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´╗┐Title: Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book I
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book I" ***


by Edward Bulwer Lytton



My Dear Sir,

I am not more sensible of the distinction conferred upon me when you
allowed me to inscribe this history with your name, than pleased with
an occasion to express my gratitude for the assistance I have derived
throughout the progress of my labours from that memorable work, in
which you have upheld the celebrity of English learning, and afforded
so imperishable a contribution to our knowledge of the Ancient World.
To all who in history look for the true connexion between causes and
effects, chronology is not a dry and mechanical compilation of barren
dates, but the explanation of events and the philosophy of facts.  And
the publication of the Fasti Hellenici has thrown upon those times, in
which an accurate chronological system can best repair what is
deficient, and best elucidate what is obscure in the scanty
authorities bequeathed to us, all the light of a profound and
disciplined intellect, applying the acutest comprehension to the
richest erudition, and arriving at its conclusions according to the
true spirit of inductive reasoning, which proportions the completeness
of the final discovery to the caution of the intermediate process.  My
obligations to that learning and to those gifts which you have
exhibited to the world are shared by all who, in England or in Europe,
study the history or cultivate the literature of Greece.  But, in the
patient kindness with which you have permitted me to consult you
during the tedious passage of these volumes through the press--in the
careful advice--in the generous encouragement--which have so often
smoothed the path and animated the progress--there are obligations
peculiar to myself; and in those obligations there is so much that
honours me, that, were I to enlarge upon them more, the world might
mistake an acknowledgment for a boast.

    With the highest consideration and esteem,
                 Believe me, my dear sir,
             Most sincerely and gratefully yours,
                      EDWARD LYTTON BULWER
    London, March, 1837.


The work, a portion of which is now presented to the reader, has
occupied me many years--though often interrupted in its progress,
either by more active employment, or by literary undertakings of a
character more seductive.  These volumes were not only written, but
actually in the hands of the publisher before the appearance, and
even, I believe, before the announcement of the first volume of Mr.
Thirlwall's History of Greece, or I might have declined going over any
portion of the ground cultivated by that distinguished scholar [1].
As it is, however, the plan I have pursued differs materially from
that of Mr. Thirlwall, and I trust that the soil is sufficiently
fertile to yield a harvest to either labourer.

Since it is the letters, yet more than the arms or the institutions of
Athens, which have rendered her illustrious, it is my object to
combine an elaborate view of her literature with a complete and
impartial account of her political transactions.  The two volumes now
published bring the reader, in the one branch of my subject, to the
supreme administration of Pericles; in the other, to a critical
analysis of the tragedies of Sophocles.  Two additional volumes will,
I trust, be sufficient to accomplish my task, and close the records of
Athens at that period when, with the accession of Augustus, the annals
of the world are merged into the chronicle of the Roman empire.  In
these latter volumes it is my intention to complete the history of the
Athenian drama--to include a survey of the Athenian philosophy--to
describe the manners, habits, and social life of the people, and to
conclude the whole with such a review of the facts and events narrated
as may constitute, perhaps, an unprejudiced and intelligible
explanation of the causes of the rise and fall of Athens.

As the history of the Greek republics has been too often corruptly
pressed into the service of heated political partisans, may I be
pardoned the precaution of observing that, whatever my own political
code, as applied to England, I have nowhere sought knowingly to
pervert the lessons of a past nor analogous time to fugitive interests
and party purposes.  Whether led sometimes to censure, or more often
to vindicate the Athenian people, I am not conscious of any other
desire than that of strict, faithful, impartial justice.  Restlessly
to seek among the ancient institutions for illustrations (rarely
apposite) of the modern, is, indeed, to desert the character of a
judge for that of an advocate, and to undertake the task of the
historian with the ambition of the pamphleteer.  Though designing this
work not for colleges and cloisters, but for the general and
miscellaneous public, it is nevertheless impossible to pass over in
silence some matters which, if apparently trifling in themselves, have
acquired dignity, and even interest, from brilliant speculations or
celebrated disputes.  In the history of Greece (and Athenian history
necessarily includes nearly all that is valuable in the annals of the
whole Hellenic race) the reader must submit to pass through much that
is minute, much that is wearisome, if he desire to arrive at last at
definite knowledge and comprehensive views.  In order, however, to
interrupt as little as possible the recital of events, I have
endeavoured to confine to the earlier portion of the work such details
of an antiquarian or speculative nature as, while they may afford to
the general reader, not, indeed, a minute analysis, but perhaps a
sufficient notion of the scholastic inquiries which have engaged the
attention of some of the subtlest minds of Germany and England, may
also prepare him the better to comprehend the peculiar character and
circumstances of the people to whose history he is introduced: and it
may be well to warn the more impatient that it is not till the second
book (vol. i., p. 181) that disquisition is abandoned for narrative.
There yet remain various points on which special comment would be
incompatible with connected and popular history, but on which I
propose to enlarge in a series of supplementary notes, to be appended
to the concluding volume.  These notes will also comprise criticisms
and specimens of Greek writers not so intimately connected with the
progress of Athenian literature as to demand lengthened and elaborate
notice in the body of the work.  Thus, when it is completed, it is my
hope that this book will combine, with a full and complete history of
Athens, political and moral, a more ample and comprehensive view of
the treasures of the Greek literature than has yet been afforded to
the English public. I have ventured on these remarks because I thought
it due to the reader, no less than to myself, to explain the plan and
outline of a design at present only partially developed.

London, March, 1837.




     I  Situation and Soil of Attica.--The Pelasgians its earliest
          Inhabitants.--Their Race and Language akin to the Grecian.--
          Their varying Civilization and Architectural Remains.--
          Cecrops.--Were the earliest Civilizers of Greece foreigners
          or Greeks?--The Foundation of Athens.--The Improvements
          attributed to Cecrops.--The Religion of the Greeks cannot
          be reduced to a simple System.--Its Influence upon their
          Character and Morals, Arts and Poetry.--The Origin of
          Slavery and Aristocracy.

    II  The unimportant consequences to be deduced from the admission
          that Cecrops might be Egyptian.--Attic Kings before
          Theseus.--The Hellenes.--Their Genealogy.--Ionians and
          Achaeans Pelasgic.--Contrast between Dorians and Ionians.--
          Amphictyonic League.

   III  The Heroic Age.--Theseus.--His legislative Influence upon
          Athens.--Qualities of the Greek Heroes.--Effect of a
          Traditional Age upon the Character of a People.

    IV  The Successors of Theseus.--The Fate of Codrus.--The
          Emigration of Nileus.--The Archons.--Draco.

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

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

   VII  Governments in Greece.

  VIII  Brief Survey of Arts, Letters, and Philosophy in Greece,
          prior to the Legislation of Solon.



     I  The Conspiracy of Cylon.--Loss of Salamis.--First Appearance
          of Solon.--Success against the Megarians in the Struggle for
          Salamis.--Cirrhaean War.--Epimenides.--Political State of
          Athens.--Character of Solon.--His Legislation.--General View
          of the Athenian Constitution.

    II  The Departure of Solon from Athens.--The Rise of Pisistratus.
          --Return of Solon.--His Conduct and Death.--The Second and
          Third Tyranny of Pisistratus.--Capture of Sigeum.--Colony
          In the Chersonesus founded by the first Miltiades.--Death of

   III  The Administration of Hippias.--The Conspiracy of Harmodius
          and Aristogiton.--The Death of Hipparchus.--Cruelties of
          Hippias.--The young Miltiades sent to the Chersonesus.--The
          Spartans Combine with the Alcmaeonidae against Hippias.--The
          fall of the Tyranny.--The Innovations of Clisthenes.--His
          Expulsion and Restoration.--Embassy to the Satrap of Sardis.
          --Retrospective View of the Lydian, Medean, and Persian
          Monarchies.--Result of the Athenian Embassy to Sardis.--
          Conduct of Cleomenes.--Victory of the Athenians against the
          Boeotians and Chalcidians.--Hippias arrives at Sparta.--The
          Speech of Sosicles the Corinthian.--Hippias retires to

    IV  Histiaeus, Tyrant of Miletus, removed to Persia.--The
          Government of that City deputed to Aristagoras, who invades
          Naxos with the aid of the Persians.--Ill Success of that
          Expedition.--Aristagoras resolves upon Revolting from the
          Persians.--Repairs to Sparta and to Athens.--The Athenians
          and Eretrians induced to assist the Ionians.--Burning of
          Sardis.--The Ionian War.--The Fate of Aristagoras.--Naval
          Battle of Lade.--Fall of Miletus.--Reduction of Ionia.--
          Miltiades.--His Character.--Mardonius replaces Artaphernes
          in the Lydian Satrapy.--Hostilities between Aegina and
          Athens.--Conduct of Cleomenes.--Demaratus deposed.--Death
          Of Cleomenes.--New Persian Expedition.

     V  The Persian Generals enter Europe.--Invasion of Naxos,
          Carystus, Eretria.--The Athenians Demand the Aid of Sparta.
          --The Result of their Mission and the Adventure of their
          Messenger.--The Persians advance to Marathon.--The Plain
          Described.--Division of Opinion in the Athenian Camp.--The
          Advice of Miltiades prevails.--The Drear of Hippias.--The
          Battle of Marathon.



     I  The Character and Popularity of Miltiades.--Naval expedition.
          --Siege of Paros.--Conduct of Miltiades.--He is Accused and
          Sentenced.--His Death.

    II  The Athenian Tragedy.--Its Origin.--Thespis.--Phrynichus.--
          Aeschylus.--Analysis of the Tragedies of Aeschylus.

   III  Aristides.--His Character and Position.--The Rise of
          Themistocles.--Aristides is Ostracised.--The Ostracism
          examined.--The Influence of Themistocles increases.--The
          Silver--mines of Laurion.--Their Product applied by
          Themistocles to the Increase of the Navy.--New Direction
          given to the National Character.

    IV  The Preparations of Darius.--Revolt of Egypt.--Dispute for
          The Succession to the Persian Throne.--Death of Darius.--
          Brief Review of the leading Events and Characteristics of
          his Reign.

     V  Xerxes conducts an Expedition into Egypt.--He finally resolves
          on the Invasion of Greece.--Vast Preparations for the
          Conquest of Europe.--Xerxes arrives at Sardis.--Despatches
          Envoys to the Greek States, demanding Tribute.--The Bridge
          of the Hellespont.--Review of the Persian Armament at
          Abydos.--Xerxes encamps at Therme.

    VI  The Conduct of the Greeks.--The Oracle relating to Salamis.--
          Art of Themistocles.--The Isthmian Congress.--Embassies to
          Argos, Crete, Corcyra, and Syracuse.--Their ill Success.--
          The Thessalians send Envoys to the Isthmus.--The Greeks
          advance to Tempe, but retreat.--The Fleet despatched to
          Artemisium, and the Pass of Thermopylae occupied.--Numbers
          of the Grecian Fleet.--Battle of Thermopylae.

   VII  The Advice of Demaratus to Xerxes.--Themistocles.--Actions off
          Artemisium.--The Greeks retreat.--The Persians invade
          Delphi, and are repulsed with great Loss.--The Athenians,
          unaided by their Allies, abandon Athens, and embark for
          Salamis.--The irresolute and selfish Policy of the
          Peloponnesians.--Dexterity and Firmness of Themistocles.--
          Battle of Salamis.--Andros and Carystus besieged by the
          Greeks.--Anecdotes of Themistocles.--Honours awarded to him
          in Sparta.--Xerxes returns to Asia.--Olynthus and Potidaea
          besieged by Artabazus.--The Athenians return Home.--The
          Ostracism of Aristides is repealed.

  VIII  Embassy of Alexander of Macedon to Athens.--The Result of his
          Proposals.--Athenians retreat to Salamis.--Mardonius
          occupies Athens.--The Athenians send Envoys to Sparta.--
          Pausanias succeeds Cleombrotus as Regent of Sparta.--Battle
          of Plataea.--Thebes besieged by the Athenians.--Battle of
          Mycale.--Siege of Sestos.--Conclusion of the Persian War.



     I  Remarks on the Effects of War.--State of Athens.--Interference
          of Sparta with respect to the Fortifications of Athens.--
          Dexterous Conduct of Themistocles.--The New Harbour of the
          Piraeus.--Proposition of the Spartans in the Amphictyonic
          Council defeated by Themistocles.--Allied Fleet at Cyprus
          and Byzantium.--Pausanias.--Alteration in his Character.--
          His ambitious Views and Treason.--The Revolt of the Ionians
          from the Spartan Command.--Pausanias recalled.--Dorcis
          replaces him.--The Athenians rise to the Head of the Ionian
          League.--Delos made the Senate and Treasury of the Allies.--
          Able and prudent Management of Aristides.--Cimon succeeds
          To the Command of the Fleet.--Character of Cimon.--Eion
          besieged.--Scyros colonized by Atticans.--Supposed Discovery
          of the Bones of Theseus.--Declining Power of Themistocles.
          --Democratic Change in the Constitution.--Themistocles
          ostracised.--Death of Aristides.

    II  Popularity and Policy of Cimon.--Naxos revolts from the
          Ionian League.--Is besieged by Cimon.--Conspiracy and
          Fate of Pausanias.--Flight and Adventures of Themistocles.
          --His Death.

   III  Reduction of Naxos.--Actions off Cyprus.--Manners of
          Cimon.--Improvements in Athens.--Colony at the Nine Ways.
          --Siege of Thasos.--Earthquake in Sparta.--Revolt of Helots,
          Occupation of Ithome, and Third Messenian War.--Rise and
          Character of Pericles.--Prosecution and Acquittal of Cimon.
          --The Athenians assist the Spartans at Ithome.--Thasos
          Surrenders.--Breach between the Athenians and Spartans.--
          Constitutional Innovations at Athens.--Ostracism of Cimon.

    IV  War between Megara and Corinth.--Megara and Pegae garrisoned
          by Athenians.--Review of Affairs at the Persian Court.--
          Accession of Artaxerxes.--Revolt of Egypt under Inarus.--
          Athenian Expedition to assist Inarus.--Aegina besieged.--The
          Corinthians defeated.--Spartan Conspiracy with the Athenian
          Oligarchy.--Battle of Tanagra.--Campaign and Successes of
          Myronides.--Plot of the Oligarchy against the Republic.--
          Recall of Cimon.--Long Walls completed.--Aegina reduced.--
          Expedition under Tolmides.--Ithome surrenders.--The
          Insurgents are settled at Naupactus.--Disastrous Termination
          of the Egyptian Expedition.--The Athenians march into
          Thessaly to restore Orestes the Tagus.--Campaign under
          Pericles.--Truce of five Years with the Peloponnesians.--
          Cimon sets sail for Cyprus.--Pretended Treaty of Peace with
          Persia.--Death of Cimon.

     V  Change of Manners in Athens.--Begun under the Pisistratidae.--
          Effects of the Persian War, and the intimate Connexion with
          Ionia.--The Hetaerae.--The Political Eminence lately
          acquired by Athens.--The Transfer of the Treasury from Delos
          to Athens.--Latent Dangers and Evils.--First, the Artificial
          Greatness of Athens not supported by Natural Strength.--
          Secondly, her pernicious Reliance on Tribute.--Thirdly,
          Deterioration of National Spirit commenced by Cimon in the
          Use of Bribes and Public Tables.--Fourthly, Defects in
          Popular Courts of Law.--Progress of General Education.--
          History.--Its Ionian Origin.--Early Historians.--Acusilaus.
          of the Life and Writings of Herodotus.--Progress of
          Philosophy since Thales.--Philosophers of the Ionian and
          Eleatic Schools.--Pythagoras.--His Philosophical Tenets and
          Political Influence.--Effect of these Philosophers on
          Athens.--School of Political Philosophy continued in Athens
          from the Time of Solon.--Anaxagoras.--Archelaus.--Philosophy
          not a thing apart from the ordinary Life of the Athenians.



     I  Thucydides chosen by the Aristocratic Party to oppose
          Pericles.--His Policy.--Munificence of Pericles.--Sacred
          War.--Battle of Coronea.--Revolt of Euboea and Megara--
          Invasion and Retreat of the Peloponnesians.--Reduction of
          Euboea.--Punishment of Histiaea.--A Thirty Years' Truce
          concluded with the Peloponnesians.--Ostracism of Thucydides.

    II  Causes of the Power of Pericles.--Judicial Courts of the
          dependant Allies transferred to Athens.--Sketch of the
          Athenian Revenues.--Public Buildings the Work of the People
          rather than of Pericles.--Vices and Greatness of Athens had
          the same Sources.--Principle of Payment characterizes the
          Policy of the Period.--It is the Policy of Civilization.--
          Colonization, Cleruchia.

   III  Revision of the Census.--Samian War.--Sketch of the Rise and
          Progress of the Athenian Comedy to the Time of Aristophanes.

    IV  The Tragedies of Sophocles.




Situation and Soil of Attica.--The Pelasgians its earliest
Inhabitants.--Their Race and Language akin to the Grecian.--Their
varying Civilization and Architectural Remains.--Cecrops.--Were the
earliest Civilizers of Greece foreigners or Greeks?--The Foundation of
Athens.--The Improvements attributed to Cecrops.--The Religion of the
Greeks cannot be reduced to a simple System.--Its Influence upon their
Character and Morals, Arts and Poetry.--The Origin of Slavery and

I.  To vindicate the memory of the Athenian people, without disguising
the errors of Athenian institutions;--and, in narrating alike the
triumphs and the reverses--the grandeur and the decay--of the most
eminent of ancient states, to record the causes of her imperishable
influence on mankind, not alone in political change or the fortunes of
fluctuating war, but in the arts, the letters, and the social habits,
which are equal elements in the history of a people;--this is the
object that I set before me;--not unreconciled to the toil of years,
if, serving to divest of some party errors, and to diffuse through a
wider circle such knowledge as is yet bequeathed to us of a time and
land, fertile in august examples and in solemn warnings--consecrated
by undying names and memorable deeds.

II.  In that part of earth termed by the Greeks Hellas, and by the
Romans Graecia [2], a small tract of land known by the name of Attica,
extends into the Aegaean Sea--the southeast peninsula of Greece.  In
its greatest length it is about sixty, in its greatest breadth about
twenty-four, geographical miles.  In shape it is a rude triangle,--on
two sides flows the sea--on the third, the mountain range of Parnes
and Cithaeron divides the Attic from the Boeotian territory.  It is
intersected by frequent but not lofty hills, and, compared with the
rest of Greece, its soil, though propitious to the growth of the
olive, is not fertile or abundant.  In spite of painful and elaborate
culture, the traces of which are yet visible, it never produced a
sufficiency of corn to supply its population; and this, the
comparative sterility of the land, may be ranked among the causes
which conduced to the greatness of the people.  The principal
mountains of Attica are, the Cape of Sunium, Hymettus, renowned for
its honey, and Pentelicus for its marble; the principal streams which
water the valleys are the capricious and uncertain rivulets of
Cephisus and Ilissus [3],--streams breaking into lesser brooks,
deliciously pure and clear.  The air is serene--the climate healthful
--the seasons temperate.  Along the hills yet breathe the wild thyme,
and the odorous plants which, everywhere prodigal in Greece, are more
especially fragrant in that lucid sky;--and still the atmosphere
colours with peculiar and various taints the marble of the existent
temples and the face of the mountain landscapes.

III.  I reject at once all attempt to penetrate an unfathomable
obscurity for an idle object.  I do not pause to inquire whether,
after the destruction of Babel, Javan was the first settler in Attica,
nor is it reserved for my labours to decide the solemn controversy
whether Ogyges was the contemporary of Jacob or of Moses.  Neither
shall I suffer myself to be seduced into any lengthened consideration
of those disputes, so curious and so inconclusive, relative to the
origin of the Pelasgi (according to Herodotus the earliest inhabitants
of Attica), which have vainly agitated the learned.  It may amuse the
antiquary to weigh gravely the several doubts as to the derivation of
their name from Pelasgus or from Peleg--to connect the scattered
fragments of tradition--and to interpret either into history or
mythology the language of fabulous genealogies.  But our subtlest
hypotheses can erect only a fabric of doubt, which, while it is
tempting to assault, it is useless to defend.  All that it seems to me
necessary to say of the Pelasgi is as follows:--They are the earliest
race which appear to have exercised a dominant power in Greece.  Their
kings can be traced by tradition to a time long prior to the recorded
genealogy of any other tribe, and Inachus, the father of the Pelasgian
Phoroneus, is but another name for the remotest era to which Grecian
chronology can ascend [4].  Whether the Pelasgi were anciently a
foreign or a Grecian tribe, has been a subject of constant and
celebrated discussion.  Herodotus, speaking of some settlements held
to be Pelaigic, and existing in his time, terms their language
"barbarous;" but Mueller, nor with argument insufficient, considers
that the expression of the historian would apply only to a peculiar
dialect; and the hypothesis is sustained by another passage in
Herodotus, in which he applies to certain Ionian dialects the same
term as that with which he stigmatizes the language of the Pelasgic
settlements.  In corroboration of Mueller's opinion we may also
observe, that the "barbarous-tongued" is an epithet applied by Homer
to the Carians, and is rightly construed by the ancient critics as
denoting a dialect mingled and unpolished, certainly not foreign.  Nor
when the Agamemnon of Sophocles upbraids Teucer with "his barbarous
tongue," [6] would any scholar suppose that Teucer is upbraided with
not speaking Greek; he is upbraided with speaking Greek inelegantly
and rudely.  It is clear that they who continued with the least
adulteration a language in its earliest form, would seem to utter a
strange and unfamiliar jargon to ears accustomed to its more modern
construction.  And, no doubt, could we meet with a tribe retaining the
English of the thirteenth century, the language of our ancestors would
be to most of us unintelligible, and seem to many of us foreign.  But,
however the phrase of Herodotus be interpreted, it would still be
exceedingly doubtful whether the settlements he refers to were really
and originally Pelasgic, and still more doubtful whether, if Pelasgia
they had continued unalloyed and uncorrupted their ancestral language.
I do not, therefore, attach any importance to the expression of
Herodotus.  I incline, on the contrary, to believe, with the more
eminent of English scholars, that the language of the Pelasgi
contained at least the elements of that which we acknowledge as the
Greek;--and from many arguments I select the following:

1st.  Because, in the states which we know to have been peopled by the
Pelasgi (as Arcadia and Attica), and whence the population were not
expelled by new tribes, the language appears no less Greek than that
of those states from which the Pelasgi were the earliest driven.  Had
they spoken a totally different tongue from later settlers, I conceive
that some unequivocal vestiges of the difference would have been
visible even to the historical times.

2dly.  Because the Hellenes are described as few at first--their
progress is slow--they subdue, but they do not extirpate; in such
conquests--the conquests of the few settled among the many--the
language of the many continues to the last; that of the few would
influence, enrich, or corrupt, but never destroy it.

3dly.  Because, whatever of the Grecian language pervades the Latin
[7], we can only ascribe to the Pelasgic colonizers of Italy.  In
this, all ancient writers, Greek and Latin, are agreed.  The few words
transmitted to us as Pelasgic betray the Grecian features, and the
Lamina Borgiana (now in the Borgian collection of Naples, and
discovered in 1783) has an inscription relative to the Siculi or
Sicani, a people expelled from their Italian settlements before any
received date of the Trojan war, of which the character is Pelasgic--
the language Greek.

IV.  Of the moral state of the Pelasgi our accounts are imperfect and
contradictory.  They were not a petty horde, but a vast race,
doubtless divided, like every migratory people, into numerous tribes,
differing in rank, in civilization [8], and in many peculiarities of
character.  The Pelasgi in one country might appear as herdsmen or as
savages; in another, in the same age, they might appear collected into
cities and cultivating the arts.  The history of the East informs us
with what astonishing rapidity a wandering tribe, once settled, grew
into fame and power; the camp of to-day--the city of to-morrow--and
the "dwellers in the wilderness setting up the towers and the palaces
thereof." [9]  Thus, while in Greece this mysterious people are often
represented as the aboriginal race, receiving from Phoenician and
Egyptian settlers the primitive blessings of social life, in Italy we
behold them the improvers in agriculture [10] and first teachers of
letters. [11]

Even so early as the traditional appearance of Cecrops among the
savages of Attica, the Pelasgians in Arcadia had probably advanced
from the pastoral to the civil life; and this, indeed, is the date
assigned by Pausanias to the foundation of that ancestral Lycosura, in
whose rude remains (by the living fountain and the waving oaks of the
modern Diaphorte) the antiquary yet traces the fortifications of "the
first city which the sun beheld." [12]  It is in their buildings that
the Pelasgi have left the most indisputable record of their name.
Their handwriting is yet upon their walls!  A restless and various
people--overrunning the whole of Greece, found northward in Dacia,
Illyria, and the country of the Getae, colonizing the coasts of Ionia,
and long the master-race of the fairest lands of Italy,--they have
passed away amid the revolutions of the elder earth, their ancestry
and their descendants alike unknown;--yet not indeed the last, if my
conclusions are rightly drawn: if the primitive population of Greece--
themselves Greek--founding the language, and kindred with the blood,
of the later and more illustrious Hellenes--they still made the great
bulk of the people in the various states, and through their most
dazzling age: Enslaved in Laconia--but free in Athens--it was their
posterity that fought the Mede at Marathon and Plataea,--whom
Miltiades led,--for whom Solon legislated,--for whom Plato thought,--
whom Demosthenes harangued.  Not less in Italy than in Greece the
parents of an imperishable tongue, and, in part, the progenitors of a
glorious race, we may still find the dim track of their existence
wherever the classic civilization flourished,--the classic genius
breathed.  If in the Latin, if in the Grecian tongue, are yet the
indelible traces of the language of the Pelasgi, the literature of the
ancient, almost of the modern world, is their true descendant!

V.  Despite a vague belief (referred to by Plato) of a remote and
perished era of civilization, the most popular tradition asserts the
Pelasgic inhabitants of Attica to have been sunk into the deepest
ignorance of the elements of social life, when, either from Sais, an
Egyptian city, as is commonly supposed, or from Sais a province in
Upper Egypt, an Egyptian characterized to posterity by the name of
Cecrops is said to have passed into Attica with a band of adventurous

The tradition of this Egyptian immigration into Attica was long
implicitly received.  Recently the bold skepticism of German scholars
--always erudite--if sometimes rash--has sufficed to convince us of
the danger we incur in drawing historical conclusions from times to
which no historical researches can ascend.  The proofs upon which rest
the reputed arrival of Egyptian colonizers, under Cecrops, in Attica,
have been shown to be slender--the authorities for the assertion to be
comparatively modern--the arguments against the probability of such an
immigration in such an age, to be at least plausible and important.
Not satisfied, however, with reducing to the uncertainty of conjecture
what incautiously had been acknowledged as fact, the assailants of the
Egyptian origin of Cecrops presume too much upon their victory, when
they demand us to accept as a counter fact, what can be, after all,
but a counter conjecture.  To me, impartially weighing the arguments
and assertions on either side, the popular tradition of Cecrops and
his colony appears one that can neither be tacitly accepted as
history, nor contemptuously dismissed as invention.  It would be,
however, a frivolous dispute, whether Cecrops were Egyptian or
Attican, since no erudition can ascertain that Cecrops ever existed,
were it not connected with a controversy of some philosophical
importance, viz., whether the early civilizers of Greece were
foreigners or Greeks, and whether the Egyptians more especially
assisted to instruct the ancestors of a race that have become the
teachers and models of the world, in the elements of religion, of
polity, and the arts.

Without entering into vain and futile reasonings, derived from the
scattered passages of some early writers, from the ambiguous silence
of others--and, above all, from the dreams of etymological analogy or
mythological fable, I believe the earliest civilizers of Greece to
have been foreign settlers; deducing my belief from the observations
of common sense rather than from obscure and unsatisfactory research.
I believe it,

First--Because, what is more probable than that at very early periods
the more advanced nations of the East obtained communication with the
Grecian continent and isles?  What more probable than that the
maritime and roving Phoenicians entered the seas of Greece, and were
tempted by the plains, which promised abundance, and the mountains,
which afforded a fastness?  Possessed of a superior civilization to
the hordes they found, they would meet rather with veneration than
resistance, and thus a settlement would be obtained by an
inconsiderable number, more in right of intelligence than of conquest.

But, though this may be conceded with respect to the Phoenicians, it
is asserted that the Egyptians at least were not a maritime or
colonizing people: and we are gravely assured, that in those distant
times no Egyptian vessel had entered the Grecian seas.  But of the
remotest ages of Egyptian civilization we know but little.  On their
earliest monuments (now their books!) we find depicted naval as well
as military battles, in which the vessels are evidently those employed
at sea.  According to their own traditions, they colonized in a remote
age.  They themselves laid claim to Danaus: and the mythus of the
expedition of Osiris is not improbably construed into a figurative
representation of the spread of Egyptian civilization by the means of
colonies.  Besides, Egypt was subjected to more than one revolution,
by which a large portion of her population was expelled the land, and
scattered over the neighbouring regions [13].  And even granting that
Egyptians fitted out no maritime expedition--they could easily have
transplanted themselves in Phoenician vessels, or Grecian rafts--from
Asia into Greece.  Nor can we forget that Egypt [14] for a time was
the habitation, and Thebes the dominion, of the Phoenicians, and that
hence, perhaps, the origin of the dispute whether certain of the first
foreign civilizers of Greece were Phoenicians or Egyptians: The
settlers might come from Egypt, and be by extraction Phoenicians: or
Egyptian emigrators might well have accompanied the Phoenician. [15]

2dly.  By the evidence of all history, savage tribes appear to owe
their first enlightenment to foreigners: to be civilized, they conquer
or are conquered--visit or are visited.  For a fact which contains so
striking a mystery, I do not attempt to account.  I find in the
history of every other part of the world, that it is by the colonizer
or the conqueror that a tribe neither colonizing nor conquering is
redeemed from a savage state, and I do not reject so probable an
hypothesis for Greece.

3dly.  I look to the various arguments of a local or special nature,
by which these general probabilities may be supported, and I find them
unusually strong: I cast my eyes on the map of Greece, and I see that
it is almost invariably on the eastern side that these eastern
colonies are said to have been founded: I turn to chronology, and I
find the revolutions in the East coincide in point of accredited date
with the traditional immigrations into Greece: I look to the history
of the Greeks, and I find the Greeks themselves (a people above all
others vain of aboriginal descent, and contemptuous of foreign races)
agreed in according a general belief to the accounts of their
obligations to foreign settlers; and therefore (without additional but
doubtful arguments from any imaginary traces of Eastern, Egyptian,
Phoenician rites and fables in the religion or the legends of Greece
in her remoter age) I see sufficient ground for inclining to the less
modern, but mere popular belief, which ascribes a foreign extraction
to the early civilizers of Greece: nor am I convinced by the
reasonings of those who exclude the Egyptians from the list of these
primitive benefactors.

It being conceded that no hypothesis is more probable than that the
earliest civilizers of Greece were foreign, and might be Egyptian, I
do not recognise sufficient authority for rejecting the Attic
traditions claiming Egyptian civilizers for the Attic soil, in
arguments, whether grounded upon the fact that such traditions,
unreferred to by the more ancient, were collected by the more modern,
of Grecian writers--or upon plausible surmises as to the habits of the
Egyptians in that early age.  Whether Cecrops were the first--whether
he were even one--of these civilizers, is a dispute unworthy of
philosophical inquirers [16].  But as to the time of Cecrops are
referred, both by those who contend for his Egyptian, and those who
assert his Attic origin, certain advances from barbarism, and certain
innovations in custom, which would have been natural to a foreigner,
and almost miraculous in a native, I doubt whether it would not be our
wiser and more cautious policy to leave undisturbed a long accredited
conjecture, rather than to subscribe to arguments which, however
startling and ingenious, not only substitute no unanswerable
hypothesis, but conduce to no important result. [17]

VI.  If Cecrops were really the leader of an Egyptian colony, it is
more than probable that he obtained the possession of Attica by other
means than those of force.  To savage and barbarous tribes, the first
appearance of men, whose mechanical inventions, whose superior
knowledge of the arts of life--nay, whose exterior advantages of garb
and mien [18] indicate intellectual eminence, till then neither known
nor imagined, presents a something preternatural and divine.  The
imagination of the wild inhabitants is seduced, their superstitions
aroused, and they yield to a teacher--not succumb to an invader.  It
was probably thus, then, that Cecrops with his colonists would have
occupied the Attic plain--conciliated rather than subdued the
inhabitants, and united in himself the twofold authority exercised by
primeval chiefs--the dignity of the legislator, and the sanctity of
the priest.  It is evident that none of the foreign settlers brought
with them a numerous band.  The traditions speak of them with
gratitude as civilizers, not with hatred as conquerors.  And they did
not leave any traces in the establishment of their language:--a proof
of the paucity of their numbers, and the gentle nature of their
influence--the Phoenician Cadmus, the Egyptian Cecrops, the Phrygian
Pelops, introduced no separate and alien tongue.  Assisting to
civilize the Greeks, they then became Greeks; their posterity merged
and lost amid the native population.

VII.  Perhaps, in all countries, the first step to social improvement
is in the institution of marriage, and the second is the formation of
cities.  As Menes in Egypt, as Fohi in China, so Cecrops at Athens is
said first to have reduced into sacred limits the irregular
intercourse of the sexes [19], and reclaimed his barbarous subjects
from a wandering and unprovidential life, subsisting on the
spontaneous produce of no abundant soil.  High above the plain, and
fronting the sea, which, about three miles distant on that side,
sweeps into a bay peculiarly adapted for the maritime enterprises of
an earlier age, we still behold a cragged and nearly perpendicular
rock.  In length its superficies is about eight hundred, in breadth
about four hundred, feet [20].  Below, on either side, flow the
immortal streams of the Ilissus and Cephisus.  From its summit you may
survey, here, the  mountains of Hymettus, Pentelicus, and, far away,
"the silver-bearing Laurium;" below, the wide plain of Attica, broken
by rocky hills--there, the islands of Salamis and Aegina, with the
opposite shores of Argolis, rising above the waters of the Saronic
Bay.  On this  rock the supposed Egyptian is said to have built a
fortress, and founded a city [21]; the fortress was in later times
styled the Acropolis, and the place itself, when the buildings of
Athens spread far and wide beneath its base, was still designated
polis, or the CITY.  By degrees we are told that he extended, from
this impregnable castle and its adjacent plain, the limit of his
realm, until it included the whole of Attica, and perhaps Boeotia
[22].  It is also related that he established eleven  other towns or
hamlets, and divided his people into twelve tribes, to each of which
one of the towns was apportioned--a fortress against foreign invasion,
and a court of justice in civil disputes.

If we may trust to the glimmering light which, resting for a moment,
uncertain and confused, upon the reign of Cecrops, is swallowed up in
all the darkness of fable during those of his reputed successors,--it
is to this apocryphal personage that we must refer the elements both
of agriculture and law.  He is said to have instructed the Athenians
to till the land, and to watch the produce of the seasons; to have
imported from Egypt the olive-tree, for which the Attic soil was
afterward so celebrated, and even to have navigated to Sicily and to
Africa for supplies of corn.  That such advances from a primitive and
savage state were not made in a single generation, is sufficiently
clear.  With more probability, Cecrops is reputed to have imposed upon
the ignorance of his subjects and the license of his followers the
curb of impartial law, and to have founded a tribunal of justice
(doubtless the sole one for all disputes), in which after times
imagined to trace the origin of the solemn Areopagus.

VIII.  Passing from these doubtful speculations on the detailed
improvements effected by Cecrops in the social life of the Attic
people, I shall enter now into some examination of two subjects far
more important.  The first is the religion of the Athenians in common
with the rest of Greece; and the second the origin of the institution
of slavery.

The origin of religion in all countries is an inquiry of the deepest
interest and of the vaguest result.  For, the desire of the pious to
trace throughout all creeds the principles of the one they themselves
profess--the vanity of the learned to display a various and recondite
erudition--the passion of the ingenious to harmonize conflicting
traditions--and the ambition of every speculator to say something new
upon an ancient but inexhaustible subject, so far from enlightening,
only perplex our conjectures.  Scarcely is the theory of to-day
established, than the theory of to-morrow is invented to oppose it.
With one the religion of the Greeks is but a type of the mysteries of
the Jews, the event of the deluge, and the preservation of the ark;
with another it is as entirely an incorporation of the metaphysical
solemnities of the Egyptian;--now it is the crafty device of priests,
now the wise invention of sages.  It is not too much to say, that
after the profoundest labours and the most plausible conjectures of
modern times, we remain yet more uncertain and confused than we were
before.  It is the dark boast of every pagan mythology, as one of the
eldest of the pagan deities, that "none among mortals hath lifted up
its veil!"

After, then, some brief and preliminary remarks, tending to such
hypotheses as appear to me most probable and simple, I shall hasten
from unprofitable researches into the Unknown, to useful deductions
from what is given to our survey--in a word, from the origin of the
Grecian religion to its influence and its effects; the first is the
province of the antiquary and the speculator; the last of the
historian and the practical philosopher.

IX.  When Herodotus informs us that Egypt imparted to Greece the names
of almost all her deities, and that his researches convinced him that
they were of barbarous origin, he exempts from the list of the
Egyptian deities, Neptune, the Dioscuri, Juno, Vesta, Themis, the
Graces, and the Nereids [23].  From Africa, according to Herodotus,
came Neptune, from the Pelasgi the rest of the deities disclaimed by
Egypt.  According to the same authority, the Pelasgi learned not their
deities, but the names of their deities (and those at a later period),
from the Egyptians [24].  But the Pelasgi were the first known
inhabitants of Greece--the first known inhabitants of Greece had
therefore their especial deities, before any communication with Egypt.
For the rest we must accept the account of the simple and credulous
Herodotus with considerable caution and reserve.  Nothing is more
natural--perhaps more certain--than that every tribe [25], even of
utter savages, will invent some deities of their own; and as these
deities will as naturally be taken from external objects, common to
all mankind, such as the sun or the moon, the waters or the earth, and
honoured with attributes formed from passions and impressions no less
universal;--so the deities of every tribe will have something kindred
to each other, though the tribes themselves may never have come into
contact or communication.

The mythology of the early Greeks may perhaps be derived from the
following principal sources:--First, the worship of natural objects;--
and of divinities so formed, the most unequivocally national will
obviously be those most associated with their mode of life and the
influences of their climate.  When the savage first intrusts the seed
to the bosom of the earth--when, through a strange and unaccountable
process, he beholds what he buried in one season spring forth the
harvest of the next--the EARTH itself, the mysterious garner, the
benign, but sometimes the capricious reproducer of the treasures
committed to its charge--becomes the object of the wonder, the hope,
and the fear, which are the natural origin of adoration and prayer.
Again, when he discovers the influence of the heaven upon the growth
of his labour--when, taught by experience, he acknowledges its power
to blast or to mellow--then, by the same process of ideas, the HEAVEN
also assumes the character of divinity, and becomes a new agent, whose
wrath is to be propitiated, whose favour is to be won.  What common
sense thus suggests to us, our researches confirm, and we find
accordingly that the Earth and the Heaven are the earliest deities of
the agricultural Pelasgi.  As the Nile to the fields of the Egyptian--
earth and heaven to the culture of the Greek.  The effects of the SUN
upon human labour and human enjoyment are so sensible to the simplest
understanding, that we cannot wonder to find that glorious luminary
among the most popular deities of ancient nations.  Why search through
the East to account for its worship in Greece?  More easy to suppose
that the inhabitants of a land, whom the sun so especially favoured--
saw and blessed it, for it was good, than, amid innumerable
contradictions and extravagant assumptions, to decide upon that
remoter shore, whence was transplanted a deity, whose effects were so
benignant, whose worship was so natural, to the Greeks.  And in the
more plain belief we are also borne out by the more sound inductions
of learning.  For it is noticeable that neither the moon nor the
stars--favourite divinities with those who enjoyed the serene nights,
or inhabited the broad plains of the East--were (though probably
admitted among the Pelasgic deities) honoured with that intense and
reverent worship which attended them in Asia and in Egypt.  To the
Pelasgi, not yet arrived at the intellectual stage of philosophical
contemplation, the most sensible objects of influence would be the
most earnestly adored.  What the stars were to the East, their own
beautiful Aurora, awaking them to the delight of their genial and
temperate climate, was to the early Greeks.

Of deities, thus created from external objects, some will rise out (if
I may use the expression) of natural accident and local circumstance.
An earthquake will connect a deity with the earth--an inundation with
the river or the sea.  The Grecian soil bears the marks of maritime
revolution; many of the tribes were settled along the coast, and
perhaps had already adventured their rafts upon the main.  A deity of
the sea (without any necessary revelation from Africa) is, therefore,
among the earliest of the Grecian gods.  The attributes of each deity
will be formed from the pursuits and occupations of the worshippers--
sanguinary with the warlike--gentle with the peaceful.  The pastoral
Pelasgi of Arcadia honoured the pastoral Pan for ages before he was
received by their Pelasgic brotherhood of Attica.  And the
agricultural Demeter or Ceres will be recognised among many tribes of
the agricultural Pelasgi, which no Egyptian is reputed, even by
tradition [26], to have visited.

The origin of prayer is in the sense of dependance, and in the
instinct of self-preservation or self-interest.  The first objects of
prayer to the infant man will be those on which by his localities he
believes himself to be most dependant for whatever blessing his mode
of life inclines him the most to covet, or from which may come
whatever peril his instinct will teach him the most to deprecate and
fear.  It is this obvious truth which destroys all the erudite systems
that would refer the different creeds of the heathen to some single
origin.  Till the earth be the same in each region--till the same
circumstances surround every tribe--different impressions, in nations
yet unconverted and uncivilized, produce different deities.  Nature
suggests a God, and man invests him with attributes.  Nature and man,
the same as a whole, vary in details; the one does not everywhere
suggest the same notions--the other cannot everywhere imagine the same
attributes.  As with other tribes, so with the Pelasgi or primitive
Greeks, their early gods were the creatures of their own early

As one source of religion was in external objects, so another is to be
found in internal sensations and emotions.  The passions are so
powerful in their effects upon individuals and nations, that we can be
little surprised to find those effects attributed to the instigation
and influence of a supernatural being.  Love is individualized and
personified in nearly all mythologies; and LOVE therefore ranks among
the earliest of the Grecian gods.  Fear or terror, whose influence is
often so strange, sudden, and unaccountable--seizing even the bravest
--spreading through numbers with all the speed of an electric sympathy
--and deciding in a moment the destiny of an army or the ruin of a
tribe--is another of those passions, easily supposed the afflatus of
some preternatural power, and easily, therefore, susceptible of
personification.  And the pride of men, more especially if habitually
courageous and warlike, will gladly yield to the credulities which
shelter a degrading and unwonted infirmity beneath the agency of a
superior being.  TERROR, therefore, received a shape and found an
altar probably as early at least as the heroic age.  According to
Plutarch, Theseus sacrificed to Terror previous to his battle with the
Amazons;--an idle tale, it is true, but proving, perhaps, the
antiquity of a tradition.  As society advanced from barbarism arose
more intellectual creations--as cities were built, and as in the
constant flux and reflux of martial tribes cities were overthrown, the
elements of the social state grew into personification, to which
influence was attributed and reverence paid.  Thus were fixed into
divinity and shape, ORDER, PEACE, JUSTICE, and the stern and gloomy
ORCOS [27], witness of the oath, avenger of the perjury.

This, the second source of religion, though more subtle and refined in
its creations, had still its origin in the same human causes as the
first, viz., anticipation of good and apprehension of evil.  Of
deities so created, many, however, were the inventions of poets--
(poetic metaphor is a fruitful mother of mythological fable)--many
also were the graceful refinements of a subsequent age.  But some (and
nearly all those I have enumerated) may be traced to the earliest
period to which such researches can ascend.  It is obvious that the
eldest would be connected with the passions--the more modern with the

It seems to me apparent that almost simultaneously with deities of
these two classes would arise the greater and more influential class
of personal divinities which gradually expanded into the heroic
dynasty of Olympus.  The associations which one tribe, or one
generation, united with the heaven, the earth, or the sun, another
might obviously connect, or confuse, with a spirit or genius
inhabiting or influencing the element or physical object which excited
their anxiety or awe: And, this creation effected--so what one tribe
or generation might ascribe to the single personification of a
passion, a faculty, or a moral and social principle, another would
just as naturally refer to a personal and more complex deity:--that
which in one instance would form the very nature of a superior being,
in the other would form only an attribute--swell the power and amplify
the character of a Jupiter, a Mars, a Venus, or a Pan.  It is in the
nature of man, that personal divinities once created and adored,
should present more vivid and forcible images to his fancy than
abstract personifications of physical objects and moral impressions.
Thus, deities of this class would gradually rise into pre-eminence and
popularity above those more vague and incorporeal--and (though I guard
myself from absolutely solving in this manner the enigma of ancient
theogonies) the family of Jupiter could scarcely fail to possess
themselves of the shadowy thrones of the ancestral Earth and the
primeval Heaven.

A third source of the Grecian, as of all mythologies, was in the
worship of men who had actually existed, or been supposed to exist.
For in this respect errors might creep into the calendar of heroes, as
they did into the calendar of saints (the hero-worship of the
moderns), which has canonized many names to which it is impossible to
find the owners.  This was probably the latest, but perhaps in
after-times the most influential and popular addition to the aboriginal
faith.  The worship of dead men once established, it was natural to a
people so habituated to incorporate and familiarize religious
impressions--to imagine that even their primary gods, first formed
from natural impressions (and, still more, those deities they had
borrowed from stranger creeds)--should have walked the earth.  And
thus among the multitude in the philosophical ages, even the loftiest
of the Olympian dwellers were vaguely supposed to have known
humanity;--their immortality but the apotheosis of the benefactor or
the hero.

X.  The Pelasgi, then, had their native or aboriginal deities
(differing in number and in attributes with each different tribe), and
with them rests the foundation of the Greek mythology.  They required
no Egyptian wisdom to lead them to believe in superior powers.  Nature
was their primeval teacher.  But as intercourse was opened with the
East from the opposite Asia--with the North from the neighbouring
Thrace, new deities were transplanted and old deities received
additional attributes and distinctions, according as the fancy of the
stranger found them assimilate to the divinities he had been
accustomed to adore.  It seems to me, that in Saturn we may trace the
popular Phoenician deity--in the Thracian Mars, the fierce war-god of
the North.  But we can scarcely be too cautious how far we allow
ourselves to be influenced by resemblance, however strong, between a
Grecian and an alien deity.  Such a resemblance may not only be formed
by comparatively modern innovations, but may either be resolved to
that general likeness which one polytheism will ever bear towards
another, or arise from the adoption of new attributes and strange
traditions;--so that the deity itself may be homesprung and
indigenous, while bewildering the inquirer with considerable
similitude to other gods, from whose believers the native worship
merely received an epithet, a ceremony, a symbol, or a fable.  And
this necessity of caution is peculiarly borne out by the
contradictions which each scholar enamoured of a system gives to the
labours of the speculator who preceded him.  What one research would
discover to be Egyptian, another asserts to be Phoenician; a third
brings from the North; a fourth from the Hebrews; and a fifth, with
yet wilder imagination, from the far and then unpenetrated caves and
woods of India.  Accept common sense as our guide, and the
contradictions are less irreconcilable--the mystery less obscure.  In
a deity essentially Greek, a Phoenician colonist may discover
something familiar, and claim an ancestral god.  He imparts to the
native deity some Phoenician features--an Egyptian or an Asiatic
succeeds him--discovers a similar likeness--introduces similar
innovations.  The lively Greek receives--amalgamates--appropriates
all: but the aboriginal deity is not the less Greek.  Each speculator
may be equally right in establishing a partial resemblance, precisely
because all speculators are wrong in asserting a perfect identity.

It follows as a corollary from the above reasonings, that the religion
of Greece was much less uniform than is popularly imagined; 1st,
because each separate state or canton had its own peculiar deity;
2dly, because, in the foreign communication of new gods, each stranger
would especially import the deity that at home he had more especially
adored.  Hence to every state its tutelary god--the founder of its
greatness, the guardian of its renown.  Even in the petty and limited
territory of Attica, each tribe, independent of the public worship,
had its peculiar deities, honoured by peculiar rites.

The deity said to be introduced by Cecrops is Neith, or more properly
Naith [28]--the goddess of Sais, in whom we are told to recognise the
Athene, or Minerva of the Greeks.  I pass over as palpably absurd any
analogy of names by which the letters that compose the word Keith are
inverted to the word Athene.  The identity of the two goddesses must
rest upon far stronger proof.  But, in order to obtain this proof, we
must know with some precision the nature and attributes of the
divinity of Sais--a problem which no learning appears to me
satisfactorily to have solved.  It would be a strong, and, I think, a
convincing argument, that Athene is of foreign origin, could we be
certain that her attributes, so eminently intellectual, so thoroughly
out of harmony with the barbarism of the early Greeks, were accorded
to her at the commencement of her worship. But the remotest traditions
(such as her contest with Neptune for the possession of the soil), if
we take the more simple interpretation, seem to prove her to have been
originally an agricultural deity, the creation of which would have
been natural enough to the agricultural Pelasgi;--while her supposed
invention of some of the simplest and most elementary arts are
sufficiently congenial to the notions of an unpolished and infant era
of society.  Nor at a long subsequent period is there much resemblance
between the formal and elderly goddess of Daedalian sculpture and the
glorious and august Glaucopis of Homer--the maiden of celestial beauty
as of unrivalled wisdom.  I grant that the variety of her attributes
renders it more than probable that Athene was greatly indebted,
perhaps to the "Divine Intelligence," personified in the Egyptian
Naith--perhaps also, as Herodotus asserts, to the warlike deity of
Libya--nor less, it may be, to the Onca of the Phoenicians [29], from
whom in learning certain of the arts, the Greeks might simultaneously
learn the name and worship of the Phoenician deity, presiding over
such inventions.  Still an aboriginal deity was probably the nucleus,
round which gradually gathered various and motley attributes.  And
certain it is, that as soon as the whole creation rose into distinct
life, the stately and virgin goddess towers, aloof and alone, the most
national, the most majestic of the Grecian deities--rising above all
comparison with those who may have assisted to decorate and robe her,
embodying in a single form the very genius, multiform, yet individual
as it was, of the Grecian people--and becoming among all the deities
of the heathen heaven what the Athens she protected became upon the

XI.  It may be said of the Greeks, that there never was a people who
so completely nationalized all that they borrowed from a foreign
source.  And whatever, whether in a remoter or more recent age, it
might have appropriated from the creed of Isis and Osiris, one cause
alone would have sufficed to efface from the Grecian the peculiar
character of the Egyptian mythology.

The religion of Egypt, as a science, was symbolical--it denoted
elementary principles of philosophy; its gods were enigmas.  It has
been asserted (on very insufficient data) that in the earliest ages of
the world, one god, of whom the sun was either the emblem or the
actual object of worship, was adored universally throughout the East,
and that polytheism was created by personifying the properties and
attributes of the single deity: "there being one God," says Aristotle,
finely, "called by many names, from the various effects which his
various power produces." [30]  But I am far from believing that a
symbolical religion is ever the earliest author of polytheism; for a
symbolical religion belongs to a later period of civilization, when
some men are set apart in indolence to cultivate their imagination, in
order to beguile or to instruct the reason of the rest.  Priests are
the first philosophers--a symbolical religion the first philosophy.
But faith precedes philosophy.  I doubt not, therefore, that
polytheism existed in the East before that age when the priests of
Chaldea and of Egypt invested it with a sublimer character by
summoning to the aid of invention a wild and speculative wisdom--by
representing under corporeal tokens the revolutions of the earth, the
seasons, and the stars, and creating new (or more probably adapting
old and sensual) superstitions, as the grosser and more external types
of a philosophical creed [31].  But a symbolical worship--the creation
of a separate and established order of priests--never is, and never
can be, the religion professed, loved, and guarded by a people.  The
multitude demand something positive and real for their belief--they
cannot worship a delusion--their reverence would be benumbed on the
instant if they could be made to comprehend that the god to whom they
sacrificed was no actual power able to effect evil and good, but the
type of a particular season of the year, or an unwholesome principle
in the air.  Hence, in the Egyptian religion, there was one creed for
the vulgar and another for the priests.  Again, to invent and to
perpetuate a symbolical religion (which is, in fact, an hereditary
school of metaphysics) requires men set apart for the purpose, whose
leisure tempts them to invention, whose interest prompts them to
imposture.  A symbolical religion is a proof of a certain refinement
in civilization--the refinement of sages in the midst of a subservient
people; and it absorbs to itself those meditative and imaginative
minds which, did it not exist, would be devoted to philosophy.  Now,
even allowing full belief to the legends which bring the Egyptian
colonists into Greece, it is probable that few among them were
acquainted with the secrets of the symbolical mythology they
introduced.  Nor, if they were so, is it likely that they would have
communicated to a strange and a barbarous population the profound and
latent mysteries shrouded from the great majority of Egyptians
themselves.  Thus, whatever the Egyptian colonizers might have
imported of a typical religion, the abstruser meaning would become,
either at once or gradually, lost.  Nor can we--until the recent age
of sophists and refiners--clearly ascertain any period in which did
not exist the indelible distinction between the Grecian and Egyptian
mythology: viz.--that the first was actual, real, corporeal,
household; the second vague, shadowy, and symbolical.  This might not
have been the case had there been established in the Grecian, as in
the Egyptian cities, distinct and separate colleges of priests, having
in their own hands the sole care of the religion, and forming a
privileged and exclusive body of the state.  But among the Greeks (and
this should be constantly borne in mind) there never was, at any known
historical period, a distinct caste of priests [32].  We may perceive,
indeed, that the early colonizers commenced with approaches to that
principle, but it was not prosecuted farther.  There were sacred
families in Athens from which certain priesthoods were to be filled--
but even these personages were not otherwise distinguished; they
performed all the usual offices of a citizen, and were not united
together by any exclusiveness of privilege or spirit of party.  Among
the Egyptian adventurers there were probably none fitted by previous
education for the sacred office; and the chief who had obtained the
dominion might entertain no irresistible affection for a caste which
in his own land he had seen dictating to the monarch and interfering
with the government. [33]

Thus, among the early Greeks, we find the chiefs themselves were
contented to offer the sacrifice and utter the prayer; and though
there were indeed appointed and special priests, they held no
imperious or commanding authority.  The Areopagus at Athens had the
care of religion, but the Areopagites were not priests.  This absence
of a priestly caste had considerable effect upon the flexile and
familiar nature of the Grecian creed, because there were none
professionally interested in guarding the purity of the religion, in
preserving to what it had borrowed, symbolical allusions, and in
forbidding the admixture of new gods and heterogeneous creeds.  The
more popular a religion, the more it seeks corporeal representations,
and avoids the dim and frigid shadows of a metaphysical belief. [34]

The romantic fables connected with the Grecian mythology were, some
home-sprung, some relating to native heroes, and incorporating native
legends, but they were also, in great measure, literal interpretations
of symbolical types and of metaphorical expressions, or erroneous
perversions of words in other tongues.  The craving desire to account
for natural phenomena, common to mankind--the wish to appropriate to
native heroes the wild tales of mariners and strangers natural to a
vain and a curious people--the additions which every legend would
receive in its progress from tribe to tribe--and the constant
embellishments the most homely inventions would obtain from the
competition of rival poets, rapidly served to swell and enrich these
primary treasures of Grecian lore--to deduce a history from an
allegory--to establish a creed in a romance.  Thus the early mythology
of Greece is to be properly considered in its simple and outward
interpretations.  The Greeks, as yet in their social infancy, regarded
the legends of their faith as a child reads a fairy tale, credulous of
all that is supernatural in the agency--unconscious of all that may be
philosophical in the moral.

It is true, indeed, that dim associations of a religion, sabaean and
elementary, such as that of the Pelasgi (but not therefore foreign and
philosophical), with a religion physical and popular, are, here and
there, to be faintly traced among the eldest of the Grecian authors.
We may see that in Jupiter they represented the ether, and in Apollo,
and sometimes even in Hercules, the sun.  But these authors, while,
perhaps unconsciously, they hinted at the symbolical, fixed, by the
vitality and nature of their descriptions, the actual images of the
gods and, reversing the order of things, Homer created Jupiter! [35]

But most of the subtle and typical interpretations of the Grecian
mythology known to us at present were derived from the philosophy of a
later age.  The explanations of religious fables--such, for instance,
as the chaining of Saturn by Jupiter, and the rape of Proserpine by
Pluto, in which Saturn is made to signify the revolution of the
seasons, chained to the courses of the stars, to prevent too
immoderate a speed, and the rape of Proserpine is refined into an
allegory that denotes the seeds of corn that the sovereign principle
of the earth receives and sepulchres [36];--the moral or physical
explanation of legends like these was, I say, the work of the few,
reduced to system either from foreign communication or acute
invention.  For a symbolical religion, created by the priests of one
age, is reinstated or remodelled after its corruption by the
philosophers of another.

XII.  We may here pause a moment to inquire whence the Greeks derived
the most lovely and fascinating of their mythological creations--those
lesser and more terrestrial beings--the spirits of the mountain, the
waters, and the grove.

Throughout the East, from the remotest era, we find that mountains
were nature's temples.  The sanctity of high places is constantly
recorded in the scriptural writings.  The Chaldaean, the Egyptian, and
the Persian, equally believed that on the summit of mountains they
approached themselves nearer to the oracles of heaven.  But the
fountain, the cavern, and the grove, were no less holy than the
mountain-top in the eyes of the first religionists of the East.
Streams and fountains were dedicated to the Sun, and their exhalations
were supposed to inspire with prophecy, and to breathe of the god.
The gloom of caverns, naturally the brooding-place of awe, was deemed
a fitting scene for diviner revelations--it inspired unearthly
contemplation and mystic revery.  Zoroaster is supposed by Porphyry
(well versed in all Pagan lore, though frequently misunderstanding its
proper character) to have first inculcated the worship of caverns
[37]; and there the early priests held a temple, and primeval
philosophy its retreat [38].  Groves, especially those in high places,
or in the neighbourhood of exhaling streams, were also appropriate to
worship, and conducive to the dreams of an excited and credulous
imagination; and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, burnt incense, not only
on the hills, but "under every green tree." [39]

These places, then--the mountain, the forest, the stream, and the
cavern, were equally objects of sanctity and awe among the ancient

But we need not necessarily suppose that a superstition so universal
was borrowed, and not conceived, by the early Greeks.  The same causes
which had made them worship the earth and the sea, extended their
faith to the rivers and the mountains, which in a spirit of natural
and simple poetry they called "the children" of those elementary
deities.  The very soil of Greece, broken up and diversified by so
many inequalities, stamped with volcanic features, profuse in streams
and mephitic fountains, contributed to render the feeling of local
divinity prevalent and intense.  Each petty canton had its own Nile,
whose influence upon fertility and culture was sufficient to become
worthy to propitiate, and therefore to personify.  Had Greece been
united under one monarchy, and characterized by one common monotony of
soil, a single river, a single mountain, alone might have been deemed
divine.  It was the number of its tribes--it was the variety of its
natural features, which produced the affluence and prodigality of its
mythological creations.  Nor can we omit from the causes of the
teeming, vivid, and universal superstition of Greece, the accidents of
earthquake and inundation, to which the land appears early and often
to have been exposed.  To the activity and caprice of nature--to the
frequent operation of causes, unrecognised, unforeseen, unguessed, the
Greeks owed much of their disposition to recur to mysterious and
superior agencies--and that wonderful poetry of faith which delighted
to associate the visible with the unseen.  The peculiar character not
only of a people, but of its earlier poets--not only of its soil, but
of its air and heaven, colours the superstition it creates: and most
of the terrestrial demons which the gloomier North clothed with terror
and endowed with malice, took from the benignant genius and the
enchanting climes of Greece the gentlest offices and the fairest
forms;--yet even in Greece itself not universal in their character,
but rather the faithful reflections of the character of each class of
worshippers: thus the graces [40], whose "eyes" in the minstrelsey of
Hesiod "distilled care-beguiling love," in Lacedaemon were the nymphs
of discipline and war!

In quitting this subject, be one remark permitted in digression: the
local causes which contributed to superstition might conduct in after
times to science.  If the Nature that was so constantly in strange and
fitful action, drove the Greeks in their social infancy to seek agents
for the action and vents for their awe, so, as they advanced to
maturer intellect, it was in Nature herself that they sought the
causes of effects that appeared at first preternatural.  And, in
either stage, their curiosity and interest aroused by the phenomena
around them--the credulous inventions of ignorance gave way to the
eager explanations of philosophy.  Often, in the superstition of one
age, lies the germe that ripens into the inquiry of the next.

XIII.  Pass we now to some examination of the general articles of
faith among the Greeks; their sacrifices and rites of worship.

In all the more celebrated nations of the ancient world, we find
established those twin elements of belief by which religion harmonizes
and directs the social relations of life, viz., a faith in a future
state, and in the providence of superior powers, who, surveying as
judges the affairs of earth, punish the wicked and reward the good
[41].  It has been plausibly conjectured that the fables of Elysium,
the slow Cocytus, and the gloomy Hades, were either invented or
allegorized from the names of Egyptian places.  Diodorus assures us
that by the vast catacombs of Egypt, the dismal mansions of the dead--
were the temple and stream, both called Cocytus, the foul canal of
Acheron, and the Elysian plains [42]; and, according to the same
equivocal authority, the body of the dead was wafted across the
waters by a pilot, termed Charon in the Egyptian tongue.  But,
previous to the embarcation, appointed judges on the margin of the
Acheron listened to whatever accusations were preferred by the living
against the deceased, and if convinced of his misdeeds, deprived him
of the rites of sepulture.  Hence it was supposed that Orpheus
transplanted into Greece the fable of the infernal regions.  But there
is good reason to look on this tale with distrust, and to believe that
the doctrine of a future state was known to the Greeks without any
tuition from Egypt;--while it is certain that the main moral of the
Egyptian ceremony, viz., the judgment of the dead, was not familiar to
the early doctrine of the Greeks.  They did not believe that the good
were rewarded and the bad punished in that dreary future, which they
imbodied in their notions of the kingdom of the shades. [43]

XIV.  Less in the Grecian deities than in the customs in their honour,
may we perceive certain traces of oriental superstition.  We recognise
the usages of the elder creeds in the chosen sites of their temples--
the habitual ceremonies of their worship. It was to the east that the
supplicator turned his face, and he was sprinkled, as a necessary
purification, with the holy water often alluded to by sacred writers
as well as profane--a typical rite entailed from Paganism on the
greater proportion of existing Christendom.  Nor was any oblation duly
prepared until it was mingled with salt--that homely and immemorial
offering, ordained not only by the priests of the heathen idols, but
also prescribed by Moses to the covenant of the Hebrew God. [44]

XV.  We now come to those sacred festivals in celebration of religious
mysteries, which inspire modern times with so earnest an interest.
Perhaps no subject connected with the religion of the ancients has
been cultivated with more laborious erudition, attended with more
barren result.  And with equal truth and wit, the acute and searching
Lobeck has compared the schools of Warburton and St. Croix to the
Sabines, who possessed the faculty of dreaming what they wished.
According to an ancient and still popular account, the dark enigmas of
Eleusis were borrowed from Egypt;--the drama of the Anaglyph [45].
But, in answer to this theory, we must observe, that even if really,
at their commencement, the strange and solemn rites which they are
asserted to have been--mystical ceremonies grow so naturally out of
the connexion between the awful and the unknown--were found so
generally among the savages of the ancient world--howsoever dispersed
--and still so frequently meet the traveller on shores to which it is
indeed a wild speculation to assert that the oriental wisdom ever
wandered, that it is more likely that they were the offspring of the
native ignorance [46], than the sublime importation of a symbolical
philosophy utterly ungenial to the tribes to which it was
communicated, and the times to which the institution is referred.  And
though I would assign to the Eleusinian Mysteries a much earlier date
than Lobeck is inclined to affix [47], I search in vain for a more
probable supposition of the causes of their origin than that which he
suggests, and which I now place before the reader.  We have seen that
each Grecian state had its peculiar and favourite deities, propitiated
by varying ceremonies.  The early Greeks imagined that their gods
might be won from them by the more earnest prayers and the more
splendid offerings of their neighbours; the Homeric heroes found their
claim for divine protection on the number of the offerings they have
rendered to the deity they implore.  And how far the jealous desire to
retain to themselves the favour of tutelary gods was entertained by
the Greeks, may be illustrated by the instances specially alluding to
the low and whispered voice in which prayers were addressed to the
superior powers, lest the enemy should hear the address, and vie with
interested emulation for the celestial favour.  The Eleusinians, in
frequent hostilities with their neighbours, the Athenians, might very
reasonably therefore exclude the latter from the ceremonies instituted
in honour of their guardian divinities, Demeter and Persephone (i. e.,
Ceres and Proserpine).  And we may here add, that secrecy once
established, the rites might at a very early period obtain, and
perhaps deserve, an enigmatic and mystic character.  But when, after a
signal defeat of the Eleusinians, the two states were incorporated,
the union was confirmed by a joint participation in the ceremony [48]
to which a political cause would thus give a more formal and solemn
dignity.  This account of the origin of the Eleusinian Mysteries is
not indeed capable of demonstration, but it seems to me at least the
most probable in itself, and the most conformable to the habits of the
Greeks, as to those of all early nations.

Certain it is that for a long time the celebration of the Eleusinian
ceremonies was confined to these two neighbouring states, until, as
various causes contributed to unite the whole of Greece in a common
religion and a common name, admission was granted all Greeks of all
ranks, male and female,--provided they had committed no inexpiable
offence, performed the previous ceremonies required, and were
introduced by an Athenian citizen.

With the growing flame and splendour of Athens, this institution rose
into celebrity and magnificence, until it appears to have become the
most impressive spectacle of the heathen world.  It is evident that a
people so imitative would reject no innovations or additions that
could increase the interest or the solemnity of exhibition; and still
less such as might come (through whatsoever channel) from that antique
and imposing Egypt, which excited so much of their veneration and
wonder.  Nor do I think it possible to account for the great
similarity attested by Herodotus and others, between the mysteries of
Isis and those of Ceres, as well as for the resemblance in less
celebrated ceremonies between the rites of Egypt and of Greece,
without granting at once, that mediately, or even immediately, the
superstitious of the former exercised great influence upon, and
imparted many features to, those of the latter.  But the age in which
this religious communication principally commenced has been a matter
of graver dispute than the question merits.  A few solitary and
scattered travellers and strangers may probably have given rise to it
at a very remote period; but, upon the whole, it appears to me that,
with certain modifications, we must agree with Lobeck, and the more
rational schools of inquiry, that it was principally in the interval
between the Homeric age and the Persian war that mysticism passed into
religion--that superstition assumed the attributes of a science--and
that lustrations, auguries, orgies, obtained method and system from
the exuberant genius of poetical fanaticism.

That in these august mysteries, doctrines contrary to the popular
religion were propounded, is a theory that has, I think, been
thoroughly overturned.  The exhibition of ancient statues, relics, and
symbols, concealed from daily adoration (as in the Catholic festivals
of this day), probably, made a main duty of the Hierophant.  But in a
ceremony in honour of Ceres, the blessings of agriculture, and its
connexion with civilization, were also very naturally dramatized.  The
visit of the goddess to the Infernal Regions might form an imposing
part of the spectacle: spectral images--alternations of light and
darkness--all the apparitions and effects that are said to have
imparted so much awe to the mysteries, may well have harmonized with,
not contravened, the popular belief.  And there is no reason to
suppose that the explanations given by the priests did more than
account for mythological stories, agreeably to the spirit and form of
the received mythology, or deduce moral maxims from the
representation, as hackneyed, as simple, and as ancient, as the
generality of moral aphorisms are.  But, as the intellectual progress
of the audience advanced, philosophers, skeptical of the popular
religion, delighted to draw from such imposing representations a
thousand theories and morals utterly unknown to the vulgar; and the
fancies and refinements of later schoolmen have thus been mistaken for
the notions of an early age and a promiscuous multitude.  The single
fact (so often insisted upon), that all Greeks were admissible, is
sufficient alone to prove that no secrets incompatible with the common
faith, or very important in themselves, could either have been
propounded by the priests or received by the audience.  And it may be
further observed, in corroboration of so self-evident a truth, that it
was held an impiety to the popular faith to reject the initiation of
the mysteries--and that some of the very writers, most superstitious
with respect to the one, attach the most solemnity to the ceremonies
of the other.

XVI.  Sanchoniathon wrote a work, now lost, on the worship of the
serpent.  This most ancient superstition, found invariably in Egypt
and the East, is also to be traced through many of the legends and
many of the ceremonies of the Greeks.  The serpent was a frequent
emblem of various gods--it was often kept about the temples--it was
introduced in the mysteries--it was everywhere considered sacred.
Singular enough, by the way, that while with us the symbol of the evil
spirit, the serpent was generally in the East considered a benefactor.
In India, the serpent with a thousand heads; in Egypt, the serpent
crowned with the lotos-leaf, is a benign and paternal deity.  It was
not uncommon for fable to assert that the first civilizers of earth
were half man, half serpent.  Thus was Fohi of China [49] represented,
and thus Cecrops of Athens.

XVII.  But the most remarkable feature of the superstition of Greece
was her sacred oracles.  And these again bring our inquiries back to
Egypt.  Herodotus informs us that the oracle of Dodona was by far the
most ancient in Greece [50], and he then proceeds to inform us of its
origin, which he traces to Thebes in Egypt.  But here we are beset by
contradictions: Herodotus, on the authority of the Egyptian priests,
ascribes the origin of the Dodona and Lybian oracles to two
priestesses of the Theban Jupiter--stolen by Phoenician pirates--one
of whom, sold into Greece, established at Dodona an oracle similar to
that which she had served at Thebes.  But in previous passages
Herodotus informs us, 1st, that in Egypt, no priestesses served the
temples of any deity, male or female; and 2dly, that when the
Egyptians imparted to the Pelasgi the names of their divinities, the
Pelasgi consulted the oracle of Dodona on the propriety of adopting
them; so that that oracle existed before even the first and
fundamental revelations of Egyptian religion.  It seems to me,
therefore, a supposition that demands less hardy assumption, and is
equally conformable with the universal superstitions of mankind (since
similar attempts at divination are to be found among so many nations
similarly barbarous) to believe that the oracle arose from the
impressions of the Pelasgi [51] and the natural phenomena of the spot;
though at a subsequent period the manner of the divination was very
probably imitated from that adopted by the Theban oracle.  And in
examining the place it indeed seems as if Nature herself had been the
Egyptian priestess!  Through a mighty grove of oaks there ran a
stream, whose waters supplied a fountain that might well appear, to
ignorant wonder, endowed with preternatural properties.  At a certain
hour of noon it was dry, and at midnight full.  Such springs have
usually been deemed oracular, not only in the East, but in almost
every section of the globe.

At first, by the murmuring of waters, and afterward by noises among
the trees, the sacred impostors interpreted the voice of the god.  It
is an old truth, that mystery is always imposing and often convenient.
To plain questions were given dark answers, which might admit of
interpretation according to the event.  The importance attached to the
oracle, the respect paid to the priest, and the presents heaped on the
altar, indicated to craft and ambition a profitable profession.  And
that profession became doubly alluring to its members, because it
proffered to the priests an authority in serving the oracles which
they could not obtain in the general religion of the people.  Oracles
increased then, at first slowly, and afterward rapidly, until they
grew so numerous that the single district of Boeotia contained no less
than twenty-five.  The oracle of Dodona long, however, maintained its
pre-eminence over the rest, and was only at last eclipsed by that of
Delphi [52], where strong and intoxicating exhalations from a
neighbouring stream were supposed to confer prophetic phrensy.
Experience augmented the sagacity of the oracles, and the priests, no
doubt, intimately acquainted with all the affairs of the states
around, and viewing the living contests of action with the coolness of
spectators, were often enabled to give shrewd and sensible
admonitions,--so that the forethought of wisdom passed for the
prescience of divinity.  Hence the greater part of their predictions
were eminently successful; and when the reverse occurred, the fault
was laid on the blind misconstruction of the human applicant.  Thus no
great design was executed, no city founded, no colony planted, no war
undertaken, without the advice of an oracle.  In the famine, the
pestilence, and the battle, the divine voice was the assuager of
terror and the inspirer of hope.  All the instincts of our frailer
nature, ever yearning for some support that is not of the world, were
enlisted in behalf of a superstition which proffered solutions to
doubt, and remedies to distress.

Besides this general cause for the influence of oracles, there was
another cause calculated to give to the oracles of Greece a marked and
popular pre-eminence over those in Egypt.  A country divided into
several small, free, and warlike states, would be more frequently in
want of the divine advice, than one united under a single monarchy, or
submitted to the rigid austerity of castes and priestcraft; and in
which the inhabitants felt for political affairs all the languid
indifference habitual to the subjects of a despotic government.  Half
a century might pass in Egypt without any political event that would
send anxious thousands to the oracle; but in the wonderful ferment,
activity, and restlessness of the numerous Grecian towns, every month,
every week, there was some project or some feud for which the advice
of a divinity was desired.  Hence it was chiefly to a political cause
that the immortal oracle of Delphi owed its pre-eminent importance.
The Dorian worshippers of Apollo (long attached to that oracle, then
comparatively obscure), passing from its neighbourhood and befriended
by its predictions, obtained the mastership of the Peloponnesus;--
their success was the triumph of the oracle.  The Dorian Sparta (long
the most powerful of the Grecian states), inviolably faithful to the
Delphian god, upheld his authority, and spread the fame of his
decrees.  But in the more polished and enlightened times, the
reputation of the oracle gradually decayed; it shone the brightest
before and during the Persian war;--the appropriate light of an age of
chivalry fading slowly as philosophy arose!

XVIII.  But the practice of divination did not limit itself to these
more solemn sources--its enthusiasm was contagious--its assistance was
ever at hand [53]. Enthusiasm operated on the humblest individuals.
One person imagined himself possessed by a spirit actually passing
into his soul--another merely inspired by the divine breath--a third
was cast into supernatural ecstasies, in which he beheld the shadow of
events, or the visions of a god--a threefold species of divine
possession, which we may still find recognised by the fanatics of a
graver faith!  Nor did this suffice: a world of omens surrounded every
man.  There were not only signs and warnings in the winds, the
earthquake, the eclipse of the sun or moon, the meteor, or the
thunderbolt--but dreams also were reduced to a science [54]; the
entrails of victims were auguries of evil or of good; the flights of
birds, the motions of serpents, the clustering of bees, had their
mystic and boding interpretations.  Even hasty words, an accident, a
fall on the earth, a sneeze (for which we still invoke the ancient
blessing), every singular or unwonted event, might become portentous,
and were often rendered lucky or unlucky according to the dexterity or
disposition of the person to whom they occurred.

And although in later times much of this more frivolous superstition
passed away--although Theophrastus speaks of such lesser omens with
the same witty disdain as that with which the Spectator ridicules our
fears at the upsetting of a salt-cellar, or the appearance of a
winding-sheet in a candle,--yet, in the more interesting period of
Greece, these popular credulities were not disdained by the nobler or
wiser few, and to the last they retained that influence upon the mass
which they lost with individuals.  And it is only by constantly
remembering this universal atmosphere of religion, that we can imbue
ourselves with a correct understanding of the character of the Greeks
in their most Grecian age.  Their faith was with them ever--in sorrow
or in joy--at the funeral or the feast--in their uprisings and their
downsittings--abroad and at home--at the hearth and in the
market-place--in the camp or at the altar.  Morning and night all the
greater tribes of the elder world offered their supplications on high:
and Plato has touchingly insisted on this sacred uniformity of custom,
when he tells us that at the rising of the moon and at the dawning of
the sun, you may behold Greeks and barbarians--all the nations of the
earth--bowing in homage to the gods.

XIX.  To sum up, the above remarks conduce to these principal
conclusions; First, that the Grecian mythology cannot be moulded into
any of the capricious and fantastic systems of erudite ingenuity: as a
whole, no mythology can be considered more strikingly original, not
only because its foundations appear indigenous, and based upon the
character and impressions of the people--not only because at no one
period, from the earliest even to the latest date, whatever occasional
resemblances may exist, can any identify be established between its
most popular and essential creations, and those of any other faith;
but because, even all that it borrowed it rapidly remodelled and
naturalized, growing yet more individual from its very complexity, yet
more original from the plagiarisms which it embraced; Secondly, that
it differed in many details in the different states, but under the
development of a general intercourse, assisted by a common language,
the plastic and tolerant genius of the people harmonized all discords
--until (catholic in its fundamental principles) her religion united
the whole of Greece in indissoluble bonds of faith and poetry--of
daily customs and venerable traditions; Thirdly, that the influence of
other creeds, though by no means unimportant in amplifying the
character, and adding to the list of the primitive deities, appears
far more evident in the ceremonies and usages than the personal
creations of the faith.  We may be reasonably skeptical as to what
Herodotus heard of the origin of rites or gods from Egyptian priests;
but there is no reason to disbelieve the testimony of his experience,
when he asserts, that the forms and solemnities of one worship closely
resemble those of another; the imitation of a foreign ceremony is
perfectly compatible with the aboriginal invention of a national god.
For the rest, I think it might be (and by many scholars appears to me
to have been) abundantly shown, that the Phoenician influences upon
the early mythology of the Greeks were far greater than the Egyptian,
though by degrees, and long after the heroic age, the latter became
more eagerly adopted and more superficially apparent.

In quitting this part of our subject, let it be observed, as an
additional illustration of the remarkable nationality of the Grecian
mythology, that our best light to the manners of the Homeric men, is
in the study of the Homeric gods.  In Homer we behold the mythology of
an era, for analogy to which we search in vain the records of the
East--that mythology is inseparably connected with the constitution of
limited monarchies,--with the manners of an heroic age:--the power of
the sovereign of the aristocracy of heaven is the power of a Grecian
king over a Grecian state:--the social life of the gods is the life
most coveted by the Grecian heroes;--the uncertain attributes of the
deities, rather physical or intellectual than moral--strength and
beauty, sagacity mixed with cunning--valour with ferocity--inclination
to war, yet faculties for the inventions of peace; such were the
attributes most honoured among men, in the progressive, but still
uncivilized age which makes the interval so pre-eminently Grecian--
between the mythical and historic times.  Vain and impotent are all
attempts to identify that religion of Achaian warriors with the
religion of oriental priests.  It was indeed symbolical--but of the
character of its believers; typical--but of the restless, yet
poetical, daring, yet graceful temperament, which afterward conducted
to great achievements and imperishable arts: the coming events of
glory cast their shadows before, in fable.

XX.  There now opens to us a far more important inquiry than that into
the origin and form of the religion of the Greeks; namely, the
influences of that religion itself upon their character--their morals
--their social and intellectual tendencies.

The more we can approach the Deity to ourselves--the more we can
invest him with human attributes--the more we can connect him with the
affairs and sympathies of earth, the greater will be his influence
upon our conduct--the more fondly we shall contemplate his attributes,
the more timidly we shall shrink from his vigilance, the more
anxiously we shall strive for his approval.  When Epicurus allowed the
gods to exist, but imagined them wholly indifferent to the concerns of
men, contemplating only their own happiness, and regardless alike of
our virtues or our crimes;--with that doctrine he robbed man of the
divinity, as effectually as if he had denied his existence.  The fear
of the gods could not be before the eyes of votaries who believed that
the gods were utterly careless of their conduct; and not only the
awful control of religion was removed from their passions, but the
more beautiful part of its influence, resulting not from terror but
from hope, was equally blasted and destroyed: For if the fear of the
divine power serves to restrain the less noble natures, so, on the
other hand, with such as are more elevated and generous, there is no
pleasure like the belief that we are regarded with approbation and
love by a Being of ineffable majesty and goodness--who compassionates
our misfortunes--who rewards our struggles with ourselves.  It is this
hope which gives us a pride in our own natures, and which not only
restrains us from vice, but inspires us with an emulation to arouse
within us all that is great and virtuous, in order the more to deserve
his love, and feel the image of divinity reflected upon the soul.  It
is for this reason that we are not contented to leave the character of
a God uncertain and unguessed, shrouded in the darkness of his own
infinite power; we clothe him with the attributes of human excellence,
carried only to an extent beyond humanity; and cannot conceive a deity
not possessed of the qualities--such as justice, wisdom, and
benevolence--which are most venerated among mankind.  But if we
believe that he has passed to earth--that he has borne our shape, that
he has known our sorrows--the connexion becomes yet more intimate and
close; we feel as if he could comprehend us better, and compassionate
more benignly our infirmities and our griefs.  The Christ that has
walked the earth, and suffered on the cross, can be more readily
pictured to our imagination, and is more familiarly before us, than
the Dread Eternal One, who hath the heaven for his throne, and the
earth only for his footstool [55].  And it is this very humanness of
connexion, so to speak, between man and the Saviour, which gives to
the Christian religion, rightly embraced, its peculiar sentiment of
gentleness and of love.

But somewhat of this connexion, though in a more corrupt degree,
marked also the religion of the Greeks; they too believed (at least
the multitude) that most of the deities had appeared on earth, and
been the actual dispensers of the great benefits of social life.
Transferred to heaven, they could more readily understand that those
divinities regarded with interest the nations to which they had been
made visible, and exercised a permanent influence over the earth,
which had been for a while their home.

Retaining the faith that the deities had visited the world, the Greeks
did not however implicitly believe the fables which degraded them by
our weaknesses and vices.  They had, as it were--and this seems not to
have been rightly understood by the moderns--two popular mythologies--
the first consecrated to poetry, and the second to actual life.  If a
man were told to imitate the gods, it was by the virtues of justice,
temperance, and benevolence [56]; and had he obeyed the mandate by
emulating the intrigues of Jupiter, or the homicides of Mars, he would
have been told by the more enlightened that those stories were the
inventions of the poets; and by the more credulous that gods might be
emancipated from laws, but men were bound by them--"Superis sea jura"
[57]--their own laws to the gods!  It is true, then, that those fables
were preserved--were held in popular respect, but the reverence they
excited among the Greeks was due to a poetry which flattered their
national pride and enchained their taste, and not to the serious
doctrines of their religion.  Constantly bearing this distinction in
mind, we shall gain considerable insight, not only into their
religion, but into seeming contradictions in their literary history.
They allowed Aristophanes to picture Bacchus as a buffoon, and
Hercules as a glutton, in the same age in which they persecuted
Socrates for neglect of the sacred mysteries and contempt of the
national gods.  To that part of their religion which belonged to the
poets they permitted the fullest license; but to the graver portion of
religion--to the existence of the gods--to a belief in their
collective excellence, and providence, and power--to the sanctity of
asylums--to the obligation of oaths--they showed the most jealous and
inviolable respect.  The religion of the Greeks, then, was a great
support and sanction to their morals; it inculcated truth, mercy,
justice, the virtues most necessary to mankind, and stimulated to them
by the rigid and popular belief that excellence was approved and guilt
was condemned by the superior powers [58].  And in that beautiful
process by which the common sense of mankind rectifies the errors of
imagination--those fables which subsequent philosophers rightly deemed
dishonourable to the gods, and which the superficial survey of modern
historians has deemed necessarily prejudicial to morals--had no
unworthy effect upon the estimate taken by the Greeks whether of human
actions or of heavenly natures.

XXI.  For a considerable period the Greeks did not carry the notion of
divine punishment beyond the grave, except in relation to those
audacious criminals who had blasphemed or denied the gods; it was by
punishments in this world that the guilty were afflicted.  And this
doctrine, if less sublime than that of eternal condemnation, was, I
apprehend, on regarding the principles of human nature, equally
effective in restraining crime: for our human and short-sighted minds
are often affected by punishments, in proportion as they are human and
speedy.  A penance in the future world is less fearful and distinct,
especially to the young and the passionate, than an unavoidable
retribution in this.  Man, too fondly or too vainly, hopes, by
penitence at the close of life, to redeem the faults of the
commencement, and punishment deferred loses more than half its
terrors, and nearly all its certainty.

As long as the Greeks were left solely to their mythology, their views
of a future state were melancholy and confused.  Death was an evil,
not a release.  Even in their Elysium, their favourite heroes seem to
enjoy but a frigid and unenviable immortality.  Yet this saddening
prospect of the grave rather served to exhilarate life, and stimulate
to glory:--"Make the most of existence," say their early poets, "for
soon comes the dreary Hades!"  And placed beneath a delightful
climate, and endowed with a vivacious and cheerful temperament, they
yielded readily to the precept.  Their religion was eminently glad and
joyous; even the stern Spartans lost their austerity in their sacred
rites, simple and manly though they were--and the gayer Athenians
passed existence in an almost perpetual circle of festivals and

This uncertainty of posthumous happiness contributed also to the
desire of earthly fame.  For below at least, their heroes taught them,
immortality was not impossible.  Bounded by impenetrable shadows to
this world, they coveted all that in this world was most to be desired
[59].  A short life is acceptable to Achilles, not if it lead to
Elysium, but if it be accompanied with glory.  By degrees, however,
prospects of a future state, nobler and more august, were opened by
their philosophers to the hopes of the Greeks.  Thales was asserted to
be the first Greek who maintained the immortality of the soul, and
that sublime doctrine was thus rather established by the philosopher
than the priest. [60]

XXII.  Besides the direct tenets of religion, the mysteries of the
Greeks exercised an influence on their morals, which, though greatly
exaggerated by modern speculators, was, upon the whole, beneficial,
though not from the reasons that have been assigned.  As they grew up
into their ripened and mature importance--their ceremonial, rather
than their doctrine, served to deepen and diffuse a reverence for
religious things.  Whatever the licentiousness of other mysteries
(especially in Italy), the Eleusinian rites long retained their renown
for purity and decorum; they were jealously watched by the Athenian
magistracy, and one of the early Athenian laws enacted that the senate
should assemble the day after their celebration to inquire into any
abuse that might have sullied their sacred character.  Nor is it,
perhaps, without justice in the later times, that Isocrates lauds
their effect on morality, and Cicero their influence on civilization
and the knowledge of social principles.  The lustrations and
purifications, at whatever period their sanctity was generally
acknowledged, could scarcely fail of salutary effects.  They were
supposed to absolve the culprit from former crimes, and restore him, a
new man, to the bosom of society.  This principle is a great agent of
morality, and was felt as such in the earlier era of Christianity: no
corrupter is so deadly as despair; to reconcile a criminal with
self-esteem is to readmit him, as it were, to virtue.

Even the fundamental error of the religion in point of doctrine, viz.,
its polytheism, had one redeeming consequence in the toleration which
it served to maintain--the grave evils which spring up from the fierce
antagonism of religious opinions, were, save in a few solitary and
dubious instances, unknown to the Greeks.  And this general
toleration, assisted yet more by the absence of a separate caste of
priests, tended to lead to philosophy through the open and
unchallenged portals of religion.  Speculations on the gods connected
themselves with bold inquiries into nature.  Thought let loose in the
wide space of creation--no obstacle to its wanderings--no monopoly of
its commerce--achieved, after many a wild and fruitless voyage,
discoveries unknown to the past--of imperishable importance to the
future.  The intellectual adventurers of Greece planted the first flag
upon the shores of philosophy; for the competition of errors is
necessary to the elucidation of truths; and the imagination indicates
the soil which the reason is destined to culture and possess.

XXIII.  While such was the influence of their religion on the morals
and the philosophy of the Greeks, what was its effect upon their
national genius?

We must again remember that the Greeks were the only nation among the
more intellectual of that day, who stripped their deities of
symbolical attributes, and did not aspire to invent for gods shapes
differing (save in loftier beauty) from the aspect and form of man.
And thus at once was opened to them the realm of sculpture.  The
people of the East, sometimes indeed depicting their deities in human
forms, did not hesitate to change them into monsters, if the addition
of another leg or another arm, a dog's head or a serpent's tail, could
better express the emblem they represented.  They perverted their
images into allegorical deformities; and receded from the beautiful in
proportion as they indulged their false conceptions of the sublime.
Besides, a painter or a sculptor must have a clear idea presented to
him, to be long cherished and often revolved, if we desire to call
forth all the inspiration of which his genius may be capable; but how
could the eastern artist form a clear idea of an image that should
represent the sun entering Aries, or the productive principle of
nature?  Such creations could not fail of becoming stiff or
extravagant, deformed or grotesque.  But to the Greek, a god was
something like the most majestic or the most beautiful of his own
species.  He studied the human shape for his conceptions of the
divine.  Intent upon the natural, he ascended to the ideal. [61]

If such the effect of the Grecian religion upon sculpture, similar and
equal its influence upon poetry.  The earliest verses of the Greeks
appear to have been of a religious, though I see no sufficient reason
for asserting that they were therefore of a typical and mystic,
character.  However that be, the narrative succeeding to the sacred
poetry materialized all it touched.  The shadows of Olympus received
the breath of Homer, and the gods grew at once life-like and palpable
to men.  The traditions which connected the deities with humanity--the
genius which divested them of allegory--gave at once to the epic and
the tragic poet the supernatural world.  The inhabitants of heaven
itself became individualized--bore each a separate character--could be
rendered distinct, dramatic, as the creatures of daily life.  Thus--an
advantage which no moderns ever have possessed--with all the ineffable
grandeur of deities was combined all the familiar interest of mortals;
and the poet, by preserving the characteristics allotted to each god,
might make us feel the associations and sympathies of earth, even when
he bore us aloft to the unknown Olympus, or plunged below amid the
shades of Orcus.

The numerous fables mixed with the Grecian creed, sufficiently
venerable, as we have seen, not to be disdained, but not so sacred as
to be forbidden, were another advantage to the poet.  For the
traditions of a nation are its poetry!  And if we moderns, in the
German forest, or the Scottish highlands, or the green English fields,
yet find inspiration in the notions of fiend, and sprite, and fairy,
not acknowledged by our religion, not appended as an apocryphal
adjunct to our belief, how much more were those fables adapted to
poetry, which borrowed not indeed an absolute faith, but a certain
shadow, a certain reverence and mystery, from religion!  Hence we find
that the greatest works of imagination which the Greeks have left us,
whether of Homer, of Aeschylus, or of Sophocles, are deeply indebted
to their mythological legends.  The Grecian poetry, like the Grecian
religion, was at once half human, half divine--majestic, vast, august
--household, homely, and familiar.  If we might borrow an illustration
from the philosophy of Democritus, its earthlier dreams and
divinations were indeed the impressions of mighty and spectral images
inhabiting the air. [62]

XXIV.  Of the religion of Greece, of its rites and ceremonies, and of
its influence upon the moral and intellectual faculties--this--
already, I fear, somewhat too prolixly told--is all that at present I
deem it necessary to say. [63]

We have now to consider the origin of slavery in Greece, an inquiry
almost equally important to our accurate knowledge of her polity and

XXV.  Wherever we look--to whatsoever period of history--conquest, or
the settlement of more enlightened colonizers amid a barbarous tribe,
seems the origin of slavery--modified according to the spirit of the
times, the humanity of the victor, or the policy of the lawgiver.  The
aboriginals of Greece were probably its earliest slaves [64],--yet the
aboriginals might be also its earliest lords.  Suppose a certain tribe
to overrun a certain country--conquer and possess it: new settlers are
almost sure to be less numerous than the inhabitants they subdue; in
proportion as they are the less powerful in number are they likely to
be the more severe in authority: they will take away the arms of the
vanquished--suppress the right of meetings--make stern and terrible
examples against insurgents--and, in a word, quell by the moral
constraint of law those whom it would be difficult to control merely
by, physical force;--the rigidity of the law being in ratio to the
deficiency of the force.  In times semi-civilized, and even
comparatively enlightened, conquerors have little respect for the
conquered--an immense and insurmountable distinction is at once made
between the natives and their lords.  All ancient nations seem to have
considered that the right of conquest gave a right to the lands of the
conquered country.  William dividing England among his Normans is but
an imitator of every successful invader of ancient times.  The
new-comers having gained the land of a subdued people, that people, in
order to subsist, must become the serfs of the land [65].  The more
formidable warriors are mostly slain, or exiled, or conciliated by
some remains of authority and possessions; the multitude remain the
labourers of the soil, and slight alterations of law will
imperceptibly convert the labourer into the slave.  The earliest
slaves appear chiefly to have been the agricultural population.  If
the possession of the government were acquited by colonizers [66],--
not so much by the force of arms as by the influence of superior arts
--the colonizers would in some instances still establish servitude for
the multitude, though not under so harsh a name.  The laws they would
frame for an uncultured and wretched population, would distinguish
between the colonizers and the aboriginals (excepting perhaps only the
native chiefs, accustomed arbitrarily to command, though not
systematically to enslave the rest).  The laws for the aboriginal
population would still be an improvement on their previous savage and
irregulated state--and generations might pass before they would attain
a character of severity, or before they made the final and
ineffaceable distinction between the freeman and the slave.  The
perturbed restlessness and constant migration of tribes in Greece,
recorded both by tradition and by history, would consequently tend at
a very remote period to the institution and diffusion of slavery and
the Pelasgi of one tribe would become the masters of the Pelasgi of
another.  There is, therefore, no necessity to look out of Greece for
the establishment of servitude in that country by conquest and war.
But the peaceful colonization of foreign settlers would (as we have
seen) lead to it by slower and more gentle degrees.  And the piracies
of the Phoenicians, which embraced the human species as an article of
their market, would be an example, more prevalent and constant than
their own, to the piracies of the early Greeks.  The custom of
servitude, thus commenced, is soon fed by new sources.  Prisoners of
war are enslaved, or, at the will of the victor, exchanged as an
article of commerce.  Before the interchange of money, we have
numerous instances of the barter of prisoners for food and arms.  And
as money became the medium of trade, so slaves became a regular
article of sale and purchase.  Hence the origin of the slave-market.
Luxury increasing slaves were purchased not merely for the purposes of
labour, but of pleasure.  The accomplished musician of the beautiful
virgin was an article of taste or a victim of passion.  Thus, what it
was the tendency of barbarism to originate, it became the tendency of
civilization to increase.

Slavery, then, originated first in conquest and war, piracy, or
colonization: secondly, in purchase.  There were two other and
subordinate sources of the institution--the first was crime, the
second poverty.  If a free citizen committed a heinous offence, he
could be degraded into a slave--if he were unable to pay his debts,
the creditor could claim his person.  Incarceration is merely a
remnant and substitute of servitude.  The two latter sources failed as
nations became more free.  But in Attica it was not till the time of
Solon, several centuries after the institution of slavery at Athens,
that the right of the creditor to the personal services of the debtor
was formally abolished.

A view of the moral effects of slavery--of the condition of the slaves
at Athens--of the advantages of the system and its evils--of the light
in which it was regarded by the ancients themselves, other and more
fitting opportunities will present to us.

XXVI.  The introduction of an hereditary aristocracy into a particular
country, as yet uncivilized, is often simultaneous with that of
slavery.  A tribe of warriors possess and subdue a territory;--they
share its soil with the chief in proportion to their connexion with
his person, or their military services and repute--each becomes the
lord of lands and slaves--each has privileges above the herd of the
conquered population.  Suppose again, that the dominion is acquired by
colonizers rather than conquerors; the colonizers, superior in
civilization to the natives,--and regarded by the latter with
reverence and awe, would become at once a privileged and noble order.
Hence, from either source, an aristocracy permanent and hereditary
[67].  If founded on conquest, in proportion to the number of the
victors, is that aristocracy more or less oligarchical.  The extreme
paucity of force with which the Dorians conquered their neighbours,
was one of the main causes why the governments they established were
rigidly oligarchical.

XXVII.  Proceeding onward, we find that in this aristocracy, are
preserved the seeds of liberty and the germe of republicanism.  These
conquerors, like our feudal barons, being sharers of the profit of the
conquest and the glory of the enterprise, by no means allow undivided
and absolute authority to their chiefs.  Governed by separate laws--
distinguished by separate privileges from the subdued community, they
are proud of their own freedom, the more it is contrasted with the
servitude of the population: they preserve liberty for themselves--
they resist the undue assumptions of the king [68]--and keep alive
that spirit and knowledge of freedom which in after times (as their
numbers increase, and they become a people, distinct still from the
aboriginal natives, who continue slaves) are transfused from the
nobles to the multitude.  In proportion as the new race are warlike
will their unconscious spirit be that of republicanism; the connexion
between martial and republican tendencies was especially recognised by
all ancient writers: and the warlike habits of the Hellenes were the
cradle of their political institutions.  Thus, in conquest (or
sometimes in immigration) we may trace the origin of an aristocracy
[69], as of slavery, and thus, by a deeper inquiry, we may find also
that the slavery of a population and the freedom of a state have their
date, though dim and undeveloped, in the same epoch.

XXVIII.  I have thought that the supposed Egyptian colonization of
Attica under Cecrops afforded the best occasion to treat of the above
matters, not so much in reference to Cecrops himself as to the
migration of Eastern and Egyptian adventurers.  Of such migrations the
dates may be uncertain--of such adventurers the names may be unknown.
But it seems to me impossible to deny the fact of foreign settlements
in Greece, in her remoter and more barbarous era, though we may
dispute as to the precise amount of the influence they exercised, and
the exact nature of the rites and customs they established.

A belief in the early connexion between the Egyptians and Athenians,
encouraged by the artful vanity of the one, was welcomed by the lively
credulity of the other.  Many ages after the reputed sway of the
mythical Cecrops, it was fondly imagined that traces of their origin
from the solemn Egypt [70] were yet visible among the graceful and
versatile people, whose character was as various, yet as
individualized, as their religion--who, viewed in whatsoever aspect of
their intellectual history, may appear constantly differing, yet
remain invariably Athenian.  Whether clamouring in the Agora--whether
loitering in the Academe--whether sacrificing to Hercules in the
temple--whether laughing at Hercules on the stage--whether with
Miltiades arming against the Mede--whether with Demosthenes declaiming
against the Macedonian--still unmistakeable, unexampled, original, and
alone--in their strength or their weakness, their wisdom or their
foibles their turbulent action, their cultivated repose.


The unimportant consequences to be deduced from the admission that
Cecrops might be Egyptian.--Attic Kings before Theseus.--The
Hellenes.--Their Genealogy.--Ionians and Achaeans Pelasgic.--Contrast
between Dorians and Ionians.--Amphictyonic League.

I.  In allowing that there does not appear sufficient evidence to
induce us to reject the tale of the Egyptian origin of Cecrops, it
will be already observed, that I attach no great importance to the
dispute: and I am not inclined reverently to regard the innumerable
theories that have been built on so uncertain a foundation.  An
Egyptian may have migrated to Attica, but Egyptian influence in Attica
was faint and evanescent;--arrived at the first dawn of historical
fact, it is with difficulty that we discover the most dubious and
shadowy vestiges of its existence.  Neither Cecrops nor any other
Egyptian in those ages is recorded to have founded a dynasty in
Attica--it is clear that none established a different language--and
all the boasted analogies of religion fade, on a close examination,
into an occasional resemblance between the symbols and attributes of
Egyptian and Grecian deities, or a similarity in mystic ceremonies and
solemn institutions, which, for the most part, was almost indisputably
formed by intercourse between Greece and Egypt in a far later age.
Taking the earliest epoch at which history opens, and comparing the
whole character of the Athenian people--moral, social, religious, and
political--with that of any Egyptian population, it is not possible to
select a more startling contrast, or one in which national character
seems more indelibly formed by the early and habitual adoption of
utterly opposite principles of thought and action. [71]

I said that Cecrops founded no dynasty: the same traditions that bring
him from Egypt give him Cranaus, a native, for his successor.  The
darkness of fable closes over the interval between the reign of
Cranaus and the time of Theseus: if tradition be any guide whatsoever,
the history of that period was the history of the human race--it was
the gradual passage of men from a barbarous state to the dawn of
civilization--and the national mythi only gather in wild and beautiful
fictions round every landmark in their slow and encumbered progress.

It would be very possible, by a little ingenious application of the
various fables transmitted to us, to construct a history of imagined
conquests and invented revolutions; and thus to win the unmerited
praise of throwing a new light upon those remote ages.  But when fable
is our only basis--no fabric we erect, however imposing in itself, can
be rightly entitled to the name of history.  And, as in certain
ancient chronicles it is recorded merely of undistinguished monarchs
that they "lived and died," so such an assertion is precisely that
which it would be the most presumptuous to make respecting the shadowy
kings who, whether in Eusebius or the Parian marble, give dates and
chronicles to the legendary gloom which preceded the heroic age.

The principal event recorded in these early times, for which there
seems some foundation, is a war between Erechtheus of Athens and the
Eleusinians;--the last assisted or headed by the Thracian Eumolpus.
Erechtheus is said to have fallen a victim in this contest.  But a
treaty afterward concluded with the Eleusinians confirmed the
ascendency of Athens, and, possibly, by a religious ceremonial, laid
the foundation of the Eleusinian mysteries.  In this contest is
introduced a very doubtful personage, under the appellation of Ion (to
whom I shall afterward recur), who appears on the side of the
Athenians, and who may be allowed to have exercised a certain
influence over them, whether in religious rites or political
institutions, though he neither attained to the throne, nor seems to
have exceeded the peaceful authority of an ally.  Upon the dim and
confused traditions relative to Ion, the wildest and most luxuriant
speculations have been grafted--prolix to notice, unnecessary to

II.  During this period there occurred--not rapidly, but slowly--the
most important revolution of early Greece, viz., the spread of that
tribe termed the Hellenes, who gradually established their
predominance throughout the land, impressed indelible traces on the
national character, and finally converted their own into the national

I have already expressed my belief that the Pelasgi were not a
barbarous race, speaking a barbarous tongue, but that they were akin
to the Hellenes, who spoke the Grecian language, and are considered
the proper Grecian family.  Even the dubious record of genealogy
(which, if fabulous in itself, often under the names of individuals
typifies the affinity of tribes) makes the Hellenes kindred to the
Pelasgi.  Deucalion, the founder of the Hellenes, was of Pelasgic
origin--son of Prometheus, and nephew of Atlas, king of the Pelasgic

However this may be, we find the Hellenes driven from Phocis, their
earliest recorded seat, by a flood in the time of Deucalion.
Migrating into Thessaly, they expelled the Pelasgi; and afterward
spreading themselves through Greece, they attained a general
ascendency over the earlier habitants, enslaving, doubtless, the bulk
of the population among which they formed a settlement, but ejecting
numbers of the more resolute or the more noble families, and causing
those celebrated migrations by which the Pelasgi carried their name
and arts into Italy, as well as into Crete and various other isles.
On the continent of Greece, when the revolution became complete, the
Pelasgi appear to have retained only Arcadia, the greater part of
Thessaly [72], the land of Dodona, and Attica.

There is no reason to suppose the Hellenes more enlightened and
civilized than the Pelasgi; but they seem, if only by the record of
their conquests, to have been a more stern, warlike, and adventurous
branch of the Grecian family.  I conclude them, in fact, to have been
that part of the Pelasgic race who the longest retained the fierce and
vigorous character of a mountain tribe, and who found the nations they
invaded in that imperfect period of civilization which is so
favourable to the designs of a conqueror--when the first warlike
nature of a predatory tribe is indeed abandoned--but before the
discipline, order, and providence of a social community are acquired.
Like the Saxons into Britain, the Hellenes were invited [73] by the
different Pelasgic chiefs as auxiliaries, and remained as conquerors.
But in other respects they rather resembled the more knightly and
energetic race by whom in Britain the Saxon dynasty was overturned:--
the Hellenes were the Normans of antiquity.  It is impossible to
decide the exact date when the Hellenes obtained the general
ascendency or when the Greeks received from that Thessalian tribe
their common appellation.  The Greeks were not termed Hellenes in the
time in which the Iliad was composed--they were so termed in the time
of Hesiod.  But even in the Iliad, the word Panhellenes, applied to
the Greeks, testifies the progress of the revolution [74], and in the
Odyssey, the Hellenic name is no longer limited to the dominion of

III.  The Hellenic nation became popularly subdivided into four
principal families, viz., the Dorians, the Aeolians, the Ionians, and
Achaeans, of which I consider the former two alone genuinely Hellenic.
The fable which makes Dorus, Aeolus, and Xuthus, the sons of Helen,
declares that while Dorus was sent forth to conquer other lands,
Aeolus succeeded to the domain of Phthiotis, and records no conquests
of his own; but attributes to his sons the origin of most of the
principal families of Greece.  If rightly construed, this account
would denote that the Aeolians remained for a generation at least
subsequent to the first migration of the Dorians, in their Thessalian
territories; and thence splitting into various hordes, descended as
warriors and invaders upon the different states of Greece.  They
appear to have attached themselves to maritime situations, and the
wealth of their early settlements is the theme of many a legend.  The
opulence of Orchomenus is compared by Homer to that of Egyptian
Thebes.  And in the time of the Trojan war, Corinth was already termed
"the wealthy."  By degrees the Aeolians became in a great measure
blended and intermingled with the Dorians.  Yet so intimately
connected are the Hellenes and Pelasgi, that even these, the lineal
descendants of Helen through the eldest branch, are no less confounded
with the Pelasgic than the Dorian race.  Strabo and Pausanias alike
affirm the Aeolians to be Pelasgic, and in the Aeolic dialect we
approach to the Pelasgic tongue.

The Dorians, first appearing in Phthiotis, are found two generations
afterward in the mountainous district of Histiaeotis, comprising
within their territory, according to Herodotus, the immemorial Vale of
Tempe.  Neighboured by warlike hordes, more especially the heroic
Lapithae, with whom their earliest legends record fierce and continued
war, this mountain tribe took from nature and from circumstance their
hardy and martial character.  Unable to establish secure settlements
in the fertile Thessalian plains, and ranging to the defiles through
which the romantic Peneus winds into the sea, several of the tribe
migrated early into Crete, where, though forming only a part of the
population of the isle, they are supposed by some to have established
the Doric constitution and customs, which in their later settlements
served them for a model.  Other migrations marked their progress to
the foot of Mount Pindus; thence to Dryopis, afterward called Doris;
and from Dryopis to the Peloponnesus; which celebrated migration,
under the name of the "Return of the Heraclidae," I shall hereafter
more especially describe.  I have said that genealogy attributes the
origin of the Dorians and that of the Aeolians to Dorus and Aeolus,
sons of Helen.  This connects them with the Hellenes and with each
other.  The adventures of Xuthus, the third son of Helen, are not
recorded by the legends of Thessaly, and he seems merely a fictitious
creation, invented to bring into affinity with the Hellenes the
families, properly Pelasgic, of the Achaeans and Ionians.  It is by
writers comparatively recent that we are told that Xuthus was driven
from Thessaly by his brothers--that he took refuge in Attica, and on
the plains of Marathon built four towns--Oenoe, Marathon,
Probalinthus, and Tricorythus [75], and that he wedded Creusa,
daughter of Erechtheus, king of Attica, and that by her he had two
sons, Achaeus and Ion.  By some we are told that Achaeus, entering the
eastern side of Peloponnesus, founded a dominion in Laconia and
Argolis; by others, on the contrary, that he conducted a band, partly
Athenian, into Thessaly, and recovered the domains of which his father
had been despoiled [76].  Both these accounts of Achaeus, as the
representative of the Achaeans, are correct in this, that the
Achaeans, had two settlements from remote periods--the one in the
south of Thessaly--the other in the Peloponnesus.

The Achaeans were long the most eminent of the Grecian tribes.
Possessed of nearly the whole of the Peloponnesus, except, by a
singular chance, that part which afterward bore their name, they
boasted the warlike fame of the opulent Menelaus and the haughty
Agamemnon, the king of men.  The dominant tribe of the heroic age, the
Achaeans form the kindred link between the several epochs of the
Pelasgic and Hellenic sway--their character indeed Hellenic, but their
descent apparently Pelasgic.  Dionysius of Halicarnassus derives them
from Pelasgus himself, and they existed as Achaeans before the
Hellenic Xuthus was even born.  The legend which makes Achaeus the
brother of Ion, tends likewise to prove, that if the Ionians were
originally Pelasgic, so also were the Achaeans.  Let us then come to

Although Ion is said to have given the name of Ionians to the
Atticans, yet long before his time the Iaones were among the ancient
inhabitants of the country; and Herodotus (the best authority on the
subject) declares that the Ionians were Pelasgic and indigenous.
There is not sufficient reason to suppose, therefore, that they were
Hellenic conquerors or Hellenic settlers.  They appear, on the
contrary, to have been one of the aboriginal tribes of Attica:--a part
of them proceeded into the Peloponnesus (typified under the migration
thither of Xuthus), and these again returning (as typified by the
arrival of Ion at Athens), in conjunction with such of their
fraternity as had remained in their native settlement, became the most
powerful and renowned of the several divisions of the Attic
population.  Their intercourse with the Peloponnesians would lead the
Ionians to establish some of the political institutions and religious
rites they had become acquainted with in their migration; and thus may
we most probably account for the introduction of the worship of Apollo
into Attica, and for that peaceful political influence which the
mythical Ion is said to have exercised over his countrymen.

At all events, we cannot trace, any distinct and satisfactory
connexion between this, the most intellectual and brilliant tribe of
the Grecian family, and that roving and fortunate Thessalian horde to
which the Hellenes gave the general name, and of which the Dorians
were the fittest representative and the most powerful section.  Nor,
despite the bold assumptions of Mueller, is there any evidence of a
Hellenic conquest in Attica. [77]

And that land which, according to tradition and to history, was the
early refuge of exiles, derived from the admission and intercourse of
strangers and immigrants those social and political improvements which
in other states have been wrought by conquest.

IV.  After the Dorians obtained possession of the Peloponnesus, the
whole face of Greece was gradually changed.  The return of the
Heraclidae was the true consummation of the Hellenic revolution.  The
tribes hitherto migratory became fixed in the settlements they
acquired.  The Dorians rose to the rank of the most powerful race of
Greece: and the Ionians, their sole rivals, possessed only on the
continent the narrow soil of Attica, though their colonies covered the
fertile coast of Asia Minor.  Greece thus reduced to two main tribes,
the Doric and the Ionian, historians have justly and generally
concurred in noticing between them the strongest and most marked
distinctions,--the Dorians grave, inflexible, austere,--the Ionians
lively, versatile, prone to change.  The very dialect of the one was
more harsh and masculine than that of the other; and the music, the
dances of the Dorians, bore the impress of their severe simplicity.
The sentiment of veneration which pervaded their national character
taught the Dorians not only, on the one hand, the firmest allegiance
to the rites of religion--and a patriarchal respect for age--but, on
the other hand, a blind and superstitious attachment to institutions
merely on account of their antiquity--and an almost servile regard for
birth, producing rather the feelings of clanship than the sympathy of
citizens.  We shall see hereafter, that while Athens established
republics, Sparta planted oligarchies.  The Dorians were proud of
independence, but it was the independence of nobles rather than of a
people.  Their severity preserved them long from innovation--no less
by what was vicious in its excess than by what was wise in its
principle.  With many great and heroic qualities, they were yet harsh
to enemies--cruel to dependants--selfish to allies.  Their whole
policy was to preserve themselves as they were; if they knew not the
rash excesses, neither were they impelled by the generous emotions,
which belong to men whose constant aspirations are to be better and to
be greater;--they did not desire to be better or to be greater; their
only wish was not to be different.  They sought in the future nothing
but the continuance of the past; and to that past they bound
themselves with customs and laws of iron.  The respect in which they
held their women, as well as their disdain of pleasure, preserved them
in some measure from the licentiousness common to states in which
women are despised; but the respect had little of the delicacy and
sentiment of individual attachment--attachment was chiefly for their
own sex [78].  The Ionians, on the contrary, were susceptible,
flexile, and more characterized by the generosity of modern knighthood
than the sternness of ancient heroism.  Them, not the past, but the
future, charmed.  Ever eager to advance, they were impatient even of
the good, from desire of the better.  Once urged to democracy--
democracy fixed their character, as oligarchy fixed the Spartan.  For,
to change is the ambition of a democracy--to conserve of an oligarchy.
The taste, love, and intuition of the beautiful stamped the Greeks
above all nations, and the Ionians above all the Greeks.  It was not
only that the Ionians were more inventive than their neighbours, but
that whatever was beautiful in invention they at once seized and
appropriated.  Restless, inquisitive, ardent, they attempted all
things, and perfected art--searched into all things, and consummated

The Ionic character existed everywhere among Ionians, but the Doric
was not equally preserved among the Dorians.  The reason is evident.
The essence of the Ionian character consisted in the spirit of change
--that of the Dorian in resistance to innovation.  When any Doric
state abandoned its hereditary customs and institutions, it soon lost
the Doric character--became lax, effeminate, luxurious--a corruption
of the character of the Ionians; but no change could assimilate the
Ionian to the Doric; for they belonged to different eras of
civilization--the Doric to the elder, the Ionian to the more advanced.
The two races of Scotland have become more alike than heretofore; but
it is by making the highlander resemble the lowlander--and not by
converting the lowland citizen into the mountain Gael.  The habits of
commerce, the substitution of democratic for oligarchic institutions,
were sufficient to alter the whole character of the Dorians.  The
voluptuous Corinth--the trading Aegina (Doric states)--infinitely more
resembled Athens than Sparta.

It is, then, to Sparta, that in the historical times we must look
chiefly for the representative of the Doric tribe, in its proper and
elementary features; and there, pure, vigorous, and concentrated, the
Doric character presents a perpetual contrast to the Athenian.  This
contrast continued so long as either nation retained a character to
itself;--and (no matter what the pretences of hostility) was the real
and inevitable cause of that enmity between Athens and Sparta, the
results of which fixed the destiny of Greece.

Yet were the contests of that enmity less the contests between
opposing tribes than between those opposing principles which every
nation may be said to nurse within itself; viz., the principle to
change, and the principle to preserve; the principle to popularize,
and the principle to limit the governing power; here the genius of an
oligarchy, there of a people; here adherence to the past, there desire
of the future.  Each principle produced its excesses, and furnishes a
salutary warning.  The feuds of Sparta and Athens may be regarded as
historical allegories, clothing the moral struggles, which, with all
their perils and all their fluctuations, will last to the end of time.

V.  This period is also celebrated for the supposed foundation of that
assembly of the Grecian states, called the Amphictyonic Confederacy.
Genealogy attributes its origin to a son of Deucalion, called
Amphictyon. [79]

This fable would intimate a Hellenic origin, since Deucalion is the
fabled founder of the Hellenes; but out of twelve tribes which
composed the confederacy, only three were Hellenic, and the rest
Pelasgic.  But with the increasing influence of the Dorian oracle of
Delphi, with which it was connected, it became gradually considered a
Hellenic institution.  It is not possible to decipher the first
intention of this league.  The meeting was held at two places, near
Anthela, in the pass of Thermopylae, and Delphi; at the latter place
in the spring, at the former in the autumn.  If tradition imputed to
Amphictyon the origin of the council, it ascribed to Acrisius, king
of Argos [80], the formation of its proper power and laws.  He is said
to have founded one of the assemblies, either that in Delphi or
Thermopylae (accounts vary), and to have combined the two, increased
the number of the members, and extended the privileges of the body.
We can only interpret this legend by the probable supposition, that
the date of holding the same assembly at two different places, at
different seasons of the year, marks the epoch of some important
conjunction of various tribes, and, it may be, of deities hitherto
distinct.  It might be an attempt to associate the Hellenes with the
Pelasgi, in the early and unsettled power of the former race: and this
supposition is rendered the more plausible by the evident union of the
worship of the Dorian Apollo at Delphi with that of the Pelasgian
Ceres at Thermopylae [81].  The constitution of the league was this--
each city belonging to an Amphictyonic state sent usually two
deputies--the one called Pylagoras, the other Hieromnemon.  The
functions of the two deputies seem to have differed, and those of the
latter to have related more particularly to whatsoever appertained to
religion.  On extraordinary occasions more than one pylagoras was
deputed--Athens at one time sent no less than three.  But the number
of deputies sent did not alter the number of votes in the council.
Each city had two votes and no more, no matter how many delegates it

All the deputies assembled,--solemn sacrifices were offered at Delphi
to Apollo, Diana, Latona, and Minerva; at Thermopylae to Ceres.  An
oath was then administered, the form of which is preserved to us by

"I swear," runs the oath, "never to subvert any Amphictyonic city--
never to stop the courses of its waters in peace or in war.  Those who
attempt such outrages I will oppose by arms; and the cities that so
offend I will destroy.  If any ravages be committed in the territory
of the god, if any connive at such a crime, if any conceive a design
hostile to the temple, against them will I use my hands, my feet, my
whole power and strength, so that the offenders may be brought to

Fearful and solemn imprecations on any violation of this engagement
followed the oath.

These ceremonies performed, one of the hieromnemons [82] presided over
the council; to him were intrusted the collecting the votes, the
reporting the resolutions, and the power of summoning the general
assembly, which was a convention separate from the council, held only
on extraordinary occasions, and composed of residents and strangers,
whom the solemnity of the meeting congregated in the neighbourhood.

VI.  Throughout the historical times we can trace in this league no
attempt to combine against the aggression of foreign states, except
for the purposes of preserving the sanctity of the temple.  The
functions of the league were limited to the Amphictyonic tribes and
whether or not its early, and undefined, and obscure purpose, was to
check wars among the confederate tribes, it could not attain even that
object.  Its offices were almost wholly confined to religion.  The
league never interfered when one Amphictyonic state exercised the
worst severities against the other, curbing neither the ambition of
the Athenian fleet nor the cruelties of the Spartan sword.  But, upon
all matters relative to religion, especially to the worship of Apollo,
the assembly maintained an authority in theory supreme--in practice,
equivocal and capricious.

As a political institution, the league contained one vice which could
not fail to destroy its power.  Each city in the twelve Amphictyonic
tribes, the most unimportant as the most powerful, had the same number
of votes.  This rendered it against the interest of the greater states
(on whom its consideration necessarily depended) to cement or increase
its political influence and thus it was quietly left to its natural
tendency to sacred purposes.  Like all institutions which bestow upon
man the proper prerogative of God, and affect authority over religious
and not civil opinions, the Amphictyonic council was not very
efficient in good: even in its punishment of sacrilege, it was only
dignified and powerful whenever the interests of the Delphic temple
were at stake.  Its most celebrated interference was with the town of
Crissa, against which the Amphictyons decreed war B. C. 505; the
territory of Crissa was then dedicated to the god of the temple.

VII.  But if not efficient in good, the Amphictyonic council was not
active in evil.  Many causes conspired to prevent the worst excesses
to which religious domination is prone,--and this cause in particular.
It was not composed of a separate, interested, and permanent class,
but of citizens annually chosen from every state, who had a much
greater interest in the welfare of their own state than in the
increased authority of the Amphictyonic council [83].  They were
priests but for an occasion--they were citizens by profession.  The
jealousies of the various states, the constant change in the
delegates, prevented that energy and oneness necessary to any settled
design of ecclesiastical ambition.  Hence, the real influence of the
Amphictyonic council was by no means commensurate with its grave
renown; and when, in the time of Philip, it became an important
political agent, it was only as the corrupt and servile tool of that
able monarch.  Still it long continued, under the panoply of a great
religious name, to preserve the aspect of dignity and power, until, at
the time of Constantine, it fell amid the ruins of the faith it had
aspired to protect.  The creed that became the successor of the
religion of Delphi found a mightier Amphictyonic assembly in the
conclaves of Rome.  The papal institution possessed precisely those
qualities for directing the energies of states, for dictating to the
ambition of kings, for obtaining temporal authority under spiritual
pretexts--which were wanting to the pagan.


The Heroic Age.--Theseus.--His legislative Influence upon Athens.--
Qualities of the Greek Heroes.--Effect of a Traditional Age upon the
Character of a People.

I.  As one who has been journeying through the dark [84] begins at
length to perceive the night breaking away in mist and shadow, so that
the forms of things, yet uncertain and undefined, assume an
exaggerated and gigantic outline, half lost amid the clouds,--so now,
through the obscurity of fable, we descry the dim and mighty outline
of the HEROIC AGE.  The careful and skeptical Thucydides has left us,
in the commencement of his immortal history, a masterly portraiture of
the manners of those times in which individual prowess elevates the
possessor to the rank of a demigod; times of unsettled law and
indistinct control;--of adventure--of excitement;--of daring qualities
and lofty crime.  We recognise in the picture features familiar to the
North: the roving warriors and the pirate kings who scoured the seas,
descended upon unguarded coasts, and deemed the exercise of plunder a
profession of honour, remind us of the exploits of the Scandinavian
Her-Kongr, and the boding banners of the Dane.  The seas of Greece
tempted to piratical adventures: their numerous isles, their winding
bays, and wood-clad shores, proffered ample enterprise to the bold--
ample booty to the rapacious; the voyages were short for the
inexperienced, the refuges numerous for the defeated.  In early ages,
valour is the true virtue--it dignifies the pursuits in which it is
engaged, and the profession of a pirate was long deemed as honourable
in the Aegean as among the bold rovers of the Scandinavian race [85].
If the coast was thus exposed to constant incursion and alarm, neither
were the interior recesses of the country more protected from the
violence of marauders.  The various tribes that passed into Greece, to
colonize or conquer, dislodged from their settlements many of the
inhabitants, who, retreating up the country, maintained themselves by
plunder, or avenged themselves by outrage.  The many crags and
mountains, the caverns and the woods, which diversify the beautiful
land of Greece, afforded their natural fortresses to these barbarous
hordes.  The chief who had committed a murder, or aspired
unsuccessfully to an unsteady throne, betook himself, with his
friends, to some convenient fastness, made a descent on the
surrounding villages, and bore off the women or the herds, as lust or
want excited to the enterprise.  No home was safe, no journey free
from peril, and the Greeks passed their lives in armour.  Thus,
gradually, the profession and system of robbery spread itself
throughout Greece, until the evil became insufferable--until the
public opinion of all the states and tribes, in which society had
established laws, was enlisted against the freebooter--until it grew
an object of ambition to rid the neighbourhood of a scourge--and the
success of the attempt made the glory of the adventurer.  Then
naturally arose the race of heroes--men who volunteered to seek the
robber in his hold--and, by the gratitude of a later age, the courage
of the knight-errant was rewarded with the sanctity of the demigod.
At that time, too, internal circumstances in the different states--
whether from the predominance of, or the resistance to, the warlike
Hellenes, had gradually conspired to raise a military and fierce
aristocracy above the rest of the population; and as arms became the
instruments of renown and power, so the wildest feats would lead to
the most extended fame.

II.  The woods and mountains of Greece were not then cleared of the
first rude aboriginals of nature--wild beasts lurked within its
caverns;--wolves abounded everywhere--herds of wild bulls, the large
horns of which Herodotus names with admiration, were common; and even
the lion himself, so late as the invasion of Xerxes, was found in wide
districts from the Thracian Abdera to the Acarnanian Achelous.  Thus,
the feats of the early heroes appear to have been mainly directed
against the freebooter or the wild beast; and among the triumphs of
Hercules are recorded the extermination of the Lydian robbers, the
death of Cacus, and the conquest of the lion of Nemea and the boar of

Hercules himself shines conspicuously forth the great model of these
useful adventurers.  There is no doubt that a prince [86], so named,
actually existed in Greece; and under the title of the Theban
Hercules, is to be carefully distinguished, both from the god of Egypt
and the peaceful Hercules of Phoenicia [87], whose worship was not
unknown to the Greeks previous to the labours of his namesake.  As the
name of Hercules was given to the Theban hero (originally called
Alcaeus), in consequence of his exploits, it may be that his
countrymen recognised in his character or his history something
analogous to the traditional accounts of the Eastern god.  It was the
custom of the early Greeks to attribute to one man the actions which
he performed in concert with others, and the reputation of Hercules
was doubtless acquired no less as the leader of an army than by the
achievements of his personal prowess.  His fame and his success
excited the emulation of his contemporaries, and pre-eminent among
these ranks the Athenian Theseus.

III.  In the romance which Plutarch has bequeathed to us, under the
title of a "History of Theseus," we seem to read the legends of our
own fabulous days of chivalry.  The adventures of an Amadis or a
Palmerin are not more knightly nor more extravagant.

According to Plutarch, Aegeus, king of Athens, having no children,
went to Delphi to consult the oracle how that misfortune might be
repaired.  He was commanded not to approach any woman till he returned
to Athens; but the answer was couched in mystic and allegorical terms,
and the good king was rather puzzled than enlightened by the reply.
He betook himself therefore to Troezene, a small town in Peloponnesus,
founded by Pittheus, of the race of Pelops, a man eminent in that day
for wisdom and sagacity.  He communicated to him the oracle, and
besought his interpretation.  Something there was in the divine answer
which induced Pittheus to draw the Athenian king into an illicit
intercourse with his own daughter, Aethra.  The princess became with
child; and, before his departure from Troezene, Aegeus deposited a
sword and a pair of sandals in a cavity concealed by a huge stone
[88], and left injunctions with Aethra that, should the fruit of their
intercourse prove a male child, and able, when grown up, to remove the
stone, she should send him privately to Athens with the sword and
sandals in proof of his birth; for Aegeus had a brother named Pallas,
who, having a large family of sons, naturally expected, from the
failure of the direct line, to possess himself or his children of the
Athenian throne; and the king feared, should the secret of his
intercourse with Aethra be discovered before the expected child had
arrived to sufficient strength to protect himself, that either by
treason or assassination the sons of Pallas would despoil the rightful
heir of his claim to the royal honours.  Aethra gave birth to Theseus,
and Pittheus concealed the dishonour of his family by asserting that
Neptune, the god most honoured at Troezene, had condescended to be the
father of the child:--the gods were very convenient personages in
those days.  As the boy grew up, he evinced equal strength of body and
nobleness of mind; and at length the time arrived when Aethra
communicated to him the secret of his birth, and led him to the stone
which concealed the tokens of his origin.  He easily removed it, and
repaired by land to Athens.

At that time, as I have before stated, Greece was overrun by robbers:
Hercules had suppressed them for awhile; but the Theban hero was now
at the feet of the Lydian Omphale, and the freebooters had reappeared
along the mountainous recesses of the Peloponnesus; the journey by
land was therefore not only longer, but far more perilous, than a
voyage by sea, and Pittheus earnestly besought his grandson to prefer
the latter.  But it was the peril of the way that made its charm in
the eyes of the young hero, and the fame of Hercules had long inspired
his dreams by night [89], and his thoughts by day.  With his father's
sword, then, he repaired to Athens.  Strange and wild were the
adventures that befell him.  In Epidauria he was attacked by a
celebrated robber, whom he slew, and whose club he retained as his
favourite weapon.  In the Isthmus, Sinnis, another bandit, who had
been accustomed to destroy the unfortunate travellers who fell in his
way by binding them to the boughs of two pine trees (so that when the
trees, released, swung back to their natural position, the victim was
torn asunder, limb by limb), was punished by the same death he had
devised for others; and here occurs one of those anecdotes
illustrative of the romance of the period, and singularly analogous to
the chivalry of Northern fable, which taught deference to women, and
rewarded by the smiles of the fair the exploits of the bold.  Sinnis,
"the pine bender," had a daughter remarkable for beauty, who
concealed herself amid the shrubs and rushes in terror of the victor.
Theseus discovered her, praying, says Plutarch, in childish innocence
or folly, to the plants and bushes, and promising, if they would
shelter her, never to destroy or burn them.  A graceful legend, that
reminds us of the rich inventions of Spenser.  But Theseus, with all
gentle words and soothing vows, allured the maiden from her retreat,
and succeeded at last in obtaining her love and its rewards.

Continued adventures--the conquest of Phaea, a wild sow (or a female
robber, so styled from the brutality of her life)--the robber Sciron
cast headlong from a precipice--Procrustes stretched on his own bed--
attested the courage and fortune of the wanderer, and at length he
arrived at the banks of the Cephisus.  Here he was saluted by some of
the Phytalidae, a sacred family descended from Phytalus, the beloved
of Ceres, and was duly purified from the blood of the savages he had
slain.  Athens was the first place at which he was hospitably
entertained.  He arrived at an opportune moment; the Colchian Medea,
of evil and magic fame, had fled from Corinth and taken refuge with
Aegeus, whose affections she had insnared.  By her art she promised
him children to supply his failing line, and she gave full trial to
the experiment by establishing herself the partner of the royal couch.
But it was not likely that the numerous sons of Pallas would regard
this connexion with indifference, and faction and feud reigned
throughout the city.  Medea discovered the secret of the birth of
Theseus; and, resolved by poison to rid herself of one who would
naturally interfere with her designs on Aegeus, she took advantage of
the fear and jealousies of the old king, and persuaded him to become
her accomplice in the premeditated crime.  A banquet, according to the
wont of those hospitable times, was given to the stranger.  The king
was at the board, the cup of poison at hand, when Theseus, wishing to
prepare his father for the welcome news he had to divulge, drew the
sword or cutlass which Aegeus had made the token of his birth, and
prepared to carve with it the meat that was set before him.  The sword
caught the eye of the king--he dashed the poison to the ground, and
after a few eager and rapid questions, recognised his son in his
intended victim.  The people were assembled--Theseus was acknowledged
by the king, and received with joy by the multitude, who had already
heard of the feats of the hero.  The traditionary place where the
poison fell was still shown in the time of Plutarch.  The sons of
Pallas ill brooked the arrival and acknowledgment of this unexpected
heir to the throne.  They armed themselves and their followers, and
prepared for war.  But one half of their troops, concealed in ambush,
were cut off by Theseus (instructed in their movements by the
treachery of a herald), and the other half, thus reduced, were obliged
to disperse.  So Theseus remained the undisputed heir to the Athenian

IV.  It would be vain for the historian, but delightful for the poet,
to follow at length this romantic hero through all his reputed
enterprises.  I can only rapidly sketch the more remarkable.  I pass,
then, over the tale how he captured alive the wild bull of Marathon,
and come at once to that expedition to Crete, which is indissolubly
intwined with immortal features of love and poetry.  It is related
that Androgeus, a son of Minos, the celebrated King of Crete, and by
his valour worthy of such a sire, had been murdered in Attica; some
suppose by the jealousies of Aegeus, who appears to have had a
singular distrust of all distinguished strangers.  Minos retaliated by
a war which wasted Attica, and was assisted in its ravages by the
pestilence and the famine.  The oracle of Apollo, which often laudably
reconciled the quarrels of princes, terminated the contest by
enjoining the Athenians to appease the just indignation of Minos.
They despatched, therefore, ambassadors to Crete, and consented, in
token of submission, to send every ninth year a tribute of seven
virgins and seven young men.  The little intercourse that then existed
between states, conjoined with the indignant grief of the parents at
the loss of their children, exaggerated the evil of the tribute.  The
hostages were said by the Athenians to be exposed in an intricate
labyrinth, and devoured by a monster, the creature of unnatural
intercourse, half man half bull; but the Cretans, certainly the best
authority in the matter, stripped the account of the fable, and
declared that the labyrinth was only a prison in which the youths and
maidens were confined on their arrival--that Minos instituted games in
honour of Androgeus, and that the Athenian captives were the prize of
the victors.  The first victor was the chief of the Cretan army, named
Taurus, and he, being fierce and unmerciful, treated the slaves he
thus acquired with considerable cruelty.  Hence the origin of the
labyrinth and the Minotaur.  And Plutarch, giving this explanation of
the Cretans, cites Aristotle to prove that the youths thus sent were
not put to death by Minos, but retained in servile employments, and
that their descendants afterward passed into Thrace, and were called
Bottiaeans.  We must suppose, therefore, in consonance not only with
these accounts, but the manners of the age, that the tribute was
merely a token of submission, and the objects of it merely considered
as slaves. [90]

Of Minos himself all accounts are uncertain.  There seems no
sufficient ground to doubt, indeed, his existence, nor the extended
power which, during his reign, Crete obtained in Greece.  It is most
probable that it was under Phoenician influence that Crete obtained
its maritime renown; but there is no reason to suppose Minos himself

After the return of Theseus, the time came when the tribute to Crete
was again to be rendered.  The people murmured their dissatisfaction.
"It was the guilt of Aegeus," said they, "which caused the wrath of
Minos, yet Aegeus alone escaped its penalty; their lawful children
were sacrificed to the Cretan barbarity, but the doubtful and
illegitimate stranger, whom Aegeus had adopted, went safe and free."
Theseus generously appeased these popular tumults: he insisted on
being himself included in the seven.

V.  Twice before had this human tribute been sent to Crete; and in
token of the miserable and desperate fate which, according to vulgar
belief, awaited the victims, a black sail had been fastened to the

But this time, Aegeus, inspired by the cheerful confidence of his son,
gave the pilot a white sail, which he was to hoist, if, on his return,
he bore back Theseus in safety: if not, the black was once more to be
the herald of an unhappier fate.  It is probable that Theseus did not
esteem this among the most dangerous of his adventures.  At the court
of the wise Pittheus, or in the course of his travels, he had
doubtless heard enough of the character of Minos, the greatest and
most sagacious monarch of his time, to be convinced that the son of
the Athenian king would have little to fear from his severity.  He
arrived at Crete, and obtained the love of Ariadne, the daughter of
Minos.  Now follows a variety of contradictory accounts, the most
probable and least poetical of which are given by Plutarch; but as he
concludes them all by the remark that none are of certainty, it is a
needless task to repeat them: it suffices to relate, that either with
or without the consent of Minos, Theseus departed from Crete, in
company with Ariadne, and that by one means or the other he
thenceforth freed the Athenians from the payment of the accustomed
tribute.  As it is obvious that with the petty force with which, by
all accounts, he sailed to Crete, he could not have conquered the
powerful Minos in his own city, so it is reasonable to conclude, as
one of the traditions hath it, that the king consented to his alliance
with his daughter, and, in consequence of that marriage, waived all
farther claim to the tribute of the Athenians. [91]

Equal obscurity veils the fate of the loving Ariadne; but the
supposition which seems least objectionable is, that Theseus was
driven by storm either on Cyprus or Naxos, and Ariadne being then with
child, and rendered ill by the violence of the waves, was left on
shore by her lover while he returned to take charge of his vessel;
that she died in childbed, and that Theseus, on his return, was
greatly afflicted, and instituted an annual festival in her honour.
While we adopt the story most probable in itself, and most honourable
to the character of the Athenian hero, we cannot regret the various
romance which is interwoven with the tale of the unfortunate Cretan,
since it has given us some of the most beautiful inventions of
poetry;--the Labyrinth love-lighted by Ariadne--the Cretan maid
deserted by the stranger with whom she fled--left forlorn and alone on
the Naxian shore--and consoled by Bacchus and his satyr horde.

VI.  Before he arrived at Athens, Theseus rested at Delos, where he is
said to have instituted games, and to have originated the custom of
crowning the victor with the palm.  Meanwhile Aegeus waited the return
of his son.  On the Cecropian rock that yet fronts the sea, he watched
the coming of the vessel and the waving of the white sail: the masts
appeared--the ship approached--the white sail was not visible: in the
joy and the impatience of the homeward crew, the pilot had forgotten
to hoist the appointed signal, and the old man in despair threw
himself from the rock and was dashed to pieces.  Theseus received the
news of his father's death with sorrow and lamentation.  His triumph
and return were recorded by periodical festivals, in which the fate of
Aegeus was typically alluded to, and the vessel of thirty oars with
which he had sailed to Crete was preserved by the Athenians to the
times of Demetrius the Phalerean--so often new-pieced and repaired,
that it furnished a favourite thesis to philosophical disputants,
whether it was or was not the same vessel which Theseus had employed.

VII.  Possessed of the supreme power, Theseus now bent his genius to
the task of legislation, and in this part of his life we tread upon
firmer ground, because the most judicious of the ancient historians
[92] expressly attributes to the son of Aegeus those enactments which
so mainly contributed to consolidate the strength and union of the
Athenian people.

Although Cecrops is said to have brought the tribes of Attica under
one government, yet it will be remembered that he had divided the
territory into twelve districts, with a fortress or capital to each.
By degrees these several districts had become more and more distinct
from each other, and in many cases of emergency it was difficult to
obtain a general assembly or a general concurrence of the people; nay,
differences had often sprung up between the tribes, which had been
adjusted, not as among common citizens, by law, but as among jealous
enemies, by arms and bloodshed.  It was the master policy of Theseus
to unite these petty commonwealths in one state.  He applied in
person, and by all the arte of persuasion, to each tribe: the poor he
found ready enough to listen to an invitation which promised them the
shelter of a city, and the protection of a single government from the
outrage of many tyrants: the rich and the powerful were more jealous
of their independent, scattered, and, as it were, feudal life.  But
these he sought to conciliate by promises that could not but flatter
that very prejudice of liberty which naturally at first induced them
to oppose his designs.  He pledged his faith to a constitution which
should leave the power in the hands of the many.  He himself, as
monarch, desired only the command in war, and in peace the
guardianship of laws he was equally bound to obey.  Some were induced
by his persuasions, others by the fear of his power, until at length
he obtained his object.  By common consent he dissolved the
towns'-corporations and councils in each separate town, and built in
Athens one common prytaneum or council-hall, existent still in the time
of Plutarch.  He united the scattered streets and houses of the citadel,
and the new town that had grown up along the plain, by the common name
of "Athens," and instituted the festival of the Panathenaea, in honour
of the guardian goddess of the city, and as a memorial of the
confederacy.  Adhering then to his promises, he set strict and narrow
limits to the regal power, created, under the name of eupatrids or
well-born, an hereditary nobility, and divided into two orders (the
husbandmen and mechanics) the remainder of the people.  The care of
religion, the explanation of the laws, and the situations of
magistrates, were the privilege of the nobles.  He thus laid the
foundation of a free, though aristocratic constitution--according to
Aristotle, the first who surrendered the absolute sway of royalty, and
receiving from the rhetorical Isocrates the praise that it was a contest
which should give most, the people of power, or the king of freedom.  As
an extensive population was necessary to a powerful state, so Theseus
invited to Athens all strangers willing to share in the benefits of its
protection, granting them equal security of life and law; and he set a
demarcation to the territory of the state by the boundary of a pillar
erected in the Isthmus, dividing Ionia from Peloponnesus.  The Isthmian
games in honour of Neptune were also the invention of Theseus.

VIII.  Such are the accounts of the legislative enactments of Theseus.
But of these we must reject much.  We may believe from the account of
Thucydides that jealousies among some Attic towns--which might either
possess, or pretend to, an independence never completely annihilated
by Cecrops and his successors, and which the settlement of foreigners
of various tribes and habits would have served to increase--were so
far terminated as to induce submission to the acknowledged supremacy
of Athens as the Attic capital; and that the right of justice, and
even of legislation, which had before been the prerogative of each
separate town (to the evident weakening of the supreme and regal
authority), was now concentrated in the common council-house of
Athens.  To Athens, as to a capital, the eupatrids of Attica would
repair as a general residence [93].  The city increased in population
and importance, and from this period Thucydides dates the enlargement
of the ancient city, by the addition of the Lower Town.  That Theseus
voluntarily lessened the royal power, it is not necessary to believe.
In the heroic age a warlike race had sprung up, whom no Grecian
monarch appears to have attempted to govern arbitrarily in peace,
though they yielded implicitly to his authority in war.  Himself on a
newly-won and uncertain throne, it was the necessity as well as the
policy of Theseus to conciliate the most powerful of his subjects.  It
may also be conceded, that he more strictly defined the distinctions
between the nobles and the remaining classes, whether yeomen or
husbandmen, mechanics or strangers; and it is recorded that the
honours and the business of legislation were the province of the
eupatrids.  It is possible that the people might be occasionally
convened--but it is clear that they had little, if any, share in the
government of the state.  But the mere establishment and confirmation
of a powerful aristocracy, and the mere collection of the population
into a capital, were sufficient to prepare the way for far more
democratic institutions than Theseus himself contemplated or designed.
For centuries afterward an oligarchy ruled in Athens; but, free
itself, that oligarchy preserved in its monopoly the principles of
liberty, expanding in their influence with the progress of society.
The democracy of Athens was not an ancient, yet not a sudden,
constitution.  It developed itself slowly, unconsciously,
continuously--passing the allotted orbit of royalty, oligarchy,
aristocracy, timocracy, tyranny, till at length it arrived at its
dazzling zenith, blazed--waned--and disappeared.

After the successful issue of his legislative attempts, we next hear
of Theseus less as the monarch of history than as the hero of song.
On these later traditions, which belong to fable, it is not necessary
to dwell.  Our own Coeur de Lion suggests no improbable resemblance to
a spirit cast in times yet more wild and enterprising, and without
seeking interpretations, after the fashion of allegory or system, of
each legend, it is the most simple hypothesis, that Theseus really
departed in quest of adventure from a dominion that afforded no scope
for a desultory and eager ambition; and that something of truth lurks
beneath many of the rich embellishments which his wanderings and
exploits received from the exuberant poetry and the rude credibility
of the age.  During his absence, Menestheus, of the royal race of
Attica, who, Plutarch simply tells us, was the first of mankind that
undertook the profession of a demagogue, ingratiated himself with the
people, or rather with the nobles.  The absence of a king is always
the nurse of seditions, and Menestheus succeeded in raising so
powerful a faction against the hero, that on his return Theseus was
unable to preserve himself in the government, and, pouring forth a
solemn curse on the Athenians, departed to Scyros, where he either
fell by accident from a precipice, or was thrown down by the king.
His death at first was but little regarded; in after-times, to appease
his ghost and expiate his curse, divine honours were awarded to his
memory; and in the most polished age of his descendants, his supposed
remains, indicated by an eagle in the skeleton of a man of giant
stature, with a lance of brass and a sword by his side, were brought
to Athens in the galley of Cimon, hailed by the shouts of a joyous
multitude, "as if the living Theseus were come again."

X.  I have not altogether discarded, while I have abridged, the
legends relating to a hero who undoubtedly exercised considerable
influence over his country and his time, because in those legends we
trace, better than we could do by dull interpretations equally
unsatisfactory though more prosaic, the effigy of the heroic age--not
unillustrative of the poetry and the romance which at once formed and
indicated important features in the character of the Athenians.  Much
of the national spirit of every people, even in its most civilized
epochs, is to be traced to the influence of that age which may be
called the heroic.  The wild adventurers of the early Greece tended to
humanize even in their excesses.  It is true that there are many
instances of their sternness, ferocity, and revenge;--they were
insolent from the consciousness of surpassing strength;--often cruel
from that contempt of life common to the warlike.  But the darker side
of their character is far less commonly presented to us than the
brighter--they seem to have been alive to generous emotions more
readily than any other race so warlike in an age so rude--their
affections were fervid as their hatreds--their friendships more
remarkable than their feuds.  Even their ferocity was not, as with the
Scandinavian heroes, a virtue and a boast--their public opinion
honoured the compassionate and the clement.  Thus Hercules is said
first to have introduced the custom of surrendering to the enemy the
corpses of their slain; and mildness, justice, and courtesy are no
less his attributes than invincible strength and undaunted courage.
Traversing various lands, these paladins of an elder chivalry acquired
an experience of different governments and customs, which assisted on
their return to polish and refine the admiring tribes which their
achievements had adorned.  Like the knights of a Northern mythus,
their duty was to punish the oppressor and redress the wronged, and
they thus fixed in the wild elements of unsettled opinion a recognised
standard of generosity and of justice.  Their deeds became the theme
of the poets, who sought to embellish their virtues and extenuate
their offences.  Thus, certain models, not indeed wholly pure or
excellent, but bright with many of those qualities which ennoble a
national character, were set before the emulation of the aspiring and
the young:--and the traditional fame of a Hercules or a Theseus assisted
to inspire the souls of those who, ages afterward, broke the Mede at
Marathon, and arrested the Persian might in the Pass of Thermopylae.
For, as the spirit of a poet has its influence on the destiny and
character of nations, so TIME itself hath his own poetry, preceding
and calling forth the poetry of the human genius, and breathing
inspirations, imaginative and imperishable, from the great deeds and
gigantic images of an ancestral and traditionary age.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us resume our survey.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pass now to the social system of the Spartans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

XII.  The origin of the Helot race is not clearly ascertained: the
popular notion that they were the descendants of the inhabitants of
Helos, a maritime town subdued by the Spartans, and that they were
degraded to servitude after a revolt, is by no means a conclusive
account.  Whether, as Mueller suggests, they were the original slave
population of the Achaeans, or whether, as the ancient authorities
held, they were such of the Achaeans themselves as had most
obstinately resisted the Spartan sword, and had at last surrendered
without conditions, is a matter it is now impossible to determine.
For my own part, I incline to the former supposition, partly because
of the wide distinction between the enslaved Helots and the (merely)
inferior Perioeci, who were certainly Achaeans; a distinction which I
do not think the different manner in which the two classes were
originally subdued would suffice to account for; partly because I
doubt whether the handful of Dorians who first fixed their dangerous
settlement in Laconia could have effectually subjugated the Helots, if
the latter had not previously been inured to slavery.  The objection
to this hypothesis--that the Helots could scarcely have so hated the
Spartans if they had merely changed masters, does not appear to me
very cogent.  Under the mild and paternal chiefs of the Homeric age
[145], they might have been subjected to a much gentler servitude.
Accustomed to the manners and habits of their Achaean lords, they
might have half forgotten their condition; and though governed by
Spartans in the same external relations, it was in a very different
spirit.  The sovereign contempt with which the Spartans regarded the
Helots, they would scarcely have felt for a tribe distinguished from
the more honoured Perioeci only by a sterner valour and a greater
regard for freedom; while that contempt is easily accounted for, if
its objects were the previously subdued population of a country the
Spartans themselves subdued.

The Helots were considered the property of the state--but they were
intrusted and leased, as it were, to individuals; they were bound to
the soil; even the state did not arrogate the power of selling them
out of the country; they paid to their masters a rent in corn--the
surplus profits were their own.  It was easier for a Helot than for a
Spartan to acquire riches--but riches were yet more useless to him.
Some of the Helots attended their masters at the public tables, and
others were employed in all public works: they served in the field as
light-armed troops: they were occasionally emancipated, but there were
several intermediate grades between the Helot and the freeman; their
nominal duties were gentle indeed when compared with the spirit in
which they were regarded and the treatment they received.  That much
exaggeration respecting the barbarity of their masters existed is
probable enough; but the exaggeration itself, among writers accustomed
to the institution of slavery elsewhere, and by no means addicted to
an overstrained humanity, is a proof of the manner in which the
treatment of the Helots was viewed by the more gentle slave-masters of
the rest of Greece.  They were branded with ineffaceable dishonour: no
Helot might sing a Spartan song; if he but touched what belonged to a
Spartan it was profaned--he was the Pariah of Greece.  The ephors--the
popular magistrates--the guardians of freedom--are reported by
Aristotle to have entered office in making a formal declaration of war
against the Helots--probably but an idle ceremony of disdain and
insult.  We cannot believe with Plutarch, that the infamous cryptia
was instituted for the purpose he assigns--viz., that it was an
ambuscade of the Spartan youths, who dispersed themselves through the
country, and by night murdered whomsoever of the Helots they could
meet.  But it is certain that a select portion of the younger Spartans
ranged the country yearly, armed with daggers, and that with the
object of attaining familiarity with military hardships was associated
that of strict, stern, and secret surveillance over the Helot
population.  No Helot, perhaps, was murdered from mere wantonness; but
who does not see how many would necessarily have been butchered at the
slightest suspicion of disaffection, or for the faintest utility of
example?  These miserable men were the objects of compassion to all
Greece.  "It was the common opinion," says Aelian, "that the
earthquake in Sparta was a judgment from the gods upon the Spartan
inhumanity to the Helots."  And perhaps in all history (not even
excepting that awful calmness with which the Italian historians
narrate the cruelties of a Paduan tyrant or a Venetian oligarchy)
there is no record of crime more thrilling than that dark and terrible
passage in Thucydides which relates how two thousand Helots, the best
and bravest of their tribe, were selected as for reward and freedom,
how they were led to the temples in thanksgiving to the gods--and how
they disappeared, their fate notorious--the manner of it a mystery!

XIII.  Besides the Helots, the Spartans exercised an authority over
the intermediate class called the Perioeci.  These were indubitably
the old Achaean race, who had been reduced, not to slavery, but to
dependance.  They retained possession of their own towns, estimated in
number, after the entire conquest of Messenia, at one hundred.  They
had their own different grades and classes, as the Saxons retained
theirs after the conquest of the Normans.  Among these were the
traders and manufacturers of Laconia; and thus whatever art attained
of excellence in the dominions of Sparta was not Spartan but Achaean.
They served in the army, sometimes as heavy-armed, sometimes as
light-armed soldiery, according to their rank or callings; and one of
the Perioeci obtained the command at sea.  They appear, indeed, to have
been universally acknowledged throughout Greece as free citizens, yet
dependant subjects.  But the Spartans jealously and sternly maintained
the distinction between exemption from the servitude of a Helot, and
participation in the rights of a Dorian: the Helot lost his personal
liberty--the Perioecus his political.

XIV.  The free or purely Spartan population (as not improbably with
every Doric state) was divided into three generic tribes--the Hyllean,
the Dymanatan, and the Pamphylian: of these the Hyllean (the reputed
descendants of the son of Hercules) gave to Sparta both her kings.
Besides these tribes of blood or race, there were also five local
tribes, which formed the constituency of the ephors, and thirty
subdivisions called obes--according to which the more aristocratic
offices appear to have been elected.  There were also recognised in
the Spartan constitution two distinct classes--the Equals and the
Inferiors.  Though these were hereditary divisions, merit might
promote a member of the last--demerit degrade a member of the first.
The Inferiors, though not boasting the nobility of the Equals, often
possessed men equally honoured and powerful: as among the commoners of
England are sometimes found persons of higher birth and more important
station than among the peers--(a term somewhat synonymous with that
of Equal.)  But the higher class enjoyed certain privileges which we
can but obscurely trace [146].  Forming an assembly among themselves,
it may be that they alone elected to the senate; and perhaps they were
also distinguished by some peculiarities of education--an assertion
made by Mr. Mueller, but not to my mind sufficiently established.
With respect to the origin of this distinction between the Inferiors
and the Equals, my own belief is, that it took place at some period
(possibly during the Messenian wars) when the necessities of a failing
population induced the Spartans to increase their number by the
admixture either of strangers, but (as that hypothesis is scarce
agreeable to Spartan manners) more probably of the Perioeci; the new
citizens would thus be the Inferiors.  Among the Greek settlements in
Italy, it was by no means uncommon for a colony, once sufficiently
established, only to admit new settlers even from the parent state
upon inferior terms; and in like manner in Venice arose the
distinction between the gentlemen and the citizens; for when to that
sea-girt state many flocked for security and refuge, it seemed but
just to give to the prior inhabitants the distinction of hosts, and to
consider the immigrators as guests;--to the first a share in the
administration and a superior dignity--to the last only shelter and

XV.  Such are the general outlines of the state and constitution of
Sparta--the firmest aristocracy that perhaps ever existed, for it was
an aristocracy on the widest base.  If some Spartans were noble, every
Spartan boasted himself gentle.  His birth forbade him to work, and
his only profession was the sword.  The difference between the meanest
Spartan and his king was not so great as that between a Spartan and a
Perioecus.  Not only the servitude of the Helots, but the subjection
of the Perioeci, perpetually nourished the pride of the superior race;
and to be born a Spartan was to be born to power.  The sense of
superiority and the habit of command impart a certain elevation to the
manner and the bearing.  There was probably more of dignity in the
poorest Spartan citizen than in the wealthiest noble of Corinth--the
most voluptuous courtier of Syracuse.  And thus the reserve, the
decorum, the stately simplicity of the Spartan mien could not but
impose upon the imagination of the other Greeks, and obtain the credit
for correspondent qualities which did not always exist beneath that
lofty exterior.  To lively nations, affected by externals, there was
much in that sedate majesty of demeanour; to gallant nations, much in
that heroic valour; to superstitious nations, much in that proverbial
regard to religious rites, which characterized the Spartan race.
Declaimers on luxury admired their simplicity--the sufferers from
innovation, their adherence to ancient manners.  Many a victim of the
turbulence of party in Athens sighed for the repose of the
Lacedaemonian city; and as we always exaggerate the particular evils
we endure, and admire most blindly the circumstances most opposite to
those by which we are affected, so it was often the fashion of more
intellectual states to extol the institutions of which they saw only
from afar and through a glass the apparent benefits, without examining
the concomitant defects.  An Athenian might laud the Spartan
austerity, as Tacitus might laud the German barbarism; it was the
panegyric of rhetoric and satire, of wounded patriotism or
disappointed ambition.  Although the ephors made the government really
and latently democratic, yet the concentration of its action made it
seemingly oligarchic; and in its secrecy, caution, vigilance, and
energy, it exhibited the best of the oligarchic features.  Whatever
was democratic by law was counteracted in its results by all that was
aristocratic in custom.  It was a state of political freedom, but of
social despotism.  This rigidity of ancient usages was binding long
after its utility was past.  For what was admirable at one time became
pernicious at another; what protected the infant state from
dissension, stinted all luxuriance of intellect in the more matured
community.  It is in vain that modern writers have attempted to deny
this fact--the proof is before us.  By her valour Sparta was long the
most eminent state of the most intellectual of all countries; and when
we ask what she has bequeathed to mankind--what she has left us in
rivalry to that Athens, whose poetry yet animates, whose philosophy
yet guides, whose arts yet inspire the world--we find only the names
of two or three minor poets, whose works have perished, and some half
a dozen pages of pithy aphorisms and pointed repartees!

XVI.  My object in the above sketch has been to give a general outline
of the Spartan character and the Spartan system during the earlier and
more brilliant era of Athenian history, without entering into
unnecessary conjectures as to the precise period of each law and each
change.  The social and political state of Sparta became fixed by her
conquest of Messenia.  It is not within the plan of my undertaking to
retail at length the legendary and for the most part fabulous accounts
of the first and second Messenian wars.  The first was dignified by
the fate of the Messenian hero Aristodemus, and the fall of the rocky
fortress of Ithome; its result was the conquest of Messenia (probably
begun 743 B. C., ended 723); the inhabitants were compelled to an oath
of submission, and to surrender to Sparta half their agricultural
produce.  After the first Messenian war, Tarentum was founded by a
Spartan colony, composed, it is said, of youths [147], the offspring
of Spartan women and Laconian men, who were dissatisfied with their
exclusion from citizenship, and by whom the state was menaced with a
formidable conspiracy shared by the Helots.  Meanwhile, the
Messenians, if conquered, were not subdued.  Years rolled away, and
time had effaced the remembrance of the past sufferings, but not of
the ancient [148] liberties.

It was among the youth of Messenia that the hope of the national
deliverance was the most intensely cherished.  At length, in Andania,
the revolt broke forth.  A young man, pre-eminent above the rest for
birth, for valour, and for genius, was the head and the soul of the
enterprise (probably B. C. 679).  His name was Aristomenes.  Forming
secret alliances with the Argives and Arcadians, he at length ventured
to raise his standard, and encountered at Dera, on their own domains,
the Spartan force.  The issue of the battle was indecisive; still,
however, it seems to have seriously aroused the fears of Sparta: no
further hostilities took place till the following year; the oracle at
Delphi was solemnly consulted, and the god ordained the Spartans to
seek their adviser in an Athenian.  They sent to Athens and obtained
Tyrtaeus.  A popular but fabulous account [149] describes him as a
lame teacher of grammar, and of no previous repute.  His songs and his
exhortations are said to have produced almost miraculous effects.  I
omit the romantic adventures of the hero Aristomenes, though it may be
doubted whether all Grecian history can furnish passages that surpass
the poetry of his reputed life.  I leave the reader to learn elsewhere
how he hung at night a shield in the temple of Chalcioecus, in the
very city of the foe, with the inscription, that Aristomenes dedicated
to the goddess that shield from the spoils of the Spartans--how he
penetrated the secret recesses of Trophonius--how he was deterred from
entering Sparta by the spectres of Helen and the Dioscuri--how, taken
prisoner in an attempt to seize the women of Aegila, he was released
by the love of the priestess of Ceres--how, again made captive, and
cast into a deep pit with fifty of his men, he escaped by seizing hold
of a fox (attracted thither by the dead bodies), and suffering himself
to be drawn by her through dark and scarce pervious places to a hole
that led to the upper air.  These adventures, and others equally
romantic, I must leave to the genius of more credulous historians.

All that seems to me worthy of belief is, that after stern but
unavailing struggles, the Messenians abandoned Andania, and took their
last desperate station at Ira, a mountain at whose feet flows the
river Neda, separating Messenia from Triphylia.  Here, fortified alike
by art and nature, they sustained a siege of eleven years.  But with
the eleventh the term of their resistance was completed.  The slave of
a Spartan of rank had succeeded in engaging the affections of a
Messenian woman who dwelt without the walls of the mountain fortress.
One night the guilty pair were at the house of the adulteress--the
husband abruptly returned--the slave was concealed, and overheard
that, in consequence of a violent and sudden storm, the Messenian
guard had deserted the citadel, not fearing attack from the foe on so
tempestuous a night, and not anticipating the inspection of
Aristomenes, who at that time was suffering from a wound.  The slave
overheard--escaped--reached the Spartan camp--apprized his master
Emperamus (who, in the absence of the kings, headed the troops) of the
desertion of the guard:--an assault was agreed on: despite the
darkness of the night, despite the violence of the rain, the Spartans
marched on:--scaled the fortifications:--were within the walls.  The
fulfilment of dark prophecies had already portended the fate of the
besieged; and now the very howling of the dogs in a strange and
unwonted manner was deemed a prodigy.  Alarmed, aroused, the
Messenians betook themselves to the nearest weapons within their
reach.  Aristomenes, his son Gorgus, Theoclus, the guardian prophet of
his tribe (whose valour was equal to his science), were among the
first to perceive the danger.  Night passed in tumult and disorder.
Day dawned, but rather to terrify than encourage--the storm increased
--the thunder burst--the lightning glared.  What dismayed the besieged
encouraged the besiegers.  Still, with all the fury of despair, the
Messenians fought on: the very women took part in the contest; death
was preferable, even in their eyes, to slavery and dishonour.  But the
Spartans were far superior in number, and, by continual reliefs, the
fresh succeeded to the weary.  In arms for three days and three nights
without respite, worn out with watching, with the rage of the
elements, with cold, with hunger, and with thirst, no hope remained
for the Messenians: the bold prophet declared to Aristomenes that the
gods had decreed the fall of Messene, that the warning oracles were
fulfilled.  "Preserve," he cried, "what remain of your forces--save
yourselves.  Me the gods impel to fall with my country!"  Thus saying,
the soothsayer rushed on the enemy, and fell at last covered with
wounds and satiated with the slaughter himself had made.  Aristomenes
called the Messenians round him; the women and the children were
placed in the centre of the band, guarded by his own son and that of
the prophet.  Heading the troop himself, he rushed on the foe, and by
his gestures and the shaking of his spear announced his intention to
force a passage, and effect escape.  Unwilling yet more to exasperate
men urged to despair, the Spartans made way for the rest of the
besieged.  So fell Ira! (probably B. C. 662). [150]  The brave
Messenians escaped to Mount Lyceum in Arcadia, and afterward the
greater part, invited by Anaxilaus, their own countryman, prince of
the Dorian colony at Rhegium in Italy, conquered with him the
Zanclaeans of Sicily, and named the conquered town Messene.  It still
preserves the name [151].  But Aristomenes, retaining indomitable
hatred to Sparta, refused to join the colony.  Yet hoping a day of
retribution, he went to Delphi.  What counsel he there received is
unrecorded.  But the deity ordained to Damagetes, prince of Jalysus in
Rhodes, to marry the daughter of the best man of Greece.  Such a man
the prince esteemed the hero of the Messenians, and wedded the third
daughter of Aristomenes.  Still bent on designs against the destroyers
of his country, the patriot warrior repaired to Rhodes, where death
delivered the Spartans from the terror of his revenge.  A monument was
raised to his memory, and that memory, distinguished by public
honours, long made the boast of the Messenians, whether those in
distant exile, or those subjected to the Spartan yoke.  Thus ended the
second Messenian war.  Such of the Messenians as had not abandoned
their country were reduced to Helotism.  The Spartan territory
extended, and the Spartan power secured, that haughty state rose
slowly to pre-eminence over the rest of Greece; and preserved, amid
the advancing civilization and refinement of her neighbours, the stern
and awing likeness of the heroic age:--In the mountains of the
Peloponnesus, the polished and luxurious Greeks beheld, retained from
change as by a spell, the iron images of their Homeric ancestry!


Governments in Greece.

I.  The return of the Heraclidae occasioned consequences of which the
most important were the least immediate.  Whenever the Dorians forced
a settlement, they dislodged such of the previous inhabitants as
refused to succumb.  Driven elsewhere to seek a home, the exiles found
it often in yet fairer climes, and along more fertile soils.  The
example of these involuntary migrators became imitated wherever
discontent prevailed or population was redundant: and hence, as I have
already recorded, first arose those numerous colonies, which along the
Asiatic shores, in the Grecian isles, on the plains of Italy, and even
in Libya and in Egypt, were destined to give, as it were, a second
youth to the parent states.

II.  The ancient Greek constitution was that of an aristocracy, with a
prince at the head.  Suppose a certain number of men, thus governed,
to be expelled their native soil, united by a common danger and common
suffering, to land on a foreign shore, to fix themselves with pain and
labour in a new settlement--it is quite clear that a popular principle
would insensibly have entered the forms of the constitution they
transplanted.  In the first place, the power of the prince would be
more circumscribed--in the next place, the free spirit of the
aristocracy would be more diffused: the first, because the authority
of the chief would rarely be derived from royal ancestry, or hallowed
by prescriptive privilege; in most cases he was but a noble, selected
from the ranks, and crippled by the jealousies, of his order: the
second, because all who shared in the enterprise would in one respect
rise at once to an aristocracy--they would be distinguished from the
population of the state they colonized.  Misfortune, sympathy, and
change would also contribute to sweep away many demarcations; and
authority was transmuted from a birthright into a trust, the moment it
was withdrawn from the shelter of ancient custom, and made the gift of
the living rather than a heritage from the dead.  It was probable,
too, that many of such colonies were founded by men, among whom was
but little disparity of rank: this would be especially the case with
those which were the overflow of a redundant population; the great and
the wealthy are never redundant!--the mass would thus ordinarily be
composed of the discontented and the poor, and even where the
aristocratic leaven was most strong, it was still the aristocracy of
some defeated and humbled faction.  So that in the average equality of
the emigrators were the seeds of a new constitution; and if they
transplanted the form of monarchy, it already contained the genius of
republicanism.  Hence, colonies in the ancient, as in the modern
world, advanced by giant strides towards popular principles.
Maintaining a constant intercourse with their father-land, their own
constitutions became familiar and tempting to the population of the
countries they had abandoned; and much of whatsoever advantages were
derived from the soil they selected, and the commerce they found
within their reach, was readily attributed only to their more popular
constitutions; as, at this day, we find American prosperity held out
to our example, not as the result of local circumstances, but as the
creature of political institutions.

One principal cause of the republican forms of government that began
(as, after the Dorian migration, the different tribes became settled
in those seats by which they are historically known) to spread
throughout Greece, was, therefore, the establishment of colonies
retaining constant intercourse with the parent states.  A second cause
is to be found in the elements of the previous constitutions of the
Grecian states themselves, and the political principles which existed
universally, even in the heroic ages: so that, in fact, the change
from monarchy to republicanism was much less violent than at the first
glance it would seem to our modern notions.  The ancient kings, as
described by Homer, possessed but a limited authority, like that of
the Spartan kings--extensive in war, narrow in peace.  It was
evidently considered that the source of their authority was in the
people.  No notion seems to have been more universal among the Greeks
than that it was for the community that all power was to be exercised.
In Homer's time popular assemblies existed, and claimed the right of
conferring privileges on rank.  The nobles were ever jealous of the
prerogative of the prince, and ever encroaching on his accidental
weakness.  In his sickness, his age, or his absence, the power of the
state seems to have been wrested from his hands--the prey of the
chiefs, or the dispute of contending factions.  Nor was there in
Greece that chivalric fealty to a person which characterizes the
North.  From the earliest times it was not the MONARCH, that called
forth the virtue of devotion, and inspired the enthusiasm of loyalty.
Thus, in the limited prerogative of royalty, in the jealousy of the
chiefs, in the right of popular assemblies, and, above all, in the
silent and unconscious spirit of political theory, we may recognise in
the early monarchies of Greece the germes of their inevitable
dissolution.  Another cause was in that singular separation of tribes,
speaking a common language, and belonging to a common race, which
characterized the Greeks.  Instead of overrunning a territory in one
vast irruption, each section seized a small district, built a city,
and formed an independent people.  Thus, in fact, the Hellenic
governments were not those of a country, but of a town; and the words
"state" and "city" were synonymous [152].  Municipal constitutions, in
their very nature, are ever more or less republican; and, as in the
Italian states, the corporation had only to shake off some power
unconnected with, or hostile to it, to rise into a republic.  To this
it may be added, that the true republican spirit is more easily
established among mountain tribes imperfectly civilized, and yet fresh
from the wildness of the natural life, than among old states, where
luxury leaves indeed the desire, but has enervated the power of
liberty, "as the marble from the quarry may be more readily wrought
into the statue, than that on which the hand of the workman has
already been employed." [153]

III.  If the change from monarchy to republicanism was not very
violent in itself, it appears to have been yet more smoothed away by
gradual preparations.  Monarchy was not abolished, it declined.  The
direct line was broken, or some other excuse occurred for exchanging
an hereditary for an elective monarchy; then the period of power
became shortened, and from monarchy for life it was monarchy only for
a certain number of years: in most cases the name too (and how much is
there in names!) was changed, and the title of ruler or magistrate
substituted for that of king.

Thus, by no sudden leap of mind, by no vehement and short-lived
revolutions, but gradually, insensibly, and permanently, monarchy
ceased--a fashion, as it were, worn out and obsolete--and
republicanism succeeded.  But this republicanism at first was probably
in no instance purely democratic.  It was the chiefs who were the
visible agents in the encroachments on the monarchic power--it was an
aristocracy that succeeded monarchy.  Sometimes this aristocracy was
exceedingly limited in number, or the governing power was usurped by a
particular faction or pre-eminent families; then it was called an
OLIGARCHY.  And this form of aristocracy appears generally to have
been the most immediate successor to royalty.  "The first polity,"
says Aristotle [154], "that was established in Greece after the lapse
of monarchies, was that of the members of the military class, and
those wholly horsemen," . . . . . "such republics, though called
democracies, had a strong tendency to oligarchy, and even to royalty."
[155]  But the spirit of change still progressed: whether they were
few or many, the aristocratic governors could not fail to open the
door to further innovations.  For, if many, they were subjected to
dissensions among themselves--if few, they created odium in all who
were excluded from power.  Thus fell the oligarchies of Marseilles,
Ister, and Heraclea.  In the one case they were weakened by their own
jealousies, in the other by the jealousies of their rivals.  The
progress of civilization and the growing habits of commerce gradually
introduced a medium between the populace and the chiefs.  The MIDDLE
CLASS slowly rose, and with it rose the desire of extended liberties
and equal laws. [156]

IV.  Now then appeared the class of DEMAGOGUES.  The people had been
accustomed to change.  They had been led against monarchy, and found
they had only resigned the one master to obtain the many:--A demagogue
arose, sometimes one of their own order, more often a dissatisfied,
ambitious, or empoverished noble.  For they who have wasted their
patrimony, as the Stagirite shrewdly observes, are great promoters of
innovation!  Party ran high--the state became divided--passions were
aroused--and the popular leader became the popular idol.  His life was
probably often in danger from the resentment of the nobles, and it was
always easy to assert that it was so endangered.--He obtained a guard
to protect him, conciliated the soldiers, seized the citadel, and rose
at once from the head of the populace to the ruler of the state.  Such
was the common history of the tyrants of Greece, who never supplanted
the kingly sway (unless in the earlier ages, when, born to a limited
monarchy, they extended their privileges beyond the law, as Pheidon of
Argos), but nearly always aristocracies or oligarchies [157].  I need
scarcely observe that the word "tyrant" was of very different
signification in ancient times from that which it bears at present.
It more nearly corresponded to our word "usurper," and denoted one
who, by illegitimate means, whether of art or force, had usurped the
supreme authority.  A tyrant might be mild or cruel, the father of the
people, or their oppressor; he still preserved the name, and it was
transmitted to his children.  The merits of this race of rulers, and
the unconscious benefits they produced, have not been justly
appreciated, either by ancient or modern historians.  Without her
tyrants, Greece might never have established her democracies.  As may
be readily supposed, the man who, against powerful enemies, often from
a low origin and with empoverished fortunes, had succeeded in
ascending a throne, was usually possessed of no ordinary abilities.
It was almost vitally necessary for him to devote those abilities to
the cause and interests of the people.  Their favour had alone raised
him--numerous foes still surrounded him--it was on the people alone
that he could depend.

The wiser and more celebrated tyrants were characterized by an extreme
modesty of deportment--they assumed no extraordinary pomp, no lofty
titles--they left untouched, or rendered yet more popular, the outward
forms and institutions of the government--they were not exacting in
taxation--they affected to link themselves with the lowest orders, and
their ascendency was usually productive of immediate benefit to the
working classes, whom they employed in new fortifications or new
public buildings; dazzling the citizens by a splendour that seemed
less the ostentation of an individual than the prosperity of a state.
But the aristocracy still remained their enemies, and it was against
them, not against the people, that they directed their acute
sagacities and unsparing energies.  Every more politic tyrant was a
Louis the Eleventh, weakening the nobles, creating a middle class.  He
effected his former object by violent and unscrupulous means.  He
swept away by death or banishment all who opposed his authority or
excited his fears.  He thus left nothing between the state and a
democracy but himself; himself removed, democracy ensued naturally and
of course.  There are times in the history of all nations when liberty
is best promoted--when civilization is most rapidly expedited--when
the arts are most luxuriantly nourished by a strict concentration of
power in the hands of an individual--and when the despot is but the
representative of the popular will [158].  At such times did the
tyrannies in Greece mostly flourish, and they may almost be said to
cease with the necessity which called them forth.  The energy of these
masters of a revolution opened the intercourse with other states;
their interests extended commerce; their policy broke up the sullen
barriers of oligarchical prejudice and custom; their fears found
perpetual vent for the industry of a population whom they dreaded to
leave in indolence; their genius appreciated the arts--their vanity
fostered them.  Thus they interrupted the course of liberty only to
improve, to concentre, to advance its results.  Their dynasty never
lasted long; the oldest tyranny in Greece endured but a hundred years
[159]--so enduring only from its mildness.  The son of the tyrant
rarely inherited his father's sagacity and talents: he sought to
strengthen his power by severity; discontent ensued, and his fall was
sudden and complete.  Usually, then, such of the aristocracy as had
been banished were recalled, but not invested with their former
privileges.  The constitution became more or less democratic.  It is
true that Sparta, who lent her powerful aid in destroying tyrannies,
aimed at replacing them by oligarchies--but the effort seldom produced
a permanent result: the more the aristocracy was narrowed, the more
certain was its fall.  If the middle class were powerful--if commerce
thrived in the state--the former aristocracy of birth was soon
succeeded by an aristocracy of property (called a timocracy), and this
was in its nature certain of democratic advances.  The moment you
widen the suffrage, you may date the commencement of universal
suffrage.  He who enjoys certain advantages from the possession of ten
acres, will excite a party against him in those who have nine; and the
arguments that had been used for the franchise of the one are equally
valid for the franchise of the other.  Limitations of power by
property are barriers against a tide which perpetually advances.
Timocracy, therefore, almost invariably paved the way to democracy.
But still the old aristocratic faction, constantly invaded, remained
powerful, stubborn, and resisting, and there was scarcely a state in
Greece that did not contain the two parties which we find to-day in
England, and in all free states--the party of the movement to the
future, and the party of recurrence to the past; I say the past, for
in politics there is no present!  Wherever party exists, if the one
desire fresh innovations, so the other secretly wishes not to preserve
what remains, but to restore what has been.  This fact it is necessary
always to bear in mind in examining the political contests of the
Athenians.  For in most of their domestic convulsions we find the
cause in the efforts of the anti-popular party less to resist new
encroachments than to revive departed institutions.  But though in
most of the Grecian states were two distinct orders, and the
Eupatrids, or "Well-born," were a class distinct from, and superior
to, that of the commonalty, we should err in supposing that the
separate orders made the great political divisions.  As in England the
more ancient of the nobles are often found in the popular ranks, so in
the Grecian states many of the Eupatrids headed the democratic party.
And this division among themselves, while it weakened the power of the
well-born, contributed to prevent any deadly or ferocious revolutions:
for it served greatly to soften the excesses of the predominant
faction, and every collision found mediators between the contending
parties in some who were at once friends of the people and members of
the nobility.  Nor should it be forgotten that the triumph of the
popular party was always more moderate than that of the antagonist
faction--as the history of Athens will hereafter prove.

V.  The legal constitutions of Greece were four--Monarchy, Oligarchy,
Aristocracy, and Democracy; the illegal, was Tyranny in a twofold
shape, viz., whether it consisted in an usurped monarchy or an usurped
oligarchy.  Thus the oligarchy of the Thirty in Athens was no less a
tyranny than the single government of Pisistratus.  Even democracy had
its illegal or corrupt form--in OCHLOCRACY or mob rule; for democracy
did not signify the rule of the lower orders alone, but of all the
people--the highest as the lowest.  If the highest became by law
excluded--if the populace confined the legislative and executive
authorities to their own order--then democracy, or the government of a
whole people, virtually ceased, and became the government of a part of
the people--a form equally unjust and illegitimate--equally an abuse
in itself, whether the dominant and exclusive portion were the nobles
or the mechanics.  Thus in modern yet analogous history, when the
middle class of Florence expelled the nobles from any share of the
government, they established a monopoly under the name of liberty; and
the resistance of the nobles was the lawful struggle of patriots and
of freemen for an inalienable privilege and a natural right.

VI.  We should remove some very important prejudices from our minds,
if we could once subscribe to a fact plain in itself, but which the
contests of modern party have utterly obscured--that in the mere forms
of their government, the Greek republics cannot fairly be pressed into
the service of those who in existing times would attest the evils, or
proclaim the benefits, of constitutions purely democratic.  In the
first place, they were not democracies, even in their most democratic
shape:--the vast majority of the working classes were the enslaved
population.  And, therefore, to increase the popular tendencies of the
republic was, in fact, only to increase the liberties of the few.  We
may fairly doubt whether the worst evils of the ancient republics, in
the separation of ranks, and the war between rich and poor, were not
the necessary results of slavery.  We may doubt, with equal
probability, whether much of the lofty spirit, and the universal
passion for public affairs, whence emanated the enterprise, the
competition, the patriotism, and the glory of the ancient cities,
could have existed without a subordinate race to carry on the
drudgeries of daily life.  It is clear, also, that much of the
intellectual greatness of the several states arose from the exceeding
smallness of their territories--the concentration of internal power,
and the perpetual emulation with neighbouring and kindred states
nearly equal in civilization; it is clear, too, that much of the
vicious parts of their character, and yet much of their more
brilliant, arose from the absence of the PRESS.  Their intellectual
state was that of men talked to, not written to.  Their imagination
was perpetually called forth--their deliberative reason rarely;--they
were the fitting audience for an orator, whose art is effective in
proportion to the impulse and the passion of those he addresses.  Nor
must it be forgotten that the representative system, which is the
proper conductor of the democratic action, if not wholly unknown to
the Greeks [160], and if unconsciously practised in the Spartan
ephoralty, was at least never existent in the more democratic states.
And assemblies of the whole people are compatible only with those
small nations of which the city is the country.  Thus, it would be
impossible for us to propose the abstract constitution of any ancient
state as a warning or an example to modern countries which possess
territories large in extent--which subsist without a slave population
--which substitute representative councils for popular assemblies--and
which direct the intellectual tastes and political habits of a people,
not by oratory and conversation, but through the more calm and
dispassionate medium of the press.  This principle settled, it may
perhaps be generally conceded, that on comparing the democracies of
Greece with all other contemporary forms of government, we find them
the most favourable to mental cultivation--not more exposed than
others to internal revolutions--usually, in fact, more durable,--more
mild and civilized in their laws--and that the worst tyranny of the
Demus, whether at home or abroad, never equalled that of an oligarchy
or a single ruler.  That in which the ancient republics are properly
models to us, consists not in the form, but the spirit of their
legislation.  They teach us that patriotism is most promoted by
bringing all classes into public and constant intercourse--that
intellect is most luxuriant wherever the competition is widest and
most unfettered--and that legislators can create no rewards and invent
no penalties equal to those which are silently engendered by society
itself--while it maintains, elaborated into a system, the desire of
glory and the dread of shame.


Brief Survey of Arts, Letters, and Philosophy in Greece, prior to the
Legislation of Solon.

I.  Before concluding this introductory portion of my work, it will be
necessary to take a brief survey of the intellectual state of Greece
prior to that wonderful era of Athenian greatness which commenced with
the laws of Solon.  At this period the continental states of Greece
had produced little in that literature which is now the heirloom of
the world.  Whether under her monarchy, or the oligarchical
constitution that succeeded it, the depressed and languid genius of
Athens had given no earnest of the triumphs she was afterward destined
to accomplish.  Her literature began, though it cannot be said to have
ceased, with her democracy.  The solitary and doubtful claim of the
birth--but not the song--of Tyrtaeus (fl. B. C. 683), is the highest
literary honour to which the earlier age of Attica can pretend; and
many of the Dorian states--even Sparta itself--appear to have been
more prolific in poets than the city of Aeschylus and Sophocles.  But
throughout all Greece, from the earliest time, was a general passion
for poetry, however fugitive the poets.  The poems of Homer are the
most ancient of profane writings--but the poems of Homer themselves
attest that they had many, nor ignoble, precursors.  Not only do they
attest it in their very excellence--not only in their reference to
other poets--but in the general manner of life attributed to chiefs
and heroes.  The lyre and the song afford the favourite entertainment
at the banquet [161].  And Achilles, in the interval of his indignant
repose, exchanges the deadly sword for the "silver harp,"

                                 "And sings
    The immortal deeds of heroes and of kings." [162]

II.  Ample tradition and the internal evidence of the Homeric poems
prove the Iliad at least to have been the composition of an Asiatic
Greek; and though the time in which he flourished is yet warmly
debated, the most plausible chronology places him about the time of
the Ionic migration, or somewhat less than two hundred years after the
Trojan war.  The following lines in the speech of Juno in the fourth
book of the Iliad are supposed by some [163] to allude to the return
of the Heraclidae and the Dorian conquests in the Peloponnesus:--

    "Three towns are Juno's on the Grecian plains,
     More dear than all th' extended earth contains--
     Mycenae, Argos, and the Spartan Wall--
     These mayst thou raze, nor I forbid their fall;
     'Tis not in me the vengeance to remove;
     The crime's sufficient that they share my love." [164]

And it certainly does seem to me that in a reference so distinct to
the three great Peloponnesian cities which the Dorians invaded and
possessed, Homer makes as broad an allusion to the conquests of the
Heraclidae, not only as would be consistent with the pride of an Ionic
Greek in attesting the triumphs of the national Dorian foe, but as the
nature of a theme cast in a distant period, and remarkably removed, in
its general conduct, from the historical detail of subsequent events,
would warrant to the poet [165].  And here I may observe, that if the
date thus assigned to Homer be correct, the very subject of the Iliad
might have been suggested by the consequences of the Dorian irruption.
Homer relates,

    "Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring
     Of woes unnumbered."

But Achilles is the native hero of that Thessalian district, which was
the earliest settlement of the Dorian family.  Agamemnon, whose
injuries he resents, is the monarch of the great Achaean race, whose
dynasty and dominion the Dorians are destined to overthrow.  It is
true that at the time of the Trojan war the Dorians had migrated from
Phthiotis to Phocis--it is true that Achilles was not of Dorian
extraction; still there would be an interest attached to the singular
coincidence of place; as, though the English are no descendants from
the Britons, we yet associate the British history with our own: hence
it seems to me, though I believe the conjecture is new, that it is not
the whole Trojan war, but that episode in the Trojan war (otherwise
unimportant) illustrated by the wrath of Achilles, which awakens the
inspiration of the poet.  In fact, if under the exordium of the Iliad
there lurk no typical signification, the exordium is scarce
appropriate to the subject.  For the wrath of Achilles did not bring
upon the Greeks woes more mighty than the ordinary course of war would
have destined them to endure.  But if the Grecian audience (exiles,
and the posterity of exiles), to whom, on Asiatic shores, Homer
recited his poem, associated the hereditary feud of Achilles and
Agamemnon with the strife between the ancient warriors of Phthiotis
and Achaia; then, indeed, the opening lines assume a solemn and
prophetic significance, and their effect must have been electrical
upon a people ever disposed to trace in the mythi of their ancestry
the legacies of a dark and ominous fatality, by which each present
suffering was made the inevitable result of an immemorial cause. [166]

III.  The ancients unanimously believed the Iliad the production of a
single poet; in recent times a contrary opinion has been started; and
in Germany, at this moment, the most fashionable belief is, that that
wonderful poem was but a collection of rhapsodies by various poets,
arranged and organized by Pisistratus and the poets of his day; a
theory a scholar may support, but which no poet could ever have
invented!  For this proposition the principal reasons alleged are
these:--It is asserted as an "indisputable fact," "that the art of
writing, and the use of manageable writing materials, were entirely,
or all but entirely, unknown in Greece and its islands at the supposed
date of the composition of the Iliad and Odyssey; that, if so, these
poems could not have been committed to writing during the time of such
their composition; that, in a question of comparative probabilities
like this, it is a much grosser improbability that even the single
Iliad, amounting, after all curtailments and expungings, to upwards of
15,000 hexameter lines, should have been actually conceived and
perfected in the brain of one man, with no other help but his own or
others' memory, than that it should in fact be the result of the
labours of several distinct authors; that if the Odyssey be counted,
the improbability is doubled; that if we add, upon the authority of
Thucydides and Aristotle, the Hymns and Margites, not to say the
Batrachomyomachia, that which was improbable becomes morally
impossible! that all that has been so often said as to the fact of as
many verses or more having been committed to memory, is beside the
point in question, which is not whether 15,000 or 30,000 lines may not
be learned by heart from print or manuscript, but whether one man can
originally compose a poem of that length, which, rightly or not, shall
be thought to be a perfect model of symmetry and consistency of parts,
without the aid of writing materials;--that, admitting the superior
probability of such an achievement in a primitive age, we know nothing
actually similar or analogous to it; and that it so transcends the
common limits of intellectual power, as at the least to merit, with as
much justice as the opposite opinion, the character of improbability."

And upon such arguments the identity of Homer is to be destroyed!  Let
us pursue them seriatim.

1st.  "The art and the use of manageable writing materials were
entirely, or all but entirely, unknown in Greece and its islands at
the supposed date of the composition of the Iliad and Odyssey."

The whole argument against the unity of Homer rests upon this
assertion; and yet this assertion it is impossible to prove!  It is
allowed, on the contrary, that alphabetical characters were introduced
in Greece by Cadmus--nay, inscriptions believed by the best
antiquaries to bear date before the Trojan war are found even among
the Pelasgi of Italy.  Dionysius informs us that the Pelasgi first
introduced letters into Italy.  But in answer to this, it is said that
letters were used only for inscriptions on stone or wood, and not for
the preservation of writings so voluminous.  If this were the case, I
scarcely see why the Greeks should have professed so grateful a
reminiscence of the gift of Cadmus, the mere inscription of a few
words on stone would not be so very popular or beneficial an
invention!  But the Phoenicians had constant intercourse with the
Egyptians and Hebrews; among both those nations the art and materials
of writing were known.  The Phoenicians, far more enterprising than
either, must have been fully acquainted with their means of written
communication--and indeed we are assured that they were so.  Now, if a
Phoenician had imparted so much of the art to Greece as the knowledge
of a written alphabet, is it probable that he would have suffered the
communication to cease there!  The Phoenicians were a commercial
people--their colonies in Greece were for commercial purposes,--would
they have wilfully and voluntarily neglected the most convenient mode
of commercial correspondence?--importing just enough of the art to
suffice for inscriptions of no use but to the natives, would they have
stopped short precisely at that point when the art became useful to
themselves?  And in vindicating that most able people from so wilful a
folly, have we no authority in history as well as common sense?  We
have the authority of Herodotus!  When he informs us that the
Phoenicians communicated letters to the Ionians, he adds, that by a
very ancient custom the Ionians called their books diptherae, or
skins, because, at a time when the plant of the bibles or papyrus was
scarce [168], they used instead of it the skins of goats and sheep--a
custom he himself witnessed among barbarous nations.  Were such
materials used only for inscriptions relative to a religious
dedication, or a political compact?  NO; for then, wood or stone--the
temple or the pillar--would have been the material for the
inscription,--they must, then, have been used for a more literary
purpose; and verse was the first form of literature.  I grant that
prior, and indeed long subsequent to the time of Homer, the art of
writing (as with us in the dark ages) would be very partially known--
that in many parts of Greece, especially European Greece, it might
scarcely ever be used but for brief inscriptions.  But that is nothing
to the purpose;--if known at all--to any Ionian trader--even to any
neighbouring Asiatic--even to any Phoenician settler--there is every
reason to suppose that Homer himself, or a contemporary disciple and
reciter of his verses, would have learned both the art and the use of
the materials which could best have ensured the fame of the poet, or
assisted the memory of the reciter.  And, though Plutarch in himself
alone is no authority, he is not to be rejected as a corroborative
testimony when he informs us that Lycurgus collected and transcribed
the poems of Homer; and that writing was then known in Greece is
evident by the very ordinance of Lycurgus that his laws should not be
written.  But Lycurgus is made by Apollodorus contemporary with Homer
himself; and this belief appears, to receive the sanction of the most
laborious and profound of modern chronologers [169].  I might adduce
various other arguments in support of those I have already advanced;
but I have said enough already to show that it is not an "indisputable
fact" that Homer could not have been acquainted with writing
materials; and that the whole battery erected to demolish the fame of
the greatest of human geniuses has been built upon a most uncertain
and unsteady foundation.  It may be impossible to prove that Homer's
poems were written, but it is equally impossible to prove that they
were not--and if it were necessary for the identity of Homer that his
poems should have been written, that necessity would have been one of
the strongest proofs, not that Homer did not exist, but that writing

But let us now suppose it proved that writing materials for a literary
purpose were unknown, and examine the assertions built upon that

2d.  "That if these poems could not have been committed to writing
during the time of their composition, it is a much grosser
improbability that even the single Iliad, amounting, after all
curtailments and expungings, to upwards of 15,000 hexameter lines,
should have been actually conceived and perfected in the brain of one
man, with no other help but his own or others' memory, than that it
should, in fact, be the result of the labours of several distinct

I deny this altogether.  "The improbability" might be "grosser" if the
Iliad had been composed in a day!  But if, as any man of common sense
would acknowledge, it was composed in parts or "fyttes" of moderate
length at a time, no extraordinary power of memory, or tension of
thought, would have been required by the poet.  Such parts, once
recited and admired, became known and learned by a hundred
professional bards, and were thus orally published, as it were, in
detached sections, years perhaps before the work was completed.  All
that is said, therefore, about the difficulty of composing so long a
poem without writing materials is but a jargon of words.  Suppose no
writing materials existed, yet, as soon as portions of a few hundred
lines at a time were committed to the memory of other minstrels, the
author would, in those minstrels, have living books whereby to refresh
his memory, and could even, by their help, polish and amend what was
already composed.  It would not then have been necessary for the poet
himself perfectly and verbally to remember the whole work.  He had his
tablets of reference in the hearts and lips of others, and even, if it
were necessary that he himself should retain the entire composition,
the constant habit of recital, the constant exercise of memory, would
render such a task by no means impracticable or unprecedented.  As for
the unity of the poem, thus composed, it would have been, as it is,
the unity, not of technical rules and pedantic criticism, but the
unity of interest, character, imagery, and thought--a unity which
required no written references to maintain it, but which was the
essential quality of one master-mind, and ought to be, to all plain
men, an irrefragable proof that one mind alone conceived and executed
the work.

IV.  So much for the alleged improbability of one author for the
Iliad.  But with what face can these critics talk of "probability,"
when, in order to get rid of one Homer, they ask us to believe in
twenty!  Can our wildest imagination form more monstrous hypotheses
than these, viz.--that several poets, all possessed of the very
highest order of genius (never before or since surpassed), lived in
the same age--that that genius was so exactly similar in each, that we
cannot detect in the thoughts, the imagery, the conception and
treatment of character, human and divine, as manifest in each, the
least variety in these wonderful minds--that out of the immense store
of their national legends, they all agreed in selecting one subject,
the war of Troy--that of that subject they all agreed in selecting
only one portion of time, from the insult of Achilles to the
redemption of the body of Hector--that their different mosaics so
nicely fitted one into the other, that by the mere skill of an able
editor they were joined into a whole, so symmetrical that the acutest
ingenuity of ancient Greece could never discover the imposture [170]--
and that, of all these poets, so miraculous in their genius, no single
name, save that of Homer, was recorded by the general people to whom
they sung, or claimed by the peculiar tribe whose literature they
ought to have immortalized?  If everything else were wanting to prove
the unity of Homer, this prodigious extravagance of assumption, into
which a denial of that unity has driven men of no common learning and
intellect, would be sufficient to establish it.

3d.  "That if the Odyssey be counted, the improbability is doubled;
that if we add, upon the authority of Thucydides and Aristotle, the
Hymns and Margites, not to say the Batrachomyomachia, that which was
improbable becomes morally impossible."

Were these last-mentioned poems Homer's, there would yet be nothing
improbable in the invention and composition of minor poems without
writing materials; and the fact of his having composed one long poem,
throws no difficulty in the way of his composing short ones.  We have
already seen that the author need not himself have remembered them all
his life.  But this argument is not honest, for the critics who have
produced it agree in the same breath, when it suits their purpose,
that the Hymns, etc., are not Homer's--and in this I concur with
their, and the almost universal, opinion.

The remaining part of the analysis of the hostile argument has already
been disposed of in connexion with the first proposition.

It now remains to say a few words upon the authorship of the Odyssey.

V.  The question, whether or not the two epics of the Iliad and
Odyssey were the works of the same poet, is a very different one from
that which we have just discussed.  Distinct and separate, indeed, are
the inquiries whether Greece might produce, at certain intervals of
time, two great epic poets, selecting opposite subjects--and whether
Greece produced a score or two of great poets, from whose desultory
remains the mighty whole of the Iliad was arranged.  Even the ancients
of the Alexandrine school did not attribute the Odyssey to the author
of the Iliad.  The theme selected--the manners described--the
mythological spirit--are all widely different in the two works, and
one is evidently of more recent composition than the other.  But, for
my own part, I do not think it has been yet clearly established that
all these acknowledged differences are incompatible with the same
authorship. If the Iliad were written in youth, the travels of the
poet, the change of mind produced by years and experience, the
facility with which an ancient Greek changed or remodelled his pliant
mythology, the rapidity with which (in the quick development of
civilization in Greece) important changes in society and manners were
wrought, might all concur in producing, from the mature age of the
poet, a poem very different to that which he composed in youth.  And
the various undetected interpolations and alterations supposed to be
foisted into the Odyssey may have originated such detailed points of
difference as present the graver obstacles to this conjecture.
Regarding the Iliad and Odyssey as wholes, they are so analogous in
all the highest and rarest attributes of genius, that it is almost as
impossible to imagine two Homers as it is two Shakspeares.  Nor is
there such a contrast between the Iliad and the Odyssey as there is
between any one play of Shakspeare's and another [171].  Still, I
should warn the general reader, that the utmost opposition that can
reasonably and effectually be made to those who assign to different
authors these several epics, limits itself rather to doubt than to

VI.  It is needless to criticise these immortal masterpieces; not that
criticism upon them is yet exhausted--not that a most useful, and even
novel analysis of their merits and character may not yet be performed,
nor that the most striking and brilliant proofs of the unity of each
poem, separately considered, may not be established by one who shall,
with fitting powers, undertake the delightful task of deducing the
individuality of the poet from the individualizing character of his
creations, and the peculiar attributes of his genius.  With human
works, as with the divine, the main proof of the unity of the author
is in his fidelity to himself:--Not then as a superfluous, but as far
too lengthened and episodical a labour, if worthily performed, do I
forego at present a critical survey of the two poems popularly
ascribed to Homer.

The early genius of Greece devoted itself largely to subjects similar
to those which employed the Homeric muse.  At a later period--probably
dating at the Alexandrian age--a vast collection of ancient poems was
arranged into what is termed the "Epic Cycle;" these commenced at the
Theogony, and concluded with the adventures of Telemachus.  Though no
longer extant, the Cyclic poems enjoyed considerable longevity.  The
greater part were composed between the years 775 B. C. and 566 B. C.
They were extant in the time of Proclus, A. D. 450; the eldest,
therefore, endured at least twelve, the most recent ten centuries;--
save a few scattered lines, their titles alone remain, solitary
tokens, yet floating above the dark oblivion which has swept over the
epics of thirty bards!  But, by the common assent, alike of the
critics and the multitude, none of these approached the remote age,
still less the transcendent merits, of the Homeric poems.

VII.  But, of earlier date than these disciples of Homer, is a poetry
of a class fundamentally distinct from the Homeric, viz., the
collection attributed to Hesiod.  Of one of these only, a rustic and
homely poem called "Works and Days," was Hesiod considered the author
by his immediate countrymen (the Boeotians of Helicon); but the more
general belief assigned to the fertility of his genius a variety of
other works, some of which, if we may judge by the titles, aimed at a
loftier vein [172].  And were he only the author of the "Works and
Days"--a poem of very insignificant merit [173]--it would be scarcely
possible to account for the high estimation in which Hesiod was held
by the Greeks, often compared, and sometimes preferred, to the mighty
and majestic Homer.  We must either, then, consider Hesiod as the
author of many writings superior perhaps to what we now possess, or,
as is more plausibly and popularly supposed by modern critics, the
representative and type, as it were, of a great school of national
poetry.  And it has been acutely suggested that, viewing the pastoral
and lowly occupation he declares himself to pursue [174], combined
with the subjects of his muse, and the place of his birth, we may
believe the name of Hesiod to have been the representative of the
poetry, not of the victor lords, but of the conquered people,
expressive of their pursuits, and illustrative of their religion.
This will account for the marked and marvellous difference between the
martial and aristocratic strain of Homer and the peaceful and rustic
verse of Hesiod [175], as well as for the distinction no less visible
between the stirring mythology of the one and the thoughtful theogony
of the other.  If this hypothesis be accepted, the Hesiodic era might
very probably have commenced before the Homeric (although what is now
ascribed to Hesiod is evidently of later date than the Iliad and the
Odyssey).  And Hesiod is to Homer what the Pelasgic genius was to the
Hellenic. [176]

VIII.  It will be obvious to all who study what I may call the natural
history of poetry, that short hymns or songs must long have preceded
the gigantic compositions of Homer.  Linus and Thamyris, and, more
disputably, Orpheus, are recorded to have been the precursors of
Homer, though the poems ascribed to them (some of which still remain)
were of much later date.  Almost coeval with the Grecian gods were
doubtless religious hymns in their honour.  And the germe of the great
lyrical poetry that we now possess was, in the rude chants of the
warlike Dorians, to that Apollo who was no less the Inspirer than the
Protector.  The religion of the Greeks preserved and dignified the
poetry it created; and the bard, "beloved by gods as men," became
invested, as well with a sacred character as a popular fame.  Beneath
that cheerful and familiar mythology, even the comic genius sheltered
its license, and found its subjects.  Not only do the earliest of the
comic dramatists seem to have sought in mythic fables their characters
and plots, but, far before the DRAMA itself arose in any of the
Grecian states, comic recital prepared the way for comic
representation.  In the eighth book of the Odyssey, the splendid
Alcinous and the pious Ulysses listen with delight to the story, even
broadly ludicrous, how Vulcan nets and exposes Venus and her war-god

    "All heaven beholds imprisoned as they lie,
     And unextinguished laughter shakes the sky."

And this singular and well-known effusion shows, not only how grave
and reverent an example Epicharmus had for his own audacious
portraiture of the infirmities of the Olympian family, but how
immemorially and how deeply fixed in the popular spirit was the
disposition to draw from the same source the elements of humour and of

But, however ancient the lyrical poetry of Greece, its masterpieces of
art were composed long subsequent to the Homeric poems; and, no doubt,
greatly influenced by acquaintance with those fountains of universal
inspiration.  I think it might be shown that lyrical poetry developed
itself, in its more elaborate form, earliest in those places where the
poems of Homer are most likely to have been familiarly known.

The peculiar character of the Greek lyrical poetry can only be
understood by remembering its inseparable connexion with music; and
the general application of both, not only to religious but political
purposes.  The Dorian states regarded the lyre and the song as
powerful instruments upon the education, the manners, and the national
character of their citizens.  With them these arts were watched and
regulated by the law, and the poet acquired something of the social
rank, and aimed at much of the moral design, of a statesman and a
legislator: while, in the Ionian states, the wonderful stir and
agitation, the changes and experiments in government, the rapid growth
of luxury, commerce, and civilization, afforded to a poetry which was
not, as with us, considered a detached, unsocial, and solitary art,
but which was associated with every event of actual life--occasions of
vast variety--themes of universal animation.  The eloquence of poetry
will always be more exciting in its appeals--the love for poetry
always more diffused throughout a people, in proportion as it is less
written than recited.  How few, even at this day, will read a poem!--
what crowds will listen to a song!  Recitation transfers the stage of
effect from the closet to the multitude--the public becomes an
audience, the poet an orator.  And when we remember that the poetry,
thus created, imbodying the most vivid, popular, animated subjects of
interest, was united with all the pomp of festival and show--all the
grandest, the most elaborate, and artful effects of music--we may
understand why the true genius of lyrical composition has passed for
ever away from the modern world.

As early as between 708 and 665 B. C., Archilochus brought to
perfection a poetry worthy of loftier passions than those which mostly
animated his headstrong and angry genius.  In 625 (thirty-one years
before the legislation of Solon) flourished Arion, the Lesbian, who,
at Corinth, carried, to extraordinary perfection the heroic adaptation
of song to choral music. In 611 flourished the Sicilian, Stersichorus
--no unworthy rival of Arion; while simultaneously, in strains less
national and Grecian, and more resembling the inspiration of modern
minstrels, Alcaeus vented his burning and bitter spirit;--and Sappho
(whose chaste and tender muse it was reserved for the chivalry of a
northern student, five-and-twenty centuries after the hand was cold
and the tongue was mute, to vindicate from the longest-continued
calumny that genius ever endured) [177] gave to the most ardent of
human passions the most delicate colouring of female sentiment.
Perhaps, of all that Greece has bequeathed to us, nothing is so
perfect in its concentration of real feeling as the fragments of
Sappho.  In one poem of a few lines--nor that, alas! transmitted to us
complete--she has given a picture of the effect of love upon one who
loves, to which volumes of the most eloquent description could
scarcely add a single new touch of natural pathos--so subtle is it,
yet so simple.  I cannot pass over in silence the fragments of
Mimnermus (fl. B. C. 630)--they seem of an order so little akin to the
usual character of Grecian poetry; there is in them a thoughtful
though gloomy sadness, that belongs rather to the deep northern
imagination than the brilliant fancies of the west; their melancholy
is mixed with something half intellectual--half voluptuous--indicative
of the mournful but interesting wisdom of satiety.  Mimnermus is a
principal model of the Latin elegiac writers--and Propertius compares
his love verses with those of Homer.  Mimnermus did not invent the
elegiac form (for it was first applied to warlike inspiration by
another Ionian poet, Callinus); but he seems the founder of what we
now call the elegiac spirit in its association of the sentiment of
melancholy with the passion of love.

IX.  While such was the state of POETRY in Greece--torpid in the
Ionian Athens, but already prodigal in her kindred states of Asia and
the Isles; gravely honoured, rather than produced, in Sparta;--
splendidly welcomed, rather than home-born, in Corinth;--the Asiatic
colonies must also claim the honour of the advance of the sister arts.
But in architecture the Dorian states of European Greece, Sicyon,
Aegina, and the luxurious Corinth, were no unworthy competitors with

In the heroic times, the Homeric poems, especially the Odyssey, attest
the refinement and skill to which many of the imitative arts of
Grecian civilization had attained.  In embroidery, the high-born
occupation of Helen ad Penelope, were attempted the most complex and
difficult designs; and it is hard to suppose that these subjects could
have been wrought upon garments with sufficient fidelity to warrant
the praise of a poet who evidently wrote from experience of what he
had seen, if the art of DRAWING had not been also carried to some
excellence--although to PAINTING itself the poet makes none but
dubious and obscure allusions.  Still, if, on the one hand [178], in
embroidery, and upon arms (as the shield of Achilles), delineation in
its more complex and minute form was attempted,--and if, on the other
hand, the use of colours was known (which it was, as applied not only
to garments but to ivory), it could not have been long before two such
kindred elements of the same art were united.  Although it is
contended by many that rude stones or beams were the earliest objects
of Grecian worship, and though it is certain that in several places
such emblems of the Deity preceded the worship of images, yet to the
superstitious art of the rude Pelasgi in their earliest age, uncouth
and half-formed statues of Hermes are attributed, and the idol is
commemorated by traditions almost as antique as those which attest the
sanctity of the fetiche [179].  In the Homeric age, SCULPTURE in
metals, and on a large scale, was certainly known.  By the door of
Alcinous, the king of an island in the Ionian Sea, stand rows of dogs
in gold and silver--in his hall, upon pedestals, are golden statues of
boys holding torches; and that such sculpture was even then dedicated
to the gods is apparent by a well-known passage in the earlier poem of
the Iliad; which represents Theano, the Trojan priestess of Minerva,
placing the offering of Hecuba upon the knees of the statue of the
goddess.  How far, however, such statues could be called works of art,
or how far they were wrought by native Greeks, it is impossible to
determine [180].  Certain it is that the memorable and gigantic
advance in the art of SCULPTURE was not made till about the 50th
Olympiad (B. C. 580), when Dipaenus and Scyllis first obtained
celebrity in works in marble (wood and metals were the earliest
materials of sculpture).  The great improvements in the art seem to
have been coeval with the substitution of the naked for the draped
figure.  Beauty, and ease, and grace, and power, were the result of
the anatomical study of the human form.  ARCHITECTURE has bequeathed
to us, in the Pelasgic and Cyclopean remains, sufficient to indicate
the massive strength it early acquired in parts of Greece.  In the
Homeric times, the intercourse with Asia had already given something
of lightness to the elder forms.  Columns are constantly introduced
into the palaces of the chiefs, profuse metallic ornaments decorate
the walls; and the Homeric palaces, with their cornices gayly
inwrought with blue--their pillars of silver on bases of brass, rising
amid vines and fruit-trees,--even allowing for all the exaggerations
of the poet,--dazzle the imagination with much of the gaudiness and
glitter of an oriental city [181].  At this period Athens receives
from Homer the epithet of "broad-streeted:" and it is by no means
improbable that the city of the Attic king might have presented to a
traveller, in the time of Homer, a more pleasing general appearance
than in its age of fame, when, after the Persian devastations, its
stately temples rose above narrow and irregular streets, and the
jealous effects of democracy forbade to the mansions of individual
nobles that striking pre-eminence over the houses of the commonalty
which would naturally mark the distinction of wealth and rank, in a
monarchical, or even an oligarchical government.

X.  About the time on which we now enter, the extensive commerce and
free institutions of the Ionian colonies had carried all the arts just
referred to far beyond the Homeric time.  And, in addition to the
activity and development of the intellect in all its faculties which
progressed with the extensive trade and colonization of Miletus
(operating upon the sensitive, inquiring, and poetical temperament of
the Ionian population), a singular event, which suddenly opened to
Greece familiar intercourse with the arts and lore of Egypt, gave
considerable impetus to the whole Grecian MIND.

In our previous brief survey of the state of the Oriental world, we
have seen that Egypt, having been rent into twelve principalities, had
been again united under a single monarch.  The ambitious and fortunate
Psammetichus was enabled, by the swords of some Ionian and Carian
adventurers (who, bound on a voyage of plunder, had been driven upon
the Egyptian shores), not only to regain his own dominion, from which
he had been expelled by the jealousy of his comrades, but to acquire
the sole sovereignty of Egypt (B. C. 670).  In gratitude for their
services, Psammetichus conferred upon his wild allies certain lands at
the Pelusian mouth of the Nile, and obliged some Egyptian children to
learn the Grecian language;--from these children descended a class of
interpreters, that long afterward established the facilities of
familiar intercourse between Greece and Egypt.  Whatever, before that
time, might have been the migrations of Egyptians into Greece, these
were the first Greeks whom the Egyptians received among themselves.
Thence poured into Greece, in one full and continuous stream, the
Egyptian influences, hitherto partial and unfrequent. [182]

In the same reign, according to Strabo, the Asiatic Greeks obtained a
settlement at Naucratis, the ancient emporium of Egypt; and the
communication, once begun, rapidly increased, until in the subsequent
time of Amasis (B. C. 569) we find the Ionians, the Dorians, the
Aeolians of Asia, and even the people of Aegina and Samos [183],
building temples and offering worship amid the jealous and mystic
priestcrafts of the Nile.  This familiar and advantageous intercourse
with a people whom the Greeks themselves considered the wisest on the
earth, exercised speedy and powerful effect upon their religion and
their art.  In the first it operated immediately upon their modes of
divination and their mystic rites--in the last, the influence was less
direct.  It is true that they probably learned from the Egyptians many
technical rules in painting and in sculpture; they learned how to cut
the marble and to blend the colours, but their own genius taught them
how to animate the block and vivify the image.  We have seen already,
that before this event, art had attained to a certain eminence among
the Greeks--fortunately, therefore, what they now acquired was not the
foundation of their lore.  Grafted on a Grecian stock, every shoot
bore Grecian fruit: and what was borrowed from mechanism was
reproduced in beauty [184].  As with the arts, so with the SCIENCES;
we have reason to doubt whether the Egyptian sages, whose minds were
swathed and bandaged in the cerements of hereditary rules, never to
swell out of the slavery of castes, had any very sound and enlightened
philosophy to communicate: their wisdom was probably exaggerated by
the lively and credulous Greeks, awed by the mysticism of the priests,
the grandeur of the cities, the very rigidity, so novel to them, of
imposing and antique custom.  What, then, was the real benefit of the
intercourse?  Not so much in satisfying as in arousing and stimulating
the curiosity of knowledge.  Egypt, to the Greeks, was as America to
Europe--the Egyptians taught them little, but Egypt much.  And that
what the Egyptians did directly communicate was rather the material
for improvement than the improvement itself, this one gift is an
individual example and a general type;--the Egyptians imparted to the
Greeks the use of the papyrus--the most easy and popular material for
writing; we are thus indebted to Egypt for a contrivance that has done
much to preserve to us--much, perhaps, to create for us--a Plato and
an Aristotle; but for the thoughts of Aristotle and Plato we are
indebted to Greece alone:--the material Egyptian--the manufacture

XI.  The use of the papyrus had undoubtedly much effect upon the
formation of prose composition in Greece, but it was by no means an
instantaneous one.  At the period on which we now enter (about B. C.
600), the first recorded prose Grecian writer had not composed his
works.  The wide interval between prose in its commencement and poetry
in its perfection is peculiarly Grecian; many causes conspired to
produce it, but the principal one was, that works, if written, being
not the less composed to be recited, not read--were composed to
interest and delight, rather than formally to instruct.  Poetry was,
therefore, so obviously the best means to secure the end of the
author, that we cannot wonder to find that channel of appeal
universally chosen; the facility with which the language formed itself
into verse, and the license that appears to have been granted to the
gravest to assume a poetical diction without attempting the poetical
spirit, allowed even legislators and moralists to promulgate precepts
and sentences in the rhythm of a Homer and a Hesiod.  And since laws
were not written before the time of Draco, it was doubly necessary
that they should be cast in that fashion by which words are most
durably impressed on the memory of the multitude.  Even on Solon's
first appearance in public life, when he inspires the Athenians to
prosecute the war with Megara, he addresses the passions of the crowd,
not by an oration, but a poem; and in a subsequent period, when prose
composition had become familiar, it was still in verse that Hipparchus
communicated his moral apothegms.  The origin of prose in Greece is,
therefore, doubly interesting as an epoch, not only in the
intellectual, but also in the social state.  It is clear that it would
not commence until a reading public was created; and until, amid the
poetical many, had sprung up the grave and studious few.  Accordingly,
philosophy, orally delivered, preceded prose composition--and Thales
taught before Pherecydes wrote [185].  To the superficial it may seem
surprising that literature, as distinct from poetry, should commence
with the most subtle and laborious direction of the human intellect:
yet so it was, not only in Greece, but almost universally.  In nearly
all countries, speculative conjecture or inquiry is the first
successor to poetry.  In India, in China, in the East, some dim
philosophy is the characteristic of the earliest works--sometimes
inculcating maxims of morality--sometimes allegorically shadowing
forth, sometimes even plainly expressing, the opinions of the author
on the mysteries of life--of nature--of the creation.  Even with the
moderns, the dawn of letters broke on the torpor of the dark ages of
the North in speculative disquisition; the Arabian and the
Aristotelian subtleties engaged the attention of the earliest
cultivators of modern prose (as separated from poetic fiction), and
the first instinct of the awakened reason was to grope through the
misty twilight after TRUTH.  Philosophy precedes even history; men
were desirous of solving the enigmas of the world, before they
disentangled from tradition the chronicles of its former habitants.

If we examine the ways of an infant we shall cease to wonder at those
of an infant civilization.  Long before we can engage the curiosity of
the child in the History of England--long before we can induce him to
listen with pleasure to our stories even of Poictiers and Cressy--and
(a fortiori) long before he can be taught an interest in Magna Charta
and the Bill of Rights, he will of his own accord question us of the
phenomena of nature--inquire how he himself came into the world--
delight to learn something of the God we tell him to adore--and find
in the rainbow and the thunder, in the meteor and the star, a thousand
subjects of eager curiosity and reverent wonder.  The why perpetually
torments him;--every child is born a philosopher!--the child is the
analogy of a people yet in childhood. [186]

XII.  It may follow as a corollary from this problem, that the Greeks
of themselves arrived at the stage of philosophical inquiry without
any very important and direct assistance from the lore of Egypt and
the East.  That lore, indeed, awakened the desire, but it did not
guide the spirit of speculative research.  And the main cause why
philosophy at once assumed with the Greeks a character distinct from
that of the Oriental world, I have already intimated [187], in the
absence of a segregated and privileged religious caste.  Philosophy
thus fell into the hands of sages, not of priests.  And whatever the
Ionian states (the cradle of Grecian wisdom) received from Egypt or
the East, they received to reproduce in new and luxuriant prodigality.
The Ionian sages took from an elder wisdom not dogmas never to be
questioned, but suggestions carefully to be examined.  It thus
fortunately happened that the deeper and maturer philosophy of Greece
proper had a kind of intermedium between the systems of other nations
and its own.  The Eastern knowledge was borne to Europe through the
Greek channels of Asiatic colonies, and became Hellenized as it
passed.  Thus, what was a certainty in the East, became a proposition
in Ionia, and ultimately a doubt, at Athens.  In Greece, indeed, as
everywhere, religion was connected with the first researches of
philosophy.  From the fear of the gods, to question of the nature of
the gods, is an easy transition.  The abundance and variety of popular
superstitions served but to stimulate curiosity as to their origin;
and since in Egypt the sole philosophers were the priests, a Greek
could scarcely converse with an Egyptian on the articles of his
religion without discussing also the principles of his philosophy.
Whatever opinions the Greek might then form and promulge, being
sheltered beneath no jealous and prescriptive priestcraft, all had
unfettered right to canvass and dispute them, till by little and
little discussion ripened into science.

The distinction, in fine, between the Greeks and their contemporaries
was this: if they were not the only people that philosophized, they
were the only people that said whatever they pleased about philosophy.
Their very plagiarism from the philosophy of other creeds was
fortunate, inasmuch as it presented nothing hostile to the national
superstition.  Had they disputed about the nature of Jupiter, or the
existence of Apollo, they might have been persecuted, but they could
start at once into disquisitions upon the eternity of matter, or the
providence of a pervading mind.

XIII.  This spirit of innovation and discussion, which made the
characteristic of the Greeks, is noted by Diodorus.  "Unlike the
Chaldaeans," he observes, "with whom philosophy is delivered from sire
to son, and all other employment rejected by its cultivators, the
Greeks come late to the science--take it up for a short time--desert
it for a more active means of subsistence--and the few who surrender
themselves wholly to it practise for gain, innovate the most important
doctrines, pay no reverence to those that went before, create new
sects, establish new theorems, and, by perpetual contradictions,
entail perpetual doubts."  Those contradictions and those doubts made
precisely the reason why the Greeks became the tutors of the world!

There is another characteristic of the Greeks indicated by this remark
of Diodorus.  Their early philosophers, not being exempted from other
employments, were not the mere dreamers of the closet and the cell.
They were active, practical, stirring men of the world.  They were
politicians and moralists as well as philosophers.  The practical
pervaded the ideal, and was, in fact, the salt that preserved it from
decay.  Thus legislation and science sprung simultaneously into life,
and the age of Solon is the age of Thales.

XIV.  Of the seven wise men (if we accept that number) who flourished
about the same period, six were rulers and statesmen.  They were
eminent, not as physical, but as moral, philosophers; and their wisdom
was in their maxims and apothegms.  They resembled in much the wary
and sagacious tyrants of Italy in the middle ages--masters of men's
actions by becoming readers of their minds.  Of these seven, Periander
of Corinth (began to reign B. C. 625, died B. C. 585) and Cleobulus of
Lindus (fl. B. C. 586), tyrants in their lives, and cruel in their
actions, were, it is said, disowned by the remaining five [188].  But
goodness is not the necessary consequence of intellect, and, despite
their vices, these princes deserved the epithet of wise.  Of Cleobulus
we know less than of Periander; but both governed with prosperity, and
died in old age.  If we except Pisistratus, Periander was the greatest
artist of all that able and profound fraternity, who, under the name
of tyrants, concentred the energies of their several states, and
prepared the democracies by which they were succeeded.  Periander's
reputed maxims are at variance with his practice; they breathe a
spirit of freedom and a love of virtue which may render us suspicious
of their authenticity--the more so as they are also attributed to
others.  Nevertheless, the inconsistency would be natural, for reason
makes our opinions, and circumstance shapes our actions.  "A democracy
is better than a tyranny," is an aphorism imputed to Periander: but
when asked why he continued tyrant, he answered, "Because it is
dangerous willingly to resist, or unwillingly to be deposed."  His
principles were republican, his position made him a tyrant.  He is
said to have fallen into extreme dejection in his old age; perhaps
because his tastes and his intellect were at war with his life.
Chilo, the Lacedaemonian ephor, is placed also among the seven.  His
maxims are singularly Dorian--they breathe reverence of the dead and
suspicion of the living.  "Love," he said (if we may take the
authority of Aulus Gellius, fl. B. C. 586), "as if you might hereafter
hate, and hate as if you might hereafter love."  Another favourite
sentence of his was, "to a surety loss is at hand." [189]  A third,
"we try gold by the touchstone.  Gold is the touchstone of the mind."
Bias, of Priene in Ionia, is quoted, in Herodotus, as the author of an
advice to the Ionians to quit their country, and found a common city
in Sardinia (B. C. 586).  He seems to have taken an active part in all
civil affairs.  His reputed maxims are plain and homely--the
elementary principles of morals.  Mitylene in Lesbos boasted the
celebrated Pittacus (began to govern B. C. 589, resigned 579, died
569).  He rose to the tyranny of the government by the free voice of
the people; enjoyed it ten years, and voluntarily resigned it, as
having only borne the dignity while the state required the direction
of a single leader.  It was a maxim with him, for which he is reproved
by Plato, "That to be good is hard."  His favourite precept was, "Know
occasion:" and this he amplified in another (if rightly attributed to
him), "To foresee and prevent dangers is the province of the wise--to
direct them when they come, of the brave."

XV.  Of Solon, the greatest of the seven, I shall hereafter speak at
length.  I pass now to Thales (born B. C. 639);--the founder of
philosophy, in its scientific sense--the speculative in
contradistinction to the moral: Although an ardent republican, Thales
alone, of the seven sages, appears to have led a private and studious
life.  He travelled, into Crete, Asia, and at a later period into
Egypt.  According to Laertius, Egypt taught him geometry.  He is
supposed to have derived his astrological notions from Phoenicia.  But
this he might easily have done without visiting the Phoenician states.
Returning to Miletus, he obtained his title of Wise [190].  Much
learning has been exhausted upon his doctrines to very little purpose.
They were of small value, save as they led to the most valuable of all
philosophies--that of experiment.  They were not new probably even in
Greece [191], and of their utility the following brief sketch will
enable the reader to judge for himself.

He maintained that water, or rather humidity, was the origin of all
things, though he allowed mind or intellect (nous) to be the impelling
principle.  And one of his arguments in favour of humidity, as
rendered to us by Plutarch and Stobaeus, is pretty nearly as follows:
--"Because fire, even in the sun and the stars, is nourished by
vapours proceeding from humidity,--and therefore the whole world
consists of the same."  Of the world, he supposed the whole to be
animated by, and full of, the Divinity--its Creator--that in it was no
vacuum--that matter was fluid and variable. [192]

He maintained the stars and sun to be earthly, and the moon of the
same nature as the sun, but illumined by it.  Somewhat more valuable
would appear to have been his geometrical science, could we with
accuracy attribute to Thales many problems claimed also, and more
probably, by Pythagoras and later reasoners.  He is asserted to have
measured the pyramids by their shadows.  He cultivated astronomy and
astrology; and Laertius declares him to have been the first Greek that
foretold eclipses.  The yet higher distinction has been claimed for
Thales of having introduced among his countrymen the doctrine of the
immortality of the soul.  But this sublime truth, though connected
with no theory of future rewards and punishments, was received in
Greece long before his time.  Perhaps, however, as the expressions of
Cicero indicate, Thales might be the first who attempted to give
reasons for what was believed.  His reasons were, nevertheless,
sufficiently crude and puerile; and having declared it the property of
the soul to move itself, and other things, he was forced to give a
soul to the loadstone, because it moved iron!

These fantastic doctrines examined, and his geometrical or
astronomical discoveries dubious, it may be asked, what did Thales
effect for philosophy?  Chiefly this: he gave reasons for opinions--he
aroused the dormant spirit of inquiry--he did for truths what the
legislators of his age did for the people--left them active and
stirring to free and vigorous competition.  He took Wisdom out of
despotism, and placed her in a republic--he was in harmony with the
great principle of his age, which was investigation, and not
tradition; and thus he became the first example of that great truth--
that to think freely is the first step to thinking well.  It
fortunately happened, too, that his moral theories, however
inadequately argued upon, were noble and exalting.  He contended for
the providence of a God, as well as for the immortality of man.  He
asserted vice to be the most hateful, virtue the most profitable of
all things [193].  He waged war on that vulgar tenacity of life which
is the enemy to all that is most spiritual and most enterprising in
our natures, and maintained that between life and death there is no
difference--the fitting deduction from a belief in the continuous
existence of the soul [194].  His especial maxim was the celebrated
precept, "Know thyself."  His influence was vigorous and immediate.
How far he created philosophy may be doubtful, but he created
philosophers.  From the prolific intelligence which his fame and
researches called into being, sprang a new race of thoughts, which
continued in unbroken succession until they begat descendants
illustrious and immortal.  Without the hardy errors of Thales,
Socrates might have spent his life in spoiling marble, Plato might
have been only a tenth-rate poet, and Aristotle an intriguing

XVI.  With this I close my introductory chapters, and proceed from
dissertation into history;--pleased that our general survey of Greece
should conclude with an acknowledgment of our obligations to the
Ionian colonies.  Soon, from the contemplation of those enchanting
climes; of the extended commerce and the brilliant genius of the
people--the birthplace of the epic and the lyric muse, the first home
of history, of philosophy, of art;--soon, from our survey of the rise
and splendour of the Asiatic Ionians, we turn to the agony of their
struggles--the catastrophe of their fall.  Those wonderful children of
Greece had something kindred with the precocious intellect that is
often the hectic symptom of premature decline.  Originating, advancing
nearly all which the imagination or the reason can produce, while yet
in that social youth which promised a long and a yet more glorious
existence--while even their great parent herself had scarcely emerged
from the long pupilage of nations, they fell into the feebleness of
age!  Amid the vital struggles, followed by the palsied and prostrate
exhaustion of her Ionian children, the majestic Athens suddenly arose
from the obscurity of the past to an empire that can never perish,
until heroism shall cease to warm, poetry to delight, and wisdom to
instruct the future.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book I" ***

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