A Smaller History of Greece
A history of Greece from the earliest times to the Roman conquest.
from the earliest times to the Roman conquest.
by William Smith (1813 - 1893), D.C.L., LL.D.
In this Etext, some of the orthography has been changed.
SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF GREEK LITERATURE FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE REIGN OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
The Greeks possessed two large collections of epic poetry. The one comprised poems relating to the great events and enterprises of the Heroic age, and characterised by a certain poetical unity; the other included works tamer in character and more desultory in their mode of treatment, containing the genealogies of men and gods, narratives of the exploits of separate heroes, and descriptions of the ordinary pursuits of life. The poems of the former class passed under the name of Homer; while those of the latter were in the same general way ascribed to Hesiod. The former were the productions of the Ionic and AEolic minstrels in Asia Minor, among whom Homer stood pre-eminent and eclipsed the brightness of the rest: the latter were the compositions of a school of bards in the neighbourhood of Mount Helicon in Boeotia, among whom in like manner Hesiod enjoyed the greatest celebrity. The poems of both schools were composed in the hexameter metre and in a similar dialect; but they differed widely in almost every other feature.
Of the Homeric poems the Iliad and the Odyssey were the most distinguished and have alone come down to us. The subject of the Iliad was the exploits of Achilles and of the other Grecian heroes before Ilium or Troy; that of the Odyssey was the wanderings and adventures of Odysseus or Ulysses after the capture of Troy on his return to his native island. Throughout the flourishing period of Greek literature these unrivalled works were universally regarded as the productions of a single mind; but there was very little agreement respecting the place of the poet's birth the details of his life, or the time in which he lived. Seven cities laid claim to Homer's birth, and most of them had legends to tell respecting his romantic parentage, his alleged blindness, and his life of an itinerant bard acquainted with poverty and sorrow. It cannot be disputed that he was an Asiatic Greek; but this is the only fact in his life which can be regarded as certain. Several of the best writers of antiquity supposed him to have been a native of the island of Chios; but most modern scholars believe Smyrna to have been his birthplace. His most probable date is about B.C. 850.
The mode in which these poems were preserved has occasioned great controversy in modern times. Even if they were committed to writing by the poet himself, and were handed down to posterity in this manner, it is certain that they were rarely read. We must endeavour to realise the difference between ancient Greece and our own times. During the most flourishing period of Athenian literature manuscripts were indifferently written, without division into parts, and without marks of punctuation. They were scarce and costly, could be obtained only by the wealthy, and read only by those who had had considerable literary training. Under these circumstances the Greeks could never become a reading people; and thus the great mass even of the Athenians became acquainted with the productions of the leading poets of Greece only by hearing them recited at their solemn festivals and on other public occasions. This was more strikingly the case at an earlier period. The Iliad and the Odyssey were not read by individuals in private, but were sung or recited at festivals or to assembled companies. The bard originally sung his own lays to the accompaniment of his lyre. He was succeeded by a body of professional reciters, called Rhapsodists, who rehearsed the poems of others. and who appear at early times to have had exclusive possession of the Homeric poems. But in the seventh century before the Christian era literary culture began to prevail among the Greeks; and men of education and wealth were naturally desirous of obtaining copies of the great poet of the nation. From this cause copies came to be circulated among the Greeks; but most of them contained only separate portions of the poems, or single rhapsodes, as they were called. Pisistratus, the tyrant or despot of Athens, is said to have been the first person who collected and arranged the poems in their present form, in order that they might be recited at the great Panathenaic festival at Athens.
Three works have come down to us bearing the name of Hesiod -- the 'Works and Days,' the 'Theogony,' and a description of the 'Shield of Hercules.' Many ancient critics believed the 'Works and Days' to be the only genuine work of Hesiod, and their opinion has been adopted by most modern scholars. We learn from this work that Hesiod was a native of Ascra, a village at the foot of Mount Helicon, to which his father had migrated from the AEolian Cyme in Asia Minor. He further tells us that he gained the prize at Chalcis in a poetical contest; and that he was robbed of a fair share of his heritage by the unrighteous decision of judges who had been bribed by his brother Perses. The latter became afterwards reduced in circumstances, and applied to his brother for relief; and it is to him that Hesiod addresses his didactic poem of the 'Works and Days,' in which he lays down various moral and social maxims for the regulation of his conduct and his life. It contains an interesting representation of the feelings, habits, and superstitions of the rural population of Greece in the earlier ages. Respecting the date of Hesiod nothing certain can be affirmed. Modern writers usually suppose him to have flourished two or three generations later than Homer.
The commencement of Greek lyric poetry as a cultivated species of composition dates from the middle of the seventh century before the Christian era. No important event either in the public or private life of a Greek could dispense with this accompaniment; and the lyric song was equally needed to solemnize the worship of the gods, to cheer the march to battle, or to enliven the festive board. The lyric poetry, with the exception of that of Pindar, has almost entirely perished, and all that we possess of it; consists of a few songs and isolated fragments.
The great satirist ARCHILOCHUS was one of the earliest and most celebrated of all the lyric poets. He was a native of the island of Paros, and flourished about the year 700 B.C. His fame rests chiefly on his terrible satires, composed in the Iambic metre. in which he gave vent to the bitterness of a disappointed man.
TYRTAEUS and ALCMAN were the two great lyric poets of Sparta, though neither of them was a native of Lacedaemon. The personal history of Tyrtaeus, and his warlike songs which roused the fainting courage of the Spartans during the second Messenian war, have already been mentioned. Alcman was originally a Lydian slave in a Spartan family, and was emancipated by his master. He lived shortly after the second Messenian war. His poems partake of the character of this period, which was one of repose and enjoyment after the fatigues and perils of war. Many of his songs celebrate the pleasures of good eating and drinking; but the more important were intended to be sung by a chorus at the public festivals of Sparta.
ARION was a native of Methymna in Lesbos, and lived some time at the court of Periander, tyrant of Corinth, who began to reign B.C. 625. Nothing is known of his life beyond the beautiful story of his escape from the sailors with whom he sailed from Sicily to Corinth. On one occasion, thus runs the story, Arion went to Sicily to take part in a musical contest. He won the prize, and, laden with presents, he embarked in a Corinthian ship to return to his friend Periander. The rude sailors coveted his treasures, and meditated his murder. After imploring them in vain to spare his life, he obtained permission to play for the last time on his beloved lyre. In festal attire he placed himself on the prow of the vessel, invoked the gods in inspired strains, and then threw himself into the sea. But many song-loving dolphins had assembled round the vessel, and one of them now took the bard on its back. and carried him to Taenarum, from whence he returned to Corinth in safety, and related his adventure to Periander. Upon the arrival of the Corinthian vessel, Periander inquired of the sailors after Arion, who replied that he had remained behind at Tarentum; but when Arion, at the bidding of Periander, came forward, the sailors owned their guilt, and were punished according to their desert. The great improvement in lyric poetry ascribed to Arion is the invention of the Dithyramb. This was a choral song and dance in honour of the god Dionysus, and is of great interest in the history of poetry, since it was the germ from which sprung at a later time the magnificent productions of the tragic Muse at Athens.
ALCAEUS and SAPPHO were both natives of Mytilene in the island of Lesbos, and flourished about B.C. 610-580. Their songs were composed for a single voice, and not for the chorus, and they were each the inventor of a new metre, which bears their name, and is familiar to us by the well-known odes of Horace. Their poetry was the warm outpouring of the writers' inmost feelings, and present the lyric poetry of the AEolians at its highest point.
Alcaeus took an active part in the civil dissensions of his native state, and warmly espoused the cause of the aristocratical party, to which he belonged by birth. When the nobles were driven into exile, he endeavoured to cheer their spirits by a number of most animated odes, full of invectives against the popular party and its leaders.
Of the events of Sappho's life we have scarcely any information; and the common story that, being in love with Phaon and finding her love unrequited, she leaped down from the Leucadian rock, seems to have been an invention of later times.
ANACREON was a native of the Ionian city of Teos. He spent part of his life at Samos, under the patronage of Polycrates; and after the death of this despot he went to Athens at the invitation of Hipparchus. The universal tradition of antiquity represents Anacreon as a consummate voluptuary; and his poems prove the truth of the tradition. His death was worthy of his life, if we may believe the account that he was choked by a grape-stone.
SIMONIDES, of the island of Ceos, was born B.C. 556, and reached a great age. He lived many years at Athens, both at the court of Hipparchus, together with Anacreon, and subsequently under the democracy during the Persian wars. The struggles of Greece for her independence furnished him with a noble subject for his muse. He carried away the prize from AEschylus with an elegy upon the warriors who had fallen at the battle of Marathon. Subsequently we find him celebrating the heroes of Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis, and Plataea. He was upwards of 80 when his long poetical career at Athens was closed with the victory which he gained with the dithyrambic chorus in B.C. 477, making the 56th prize that he had carried off. Shortly after this event he repaired to Syracuse at the invitation of Hiero. Here he spent the remaining ten years of his life, not only entertaining Hiero with his poetry, but instructing him by his wisdom; for Simonides was a philosopher as well as a poet, and is reckoned amongst the sophists.
PINDAR, though the contemporary of Simonides, was considerably his junior: He was born either at, or in the neighbourhood of, Thebes in Boeotia, about the year 522 B.C. Later writers tell us that his future glory as a poet was miraculously foreshadowed by a swarm of bees which rested upon his lips while he was asleep, and that this miracle first led him to compose poetry. He commenced his professional career at an early age, and soon acquired so great a reputation, that he was employed by various states and princes of the Hellenic race to compose choral songs. He was courted especially by Alexander, king of Macedonia, and by Hiero, despot of Syracuse. The praises which he bestowed upon Alexander are said to have been the chief reason which led his descendant, Alexander the Great, to spare the house of the poet when he destroyed the rest of Thebes. The estimation in which Pindar was held is also shown by the honours conferred upon him by the free states of Greece. Although a Theban, he was always a great favourite with the Athenians, whom he frequently praised in his poems, and who testified their gratitude by making him their public guest, and by giving him 10,000 drachmas. The only poems of Pindar which have come down to us entire are his Epinicia or triumphal odes, composed in commemoration of victories gained in the great public games. But these were only a small portion of his works. He also wrote hymns, paeans, dithyrambs, odes for processions, songs of maidens, mimic dancing songs, drinking songs, dirges and encomia, or panegyrics on princes.
The Greeks had arrived at a high pitch of civilization before they can be said to have possessed a HISTORY. The first essays in literary prose cannot be placed earlier than the sixth century before the Christian aera; but the first writer who deserves the name of an historian is HERODOTUS, hence called the Father of History. Herodotus was born in the Dorian colony of Halicarnassus in Caria, in the year 484 B.C., and accordingly about the time of the Persian expeditions into Greece. He resided some years in Samos, and also undertook extensive travels, of which he speaks in his work. There was scarcely a town in Greece or on the coasts of Asia Minor with which he was not acquainted; he had explored Thrace and the coasts of the Black Sea; in Egypt he had penetrated as far south as Elephantine; and in Asia he had visited the cities of Babylon, Ecbatana, and Susa. The latter part of his life was spent at Thurii, a colony founded by the Athenians in Italy in B.C. 443. According to a well-known story in Lucian, Herodotus, when he had completed hia work, recited it publicly at the great Olympic festival, as the best means of procuring for it that celebrity to which he felt that it was entitled. The effect is described as immediate and complete. The delighted audience at once assigned the names of the nine Muses to the nine books into which it is divided. A still later author (Suidas) adds, that Thucydides, then a boy, was present at the festival with his father Olorus, and was so affected by the recital as to shed tears; upon which Herodotus congratulated Olorus on having a son who possessed so early such a zeal for knowledge. But there are many objections to the probability of these tales.
Herodotus interwove into his history all the varied and extensive knowledge acquired in his travels, and by big own personal researches. But the real subject of the work is the conflict between the Greek race, in the widest sense of the term, and including the Greeks of Asia Minor, with the Asiatics. Thus the historian had a vast epic subject presented to him, which was brought to a natural and glorious termination by the defeat of the Persians in their attempts upon Greece. The work concludes with the reduction of Sestos by the Athenians, B.C. 478. Herodotus wrote in the Ionic dialect, and his style is marked by an ease and simplicity which lend it an indescribable charm.
THUCYDIDES, the greatest of the Greek historians, was an Athenian, and was born in the year 471 B.C. His family was connected with that of Miltiades and Cimon. He possessed gold-mines in Thrace, and enjoyed great influence in that country. He commanded an Athenian squadron of seven ships at Thasos, in 424 B.C., at the time when Brasidas was besieging Amphipolis; and having failed to relieve that city in time, he went into a voluntary exile, in order probably to avoid the punishment of death. He appears to have spent 20 years in banishment, principally in the Peloponnesus, or in places under the dominion or influence of Sparta. He perhaps returned to Athens in B.C. 403, the date of its liberation by Thrasybulus. According to the unanimous testimony of antiquity he met with a violent end, and it seems probable that he was assassinated at Athens, since it cannot be doubted that his tomb existed there. From the beginning of the Peloponnesian war he had designed to write its history, and he employed himself in collecting materials for that purpose during its continuance; but it is most likely that the work was not actually composed till after the conclusion of the war, and that he was engaged upon it at the time of his death. The first book of his History is introductory, and contains a rapid sketch of Grecian history from the remotest times to the breaking out of the war. The remaining seven books are filled with the details of the war, related according to the division into summers and winters, into which all campaigns naturally fall; and the work breaks off abruptly in the middle of the 21st year of the war (B.C. 411). The materials of Thucydides were collected with the most scrupulous care; the events are related with the strictest impartiality; and the work probably offers a more exact account of a long and eventful period than any other contemporary history, whether ancient or modern, of an equally long and important aera. The style of Thucydides is brief and sententious, and whether in moral or political reasoning, or in description, gains wonderful force from its condensation. But this characteristic is sometimes carried to a faulty extent, so as to render his style harsh, and his meaning obscure.
XENOPHON, the son of Gryllus, was also an Athenian, and was probably born about B.C. 444. He was a pupil of Socrates, who saved his life at the battle of Delium (B.C. 424). His accompanying Cyrus the younger in his expedition against his brother Artaxerxes, king of Persia, formed a striking episode in his life, and has been recorded by himself in his ANABASIS. He seems to have been still in Asia at the time of the death of Socrates in 399 B.C., and was probably banished from Athens soon after that period, in consequence of his close connexion with the Lacedaemonians. He accompanied Agesilaus, the Spartan king, on the return of the latter from Asia to Greece; and he fought along with the Lacedaemonians against his own countrymen at the battle of Coronea in 394 B.C. After this battle he went with Agesilaus to Sparta, and soon afterwards settled at Scillus in Elis, near Olympia. He is said to have lived to more than 90 years of age, and he mentions an event which occurred as late as 357 B.C.
Probably all the works of Xenophon are still extant. The ANABASIS is the work on which his fame as an historian chiefly rests. It is written in a simple and agreeable style, and conveys much curious and striking information. The HELLENICA is a continuation of the history of Thucydides, and comprehends in seven books a space of about 48 years; namely, from the time when Thucydides breaks off, B.C. 411, to the battle of Mantinea in 362. The subject is treated in a very dry and uninteresting style; and his evident partiality to Sparta, and dislike of Athens, have frequently warped his judgment, and must cause his statements to be received with some suspicion. The CYROPAEDIA, one of the most pleasing and popular of his works, professes to be a history of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian monarchy, but is in reality a kind of political romance, and possesses no authority whatever as an historical work. The design of the author seems to have been to draw a picture of a perfect state; and though the scene is laid in Persia, the materials of the work are derived from his own philosophical notions and the usages of Sparta engrafted on the popularly current stories respecting Cyrus. Xenophon displays in this work his dislike of democratic institutions like those of Athens, and his preference for an aristocracy, or even a monarchy. Xenophon was also the author of several minor works; but the only other treatise which we need mention is the MEMORABILIA of Socrates, in four books, intended as a defence of his master against the charges which occasioned his death, and which undoubtedly contains a genuine picture of Socrates and his philosophy. The genius of Xenophon was not of the highest order; it was practical rather than speculative; but he is distinguished for his good sense, his moderate views, his humane temper, and his earnest piety.
The DRAMA pre-eminently distinguished Athenian literature. The democracy demanded a literature of a popular kind, the vivacity of the people a literature that made a lively impression; and both these conditions were fulfilled by the drama. But though brought to perfection among the Athenians, tragedy and comedy, in their rude and early origin, were Dorian inventions. Both arose out of the worship of Dionysus. There was at first but little distinction between these two species of the drama, except that comedy belonged more to the rural celebration of the Dionysiac festivals, and tragedy to that in cities. The name of TRAGEDY was far from signifying any thing mournful, being derived from the goat-like appearance of those who, disguised as Satyrs, performed the old Dionysiac songs and dances. In like manner, COMEDY was called after the song of the band of revellers who celebrated the vintage festivals of Dionysus, and vented the rude merriment inspired by the occasion in jibes and extempore witticisms levelled at the spectators. Tragedy, in its more perfect form, was the offspring of the dithyrambic odes with which that worship was celebrated. These were not always of a joyous cast. Some of them expressed the sufferings of Dionysus; and it was from this more mournful species of dithyramb that tragedy, properly so called, arose. The dithyrambic odes formed a kind of lyrical tragedy, and were sung by a chorus of fifty men, dancing round the altar of Dionysus. The improvements in the dithyramb were introduced by Arion at Corinth; and it was chiefly among the Dorian states of the Peloponnesus that these choral dithyrambic songs prevailed. Hence, even in attic tragedy, the chorus, which was the foundation of the drama, was written in the Doric dialect, thus clearly betraying the source from which the Athenians derived it.
In Attica an important alteration was made in the old tragedy in the time of Pisistratus, in consequence of which it obtained a new and dramatic character. This innovation is ascribed to THESPIS, a native of the Attic village of Icaria, B.C. 535. It consisted in the introduction of an actor for the purpose of giving rest to the chorus. Thespis was succeeded by Choerilus and Phrynichus, the latter of whom gained his first prize in the dramatic contests in 511 B.C. The Dorian Pratinas, a native of Philius, but who exhibited his tragedies at Athens, introduced an improvement in tragedy by separating the Satyric from the tragic drama. As neither the popular taste nor the ancient religious associations connected with the festivals of Dionysus would have permitted the chorus of Satyrs to be entirely banished from the tragic representations, Pratinas avoided this by the invention of what is called the Satyric drama; that is, a species of play in which the ordinary subjects of tragedy were treated in a lively and farcical manner, and in which the chorus consisted of a band of Satyrs in appropriate dresses and masks. After this period it became customary to exhibit dramas in TETRALOGIES, or sets of four; namely, a tragic trilogy, or series of three tragedies, followed by a Satyric play. These were often on connected subjects; and the Satyric drama at the end served like a merry after-piece to relieve the minds of the spectators.
The subjects of Greek tragedy were taken, with few exceptions, from the national mythology. Hence the plot and story were of necessity known to the spectators, a circumstance which strongly distinguished the ancient tragedy from the modern. It must also be recollected that the representation of tragedies did not take place every day, but only, after certain fixed intervals, at the festivals of Dionysus, of which they formed one of the greatest attractions. During the whole day the Athenian public sat in the theatre witnessing tragedy after tragedy; and a prize was awarded by judges appointed for the purpose to the poet who produced the best set of dramas.
Such was Attic tragedy when it came into the hands of AESCHYLUS, who, from the great improvements which he introduced, was regarded by the Athenians as its father or founder, just as Homer was of Epic poetry, and Herodotus of History. AEschylus was born at Eleusis in Attica in B.C. 525, and was thus contemporary with Simonides and Pindar. He fought with his brother Cynaegirus at the battle of Marathon, and also at those of Artemisium, Salamis, and Plataea. In B.C. 484 he gained his first tragic prize. In 468 he was defeated in a tragic contest by his younger rival Sophocles; shortly afterwards he retired to the court of king Hiero, at Syracuse, He died at Gela, in Sicily, in 456, in the 69th year of his age. It is unanimously related that an eagle, mistaking the poet's bald head for a stone, let a tortoise fall upon it in order to break the shell, thus fulfilling an oracle predicting that he was to die by a blow from heaven. The improvements introduced into tragedy by AEschylus concerned both its form and composition, and its manner of representation. In the former his principal innovation was the introduction of a second actor; whence arose the dialogue, properly so called, and the limitation of the choral parts, which now became subsidiary. His improvements in the manner of representing tragedy consisted in the introduction of painted scenes, drawn according to the rules of perspective. He furnished the actors with more appropriate and more magnificent dresses, invented for them more various and expressive masks, and raised their stature to the heroic size by providing them with thick-soled cothurni or buskins. AEschylus excels in representing the superhuman, in depicting demigods and heroes, and in tracing the irresistible march of fate. His style resembles the ideas which it clothes: it is bold, sublime, and full of gorgeous imagery, but sometimes borders on the turgid.
SOPHOCLES, the younger rival and immediate successor of Aeschylus in the tragic art, was born at Colonus, a village about a mile from Athens, in B.C. 495. We have already adverted to his wresting the tragic prize from AEschylus in 468, from which time he seems to have retained the almost undisputed possession of the Athenian stage, until a young but formidable rival arose in the person of Euripides. The close of his life was troubled with family dissensions. Iophon, his son by an Athenian wife, and therefore his legitimate heir, was jealous of the affection manifested by his father for his grandson Sophocles, the offspring of another son, Ariston, whom he had had by a Sicyonian woman. Fearing lest his father should bestow a great part of his property upon his favourite, Iophon summoned him before the Phratores, or tribesmen, on the ground that his mind was affected. The old man's only reply was -- "If I am Sophocles I am not beside myself; and if I am beside myself I am not Sophocles." Then taking up his OEDIPUS AT COLONUS, which he had lately written, but had not yet brought out, he read from it a beautiful passage, with which the judges were so struck that they at once dismissed the case. He died shortly afterwards, in B.C. 406, in his 90th year. As a poet Sophocles is universally allowed to have brought the drama to the greatest perfection of which it is susceptible. His plays stand in the just medium between the sublime but unregulated flights of AEschylus, and the too familiar scenes and rhetorical declamations of Euripides. His plots are worked up with more skill and care than the plots of either of his great rivals. Sophocles added the last improvement to the form of the drama by the introduction of a third actor; a change which greatly enlarged the scope of the action. The improvement was so obvious that it was adopted by AEschylus in his later plays; but the number of three actors seems to have been seldom or never exceeded.
EURIPIDES was born in the island of Salamis, in B.C. 480 his parents having been among those who fled thither at the time of the invasion of Attics by Xerxes. He studied rhetoric under Prodicus, and physics under Anaxagoras and he also lived on intimate terms with Socrates. In 441 he gained his first prize, and he continued to exhibit plays until 408, the date of his Orestes. Soon after this he repaired to the court of Macedonia, at the invitation of king Archelaus, where he died two years afterwards at the age of 74 (B.C. 406). Common report relates that he was torn to pieces by the king's dogs, which, according to some accounts, were set upon him by two rival poets out of envy. In treating his characters and subjects Euripides often arbitrarily departed from the received legends, and diminished the dignity of tragedy by depriving it of its ideal character, and by bringing it down to the level of every-day life. His dialogue was garrulous and colloquial, wanting in heroic dignity, and frequently frigid through misplaced philosophical disquisitions. Yet in spite of all these faults Euripides has many beauties, and is particularly remarkable for pathos, so that Aristotle calls him "the most tragic of poets."
Comedy received its full development at Athens from Cratinus, who lived in the age of Pericles. Cratinus, and his younger contemporaries Eupolis and Aristophanes, were the three great poets of what is called the Old Attic Comedy. The comedies of Cratinus and Eupolis are lost; but of Aristophanes, who was the greatest of the three, we have eleven dramas extant. ARISTOPHANES was born about 444 B.C. Of his private life we know positively nothing. He exhibited his first comedy in 427, and from that time till near his death, which probably happened about 380, he was a frequent contributor to the Attic stage. The OLD ATTIC COMEDY was a powerful vehicle for the expression of opinion; and most of the comedies of Aristophanes turned either upon political occurrences, or upon some subject which excited the interest of the Athenian public. Their chief object was to excite laughter by the boldest and most ludicrous caricature; and provided that end was attained the poet seems to have cared but little about the justice of the picture. Towards the end of the career of Aristophanes the unrestricted licence and libellous personality of comedy began gradually to disappear. The chorus was first curtailed and then entirely suppressed, and thus made way for what is called the Middle Comedy, which had no chorus at all. The latter still continued to be in some degree political; but persons were no longer introduced upon the stage under their real names, and the office of the chorus was very much curtailed. It was, in fact, the connecting link between the Old Comedy and the New, or the Comedy of Manners. The NEW COMEDY arose after Athens had become subject to the Macedonians. Politics were now excluded from the stage, and the materials of the dramatic poet were derived entirely from the fictitious adventures of persons in private life. The two most distinguished writers of this school were PHILEMON and MENANDER. Philemon was probably born about the year 360 B.C., and was either a Cilician or Syracusan, but came at an early age to Athens. He is considered as the founder of the New Comedy, which was soon afterwards brought to perfection by his younger contemporary Menander. The latter was an Athenian, and was born in B.C. 312. He was drowned at the age of 52, whilst swimming in the harbour of Piraeus. He wrote upwards of 100 comedies, of which only fragments remain; and the unanimous praise of posterity awakens our regret for the loss of one of the most elegant writers of antiquity. The comedies, indeed, of Plautus and Terence may give us a general notion of the New Comedy of the Greeks, from which they were confessedly drawn; but there is good reason to suppose that the works even of the latter Roman writer fell far short of the wit and elegance of Menander.
The latter days of literary Athens were chiefly distinguished by the genius of her ORATORS and PHILOSOPHERS. There were ten Attic orators, whose works were collected by the Greek grammarians, and many of whose orations have come down to us. Their names are Antiphon, Andocides, Lysias, Isocrates, Isaeus, AEschines, Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Hyperides and Dinarchus. ANTIPHON, the earliest of the ten was born B.C. 480. He opened a school of rhetoric, and numbered among his pupils the historian Thucydides. Antiphon was put to death in 411 B.C. for the part which he took in establishing the oligarchy of the Four Hundred.
ANDOCIDES, who was concerned with Alcibiades in the affair of the Hermae, was born at Athens in B.C. 467, tend died probably about 391.
LYSIAS, also born at Athens in 458, was much superior to Andocides as an orator, but being a METIC or resident alien, he was not allowed to speak in the assemblies or courts of justice, and therefore wrote orations for others to deliver.
ISOCRATES was born in 436. After receiving the instructions of some of the most celebrated sophists of the day, he became himself a speech-writer and professor of rhetoric; his weakly constitution and natural timidity preventing him from taking a part in public life. He made away with himself in 338, after the fatal battle of Chaeronea, in despair, it is said, of his country's fate. He took great pains with his compositions, and is reported to have spent ten, or, according to others, fifteen years over his Panegyric oration.
ISAEUS flourished between the end of the Peloponnesian war and the accession of Philip of Macedon. He opened a school of rhetoric at Athens, and is said to have numbered Demosthenes among his pupils. The orations of Isaeus were exclusively judicial, and the whole of the eleven which have come down to us turn on the subject of inheritances.
AESCHINES was born in the year 389, and he was at first a violent anti-Macedonian; but after his embassy along with Demosthenes and others to Philip's court, he was the constant advocate of peace, Demosthenes and AEschines now became the leading speakers on their respective sides, and the heat of political animosity soon degenerated into personal hatred. In 343 Demosthenes charged AEschines with having received bribes from Philip during a second embassy; and the speech in which he brought forward this accusation was answered in another by AEschines. The result of this charge is unknown, but it seems to have detracted from the popularity of AEschines. We have already adverted to his impeachment of Ctesiphon, and the celebrated reply of Demosthenes in his speech DE CORONA. After the banishment of AEschines on this occasion (B.C. 330), he employed himself in teaching rhetoric at Rhodes. He died in Samos in 314. As an orator he was second only to Demosthenes.
Of the life of his great rival, DEMOSTHENES, we have already given some account. The verdict of his contemporaries, ratified by posterity, has pronounced Demosthenes the greatest; orator that ever lived. The principal element of his success must be traced in his purity of purpose, which gave to his arguments all the force of conscientious conviction. The effect of his speeches was still further heightened by a wonderful and almost magic force of diction. The grace and vivacity of his delivery are attested by the well-known anecdote of AEschines, when he read at Rhodes his speech against Ctesiphon. His audience having expressed their surprise that he should have been defeated after such an oration "You would cease to wonder," he remarked, "if you had heard Demosthenes."
The remaining three Attic orators, viz. LYCURGUS, HYPERIDES, and DINARCHUS, were contemporaries of Demosthenes. Lycurgus and Hyperides both belonged to the anti-Macedonian party, and were warm supporters of the policy of Demosthenes. Dinarchus, who is the least important of the Attic orators, survived Demosthenes, and was a friend of Demetrius Phalereus.
The history of Greek PHILOSOPHY, like that of Greek poetry and history, began in Asia Minor. The earliest philosopher of distinction was THALES of Miletus, who was born about B.C. 640, and died in 554 at the age of 90. He was the founder of the IONIC school of philosophy, and to him were traced the first beginnings of geometry and astronomy. The main doctrine of his philosophical system was, that water, or fluid substance was the single original element from which everything came and into which everything returned. ANAXIMANDER, the successor of Thales in the Ionic school, lived from B.C. 610 to 547. He was distinguished for his knowledge of astronomy and geography, and is said to have been the first to introduce the use of the sun-dial into Greece. ANAXIMENES, the third in the series of the Ionian philosophers, lived a little later than Anaximander. He endeavoured, like Thales, to derive the origin of all material things from a single element; and, according to his theory, air was the source of life.
A new path was struck out by ANAXAGORAS Of Clazomenae, the most illustrious of the Ionic philosophers. He came to Athens in 480 B.C., where he continued to teach for thirty years, numbering among his hearers Pericles, Socrates, and Euripides. He abandoned the system of his predecessors, and, instead of regarding some elementary form of matter as the origin of all things, he conceived a supreme mind or intelligence, distinct from the visible world, to have imparted form and order to the chaos of nature. These innovations afforded the Athenians a pretext for indicting Anaxagoras of impiety, though it is probable that his connexion with Pericles was the real cause of that proceeding (see Ch.IX). It was only through the influence and eloquence of Pericles that he was not put to death; but he was sentenced to pay a fine of five talents and quit Athens. The philosopher retired to Lampsacus, where he died at the age of 72.
The second school of Greek philosophy was the ELEATIC which derived its name from Elea or Velia, a Greek colony on the western coast of Southern Italy. It was founded by XENOPHANES of Colophon, who fled to Elea on the conquest of his native land by the Persians. He conceived the whole of nature to be God.
The third school of philosophy was the PYTHAGOREAN, founded by PYTHAGORAS. He was a native of Samos and was born about B.C. 580. His father was an opulent merchant, and Pythagoras himself travelled extensively in the East. He believed in the transmigration of souls; and later writers relate that Pythagoras asserted that his own soul had formerly dwelt in the body of the Trojan Euphorbus, the son of Panthous, who was slain by Menelaus, and that in proof of his assertion he took down, at first sight,the shield of Euphorbus from the temple of Hera (Juno) at Argos, where it had been dedicated by Menelaus. Pythagoras was distinguished by his knowledge of geometry and arithmetic; and it was probably from his teaching that the Pythagoreans were led to regard numbers in some mysterious manner as the basis and essence of all things. He was however more of the religious teacher than of the philosopher; and he looked upon himself as a being destined by the gods to reveal to his disciples a new and a purer mode of life. He founded at Croton in Italy a kind of religious brotherhood, the members of which were bound together by peculiar rites and observances. Everything done and taught in the fraternity was kept a profound secret from all without its pale. It appears that the members had some private signs, like Freemasons, by which they could recognise each other, even if they had never met before. His doctrines spread rapidly over Magna Graecia, and clubs of a similar character were established at Sybaris, Metapontum, Tarentum, and other cities.
At Athens a new direction was given to the study of philosophy by Socrates, of whom an account has been already given. To his teaching either directly of indirectly may be traced the origin of the four principal Grecian schools: the ACADEMICIANS, established by Plato; the PERIPATETICS, founded by his pupil Aristotle; the EPICUREANS, so named from their master Epicurus; and the STOICS, founded by Zeno.
PLATO was born at Athens in 429 B.C., the year in which Pericles died. His first literary attempts were in poetry; but his attention was soon turned to philosophy by the teaching of Socrates, whose lectures he began to frequent at about the age of twenty. From that time till the death of Socrates he appears to have lived in the closest intimacy with that philosopher. After that event Plato withdrew to Megara, and subsequently undertook some extensive travels, in the course of which he visited Cyrene, Egypt, Sicily, and Magna Graecia. His intercourse with the elder and the younger Dionysius at Syracuse has been already related His absence from Athens lasted about twelve years; on his return, being then upwards of forty, he began to teach in the gymnasium of the Academy. His doctrines were too recondite for the popular ear, and his lectures were not very numerously attended. But he had a narrower circle of devoted admirers and disciples, consisting of about twenty-eight persons, who met in his private house; over the vestibule of which was inscribed -- "Let no one enter who is ignorant of geometry." The most distinguished of this little band of auditors were Speusippus, his nephew and successor, and Aristotle. He died in 347, at the age of 81 or 82, and bequeathed his garden to his school.
ARISTOTLE was born in 381 B.C., at Stagira, a seaport town of Chalcidice, whence he is frequently called THE STAGIRITE. At the age of 17, Aristotle, who had then lost both father and mother, repaired to Athens. Plato considered him his best scholar, and called him "the intellect of his school." Aristotle spent twenty years at Athens, during the last ten of which he established a school of his own. In 342 he accepted the invitation of Philip of Macedon to undertake the instruction of his son Alexander. In 335, after Alexander had ascended the throne, Aristotle quitted Macedonia, to which he never returned. He again took up his abode at Athens, where the Athenians assigned him the gymnasium called the Lyceum; and from his habit of delivering his lectures whilst walking up and down in the shady walks of this place, his school was called the PERIPATETIC. In the morning he lectured only to a select class of pupils, called ESOTERIC. His afternoon lectures were delivered to a wider circle, and were therefore called EXOTERIC. It was during the thirteen years in which he presided over the Lyceum that he composed the greater part of his works, and prosecuted his researches in natural history, in which he was most liberally assisted by the munificence of Alexander. The latter portion of Aristotle's life was unfortunate. He appears to have lost from some unknown cause the friendship of Alexander; and, after the death of that monarch, the disturbances which ensued in Greece proved unfavourable to his peace and security. Being threatened with a prosecution for impiety, he escaped from Athens and retired to Chalcis; but he was condemned to death in his absence, and deprived of all the rights and honours which he had previously enjoyed. He died at Chalcis in 322, in the 63rd year of his age.
Of all the philosophical systems of antiquity, that of Aristotle was best adapted to the practical wants of mankind. It was founded on a close and accurate observation of human nature and of the external world; but whilst it sought the practical and useful, it did not neglect the beautiful and noble. His works consisted of treatises on natural, moral and political philosophy, history, rhetoric, criticism, &c,; indeed there is scarcely a branch of knowledge which his vast and comprehensive genius did not embrace.
EPICURUS was born at Samos in 342, and settled at Athens at about the age of 35. Here he purchased a garden, where he established his philosophical school. He taught that pleasure is the highest good; a tenet, however, which he explained and dignified by showing that it was mental pleasure that he intended. The ideas of atheism and sensual degradation with which the name of Epicurus has been so frequently coupled are founded on ignorance of his real teaching. But as he denied the immortality of the soul, and the interference of the gods in human affairs, -- though he held their existence, -- his tenets were very liable to be abused by those who had not sufficient elevation of mind to love virtue for its own sake.
ZENO was a native of Citium in the island of Cyprus, and settled at Athens about B.C. 299. Here he opened a school in the Poecile Stoa, or painted porch, whence the name of his sect. He inculcated temperance and self-denial, and his practice was in accordance with his precept.