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Age was illustrated by the achievements of sons of the gods, the last and great. est of their works being a ten years' siege of Troy. Greece was governed at this period by many absolute monarchs: kings and nobles, as well as people, led simple and industrious lives. Not only tillage, weaving, and the manufacture of metals, but architecture, sculpture, music, and poetry were cultivated to a high degree. Greek religion was the most retined and beautiful form of Natureworship. Six gods and six goddesses constituted the Supreme Council of Olympus, and a multitude of inferior divinities peopled the mountains, woods, and waters. Conscience was personified in Nemesis and the Erinnyes. Rites of atonement for sin, ecstatic celebrations, and ascetic brotherhoods were adopted by the Greeks from foreign nations. Of many oracles, the most celebrated was that of Apollo, at Delphi. The Heroic Age ended with a general migration of the tribes of Greece, which resulted in the settlement of the Dorians in the Peloponnesus, and the planting of many Ionian and Æolian colonies on the shores of Asia Minor.
SECOND PERIOD. B. C. 1100-500.
38. The Heroic Age had ended with a general migration among the tribes of Greece, which for a time interrupted their improvement of
But Grecian liberty arose out of the ruins of the Heroic Age; and instead of absolute monarchies, various forms of free government were established in the several states. A state, indeed, was nothing more than a city with a small portion of land surrounding it. Except in Attica, no city at this time had control over any other town.
39. All the Greeks — though existing under a multitude of governments, and divided by rivalries and jealousies — considered themselves as children of one ancestor, Hellen, and gave the common name of barbarians, or babblers, to all other nations. The poems of Homer, which were chanted at the public festivals and repeated at every hearth-stone, described all the Greeks as united against a common foe, and made the feeling of brotherhood stronger than any occasional animosity. Beside the community of blood, language, and national history, the Greeks were strongly bound together by their equal interest in the oracles and the celebration of religious rites, and their participation in the great national festivals.
40. THE GAMES. Of these the oldest and most celebrated were the Olympic Games. The date of their foundation is lost among the fables of the Heroic Age, but it is certain that these athletic contests were the favorite diversion of heroes in those primitive times. They were revived
and invested with new importance in the time of Iph'itus,
king of Elis, and Lycurgus, regent of Sparta. In the next century their celebration, once in four years, began to afford the Greek measurement of time.
The first Olympiad was B. C. 776–772. The scene of the festival was upon the banks of the Alpheus, in Elis, near the ancient temple of the Olympian Zeus. During the month of the celebration wars were suspended throughout Greece. Deputies appeared from all the Hellenic
B. C. 891.
states, who rivaled each other in the costliness of their offerings at the temple. The games were in honor of Zeus and Hercules. They were open to all Greeks, without distinction of wealth or birth; but barbarians, even of royal blood, were strictly excluded. They included running, jumping, wrestling, boxing, the throwing of quoits and javelins, and races of horses and chariots. The only reward of the victor was a crown of wild olive; but this was esteemed by every Greek as the highest honor he could attain. Its happy wearer was welcomed home with processions and songs of triumph; he entered the town through a breach made in the walls, to signify that a city possessed of such sons needed no other defense; he was thenceforth exempt from all taxes, as one who had conferred the highest obligation upon the state; he occupied the chief place in all public spectacles; if an Athenian, he ate at the table of the magistrates; if a Spartan, he had the privilege in battle of fighting near the person of the king.
41. Three other periodical festivals, which were at first confined to the states where they occurred, were at length thrown open to the whole Hel. lenic race. The Pythian Games, in honor of Apollo, were celebrated on the Cirrhæ'an plain, in Phocis, the third year of every Olympiad. They included competition in music and poetry as well as in athletic sports, and were, next to the Olympic, the most celebrated festival in Greece. The Ne'mean and Isthmian Games were celebrated once in two years; the
former in the valley of Nemea, in Argolis, in honor of Zeus, and the latter on the Isthmus of Corinth, in honor of the sea-god, Posidon.
Thus every year was marked by at least one great national festival, and every second year by two, reminding the throngs which attended them of their common origin, and the distinction between themselves and barbarians. Beside keeping alive that athletic training which increased the strength of Grecian youth, these yearly assemblies served also the purposes of the modern European fairs, of the lecture hall, and, to a certain extent, of the printing-press; for booths were erected all around the sacred grove, in which the industries of all the Hellenic states and colonies found a ready market; while, in the intervals of athletic display, poets chanted to the eager throng their hymns and ballads; historians related the deeds of foreign and native heroes; and philosophers unfolded to all who were wise enough to listen, their theories of mind and matter, and the relation of gods to men.
42. Another bond of union among the Greeks was found in the Amphic'tyones, or voluntary associations of neighboring or kindred tribes, usually for the protection of some common temple or sanctuary. Such a one had its center at Delos, the religious metropolis of the Cyclades; and the three tribes of Dorians, Ionians, and Eolians in western Asia Minor had each its federal union on the same principle. But the most celebrated and lasting was the Amphictyonic league of twelve tribes, which had its semi-annual meetings, in the spring at Delphi, and in the autumn at Anthela, near Thermopylæ.
43. After the Dorian Conquest, Argos was for several centuries the leading power in Greece. In the earliest part of its history, the government was a monarchy, like those of the Heroic Age, the kings claiming descent from Hercules. But the spirit of freedom having been awakened in the people, they gradually took away power from their kings, and established a republic, though retaining the name of monarchy. About 780 B. C., one Phi'don came to the throne, who, having more talent than his predecessors, won back all the powers which they had lost, and made himself absolute with the now first-used name of “ tyrant.” He extended the dominion of Argos over the whole Peloponnese, and sent forth colonies which rendered the Argive name famous in Crete, Rhodes, Cos, Cnidus, and Halicarnassus. His intercourse with Asia led to the first use of coined money in Greece, and of a system of weights and measures which is supposed to be the same with the Babylonian. After the death of Phidon, Argive power rapidly declined. The subject and allied cities threw off the oppressive rule which he had exercised, and a new state was now gaining power in the Peloponnese which was destined to eclipse all the glories of Argos.
44. When the Dorians invaded Peloponnesus, the former inhabitants still retained their foothold in the country, and for three hundred years their fortress of Amy'clæ stood at only two miles distance from the Doric capital of Lacedæmon, defying assault. The Lacedæmonians consisted of three classes : 1. The Doric conquerors; 2. The subject Achæans of the country towns; and, 3. The enslaved Helots, who were bought and sold with the soil.
45. The government of Sparta was a double monarchy, its two kings being descended respectively from Procles and Eurysthenes, the twin sons of Aristodemus. They possessed little power in peace, but as generals, in these early times, they were absolute in war. They were held in great honor as the descendants of Hercules, and thus as connecting links between their people and the gods. The Spartan Senate consisted of thirty members, each of whom had passed the age of sixty, and had been a blameless servant of the state. The popular assembly was of little importance, though, as a matter of form, questions of peace or war and the election of certain officers were referred to it. At a later time, however, this assembly by a free vote chose five Ephors, who had absolute power even over the kings and senate, as well as over the people.
46. However subservient they might be to kings or senate, the people held themselves proudly above the industrious but dependent inhabitants of the towns. There was more difference of rank between Spartan and Achæan than between the meanest Spartan and his king. The Helots were marked for contempt by a garment of sheep-skin and a cap of dogskin; and every year stripes were inflicted upon them for no fault, but that they might never forget that they were slaves.
47. About 850 B. C., arose Lycurgus, one of the most celebrated of ancient law-givers. He was of the royal family of Sparta ; and upon the death of his brother, King Polydec'tes, le exercised supreme command in the name of his infant nephew, Charila’us. His administration was the most wise and just that the Spartans had known; but his enemies raised a report that he was seeking the crown for himself, and he resolved to withdraw from the country until his nephew should be of age.
The Spartans missed the firm and wise government of their regent. The young king came to the throne, but disorders were not checked, and a party of the better sort sent a message to Lycurgus urging his return. He first consulted the oracle at Delphi, and was hailed with the title, “Beloved of the gods, and rather a god than a man.” To his prayer that he might be enabled to enact good laws, the priestess replied that Apollo had heard his request, and promised that the constitution he was about to establish should be the best in the world. Those who might envy the power and deny the authority of Lycurgus as a man, could not refuse obedience to his laws when thus enforced by the god. He effected a great revolution in Sparta, with the consent and coöperation of the king himself.
48. The laws of Lycurgus lessened the powers of the kings and increased those of the people, but their chief end was to secure the continuance of the state by making every Spartan a soldier. Modern nations believe that gove ernments exist for the people; in Sparta, on the contrary, each person existed only for the state. His right to exist was decided upon the threshold of life by a council of old men, before whom each newly-born infant was presented. If it seemed to promise a vigorous and active life, it was accepted as a child of the state, and assigned a nine-thousandth part of the Spartan lands; but if weakly and deformed, it was cast into a ravine to perish.
At seven years of age every boy so allowed to live was taken from his home and subjected to a course of public training. The discipline of his body was considered of more importance than the improvement of his mind. He endured heat and cold, hunger and fatigue; and beside the gymnastic exercises, he was subjected to all the hardships of military service. His garment was the same summer and winter; the food given him was too little to sustain life, but he was expected to make up the deficiency by hunting or stealing. If caught in the latter act, he was severely punished; but it was not for the dishonesty, but for the awkwardness of allowing himself to be detected. It must be remembered, however, that where there was no property there could be no theft in any moral sense. Every thing in Sparta was ultimately the property of the state, and every interest was subordinate to the training of citizens to dexterity in war.
49. Another means of training the Spartan youth to fortitude, was a cruel scourging for no offense at the shrine of Artemis, which they endured without a sound, although the altar was sprinkled with their blood, and some even died under the lash. Those who were educated by such inhuman severities, were not likely to become either just or merciful toward others. The wretched Helots afforded a never-failing exercise for their skill in war. Under the institution called Crypti'a, they were frequently attacked and murdered by the select bands of young Spartans, who ranged the country by night in quest of military practice. When the Helots became more numerous than their masters, so as to be regarded with apprehension, these massacres became more frequent and general.
50. Spartan discipline did not end with youth. At thirty a man was permitted to marry, but he still lived at the barracks and ate at the common table. Public affairs were discussed at these tables with a freedom which partly repaid the suppression of speech in the assembly. The youth were permitted to attend in silence, and thus received their political education. The remaining hours of the day were divided by the men between gymnastic exercises and the instruction of youth. Not until his sixtieth year was a man released from this martial life.
51. Spartan girls were subjected to nearly as rigorous a training as their brothers. Their exercises consisted of running, wrestling, and boxing, and their characters became as warlike as those of men. Like other citizens, the Spartan women considered themselves and all that were most dear to them as the absolute property of the state.
52. That the minds of the Spartans might never be diverted from military pursuits, Lycurgus permitted no citizen to engage in agriculture, trade, or manufactures, all occupations which could be pursued for gain being left in the hands of the subject Achæans. To shut out foreign luxuries, he adopted a still more stringent measure. The possession of gold or silver was forbidden, and money was made of iron rendered worthless by being heated and plunged into vinegar. This bore so low a nominal value in proportion to its weight, that the amount of one hundred dollars was a load for a pair of oxen. So cumbrous a medium of exchange was despised by other nations; the ports of Sparta were unvisited by trading ships, and her villages by traveling minstrels or merchants; and as Spartans were forbidden to journey in other lands without the leave of their magistrates, while, with very rare exceptions, no foreigner was permitted to reside in their capital, the selfish exclusiveness of the nation seemed complete.