George Grote.

A history of Greece: from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great online

. (page 32 of 62)
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within it; having, doubtless, gone thither imme- '**"*•

diately from the assembly, where their presence (at least the

presence of the Prytanes, or Senators of the presiding tribe) was

essential as legal presidents. They had to deliberate what they

would do under the decree just passed, which divested them of

all authority. It was even possible that they might organize

armed resiBtance; for which there seemed more than usual

facility at the present moment, since the occupation of Dekeleia

by the Lacedemonians kept Athens in a condition like that of a

permanent camp, with a large proportion of the citizens day and

night under arms.* Against this chance the Four Hundred made

proviaioiL They selected that hour of the day when the greater

number of citizens habitually went home (probably to their

morning meal), leaving the military station, with the arms piled

and ready, under comparatively thin watch. While the general

body of hoplitee left the station at this hour according to the

usual practice, the hoplites (Andrian, Tenian, and others) in the

immediate confidence of the Four Hundred were directed by

private order to hold themselves prepared and in arms at a little

distance off ; so that if any symptoms should appear of resistance

being contemplated, they might at once interfere and forestall it

Having taken this precaution, the Four Hundred marched in a

1 Qx the strikiog paaiage (Thmeyd. place and carrying them home— in the

▼iiL 92) cited in my preTiooe note. Lysistrata 560 ; a comedy represented

s See the jests of Aristophante, aboat December, 412, or January, 411,

about the citizens all in armour buy- B.C, three months earlier than the

ing thiir proTisIons in the market- events here narrated.

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body to the Senate-honse, each man with a dagger concealed under
his garment, and followed by their special body-gaard of 120
young men from various Grecian cities— the instruments of the
assassinations ordered by Antiphon and his colleagues. In this
array they marched into the Senate-house, where the senators
were assembled, and commanded them to depart ; at the same
time tendering to them their pay for all the remainder of the
year (seemingly about three months or more down to the begin-
ning of Hekatombseon, the month of new nominations) during
which their functions ought to have continued. The senators
were noway prepared to resist the decree just passed under the
forms of legality, with an armed body now arrived to enforce its
execution. They obeyed and departed, each man as he passed the
door receiving the salary tendered to him. That they should
yield obedience to superior force under the circumstances can
excite neither censure nor surprise ; but that they should accept
from the hands of the conspirators this anticipation of an un-
earned salary was a meanness which almost branded them as
accomplices, and dishonoured the expiring hour of the last demo-
cratical authority. The Four Hundred now found themselYes
triumphantly installed in the Senate-house. There was not die
least resistance, either within its walls, or even without, by any
portion of the citizens.^

Thus perished, or seemed to perish, the democracy of AthoM,
Remarks on *^^ ^"^ uninterrupted existence of nearly one hun-
tiiiBTOTola- dred years since the revolution of Eleisthends. So
incredible did it appear that the numerous, intelligent,
and constitutional citizens of Athens should suffer their liberties
to be overthrown by a band of four hundred conspirators, while
the great mass of diem not only loved the democracy, but had
arms in their hands to defend it, that even their enemy and
neighbour Agis at Dekeleia could hardly imagine the revolution
to be a fetct accomplished. We shall see presently that it did not
stand — nor would it probably have stood, had drcumstancee even
been more favourable — ^but the accomplishment of it at all is an
incident too extraordinary to be passed over without some words
in explanation.

We must remark that the tremendous catastrophe and loss of
1 Thucyd. Tiii. 09, 70.

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blood in Sicily had abated the energy of the Athenian character
generally, bnt especially had made them despair of their foreign
relations ; of the possibility that they could make head against
enemies, increased in number by revolts among their own allies,
and farther sustained by Persian gold. Upon this sentiment of
despair is brought to bear the treacherous delusion of AUdbiad^
offering them the Persian aid ; that is, means of defence and
success against foreign enemies, at the price of their democracy.
Reluctantly the people are brought, but they a/n brought, to
entertain Uie preposition : and thus the conspirators gain their
first capital point — of familiarizing the people with the idea of
such a change of constitution. The ulterior success of the con-
spiracy — when all prospect of Persian gold, or improved foreign
position, was at an end — is due to the combinations, alike
nefarious and skilful, of Antiphon, wielding and organizing the
united strength of the aristocratical classes at Athens ; strength
always exceedingly great, but under ordinary circumstances
working in fractions disunited and even reciprocally hostile to
each other — ^restrained by the ascendant democratical institutions
— and reduced to corrupt what it could not overthrow. Aj^ti-
phon, about to employ this anti-popular force in one systematic
scheme and for the accomplishment of a predetermined purpose,
keeps still within the same ostensible constitutional limits. He
raises no open mutiny : he maintains inviolate the cardinal point
of Athenian politicsd morality— respect to the decision of the
senate and political assembly, as well as to constitutional maxims.
But he knows well that the value of these meetings, as political
aecurities, depends upon entire freedom of speech ; and that if
that freedom be suppressed, the assembly itself becomes a nullity
— or rather an instrument of positive imposture and mischief.
Accordingly, he causes all the popular orators to be successively
assassinated, so that no man dares to open his mouth on that side ;
while, on the other hand, the anti-popular speakers are all loud
and confident, cheering one another on, and seeming to represent
all the feeling of the persons present By thus sUencing each
individual leader, and intimidating every opponent from standing
forward as spokesman, he extorts the formal sanction of the
assembly and the senate to measures which the large majority of
the citizens detest That majority, however, are bound by their

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own oQDstitational forms : and when the dedsion of these, bj

whatever means obtained, is against them, they have neither the

inclination nor the courage to resist In no part of the world

has this sentiment of constitutional duty and submission to the

▼ote of a legal minority been more keenly and universally felt

than it was among the citizens of democratical Athens.^ Anti-

phon thus finds means to employ the constitutional sentiment of

Athens as a means of killing the constitution : the mere empty

form, after its vital and protective efficacy has been abstracted,

remains simply as a cheat to paralyze individual patriotism.

It was this cheat which rendered the Athenians indisposed to

. ^ ^ ^ stand forward with arms in defence of that democracy
Atuichin6iit ^>ii 11* 1 1

tooonstita- to which they were attached. Accustomed as they

^x"^^!^ were to unlimited pacific contention within the

use ma^ of bounds of their constitution, they were in the highest

mentby degree averse to anything like armed intestine

todM^ contention. This is the natural effect of an

the ran- established fi^ee and equal polity — to substitute the

contests of the tongue for those of the sword, and

sometimes even to create so extreme a disinclination to the

latter, that if liberty be energetically assailed, the counter-energy

necessary for its defence may probably be found wanting. So

difficult is it for the same people to have both the qualities

requisite for making a free constitution work well in ordinary

times, together with those very different qualities requisite for

upholding it against exceptional dangers and under trying

emergencies. None but an Athenian of extraordinary ability

like Antiphon would have understood the art of thus making

the constitutional feeling of his countrymen subservient to the

success of his conspiracy — and of maintaining the forms of legal

dealing towards assembled and constitutional bodies, while he

violated them in secret and successive stabs directed against

individuals. Political assassination had been unknown at Athena

(as iiEur as our Information reaches) since the time when it was

employed about fifty years before by the oligarchical party

against Ephialtds, the coadjutor of Perikl^' But this had been

1 This striking sod deep-seated (HistGr. ch.xiz.Bect

regard of the Aiheniaiu for aU the > See Plutarch, Periklte, e. 10: Die-

forma of an eetabllshed conetitntion ddr. id. 77; and chap. xM, of this

makes itself fUt STen by Mr. Mitf ord History.

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an individaal case, and it was reserved for Antiphon and
Phrynichns to organize a band of assasmnB working systematically,
and taking off a series of leading victims one after the other. As
the Macedonian kings in aftertimes required the surrender of the
popular orators in a body, so the authors of this conspiracy found
the same enemies to deal with, and adopted another way of
getting rid of them ; thus reducing the assembly into a tame and
lifeless mass, capable of being intimidated into giving its
collective sanction to measures which its large majority detested.

As Grecian history has been usually written, we are instructed
to believe that the misfortunes, and the corruption,
and the degradation of the democratical states, were coffue* ttb
brought upon them by the dass of demagogues, of Jlf i?**"
whom KleOn, Hyperbolus, Androkl^, &c., stand forth ooant«r-
as specimens. These men are represented as mischief utithMii
makers and revilers, accusing without just cause, and Jjj^jjj^^
converting innocence into treason.

Now the history of this conspiracy of the Four Hundred
presents to us the other side of the picture. It shows that the
political enemies — against whom the Athenian people were
protected by their democratical institutions, and by the
demagogues as living organs of those institutions — ^were not
fictitious but dangen>usly real It reveals the continued
existence of powerful anti-popular combinations, ready to come
together for treasonable purposes when the moment appeared
safe and tempting. It manifests the character and morality of
the leaders, to whom the direction of the anti-popular force
naturally feU. It proves that these leaders, men of uncommon
ability, required nothing more than the extinction or silence of
the demagogues, to be enabled to subvert the popular securities,
and get possession of the government We need no better proctf
to teach us what was the real function and intrinsic necessity of
these demagogues in the Athenian system ; taking them as a
dass, and apart from the manner in which individuals among
them may have performed their duty. They formed the vital
movement of all that was tutelary and public-spirited in
democracy. Aggressive in respect to official delinquents, they
were defensive in respect to the public and the constitution. If
that anti-popular force, which Antiphon found ready-made, had

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not been efficient^ at a much earlier moment, in stifling the
democracy, it was because there were demagogues to cry aloud,
as well as assemblies to hear and sustain them. If Antiphon's
conspiracy was successful, it was because he knew where to aim
his blows, 80 as to strike down the real enemies of the oligarchy
and the real defenders of the people. I here employ the term
demagogues because it is that commonly used by those who
denounce the class of men here under review : the proper neutral
phrase, laying aside odious associations, would be to call them
poptdar speakers or opposition speakers. But by whatever name
they may be called, it is impossible rightly to conceive their
position in Athens, without looking at them in contrast and
antithesis with those anti-popular forces against which they
formed the indispensable barrier, and which come forth into such
manifest and melancholy working under the organizing hands of
Antiphon and Phr3rnichus.

As soon as the Four Hundred found themselves formally
PfQ^,^^!,^ installed in the Senate-house, they divided themselves
H*^(^«d^ by lot into separate Prytanies (probably ten in
in the number, consisting of forty members each, like the

goyemment f^^.^^^. ^^^^ ^^ ^^^ Hundred, in order that the

distribution of the year to which the people were accustomed
might not be disturbed), and then solemnized their installation
by prayer and sacrifice. They put to deatb some political
enemies, though not many : they further imprisoned and
banished others, and made large changes in the administration of
affairs, carrying everything with a strictness and rigour unknown
under the old constitution.^ It seems to have been proposed
among them to pass a vote of restoration to all persons under
sentence of exile. But this was rejected by the majority, in
order that Alkibiad^ might not be among the number ; nor did
they think it expedient, notwithstanding, to pass the law,
reserving him as a special exception.

They further despatched a messenger to Agis at Dekeleia,
intimating their wish to treat for peace, which (they affirmed) he
ought to be ready to grant to them, now that *^the fiaithlees
Demos " was put down. Agis, however, not believing that the

1 Thncyd. viii 70. I imajdne that ^r^ M iXXa htfiov wrA mpimt rV
this must be the mfianlng of the words ir^Aiv.

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Athenian people would thus submit to, be deprived of tbeir
liberty, anticipated that intestine dissension would ^^

certainly break out or at least that some portion of oTertoras
the Long Walls would be found unguarded, should a %g^^
foreign army appear. While, therefore, he declined to ^Jj^
the overtures for peace, he at the same time sent for ^
reinforcements out of Peloponnesus, and marched with a
considerable army, in addition to his own garrison, up to the
very walls of Athens. But he found the ramparts carefully
manned : no commotion took place within : even a sally was
made in which some advantage was gained over him. He
therefore speedily retired, sending back his newly-arrived
reinforcements to Peloponnesus ; while the Four Hundred, on
renewing their advances to him for peace, now found themselves
much better received, and were even encouraged to despatch
envoys to Sparta itself.*

As soon as they had thus got over the first difficulties, and
placed matters on a footing which seemed to promise Thay send
stability, they despatched ten envoys to Samos. Seaiiijpat
Aware beforehand of the danger impending over S«no«.
them in that quarter from the known aversion of the soldiers and
seamen to anything in the nature of oligarchy, they had
moreover just heard, by the arrival of Chaereas and the Paralus, of
the joint attack made by the Athenian and Samian oligarchs, and
of its complete failure. Had this event occurred a little earlier,
it might perhaps have deterred even some of their own number
firom proceeding with the revolution at Athens — which was
rendered thereby almost sure of failure, from the first Their
ten envoys were instructed to represent at Samos that the recent
oligarchy had been established with no views injurious to the
city, but on the contrary for the general benefit ; that though
the Council now installed consisted of Four Hundred only, yet
the total number of partisans who had made the revolution and
were qualified citizens under it was Five Thousand ; a number
greater (they added) than had ever been actually assembled in the
Pnyx under the democracy, even for the most important debates,'

1 Thaeyd. tUL 71. aiaemblies, has been sometiines died

> Thacyd. lill 7S. Thia allflgation, as if it carried with it the antborM^ of

reapecting the number of dtizens who Tbucydidte, whidi ia a neat miatake.

attended in the Athenian democratical duly pointed ont by all toe beat reoeni

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in conaeqnence of the unavoidable absenoee of numerous indiTi-
duals on military service and foreign traveL

What satisfaction might have been given, by this allusion to
First newB the fictitious Five Thousand, or by the fisllacious
reT^atioo I'^ferenoe to the numbers, real or pretended, of the
fa conreyed past democratical assemblies — ^had these envoys carried
by Chiereu to Samos the first tidings of the Athenian revolution —
J^^SSij we cannot say. They were forestalled by Chaereas the
In^cMBp officer of the Paralus ; who, though the Four Hundred
Knr tried to detain him, made his escape and hastened to

Hundred. Samos to commuuicate the fearful and unexpected
change which had occurred at Athens. Instead of hearing that
change described under the treacherous extenuations prescribed
by Antiphon and Phrynichus, the armament first learnt it from
the lips of Chssreas, who told them at once the extreme truth,
and even more than the truth. He recounted with indignation
that every Athenian, who ventured to say a word against the
Four Hundred rulers of the city, was punished with the scourge
—that even the wives and children of persons hostile to them were
outraged — ^that there was a design of seidng and imprisoning the
relatives of the democrats at Samos, and putting them to death if
the latter refused to obey orders from Athens. The simple
narrative, of what had really occurred, would have been quite
sufficient to provoke in the armament a sentiment of detestation
against the Four Hundred. But these additional details of
Chsereas, partly untrue, filled them with uncontrollable wrath,
which they manifested by open menace against the known
partisans of the Four Hundred at Samos, as well as against those
who had taken part in the recent oligarchical conspiracy in the

erf ties. It Is simply the allegation of ticnlar decrees of the assembly''. It

the Fonr Hundred, whose testimonv, seems to me however quite poHlUe,

as a gnaauDtee for truth, is worth little that in cases where this large number

enough. of votes was required, as in the

"" ' " where there was no

That no assembly had ever been at- ostracism, and

mded hj so many as 6000 (w^ tntwort) discussion carr

certainly am far from believing. It before the votl

Is not improbable, however, that 6000 voting may have lasted some boon.

tended b^ so mMiy as 6000 (ova<iiWror«) diacussion canted on inune^Uat^

_ ay have lasted some Iwan,
was an unusually large number of Uko oor keeping open of a polL

dtixens to attend. Dr. Arnold, in his So that though more than 6000

note, o p poses the allegation, in part) citizens must have wtsd altogetber.

by remarking that " the law required it was not neeessaiy that all should

not only the presenos bnt the sanction have been present in ^*^ ~~

el at least OOOO eltlsens to some par> — *''~

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Chap. LXIL DSMOCRATIO oath at BAJfOb. 875

island. It was not without difficulty that their hands were
arrested by the more reflecting citizens present^ who remonstrated
against the madness of such disorderly proceedings when the
enemy was dose upon them.

But though violence and aggressiye insult were thus seasonably
checked, the sentiment of the armament was too Aidentde-
ardent and unanimous to be satisfied without some J^^jJ^^
solemn, emphatic, and decisiye declaration against the tion. a^
oligarchs at Athens. A great democratical manifesta- Si^, taken
tion, of the most earnest and imposing character, was ^the^an^
proclaimed, chiefly at the instance of Thrasybulus '^"|g|^'^^
and ThrasyDus. The Athenian armament, brought and by the
together in one grand assembly, took an oath by the SamJane.
most stringent sanctions— To maintain their democracy — To
keep up friendship and harmony with each other — To carry on
the war against the Peloponnesians with energy — ^To be at
enmity with the Four Hundred at Athens, and to enter into no
amicable communication with them whatever. The whole
armament swore to this compact with enthusiasm, and even
those who had before taken part in the oligarchical movements
were forced to be forward in the ceremony.^ What lent double
force to this touching scene was, that the entire Samian popula-
tion, every male of the military age, took the oath along with the
friendly armament fioth pledged themselves to mutual fidelity
and common suffering or triumph, whatever might be the issue
of the contest Both felt that the Peloponnesians at Miletus and
the Four Hundred at Athens were alike their enemies, and that
the success of either would be their common ruin.

Pursuant to this resolution — of upholding their democracy and
at the same time sustaining the war against the Peloponnesians,
at all cost or peril to themselves — ^the soldiers of the armament
now took a step unparalleled in Athenian history. Feeling

wpmt ifSi| it imuuHtpaTUof fiowMiuvoi Zofumv wAjmt tir ovrbr hpitȴ ot

IMr«m|««A rk hf ri 'Xifnf o r9 ^pawi* ^^^ ^Auirift, KmX ra wpiiffimTti w^a

fievkat Koi OpaovAAov »pKmva» wmmt «Bi ra ciro^i|a6|Mva ht rwr Kivirivuw

re^ •TparutfTot rovf ^Mvttfrov* fipcovf, ^vtKoumvmvro el vrpartMrot rott

Aicra, 4 1*^ ivuu>Kpariiv9O0ai ecu ^/t/opm' rpo^i^r trmnipimt ofrrc v^iViv ctvot,

i^^yw, KmX rhv wp6t ncAovormfO-Myvf AAA' Mr rt ot rcrpwttftftoi Kprnriwrnviv

vaAcfuir vpeM|UK iioimiWy icmi T«t« rt- 4av rt •£ 4« litA^rov voA^puoc, ftia4#«-

tpwcoaioit voAcfuot t« fvtvdai ««4 ovd^r pti<rt99mi.

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that they could no longer receive orders ^m Athens nnder her
ji^ present oligarchical rulers, with whom Charmtnus

Athenian and Others among their own leaders were implicated,
is^Bco?^ they constituted themselves into a sort of community
by^^d^ apart, and held an assembly as citizens to choose anew
*nnanient— their generals and trierarchs. Of those already in
Msembiv of command, several were deposed as unworthy of
— n^'*^*" trust ; others being elected in their places, especially
ffenemis Thrasybulus and Thrasyllus. The assembly was
not held for election alone. It was a scene of
effusive sympathy, animating eloquence, and patriotism generous
as well as resolute. The united armament felt that they were
the real Athens — ^the guardians of her constitution^the upholders
of her remaining empire and glory— the protectors of her cituens
at home against those conspirators who had intruded themselves
wrongfully into the Senate-house — ^the sole barrier, even for those
conspirators themselves, against the hostile Peloponnesian fleet.
^^The city has revolted from ii«" (exclaimed rhrasybulus and
others in pregnant words which embodied a whole tiain of
feeling).^ ** But let not this abate our courage : for they are
only the lesser force ; we are the greater and the self-sufficing.
We have here the whole navy of the state, whereby we can
ensure to ourselves the contributions from our dependencies just
as well as it we started from Athens. We have the hearty
attachment of Samos, second in power only to Athens herself
and serving as a military station against the enemy, now as in
the past We are better able to obtain supplies for ourselves
than those in the city for themselves ; for it is only through our
presence at Samos that they have hitherto kept the month of
Peirseus open. If they refuse to restore to us our democratical
constitution, we shall be better able to exclude them from the
sea than they to exclude us. What indeed does the city do now
for us to second our efforts against the enemy ? Little or nothing.
We have lost nothing by their sepaiation. They send us no pay,
they leave us to provide maintenance for ourselves, they are now
out of condition for sending us even good counsel, which is the

1 Thneyd ▼ML 7S.

Online LibraryGeorge GroteA history of Greece: from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great → online text (page 32 of 62)