George Grote.

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

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1 Xenopb. Hollen. 11. 4, 4S ; Justin, Kar«A. 'AvoA. ■. 11— «:«1 M otnvtt rwr
T. 11. I do not comprehend the 'VAntvlvai^ avoypaJrait^vw^, ift\96vr^
alliuion in "LytHsLMt Orat. zxv., Aiy^ rift^ vfi^v, ivoXiopicovpro iut avrmv.

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not displayed a combinatioQ of military energy, naTal diacipliiie,
power of organization, and honoarable devotion to a great Paa-
Hellenic parpoee, such as had never been witnaned in Qreciaa

The confederacy of Ddloe was formed by the free and spon-
taneoos association of many different towns, all alike indepen-
dent : towns which met in synod and deliberated by equal vote
— ^took by their majority resolutions binding upon all — and
chose Athens as their chief to enforce these resolutiows as well
as to superintend generally the war against the common enemy.
But it was, from the b^inning, a compact which permanently
bound each individual state to the remainder. None had liberty
either to recede or to withhold the contingent imposed by autho-
rity of the common synod, or to take any separate step incon-
sistent with its obligations to the confederacy. No union less
stringent than this could have prevented the renewal of Persian
ascendency in the Mge&u, Seceding or disobedient states were
thus treated as guilty of treason or revolt, which it was the duty
of Athens, as chief, to repress. Her first repressionsi against
Naxos and other states, were undertaken in prosecution of such
duty ; in which, if she had been wanting, the confederacy would
have fallen to pieces, and the common enemy would have reap-

Now the only way by which the confederacy was saved from
felling to pieces was by being transformed into an Athenian
empire. Such transformation (as Thucydides plainly intimates')
did not arise from the ambition or deep-laid projects of Athens,
but from the reluctance of the larger confederates to dischai^ge
the obligations imposf^i by the common synod, and from the un-
warlike character of the confederates generally, which made
them desirous to commute military service for money-payment,
while Athens on her part was not less anxious to perform the
service and obtain the money. By gradual and unforeseen stages,
Athens thus passed from consulate to empire ; in such manner
that no one could point out the precise moment of time when
the confederacy of Delos ceased, and when the empire be^^an.
Even the transfer of the common fund from Ddlos to Athens,
which was the palpable manifestation of a change already rea-
1 Thucyd. L W.

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lized, was not an act of bigh-handed injustice in the Athenians,
but warranted by prudential views of the existing state of affairs,
and even proposed by a leading member of the confederacy.*

But the Athenian empire came to include (between 460 — 446
B.a) other cities not parties to the confederacy of D^lot. Athens
had conquered her ancient enemy the island of .£gina, and had
acquired supremacy over Megara, Boeotia, Phokis, and Lokris,
and Achaia in Peloponndsus. The Meganans joined her to escape
tfip oppression of their neighbour Corinth : her influence over
Boeotia was acquired by allying herself with a democratical party
in the Boeotian cities against Sparta, who had been actively in-
terfering to sustain the opposite party and to renovate the ascen-
dency of Thibee. Athens was, for the time, successful in all
these enterprises ; but if we follow the details, we shall not find
her more open to reproach on the score of aggressive tendencies
tlian Sparta or Corinth. Her empire was now at its maximum ;
and had she been able to maintain it — or even to keep possession
of the Megarid separately, which gave her the means of barring
out all invasions from Peloponndsus — the future course of Grecian
history would have been materially altered. But her empire on
land did not rest upon the same footing as her empire at sea. The
exiles in Megara and Boeotia, &c., and the anti-Athenian party
generally in those places— combined with the rashness of her
general Tolmid^ at Koroneia— deprived her of all her land-
dependencies near home, and even threatened her with the loss
of Euboea. The peace concluded in 445 B.a left her with all her
maritime and insular empire (including Euboea), but with no-
thing more ; while, by the loss of Megara, she was now open to
invasion from Peloponn^iis.

On this footing she remained at the beginning of the Pelopon-
nesian war fourteen years afterwards. I have shown that that
war di«1 not arise (as has been so often asserted) from aggressive
or ambitious schemes on the part of Athens, but that, on the
contrary, the aggression was all on the side of her enemies, who
were full of hopes that they could put her down with little
delay ; while she was not merely conservative and defensive, but
even discouraged by the certainty of destructive invasion, and
only dissuaded fi-om concessions, alike imprudent and inglorious,
1 Sue oh. xlT. of this History.

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by the extraordinary influence and resolute wisdom of PerikleeL
That great man comprehended well both the conditions and the
limits of Athenian empire. Athens was now understood (espe-
cially since the revolt and reconquest of the powerful island of
Samos in 440 B.a} by her subjects and enemies, as well as by her
own citizens, to be mistress of the sea. It was the care of
Perikl^ to keep that belief within definite boundaries, and to
prevent all waste of the force of the city in making new or distant
acquisitions which could not be permanently maintoined. But
it was also his care to enforce upon his countrymen the lesson of
maintaining their existing empire unimpaired, and shrinking
from no effort requisite for that end. Though their whole empire
was now staked upon the chances of a perilous war, he did not
hesitate to promise them success, provided that they adhered t»
this conservative policy.

Following the events of the war, we shall find that Athens did
adhere to it for the first seven years — ^years of suffering and trialt
from the destructive annual invasion, the yet more destructive
pestilence, and the revolt of MitylSnd— but years which still left
her empire unimpaired, and the promises of Periklte in hit
chance of being realized. In the seventh year of the war occurred
the unexpected victory at Sphakteria and the capture of the
Lacedemonian prisoners. This placed in the hands of the Athe-
nians a capital advantage, imparting to them prodigious confi-
dence of future success, while their enemies were in a proportional
degree disheartened. It was in this temper that they first de-
parted from the conservative precept of Perikl^ and attempted
to recover (in 424 B.O.) both Megara and Bceotia. Had the great
statesman been alive,i he might have turned this moment of
superiority to better account, and nii^ht perhaps have contrived
even to get possession of Megara (a point of unspeakable import-
ance to Athens, since it protecteil her against invasion) in ex-
change for the Spartan captives. But the general feeling of con-
fidence which then animated all parties at Athens determined
them (in 424 B.a) to grasp at this and much more by force. They
tried to reconquer both Megara and Boeotia : in the former they
fiuled, tbou<;h succeeding so far as to capture Nissea ; in the latter
they not only failed, but suffered the disastrous defeat of Deliom.
1 See ch. Hi. of thia History.

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Chap. LXV. THK PEL0P0NNB8IAN WAR, B.a 482-420. 503

It was in the autumn of that same year 424 aa, too, that
Brasidas broke into their empire in Thrace, and robbed tbem of
Akanthus, Stageira, and some othei towns, including their most
precious possession — Amphipolis. Again it seems that the
Athenians — partly from the discouragement caused by the
disaster at Delium, partly from the ascendency of Kikias and
the peace party — departed from the conservative policy of
Perikl^; not by ambitious over-action, but by inaction— omit-
ting to do all that might have been done to arrest the progress
of Brasidas. We must, however, never forget that their capital!
loss, Amphipolis, was owing altogether to the improvidence of
their officers, and could not have been obviated even by Periklfis.

But though that great man could not have prevented the loss,
he would assuredly have deemed no efforts too great to recover
it ; and in this respect his policy was espoused by Kledn, in oppo-
sition to Nikias and the peace party. The latter thought it wise
to make the truce for a year : which so utterly fiailed of its effiect^
that Nikias was obliged, even in the midst of it, to conduct an
armament to PallSnd in order to preserve the empire against yet
further lossea Still Nikias and his friends would hear of nothing
but peace ; and after the expedition of KleOn against AmphipoUs
in the ensuing year (which failed partly through his military in-
capacity, partly through the want of hearty concurrence in his
political opponents), they concluded what is called the peace of
Nikioi in the ensuing spring. In this, too, their calculatioiis are
not leas signally falsified than in the previous truce : they stipu-
late that Amphipolis shall be restored, but it is as far from being
restored as ever. To make the error still graver and more irre-
parable, Nikias, with the concurrence of AlkibiadSs, contracts
the alliance with Sparta a few months after the peace, and gives
up the captives, the possession of whom was the only hold which
Athens still had upon the Spartans.

We thus have, during the four years succeeding the battle of
Delium (424—420 aa), a series of departures from the conserva-
tive policy of PeriklSs— departures not in the way of ambitious
over-acquisition, but of languor and unwillingness to make efforts
even for the recovery of capital losses. Those who see no defects
in the foreign policy of the democracy, except those of over-am-
bition and love of war, pursuant to the jeute of Aristophanes,

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overlook altogether these opposite but eerioM blanderB of KikiM
and the peace-party.

Next comes the ascendency of Alkibiadds, leading to the two
years' campaign in Peloponn^us in conjunction with Elis, Argoii
and liantineia, and ending in the eomplete re-establLshment of
Lacediemonian supremacy. Here was a diversion of Athenian
force from its legitimate purpose of preserving op re-esUbli«hiiig
the empire, for inland projects which Periklfie could never have
approved. The island of MSlos undoubtedly fell within his
general conceptions of tenable empire for Athens. But we may
regard it as certain that he would have recommended no new
projects, exposing Athens to the reproach of injustice, so long as
the lost legitimate possessions in Thrace remained onoonqnered.

We now come to the expedition against Syracuse. Down to
that period, the empire of Athens (except the puasessions in
Thrace) remained undiminished, and her general power nearly
as great as it had ever been since 445 B.a That expedition was
the one great and fatal departure from the Periklean policy,
bringing uptm Athens an amount of disaster from which she
never recovered. It was doubtless an error of over-ambition.
Acquisitions in Sicily, even if made, lay out of the condiuontf of
permanent empire for Athens ; and however imposing the first
effect of success might have been, they would only have dissemi-
nated her strength, multiplied her enemies, and weakened her in
all quarters. But though the expedition itself was thus indis-
putably ill-advised, and therefore ought to count to the discredit
of the public judgment at Athens — we are not to impute to that
public an amount of blame in any way commensurate to the
magnitude of the disaster, except in so fkr as they were guilty of
unmeasured and unconquerable esteem for Nikias. Though
Perikl^ would have strenuously opposed the project, yet he
could not possibly have foreseen the enormous ruin in which it
would end ; nor could such ruin have been brought about by any
man existing, save Nikias. Even when the people committed
the aggravated imprudence of sending out the second expedition,
Demosthends doubtless assured them that he would speedily
either take Syracuse or bring back both armaments, with a fair
allowance for the losses inseparable from failure ; and so he would
have done, if the obstinacy of Nikias had permitted. In measor-

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ing, therefore, the extent of misjudgment fairly imputable to the
Athenians for this ruinous undertaking, we must always recollect
that first the failure of the siege, next the ruin of the armament,
did not arise from intrinsic difficulties in the case, but from the
pergonal defects of the commander.

After the Syracusan disaster, there is no longer any question
about adhering to, or departing from, the Periklean policy.
Athens is like Patroklus in the Iliad, after Apollo has stunned
him by a blow on the back and loosened his armour. Nothing
but the slackness of her enemies allowed her time for a partial
lecoTery, so as to make increased heroism a substitute for im-
paired force, even against doubled and tripled difficulties. And
the years of struggle which she now went through are among
the most glorious events in her history. These years present
many misfortunes, but no serious misjudgment ; not to mention
one peculiarly honourable moment^ after the overthrow of the
Four Hundred. I have in the two preceding chapters examined
into the blame imputed to the Athenians for not accepting the
overtures of peace after the battle of Kyzikus, and for dismissing
AlkibiailSs after the battle of Notium. On both points their
conduct has been shown to be justifiable. And after all, they
were on the point of partially recovering themselves in 408 b.c^
when the unexpected advent of Cyrus set the seal to their destiny.

The bloodshed after the recapture of Mityl^d and Ski6n^ and
still more that which succeeded the capture of Meloe, are dis-
graceful to the humanity of Athens, and stand in pointed contrast
with the treatment of Snmos when reconquered by Perikl^
But they did not contribute sensibly to break down her power ;
tliongh being recollected with aversion after other incidents were
forgotten, they are alluded to in later times as if they had caused
the fall of the empire.*

I have thought it important to recall, in this short summary,
the leailing events of the seventy years preceding 406 B.C., in
onler that it may be understood to what degree Athens was
politically or prudentially to blame for the great downfall which
she then underwent Her downfall had one great cause— we may

1 This I apprehend to haye been ia vpo «-rar« vctr % «4Aic iertpi^ r^
the mind of 2Lenoph6n— De BeditibnSt «pxn«« Ac.

V. tJ. cmiT*, «irei itfii*^ aya.¥ 66 (aam,

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almost saj one single cause — the Sicilian expedition. The empire
of Athens both was, and appeared to be, in exuberant strength
when tliat expedition was sent forth — strength more tlian
Aufficient to bear up against all moderate faults or moderate
misfortunes, such as no government ever long escapes. But the
catastrophe of Syracuse was something overpassing in terrific
calamity all Grecian experience and all power of foresight. It
was like the Russian campaign of 1812 to the Emperor Napoleon;
though by no means imputable, in an equal degree, to vice in
the original project No Grecian power could bear up against
such a death- wound ; and the prolonged struggle of Athens after
it is not the least wonderful part of the whole war.

Nothing in the political histoiy of Greece is so remarkable as
the Athenian empire ; taking it as it stood in its completeness,
from about 460 — 413 B.a (the date of the Syracusan catastropheX
or still more, from 460 — 424 B.a (the date when Brasidas made
his conquests in Thrace). After the Syracusan catastrophe, the
conditions of the empire were altogether changed ; it was
irretrievably broken up, though Athens still continued an
energetic struggle to retain some of the fragments. But if we
view it as it had stood before that event, during the period of its
integrity, it is a sight marvellous to contemplate, and its working
must be pronounced, in my judgment, to have been highly
beneficial to the Grecian world. No Grecian state except Athens
could have sufficed to organize such a system, ot to hold, in
partial, though regulated, continuous and specific communion, so
many little states, each animated with that force of political
repulsion instinctive in the Grecian mind. This was a mighty
task, worthy of Athens, and to which no state except Athens was
competent We have already seen in part, and we shall see still
further, how little qualified Sparta was to perform it ; and we
shall have occasion hereafter to notice a like fruitless essay on the
part of Thebes.

As in regard to the democracy of Athens generally, so in
regard to her empire^it has been customary with historians to
take notice of little except the bad side. But my conviction is,
and I have shown grounds for it in Chap. xlviL, that tlie empire
of Athens was not haiuh and oppressive, as it is commonly
depicted. Under the circumstances of her dominion — at a time

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when the whole transit and commerce of the .£gean was under
one maritime system, which excluded all irregular force— when
Persian ships of war were kept out of the waters, and Persian
tribute officers away from the seaboard — when the disputes
inevitable among so many little communities could be peaceably
redreseed by the mutual right of application to the tribunals at
Athens ; and when these tribunals were also such as to present
to sufferers a refuge against wrongs done even by indindual
citizens of Athens herself (to use the expression of the oligarchical
Phrynichus*) — ^the condition of the maritime Greeks was ma-
terially better than it had been before, or than it will be seen to
become afterwards. Her empire, if it did not inspire attachment,
certainly provoked no antipathy among the bulk of the citizens
of the subject-communities, as is shown by the party character of
the revolts against her. If in her imperial character she exacted
obedience, she also fulfilled duties and ensured protection — ^to a
degree incomparably greater than was ever realized by Sparta.
And even if she had been ever so much disposed to cramp the free
play of mind and purpose among her subjects— a disposition
which is no way proved — the veiy circumstances of her own
democracy, with its open antithesis of political parties, universal
liberty of speech, and manifold individual energy, would do
much to prevent the accomplishment of such an end, and would
act as a stimulus to the dependent communities even without her
own intention.

Without being insensible either to the faults or to the misdeeds
of imperial Athens, I believe that her empire was a great com-
parative benefit, and its extinction a great loss to her own
subjecta. But still more do I believe it to have been a good,
looked at with reference to Pan-hellenic interests. Its main-
tenance furnished the only possibility of keeping out foreign
intervention, and leaving the destinies of Greece to depend upon
native, spontaneous, untrammeled Grecian agencies. The down-
fall of the Athenian empire is the signal for the arms and
eorruption of Persia again to make themselves felt, and for the
re-enslavement of the Asiatic Greeks under her tribute officers.
What is still worse, it leaves the Grecian world in a state in-
capable of repelling any energetic foreign attack, and open to the
1 Thucyd. viii. 48.

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overruling march of ^ tlie man of Macedon ** half a century after-
wards. For snch was the natural tendency of the Qrecian world
to political non-integration or disintegration, that the rise of the
Athenian empire, incorporating so many states into one system, is
to be regarded as a most extraordinary accident Nothing but
the genius, energy, discipline, and democracy of Athens could
have brought it about ; nor even she, unless favoured and pushed
on by a very peculiar train of antecedent events. But having
once got it^ she might perfectly well have kept it ; and, had she
done so, the Hellenic world would have remained so organised
%s to be able to repel foreign intervention, either from Susa or
from Pella. When we reflect how infinitely superior was the
Hellenic mind to that of all surrounding nations and races ; how
completely its creative agency was stifled, as soon as it came
under the Macedonian dictation ; and how much more it might
perhaps have achieved if it had enjoyed another century or half-
century of freedom, under the stimulating headship of the most
progressive and most intellectual of all its separate communities—
we shall look with double regret on the ruin of the Athenian
empire, as accelerating, without remedy, the universal ruin of
Grecian independence, political action, and mental grandeur.

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Thv period intenrening between the defeat of .^ospotami
(October, 406 B.a), and the re-establishment of the Mtoembie
democracy as sanctioned by the convention concluded Jf "jjfjjjjj'jj,
with Paiisanias (some time in tlie summer of 403 RC), dnring the
presents two years of cruel and multifarious suffering pT^^^edinf
to Athens. For seven years before — indeed, ever since y**"-
the catastrophe at Syracuse— she had been stmti^gling with hard-
ships—contending against augmented hostile force while her own
means were cut down in every way— crippled at home by the
garrison of Dekeleia — stripped to a great degree both of her tribute
and her foreign trade — and beset by the snares of her own oli-
garchs. In spite of circumstances so adverse, she had maintained
the tight with a resolution not less surprising than admirable ;
yet not without sinking more and more towards impoverisliment
and exhaustion. The defeat of iBgospotami closed tlie war at
once, and transferred her from her period of struggle to one of
eoncluding agony. Nor is the last word by any means too strong
for the reality. Of these two years, the first portion was marked
by severe physical privation, passing by degrees into absolute
famine, and accompanied by the intolerable sentiment of despair
and helplessness against her enemies, after two generations of
imperial grandeur — not without a strong chance of being finally
consigned to ruin and individual slarery ; while the last portion
comprised all the tyranny, murders, robberies, and expulsions
perpetrated by the Thirty, overthrown only by heroic efforts of
patriotism on the part of the exiles — which a fortunate change of
sentiment, on the part of Pausanias and the leading members

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of tlie Peloponnedan confederacy, ultimately crowned with

After such years of misery, it was an unspeakable relief to the
Immediate "A-tlienian population to regain possession of Athens
relief and Attica ; to exchange their domestic tyrants for a

the reetora- renovated democratical government ; and to see their
uDaidmoiis foreign enemies not merely evacuate the country, but
•Mitiment even bind themselves by treaty to future friendly
renewed dealing. In respect of power, indeed, Athens was but
democracy- the shadow of her former self. She had no empire^
no tribute, no fleets no fortifications at Peiraeus, no long walls^
not a single fortified place in Attica except the city itself. Of aU
these losses, however, the Athenians probably made little ac-
count, at least at the first epoch of their re-establishment ; so in-
tolerable was the pressure which they had just escaped, and so
welcome the restitution of comfort, security, property, and inde-
pendence at home. The very excess of tyranny committed by
the Thirty gave a peculiar zest to the recovery of the democracy.
In their hands, the oligarchical principle (to borrow an expres-
sion from Mr. Burke ') ** had produced in fact and instantly the
grossest of those evils with which it was pregnant in its nature" ;
realizing the promise of that plain-spoken oligarchical oath,

Online LibraryGeorge GroteA history of Greece: from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great → online text (page 57 of 62)