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Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

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wine of Mount Tmolus, with which a wealthy devotee had presented them.
This they drank, and insisted on their guests drinking, unmixed. By the
time the mutton bones had been picked bare, and the cask drained to its
dregs, not a man out of the twelve was sober. A heavy slumber, lasting
late into the morning, was the natural consequence of this debauch, and
when the sleepers were at last aroused, they set about the preparation
for a start in a very languid fashion. It was nearly noon before the
party was fairly on its way. Darkness came on before the next stage
could be reached. It was while the travellers were bivouacking in a
wholly unprotected situation that a company of marauders, who had indeed
been watching their movements for some days in the hopes of finding such
an opportunity, fell upon them. The result was disastrous. Alcibiades
and Callias, who had been sleeping with their horses picketed close to
their camp fire, were roused by the noise, and springing to their
saddles made their escape. Not one of their followers was equally
fortunate. Some were cut down in their sleep, others as they were
endeavoring to collect their senses. The sumpter-horses and their
burdens of course fell into the hands of the assailants. It was only
with what they carried on their own persons that the two survivors of
the party made their way about six days afterward to the Satrap's winter
palace at Gordium.



"I feel that my place is at Athens," said Callias to his host a few days
after their arrival.

"In spite of the past?"

"Yes. At such a time no one thinks of the past, but only of the future."

"Well; I cannot say that you are wrong. If you think fit to go, I shall
not seek to hold you back. I must frankly say that I see little hope."

"And you?" Callias went on after a pause. "What shall you do, if I may
make so bold as to ask?"

"If I can save my country at all, it will be here. The only hope now is
to detach Persia from Sparta. Perhaps now that Athens has fallen so low,
the Persians will see what their true interests are. The worst of it is
that there is no real ruler, no one to carry out a consistent policy.
The great king is absolute at the capital, but in the provinces he is
little more than a name. The satraps do almost as they please; they
actually make war on each other if it suits their purpose. So, it is not
what is best for Persia, but what Tissaphernes or Pharnabazus may think
best for himself that will be done. Still there is a chance left; only I
must be on the spot to seize it if it comes. Were I to go to Athens, I
should be only one man among a useless crowd, and you, my young friend,
will, I very much fear, be little more."

"Anyhow I shall go," replied the young man, "at all events there will be
one sword more to be drawn for Athens."

"Yes," muttered Alcibiades to himself, as his companion left the room,
"if you get the chance of drawing it. I rather think that with that fox
Lysander in command, you will do nothing more for Athens than bring one
more mouth to be fed."

Callias made his way to the coast with no difficulty. Assuming, at the
suggestion of Alcibiades, a citizen's dress, he joined a caravan of
traders which was on its way westward, and in their company travelled
pleasantly and safely. Arrived at Miletus he took passage in a merchant
ship that was bound for Ægina, hoping if he could only get so far, to be
able to make his way somehow into the city. At one time, indeed, he was
terribly afraid that this hope would be disappointed. The
_Swallow_ - this was the name of the vessel of Ægina - was challenged and
overhauled by a Corinthian ship of war. Callias made no attempt to
conceal his nationality. Indeed it would have been useless, for an
Athenian in those days was about as easily recognized over the whole of
the Greek world as an Englishman is recognized in these, anywhere in
Europe. To his great surprise the Corinthian captain simply said: "You
can go; I have no order to detain you." That there was no kindness in
his permission Callias was perfectly well aware, for the hatred of
Corinth for Athens was tenfold more bitter than that of Sparta.

It was a quarrel between Athens and Corinth, on the tender point of a
rebellious Corinthian colony, that had been the immediate cause of the
Peloponnesian War; and even before this there had always been the potent
influence of commercial rivalry to set the two states against each
other. The young Athenian noticed also a sinister smile on the captain's
face; but what it meant he was at a loss to determine.

Landed at Ægina he lost no time in enquiring how he might best reach his

"Oh! you will get in easily enough," said the Æginetan merchant, the
owner of the _Swallow_, to whom he stated his case.

"Is not the city blockaded then?"

"Yes, in a way," replied the man.

"Please to explain what you mean," said Callias, who was getting a
little heated by these mysterious remarks.

"Well," said the merchant, "King Pausanias is encamped outside the city
in some place that they call the Grove of Academus, I think. Do you know

Callias assented with a nod.

"And Lysander has a hundred and fifty ships off the Piraeus. Still I
think that you will be able to get in. The blockade is not kept very

"Had I best go by night?"

"Perhaps it would be better."

"Can you help me to a boat?"

"Certainly; but you will have to pay the boatman pretty highly, for, of
course, it is a risk, though it can be done."

"Will you make the arrangements if I pay you the money in advance?"

"Certainly, if you do not mind going so far as a _mina_. It is really
worth the money."

Callias paid the money, and was told to be in readiness to embark at

It would have enlightened him considerably if he could have seen the
merchant's behavior as soon as he was safely out of the room.

"Ah, you young serpent," the man cried, "you will be allowed to creep
into your hole easily enough; but if we don't suffocate you and your
whole brood when we have got you there, my name is not Timagenes."

The fact was that a revolution of which Callias knew nothing had taken
place at Ægina. An old rival and enemy of Athens, the city had been
conquered many years before, and the anti-Athenian party expelled. And
now everything was changed. Lysander had brought back the exiles, and
though Athens had still friends, it was the hostile party that was in
power. Callias had observed a certain change in the demeanor of the
people, but was too much engrossed in his own affairs to think much
about it.

The blockade was run as easily as the Æginetan had foretold. The boat
passed within fifty yards of one of the squadron, and Callias could have
sworn that he saw a sentinel on the watch pacing the vessel's deck. But
the man did not challenge, and the Piraeus was reached without any

It was not long before all the mystery was explained.

"This is just what I feared," said Hippocles, to whose house the young
Athenian hastened. "I knew that you would come back, and I could not
warn you."

"What do you mean," cried the young man in astonishment. "Was it not my
duty to return?"

"Yes, in one way it was. But tell me how you got here?"

Callias related the incidents of his journey, and expressed some
surprise that the Corinthian captain had not taken him prisoner, and
that the blockade was so negligently kept.

"And you did not understand what all this meant?"

"No; I understood nothing."

"My dear friend," said the merchant, "it simply means that Lysander is
going to starve us out, and that the more there are of us the easier and
the speedier his work will be. This has been his policy all along. He
has taken no prisoners. Whenever he has taken a city, and there is
hardly one that has not either been taken or given itself up, he has
sent every Athenian citizen home. They are simply put on their parole to
come here. The consequence is that the city is fairly swarming with
people, and that there is next to no food. I have a good store - for some
time past I have kept myself well provisioned, not knowing what might
happen - and I am able to do something for my poor neighbors. But the
state of things in the city is simply awful. People, and people too whom
I know as really well-to-do citizens, are dying of sheer starvation. As
for the poor women and children it is truly heart breaking. Oh, my dear
friend, if you had only stopped away; for here you can do nothing. But I
knew you would come back, and I honor you for it."

"But can nothing be done?" cried the young man. "It is better to die
than be starved like a wolf in his den."

"The people have lost all heart. And indeed, if they were all brave as
lions, we are hopelessly outnumbered. Pausanias must have as many as
forty thousand men outside the city, for every city in the Island[52]
except Argos, has sent its contingent; and we could not muster a fourth
part of the number, and such troops too! And where is our fleet? At the
bottom of the Ægean, or in the arsenals of the enemy. I do not suppose
that there are fifty ships, all told, in our docks. And of these a third
are not sea-worthy. No, we must submit; and yet it is almost as much as
a man's life is worth to mention the word."

"But could we not make terms of some kind, not good terms I fear, but
still such as would be endurable? Has anything been done?"

"The Senate sent to Agis, who was at Deccleia,[53] and proposed peace on
these terms: Athens was to become the ally of Sparta on the condition of
having the same friends and the same enemies, but was to be allowed to
keep the Long Walls[54] and the Piraeus. Agis said that he had no
authority to treat, and bade the envoys go to Sparta. So they came back
here, and were directed to go. They reached a place on the borders of
Laconia and sent on their message to the ephors at Sparta, not being
allowed to proceed any further themselves. The ephors sent back this
answer: 'Begone instantly; if the Athenians really desire peace, let
them send you again with other proposals, such as having reflected more
wisely they may be disposed to make.' So the envoys returned. Some had
hoped that they would do some good. I must confess that I had not. There
was terrible dismay. At last one Archistratus plucked up courage to
speak. 'The Lacedaemonians can force us to accept what conditions they
please. Let us acknowledge what we cannot deny, and make peace with them
on their own terms.' There was a howl of rage at this, for in truth the
Lacedaemonian terms were nothing less than this: 'Pull down a mile of
the Long Walls, and give up your fleet.' The unlucky Archistratus was
thrown into prison where he lies still. Well, one said one thing, one
another. At last Theramenes got up and said: 'The real manager of
affairs is neither Agis nor Pausanias, nor even the Ephors, but
Lysander. Send me to him - he is a personal friend of mine own - and I
will make the best terms I can with him.' To this the assembly agreed,
having indeed nothing better to do. That was three or four days ago.
Theramenes started the same night. I very much doubt whether he will be
able to do any good. I am not even sure that he means to. But we shall

A miserable period of waiting followed. Day after day passed, and the
envoy neither returned nor sent any communication to his fellow
countrymen. No one knew where he was. Whether he was still with Lysander
or had gone on to Sparta - all was a mystery. Meanwhile the distress in
the city grew more and more acute. Callias had taken up his abode with
Hippocles, and was so out of absolute want. He was perfectly ready to
acquiesce in the extreme frugality which was the rule of the house. Free
and bond all fared alike, and none had anything beyond the most
absolute necessaries of life. Whatever could be spared was devoted to
the relief of the needy.

Not the least trying part of the situation was the forced inaction. Not
even a sally was made. Indeed, it would have been a useless waste of
life. Not only were the forces of the enemy vastly superior, but the
besieged soldiers were almost unable to support the weight of their
arms, so scanty was the fare to which they were reduced. There were
times when Callias was disposed to rush sword in hand on some outpost of
the enemy, sell his life as dearly as he could, and perish.

Two things held him back from carrying this idea into execution, things
curiously unlike, yet working together for the same result. One was his
love for Hermione. Life had not lost all its charm, his horizon was not
wholly dark, while there remained the light of this hope. Indeed it was
the one consolation of his life that he was permitted to help her in her
daily ministration among her needy neighbors. A string of pensioners
presented themselves at the merchant's gates, and received such relief
as he could give. But Hermione was not content with this. There were
some, she knew, whose pride would not permit them to mingle in the train
of mendicants; there were others whose strength did not permit them to
come abroad. These she sought out in their own homes. Callias found a
melancholy pleasure in accompanying and helping her. Not a word of love
passed his lips. He would have scorned himself if he had added the
smallest grain to the burden of care that she bore. But he never failed
in his attendance, and he was hailed by many a poor sufferer with a
pleasure only second to that which greeted the gracious presence of the
girl. When, as happened before long, fever the unfailing follower of
famine, began to spread its ravages over the Piraeus, his labors and
hers grew more arduous. Battling with these two fearful enemies within
the walls, Callias almost forgot the foes that were without.

The other restraining and strengthening influence was that which
Socrates exercised on the young man's mind. All the time that Callias
could spare from the labors that he shared with Hermione was given to
the society of the philosopher. The sage's indomitable courage and
endurance were in themselves an encouragement of the highest order.
Doubtless his physical strength, which made him capable of bearing an
almost incredible degree of cold and hunger, helped him to show a
dauntless heart to the troubles which were breaking down so many. Indeed
he seemed scarcely to want food or drink. But the steadfastness with
which he pursued his usual course of life, still keeping up his untiring
search for wisdom was a spectacle nothing less than splendid, while
nothing could exceed his practical sagacity. Anyone who wanted shrewd
advice in the actual circumstances of life, anyone who desired to be
lifted out of the sordid present, with its miserable hopes and cares, on
to a higher plane of life, came to Socrates and did not come in vain.

At length, when nearly three months had passed, the long period of
suspense seemed about to come to an end. The report ran through the city
that Theramenes had returned. What were the terms he had brought back,
no one knew. On that point he remained obstinately silent. In fact he
had nothing to say, nothing further, that is, than the fact that
Lysander professed himself unable to treat; the Ephors must be
approached, if anything was to be done.

Had Lysander amused him with hopes that instructions and power to treat
would soon be sent down to him from Sparta, or had he deliberately
waited till the city should be reduced to such a pitch of starvation
that it would be ready to consent to any terms? There was a brutal,
cold-blooded cruelty in such conduct that makes it difficult to credit;
yet many believed it to be the true explanation of the delay.[55] To
picture the dismay that prevailed through the assembly when Theramenes
had given his report of the negotiations which he had _not_ concluded
would be impossible. There was nothing to be done but accept the bitter
necessity. Theramenes, with nine others, was sent to Sparta with full
power to treat. They were to accept any terms that might be offered. The
proud city had fallen as low as that.

Then came another time of waiting. Happily it was not long. Theramenes
felt that the endurance of his countrymen had been tried to the
uttermost, and that nothing more was to be gained. Athens was on her
knees. It did not suit him and his purposes - for he had purposes of his
own, possibly a tyranny, certainly power - that she should be actually
prostrate. He and his colleagues made all the haste that they could; and
as their instructions were simple - to accept anything that might be
offered - there was little to delay them.


At the end of about twelve days they returned. It was in the midst of a
breathless suspense that Theramenes stood up to make his report. What he
said may be thus given in outline.

"We went with all speed to Sellasia[56] and there waited, having sent on
a message to the Ephors that we had come with full power to treat. On
the second day we were summoned to Sparta. There we found envoys
assembled from the allies of the Lacedaemonians. Aristides also was

"At the mention of the name of Aristides a murmur of fear and rage ran
through the assembly. The man was one of the most notorious of the
anti-patriotic party. He had been in exile for many years, and was
believed to have done more harm than any one else to his native city.

"The senior of the Ephors stood up, and said: 'Friends and allies, the
Athenians seek for peace. What say you? Shall we grant it to them?' One
after another the envoys rose in their places. They did not use many
words. It was not the custom of the place to be long in speech as they
knew. All said the same thing. 'We give our vote against peace. Let
Athens be destroyed. There will be no true peace so long as she is
permitted to exist.' When all had spoken we were called on to speak.
'You hear what these say,' said the Ephor who had not spoken before.
'What have you to reply?' I answered that the Athenians were ready to
give all pledges that might be asked from them that they would not harm
either Sparta or her allies or any city of the Greeks. After this we
were all commanded to withdraw. In about the space of an hour we were
summoned again into the chamber. The Ephor rose in his place and spoke.
'The Corinthians and the other allies demand that Athens should be
destroyed. Nor do they this without reason. The Athenians have destroyed
many cities of the Greeks. Yet can we not forget that they have also in
time past done good service to Greece. But of these things which you all
know it is needless to speak. Our sentence is this: Let the Athenians
pull down their Long Walls for the space of a mile. Let them also
surrender their fleet, keeping only twelve ships. On these terms they
shall have peace. These then, O men of Athens,' the speaker continued,
'are the conditions which the Spartans demand. I confess that they are
hard. Yet they are better than those which the rest of Greece would
impose upon you. Truly the Lacedaemonians stand between us and utter
destruction. And there is nothing beyond remedy in what they would lay
upon us. Walls that are broken down may be repaired, and for ships that
have been given up many others may be built; but of a city against which
the decree of destruction has gone forth, there is an end. Therefore I
propose that peace be made with the Lacedaemonians on these terms.'

"One or two speakers ventured to rise in opposition. But they could
scarcely get a hearing. Probably they only went through the form of
opposing in order that they might be able at some future time to say
that they had done so. With but short delay the proposition was put to
the vote and carried by an overwhelming majority. The same evening
envoys were sent to Lysander announcing that the Spartan conditions had
been accepted.

"The next day the gates of the city were thrown open, and the fleet of
Lysander sailed into the Piraeus. The ships of war were handed over to
him. Many were destroyed, and indeed the once famous and powerful fleet
of Atticus had been reduced to a state of most deplorable weakness. The
sacrifice of the fleet, such as it was, was not so very costly after
all. The few sea-worthy ships that remained, besides the twelve that the
city was permitted to retain, were sent off to the Lacedaemonian arsenal
of Gytheum. This done, the next thing was to beat down the Long Walls.
'This is the first day of the freedom of Greece,' said Lysander, 'we
must keep it as a festival. Send for the flute players.' Accordingly the
services of every flute player in Attica were requisitioned; and to the
sound of the gayest tunes which they could find in their _repertoire_
the work of demolition went on. Every decent Athenian whatever his
policy, kept, of course, close within doors; but there was nevertheless
a vast concourse of spectators, the rabble who will crowd to any sight,
however brutal and humiliating, the army of Pausanias and the crews of
Lysander's fleet, with a miscellaneous crowd of foreigners who had come
to gloat over the downfall of the haughty city. Loud was the shout that
went up when a clean breach was made through the walls. The general
feeling was that Athens had suffered a blow from which she could never
recover. But there were some who doubted. 'You have scratched the snake,
not killed it,' said a Corinthian, as he turned away."


[52] The Peloponnesus or Island of Pelops.

[53] Deccleia was the fort established in Athenian territory by the
Peloponnesians early in the war and used as their headquarters during
their annual invasion of the country.

[54] The Long Walls were the great strength of Athens. They joined the
harbor of the Piraeus to the city.

[55] Xenophon distinctly says that he lingered with Lysander, waiting
for the time when the Athenians, at the last pinch of starvation, should
be ready to accept any terms that might be offered.

[56] Sellasia was a town on the border where the previous embassy had
been bidden to wait till the Ephors could be communicated with.



Some fourteen or fifteen days have passed since the humiliation of
Athens was completed. To have come to the end, bitter as it was, was in
one way a relief. To know the worst always brings a certain comfort, and
that worst might have been, was, in fact, very near being far more
terrible than what actually happened. Then there was a great material
relief. The pressure of famine was removed. Supplies poured plentifully
into Athens, for the city, in spite of all its sacrifices and losses,
was still rich. If fever still remained - it always lingers a while after
its precursor, hunger, has departed - it was now possible to cope with it
effectually. And then, last not least, it was the delightful season of
spring. The Athenians could once more enjoy the delights of that country
life from which they had been shut out so long, but which they had never
ceased to love. Attica, indeed, had suffered sadly from the presence,
repeated year after year, of the invading host; but it had suffered less
than might have been expected. The olive yards in particular, had not
been touched. A religious feeling had forbidden any injury to a tree
which was supposed to be under the special protection of the patron
goddess of the land. The sacred groves also of the heroes, that were
scattered about the country, had not been harmed. Not a few houses with
their gardens had been saved by having served as residences for officers
high in command in the Peloponnesian army. And now Nature, the restorer,
was busy in the genial season of growth in healing or at least hiding
the wounds that had been made by the ravages of war.

"What do you say to a trip to Marathon?" said Hippocles one day, to his
daughter and Callias. "You both of you look as if a little fresh air
would do you good."

"An excellent idea," cried Hermione, clapping her hands, "it is years
since I have seen the place."

"What say you, Callias?" said Hippocles, turning to the young man.

Callias was only too glad to join any expedition when he was to have the
company of Hermione. He did not give this reason, but he assented to the
proposal very heartily.

"But, father, how shall we go?" said Hermione. "There is scarcely a
horse to be found, I suppose."

"Why not go by sea?" was her father's reply. "I have a pinnace which
would just suit us. We will go to-morrow if the weather holds fine, stop
the first night at Sunium, and the second at Marathon. At Sunium there

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 11 of 22)