John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 20 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 20 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

or rather to make the causeway, the works on the
mound where the pyramid stands, and the underground
chambers, which Cheops intended as vaults for his
own use ; these last were built on a sort of island,
surrounded by water introduced from the Nile by a
canal. The pyramid itself was twenty years in build-
ing. It is a square, eight hundred feet each way, and
the height the same, built entirely of polished stone,
fitted together with the utmost care. The stones oi"
which it is composed are none of them less than thirty
feet in length.

The pyramid was built in steps, battlement-wise, as


it is called, or, according to other, altar-wise. After
laying the stone for the base, they raised the remain-
ing stones to their places by means of machines
formed of short wooden planks. The first machine
raised them from the ground to the top of the first
step. On this there was another machine, which re-
ceived the stone upon its arrival and conveyed it to
the second step, whence a third machine advanced il
still higher. Either they had as many machines as
there were steps in the pyramid, or possibly they had
but a single machine, which, being easily moved, was
transferred from tier to tier as the stone rose — both
accounts are given, and therefore I mention both.
The upper portion of the pyramid was finished first,
then the middle, and finally the part which was lowest
and nearest the ground. There is an inscription in
Egyptian characters on the pyramid which records
the quantity of radishes, onions, and garlic consumed
by the laborers who constructed it; and I perfectly
well remember that the interpreter who read the writ-
ing to me said that the money expended in this way
was 1600 talents ^ of silver. If this, then, is a true
record, what a vast sum must have been spent on the
iron tools used in the work and on the feeding and
clothing of the laborers, considering the length of
time the work lasted, which has already been stated,
and the additional time — no small space, I imagine
— which must have been occupied by the quarrying
of the stones, their conveyance, and the formation of
the underground apartments. (^Book 11.^ Chapters

12Jf, 125.)

1 $1,600,000.



The Athenians were drawn up in order of battle in
a sacred close belonging to Hercules, when they were
joined by the Plataeans, who came in full force to their
aid. ...

The Athenian generals were divided in their opin-
ions ; and some advised not to risk a battle, because
they were too few to engage such a host as that of the
Medes ; while others were for fighting at once, and
among these last was Miltiades. He therefore, see-
ing that opinions were thus divided, and that the less
worthy counsel appeared likely to prevail, resolved to
go to the polemarch, and have a conference with him.
For the man on whom the lot fell to be polemarch at
Athens was entitled to give his vote with the ten gen-
erals, since anciently the Athenians allowed him an
equal right of voting with them. The polemarch at
this juncture was Callimachus of Aphidnae ; to him
therefore Miltiades went, and said : —

" With thee it rests, Callimachus, either to bring
Athens to slavery, or, by securing her freedom, to
leave behind thee to all future generations a memory
beyond even Harmodius and Aristogeiton.^ For never
since the time that Athenians became a people were
they in so great a danger as now. If they bow their
necks beneath the yoke of the Medes, the woes which
they will have to suffer when given into the power of
Hippias ^ are already determined on ; if, on the other
hand, they fight and overcome, Athens may rise to be

1 490 B. c. ^ See pag-e 50.

^ After his expulsion from Athens in 510 B. C. the tyrant Hippias
retired to the court of Darius in Asia Minor. He conducted this sec-
ond Persian expedition against the Greeks.


the very first city in Greece. How it comes to pass
that these things are likely to happen, and how the
determining of them in some sort rests with thee, I
will now proceed to make clear. We generals are
ten in number, and our votes are divided : half of us
wish to engage, half to avoid a combat. Now, if we
do not fight, I look to see a great disturbance at
Athens which will shake men's resolutions, and then
I fear they will submit themselves ; but if we fight
the battle before any unsoundness show itself among
our citizens, let the gods but give us fair play, and we
are well able to overcome the enemy. On thee there-
fore we depend in this matter, which lies wholly in
thine own power. Thou hast only to add thy vote to
my side and thy country will be free, and not free
only, but the first state in Greece. Or, if thou pre-
ferrest to give thy vote to them who would decline the
combat, then the reverse will follow."

Miltiades by these words gained Callimachus; and
the addition of the polemarch's vote caused the deci-
sion to be in favor of fighting. Hereupon all those
generals who had been desirous of hazarding a battle,
when their turn came to command the army gave up
their right to Miltiades. He, however, though he ac-
cepted their offers, nevertheless waited, and would not
fight, until his own day of command arrived in due

Then at length, when his own turn was come, the
Athenian battle was set in array, and this was the
order of it. Callimachus the polemarch led the right
wing, for it was at that time a rule with the Atheni-
ans to give the right wing to the polemarch. After
this followed the tribes, according as they were num-
bered, in an unbroken line ; while last of all came


the Plataeans, forming the left wing. And ever since
that day it has been a custom with the Athenians, in
the sacrifices and assemblies held each fifth year at
Athens, for the Athenian herald to implore the bless-
ing of the gods on the Plataeans conjointly with the
Athenians. Now as they marshalled the host upon
the field of Marathon, in order that the Athenian
front might be of equal length with the Median,^ the
ranks of the centre were diminished, and it became the
weakest part of the line, while the wings were both
made strong with a depth of many ranks.

So when the battle was set in array, and the vic-
tims showed themselves favorable, instantly the Athe-
nians, so soon as they were let go, charged the bar-
barians at a run. Now the distance between the two
armies was little short of eight furlongs. The Per-
sians, therefore, when they saw the Greeks coming
on at speed, made ready to receive them, although it
seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of their
senses, and bent upon their own destruction ; for they
saw a mere handful of men coming on at a run with-
out either horsemen or archers. Such was the opinion
of the barbarians ; but the Athenians in close array
fell upon them, and fought in a manner worthy of be-
ing recorded. They were the first of the Greeks, so
far as I know, who introduced the custom of charg-
ing the enemy at a run, and they were likewise the
first who dared to look upon the Median garb, and to
face men clad in that fashion. Until this time the
very name of the Medes had been a terror to the
Greeks to hear.

The two armies fought together on the plain of
Marathon for a length of time ; and in the mid battle,

^ Median and Persian were synonymous teima.


where the Persians themselves and the Sacae ^ had their
place, the barbarians were victorious, and broke and
pursued the Greeks into the inner country ; but on
the two wings the Athenians and the Plataeans de-
feated the enemy. Having so done, they suffered the
routed barbarians to fly at their ease, and joining the
two wings in one, fell upon those who had broken
their own centre, and fought and conquered them.
These likewise fled, and now the Athenians hung
upon the runaways and cut them down, chasing them
all the way to the shore, on reaching which they laid
hold of the ships and called aloud for fire.

It was in the struggle here that Callimachus the
polemarch, after greatly distinguishing himself, lost
his life ; Stesilaus too, the son of Thrasilaus, one of the
generals, was slain ; and Cynegirus,^ the son of Eu-
phorion, having seized on a vessel of the enemy's by
the ornament at the stern, had his hand cut off by the
blow of an axe, and so perished ; as likewise did many
other Athenians of note and name.

Nevertheless the Athenians secured in this way
seven of the vessels, while with the remainder the
barbarians pushed off, and taking aboard their Ere-
trian prisoners from the island where they had left
them, doubled Cape Sunium, hoping to reach Athens
before the return of the Athenians. The Alcmaeonidae
were accused by their countrymen of suggesting this
course to them ; they had, it was said, an understand-
ing with the Persians, and made a signal to them, by
raising a shield, after they were embarked in their

The Persians accordingly sailed round Sunium.
But the Athenians with all possible speed marched

^ See page 253, note 3. ^ A brother of the poet Aeschylus.


away to the defence of their city, and succeeded im
reaching Athens before the appearance of the barbari-
ans ; and as their camp at Marathon had been pitched
in a precinct of Hercules, so now they encamped in an-
other precinct of the same god at Cynosarges. The
barbarian fleet arrived, and lay to off Phalerum,^ which
was at that time the haven of Athens ; but after rest-
ing awhile upon their oars,^ they departed and sailed
away to Asia.

There fell in this battle of Marathon, on the side
of the barbarians, about six thousand and four hun=
dred men ; on that of the Athenians, one hundred and
ninety-two. Such was the number of the slain on the
one side and the other. A strange prodigy likewise
happened at this fight. Epizelus, the son of Cupha-
goras, an Athenian, was in the thick of the fray, and
behaving himself as a brave man should, when sud=
denly he was stricken with blindness, without blow of
sword or dart, and this blindness continued thenceforth
during the whole of his after life. The following is
the account which he himself, as I have heard, gave
of the matter : he said that a gigantic warrior, with a
huge beard, which shaded all his shield, stood over
against him, but the ghostly semblance passed him
by, and slew the man at his side. Such, as I under-
stand, was the tale which Epizelus told.

1 The bay of Phalerum is nearer Athens than the Piraeus, hut is
not so well sheltered nor so deep.
j^ 2 Better, perhaps, " lying at anchor ofE Phalerum for a while."


" Thucydides," says Sir Richard Jebb, " was the great-
est historian of antiquity, and, if not the greatest that ever
lived, as some have deemed him, at least the historian whose
work is the most wonderful, when it is viewed relatively to
the age in which he did it."

He was born in Athens not earlier than 470 B. c, and
possibly not before 455. By family ties he was brought
into connection with Cimon, the son of Miltiades, and other
men who were shaping the events of his time, — the bril-
liant period of the Periclean age. The^^turning point of his
life came in 424 b. c, when he was one of the Athenian
generals in the Peloponnesian war. While he was in com-
mand of the fleet off the Thracian coast, the Spartan general
Brasidas surprised and captured Amphipolis, the stronghold
of the Athenian possessions in northern Greece. Thucydi-
des arrived with the fleet just too late to save the city.
Whether his delay was excusable or not is uncertain, but
at any rate he was held responsible for the disaster, and
was deprived of his command. For twenty years, until
the close of the war in 403 b. c, he lived in exile, spending
much of his time in travel. He visited the homes of the
Peloponnesian allies, and was thus enabled to view the war
from the Spartan as well as the Athenian standpoint. He
himself speaks of the increased leisure for studying events
which his banishment secured to him, and the opportunity
it offered for gathering materials for his history from com-
batants in both armies. In 403 B. c. he returned to Athens
for a short time, but soon retired to his property in Thrace,


where he worked at his history until his death, not far from
398 B. c.

At the very outset of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
foresaw that the struggle would be of great importance,
and he planned to give a complete account of it from its be-
ginning in 431 B. c. to the end. At his death, however, his
history had reached only the twenty-first year of the war.
His aim was " to preserve an accurate record of the war
not only in view of the intrinsic interest and importance of
the facts, but also in order that these facts might be perma-
nent sources of political teaching to posterity." He hoped,
as he himself tells us, that his history would be of profit to
*' those who desire an exact knowledge of the past as a key
to the future, which in all probability will repeat or resem-
ble the past. The work is meant to be a possession for-
ever, not the rhetorical triumph of an hour."

The following passages are from Jowett's translation.


The prosperity of Athens during the age of Pericles increased
the jealousy of her sister states, and from this arose the long
struggle known as the Peloponnesian War. The immediate
cause of conflict was the help given by Athens to Corcyra in a
war against Corinth. Corinth enlisted Megara and Sparta on
her side and declared war against Athens in 431 b. c.

As soon as summer returned/ the Peloponnesian
army, comprising as before two thirds of the force
of each confederate state, under the command of the
Lacedaemonian king Archidamus, the son of Zeuxi-
damus, invaded Attica, where they established them-
selves and ravaged the country. They had not been
there many days when the plague broke out at Athens
for the first time. A similar disorder is said to have
previously smitten many places, particularly Lemnos,

1 This was in 430 b, c.


but there is no record of such a pestilence occurring
elsewhere, or of so great a destruction of human life.
For a while physicians, in ignorance of the nature of
the disease, sought to apply remedies ; but it was in
vain, and they themselves were among the first victims,
because they oftenest came into contact with it. No
human art was of any avail, and as to supplications in
temples, inquiries of oracles, and the like, they were
utterly useless, and at last men were overpowered by
the calamity and gave them all up.

The disease is said to have begun south of Egypt
in Aethiopia; thence it descended into Egypt and
Libya, and after spreading over the greater part of the
Persian empire, suddenly fell upon Athens. It first
attacked the inhabitants of the Piraeus, and it was
supposed that the Peloponnesians had poisoned the
cisterns, no conduits having as yet been made there.
It afterwards reached the upper city, and then the
mortality became far greater. As to its probable
origin or the causes which might or could have pro-
duced such a disturbance of nature, every man, whether
a physician or not, will give his own opinion. But I
shall describe its actual course, and the symptoms by
which any one who knows them beforehand may re-
cognize the disorder should it ever reappear. For I
was myself attacked, and witnessed the sufferings of

The season was admitted to have been remarkably
free from ordinary sickness ; and if anj^body was al°
ready ill of any other disease, it was absorbed in this.
Many who were in perfect health, all in a moment,
and without any apparent reason, were seized with
violent heats in the head and with redness and inflam-
mation of the eyes. Internally the throat and the


tongue were quickly suffused with blood, and the
breath became unnatural and fetid. There followed
sneezing and hoarseness ; in a short time the disorder,
accompanied by a violent cough, reached the chest ;
then fastening lower down, it would move the stomach
and bring on all the vomits of bile to which physicians
have ever given names ; and they were very distressing.
An ineffectual retching, producing violent convulsions,
attacked most of the sufferers ; some as soon as the
previous symptoms had abated, others not until long
afterwards. The body externally was not so very hot
to the touch, nor yet pale ; it was of a livid color in-
clinino" to red, and breaking out in pustules and ulcers.
But the internal fever was intense ; the sufferers could
not bear to have on them even the finest linen gar-
ment ; they insisted on being naked, and there was
nothing which they longed for more eagerly than to
throw themselves into cold water. And many of
those who had no one to look after them actually
plunged into the cisterns, for they were tormented by
unceasing thirst, which was not in the least assuaged
whether they drank little or much. They could not
sleep ; a restlessness which was intolerable never left
them. While the disease was at its height the body,
instead of wasting away, held out amid these sufferings
in a marvellous manner, and either they died on the
seventh or ninth day, not of weakness, for their strength
was not exhausted, but of internal fever, which was
the end of most ; or, if they survived, then the disease
descended into the bowels and there produced violent
ulceration ; severe diarrhoea at the same time set in,
and at a later stage caused exhaustion, which finally,
with few exceptions, carried them off. For the dis-
order which had originally settled in the head passed


gradually through the whole body, and, if a person got
over the worst, would often seize the extremities and
leave its mark, attacking the fingers and the toes ;
and some escaped with the loss of these, some with
the loss of their eyes. Some again had no sooner re-
covered than they were seized with forgetfulness of all
things and knew neither themselves nor their friends.

The malady took a form not to be described, arid
the fury with which it fastened upon each sufferer was
too much for human nature to endure. There was
one circumstance in particular which distinguished it
from ordinary diseases. The birds and animals which
feed on human flesh, although so many bodies were
lying unburied, either never came near them, or died
if they touched them. This was proved by a remark-
able disappearance of the birds of prey, who were not
to be seen either about the bodies or anywhere else ;
while in the case of the dogs the fact was even more
obvious, because they live with man.

Such was the general nature of the disease : I omit
many strange peculiarities which characterized indi-
vidual cases. None of the ordinary sicknesses at-
tacked any one while it lasted, or, if they did, they
ended in the plague. Some of the sufferers died from
want of care, others equally who were receiving the
greatest attention. No single remedy could be deemed
a specific ; for that which did good to one did harm
to another. No constitution was of itself strong
enough to resist or weak enough to escape the attacks ;
the disease carried off all alike, and defied every mode
of treatment. Most appalling was the despondency
which seized upon any one who felt himself sickening ;
for he instantly abandoned his mind to despair, and,
instead of holding out, absolutely threw away his


chance of life. Appalling too was the rapidity with
which men caught the infection ; dying like sheep if
they attended on one another ; and this was the prin-
cipal cause of mortality. When they were afraid to
visit one another, the sufferers died in their solitude,
so that many houses were empty because there had
been no one left to take care of the sick; or if they
ventured they perished, especially those who aspired
to heroism. For they went to see their friends with-
out thought of themselves and were ashamed to leave
them, even at a time when the very relations of the
dying were at last growing weary and ceased to make
lamentations, overwhelmed by the vastness of the ca-
lamity. But whatever instances there may have been
of such devotion, more often the sick and the dying
were tended by the pitying care of those who had re-
covered, because they knew the course of the disease
and were themselves free from apprehension. For no
one was ever attacked a second time, or not with a
fatal result. All men congratulated them, and they
themselves, in the excess of their joy at the moment,
had an innocent fancy that they could not die of any
other sickness.

The crowding of the people out of the country into
the city aggravated the misery, and the newly arrived
suffered most. For, having no houses of their own,
but inhabiting in the height of summer stifling huts,
the mortality among them was dreadful, and they per-
ished in wild disorder. The dead lay as they had
died, one upon another, while others hardly alive wal-
lowed in the streets and crawled about every fountain
craving for water. The temples in which they lodged
were full of corpses of those who died in them ; for
the violence of the calamity was such that men, not


knowing where to turn, grew reckless of all law, hu-
man and divine. The customs which had hitherto been
observed at funerals were universally violated, and
they buried their dead each one as best he could.
Many, having no proper appliances, because the
deaths in their household had been so frequent, made
no scruple of using the burial-place of others. When
one man had raised a funeral pile, others would come,
and throwing on their dead first, set fire to it ; or when
some other corpse was already burning, before they
could be stopped would throw their own dead upon it,
and depart.

There were other and worse forms of lawlessness
which the plague introduced at Athens. Men who
had hitherto concealed their indulgence in pleasure
now grew bolder. For, seeing the sudden change, —
how the rich died in a moment, and those who had
nothing immediately inherited their property, — they
reflected that life and riches were alike transitory, and
they resolved to enjoy themselves while they could,
and to think only of pleasure. Who would be willing
to sacrifice himself to the law of honor when he knew
not whether he would ever live to be held in honor ?
The pleasure of the moment and any sort of thing
which conduced to it took the place both of honor and
of expediency. No fear of God or law of man de-
terred a criminal. Those who saw all perishing alike,
thought that the worship or neglect of the Gods made
no difference. For offences against human law no
punishment was to be feared ; no one would live long
enough to be called to account. Already a far heav-
ier sentence had been passed and was hanging over
a man's head ; before that fell, why should he not
take a little pleasure ?


Such was the grievous calamity which now afflicted
the Athenians ; within the walls their people were
dying, and without, their country was being ravaged.
In their troubles they naturally called to mind a verse
which tiie elder men among them declared to have
been current long ago : —

" A Dorian war will come and a plague with it."

There was a dispute about the precise expression ;
some saying that limos, a famine, and not loimos^ a
plague, was the original word. Nevertheless, as might
have been expected, for men's memories reflected
their sufferings, the argument in favor of loimos pre-
vailed at the time. But if ever in future years an-
other Dorian war arises which happens to be accom-
panied by a famine, they will probably repeat the
verse in the other form. The answer of the oracle
to the Lacedaemonians when the God was asked
" whether they should go to war or not," and he re-
plied, " that if they fought with all their might, they
would conquer, and that he himself would take their
part," was not forgotten by those who had heard of
it, and they quite imagined that they were witnessing
the fulfilment of his words. The disease certainly did
set in immediately after the invasion of the Pelopon-
nesians, and did not spread into Peloponnesus in any
degree worth speaking of, while Athens felt its rav-
ages most severely, and next to Athens the places
which were most populous. Such was the history of
the plague. (^Booh 11.^ Chapters 47-^4\)



Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 20 of 29)