Alfred John Church.

Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

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nothing. No one knew that a couple of travellers, who might have been
two brothers journeying in company and followed by three well armed
servants, were in fact Demoleon, Amestris, and the pretended robbers.
The party followed much the same route as was afterwards taken by the
Ten Thousand, and, after not a few hair-breadth escapes, arrived in
safety at the same destination, - the city of Trapezus.

Three years of happiness followed. Then the beautiful Persian died. She
never repented of having given her heart to the young physician, who was
the best and most affectionate of husbands. But she missed her family
and all the associations of her early life, and pined away under the
loss. Return was impossible; she could not go back without her husband,
and to return with him would have been to expose him, if not herself, to
the certainty of death. The hopelessness of the situation broke her
heart; and all her husband's skill, even the more potent influence of
her husband's love, failed to work a cure.

The widower could not prevail upon himself to leave the place where he
had enjoyed his short-lived happiness. He might have gained wealth and
fame in larger cities, but he preferred to spend the rest of his days at
Trapezus. There, indeed, he was almost worshipped. He had a singularly
light and skillful hand; his experience, though, of course, not so large
as he might have collected elsewhere, was always ready for use; and he
had the rare, the incommunicable gift of felicitous guessing - guessing
we call it, but it is really the power of forming rapid conclusions from
a number of trifling, often half discerned indications. Anyhow he
achieved some very marvellous cures; performed with success operations
which others did not venture to attempt; diagnosed diseases with
remarkable skill, and was extraordinarily fertile in his expedients. It
was specially characteristic of him that while he was never satisfied
till he had thoroughly enquired into the causes of disease, he was
unwearied in his efforts to relieve the inconvenience and painfulness of
a patient's symptoms.

So alarming did the condition of Callias become after his return from
the banquet, that Demoleon was called in without loss of time. All that
he could do at the moment was to give a sleeping draught, intending to
make a thorough examination of the case next morning.

Shortly after sunrise he was by the bedside. Callias was conscious
enough to be able to describe his feelings; what he said indicated
plainly enough that his illness had been developing for some days past,
and had been postponed by sheer courage and determination. It was in
fact something like what we call gastric fever; and the experienced
physician saw enough to convince him that he should have a hard battle
to fight. The patient was young, vigorous, apparently sound of
constitution, and, as far as he could learn, of temperate habits. All
this was in favor of recovery; but it was not more than was needed to
give a glimpse of hope.

Demochares, who had a strong regard for the young man, as indeed every
one had that had been brought into contact with him, intercepted the
physician as he was leaving the house after a prolonged examination of
the patient.

"How do you find him?" he asked.

Demoleon shook his head. The gesture was not exactly despairing, but it
indicated plainly enough that the situation was serious.

"You will put him all right before long?" returned the merchant, alarmed
at the gravity of the physician's manner.

"All these things lie on the knees of the gods," said Demoleon, quoting
from his favorite Homer. (It was a maxim of his that a man who did not
know his Homer was little better than a fool.) It may be said that the
physician was more than a little brusque in manner and speech. Twenty
years of solitary life had made him so, for since his wife's death he
had held aloof from all the social life of the place.

"What ails him?" enquired the merchant.

"A fever," was the brief reply.

"Does it run high?"

"Very high indeed."

"You have bled him, of course."

The physician's answers to enquiries were generally as short as the
rules of politeness permitted; occasionally, some of his questioners
were disposed to think, even shorter; but there were remarks that always
made him fluent of speech, though the fluency was not always agreeable
to his audience.

"Bleed him, sir," he cried, "why don't you say at once stab him, poison
him? No, sir, I have not bled him, and do not intend to."

"I thought that it was usual in such cases," said the merchant timidly.

"Very likely you did," answered Demoleon, "and there are persons, I do
not doubt, who would have done it, persons, too, who ought to know
better." This was levelled at a rival practitioner in the town for whom
he entertained a most thorough contempt. "Do you know, sir," he went on,
"where men learnt the practice of bleeding?"

"No, I do not," said Demochares.

"It was from the hippopotamus. That animal has been observed to bleed
himself. Doubtless the operation does him good. But it does not follow
that what is good for an animal as big as a cottage is good also for a
man. Doubtless there _are_ men for whom it is good. When I have to deal
with a mountain of a man, one of your city dignitaries bloated by rich
feeding, by chines of beef and pork and flagons of rich wine, I don't
hesitate to bleed him. His thick skin, his rolls of fat flesh, seem to
require it. In fact he is a human hippopotamus. But to bleed a spare
young fellow, who has been going through months of labor and hard living
would be to kill him. I wonder that you can suggest such a thing."

"I am sure I am very sorry," said the merchant humbly.

"Happily no harm is done," replied the physician, cooling down a little.
"And, after all, this is not your business, and you may be excused for
your ignorance, but there are others," he went off muttering in a low
voice, "who ought to know better, and ought to be punished for such
folly. It is sheer murder."

I do not intend to describe the course of the long illness of which this
was the beginning. There were times when even the hopefulness of the
physician - and his hopefulness was one of his strongest and most helpful
qualities - failed him. Relapse after relapse, coming with disheartening
frequency, just when he had seemed to have gathered a little strength,
brought him close to the gates of death.

"I have done all that I can," said Demoleon one evening to Epicharis the
nurse. "If any one is to save him, it must be you. If you want me, send
for me, of course. Otherwise I shall not come. It breaks my heart to see
this fine young fellow dying, when there are hundreds of worthless
brutes whom the earth would be better without."

Epicharis never lost heart; for a nurse to lose heart is more fatal than
the physician's despair. For nearly a week she scarcely slept. Not a
single opportunity of administering some strengthening food did she
lose - for now the fever had passed, and the danger lay in the excessive
exhaustion. At last her patience was rewarded. The sick man turned the
corner, and Demoleon, summoned at last, to alleviate, he feared, the
last agony, found, to his inexpressible delight, that the cure was
really begun.

"You are the physician," he cried, as he seized the nurse's hand and
kissed it; "I am only a fool."

Winter had passed into spring, and spring into summer, before Callias
could be pronounced out of danger. Even then his recovery was slow. Some
months were spent in a mountain village where the bracing air worked
wonders in giving him back his strength. As the cold weather came on he
returned to his comfortable home in Trapezus. Though scarcely an
invalid, he was still a little short of perfect recovery. Besides it was
not the time for travelling. Anyhow it was the spring of the following
year, and now more than twelve months from the time of his first
illness, when he was pronounced fit to travel. Even then it was only
something like flat rebellion on the part of his patient that induced
Demoleon to give way. The young man was wearying for home and friends.
He had heard nothing of them for several months, for communication was
always stopped during the winter between Athens and the ports of the
Euxine, while the eastward bound ships that always started after the
dangerous season of the equinox had passed, had not yet arrived.


[78] Artaxerxes Longimanus, so called from the circumstance of his right
hand being longer than his left. He reigned from 465 to 425.

[79] About £5,200, ($25,000), if gold is to be reckoned at thirteen
times the value of silver. This is Herodotus' calculation, and it
probably held good in Greece for a century or more from his time, until,
in fact, the enormous influx of gold from the Asiatic conquests of
Alexander altered the proportion.



Callias started about the middle of April, according to our reckoning.
His journey to the Bosphorus was much retarded by contrary winds. For
some days no progress could be made, and it was well into May before he
reached Byzantium. There he was fortunate enough to get a passage in a
Spartan despatch boat, which took him as far as the port of Corinth,
thus carrying him, of course, beyond his destination, but to a point
from which it was easy for him to find his way to Athens. It was about
the beginning of June when he landed at the Piraeus. He did not doubt
for a moment about the place where his first visit was due. The fact was
that he had no near relations. The kinsman who was his legal guardian
had always given up the business of looking after his ward's property to
Hippocles; and now that Callias was his own master, there was little
more than a friendly acquaintance between the two cousins. The alien's
house was, he felt, his real home, nor had he given up the hope that in
spite of Hermione's strongly expressed determination, he might some day
become a member of his family.

Hippocles happened to have just returned from his business at the
shipyard, when the young Athenian presented himself at the gate. Nothing
could be warmer than the welcome he gave his visitor.


"Now Zeus and Athene be thanked for this," he cried as he wrung the
young man's hand. "That you had come back safely from the country of the
Great King I heard. Your friend Xenophon told me so much in a letter
that I had from him about a year ago. Then I heard from him that you
were dangerously ill. After that all was a blank, and I feared the
worst. But why not a word all this time?"

"Pardon me, my dear friend, I think I may say that it was not my fault.
For months I was simply too ill to write. When I came back to Trapezus,
the winter had begun, and there were no more ships sailing westward. I
should have written when communications were opened again, but I was
always in hopes of being allowed by the physician to start, and I had a
fancy for bringing my own news. And how are you?"

"I am well enough," replied Hippocles, "but we have been passing through
times bad enough to shorten any man's life. I don't speak of trade.
There have been troubles there, but when one has ventures all over the
world, it does not matter very much as far as profits are concerned, if
things do not go right at one place or another. It has been the state of
home affairs that has been the heaviest burden to bear. I thought we had
touched the bottom when the city had to surrender to Lysander. But it
was not so, and I might have known better. The Spartans, of course,
upset the democracy."

"Well," interrupted Callias, "I should have thought that that would not
have been by any means an altogether unmixed evil."

"Yes," said Hippocles, "and there have been times when I have been ready
to think the same. But wait till you see an oligarchy in power, really
in power, I mean, not with a possible appeal to the people, and so a
chance of having to answer for themselves before them, but with a strong
foreign garrison behind them. We had that state of things in Athens for
more than half a year. One might almost say that it was like a city
taken by storm. No man's life was safe unless he was willing to do the
bidding of the Tyrants - the "Thirty Tyrants" was the nickname of the men
that were in power in those days. Who would have thought that Theramenes
would ever have been regretted by honest men? Yet it was so. He thought
his colleagues were going too far, and opposed them. He was carrying the
Senate with him, for many besides him were beginning to feel
uncomfortable; so they murdered him. The Thirty had, you must know, a
sort of sham general assembly - three thousand citizens picked out of the
whole number as holding strong oligarchical opinions. Amongst the laws
that they had made one was that none of these Three Thousand were to be
condemned without a vote of the Senate. The name of Theramenes was, of
course, on the list, and, as he had a majority of the Senate with him,
he seemed safe. Well what did Critias, who was the leader of the violent
party, do? He filled the outer circle of the Senate house with armed
men, the Senate, you must understand, sitting in the middle surrounded
by them. Then he got up and said, 'A good president, when he sees the
body over which he presides about to be duped, does not suffer them to
follow their own counsel. Theramenes has duped you, and I and these men
here will not suffer one who is the enemy of his country to do so any
longer. I have therefore struck his name off the list of the Three
Thousand. This leaves me and my colleagues free to deal with him without
your assent.' The Senate murmured, but dared do nothing more. The
officers came and dragged the man from the altar to which he was
clinging. An hour afterwards he had drunk the hemlock. The gods below be
propitious to him, for great as were his misdeeds he died in a good
cause and as a brave man should die.[80] Things have not been so bad
since the 'Thirty' were upset, but there is a sad story to tell you."

Callias paused awhile. At last he screwed up his courage to put a
question which he had both longed and feared to put ever since he had
set foot in the house.

"And your daughter, is she well?"

"Yes, she is well."

"And still with you?"

"Yes, she is at home," briefly answered the father.

Hermione had in fact, refused several offers which every one else had
thought highly eligible. Hippocles, though by no means anxious to lose a
daughter who was not only a companion but a counsellor, was growing
anxious at what appeared her manifest determination to remain single. He
would have dearly liked to have a son-in-law who would be able to take
up in time the burden of his huge business, a burden which he began to
feel already somewhat heavy for his strength. Callias would have been
entirely to his heart, but he had accepted, though not without great
reluctance, his daughter's views on this subject. That she should deny
the young Athenian's suit, and yet for his sake dismiss all other
suitors - and this he began to suspect to be the fact - seemed to his
practical mind a quite unreasonable course of action. When a distant
kinsman from Italy, a handsome youth of gracious manners and of
unexceptionable character, with even a tincture of culture, was
emphatically refused, Hippocles ventured a remonstrance. Its reception
was such that he resolved never under any circumstances to repeat it.
Hermione had been always the most obedient of daughters, but this roused
her to open rebellion. "Father," she said, "in this matter I am and must
be a freeborn Italian. A Greek father can arrange a marriage for his
daughter, but you must not think of it. I shall give myself as my mother
gave herself before me - if I could find one as worthy as she did," and
she caught her father's hand and kissed it, breaking at the same time
into a passion of tears. "Forgive me," she went on in a broken voice,
"for setting up myself against you; but if you love me, never speak on
this subject again." And her father resolved that he never would.

The young Athenian felt a glow of renewed hope pass through him at the
father's reply, studiously brief and cold as it was. Anyhow Hermione was
not married. What could ever occur to change her purpose he did not
care to speculate. Nevertheless, as long as she did not belong to
another, he need not despair.

"You will dine with me of course," said Hippocles to his visitor, "by
good luck I have invited Xenophon. Doubtless that is he," he went on, as
a kick was heard at the door.[81]

A few moments afterwards a slave introduced Xenophon; and before the two
friends had finished their greetings it was announced that dinner had
been served.

Hermione was not present at the meal, nor did her father make any excuse
for her absence. The presence of any guest not belonging to the regular
family circle, was sufficient to account for it; and Callias, though he
hoped against hope to see her, could not but acknowledge to himself that
a meeting would have been highly embarrassing.

Conversation did not flag during the meal. When it was finished, the
host excused himself on the score of having some business matters on
hand which did not brook delay; and Xenophon and Callias were left to
talk over each other's adventures.

When Callias had told the story with which my readers are already
acquainted, Xenophon proceeded to give him a brief outline of his
fortunes since they had parted.

"Well, my dear Callias," he said, "you did not lose much by not being
with us. While we were in danger, we stuck fairly together, though there
were always cowardly and selfish fellows who thought, not of the general
welfare, but only of their own skins or their own pockets. But when we
were safe at the coast and among friends, then there arose endless
division. And, indeed, I must allow that the situation of the army was
very trying. Here were thousands of men who lived by their pay, and
there was no paymaster. I had a scheme of my own which would really have
kept us together. If it could have been carried out, the gathering of
the Ten Thousand, even though it had failed of its first object, would
not have been altogether in vain. I wanted to found a new Greek colony.
We might have taken Pharis or some other city of the barbarians; and if
only half of my comrades had been willing to stay, we might have made a
rich and powerful place of it before long. But it was not to be. Perhaps
I was not worthy of being the founder of such a colony; anyhow the
scheme came to nothing. I will tell you how it was. You remember
Silanus, the soothsayer. I never trusted the man. He was quite capable
of garbling signs to suit his own advantage. However I could not help
going to him on this occasion, as he was the chief of his craft. So I
said, 'Offer sacrifices and determine the omens concerning this scheme
of a new colony.' Now Silanus was about the only man who had any money
in his pocket. Cyrus had given him three thousand darics[82] for a
prophecy that had come true, and he wanted to get home with the spoil.
So he was altogether against the idea of a colony. When he had
sacrificed he could not say that the omens were altogether against the
scheme; for I knew nearly as much about the matter as he did. What he
did say was that there were indications of a conspiracy against me. And
he took good care to make them true, for he spread about reports of what
I was going to do that turned the army against me. So the scheme came
to nothing.

"This did one good thing, however, for it helped us on our way home.
Trapezus and the other colonies in the east of the Euxine did not relish
the idea of a new Greek city which might turn out to be a formidable
rival. So they offered to transport the army to the Hellespont and to
furnish pay from the first new moon after the departure. This seemed a
good offer, and I recommended the soldiers to close with it, and said
that I gave up my scheme. 'Only,' I said, 'let us all keep together and
let any one who leaves us be counted a malefactor.' For I did not choose
that my friend the soothsayer should get the better of it.

"Well, we set sail; our first halt was at Sinope, which is roughly
speaking, about halfway between Trapezus and Byzantium. Then the army
wanted to make me commander-in-chief. Happily the omen was against it,
and I was able to decline. We started again, and got to Heraclea. The
people were very hospitable; but some scoundrels in the army wanted to
lay a contribution upon the city. Chirisophus, the Spartan - I should
have told you that on my refusal the army gave him the chief
command - refused to have anything to do with such an abominable
business, and I backed him up. Of course the city shut its gates against
us, and we got nothing at all. After this the army broke up into three.
One of the divisions, made up of Arcadians and Achaeans, the most
unscrupulous and greedy of the whole number, got into serious trouble
when they were trying to plunder the country, and I had to rescue them,
for two thousand men had stuck to me when the army was thus broken up.
Then the other division under Chirisophus were nearly as badly off, and
I had to get them out of a scrape. After this they came together again,
and it was made a matter of death for anyone to propose a separation.

"It was well we did, for everyone seemed bent on treating us as
villanously as possible. Would you believe that the Spartan governor of
Byzantium actually sold as slaves four hundred soldiers who had found
their way into the city? It is true that they were stragglers and had no
business there; but it was an abominable act. At last, one Seuthes, who
had been chief of the Odrysians, and deposed by a usurper, offered to
take the whole army into his pay, if we would help him to recover his
dominions. Every man was to receive a stater[83] per month, the captains
twice, and the generals four times as much. Also he offered lands, oxen
to plough it with, and a city with walls. In fact the colony scheme
seemed likely to be carried out after all. To me he was very munificent
in his promises. I was to have one of his daughters to wife and a city
of my own."

"What did you say to that?" said Callias.

"Well, the only one of these things that Seuthes really had in his
possession was the daughter. I saw the young lady, handsome I will
allow, and tall; but, oh, such a savage! As for the money, and the land,
and the oxen, and the towns, walled and unwalled, we had to get them for
him and then have our portion back. However, it seemed to me the best
thing for the army to do, and I advised the men to that effect, and they
agreed, only it was provided that we were never to march more than seven
days' journey from the seacoast. We had all had enough of marches up
the country. Then Seuthes gave us a feast by way of striking the

"It was a wonderful scene, and some day I must tell you all about it.
But I must own that for a time I felt as uncomfortable as ever I did in
my life. After dinner when the bowl had passed round two or three times,
in came a Thracian leading a white horse. He took the bowl from the
cup-bearer, and said, 'Here is a health to thee, King Seuthes. Let me
give you this horse. Mounted on him thou shalt take whom thou wilt, and
when thou retirest from the battle thou shalt dread no pursuer.' Then
another gave a slave, and another some robes for the Queen, and a fourth
a silver saucer and a finely embroidered carpet. All the while I was
sitting in an agony, for I was in the place of honor, and had nothing to
offer. However 'our lady of Athens,' who is the inspirer of clever
devices, and, it may be Father Bacchus also, for I had drained two or
three cups, helped me out of my difficulty. When the cup-bearer handed
me the goblet, I rose and said, 'King Seuthes, I present you with myself
and these my trusty comrades. With their help you will recover the lands
that were your forefathers' and gain many new lands with them. Nor shall
you win lands only, but horses many, and men many, and fair women also.'
Up got the King, at this, and we drained the cup together.

"Seuthes was not going to let the grass grow under his feet. When we
left the banqueting tent - this was at sunset because we wanted to set
the guards about our camp - the King, who, for all his potations, was as
sober as a water-drinker, sent for the generals and said, 'My neighbors
have not yet heard of this alliance of ours. Let us go and take them by
surprise.' And so we did. We went that night and brought back booty

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 18 of 22)