The Baldwmn Library
R m'B or
THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS.
The Romance of Reality
AUTHOR OP "HALF-HOURS WITH THE BEST AMERICAN
AUTHORS," "TALES FROM THE DRAMATISTS," "KING
ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND-TABLE," ETC.
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
J LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.
How TROY WAS TAKEN . . . .
THE VOYAGE OF THE ARGONAUTS . . .
THESES AND ARIADNE . . .. . .
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES . . .
LYCURGUS AND THE SPARTAN LAWS . . .
ARISTOMENES, THE HERO OF MESSENIA . .
SOLON, THE LAW-GIVER OF ATHENS . . .
THE FORTUNE OF CRESUS ..
THE SUITORS OF AGARISTB .
THE TYRANTS OF CORINTH .
THE RING OF POLYCRATES .
THE ADVENTURES OF DEMOCEDES
DARIUS AND THE SCYTIANS .
THE ATHENIANS AT MARATHON .
XERXES AND HIS ARMY .....
How THE SPARTANS DIED AT THERMOPYLE . .144
THE WOODEN WALLS OF ATHENS . . 154
PLATEA'S FAMOUS DAY . . . ... 166
FOUR FAMOUS MEN OF ATHENS . .... 174
How ATHENS ROSE FROM ITS ASHES . . 186
THE PLAGUE AT ATHENS . . . 194
THE ENVOYS OF LIFE AND DEATH . ... 200
THE DEFENCE OF PLATE . . . 205
HOW THE LONG WALLS WENT DOWN . ... 213
SOCRATES AND ALCIBIADES . . .... 221
THE RETREAT OF THE TEN THOUSAND .
THE RESCUE OF THEBES . .
THE HUMILIATION OF SPARTA . .
TIMOLEON, THE FAVORITE OF FORTUNE.
. . 231
. . 246
. . 259
. . 271
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
THE SACRED WAR . . .
ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND DARIUS .
THE WORLD'S GREATEST ORATOR .
THE OLYMPIC GAMES ...........
PYRRHUS AND THE ROMANS . .
PHILOP(IMEN AND THE FALL OF SPARTA .
THE DEATH-STRUGGLE OF GREECE .
ZENOBIA AND LONGINUS . .
HYPATIA, THE MAIDEN PHILOSOPHER .
. . 288
. . 296
. . 305
. . 315
. . 324
. . 334
. . 845
. . 860
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
THE ACRoPOLIS OF ATHENS . Frontispiece.
PARTING OF HECTOR AND ANDROMEDA ...... 15
(EDIPUS AND ANTIGONE . . .... 42
RUINS OF THE PARTHENON. . . . 130
THE VICTORS AT SALAMIS . . 160
A REUNION AT THE HOUSE OF ASPASIA . .. 190
PIREcUS, THE PORT OF ATHENS. . . 218
GATE OF THE AGORA OR OIL MARKET, ATHENS 256
THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT . .. 300
THE THEATRE OF BACCHUS, ATHENS . .. .. 322
REMAINS OF THE TEMPLE OF MINERVA, CORINTH 345
THE RUINS OF PALMYRA. . . . 358
HOW TR OY WAS TAKEN.
THE far-famed Helen, wife of King Menelaus of
Sparta, was the most beautiful woman in the world.
And from her beauty and faithlessness came the
most celebrated of ancient wars, with death and
disaster to numbers of famous heroes and the final
ruin of the ancient city of Troy. The story of
these striking events has been told only in poetry.
We propose to tell it again in sober prose.
But warning must first be given that Helen and
the heroes of the Trojan war dwelt in the mist-land
of legend and tradition, that cloud-realm from which
history only slowly emerged. The facts with which
we are here concerned are those of the poet, not
those of the historian. It is far from sure that Helen
ever lived. It is far from sure that there ever was a
Trojan war. Many people doubt the whole story.
Yet the ancient Greeks accepted it as history, and
as we are telling their story, we may fairly include
it among the historical tales of Greece. The heroes
concerned are certainly fully alive in Homer's great
poem, the "Iliad," and we can do no better than
follow the story of this stirring poem, while adding
details from other sources.
Mythology tells us that, once upon a time, the
three goddesses, Venus, Juno, and Minerva, had a
contest as to which was the most beautiful, and left
the decision to Paris, then a shepherd on Mount
Ida, though really the son of King Priam of Troy.
The princely shepherd decided in favor of Venus,
who had promised him in reward the love of the
most beautiful of living women, the Spartan Helen,
daughter of the great deity Zeus (or Jupiter). Ac-
cordingly the handsome and favored youth set sail
for Sparta, bringing with him rich gifts for its beauti-
ful queen. Menelaus received his Trojan guest with
much hospitality, but, unluckily, was soon obliged to
make a journey to Crete, leaving Helen to entertain
the princely visitor. The result was as Venus had
foreseen. Love arose between the handsome youth
and the beautiful woman, and an elopement followed,
Paris stealing away with both the wife and the
money of his confiding host. He set sail, had a
prosperous voyage, and arrived safely at Troy with
his prize on the third day. This was a fortune very
different from that of Ulysses, who on his return
from Troy took ten years to accomplish a similar
As might naturally be imagined, this elopement
excited indignation not only in the hearts of Mene-
laus and his brother Agamemnon, but among the
Greek chieftains generally, who sympathized with
the husband in his grief and shared his anger
against Troy. War was declared against that faith-
less city, and most of the chiefs pledged themselves
to take part in it, and to lend their aid until Helen
was recovered or restored. Had they known all
HOW TROY WAS TAKEN.
that was before them they might have hesitated,
since it took ten long years to equip the expedition,
for ten years more the war continued, and some of
the leaders spent ten years in their return. But in
those old days time does not seem to have counted
for much, and besides, many of the chieftains had
been suitors for the hand of Helen, and were doubt-
less moved by their old love in pledging themselves
to her recovery.
Some of them, however, were anything but eager
to take part. Achilles and Ulysses, the two most
important in the subsequent war, endeavored to
escape this necessity. Achilles was the son of the
sea-nymph Thetis, who had dipped him when an in-
fant in the river Styx, the waters of which magic
stream rendered him invulnerable to any weapon
except in one spot,-the heel by which his mother
had held him. But her love for her son made her
anxious to guard him against every danger, and
when the chieftains came to seek his aid in the ex-
pedition, she concealed him, dressed as a girl, among
the maidens of the court. But the crafty Ulysses,
who accompanied them, soon exposed this trick.
Disguised as a pedler, he spread his goods, a shield
and a spear among them, before the maidens. Then
an alarm of danger being sounded, the girls fled in
affright, but the disguised youth, with impulsive
valor, seized the weapons and prepared to defend
himself. His identity was thus revealed.
Ulysses himself, one of the wisest and shrewdest
of men, had also sought to escape the dangerous
expedition. To do so he feigned madness, and when
the messenger chiefs came to seek him they found
him attempting to plough with an ox and a horse
yoked together, while he sowed the field with salt.
One of them, however, took Telemachus, the young
son of Ulysses, and laid him in the furrow before the
plough. Ulysses turned the plough aside, and thus
showed that there was more method than madness
in his mind.
And thus, in time, a great force of men and a
great fleet of ships were gathered, there being in all
eleven hundred and eighty-six ships and more than
one hundred thousand men. The kings and chief-
tains of Greece led their followers from all parts of
the land to Aulis, in Boootia, whence they were to
set sail for the opposite coast of Asia Minor, on
which stood the city of Troy. Agamemnon, who
brought one hundred ships, was chosen leader of
the army, which included all the heroes of the age,
among them the distinguished warriors Ajax and
Diomedes, the wise old Nestor, and many others of
valor and fame.
The fleet at length set sail; but Troy was not
easily reached. The leaders of the army did not
even know where Troy was, and landed in the wrong
locality, where they had a battle with the people.
Embarking again, they were driven by a storm back
to Greece. Adverse winds now kept them at Aulis
until Agamemnon appeased the hostile gods by sac-
rificing to them his daughter Iphigenia,-one of the
ways which those old heathens had of obtaining
fair weather. Then the winds changed, and the
fleet made its way to the island of Tenedos, in the
HOW TROY WAS TAKEN.
vicinity of Troy. From here Ulysses and Menelaus
were sent to that city as envoys to demand a return
of Helen and the stolen property.
Meanwhile the Trojans, well aware of what was
in store for them, had made abundant preparations,
and gathered an army of allies from various parts
of Thrace and Asia Minor. They received the two
Greek envoys hospitably, paid them every attention,
but sustained the villany of Paris, and refused to
deliver Helen and the treasure. When this word
was brought back to the fleet the chiefs decided on
immediate war, and sail was made for the neighbor-
ing shores of the Trojan realm.
Of the long-drawn-out war that followed we know
little more than what Homer has told us, though
something may be learned from other ancient poems.
The first Greek to land fell by the hand of Hector,
the Trojan hero,-as the gods had foretold. But in
vain the Trojans sought to prevent the landing;
they were quickly put to rout, and Cycnus, one of
their greatest warriors and son of the god Neptune,
was slain by Achilles. He was invulnerable to iron,
but was choked to death by the hero and changed
into a swan. The Trojans were driven within their
city walls, and the invulnerable Achilles, with what
seems a safe valor, stormed and sacked numerous
towns in the neighborhood, killed one of King Priam's
sons, captured and sold as slaves several others,
drove off the oxen of the celebrated warrior JEneas,
and came near to killing that hero himself. He
also captured and kept as his own prize a beautiful
maiden named Brisois, and was even granted, through
the favor of the gods, an interview with the divine
This is about all we know of the doings of the
first nine years of the war. What the Greeks were
at during that long time neither history nor legend
tells. The only other event of importance was the
death of Palamedes, one of the ablest Grecian chiefs.
It was he who had detected the feigned madness of
Ulysses, and tradition relates that he owed his death
to the revengeful anger of that cunning schemer, who
had not forgiven him for being made to take part in
this endless and useless war.
Thus nine years of warfare passed, and Troy re-
mained untaken and seemingly unshaken. How the
two hosts managed to live in the mean time the tellers
of the story do not say. Thucydides, the historian,
thinks it likely that the Greeks had to farm the
neighboring lands for food. How the Trojans and
their allies contrived to survive so long within their
walls we are left to surmise, unless they farmed
their streets. And thus we reach the opening of the
tenth year and of Homer's Iliad."
Homer's story is too long for us to tell in detail,
and too full of war and bloodshed for modern taste.
We can only give it in epitome.
Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, robs Achil-
les of his beautiful captive Briseis, and the invul-
nerable hero, furious at the insult, retires in sullen
rage to his ships, forbids his troops to take part in
the war, and sulks in anger while battle after battle
is fought. Deprived of his mighty aid, the Greeks
HOW TROY WAS TAKEN.
find the Trojans quite their match, and the fortunes
of the warring hosts vary day by day.
On a watch-tower in Troy sits Helen the beautiful,
gazing out on the field of conflict, and naming for
old Priam, who sits beside her, the Grecian leaders
as they appear at the head of their hosts on the
plain below. On this plain meet in fierce combat
Paris the abductor and Menelaus the indignant hus-
band. Vengeance lends double weight to the spear
of the latter, and Paris is so fiercely assailed that
Venus has to come to his aid to save him from
death. Meanwhile a Trojan archer wounds Mene-
laus with an arrow, and a general battle ensues.
The conflict is a fierce one, and many warriors on
both sides are slain. Diomedes, a bold Grecian chief-
tain, is the hero of the day. Trojans fall by scores
before his mighty spear, he rages in fury from side
to side of the field, and at length meets the great
JEneas, whose thigh he breaks with a huge stone.
But AEneas is the son of the goddess Venus, who flies
to his aid and bears him from the field. The furious
Greek daringly pursues the flying divinity, and even
succeeds in wounding the goddess of love with his
impious spear. At this sad outcome Venus, to whom
physical pain is a new sensation, flies in dismay to
Olympus, the home of the deities, and hides her
weeping face in the lap of Father Jove, while her
lady enemies taunt her with biting sarcasms. The
whole scene is an amusing example of the childish
folly of mythology.
In the next scene a new hero appears upon the
field, Hector, the warlike son of Priam, and next to
Achilles the greatest warrior of the war. He arms
himself inside the walls, and takes an affectionate
leave of his wife Andromache and his infant son,
the child crying with terror at his glittering helmet
and nodding plume. This mild demeanor of the
warrior changes to warlike ardor when he appears
upon the field. His coming turns the tide of battle.
The victorious Greeks are driven back before his
shining spear, many of them are slain, and the
whole host is driven to its ships and almost forced
to take flight by sea from the victorious onset of
Hector and his triumphant followers. While the
Greeks cower in their ships the Trojans spend the
night in bivouac upon the field. Homer gives us a
picturesque description of this night-watch, which
Tennyson has thus charmingly rendered into English:
"As when in heaven the stars about the moon
Look beautiful, when all the winds are laid,
And every height comes out, and jutting peak
And valley, and the immeasurable heavens
Break open to their highest, and all the stars
Shine, and the shepherd gladdens in his heart;
So, many a fire between the ships and stream
Of Xanthus blazed before the towers of Troy,
A thousand on the plain; and close by each
Sat fifty in the blaze of burning fire;
And, champing golden grain, the horses stood
Hard by their chariots, waiting for the dawn."
Affairs had grown perilous for the Greeks. Patro-
clus, the bosom friend of Achilles, begged him to come
to their aid. This the sulking hero would not do, but
he lent Patroclus his armor, and permitted him to lead
THE PARTING OF HECTOR AND ANDROMACHE.
HOW TROY WAS TAKEN.
his troops, the Myrmidons, to the field. Patroclus
was himself a gallant and famous warrior, and his
aid turned the next day's battle against the Trojans,
who were driven back with great slaughter. But,
unfortunately for this hero of the fight, a greater than
he was in the field. Hector met him in the full tide
of his success, engaged him in battle, killed him, and
captured from his body the armor of Achilles.
The slaughter of his friend at length aroused
the sullen Achilles to action. Rage against the
Trojans succeeded his anger against Agamemnon.
His lost armor was replaced by new armor forged
for him by Vulcan, the celestial smith,-who fash-
ioned him the most wonderful of shields and most
formidable of spears. Thus armed, he mounted his
chariot and drove at the head of his Myrmidons to
the field, where he made such frightful slaughter of
the Trojans that the river Scamander was choked
with their corpses; and, indignant at being thus
treated, sought to drown the hero for his offence.
Finally he met Hector, engaged him in battle, and
killed him with a thrust of his mighty spear. Then,
fastening the corpse of the Trojan hero to his chariot,
he dragged it furiously over the blood-soaked plain
and around the city walls. Homer's story ends with
the funeral obsequies of the slain Patroclus and the
burial by the Trojans of Hector's recovered body.
Other writers tell us how the war went on. Hector
was replaced by Penthesileia, the beautiful and war-
like queen of the Amazons, who came to the aid of
the Trojans, and drove the Greeks from the field.
But, alas she too was slain by the invincible
Achilles. Removing her helmet, the victor was
deeply affected to find that it was a beautiful woman
he had slain.
The mighty Memnon, son of godlike parents, now
made his appearance in the Trojan ranks, at the
head of a band of black Ethiopians, with whom
he wrought havoc among the Greeks. At length
Achilles encountered this hero also, and a terrible
battle ensued, whose result was long in doubt. In
the end Achilles triumphed and Memnon fell. But
he died to become immortal, for his goddess mother
prayed for and obtained for him the gift of immortal
Such triumphs were easy for Achilles, whose flesh
no weapon could pierce; but no one was invulnerable
to the poets, and his end came at last. He had
routed the Trojans and driven them within their
gates, when Paris, aided by Apollo, the divine
archer, shot an arrow at the hero which struck him
in his one pregnable spot, the heel. The fear of
Thetis was realized, her son died from the wound,
and a fierce battle took place for the possession of
his body. This Ajax and Ulysses succeeded in
carrying off to the Grecian camp, where it was
burned on a magnificent funeral pile. Achilles,
like his victim Memnon, was made immortal by
the favor of the gods. His armor was offered
as a prize to the most distinguished Grecian hero,
and was adjudged to Ulysses, whereupon Ajax,
his close contestant for the prize, slew himself in
We cannot follow all the incidents of the cam-
HOW TROY WAS TAKEN.
paign. It will suffice to say that Paris was himself
slain by an arrow, that Neoptolemus, the son of
Achilles, took his place in the field, and that the
Trojans suffered so severely at his hands that they
took shelter behind their walls, whence they never
again emerged to meet the Greeks in the field.
But Troy was safe from capture while the Pal-
ladium, a statue which Jupiter himself had given to
Dardanus, the ancestor of the Trojans, remained in
the citadel of that city. Ulysses overcame this diffi-
culty. He entered Troy in the disguise of a wounded
and ragged fugitive, and managed to steal the Pal-
ladium from the citadel. Then, as the walls of Troy
still defied their assailants, a further and extraordi-
nary stratagem was employed to gain access to the
city. It seems a ridiculous one to us, but was ac-
cepted as satisfactory by the writers of Greece.
This stratagem was the following:
A great hollow wooden horse, large enough to
contain one hundred armed men, was constructed,
and in its interior the leading Grecian heroes con-
cealed themselves. Then the army set fire to its
tents, took to its ships, and sailed away to the island
of Tenedos, as if it had abandoned the siege. Only
the great horse was left on the long-contested battle-
The Trojans, filled with joy at the sight of their
departing foes, came streaming out into the plain,
women as well as warriors, and gazed with astonish-
ment at the strange monster which their enemies
had left. Many of them wanted to take it into the
city, and dedicate it to the gods as a mark of grati-
tude for their deliverance. The more cautious ones
doubted if it was wise to accept an enemy's gift.
Laocoon, the priest of Neptune, struck the side of
the horse with his spear. A hollow sound came from
its interior, but this did not suffice to warn the in-
discreet Trojans. And a terrible spectacle now filled
them with superstitious dread. Two great serpents
appeared far out at sea and came swimming inward
over the waves. Reaching the shore, they glided
over the land to where stood the unfortunate La-
ocoon, whose body they encircled with their folds.
His son, who came to his rescue, was caught in the
same dreadful coils, and the two perished miserably
before the eyes of their dismayed countrymen.
There was no longer any talk of rejecting the
fatal gift. The gods had given their decision. A
breach was made in the walls of Troy, and the
great horse was dragged with exultation within the
stronghold that for ten long years had defied its foe.
Riotous joy and festivity followed in Troy. It
extended into the night. While this went on Sinon,
a seeming renegade who had been left behind by
the Greeks, and who had helped to deceive the
Trojans by lying tales, lighted a fire-signal for the
fleet, and loosened the bolts of the wooden horse,
from whose hollow depths the hundred weary war-
riors hastened to descend.
And now the triumph of the Trojans was changed
to sudden woe and dire lamentation. Death fol-
lowed close upon their festivity. The hundred war-
riors attacked them at their banquets, the returned
fleet disgorged its thousands, who poured through
HOW TROY WAS TAKEN.
the open gates, and death held fearful carnival
within the captured city. Priam was slain at the
altar by Neoptolemus. All his sons fell in death.
The city was sacked and destroyed. Its people were
slain or taken captive. Few escaped, but among
these was 2Eneas, the traditional ancestor of Rome.
As regards Helen, the cause of the war, she was re-
covered by Menelaus, and gladly accompanied him
back to Sparta. There she lived for years after-
wards in dignity and happiness, and finally died to
become happily immortal in the Elysian fields.
But our story is not yet at an end. The Greeks
had still to return to their homes, from which they
had been ten years removed. And though Paris
had crossed the intervening seas in three days, it
took Ulysses ten years to return, while some of his
late companions failed to reach their homes at all.
Many, indeed, were the adventures which these
home-sailing heroes were destined to encounter.
Some of the Greek warriors reached home speedily
and were met with welcome, but others perished by
the way, while Agamemnon, their leader, returned
to find that his wife had been false to him, and per-
ished by her treacherous hand. Menelaus wandered
long through Egypt, Cyprus, and elsewhere before
he reached his native land. Nestor and several
others went to Italy, where they founded cities.
Diomedes also became a founder of cities, and various
others seem to have busied themselves in this same
useful occupation. Neoptolemus made his way to
Epirus, where he became king of the Molossians.
nEneas, the Trojan hero, sought Carthage, whose
queen Dido died for love of him. Thence he sailed
to Italy, where he fought battles and won victories,
and finally founded the city of Rome. His story
is given by Virgil, in the poem of the ".ZEneid."
Much more might be told of the adventures of the
returning heroes, but the chief of them all is that
related of the much wandering Ulysses, as given by
Homer in his epic poem the Odyssey."
The story of the Odyssey" might serve us for a
tale in itself, but as it is in no sense historical we
give it here in epitome.
We are told that during the wanderings of Ulysses
his island kingdom of Ithaca had been invaded by
a throng of insolent suitors of his wife Penelope,
who occupied his castle and wasted his substance in
riotous living. His son Telemachus, indignant at
this, set sail in search of his father, whom he knew
to be somewhere upon the seas. Landing at Sparta,
he found Menelaus living with Helen in a magnifi-
cent castle, richly ornamented with gold, silver, and
bronze, and learned from him that his father was
then in the island of Ogygia, where he had been
long detained by the nymph Calypso.
The wanderer had experienced numerous adven-
tures. He had encountered the one-eyed giant Poly-
phemus, who feasted on the fattest of the Greeks,
while the others escaped by boring out his single
eye. He had passed the land of the Lotus-Eaters,
to whose magic some of the Greeks succumbed. In
the island of Circe some of his followers were turned
into swine. But the hero overcame this enchantress,
and while in her land visited the realm of the de-
HOW TROY WAS TAKEN.
parted and had interviews with the shades of the
dead. He afterwards passed in safety through the
frightful gulf of Scylla and Charybdis, and visited
the wind-god 1Eolus, who gave him a fair wind
home, and all the foul winds tied up in a bag. But
the curious Greeks untied the bag, and the ship was
blown far from her course. His followers after-
wards killed the sacred oxen of the sun, for which
they were punished by being wrecked. All were
lost except Ulysses, who floated on a mast to the
island of Calypso. With this charming nymph he
dwelt for seven years.
Finally, at the command of the gods, Calypso set
her willing captive adrift on a raft of trees. This
raft was shattered in a storm, but Ulysses swam to
the island of Phaeacia, where he was rescued by
Nausicaa, the king's daughter, and brought to the
palace. Thence, in a Phaacian ship, he finally
Here new adventures awaited him. He sought
his palace disguised as an old beggar, so that of
all there, only his old dog knew him. The faithful
animal staggered to his feet, feebly expressed his
joy, and fell dead. Telemachus had now returned,
and led his disguised father into the palace, where
the suitors were at their revels. Penelope, instructed
what to do, now brought forth the bow of Ulysses,
and offered her hand to any one of the suitors who
could bend it. It was tried by them all, but tried
in vain. Then the seeming beggar took in his hand
the stout, ashen bow, bent it with ease, and with
wonderful skill sent an arrow hurtling through the
22 HISTORICAL TALES.
rings of twelve axes set up in line. This done, he
turned the terrible bow upon the suitors, sending its
death-dealing arrows whizzing through their midst.
Telemachus and Eumseus, his swine-keeper, aided
him in this work of death, and a frightful scene of
carnage ensued, from which not one of the suitors
escaped with his life.
In the end the hero, freed from his ragged attire,
made himself known to his faithful wife, defeated
the friends of the suitors, and recovered his kingdom
from his foes. And thus ends the final episode of
the famous tale of Troy.
THE VOYAGE OF THE ARGO-
WE are forced to approach the historical period
of Greece through a cloud-land of legend, in which
stories of the gods are mingled with those of men,
and the most marvellous of incidents are introduced
as if they were every-day occurrences. The Argo-
nautic expedition belongs to this age of myth, the
vague vestibule of history. It embraces, as does the
tale of the wanderings of Ulysses, very ancient ideas
of geography, and many able men have treated it
as the record of an actual voyage, one of the earliest
ventures of the Greeks upon the unknown seas.
However this be, this much is certain, the story is
full of romantic and supernatural elements, and it
was largely through these that it became so cele-
brated in ancient times.
The story of the voyage of the ship Argo is a
tragedy. Pelias, king of Iolcus, had consulted an
oracle concerning the safety of his dominions, and
was warned to beware of the man with one sandal.
Soon afterwards Jason (a descendant of JEolus, the
wind god) appeared before him with one foot un-
sandalled. He had lost his sandal while crossing a
swollen stream. Pelias, anxious to rid himself of
this visitor, against whom the oracle had warned
him, gave to Jason the desperate task of bringing
back to lolcus the Golden Fleece (the fleece of a
speaking ram which had borne Phryxus and Helle
through the air from Greece, and had reached Col-
chis in Asia Minor, where it was dedicated to Mars,
the god of war).
Jason, young and daring, accepted without hesita-
tion the perilous task, and induced a number of the
noblest youth of Greece to accompany him in the
enterprise. Among these adventurers were Hercules,
Theseus, Castor, Pollux, and many others of the
heroes of legend. The way to Colchis lay over the
sea, and a ship was built for the adventurers named
the Argo, in whose prow was inserted a piece of
timber cut from the celebrated speaking oak of
The voyage of the Argo was as full of strange
incidents as those which Ulysses encountered in his
journey home from Troy. Land was first reached
on the island of Lemnos. Here no men were found.
It was an island of women only. All the men had
been put to death by the women in revenge for ill-
treatment, and they held the island as their own.
But these warlike matrons, who had perhaps grown
tired of seeing only each other's faces, received the
Argonauts with much friendship, and made their
stay so agreeable that they remained there for
Leaving Lemnos, they sailed along the coast of
Thrace, and up the Hellespont (a strait which had
received its name from Helle, who, while riding on
the golden ram in the air above it, had fallen and
THE VOYAGE OF THE ARGONAUTS.
been drowned in its waters). Thence they sailed
along the Propontis and the coast of Mysia, not, as
we may be sure, without adventures. In the country
of the Bebrycians the giant king Amycus challenged
any of them to box with him. Pollux accepted the
challenge, and killed the giant with a blow. Next
they reached Bithynia, where dwelt the blind prophet
Phineus, to whom their coming proved a blessing.
Phineus had been blinded by Neptune, as a pun-
ishment for having shown Phryxus the way to
Colchis. He was also tormented by the harpies,
frightful winged monsters, who flew down from the
clouds whenever he attempted to eat, snatched the
food from his lips, and left on it such a vile odor
that no man could come near it. He, being a prophet,
knew that the Argonauts would free him from this
curse. There were with them Zetes and Calias,
winged sons of Boreas, the god of the north winds;
and when the harpies descended again to spoil the
prophet's meal, these winged warriors not only
drove them away, but pursued them through the
air. They could not overtake them, but the harpies
were forbidden by Jupiter to molest Phineus any
The blind prophet, grateful for this deliverance,
told the voyagers how they might escape a dreadful
danger which lay in their onward way. This came
from the Symplegades, two rocks between which
their ships must pass, and which continually opened
and closed, with a violent collision, and so swiftly
that even a bird could scarce fly through the open-
ing in safety. When the Argo reached the danger-
ous spot, at the suggestion of Phineus, a dove was
let loose. It flew with all speed through the open-
ing, but the rocks clashed together so quickly be-
hind it that it lost a few feathers of its tail. Now
was their opportunity. The rowers dashed their
ready oars into the water, shot forward with rapid
speed, and passed safely through, only losing the
ornaments at the stern of their ship. Their escape,
however, they owed to the goddess Minerva, whose
strong hand held the rocks asunder during the brief
interval of their passage. It had been decreed by
the gods that if any ship escaped these dreadful
rocks they should forever cease to move. The
escape of the Argo fulfilled this decree, and the
Symplegades have ever since remained immovable.
Onward went the daring voyagers, passing in
their journey Mount Caucasus, on whose bare rock
Prometheus, for the crime of giving fire to mankind,
was chained, while an eagle devoured his liver.
The adventurers saw this dread eagle and heard the
groans of the sufferer himself. Helpless to release
him whom the gods had condemned, they rowed
Finally Colchis was reached, a land then ruled
over by King Eetes, from whom the heroes de-
manded the golden fleece, stating that they had
been sent thither by the gods themselves. 1Eetes
heard their request with anger, and told them that
if they wanted the fleece they could have it on one
condition only. He possessed two fierce and tame-
less bulls, with brazen feet and fire-breathing nostrils.
These had been the gift of the god Vulcan. Jason
THE VOYAGE OF THE ARGONAUTS.
was told that if he wished to prove his descent from
the gods and their sanction of his voyage, he must
harness these terrible animals, plough with them a
large field, and sow it with dragons' teeth.
Perilous as this task seemed, each of the heroes
was eager to undertake it, but Jason, as the leader
of the expedition, took it upon himself. Fortune
favored him in the desperate undertaking. Medea,
the daughter of Eetes, who knew all the arts of
magic, had seen the handsome youth and fallen in
love with him at sight. She now came to his aid
with all her magic. Gathering an herb which had
grown where the blood of Prometheus had fallen,
she prepared from it a magical ointment which,
when rubbed on Jason's body, made him invulner-
able either to fire or weapons of war. Thus pre-
pared, he fearlessly approached the fire-breathing
bulls, yoked them unharmed, and ploughed the field,
in whose furrows he then sowed the dragons' teeth.
Instantly from the latter sprang up a crop of armed
men, who turned their weapons against the hero.
But Jason, who had been further instructed by Me-
dea, flung a great stone in their midst, upon which
they began to fight each other, and he easily subdued
Jason had accomplished his task, but 2Eetes proved
unfaithful to his words. He not only withheld the
prize, but took steps to kill the Argonauts and burn
their vessel. They were invited to a banquet, and
armed men were prepared to murder them during
the night after the feast. Fortunately, sleep over-
came the treacherous king, and the adventurers,
warned of their danger, made ready to fly. But
not without the golden fleece. This was guarded
by a dragon, but Medea prepared a potion that
put this perilous sentinel to sleep, seized the fleece,
and accompanied Jason in his flight, taking with
her on the Argo Absyrtus, her youthful brother.
The Argonauts, seizing their oars, rowed with all
haste from the dreaded locality. Eetes, on awaken-
ing, learned with fury of the loss of the fleece and
his children, hastily collected an armed force, and
pursued with such energy that the flying vessel was
soon nearly overtaken. The safety of the adven-
turers was again due to Medea, who secured it by a
terrible stratagem. This was, to kill her young
brother, cut his body to pieces, and fling the bleed-
ing fragments into the sea. ,Eetes, on reaching the
scene of this tragedy, recognized these as the remains
of his murdered son, and sorrowfully stopped to col-
lect them for interment. While he was thus engaged
the Argonauts escaped.
But such a wicked deed was not suffered to go un-
punished. Jupiter beheld it with deep indignation,
and in requital condemned the Argonauts to a long
and perilous voyage, full of hardship and adventure.
They were forced to sail over all the watery world
of waters, so far as then known. Up the river
Phasis they rowed until it entered the ocean which
flows round the earth. This vast sea or stream was
then followed to the source of the Nile, down which
great river they made their way into the land of
Here, for some reason unknown, they did not fol-
THE VOYAGE OF THE ARGONAUTS.
low the Nile to the Mediterranean, but were forced
to take the ship Argo on their shoulders and carry
it by a long overland journey to Lake Tritonis, in
Libya Here they were overcome by want and ex-
haustion, but Triton, the god of the region, proved
hospitable, and supplied them with the much-needed
food and rest. Thus refreshed, they launched their
ship once more on the Mediterranean and proceeded
hopefully on their homeward way.
Stopping at the island of Jsea, its queen Circe-
she who had transformed the companions of Ulysses
into swine-purified Medea from the crime of mur-
der; and at Corcyra, which they next reached, the
marriage of Jason and Medea took place. The cav-
ern in that island where the wedding was solemnized
was still pointed out in historical times.
After leaving Corcyra a fierce storm threatened
the navigators with shipwreck, from which they
were miraculously saved by the celestial aid of the
god Apollo. An arrow shot from his golden bow
crossed the billows like a track of light, and where
it pierced the waves an island sprang up, on whose
shores the imperilled mariners found a port of refuge.
On this island, Anaphe by name, the grateful Argo-
nauts built an altar to Apollo and instituted sacrifices
in his honor.
Another adventure awaited them on the coast of
Crete. This island was protected by a brazen sen-
tinel, named Talos, wrought by Vulcan, and pre-
sented by him to King Minos to protect his realm.
This living man of brass hurled great rocks at the
vessel, and destruction would have overwhelmed the
voyagers but for Medea. Talos, like all the invul-
nerable men of legend, had his one weak point.
This her magic art enabled her to discover, and,
as Paris had wounded Achilles in the heel, Medea
killed this vigilant sentinel by striking him in his
The Argonauts now landed and refreshed them-
selves. In the island of LEgina they had to fight to
procure water. Then they sailed along the coasts
of Eubcea and Locris, and finally entered the gulf
of Pagasme and dropped anchor at lolcus, their start-
As to what became of the ship Argo there are
two stories. One is that Jason consecrated his ves-
sel to Neptune on the isthmus of Corinth. Another
is that Minerva translated it to the stars, where it
became a constellation.
So ends the story of this earliest of recorded voy-
ages, whose possible substratum of fact is overlaid
deeply with fiction, and whose geography is similarly
a strange mixture of fact and fancy. Yet though
the voyage is at an end, our story is not. We have
said that it was a tragedy, and the denouement of
the tragedy remains to be given.
Pelias, who had sent Jason on this long voyage
to escape the fate decreed for him by the oracle,
took courage from his protracted absence, and put
to death his father and mother and his infant brother.
On learning of this murderous act Jason determined
on revenge. But Pelias was too strong to be attacked
openly, so the hero employed a strange stratagem,
suggested by the cunning magician Medea. He and
THE VOYAGE OF THE ARGONAUTS.
his companions halted at some distance from Iolcus,
while Medea entered the town alone, pretending
that she was a fugitive from the ill-treatment of
Here she was entertained by the daughters of
Pelias, over whom she gained great influence by
showing them certain magical wonders. In the end
she selected an old ram from the king's flocks, cut
him up and boiled him in a caldron with herbs of
magic power. In the end the animal emerged from
the caldron as a young and vigorous lamb. The
enchantress now told her dupes that their old father
could in the same way be made young again. Fully
believing her, the daughters cut the old man to
pieces in the same manner, and threw his limbs into
the caldron, trusting to Medea to restore him to life
as she had the ram.
Leaving them for the assumed purpose of invok-
ing the moon, as a part of the ceremony, Medea
ascended to the roof of the palace. Here she
lighted a fire-signal to the waiting Argonauts, who
instantly burst into and took possession of the
Having thus revenged himself, Jason yielded the
crown of Iolcus to the son of Pelias, and withdrew
with Medea to Corinth, where they resided together
for ten years. And here the final act in the tragedy
After these ten years of happy married life, dur-
ing which several children were born, Jason ceased
to love his wife, and fixed his affections on Glauce,
the daughter of King Creon of Corinth. The king
showed himself willing to give Jason his daughter
in marriage, upon which the faithless hero divorced
Medea, who was ordered to leave Corinth. He
should have known better with whom he had to
deal. The enchantress, indignant at such treatment,
determined on revenge. Pretending to be recon-
ciled to the coming marriage, she prepared a poi-
soned robe, which she sent as a wedding-present to
the hapless Glauce. No sooner had the luckless
bride put on this perilous gift than the robe burst
into flames, and she was consumed; while her father,
whe sought to tear from her the fatal garment, met
with the same fate.
Medea escaped by means of a chariot drawn by
winged serpents, sent her by her grandfather Helios
(the sun). As the story is told by Euripides, she
killed her children before taking to flight, leaving
their dead bodies to blast the sight of their horror-
stricken father. The legend, however, tells a dif-
ferent tale. It says that she left them for safety
before the altar in the temple of Juno; and that the
Corinthians, furious at the death of their king,
dragged the children from the altar and put them
to death. As for the unhappy Jason, the story goes
that he fell asleep under the ship Argo, which had
been hauled ashore according to the custom of the
ancients, and that a fragment of this ship fell upon
and killed him.
The flight of Medea took her to Athens, where
she found a protector and second husband in 1Egous,
the ruler of that city, and father of Theseus, the
great legendary hero of Athens.
THESEUS AND ARIADNE.
MINOS, king of Crete in the age of legend, made
war against Athens in revenge for the death of his
son. This son, Androgeos by name, had shown
such strength and skill in the Panathenaic festival
that JEgeus, the Athenian king, sent him to fight
with the flame-spitting bull of Marathon, a mon-
strous creature that was ravaging the plains of
Attica. The bull killed the valiant youth, and
Minos, furious at the death of his son, laid siege to
As he proved unable to capture the city, he prayed
for aid to his father Zeus (for, like all the heroes of
legend, he was a son of the gods). Zeus sent pesti-
lence and famine on Athens, and so bitter grew the
lot of the Athenians that they applied to the oracles
of the gods for advice in their sore strait, and were
bidden to submit to any terms which Minos might
impose. The terms offered by the offended king
of Crete were severe ones. He demanded that the
Athenians should, at fixed periods, send to Crete
seven youths and seven maidens, as victims to the
insatiable appetite of the Minotaur.
This fabulous creature was one of those destructive
monsters of which many ravaged Greece in the age
of fable. It had the body of a man and the head
of a bull, and so great was the havoc it wrought
among the Cretans that Minos engaged the great
artist Dsedalus to construct a den from which it
could not escape. Daedalus built for this purpose
the Labyrinth, a far-extending edifice, in which were
countless passages, so winding and intertwining that
no person confined in it could ever find his way out
again. It was like the catacombs of Rome, in which
one who is lost is said to wander helplessly till death
ends his sorrowful career. In this intricate puzzle
of a building the Minotaur was confined.
Every ninth year the fourteen unfortunate youths
and maidens had to be sent from Athens to be de-
voured by this insatiate beast. We are not told on
what food it was fed in the interval, or why Minos
did not end the trouble by allowing it to starve in
its inextricable den. As the story goes, the living
tribute was twice sent, and the third period came
duly round. The youths and maidens to be devoured
were selected by lot from the people of Athens, and
left their city amid tears and woe. But on this oc-
casion Theseus, the king's son and the great hero of
Athens, volunteered to be one of the band, and
vowed either to slay the terrible beast or die in the
There seem to have been few great events in those
early days of Greece in which Theseus did not take
part. Among his feats was the carrying off of Helen,
the famous beauty, while still a girl. Ie then took
part in a journey to the under-world,-the realm
of ghosts,-during which Castor and Pollux, the
THESEUS AND ARIADNE.
brothers of Helen, rescued and brought her home.
He was also one of the heroes of the Argonautic
expedition and of an expedition against the Amazons,
or nation of women warriors; he fought with and
killed a series of famous robbers; and he rid the
world of a number of ravaging beasts,-the Caly-
donian boar, the Crommyonian sow, and the Mara-
thonian bull, the monster which had slain the son of
Minos. He was, in truth, the Hercules of ancient
Athens, and he now proposed to add to his exploits
a battle for life or death with the perilous Minotaur.
The hero knew that he had before him the most
desperate task of his life. Even should he slay the
monster, he would still be in the intricate depths of
the Labyrinth, from which escape was deemed impos-
sible, and in whose endless passages he and his com-
panions might wander until they died of weariness
and starvation. He prayed, therefore, to Neptune
for help, and received a message from the oracle at
Delphi to the effect that Aphrodite (or Venus) would
aid and rescue him.
The ship conveying the victims sailed sadly from
Athens, and at length reached Crete at the port of
Knossus, the residence of King Minos. Here the woful
hostages were led through the streets to the prison
in which they were to be confined till the next day,
when they were to be delivered to death. As they
passed along the people looked with sympathy upon
their fair young faces, and deeply lamented their
coming fate. And, as Venus willed, among the spec-
tators wore Minos and his fair daughter Ariadne, who
stood at the palace door to see them pass.
The eyes of the young princess fell upon the face
of Theseus, the Athenian prince, and her heart
throbbed with a feeling she had never before known.
Never had she gazed upon a man who seemed to her
half so brave and handsome as this princely youth.
All that night thoughts of him drove slumber from
her eyes. In the early morning, moved by a new-
born love, she sought the prison, and, through her
privilege as the king's daughter, was admitted to see
the prisoners. Venus was doing the work which
the oracle had promised.
Calling Theseus aside, the blushing maiden told
him of her sudden love, and that she ardently longed
to save him. If he would follow her directions he
would escape. She gave him a sword, which she
had taken from her father's armory and concealed
beneath her cloak, that he might be armed against
the devouring beast. And she provided him besides
with a ball of thread, bidding him to fasten the end
of it to the entrance of the Labyrinth, and unwind
it as he went in, that it might serve him as a clue to
find his way out again.
As may well be believed, Theseus warmly thanked
his lovely visitor, told her that he was a king's son,
and that he returned her love, and begged her, in
case he escaped, to return with him to Athens and
be his bride. Ariadne willingly consented, and left
the prison before the guards came to conduct the
victims to their fate. It was like the story of Jason
and Medea retold.
With hidden sword and clue Theseus followed the
guards, in the midst of his fellow-prisoncrs. They
THEsrsJS AND ARIADNE.
were led into the depths of the Labyrinth and there
left to their fate. But the- guards had failed to ob-
serve that Theseus had fastened his thread at the en-
trance and was unwinding the ball as he went. And
now, in this dire den, for hours the hapless victims
awaited their destiny. Mid-day came, and with it a
distant roar from the monster reverberated fright-
fully through the long passages. Nearer came the
blood-thirsty brute, his bellowing growing louder as
he scented human beings. The trembling victims
waited with but a single hope, and that was in the
sword of their valiant prince. At length the creat-
ure appeared, in form a man of giant stature, but
with the horned head and huge mouth of a bull.
Battle at once began between the prince and the
brute. It soon ended. Springing agilely behind the
ravening monster, Theseus, with a swinging stroke
of his blade, cut off one of its legs at the knee. As
the man-brute fell prone, and lay bellowing with
pain, a thrust through the back reached its heart,
and all peril from the Minotaur was at an end.
This victory gained, the task of Theseus was easy.
The thread led back to the entrance. By aid of
this clue the door of escape was quickly gained.
Waiting until night, the hostages left the dreaded
Labyrinth under cover of the darkness. Ariadne
was in waiting, the ship was secretly gained, and the
rescued Athenians with their fair companion sailed
away, unknown to the king.
But Theseus proved false to the maiden to whom
he owed his life. Stopping at the island of Naxos,
which was sacred to Dionysus (or Bacchus), the god
of wine, he had a dream in which the god bade him
to desert Ariadne and sail away. This the faithless
swain did, leaving the weeping maiden deserted on
the island. Legend goes on to tell us that the de-
spair of the lamenting maiden ended in the sleep of
exhaustion, and that while sleeping Dionysus found
her, and made her his wife. As for the dream of
Theseus, it was one of those convenient excuses
which traitors to love never lack.
Meanwhile, Theseus and his companions sailed on
over the summer sea. Reaching the isle of Delos,
he offered a sacrifice to Apollo in gratitude for his
escape, and there he, and the merry youths and
maidens with him, danced a dance called the Geranus,
whose mazy twists and turns imitated those of the
But the faithless swain was not to escape punish-
ment for his base desertion of Ariadne. He had
arranged with his father .Egeus that if he escaped
the Minotaur he would hoist white sails in the ship
on his return. If he failed, the ship would still
wear the black canvas with which she had set out
on her errand of woe.
The aged king awaited the returning ship on a
high rock that overlooked the sea. At length it hove
in sight, the sails appeared, but-they were black.
With broken heart the father cast himself from
the rock into the sea,-which ever since has been
called, from his name, the JEgean Sea. Theseus,
absorbed perhaps in thoughts of the abandoned
Ariadne, perhaps of new adventures, had forgotten
to make the promised change. And thus was the
THESEUS AND ARIADNE.
deserted maiden avenged on the treacherous youth
who owed to her his life.
The ship-or what was believed to be the ship-
of Theseus and the hostages was carefully preserved
at Athens, down to the time of the Macedonian con-
quest, being constantly repaired with new timbers,
till little of the original ship remained. Every year
it was sent to Delos with envoys to sacrifice to
Apollo. Before the ship left port the priest of Apollo
decorated her stern with garlands, and during her
absence no public act of impurity was permitted to
take place in the city. Therefore no one could be
put to death, and Socrates, who was condemned at
this period of the year, was permitted to live for
thirty days until the return of the sacred ship.
There is another legend connected with this story
worth telling. Dmdalus, the builder of the Laby-
rinth, at length fell under the displeasure of Minos,
and was confined within the windings of his own
edifice. He had no clue like Theseus, but he had
resources in his inventive skill. Making wings for
himself and his son Icarus, the two flew away from
the Labyrinth and their foe. The father safely
reached Sicily; but the son, who refused to be gov-
erned by his father's wise advice, flew so high in his
ambitious folly that the sun melted the wax of which
his wings were made, and he fell into the sea near
the island of Samos. This from him was named the
There is a political as well as a legendary history
of Theseus,-perhaps one no more to be depended
upon than the other. It is said that when he be-
came king he made Athens supreme over Attica,
putting an end to the separate powers of the tribes
which had before prevailed. He is also said to
have abolished the monarchy, and replaced it by a
government of the people, whom he divided into the
three classes of nobles, husbandmen, and artisans.
He died at length in the island of Scyrus, where he
fell or was thrown from the cliffs. Ages later, after
the Persian war, the Delphic oracle bade the Athe-
nians to bring back the bones of Theseus from Scy-
rus, and bury them splendidly in Attic soil. Cimon,
the son of Miltiades, found-or pretended to find-
the hero's tomb, and returned with the famous bones.
They were buried in the heart of Athens, and over
them was erected the monument called the Theseium,
which became afterwards a place of sanctuary for
slaves escaping from cruel treatment and for all
persons in peril. Theseus, who had been the cham-
pion of the oppressed during life, thus became their
refuge after death.
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.
AMONG the legendary tales of Greece, none of
which are strictly, though several are perhaps
partly, historical, none-after that of Troy-was
more popular with the ancients than the story of
the two sieges of Thebes. This tale had probably
in it an historical element, though deeply overlaid
with myth, and it was the greatest enterprise of
Grecian war, after that of Troy, during what is
called the age of the Heroes. And in it is included
one of the most pathetic episodes in the story of
Greece, that of the sisterly affection and tragic fate
of Antigone, whose story gave rise to noble dramas
by the tragedians Eschylus and Sophocles, and is
still a favorite with lovers of pathetic lore.
As a prelude to our story we must glance at the
mythical history of CEdipus, which, like that of his
noble daughter, has been celebrated in ancient drama.
An oracle had declared that he should kill his father,
the king of Thebes. He was, in consequence, brought
up in ignorance of his parentage, yet this led to the
accomplishment of the oracle, for as a youth he,
during a roadside squabble, killed his father not
knowing him. For this crime, which had been one
of their own devising, the gods, with their usual
inconsistency, punished the land of Thebes; afflicting
that hapless country with a terrible monster called
the Sphinx, which had the face of a woman, the
wings of a bird, and the body of a lion. This
strangely made-up creature proposed a riddle to the
Thebans, whose solution they were forced to try and
give; and on every failure to give the correct answer
she seized and devoured the unhappy aspirant.
(Edipus arrived, in ignorance of the fact that he
was the son of the late king. He quickly solved
the riddle of the Sphinx, whereupon that monster
committed suicide, and he was made king. He
then married the queen,-not knowing that she was
his own mother.
This celebrated riddle of the Sphinx was not a
very difficult one. It was as follows: "A being
with four feet has two feet and three feet; but its
feet vary, and when it has most it is weakest."
The answer, as given by CEdipus, was Man," who
"First as a babe four-footed creeps on his way,
Then, when full age cometh on, and the burden of years
weighs full heavy,
Bending his shoulders and neck, as a third foot useth his
When the truth became known-as truth was apt
to become known when too late in old stories-the
queen, Jocasta, mad with anguish, hanged herself,
and (Edipus, in wild despair, put out his eyes. The
gods who had led him blindly into crime, now handed
him over to punishment by the Furies,-the ancient
goddesses of vengeance, whoso mission it was to
pursue the criminal with stinging whips.
CEDIPUS AND ANTIGONE.
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.
The tragic events which followed arose from the
curse of the afflicted (Edipus. He had two sons,
Polynikes and Eteocles, who twice offended him
without intention, and whom he, frenzied by his
troubles, twice bitterly cursed, praying to the gods
that they might perish by each other's hands.
(Edipus afterwards obtained the pardon of the gods
for his involuntary crime, and died in exile, leaving
Creon, the brother of Jocasta, on the throne. But
though he was dead, his curse kept alive, and brought
on new matter of dire moment.
It began its work in a quarrel between the two sons
as to who should succeed their uncle as king of Thebes.
Polynikes was in the wrong, and was forced to leave
Thebes, while Eteocles remained. The exiled prince
sought the court of Adrastus, king of Argos, who
gave him his daughter in marriage, and agreed to
assist in restoring him to his native country.
Most of the Argive chiefs joined in the proposed
expedition. But the most distinguished of them
all, Amphiaraiis, opposed it as unjust and against
the will of the gods. He concealed himself, lest he
should be forced into the enterprise. But the other
chiefs deemed his aid indispensable, and bribed his
wife, with a costly present, to reveal his hiding-
place. Amphiaraiis was thus forced to join the ex-
pedition, but his prophetic power taught him that it
would end in disaster to all and death to himself,
and as a measure of revenge he commanded his
son Alkmmon to kill the faithless woman who had
betrayed him, and after his death to organize a sec-
ond expedition against Thebes.
Seven chiefs led the army, one to assail each of
the seven celebrated gates of Thebes. Onward they
marched against that strong city, heedless of the
hostile portents which they met on their way. The
Thebans also sought the oracle of the gods, and
were told that they should be victorious, but only
on the dread condition that Creon's son, Menceceus,
should sacrifice himself to Mars. The devoted
youth, on learning that the safety of his country
depended on his life, forthwith killed himself before
the city gates,-thus securing by innocent blood the
powerful aid of the god of war.
Long and strenuous was the contest that suc-
ceeded, each of the heroes fiercely attacking the
gate adjudged to him. But the gods were on the
side of the Thebans and every assault proved in vain.
Parthenopeus, one of the seven, was killed by a stone,
and another, Capaneus, while furiously mounting the
walls from a scaling-ladder, was slain by a thunder-
bolt cast by Jupiter, and fell dead to the earth.
The assailants, terrified by this portent, drew back,
and were pursued by the Thebans, who issued from
their gates. But the battle that was about to take
place on the open plain was stopped by Eteocles, who
proposed to settle it by a single combat with his
brother Polynikes, the victory to be given to the
side whose champion succeeded in this mortal duel.
Polynikes, filled with hatred of his brother, eagerly
accepted this challenge. Adrastus, the leader of the
assailing army, assented, and the unholy combat
Never was a more furious combat than that be-
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.
tween the hostile brothers. Each was exasperated
to bitter hatred of the other, and they fought with
a violence and desperation that could end only in the
death of one of the combatants. As it proved, the
curse of (Edipus was in the keeping of the gods, and
both fell dead,-the fate for which their aged father
had prayed. But the duel had decided nothing, and
the two armies renewed the battle.
And now death and bloodshed ran riot; men fell
by hundreds; deeds of heroic valor were achieved
on either side; feats of individual daring were dis-
played like those which Homer sings in the story of
Troy. But the battle ended in the defeat of the
assailants. Of the seven leaders only two survived,
and one of these, Amphiaraiis, was about to suffer
the fate he had foretold, when Jupiter rescued him
from death by a miracle. The earth opened beneath
him, and he, with his chariot and horses, was re-
ceived unhurt into her bosom. Rendered immortal
by the king of the gods, he was afterwards wor-
shipped as a god himself.
Adrastus, the only remaining chief, was forced to
fly, and was preserved by the matchless speed of his
horse. He reached Argos in safety, but brought
with him nothing but his garment of woe and his
Thus ended, in defeat and disaster to the assailants,
the first of the celebrated sieges of Thebes. It was
followed by a tragic episode which remains to be
told, that of the sisterly fidelity of Antigone and
her sorrowful fate. Her story, which the dramatists
have made immortal, is thus told in the legend.
After the repulse of his foes, King Creon caused
the body of Eteocles to be buried with the highest
honors; but that of Polynikes was cast outside the
gates as the corpse of a traitor, and death was
threatened to any one who should dare to give it
burial. This cruel edict, which no one else ventured
to ignore, was set aside by Antigone, the sister of
Polynikes. This brave maiden, with warm filial
affection, had accompanied her blind father during
his exile to Attica, and was now returned to Thebes
to perform another holy duty. Funeral rites were
held by the Greeks to be essential to the repose of
the dead, and Antigone, despite Creon's edict, deter-
mined that her brother's body should not be left to the
dogs and vultures. Her sister, though in sympathy
with her purpose, proved too timid to help her. No
other assistance was to be had. But not deterred
by this, she determined to perform the act alone,
and to bury the body with her own hands.
In this act of holy devotion Antigone succeeded;
Polynikes was buried. But the sentinels whom
Creon had posted detected her in the act, and she
was seized and dragged before the tribunal of the
tyrant. Here she defended her action with an ear-
nestness and dignity that should have gained her
release, but Creon was inflexible in his anger. She
had set at naught his edict, and should suffer the
penalty for her crime. He condemned her to be
Sophocles, the dramatist, puts noble words into
the mouth of Antigone. This is her protest against
the tyranny of the king:
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.
No ordinance of man shall override
The settled laws of Nature and of God;
Not written these in pages of a book,
Nor were they framed to-day, nor yesterday;
We know not whence they are; but this we know,
That they from all eternity have been,
And shall to all eternity endure."
And when asked by Creon why she had dared dis-
obey the laws, she nobly replied,-
Not through fear
Of any man's resolve was I prepared
Before the gods to bear the penalty
Of sinning against these. That I should die
I knew (how should I not?) though thy decree
Had never spoken. And before my time
If I shall die, I reckon this again;
For whoso lives, as I, in many woes,
How can it be but he shall gain by death?"
At the king's command the unhappy maiden was
taken from his presence and thrust into a sepulchre,
where she was condemned to perish in hunger and
loneliness. But Antigone was not without her ad-
vocate. She had a lover,-almost the only one in
Greek literature. Hmemon, the son of Creon, to
whom her hand had been promised in marriage, and
who loved her dearly, appeared before his father
and earnestly interceded for her life. Not on the
plea of his love,-such a plea would have had no
weight with a Greek tribunal,-but on those of mercy
and justice. His plea was vain; Croon was obdu-
rate : the unhappy lover left his presence and sought
Antigone's living tomb, where he slow himself at
the feet of his love, already dead. His mother, on
learning of his fatal act, also killed herself by her
own hand, and Creon was left alone to suffer the
consequences of his unnatural act.
The story goes on to relate that Adrastus, with
the disconsolate mothers of the fallen chieftains,
sought the hero Theseus at Athens, and begged his
aid in procuring the privilege of interment for the
slain warriors whose bodies lay on the plain of
Thebes. The Thebans persisting in their refusal
to permit burial, Theseus at length led an army
against them, defeated them in the field, and forced
them to consent that their fallen foes should be
interred, that last privilege of the dead which was
deemed so essential by all pious Greeks. The tomb
of the chieftains was shown near Eleusis within late
But the Thebans were to suffer another reverse.
The sons of the slain chieftains raised an army,
which they placed under the leadership of Adrastus,
and demanded to be led against Thebes. Alkmieon,
the son of Amphiarafis, who had been commanded to
revenge him, played the most prominent part in the
succeeding war. As this new expedition marched,
the gods, which had opposed the former with hostile
signs, now showed their approval with favorable
portents. Adherents joined them on their march.
At the river Glisas they were met by a Theban
army, and a battle was fought, which ended in a
complete victory over the Theban foe. A prophet
now declared to the Thebans that the gods were
against them, and advised them to surrender the
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES. 49
city. This they did, flying themselves, with their
wives and children, to the country of the Illyrians,
and leaving their city empty to the triumphant foe.
The Epigoni, as the youthful victors were called,
marched in at the head of their forces, took posses-
sion, and placed Thersander, the son of Polynikes,
on the throne. And thus ends the famous old legend
of the two sieges of Thebes.
LYCURGUS AND THE SPARTAN
Or the many nations between which the small
peninsula of Greece was divided, much the most in-
teresting were those whose chief cities were Athens
and Sparta. These are the states with whose doings
history is full, and without which the history of
ancient Greece would be little more interesting to
us than the history of ancient China and Japan.
No two cities could have been more opposite in
character and institutions than these, and they were
rivals of each other for the dominant power through
centuries of Grecian history. In Athens freedom
of thought and freedom of action prevailed. Such
complete political equality of the citizens has scarcely
been known elsewhere upon the earth, and the intel-
lecttal activity of these citizens stands unequalled.
In Sparta freedom of thought and action were both
suppressed to a degree rarely known, the most rigid
institutions existed, and the only activity was a war-
like one. All thought and all education had war for
their object, and the state and city became a com-
pact military machine. This condition was the re-
sult of a remarkable code of laws by which Sparta
was governed, the most peculiar and surprising code
which any nation has ever possessed. It is this
LYCURGUS AND THE SPARTAN LAWS.
code, and Lycurgus, to whom Sparta owed it, with
which we are now concerned.
First, who was Lycurgus and in what age did he
live? Neither of these questions can be closely an-
swered. Though his laws are historical, his biogra-
phy is legendary. He is believed to have lived
somewhere about 900 or 1000 B.C., that age of
legend and fable in which Homer lived, and what
we know about him is little more to be trusted than
what we know about the great poet. The Greeks
had stories of their celebrated men of this remote
age, but they were stories with which imagination
often had more to do than fact, and though we may
enjoy them, it is never quite safe to believe them.
As for the very uncertain personage named Ly-
curgus, we are told by Herodotus, the Greek his-
torian, that when he was born the Spartans were
the most lawless of the Greeks. Every man was a
law unto himself, and confusion, tumult, and injustice
everywhere prevailed. Lycurgus, a noble Spartan,
sad at heart for the misery of his country, applied
to the oracle at Delphi, and received instructions as
to how he should act to bring about a better state
Plutarch, who tells so many charming stories
about the ancient Greeks and Romans, gives us the
following account. According to him the brother
of Lycurgus was king of Sparta. When he died
Lycurgus was offered the throne, but he declined
the honor and made his infant nephew, Charilaus,
king. Then he left Sparta, and travelled through
Crete, lonia, Egypt, and several more remote coun-
tries, everywhere studying the laws and customs
which he found prevailing. In lonia he obtained a
copy of the poems of Homer, and is said by some
to have met and conversed with Homer himself.
If, as is supposed, the Greeks of that age had not
the art of writing, he must have carried this copy
in his memory.
On his return home from this long journey Ly-
curgus found his country in a worse state than be-
fore. Sparta, it may be well here to say, had always
two kings; but it found, as might have been ex-
pected, that two kings were worse than one, and
that this odd device in government never worked
well. At any rate, Lycurgus found that law had
nearly vanished, and that disorder had taken its
place. He now consulted the oracle at Delphi, and
was told that the gods would support him in what
he proposed to do.
Coming back to Sparta, he secretly gathered a
body-guard of thirty armed men from among the
noblest citizens, and then presented himself in the
Agora, or place of public assembly, announcing that
he had come to end the disorders of his native land.
King Charilaus at first heard of this with terror,
but on learning what his uncle intended, he offered
his support. Most of the leading men of Sparta
did the same. Lycurgus was to them a descendant
of the great hero Hercules, he was the most learned
and travelled of their people, and the reforms he
proposed were sadly needed in that unhappy land.
These reforms were of two kinds. He desired
to reform both the government and society. We
LYCURGUS AND THE SPARTAN LAWS.
shall deal first with the new government which he
instituted. The two kings were left unchanged. But
under them was formed a senate of twenty-eight mem-
bers, to whom the kings were joined, making thirty
in all. The people also were given their assemblies,
but they could not debate any subject, all the power
they had was to accept or reject what the senate had
decreed. At a later date five men, called ephors,
were selected from the people, into whose hands fell
nearly all the civil power, so that the kings had
little more to do than to command the army and
lead it to war. The kings, however, were at the
head of the religious establishment of the country,
and were respected by the people as descendants of
The government of Sparta thus became an aris-
tocracy or oligarchy. The ephors came from the
people, and were appointed in their interest, but they
came to rule the state so completely that neither the
kings, the senate, nor the assembly had much voice
in the government. Such was the outgrowth of the
governmental institutions of Lycurgus.
It is the civil laws made by Lycurgus, however,
which are of most interest, and in which Sparta
differed from all other states. The people of Laconia,
the country of which Sparta was the capital, were
composed of two classes. That country had origi-
nally been conquered by the Spartans, and the
ancient inhabitants, who were known as Helots,
were held as slaves by their Spartan conquerors.
They tilled the ground to raise food for the citizens,
who were all soldiers, and whose whole life and
thought were given to keeping the Helots in slavery
and to warlike activity. That they might make the
better soldiers, Lycurgus formed laws to do away
with all luxury and inequality of conditions, and to
train up the young under a rigid system of discipline
to the use of weapons and the arts of war. The
Helots, also, were often employed as light-armed
soldiers, and there was always danger that they
might revolt against their oppressors, a fact which
made constant discipline and vigilance necessary to
the Spartan citizens.
Lycurgus found great inequality in the state. A
few owned all the land, and the remainder were
poor. The rich lived in luxury; the poor were
reduced to misery and want. He divided the whole
territory of Sparta into nine thousand equal lots,
one of which was given to each citizen. The terri-
tory of the remainder of Laconia was divided into
thirty thousand equal lots, one of which was given
to each Pericecus. (The Periceci were the freemen
of the country outside of the Spartan city and dis-
trict, and did not possess the full rights of citizen-
This measure served to equalize wealth. But
further to prevent luxury, Lycurgus banished all
gold and silver from the country, and forced the
people to use iron money,-each piece so heavy that
none would care to carry it. He also forbade the
citizens to have anything to do with commerce or
industry. They were to be soldiers only, and the
Helots were to supply them with food. As for com-
merce, since no other state would accept their iron
LYCURGUS AND THE SPARTAN LAWS.
money, they had to depend on themselves for every-
thing they needed. The industries of Laconia were
kept strictly at home.
To these provisions Lycurgus added another of
remarkable character. No one was allowed to take
his meals at home. Public tables were provided, at
which all must eat, every citizen being forced to be-
long to some special public mess. Each had to sup-
ply his quota of food, such as barley, wine, cheese,
and figs from his land, game obtained by hunting, or
the meat of the animals killed for sacrifices. At
these tables all shared alike. The kings and the
humblest citizens were on an equality. No distinc-
tion was permitted except to those who had rendered
some signal service to the state.
This public mess was not accepted without pro-
test. Those who were used to luxurious living were
not ready to be brought down to such simple fare,
and a number of these attacked Lycurgus in the
market-place, and would have stoned him to death
had he not run briskly for his life. As it was, one
of his pursuers knocked out his eye. But, such was
his content at his success, that he dedicated his last
eye to the gods, building a temple to the goddess
Athene of the Eye. At these public tables black
broth was the most valued dish, the elder men eat-
ing it in preference, and leaving the meat to their
The houses of the Spartans were as plain as they
could well be made, and as simple in furniture as
possible, while no lights were permitted at bedtime,
it being designed that every one should become c-
customer to walking boldly in the dark. This, how-
ever, was but a minor portion of the Spartan dis-
cipline. Throughout life, from boyhood to old age,
every one was subjected to the most rigorous train-
ing. From seven years of age the drill continued,
and every one was constantly being trained or seeing
others under training. The day was passed in pub-
lic exercises and public meals, the nights in public
barracks. Married Spartans rarely saw their wives
-during the first years of marriage-and had very
little to do with their children; their whole lives
were given to the state, and the slavery of the
Helots to them was not more complete than their
slavery to military discipline.
They were not only drilled in the complicated
military movements which taught a body of Spartan
soldiers to act as one man, but also had incessant
gymnastic training, so as to make them active,
strong, and enduring. They were taught to bear
severe pain unmoved, to endure heat and cold,
hunger and thirst, to walk barefoot on rugged
ground, to wear the same garment summer and
winter, to suppress all display of feeling, and in
public to remain silent and motionless until action
was called for.
Two companies were often matched against each
other, and these contests were carried on with fury,
fists and feet taking the place of arms. Hunting
in the woods and mountains was encouraged, that
they might learn to bear fatigue. The boys were
kept half fed, that they might be forced to provide
for themselves by hunting or stealing. The latter
LYCURGUS AND THE SPARTAN LAWS.
was designed to make them cunning and skilful,
and if detected in the act they were severely pun-
ished. The story is told that one boy who had
stolen a fox and hidden it under his garment, per-
mitted the animal to tear him open with claws and
teeth, and died rather than reveal his theft.
One might say that he would rather have been
born a girl than a boy in Sparta; but the girls were
trained almost as severely as the boys. They were
forced to contend with each other in running, wrest-
ling, and boxing, and to go through other gymnastic
exercises calculated to make them strong and healthy.
They marched in the religious processions, sung and
danced at festivals, and were present at the exercises
of the youths. Thus boys and girls were continually
mingled, and the praise or reproach of the latter did
much to stimulate their brothers and friends to the
As a result of all this the Spartans became strong,
vigorous, and handsome in form and face. The
beauty of their women was everywhere celebrated.
The men became unequalled for soldierly qualities,
able to bear the greatest fatigue and privation, and
to march great distances in a brief time, while on
the field of battle they were taught to conquer or to
die, a display of cowardice or flight from the field
being a lifelong disgrace.
Such were the main features of the most singular
set of laws any nation ever had, the best fitted to
make a nation of soldiers, and also to prevent in-
tellectual progress in any other direction than the
single one of war-making. Even eloquence in speech
was discouraged, and a brief or laconic manner sedu-
lously cultivated. But while all this had its advan-
tages, it had its defects. The number of citizens
decreased instead of increasing. At the time of the
Persian war there were eight thousand of them.
At a late date there were but seven hundred, of whom
one hundred possessed most of the land. Whether
Lycurgus really divided the land equally or not is
doubtful. At any rate, in time the land fell into a
few hands, the poor increased in number, and the
people steadily died out; while the public mess, so
far as the rich were concerned, became a mere form.
But we need not deal with these late events, and
must go back to the story told of Lycurgus. It is
said that when he had completed his code of laws,
he called together an assembly of the people, told
them that he was going on a journey, and asked
them to swear that they would obey his laws till
he returned. This they agreed to do, the kings, the
senate, and the people all taking the oath.
Then the law-giver went to Delphi, where he
offered a sacrifice to Apollo, and asked the oracle
if the laws he had made were good. The oracle
answered that they were excellent, and would bring
the people the greatest fame. This answer he had
put into writing and sent to Sparta, for he had re-
solved to make his oath binding for all time by never
returning. So the old man starved himself to death.
The Spartans kept their oath. For five hundred
years their city continued one of the chief cities of
Greece, and their army the most warlike and dreaded
of the armies of the earth. As for Lycurgus, his
LYCURGUS AND THE SPARTAN LAWS. 59
countrymen worshipped him as a god, and imputed
to him all that was noble in their institutions and
excellent in their laws. But time brings its in-
evitable changes, and these famous institutions in
time decayed, while the people perished from over-
strict discipline or other causes till but a small troop
of Spartans remained, too weak in numbers fairly
to control the Helots of their fields.
In truth, the laws of Lycurgus were unnatural,
and in the end could but fail. They were framed to
make one-sided men, and only whole men can long
succeed. Human nature will have its way, and
luxury and corruption crept into Sparta despite
these laws. Nor did the Spartans prove braver or
more successful in war than the Athenians, whose
whole nature was developed, and who were alike
great in literature, art, and war.
ARISTOMENES, THE HERO OF
WE have told by what means the Spartans grew
to be famous warriors. We have now to tell one
of the ancient stories of how they used their war-
like prowess to extend their dominions. Laconia,
their country, was situated in the southeast section
of the Peloponnesus, that southern peninsula which
is attached to the remainder of Greece by the narrow
neck of land known as the Isthmus of Corinth. Their
capital city was anciently called Lacedmamon; it was
later known as Sparta. In consequence they are
called in history both Spartans and Lacedemonians.
In the early history of the Spartans they did not
trouble themselves about Northern Greece. They
had enough to occupy them in the Peloponnesus.
As the Romans, in after-time, spent their early
centuries in conquering the small nations immedi-
ately around them, so did the Spartans. And the
first wars of this nation of soldiers seem to have
been with Messenia, a small country west of Laconia,
and extending like it southward into the blue waters
of the Mediterranean Sea.
There were two wars with the Messenians, both
full of stories of daring and disaster, but it is the
second of these with which we are specially con-
ARISTOMENES, THE HERO OF MESSENIA.
cerned, that in which the hero Aristomenes won his
fame. We shall not ask our readers to believe all
that is told about this ancient champion. Much of
it is very doubtful. But the war in which he took
part was historical, and the conquest of Messenia
was the first great event in Spartan history.
Now for the story itself. In the first Messenian
war, which was fought more than seven hundred
years B.C., the leader of the Messenians was named
Aristodemus. A quarrel had arisen between the
two nations during some sacrifices on their border
lands. The Spartans had laid a snare for their
neighbors by dressing some youths as maidens and
arming them with daggers. They attacked the
Messenians, but were defeated, and the Spartan
king was slain.
In the war that ensued the Messenians in time
found themselves in severe straits, and followed the
plan that seems to have been common throughout
Grecian history. They sent to Delphi to ask aid
and advice from the oracle of Apollo. And the
oracle gave them one of its often cruel and always
uncertain answers; saying that if they would be
successful a virgin of the house of lEpytus must
die for her country. To fulfil this cruel behest
Aristodemus, who was of that ancient house, killed
his daughter with his own hand,-much as Aga-
memnon had sacrificed his daughter before sailing
Aristodemus afterwards became king, and had a
stirring and tragic history, which was full of por-
tents and prodigies. Thus an old blind prophet sud-
denly recovered his sight,-which the Messenians
looked upon to mean something, though it is not
clear what. A statue of Artemis (or Diana) let fall
its brazen shield; which meant something more,-
probably that the fastenings had given way; but
the ancients looked on it as a portent. Then the
ghost of his murdered daughter appeared to Aris-
todemus, pointed to her wounded side, stripped off
his armor, placed on his head a crown of gold and
on his body a white robe,-a sign of death. So, as
it seemed evident that he had mistaken the oracle,
and killed his daughter without saving his country,
he did the only thing that remained for him: he
went to her grave and killed himself. And with
this tragedy ends all we need to tell about the first
champion of Messenia.
The war ended in the conquest of Messenia by the
Spartans. The conquered people were very harshly
treated by the conquerors, being forced to pay as
tribute half the produce of their fields, and to humble
themselves before their haughty masters. As a re-
sult, about fifty years afterwards, they broke out
into rebellion, and a second Messenian war began.
This war lasted for many years, the Messenians
being led by a valiant hero named Aristomenes, who
performed startling exploits and made marvellous
escapes. Three great battles took place, with vari-
ous results, and three times Aristomenes made a re-
markable sacrifice to the king of the gods. This
was called the Hekatomphonia, and could only be
offered by one who had slain, with his own hands,
one hundred enemies in battle.
ARISTOMENES, THE HERO OF MESSENIA. 63
But great battles were not all. There were years
of guerilla warfare. At the head of a band of brave
followers Aristomenes made his way more than once
to the very heart of Laconia, surprised two of its
cities, and on one occasion ventured into Sparta
itself by night. Here he boldly entered the temple
of Athene of the Brazen House and hung up his
shield there as a mark of defiance to his enemies,
placing on it an inscription which said that Aris-
tomenes presented it as an offering from Spartan
The Messenian maidens crowned their hero with
garlands, and danced around him, singing a war
strain in honor of his victories over his foes. Yet
he found the Spartans vigorous and persistent ene-
mies, and in spite of all his victories was forced at
length to take refuge in the mountain fastnesses,
where he held out against his foes for eleven years.
We do not know all the adventures of this famous
champion, but are told that he was taken prisoner
three times by his enemies. Twice he made marvel-
lous escapes while they were conveying him to
Sparta. On the third occasion he was less fortu-
nate. His foes bore him in triumph to their capital
city, and here he was condemned to be cast from
Mount Taygetus into the Keadas, a deep rock cavity
into which they flung their criminals.
Fifty Messenian prisoners suffered the same fate
and were all killed; but the gods, so we are told,
came to their leader's aid. The legend says that an
eagle took Aristomones on its outspread wings, and
landed him safely in the bottom of the pit. More
likely the bodies of the former victims broke his
fall. Seeing no possible way out from the deep
cavity, he wrapped himself in his cloak, and re-
signed himself to die. But, while thus lying, he
saw a fox prowling among the dead bodies, and
questioned himself how it had found its way into
the pit. When it came near him he grasped its tail,
defending himself from its bites by means of his
cloak. Holding fast, he followed the fox to the
aperture by which it had entered, enlarged it so
that he could creep out, and soon appeared alive
again in the field, to the surprise of his friends and
the consternation of his foes.
Being seized again by some Cretan bowmen, he
was rescued by a maiden, who dreamed that wolves
had brought into the city a chained lion, bereft of
its claws, and that she had given it claws and set it
free. When she saw Aristomenes among his captors,
she believed that her dream had come true, and that
the gods desired her to set him free. This she did
by making his captors drunk, and giving him a
dagger with which he cut his bonds. The indiscreet
bowmen were killed by the warrior, while the es-
caped hero rewarded the maiden by making her the
wife of his son.
But Messenia was doomed by the gods, and no
man could avert its fate. The oracle of Delphi de-
clared that if the he-goat (Tragos) should drink the
waters of the Neda, the god could no longer defend
that fatal country. And now a fig-tree sprang up
on the banks of the Neda, and, instead of spreading
its branches aloft, let them droop till they touched
ARISTOMENES, THE HERO OF MESSENIA. 65
the waters of the stream. This a seer announced
as the fulfilment of the oracle, for in the Messenian
language the fig-tree was called Tragos.
Aristomenes now, discouraged by the decree of
the gods, and finding himself surrounded, through
treachery, by his enemies in his mountain strong-
hold, decided to give up the hopeless struggle. He
broke fiercely through the ranks of his assailants
with his sons and followers, and left his country to
the doom which the gods had decreed.
The end of his career, like its earlier events, was,
according to the legend, under the control of the
deities. Damagetes, the king of the island of
Rhodes, had been told by an oracle that he must
marry the bravest of the Hellenes (or Greeks).
Believing that Aristomenes had the best claim to
this proud title, he asked him for the hand of his
daughter in marriage, and offered him a home in
his island realm. Aristomenes consented, and spent
the remainder of his days in Rhodes. From his
daughter descended the illustrious family of the
This romantic story of the far past resembles
those of King Alfred of England, of Wallace and
Bruce of Scotland, and of other heroes who have
defended their countries single-handed against a
powerful foe. But we are not done with it yet.
There is another singular and interesting episode to
be told,-a legend, no doubt, but one which has
almost passed into history.
The story goes that the Spartans, losing heart at
the success of the Messenians in the early years of
the war, took the usual method then adopted, and
sent to the oracle at Delphi for advice. The oracle
told them to apply to Athens for a leader. They
did so, sending an embassy to that city; and in
response to the oracle the Athenians sent them a
lame schoolmaster named Tyrteus. They did not
dare to resist the command of the god, but they had
no desire to render any actual aid to the Spartans.
However, Apollo seems to have been wiser than
the Athenians. The lame schoolmaster was an able
poet as well, and on reaching Sparta he composed a
series of war-songs which so inspirited the army
that they marched away to victory. Tyrtsus was
probably not only an able poet; very likely he also
gave the Spartans good advice in the conduct of the
war, and though he did not lead their armies, he
animated them by his songs and aided them with
his advice until victory followed their career of
For many years afterwards the war-songs of Tyr-
tmeus remained highly popular at Sparta, and some
of them have come down to our own days. As for
the actual history of this war, most of what we
know seems to have been written by Tyrtaus, who
was thus not only the poet but the historian of the
SOLON, THE LAW-GIVER OF
WE have told how Sparta came to have an aris-
tocratic government, under the laws of Lycurgus.
We have now to tell how Athens came to have a
democratic government, under the laws of Solon.
These formed the types of government for later
Greece, some of whose nations became aristocracies,
following the example of Sparta; others became
democracies, and formed their governments on the
model of that of Athens.
As before Lycurgus the Spartan commonwealth
was largely without law, so was Athens before
Solon. In those days the people of Attica-of
which Athens was the capital city-were divided
into three factions,-the rich, the middle class, and
the poor. As for the poor, they were in a condition
of misery, being loaded down with debt, and many
of them in a state of slavery to the rich, who owned
nearly all the land.
At that period what law existed was very severe
against debtors. The debtor became the slave of
his creditor, and was held in this state until he
could pay his debt, either in money or in labor.
And not only he, but his younger sons and his un-
married daughters and sisters, were reduced to
slavery. Through the action of this severe law
many of the poor of Attica were owned as slaves,
many had been sold as slaves, some had kept their
freedom only by selling their own children, and
some had fled from the country to escape slavery.
And this, too, had arisen in many cases through in-
justice in the courts and corruption of the judges.
In the time of Solon the misery and oppression
from these laws became so great that there was a
general mutiny of the poor against the rich. They
refused to submit to the unjust enactments of their
rulers, and the state fell into such frightful disorder
that the governing class, no longer able to control
the people, were obliged to call Solon to their aid.
Solon did not belong to the rich men of Athens,
%though he was of noble birth, and, like so many of
the older Greeks, traced his family line back to the
gods. Neptune, the ocean deity, was fabled to be
his far-off ancestor. He was born about 638 B.C.
His father had spent most of his money, largely in
kind deeds to others, and the son found himself
obliged to become a merchant. In this pursuit he
travelled in many parts of Greece and Asia, and
in his journeys paid more heed to the gaining of
knowledge than of money, so that when he came
back his mind was fuller than his purse. Men who
seek wisdom rarely succeed in gaining much money,
but Solon's story goes to show that wisdom is far
the better of the two, and that a rich mind is of
more value than a rich purse. When he returned
to Attica he gained such fame as a poet and a man
of learning and wisdom that he has ever since been
classed as one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece.
SOLON, THE LAW-GIVER OF ATHENS.
Of these wise men the following story is told.
Some fishermen of Cos cast their net into the sea,
and brought up in its meshes a golden tripod, which
the renowned Helen had thrown into the sea during
her return from Troy. A dispute arose as to whom
the tripod should belong. Several cities were ready
to go to war about it. To prevent bloodshed the
oracle of Apollo was applied to, and answered that
it should be sent to the wisest man that could be
It was at first sent to Thales of Miletus, a man
famous for wisdom. But he. decided that Bias of
Priene was wiser than he, and sent it to him. And
thus it went the round of the seven wise men,-
Solon among them, so we are told,-and finally
came back to Thales. He refused to keep it, and
placed it in the temple of Apollo at Thebes.
An evidence alike of Solon's wisdom, shrewdness,
and political skill arose in the war for the island of
Salamis, which adjoined the two states of Megara
and Attica, and for whose possession they were at
war. After the Athenians had been at great loss of
men and money in this conflict, Megara gained the
island, and the people of Athens became so dis-
gusted with the whole affair that a law was passed
declaring that any man who spoke or wrote again
about the subject should be put to death.
This Solon held to be a stain on the honor of
Athens. He did not care to lose his life by break-
ing the law, but was not content that his country
should rest under the stigma of defeat, and should
yield so valuable a prize. He accordingly had it
given out that he had gone mad; and in pretended
insanity he rushed into the public square, mounted
the herald's stone, and repeated a poem he had com-
posed for the occasion, recalling vividly to the people
the disgrace of their late defeat. His stirring appeal
so wrought upon their feelings that the law was re-
pealed, war was declared, and Solon was placed in
command of the army.
Megara sent out a ship to watch the proceedings,
but this was seized by Solon's fleet and manned by
part of his force. The remainder of his men were
landed and marched towards the city of Salamis,
on which they made an assault. While this was
going on, Solon sailed up with the ship he had cap-
tured. The Megarians, thinking it to be their own
ship, permitted it to enter the port, and the city
was taken by surprise. Salamis, thus won, con-
tinued to belong to Athens till those late days when
Philip of Macedon conquered Greece.
To Solon, now acknowledged to be the wisest and
most famous of the Athenians, the tyrants who had
long misruled Athens turned, when they found the
people in rebellion against their authority. In the
year 594 B.c. he was chosen archon, or ruler of the
state, and was given full power to take such meas-
ures as were needed to put an end to the disorders.
Probably these autocrats supposed that he would
help them to continue in power; but, if so, they did
not know the man with whom they had to deal.
Solon might easily have made himself a despot,
if he had chosen,-all the states of Greece being
then under the rule of despots or of tyrannical aris-
SOLON, THE LAW-GIVER OF ATHENS. 71
tocrats. But he was too honest and too wise for
this. He set himself earnestly to overcome the
difficulties which lay before him. And he did this
with a radical hand. In truth, the people were in
no mood for any but radical measures.
The enslaved debtors were at once set free. All
contracts in which the person or the land of the
debtor had been given as security were cancelled.
No future contract under which a citizen could be
enslaved or imprisoned for debt was permitted.
All past claims against the land of Attica were can-
celled, and the mortgage pillars removed. (These
pillars were set up at the boundaries of the land,
and had the lender's name and the amount of the
debt cut into the stone).
But as many of the creditors were themselves in
debt to richer men, and as Solon's laws left them
poor, he adopted a measure for their relief. This
was to lower the value of the money of the state.
The old silver drachmas were replaced by new
drachmas, of which seventy-three equalled one hun-
dred of the old. Debtors were thus able to pay
their debts at a discount of twenty-seven per cent.,
and the great loss fell on the rich; and justly so, for
most of them had gained their wealth through dis-
honesty and oppression. Lastly, Solon made full
citizens of all from whom political rights had been
taken, except those who had been condemned for
murder or treason.
This was a bold measure. And, like such bold
measures generally, it did injustice to many. But
the evil was temporary, the good permanent. It
put an end to much injustice, and no such condition
as had prevailed ever again arose in Athens. The
government of the aristocracy came to an end under
Solon's laws. From that time forward Athens grew
more and more a government of the people.
The old assembly of the people existed then, but
all its power had been taken from it. Solon gave
back to it the right of voting and of passing laws.
But he established a council of four hundred men,
elected annually by the people, whose duty it was
to consider the business upon which the assembly
was to act. And the assembly could only deal with
business that was brought before it by this council.
The assemblies of the people took place on the
Pnyx, a hill that overlooked the city, and from
which could be seen the distant sea. At its right
stood the Acropolis, that famous hill on which the
noblest of temples were afterwards built. Between
these two hills rose the Areopagus, on which the
Athenian supreme court held its sessions. The
Athenians loved to do their business in the open air,
and, while discussing questions of law and justice,
delighted in the broad view before them of the
temples, the streets, and the crowded marts of trade
of the city, and the shining sea, with its white-sailed
craft, afar in the sunny distance.
Solon's laws went further than we have said. He
divided the people into four ranks or divisions, ac-
cording to their wealth in land. The richer men
were, the more power they were given in the state.
But at the same time they had to pay heavier taxes,
so that their greater authority was not an unmixed
SOLON, THE LAW-GIVER OF ATHENS.
blessing. The lowest class, composed of the poorest
citizens, had no taxes at all to pay, and no power in
the state, other than the right to vote in the assem-
bly. When called out as soldiers arms were fur-
nished them, while the other classes had to buy their
Various other laws were made by Solon. The old
law against crime, established long before by Draco,
had made death the penalty for every crime, from
murder to petty theft. This severe law was re-
pealed, and the punishment made to agree with the
crime. Minor laws were these: The living could
not speak evil of the dead. No person could draw
more than a fixed quantity of water daily from the
public wells. People who raised bees must not have
their hives too near those of their neighbors. It
was fixed how women should dress, and they were
forbidden to scratch or tear themselves at funerals.
They had to carry baskets of a fixed size when they
went abroad. A dog that bit anybody had to be
delivered up with a log four feet and a half long
tied to its neck. Such were some of the laws which
the council swore to maintain, each member vowing
that if he broke any of them he would dedicate a
golden statue as large as himself to Apollo, at Delphi.
Having founded his laws Solon, fearing that he
would be forced to make changes in them, left
Athens, having bound the people by oath to keep
them for ten years, during which time he proposed
to be absent.
From Athens he set sail for Egypt, and in that
ancient realm talked long with two learned priests
about the old history of the land. Among the stories
they told him was a curious one about a great island
named Atlantis, far in the western ocean, against
which Athens had waged war nine thousand years
before, and which had afterwards sunk under the
Atlantic's waves. It was one of those fanciful
legends of which the past had so great a store.
From Egypt he went to Cyprus, where he dwelt
long and made useful changes. He is also said to
have visited, at Sardis, Croesus, the king of Lydia, a
monarch famous for his wealth and good fortune.
About this visit a pretty moral story is told. It is
probably not true, being a fiction of the ancient story-
tellers, but, fiction or not, it is well worth the telling.
Crcesus had been so fortunate in war that he had
made his kingdom great and prosperous, while he
was esteemed the richest monarch of his times. He
lodged Solon in his palace and had his servants
show him all the treasures which he had gained.
He then, conversing with his visitor, praised him
for his wisdom, and asked him whom he deemed to
be the happiest of men.
He expected an answer flattering to his vanity,
but Solon simply replied,-
"Tellus, of Athens."
"And why do you deem Tellus the happiest ?" de-
Solon gave as his reason that Tellus lived in com-
fort and had good and beautiful sons, who also had
good children; and that he died in gallant defence
of his country, and was buried by his countrymen
with the highest honors.
SOLON, THE LAW-GIVER OF ATHENS. 75
"And whom do you give the second place in hap-
piness ?" asked Croesus.
Cleobis and Bito," answered Solon. These were
men of the Argive race, who had fortune enough for
their wants, and were so strong as to gain prizes at
But their special title to happiness was," continued
Solon, that in a festival to the goddess Juno, at Ar-
gos, their mother wished to go in a car. As the oxen
did not return in time from the fields, the youths,
fearing to be late, yoked themselves to the car, and
drew their mother to the temple, forty-five furlongs
away. This filial deed gained them the highest
praise from the people, while their mother prayed
the goddess to bestow upon them the highest bless-
ing to which mortals can attain. After her prayer,
the youths offered sacrifices, partook of the holy
banquet, and fell asleep in the temple. They never
woke again This was the blessing of the goddess."
What," cried Croesus, angrily, is my happiness,
then, of so little value to you that you put me on a
level with private men like these ?"
"You are very rich, Croesus," answered Solon,
" and are lord of many nations. But remember
that you have many days yet to live, and that any
single day in a man's life may yield events that will
change all his fortune. As to whether you are
supremely happy and fortunate, then, I have no
answer to make. I cannot speak for your happiness
till I know if your life has a happy ending." *
The sequel to tlis episode will be found in the tale en-
titled "' The Fortune of Croesus."
Solon, having completed his travels, returned to
Athens to find it in turmoil. Pisistratus, a politi-
cal adventurer and a favorite with the people, had
gained despotic power by a cunning trick. He
wounded himself, and declared that he had been
attacked and wounded by his political enemies. He
asked, therefore, for a body-guard for his protection.
This was granted him by the popular assembly,
which was strongly on his side. With its aid he
seized the Acropolis and made himself master of the
city, while his opponents were forced to fly for their
This revolutionary movement was strenuously op-
posed by Solon, but in vain. Pisistratus had made
himself so popular with the people that they treated
their old law-giver like a man who had lost his
senses. As a last appeal he put on his armor and
placed himself before the door of his house, as if on
guard as a sentinel over the liberties of his country
This appeal was also in vain.
"I have done my duty !" he exclaimed; I have
sustained to the best of my power my country and
He refused to fly, saying, when asked on what he
relied for protection, On my old age."
Pisistratus-who proved a very mild despot-left
his aged opponent unharmed, and in the next year
Solon died, being then eighty years of age.
His laws lived after him, despite the despotism
which ruled over Athens for the succeeding fifty
THE FORTUNE OF CRESUS.
THE land of the Hellenes, or Greeks, was not con-
fined to the small peninsula now known as Greece.
Hellenic colonies spread far to the east and the
west, to Italy and Sicily on the one hand, to Asia
Minor and the shores of the Black Sea on the
other. The story of the Argonauts probably arose
from colonizing expeditions to the Black Sea. That
of Croesus has to do with the colonies in Asia Minor.
These colonies clung to the coast. Inland lay
other nations, to some extent of Hellenic origin.
One of these was the kingdom of Lydia, whose
history is of the highest importance to us, since the
conflicts between Lydia and the coast colonies were
the first steps towards the invasion of Greece by
the Persians, that most important event in early
These conflicts began in the reign of Crcesus, an
ambitious king of Lydia in the sixth century before
Christ. What gave rise to the war between Lydia
and the Greek settlements of lonia and }Eolia we
do not very well know. An ambitious despot does
not need much pretext for war. He wills the war,
and the pretext follows. It will suffice to say that,
on one excuse or another, Croesus made war on
every Ionian and }Eolian state, and conquered them
one after the other.
First the great and prosperous city of Ephesus
fell. Then, one by one, others followed, till, by the
year 550 B.c., Crcesus had become lord and master
of every one of those formerly free and wealthy
cities and states. Then, having placed all the col-
onies on the mainland under tribute, he designed
to conquer the islands as well, and proposed to build
ships for that purpose. He was checked in this plan
by the shrewd answer of one of the seven wise men
of Greece, either Bias or Pittacus, who had visited
Sardis, the capital of Lydia.
"What news bring you from Greece?" asked
King Crcesus of his wise visitor.
"I am told that the islanders are gathering ten
thousand horse, with the purpose of attacking you
and your capital," was the answer.
"What!" cried Croesus. "Have the gods given
these shipmen such an idea as to fight the Lydians
"I fancy, 0 king," answered the Greek, "that
nothing would please you better than to catch.these
islanders here on horseback. But do you not think
that they would like nothing better than to catch
you at sea on shipboard? Would they not avenge
on you the misfortunes of their conquered brethren ?"
This shrewd suggestion taught Croesus a lesson.
Instead of fighting the islanders, he made a treaty
of peace and friendship with them. But he con-
tinued his conquests on the mainland till in the end
all Asia Minor was under his sway, and Lydia had
THE FORTUNE OF CR(ESUS.
become one of the great kingdoms of the earth.
Such wealth came to Croesus as a result of his con-
quests and unchanging good fortune that he became
accounted the richest monarch upon the earth,
while Sardis grew marvellous for its splendor and
prosperity. At an earlier date there had come
thither another of the seven wise men of Greece,
Solon, the law-giver of Athens. What passed be-
tween this farseeing visitor and the proud monarch
of Lydia we have already told.
The misfortunes which 'Solon told the king were
liable to come upon any man befell Crcesus during
the remainder of his life. Herodotus, the historian,
tells us the romantic story of how the gods sent
misery to him who had boasted overmuch of his
happiness. We give briefly this interesting account.
Croesus had two sons, one of whom was deaf and
dumb, the other, Atys by name, gifted with the
highest qualities which nature has to bestow. The
king loved his bright and handsome son as dearly as
he loved his wealth, and when a dream came to him
that Atys would die by the blow of an iron weapon,
he was deeply disturbed in his mind.
How should he prevent such a misfortune? In
alarm, he forbade his son to take part in military
forays, to which he had before encouraged him; and,
to solace him for this deprivation, bade him to take a
wife. Then, lest any of the warlike weapons which
hung upon the walls of his apartments might fall and
wound him, the king had them all removed, and stored
away in the part of the palace devoted to the women.
But fate had decreed that all such precautions
should be in vain. At Mount Olympus, in Mysia,
had appeared a monster boar, that ravaged the
fields of the lowlands and defied pursuit into his
mountain retreat. Hunting parties were sent against
him, but the great boar came off unscathed, while
the hunters always suffered from his frightful tusks.
At length ambassadors were sent to Croesus, beg-
ging him to send his son, with other daring youths
and with hunting hounds, to aid them rid their
country of this destructive brute.
That cannot be," answered Croesus, still in terror
from his dream. "My son is just married, and can-
not so soon leave his bride. But I will send you a
picked band of hunters, and bid them use all zeal to
kill this foe of your harvests."
With this promise the Mysians were quite con-
tent, but Atys, who overheard it, was not.
"Why, my father," he demanded, "do you now
keep me from the wars and the chase, when you
formerly encouraged me to take part in them, and
win glory for myself and you? Have I ever shown
cowardice or lack of manly spirit? What must the
citizens or my young bride think of me? With
what face can I show myself in the forum ? Either
you must let me go to the chase of this boar, or
give a reason why you keep me at home ?"
In reply Croesus told the indignant youth of his
vision, and the alarm with which it had inspired him.
"Ah!" cried Atys, "then I cannot blame you for
keeping this tender watch over me. But, father, do
you not wrongly interpret the dream? It said I
was to die stricken by an iron weapon. A boar
THE FORTUNE OF CR(ESUS.
wields no such weapon. Had the dream said I was
to die pierced by a tusk, then you might well be
alarmed; but it said a weapon. We do not propose
now to fight men, but to hunt a wild beast. I pray
you, therefore, let me go with the party."
"You have the best of me there," said Croesus.
"Your interpretation of the dream is better than
mine. You may go, my son."
At that time there was at the king's court a
Phrygian named Adrastus, who had unwittingly
slain his own brother and had flown to Sardis,
where he was purified according to the customs of
the country, and courteously received by the king.
Crcesus sent for this stranger and asked him to go
with the hunting party, and keep especial watch
over his son, in case of an attack by some daring
band of robbers.
Adrastus consented, though against his will, his
misfortune having taken from him all desire for
scenes of bloodshed. However, he would do his ut-
most to guard the king's son against harm.
The party set out accordingly, reached Olympus
without adventure, and scattered in pursuit of the
animal, which the dogs soon roused from its lair.
Closing in a circle around the brute, the hunters
drew near and hurled their weapons at it. Not the
least eager among the hunters was Adrastus, who
likewise hurled his spear; but, through a frightful
chance, the hurtling weapon went astray, and
struck and killed Atys, his youthful charge. Thus
was the dream fulfilled: an iron weapon had slain
the king's favorite son.
The news of this misfortune plunged Croesus into
the deepest misery of grief. As for Adrastus, he
begged to be sacrificed at the grave of his unfortu-
nate victim. This Croesus, despite his grief, refused,
"Some god is the author of my misfortune, not
you. I was forewarned of it long ago."
But Adrastus was not to be thus prevented. Deem-
ing himself the most unfortunate of men, he slew
himself on the tomb of the hapless youth. And for
two years Croesus abandoned himself to grief.
And now we must go on to tell how Croesus met
with a greater misfortune still, and brought the
Persians to the gates of Greece. Cyrus, son of
Cambyses, king of Persia, had conquered the neigh-
boring kingdom of Media, and, inspired by ambition,
had set out on a career of wide-spread conquest and
dominion. He had grown steadily more powerful,
and now threatened the great kingdom which Croesus
The Lydian king, seeing this danger approaching,
sought advice from the oracles. But wishing first
to know which of them could best be trusted, he
sent to six of them demanding a statement of what
he was doing at a certain moment. The oracle of
Delphi alone gave a correct answer.
Thereupon Crcesus offered up a vast sacrifice to
the Delphian deity. Three thousand oxen were
slain, and a great sacrificial pile was built, on which
were placed splendid robes and tunics of purple,
with couches and censers of gold and silver, all to
be committed to the flames. To Delphi he sent
THE FORTUNE OF CR(ESUS.
presents befitting the wealthiest of kings,-ingots,
statues, bowls, jugs, etc., of gold and silver, of great
weight. These Herodotus himself saw with aston-
ishment a century afterwards at Delphi. The en-
voys who bore these gifts asked the oracle whether
Crcesus should undertake an expedition against the
Persians, and should solicit allies.
He was bidden, in reply, to seek alliance with the
most powerful nations of Greece. He was also told
that if he fought with the Persians he would over-
turn a mighty empire." Croesus accepted this as
a promise of success, not thinking to ask whose em-
pire was to be overturned. He sent again to the
oracle, which now replied, When a mule shall be-
come king of the Medes, then thou must run away,
-be not ashamed." Here was another enigma of
the oracle. Cyrus-son of a royal Median mother
and a Persian father of different race and lower
position-was the mule indicated, though Crcesus
did not know this. In truth, the oracles of Greece
seem usually to have borne a double meaning, so
that whatever happened the priestess could claim
that her word was true, the fault was in the inter-
Crcesus, accepting the oracles as favorable, made
an alliance with Sparta, and marched his army into
Media, where he inflicted much damage. Cyrus
met him with a larger army, and a battle ensued.
Neither party could claim a victory, but Croesus re-
turned to Sardis, to collect more men and obtain
aid from his allies. He might have been successful
had Cyrus waited till his preparations were com-
plete. But the Persian king followed him to his
capital, defeated him in a battle near Sardis, and
besieged him in that city.
Sardis was considered impregnable, and Croesus
could easily have held out till his allies arrived had
it not been for one of those unfortunate incidents
of which war has so many to tell. Sardis was
strongly fortified on every side but one. Here the
rocky height on which it was built was so steep as
to be deemed inaccessible, and walls were thought
unnecessary. Yet a soldier of the garrison made
his way down this precipice to pick up his helmet,
which had fallen. A Persian soldier saw him, tried
to climb up, and found it possible. Others followed
him, and the garrison, to their consternation, found
the enemy within their walls. The gates were
opened to the army without, and the whole city
was speedily taken by storm.
Croesus would have been killed but for a miracle.
His deaf and dumb son, seeing a Persian about to
strike him down, burst into speech through the
agony of terror, crying out, "Man, do not kill
Croesus I" The story goes that he ever afterwards
retained the power of speech.
Cyrus had given orders that the life of Croesus
should be spared, and the unhappy captive was
brought before him. But the cruel Persian had a
different death in view. He proposed to burn the
captive king, together with fourteen Lydian youths,
on a great pile of wood which he had constructed.
We give what followed as told by Herodotus, though
its truth cannot be vouched for at this late day.
THE FORTUNE OF CR(ESUS.
As Crcesus lay in fetters on the already kindled
pile and thought of this terrible ending to his
boasted happiness, he groaned bitterly, and cried in
tones of anguish, Solon! Solon! Solon !"
"What does he mean ?" asked Cyrus of the in-
terpreters. They questioned Crcesus, and learned
from him what Solon had said. Cyrus heard this
story not without alarm. His own life was yet to
end; might not a like fate come to him? He
ordered that the fire should be extinguished, but
would have been too late had not a timely down-
pour of rain just then come to the aid of the captive
king,-sent by Apollo, in gratitude for the gifts to
his temple, suggests Herodotus. Croesus was after-
wards made the confidential friend and adviser of
the Persian king, whose dominions, through this
victory, had been extended over the whole Lydian
empire, and now reached to the ocean outposts of
THE SUITORS OF AGARISTE.
SIOYON, the smallest country of the Peloponnesus,
lay on the Gulf of Corinth, adjoining the isthmus
which connects the peninsula with the rest of Greece.
In this small country-as in many larger ones-the
nobles held rule, the people were subjects. The rich
and proud rulers dwelt on the hill slopes, the poor
and humble people lived on the sea-shore and along
the river Asopus. But in course of time many of
the people became well off, through success in fish-
eries and commerce, to which their country was well
adapted. Weary of the oppression of the nobles, they
finally rose in rebellion and overthrew the govern-
ment. Orthagoras, once a cook, but now leader of
the rebels, became master of the state, and he and
his descendants ruled it for a hundred years. The
last of this dynasty was Cleisthenes, a just and
moderate ruler, concerning whom we have a story
These lords of the state were called tyrants; but
this word did not mean in Greece what it means to
us. The tyrants of Greece were popular leaders who
had overthrown the old governments and laws, and
ruled largely through force and under laws of their
own making. But they were not necessarily tyran-
THE SUITORS OF AGARISTi.
nical. The tyrants of Athens were mild and just in
their dealings with the people, and so proved to be
those of Sicyon.
Cleisthenes, who became the most eminent of the
tyrants of Sicyon, had a beautiful daughter, named
Agaristd, whom he thought worthy of the noblest
of husbands, and decided that she should be married
to the worthiest youth who could be found in all the
land of Greece. To select such a husband he took
When the fair Agarist6 had reached marriageable
age, her father attended the Olympic games, at which
there were used to gather men of wealth and emi-
nence from all the Grecian states. Here he won
the prize in the chariot race, and then bade the
heralds to make the following proclamation:
Whoever among the Greeks deems himself wor-
thy to be the son-in-law of Cleisthenes, let him come,
within sixty days, to Sicyon. Within a year from
that time Cleisthenes will decide, from among thoso
who present themselves, on the one whom he deems
fitting to possess the hand of his daughter."
This proclamation, as was natural, roused warm
hopes in many youthful breasts, and within the
sixty days there had gathered at Sicyon thirteen
noble claimants for the charming prize. From the
city of Sybaris in Italy came Smindyrides, and from
Siris came Damasus. Amphimnestes and Males made
their way to Sicyon from the cities of the Ionian Gulf.
The Peloponnesus sent Leocedes from Argos, Ami-
antus from Arcadia, Laphanes from Pmus, and Ono-
mastus from Elis. From Eubcea came Lysanias;
from Thessaly, Diactorides; from Molossis, Alcon;
and from Attica, Megacles and Hippoclides. Of the
last two, Megacles was the son of the renowned
Alcmmeon, while Hippoclides was accounted the
handsomest and wealthiest of the Athenians.
At the end of the sixty days, when all the suitors
had arrived, Cleisthenes asked each of them whence
he came and to what family he belonged. Then,
during the succeeding year, he put them to every
test that could prove their powers. He had had a
foot-course and a wrestling-ground made ready to
test their comparative strength and agility, and took
every available means to discover their courage,
vigor, and skill.
But this was not all that the sensible monarch
demanded in his desired son-in-law. He wished to
ascertain their mental and moral as well as their
physical powers, and for this purpose kept them
under close observation for a year, carefully noting
their manliness, their temper and disposition, their
accomplishments and powers of intellect. Now he
conversed with each separately; now he brought
them together and considered their comparative
powers. At the gymnasium, in the council chamber,
in all the situations of thought and activity, he tested
their abilities. But he particularly considered their
behavior at the banquet-table. From first to last
they were sumptuously entertained, and their de-
meanor over the trencher-board and the wine-cup
was closely observed.
In this story, as told us by garrulous old Herodotus,
nothing is said of Agarist6 herself. In a modern ro-
THE SUITORS OF AGARISTT.
mance of this sort the lady would have had a voice
in the decision and a place in the narrative. There
would have been episodes of love, jealousy, and
malice, and the one whom the lady blessed with her
love would in some way-in the eternal fitness of
things-have become victor in the contest and car-
ried off the prize. But they did things differently in
Greece. The preference of the maiden had little to
do with the matter; the suitor exerted himself to
please the father, not the daughter; maiden hands
were given rather in barter and sale than in trust
and affection; in truth, almost the only lovers we
meet with in Grecian history are Hlmmon and An-
tigone, of whom we have spoken in the tale of the
"Seven against Thebes."
And thus it was in the present instance. It was
the father the suitors courted, not the daughter.
They proved their love over the banquet-table, not
at the trysting-place. It was by speed of foot and
skill in council, not by whispered words of devotion,
that they contended for the maidenly prize. Or, if
lovers' meetings took place and lovers' vows were
passed, they were matters of the strictest secrecy,
and not for Greek historians to put on paper or
Greek ears to hear.
But the year of probation came in due time to its
end, and among all the suitors the two from Athens
most won the favor of Cleisthenes. And of the two
he preferred Hippoclides. It was not alone for his
handsome face and person and manly bearing that
this favored youth was chosen, but also because he
was descended from a noble family of Corinth which
Cleisthenes esteemed. Yet "there is many a slip
between the cup and the lip," an adage whose truth
Hippoclides was to learn.
When the day came on which the choice of the
father was to be made, and the wedding take place,
Cleisthenes held a great festival in honor of the occa-
sion. First, to gain the favor of the gods, he offered
a hundred oxen in sacrifice. Then, not only the suit-
ors, but all the people of the city were invited to a
grand banquet and festival, at the end of which the
choice of Cleisthenes was to be declared. What tor-
ments of love and fear Agarist6 suffered during this
slow-moving feast the historian does not say. Yet it
may be that she was the power behind the throne,
and that the proposed choice of the handsome Hip-
poclides was due as much to her secret influence as
to her father's judgment.
However this be, the feast went on to its end, and
was followed by a contest between the suitors in
music and oratory, with all the people to decide.
As the drinking which followed went on, Hippo-
clides, who had surpassed all the others as yet,
shouted to the flute-player, bidding him to play a
dancing air, as he proposed to show his powers in
The wine was in his weak head, and what he con-
sidered marvellously fine dancing did not appear so
to Cleisthenes, who was closely watching his pro-
posed son-in-law. Hippoclides, however, in a mood
to show all his accomplishments, now bade an at-
tendant to bring in a table. This being brought, he
leaped upon it, and danced some Laconian steps,
THE SUITORS OF AGARIST1i.
which he followed by certain Attic ones. Finally,
to show his utmost powers of performance, he stood
on his head on the table, and began to dance with
his legs in empty air.
This was too much for Cleisthenes. He had
changed his opinion of Hippoclides during his light
and undignified exhibition, but restrained himself
from speaking to avoid any outbreak or ill feeling.
But on seeing him tossing his legs in this shameless
manner in the air, the indignant monarch cried out,-
"Son of Tisander, you have danced your wife
What does Hippoclides care?" was the reply of
the tipsy youth.
And for centuries afterwards "What does Hippo-
clides care?" was a common saying in Greece, to
indicate reckless folly and lightness of mind.
Cleisthenes now commanded silence, and spoke as
follows to the assembly:
Suitors of my daughter, well pleased am I with
you all, and right willingly, if it were possible,
would I content you all, and not, by making choice
of one, appear to put a slight upon the rest. But
as it is out of my power, seeing that I have only one
daughter, to grant to all their wishes, I will present
to each of you whom I must needs dismiss a talent
of silver* for the honor that you have done in seek-
ing to ally yourselves with my house, and for your
long absence from your homes. But my daughter
Agarist6 I betroth to Megacles, the son of Alcmmon,
* Equal to about one thousand dollars.
92 HISTORICAL TALES.
to be his wife, according to the usage and wont of
Megacles gladly accepted the honor thus offered
him, the marriage was solemnized with all possible
state, and the suitors dispersed,-twelve of them
happy with their silver talents, one of them happier
with his charming bride.
We have but further to say that Cleisthenes of
Athens-a great leader and law-giver, whose laws
gave origin to the democratic government of that
city-was the son of Megacles and Agarist4, and that
his grandson was the famous Pericles, the foremost
name in Athenian history.
THE TYRANTS OF CORINTH.
WE have already told what the word "tyrant"
meant in Greece,-a despot who set aside the law
and ruled at his own pleasure, but who might be mild
and gentle in his rule. Such were the tyrants of
Sicyon, spoken of in our last tale. The tyrants of
Corinth, the state adjoining Sicyon, were of a harsher
character. Herodotus, the gossipping old historian,
tells some stories about these severe despots which
seem worth telling again.
The government of Corinth, like most of the gov-
ernments of Greece, was in early days an oligarchy,
-that is, it was ruled by a number of powerful aris-
tocrats instead of by a single king. In Corinth these
belonged to a single family, named the Bacchiadm
(or legendary descendants of the god Bacchus), who
constantly intermarried, and kept all power to them-
But one of this family, Amphion by name, had a
daughter, named Labda, whom none of the Bacchiade~
would marry, as she had the misfortune to be lame.
So she married outside the family, her husband being
named Aetion, and a man of noble descent. Having
no children, Antion applied to the Delphian oracle,
and was told that a son would soon be borne to him,
and that this son "would, like a rock, fall on the
kingly race and right the city of Corinth."
The Bacchiadm heard of this oracle, and likewise
knew of an earlier one that had the same signifi-
cance. Forwarned is forearmed. They remained
quiet, waiting until AMtion's child should be born, and
proposing then to take steps for their own safety.
When, therefore, they heard that Labda had borne
a son, they sent ten of their followers to Petra (the
rock), where Aition dwelt, with instructions to kill
the child. These assassins entered Aation's house,
and, with murder in their hearts, asked Labda, with
assumed friendliness, if they might see her child.
She, looking upon them as friends of her husband,
whom kindly feeling had brought thither, gladly
complied, and, bringing the infant, laid it in the arms
of one of the ruffianly band.
It had been agreed between them that whoever
first laid hold of the child should dash it to the ground.
But as the innocent intended victim lay in the mur-
derer's arms, it smiled in his face so confidingly that
he had not the heart to do the treacherous deed.
He passed the child, therefore, on to another, who
passed it to a third, and so it went the rounds of the
ten, disarming them all by its happy and trusting
smile from performing the vile deed for which they
had come. In the end they handed the babe back
to its mother, and left the house.
Halting just outside the door, a hot dispute arose
between them, each blaming the others, and nine of
them severely accusing the one whose task it had
been to do the cruel deed. He defended himself,
THE TYRANTS OF CORINTH.
saying that no man with a heart in his breast could
have done harm to that smiling babe,-certainly not
he. In the end they decided to go into the house
again, and all take part in the murder.
But they had talked somewhat too long and too
loud. Labda had overheard them and divined their
dread intent. Filled with fear, lest they should re-
turn and murder her child, she seized the infant,
and, looking eagerly about for some place in which
she might conceal it, chose a cypsel, or corn-bin, as
the place least likely to be searched.
Her choice proved a wise one. The men returned,
and, as she refused to tell them where the child was,
searched the house in vain,-none of them thinking
of looking for an infant in a corn-bin. At length
they went away, deciding to report that they had
done as they were bidden, and that the child of
Action was slain.
The boy, in memory of his escape, was named
Cypselus, after the corn-bin. He grew up without
further molestation, and on coming to man's estate
did what so many of the ancients seemed to have
considered necessary, went to Delphi to consult the
The pythoness, or priestess of Apollo, at his ap-
proach, hailed him as king of Corinth. "He and
his children, but not his children's children." And
the oracle, as was often the case, produced its own
accomplishment, for it encouraged Cypselus to head
a rebellion against the oligarchy, by which it was
overthrown and he made king. For thirty years
thereafter he reigned as tyrant of Corinth, with a