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changed, yet more true for the Greeks, that when God wished an idea to make the circuit of the world, he kindled it first in the heart of a Frenchman, we assuredly, having made this just attribution of a marvelous communicative power to the Greek character, need say nothing more to awaken the reader's interest to know what can be told in a word or two, of the origin and history of the Greek people.
The Greeks, by the way, did not call themselves Greeks, as also Greece was not the name by which they called their country. These are names that we take from the language of the Romans. Hel-lē'nes was the name by which the Greeks spoke of themselves, and Hellas was their name for the land in which they lived. The Greeks came to be great colonizers, and wherever they went they carried with them the name of the parent country. Hellas was thus an elastic and movable appellation, advancing or retreating, step by step, with the advance or retreat of Hellenic emigration. The case was somewhat like that of the fiction by which we call a ship sailing under the American flag, a part of the soil of America, in whatever water of the world the ship may at the moment be floating.
Of the origin of the Greeks we have no authentic account. There is tradition in great plenty, but for sound historical guesses and conjectures on this point we mainly dismiss tradition, to rely on hints supplied in archæology, that is, study of ancient remains, and in comparative philology, that is, study of one language in comparison with others. Putting together this and that, those learned and sagacious in such matters come to the conclusion that the ancient Greeks were Ar'yan, or Indo-European, or Indo-Germanic in race, sprung from ancestors called Pe-las'gi-ans. The Romans, or rather the aboriginal Italians, had the same ancestry. Pelasgian is an ethnological rather than a geographical term, that is, it names a people rather than a region. The same is true of the terms Aryan, Indo-European, and Indo-Germanic, three
different words of like meaning, coined to express the idea of a community of blood and language, embracing a stock of population spread from India, or at least from Asia, over a great part of Europe, especially Germany. Aryan is the latest coinage, and the most approved, perhaps as being the vaguest and most elastic.
But the Greeks were, no doubt, a composite race, and to make them up the Pelasgians, the earliest tenants of the Greek soil, were mixed with an element of population probably from Asia Minor. The Phænicians, at least, taught the Greeks letters, and gave them their own alphabet. Whether from mere pride or not, the Athenians, in their prime, were fond of claiming that they were themselves exceptionally pure Pelasgian in blood. “The claims of long descent" are not exclusively a modern refinement.
When trustworthy history began, several tribes or families of Greeks found themselves occupying certain portions of the country, and bearing certain distinctive names.
The Homeric story of Troy belongs to a date anterior to this; that is, it belongs to the period of the Pelasgians, a race whose vestiges still remain in the ruins of a gigantic architecture, notably at My-ce'næ, called from its massiveness, Cy-clo-pē'an. Schliemann, (Shlee'man)-his autobiography, prefixed to "Ilios," his last publication, reads like a romance; get a glance at it if you can the great archæological explorer of Greek and Trojan remains, has, within a year or two, made some most interesting discoveries at Mycena. When trustworthy history, as
were saying, began, there were three chief divisions of the Hel-lěn'ic stock, the Do'ri-ans, the Æ-o'li-ans, and the I-o'ni-ans. The Dorians were a hardy and warlike race, Doric, Ionic, and Corinwho, in process of time, overran nearly all the lower part of Greece, called Pel'o-pon-ne'sus. Arca
dia, the Switzerland of Greece, always enjoyed exemption from Dorian sway. Sparta was the great representative of the Dorian family, as Athens was of the Ionian. The Æolians occupied Thessaly and Bæ-o'ti-a, with Thebes (Theebs) for their representative city. Certain colonies still kept the Æolian name after Dorian and Ionian had usurped the whole of Greece proper.
The truth is, there is no unity in the history of Greece until you reach the time when the common menace of Persian invasion and conquest taught the different Grecian states the necessity of peace and harmony among themselves. Before this, and always, one blood, one language, one religion, and a national character at bottom the same, had tended to draw the Greeks together. But these ties were never practically strong enough to resist the divisive force of local jealousies and selfish personal ambitions. The sad fact is, that the ancient Greeks, brilliant and fascinating people as they were, spent ages of time in fighting and destroying one another. The petty size of the states made patriotism in many instances a very intense passion. But, on the other hand, it is also to be acknowledged that Greek history furnishes examples as illustrious as ever existed of self-seeking, adventurous, and mercenary traitorhood.
Sparta was not a city of savages, for the Spartans cultivated poetry and music of a certain severe type. But for any thing that the Spartans did beyond this, in the way of attention to the arts of civilized life, we might call them savages. They made a pride of despising not only luxury, but refinement. Century after century, Sparta was little else than a per anent military camp. It had no art, no architecture, no letters, no homes. Infants not deemed sound and strong were put to death. At the age of seven the boys were taken from their parents to be brought up in public by the state. Spartan women grew to be men in spirit rather than women. These manners produced a stern sort of virtue that we cannot but admire. But except for some examples, like the example of Leonidas, and, besides these, for a few immortal laconisms of speech, what is the world richer for ages upon ages of Spartan history?
Much more variously attractive and admirable we find the genius and achievement of Athens, well called “the eye of Greece." These two states, the Athenian and the Spartan, the one or the other, in general led in Grecian affairs.
Thebes, however, took her turn at headship in Greece, if not quite alone at any time, at least in honorable alliance and partnership with Athens. Theban renown is illustrated with the resplendent names of Pin'dar in poetry, and of Epaminon'das and Pelop'idas in patriotism and war.
Corinth was, by the felicity of her situation, the leading commercial city of Greece. The proverbial timidity of the spirit of trade perhaps it was that prevented Corinth from ever disputing with Sparta or with Athens the honor of leadership in general Hellenic affairs. But Corinth was a splendid capital of wealth and culture; it is necessary also to add, a full and festering center of moral corruption.
Epli'esus, in Asia Minor, was as much a Grecian city as was Athens, in Attica. So was Mi-lē'tus. Hellas contained them all, with many more cities that we cannot stay even to mention.
It was in Asia Minor that the first hostile collision took place between Persia and Hellas. Persia subjected the Greek cities there to her empire, and some of these revolted. The Persian invasion of Greece followed, magnificently repulsed, first by the Athenians under Milti'ades, at Marathon, and afterward, on renewal, stayed for a moment again by the immortal resistance of Leon'idas, with his Spartan three hundred, at Thermop'ylæ, to be finally turned back in irretrievable disaster to the invaders, at Sal'amis. When, at last, the Persians were decisiveiy driven from their purpose of subjugating Greece, Athens entered upon the period of