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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsAthens: Its Rise And Fall - Vol 1 - Book 1 - Chapter 5
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Athens: Its Rise And Fall - Vol 1 - Book 1 - Chapter 5 Post by :imported_n/a Category :Nonfictions Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1021

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Athens: Its Rise And Fall - Vol 1 - Book 1 - Chapter 5

VOL I BOOK I CHAPTER V

A General Survey of Greece and the East previous to the time of Solon.--The Grecian Colonies.--The Isles.--Brief account of the States on the Continent.--Elis and the Olympic Games.


I. On the north, Greece is separated from Macedonia by the Cambunian mountains; on the west spreads the Ionian, on the south and east the Aegean Sea. Its greatest length is two hundred and twenty geographical miles; its greatest width one hundred and forty. No contrast can be more startling than the speck of earth which Greece occupies in the map of the world, compared to the space claimed by the Grecian influences in the history of the human mind. In that contrast itself is the moral which Greece has left us--nor can volumes more emphatically describe the triumph of the Intellectual over the Material. But as nations, resembling individuals, do not become illustrious from their mere physical proportions; as in both, renown has its moral sources; so, in examining the causes which conduced to the eminence of Greece, we cease to wonder at the insignificance of its territories or the splendour of its fame. Even in geographical circumstance Nature had endowed the country of the Hellenes with gifts which amply atoned the narrow girth of its confines. The most southern part of the continent of Europe, it contained within itself all the advantages of sea and land; its soil, though unequal in its product, is for the most part fertile and abundant; it is intersected by numerous streams, and protected by chains of mountains; its plains and valleys are adapted to every product most necessary to the support of the human species; and the sun that mellows the fruits of nature is sufficiently tempered not to relax the energies of man. Bordered on three sides by the sea, its broad and winding extent of coast early conduced to the spirit of enterprise; and, by innumerable bays and harbours, proffered every allurement to that desire of gain which is the parent of commerce and the basis of civilization. At the period in which Greece rose to eminence it was in the very centre of the most advanced and flourishing states of Europe and of Asia. The attention of its earlier adventurers was directed not only to the shores of Italy, but to the gorgeous cities of the East, and the wise and hoary institutions of Egypt. If from other nations they borrowed less than has been popularly supposed, the very intercourse with those nations alone sufficed to impel and develop the faculties of an imitative and youthful people;--while, as the spirit of liberty broke out in all the Grecian states, producing a restless competition both among the citizens in each city and the cities one with another, no energy was allowed to sleep until the operations of an intellect, perpetually roused and never crippled, carried the universal civilization to its height. Nature herself set the boundaries of the river and the mountain to the confines of the several states--the smallness of each concentrated power into a focus--the number of all heightened emulation to a fever. The Greek cities had therefore, above all other nations, the advantage of a perpetual collision of mind--a perpetual intercourse with numerous neighbours, with whom intellect was ever at work--with whom experiment knew no rest. Greece, taken collectively, was the only free country (with the exception of Phoenician states and colonies perhaps equally civilized) in the midst of enlightened despotisms; and in the ancient world, despotism invented and sheltered the arts which liberty refined and perfected (99): Thus considered, her greatness ceases to be a marvel--the very narrowness of her dominions was a principal cause of it--and to the most favourable circumstances of nature were added circumstances the most favourable of time.

If, previous to the age of Solon, we survey the histories of Asia, we find that quarter of the globe subjected to great and terrible revolutions, which confined and curbed the power of its various despotisms. Its empires for the most part built up by the successful invasions of Nomad tribes, contained in their very vastness the elements of dissolution. The Assyrian Nineveh had been conquered by the Babylonians and the Medes (B. C. 606); and Babylon, under the new Chaldaean dynasty, was attaining the dominant power of western Asia. The Median monarchy was scarce recovering from the pressure of barbarian foes, and Cyrus had not as yet arisen to establish the throne of Persia. In Asia Minor, it is true, the Lydian empire had attained to great wealth and luxury, and was the most formidable enemy of the Asiatic Greeks, yet it served to civilize them even while it awed. The commercial and enterprising Phoenicians, now foreboding the march of the Babylonian king, who had "taken counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth," at all times were precluded from the desire of conquest by their divided states (100), formidable neighbours, and trading habits.

In Egypt a great change had operated upon the ancient character; the splendid dynasty of the Pharaohs was no more. The empire, rent into an oligarchy of twelve princes, had been again united under the sceptre of one by the swords of Grecian mercenaries (B. C. 616); and Neco, the son of the usurper--a man of mighty intellect and vast designs--while he had already adulterated the old Egyptian customs with the spirit of Phoenician and Greek adventure, found his field of action only in the East (defeats Josiah B. C. 609). As yet, then, no foreign enemy had disturbed the early rise of the several states of Greece; they were suffered to form their individual demarcations tranquilly and indelibly; and to progress to that point between social amenities and chivalric hardihood, when, while war is the most sternly encountered, it the most rapidly enlightens. The peace that follows the first war of a half-civilized nation is usually the great era of its intellectual eminence.

II. At this time the colonies in Asia Minor were far advanced in civilization beyond the Grecian continent. Along the western coast of that delicious district--on a shore more fertile, under a heaven more bright, than those of the parent states--the Aeolians, Ionians, and Dorians, in a remoter age, had planted settlements and founded cities (probably commenced under Penthilus, son of Orestes, about B. C. 1068). The Aeolian colonies (the result of the Dorian immigrations) (101) occupied the coasts of commenced Mysia and Caria--on the mainland twelve cities--the most renowned of which were Cyme and Smyrna; and the islands of the Heccatonnesi, Tenedos, and Lesbos, the last illustrious above the rest, and consecrated by the muses of Sappho and Alcaeus. They had also settlements about Mount Ida. Their various towns were independent of each other; but Mitylene, in the Isle of Lesbos, was regarded as their common capital. The trade of Mitylene was extensive--its navy formidable.

The Ionian colonies (probably commenced about 988 B. C.), founded subsequently to the Aeolian, but also (though less immediately) a consequence of the Dorian revolution, were peopled not only by Ionians, but by various nations, led by the sons of Codrus. In the islands of Samos and Chios, on the southern coast of Lydia, where Caria stretches to the north, they established their voluptuous settlements known by the name "Ionia." Theirs were the cities of Myus, and Priene, Colophon, Ephesus, Lebedus, Teos, Clazomene, Erythrae, Phocae, and Miletus:--in the islands of Samos and Chios were two cities of the same name as the isles themselves. The chief of the Ionian cities at the time on which we enter, and second perhaps in trade and in civilization to none but the great Phoenician states, was the celebrated Miletus--founded first by the Carians--exalted to her renown by the Ionians (Naval dominion of Miletus commenced B. C. 750). Her streets were the mart of the world; along the Euxine and the Palus Maeotis, her ships rode in the harbours of a hundred of her colonies. Here broke the first light of the Greek philosophy. But if inferior to this, their imperial city, each of the Ionian towns had its title to renown. Here flourished already music, and art, and song. The trade of Phocae extended to the coasts of Italy and Gaul. Ephesus had not yet risen to its meridian--it was the successor of Miletus and Phocaea. These Ionian states, each independent of the other, were united by a common sanctuary--the Panionium (Temple of Neptune), which might be seen far off on the headland of that Mycale afterward the witness of one of the proudest feats of Grecian valour. Long free, Ionia became tributary to the Lydian kings, and afterward to the great Persian monarchy.

In the islands of Cos and Rhodes, and on the southern shores of Caria, spread the Dorian colonies--planted subsequently to the Ionian by gradual immigrations. If in importance and wealth the Aeolian were inferior to the Ionian colonies, so were the Dorian colonies to the Aeolian. Six cities (Ialyssus, Camirus, and Lindus, in Rhodes; in Cos, a city called from the island; Cnidus and Halicarnassus, on the mainland) were united, like the Ionians, by a common sanctuary--the Temple of Apollo Triopius.

Besides these colonies--the Black Sea, the Palus Maeotis, the Propontis, the coasts of Lower Italy, the eastern and southern shores of Sicily (102), Syracuse, the mightiest of Grecian offspring, and the daughter of Corinth,--the African Cyrene,--not enumerating settlements more probably referable to a later date, attested the active spirit and extended navigation of early Greece.

The effect of so vast and flourishing a colonization was necessarily prodigious upon the moral and intellectual spirit of the mother land. The seeds scattered over the earth bore their harvests to her garner.

III. Among the Grecian isles, the glory of Minos had long passed from Crete (about 800 B. C.). The monarchical form of government had yielded to the republican, but in its worst shape--the oligarchic. But the old Cretan institutions still lingered in the habits of private life;--while the jealousies and commotions of its several cities, each independent, exhausted within itself those powers which, properly concentrated and wisely directed, might have placed Crete at the head of Greece.

Cyprus, equally favoured by situation with Crete, and civilized by the constant influence of the Phoenicians, once its masters, was attached to its independence, but not addicted to warlike enterprise. It was, like Crete, an instance of a state which seemed unconscious of the facilities for command and power which it had received from nature. The Island of Corcyra (a Corinthian colony) had not yet arrived at its day of power. This was reserved for that period when, after the Persian war, it exchanged an oligarchic for a democratic action, which wore away, indeed, the greatness of the country in its struggles for supremacy, obstinately and fatally resisted by the antagonist principle.

Of the Cyclades--those beautiful daughters of Crete--Delos, sacred to Apollo, and possessed principally by the Ionians, was the most eminent. But Paros boasted not only its marble quarries, but the valour of its inhabitants, and the vehement song of Archilochus.

Euboea, neighbouring Attica, possessed two chief cities, Eretria and Chalcis, governed apparently by timocracies, and frequently at war with each other. Though of importance as connected with the subsequent history of Athens, and though the colonization of Chalcis was considerable, the fame of Euboea was scarcely proportioned to its extent as one of the largest islands of the Aegean; and was far outshone by the small and rocky Aegina--the rival of Athens, and at this time her superior in maritime power and commercial enterprise. Colonized by Epidaurus, Aegina soon became independent; but the violence of party, and the power of the oligarchy, while feeding its energies, prepared its downfall.

IV. As I profess only to delineate in this work the rise and fall of the Athenians, so I shall not deem it at present necessary to do more than glance at the condition of the continent of Greece previous to the time of Solon. Sparta alone will demand a more attentive survey.

Taking our station on the citadel of Athens, we behold, far projecting into the sea, the neighbouring country of Megaris, with Megara for its city. It was originally governed by twelve kings; the last, Hyperion, being assassinated, its affairs were administered by magistrates, and it was one of the earliest of the countries of Greece which adopted republican institutions. Nevertheless, during the reigns of the earlier kings of Attica, it was tributary to them (103). We have seen how the Dorians subsequently wrested it from the Athenians (104); and it underwent long and frequent warfare for the preservation of its independence from the Dorians of Corinth. About the year 640, a powerful citizen named Theagenes wrested the supreme power from the stern aristocracy which the Dorian conquest had bequeathed, though the yoke of Corinth was shaken off. The tyrant--for such was the appellation given to a successful usurper--was subsequently deposed, and the democratic government restored; and although that democracy was one of the most turbulent in Greece, it did not prevent this little state from ranking among the most brilliant actors in the Persian war.

V. Between Attica and Megaris we survey the Isle of Salamis--the right to which we shall find contested both by Athens and the Megarians.

VI. Turning our eyes now to the land, we may behold, bordering Attica--from which a mountainous tract divides it--the mythological Boeotia, the domain of the Phoenician Cadmus, and the birthplace of Polynices and Oedipus. Here rise the immemorial mountains of Helicon and Cithaeron--the haunt of the muses; here Pentheus fell beneath the raging bands of the Bacchanals, and Actaeon endured the wrath of the Goddess of the Woods; here rose the walls of Thebes to the harmony of Amphion's lyre--and still, in the time of Pausanias, the Thebans showed, to the admiration of the traveller, the place where Cadmus sowed the dragon-seed--the images of the witches sent by Juno to lengthen the pains of Alcmena--the wooden statue wrought by Daedalus-- and the chambers of Harmonia and of Semele. No land was more sanctified by all the golden legends of poetry--and of all Greece no people was less alive to the poetical inspiration. Devoted, for the most part, to pastoral pursuits, the Boeotians were ridiculed by their lively neighbours for an inert and sluggish disposition--a reproach which neither the song of Hesiod and Pindar, nor the glories of Thebes and Plataea, were sufficient to repel. As early as the twelfth century (B. C.) royalty was abolished in Boeotia--its territory was divided into several independent states, of which Thebes was the principal, and Plataea and Cheronaea among the next in importance. Each had its own peculiar government; and, before the Persian war, oligarchies had obtained the ascendency in these several states. They were united in a league, of which Thebes was the head; but the ambition and power of that city kept the rest in perpetual jealousy, and weakened, by a common fear and ill-smothered dissensions, a country otherwise, from the size of its territories (105) and the number of its inhabitants, calculated to be the principal power of Greece. Its affairs were administered by eleven magistrates, or boeotarchs, elected by four assemblies held in the four districts into which Boeotia was divided.

VII. Beyond Boeotia lies Phocis, originally colonized, according to the popular tradition, by Phocus from Corinth. Shortly after the Dorian irruption, monarchy was abolished and republican institutions substituted. In Phocis were more than twenty states independent of the general Phocian government, but united in a congress held at stated times on the road between Daulis and Delphi. Phocis contained also the city of Crissa, with its harbour and the surrounding territory inhabited by a fierce and piratical population, and the sacred city of Delphi, on the southwest of Parnassus.

VIII. Of the oracle of Delphi I have before spoken--it remains only now to point out to the reader the great political cause of its rise into importance. It had been long established, but without any brilliant celebrity, when happened that Dorian revolution which is called the "Return of the Heraclidae." The Dorian conquerors had early steered their course by the advice of the Delphian oracle, which appeared artfully to favour their pretensions, and which, adjoining the province of Doris, had imposed upon them the awe, and perhaps felt for them the benevolence, of a sacred neighbour. Their ultimate triumph not only gave a striking and supreme repute to the oracle, but secured the protection and respect of a race now become the most powerful of Greece. From that time no Dorian city ever undertook an enterprise without consulting the Pythian voice; the example became general, and the shrine of the deity was enriched by offerings not only from the piety of Greece, but the credulous awe of barbarian kings. Perhaps, though its wealth was afterward greater, its authority was never so unquestioned as for a period dating from about a century preceding the laws of Solon to the end of the Persian war. Delphi was wholly an independent state, administered by a rigid aristocracy (106); and though protected by the Amphictyonic council, received from its power none of those haughty admonitions with which the defenders of a modern church have often insulted their charge. The temple was so enriched by jewels, statues, and vessels of gold, that at the time of the invasion of Xerxes its wealth was said to equal in value the whole of the Persian armament and so wonderful was its magnificence, that it appeared more like the Olympus of the gods than a human temple in their honour. On the ancient Delphi stands now the monastery of Kastri. But still you discover the terraces once crowded by fans--still, amid gloomy chasms, bubbles the Castalian spring--and yet permitted to the pilgrim's gaze is the rocky bath of the Pythia, and the lofty halls of the Corycian Cave.

IX. Beyond Phocis lies the country of the Locrians, divided into three tribes independent of each other--the Locri Ozolae, the Locri Opuntii, the Locri Epicnemidii. The Locrians (undistinguished in history) changed in early times royal for aristocratic institutions.

The nurse of the Dorian race--the small province of Doris--borders the Locrian territory to the south of Mount Oeta; while to the west of Locris spreads the mountainous Aetolia, ranging northward from Pindus to the Ambracian Bay. Aetolia gave to the heroic age the names of Meleager and Diomed, but subsequently fell into complete obscurity. The inhabitants were rude and savage, divided into tribes, nor emerged into importance until the latest era of the Grecian history. The political constitution of Aetolia, in the time referred to, is unknown.

X. Acarnania, the most western country of central Greece, appears little less obscure at this period than Aetolia, on which it borders; with Aetolia it arose into eminence in the Macedonian epoch of Greek history.

XI. Northern Greece contains two countries--Thessaly and Epirus.

In Thessaly was situated the long and lofty mountain of the divine Olympus, and to the more southern extreme rose Pindus and Oeta. Its inhabitants were wild and hardy, and it produced the most celebrated breed of horses in Greece. It was from Thessaly that the Hellenes commenced their progress over Greece--it was in the kingdoms of Thessaly that the race of Achilles held their sway; but its later history was not calculated to revive the fame of the Homeric hero; it appears to have shared but little of the republican spirit of the more famous states of Greece. Divided into four districts (Thessaliotis, Pelasgiotis, Phthiotis, and Hestiaeotis), the various states of Thessaly were governed either by hereditary princes or nobles of vast possessions. An immense population of serfs, or penestae, contributed to render the chiefs of Thessaly powerful in war and magnificent in peace. Their common country fell into insignificance from the want of a people--but their several courts were splendid from the wealth of a nobility.

XII. Epirus was of somewhat less extent than Thessaly, and far less fertile; it was inhabited by various tribes, some Greek, some barbarian, the chief of which was the Molossi, governed by kings who boasted their descent from Achilles. Epirus has little importance or interest in history until the sun of Athens had set, during the ascendency of the Macedonian kings. It contained the independent state of Ambracia, peopled from Corinth, and governed by republican institutions. Here also were the sacred oaks of the oracular Dodona.

XIII. We now come to the states of the Peloponnesus, which contained eight countries.

Beyond Megaris lay the territory of Corinth: its broad bay adapted it for commerce, of which it availed itself early; even in the time of Homer it was noted for its wealth. It was subdued by the Dorians, and for five generations the royal power rested with the descendants of Aletes (107), of the family of the Heraclidae. By a revolution, the causes of which are unknown to us, the kingdom then passed to Bacchis, the founder of an illustrious race (the Bacchiadae), who reigned first as kings, and subsequently as yearly magistrates, under the name of Prytanes. In the latter period the Bacchiadae were certainly not a single family, but a privileged class--they intermarried only with each other,--the administrative powers were strictly confined to them --and their policy, if exclusive, seems to have been vigorous and brilliant. This government was destroyed, as under its sway the people increased in wealth and importance; a popular movement, headed by Cypselus, a man of birth and fortune, replaced an able oligarchy by an abler demagogue (B. C. 655). Cypselus was succeeded by the celebrated Heriander (B. C. 625), a man, whose vices were perhaps exaggerated, whose genius was indisputable. Under his nephew Psammetichus, Corinth afterward regained its freedom. The Corinthians, in spite of every change in the population, retained their luxury to the last, and the epistles of Alciphron, in the second century after Christ, note the ostentation of the few and the poverty of the many. At the time now referred to, Corinth--the Genoa of Greece--was high in civilization, possessed of a considerable naval power, and in art and commerce was the sole rival on the Grecian continent to the graceful genius and extensive trade of the Ionian colonies.

XIV. Stretching from Corinth along the coast opposite Attica, we behold the ancient Argolis. Its three principal cities were Argos, Mycenae, and Epidaurus. Mycenae, at the time of the Trojan war, was the most powerful of the states of Greece; and Argos, next to Sicyori, was reputed the most ancient. Argolis suffered from the Dorian revolution, and shortly afterward the regal power, gradually diminishing, lapsed into republicanism (108). Argolis contained various independent states--one to every principal city.

XV. On the other side of Corinth, almost opposite Argolis, we find the petty state of Sicyon. This was the most ancient of the Grecian states, and was conjoined to the kingdom of Agamemnon at the Trojan war. At first it was possessed by Ionians, expelled subsequently by the Dorians, and not long after seems to have lapsed into a democratic republic. A man of low birth, Orthagoras, obtained the tyranny, and it continued in his family for a century, the longest tyranny in Greece, because the gentlest. Sicyon was of no marked influence at the period we are about to enter, though governed by an able tyrant, Clisthenes, whose policy it was to break the Dorian nobility, while uniting, as in a common interest, popular laws and regal authority.

XVI. Beyond Sicyon we arrive at Achaia. We have already seen that this district was formerly possessed by the Ionians, who were expelled by some of the Achaeans who escaped the Dorian yoke. Governed first by a king, it was afterward divided into twelve republics, leagued together. It was long before Achaia appeared on that heated stage of action, which allured the more restless spirits of Athens and Lacedaemon.

XVII. We now pause at Elis, which had also felt the revolution of the Heraclidae, and was possessed by their comrades the Aetolians.

The state of Elis underwent the general change from monarchy to republicanism; but republicanism in its most aristocratic form;-- growing more popular at the period of the Persian wars, but, without the convulsions which usually mark the progress of democracy. The magistrates of the commonwealth were the superintendents of the Sacred Games. And here, diversifying this rapid, but perhaps to the general reader somewhat tedious survey of the political and geographical aspect of the states of Greece, we will take this occasion to examine the nature and the influence of those celebrated contests, which gave to Elis its true title to immortality.

XVIII. The origin of the Olympic Games is lost in darkness. The legends which attribute their first foundation to the times of demigods and heroes, are so far consonant with truth, that exhibitions of physical strength made the favourite diversion of that wild and barbarous age which is consecrated to the heroic. It is easy to perceive that the origin of athletic games preceded the date of civilization; that, associated with occasions of festival, they, like festivals, assumed a sacred character, and that, whether first instituted in honour of a funeral, or in celebration of a victory, or in reverence to a god,--religion combined with policy to transmit an inspiring custom to a more polished posterity. And though we cannot literally give credit to the tradition which assigns the restoration of these games to Lycurgus, in concert with Iphitus, king of Elis, and Cleosthenes of Pisa, we may suppose at least that to Elis, to Pisa, and to Sparta, the institution was indebted for its revival.

The Dorian Oracle of Delphi gave its sanction to a ceremony, the restoration of which was intended to impose a check upon the wars and disorders of the Peloponnesus. Thus authorized, the festival was solemnized at the temple of Jupiter, at Olympia, near Pisa, a town in Elis. It was held every fifth year; it lasted four days. It consisted in the celebration of games in honour of Jupiter and Hercules. The interval between each festival was called, an Olympiad. After the fiftieth Olympiad (B. C. 580), the whole management of the games, and the choice of the judges, were monopolized by the Eleans. Previous to each festival, officers, deputed by the Eleans, proclaimed a sacred truce. Whatever hostilities were existent in Greece, terminated for the time; sufficient interval was allowed to attend and to return from the games. (109)

During this period the sacred territory of Elis was regarded as under the protection of the gods--none might traverse it armed. The Eleans arrogated indeed the right of a constant sanctity to perpetual peace; and the right, though sometimes invaded, seems generally to have been conceded. The people of this territory became, as it were, the guardians of a sanctuary; they interfered little in the turbulent commotions of the rest of Greece; they did not fortify their capital; and, the wealthiest people of the Peloponnesus, they enjoyed their opulence in tranquillity;--their holy character contenting their ambition. And a wonderful thing it was in the midst of those warlike, stirring, restless tribes--that solitary land, with its plane grove bordering the Alpheus, adorned with innumerable and hallowed monuments and statues--unvisited by foreign wars and civil commotion--a whole state one temple!

At first only the foot-race was exhibited; afterward were added wrestling, leaping, quoiting, darting, boxing, a more complicated species of foot-race (the Diaulus and Dolichus), and the chariot and horse-races. The Pentathlon was a contest of five gymnastic exercises combined. The chariot-races (110) preceded those of the riding horses, as in Grecian war the use of chariots preceded the more scientific employment of cavalry, and were the most attractive and splendid part of the exhibition. Sometimes there were no less than forty chariots on the ground. The rarity of horses, and the expense of their training, confined, without any law to that effect, the chariot-race to the highborn and the wealthy. It was consistent with the vain Alcibiades to decline the gymnastic contests in which his physical endowments might have ensured him success, because his competitors were not the equals to the long-descended heir of the Alcmaeonidae. In the equestrian contests his success was unprecedented. He brought seven chariots into the field, and bore off at the same time the first, second, and fourth prize (111). Although women (112), with the exception of the priestesses of the neighbouring fane of Ceres, were not permitted to witness the engagements, they were yet allowed to contend by proxy in the chariot-races; and the ladies of Macedon especially availed themselves of the privilege. No sanguinary contest with weapons, no gratuitous ferocities, no struggle between man and beast (the graceless butcheries of Rome), polluted the festival dedicated to the Olympian god. Even boxing with the cestus was less esteemed than the other athletic exercises, and was excluded from the games exhibited by Alexander in his Asiatic invasions (113). Neither did any of those haughty assumptions of lineage or knightly blood, which characterize the feudal tournament, distinguish between Greek and Greek. The equestrian contests were indeed, from their expense, limited to the opulent, but the others were impartially free to the poor as to the rich, the peasant as the noble,--the Greeks forbade monopoly in glory. But although thus open to all Greeks, the stadium was impenetrably closed to barbarians. Taken from his plough, the boor obtained the garland for which the monarchs of the East were held unworthy to contend, and to which the kings of the neighbouring Macedon were forbidden to aspire till their Hellenic descent had been clearly proved (114). Thus periodically were the several states reminded of their common race, and thus the national name and character were solemnly preserved: yet, like the Amphictyonic league, while the Olympic festival served to maintain the great distinction between foreigners and Greeks, it had but little influence in preventing the hostile contests of Greeks themselves. The very emulation between the several states stimulated their jealousy of each other: and still, if the Greeks found their countrymen in Greeks they found also in Greeks their rivals.

We can scarcely conceive the vast importance attached to victory in these games (115); it not only immortalized the winner, it shed glory upon his tribe. It is curious to see the different honours characteristically assigned to the conqueror in different states. If Athenian, he was entitled to a place by the magistrates in the Prytaneum; if a Spartan, to a prominent station in the field. To conquer at Elis was renown for life, "no less illustrious to a Greek than consulship to a Roman!" (116) The haughtiest nobles, the wealthiest princes, the most successful generals, contended for the prize (117). And the prize (after the seventh Olympiad) was a wreath of the wild olive!

Numerous other and similar games were established throughout Greece. Of these, next to the Olympic, the most celebrated, and the only national ones, were the Pythian at Delphi, the Nemean in Argolis, the Isthmian in Corinth; yet elsewhere the prize was of value; at all the national ones it was but a garland--a type of the eternal truth, that praise is the only guerdon of renown. The olive-crown was nothing!-- the shouts of assembled Greece--the showers of herbs and flowers--the banquet set apart for the victor--the odes of imperishable poets--the public register which transmitted to posterity his name--the privilege of a statue in the Altis--the return home through a breach in the walls (denoting by a noble metaphor, "that a city which boasts such men has slight need of walls" (118)), the first seat in all public spectacles; the fame, in short, extended to his native city-- bequeathed to his children--confirmed by the universal voice wherever the Greek civilization spread; this was the true olive-crown to the Olympic conqueror!

No other clime can furnish a likeness to these festivals: born of a savage time, they retained the vigorous character of an age of heroes, but they took every adjunct from the arts and the graces of civilization. To the sacred ground flocked all the power, and the rank, and the wealth, and the intellect, of Greece. To that gorgeous spectacle came men inspired by a nobler ambition than that of the arena. Here the poet and the musician could summon an audience to their art. If to them it was not a field for emulation (119), it was at least a theatre of display.

XIX. The uses of these games were threefold;--1st, The uniting all Greeks by one sentiment of national pride, and the memory of a common race; 2dly, The inculcation of hardy discipline--of physical education throughout every state, by teaching that the body had its honours as well as the intellect--a theory conducive to health in peace--and in those ages when men fought hand to hand, and individual strength and skill were the nerves of the army, to success in war; but, 3dly, and principally, its uses were in sustaining and feeding as a passion, as a motive, as an irresistible incentive--the desire of glory! That desire spread through all classes--it animated all tribes--it taught that true rewards are not in gold and gems, but in men's opinions. The ambition of the Altis established fame as a common principle of action. What chivalry did for the few, the Olympic contests effected for the many--they made a knighthood of a people.

If, warmed for a moment from the gravity of the historic muse, we might conjure up the picture of this festival, we would invoke the imagination of the reader to that sacred ground decorated with the profusest triumphs of Grecian art--all Greece assembled from her continent, her colonies, her isles--war suspended--a Sabbath of solemnity and rejoicing--the Spartan no longer grave, the Athenian forgetful of the forum--the highborn Thessalian, the gay Corinthian-- the lively gestures of the Asiatic Ionian;--suffering the various events of various times to confound themselves in one recollection of the past, he may see every eye turned from the combatants to one majestic figure--hear every lip murmuring a single name (120)-- glorious in greater fields: Olympia itself is forgotten. Who is the spectacle of the day? Themistocles, the conqueror of Salamis, and the saviour of Greece! Again--the huzzas of countless thousands following the chariot-wheels of the competitors--whose name is shouted forth, the victor without a rival!--it is Alcibiades, the destroyer of Athens! Turn to the temple of the Olympian god, pass the brazen gates, proceed through the columned aisles (121), what arrests the awe and wonder of the crowd! Seated on a throne of ebon and of ivory, of gold and gems--the olive-crown on his head, in his right hand the statue of Victory, in his left; wrought of all metals, the cloud-compelling sceptre, behold the colossal masterpiece of Phidias, the Homeric dream imbodied (122)--the majesty of the Olympian Jove! Enter the banquet-room of the conquerors--to whose verse, hymned in a solemn and mighty chorus, bends the listening Spartan--it is the verse of the Dorian Pindar! In that motley and glittering space (the fair of Olympia, the mart of every commerce, the focus of all intellect), join the throng, earnest and breathless, gathered round that sunburnt traveller;--now drinking in the wild account of Babylonian gardens, or of temples whose awful deity no lip may name--now, with clinched hands and glowing cheeks, tracking the march of Xerxes along exhausted rivers, and over bridges that spanned the sea--what moves, what hushes that mighty audience? It is Herodotus reading his history! (123)

Let us resume our survey.

XX. Midland, in the Peloponnesus, lies the pastoral Arcady. Besides the rivers of Alpheus and Erymanthus, it is watered by the gloomy stream of Styx; and its western part, intersected by innumerable brooks, is the land of Pan. Its inhabitants were long devoted to the pursuits of the herdsman and the shepherd, and its ancient government was apparently monarchical. The Dorian irruption spared this land of poetical tradition, which the oracle of Delphi took under no unsuitable protection, and it remained the eldest and most unviolated sanctuary of the old Pelasgic name. But not very long after the return of the Heraclidae, we find the last king stoned by his subjects, and democratic institutions established. It was then parcelled out into small states, of which Tegea and Mantinea were the chief.

XXI. Messenia, a fertile and level district, which lies to the west of Sparta, underwent many struggles with the latter power; and this part of its history, which is full of interest, the reader will find briefly narrated in that of the Spartans, by whom it was finally subdued. Being then incorporated with that country, we cannot, at the period of history we are about to enter, consider Messenia as a separate and independent state. (124)

And now, completing the survey of the Peloponnesus, we rest at Laconia, the country of the Spartans.

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