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- Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book IV. - 3/19 -


confederacy should be expelled the council. Under this popular and patriotic proposition was sagaciously concealed the increase of the Spartan authority; for had the Thessalians, Argives, and Thebans (voices ever counter to the Lacedaemonians) been expelled the assembly, the Lacedaemonian party would have secured the preponderance of votes, and the absolute dictation of that ancient council. [132]

But Themistocles, who seemed endowed with a Spartan sagacity for the foiling the Spartan interests, resisted the proposition by arguments no less popular. He represented to the delegates that it was unjust to punish states for the errors of their leaders--that only thirty-one cities had contributed to the burden of the war, and many of those inconsiderable--that it was equally dangerous and absurd to exclude from the general Grecian councils the great proportion of the Grecian states.

The arguments of Themistocles prevailed, but his success stimulated yet more sharply against him the rancour of the Lacedaemonians; and, unable to resist him abroad, they thenceforth resolved to undermine his authority at home.

XI. While, his danger invisible, Themistocles was increasing with his own power that of the state, the allies were bent on new enterprises and continued retribution. From Persia, now humbled and exhausted, it was the moment to wrest the Grecian towns, whether in Europe or in Asia, over which she yet arrogated dominion--it was resolved, therefore, to fit out a fleet, to which the Peloponnesus contributed twenty and Athens thirty vessels. Aristides presided over the latter; Pausanias was commander-in-chief; many other of the allies joined the expedition. They sailed to Cyprus, and reduced with ease most of the towns in that island. Thence proceeding to Byzantium, the main strength and citadel of Persia upon those coasts, and the link between her European and Asiatic dominions, they blockaded the town and ultimately carried it.

But these foreign events, however important in themselves, were trifling in comparison with a revolution which accompanied them, and which, in suddenly raising Athens to the supreme command of allied Greece, may be regarded at once as the author of the coming greatness --and the subsequent reverses--of that republic.

XII. The habits of Sparta--austere, stern, unsocial--rendered her ever more effectual in awing foes than conciliating allies; and the manners of the soldiery were at this time not in any way redeemed or counterbalanced by those of the chief. Since the battle of Plataea a remarkable change was apparent in Pausanias. Glory had made him arrogant, and sudden luxury ostentatious. He had graven on the golden tripod, dedicated by the confederates to the Delphic god, an inscription, claiming exclusively to himself, as the general of the Grecian army, the conquest of the barbarians--an egotism no less at variance with the sober pride of Sparta, than it was offensive to the just vanity of the allies. The inscription was afterward erased by the Spartan government, and another, citing only the names of the confederate cities, and silent as to that of Pausanias, was substituted in its place.

XIII. To a man of this arrogance, and of a grasping and already successful ambition, circumstances now presented great and irresistible temptation. Though leader of the Grecian armies, he was but the uncle and proxy of the young Spartan king--the time must come when his authority would cease, and the conqueror of the superb Mardonius sink into the narrow and severe confines of a Spartan citizen. Possessed of great talents and many eminent qualities, they but served the more to discontent him with the limits of their legitimate sphere and sterility of the Spartan life. And this discontent, operating on a temper naturally haughty, evinced itself in a manner rude, overbearing, and imperious, which the spirit of his confederates was ill calculated to suffer or forgive.

But we can scarcely agree with the ancient historians in attributing the ascendency of the Athenians alone, or even chiefly, to the conduct of Pausanias. The present expedition was naval, and the greater part of the confederates at Byzantium were maritime powers. The superior fleet and the recent naval glories of the Athenians could not fail to give them, at this juncture, a moral pre-eminence over the other allies; and we shall observe that the Ionians, and those who had lately recovered their freedom from the Persian yoke [133], were especially desirous to exchange the Spartan for the Athenian command. Connected with the Athenians by origin--by maritime habits--by a kindred suavity and grace of temperament--by the constant zeal of the Athenians for their liberties (which made, indeed, the first cause of the Persian war)--it was natural that the Ionian Greeks should prefer the standard of Athens to that of a Doric state; and the proposition of the Spartans (baffled by the Athenian councils) to yield up the Ionic settlements to the barbarians, could not but bequeath a lasting resentment to those proud and polished colonies.

XIV. Aware of the offence he had given, and disgusted himself alike with his allies and his country, the Spartan chief became driven by nature and necessity to a dramatic situation, which a future Schiller may perhaps render yet more interesting than the treason of the gorgeous Wallenstein, to whose character that of Pausanias has been indirectly likened [134]. The capture of Byzantium brought the Spartan regent into contact with many captured and noble Persians [135], among whom were some related to Xerxes himself. With these conversing, new and dazzling views were opened to his ambition. He could not but recall the example of Demaratus, whose exile from the barren dignities of Sparta had procured him the luxuries and the splendour of oriental pomp, with the delegated authority of three of the fairest cities of Aeolia. Greater in renown than Demaratus, he was necessarily more aspiring in his views. Accordingly, he privately released his more exalted prisoners, pretending they had escaped, and finally explained whatever messages he had intrusted by them to Xerxes, in a letter to the king, confided to an Eretrian named Gongylus, who was versed in the language and the manners of Persia, and to whom he had already deputed the government of Byzantium. In this letter Pausanias offered to assist the king in reducing Sparta and the rest of Greece to the Persian yoke, demanding, in recompense, the hand of the king's daughter, with an adequate dowry of possessions and of power.

XV. The time had passed when a Persian monarch could deride the loftiness of a Spartan's pretensions--Xerxes received the communications with delight, and despatched Artabazus to succeed Megabates in Phrygia, and to concert with the Spartan upon the means whereby to execute their joint design [136]. But while Pausanias was in the full flush of his dazzled and grasping hopes, his fall was at hand. Occupied with his new projects, his natural haughtiness increased daily. He never accosted the officers of the allies but with abrupt and overbearing insolence; he insulted the military pride by sentencing many of the soldiers to corporeal chastisement, or to stand all day with an iron anchor on their shoulders [137]. He permitted none to seek water, forage, or litter, until the Spartans were first supplied--those who attempted it were driven away by rods. Even Aristides, seeking to remonstrate, was repulsed rudely. "I am not at leisure," said the Spartan, with a frown. [138]

Complaints of this treatment were despatched to Sparta, and in the mean while the confederates, especially the officers of Chios, Samos, and Lesbos, pressed Aristides to take on himself the general command, and protect them from the Spartan's insolence. The Athenian artfully replied, that he saw the necessity of the proposition, but that it ought first to be authorized by some action which would render it impossible to recede from the new arrangement once formed.

The hint was fiercely taken; and a Samian and a Chian officer, resolving to push matters to the extreme, openly and boldly attacked the galley of Pausanias himself at the head of the fleet. Disregarding his angry menaces, now impotent, this assault was immediately followed up by a public transfer of allegiance; and the aggressors, quitting the Spartan, arrayed themselves under the Athenian, banners. Whatever might have been the consequences of this insurrection were prevented by the sudden recall of Pausanias. The accusations against him had met a ready hearing in Sparta, and that watchful government had already received intimation of his intrigues with the Mede. On his arrival in Sparta, Pausanias was immediately summoned to trial, convicted in a fine for individual and private misdemeanours, but acquitted of the principal charge of treason with the Persians--not so much from the deficiency as from the abundance of proof [139]; and it was probably prudent to avoid, if possible, the scandal which the conviction of the general might bring upon the nation.

The Spartans sent Dorcis, with some colleagues, to replace Pausanias in the command; but the allies were already too disgusted with the yoke of that nation to concede it. And the Athenian ascendency was hourly confirmed by the talents, the bearing, and the affable and gracious manners of Aristides. With him was joined an associate of high hereditary name and strong natural abilities, whose character it will shortly become necessary to place in detail before the reader. This comate was no less a person than Cimon, the son of the great Miltiades.

XVI. Dorcis, finding his pretensions successfully rebutted, returned home; and the Spartans, never prone to foreign enterprise, anxious for excuses to free themselves from prosecuting further the Persian war, and fearful that renewed contentions might only render yet more unpopular the Spartan name, sent forth no fresh claimants to the command; they affected to yield that honour, with cheerful content, to the Athenians. Thus was effected without a blow, and with the concurrence of her most dreaded rival, that eventful revolution, which suddenly raised Athens, so secondary a state before the Persian war, to the supremacy over Greece. So much, when nations have an equal glory, can the one be brought to surpass the other (B. C. 477) by the superior wisdom of individuals. The victory of Plataea was won principally by Sparta, then at the head of Greece. And the general who subdued the Persians surrendered the results of his victory to the very ally from whom the sagacious jealousy of his countrymen had sought most carefully to exclude even the precautions of defence!

XVII. Aristides, now invested with the command of all the allies, save those of the Peloponnesus who had returned home, strengthened the Athenian power by every semblance of moderation.

Hitherto the Grecian confederates had sent their deputies to the Peloponnesus. Aristides, instead of naming Athens, which might have excited new jealousies, proposed the sacred Isle of Delos, a spot peculiarly appropriate, since it once had been the navel of the Ionian commerce, as the place of convocation and the common treasury: the temple was to be the senate house. A new distribution of the taxes levied on each state, for the maintenance of the league, was ordained. The objects of the league were both defensive and offensive; first, to guard the Aegaean coasts and the Grecian Isles; and, secondly, to undertake measures for the further weakening of the Persian power. Aristides was elected arbitrator in the relative proportions of the general taxation. In this office, which placed the treasures of Greece at his disposal, he acted with so disinterested a virtue, that he did not even incur the suspicion of having enriched himself, and with so rare a fortune that he contented all the allies. The total, raised annually, and with the strictest impartiality, was four hundred


Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book IV. - 3/19

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