Mosaics of Grecian History
Marcius Willson and Robert Pierpont Willson
Part 9 out of 11
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Thence to the famous orators repair,
Those ancient, whose resistless eloquence
Wielded at will that fierce democracy,
Shook the arsenal, and fulmined over Greece
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.
Eloquence, or oratory, which Cicero calls "the friend of peace
and the companion of tranquillity, requiring for her cradle a
commonwealth already well-established and flourishing," was
fostered and developed in Greece by the democratic character
of her institutions. It was scarcely known there until the time
of Themistocles, the first orator of note; and in the time of
Pericles it suddenly rose, in Athens, to a great height of
perfection. Pericles himself, whose great aim was to sway the
assemblies of the people to his will, cultivated oratory with
such application and success, that the poets of his day said
of him that on some occasions the goddess of persuasion, with
all her charms, seemed to dwell on his lips; and that, at other
times, his discourse had all the vehemence of thunder to move
the souls of his hearers. The golden age of Grecian eloquence
is embraced in a period of one hundred and thirty years from
the time of Pericles, and during this period Athens bore the
Of the many Athenian orators the most distinguished were Lys'ias,
Isoc'rates, Æschines, and Demosthenes. The first was born about
435 B.C., and was admired for the perspicuity, purity, sweetness,
and delicacy of his style. Having become a resident of Thurii
in early life, on his return to Athens he was not allowed to
speak in the assemblies, or courts of justice, and therefore
wrote orations for others to deliver. Many of these are
characterized by great energy and power. Dionysius, the Roman
historian and critic, praises Lysias for his grace; Cicero commends
him for his subtlety; and Quintilian esteems him for his
truthfulness. Isocrates was born at Athens in 436. Having received
the instructions of some of the most celebrated Sophists of his
time, he opened a school of rhetoric, and was equally esteemed
for the excellence of his compositions--mostly political
orations--and for his success in teaching. His style was more
philosophic, smooth, and elegant than that of Lysias. "Cicero,"
says a modern critic, "whose style is exceedingly like that of
Isocrates, appears to have especially used him as a model--as
indeed did Demosthenes; and through these two orators he has
moulded all the prose of modern Europe." Isocrates lived to the
advanced age of ninety-eight, and then died, it is said, by
voluntary starvation, in grief for the fatal battle of Chæronea.
"That dishonest victory.
At Chæronea, fatal to liberty,
Killed with report that old man eloquent."
ÆSCHINES AND DEMOSTHENES.
The orator Æschines was born in 398 B.C. He is regarded as the
father of extemporaneous speaking among the Greeks, but is chiefly
distinguished as the rival of Demosthenes, rather than for his
few orations (but three in number) that have come down to us,
although he was endowed by nature with extraordinary rhetorical
powers, and his orations are characterized by ease, order,
clearness, and precision. "The eloquence of Æschines," says an
American scholar and statesman, [Footnote: Hugh S. Legaré, of
Charleston, South Carolina, in an article on "Demosthenes" in
the New York Review.] "is of a brilliant and showy character,
running occasionally, though very rarely, into a Ciceronean
declamation. In general his taste is unexceptionable; he is clear
in statement, close and cogent in argument, lucid in arrangement,
remarkably graphic and animated in style, and full of spirit
and pleasantry, without the least appearance of emphasis or effort.
He is particularly successful in description and the portraiture
of character. That his powers were appreciated by his great rival
is evident from the latter's frequent admonitions to the assembly
to remember that their debates are no theatrical exhibitions
of voice and oratory, but deliberations involving the safety
of their country."
On leaving Athens, after his defeat in the celebrated contest
with Demosthenes, Æschines went to Rhodes, where he established
a school of rhetoric. It is stated that on one occasion he began
his instruction by reading the two orations that had been the
cause of his banishment. His hearers loudly applauded his own
speech, but when he read that of Demosthenes they were wild with
delight. "If you thus praise it from my reading it," exclaimed
Æschines, "what would you have said if you had heard Demosthenes
himself deliver it?"
By the common consent of ancient and modern times, Demosthenes
stands pre-eminent for his eloquence, his patriotism, and his
influence over the Athenian people. He was born about 383 B.C.
On attaining his majority, his first speech was directed against
a cousin to whom his inheritance had been intrusted, and who
refused to surrender to him what was left of it. Demosthenes
won his case, and his victory brought him into such prominent
notice that he was soon engaged to write pleadings for litigants
in the courts. He devoted himself to incessant study and practice
in oratory, and, overcoming by various means a weakly body and
an impediment in his speech, he became the chief of orators.
Of his public life we have already seen something in the history
of Athens. With all his moral and intellectual force, the closing
years of his life were shaded with misery and disgrace. Fifty
years after his death the Athenians erected a bronze statue to
his memory, and upon the pedestal placed this inscription:
Divine in speech, in judgment, too, divine,
Had valor's wreath, Demosthenes, been thine,
Fair Greece had still her freedom's ensign borne,
And held the scourge of Macedon in scorn!
With regard to the character of the orations of Demosthenes,
it must be confessed that somewhat conflicting views have been
entertained by the moderns. LORD BROUGHAM, while admitting that
Demosthenes "never wanders from the subject, that each remark
tells upon the matter in hand, that all his illustrations are
brought to bear upon the point, and that he is never found making
a step in any direction which does not advance his main object,
and lead toward the conclusion to which he is striving to bring
his hearers," still denies that he is distinguished for those
"chains of reasoning," and that "fine argumentation" which are
the chief merit of our greatest modern orators. While he admits
that Demosthenes abounds in the most "appropriate topics, and
such happy hits--to use a homely but expressive phrase--as have
a magical effect upon a popular assembly, and that he clothes
them in the choicest language, arranges them in the most perfect
order, and captivates the ear with a music that is fitted, at
his will, to provoke or to soothe, and even to charm the sense,"
he regards all this as better suited to great popular assemblies
than to a more refined, and a more select audience--such as one
composed of learned senators and judges. But this is admitting
that he adapted himself, with admirable tact and judgment, to
the subject and the occasion. But while the character thus
attributed to the orations of the great Athenian orator may be
the true one, as regards the Philippics, the speech against
Æschines, and the one on the Crown, it is not thought to be
applicable to the many pleas which he made on occasions more
"That which distinguishes the eloquence of Demosthenes above
all others, ancient or modern," says the American writer already
quoted, "is earnestness, conviction, and the power to persuade
that belongs to a strong and deep persuasion felt by the speaker.
It is what Milton defines true eloquence to be, 'none but the
serious and hearty love of truth'--or, more properly, what the
speaker believes to be truth. This advantage Demosthenes had
over Æschines. He had faith in his country, faith in her people
(if they could be roused up), faith in her institutions. He is
mad at the bare thought that a man of Macedon, a barbarian, should
be beating Athenians in the field, and giving laws to Greece.
The Roman historian and critic, Dionysius, said of his oratory,
that its highest attribute was the spirit of life that pervades
it. Other remarkable features were its amazing flexibility and
variety, its condensation and perfect logical unity, its elaborate
and exquisite finish of details, to which must be added that
polished harmony and rhythm which cannot be attained, to a like
degree, in any modern language. Moreover, however elaborately
composed these speeches were, they were still speeches, and had
the appearance of being the spontaneous effusions of the moment.
No extemporaneous harangues were ever more free and natural."
The historian HUME says of the style of Demosthenes: "It was
rapid harmony adjusted to the sense; vehement reasoning without
any appearance of art; disdain, anger, boldness, and freedom,
involved in a continued strain of argument." Another writer says:
"It was his undeviating firmness, his disdain of all compromise,
that made him the first of statesmen and orators; in this lay
the substance of his power, the primary foundation of his
superiority; the rest was merely secondary. The mystery of his
mighty influence, then, lay in his honesty; and it is this that
gave warmth and tone to his feelings, an energy to his language,
and an impression to his manner before which every imputation
of insincerity must have immediately vanished."
* * * * *
While oratory was thus attaining perfection in Greece, philosophy
was making equal progress in the direction marked out by Socrates.
Among the philosophers of the brighter period of Grecian history
are the names of Plato and Aristotle, names that will ever be
cherished and venerated while genius and worth continue to be
held in admiration. Of the pupils of Socrates, Plato, born in
Athens in 429 B.C., was by far the most distinguished, and the
only one who fully appreciated the intellectual greatness and
seized the profound conceptions of his master. In fact, he came
to surpass Socrates in the profoundness of his views, and in
the correctness and eloquence with which he expressed them. On
the death of his teacher, Plato left Athens and passed twelve
years in visiting different countries, engaged in philosophic
investigation. Returning to Athens, he founded his school of
philosophy in the Acade'mia, a beautiful spot in the suburbs
of the city, adorned with groves, walks, and fountains, and
which his name has immortalized.
With Plato dwelt, and burst the chains of mind;
Here, with his stole across his shoulders flung,
His homely garments with a leathern zone
Confined, his snowy beard low clust'ring down
Upon his ample chest, his keen dark eye
Glancing from underneath the arched brow,
He fixed his sandaled foot, and on his staff
Leaned, while to his disciples he declared
How all creation's mighty fabric rose
From the abyss of chaos: next he traced
The bounds of virtue and of vice; the source
Of good and evil; sketched the ideal form
Of beauty, and unfolded all the powers
Of mind by which it ranges uncontrolled,
And soars from earth to immortality.
To Plato, as the poet intimates in his closing lines, we owe
the first formal development of the Socratic doctrine of the
spirituality of the soul, and the first attempt toward
demonstrating its immortality. As a late writer has well said,
"It is the genius of Socrates that fills all Plato's philosophy,
and their two minds have flowed out over the world together."
Of his doctrine on this subject, as expressed in the Phoe'do,
LORD BROUGHAM thus wrote: "The whole tenor of it refers to a
renewal or continuation of the soul as a separate and individual
existence after the dissolution of the body, and with a complete
consciousness of personal identity: in short, to a continuance of
the same rational being's existence after death. The liberation
from the body is treated as the beginning of a new and more perfect
life." Plato's only work on physical science is the Timoe'us.
His works are all called "Dialogues," which the critics divide
into two classes--those of search, and those of exposition. Among
the latter, the Republic and the Laws give us the author's
political views; and, on the former, More's Uto'pia and other
works of like character in modern times are founded.
"Plato, of all authors," says DR. A. C. KENDRICK, [Footnote:
Article "Plato," in Appleton's American Cyclipoedia.] "is the
one to whom the least justice can be done by any formal analysis.
In the spirit which pervades his writings, in their untiring
freshness, in their purity, love of truth and of virtue, their
perpetual aspiring to the loftiest height of knowledge and of
excellence, much more than in their positive doctrines, lies
the secret of their charm and of their unfailing power. Plato is
often styled an idealist. But this is true of the spirit rather
than of the form of his doctrine; for strictly he is an intense
realist, and differs from his great pupil, Aristotle, far less
in his mere philosophical method than in his lofty moral and
religious aspirations, which were perpetually winging his spirit
toward the beautiful and the good. His formal errors are abundant;
but even in his errors the truth is often deeper than the error;
and when that has been discredited, the language adjusts itself
to the deeper truth of which it was rather an inadequate expression
than a direct contradiction." Concerning the style of Plato's
writings, a distinguished English scholar and translator observes
as follows: "Nor is the language in which his thoughts are conveyed
less remarkable than the thoughts themselves. In his more elevated
passages he rises, like his own Prometheus, to heaven, and brings
down from thence the noblest of all thefts, [Footnote: See the
story of Prometheus.] Wisdom with Fire; but, in general, calm,
pure, and unaffected, his style flows like a stream which gurgles
its own music as it runs; and his works rise, like the great
fabric of Grecian literature, of which they are the best model,
in calm and noiseless majesty." [Footnote: Thomas Mitchell.]
Plato died at the advanced age of eighty-one, his mental powers
unimpaired, and he was buried in the Academe. On his tomb was
placed the following inscription:
Here, first of all men for pure justice famed,
Aris'tocles, the moral teacher, lies:
[Footnote: The proper name of Plato was Aristocles:
but in his youth he was surnamed Plato by his companions
in the gymnasium, on account of his broad shoulders.
(From the Greek word platus, "broad.")]
And if there ere has lived one truly wise,
This man was wiser still: too great for envy.
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C., at Stagi'ra, in Macedonia. Hence
he is frequently called the "Stag'i-rite;" as POPE calls him
in the following tribute found in his Temple of Fame:
Here, in a shrine that cast a dazzing light,
Sat, fixed in thought, the mighty Stagirite;
His sacred head a radiant zodiac crowned,
And various animals his sides surround;
His piercing eyes, erect, appear to view
Superior worlds, and look all nature through.
He repaired to Athens at the age of seventeen, and soon after
became a pupil of Plato. His uncommon acuteness of apprehension,
and his indefatigable industry, early won the notice and applause
of his master, who called him the "mind" of the school, and said,
when he was absent, "Intellect is not here." On the death of
Plato, Aristotle left Athens, and in 343 he repaired to Macedonia,
on the invitation of Philip, and became the instructor of the
young prince Alexander. In after years Alexander aided him in his
scientific pursuits by sending to him many objects of natural
history, and giving him large sums of money, estimated in all
at two millions of dollars.
In the year 335 Aristotle returned to Athens, and opened his
school in the Lyce'um. He walked with his scholars up and down
the shady avenues, conversing on philosophy, and hence his school
was called the peripatetic. Aristotle nowhere exhibits the merits
of Plato in the service of metaphysics, yet he was the most learned
and most productive of the writers of Greece. He had neither
the poetical imagination nor the genius of his teacher, but he
mastered the whole philosophical and historical science of his
age, and, more than Plato, his intellect has influenced the course
of modern civilization. He was eminently a practical philosopher--a
cold inquirer, whose mind did not reach the high and lofty teaching
of Plato, concerning Deity and the destiny of mankind. We find
the following just estimate of him in BROWNE'S Greek Classical
Literature: "One cannot set too high a value on the practical
nature of Aristotle's mind. He never forgot the bearing of all
philosophy upon the happiness of man, and he never lost sight
of man's wants and requirements. He saw the inadequacy of all
knowledge, unless he could trace in it a visible practical
tendency. But, beyond this one single point, he falls grievously
short of his great master, Plato. All his ideas of man's good
are limited to the consideration of this life alone. It is
impossible to trace in his writings any belief in a future state
For many centuries succeeding the Middle Ages, especially from
the eleventh to the fifteenth, the metaphysical teachings of
Aristotle held a tyrannic sway over the public mind; but they
have been gradually yielding to the more lofty and sublime
teachings of Plato. His investigations in natural science, however,
and his work as a logician and political philosopher, constitute
his greatness, and create the enormous influence that he has
wielded in the world. "Science owes to him its earliest impulse,"
says MR. LAWRENCE. "He perfected and brought into form," says
DR. WILLIAM SMITH, "those elements of the dialectic art which
had been struck out by Socrates and Plato, and wrought them by
his additions into so complete a system that he may be regarded
as at once the founder and perfecter of logic as an art." Says
MAHAFFY, "He has built his politics upon so sound a philosophic
basis, and upon the evidence of so large and varied a political
experience, that his lessons on the rise and fall of governments
will never grow old, and will be perpetually receiving fresh
corroborations, so long as human nature remains the same."
Aristotle was a friend of the Macedonians, and, on the death
of Alexander, he fled, from Athens to Chal'cis, in Euboea, to
escape a trial for impiety. There he died in 322 B.C. In the
lives of the three great philosophers of Greece--Socrates, Plato,
and Aristotle--is embraced what is commonly called "The
Philosophical Era of Athens." To this era MILTON has beautifully
alluded in his well-known description of the famous city; and
for the Academe, or Academia, the beautiful garden that was the
resort of the philosophers, EDWIN ARNOLD expresses these sentiments
Pleasanter than the hills of Thessaly,
Nearer and dearer to the poet's heart
Than the blue ripple belting Salamis,
Or long grass waving over Marathon,
Fair Academe, most holy Academe,
Thou art, and hast been, and shalt ever be.
I would be numbered now with things that were,
Changing the wasting fever of to-day
For the dear quietness of yesterday:
I would be ashes, underneath the grass,
So I had wandered in thy platane walks
One happy summer twilight--even one.
Was it not grand, and beautiful, and rare,
The music and the wisdom and the shade,
The music of the pebble-paven rills,
And olive boughs, and bowered nightingales,
Chorusing joyously the joyous things
Told by the gray Silenus of the grove,
Low-fronted and large-hearted Socrates!
Oh, to have seen under the olive blossoms
But once--only once in a mortal life,
The marble majesties of ancient gods!
And to have watched the ring of listeners--
The Grecian boys gone mad for love of truth,
The Grecian girls gone pale for love of him
Who taught the truth, who battled for the truth;
And girls and boys, women and bearded men,
Crowding to hear and treasure in their hearts
Matter to make their lives a happiness,
And death a happy ending.
EPICU'RUS AND ZE'NO.
What is known as the Epicure'an school of philosophy was founded
by Epicurus, a native of Samos, born in 342, who went to Athens
in early youth, and, at the age of thirty, established himself
as a philosophical teacher. He met with great success. He did
not believe in the soul's immortality, and taught the pursuit
of mental pleasure and happiness as the highest good. While his
learning was not great, he was a man of unsullied morality,
respected and loved by his followers to a wonderful degree.
Although he wrote books in advocacy of piety, and the reverence
due to the gods on account of the excellence of their nature,
he maintained that they had no concern in human affairs. Hence
the Roman poet LUCRETIUS, who lived when the old belief in the
gods and goddesses of the heathen world had nearly faded away,
attributes to the teachings of Epicurus the triumph of philosophy
On earth in bondage base existence lay,
Bent down by Superstition's iron sway.
She from the heavens disclosed her monstrous head,
And dark with grisly aspect, scowling dread,
Hung o'er the sons of men; but toward the skies
A man of Greece dared lift his mortal eyes,
And first resisting stood. Not him the fame
Of deities, the lightning's forky flame,
Or muttering murmurs of the threat'ning sky
Repressed; but roused his soul's great energy
To break the bars that interposing lay,
And through the gates of nature burst his way.
That vivid force of soul a passage found;
The flaming walls that close the world around
He far o'erleaped; his spirit soared on high
Through the vast whole, the one infinity.
Victor, he brought the tidings from the skies
What things in nature may, or may not, rise;
What stated laws a power finite assign,
And still with bounds impassable confine.
Thus trod beneath our feet the phantom lies;
We mount o'er Superstition to the skies.
--Trans. By ELTON.
The school of the Stoics was founded by Zeno, a native of Cyprus,
who went to Athens about 299 B.C., and opened a school in the
Poi'ki-le Sto'a, or painted porch, whence the name of his sect
arose. As is well known, the chief tenets of the Stoics were
temperance and self-denial, which Zeno himself practiced by living
on uncooked food, wearing very thin garments in winter, and
refusing the comforts of life generally. To the Stoics pleasure
was irrational, and pain a visitation to be borne with ease.
Both Stoicism and Epicureanism flourished among the Romans. The
teachings of Epictetus, the Roman Stoic philosopher, are summed
up in the formula, "Bear and forbear;" and he is said to have
observed that "Man is but a pilot; observe the star, hold the
rudder, and be not distracted on thy way." Both these schools
of philosophy, however, passed into skepticism. Epicureanism
became a material fatalism and a search for pleasure; while
Stoicism ended in spiritual fatalism. But when the Gospel awakened
the human heart to life, it was the Greek mind which gave mankind
a Christian theology.
* * * * *
The most distinguished Greek historian of this period was Xenophon,
of whom we have already seen something as the leader of the famous
"Retreat of the Ten Thousand," and as the author of a delightful
and instructive account of that achievement. He was born in Athens
about 443 B.C., and at an early age became the pupil of Socrates,
to whose principles he strictly adhered through life, in practice
as well as in theory. Seemingly on account of his philosophical
views he was banished by the Athenians, before his return from
the expedition into Asia; but the Spartans, with whom he fought
against Athens at Coronea, gave him an estate at Scil'lus, in
Elis, and here he lived, engaging in literary pursuits, that
were diversified by domestic enjoyments and active field-sports.
He died either at Scillus or at Corinth--to which latter place
some authorities think he removed in the later years of his
life--in the ninetieth year of his age.
Among the works of Xenophon is the Anab'asis, considered his
best, descriptive of the advance into Persia and the masterly
retreat; the Hellen'ica, a history of Greece, in seven books,
from the time of Thucydides to the battle of Mantine'a, in 362
B.C.; the Cyropoedi'a, a political romance, based on the history
of Cyrus the Great; a treatise on the horse, and the duties of
a cavalry commander; a treatise on hunting; a picture of an
Athenian banquet, and of the amusement and conversation with
which it was diversified; and, the most pleasing of all, the
Memorabil'ia, devoted to the defence of the life and principles
of Socrates. Concerning the remarkable miscellany of Xenophon,
MR. MITCHELL says: "The writer who has thrown equal interest
into an account of a retreating army and the description of a
scene of coursing; who has described with the same fidelity a
common groom and a perfect pattern of conjugal faithfulness--such
a man had seen life under aspects which taught him to know that
there were things of infinitely more importance than the turn
of a phrase, the music of a cadence, and the other niceties which
are wanted by a luxurious and opulent metropolis. The virtuous
feelings that were necessary in a mind constituted as his was,
took into their comprehensive bosom the welfare of the world."
Although the genius of Xenophon was not of the highest order,
his writings have afforded, to all succeeding ages, one of the
best models of purity, simplicity, and harmony of language: By
some of his contemporaries he has been styled "The Attic Muse;"
by others, "The Athenian Bee;" while his manners and personal
appearance have been described by Diog'enes Laer'tius, in his
Lives of the Philosophers, in the following brief but comprehensive
sentence: "Modest in deportment, and beautiful in person to a
Of the prominent Greek historians, Polybius was the last. Born
about 204 B.C., he lived and wrote in the closing period of Grecian
history. Having been carried a prisoner to Rome with the one
thousand prominent citizens of Achaia, his accomplishments secured
for him the friendship of Scip'io Africa'nus Mi'nor, and of his
father, Æmil'ius Pau'lus, at whose house he resided. He spent
his time in collecting materials for his works, and in giving
instruction to Scipio. In the year 150 B.C. he returned to his
native country with the surviving exiles, and actively exerted
himself to induce the Greeks to keep peace with the Romans, but,
as we know, without success. After the Roman conquest the Greeks
seem to have awakened to the wisdom of his advice, for on a statue
erected to his memory was the inscription, "Hellas would have
been saved had the advice of Polybius been followed." Polybius
wrote a history in forty books, embracing the time between the
commencement of the Second Punic War, in 218 B.C., and the
destruction of Carthage and Corinth by the Romans, in 146 B.C.
It is the most trustworthy history we possess of this period,
and has been closely copied by subsequent writers. A correct
estimate of its character and worth will be found in the following
"The greater part of the valuable and laborious work of Polybius
has perished. We have only the first five books entire, and
fragments and extracts of the rest. As it is, however, it is
one of the most valuable historical works that has come down
to us. His style, indeed, will not bear a comparison with the
great masters of Greek literature: he is not eloquent, like
Thucydides; nor practical, like Herodotus; nor perspicuous and
elegant, like Xenophon. He lived at a time when the Greek language
had lost much of its purity by an intermixture of foreign elements,
and he did not attempt to imitate the language of the Attic
writers. He wrote as he spoke: he gives us the first rough draft
of his thoughts, and seldom imposes on himself the trouble to
arrange or methodize them; hence, they are often meager and
desultory, and not infrequently deviate entirely from the subject.
"But in the highest quality of an historian--the love of truth--
Polybius has no superior. This always predominates in his writings.
He has judgment to trace effects to their causes, a full knowledge
of his subjects, and an impartiality that forbids him to conceal
it to favor any party or cause. In his geographical descriptions
he is not always clear, but his descriptions of battles have
never been surpassed. 'His writings have been admired by the
warrior, copied by the politician, and imitated by the historian.
Brutus had him ever in his hands, Tully transcribed him, and
many of the finest passages of Livy are the property of the Greek
I. ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE.
After the close of the Peloponnesian war the perfection and
application of the several orders of Grecian architecture were
displayed in the laying out of cities on a grander scale, and
by an increase of splendor in private residences, rather than
by any marked change in the style of public buildings and temples.
Alexandria in Egypt, and Antioch in Syria, were the finest examples
of Grecian genius in this direction, both in the regularity and
size of their public and private buildings, and in their external
and internal adornment. This period was also distinguished for
its splendid sepulchral and other monuments. Of these, probably
the most exquisite gem of architectural taste is the circular
building at Athens, the Cho-rag'ic Monument, or "Lantern of
Demosthenes," erected in honor of a victory gained by the chorus
of Lysic'rates in 334 B.C. "It is the purest specimen of the
Corinthian order," says a writer on architecture, "that has reached
our time, whose minuteness and unobtrusive beauty have preserved
it almost entire among the ruins of the mightiest piles of Athenian
art." Other celebrated monuments of this period were the one
erected at Halicarnas'sus by the Ca'rian queen Artemi'sia to the
memory of her husband Mauso'lus, adorned with sculptural
decorations by Sco'pas and others, and considered one of the
seven wonders of the world; and the octagonal edifice, the
Horolo'gium of Androni'cus Cyrrhes'tes, at Athens.
In sculpture, Athens still asserted its pre-eminence, but the
style and character of its later school were materially different
from those of the preceding one of Phid'ias. "Toward the close
of the Peloponnesian war," says a recent writer, "a change took
place in the habits and feelings of the Athenian people, under
the influence of which a new school of statuary was developed.
The people, spoiled by luxury, and craving the pleasures and
excitements which the prosperity of the age of Pericles had opened
to them, regarded the severe forms of the older masters with
even less patience than the austere virtues of the generation
which had driven the Persians out of Greece. The sculptors, giving
a reflex of the times in their productions, instead of the grand
and sublime cultivated the soft, the graceful, and the flowing,
and aimed at an expression of stronger passion and more dramatic
action. Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, the favorite subjects of
the Phidian era, gave place to such deities as Venus, Bacchus,
and Amor; and with the departure of the older gods departed also
the serene and composed majesty which had marked the
representations of them." [Footnote: C. S. Weyman.]
The first great artist of this school was Scopas, born at Paros,
and who flourished in the first half of the fourth century B.C.
Although famous in architectural sculpture, he excelled in single
figures and groups, "combining strength of expression with grace."
The celebrated group of Ni'o-be and her children slain by Ar'temis
and Apollo, a copy of which is preserved in the museum of Florence,
and the statue of the victorious Venus in the Louvre at Paris,
are attributed to Scopas. The most esteemed of his works, according
to Pliny, was a group representing Achilles conducted to the Island
of Leu'ce by sea deities. The only other artist of this school
that we will refer to is Praxit'eles, a contemporary of Scopas.
He excelled in representing the female figure, his masterpiece
being the Cnid'ian Aphrodi'te, a naked statue, in Parian marble,
modeled from life, representing Venus just leaving the bath.
This statue was afterward taken to Constantinople, where it was
burned during the reign of Justinian.
This Athenian school of sculpture was followed, in the time of
Alexander the Great, by what was called the Si-çy-o'ni-an school,
of which Euphra'nor, of Corinth, and Lysip'pus, of Si'çy-on, were
the leading representatives. The former was a painter as well
as sculptor. His statues were executed in bronze and marble, and
were admired for their dignity. Lysippus worked only in bronze,
and was the only sculptor that Alexander the Great permitted
to represent him in statues. His works were very numerous,
including the colossal statue of Jupiter at Tarentum, sixty feet
high, several of Hercules, and many others. The succeeding and
later Greek sculptors made no attempt to open a new path of design,
but they steadily maintained the reputation of the art. Many
works of great excellence were produced in Rhodes, Alexandria,
Ephesus, and elsewhere in the East. Among these was the famous
Colossus, a statue of the sun, designed and executed by Cha'res
of Rhodes, that reared its huge form one hundred and five feet
in height at the entrance to Rhodes harbor; the Farnese Bull,
at Naples, found in the Baths of Caracalla at Rome, also the
work of a Rhodian artist; and the Apollo Belvedere, in the Vatican.
Two works of this late age deserve special mention. One is the
statue of the Dying Gladiator, in the Capitoline Museum at Rome,
supposed to have come from Pergamus. Says LÜBKE, "It undoubtedly
represents a Gaul who, in battle, seeing the foe approach in
overwhelming force, has fallen upon his own sword to escape a
shameful slavery. Overcome by the faintness of approaching death,
he has fallen upon his shield; his right arm with difficulty
prevents his sinking to the ground; his life ebbs rapidly away
with the blood streaming from the deep wound beneath his breast;
his broad head droops heavily forward; the mists of death already
cloud his eyes; his brows are knit with pain; and his lips are
parted in a last sigh. There is, perhaps, no other statue in
which the bitter necessity of death is expressed with such terrible
truth--all the more terrible because the hardy body is so full
Supported on his shortened arm he leans,
Prone agonizing; with incumbent fate
Heavy declines his head, yet dark beneath
The suffering feature sullen vengeance lowers,
Shame, indignation, unaccomplished rage;
And still the cheated eye expects his fall.
The other statue is that masterpiece of art, the group of the
La-oc'o-on, now in the Vatican at Rome, the work of the three
Rhodian sculptors, Agesan'dros, Polydo'rus, and Athenodo'rus.
It represents a scene, in connection with the fall of Troy, that
Virgil describes in the Second Book of the Æneid. A Trojan priest,
named Laocoon, endeavored to propitiate Neptune by sacrifice,
and to dissuade the Trojans from admitting within the walls the
fatal wooden horse, whereupon the goddess Minerva, ever favorable
to the Greeks, punished him by sending two enormous serpents
from the sea to destroy him and his two sons. The poet THOMSON
well describes the agony and despair that the statue portrays:
Such passion here!
Such agonies! such bitterness of pain
Seem so to tremble through the tortured stone
That the touched heart engrosses all the view.
Almost unmarked the best proportions pass
That ever Greece beheld; and, seen alone,
On the rapt eye the imperious passions seize:
The father's double pangs, both for himself
And sons, convulsed; to Heaven his rueful look,
Imploring aid, and half-accusing, cast;
His fell despair with indignation mixed
As the strong-curling monsters from his side
His full-extended fury cannot tear.
More tender touched, with varied art, his sons
All the soft rage of younger passions show:
In a boy's helpless fate one sinks oppressed,
While, yet unpierced, the frighted other tries
His foot to steal out of the horrid twine.
An American writer thus apostrophizes this grand representation:
Laocoon! thou great embodiment
Of human life and human history!
Thou record of the past, thou prophecy
Of the sad future! thou majestic voice,
Pealing along the ages from old time!
Thou wail of agonized humanity!
There lives no thought in marble like to thee!
Thou hast no kindred in the Vatican,
But standest separate among the dreams
Of old mythologies-alone-alone!
--J. G. HOLLAND.
* * * * *
In painting, the Asiatic school of Zeuxis and Parrhasius was
also followed by a "Si-çy-o'ni-an school"--the third and last
phase of Greek painting, founded by Eupom'pus, of Si'çy-on. The
characteristics of this school were great ease, accuracy, and
refinement. Among its chief masters were Pam'philus, Apel'les,
Protog'enes, Ni'cias, and Aristides. Of these the most famous was
Apelles, a native of Col'ophon, in Ionia, who flourished in the
time of Alexander the Great, with whom he was a great favorite.
Of his many fine productions the finest was his painting of
Venus rising from the Sea, and concerning which ANTIPATER, the
poet of Sidon, wrote the following epigram:
Graceful as from her native sea she springs,
Venus, the labor of Apelles, view:
With pressing hands her humid locks she wrings,
While from her tresses drips the frothy dew:
Ev'n Juno and Minerva now declare,
No longer we contend whose form's most fair.
APELLES AND PROTOGENES.
A very pleasing story is told, by Pliny, of Apelles and his
brother-artist, Protogenes, which DR. ANTHON relates as follows:
"Apelles, having come to Rhodes, where Protogenes was then
residing, paid a visit to the artist, but, not finding him at
home, obtained permission from a domestic in waiting to enter
his studio. Finding here a piece of canvas ready on the frame
for the artist's pencil, Apelles drew upon it a line (according
to some, a figure in outline) with wonderful precision, and then
retired without disclosing his name. Protogenes, on returning
home, and discovering what had been done, exclaimed that Apelles
alone could have executed such a sketch. However, he drew another
himself--a line more nearly perfect than that of Apelles--and
left directions with his domestic that, when the stranger should
call again, he should be shown what had been done by him. Apelles
came, accordingly, and, perceiving that his line had been excelled
by Protogenes, drew a third one, much better than the other two,
and cutting both. Protogenes now confessed himself vanquished;
he ran to the harbor, sought for Apelles, and the two artists
became the warmest friends. The canvas containing this famous
trial of skill became highly prized, and at a later day was placed
in the palace of the Cæsars at Rome. Here it was burned in a
conflagration that destroyed the palace itself."
Protogenes was noted for his minute and scrupulous care in the
preparation of his works. He carried this peculiarity to such
excess that Apelles was moved to make the following comparison:
"Protogenes equals or surpasses me in all things but one--the
knowing when to remove his hand from a painting." Protogenes
survived Apelles, and became a very eminent painter. It is stated
that when Demetrius besieged Rhodes, and could have reduced it
by setting fire to a quarter of the city that contained one of
the finest productions of Protogenes, he refused to do so lest
he should destroy the masterpiece of art. It is to this incident
that the poet THOMSON undoubtedly refers when he says,
E'en such enchantment then thy pencil poured,
That cruel-thoughted War the impatient torch
Dashed to the ground; and, rather than destroy
The patriot picture, let the city 'scape.
From the time of Alexander the art of painting rapidly
deteriorated, and at the period of the Roman conquest it had
scarcely an existence. Grecian art, like Grecian liberty, had
lost its spirit and vitality, and the spoliation of public
buildings and galleries, to adorn the porticos and temples of
Rome, hastened its extinction. We have now reached the close
of the history of ancient Greece. But Hellas still lives in her
thousand hallowed associations of historic interest, and in the
numerous ruins of ancient art and splendor which cover her soil--
recalling a glorious Past, upon which we love to dwell as upon
the memory of departed friends or the scenes of a happy childhood--
"sweet, but mournful to the soul." And although the ashes of her
generals, her poets, her scholars, and her artists are scattered
from their urns, and her statuary and her temples are mutilated
and discolored ruins, ancient Greece lives also in the song,
the art, and the research of modern times. In contemplating the
influence of her genius, the mind is naturally fixed upon the
chief repository of her taste and talent--Athens, "the eye of
Greece"--from which have sprung "all the strength, the wisdom,
the freedom, and the glory of the western world."
Within the surface of Time's fleeting river
Its wrinkled image lies, as then it lay,
Immovably unquiet, and forever
It trembles, but it cannot pass away!
The voices of thy bards and sages thunder
With an earth-awaking blast
Through the caverns of the past;
Religion veils her eyes; Oppression shrinks aghast;
A wingèd sound of joy, and love, and wonder,
Which soars where Expectation never flew,
Rending the veil of space and time asunder!
One ocean feeds the clouds, and streams, and dew;
One sun illumines heaven; one spirit vast
With life and love makes chaos ever new,
As Athens doth the world with her delight renew.
Of the splendid literature of Athens LORD MACAULAY says, "It
is a subject in which I love to forget the accuracy of a judge
in the veneration of a worshipper and the gratitude of a child."
To Hellenic thought, as embodied and exemplified in the great
works of Athenian genius, he rightly ascribes the establishment
of an intellectual empire that is imperishable; and from one of
his valuable historical "Essays" we quote the following graphic
delineation of what may be termed
The Immortal Influence of Athens.
"If we consider merely the subtlety of disquisition, the force
of imagination, the perfect energy and elegance of expression,
which characterize the great works of Athenian genius, we must
pronounce them intrinsically most valuable; but what shall we
say when we reflect that from hence have sprung, directly or
indirectly, all the noblest creations of the human intellect?
That from hence were the vast accomplishments and the brilliant
fancy of Cicero, the withering fire of Juvenal, the plastic
imagination of Dante, the humor of Cervantes, the comprehension
of Bacon, the wit of Butler, the supreme and universal excellence
of Shakspeare? All the triumphs of truth and genius over prejudice
and power, in every country and in every age, have been the
triumphs of Athens. Whatever a few great minds have made a stand
against violence and fraud, in the cause of liberty and reason,
there has been her spirit in the midst of them, inspiring,
encouraging, consoling--the lonely lamp of Erasmus; by the restless
bed of Pascal; in the tribune of Mirabeau; in the cell of Galileo,
and on the scaffold of Sidney. But who shall estimate her influence
on private happiness? Who shall say how many thousands have been
made wiser, happier, and better, by those pursuits in which she
has taught mankind to engage? to how many the studies which took
their rise from her have been wealth in poverty, liberty in bondage,
health in sickness, society in solitude? Her power is indeed
manifested at the bar, in the senate, on the field of battle,
in the schools of philosophy. But these are not her glory. Wherever
literature consoles sorrow or assuages pain--wherever it brings
gladness to eyes which fail with wakefulness and tears, and ache
for the dark house and the long sleep--there is exhibited, in
its noblest form, the immortal influence of Athens.
"The dervis, in the Arabian tale, did not hesitate to abandon to
his comrade the camels with their load of jewels and gold, while
he retained the casket of that mysterious juice which enabled him
to behold at one glance all the hidden riches of the universe.
Surely it is no exaggeration to say that no external advantage
is to be compared with that purification of the intellectual
eye which gives us to contemplate the infinite wealth of the
mental world; all the hoarded treasures of the primeval dynasties,
and all the shapeless ore of its yet unexplored mines. This is
the gift of Athens to man. Her freedom and her power have been
annihilated for more than twenty centuries; her people have
degenerated into timid slaves; [Footnote: But this is not the
character of the Athenians of the present day.] her language
into a barbarous jargon; her temples have been given up to the
successive depredations of Romans, Turks, and Scotchmen; but
her intellectual empire is imperishable. And, when those who
have rivaled her greatness shall have shared her fate; when
civilization and knowledge shall have fixed their abode in distant
continents; when the sceptre shall have passed away from England;
when, perhaps, travelers from distant regions shall in vain labor
to decipher on some mouldering pedestal the name of our proudest
chief--shall hear savage hymns chanted to some misshapen idol
over the ruined dome of our proudest temple, and shall see a
single naked fisherman wash his nets in the river of the ten
thousand masts--the influence and glory of Athens will still
survive, fresh in eternal youth, exempt from mutability and decay,
immortal as the intellectual principle from which they derived
their origin, and over which they exercise their control."
Genius of Greece! thou livest; though thy domes
Are fallen; here, in this thy loved abode,
Thine Athens, as I breathe the clear pure air
Which thou hast breathed, climb the dark mountain's side
Which thou hast trod, or in the temple's porch
Pause on the sculptured beauties which thine eye
Has often viewed delighted, I confess
Thy nearer influence; I feel thy power
Exalting every wish to virtuous hope;
I hear thy solemn voice amid the crash
Of fanes hurled prostrate by barbarian hands,
Calling me forth to tread with thee the paths
Of wisdom, or to listen to thy harp
Hymning immortal strains.
Greece! though deserted are thy ports, and all
Thy pomp and thy magnificence are shrunk
Into a narrow circuit; though thy gates
Pour forth no more thy crested sons to war;
Though thy capacious theatres resound
No longer with the replicated shouts
Of multitudes; although Philosophy
Is silent 'mid thy porticos and groves;
Though Commerce heaves no more the pond'rous load,
Or, thund'ring with her thousand cars, imprints
Her footsteps on thy rocks; though near thy fanes
And marble monuments the peasant's hut
Rears its low roof in bitter mockery
Of faded splendor--yet shalt thou survive,
Nor yield till time yields to eternity.
GREECE SUBSEQUENT TO THE ROMAN CONQUEST.
I. GREECE UNDER THE ROMANS.
The Romans conducted their administration of Greece with much
wisdom and moderation, treating both its religion and municipal
institutions with great respect. As MR. FINLAY says, "Under these
circumstances prudence and local interests would everywhere favor
submission to Rome; national vanity alone would whisper incitements
to venture on a struggle for independence." [Footnote: "History
of Greece from 146 B.C. to A.D. 1864;" by George Finlay, LL.D.]
But the latter induced the Greeks to attempt to regain their
liberties at the time of the first Mithridatic war, about 87
B.C. Sylla, the Roman general, marched into Greece at the head
of a powerful army, and laid siege to Athens, which made a
desperate defence. At last, their resources exhausted, the
Athenians sent a deputation of orators to negotiate with the old
Roman; and it is stated that "their spokesman began to remind
him of their past glory, and was proceeding to touch upon Marathon,
when the surly soldier fiercely replied, 'I was sent here to
punish rebels, not to study history.' And he did punish them.
Breaking down the wall, his soldiers poured into the city, and
with drawn swords they swept through the streets." The severe
losses sustained by Greece in this rebellion were never repaired.
The same historian adds that both parties--Greeks and Romans--
"inflicted severe injuries on Greece, plundered the country,
and destroyed property most wantonly. The foundations of national
prosperity were undermined; and it henceforward became impossible
to save from the annual consumption of the inhabitants, the sums
necessary to replace the accumulated capital of ages which this
short war had annihilated. In some cases the wealth of the
communities became insufficient to keep the existing public works
Cilician pirates soon after commenced their depredations, and
ravaged both the main-land and the islands until expelled by
Pompey the Great. The civil wars that overthrew the Roman republic
next added to the desolation of Greece; but on the establishment
of the Roman empire the country entered upon a career of peace
and comparative prosperity. Says a late compiler, [Footnote: Edward
L. Burlingame, Ph.D.] "Augustus and his successors generally
treated Greece with respect, and some of them distinguished her
by splendid imperial favors. Trajan greatly improved her condition
by his wise and liberal administration. Hadrian and the
Antonines venerated her for her past achievements, and showed
their good-will by the care they extended to her works of art,
and their patronage of the schools." It was at this time, also,
that the Christian religion was gaining great victories 'over
the indifference of the people to their ancient rites,' and was
thus essentially changing the moral and intellectual condition
of Greece. Aside from its power to fill the void in the heart
that philosophy, though strengthening the intellect, could not
reach, Christianity bore certain relations to the ancient
principles of government, that commended it to the acceptance
of the Greeks. These relations, and their effects, are thus
explained by DR. FELTON and a writer that he quotes: [Footnote:
"Lecture on "Greece under the Romans."]
"Besides the peculiar consolations afforded by Christianity to
the afflicted of all ranks and classes, there were popular elements
in its early forms which could not fail to commend it to the
regards of common men. It borrowed the designation ecclesia from
the old popular assembly, and liturgy from the services required
by law of the richer citizens in the popular festivities. It
taught the equality of all men in the sight of God; and this
doctrine could not fail to be affectionately welcomed by a
conquered people. The Christian congregations were organized upon
democratic principles, at least in Greece, and presented a
semblance of the free assemblies of former times; and the daily
business of communities was, equally with their spiritual affairs,
transacted under these popular forms. 'From the moment a people,'
says a recent writer, 'in the state of intellectual civilization
in which the Greeks were, could listen to the preachers, it was
certain they would adopt the religion. They might alter, modify,
or corrupt it, but it was impossible they should reject it. The
existence of an assembly in which the dearest interests of all
human beings were expounded and discussed in the language of
truth, and with the most earnest expressions of persuasion, must
have lent an irresistible charm to the investigation of the new
doctrine among a people possessing the institutions and the
feelings of the Greeks. Sincerity, truth, and a desire to persuade
others, will soon create eloquence where numbers are gathered
together. Christianity revived oratory, and with oratory it
awakened many of the characteristics which had slept for ages.
The discussions of Christianity gave also new vigor to the
commercial and municipal institutions, as they improved the
intellectual qualities of the people.'"
Among the imperial friends of Greece, whose reign has been
characterized by some writers as "the last fortunate period in
the sad annals of that country," was the Emperor Julian, known
as "The Apostate." He ascended the throne in 361 A.D.; and,
although he sought to overthrow Christianity and re-establish
the pagan religion, "he founded charities, aimed at the suppression
of vice and profligacy, and was distinguished for his devotion
to the happiness of the people." Well educated in early life,
he became an accomplished and cultured sovereign, "and in many
ways manifested his passionate attachment to Greece, her
literature, her institutions, and her arts."
* * * * *
II. CHANGES DOWN TO THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY.
On the establishment of the Eastern empire of the Romans, with
Byzantium for its capital, the Greeks began to exert a greater
influence in the affairs of government, and, outside of the
metropolis itself, the Roman spirit of the administration was
gradually destroyed. In the third and fourth centuries Greece
suffered from invasions by the Goths and Huns, and all apparent
progress was stopped; but during the long reign of Justinian,
from 527 to 565, many of its cities were embellished and fortified,
and the pagan schools of Athens were closed. No farther events
of importance affecting the condition of Greece occurred until
the immigrations of the Slavonians and other barbarous races,
in the sixth and eighth centuries. The population of Greece had
dwindled rapidly, and its revenues were so small that the Eastern
emperors cared little to defend it. Hence these northern migratory
hordes rapidly acquired possession of its soil. Finally this great
body of settlers broke up into a number of tribes and disappeared
as a people, leaving behind them, however, still existing evidences
of their influence upon the country and its inhabitants.
THE COURTS OF CRUSADING CHIEFTAINS.
The next important changes in the affairs of Greece were wrought
by warriors from the West. In 1081 the Norman, Robert Guiscard,
and in 1146 Roger, King of Sicily, conquered portions of the
country, including Corinth, Thebes, and Athens; and in the time
of the fourth Crusade to the Holy Land (1203), when Constantinople
was captured by Latin princes (1204), Greece became a prize for
some of the most powerful crusading chieftains, under whose rule
the courts of Thessaloni'ca, Athens, and the Peloponnesus attained
to considerable celebrity even throughout Europe. "But their
magnificence," says a writer in the Edinburgh Review, "was entirely
modern. It centered wholly round their own persons and interests;
and although the condition of the people was in no respects worse,
in some respects palpably better, still they did but minister
to the glory of the houses of Neri or Acciajuoli, or De la Roche
or Brienne. The beautiful structures of Athens and the Acropolis
were prized, not as heirlooms of departed greatness, but as the
ornaments of a feudal court, and the rewards of successful valor."
The Duchy of Athens was the most interesting and renowned of
these Frankish kingdoms; and in one of his lectures PRESIDENT
FELTON [Footnote: Lecture on "Turkish Conquest of Constantinople."]
points out the traces which this duchy has left here and there
in modern literature. "The fame of the brilliant court of Athens,"
he says, "resounded through the west of Europe, and many a chapter
of old romance is filled with gorgeous pictures of its splendors.
One of the heroines of Boccacio's Decameron, in the course of
her adventurous life, is found at Athens, inspiring the duke
by her charms. Dan'te was a contemporary of Guy II. and Walter
de Brienne; and in his Divina Commedia he applies to Theseus,
King of ancient Athens, the title so familiar to him, borne by
the princely rulers in his own day. Chaucer, too--the bright
herald of English poetry--had often heard of the dukes of Athens;
and he too, like Dante, gives the title to Theseus. Finally, in
the age of Elizabeth, when Italian poetry was much studied by
scholars and courtiers, Shakspeare, in the delightful scenes of
the Midsummer Night's Dream, introduces Theseus, Duke of Athens,
as the conqueror and the lover of Hippol'yta, the warrior-queen
of the Amazons."
Theseus. Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword,
And won thy love, doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling.
--Act I. Scene I.
THE TURKISH INVASION.
Some of these Latin principalities and dukedoms existed until
they were swept away by the Turks, who, after the fall of
Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire in 1453, by degrees
obtained possession of Greece.
Then, Greece, the tempest rose that burst on thee,
Land of the bard, the warrior, and the sage!
Oh, where were then thy sons, the great, the free,
Whose deeds are guiding stars from age to age?
Though firm thy battlements of crags and snows,
And bright the memory of thy days of pride,
In mountain might though Corinth's fortress rose,
On, unresisted, rolled th' invading tide!
Oh! vain the rock, the rampart, and the tower,
If Freedom guard them not with Mind's unconquered power.
Where were th' avengers then, whose viewless might
Preserved inviolate their awful fane,
When through the steep defiles to Delphi's height
In martial splendor poured the Persian's train?
Then did those mighty and mysterious Powers,
Armed with the elements, to vengeance wake,
Call the dread storms to darken round their towers,
Hurl down the rocks, and bid the thunders break;
Till far around, with deep and fearful clang,
Sounds of unearthly war through wild Parnassus rang.
Where was the spirit of the victor-throng,
Whose tombs are glorious by Scamander's tide,
Whose names are bright in everlasting song,
The lords of war, the praised, the deified?
Where he, the hero of a thousand lays,
Who from the dead at Marathon arose
All armed, and, beaming on th' Athenian's gaze,
A battle-meteor, guided to their foes?
Or they whose forms, to Alaric's awe-struck eye,
[Footnote: GIBBON says: "From Thermopylæ to Sparta the leader
of the Goths (Alaric) pursued his victorious march without
encountering any mortal antagonist; but one of the advocates of
expiring paganism has confidently asserted that the walls of
Athens were guarded by the goddess Minerva with her formidable
ægis, and by the angry phantom of Achilles; and that the
conqueror was dismayed by the presence of the hostile deities
of Greece." But Gibbon characteristically adds, "The Christian
faith which Alaric had devotedly embraced taught him to despise
the imaginary deities of Rome and Athens."--Milman's "Gibbon's
Rome," vol. ii., p. 215.]
Hovering o'er Athens, blazed in airy panoply?
Ye slept, oh heroes! chief ones of the earth--
High demi-gods of ancient day--ye slept.
There lived no spark of your ascendant worth,
When o'er your land the victor Moslem swept;
No patriot then the sons of freedom led,
In mountain-pass devotedly to die;
The martyr-spirit of resolve was fled,
And the high soul's unconquered buoyancy;
And by your graves, and on your battle-plains,
Warriors, your children knelt, to wear the stranger's chains.
* * * * *
III. CONTESTS BETWEEN THE TURKS AND VENETIANS.
Greece was long the scene of severe contests between the Turks
and the Venetians. Athens was first captured by the Turks in
1456, but they were driven from it in 1467 by the Venetians, who
were in turn expelled from the city by the Turks in 1470. But
Venice, as a French historian--COMTE DE LABOURDE--has observed,
"Alone of the states of Europe could feel, from a merely material
point of view, the force of the blow struck at Europe and her
own commerce by the submission of almost the whole of Greece
to Turkish rule;" and this feeling survived many centuries. In
1670 the Turks conquered Crete from the Venetians, and in 1684
the latter retaliated by offensive operations against the
Peloponnesus, which was soon reconquered by the Venetian admiral
Morosini. In 1687 Morosini crowned his successes by the capture
of Athens. The Turkish garrison had retired to the Acropolis,
and the victory is principally of interest on account of the
irreparable injury done to the works of art on that "rock-shrine
of Athens." Although he subsequently sought to evade all
responsibility for the desolation that ensued, it was Morosini
who directed his batteries to hurl their fatal burdens against
the Acropolis, and it was he who afterward robbed it of many
of its treasures. Hitherto the alterations made for military
purposes, and the slight injuries inflicted at various times,
had not marred the general beauty and effect of its buildings;
but when the troops of Venice entered Athens, the Parthenon and
others of that gorgeous assemblage of structures were in ruins,
and the glory of the Athenian Acropolis survived only in the
past. Contrasting its past glory and its present decay, a writer
in a recent Review makes these interesting observations:
"No other fortress has embraced so much beauty and splendor within
its walls, and none has witnessed a series of more startling
and momentous changes in the fortunes of its possessors. Wave
after wave of war and conquest has beaten against it. The city
which lies at its feet has fallen beneath the assaults of the
Persian, the Spartan, the Macedonian, the Roman, the Goth, the
Crusader, and the Turk. Through all these and other vicissitudes
the Acropolis passed, changing only in the character of its
occupants, unchanged in its loveliness and splendor. With a few
blemishes and losses, whether from the decaying taste of later
times or the occasional robberies of a foreign conqueror, but
unaffected in its general aspect, it presented to the eyes of
the victorious Ottoman the same front of unparalleled beauty
which it had displayed in the days of Pericles. To him who looks
upon it now, however, the scene is changed indeed--changed not
only in the loss of its treasures of decorative art (for of many
of these it had been robbed before), but with its loveliest fabrics
shattered, many reduced to hopeless ruin, and not a few utterly
obliterated. Less than two centuries sufficed to bring about
all this dilapidation: less than three months sufficed to complete
the ruin. If the Venetian, by his abortive conquest, inflicted
not more injury on the fair heritage of Athenian art than it had
undergone from all preceding spoliations, he left it, not merely
from the havoc of war, but by wanton subsequent mutilation,
in that state which rendered the recovery of its ancient grace
and majesty impossible."
The Venetians evacuated Athens in 1688, and a few years
subsequently the Peloponnesus was their only possession in Greece.
In 1715 a Turkish army of one hundred thousand men under Al'i
Coumour'gi, the Grand Vizier of Ach'met III., invaded the
Peloponnesus, and first attacked Corinth. Historians tell us
that the garrison, weakened by several unsuccessful attacks,
opened negotiations for a surrender; but, while these were in
progress, the accidental firing of a magazine in the Turkish
camp so enraged the infidels that they at once broke off the
negotiations, stormed and captured the city, and put most of
the garrison, with Signor Minotti, the commander, to the sword.
Those taken prisoners were reserved for execution under the walls
of Nauplia, within sight of the Venetians.
In BYRON'S Siege of Corinth, founded on the historical narrative; a
poetical license is taken, and the death of Minotti and the remnant
of his followers is attributed to the explosion of a powder-magazine
fired by Minotti himself. From the fine descriptions which this poem
contains we extract the following verses:
The Siege and Fall of Corinth.
On dim Cithæron's ridge appears
The gleam of twice ten thousand spears;
And downward to the Isthmian plain,
From shore to shore of either main,
The tent is pitched, the crescent shines
Along the Moslem's leaguering lines;
And the dusk Spä'hi's bands advance
Beneath each bearded pä'sha's glance;
And far and wide as eye can reach
The turbaned cohorts throng the beach;
And there the Arab's camel kneels,
And there his steed the Tartar wheels;
The Turcoman has left his herd,
The sabre round his loins to gird;
And there the volleying thunders pour,
Till waves grow smoother to the roar.
The trench is dug, the cannon's breath
Wings the far hissing globe of death;
Fast whirl the fragments from the wall,
Which crumbles with the ponderous ball;
And from that wall the foe replies,
O'er dusty plain and smoky skies,
With fires that answer fast and well.
The summons of the Infidel.
The walls grew weak; and fast and hot
Against them poured the ceaseless shot,
With unabating fury sent
From battery to battlement;
And thunder-like the pealing din
Rose from each heated culverin;
And here and there some crackling dome
Was fired before the exploding bomb;
And as the fabric sank beneath
The shattering shell's volcanic breath,
In red and wreathing columns flashed
The flame, as loud the ruin crashed,
Or into countless meteors driven,
Its earth-stars melted into heaven--
Whose clouds that day grew doubly dun,
Impervious to the hidden sun,
With volumed smoke that slowly grew
To one wide sky of sulphurous hue.
Having made a breach in the walls, as morning dawns the Turks
form in line, and wait for the word to storm the intrenchments.
Coumourgi addresses them--the command is given, and with the
irresistible force of an avalanche the infidels pour into Corinth.
Tartar, and Spähi, and Turcoman,
Strike your tents and throng to the van;
Mount ye, spur ye, skirr the plain,
That the fugitive may flee in vain
When he breaks from the town; and none escape,
Aged or young, in the Christian shape;
While your fellows on foot, in a fiery mass,
Bloodstain the breach through which they pass.
The steeds are all bridled, and snort to the rein;
Curved is each neck, and flowing each mane;
White is the foam of their champ on the bit:
The spears are uplifted, the matches are lit,
The cannon are pointed, and ready to roar,
And crush the wall they have crumbled before:
The khan and the päshas are all at their post;
The vizier himself at the head of the host.
When the culverin's signal is fired, then on;
Leave not in Corinth a living one--
A priest at her altars, a chief in her halls,
A hearth in her mansions, a stone on her walls.
God and the prophet-Ala Hu!
Up to the skies with that wild halloo!
"There the breach lies for passage, the ladder to scale;
And your hands on your sabres, and how should ye fail?
He who first downs with the red cross may crave
His heart's dearest wish; let him ask it, and have!"
Thus uttered Coumourgi, the dauntless vizier;
The reply was the brandish of sabre and spear,
And the shout of fierce thousands in joyous ire;
Silence--hark to the signal--fire!
* * * * *
As the spring-tides, with heavy plash,
From the cliffs invading, dash
Huge fragments, sapped by the ceaseless flow,
Till white and thundering down they go,
Like the avalanche's snow,
On the Alpine vales below;
Thus at length, outbreathed and worn,
Corinth's sons were downward borne
By the long and oft renewed
Charge of the Moslem multitude.
In firmness they stood, and in masses they fell,
Heaped, by the host of the infidel,
Hand to hand, and foot to foot:
Nothing there, save death, was mute;
Stroke, and thrust, and flash, and cry
For quarter, or for victory,
Mingle there with the volleying thunder,
Which makes the distant cities wonder
How the sounding battle goes,
If with them or for their foes.
From the point of encountering blades to the hilt
Sabres and swords with blood were gilt;
But the rampart is won, and the spoil begun,
And all but the after-carnage done.
Shriller shrieks now mingling come
From within the plundered dome:
Hark to the haste of flying feet,
That splash in the blood of the slippery street;
But here and there, where 'vantage ground
Against the foe may still be found,
Desperate groups of twelve or ten
Make a pause, and turn again--
With banded backs against the wall
Fiercely stand, or fighting fall.
Minotti, though an old man, has an "arm full of might," and he
disputes, foot by foot, the successful and deadly onslaughts
of the Turks. He finally retires, with the remnant of his gallant
band, to the fortified church, where lie the last and richest
spoils sought by the infidels, and in the vaults beneath which,
lined with the dead of ages gone, was also "the Christians' chiefest
magazine." To the latter a train had been laid, and, seizing
a blazing torch, his "last and stern resource,"
Darkly, sternly, and all alone,
Minotti stands o'er the altar-stone,
and awaits the last attack of his foes. It soon comes.
So near they came, the nearest stretched
To grasp the spoil he almost reached,
When old Minotti's hand
Touched with the torch the train--
Spire, vaults, the shrine, the spoil, the slain,
The turbaned victors, the Christian band,
All that of living or dead remain,
Hurled on high with the shivered fane,
In one wild roar expired!
The shattered town, the walls thrown down,
The waves a moment backward bent--
The hills that shake, although unrent,
As if an earthquake passed--
The thousand shapeless things all driven
In cloud and flame athwart the heaven,
By that tremendous blast--
Proclaimed the desperate conflict o'er
On that too long afflicted shore:
Up to the sky like rockets go
All that mingled there below:
Many a tall and goodly man,
Scorched and shrivelled to a span,
When he fell to earth again
Like a cinder strewed the plain:
Down the ashes shower like rain;
Some fell in the gulf, which received the sprinkles
With a thousand circling wrinkles;
Some fell on the shore, but, far away,
Scattered o'er the isthmus lay.
* * * * *
All the living things that heard
That deadly earth-shock disappeared;
The wild birds flew; the wild dogs fled,
And howling left the unburied dead;
The camels from their keepers broke,
The distant steer forsook the yoke--
The nearer steed plunged o'er the plain,
And burst his girth, and tore his rein;
The bull-frog's note, from out the marsh,
Deep-mouthed arose, and doubly harsh
The wolves yelled on the caverned hill,
Where echo rolled in thunder still;
The jackal's troop, in gathered cry,
Bayed from afar complainingly,
With a mixed and mournful sound,
Like crying babe, and beaten hound:
With sudden wing and ruffled breast
The eagle left his rocky nest,
And mounted nearer to the sun,
The clouds beneath him seemed so dun;
Their smoke assailed his startled beak,
And made him higher soar and shriek.
Thus was Corinth lost and won!
* * * * *
IV. FINAL CONQUEST OF GREECE BY TURKEY.
The fall of Corinth opened the way to a successful advance of
the Turkish forces through the Peloponnesus, and the Venetians
were soon compelled to abandon it. By the peace of Passä'rowitz,
in 1718, the whole of Greece was again surrendered to Turkey,
and under her rule the country, divided into military districts
called Pasha'lics, sunk into a deplorable condition which the
progress of time did nothing to ameliorate. The Greeks, being
virtually reduced to bondage, suffered untold miseries from the
rapacity and barbarism of their masters. Says the historian,
SIR EMERSON TENNENT, "So undefined was the system of extortion,
and so uncontrolled the power of those to whose execution it
was intrusted, that the evil spread over the whole system of
administration, and insinuated itself with a polypous fertility
into every relation and ordinance of society, till there were
few actions or occupations of the Greeks that were not burdened
with the scrutiny and interference of their masters, and none that
did not suffer, in a greater or less degree, from their heartless
rapine." For four centuries and over the Greeks suffered under
this despotism, which stamped out industry and education, and
tended to the extinction of every manly trait in the people, while
it also developed the native vices of the Hellenic character.
In a poem written in 1786 by the afterward celebrated British
statesman, GEORGE CANNING, the writer, after paying a handsome
tribute to the greatness and glory of the Greece of olden time,
draws the following truthful picture of her degeneracy in his
The Slavery of Greece.
Oh, how changed thy fame,
And all thy glories fading into shame!
What! that thy bold, thy freedom-breathing land
Should crouch beneath a tyrant's stern command!
That servitude should bind in galling chain
Whom Asia's millions once opposed in vain,
Who could have thought? Who sees without a groan
Thy cities mouldering and thy walls o'erthrown;
That where once towered the stately, solemn fane,
Now moss-grown ruins strew the ravaged plain;
And, unobserved but by the traveller's eye,
Proud, vaulted domes in fretted fragments lie;
And the fallen column, on the dusty ground,
Pale ivy throws its sluggish arms around?
Thy sons (sad change!) in abject bondage sigh;
Unpitied toil, and unlamented die;
Groan at the labors of the galling oar,
Or the dark caverns of the mine explore.
The glittering tyranny of Othman's sons,
The pomp of horror which surrounds their thrones,
Have awed their servile spirits into fear;
Spurned by the foot, they tremble and revere.
The day of labor, night's sad, sleepless hour,
The inflictive scourge of arbitrary power,
The bloody terror of the pointed steel,
The murderous stake, the agonizing wheel,
And (dreadful choice!) the bowstring or the bowl,
Damps their faint vigor and unmans the soul.
Disastrous fate! Still tears will fill the eye,
Still recollection prompt the mournful sigh,
When to the mind recurs thy former fame,
And all the horrors of thy present shame.
In 1810-'11 the poet BYRON spent considerable time in Greece,
visiting its many scenes of historic interest, and noting the
condition of its people. Here he wrote the second canto of
Childe Harold, in which the following fine apostrophe and appeal
To Greece, still under Moslem rule, are found:
Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!
Immortal, though no more; though fallen, great!
Who now shall lead thy scattered children forth,
And long accustomed bondage uncreate?
Not such thy sons who whilom did await,
The hopeless warriors of a willing doom,
In bleak Thermopylæ's sepulchral strait--
Oh, who that gallant spirit shall resume,
Leap from Euro'ta's banks, and call thee from the tomb?
Spirit of Freedom! when on Phy'le's brow
Thou sat'st with Thrasybu'lus and his train,
Couldst thou forebode the dismal hour which now
Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain?
Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain,
But every carle can lord it o'er thy land;
Nor rise thy sons, but idly rail in vain,
Trembling beneath the scourge of Turkish hand,
From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned.
In all, save form alone, how changed! and who
That marks the fire still sparkling in each eye,
Who but would deem their bosoms burned anew
With thy unquenched beam, lost Liberty!
And many dream withal the hour is nigh
That gives them back their father's heritage:
For foreign arms and aid they fondly sigh,
Nor solely dare encounter hostile rage,
Or tear their name defiled from Slavery's mournful page.
Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not
Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?
By their right arms the conquest must be wrought?
Will Gaul or Muscovite redress thee? No!
True, they may lay your proud despoilers low,
But not for you will Freedom's altars flame.
Shades of the Helots! triumph o'er your foe!
Greece! change thy lords, thy state is still the same;
Thy glorious day is o'er, but not thy years of shame.
* * * * *
When riseth Lacedæmon's hardihood,
When Thebes Epaminondas rears again,
When Athens' children are with hearts endued,
When Grecian mothers shall give birth to men,
Then may'st thou be restored; but not till then.
A thousand years scarce serve to form a state;
An hour may lay it in the dust: and when
Can man, in shattered splendor renovate,
Recall its virtues back, and vanquish Time and Fate?
FIRST STEPS TO SECURE LIBERTY.
Although the oppressive domination of the Turks was tamely
submitted to for so many centuries, the Greeks did not entirely
lose their national spirit, nor their devotion to their religion
and their domestic institutions; and long before Byron wrote,
Greece began preparations to break the Turkish yoke. The
preservation of the national spirit was largely due to the warlike
inhabitants of the mountainous regions of the north, who maintained
their independence against the bloody tyranny of the Turks, and
continually harassed their camps and villages. These mountaineers
were known as Klephts; and though they were literally robbers,
ofttimes plundering the Greeks as well as the Turks, yet, on
the decline of the Armato'li--the Christian local militia which
the Turks attempted to crush out--the Klephts acquired political
and social importance as a permanent class in the Greek nation;
and, as DR. FELTON says, "When the Revolution broke out, the
courage, temperance, and hardihood of these bands were among
the most effective agencies in rescuing Greece from the blighting
tyranny of the Turks." This writer characterizes the ballads of
the Klephts as "full of fire, and redolent of the mountain life,
which had an irresistible charm for young and adventurous spirits
chafing under the domination of the Turks in the lowlands;" and
to him we are indebted for a literal version of one of these
ballads, representing the feelings of a young man who had resolved
to leave his mother's home and betake himself to the mountains,
and "illustrating at once the impatient spirit of rebellion against
the Turks, and the sweet flow of natural poetry which was ever
welling up in the hearts of the people." [Footnote: This ballad
is taken from "a collection published by Zampelios, a Greek
gentleman, and a native of Leucadia."]
"Mother, I can no longer be a slave to the Turks; I cannot--my
heart fights against it. I will take my gun and go and become
a Klepht; to dwell on the mountains, among the lofty ridges;
to have the woods for my companions, and my converse with the
beasts; to have the snow for my covering, the rocks for my bed;
with sons of the Klephts to have my daily habitation. I will go,
mother, and do not weep, but give me thy prayer. And we will pray,
my dear mother, that I may slaughter many a Turk. Plant the rose,
and plant the dark carnation, and give them sugar and musk to
drink; and as long, O mother mine, as the flowers blossom and
put forth, thy son is not dead, but is warring with the Turks.
But if a day of sorrow come, a day of woe, and the plants fade
away, and the flowers fall, then I too shall have been slain,
and thou must clothe thyself in black.'
"Twelve years passed, and five months, while the roses blossomed
and the buds bloomed; and one spring morning, the first of May,
when the birds were singing and heaven was smiling, at once it
thundered and lightened, and grew dark. The carnation sighed, the
rose wept, both withered away together, and the flowers fell; and
with them the hapless mother became a lifeless heap of earth."
The last half of the eighteenth century witnessed, in Greece, the
first general desire for liberty. Secret societies were formed
to aid in the emancipation of the country, and "eminent writers,
at home and abroad, appealed to the glorious recollections of
Greece in order to excite a universal enthusiasm for freedom."
Among the latter may be mentioned CONSTANTINOS RHIGAS, a native
of Thessaly, born in 1753, a man of fine accomplishments and
an ardent patriot, whose lyric ballads are said to have "rung
through Greece like a trumpet," and who has been styled "the
Tyrtæ'us of modern Greece." One of his war-songs has been thus
Sons of the Greeks, arise!
The glorious hour's gone forth,
And, worthy of such ties,
Display who gave us birth.
* * * * *
Then manfully despising
The Turkish tyrant's yoke,
Let your country see you rising,
And all her chains are broke.
Brave shades of chiefs and sages,
Behold the coming strife!
Hellenes of past ages,
Oh start again to life!
At the sound of my trumpet, breaking
Your sleep, oh join with me!
And the seven-hilled city [Footnote: Constantinople] seeking,
Fight, conquer, till we're free.
Sparta, Sparta, why in slumbers
Lethargic dost thou lie?
Awake, and join thy numbers
With Athens, old ally!
That chief of ancient song,
Who saved ye once from falling--
The terrible! the strong!
Who made that bold diversion
In old Thermopylæ,
And warring with the Persian
To keep his country free;
With his three hundred waging
The battle, long he stood,
And, like a lion raging,
Expired in seas of blood.
--Trans. by BYRON.
Another poet, POLYZOIS, writes in a similar vein:
Friends and countrymen, shall we
Slaves of Moslems ever be,
Of the old barbaric band,
Tyrants o'er Hellenic land?
Draws the hour of vengeance nigh--
Vengeance! be our battle-cry.
It may be stated that Rhigas, having visited Vienna with the
hope of rousing the wealthy Greek residents of that city to
immediate action, was barbarously surrendered to the Turks by
the Austrian government. On the way to execution he broke from
his guards and killed two of them, but was overpowered and
* * * * *
v. THE GREEK REVOLUTION.
The various efforts made by the Greeks in behalf of freedom,
or, as more comprehensively stated by a recent writer, "The
constancy with which they clung to the Christian Church during
four centuries of misery and political annihilation; their
immovable faithfulness to their nationality under intolerable
oppression; the intellectual superiority they never failed to
exhibit over their tyrants; the love of humane letters which
they never, in all their sorrows, lost; and the wise preparation
they made for the struggle by means of schools, and by the
circulation of editions of their own ancient authors, and
translations of the most instructive works in modern literature"
--these were the influences which finally impelled the Greeks to
seek their restoration in armed insurrection, that first broke
out in the spring of 1821, and that ushered in the great Greek
Revolution. On the 7th of March Alexander Ypsilanti, a Greek,
who had been a major-general in the Russian army, proclaimed
from Moldavia the independence of Greece, and assured his
countrymen of the aid of Russia in the approaching contest. But
the Russian emperor declined intervention; and the Porte took
the most vigorous measures against the Greeks, calling upon all
Mussulmen to arm against the rebels for the protection of Islamism.
The wildest fanaticism raged in Constantinople, where thousands
of resident Greeks were remorselessly murdered; and in Moldavia
the bloody struggle was terminated by the annihilation of the
patriot army, and the flight of Ypsilanti to Trieste, where the
Austrian government seized and imprisoned him.
In southern Greece, however, no cruelties could quench the fire
of liberty; and sixteen days after the proclamation of Ypsilanti
the revolution of the Morea began at Suda, a large village in
the northern part of Acha'ia, and spread over Achaia and the
islands of the Æge'an. The ancient names were revived; and on
the 6th of April the Messenian senate, assembled at Kalamä'ta,
proclaimed that Greece had shaken off the Turkish yoke to preserve
the Christian faith and restore the ancient character of the
country. A formal address was made by that body to the people
of the United States, and was forwarded to this country. It
declared that, "having deliberately resolved to live or die for
freedom, the Greeks were drawn by an irresistible impulse to
the people of the United States." In that early stage of the
struggle, however, the address failed to excite that sympathy
which, as we shall see farther on, the progress of events and
a better understanding of the situation finally awakened.
During the summer months the Turks committed great depredations
among the Greek towns on the coast of Asia Minor; the inhabitants
of the Island of Candia, who had taken no part in the insurrection,
were disarmed, and their archbishop and other prelates were
murdered. The most barbarous atrocities were also committed at
Rhodes and other islands of the Grecian Archipelago, where the
villages were burned and the country desolated. But in August
the Greeks captured the strong Turkish fortresses of Monembasi'a
and Navarï'no, and in October that of Tripolit'za, and took a
terrible revenge upon their enemies. In Tripolitza alone eight
thousand Turks were put to death. The excesses of the Turks showed
to the Greeks that their struggle was one of life and death; and
it is not surprising, therefore, that they often retaliated when
the power was in their hands. In September of the same year the
Greek general Ulysses defeated a large Turkish army near the
Pass of Thermopylæ; but, on the other hand, the peninsula of
Cassandra, the ancient Pelle'ne, was taken by the Turks, and
over three thousand Greeks were put to the sword. The Athenian
Acropolis was seized and garrisoned by the Turks, and the people
of Athens, as in olden time, fled to Sal'amis for safety; but
in general, throughout all southern Greece, the close of the
year saw the Turks driven from the country districts and shut
up in the principal cities.
A PROPHETIC VISION OF THE STRUGGLE.
When the revolution of the Greeks broke out the English poet
SHELLEY was residing in Italy. It was during the first year of
the war that Shelley, filled with enthusiasm for the Greek cause,
wrote, from the scanty materials that were then accessible, his
beautiful dramatic poem of Hellas; and although he could at that
time narrate but few events of the struggle, yet his prophecies
of the final result came true in their general import. Forming
his poem on the basis of the Persians of Æschylus, the scene
opens with a chorus of Greek captive women, who thus sing of
the course of Freedom, from the earliest ages until the light
of her glory returns to rest upon and renovate their benighted
In the great morning of the world
The Spirit of God with might unfurled
The flag of Freedom over Chaos,
And all its banded anarchs fled,
Like vultures frightened from Ima'us,
[Footnote: A Scythian mountain-range.]
Before an earthquake's tread,
So from Time's tempestuous dawn
Freedom's splendor burst and shone:
Thermopylæ and Marathon
Caught, like mountains beacon-lighted,
The springing fire, The winged glory
On Philippi half alighted
[Footnote: The republican Romans, under Brutus and Cassius,
were defeated here by Octavius and Mark Antony, 42 B.C.]
Like an eagle on a promontory.
Its unwearied wings could fan
The quenchless ashes of Milan.
[Footnote: Milan was the center of the resistance of the
Lombard league against the Austrian tyrant Frederic Barbarossa.
The latter, in 1162, burned the city to the ground; but liberty
lived in its ashes, and it rose, like an exhalation, from its
From age to age, from man to man
It lived; and lit, from land to land,
Florence, Albion, Switzerland.
[Footnote: Florence freed itself from the power of the
Ghibelline nobles, and became a free republic in 1250.
Albion--England: Magna Charta wrested from King John:
the Commonwealth. Switzerland: the great victory of
Mogarten, in 1315, led to the compact of the three cantons,
thus forming the nucleus of the Swiss Confederation.]
Then night fell; and, as from night,
Re-assuring fiery flight
From the West swift Freedom came,
[Footnote: The American Revolution.]
Against the course of heaven and doom,
A second sun, arrayed in flame,
To burn, to kindle, to illume.
From far Atlantis its young beams
[Footnote: The fabled Atlantis of Plato; here used for America.]
Chased the shadows and the dreams.
France, with all her sanguine streams,
Hid, but quenched it not; again,
[Footnote: Referring to the French Revolution.]
Through clouds, its shafts of glory rain
From utmost Germany to Spain.
[Footnote: Referring to the revolutions that broke out about
the year 1820.]
As an eagle, fed with morning,
Scorns the embattled tempest's warning,
When she seeks her aerie hanging
In the mountain cedar's hair,
And her brood expect the clanging
Of her wings through the wild air,
Sick with famine; Freedom, so,
To what of Greece remaineth, now
Returns; her hoary ruins glow
Like orient mountains lost in day;
Beneath the safety of her wings
Her renovated nurslings play,
And in the naked lightnings
Of truth they purge their dazzled eyes.
Let Freedom leave, where'er she flies,
A desert, or a paradise;
Let the beautiful and the brave
Share her glory or a grave.
In the farther prosecution of his narrative, the poet represents
the Turkish Sultan, Mahmoud, as being strongly moved by dreams
of the threatened overthrow of his power; and he accordingly sends
for Ahasuerus, an aged Jew, to interpret them. In the mean time
the chorus of women sings the final triumph of the Cross over
the crescent, and the fleeing away of the dark "powers of earth
and air" before the advancing light of the "Star of Bethlehem:"
A power from the unknown God,
A Promethean conqueror came;
Like a triumphal path he trod
The thorns of death and shame.
A mortal shape to him
Was like the vapor dim
Which the orient planet animates with light;
Hell, sin, and slavery came,
Like bloodhounds mild and tame,
Nor preyed until their lord had taken flight.
The moon of Ma'homet
Arose, and it shall set;
While, blazoned as on heaven's immortal noon,
The Cross leads generations on.
Swift as the radiant shapes of sleep,
From one whose dreams are paradise,
Fly, when the fond wretch wakes to weep,
And day peers forth with her black eyes;
So fleet, so faint, so fair,
The powers of earth and air
Fled from the rising Star of Bethlehem.
Apollo, Pan, and Love,
And even Olympian Jove
Grew weak, for killing Truth had glared on them.
Our hills, and seas, and streams,
Dispeopled of their dreams--
Their waters turned to blood, their dew to tears--
Wailed for the golden years.
In the language of Hassan, an attendant of Mahmoud, the poet
then summarizes the events attending the opening of the struggle,
giving a picture of the course of European politics--Egypt sending
her armies and fleets to aid the Sultan against the rebel world;
England, Queen of Ocean, upon her island throne, holding herself
aloof from the contest; Russia, indifferent whether Greece or
Turkey conquers, but watching to stoop upon the victor; and Austria,
while hating freedom, yet fearing the success of freedom's enemies.
The poet could not foresee that change in English politics which
subsequently permitted England, aided by France and Russia, to
interfere in behalf of Greece. Hassan says:
"The anarchies of Africa unleash
Their tempest-winged cities of the sea,
To speak in thunder to the rebel world.
Like sulphurous clouds, half shattered by the storm,
They sweep the pale Ægean, while the Queen
Of Ocean, bound upon her island throne,
Far in the West, sits mourning that her sons,
Who frown on Freedom, spare a smile for thee:
Russia still hovers, as an eagle might
Within a cloud, near which a kite and crane
Hang tangled in inextricable fight,
To stoop upon the victor; for she fears
The name of Freedom, even as she hates thine;
But recreant Austria loves thee as the grave
Loves pestilence; and her slow dogs of war,
Fleshed with the chase, come up from Italy,
And howl upon their limits; for they see
The panther Freedom fled to her old cover
Amid seas and mountains, and a mightier brood
Although Hassan recounts the numbers of the Sultan's armies,
and the strength of his forts and arsenals, yet the desponding
Mahmoud, watching the declining moon, thus symbolizes it as the
wan emblem of his fading power:
"Look, Hassan, on yon crescent moon, emblazoned
Upon that shattered flag of fiery cloud
Which leads the rear of the departing day,
Wan emblem of an empire fading now!
See how it trembles in the blood-red air,
And, like a mighty lamp whose oil is spent,
Shrinks on the horizon's edge--while, from above,
One star, with insolent and victorious light
Hovers above its fall, and with keen beams,
Like arrows through a fainting antelope,
Strikes its weak form to death."
As messenger after messenger approaches, and informs the Sultan
of the revolutionary risings in different parts of his empire,
he refuses to hear more, and takes refuge in that fatalistic
philosophy which is an unfailing resource of the followers of
the Prophet in all their reverses:
"I'll hear no more! too long
We gaze on danger through the mist of fear,
And multiply upon our shattered hopes
The images of ruin. Come what will!
To-morrow and to-morrow are as lamps
Set in our path to light us to the edge,
Through rough and smooth; nor can we suffer aught
Which He inflicts not, in whose hands we are."
When the Jew, Ahasuerus, at length arrives, he speaks in oracular
terms, and calls up visions which increase the Sultan's fears;
and when the latter hears shouts of transient victory over the
Greeks, he regards it but as the expiring gleam which serves to
make the coming darkness the more terrible. He thus soliloquizes:
"Weak lightning before darkness! poor faint smile
Of dying Islam! Voice which art the response
Of hollow weakness! Do I wake, and live,
Were there such things? or may the unquiet brain,
Vexed by the wise mad talk of the old Jew,
Have shaped itself these shadows of its fear?
It matters not! for naught we see, or dream,
Possess or lose, or grasp at, can be worth
More than it gives or teaches. Come what may,
The future must become the past, and I
As they were, to whom once the present hour,
This gloomy crag of time to which I cling,
Seemed an Elysian isle of peace and joy
Never to be attained."
Although the poet predicts series of disasters and periods of
gloom for struggling Greece, yet, at the close of the poem, a
brighter age than any she has known is represented as gleaming
upon her "through the sunset of hope."
The year 1822 opened with the assembling of the first Greek
congress at Epidau'rus, the proclaiming of a provisional
constitution on the 13th of January, and the issuing, on the
27th, of a declaration that announced the union of all Greece,
with an independent federative government under the presidency
of Alexander Mavrocordä'to. But the Greeks, unaccustomed to
exercise the rights of freemen, were unable at once to establish
a wise and firm government: they often quarreled among themselves;
and those who had exercised an independent authority under the
government of the Turks were with difficulty induced to submit
to the control of the central government. The few men of
intelligence and liberal views among them had a difficult task
to perform; but the wretchedly undisciplined state of the Turkish
armies aided its successful accomplishment. The principal military
events of the year were the terrible massacre of the inhabitants
of the Island of Scio by the Turks in April; the defeat of the
latter in the Morea, where more than twenty thousand of them
were slain; the successes of the Greek fire-ships, by which many
Turkish vessels were destroyed; and the surrender to the Greeks
of Nap'oli di Roma'nia, the ancient Nauplia, the port of Argos.
By the destruction of the Island of Scio a paradise was changed
into a scene of desolation, and more than forty thousand persons
were killed or sold into slavery. Soon after, one hundred and
fifty villages in southern Macedonia experienced the fate of
Scio; and the pasha of Saloni'ca boasted that he had destroyed,
in one day, fifteen hundred women and children.
Goaded to desperation, rather than disheartened by their reverses
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