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2nd Period: The Persian Wars, and Struggles. Among the Greek States for Supremacy (500-338 B.C.). page 4

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A reign of. terror in Athens, with a Spartan garrison in the Acropolis, lasted for eight months, after which the violence and cruelty ended, with Spartan consent, in the oligarchs being overthrown in 403 by the return of fugitive democrats under Thrasybulus. The constitution of Solon, or moderate democracy, was restored, but the old political spirit of the Athenians, in their best days, had departed for ever. In 399 the fame of Athens was for ever sullied by the martyr-death of Socrates in the cause of truth. Little interest attaches to the events of Grecian history during the remainder of this period. Sparta had become, for the time, supreme. She warred against Persia, and against Greek confederates roused by her tyranny. In 395 her forces, invading Boeotia, were defeated, with the death of Lysander. In the following year the able king Agesilaus, recalled from his work in Asia, restored matters for Sparta on land by the victory of Coronea in Boeotia over the forces of the allies. At the same time, the Athenian commander Conon, with a combined Persian and Athenian fleet, destroyed the Lacedaemonian fleet at Cnidus, off the coast of Caria (Asia Minor). Sparta began to decline in power. Her "Harmosts" (governors) were expelled from the islands and the Greek cities in Asia Minor. The coasts of the Peloponnesus were ravaged. The long walls at Athens, with the help of Persian money, were rebuilt by Conon, who restored, for a brief space, the maritime strength of his country. In 387 the disgraceful peace of Antalcidas, so called from the Spartan admiral who went as envoy to Susa, was concluded between the Greek states and Persia. The Greek cities of Asia Minor, so gloriously freed after Marathon, Salamis, Platsea, and Mycale, were given up to the effete Oriental power, and the suicidal struggles of the Greek states now brought them to the humiliation of submitting to Persian decision the terms on which they were to make peace with each other.

A new brief phase of political power in Greece came with the rise of Thebes to supremacy. In 379 the exiled democrats of that city returned from Athens, and under the leadership of the nobly-born, wealthy, admirable patriot Pelopidas expelled a Spartan garrison from the Cadtneia or citadel. A body of troops, including the famous "Sacred Band" of youths, was formed and trained with discipline and tactics excelling anything hitherto seen in Greece. Agesilaus was dispatched from Sparta against the patriots, whose leadership, both in civil and military matters, was shared by Pelopidas' firm friend Epaminondas, chief of Theban generals and statesmen, one of the greatest characters of antiquity. The Spartan king failed in his operations, and then Athens, forming a new league of above 70 cities of the AEgean Sea, became the ally of Thebes, and the Spartan fleet was destroyed by the Athenians in several engagements. By 374 the Spartans had been driven out of all the Boeotian cities which they held with garrisons, and the old Boeotian League was restored with Thebes at its head. A jealous feeling then caused Athens to quit the Theban alliance, but the new power, under Pelopidas and Epaminondas, showed that she was capable of standing alone. In 371 the Spartan supremacy was destroyed at the battle of Leuctra, in Boeotia, where Epaminondas and his friend utterly defeated the brave Spartan king Cleombrotus, who died on the field. The Thebans were outnumbered in this action by two to one, and their fame in Greece rose to its height. In the following year the two great Thebans invaded Peloponnesus, and, though they failed in an attack on Sparta, they ravaged Laconia, created an Arcadian League, with a new city, Megalopolis, as its centre, and restored Messenia to independence, after three centuries of subjection to Sparta, with a new city, Messena, as capital. Thus was Sparta brought down from her proud position, so long maintained, to the ordinary level of Grecian states. In following years Peloponnesus was repeatedly invaded by the Thebans, who also did good work for freedom in other quarters by delivering Thessalians from the tyranny of Alexander of Pherse. In one of these expeditions, in 364, Pelopidas fell as victor during the pursuit, and Epaminondas was left alone to his work as statesman, diplomatist, and brilliant commander in the field. With him Thebes rose to a brief renown, and with his fall she fell to rise no more. In 362 the hero, invading Peloponnesus for the, fourth time, entered Arcadia to meet Spartan invaders, and, heading a charge which broke the enemy's phalanx, he received a deep wound with a javelin in the breast. Assured of the Theban victory and informed that his life would end through loss of blood when the weapon was extracted, "I have lived long enough," he cried, and plucked it out with his own hand. A nobler patriot and soldier than Epaminondas never lived and died.

A new power in the north was soon rapidly rising into view. In 359 b.c. Philip II. became king of Macedon. His country, rich in mines of gold and silver, in oil and wine, had not been recognised as "Greek" or "Hellenic" by the other states, not only as having people of mixed race, but because they lived a rough country-life, hunting and farming, unversed in literature or art. Archelaus, king from 413 to 399, was a wise and vigorous ruler, who introduced Greek culture, and improved his realm by building cities and making roads. The Macedonians were obedient subjects, hardy in life, brave in war, the right material for a man like Philip to mould into a prosperous and powerful nation. This monarch, whose fame has been, perhaps, somewhat unduly overshadowed by that of his illustrious son, was a man of great acuteness, energy, eloquence, and decision. He had, in his youth, been for three years a hostage at Thebes, and had received invaluable lessons from Epaminondas in military and civil affairs. He quickly had a standing professional army, the chief strength of which lay in the famous phalanx of heavy-armed infantry, carrying swords, shields, and long pikes or spears. In the original Lacedaemonian or Spartan phalanx the men stood 4, 6, or 8 deep. The Theban formation was an improvement on that, and the Macedonian was the best of all. The soldiers, armed with spears 21 feet long, were drawn up in 16 ranks. Each rank was placed 3 feet in rear of the one before it. The spears were held at a part 15 feet from the point, whence it is clear that the spears of all the first 5 ranks would project respectively 15, 12, 9, 6, and 3 feet beyond the bodies of men in the front rank. As the ordinary Greek spears only projected 6 feet, nothing could withstand the charge, on level ground, where the formation could be maintained, of such a body of troops as the phalanx. This need for level ground, and its lack of flexibility, or capacity to wheel quickly or face about, were the defects which afterwards made it succumb to the Roman legion, but in Greece the phalanx proved irresistible, and it enabled Philip's successor to conquer all the Eastern world. With such a formidable power in prospect as a possible foe, the Greek states, with suicidal folly, engaged in various civil wars, the details of which have no interest, and rendered themselves helpless when the hour of conflict came. In vain did Demosthenes, one of the greatest orators of all time, warn his countrymen at Athens, in his Olynthiac orations, his Philippics, and other speeches, of what was surely coming on Greece from the north. By successful war, by cajolery, by bribery of venal party-leaders, Philip won state after state to his rising empire. Amphipolis, Pydna, Potidaea, and Olynthus, Greek colonial cities in Macedonia, were seized. He gained possession of the gold-mines in Thrace, subdued Thessaly and Phocis, and secured the pass of Thermopylae for his invasion of the south. The Athenians, in 341, had a gleam of success in compelling the Macedonian conqueror and intriguer to raise the siege of Byzantium, which commanded the Euxine from whose countries they drew their supply of grain. The end came in 338 b.c., when the armies of Athens and Thebes, allied through the influence of Demosthenes, were utterly defeated by Philip at Chaeronea, in Breotia, where his son Alexander, then 18 years of age, decided the battle by a charge which annihilated the Theban "Sacred Band." The Macedonian victor then marched into Peloponnesus, and deprived Sparta of a great part of her territory for the benefit of the other states. A national assembly held at Corinth, from which the Spartans alone were absent, appointed Philip leader of the Greeks against the Persians, with absolute power.

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