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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 2 - Chapter 6
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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 2 - Chapter 6 Post by :cashgalore Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3010

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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 2 - Chapter 6


It was the hour of the day when between the two principal meals of the Greeks men surrendered themselves to idleness or pleasure; when groups formed in the market-place, or crowded the barbers' shops to gossip and talk of news; when the tale-teller or ballad-singer collected round him on the quays his credulous audience; when on playgrounds that stretched behind the taverns or without the walls the more active youths assembled, and the quoit was hurled, or mimic battles waged with weapons of wood, or the Dorians weaved their simple, the Ionians their more intricate or less decorous, dances. At that hour Lysander, wandering from the circles of his countrymen, walked musingly by the sea-shore.

"And why," said the voice of a person who had approached him unperceived, "and why, O Lysander, art thou absent from thy comrades, thou model and theme of the youths of Sparta, foremost in their manly sports, as in their martial labours?"

Lysander turned and bowed low his graceful head, for he who accosted him was scarcely more honoured by the Athenians, whom his birth, his wealth, and his popular demeanour dazzled, than by the plain sons of Sparta, who, in his simple garb, his blunt and hasty manner, his professed admiration for all things Spartan, beheld one Athenian at least congenial to their tastes.

"The child that misses its mother," answered Lysander," has small joy with its playmates. And I, a Spartan, pine for Sparta."

"Truly," returned Cimon, "there must be charms in thy noble country of which we other Greeks know but little, if amidst all the luxuries and delights of Byzantium thou canst pine for her rugged hills. And although, as thou knowest well, I was once a sojourner in thy city as ambassador from my own, yet to foreigners so little of the inner Spartan life is revealed, that I pray thee to satisfy my curiosity and explain to me the charm that reconciles thee and thine to institutions which seem to the Ionians at war with the pleasures and the graces of social life."(26)

"Ill can the native of one land explain to the son of another why he loves it," returned Lysander. "That which the Ionian calls pleasure is to me but tedious vanity; that which he calls grace, is to me but enervate levity. Me it pleases to find the day, from sunrise to night, full of occupations that leave no languor, that employ, but not excite. For the morning, our gymnasia, our military games, the chace--diversions that brace the limbs and leave us in peace fit for war--diversions, which, unlike the brawls of the wordy Agora, bless us with the calm mind and clear spirit resulting from vigorous habits, and ensuring jocund health. Noon brings our simple feast, shared in public, enlivened by jest; late at eve we collect in our Leschae, and the winter nights seem short, listening to the old men's talk of our sires and heroes. To us life is one serene yet active holiday. No Spartan condescends to labour, yet no Spartan can womanise himself by ease. For us, too, differing from you Ionian Greeks, for us women are companions, not slaves. Man's youth is passed under the eyes and in the presence of those from whom he may select, as his heart inclines, the future mother of his children. Not for us your feverish and miserable ambitions, the intrigues of demagogues, the drudgery of the mart, the babble of the populace; we alone know the quiet repose of heart. That which I see everywhere else, the gnawing strife of passion, visits not the stately calm of the Spartan life. We have the leisure, not of the body alone, but of the soul. Equality with us is the all in all, and we know not that jealous anguish--the desire to rise one above the other. We busy ourselves not in making wealth, in ruling mobs, in ostentatious rivalries of state, and gaud, and power--struggles without an object. When we struggle it is for an end. Nothing moves us from our calm, but danger to Sparta, or woe to Hellas. Harmony, peace, and order--these are the graces of our social life. Pity us, O Athenian!"

Cimon had listened with profound attention to a speech unusually prolix and descriptive for a Spartan; and he sighed deeply as it closed. For that young Athenian, destined to so renowned a place in the history of his country, was, despite his popular manners, no favourer of the popular passions. Lofty and calm, and essentially an aristocrat by nature and opinion, this picture of a life unruffled by the restless changes of democracy, safe and aloof from the shifting humours of the multitude, charmed and allured him. He forgot for the moment those counter propensities which made him still Athenian--the taste for magnificence, the love of women, and the desire of rule. His busy schemes slept within him, and he answered:

"Happy is the Spartan who thinks with you. Yet," he added, after a pause, "yet own that there are amongst you many to whom the life you describe has ceased to proffer the charms that enthrall you, and who envy the more diversified and exciting existence of surrounding States. Lysander's eulogiums shame his chief Pausanias."

"It is not for me, nor for thee, whose years scarce exceed my own, to judge of our elders in renown," said Lysander, with a slight shade over his calm brow. "Pausanias will surely be found still a Spartan, when Sparta needs him; and the heart of the Heracleid beats under the robe of the Mede."

"Be frank with me, Lysander; thou knowest that my own countrymen often jealously accuse me of loving Sparta too well. I imitate, say they, the manners and dress of the Spartan, as Pausanias those of the Mede. Trust me then, and bear with me, when I say that Pausanias ruins the cause of Sparta. If he tarry here longer in the command he will render all the allies enemies to thy country. Already he has impaired his fame and dimmed his laurels; already, despite his pretexts and excuses, we perceive that his whole nature is corrupted. Recall him to Sparta, while it is yet time--time to reconcile the Greeks with Sparta, time to save the hero of Plataea from the contaminations of the East. Preserve his own glory, dearer to thee as his special friend than to all men, yet dear to me, though an Athenian, from the memory of the deeds which delivered Hellas."

Cimon spoke with the blunt and candid eloquence natural to him, and to which his manly countenance and earnest tone and character for truth gave singular effect.

Lysander remained long silent. At length he said, "I neither deny nor assent to thine arguments, son of Miltiades. The Ephors alone can judge of their wisdom."

"But if we address them, by message, to the Ephors, thou and the nobler Spartans will not resent our remonstrances?"

"All that injures Pausanias Lysander will resent. Little know I of the fables of poets, but Homer is at least as familiar to the Dorian as to the Ionian, and I think with him that between friends there is but one love and one anger."

"Then are the frailties of Pausanias dearer to thee than his fame, or Pausanias himself dearer to thee than Sparta--the erring brother than the venerable mother."

Lysander's voice died on his lips; the reproof struck home to him. He turned away his face, and with a slow wave of his hand seemed to implore forbearance. Cimon was touched by the action and the generous embarrassment of the Spartan; he saw, too, that he had left in the mind he had addressed thoughts that might work as he had designed, and he judged by the effect produced on Lysander what influence the same arguments might effect addressed to others less under the control of personal friendship. Therefore, with a few gentle words, he turned aside, continued his way, and left Lysander alone.

Entering the town, the Athenian threaded his path through some of the narrow lanes and alleys that wound from the quays towards the citadel, avoiding the broader and more frequented streets. The course he took was such as rendered it little probable that he should encounter any of the higher classes, and especially the Spartans, who from their constitutional pride shunned the resorts of the populace. But as he came nearer the citadel stray Helots were seen at times, emerging from the inns and drinking houses, and these stopped short and inclined low if they caught sight of him at a distance, for his hat and staff, his majestic stature, and composed step, made them take him for a Spartan.

One of these slaves, however, emerging suddenly from a house close by which Cimon passed, recognized him, and retreating within abruptly, entered a room in which a man sat alone, and seemingly in profound thought; his cheek rested on one hand, with the other he leaned upon a small lyre, his eyes were bent on the ground, and he started, as a man does dream-like from a reverie, when the Helot touched him and said abruptly, and in a tone of surprise and inquiry,--

"Cimon, the Athenian, is ascending the hill towards the Spartan quarter."

"The Spartan quarter! Cimon!" exclaimed Alcman, for it was he. "Give me thy cap and hide."

Hastily enduing himself in these rough garments, and drawing the cap over his face, the Mothon hurried to the threshold, and, seeing the Athenian at the distance, followed his footsteps, though with the skill of a man used to ambush he kept himself unseen--now under the projecting roofs of the houses, now skirting the wall, which, heavy with buttresses, led towards the outworks of the citadel. And with such success did he pursue his track that when Cimon paused at last at the place of his destination, and gave one vigilant and searching glance around him, he detected no living form.

He had then reached a small space of table-land on which stood a few trees of great age--all that time and the encroachments of the citadel and the town had spared of the sacred grove which formerly surrounded a rude and primitive temple, the grey columns of which gleamed through the heavy foliage. Passing, with a slow and cautious step, under the thick shadow of these trees, Cimon now arrived before the open door of the temple, placed at the east so as to admit the first beams of the rising sun. Through the threshold, in the middle of the fane, the eye rested on the statue of Apollo, raised upon a lofty pedestal and surrounded by a rail--a statue not such as the later genius of the Athenian represented the god of light, and youth, and beauty; not wrought from Parian marble, or smoothest ivory, and in the divinest proportions of the human form, but rude, formal, and roughly hewn from the wood of the yew-tree--some early effigy of the god, made by the simple piety of the first Dorian colonisers of Byzantium. Three forms stood mute by an altar, equally homely and ancient, and adorned with horns, placed a little apart, and considerably below the statue.

As the shadow of the Athenian, who halted at the threshold, fell long and dark along the floor, the figures turned slowly, and advanced towards him. With an inclination of his head Cimon retreated from the temple; and, looking round, saw abutting from the rear of the building a small cell or chamber, which doubtless in former times had served some priestly purpose, but now, doorless, empty, desolate, showed the utter neglect into which the ancient shrine of the Dorian god had fallen amidst the gay and dissolute Byzantians. To this cell Cimon directed his steps; the men he had seen in the temple followed him, and all four, with brief and formal greeting, seated themselves, Cimon on a fragment of some broken column, the others on a bench that stretched along the wall.

"Peers of Sparta," said the Athenian, "ye have doubtless ere this revolved sufficiently the grave matter which I opened to you in a former conference, and in which, to hear your decision, I seek at your appointment these sacred precincts."

"Son of Miltiades," answered the blunt Polydorus, "you inform us that it is the intention of the Athenians to despatch a messenger to Sparta demanding the instant recall of Pausanias. You ask us to second that request. But without our aid the Athenians are masters to do as they will. Why should we abet your quarrel against the Regent?"

"Friend," replied Cimon, "we, the Athenians, confess to no quarrel with Pausanias; what we demand is to avoid all quarrel with him or yourselves. You seem to have overlooked my main arguments. Permit me to reurge them briefly. If Pausanias remains, the allies have resolved openly to revolt; if you, the Spartans, assist your chief, as methinks you needs must do, you are at once at war with the rest of the Greeks. If you desert him you leave Hellas without a chief, and we will choose one of our own. Meanwhile, in the midst of our dissensions, the towns and states well affected to Persia will return to her sway; and Persia herself falls upon us as no longer an united enemy but an easy prey. For the sake, therefore, of Sparta and of Greece, we entreat you to co-operate with us; or rather, to let the recall of Pausanias be effected more by the wise precaution of the Spartans than by the fierce resolve of the other Greeks. So you save best the dignity of your State, and so, in reality, you best serve your chief. For less shameful to him is it to be recalled by you than to be deposed by us."

"I know not," said Gelon, surlily, "what Sparta hath to do at all with this foreign expedition; we are safe in our own defiles."

"Pardon me, if I remind you that you were scarcely safe at Thermopylae, and that had the advice Demaratus proffered to Xerxes been taken, and that island of Cithera, which commands Sparta itself, been occupied by Persian troops, as in a future time, if Sparta desert Greece, it may be, you were undone. And, wisely or not, Sparta is now in command at Byzantium, and it behoves her to maintain, with the dignity she assumes, the interests she represents. Grant that Pausanias be recalled, another Spartan can succeed him. Whom of your countrymen would you prefer to that high post, if you, O Peers, aid us in the dismissal of Pausanias?(27)


(26) Alexander, King of Macedon, had visited the Athenians with overtures of peace and alliance from Xerxes and Mardonius. These overtures were confined to the Athenians alone, and the Spartans were fearful lest they should be accepted. The Athenians, however, generously refused them. Gold, said they, hath no amount, earth no territory how beautiful soever that could tempt the Athenians to accept conditions from the Mede for the servitude of Greece. On this the Persians invaded Attica, and the Athenians, after waiting in vain for promised aid from Sparta, took refuge at Salamis. Meanwhile, they had sent messengers or ambassadors to Sparta, to remonstrate on the violation of their agreement in delaying succour. This chanced at the very time when, by the death of his father Cleombrotus, Pausanias became Regent. Slowly, and after much hesitation, the Spartans sent them aid under Pausanias. Two of the ambassadors were Aristides and Cimon.

(27) This chapter was left unfinished by the author; probably with the intention of recasting it. Such an intention, at least, is indicated by the marginal marks upon the MS.

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