The Grecian States And Colonies To The Persian Wars

We come now to consider those States which grew into importance about the

middle of the eighth century before Christ, at the close of the legendary


The most important of these was Sparta, which was the leading

State. We have seen how it was conquered by Dorians, under Heraclic

princes. Its first great historic name was Lycurgus, whom some historians,

however, regard as a mythical personage.
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Sparta was in a state of anarchy in consequence of the Dorian

conquest, a contest between the kings, aiming at absolute power, and the

people, desirous of democratic liberty. At this juncture the king,

Polydectes, died, leaving Lycurgus, his brother, guardian of the realm,

and of the infant heir to the throne. The future lawgiver then set out on

his travels, visiting the other States of Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt, and

other countries, and returned to Sparta about the period of the first

Olympiad, B.C. 776, with a rich store of wisdom and knowledge. The State

was full of disorders, but he instituted great reforms, aided by the

authority of the Delphic oracle, and a strong party of influential men.

His great object was to convert the citizens of Sparta into warriors

united by the strongest bonds, and trained to the severest discipline,

governed by an oligarchy under the form of the ancient monarchy. In other

words, his object was to secure the ascendency of the small body of Dorian

invaders that had conquered Laconia.

The descendants of these invaders, the Spartans, alone possessed

the citizenship, and were equal in political rights. They were the

proprietors of the soil, which was tilled by Helots. The Spartans

disdained any occupation but war and government. They lived within their

city, which was a fortified camp, and ate in common at public tables, and

on the simplest fare. Every virtue and energy were concentrated on

self-discipline and sacrifice, in order to fan the fires of heroism and

self-devotion. They were a sort of stoics--hard, severe, proud, despotic,

and overbearing. They cared nothing for literature, or art, or philosophy.

Even eloquence was disdained, and the only poetry or music they cultivated

were religions hymns and heroic war songs. Commerce was forbidden by the

constitution, and all the luxuries to which it leads. Only iron was

allowed for money, and the precious metals were prohibited. Every

exercise, every motive, every law, contributed to make the Spartans

soldiers, and nothing but soldiers. Their discipline was the severest

known to the ancients. Their habits of life were austere and rigid. They

were trained to suffer any hardship without complaint.

Besides these Spartan citizens were the Perioeci--remnants of the

old Achaean population, but mixed with an inferior class of Dorians. They

had no political power, but possessed personal freedom. They were landed

proprietors, and engaged in commerce and manufactures.

Below this class were the Helots--pure Greeks, but reduced to

dependence by conquest. They were bound to the soil, like serfs, but dwelt

with their families on the farms they tilled. They were not bought and

sold as slaves. They were the body servants of the Spartan citizens, and

were regarded as the property of the State. They were treated with great

haughtiness and injustice by their masters, which bred at last an intense


All political power was in the hands of the citizen warriors, only

about nine thousand in number in the time of Lycurgus. From them emanated

all delegated authority, except that of kings. This assembly, or

ecclesia, of Spartans over thirty years of age, met at stated intervals

to decide on all important matters submitted to them, but they had no

right of amendment--only a simple approval or rejection.

The body to which the people, it would seem, delegated considerable

power, was the Senate, composed of thirty members, not under sixty years

of age, and elected for life. They were a deliberative body, and judges in

all capital charges against Spartans. They were not chosen for noble birth

or property qualifications, but for merit and wisdom.

At the head of the State, at least nominally, were two kings, who

were numbered with the thirty senators. They had scarcely more power than

the Roman consuls; they commanded the armies, and offered the public

sacrifices, and were revered as the descendants of Hercules.

The persons of most importance were the ephors, chosen annually by

the people, who exercised the chief executive power, and without

responsibility. They could even arrest kings, and bring them to trial

before the Senate. Two of the five ephors accompanied the king in war, and

were a check on his authority.

It would thus seem that the government of Sparta was a republic of

an aristocratic type. There were no others nobler than citizens, but these

citizens composed but a small part of the population. They were Spartans--a

handful of conquerors, in the midst of hostile people--a body of lords

among slaves and subjects. They sympathized with law and order, and

detested the democratical turbulence of Athens. They were trained, by

their military education, to subordination, obedience, and self-sacrifice.

They, as citizens or as soldiers, existed only for the State, and to the

State every thing was subordinate. In our times, the State is made for the

people; in Sparta, the people for the State. This generated an intense

patriotism and self-denial. It also permitted a greater interference of

the State in personal matters than would now be tolerated in any despotism

in Europe. It made the citizens submissive to a division of property,

which if not a perfect community of goods, was fatal to all private

fortunes. But the property which the citizens thus shared was virtually

created by the Helots, who alone tilled the ground. The wealth of nations

is in the earth, and it is its cultivation which is the ordinary source of

property. The State, not individual masters, owned the Helots; and they

toiled for the citizens. In the modern sense of liberty, there was very

little in Sparta, except that which was possessed by the aristocratic

citizens--the conquerors of the country--men, whose very occupation was war

and government, and whose very amusement were those which fostered warlike

habits. The Roman citizens did not disdain husbandry, nor the Puritan

settlers of New England, but the Spartan citizens despised both this and

all trade and manufacture. Never was a haughtier class of men than these

Spartan soldiers. They exceeded in pride the feudal chieftain.

Such an exclusive body of citizens, however, jealous of their

political privileges, constantly declined in numbers, so that, in the time

of Aristotle, there were only one thousand Spartan citizens; and this

decline continued in spite of all the laws by which the citizens were

compelled to marry, and those customs, so abhorrent to our Christian

notions, which permitted the invasion of marital rights for the sake of

healthy children.

As it was to war that the best energies of the Spartans were

directed, so their armies were the admiration of the ancient world for

discipline and effectiveness. They were the first who reduced war to a

science. The general type of their military organization was the phalanx,

a body of troops in close array, armed with a long spear and short sword.

The strength of an army was in the heavy armed infantry; and this body was

composed almost entirely of citizens, with a small mixture of Perioeci.

From the age of twenty to sixty, every Spartan was liable to military

service; and all the citizens formed an army, whether congregated at

Sparta, or absent on foreign service.

Such, in general, were the social, civil, and military institutions of

Sparta, and not peculiar to her alone, but to all the Dorians, even in

Crete; from which we infer that it was not Lycurgus who shaped them, but

that they existed independent of his authority. He may have re-established

the old regulations, and gave his aid to preserve the State from

corruption and decay. And when we remember that the constitution which he

re-established resisted both the usurpations of tyrants and the advances

of democracy, by which other States were revolutionized, we can not

sufficiently admire the wisdom which so early animated the Dorian


The Spartans became masters of the country after a long struggle,

and it was henceforth called Laconia. The more obstinate Achaeans became

Helots. After the conquest, the first memorable event in Spartan history

was the reduction of Messenia, for which it took two great wars.

Messenia has already been mentioned as the southwestern part of the

Peloponnesus, and resembling Laconia in its general aspects. The river

Parnisus flows through its entire length, as Eurotas does in Laconia,

forming fertile valleys and plains, and producing various kinds of cereals

and fruits, even as it now produces oil, silk, figs, wheat, maize, cotton,

wine, and honey. The area of Messenia is one thousand one hundred and

ninety-two square miles, not so large as one of our counties. The early

inhabitants had been conquered by the Dorians, and it was against the

descendants of these conquerors that the Spartans made war. The murder of

a Spartan king, Teleclus, at a temple on the confines of Laconia and

Messenia, where sacrifices were offered in common, gave occasion for the

first war, which lasted nineteen years, B.C. 743. Other States were

involved in the quarrel--Corinth on the side of Sparta, and Sicyon and

Arcadia on the part of the Messenians. The Spartans having the superiority

in the field, the Messenians retreated to their stronghold of Ithome,

where they defended themselves fifteen years. But at last they were

compelled to abandon it, and the fortress was razed to the ground. The

conquered were reduced to the condition of Helots--compelled to cultivate

the land and pay half of its produce to their new masters. The Spartan

citizens became the absolute owners of the whole soil of Messenia.

After thirty-nine years of servitude, a hero arose among the

conquered Messenians, Aristomenes, like Judas Maccabeus, or William

Wallace, who incited his countrymen to revolt. The whole of the

Peloponnesus became involved in the new war, and only Corinth became the

ally of Sparta; the remaining States of Argos, Sicyon, Arcadia, and Pisa,

sided with the Messenians. The Athenian poet, Tyrtaeus, stimulated the

Spartans by his war-songs. In the first great battle, the Spartans were

worsted; in the second, they gained a signal victory, so that the

Messenians were obliged to leave the open country and retire to the

fortress on Mount Ira. Here they maintained themselves eleven years, the

Spartans being unused to sieges, and trained only to conflict in the open

field. The fortress was finally taken by treachery, and the hero who

sought to revive the martial glories of his State fled to Rhodes. Messenia

became now, B.C. 668, a part of Laconia, and it was three hundred years

before it appeared again in history.

The Spartans, after the conquest of Messenia, turned their eyes

upon Arcadia--that land of shepherds, free and simple and brave like

themselves. The city of Tegea long withstood the arms of the Spartans, but

finally yielded to superior strength, and became a subject ally, B.C. 560.

Sparta was further increased by a part of Argos, and a great battle, B.C.

547, between the Argives and Spartans, resulted in the complete ascendency

of Sparta in the southern part of the Peloponnesus, about the time that

Cyrus overthrew the Lydian empire. The Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor invoked

their aid against the Persian power, and Sparta proudly rallied in their


Meanwhile, a great political revolution was going on in the other

States of Greece, in no condition to resist the pre-eminence of Sparta,

The patriarchal monarchies of the heroic ages had gradually been subverted

by the rising importance of the nobility, enriched by conquered lands.

Every conquest, every step to national advancement, brought the nobles

nearer to the crown, and the government passed into the hands of those

nobles who had formerly composed the council of the king. With the growing

power of nobles was a corresponding growth of the political power of the

people or citizens, in consequence of increased wealth and intelligence.

The political changes were rapid. As the nobles had usurped the power of

the kings, so the citizens usurped the power of the nobles. The

everlasting war of classes, where the people are intelligent and free, was

signally illustrated in the Grecian States, and democracy succeeded to the

oligarchy which had prostrated kings. Then, when the people had gained the

ascendency, ambitious and factious demagogues in turn, got the control,

and these adventurers, now called Tyrants, assumed arbitrary powers. Their

power was only maintained by cruelty, injustice, and unscrupulous means,

which caused them finally to be so detested that they were removed by

assassination. These natural changes, from a monarchy, primitive and just

and limited, to an oligarchy of nobles, and the gradual subversion of

their power by wealthy and enlightened citizens, and then the rise of

demagogues, who became tyrants, have been illustrated in all ages of the

world. But the rapidity of these changes in the Grecian States, with the

progress of wealth and corruption, make their history impressive on all

generations. It is these rapid and natural revolutions which give to the

political history of Greece its permanent interest and value. The age of

the Tyrants is generally fixed from B.C. 650 to B.C. 500--about one hundred

and fifty years.

No State passed through these changes of government more signally

than Corinthia, which, with Megaris, formed the isthmus which connected

the Peloponnesus with Greece Proper. It was a small territory, covered

with the ridges and the spurs of the Geranean and and Oneian mountains,

and useless for purposes of agriculture. Its principal city was Corinth;

was favorably situated for commerce, and rapidly grew in population and

wealth. It also commanded the great roads which led from Greece Proper

through the defiles of the mountains into the Peloponnesus. It rapidly

monopolized the commerce of the AEgean Sea, and the East through the

Saronic Gulf; and through the Corinthian Gulf it commanded the trade of

the Ionian and Sicilian seas.

Corinth, by some, is supposed have been a Phoenician colony. Before

authentic history begins, it was inhabited by a mixed population of

AEolians and Ionians, the former of whom were dominant. Over them reigned

Sisyphus, according to tradition, the grandfather of Bellerophon who laid

the foundation of mercantile prosperity. The first historical king was

Aletes, B.C. 1074, the leader of Dorian invaders, who subdued the AEolians,

and incorporated them with their own citizens. The descendants of Aletes

reigned twelve generations, when the nobles converted the government into

an oligarchy, under Bacchis, who greatly increased the commercial

importance of the city. In 754, B.C., Corinth began to colonize, and

fitted out a war fleet for the protection of commerce. The oligarchy was

supplanted by Cypselus, B.C. 655, a man of the people, whose mother was of

noble birth, but rejected by her family, of the ruling house of the

Bacchiadae, on account of lameness. His son Periander reigned forty years

with cruel despotism, but made Corinth the leading commercial city of

Greece, and he subjected to her sway the colonies planted on the islands

of the Ionian Sea, one of which was Corcyra (Corfu), which gained a great

mercantile fame. It was under his reign that the poet Arion, or Lesbos,

flourished, to whom he gave his patronage. In three years after the death

of Periander, 585 B.C., the oligarchal power was restored, and Corinth

allied herself with Sparta in her schemes of aggrandizement.

The same change of government was seen in Megara, a neighboring

State, situated on the isthmus, between Corinth and Attica, and which

attained great commercial distinction. As a result of commercial opulence,

the people succeeded in overthrowing the government, an oligarchy of

Dorian conquerors, and elevating a demagogue, Theagenes, to the supreme

power, B.C. 630. He ruled tyrannically, in the name of the people, for

thirty years, but was expelled by the oligarchy, which regained power.

During his reign all kinds of popular excesses were perpetrated,

especially the confiscation of the property of the rich.

Other States are also illustrations of this change of government

from kings to oligarchies, and oligarchies to demagogues and tyrants, as

on the isle of Lesbos, where Pittacus reigned dictator, but with wisdom

and virtue--one of the seven wise men of Greece--and in Samos, where

Polycrates rivaled the fame of Periander, and adorned his capital with

beautiful buildings, and patronized literature and art. One of his friends

was Anacreon, the poet. He was murdered by the Persians, B.C. 522.

But the State which most signally illustrates the revolutions in

government was Athens.

"Where on the AEgean shore a city stands,--

Built nobly; pure the air, and light the soil:

Athena, the eye of Greece, mother of arts

And eloquence, native to famous wits."

Every thing interesting or impressive in the history of classical

antiquity clusters round this famous city, so that without Athens there

could be no Greece. Attica, the little State of which it was the capital,

formed a triangular peninsula, of about seven hundred square miles. The

country is hilly and rocky, and unfavorable to agriculture; but such was

the salubrity of the climate, and the industry of the people, all kinds of

plants and animals flourished. The history of the country, like that of

the other States, is mythical, to the period of the first Olympiad. Ogyges

has the reputation of being the first king of a people who claimed to be

indigenous, about one hundred and fifty years before the arrival of

Cecrops, who came, it is supposed, from Egypt, and founded Athens, and

taught the simple but savage natives a new religion, and the elements of

civilized life, 1556 B.C. It received its name from the goddess Neith,

introduced by him from Egypt, under the name of Athena, or Minerva. It was

also called Cecropia, from its founder. Until the time of Theseus it was a

small town, confined to the Acropolis and Mars Hill. This hero is the

great name of ancient Athenian legend, as Hercules is to Greece generally.

He cleared the roads of robbers, and formed an aristocratical

constitution, with a king, who was only the first of his nobles. But he

himself, after having given political unity, was driven away by a

conspiracy of nobles, leaving the throne to Menesthius, a descendant of

the ancient kings. This monarch reigned twenty-four years, and lost his

life at the siege of Troy. The whole period of the monarchy lies within

the mythical age. Tradition makes Codrus the last king, who was slain

during an invasion of the Dorians, B.C. 1045. Resolving to have no future

king, the Athenians substituted the office of archon, or ruler, and made

his son, Medus, the superior magistrate. This office remained hereditary

in the family of Codrus for thirteen generations. In B.C. 752, the

duration of the office was fixed for ten years. It remained in the family

of Codrus thirty-eight years longer, when it was left open for all the

nobles. In 683 B.C. nine archons were annually elected from the nobles,

the first having superior dignity.

The first of these archons, of whom any thing of importance is

recorded, was Draco, who governed Athens in the year 624 B.C., who

promulgated written laws, exceedingly severe, inflicting capital

punishment for slight offenses. The people grew weary of him and his laws,

and he was banished to AEgina, where he died, from a conspiracy headed by

Cylon, one of the nobles, who seized the Acropolis, B.C. 612. His

insurrection, however, failed, and he was treacherously put to death by

one of the archons, which led to the expulsion of the whole body, and a

change in the constitution.

This was effected by Solon, the Athenian sage and law-giver--himself

of the race of Codrus, whom the Athenians chose as archon, with full power

to make new laws. Intrusted with absolute power, he abstained from abusing

it--a patriot in the most exalted sense, as well as a poet and philosopher.

Urged by his friends to make himself tyrant, he replied that tyranny might

be a fair country, only there was no way out of it.

When he commenced his reforms, the nobles, or Eupatridae, were in

possession of most of the fertile land of Attica, while the poorer

citizens possessed only the sterile highlands. This created an unhappy

jealousy between the rich and poor. Besides, there was another class that

had grown rich by commerce, animated by the spirit of freedom. But their

influence tended to widen the gulf between the rich and poor. The poor got

into debt, and fell in the power of creditors, and sunk to the condition

of serfs, and many were even sold in slavery, for the laws were severe

against debtors, as in ancient Rome. Solon, like Moses in his institution

of the Year of Jubilee, set free all the estates and persons that had

fallen in the power of creditors, and ransomed such as were sold in


Having removed the chief source of enmity between the rich and

poor, he repealed the bloody laws of Draco, and commenced to remodel the

political constitution. The fundamental principles which he adopted was a

distribution of power to all citizens according to their wealth. But the

nobles were not deprived of their ascendency, only the way was opened to

all citizens to reach political distinction, especially those who were

enriched by commerce. He made an assessment of the landed property of all

the citizens, taking as the medium a standard of value which was

equivalent to a drachma of annual produce. The first class, who had no

aristocratic titles, were called Pentacosio medimni, from possessing five

hundred medimni or upward. They alone were eligible to the archonship and

other high offices, and bore the largest share of the public burdens. The

second class was called Knights, because they were bound to serve as

cavalry. They filled the inferior offices, farmed the revenue, and had the

commerce of the country in their hands.

The third class was called Zeugitae (yokesmen), from their ability

to keep a yoke of oxen. They were small farmers, and served in the

heavy-armed infantry, and were subject to a property-tax. All those whose

incomes fell short of two hundred medimni formed the fourth class, and

served in the light-armed troops, and were exempt from property-tax, but

disqualified for public office, and yet they had a vote in popular

elections, and in the judgment passed upon archons at the expiration of

office. "The direct responsibility of all the magistrates to the popular

assembly, was the most democratic of all the institutions of Solon; and

though the government was still in the hands of the oligarchy, Solon

clearly foresaw, if he did not purposely prepare for, the preponderance of

the popular element." "To guard against hasty measures, he also instituted

the Senate of four hundred, chosen year by year, from the four Ionic

tribes, whose office was to prepare all business for the popular assembly,

and regulate its meetings. The Areopagus retained its ancient functions,

to which Solon added a general oversight over all the public institutions,

and over the private life of the citizens. He also enacted many other laws

for the administration of justice, the regulation of social life, the

encouragement of commerce, and the general prosperity of the State." His

whole legislation is marked by wisdom and patriotism, and adaptation to

the circumstances of the people who intrusted to him so much power and

dignity. The laws were, however, better than the people, and his

legislative wisdom and justice place him among the great benefactors of

mankind, for who can tell the ultimate influence of his legislation on

Rome and on other nations. The most beautiful feature was the

responsibility of the chief magistrates to the people who elected them,

and from the fact that they could subsequently be punished for bad conduct

was the greatest security against tyranny and peculation.

After having given this constitution to his countrymen, the

lawgiver took his departure from Athens, for ten years, binding the people

by a solemn oath to make no alteration in his laws. He visited Egypt,

Cyprus, and Asia Minor, and returned to Athens to find his work nearly

subverted by one of his own kinsmen. Pisistratus, of noble origin, but a

demagogue, contrived, by his arts and prodigality, to secure a guard,

which he increased, and succeeded in seizing the Acropolis, B.C. 560, and

in usurping the supreme authority--so soon are good laws perverted, so

easily are constitutions overthrown, when demagogues and usurpers are

sustained by the people. A combination of the rich and poor drove him into

exile; but their divisions and hatreds favored his return. Again he was

exiled by popular dissension, and a third time he regained his power, but

only by a battle. He sustained his usurpation by means of Thracian

mercenaries, and sent the children of all he suspected as hostages to

Naxos. He veiled his despotic power under the forms of the constitution,

and even submitted himself to the judgment of the Areopagus on the charge

of murder. He kept up his popularity by generosity and affability, by

mingling freely with the citizens, by opening to them his gardens, by

adorning the city with beautiful edifices, and by a liberal patronage of

arts and letters. He founded a public library, and collected the Homeric

poems in a single volume. He ruled beneficently, as tyrants often

have,--like Caesar, like Richelieu, like Napoleon,--identifying his own glory

with the welfare of the State. He died after a successful reign of

thirty-three years, B.C. 527, and his two sons, Hippias and Hipparchus,

succeeded him in the government, ruling, like their father, at first

wisely but despotically, cultivating art and letters and friendship of

great men. But sensual passions led to outrages which resulted in the

assassination of Hipparchus. Hippias, having punished the conspirators,

changed the spirit of the government, imposed arbitrary taxes, surrounded

himself with an armed guard, and ruled tyrannically and cruelly. After

four years of despotic government, Athens was liberated, chiefly by aid of

the Lacedaemonians, now at the highest of their power. Hippias retired to

the court of Persia, and planned and guided the attack of Darius on

Greece--a traitor of the most infamous kind, since he combined tyranny at

home with the coldest treachery to his country. His accursed family were

doomed to perpetual banishment, and never succeeded in securing a pardon.

Their power had lasted fifty years, and had been fatal to the liberties of


The Lacedaemonians did not retire until their king Cleomenes formed

a close friendship with Isagoras, the leader of the aristocratic party--and

no people were prouder of their birth than the old Athenian nobles.

Opposed to him was Cleisthenes, of the noble family of the Alcmaeonids, who

had been banished in the time of Megacles, for the murder of Cylon, who

had been treacherously enticed from the sanctuary at the altar of Athena.

Cleisthenes gained the ear of the people, and prevailed over Isagoras, and

effected another change in the constitution, by which it became still more

democratic. He remodeled the basis of citizenship, heretofore confined to

the four Ionic tribes; and divided the whole country into demes, or

parishes, each of which managed its local affairs. All freemen were

enrolled in the demes, and became members of the tribes, now ten in

number, instead of the old four Ionian tribes. He increased the members of

the senate from four to five hundred, fifty members being elected from

each tribe. To this body was committed the chief functions of executive

government. It sat in permanence, and was divided into ten sections, one

for each tribe, and each section or committee, called prytany, had the

presidency of the senate and ecclesia during its term. Each prytany of

fifty members was subdivided into committees of ten, each of which held

the presidency for seven days, and out of these a chairman was chosen by

lot every day, to preside in the senate and assembly, and to keep the keys

of the Acropolis and treasury, and public seal. Nothing shows jealousy of

power more than the brief term of office which the president exercised.

The ecclesia, or assembly of the people, was the arena for the

debate of all public measures. The archons were chosen according to the

regulations of Solon, but were stripped of their power, which was

transferred to the senate and ecclesia. The generals were elected by the

people annually, one from each tribe. They were called strategi, and had

also the direction of foreign affairs. It was as first strategus that

Pericles governed--"prime minister of the people."

In order to guard against the ascendency of tyrants--the great evil

of the ancient States, Cleisthenes devised the institution of ostracism,

by which a suspected or obnoxious citizen could be removed from the city

for ten years, though practically abridged to five. It simply involved an

exclusion from political power, without casting a stigma on the character.

It was virtually a retirement, during which his property and rights

remained intact, and attended with no disgrace. The citizens, after the

senate had decreed the vote was needful, were required to write a name in

an oyster shell, and he who had less than six thousand votes was obliged

to withdraw within ten days from the city. The wisdom of this measure is

proved in the fact that no tyrannical usurpation occurred at Athens after

that of Pisistratus. This revolution which Cleisthenes effected was purely

democratic, to which the aristocrats did not submit without a struggle.

The aristocrats called to their aid the Spartans, but without other effect

than creating that long rivalry which existed between democracy and

oligarchy in Greece, in which Sparta and Athens were the representatives.

About this time began the dominion of Athens over the islands of the AEgean

and the system of colonizing conquered States, This was the period which

immediately preceded the Persian wars, when Athens reached the climax of

political glory.

Next in importance to the States which have been briefly mentioned

was Boeotia, which contained fourteen cities, united in a confederacy, of

which Thebes took the lead. They were governed by magistrates, called

boetarchs, elected annually. In these cities aristocratic institutions

prevailed. The people were chiefly of AEolian descent, with a strong

mixture of the Dorian element, and were dull and heavy, owing, probably,

to the easy facilities of support, in consequence of the richness of the


At the west of Boeotia, Phocis, with its small territory, gained

great consideration from the possession of the Delphic oracle; but its

people thus far, of Achaean origin, played no important part in the

politics of Greece.

North of the isthmus lay the extensive plains of Thessaly, inclosed

by lofty mountains. Nature favored this State more than any other in

Greece for political pre-eminence, but inhabitants of AEolian origin were

any thing but famous. At first they were governed by kings, but

subsequently an aristocratic government prevailed. They were represented

in the Amphictyonic Council.

The history of Macedonia is obscure till the time of the Persian

wars; but its kings claimed an Heraclid origin. The Doric dialect

predominated in a rude form.

Epirus, west of Thessaly and Macedonia, was inhabited by various

tribes, under their own princes, until the kings of Molossus, claiming

descent from Achilles, founded the dynasty which was so powerful under


There is but little interest connected with the States of Greece, before

the Persian wars, except Sparta, Athens, and Corinth; and hence a very

brief notice is all that is needed.

But the Grecian colonies are of more importance. They were numerous

in the islands of the AEgean Sea, in Epirus, and in Asia Minor, and even

extended into Italy, Sicily, and Gaul. They were said to be planted as

early as the Trojan war by the heroes who lived to return--by Agamemnon on

the coast of Asia; by the sons of Theseus in Thrace; by Ialmenus on the

Euxine; by Diomed and others in Italy. But colonization, to any extent,

did not take place until the AEolians invaded Boeotia, and the Dorians, the

Peloponnesus. The Achaeans, driven from their homes by the Dorians, sought

new seats in the East, under chieftains who claimed descent from Agamemnon

and other heroes who went to the siege of Troy. They settled, first, on

the Isle of Lesbos, where they founded six cities. Others made settlements

on the mainland, from the Hermes to Mount Ida. But the greatest migration

was made by the Ionians, who, dislodged by Achaeans, went first to Attica,

and thence to the Cyclades and the coasts of Asia, afterward called Ionia.

Twelve independent States were gradually formed of divers elements, and

assumed the Ionian name. Among those twelve cities, or States, were

Sarnos, Chios, Miletus, Ephesus, Colophon, and Phocaea. The purest Ionian

blood was found at Miletus, the seat of Neleus. These cities were probably

inhabited by other races before the Ionians came. To these another was

subsequently added--Smyrna, which still retains its ancient name. The

southwest corner of the Asiatic peninsula, about the same time, was

colonized by a body of Dorians, accompanied by conquered Achaeans, the

chief seat of which was Halicarnassus. Crete, Rhodes, Cos, and Cnidus,

were colonized also by the same people; but Rhodes is the parent of the

Greek colonies on the south coast of Asia Minor. A century afterward,

Cyprus was founded, and then Sicily was colonized, and then the south of

Italy. They were successively colonized by different Grecian tribes,

Achaean or AEolian, Dorian, and Ionian. But all the colonists had to contend

with races previously established, Iberians, Phoenicians, Sicanians; and

Sicels. Among the Greek cities in Sicily, Syracuse, founded by Dorians,

was the most important, and became, in turn, the founder of other cities.

Sybaris and Croton, in the south of Italy, were of Achaean origin. The

Greeks even penetrated to the northern part of Africa, and founded Cyrene;

while, on the Euxine, along the north coast of Asia Minor, Cyzicus and

Sinope arose. These migrations were generally undertaken with the

approbation and encouragement of the mother States. There was no colonial

jealousy, and no dependence. The colonists, straitened for room at home,

carried the benedictions of their fathers, and were emancipated from their

control. Sometimes the colony became more powerful than the parent State,

but both colonies and parent States were bound together by strong ties of

religion, language, customs, and interests. The colonists uniformly became

conquerors where they settled, but ever retained their connection with the

mother country. And they grew more rapidly than the States from which they

came, and their institutions were more democratic. The Asiatic colonies

especially, made great advances in civilization by their contact with the

East. Music, poetry, and art were cultivated with great enthusiasm. The

Ionians took the lead, and their principal city, Miletus, is said to have

planted no less than eighty colonies. The greatness of Ephesus was of a

later date, owing, in part, to the splendid temple of Artemis, to which

Asiatics as well as Greeks made contributions. One of the most remarkable

of the Greek colonies was Cyrene, on the coast of Africa, which was of

peculiar beauty, and was famous for eight hundred years.

So the Greeks, although they occupied a small territory, yet, by

their numerous colonies in all those parts watered by the Mediterranean,

formed, if not politically, at least socially, a powerful empire, and

exercised a vast influence on the civilized world. From Cyprus to

Marseilles--from the Crimea to Cyrene, numerous States spoke the same

language, and practiced the same rites, which were observed in Athens and

Sparta. Hence the great extent of country in Asia and Europe to which the

Greek language was familiar, and still more the arts which made Athens the

centre of a new civilization. Some of the most noted philosophers and

artists of antiquity were born in these colonies. The power of Hellas was

not a centralized empire, like Persia, or even Rome, but a domain in the

heart and mind of the world. It was Hellas which worked out, in its

various States and colonies, great problems of government, as well as

social life. Hellas was the parent of arts, of poetry, of philosophy, and

of all aesthetic culture--the pattern of new forms of life, and new modes of

cultivation. It is this Grecian civilization which appeared in full

development as early as five hundred years before the Christian era, which

we now propose, in a short chapter, to present--the era which immediately

preceded the Persian wars.