« PrécédentContinuer »
dering the son of the owner, who came to demand the price. The unhappy father went to Sparta to demand justice from the kings, but his grief was disregarded and his claims unpaid. He then took revenge into his own hands, and murdered every Lacedæmonian who came in his way. The Spartans called upon the Messenians to surrender their countryman, but they refused to give him up, and war broke out.
B. C. 730.
57. For the first four years the Messenians made effectual resistance, and their invaders gained nothing; but in the fifth a partial reverse compelled them to shut themselves up in the strong fortress of Itho'me. The Spartans took a solemn oath never to return to their families until they had subdued Messenia. In the thirteenth year, Theopompus, king of Sparta, marched against Ithome, and a great battle. was fought, in which the king of Messenia was slain. Aristodemus was chosen in his place, and the war went on. In the eighteenth year, Arcadia and Sicyon sent forces to aid the Messenians, while Corinth joined the Spartans. A third great battle was fought, in which the invaders were defeated and driven in disgrace to their own country. But at this time the oracles began to favor the Spartans, while dreams and visions dismayed the soul of Aristodemus. He slew himself, and, with his life, success departed from the Messenians. Ithome was abandoned, the Spartans razed it to the ground, and the Messenians were reduced to slavery.
B. C. 724.
B. C. 738.
58. For thirty-nine years they endured a galling weight of oppression, but at the end of that time a hero of the royal line arose for their deliverance. The exploits of Aristom'enes form the chief history of the Second Messenian War, though almost the entire Peloponnesus was engaged. The Corinthians, as before, fought for Sparta, while the Argives, Arcadians, Sicyonians, and Pisatans took part with the Messenians. After losing one battle, the Spartans sent to Delphi for advice, and received the unwelcome direction to apply to Athens for a leader. The Athenians, too, feared to disobey the oracle; but desiring to render no real assistance to their rivals, they sent a lame school-master, named Tyrtæ ́us, to be their general. They found, as usual, that the Pythia was not to be outwitted. Tyrtæus reanimated the rude vigor of the Spartans by his martial songs, and it is to these that their final success is mainly attributed.
59. The Spartans were slow in regaining their former ascendency. In the battle of Stenycle'rus they were defeated with great loss, and pursued by Aristomenes to the very summit of the mountains. In the third year the Messenians suffered a signal defeat through the treachery of an ally, and Aristomenes retired to the fortress of Ira. The Spartans encamped around the foot of the hill, and for fourteen years the war was actively prosecuted, the Messenian hero often issuing from his
B. C. 683.
B. C. 685-668.
castle, and ravaging with fire and sword the lands held by the enemy. Three times he offered to Zeus Ithomates the sacrifice called Hecatomphonia, in token that he had slain a hundred enemies with his own hand.
B. C. 668.
60. But neither the valor nor the good fortune of the leader availed to save his country. Ira was taken by surprise. Aristomenes ended his days at Rhodes. His sons led a large number of the exiled Messenians into Italy, and settled near Rhegium. A few who remained were admitted to the condition of the subject Achæans; but, as before, the mass of the people were reduced to serfdom, and remained in that condition three hundred years. The conquest of Messenia was followed by a war against Arcadia which continued nearly a hundred years. The sole fruit to Sparta was the capture of the little city of Tegea.
61. From the earliest times Sparta had been the rival of Argos, which then ruled the whole eastern coast of the Peloponnesus. Soon after Lycurgus, the boundaries of Laconia were extended eastward to the sea, and northward beyond the city of Thyr'ea. About B. C. 547, the Argives went to war to recover this portion of their former territory. They were defeated and their power forever humbled.
B. C. 547.
62. Sparta was for a time the most powerful state in Greece. Her own territories covered the south of the Peloponnesus, and the neighboring states were so far subdued that they made no attempt to resist her authority. That authority had hitherto been exerted within the narrow limits of the Peloponnese, but about this time an embassy from Croesus, king of Lydia, acknowledged her leadership in Greece, and invited her to join him in resisting the Persians. At this point began the foreign policy of Sparta. Her influence among the Grecian states was always in favor of either oligarchy or despotism-against such a government by the people as existed in Athens; and the aristocratic party in every city looked to Sparta as its natural champion and protector.
After the Dorian migrations, republics replaced most of the monarchies in Greece. Though divided into many rival states, the Hellenes were one race in origin, language, religion, and customs. The Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games promoted civilization by the free interchange of ideas. The Amphictyonic Council, at Delphi and Thermopylæ, united twelve Hellenic tribes for mutual defense. Phidon, king of Argos, founded many colonies, and first introduced weights, measures, and the coinage of money from the East.
The Spartan government consisted of a double line of Heraclid kings, a senate, and, in later times, five ephors. Lycurgus, as regent, reformed the laws by subjecting every person to military rule, forbidding lucrative employments, and discouraging all intercourse with foreign nations. By two long wars the Spartans enslaved their neighbors, the Messenians; and their power was always opposed to free institutions in the states of Greece, among which Lacedæmon held for some centuries the foremost rank.
B. C. 1050-752.
63. The history of Athens presents an infinitely greater variety of character and incident than that of Sparta. Unsurpassed by the Spartans in patriotism or valor, the Athenians differed from them in their love for rare sculpture, magnificent architecture, and the refined diversions of music, poetry, and the drama. The consequence is, that while the Spartans won the world's admiration only by their sacrifice of personal interests to those of the state, the Athenians were at once the models and the leaders of all civilized nations in the arts which give grace and loveliness to life. An Athenian visiting Sparta, and seeing the appointments of the public tables, said that he no longer wondered at Spartan bravery in battle, for life so nourished could not be worth preserving.
64. In the Heroic Age Athens was governed by kings. Theseus subdued the country towns of Attica, and made the city the capital of a centralized monarchy. Codrus, the last of the kings, fell in resisting the Dorian invaders, who had conquered the Peloponnesus and designed to subjugate Attica. The invasion was repelled, but the kingdom was not reëstablished. The eupatridæ, or nobles, secured the election of an archon for life, who was in a certain degree responsible to them for his actions. Though of the royal race of Codrus, he had neither the name nor the dignity of a king. This succession of archons continued about 300 years.
65. An important change was then made by limiting the term of office to ten years. At the expiration of his service, the archon could be tried and punished if his conduct was proved to have been unjust. At first the election was made, as before, from the descendants of Codrus; but one of these being deposed for his cruelty, the office was thrown open to all nobles. A third change appointed, instead of a single magistrate, a board of nine, who were chosen yearly from among the eupatrids. Nobles alone had the right to vote, and for sixty years the government of Athens was a pure aristocracy.
B. C. 684.
B. C. 621.
66. But the people of Athens, afterward to fill so important a part in history, now made themselves heard in a demand for written laws, which should stand between them and the arbitrary will of their rulers. The nobles acceded to the demand, but avenged their injured dignity by appointing Draco to prepare the code. This first Athenian law-giver made a collection of statutes so severe that they were said to be indeed the work of a dragon, and to be written not with ink, but with blood. The smallest theft, not less than murder and sacrilege, was punished by death, and the life of every citizen was left absolutely at the mercy of the ruling order.
67. Great dissatisfaction arose among the Athenians in consequence of
B. C. 620.
these laws, and Cylon, an aspiring young noble, aided by his father-in-law, the tyrant of Megara, took advantage of the disturbance to seize the Acropolis, with a view to making himself tyrant of Athens. The archons quelled this rash rebellion, but in so doing they themselves incurred the guilt of sacrilege, for the criminals were put to death at the very altar of the Eumenides. * While the people were thrown into a tumult of superstitious fear, a plague broke out, which was believed to be a judgment of the gods. The Delphic oracle being invoked, commanded that Athens should be purified by priestly rites. Epimen'ides, a sage and seer, who was reputed to have great insight into the healing powers of Nature, was brought from Crete, and by his sacrifices and intercessions the plague was believed to be arrested. The archons, however, saw a cause of their recent danger, deeper than the transient outbreak, and they appointed Solon, the wisest of their number, to frame a new code of laws.
B. C. 596.
68. The condition of Attica demanded immediate remedies. The three factions, consisting of the wealthy nobles of the Athenian Plain, the merchants of the Shore, and the poor peasantry of the Attic Mountains, were opposed to each other by the most bitter enmities. Some of the latter in their need had been compelled to borrow money, at exorbitant interest, from the nobles, and being unable to pay, had become the slaves of their creditors.
* See ? 25.
69. Solon, though a noble, had been forced by the ruin of his fortune to engage in commerce, choosing this means of support, however, with a view to the improvement of his mind by observation of foreign lands. While he was exchanging his Attic oil and honey for Egyptian millet, at Naucratis, he had not failed to study the laws of the Pharaohs, or to observe their effects upon the interests and character of the people. His wisdom and integrity commanded the confidence of all classes of his fellow-citizens, and he was made sole archon for life, with unlimited power to alter the existing state of things.
B. C. 594.
70. His first object was to improve the condition of the poor debtors, not merely by alleviating present distress, but by removing its causes. To this end he enacted a bankrupt law, canceling all contracts in which the land or person of a debtor had been given as security; and to avoid such evils in the future, he abolished slavery for debt. The rate of interest was abated, and the value of the currency lowered, so that the debtor gained about one-fourth by paying in a depreciated medium. Above all, provision was made against a recurrence of the same distress, by requiring every father to teach his son some mechanical art. If this was neglected, the son was freed from all responsibility for supporting his father in old age.
Foreigners were not allowed to settle in the country, unless skilled in some form of industry which they engaged to carry on.
71. The chief design of the new constitution was to set up a free and moderate government, instead of the oppressive tyranny of the nobles: Solon divided the people into four classes, according to their possessions. The poorest were permitted to vote, but not to hold office. The upper three classes alone were subject to direct taxation, which fell with greatest weight upon the wealthiest. The code of Draco was repealed. Instead of severe punishments, Solon introduced the fear of shame and the hope of honor as preventives of crime. Among the rewards for faithful citizenship were crowns presented by senate or people; public banquets in the hall of state; statues in the Agora or the streets; places of honor in the theater or popular assembly. As persons distinguished by these various honors were constantly seen by the youth of Athens, their ambition was kindled to deserve similar rewards.
72. A new legislative Council of Four Hundred was formed, consisting of one hundred members from each tribe, to be chosen yearly by a free vote in the popular assembly. The source of power was in the assembly of all the people, which elected the archons and councilors, accepted or rejected the laws proposed by the latter, and judged the former at the end of their term of office. Popular courts of law were also instituted, to which a criminal might appeal when condemned by another tribunal. The Council of the Areopagus continued to be the highest court in the state, and was especially charged with the maintenance of religion and morals. Originally it included all the nobles, but Solon restricted it to those who had worthily discharged the duties of the archonship.
73. There were no professional lawyers in Athens, for the knowledge and enforcement of the laws were held to be the duty of every citizen. In case of popular sedition, every man was to be dishonored and disfranchised who took no part on either side. This rule was designed to stimulate public spirit, and to supply the want of a regular police or military force by the active interference of the citizens. Already a large body of wealthy and respectable men kept themselves aloof from public affairs, which fell thus into the hands of unscrupulous and ambitious plotters.
74. Solon is reckoned the greatest of the Seven Wise Men* of Greece, and some of his sayings have been the maxims of the best legislators of all ages. When asked how injustice could be banished from a republic, he replied, “By making all men feel the injustice done to each." His new constitution failed, however, to satisfy all classes of his fellow-citizens. The nobles blamed him for having gone too far; the common people, for
*Of the Seven Wise Men, six were rulers and statesmen. The seven were Solon of Athens, Periander of Corinth, Cleobulus of Lindus, Bias of Prie'ne, Pittacus of Mytilene, Thales of Miletus, and Chilo of Sparta.