their immediate successors, and who by their strong personalities
greatly influenced the course of events.

A few general reflections will prepare us for the sombre history which
we are about to read. The Macedonian kings were, as a rule, not content
with one wife; they either kept concubines, or married a second wife, as
did Philip and Alexander, while the first was living. This practice led
to jealousy, envy, and hatred, and the attendant ills of constant and
bloody tragedies in the royal families. We find henceforth a
combination of Greek manners and Macedonian nature. In the life of the
courts, women as well as men, in spite of their Greek culture, show the
Thracian traits of passion and cruelty. Owing to the intense respect in
which women were held, the royal princesses occupied an exalted station
and hence found willing instruments for the carrying-out of their cruel
practices. Every king was either murdered or conspired against by his
family. Women entered into matrimonial alliances with a view to
increasing their power and extending their influence. Hence, the women
who played so prominent a part in the great struggles that attended
Philip's extension of his power over all Hellas, Alexander's conquest of
the world, and the founding of independent dynasties by the Diadochi and
their descendants, were not women who attained the Thucydidean ideal of
excellence; namely, that those are the best women who are never
mentioned among men for good or for evil. They were, on the contrary,
powerful and haughty princesses, who possessed royal rights and
privileges, who had resources of their own in money and soldiery, who
could address their troops with fiery speeches and go forth to battle at
the head of their armies, who made offers of marriage to men, and who
finally got rid of their rivals with sinister coolness and cruelty.

Philip the Great followed the Oriental fashion of marrying many wives;
according to Athenæus, he was continually marrying new wives in war
times, and seven more or less regular marriages are attributed to him.
Of his numerous wives or mistresses, the strong-minded Olympias was the
chief; and, as she survived both her husband Philip and her son
Alexander, she played a dominant part in Macedonian history and was the
most prominent woman of those stormy times. Olympias was the daughter
of Neoptolemus, King of Epirus, who traced his lineage back to
Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. Philip is said to have fallen in love with
Olympias while both were being initiated into some religious mysteries
in Samothrace, at a time when he was still a stripling and she an
orphan. He was ardent in his suit, and, gaining the consent of her
brother Arymbas, he shortly after married her. We know nothing of the
first few years of their married life, but the union seems never to have
been a happy one. Both were of too decided individuality to blend well
together. Says President Wheeler: "Both were preëminently ambitious,
energetic, and aggressive; but while Philip's ambition was guided by a
cool, crafty sagacity, that of his queen manifested itself in impetuous
outbreaks of almost barbaric emotion. In her, joined a marvellous
compound of the mother, the queen, the shrew, and the witch. The
passionate ardor of her nature found its fullest expression in the wild
ecstasies and crude superstitions of her native religious rites."

Plutarch gives a graphic account of the religious intensity of
Olympias's nature: "Another account is that all the women of this
country, having always been addicted to the Orphic and Dionysiac mystery
rites, imitated largely the practices of the Edonian and Thracian women
about Mount Hæmus, and that Olympias, in her abnormal zeal to surround
these states of trance and inspiration with more barbaric dread, was
wont in the sacred dances to have about her great tame serpents, which,
sometimes creeping out of the ivy and the mystic fans, and sometimes
winding themselves about the staffs and the chaplets which the women
bore, presented a sight of horror to the men who beheld."

In Olympias we find all the traits of character which selfishness and
love of power, combined with intense religious fervor, could engender;
and her devotion to weird religious rites makes more ghastly the story
of her life. With a different husband she might have been a good woman,
but when two such natures clash much evil is bound to result. To her
young son, Alexander, she was ardently attached, and she expected great
things of him. Just before her marriage with Philip she dreamed that a
thunderbolt fell upon her body, which kindled a great fire, whose
divided flames dispersed themselves all about and then were
extinguished. This was later regarded as a presage of the rapid spread
of Alexander's empire and its ultimate breaking-up among the Diadochi.

Philip's numerous infidelities and marriages caused an estrangement
between him and Olympias that was far-reaching in its consequences. They
reached their culmination when Philip with great ceremony wedded
Cleopatra, a niece of his general, Attalus. At the wedding banquet,
Attalus, the uncle of the bride, heated with wine, cried out:

"Macedonians, let us pray the gods that from this marriage may spring an
heir to the throne!" Whereupon, Alexander, who was present, violently
irritated at the speech, threw one of the goblets at the head of Attalus
and exclaimed: "You villain, what! Am I, then, a bastard?" Philip,
taking Attalus's part, rose up, and would have run his son through with
his sword, but, overcome by rage and by drink, he slipped and fell to
the floor. "Here is a man," scornfully exclaimed the prince, "preparing
to cross from Europe into Asia, who is not able to step safely from one
table to another." This incident brought to a climax the estrangement
between Philip and his wife and Alexander. Olympias and Alexander fled,
the one taking shelter with her brother, the King of Epirus, and the
other going into Illyria, where he remained until a sort of
reconciliation was effected by the marriage of Philip's daughter,
Cleopatra, with the Epirote king. When Philip was assassinated,
suspicions of complicity in the murder attached to both Olympias and
Alexander. The young man's conduct fully acquits him of the crime, but
it would not be strange if the mother, seeking her own vengeance and her
son's preferment, should have abetted the youth Pausanias, who committed
the deed.

Olympias could not brook any rivals, and shortly after the murder of
Philip she despatched that king's last wife, Cleopatra, and her infant
son. Throughout Alexander's brilliant but short-lived career, Olympias
remained in Macedon, exercising a queenly power. She and her son seem to
have been bound by the closest ties of affection and respect. With
Antipater, however, who had been left behind by Alexander to govern
Macedon in his absence, she was continually falling out. Plutarch gives
an interesting account of the intimate relations between mother and son
and of the quarrels between the old queen and the regent:

"How magnificent he, Alexander, was in enriching his friends appears by
a letter which Olympias wrote to him, where she tells him he should
reward those about him in a more moderate way. She said: 'For now you
make them all equal to kings, you give them power and opportunity of
making many friends of their own, and in the meantime you leave yourself
destitute.' She often wrote to him to this purpose. To her he sent many
presents, but would never suffer her to meddle with matters of State or
war, not indulging her busy temper; and when she fell out with him on
this account, he bore her ill humor very patiently. Nay, more, when he
read a long letter from Antipater, full of accusations against her,
'Antipater,' he said, 'does not know that one tear of a mother effaces a
thousand such letters as these.'

"The tidings of the difficulties he had gone through in his Indian
expedition had begun to give occasion for revolt among many of the
conquered nations, and for acts of great injustice, avarice, and
insolence on the part of satraps and commanders. Even at home, Olympias
and her daughter Cleopatra had raised a faction against Antipater and
divided his government between them--Olympias seizing upon Epirus, and
Cleopatra upon Macedon. When Alexander was told of it, he said his
mother had made the best choice, for the Macedonians would never consent
to be ruled by a woman."

Upon the death of Alexander, Olympias espoused with great devotion the
cause of her daughter-in-law Roxana and the young Alexander against the
intrigues of the generals, and she did everything in her power to
maintain their rights in opposition to the cold and calculating
Cassander. Diodorus gives a graphic account of her last days:

"As soon as Olympias heard that Cassander was entering Macedonia with a
large army, she, taking with her the son of Alexander and his mother
Roxana, and other kindred and eminent relations, entered the town of
Pydna. Neither was there provision in that place sufficient for such a
multitude to hold out any long siege. Yet she was resolved to stay here,
expecting many Greeks and Macedonians to come in to her assistance by
sea. Now spring came on, and the famine increased every day, whereupon
most of the soldiers came up in a body and entreated Olympias to suffer
them to leave the place because of the scarcity, who, not being able to
supply them with bread, let them go. At length Olympias, perceiving that
many went over to Cassander, without delay got ready a galley of five
oars with a design to rescue herself and her kindred; but being
discovered to the enemy by some of the deserters, Cassander sailed to
the place and seized the vessel. Whereupon Olympias sent a herald to
Cassander to treat upon terms of pacification, but he insisted upon the
delivering up of herself to his mercy; she at length prevailed only for
the preservation of her person. He then incited the relations of such as
were put to death by Olympias to prosecute her in the general assembly
of the Macedonians, who readily complied with what they were desired to
do; and though she herself was not then present, nor had any person
there to plead her cause, yet the Macedonians condemned her to die.
Cassander therefore sent some of his friends to Olympias and advised her
to get out of the way, and promised to procure for her a ship and to
cause her to be conveyed safely to Athens. He did not do this for her
preservation, but that, as one confessing her own guilt by her flight,
it might be judged a just vengeance upon her if she was cut off as she
was on her voyage; for he was afraid as well of the fickle disposition
of the Macedonians as of the dignity of her person. But Olympias refused
to fly, and said she was ready to defend her cause before all the
Macedonians. Cassander therefore, fearing lest the people should change
their minds and so take upon them to defend the queen, sent to her a
band of two hundred soldiers with orders to despatch her forthwith, who,
rushing on a sudden into the palace, as soon as they saw her, in
reverence to her person, drew back without executing the command. But
the kindred of those she had put to death, both to ingratiate themselves
with Cassander, and likewise to gratify their own revenge for the death
of their relations, cut her throat, she not in the least crying out in
any womanish terror or fear to spare her. In this manner died Olympias,
the greatest and most honorable woman in the age wherein she lived,
daughter of Neoptolemus, King of Epirus; sister of Pyrrhus, who made the
expedition into Italy; wife of Philip, the greatest and most victorious
prince of all that ever lived before in Europe; and lastly the mother of
Alexander, who never was exceeded by any for the many great and
wonderful things that were done by him."

So Olympias showed herself in her death, as in her life, every inch a
queen; and, in spite of her temper and her bloodthirstiness, she
deserves a high place in the history of womanhood, because of her
untiring devotion to her son and to his helpless widow and child against
the machinations of cruel and powerful men.

Philip had three daughters who appear prominently in Macedonian history:
Cynane, by an Illyrian princess, who figures in the history of her
daughter Eurydice, which we shall recount later; Thessalonica, whom
Cassander married after he had slain Olympias and all the heirs of
Alexander, and after whom he named the famous city which he built; and
Cleopatra, full sister of Alexander, who was first married to her uncle,
Alexander, King of Epirus, murdered in Italy while he was trying to
subdue the West. The young Princess Cleopatra was left a widow in good
time to enter upon a career in the stormy days that followed the death
of the world-monarch. She returned to Macedon, and notwithstanding the
fact that she and her mother Olympias were both of violent tempers, and
frequently quarrelled, yet their interests were too closely united to
permit any permanent estrangement. Her claims to the throne were the
strongest, next to those of the infant Alexander, and, in consequence,
she was much sought after in marriage, and had her choice of almost all
the distinguished men of the time. She regarded marriage as a legitimate
weapon of diplomacy to advance her interests and to increase her
influence. Yet a sad fatality seemed to attach to the men whom she
proposed to honor with her hand. She first chose, probably from ardent
affection, Leonnatus, one of the most gallant of Alexander's generals,
but he was killed while assisting Antipater before Lamia. Her mother
then offered her hand to Perdiccas, when he became regent, and he gladly
accepted; but before the nuptials were celebrated, he was slain in an
attack on Egypt. Had the loyal Eumenes been victorious in his long
struggle against Antigonus, Cleopatra would doubtless have married him,
in spite of the fact that he was not of royal blood. She then resided
for fifteen years in Sardis, amid all the pomp and luxury naturally
attending so noble and beautiful a princess, and became the object of
intrigue among the rival generals. Old Antipater, when appointed regent,
accused her of treason and sedition; but she publicly defended herself,
in their native tongue, before the Macedonian soldiers, and so great was
the influence she exerted over them that Antipater wisely concluded to
withdraw the charge, and harassed her no further. At last, however, at
Sardis, she fell into the power of her old enemy, Antigonus. Realizing
her peril, this redoubtable princess, although past fifty, was planning
escape and flight to Egypt to marry Ptolemy, who had already two wives
and grown-up children. To prevent this marriage of the queen with his
strongest rival, Antigonus put her to death.

Cleopatra manifested the same strength of personality and independence
of character as her mother Olympias, and she had, in addition, all the
advantages of education and culture which would naturally accrue to the
sister of Alexander. She differed most strongly from her mother and
other Macedonian princesses of the day, in that no murders could be laid
at her door.

When we come to Cynane, the third daughter of Philip, we find another
type of womanhood. She showed her Illyrian blood in her fondness for
outdoor exercise, being a skilled horsewoman, and she would even enter
into battle at the head of her troops. She was first married by Philip
to her cousin Amyntas. Left a widow, she devoted herself to the
education of her daughter, Eurydice, whom she trained in the same
martial exercises for which she herself was famous. When Philip
Arrhidæus, the imbecile half-brother of Alexander, son of a female
dancer, Philinna of Larissa, was proclaimed joint heir with the
posthumous son of Roxana to Alexander's dominions, Cynane determined to
marry him to her daughter, and started over to Asia to accomplish this
end. As her influence was great, Perdiccas and Antipater determined to
forestall such a contingency by the murder of the mother, and Perdiccas
sent his brother Alcetas to meet her on the way and put her to death. By
her valor and her eloquence, however, she won over the Macedonian
warriors, so that the schemes of the generals could not be publicly
carried out; but, in defiance of the feelings of the soldiery, Alcetas
secretly consummated the ruthless plot, and Cynane met her doom with
dauntless spirit. After the death of the mother, the discontent of the
Macedonian troops and the respect with which they looked on Eurydice, as
one of the few surviving members of the royal house, induced Perdiccas
not only to spare Eurydice's life, but also to give her in marriage to
the unhappy King Philip Arrhidasus, whose weakened intellectual powers
were due to the drugs of Olympias--the queen who never ceased to wreak
her vengeance upon her rivals in Philip's affections and upon their
ill-fated offspring.

Then began the long and bitter struggle for mastery between the new
queen, Eurydice, and the old queen, Olympias, who took the part of
Roxana and her son; and only the superior claims of Olympias, as the
mother of Alexander, to the respect of the Macedonian soldiery led to
her final victory over her gifted and powerful rival. These hostile
factions in the royal party of Macedon were to lead to the extinction of
all the legitimate heirs to the throne. After the death of her mortal
enemy Antipater, Eurydice determined to make an active campaign against
his successor, the less able Polysperchon, who had allied himself with
Olympias. She therefore concluded an alliance with Cassander, assembled
an army, and took the field in person. Polysperchon marched against her,
accompanied by Olympias and Roxana, with the young Alexander, and the
presence of Olympias decided the day.

"As the troops of Alcetas would not fight against her and Cynane, so the
troops of Eurydice deserted her when she led them against the
queen-mother. It was the moment when Olympias's pent-up fury burst out
after many years. Amid her orgies of murder and of disentombing her
enemies, she was not likely to spare the offspring of Philip's
faithlessness; for Philip Arrhidæus was the son of a Thessalian dancing
girl, and Eurydice the granddaughter of an Illyrian savage. She shut
them up, and meant to kill them by gradual starvation. But her people
began to expostulate, and then, having had Philip shot by Thracians, she
sent Eurydice the sword, the halter, and the hemlock, to take her
choice. But she, praying that Olympias might receive the same gifts,
composed the limbs of her husband, and washed his wounds as best she
could, and then, without one word of complaint at her fate, or the
greatness of her misfortune, hanged herself with the halter. If these
women knew not how to live, they knew how to die."

A word must be said about Alexander the Great and his relations with the
fair sex; for notwithstanding the fact that in Alexander's career
Persian woman plays the chief rôle, yet it was by breaking down the
barriers between Greek and Barbarian, between Occidental and Oriental,
that the way was prepared for the larger freedom of woman in succeeding
generations; and in his younger days, before becoming a world-conqueror,
Alexander was greatly influenced by certain women of his household. We
have already spoken of his ardent affection and respect for his
queen-mother. He also had in his childhood a nurse, Lanice, to whom he
was devotedly attached, "He loved her as a mother," says an ancient
writer. Her sons gave their lives in battle for him, and her one
brother, Clitus, who had once rescued him from imminent death, was later
slain by Alexander's own hand in a fit of anger. This deed occasioned
the conqueror infinite regret and remorse, and Arrian tells graphically
how, as he tossed weeping on his bed of repentance, "he kept calling the
name of Clitus and the name of Lanice, Clitus's sister, who nursed and
reared him--Lanice the daughter of Dropides,--'Fair return I have made
in manhood's years for thy nurture and care--thou who hast seen thy sons
die fighting in my behalf; and now I have slain thy brother with mine
own hand!'"

Another friend of his youth was a lady of noble birth, by name Ada, whom
he dignified with the title of "mother," and later established as Queen
of Caria. Plutarch tells how, as a friendly attention, she used to send
him daily not only all sorts of meats and cakes, but finally went so far
as to send him the cleverest cooks and bakers she could find, though,
owing to the rigid training of his tutor, he was extremely temperate in
eating and drinking and did not avail himself of her indulgence.

Alexander was ever considerate of women, even when these were taken
captive in battle, and Plutarch tells an interesting story of his
treatment of a noble lady of Thebes, when he had captured and was about
to raze that city:

"Among the other calamities that befell the city, it happened that some
Thracian soldiers having broken into the house of a matron of high
character and repute, named Timycha, their captain, after he had used
violence with her, to satisfy his avarice as well as lust, asked her if
she knew of any money concealed, to which she readily answered she did,
and bade him follow her into a garden, where she showed him a well, into
which, she told him, upon the taking of the city she had thrown what she
had of the most value. The greedy Thracian presently stooping down to
view the place where he thought the treasure lay, she came behind him
and pushed him into the well, and then flung great stones in upon him
till she had killed him. After which, when the soldiers led her away
bound to Alexander, her very mien and gait showed her to be a woman of
dignity and of a mind no less elevated. And when the king asked her who
she was, 'I am,' she said, the sister of Theagenes who fought the battle
of Chæronea with your father Philip, and fell there in command for the
liberty of Greece.' Alexander was so surprised, both at what she had
done and what she said, that he could not choose but give her and her
children their liberty."

In the evil fortunes of the princesses of Macedon the Persian wives of
Alexander shared. Roxana, the daughter of a Bactrian satrap, whose
youthfulness and beauty charmed him at a drinking entertainment, was the
first of his wives. Later, in celebrating at Susa the union of Europe
and Asia by the marriage of his Greek officers to Persian maidens, he
himself wedded Statira, the daughter of Darius. "After Alexander's
death, Roxana," says Plutarch, "who was now with child, and upon that
account much honored by the Macedonians, being jealous of Statira, sent
for her by a counterfeit letter, as if Alexander had still been alive;
and when she had her in her power, killed her and her sister and threw
their babies into a well which they filled up with earth, not without
the assistance of Perdiccas, who in the time immediately following the
king's death, under cover of the name of Arrhidæus, whom he carried
about with him as a sort of guard to his person, exercised the chief
authority." There is no more tragic story than that of the fate of the
young Alexander and his mother. Olympias, the grandmother, warmly
espoused the youth's cause, but his existence was a menace to the
ambitions of the rival generals. Cassander finally seized the power in
Macedon and obtained possession of Roxana and her son, whom he confined
in the fortress of Amphipolis and later caused to be secretly
assassinated by the governor of the fortress.

After the murder of Roxana and her son, a movement was made to raise to
the throne Heracles, son of Darius's daughter, Barsine, he being the
sole surviving offspring of Alexander, though a bastard; but Cassander,
perceiving the danger, conspired for the destruction of the young
prince, and the latter was poisoned or strangled by the treacherous
Polysperchon. His mother, who lived with him at Pergamum, was also
secretly put to death. So perished by violent death all the women of the
family of Philip and Alexander, except Thessalonica, who became the wife
of Cassander, the destroyer of her mother and her half-sisters.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the death of Alexander, his generals began the task of establishing
independent dominions. They were surrounded by a group of princesses who
added to the interest and liveliness of the court society of the times.
These generals and their sons, in spite of their bitter rivalries and
constant wars, eagerly sought family alliances with each other, such as
would in any way increase their prestige. Hence, the princesses who
were thus in demand were expected to take a part in the game of politics
and diplomacy; and frequent marriages fell to the lot of many of them,
as husbands were ofttimes either slain or murdered, and divorces were
readily obtained for the slightest reasons of State. The marriage tie
seems to have been regarded with but little sanctity; and no bonds were
forbidden because of relationship or of family feuds, Cratesipolis, for
instance, was the wife of Alexander, son of the titular regent
Polysperchon; and at Alexander's death, the father married his son's
widow. She had a thrilling career, and was famous not only for her
warlike qualities, but also for her goodness of heart and kindness to
the poor. Her first husband was Tyrant of Sicyon, and at his death she
seized the reins of power. The citizens, despising her because she was a
woman, revolted; but she met them in battle, herself commanding her
troops, and defeated them and crucified the thirty ringleaders of the
revolt. Thus she established her power.

Of all the princesses of this stormy period, the one who ranks as the
noblest and most virtuous woman of her age was Phila, daughter of
Antipater and wife of Demetrius the Besieger, son of Antigonus--the
Alcibiades among the princes of the Succession. She shared with her
brilliant husband his various vicissitudes of fortune; and she bore
uncomplainingly his many infidelities, his disgraces, and his
misfortunes. When, after an erratic career of successes and failures, he
was made King of Macedon, she no doubt attained the height of her
desires. But his ambition soared higher, and he endeavored to organize a
movement to reconquer and embrace under his exclusive rule the whole
extent of the empire of Alexander. He was unsuccessful; and after seven
years of power as King of Macedon, he was expelled from his kingdom and
was compelled to flee for his life to the Peloponnesus. The blow was too
severe for his noble-hearted wife, and Phila poisoned herself when she
thought his ruin inevitable. She left two children by Demetrius who
became prominent in the politics of the times--Antigonus Gonatas, who
stood nobly by his father in his misfortunes, and who finally became
King of Macedon and was the first of that famous line of kings which
became extinct only at the hands of the Romans; and Stratonice, who at
the tender age of seventeen was married to the aged Seleucus, King of

Plutarch tells an interesting story of this princess. Antiochus, son of
Seleucus, fell violently ill, and it was difficult for the royal
physicians to discover the nature of the malady. Finally, the cleverest
of them observed that when Stratonice, the prince's young stepmother,
was present, he exhibited all the symptoms mentioned by Sappho in her
famous ode,--"his ears rang, sweat poured down his forehead, a trembling
seized his body, he became paler than grass." The physician at once
perceived that Antiochus was sick for love of the queen. The wily
physician, however, in explaining to Seleucus the nature of the malady,
pretended at first that it was his own wife with whom the prince was in
love; but, so soon as he fully ascertained the king's mind, he told him
that his son was dying for love of his stepmother, the beautiful
Stratonice. Without a moment's hesitation, the old king resigned his
wife to his son and gave them an independent kingdom as a wedding

It is rather a remarkable society of queens and princesses to which the
court of Macedon admits us,--the licentious and cruel Eurydice the
Elder, mother of Philip; the gloomy and violent Olympias; the brilliant
and versatile Cleopatra; the valiant and eloquent Cynane and her
warlike and ambitious daughter Eurydice; the rather colorless and
ill-fated wives of Alexander the Great; the kind-hearted Cratesipolis;
the unselfish and noble Phila; and her beautiful daughter Stratonice.

The court life of which they formed a part had its brilliant side, with
its veneering of Greek culture and much of the etiquette and ceremony of
an Oriental monarchy, and they were the objects of all the respect with
which high station endows royal women at the hands of courtiers and
gallant soldiers. But one is apt to think rather of the storm and
turmoil through which they passed, of their jealousies and intrigues, of
their marriages and alliances, and of the violent deaths which they all,
with one or two exceptions, found at last. Yet, the most wicked of them
had redeeming qualities; even Olympias, who sent numberless men to
death, was devoted to her own children, and fought to the bitter end for
the rights of her son's heirs; and Eurydice the Younger, who carried on
the losing battle with the aged queen, was ever the zealous wife of her
weak husband, Arrhidæus. Phila stands out, however, amid this remarkable
group, as the one against whom nothing can be said and whose virtues
were preëminent--the ever-faithful and devoted wife of the most
brilliant and most licentious man of his time.

A history of Greek womanhood would not be complete, did it not somewhere
in the volume consider the story of two Greek queens noted for their
beauty, their wisdom in counsels, and their valor in war, and withal for
their devoted love,--the two Artemisias, Queens of Caria. The first
flourished during the Persian Wars, in which she took a prominent part;
the second, a century later, and her name is closely identified with the
names of many members of the Hellenistic royal families and with the
later history of Greek art. Hence we feel justified in appending the
account to this chapter discussing the careers of Hellenistic

Herodotus delights to praise the first Artemisia's queenliness and
wisdom, and the only fault he has to find with her is that she fought on
the Persian side. He dwells on her story whenever the occasion offers,
and we shall be pardoned for permitting the great story teller to sketch
the account of her career:

"Of the rest of the officers [of the Persian fleet] I make no mention,
but only of Artemisia, at whom I marvel most that she joined the
expedition against Hellas, being a woman, for after her husband died,
she, holding the power herself, although she had a son who was a young
man, went on the expedition, impelled by high spirit and manly courage,
no necessity being laid upon her; and she was the daughter of Lygdamus,
and by descent she was of Halicarnassus, on the side of her father, but
of Crete by her mother. She was ruler of the men of Halicarnassus, Cos,
Nisyrus, and Calynda, furnishing five ships, and she furnished ships
which were of all the fleet reputed the best after those of the
Sidonians; and of all his allies she set forth the best counsels to the
king. Of the States of which I said she was the leader, I declare the
people to be all of Dorian race."

After the disaster to the Persian fleet at Artemisium, King Xerxes was
in doubt as to his future policy. He knew that the Greeks had gathered a
great fleet at Salamis, and, after sacking Athens, his own naval
strength was being collected in the Saronic Gulf. The problem was
whether to make a naval engagement, and accordingly "Xerxes sent
Mardonius and inquired, making trial of each one, whether he should
fight a battle by sea. So when Mardonius went round asking them, the
others gave their opinions, all to the same effect, advising him to
fight a battle by sea, but Artemisia spoke these words: 'Tell the king
that I, who have proved myself to be not the worst in the sea fights
which have been fought near Euboea, and have displayed deeds not
inferior to those of others, speak to him thus: "Master, it is right
that I set forth the opinion that I really have and say that which I
happen to think best for thy cause; and this I say--spare thy ships and
do not make a sea fight; for their men are as much stronger than thy men
by sea, as men are stronger than women. And why must thou needs run the
risk of sea battles? If, however, thou hasten to fight forthwith, I fear
that damage done to the fleet may ruin the land army also. Moreover, O
king, consider also this, that the servants of good men are apt to grow
bad, and thou, who art of all men the best, hast bad servants, namely
those who are reckoned as allies, Egyptians, Cyprians, and Cilicians, in
whom there is no profit."' When she thus spoke, those who were friendly
to Artemisia were grieved at her words, supposing that she would suffer
some evil from the king; while those who had envy and jealousy of her,
because she had been honored above all the allies, were rejoiced at the
opposition, supposing that she would now be ruined. When, however, the
opinions were reported to Xerxes, he was greatly pleased with the
opinion of Artemisia; and whereas even before this he thought her
excellent, he commended her now yet more."

Xerxes, however, did not follow the counsel of Artemisia, but was
persuaded to attack the fleet of the Greeks. Artemisia entered most
valiantly into the sea fight, which very soon began to be disastrous to
the Persians.

"When the affairs of the king had come to great confusion, at this
crisis the ship of Artemisia was being pursued by an Athenian ship; and
as she was not able to escape, for in front of her were other ships of
her own side, while her ship was further advanced toward the enemy, she
resolved what she would do. She charged in full career against a ship of
her own side manned by Calyndians and in which the King of the
Calyndians was embarked. Now though even it be true that she had had
some strife with him before while they were still about the Hellespont,
yet I am not able to say whether she did this by intuition or whether
the Calyndian ship happened by chance to fall in her way. Having charged
against it and sunk it, she enjoyed good fortune and got for herself
good in two ways; for first the captain of the Athenian ship, when he
saw her charge against a ship manned by barbarians, turned away and went
after others, supposing that the ship of Artemisia was either a Hellenic
ship or was deserting from the barbarians and fighting for the Hellenes.
Secondly, she gained great reputation by this thing with Xerxes, for
besides other things which happened fortunately for her, there was this
also, that not one of the crew of the Calyndian ship survived to become
her accuser. Xerxes is reported to have said: 'My men have become women
and my women men.'

"Now if the Athenian captain had known that Artemisia was sailing in
this ship, he would not have ceased until either he had taken her or had
been taken himself; for orders had been given to the Athenian captains
and a prize was offered of ten thousand drachmas for the man who could
take her alive; since they thought it intolerable that a woman should
make an expedition against Athens."

After the calamitous issue of the battle of Salamis, Xerxes, having
learned by hard experience that the insight of such a woman as Artemisia
was more to be depended upon than the wisdom of his male advisers, once
more sends for Artemisia and takes counsel with her. "When Xerxes was
taking counsel with those of the Persians who were called to be his
advisers, it seemed good to him to send for Artemisia also to give him
counsel, because at the former time she alone had showed herself to have
perception of that which ought to be done. So when Artemisia had come,
Xerxes removed from him all the rest and spoke to her thus: 'Mardonius
bids me stay here and make an attempt on the Peloponnesus, saying that
the Persians and the land army are not guilty of any share in my
calamity and that they would gladly give me proof of this. He bids me,
therefore, either do this, or, if not, he desires himself to choose
thirty myriads from the army and to deliver over to me Hellas reduced to
subjection; and he bids me withdraw with the rest of the army to my own
abode. So now advise me which of these things I shall do.' She spoke
these words: 'O king! it seems good to me that thou shouldst retire back
and leave Mardonius here, if he desires it, and undertakes to do this.
If Mardonius suffer any disaster, no account will be made; and if the
Hellenes conquer, they gain a victory which is no victory, having
destroyed one who is but thy slave. Thou, however, wilt retire, having
done that for which thou didst make thy march--that is to say, having
delivered Athens to the fire,' With this advice Xerxes was greatly
pleased, since she succeeded in saying that very thing which he himself
was meaning to do. He commended Artemisia, therefore, and sent her away
to conduct his sons to Ephesus, for there were certain sons of his who
accompanied him."

This time Xerxes took the advice of Artemisia, and left Mardonius with
three hundred thousand men to carry on the campaign, while he himself,
with the greater part of his forces which had survived, retired to
Persia. Artemisia, having won great glory by her valor and wisdom
returned to her own dominions, and we know nothing authentic as to her
later life. So queenly a woman, however, could not escape the Greek
fondness for manufacturing marvellous stories concerning the great; and
Ptolemy Hephæstion, a writer who mingles little fact with much fancy in
his works, preserves a tradition that Artemisia came to her end in a
most romantic manner. During her later years, she conceived a violent
attachment for Dardanus, a beautiful youth of Abydos. As her passion was
not returned, she avenged herself by putting out his eyes while he
slept. This excited the anger of the gods, and in obedience to an oracle
she, like the traditional Sappho, threw herself down from the Lover's
Leap of Leucate.

The second Artemisia is immortalized by her attachment to her husband
Mausolus, King of Caria, in memory of whom she built the celebrated and
stately tomb, considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient
world. This imposing structure, four hundred and forty feet in circuit,
and one hundred and forty feet high, built by the most renowned
architects of the time, embellished with sculptures from the hands of
Scopas and his associates, and rendered gorgeous by the use of the most
varied colors, gave the name of _mausoleum_ to all succeeding sepulchres
built on a colossal scale. No expense was spared by the devoted queen to
make it expressive of her love for her husband and brother; for this
species of marriage, so common later in Egypt, was sanctioned by the
customs of the country.

She furthermore invited the most noted writers of the day to attend a
literary contest, and offered the richest prizes to the one who should
excel in composing a panegyric to her husband's virtue. Notwithstanding
the interest she took in these memorials to her departed lord, she
continued to be a prey to the deepest affliction. The story is told
that she visited the place where her husband's ashes were deposited,
and, mixing them with water, drank them off, for the purpose of
becoming, as she said, the living tomb of her husband. In spite of her
poignant grief, she did not neglect the duties of her elevated position,
but conquered the island of Rhodes, whose inhabitants she treated with
great severity. Her love of art was shown in the two statues she had set
up in the city, one representing the city of Rhodes, habited like a
slave, the other of herself branding the city with a hot iron. Though
interested in making Halicarnassus a centre of art and culture, and
extending and strengthening her dominions, she could not overcome her
desolation of heart, and is said to have died of grief two years after
the loss of her husband.



The Forty-five Years' War came to a close in B.C. 277. It had been
entered into by those generals of Alexander the Great who succeeded to
his dominions, and its close witnessed three dynasties firmly
established and a number of minor principalities governed by various
petty rulers. The main divisions of the Hellenistic world at this time
were the kingdoms of Macedonia, under the successors of Antigonus
Gonatas; of Syria, under the Seleucidæ; and of Egypt, under the
Ptolemies; while the chief second-rate powers were Pergamum and Rhodes.
These States continued to be the great centres of Hellenism until they
were one by one overthrown by the mightier power of Rome, which in its
turn continued and perpetuated the Greek spirit, so that it has become
an element in the culture and civilization of modern times.

The most striking feature of social life in the Hellenistic Age was its
cosmopolitan character, reminding one of the European culture of to-day.
We know almost nothing of the life of the peoples of the different
nationalities, but the history of the times deals largely with the
courts of the rulers, and with the wars and commercial rivalries of
contending powers. As we have frequently noticed in previous chapters,
the status of woman under the old monarchical governments was an
elevated and influential one. Kings must have their courts, and court
life always presupposes a queen, with her attendant ladies; and in the
story of the Hellenistic periods of the world's history, one of the most
striking features is the number of royal women who enter upon the stage
of action and play a prominent part for the weal or woe of mankind.

We have already considered the character of the Macedonian woman--bold,
fearless, ambitious, ready to resort to cruelty and to intrigue in the
carrying-out of her ends. Macedonian character partook of the rugged,
hardy nature of the land, and the women of the country cared more for
outdoor sports and scenes of war than for the enervating luxuries of the
East and the letters of Egypt.

The kingdom of Syria, with its luxurious capital at Antioch, under the
dynasty of the Seleucidæ, was perhaps, as a whole, more Hellenistic in
culture than either Egypt or Macedon, and united more generally the
refinement of Greece with the luxury and splendor of the Orient.
Unfortunately, we know but little of this important kingdom, except as
to its wars and politics. Though Antiochus, the real founder of the
dynasty, was a patron of letters and maintained learned men at his
court, no literature of importance arose to tell us of its patrons; and,
excepting the story already told of his romantic marriage with
Stratonice, we know nothing of Antiochus's private life and but few
incidents in the lives of his successors. We know that the population of
Syria was manifold in nationality, in politics, and in manners, and that
the Greek cities, which were so profusely established, developed a high
degree of culture and created a general diffusion of knowledge. Juvenal,
in describing the Greek influence on Rome, speaks of the Syrian river
Orontes as flowing into the Tiber, and, doubtless, the Greek of the
Orient was the type most largely represented in the mixed population of
Rome. Antioch became a formidable rival of Alexandria as a social and
commercial centre, and extended Greek influence over a far wider area
than did the Egyptian city. But when we seek to know something of the
social life of this important branch of Hellenism, of the details of
private life and of the condition of women, we have absolutely no source
of information. Outside of the history of the royal family, there is
unbroken silence as to the more intimate story of Syria.

In this concluding chapter, therefore, we shall confine our attention to
Alexandria and the court of the Ptolemies, whither the centre of gravity
of the Greek world trended after the fall of Greek independence and the
decline of Athens. Its great founder seems to have shown prophetic
insight in his selection of the spot on which to build the city that
should bear his name, and the supremacy of that city was assured when
Alexander by his conquests opened up the Orient to Greek commerce; but
the greatest good fortune of Alexandria lay in obtaining a ruler of the
ability and insight and energy of Ptolemy Soter.

Ptolemy, the son of Lagus and Arsinoë, had grown up with Alexander as
one of his playfellows, and later became one of his most trusted, though
not most prominent, generals. There is a story that, before her
marriage, Arsinoë was a mistress of Philip, and that Ptolemy was in
truth the half-brother of Alexander; but there is no testimony to
substantiate the tradition, unless it be found in Ptolemy's likeness to
Philip in intrigue and governing power.

During the stormy years following the death of Alexander, Ptolemy, alone
of the generals, seems to have preserved his mental balance; and
instead of entering into the struggles of his rivals for world-empire,
he preferred to acquire as his secure dominion the province of Egypt, so
easily defensible, and separated from the contestable ground of opposing

The policy of the first Ptolemy moulded the history of Egypt and the
destinies of Hellenism. He surrounded himself with Greeks, so that they
became the dominant faction in the government and determined the tone of
court society. He gave religious freedom and large liberty in other
respects to the Egyptians, so that they became supporters of the
dynasty. By the foundation of the Museum, or University, of Alexandria,
he made his capital the literary centre of the new era and attracted to
his court learned men from all parts of the world. Greek became the
language of the court, and Greek culture and manners there prevailed.

Mahaffy graphically describes the brilliant court life of Alexandria
under Soter and his successors:

"So it came to pass that Ptolemy Soter gathered into his capital every
kind of splendor.... He established the most brilliant palace and court,
with festivals which were the wonder of the world. He gathered all that
he could command of learning and literary fame, and the city was
adequate to the largeness and splendor of its external appearance. We
have it described in later times as astonishing the beholder not only
with its vastness, but also with the splendor of its colonnades, which
lined the streets for miles and kept the ways cool for passengers; with
the din and bustle of the thoroughfares, of which the principal were
horse and carriage ways, contrary to the usual Greek practice; with the
number and richness of its public buildings, and with the holiday and
happy airs of its vast population, who rested not day and night, but
had their streets so well lighted that Achilles Tatius says the sun did
not set, but was distributed to illumine the gay night. The palace and
other royal buildings and parks were walled off like the palace at
Pekin, and had their own port and seashore, but all the rest of the town
had water near it and ship traffic in all directions. Every costume and
language must have been met in its streets and quays. It had its
fashionable suburbs too, and its bathing resorts to the east, Canopus,
Eleusis, and Nicopolis; to the west, its Necropolis. But of all this
splendor no eye-witness has left us in detail what we are reduced to
infer by conjecture."

The dynasty of the Ptolemies, so ably founded by Ptolemy Soter and
ending with the reign of the great Cleopatra, presents a series of
monarchs renowned for their culture, their luxury, their lasciviousness,
and their cruelty; and by the side of the kings may be found a series of
queens unrivalled in history for their cleverness, their wickedness, or
their beauty. Woman's place in this dynasty was a most influential one,
and she possessed all the freedom and power that could well fall to her
lot; she knew nothing whatever of the restrictions common in old Greek
life or in the life of the Orient. This was no doubt partly due to the
fact that the Macedonian spirit prevailed, partly that the status of
woman among the Egyptians themselves had its influence on the
conquerors. Papyri found in recent years demonstrate the legal
independence and freedom of women among the ancient Egyptians. A married
woman could make contracts and hold property in her own name and perform
all legal acts, without reference to her husband. Monogamy was the rule,
though in addition to the "dear wife" or "the lady of the house" there
were frequently subordinate wives. So supreme was the position of woman
that there were instances in which the husband settled all his property
on his wife, upon condition that she support him for the rest of his
days and give him a decent burial. There was such a contrast between the
Egyptian and the old Greek conception of woman that the Greek ofttimes
jeered at the Egyptian submission to feminine domination. In Alexandria
under the Ptolemies, accordingly, owing to Macedonian respect for woman
and the old Egyptian idea of feminine worth and capacity, the gentler
sex experienced conditions altogether different from those in ancient
Athens and enjoyed a freedom similar to that of modern times.

Ptolemy Soter, like his successors, was very fond of women, and
recognized fully the influence to be gained by political marriage.
Alexander, at the famous wedding feast, married his general to the
daughter of one of the noblest of the Persians, but we hear nothing
further of this union. His first political marriage was with Eurydice,
daughter of Antipater, the old regent, and some years later he married
Berenice, the grandniece of Antipater. He did not divorce Eurydice, but
openly adopted the practice of polygamy, which was sanctioned in both
Macedon and Egypt. The two wives seem to have lived together amicably,
but Berenice was the favorite. She was a woman of amiable but strong
character, and she maintained unbroken ascendency over her husband. So
skilful was her diplomacy that her son Magas, the fruit of a former
marriage, was appointed King of Cyrene, while her son Ptolemy was made
her husband's successor on the throne of Egypt, to the exclusion of
Eurydice's much older son, Ceraunus.

Ptolemy Philadelphus, son of Berenice, succeeded to the throne of Egypt
in B.C. 285, and for forty years was the most famous monarch in the
world. His court was renowned for its splendor and magnificence, and
may be aptly compared to the courts of Haroun al Raschid and Lorenzo de'
Medici, and here too woman played her part. Philadelphus's first wife
was Arsinoë I., daughter of Lysimachus, King of Thrace, who bore him
several children. It is not known definitely why Philadelphus divorced
her, but there is a story that she was detected plotting against his
life, which resulted in her divorce and banishment. The second wife was
likewise named Arsinoë, Ptolemy's own full sister. This match proved to
be a very happy one. Arsinoë had had an eventful career. Daughter of
Ptolemy and Berenice, she first became the wife of King Lysimachus of
Thrace, and at his untimely death she married Ptolemy Ceraunus, her
half-brother, the banished son of Eurydice. She and her husband caused
the murder of Agathocles, the rightful heir of Lysimachus, and Ceraunus
later murdered the children of Arsinoë by Lysimachus. After such an
experience in crime and misfortune, at the death of her second husband
she retired for a season,--a widow of middle age,--and then emerged to
become the consort of her brother Philadelphus. Arsinoë herself first
assumed the title Philadelphus, "loving her brother," by which the king
came to be known in later generations. As she was childless and was not
likely to have any heirs of her own, Arsinoë adopted her predecessor's
children; and being her husband's sister, she did not disturb him in the
many amours which consumed so large a part of his time.

Arsinoë was a woman of brilliant intellectual gifts, and the union
between her and Philadelphus seems to have been of the intellectual and
spiritual kind. She proved to be an able helper in all the affairs of
government; she assisted him in the financial administration and
particularly in foreign affairs; she encouraged him in his endeavor to
make Alexandria the centre of letters and art, and her name is coupled
with his in all the great events of this period. The two were deified,
and statues were erected to them as Gods Adelphi. The marriage between
brother and sister was quite in accord with Egyptian notions, and in the
public records, for ages past, the queen had been called _sister_ of the
king, whether she was really so or not. The marriage was compared by
court poets with that of Zeus and Hera; and the couple were frequently
lauded by them for their many achievements and the splendor of their

The reign of Philadelphus and Arsinoë was the brilliant epoch of
Alexandrian literature, and we may well pause at this point to see what
glimpses the poets of Alexandria give us into the feminine life of the
day. Theocritus, the famous pastoral poet, lays the scene of his
fifteenth idyl in Alexandria, and presents one of the most charming bits
of feminine life that literature affords us. The feast of Adonis,
described in an earlier chapter, was about to be celebrated at the
palace of King Ptolemy, and two ladies of Alexandria had agreed to go
together to see the image of Adonis which Queen Arsinoë "had decorated
with great magnificence, and to hear a celebrated prima donna sing the
Adonis song." The household details, the toilettes, the complaints of
the two cronies about their husbands, the admiration of a new dress and
its cost, the rough treatment of an unknown servant; then the crowd in
the streets, the terrors of the passing cavalry, the squeeze at the
entrance, the saucy rejoinder to a stranger who protests against their
incessant jabber--these and many other comic and picturesque details
have made this poem the best known among the so-called _Idyls_, and
indicate that the everyday life of woman in Ptolemaic Alexandria was
much the same as her life to-day. Gorgo, one of the ladies, goes by
appointment to the house of her friend Praxinoe, where the dialogue

       *       *       *       *       *

GORGO.--Is Praxinoe at home?

PRAXINOE.--Dear Gorgo, how long it is since you have been here! She _is_
at home. The wonder is that you have got here at last! Eunoe, see that
she has a chair. Throw a cushion on it, too.

GORGO.--It does most charmingly as it is.

PRAXINOE.--Do sit down.

GORGO.--Oh, what a thing spirit is! I have scarcely got to you alive,
Praxinoe! What a huge crowd, what hosts of four-in-hands! Everywhere
cavalry boots, everywhere men in uniform! And the road is endless; yes,
you really live _too_ far away!

PRAXINOE.--It is all the fault of that madman of mine. Here he came to
the ends of the earth and took--a hole, not a house, and all that we
might not be neighbors. The jealous wretch, always the same, ever for

GORGO.--Don't talk of your husband Dinon like that, my dear girl, before
the little boy--look how he is staring at you! Never mind, Zopyrion,
sweet child, she is not speaking about papa.

PRAXINOE.--Our Lady! the child takes notice,

GORGO.--Nice papa!

PRAXINOE.--That papa of his the other day--we call every day "the other
day"--went to get soap and rouge at the shop, and back he came to me
with salt--the great big endless fellow!

GORGO.--Mine has the same trick, too, a perfect
spend-thrift--Diocleides! Yesterday he got what he meant for five
fleeces, and paid seven shillings apiece for--what do you
suppose?--dogskins, shreds of old leather wallets, mere trash--trouble
on trouble! But come, take your cloak and shawl. Let us be off to the
palace of rich Ptolemy, the king, to see the _Adonis_; I hear the queen
has provided something splendid!

PRAXINOE.--Fine folks do everything finely.

GORGO.--What a tale you will have to tell about the things you have
seen, to anyone who has not seen them! It seems nearly time to go.

PRAXINOE.--Idlers have always holiday. Eunoe, bring the water and put it
down in the middle of the room, lazy creature that you are. Cats like
always to sleep soft! Come, bustle, bring the water; quicker! I want
water first, and how she carries it! give it me, all the same; don't
pour out so much, you extravagant thing! Stupid girl! Why are you
wetting my dress? There, stop, I have washed my hands, as heaven would
have it. Where is the key of the big chest? Bring it here.

GORGO.--Praxinoe, that full bodice becomes you wonderfully. Tell me, how
much did the stuff cost you just off the loom?

PRAXINOE.--Don't speak of it, Gotgo! More than eight pounds in good
silver money,--and the work on it! I nearly slaved my soul out over it!

GORGO.--Well, it is _most_ successful; all you could wish.

PRAXINOE,--Thanks for the pretty speech! Bring my shawl, and set my hat
on my head, the fashionable way. No, child, I don't mean to take you.
Boo! Bogies! There's a horse that bites! Cry as much as you please, but
I cannot have you lamed. Let us be moving. Phrygia, take the child and
keep him amused, call in the dog, and shut the street door.

(_They go into the street_.)

Ye gods, what a crowd! How on earth are we ever to get through this
coil? They are like ants that no one can measure or number. Many a good
deed have you done, Ptolemy; since your father joined the Immortals,
there's never a malefactor to spoil the passer-by, creeping on him in
Egyptian fashion--oh! the tricks those perfect rascals used to play.
Birds of a feather, ill jesters, scoundrels all! Dear Gorgo, what will
become of us? Here come the king's war horses! My dear man, don't
trample on me. Look, the bay's rearing; see, what temper! Eunoe, you
foolhardy girl, will you never keep out of the way? The beast will kill
the man that's leading him. What a good thing it is for me that my brat
stays safe at home!

GORGO.--Courage, Praxinoe. We are safe behind them now, and they have
gone to their station.

PRAXINOE.--There! I begin to be myself again. Ever since I was a child,
I have feared nothing so much as horses and the chilly snake. Come
along, the huge mob is overflowing us.

GORGO (_to an old woman_).--Are you from the Court, mother?

OLD WOMAN.--I am, my child.

PRAXINOE.--Is it easy to get there?

OLD WOMAN.--The Achæans got into Troy by trying, my prettiest of ladies.
Trying will do everything in the long run.

GORGO.--The old wife has spoken her oracles, and off she goes.

PRAXINOE.--Women know everything; yes, and how Zeus married Hera!

GORGO.--See, Praxinoe, what a crowd there is about the doors!

PRAXINOE.--Monstrous, Gorgo! Give me your hand; and you, Eunoe, catch
hold of Eutychis; never lose hold of her, for fear lest you get lost.
Let us all go in together; Eunoe, clutch tight to me. Oh, how tiresome,
Gorgo, my muslin veil is torn in two already! For heaven's sake, sir,
if you ever wish to be fortunate, take care of my shawl!

STRANGER.--I can hardly help myself, but, for all that, I will be as
careful as I can.

PRAXINOE.--How close-packed the mob is, they hustle like a herd of

STRANGER.--Courage, lady; all is well with us now.

PRAXINOE.--Both this year and forever may all be well with you, my dear
sir, for your care of us. A good, kind man! We're letting Eunoe get
squeezed--come, wretched girl, push your way through. That is the way.
We are all on the right side of the door, quoth the bridegroom, when he
had shut himself in with his bride.

GORGO.--Do come here, Praxinoe. Look first at these embroideries. How
light and how lovely! You will call them the garments of the gods.

PRAXINOE.--Lady Athena! what spinning women wrought them, what painters
designed those drawings, so true they are? How naturally they stand and
move, like living creatures, not patterns woven! What a clever thing is
man! Ah, and himself--Adonis--how beautiful to behold he lies on his
silver couch, with the first down on his cheeks, the thrice-beloved
Adonis,--Adonis beloved even among the dead!

A STRANGER.--You weariful women, do cease your endless cooing talk! They
bore one to death with their eternal broad vowels!

GORGO.--Indeed! And where may this person come from? What is it to you
if we _are_ chatterboxes! Give orders to your own servants, sir. Do you
pretend to command ladies of Syracuse? If you must know, we are
Corinthians by descent, like Bellerophon himself, and we speak
Peloponnesian. Dorian women may lawfully speak Doric, I presume?

PRAXINOE.--Lady Persephone!--never may we have more than one master! I
am not afraid of _your_ putting me on short commons.

GORGO.--Hush, hush, Praxinoe! the Argive woman's daughter, the great
singer, is beginning the _Adonis_; she that won the prize last year for
dirge singing. I am sure she will give us something lovely; see, she is
preluding with her airs and graces.

       *       *       *       *       *


O Queen that lovest Golgi, and Idalium, and the steep of Eryx, O
Aphrodite, that playest with gold, Io, from the stream eternal of
Acheron they have brought back to thee Adonis--even in the twelfth month
they have brought him, the dainty-footed Hours. Tardiest of the
Immortals are the beloved Hours, but dear and desired they come, for
always, to all mortals, they bring some gift with them. O Cypris,
daughter of Dione, from mortal to immortal, so men tell, thou hast
changed Berenice, dropping softly in the woman's breast the stuff of

Therefore, for thy delight, O thou of many names and many temples, doth
the daughter of Berenice, even Arsinoë, lovely as Helen, cherish Adonis
with all things beautiful.

Before him lie all ripe fruits that the tall trees' branches bear, and
the delicate gardens, arrayed in baskets of silver, and the golden
vessels are full of incense of Syria. And all the dainty cakes that
women fashion in the kneading tray, mingling blossoms manifold with the
white wheaten flour, all that is wrought of honey sweet, and in soft
olive oil, all cakes fashioned in the semblance of things that fly, and
of things that creep, Io, here they are set before him.

Here are built for him shadowy bowers of green, all laden with tender
anise, and children flit overhead--the little Loves--as the young
nightingales perched upon the trees fly forth and try their wings from
bough to bough.

O the ebony, O the gold, O the twin eagles of white ivory that carry to
Zeus, the son of Cronos, his darling, his cupbearer! O the purple
coverlet strewn above, more soft than sleep! So Miletus will say, and
whoso feeds sheep in Samos.

Another bed is strewn for beautiful Adonis, one bed Cypris keeps, and
one the rosy-armed Adonis. A bridegroom of eighteen or nineteen years is
he, his kisses are not rough, the golden down being yet upon his lips!
And now, good-night to Cypris, in the arms of her lover! But Io, in the
morning we will all of us gather with the dew, and carry him forth among
the waves that break upon the beach, and with locks unloosed, and ungirt
raiment falling to the ankles, and bosom bare, will we begin our shrill,
sweet song.

Thou only, dear Adonis, so men tell, thou only of the demigods, dost
visit both this world and the stream of Acheron. For Agamemnon had no
such lot, nor Aias, that mighty, lord of the terrible anger, nor Hector,
the eldest born of the twenty sons of Hecuba, nor Patroclus, nor
Pyrrhus, that returned out of Troy land, nor the heroes of yet more
ancient days, the Lapithæ and Deucalion's sons, nor the sons of Pelops,
and the chiefs of Pelasgian Argos. Be gracious now, dear Adonis, and
propitious even in the coming year. Dear to us has thine advent been,
Adonis, and dear shall it be when thou comest again.

GORGO.--Praxinoe, the woman is cleverer than we fancied! Happy woman to
know so much, thrice happy to have so sweet a voice! Well, all the same,
it is time to be making for home. Diocleides has not had his dinner,
and the man is all vinegar--don't venture near him when he is kept
waiting for dinner.--Farewell, beloved Adonis, may you find us glad at
your next coming!

This idyl of Theocritus suggests the freedom of movement and the
ordinary pursuits of the Alexandrian lady in the days of Arsinoë. A lost
work of Callimachus, the Ætia, has also an importance in our quest,
since it contained one of the earliest love stories in literature,
showing the ideals of feminine character which were popular at that
time. As the literary original of that sort of tale which makes love and
marriage the beginning and end of the plot, and which emphasizes the
constancy and purity of female love, this story, which was the model for
the Greek novel of later generations, is evidence that in an age
infamous for the wickedness of those in high places the people yet
delighted in stories of domestic affection and innocence. The tale of
Callimachus, according to Mahaffy, ran in this wise:

"There were once upon a time two young people of marvellous beauty,
called Acontius and Cydippe. All previous attempts on the part of any
youth or maiden to gain their affections had been fruitless; and the one
went about, a modern Achilles in manly splendor; the other, with the
roses and lilies of her cheeks, added a fourth to the number of the
Graces. But the god Eros,--now already the winged urchin of the
Anacreontics,--angry at this contumacy, determined to assert his power.
They met at a feast of Delos, she from Athens, he from Ceos.... Seized
with violent love at first sight, the youth inscribes on a quince, which
was a fruit used at this particular feast, 'I swear by Artemis that
Acontius shall be my husband,' and this he throws at the girl's feet.
Her nurse picks it up and reads the words to the girl, who blushed 'in
plots of roses' at the oath which she had never taken. But she too is
seized with an absorbing passion, and the situation is complicated by
the ignorance or hardness of heart of her parents, who had determined to
marry her to another man. Her grief prostrates her with sore sickness,
and the marriage is postponed. Meanwhile, Acontius flees the city and
his parents, and wanders disconsolate through the woods, telling to
trees and streams his love, writing 'Cydippe' upon every bark, and
filling all the groves with his sighs. Thrice the parents of the maiden
prepared the wedding, and thrice her illness rendered their preparation
vain. At last the father determined to consult the oracle at Delphi,
which revealed to him the facts and ordered him no longer to thwart the
lovers. Acontius arrives at Athens. The young couple are married, and
the tale ends with an explicit description of their happiness."

Though there were in Alexandrian literature shocking stories of
unnatural passion, as found later in Ovid, among Roman poets, yet the
type of the Acontius and Cydippe tale fascinated the age and held its
ground, and its moral elevation in contrast to the prevailing corruption
shows how the men and women of the times prized "the original purity of
the maiden, and the importance of its preservation until the happy
conclusion of marriage."

The son and successor of Philadelphus, the young King Ptolemy III.,
Euergetes, continued the literary traditions of the parental court. Soon
after his father's death, he married the Princess Berenice II. of
Cyrene, a young lady of beauty and spirit, who had already experienced
the corruption of the court life of the day. Demetrius the Fair had been
sent from Macedon to obtain her kingdom with her hand, but, while she
was waiting to be of marriageable age, he had beguiled himself by
intriguing with her mother. Berenice, in consequence, had him put to
death. Doubtless her marriage with the young King of Egypt was a
political alliance, but it was based also on mutual liking and appears
to have turned out well. This reign of Euergetes and Berenice is, in
fact, the one reign of the Ptolemies in which neither rival wives nor
mistresses agitated the court. Information concerning this important
period is meagre; we know, however, that no sooner had the bride entered
upon her new happiness than the bridegroom was called away to Syria to
avenge the horrid murder of his sister, also named Berenice, who had
been wedded to the old King Antiochus Theos on condition that the latter
repudiated his former wife Laodice and her children. But Laodice got the
aged king again into her power; and she forthwith poisoned him and had
her son proclaimed king. Her party in Antioch at once rose up against
the new Egyptian queen and murdered her and her infant child.

Queen Berenice, upon the departure of her husband, consecrated a lock of
her hair in the temple of Aphrodite, with a prayer for his safe return.
The lock mysteriously disappeared, and the philosopher Conon, happening
just at that time to discover a new constellation, declared that the
lock of Berenice's hair had been set among the stars. Callimachus, one
of the court poets, seized this occasion to compose a poem entitled the
_Lock of Berenice_,--preserved in Catullus's elegant Latin
version,--celebrating the accession to the constellations of this lock
of hair, which, according to the conceit of the poet, notwithstanding
its high honor, wishes that it had never been severed from Berenice's
fair head.

The reigns of Ptolemy Soter, Philadelphus, and Euergetes, with their
brilliant queens, mark the golden age of Alexandria. In Ptolemy IV.,
Philopator, we notice the curious and rapid change of the great family
of the Lagidæ into debauchees, dilettanti, drunkards, dolts. This
sovereign was a feeble and colorless personage who was completely under
the control of his minister Sosibius, whom Polybius speaks of as "a wily
old baggage and most mischievous to the kingdom; and first he planned
the murder of Lysimachus, who was the son of Arsinoë, daughter of
Lysimachus, and of Ptolemy; secondly, of Magas, the son of Ptolemy and
Berenice, daughter of Magas; thirdly, of Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy
and mother of Philopator; fourthly, of Cleomenes the Spartan; and
fifthly, of Arsinoë, daughter of Berenice, the king's sister and wife."
Surely a criminal of the deepest dye, at whose hands the princesses of
Alexandria suffered untold horrors! During his later years, the king was
under complete subjection to his mistress Agathoclea and her brother
Agathocles. The Queen Arsinoë, the mother of the infant heir to the
throne, who was young and vigorous, was regarded throughout Egypt as the
natural protectress and regent of the young Ptolemy when his father's
life was on the wane; but Agathocles and his sister secretly murdered
her, and, when the king died, presented the prince to the populace and
read a forged will in which they themselves were made his guardians
during his minority. But the people learned of the sad fate of Queen
Arsinoë, and her ill treatment roused the indignation of the populace;
thereupon followed one of the mob riots for which Alexandria was noted.
Polybius gives a dramatic description of the great riot and tells how
the wicked regent Agathocles, his sister Agathoclea, and his mother
Oenanthe, were seized by the multitude and torn in pieces, limb by limb,
while yet they lived.

When the young King Ptolemy V., Epiphanes, grew up, he took for his
queen Cleopatra, daughter of Antiochus III., the Great, and sister of
Antiochus IV., Epiphanes. Now for the first time, with this Syrian
princess, enters the name of Cleopatra in the annals of Egypt. Previous
queens have been named either Berenice or Arsinoë, and from this time on
the three names appear in almost inextricable confusion, Cleopatra
prevailing and being applied at times even to sisters of the same house.
The first Cleopatra was a great and good queen, and after the death of
her husband, whose reign was short and uneventful, and of her elder son,
who seems to have died soon after his accession, she became regent of
her second son, Ptolemy VI., Philometor, who was not seven years old
when he began to reign, Philometor married his sister, Cleopatra II.,
and was the last of the Ptolemies who could in any sense be called good.
His later years were clouded by the rivalry of his wicked brother
Physcon, who sought the throne.

When Philometor was killed in battle, Physcon, or Euergetes II., laid
siege to Alexandria, forced the widowed queen Cleopatra II. to marry
him, murdered her young son Ptolemy, Philopator Neos, the rightful heir,
for whom the mother had made a bold attempt to maintain the throne, and
reigned as Ptolemy VII. Physcon even married the queen's daughter,
Cleopatra III., and we see this remarkable man managing, at the same
time, two ambitious queens, mother and daughter, who were probably at
deadly enmity throughout the period in which they were associated with
him in the royalty. One story, almost too horrible to obtain credence,
tells that Physcon served up as a birthday feast to the mother,
Cleopatra II., his own heir Memphitis. When this wretch finally ended
his days, Cleopatra III., who was as great a monster of ambition,
selfishness, and cruelty as Physcon himself, seems to have murdered her
queen-mother and to have assumed the reins of government, at first
alone, and later associated with her eldest son, Lathyrus Soter II., who
reigned as the eighth Ptolemy. Lathyrus first married his sister
Cleopatra IV., but was finally compelled by his mother to divorce her
and to marry his other sister, Selene. He was finally turned out of his
kingdom by his mother, who desired the accession of his younger brother,
Alexander I., the ninth Ptolemy; and the latter repaid her maternal
interest in him by murdering her as soon as he was secure on the throne.
His queen was Berenice III., with whom he reigned until they were in
turn ousted by Lathyrus. Alexander II., Ptolemy X., succeeded Lathyrus,
and married his stepmother, Berenice III., whom he speedily murdered,
and was himself put to death after a brief reign of nineteen days.
Ptolemy XI., Auletes, an illegitimate son of Soter II., then mounted the
throne, his queen being Cleopatra V., Tryphæna. He was the last and the
weakest of the Ptolemies, and is worthy of mention merely because of his
base dealings with Rome, which introduced Roman intervention into
Egyptian affairs, and because he was the father of the great Cleopatra.

We have given this brief chronicle of the later kings and queens of
Egypt to prepare us for the consideration of the character of the
foremost Egyptian woman of antiquity--Cleopatra. The Ptolemies, we have
found, degenerated steadily and became in the end the most abominable
and loathsome tyrants that the principle of absolute and irresponsible
power ever produced. Regardless of all law, abandoned to the most
unnatural vices, thoroughly depraved, and capable of every crime, they
showed utter disregard of every virtuous principle and of every domestic
tie. The Ptolemaic princesses seem, as a whole, to have been superior to
the men. They usually possessed great beauty, great personal charm, and
great wealth and influence. Yet among them always existed mutual hatred
and disregard of all ties of family and affection. Ambitious to excess,
high-spirited and indomitable, they removed every obstacle to the
attainment of power, and fratricide and matricide are crimes at which
they did not pause. When the student of history sees pass before him
this dismal panorama of vice and crime, he wonders whether human nature
had not deserted these women and the spirit of the tigress entered into

Cleopatra, the last Queen of Egypt, was the heiress of generations of
legalized license, of cultured sensuality, of refined cruelty, and of
moral turpitude, and she differed from her predecessors only in that she
had redeeming qualities which offset in some degree the wickedness that
she had inherited. To the thoughtful mind her character presents one of
the most difficult of psychological problems, and to solve the enigma
thus presented we have to consider her antecedents, her early training,
and the part which she was compelled to play in the world's history.

Her early years were spent in the storm and turmoil of the conflict
between her father Auletes and her sister Berenice. Ptolemy XI.,
Auletes, called "the Piper,"--because of his only accomplishment, his
skill in playing the flute,--was perhaps the most degraded, dissipated,
and corrupt of all the sovereigns of the dynasty. He inspired his
contemporaries with scorn for his weakness of character and with
abhorrence for his vices and crimes. His one redeeming trait was his
love for his younger children, and he seems to have brought them up with
every obtainable advantage and as much as possible removed from the
turmoil of the court. For fear of losing his kingdom, he sought
recognition from Rome and paid Cæsar enormous sums of money for his
patronage. The people rose in revolt against the heavy taxes, and
Ptolemy fled to Rome for aid. Berenice IV., his eldest daughter, was
raised to the throne by the Alexandrians, and she began her reign in
great splendor. Hoping to strengthen her position by marriage with a
royal prince, she first wedded Seleucus of Syria. But she soon found him
not to her taste, and disposed of him by strangling--in true Ptolemaic
fashion. After many intrigues, she found a second husband in Archelaus,
a prince of Asia Minor. She then made every preparation to offer
effectual resistance to her father. Auletes succeeded in gaining a
hearing at Rome, and a Roman army under Gabinius, with Mark Antony as
his lieutenant, marched against the forces of Berenice and Archelaus.
After many battles, the Romans were victorious. Archelaus was slain;
Berenice was taken prisoner; her government was overthrown; and Auletes
was restored to power, as a vassal of Rome. Ptolemy was filled with
savage joy at his daughter's capture, and at once ordered her execution.
After a reign of three years, Auletes died, leaving the kingdom jointly
to Cleopatra, now eighteen years of age, and her brother Ptolemy, aged
ten; and the brother and sister, in obedience to the custom of the
Ptolemies, were married, that they might rule together.

Amid such scenes and excitements, a constant witness of the cruelty of
her father and elder sister, Cleopatra had grown up, and with such
examples before her she entered upon her reign. Her training, under most
skilful masters, had been of the broadest character, and her
intellectual endowments have seldom been surpassed. She was very
learned, and is said to have mastered eight or ten languages; so that
she could address in his own tongue whoever approached her--whether
Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, or Syriac.

"With a fondness for philosophy she united a love of letters as rare as
it is attractive; and in the companionship of scholars and poets her
mind expanded as it added to its priceless store of wealth. She was not
only familiar with the heroic tales and traditions, the poetic myths and
chronicles, and the religious legends, of ancient Egypt, but she was
well versed, too, in the literature and science of Phoenicia and
Chaldæa, of Greece and Rome; she was skilled also in metallurgy and
chemistry; and a proficient in astronomy and the other sciences
cultivated in the age in which she lived. Her skill in music found none
to equal it. Her voice itself was perfect melody, and touched by her
fingers the cithara seemed instinct with life, and from its strings
there rolled a gushing flood of glorious symphonies. She was eloquent
and imaginative, witty and animated. Her conversation, therefore, was
charming; and if she exhibited caprice, which she sometimes did, it was
forgotten in the inevitable grace of her manner."

Essentially Greek in all her characteristics, she possessed the wisdom
of Athena, the dignity of Hera, and the witchery of Aphrodite. An
enthusiastic writer has thus described her: "She was tall of stature and
queenly in gait and appearance. The warm sun of that southern clime had
tinged her cheek with a hue of brown, but her complexion was as clear
and pure as the serene sky that smiled above her head, and distinctly
traced beneath it were the delicate veins filled with the rich blood
that danced so wildly when inflamed with hate or heated with passion.
Her eyes and hair were like jet and as glossy as the raven's plume. The
former were large and, as was characteristic of her race, apparently
half-shut and slightly turned up at the outer angles, thus adding to the
naturally arch expression of her countenance; but they were full, too,
of brilliancy and fire. Both nose and chin were small, but fashioned as
with all the nicety of the sculptor's art; and her pearly teeth nestled
lovingly between the coral lips whose kisses were as sweet as honey
from the hives of Hybla."

Plutarch expresses himself rather differently from the modern
writer,--who draws largely on his imagination,--and perhaps more

"There was nothing so incomparable in her beauty as to compel
admiration; but by the charm of her physiognomy, the grace of her whole
person, the fascination of her presence, Cleopatra left a sting in the
soul." Hence, as has been said, she probably possessed not supreme
beauty, but supreme seductiveness.

Her social and moral qualities at this time seem not to have been
inferior to her beauty or her intellectual endowments. Falsehood and
hypocrisy were foreign to her. She gained her ends by the winningness of
her disposition, the melody of her voice, the gentleness of her manner.
Says Ebers, who of modern writers has drawn the most attractive picture
of her character: "The fundamental principles which dominated this rare
creature's life and character were two ceaseless desires: first, to
surpass everyone, even in the most difficult achievements; and,
secondly, to love and be loved in return." Ambition and love were the
two ruling principles in her nature which raised her above all other
women of her time.

Such was Cleopatra when she began to reign. But neither her learning nor
her beauty nor the charm of her manner protected her from the
machinations of the court. Ptolemy XII., her boy husband, was under the
control of his tutor, Pothinus, who, becoming jealous of Cleopatra's
growing power, organized a conspiracy against her; and she was compelled
to flee to Syria, where she began to raise an army to assert her rights.
But a greater power now intervened in the affairs of Egypt. Cæsar
entered upon the scene. Cleopatra appealed to him, and, rolled in a
bale of carpet, gained admittance to his presence. When the carpet was
unrolled and the queen appeared to view, the great conqueror was
captivated at the spectacle. She was now about twenty-one, slender and
graceful and of bewitching manner. Cæsar was about fifty-two, but
thoroughly susceptible to the charms of youth and beauty. He warmly
espoused her cause, and, after a conflict which nearly ended his career,
restored her to the throne; and as Ptolemy XII. had been accidentally
drowned in the Nile, he associated a younger brother, Ptolemy XIII., as
her consort in the kingdom.

This is perhaps the most fascinating period in the life of Cleopatra,
when, just entering upon her womanhood, she captivates the great
commander and becomes, for a season, his Aspasia. In Egyptian eyes their
union was regarded as a marriage, and the relations of these two never
assumed the grossness and voluptuousness that were later exhibited by
Antony and Cleopatra. Cæsar, with all his lofty intelligence, no doubt
found in her one whose intellectual faculties rose to the level of his
own. He passed the winter in her company, but at last had strength of
mind enough to break away from her seductions, that he might continue
his conquests and establish his dictatorship at Rome. When at the height
of his power, he summoned to Rome Cleopatra, with his young son,
Cæsarion, and gave them a residence in his villa on the Tiber. Here she
lived in splendid state, and exercised a dominating influence over the
ruler of the world, much to the disgust of the Romans. It was the height
of her ambition to have Cæsar proclaim their son Cæsarion his heir, but
the dictator in this regard resisted her allurements, and remained true
to Roman traditions. Upon Cæsar's assassination, Cleopatra, disappointed
in her fondest hopes, hastily returned to Egypt and her throne. There
now appears a great change in the character of Cleopatra. The simplicity
of nature and gentleness of spirit of earlier years gradually give place
to a nature selfish, heartless, and designing. Jealous of her little
brother, now fast approaching the age of fifteen, when he would share
her power, she caused him to be poisoned. She was troubled by no
conscientious scruples which might interfere with the fullest and most
unrestrained indulgence of every propensity of her heart. In all her
subsequent life she showed herself passionate and ambitious, cunning and
politic, luxurious and pleasure-seeking.

Cleopatra was in her twenty-ninth year when she first met Antony--"a
period of life," says Plutarch, "when woman's beauty is most splendid,
and her intellect is in full maturity."

When Antony summoned Cleopatra to appear before him at Tarsus to answer
charges brought against her for aiding Cassius and Brutus in the late
war, she, fired with the idea of achieving a second time the conquest of
the greatest general and highest potentate in the world, employed all
the resources of her kingdom in making preparation for her journey.
Shakespeare has most admirably described the splendor of her barge and
the scene of enchantment that greeted Antony as she sailed up the Cydnus
to meet him, a veritable Aphrodite surrounded by the Graces:

       "The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
       Burn'd on the water; the poop was beaten gold;
       Purple the sails, and so perfum'd that
       The winds were love-sick with them: the oars were silver,
       Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
       The water, which they beat, to follow faster,
       As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
       It beggar'd all description: she did lie
       In her pavilion (cloth-of-gold of tissue)
       O'er-picturing that Venus, where we see
       The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
       Stood pretty dimpl'd boys, like smiling Cupids,
       With diverse-color'd fans....
       Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
       So many mermaids, tended her i' the eyes.
       ... At the helm
       A seeming mermaid steers....
       ... From the barge
       A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
       Of the adjacent wharves. The city cast
       Her people out upon her; and Antony,
       Enthroned i' the market-place, did sit alone,
       Whistling to th' air; which, but for vacancy,
       Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,
       And made a gap in nature."

Antony was completely fascinated with her charms. Her beauty, her wit,
and, above all, the tact, adroitness, and self-possession which she
displayed in consenting thus to appear before him, forced him to yield
his heart almost immediately to her undisputed sway. Cleopatra remained
at Tarsus for some time, in an incessant round of gayety and revelry,
and by her flatteries and caresses she prevailed on Antony, forgetful of
his wife Fulvia and his duty as a Roman, to spend the winter at
Alexandria, where the pair engaged in continual feastings, spectacles,
and sports, as well as in every species of riot, irregularity, and
excess. It is not our purpose to follow the well-known career of
Cleopatra during these years of turmoil, or to dwell on the
circumstances that caused her to prove the destruction of Antony's hopes
at the battle of Actium; neither shall we describe in detail those
closing days when both committed suicide rather than suffer the
consequences of humiliation and defeat.

The case of Mark Antony is the most conspicuous example in history of
the complete subjugation by the arts and fascinations of a woman of a
will stern and indomitable, if reckless, and of a heart that was
naturally generous and noble. Cleopatra led him to betray every public
trust, to alienate from himself the affections of all his countrymen, to
repel most cruelly the kindness and devotedness of a beautiful and
faithful wife; and at last she led him away in a most cowardly and
ignoble flight from the field of duty as a soldier, he knowing full well
that she was hurrying him on to disgrace and destruction, and yet being
utterly without power to break from the control of her irresistible

Yet they were lovers--lovers who sacrificed wealth, ambition, duty,
honor, on the altar of Aphrodite. It was a love which brought
destruction; still, we may charitably account for the weakness exhibited
by each as the natural consequence of that romantic love, than which
history has given us no greater example.

Dire was the fate of Cleopatra. Hopes all frustrated,--Antony dying in
her arms,--Octavius impervious to all her allurements,--rather than
grace the conqueror's triumph, the most fascinating of Greek women ended
her days, according to the prevailing tradition, by the bite of an asp,
in her thirty-ninth year.

Cleopatra's character is a most fascinating and baffling study. Of many
faults and vices she was guilty, but they were characteristic of her
age. Her virtues must have been also many, for had she not possessed
virtues she would not have been loved and admired by all who knew her.
Her faithful attendants, Iras and Charmion, sacrificed themselves over
her dead body, and by their devotion made even the Roman Proculius
exclaim, in the words of Plutarch: "No other woman on earth was ever so
admired by the greatest, so loved by the loftiest. Her fame echoed from
nation to nation throughout the world. It will continue to resound from
generation to generation; but, however loudly men may extol the
bewitching charm, the fervor of the love which survived death, her
intellect, her knowledge, the heroic courage with which she preferred
the tomb to ignominy--the praise of these two must not be forgotten.
Their fidelity deserves it. By their marvellous end they unconsciously
erected the most beautiful monument to their mistress; for what genuine
goodness and lovableness must have been possessed by the woman who,
after the greatest reverses, made it seem more desirable to those
nearest to her person to die rather than to live without her!"

Cleopatra was not a great queen, regarded as a ruler, yet she did a
great service to her country in preserving its independence for a score
of years after it had reached its end by a natural process of
degeneracy; but she accomplished this end by the arts of intrigue.
Cleopatra was too essentially a woman to be a great ruler, having all a
woman's weaknesses, a woman's faults, and yet withal the charms and
graces that make woman beautiful and lovable. Yet when we weigh her
character with due reference to the times in which she lived, to the
family influences which moulded her early years, and to the degeneracy
of the Ptolemies to which she fell heir, she must rank as one of the
best of her dynasty. Horace, the Roman poet, called Cleopatra: "_non
humilis mulier_ [a woman capable of no baseness];" and the phrase gains
in importance from the fact that it occurs in the hymn which the poet
dedicated to Octavius in honor of his victory over Antony and Cleopatra.
In thus characterizing, in such an ode, the victor's foe, Horace gives
us an estimate of the "Serpent of the Nile" which may stand as an
epitome of her character and as a just claim to the partial respect and
admiration of posterity.

      "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
       Her infinite variety."

Cleopatra's intimate relations with Rome's greatest men, and the
conversion of her kingdom into a Roman province after her death, but
emphasize the fact that all Hellenistic lands were at that time in the
power of Rome and that the period of Græco-Roman culture had begun much
earlier. In B.C. 146 had occurred the destruction of Corinth and the
absorption of Old Greece into a part of the Roman province of Macedon,
and from that time Rome exerted a marked influence over the social life
of Hellas. One of the chief characteristics of this age was the freer
life of women of all classes. Even in Athens and Boeotia, the mistress
of the house obtained her rights as mother and hostess. Perhaps it was
in imitation of what they saw in Rome, perhaps it was merely the natural
process of evolution, but, at any rate, the recognition of the
capabilities and the elevated position of woman was general. Plutarch is
the best chronicler of Greek life in the first century after the
Christian era, and his works abound in precepts on the relations of the
sexes, in whose equality he was a firm believer, and on the proper
training and education of woman. His own wife, Timoxena, paid visits and
received guests even when her husband was absent, shared fully the
intellectual life of her husband, and took part in all his public

The age was mending its manners. New ideas were prevailing among men.
Woman was becoming more and more fully a factor in the world. Yet, for
her complete emancipation, there was need of a new dogma, a great
revelation, which would bring about startling reforms in the moral and
social life of mankind. Already "the Word had been made flesh, and dwelt
among them full of grace and truth"; yet the great writers of the first
century of our era, Dion, Plutarch, even Josephus, seem never to have
heard of the new teaching which had been preached throughout Asia Minor
and at Athens and Corinth--the new teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, which
was destined to overturn the prevailing conception of woman and her
status and to lead her into a fulness of life such as had never been
conceived in the imagination of even the most elevated of her sex.

[Illustration 384 _CLEOPATRA After the painting by Alexandre Cabanel.
From the period when the last Pharaoh died until it fell under the Roman
domination, Egypt was ruled by the Greek Ptolemies, and the last of the
rulers of Greek descent was the world-famous Cleopatra._

_Plutarch, in his life of Antony, states that after the defeat of
Actium, Cleopatra, feeling the end of her reign imminent, busied herself
in making a collection of poisons; and in order to see which of them was
the least painful in operation, she had them tried upon prisoners
condemned to die._]

In Cleopatra and other Greek women considered in the volume, we have
observed from time to time the highest development of feminine
endowments, physical, intellectual, or sensuous. The ethereal beauty of
Helen, the poetic fervor of Sappho, the intellectual temper of Aspasia,
the artistic temperament of Phryne, and the seductive sensibility of
Cleopatra--these exhibit phases of feminine perfection that have not
found their counterparts in modern times. Yet in each instance mentioned
there was the one thing needful--the corresponding development of the
moral and spiritual nature. These women were but pagans. Each sought in
her own way to attain the highest perfection possible to woman; still,
for them the truth was but seen in a glass darkly, and their philosophy
had not yet taught them concerning the higher life of the spirit as
distinct from the body.

Yet the dominion established by Julius Caesar, which embraced all the
Hellenistic lands, was even in Cleopatra's time preparing the way for
the dominion of the Son of Man, who brought into the world new
conceptions of womanhood, new influences destined to elevate and ennoble
the sex and emphasize the higher elements in human character that the
ancients had so sadly neglected. Pagan Woman attained unrivalled
excellence in physical beauty, intellectual endowment, and sensuous
charm; to Christian Woman was vouchsafed the light which dispelled the
moral darkness of antiquity and made attainable the highest spiritual

                            LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

  SUBJECT                               ARTIST                    PAGE

Aspasia                             _Henry Holiday_             Fronts.

Circe                               _Henri P. Motte_                 80

Sappho in her school of poetry in   _Hector Leroux_                 120

The Grecian toilette                _From an antique vase_          176

Phryne                              _Henry I. Siemiradsky_          232

Cleopatra                           _Alexandre Cabanel_             384

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