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Nowhere in Greece, nowhere perhaps in the ancient world, were the
geographical conditions more favourable to the growth of a genial,
intelligent, and energetic community than in Athens. The sky was bright,
the air pure, and the climate temperate. The soil, while not so rich as
to demoralise the inhabitants or to offer much inducement to an invader,
yielded its cultivators the means of subsistence in the form of figs,
olives, corn, and wine. At the same time the city enjoyed the advantage
of easy communication with other countries both by land and sea, being
situated on a plain which formed part of the continent of Europe, and
having on its projecting coast three safe and commodious harbours, which
gave it facilities for traffic in many different directions. For the
purpose of defence, its Acropolis, facing the sea a few miles off, and
backed at a considerable distance by a well-defined mountain frontier,
provided it with a natural stronghold in case of attack.

The Acropolis is only one of a number of heights

rising out of the plain in the neighbourhood of Athens, including
Lycabettus, Areopagus, Pnyx, and Museum Hill. Though not nearly so high
as Lycabettus, the Acropolis was better fitted for defence, as it was
almost inaccessible from all sides except the west, and had a flat
summit of considerable extent. In itself it is not equal to the Castle
Rock of “modern Athens,” being only 150 feet high, 1150 long, and about
500 in breadth. But it is a far more striking object from many points of
view, partly owing to its position on a rising ground, partly because it
is crowned with the noble ruins of the Parthenon. Many traces still
remain of its original fortifications, which were of a Cyclopean
character, and were attributed to the Pelasgian race. This name, indeed,
survives in the Pelasgicon (otherwise called Pelargicon), an elaborate
outwork consisting of a series of terraced battlements with nine gates
(Enneapylon), of which some remains can still be made out. On the
eastern side there can also be seen the lower courses of a wall which
had been built to fill up a depression in the hill.

Although Attica is not much more than half the size of Cornwall, there
was a time when its inhabitants were divided into many different
communities, practically independent of each other. The city of Athens
was then confined to the Acropolis and a small extent of ground in its
immediate neighbourhood on the south-east. According to tradition it was
Theseus who welded together the various demes or townships into one
organised community under his single rule; and in commemoration of this
rare achievement in Greek history the festival of Synœcia long
continued to be celebrated. Theseus is mentioned both in the _Iliad_ and
the _Odyssey_, and his two sons fought in the Trojan war, yet it was not
he but his successor Menestheus who commanded the Athenian forces in the
war, owing to certain impieties committed by him which entailed upon him
the loss of his crown. No hero was credited with more wonderful
performances than Theseus both by land and sea, and even in the
underground world, though his efforts there were not so successful. His
most memorable exploit in the eyes of the Athenians was the destruction
of the Minotaur, a monster with the body of a man and the head of a
bull, which was kept at Knossus, the capital of the Cretan empire of
Minos, and to which Athens had to devote a sacrifice of seven youths and
seven maidens every nine years. When the time came round Theseus
volunteered to accompany the victims, in order to deliver them; and with
the help of Ariadne, the king’s daughter, who furnished him with a clue
to the labyrinth in which the monster was confined and a sword, he
succeeded in his perilous mission, and brought back his young companions
safe and sound. He had arranged with his father Ægeus that in that event
he would hoist a white sail instead of the usual black one; but
unfortunately he omitted to give the sign, and the aged king, who was
looking out from the Acropolis, where the temple of Niké now stands,
being overcome with grief at the apparent failure of his son’s heroic
undertaking, threw himself down among the rocks and perished. According
to another version of the story, he was waiting on the shore and threw
himself into the sea. To commemorate the event embodied in this
tradition the Athenians were in the habit of sending a ship to Delos
every year to offer to Apollo a sacrifice of a less distressing nature.
During the month in which this took place, no public act was permitted
that was considered to be out of keeping with it, such as the execution
of a criminal; and it was owing to this that Socrates was so long
confined in prison after sentence of death had been passed upon him.

Theseus was believed to have given the Athenians his countenance and aid
at the battle of Marathon, and a few years afterwards they were
commanded by the Delphian oracle to bring back his bones from the island
of Scyros, where he had met a violent death. The injunction was obeyed
in 469 B.C. by Cimon, the son of Miltiades, who discovered a gigantic
skeleton, and brought it to Athens amid great rejoicing. It was then
reinterred in a sanctuary devoted to Theseus’ memory, which is often
mentioned by subsequent Greek writers, and afforded a refuge within its
spacious precincts to the poor and oppressed, whether bond or free, who
felt themselves to be in danger. Unfortunately the historical references
to this sanctuary, as well as the fact that it was in honour of a hero,
not of a god, forbid us to identify it with the noble Doric temple
standing between the Areopagus and the Agora or Market-place, which is
now commonly known as the Theseum. The probability is that the latter
building was a temple in honour of Hephæstus or of Hephæstus and
Athena. It is built of white Pentelic marble, with thirty-four columns
in all, the sculptures on it being of Parian marble, and is second only
to the Parthenon in majestic beauty. Traces of the bright red and blue
colouring, which was used even in the decoration of marble, can be
distinctly seen; and part of the coffered roof is still in position,
adorned with painted stars. During the Middle Ages it was turned into a
church dedicated to St. George, and it is doubtless owing to this cause
that it still survives in such an excellent state of preservation.

For centuries before the time of Theseus the Acropolis had been the seat
of a civilisation not much inferior to that of Mycenæ. Homer speaks of a
“well-built house of Erectheus” to which Athena used to repair; and on
the Acropolis, under what is believed to have been the earliest temple
of Athena, part of the foundations of a palace, apparently similar in
plan to those of Mycenæ and Tiryns, has been discovered. The
fortifications, too, are very similar, and there is a long inner
staircase leading to a postern in the northern wall that corresponds to
those found in the ancient structures referred to. There is another
prehistoric name with which tradition connects the primitive history of
Athens, and on account of which it was sometimes called Cecropia.
According to some, Cecrops came from Egypt; according to others he was
autochthonous (as the Athenians claimed to be), and had the appearance
of being half man and half serpent.

Amid these conflicting mythical traditions it was generally agreed that
the last king of Athens was Codrus, who was said to be a descendant of
Ion, the head of the Ionic branch of the Hellenic race, the latter name
being derived from Hellen, the grandfather of Ion. When the Dorians
invaded Attica, after taking possession of the Peloponnesus, they were
informed by a Pythian oracle that if the life of Codrus were spared they
would gain possession of the country. Codrus became aware of this, and
in order to save his country he went out one day in disguise and
provoked a quarrel with some of the enemy, who put him to death. As soon
as this became known to the Dorians they abandoned the hope of conquest,
and contented themselves with annexing Megara. By a strange process of
reasoning the grateful subjects of the self-sacrificing king straightway
abolished the monarchy, on the ground that it would be impossible to
find any one worthy to sit on the throne of so noble a sovereign! The
name of Codrus was not the only name in the early history of Athens that
was associated with patriotic self-devotion. Long before, one of the
three daughters of Cecrops, Agraulos, was said to have leapt from the
Acropolis as a voluntary sacrifice, when it was declared by the oracle
that there was no other means of bringing a war which had been long
going on to a successful issue. Her name was given to a grotto on the
north, near the spot on which she met her death; and it was there that
the Athenian youth, when they reached manhood, offered sacrifice and
swore to be faithful to their country even unto death.

After the death of Codrus the office of archon was instituted as an
office for life, tenable by the leading member of the royal family. The
late king’s two sons, Medon and Neileus, quarrelled about the
succession, and the latter emigrated with a large portion of the
population to Asia Minor, where he founded the Ionic Amphictyony of
twelve cities, extending from Miletus to Phocæa. For about 300 years the
archonship continued to be held for life; but after that the tenure of
office was changed to ten years, and at a still later period it became
an annual appointment, and was thrown open to the eupatrids or nobles.
Ultimately it became a collegiate charge, being held by nine men
simultaneously, who divided the functions of government among them.

Towards the end of the seventh century B.C. a legislator came upon the
scene in the person of Draco, whose name has become a synonym for
severity, though it would seem that what he did was to codify existing
laws and customs rather than to introduce new regulations. Even at an
earlier period laws had been reduced to writing among the Epizephyrian
Locrians of Italy by Zaleucus at the bidding of the Delphian oracle, for
the purpose of restoring order in the state. The system adopted was of
the nature of the _lex talionis_. Severe measures were doubtless needed,
for it was these Locrians who got the better of the natives by taking a
mutual oath with them to the effect that the two peoples should be
allowed to enjoy the land in common, so long as they stood upon this
earth (such were the terms of the oath) and had heads on their
shoulders. In order that they might be able to destroy the validity of
the covenant, they had put earth into their shoes and concealed heads of
garlic on their shoulders, believing that as soon as these things were
removed the oath would lose its binding force. In order to discourage
rash attempts at legislation the same people enacted that any one
proposing a new law should appear before the assembly with a rope round
his neck, which was to be immediately tightened if he failed to get his
proposal adopted!

About this time an attempt was made by Cylon, a wealthy and
distinguished citizen of Athens, to obtain supreme power, with the help
of his father-in-law, the ruler of Megara. He succeeded in taking
possession of the Acropolis, but the citizens rose against him and
compelled him to flee the country. His followers, who were left in the
citadel, took refuge in the temple of Athena, but they were induced to
quit the sanctuary by a promise that their lives would be spared. As an
additional security, however, they fastened a cord to the image of the
goddess and kept hold of it as they withdrew from the Acropolis.
Unfortunately the cord broke before they had gained a place of safety;
and the citizens, regarding this as a token that Athena had deserted the
fugitives, attacked and slew them. The outrage was aggravated by the
fact that some of them were put to death in the sanctuary of the
Eumenides at the side of the Areopagus. The archon who was chiefly
responsible for the perfidious and profane slaughter was Megacles, the
head of the Alcmæonid family, which was in consequence regarded as
polluted. A pestilence from which the city afterwards suffered was
popularly attributed to the displeasure of the gods on this account. In
order to remove the curse the members of the family who were still alive
were banished, and the bones of those who had since died were dug up and
transported beyond the frontier. Epimenides, the diviner, was also sent
for from Crete, and under his direction new sanctuaries were erected,
and new rites of purification introduced.

There was now a general feeling that means should be taken to put the
civil and political affairs of the country on a better footing.
Fortunately a man appeared who was eminently fitted to do the work of a
reformer. Although belonging to an illustrious house, Solon was at the
same time possessed of broad sympathies and democratic views, which he
is supposed to have derived from his experience as a traveller and his
interest in commercial pursuits. His patriotism was equal to his wisdom,
and the first thing that won for him the admiration and affection of his
fellow-citizens was the fearless enthusiasm with which he appealed to
them to make a fresh attempt to regain Salamis from the Megarians. The
island had been so completely abandoned by the Athenians that they had
decreed the penalty of death against any one who should attempt to
rekindle the war, which had proved disastrous. The success which
attended Solon in this movement doubtless added to his reputation, and
disposed the citizens to give a favourable reception to his
legislative proposals. Among other changes which he introduced was the abolition of
a cruel law by which insolvent debtors were liable to be enslaved along
with their families; and in the political sphere he laid the foundations
of the democratic constitution which was destined to contribute so
largely to the greatness of Athens. He resisted all temptations to take
power into his own hands--to the surprise of some, who thought he
“should have hauled up the net when he had the fish enmeshed in it.”
Unfortunately his self-denying spirit was not shared by all his
countrymen, and he had the mortification of seeing his work to a great
extent frustrated by one of his own friends, Peisistratus by name, whose
success as a usurper was as much due to guile as to force. Posing as a
friend of the people he presented himself one day in the market-place
bleeding from self-inflicted wounds, which he pretended he had received
at the hands of his political enemies, whereupon one of his partisans
appealed for a bodyguard of fifty men to protect him, which was granted.
With their assistance he soon made himself master of the Acropolis, and,
by a stratagem, deprived the citizens of their arms. Although his rule
was comparatively mild, and was signalised by some useful public
enterprises, he was twice driven from the country. After his second
restoration he held his position for about fourteen years. On his death
his three sons carried on the government for some years, but at length a
plot was formed for their assassination by two young men, partly on
public and partly on private grounds. The plot was not altogether
successful, two of the despots being untouched. One of the assassins,
Harmodius, was at once overpowered and put to death, and the other,
Aristogeiton, also forfeited his life after being subjected to torture
in the hope that he would betray the names of their accomplices. The
dynasty became more unpopular than ever, owing to its increasing
severity, and in a few years the surviving members of it were driven
into exile. So highly was the conduct of the two tyrannicides, Harmodius
and Aristogeiton, appreciated that their statues in bronze were erected
in a prominent place between the Agora and the Acropolis, and for a long
time it was forbidden to erect any others in the same place. The statues
were carried off by Xerxes in the next century, but they were soon
replaced by others of a similar kind; and after the earlier ones were
recovered, the two groups stood side by side. Another monument of the
conspiracy was to be seen in the Acropolis in the form of a tongueless
lioness, representing a woman named _Leæna_, who had been suspected of
being in the plot, and was put to the torture, without divulging any

Within a generation afterwards the Athenians’ love of liberty and their
readiness to die for it was demonstrated on a much grander scale, in
their resistance of the Persian invader. It is said that the first time
Darius heard of the Athenians was after the burning of Sardis, in which
they rendered assistance to the Asiatic Ionians. On their name being
mentioned to him Darius asked who they were, and, being told, he shot
an arrow to the sky, and exclaimed, “O Zeus, grant me to revenge myself
on these Athenians,” at the same time bidding an attendant to repeat in
his hearing every day at dinner the words, “Remember the Athenians.” His
generals, Datis and Artaphernes, now landed on the Attic shore with
about 100,000 men, under the guidance of Hippias, who had accompanied
his father Peisistratus by the same route to Athens nearly fifty years
before, when he was returning from exile the second time to take
possession of the city. But Athens was a very different community now
from what it was then. It had enjoyed more than twenty years of
self-government, and its citizens were now united as one man in the
determination to resist the eastern despot to the uttermost. Seldom has
a more heroic stand been taken by any nation in defence of its
liberties. The Persians had hitherto been regarded as invincible, and
their numerical superiority was overwhelming. But the Athenians did not
for a moment hesitate. They at once despatched a swift messenger to
Sparta appealing for assistance, who is said to have accomplished the
journey of 150 miles in forty-eight hours. But the Spartans were slow to
move, owing to their superstitious dependence on the full moon, for
which they had to wait five days. No other Greeks shared in the glory of
the occasion, except 1000 soldiers from Platæa, whose generous and
timely succour won the undying gratitude of the Athenians, and was
annually mentioned at the anniversary services which were regularly
held to celebrate the victory. Of the ten Athenian generals who were in
command of the forces it fell to Miltiades to act as chief. If his
advice had been taken by the Ionians who were left in charge of the
bridge which they had built over the Danube for Darius shortly before,
the invasion of Greece would have been averted. The sixty days during
which Darius had ordered them to preserve the bridge for his return had
expired, and Darius was beset with difficulties in Scythia, which would
soon have overwhelmed him; but the Ionian leaders refused to destroy the
bridge, as Miltiades advised--for the selfish reason that their tenure
of power in their respective cities depended on Persian support. Darius
was thus saved, and his cruel conquest of Eretria was the result--the
prelude, as it seemed, of a like fate for Athens and for all Greece.

The distance from Athens to Marathon is about 25 miles, by the road
taken by the troops, which was the same as is followed by the modern
traveller. The length of the plain is about six miles and its breadth a
mile and a half, with a marsh at each end. The Persians had disembarked
and were drawn up in the plain at a considerable distance from the
shore. The Greeks appear to have taken up a position a little in front
of the amphitheatre of rocky hills which encloses the plain on the north
and west. It was the first time the Athenians had ever met the dreaded
Medes in battle array; but throwing aside all fear they raised the
war-cry and set off at a run, which was facilitated by the slight
declivity of the ground, bearing down upon
the enemy with such force as to compel them to give way at both wings,
where their ranks were weakest and those of the Greeks strongest.
Instead of pursuing the fugitives the victorious wings supported their
own centre by attacking the enemy from the flanks and rear, putting them
into confusion and causing a panic. The whole Persian host was soon in
full flight to their ships, but in their ignorance of the country many
of them were caught in the marshes and never reached the shore.
According to Herodotus more than 6000 of them lost their lives.
Comparatively few prisoners were taken, as the attempts of the Greeks to
capture or burn the ships were attended with little success; but rich
spoils, in the form of tents and other equipments, fell into their
hands. As the fleet was sailing away towards Cape Sunium a flashing
shield was seen on a height above the plain, which was supposed to be a
traitorous signal given to the Persians to sail round to Athens and take
possession of the city in the absence of its defenders. Miltiades was
equal to the occasion. By dint of the most strenuous exertions he and
his troops reached Athens before the enemy could carry out his plan, and
the fleet soon set sail for the Cyclades. Next day the Athenians went
out again, to bury their dead comrades--192 in number--and erected a
tumulus over them, which may still be seen, along with a separate mound
for the Platæans, and one for the slaves who had served as unarmed or
half-armed attendants. Ten columns were afterwards set up, bearing the
names of the dead, according to their several tribes, with a special
monument to Miltiades; and Pausanias, who lived 600 years later,
mentions having read the names. It would scarcely be possible to
over-estimate the importance of the battle of Marathon in Greek history.
It virtually saved the country from being overrun by oriental barbarism,
and gave the world a signal proof for all time that the military
strength of a people depends more on their animating spirit than on
their numbers, and that it is possible for a comparatively small nation
to preserve its independence if its citizens be united and resolute in
devotion to the common cause. The event must have made an enormous
impression, when even such an illustrious poet as Æschylus regarded it
as the greatest honour of his life that he had fought at Marathon, and
left directions that that fact, and no other, should be recorded on his

Ten years later the same peril reappeared in a still more threatening
form, and again the men of Athens covered themselves with glory. It
might have been expected that when Xerxes and his immense host
approached the city they would have prepared for a siege. But the
numbers of the enemy were so immense that, if they had remained within
the walls, it would only have been a question of time when they would
have had to surrender. In their distress they appealed to the Delphian
oracle for advice, but the first response was of a most depressing
nature. They were told to quit their “wheel-shaped city” and flee to the
ends of the earth. A second appeal, which they made in the form of
suppliants, elicited the assurance that when everything else in the land
of Cecrops was taken, Zeus would grant to Athena the preservation of a
wooden wall to be a sure defence to the Athenians and their children.
Under the astute guidance of Themistocles they came to the conclusion
that it was their ships that were referred to. A few of them, however,
mostly too old or too poor to have much prospect of a welcome elsewhere,
put a different construction on the oracle, and took refuge in the
Acropolis, strengthening its defences by the erection of wooden
palisades. They succeeded in holding the fortress for a time, in spite
of the arrows with burning tow attached which the Persians poured in
upon them from their position on the Areopagus. The assailants found it
impossible to force their way up against the great stones which were
rolled down upon them from the western entrance, and it was not till
they discovered a secret ascent on the north side of the rock that they
got the better of the defenders by taking them unawares, and became
masters of the fortress. A remorseless work of destruction then ensued,
involving the temples and other buildings on the Acropolis in the same
fate as had befallen, or was soon to befall, the best of the houses in
the city, and its walls. It seemed to the Athenians a terrible calamity
at the time, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise, for it led to
the restoration of the city on a scale of grandeur unknown before, and
made the Acropolis one of the wonders of the world. The naval
operations, also, to which they were obliged to have recourse, crowned
as these were by the glorious victory at Salamis, opened their eyes to
the possibility of a great naval empire, and led them to turn to account
the advantages to be derived from their harbours at the Piræus, by not
only equipping them with docks but also fortifying them and connecting
them with Athens by means of the long walls, completed in the next
generation by Pericles.

Most of the Athenians had taken refuge in the adjoining island of
Salamis (the ancient home of Ajax), partly owing to an allusion to it in
the second Delphian oracle. “Divine Salamis,” it was said, “would
destroy many sons of women”; and this, Themistocles held, could only
refer to a slaughter of the enemy. Although almost all the powers in
southern Greece were acting in concert with Athens in resisting Xerxes,
the Peloponnesians were disposed to fall back on their line of defence
at the isthmus of Corinth; and it was with the greatest difficulty that
Themistocles prevailed on them to take part in the engagement at
Salamis. When it seemed that nothing else would serve his purpose he
sent a secret message to Xerxes, as if he were turning traitor to his
country, urging him to prevent the escape of the Greeks when he had them
at his mercy. The ruse succeeded. During the night the Persians
stationed ships at the two ends of the straits to prevent the egress of
the Greeks, and also landed a body of men on the small island of
Psyttaleia, at the south-eastern outlet, in case the enemy should
seek a refuge in what proved to be their own tomb. In the morning the
two fleets confronted each other, the Greek vessels lying under the
crescent-shaped coast of the island of Salamis, to the number of more
than 300, while the Persian ships, about three times as numerous, took
up their position along the Attic coast. Behind the latter their army
was drawn up near the shore to enjoy a sight of the expected victory,
while Xerxes himself, for the same purpose, occupied a rising ground,
which is still known as Xerxes’ Seat, sitting on a silver-footed throne,
which was captured by the enemy and afterwards exhibited on the
Acropolis. On this occasion the courage was not all on the part of the
Greeks, for they were very cautious for a while, and many of the
Persians and their Phœnician and Ionic allies fought bravely. But
partly owing to the want of concert among the invaders, and the
unwieldiness of their immense fleet in the narrow waters, which soon led
to confusion, and partly to the superior naval skill of the Greeks, the
great king had the mortification of beholding the destruction of about
200 of his ships of war and the capture or flight of many more, while
the Greeks escaped with the loss of forty ships. Xerxes was so
completely unmanned by the unexpected defeat, and so afraid that the
bridge over the Hellespont might be destroyed before he got across, that
he immediately took his departure. But in quitting Europe he sent back
his general Mardonius with 300,000 men to effect the conquest of Greece.
Attica was again ravaged, and the destruction of Athens was rendered
still more complete. Tempting overtures were made to the Athenians by
the Persian general for their submission, and great alarm was felt in
Sparta and elsewhere lest these overtures should be accepted. But the
Athenians did not for a moment entertain them. “Tell Mardonius,” was
their memorable answer, “that as long as the sun shall continue in his
present path, we will never contract alliance with Xerxes: we will
encounter him in our own defence, putting our trust in the aid of those
gods and heroes to whom he has shown no reverence, and whose houses and
statues he has burned.” Their faith was soon justified by the victory of
the allied forces at Platæa and the naval success which was achieved the
same day at Mycale. All fears of Persian conquest were dispelled; and
the Athenians returned from their temporary exile, to devote themselves
to the restoration of their city with a spirit and an energy which
betokened the great future in store for them.

Beyond Salamis, about twenty miles south from Piræus, lies the island of
Ægina, one of the many interesting features in the view from the
Acropolis. It was revered as the ancient seat of Æacus, the grandfather
of Achilles and Ajax, who was accounted in his day to be the most pious
of mankind. In historical times it was inhabited chiefly by a Dorian
colony from Epidaurus. Up to the time of the Persian invasion Corinth
was its only rival in Greece as a naval and commercial centre; but it
played an ignoble part in complying with Darius’ demands for earth and
water when Athens and Sparta received the insulting message with such
indignation as to put the Persian envoys to death. On the approach of
Xerxes the Æginetans had endeavoured to redeem their character by
joining in the preparations for resistance; and in the battle of Salamis
they had taken such a distinguished part as to be awarded the first
prize for valour, the second prize going to the Athenians. On that
occasion two prizes were also given for the greatest skill and wisdom;
and it illustrates the self-esteem and love of honour of which the
Greeks seem to have had more than an ordinary share, that when the votes
were examined it was found that each of the leaders had put down his own
name for the first prize, and that of Themistocles for the second!

Pericles described Ægina as the “eyesore of the Piræus,” and the history
of the relations between the two powers for many years after the battle
of Salamis, as well as for a few years before it, amply justifies the
observation. After many fierce struggles Ægina was reduced to
subjection, its fleets confiscated, and its fortifications destroyed. On
the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war the Athenians, in order to guard
against the possibility of the island being used by the enemy, expelled
its inhabitants, who found a refuge in Thyrea, which was placed at their
disposal by the Spartans. Even there, however, they were not left in
peace. For in the eighth year of the war the place was attacked and
captured by the Athenians, and the inhabitants were taken to Athens,
where they were put to death as prisoners of war. According to
Herodotus the sad reverses which thus befell the Æginetans were due to
an impiety of which they had been guilty many years before. The solitary
survivor of a band of conspirators had fled for refuge to the temple of
Demeter and succeeded in laying hold of the handle of the door before he
was overtaken. His pursuers did not dare to slay him while he was thus
in contact with the sanctuary, but in order to sever his connection with
it and deprive him of the protection of the goddess, they cut off his
arm at the wrist and then killed him, leaving the hand still grasping
the handle, where it long remained. With this we may compare the conduct
of the Spartans when Pausanias, the commander at Platæa, was called to
account for the treasonable designs into which, in his overweening
pride, he had entered with Persia. He took refuge in the temple of
Athena _Chalciœcus_, on learning that a confidential slave had
betrayed him. The ephors immediately built up the doors and took off the
roof, keeping watch over the refugee, and carrying him out at the last
moment, that the sacred precinct might not be polluted by his death.
Both cases are curious illustrations of the way in which men will try at
times to evade their religious obligations without giving up their form
of godliness. The divine anger in the case of the Spartans was only
appeased by the dedication of two bronze statues to Athena in obedience
to the Delphian oracle.

On the break-up of the Athenian empire, after the battle of Ægospotami,
a remnant of the former Dorian inhabitants of Ægina was brought back by the Spartans, and the Athenian
settlers were expelled. But in spite of the occasional success of their
naval strategy, by which they took the Piræus once or twice completely
by surprise, the Æginetans never recovered any considerable degree of
their former prosperity.

At the present day the chief attraction which Ægina has to offer to the
traveller, over and above the pleasant sail from the Piræus, with its
interesting points of view, is a Doric temple of the sixth century or
even earlier, standing in solitary grandeur, on the summit of a hill
which commands a beautiful view of the plain of Attica on the north and
the Argolic peninsula on the west. It was once thought to be the temple
of Zeus described by Pausanias, but latterly it has been identified as
the temple of Athena mentioned by Herodotus. Within the last few years,
however, a new theory has been put forth by Professor Fürtwangler, who
holds it to be the temple of Aphæa mentioned by Pausanias, a goddess
nearly related to Artemis as a protector of women. In any case the
twenty columns still standing form an imposing monument, and are well
worthy of a visit, though the sculptures on the pediments are no longer
to be seen, having been purchased by the King of Bavaria and deposited
in the museum at Munich.

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