Telemachus Thomas Timayenis.

A history of Greece from the earliest times to the present online

. (page 27 of 38)
Online LibraryTelemachus Thomas TimayenisA history of Greece from the earliest times to the present → online text (page 27 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

computation. In other words, the empire suffered by this
epidemic its severest wound ; it lost a fifth if not a fourth
of its entire military force. "We may also remark, with
Grote, that amid all the melancholy accompaniments of the
time there were no human sacrifices, such as those offered up
at Carthage* during pestilence to appease the anger of the

* Carthaginienses, cum inter cetera mala etiam peste laborarent, cruent4
sacrorum religione, ei scelcre pro remedlo, usi sunt : quippe homines ut Tic-
timas inmiolabant ; pacem deorum sanguine eonim exposcentes, pro quomm
vitk Dii rogari maxime solent (.fustin, xyiil, 6.)

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


gois ; there were no cruel persecutions against imaginary
authors of the disease, such as those against the XJntori
(anointers of doors) in the plague of Milan in 1630.

The army of the Lacedsemonians, fearing lest it should
he attacked by the disease, retreated precipitately from
Attica. But while the LacedsBmonians were still in Atti-
ca, and during the early stage of the plague, Perikles had
started with one hundred and fifty triremes and a large num-
ber of hoplites and horsemen to ravage the coasts of Pelo-
ponnesus. On his return he dispatched this force under
other generals to Macedonia, in order to effect the capture
of Potid»a. This fieet not only accomplished nothing of
importance, but communicated the distemper to the soldiers
at Potidaea, who had before been free from it. A great loss
of life was the result, so that the armament returned in a
pitiable condition to Athens, where the state of affairs was
equally desperate.

Zast Days of Perikles.

The Peloponnesians, availing themselves of the sufferings
of their enemies, now sought every opportunity to inflict
upon them greater losses than before. Death, sickness, and
loss of property wellnigh crushed the spirit of that long-
suffering people ; and in their dispirited condition they sent
ambassadors of peace to Sparta. The Athenians no doubt
felt that they would have fought to the end against their
enemies, but not against destiny. The Spartans turned a
deaf ear to these propositions, and a general uprising both
of the rich and poor took place at Athens against Perikles,
as the foremost cause of these evils. Then shone forth in all
its brilliancy the majestic character of that indomitable man.
Calling an assembly of the people, he addressed them like a
king rather than a citizen, as the father of his country rather
than as its servant.

Thucydides has preserved the arguments and the haughty

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


style of this speech ; but he could not reproduce the tones,
the proud and resolute bearing of the orator, and the impres*
sion which it made on the audience. The irresistible logic
and the earnest and eloquent appeal of Perikles to the patri-
otism of his audience must have deeply affected the assem-
bled people. Though mowed down by the pitiless disease,
they were none the less persuaded by the words of Perikles,
and decided to follow up the war persistently.

But no power of eloquence can long master the force of
facts ; and shortly after the Athenians, oppressed by their
misfortunes, again attacked Perikles. His political oppo-
nents, Eleon, Simmias, and Lakratidas, availing themselres
of the popular feeling, entered a suit against him, on the
ground of mismanagement of the public funds, and brought
about his condemnation and a verdict of a fine, variously
stated by different authors at fifteen, fifty, and eighty tal-

While as citizen and statesman he calmly submitted to
this terrible trial, his physical nature now succumbed to the
most frightful sufferings. The pestilence, which spared no
one, carried away many of his best friends and many of his
relatives, including his sister and his sons Xauthippus and
Paralus. He who had so many times insisted upon courage
and fortitude in his fellow citizens, and had shown himself
worthy of his words, when he saw his dear son Paralus dead,
and had drawn near in order to place a wreath on that be-
loved head, could not restrain himself, and, for the first time
in his life, wept bitterly.

The people, who saw how much inferior were his succes-
sors, again created him general in September of 430 b. c, and
trusted him with the supreme management of all affairs. But
that long and glorious life, which had passed its sixtieth year
entirely devoted to the service of his country, was already
approaching its end. He lived about one year longer, but ap-
pears to have accomplished little during this time. He died

Digitized by VjOOQ iC


in the aatomn of 429 b. c, of slow fever, which gradually
wasted away his power. The disease and his many mental
sufferings overcame his reason itself. But even through this
darkness the soul-power of the man shone at intervals. It is
said that during his last moments, while the best of citizens
and of friends were sitting around his bed, conversing on his
extraordinary virtue and the great authority he had enjoyed,
and enumerating his various exploits and the number of his
victories, supposing that he did not know what they said, he
suddenly interrupted them by remarking : '' I am surprised
that you mention and extol those acts of mine which, being
partly works of fortune, were achieved even by other gen-
erals ; while you take no notice of the greatest and most
honorable part of my career — ^that no Athenian, through my
acts, has ever put on mourning.*' *

The state of public affairs soon showed the want of Peri-
kles, and the Athenians openly expressed their regret for his
loss. In his mild, dispassionate behavior, his unblemished
integrity, and irreproachable conduct during his whole ad-
ministration, he stands without a parallel in Hellenic history.

The political career of Perikles was contemporaneous
with the last days of the glory of Athens and its first signs
of decline. Various and antagonistic opinions prevail re-
specting the character and deeds of the man. Athens and
all Hellas certainly owed much to his genius, but at the same
time he was not blameless for the misfortunes which befell
her later. Though the constitution of Perikles may be cen-
sured in several respects, nevertheless his name will ever
recall the most glorious epoch of ancient Hellenic history.
Perikles may be regarded as the prototype of the perfect
public man of Athens. Themistokles was perhaps a greater
politician ; Eimon, a greater general ; Demosthenes, a greater
orator ; but Perikles alone was at once a statesman, general,
and orator. Combining these advantages, he was before the

♦Plutarch, "Perikles."

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


public for forty years, duiing fifteen of which he ruled the
city. The career of the other eminent men of Athens, from
Miltiades to Phokion, was in some way or other suddenly

Be it remembered, also, that Perikles did not retain his
exalted position by favoring the multitude or acting the part
of a demagogue, but by imposing obedience upon them, the
more admirable since his power was linked with the truest
liberty. He did not create a new constitution, like Solon ;
nor a new city, like Themistokles ; nor a new supremacy,
like Eimon. But he accomplished things far greater and
more admirable. He regulated and maintained the constitu-
tion in its supremacy, and adorned the city with those mas-
terpieces, sufficient in themselves to render the Hellenic name



Savage Character of the War.

In January, 429 b. c, the Athenians became masters of
Potidsea. The Peloponnesians laid siege to Platsea in March
of that year, and forced it to surrender in the spring of 427.
In the mean while Lesbos revolted from the Athenians, but,
although a Peloponnasian fleet came to its assistance, it was
finally subdued. In Eorkyra, also, the aristocrats, hoping
by the assistance of the Peloponnesians to overcome the
democrats, f heir opponents, attacked the latter, and for some
time seemed to have succeeded in their revolutionary move-
ment. But, finally, a strong Attic fleet came up, and they
were completely routed in 425.

At first sight, therefore, the Athenians seemed trium-

Digitized by VjOOQ iC


phant. But their affairs were not so flourishing as might
appear. The recapture of Potidaea indeed balanced the loss
of Plat«ea ; but the repeated revolutions of Lesbos and Kor-
kyra demonstrated anew the impending dangers, which if
multiplied could scarcely be overcome. In the fourth year
of the war, out of the revenue of six thousand talents, five
thousand had been spent, and to meet the expenses of the
siege of Mitylene the Athenians were compelled to raise a
new tax of two hundred talents. They dispatched a division
of their fleet to the coast of Asia, to plunder for the sake of
procuring money.

While the Peloponnesians were without doubt stronger
by land, they did not remain idle on the sea. They not only
sent assistance over to Lesbos and Korkyra, but even dared
to wage a naval battle against Phormio, the most renowned
Athenian commander of those times. It is true that on these
occasions the Peloponnesians were not successful, but in suf-
fering defeat they were under constant drill, and by means
of this drill they might finally become victors, even on that
element where the Athenians had hitherto deemed themselves

But the greatest misfortune was, that from the beginning
the war had assumed a savage and revengeful character.
The Plateeans did not hesitate to put to death the hundred
and eighty captured Thebans. The Peloponnesians, again
becoming masters of that city, put to death all her greatest
leaders, two hundred Plat«eans and twenty-five Athenians,
made slaves of the women, and surrendered the city to the
ferocity of the Thebans, who razed it to the ground and rented
out the land. The Athenians recaptured Mitylene, and de-
cided to kill all the men and sell as slaves all the women and
children. On the following day they rescinded this cruel
resolution, which would have raised against them through-
out Hellas the most deadly exasperation, and decided to in-
flict punishment only on those who were the first cause of

Digitized by VjOOQ iC


the uprising ; jet the men thus slaughtered were more than
one thousand in number. The Athenians, not satisfied with
the expulsion of the ^ginetans, sailed in 424 n, c. to Thyrea,
and, having sacked and plundered this new asylum of those
unfortunate people, conyeyed them back to Athens and killed
them all.

Thus the war was daily becoming more murderous. Be-
sides those who fell in battle, all captives were usually put
to death. Taking into consideration the fact that the an-
cient Hellenic communities were composed of only a few
thousand citizens, we can more readily estimate their loss.
But this loss, however great it may be regarded, was insigni-
ficant compared with the terrible anarchy and degradation
which the nation suffered. In every city there were two
political parties, the aristocrats and the democrats^ — ^the for-
mer favored by the Lacedaemonians, the latter by the Athe-
nians. These two factions lost to a great degree their civil
character, and assumed the aspect of contesting armies.
Hence two kinds of civil war resulted in Hellas : one general,
between the Athenians and their allies and the Spartans and
their allies ; another, or rather numberless others, between the
aristocrats and democrats. The law-abiding community, the
growth of so many centuries, had almost lost its former
peaceful character, and Hellas ran the risk of returning to a
more lawless and unsettled state than that which prevailed
during the heroic age. Law no longer existed ; authority be-
came vested in the strong and villainous ; private contracts
were openly violated, and family ties were disregarded. As
wickedness was sustained in its lawless career by reasoning,
so words themselves lost their usual meaning, and the ora-
torical art strove by every sophistry to represent the just as
unjust, and the unjust as just. Such circumstances arise un-
der similar conditions in all nations. Thucydides, whose his-
toric and prophetic genius knew how to judge the present
and discern the future, says that " such things are likely to

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


occur 80 long as human nature shall be the same as it is
now." * Let us bear in mind the tragical scenes which oc-
curred in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a. d. on
account of religious disputes in England, Holland, France,
and Spain ; and going back to more ancient times, we find
that the Carthaginians and the Jews, not satisfied with plun-
der, confiscation, and slaughter, increased the sufferings of
their victims by impalement, mutilation, and other like tor-

Seizure qfJh/los,

In 425 B. c. an event occurred which was the preparation
for a cessation of hostilities. Early in the spring of that year
the Peloponnesians, under King Agis, son of Arcfaidamus,
penetrated into Attica, as was their custom. We say, as was
their custom, because almost from the very beginning of the
war they annually repeated this incursion. In the sixth
year of the war numerous earthquakes were felt at Athens,
in Eubcea, and in Boeotia, and especially near Orchomenus,
which deterred the Lacedaemonians from invading Attica.
In the seventh year the incursion did not last long — ^hardly
fifteen days — ^partly because it took place very early in the
season, so that the army, on account of the com not being
ripe, was deprived of food ; partly because unusually se-
vere weather set in ; and partly because the Lacedajmonians,
and Agis the king, received information which compelled
them to hasten their return.

About the time of the invasion of the Lacedsemonians,
forty ships had sailed from the PeiraBus, under command of
Eurjrmedon and Sophokles, to the assistance of the adherents
of the Athenians in Sicily. This naval division was also
ordered, on passing Korkyra, to assist the democrats there,
who during that epoch had not yet entirely overcome their
opponents. These were the chief purposes for which this

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


naval division was sent forth, bat the following unexpected
event occurred during the expedition :

There was then at Athens a military man, Demosthenes,
confessedly the most competent general of the Athenians at
that time, and a man of the highest genius. Demosthenes
had in the previous year eminently distinguished himself in
western Hellas. Hence his influence at Athens was great.
This general now conceived the daring plan, doubtless in
unison with the Messenians in Naupaktus, of seizing upon
some spot in Messenia, and thence, in concert with the Mes-
senians and other slaves of Sparta, to fight the Lacedaemo-
nians in their own territory, and thus paralyze all their for-
eign projects. This great undertaking, destined to bring
about such serious results, and which it is strange, as we
have before remarked, that neither Perikles nor any one else
at Athens had thought of until the seventh year, did not
even then obtain any great attention in that city. No spe-
cial army was appointed for this work, but Demosthenes waa
permitted to join the expedition, and to employ the fleet in
any descent which he might think expedient on the coast
of Peloponnesus. When the fleet reached the southwestern
coast of Laconia, opposite Pylos, Demosthenes proposed to
the two generals that they should plant his little fort on this
ground, and then proceed on their voyage. They refused to
carry out this proposition, when, fortunately, a storm arose,
which compelled them to seek refuge in Pylos — ^the modem
bay of Navarino.* This harbor, formed almost in the shape
of a crescent, is fronted and protected by the island of Sphsck-
teria or Sphagia, " untrodden and full of woods." This islet
stretches in a line with the harbor, and close outside of it,
forming two narrow entrances, the one on the north and the

* Who of the modern Greeks is not familiar with this harbor, where, on
the 8th of October, 182'7, the fleets of England, France, and Russia, having
routed the united Turco-Egyptian force, sanctified by the blood of the best
nations the autonomy of modem Hellas ?

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


other on the soath. Both entrances have in the course of
time suffered some material change.* The opposite Pelo-
ponnesian coast, which in the Homeric years was so splendid
by reason of the then flourishing Pylos, was now uninhabited
and barren, owing to the tyranny of the Lacedsemonians,
who had driven away the inhabitants and eradicated every
trace of industry and agriculture.

Demosthenes took advantage of the storm that drove the
fleet into this harbor to renew his proposition, but the gen-
erals again opposed him, saying that the Peloponnesus had
many desert capes, which he could occupy if he wished to
expend the money of the city. It seemed very improbable
that Demosthenes would be able to maintain his ground on
Spartan territory, against the overwhelming superiority of
the Lacedsemonian land force. The storm, however, con-
tinued for several days, and the soldiers, becoming weary
of forced idleness, were seized with a spontaneous impulse
to erect for themselves a fortification. Thus a small fort
was temporarily raised at a short distance from the northern
or narrowest of the two channels. The ground selected was
most suitable, both on account of its naturally fortified ap-
pearance, and because there was a spring of good water in
the center of the promontory. The work was complete in
six days, and then Eurymedon, leaving Demosthenes with
five ships, sailed for Korkyra.

This fortification, completed with so much negligence
and ill feeling, was destined from the very first to secure the
nleans of safety to the Athenians. We have seen that King
Agis hastened to return home with all the Peloponnesian

* To^ay the southern entrance has a width of nearly three quarters of a
mile, and a depth of water varying from five to thirty-three fathoms ; while,
according to Thucydides, its width in his time was so small that but ei^t
or nine triremes could enter in a parallel line. The width of the northern
entrance is now about four hundred and twenty-fivc foot, and the depth of
water inconsiderable ; but formerly, according to Thucydidcs, two triremes
could enter thereby, which presupposes a much deeper channel

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


army, as soon as he was informed of the daring occupation
of Pylos ; at the same time, the fleet of the Peloponnesians,
which had been sent to Korkyra to sustain the aristocrats, was
ordered to report as soon as possible at Pylos. Thus both
the Athenians and their allies were immediately relieved of
their enemies. But, on the other hand, the situation of
Demosthenes assumed a desperate aspect, because, with five
triremes and a few volunteer Messenians, he saw from his
little fort forty-three ships of the enemy entering the har-
bor, and the coast lined with warriors ready to punish the
insolence of those who had dared to desecrate their sacred soil.
Demosthenes, however, lost none of his courage, but with
becoming spirit and wisdom prepared for defense. He sent
two of his five ships to Eurymedon, entreating immediate
succor ; at the same time he directed his attention to the
plan of assault, expected from the sea, because it appears
that he had safely fortified the front toward the continent
and harbor.

The cphora immediately dispatched four hundred and
twenty Spartans to the island of Sphakteria to prevent the
Athenian fleet, which was hourly expected, from assisting
the garrison ashore. They now rushed daringly upon the
coast, above which the little fort rose, defended by sixty
Athenian hoplites and a few bowmen, whom they expected
to overcome with ease. The coast, however, was covered
with rugged cliffs, and there was but one very narrow passage
by which the ships could approach. Now, since only a few
could make a simultaneous attack, while Demosthenes could
mass all his force at this very point, the struggle became less
unequal than might at first be imagined. The Peloponnesian
ships strove to effect a landing, but were fiercely repelled by
the Athenians. In vain did squadron after squadron advance
to the assault ; in vain did the gallant Brasidas indignantly
call to his men not to be chary of ship-timber, and suffer
the enemy to build a fort in their own country. He called

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


upon them to shatter their ships upon the rocks if neces-
sary, but, in any case, to effect a landing. Following up his
words with deeds, he rushed on ; but the moment he set
foot on land, he was wounded by the Athenian defenders,
and fell back fainting on the vessel. His shield rolled over-
board into the sea, and was captured by his enemies, who
deemed it one of the most glorious trophies of their daring
deed. The Peloponnesians rushed madly onward to avenge
the fall of their gallant officer, but fell back before the vic-
torious bravery of Demosthenes and his little band.

After two days of unsuccessful attacks, the Pelopon-
nesians ceased fighting, and on the third day sent to Asine
in the Messenian Gulf for timber to construct battering
machines. But in the mean time the Athenian fleets under
command of Eurymedon, returned from Zakynthus. On its
departure from Pylos it had been reinforced by four Chian
ships and some of the guard-ships at Naupaktus, so that now
it mustered fifty sail. The Athenians at first proposed to
fight on the open sea ; but seeing that the enemy did not
come to meet them, they entered the harbor by both channels,
vanquished the Peloponnesians, and drove them back to
the shore with serious injury. The LacedsBmonians, realizing
that their fellow citizens in Sphakteria were thus at the
mercy of the Athenians, strove again and again to sally
forth. A terrible engagement ensued within the harbor, in
which the Athenians were finally victorious. When the
news reached Sparta, the emergency was deemed so grave,
since many of the hoplites in Sphakteria belonged to the first
families in the city, that the ephors came in person to the
spot. Seeing that there was no hope left for the prisoners,
the magistrates sought an armistice in order to allow time to
send ambassadors to Athens and treat for peace.

Eurymedon and Demosthenes accepted the proposition,
and agreed upon an armistice on terms most unsatisfactory
to the Lacedemonians. All the triremes, not only in the

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


harbor, but in all the remaining ports of Laconiay numbering
sixty, were surrendered to the Athenians, to hold until the
envoys should return from Athens. The Athenians, in re-
turn, promised to send to the Spartans in the island a stipu-
lated quantity of provisions.

Athenian DemagogueB.

We may well imagine what a stir there was at Athens
when the ship which brought the news and the envoys of the
LacedsBmonians reached the Peiraeus. ^ The sudden arrival
of such prodigious intelligence,'* remarks a historian, " the
astounding presence of Lacedsemonian envoys, bearing the
olive-branch and in an attitude of humiliation, must have
produced in the susceptible public of Athens emotions of the
utmost intensity; an elation and confidence such as had
probably never been felt since the reconquest of Samos."

Fortune had not accustomed the Athenians to such pros-
perous events. The burning of the splendid edifices of At-
tica, the plague which had mowed down the inhabitants, the
humiliation which they had suffered by submitting proposals
of peace to which the Spartans gave no heed, the destruction
of their most ancient and faithful allies the Plataeans, the
expenditure of the reserved fund, the revolt of Lesbos, their
strongest ally — all these events were calculated to render the
citizens anxious concerning the issue of this terrific combat ;
when suddenly, as if by miracle, or rather by the wisdom
and daring of one man, they saw the haughty Spartans, the
greatest power in Hellas, humbled at their feet. A more
favorable circumstance could not have offered by which they
might be honorably delivered from so many evils, and, with-
out further sacrifices, enahled to recover their former pros-
perity. And yet the Athenians did not improve the oppor-

Online LibraryTelemachus Thomas TimayenisA history of Greece from the earliest times to the present → online text (page 27 of 38)