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- Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book V. - 2/25 -


the Athenian garrison, save a few who had ensconced themselves in Nisaea, and that an army of the Peloponnesian confederates was preparing to march to Attica. On receiving these tidings, Pericles re-embarked his forces and returned home. Soon appeared the Peloponnesian forces, commanded by the young Pleistoanax, king of Sparta, who, being yet a minor, was placed under the guardianship of Cleandridas; the lands by the western frontier of Attica, some of the most fertile of that territory, were devastated, and the enemy penetrated to Eleusis and Thria. But not a blow was struck--they committed the aggression and departed. On their return to Sparta, Pleistoanax and Cleandridas were accused of having been bribed to betray the honour or abandon the revenge of Sparta. Cleandridas fled the prosecution, and was condemned to death in his exile. Pleistoanax also quitted the country, and took refuge in Arcadia, in the sanctuary of Mount Lycaeum. The suspicions of the Spartans appear to have been too well founded, and Pericles, on passing his accounts that year, is stated to have put down ten talents [256] as devoted to a certain use --an item which the assembly assented to in conscious and sagacious silence. This formidable enemy retired, Pericles once more entered Euboea, and reduced the isle (B. C. 445). In Chalcis he is said by Plutarch to have expelled the opulent landowners, who, no doubt, formed the oligarchic chiefs of the revolt, and colonized Histiaea with Athenians, driving out at least the greater part of the native population [257]. For the latter severity was given one of the strongest apologies that the stern justice of war can plead for its harshest sentences--the Histiaeans had captured an Athenian vessel and murdered the crew. The rest of the island was admitted to conditions, by which the amount of tribute was somewhat oppressively increased. [258]

VI. The inglorious result of the Peloponnesian expedition into Attica naturally tended to make the Spartans desirous of peace upon honourable terms, while the remembrance of dangers, eluded rather than crushed, could not fail to dispose the Athenian government to conciliate a foe from whom much was to be apprehended and little gained. Negotiations were commenced and completed (B. C. 445). The Athenians surrendered some of the most valuable fruits of their victories in their hold on the Peloponnesus. They gave up their claim on Nisaea and Pegae--they renounced the footing they had established in Troezene--they abandoned alliance or interference with Achaia, over which their influence had extended to a degree that might reasonably alarm the Spartans, since they had obtained the power to raise troops in that province, and Achaean auxiliaries had served under Pericles at the siege of Oeniadae [259]. Such were the conditions upon which a truce of thirty years was based [260]. The articles were ostensibly unfavourable to Athens. Boeotia was gone--Locris, Phocis, an internal revolution (the result of Coronea) had torn from their alliance. The citizens of Delphi must have regained the command of their oracle, since henceforth its sacred voice was in favour of the Spartans. Megara was lost--and now all the holds on the Peloponnesus were surrendered. These reverses, rapid and signal, might have taught the Athenians how precarious is ever the military eminence of small states. But the treaty with Sparta, if disadvantageous, was not dishonourable. It was founded upon one broad principle, without which, indeed, all peace would have been a mockery--viz., that the Athenians should not interfere with the affairs of the Peloponnesus. This principle acknowledged, the surrender of advantages or conquests that were incompatible with it was but a necessary detail. As Pericles was at this time in office [261], and as he had struggled against an armed interference with the Boeotian towns, so it is probable that he followed out his own policy in surrendering all right to interfere with the Peloponnesian states. Only by peace with Sparta could he accomplish his vast designs for the greatness of Athens-- designs which rested not upon her land forces, but upon her confirming and consolidating her empire of the sea; and we shall shortly find, in our consideration of her revenues, additional reasons for approving a peace essential to her stability.

VII. Scarce was the truce effected ere the struggle between Thucydides and Pericles approached its crisis. The friends of the former never omitted an occasion to charge Pericles with having too lavishly squandered the public funds upon the new buildings which adorned the city. This charge of extravagance, ever an accusation sure to be attentively received by a popular assembly, made a sensible impression. "If you think," said Pericles to the great tribunal before which he urged his defence, "that I have expended too much, charge the sums to my account, not yours--but on this condition, let the edifices be inscribed with my name, not that of the Athenian people." This mode of defence, though perhaps but an oratorical hyperbole [262], conveyed a rebuke which the Athenians were an audience calculated to answer but in one way--they dismissed the accusation, and applauded the extravagance.

VIII. Accusations against public men, when unsuccessful, are the fairest stepping-stones in their career. Thucydides failed against Pericles. The death of Tolmides--the defeat of Coronea--the slaughter of the Hoplites--weakened the aristocratic party; the democracy and the democratic administration seized the occasion for a decisive effort. Thucydides was summoned to the ostracism, and his banishment freed Pericles from his only rival for the supreme administration of the Athenian empire.

CHAPTER II.

Causes of the Power of Pericles.--Judicial Courts of the dependant Allies transferred to Athens.--Sketch of the Athenian Revenues.-- Public Buildings the Work of the People rather than of Pericles.-- Vices and Greatness of Athens had the same Sources.--Principle of Payment characterizes the Policy of the Period.--It is the Policy of Civilization.--Colonization, Cleruchia.

I. In the age of Pericles (B. C. 444) there is that which seems to excite, in order to disappoint, curiosity. We are fully impressed with the brilliant variety of his gifts--with the influence he exercised over his times. He stands in the midst of great and immortal names, at the close of a heroic, and yet in the sudden meridian of a civilized age. And scarcely does he recede from our gaze, ere all the evils which only his genius could keep aloof, gather and close around the city which it was the object of his life not less to adorn as for festival than to crown as for command. It is almost as if, with Pericles, her very youth departed from Athens. Yet so scanty are our details and historical materials, that the life of this surprising man is rather illustrated by the general light of the times than by the blaze of his own genius. His military achievements are not dazzling. No relics, save a few bold expressions, remain of the eloquence which awed or soothed, excited or restrained, the most difficult audience in the world. It is partly by analyzing the works of his contemporaries--partly by noting the rise of the whole people-- and partly by bringing together and moulding into a whole the scattered masses of his ambitious and thoughtful policy, that we alone can gauge and measure the proportions of the master-spirit of the time. The age of Pericles is the sole historian of Pericles.

This statesman was now at that period of life when public men are usually most esteemed--when, still in the vigour of manhood, they have acquired the dignity and experience of years, outlived the earlier prejudices and jealousies they excited, and see themselves surrounded by a new generation, among whom rivals must be less common than disciples and admirers. Step by step, through a long and consistent career, he had ascended to his present eminence, so that his rise did not startle from its suddenness; while his birth, his services, and his genius presented a combination of claims to power that his enemies could not despise, and that justified the enthusiasm of his friends. His public character was unsullied; of the general belief in his integrity there is the highest evidence [263]; and even the few slanders afterward raised against him--such as that of entering into one war to gratify the resentment of Aspasia, and into another to divert attention from his financial accounts, are libels so unsupported by any credible authority, and so absurd in themselves, that they are but a proof how few were the points on which calumny could assail him.

II. The obvious mode to account for the moral power of a man in any particular time, is to consider his own character, and to ascertain how far it is suited to command the age in which he lived and the people whom he ruled. No Athenian, perhaps, ever possessed so many qualities as Pericles for obtaining wide and lasting influence over the various classes of his countrymen. By his attention to maritime affairs, he won the sailors, now the most difficult part of the population to humour or control; his encouragement to commerce secured the merchants and conciliated the alien settlers; while the stupendous works of art, everywhere carried on, necessarily obtained the favour of the mighty crowd of artificers and mechanics whom they served to employ. Nor was it only to the practical interests, but to all the more refined, yet scarce less powerful sympathies of his countrymen, that his character appealed for support. Philosophy, with all parties, all factions, was becoming an appetite and passion. Pericles was rather the friend than the patron of philosophers. The increasing refinement of the Athenians--the vast influx of wealth that poured into the treasury from the spoils of Persia and the tributes of dependant cities, awoke the desire of art; and the graceful intellect of Pericles at once indulged and directed the desire, by advancing every species of art to its perfection. The freedom of democracy--the cultivation of the drama (which is the oratory of poetry)--the rise of prose literature--created the necessity of popular eloquence--and with Pericles the Athenian eloquence was born. Thus his power was derived from a hundred sources: whether from the grosser interests--the mental sympathies--the vanity--ambition--reason--or imagination of the people. And in examining the character of Pericles, and noting its harmony with his age, the admiration we bestow on himself must be shared by his countrymen. He obtained a greater influence than Pisistratus, but it rested solely on the free-will of the Athenians-- it was unsupported by armed force--it was subject to the laws--it might any day be dissolved; and influence of this description is only obtained, in free states, by men who are in themselves the likeness and representative of the vast majority of the democracy they wield. Even the aristocratic party that had so long opposed him appear, with the fall of Thucydides, to have relaxed their hostilities. In fact, they had less to resent in Pericles than in any previous leader of the democracy. He was not, like Themistocles, a daring upstart, vying with, and eclipsing their pretensions. He was of their own order. His name was not rendered odious to them by party proscriptions or the memory of actual sufferings. He himself had recalled their idol Cimon--and in the measures that had humbled the Areopagus, so discreetly had he played his part, or so fortunately subordinate had been his co-operation, that the wrath of the aristocrats had fallen only on Ephialtes. After the ostracism of Thucydides, "he became," says Plutarch [264], "a new man--no longer so subservient to the multitude--and the government assumed an aristocratical, or rather monarchical, form." But these expressions in Plutarch are not to be literally received. The laws remained equally democratic--the agora equally strong--Pericles was equally subjected to the popular control; but having now acquired the confidence of the people, he was enabled more easily to direct them, or, as Thucydides luminously observes, "Not having obtained his authority unworthily, he was not compelled to flatter or to sooth the popular humours, but, when occasion required,


Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Book V. - 2/25

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