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Greece. 1st Period: From the Dorian Migration to the Persian Wars (1100-500 b.c.).


Ancient history, from the beginning of historical information to the downfall of the Western Roman Empire (? B.C. - 476 A.D.). The Western Nations: Greece.
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Ancient Greece, as a geographical term, included four principal mainland regions, two archipelagoes, and some detached islands. The modern Morea, the southern peninsular portion, was called Peloponnesus, and included as its chief historical territories Achaia, Elis, Messenia, Arcadia, Corinth, Argolis, and Laconia, which last became by far the most important. The second region, going northwards, may be styled Central Greece, having as its chief divisions Attica, Bceotia, Phocis, AEtolia, and Acarnania. To the north of these, on the east side, was Thessaly, still bearing its old name; on the north-west lay Epirus. The Epirotes were not of pure Grecian blood. North of Thessaly was Macedonia, never regarded by the pure Greeks, in their exclusive pride, as a portion of the real "Hellas." We may here note that the term "Greece" comes to us from the Romans, the "Greeks" being merely an ancient tribe of Epirus. The word "Hellas" was applied, first, to all Thessaly; then to Central Greece, as opposed to the Peloponnesus; after the Persian wars, Peloponnesus was included in the name; and, later still, after the Macedonian war, it included the whole territory inhabited by "Hellenes," the only name for their race admitted by the Greek authors of the historical period. The insular portion of ancient Greece comprised the AEgean Archipelago, that now called the Ionian Isles, Cyprus, and Crete.

It is the purpose of this work to deal with historical facts, and not with legends, however important they may be as regards the mental development of a people. We have nothing here to do with the "Heroic Age," the Argonautic voyage to the Black Sea, the Siege of Troy or Trojan War. These expeditions may or may not have occurred. Their stories may represent actual events, showing early maritime enterprise in search of gold, and a combination of many Hellenic states to avenge a wrong inflicted by an Asiatic prince. What is quite certain, however, is that the stories of Troy, and of the adventures of Odysseus, as given in the immortal Homeric poems, afford a true and valuable picture of an early state of civilisation when the tribe or nation had more importance than the city; when government was that of a hereditary chieftain who was at once a general, a judge, a priest, and the president of a popular assembly, with the guidance and support of a council of elders. There was then no Hellenic art, and bodily strength and courage, for the purposes of war, were the qualities most highly esteemed. Among the legends, those of Cecrops bringing Egyptian culture' to Attica, and Cadmus introducing the alphabet and Phoenician civilisation into Bceotia, may have germs of truth concerning early benefit derived by the Hellenes from Oriental peoples. It is quite certain that the matchless original ability of the Greeks themselves did far more for them than anything obtained from foreign sources.

At an unknown date, these finest specimens of the Aryan race, as regards capacity for mental culture and artistic skill, came down probably from the north into the region above described. There they found, according to their own account, a people or race called the Pelasgi. No certainty exists on this subject. Some hold the Hellenes to have been the flower of the Pelasgians, as the Normans were the best outcome of the Scandinavian race. In the earliest times it appears that the Greeks were in four tribes. The word "Achseans" appears in the Homeric poem of Troy for the whole race, probably because they were then a powerful tribe in Peloponnesus. In historical times they become of no account. The three chief branches for us are the Dorians, the Ionians, and the yEolians, and of these by far the most prominent are the Ionians and Dorians, with whom alone we are concerned in all the greater events of Grecian history. Concerning the manner of the Hellenic migration into Greece, one theory makes a part of these Aryans, including the ancestors of the Dorians, cross the Hellespont into the mountainous north of the country, and there become shepherds and tillers of the soil. The same view makes the ancestors of the Ionians come down from the Phrygian highlands to the western coast of Asia Minor, there adopt a maritime life, and thence migrate across the AEgean to the mainland of Greece. In the i2th century b.c. people migrated from Epirus over the mountains to the territory watered by the river Peneus, afterwards called from them Thessaly. Some of the AEolian settlers were made serfs, and others were forced to quit the country, occupying the region to the south called Bceotia. A portion, along with previous inhabitants of that district, probably Pelasgians, are believed to have joined with Achseans from Peloponnesus, and to have crossed over to the north-west coast of Asia Minor and there founded the AEolian colonies. This movement was the cause of another migration, far more important, one which may be described as the first great historical event of ancient Greece. This was the Dorian migration, or conquest of Peloponnesus by Dorians, driven out from the country about Mounts Othrys and Oeta, in the south of Thessaly. The district called Doris is a small mountainous region which they kept to themselves after the Thessalian inroad. They were joined in their movement by adventurers from AEtolia and other districts, and forced their way to the west, south, and east of their new country. The date of this event is given as about 1100 b.c., but the movement from the north probably occupied a long period of time before the Isthmus of Corinth was reached, and the "Descent of the Dorians," as it is called, into Peloponnesus began. Passing thither by land, and also in vessels over the long narrow gulf, their vigour and superior ability in war enabled them to overcome all resistance of the Achaean and Ionian inhabitants. A great emigration of these people, across the AEgean Sea, was one result of this invasion, and colonisation on a large scale began. AEolian and Achsean colonies arose in Lesbos, and on the mainland of Asia Minor at Cyme and Smyrna, a town which afterwards became Ionian. The Ionians of the Peloponnesus fled to Attica, and some of their number founded settlements along the coast of Lydia, in Asia Minor, including the important cities Miletus, Ephesus, Phocsea, and Colophon. They also settled in the islands of Chios and Samos. In order to complete this colonising movement, we may note that Dorian colonies arose on the coast of Caria at Halicarnassus and Cnidus, and that Achseans and Dorians settled in Rhodes and Crete, and other islands, and that in the 7th century Cyrene, on the north coast of Africa, was settled from the Dorian island of Thera in the JJgean Sea. Returning to the conquest of Peloponnesus, we find the AEtolians establishing the state called Elis, and the Dorians, after a long contest, settled in Messenia, Argolis, Laconia, and Corinth, while they also occupied, outside Peloponnesus, the small territory called Megaris, west of Attica, and the island of AEgina. The rugged Arcadia, in the centre of Peloponnesus, was alone unconquered, and long kept its primitive, probably Pelasgian, character, and caused the term "Arcadian" to mean "rustic, old-fashioned." Achaia, the northern territory of the peninsula, was allowed to remain in the possession of its own people. It was this Dorian conquest of Peloponnesus which ultimately made the name "Hellenes" predominant throughout Greece, according to the Dorian claim of descent from a mythical personage called Hellen.

The two great branches of the people of Greece were the Ionians and the Dorians. They present marked differences of mental and moral character, carried to their highest point in the two most famous states of Greek history, Athens and Sparta. The Ionians were vivacious, excitable, and, compared with the Dorians, prone to change. Refinement, artistic taste, and a passion for self-government were not less conspicuous in their social and political life. Representing the progressive principle of human character, the Ionians combined subtlety of intellect with the spirit of enterprise. In the words of Professor Jebb, their dialect "was the smooth, harmonious language of an ease-loving people, gifted with bright and versatile intelligence, educated to the contemplative enjoyment of natural beauty by the climate and scenery of the AEgean coasts and islands, and familiarised with elegant luxury by intercourse with Phoenicians and other Asiatics." The Dorians, in the mountain-region of Epirus and Thessaly, before they sought a new home in Peloponnesus, had developed the stern and rugged temper, the love of war, and contempt of trade and crafts, which are characteristic of highlanders. Their severity of character is marked in the full tones of their dialect, "the terse and sinewy speech of a steadfast race, whose grave earnestness was joined to a certain dry humour," and in their songs and dances, in the simplicity of their style of living, and in their political institutions. Strongly attached to ancient usage, having high regard to superiority of family and age, the Dorians were the conservatives of ancient Greece, with an oligarchic tendency in political affairs. Religion was to them a matter of serious import rather than of luxury connected with the joys of festivals and of scenic display. The oracle was ever consulted before any important action was taken. The character of both Ionians and Dorians will more fully appear in the history of the two states which best represent them.

The bonds of union between the many states of Greece were national and religious. They were all peopled, as regards the free citizens, apart from the numerous slaves, by Hellenes, men of the same great race, men of the same speech, in dialects differing no more than that of the educated Englishman does from the Scottish of the Lowlands. All Greeks alike looked with exclusive pride on the "barbarians," meaning simply non-Greek-speaking nations. The religious tie was very strong. With local differences and preferences of cult and rite, all Greeks worshipped the twelve great gods of the Olympic pantheon, developed from the earlier worship of natural powers. Zeus was the lord of the sky, ruler of all other gods as well as of men. His wife Hera was goddess of maternity.

Athena, the great deity of Athens, a maiden-goddess, was the representative of power and wisdom, the patroness of political communities, and of such useful social arts as weaving and agriculture. Apollo (Phoebus), whose worship was really the chief among the Greeks, identified later with the Sun-god (Helios), was the divinity of healing, music, poetry, and intellectual power. As god of prophecy, it was he who discerned and declared truth. Ares, god of war; Poseidon, ruling the sea; Hephaestus, god of fire and of works in metal; Hermes, herald of the gods, patron of eloquence, prudence, shrewdness, invention, commercial skill, and cunning; Demeter, goddess of the earth and its fruits; Artemis, the chief maiden-goddess, devoted to the chase, afterwards connected with the moon, as her brother, Phoebus Apollo, with the sun; Hestia, goddess of the hearth-fire; and Aphrodite, the lovely deity of beauty and sensual affection, - these complete the list of the greater deities, worshipped by invocation, and by sacrifices offered at altars which could be anywhere erected, but chiefly in special temples in cities and in country-districts, displaying the highest skill in architecture and sculpture that the world has ever seen. Among other deities may be named Dionysos, the youthful and comely god of wine, patron of the tragic drama, which in Greece arose out of the choruses sung at his Attic festivals, the "Lesser" or "Puiral" Dionysia, the vintage-feast, in December; the Wine-Press Feast (Lenaea), in January; the Anthesteria, a merry "Feast of Flowers," in February, when last year's cask of generous wine was tapped; and the famous "Great Dionysia," in March. Hence came both tragedy, literally "goat-song," because a goat, the injurer of vines by nibbling at the shoots, was sacrificed to Dionysos before the singing of the choral hymn; and comedy, the "village-song," or the same hymn under another aspect, as bringing out the jests of a rustic carnival. It was at the spring Dionysia in Athens, a festival to which visitors came from every part of the Greek world, when the whole city was given up to processions in masquerade, with gay and noisy revelry of music and wine, that were performed, at the great open-air theatre of Dionysos, in competition for prizes, the tragedies and comedies of which such grand specimens remain. Hades, god of the lower world, the abode of shades or disembodied spirits, was represented as brother of Zeus and Poseidon, all three being children of; two deities in the older pantheon, Cronos and Rhea, the latter being the "Great Mother" or "Mother of the Gods," having also the name of Cybele.

We may note that the sacred fire of Hestia was kept ever burning on an altar in the town-hall (Prytaneion) of a Greek city and that at her altar, as that of the guardian-goddess of hearth and home, in the inmost part of every house, strangers, fugitives, and offenders found an inviolable sanctuary. The three Graces, the nine Muses, the three Moirse or Fates, the Furies or Eumenides pursuing the guilty, and an endless variety of nymphs, naiads, nereids, the local and lesser deities of sea and forest, fountain and stream, all had their share of regard with all true Greeks.

The festivals had also their influence on Greek unity. Every family, tribe, and race, each city, district, and state had its recurring festivals of special honour to the great deities or to local gods. The most famous Attic celebration of this class was the Panathenaea, held at Athens, the "Lesser" annually, and the "Greater" every fourth year, in honour of Athena-Polias, the patron-goddess and guardian of the chief Ionian state. In this magnificent display of joyous devotion Athenian maidens of the highest families bore aloft, like the sail of a galley, the sacred gold-embroidered woman's ample robe called peplus, woven by themselves for the statue of the deity. The procession was sculptured by Phidias and his pupils on the frieze of the Parthenon, her temple at Athens, the perfect specimen of Greek architecture, portions of which are among the "Elgin Marbles" in the British Museum. Foremost amongst these religious gatherings were the four great national festivals, attended by visitors from all parts of Greece and the colonies. The Olympic Games (or Olympian Festival) were celebrated at the plain of Olympia, in Elis, every fifth summer, in honour of Zeus. The Greek chronology called "Olympiads" had its origin in the year 776 b.c. The first recorded Olympiad dates from July 21st in that year, when a man of Elis, named Coroebus, gained the prize in the foot-race. The time was thus divided into periods of four years, and an event was dated by its occurrence in a particular year of a certain Olympiad. The Pythian Festival, in honour of Apollo, held to have been instituted by the god after he had slain the snaky monster Python, was celebrated every fifth year (the third of each Olympiad), near Delphi, anciently called Pytho, in Phocis, at the southern base of Mount Parnassus. The famous Castalian spring still flows at the spot where two lateral spurs of Parnassus, extending east and west around Delphi, draw near to each other. The Isthmian Games or Festival, in honour of Poseidon, occurred every fifth year on the Isthmus of Corinth; the Nemean, in honour of Zeus, took place every third year, in the valley of Nemea, in Argolis. The competitions in athletic sports at these celebrations were in running, leaping, wrestling, boxing, and chariot-racing, and there were also, in the three last, contests in music and poetry. The prize given was a simple wreath, placed on the victor's head, made of the foliage of the special tree or plant held sacred to the particular deity of the festival. At the Olympian games the crown was of olive; at the Pythian, of bay; at the Isthmian, of pine; at the Nemean, of parsley. Victory brought high honour not merely to the winner, but to his native city, and the importance attached to this distinction is illustrated by the fact that Pindar, the greatest lyric poet of Greece, held in veneration by all men of Hellenic blood, wrote odes in praise of the victors in all these festivals, these great gatherings of people of Hellenic race which were the centre of Greek national life. These assemblies were of a character and importance peculiar to the people and their civilisation. No other clime or country can furnish anything resembling them. They included adjuncts from all the arts of the most artistic race that ever lived. All the power, rank, wealth, and intellect of the land flocked to the sacred ground, and to the gorgeous spectacle there witnessed came men inspired by a nobler ambition than that of the athletic sports, valuable as these were in enforcing the hardy discipline of physical training which conduced at once to health in peace, and to success in battle at a time when men fought hand to hand, and individual strength and skill could do much to turn the balance. These meetings supplied in ancient Greece the place of the scientific and literary congress, the art exhibition, the publisher, and the platform of the modern world, for the interchange of opinion and the discussion of theory, and for the display of artistic work in every class. In the highest view, these festivals had an excellent moral effect in sustaining and feeding, as a passion, as a motive, as an irresistible incentive, the desire of glory. They taught that true rewards are not in gold and jewels, but in the opinions of men. Fame was thus established as a common principle of action, and, in the words of an eloquent writer, "what chivalry did for the few, the Olympic contests effected for the many - they made a knighthood of a people."

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Pictures for Greece. 1st Period: From the Dorian Migration to the Persian Wars (1100-500 b.c.).

Map. Ancient Greece and Colonies
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