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GRECIAN STATES AND COLONIES FROM THEIR EARLIEST PERIOD
TO THE ACCESSION OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
GEOGRAPHICAL OUTLINE OF GREECE.
1. Of the three peninsulas which extend southward into the Mediterranean, the most easterly was first settled, and became the seat of the highest civilization which the ancient world could boast. Its southern portion only was occupied by Greece, which extended from the 40th parallel southward to the 36th. Continental Greece never equaled in size the state of Ohio. Its greatest length, from Mount Olym'pus to Cape Tæn'arum, was 250 miles; and its greatest breadth, from Actium to Marathon, was but 180. Yet this little space was divided into twenty-four separate countries, each of which was politically independent of all the rest.
2. The most peculiar trait of the Grecian peninsula is the great extent of its coast as compared with its area. It is almost cut into three distinct portions by deep indentations of the sea, northern Greece being separated from the central portion by the Ambraʼcian and Maʼlian, and central Greece from the Peloponnesus by the Corinth'ian and Saron'ic gulfs. A country thus surrounded and penetrated by water, of necessity became maritime. The islands of the Ægean afforded easy stepping-stones from Europe to Asia. Opposite, on the south, was one of the most fertile portions of Africa; and, on the west, the Italian peninsula was only thirty miles distant at the narrowest portion of the channel.
3. The northern boundary of Greece is the Cambu’nian range, which crosses the peninsula from east to west. About midway between the two seas, this range is intersected by that of Pin'dus, which runs from north to south, like the Ap'ennines of Italy. This lofty chain sends off a branch toward the eastern coast, which, running parallel to the Cambunian at a distance of sixty miles, incloses the beautiful plain of Thes'saly. West of Mount Pindus is Epi'rus, a rough and mountainous country inhabited by various tribes, some Greek, some barbarian. Its ridges, running north and south, were alternated with well-watered valleys. Through the most easterly of these flows the Achelo’us, the largest river in Greece. Near its source were the sacred oaks of Dodo'na, in the rustling of whose leaves the voice of the supreme divinity was believed to be heard.
4. Central Greece was occupied by eleven states: At’tica, Megʻaris, Bæo'tia, Malis, Æniaʼnia, eastern and western Locris, Phocis, Doris, Ætoʻlia, and Ac'arna'nia. Between Ætolia and Doris, Mount Pindus divides into two branches. One of these runs south-easterly into Attica, and comprises the noted summits of Parnasssus, Hel'icon, Cithæ'ron, and Hymet'tus; the other turns to the southward, and reaches the sea near the entrance of the Corinthian Gulf.
Attica is a triangular peninsula, having two sides washed by the sea and its base united to the land. Protected by its mountain barriers of Cithæron and Par’nes, it suffered less from war in early times than other parts of the country; and the olive, its chief production, became for all ages a symbol of peace.
5. Southern Greece contained eleven countries: Corinth, Sicyo'nia, Acha'ia, E'lis, Arca'dia, Messe'nia, Laco'nia, Ar'golis, Epidau’ria, Treeze'nia, and Hermi'onis.
The territory of Corinth occupied the isthmus between the Corinthian and Saronic gulfs; and by its two ports, Lechæ'um and Cen'chreae, carried on an extensive commerce both with the eastem and western seas. Thus admirably situated, Corinth, the chief city, was noted for its wealth even in the time of Homer.
Sicyonia was considered the oldest state in Greece, and Argolis next The ruins of Tir'yns and Myce'næ, in the latter, existed long before the beginning of authentic history.
Elis was the Holy Land of the Helle'nes. Every foot of its territory was sacred to Zeus, and it was sacrilege to bear arms within its limits. Thus it was at peace when all Greece beside was at war; and though its wealth surpassed that of all the neighboring states, its capital remained unwalled.
Arcadia, the Switzerland of the Peloponnesus, was the only Grecian state without a sea-coast. Its wild, precipitous rocks were clothed in gloomy forests, and buried during a great part of the year in fogs and snows. Its people were rustic and illiterate; they worshiped Pan, the god of shepherds and hunters, but if they returned empty-handed from the chase, they expressed their disgust by pricking or scourging his image.
Messenia occupied the south-western corner of Greece, and encircled a gulf to which it gave its name. Laconia embraced the other two promontories in which the Peloponnesus terminates, together with a larger tract to the northward. It consisted mainly of a long valley bounded by two high ranges, whence it was sometimes called Hollow La'cedæ'mon, Down
the center of the vale flowed the Euro'tas, whose sources were in the steep recesses of Mount Tay'getus. Sparta, the capital, was the only important town. It lay on the Eurotas about twenty miles from the sea, inclosed by an amphitheater of mountains which shut out cooling winds and concentrated the sun's rays, so as to produce intense heat in summer.
6. Although the name of Greece is now strictly limited to the peninsula which we have described, it was often more generally applied by the ancients to all the homes and colonies of the Hellenic race. The south of Italy was long known as Mag'na Grce'cia; the eastern shores of the Ægean constituted Asiatic Greece, and the cities of Cyrene in Africa, Syracuse in Sicily, and Massilia in southern France, were all, to the Greeks, equally essential parts of Hellas. The description of the numerous and important colonies belongs to a later period. A few of the islands more immediately belonging to Greece will alone be mentioned here..
7. Chief of these was Eube'a, the great breakwater of the eastern coast, which extended a distance of 100 miles in length and 15 in width. Nearly as important, though smaller, was Corcy'ra, on the western coast; and south of it lay Paxos, Leuca'dia, Ith'aca, Cephalle'nia, and Zacyn'thus. On the south were the Enus'sæ and the important island of Cytheʼra. On the east, among others were Hy'drea, Ægina, and Salamis. Besides these littoral, or coast, islands there were, in the northern Ægean, Lemnos, Imbros, Thasos, and Samothra'ce; in the central, the Cyclades; and, in the southern, the large island of Crete.
HISTORY OF GREECE.
I. Traditional and Fabulous History, from the earliest times to the Dorian Migrations, about B. C. 1100.
II. Authentic History, from the Dorian Migrations to the beginning of the Persian wars, B. C. 1100-500.
III. From the beginning of the Persian wars to the victory of Philip of Macedon at Chæronea, B. C. 500–336.
8. FIRST PERIOD. The name of Greece was unknown to the Greeks, who called their country Hellas and themselves Hellenes. But the Romans, having probably made their first acquaintance with the people of that peninsula through the Grai'koi, a tribe who inhabited the coast nearest Italy, applied their name to the whole Hellenic race. ! A more ancient name, Pelas' gia, was derived from the earliest known inhabitants of the country- a widely extended people, who may be traced by the remains of their massive architecture in various parts of Italy as well as Greece. The Pelasgi were among the first of the Indo-Germanic family to migrate from Asia to Europe.
9. By conquest or influence, the Helienes very early acquired the control of their neighbors, and spread their name, language, and customs over the whole peninsula. They were then regarded as consisting of four tribes, the Dorians, Achæ'ans, Æoʻlians, and Ionians; but the last two, if not all four, were probably members of the earlier race.
10. Though of the same family with the Medes, Persians, Bactrians, and the Brahmins of India, the Greeks had no tradition of a migration from Asia, but believed that their ancestors had sprung from the ground. They, however, acknowledged themselves indebted, for some important elements of their civilization, to immigrants from foreign lands. Ce crops, a native of Sais in Egypt, was said to have founded Athens, and to have established its religious rites. The citadel bore, from him, the name Cecroʻpia in later times. Better authorities make Cecrops a Pelasgian hero. Da'naus, another reputed Egyptian, was believed to have founded Argos, having fled to Greece with his fifty daughters. To him the tribe of the Da'nai traced their name, which Homer sometimes applied to all the Greeks; but the story is evidently a fable.
Perlops was said to have come from Phrygia, and by means of his great wealth to have gained the kingdom of Mycenæ. The whole peninsula south of the Corinthian Gulf bore his name, being called Peloponnesus. A fourth tradition which describes the settlement of the Phænician Cad'. mus at Thebes, in Beotia, rests upon better evidence. He is said to have introduced the use of letters, the art of mining, and the culture of the vine. It is certain that the Greek alphabet was derived from the Phænician; and Cadmus may be regarded, in this elementary sense, as the founder of European literature. The fortress of Thebes was called, from him, Cadme'a.
11. The earliest period of Grecian history is called the Heroic Age. In later times, poets and sculptors loved to celebrate its leaders as a nobler race than themselves, ranking between gods and men; differing from the former by being subject to death, but surpassing the latter both in strength of body and greatness of mind. The innumerable exploits of the Heroes must be read rather in Mythology than History. The three who had the strongest hold in the belief, and influence upon the character of the people, were Hercules, the great national hero; The'seus, the hero of Attica; and Minos, king of Crete.
The “Twelve Labors of Hercules” represent the struggle of Man with Nature, both in the destruction of physical evil and the acquisition of wealth and power. To understand his reputed history, we must bear in mind that, in that early age, lions as well as other savage beasts were still numerous in southern Europe; that large tracts were covered by undrained marshes and impenetrable forests; and that a wild, aboriginal race of men, more dangerous than the beasts, haunted land and sea as robbers and pirates.
12. Theseus was the civilizer of Attica. He established a constitutional government, and instituted the two great festivals, the Panathenæa * and Synoikia, in honor of the patron goddess of Athens. The Isthmian Games, in honor of Neptune, were also traced to him.
13. Minos, king of Crete, was regarded by the Greeks as the first great law-giver, and thus a principal founder of civilization and social order. After his death he was believed to be one of the judges of souls in Hades. It is worth noticing that the traditional law-givers of many nations have borne similar names; and Menu in India, Menes in Egypt, Manis in Lydia, Minos in Crete, and Mannus in Germany may all be mythical names for Man the Thinker, as distinguished from the savage.
14. Of the many remarkable enterprises of the Grecian heroes, the last and greatest was the Siege of Troy. Zeus, † pitying the earth- so says the fable for the swarming multitudes she was compelled to sustain, resolved to send discord among men that they might destroy each other. The occasion of war was found in the wrong inflicted upon Menelaus, king of Sparta, by Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy. All the Greek princes, resenting the injury, assembled their forces from the extremities of Hellas — from Mount Olympus to the islands of Ithaca, Crete, and Rhodes — and crossing the Ægean under the command of Agamem'non, spent ten years in the siege of Troy. The story of the tenth year must be read in the Iliad of Homer. † It is impossible to separate the historical from the poetical part in his spirited narration. Some historians have assigned a definite period to the siege, while others have doubted whether Troy, as described by Homer, ever existed.
· 15. Though much doubt may be felt as to the character of their heroes and events, the poems of Homer give us a true picture of the government and manners of the Greeks at this early age. From them we learn that each of the petty states had its own king, who was the father, the judge, the general, and the priest of his people. He was supposed to be of divine descent and appointment. But unlike the blind believers in “divine right” in modern times, the Greeks demanded that their kings should prove themselves superior to common men in valor, wisdom, and greatness of soul. If thus shown to be sons of the gods, they received unquestioning obedi
B. C. 1194.
B. C. 1181.
16. A council of nobles surrounded the king and aided him by their advice, The people were often assembled to witness the discussions in the council and the administration of justice, as well as to hear the intentions of the king; but in this early age they had no voice in the proceedings. The nobles, like the king, were descended from the gods, and were distinguished by their great estates, vast wealth, and numerous slaves.
• See note, p. 128.
† See 22
, 23, 25.
See note, p. 110.