THE CAMBRIDGE ANCIENT
J. B. BURY,
S. A. COOK, E. ADCOCK
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction: The nature of
V. Cost of living.
wages and interest.
VII. Public finance
I. Spartan leadership.
II. The confederacy of Delos.
III. The rise of Cimon.
IV. The achievements of the
confederacy of Delos.
in the character of the confederacy of Delos.
VI. The position in the
Peloponnese. Pausanias and Themistocles
I. End of the coalition.
revolt of the helots and the fall of Cimon.
accession to power.
IV. Outbreak of the first
Peloponnesian war. The great Egyptian expedition.
V. The battles
of Tanagra and Oenophyta.
VI. The fate of
the Egyptian expedition.
five years truce and the death of Cimon.
VIII. The collapse of the land empire. Invasion of
IX. The thirty years peace.
Failure of the foreign policy of Pericles.
X. The Athenian empire at this epoch
I. Ephialtes’ reform of the Areopagus.
II. Admission of the Zeugitae to the archonship.
III. Payment for the jurors and the restriction of
development of the democracy.
V. The rise of the demagogues.
VI. The DEMOS AND THE
I. THE ORIGIN OF TRAGEDY.
II. Aeschylus: The growth
of his art. III. Aeschylus:
VI. Comedy: Aristophanes
I. The tyrants of
Syracuse and Acragas.
II. The FALL OF THE TYRANTS .
III. The Sicel reaction.
IV. Syracusan hegemony
I. The first years of peace.
II. The Samian revolt.
III. Problems of empire.
IV. Corinth and Corcyra.
V. Athenian intervention.
VII. The decision of peace or war.
VIII. The FRONTIER INCIDENT
I. Periclean strategy.
II. The plague and the fall of Pericles.
III. The north-east and the north-west (430-429 b.C).
IV. The revolt of Mitylene (428-427 b.c.).
V. Corcyra, Sicily AND THE NORTH-WEST. VI. Pylos and Sphacteria.
peace of Nicias
I. The Spartan-Athenian
war of Alcibiades in the Peloponnese.
disruption of the quadruple alliance.
VII. Athens and its empire
I. The designs of Athens in the west.
II. The first expedition
III. The siege
IV. Gylippus and the siege of
V. The second expedition.
VI. The Athenian disaster
I. The revolt of Chios.
II. The naval war in onia.
III. The policy of Tissaphernes.
IV. Alcibiades and
the Athenian revolution.
VI. The FAILURE OF THE FOUR HUNDRED.
VII. The END OF THE FOUR HUNDRED.
VIII. The GOVERNMENT OF THE FIVE THOUSAND.
struggle for the Hellespont.
policy of Cleophon.
attempted restoration of the Athenian empire
I. Law and politics in
dictatorship of Alcibiades
III. Arginusae and the trial of the generals
V. The siege of Athens
oligarchy in Athens
VII. fall of the oligarchy
VIII. The re-establishment of Democracy
reaction against the Ionian philosophy.
II. The sophists.
III. Blasphemy trials at Athens.
IV. The life and death of
I. Late archaic sculpture
II. Late archaic painting
IV. Early classical painting .
sculpture: (1) the
second half of the fifth century.
painting: (2) the
second half of the fifth century .
VII. Doric architecture in the early fifth century.
VIII. Parthenon and Propylaea. IX .Ionic
X. Bassae and the Corinthian capital
halls and houses
IN this volume, and in
that which follows, Greece occupies the centre of the
picture, and we have distinguished the present volume by the name of Athens
because the political and intellectual activities of that city are the main
subject of the history of the fifth century, and mattered most at the time and
have mattered most to posterity.
The victory over the
barbarians, which has been described in Volume IV, was an inspiration to an
Athens which believed, not without reason, that she had saved Hellas by her
example and her exertions. With the sense of deliverance came the sense of
power, which outran the bounds that tradition had set to the ambitions of the
Greek city-states. In commerce as in thought, the Athenians were ready to take
and to improve the heritage of Ionia, as they were ready to challenge the
primacy of Sparta in arms and policy. We begin, therefore, with an account of
the economic conditions under which Athens accomplished her great achievements a nd made herself the acknowledged leader of Hellenic
The main theme of the
political history of this period is the story how Athens acquired and
maintained and then lost her Empire. We have to see how, first the champion and
protectress of the Greeks of the Aegean seaboard, she then became their
mistress. With astonishing vigour and elasticity of spirit,
Athens set herself, while still at war with Persia, to turn a free alliance
into an Empire and, at the same time, to grasp at the leadership of Greece
proper. In the attempt to achieve this twofold purpose the Athenian state was
fused into a democracy which granted to its citizens the freedom which it
denied to others, and, under the guidance of Pericles, created a splendid city
which compelled the admiration as well as the envy of its neighbours.
The story of this attempt and of the imperialistic democracy which was at once
its cause and its effect is followed by an account of the greatest contribution
made by Greece to the literature of the world—the Attic Drama. In Chapter V
will be found a study of the development of the dramatic art, together with an
interpretation of its masterpieces, which shows It as at once the product of
an age and a city and the culmination of a literary movement which has behind
it the common heritage of the Greek people.
We then turn to western
Greece and may contrast the dazzling progress of an imperialistic democracy
with the history of Sicily during the period in which the brilliant tyranny
which had saved the island from the Carthaginians declined and was supplanted
by commonplace uninspired democracies.
The Thirty Years Peace,
concluded between Athens and the states of the Peloponnese, marks a moment of
suspense, being an endeavour to reach a modus
vivendi. This endeavour, made possible by the
temporary exhaustion of Athenian resources, could not be permanently successful,
unless Athens was prepared to abandon the tyranny which her Empire really was,
and to take her place once more in the balanced circle of Greek states. The
unyielding, if unaggressive, policy of Pericles now dominated his city and in
the end he guided Athens into a war which might have decided the issue favourably once for all, if he had lived to see it through.
What followed was a catena
of conflicts famous by the name of the Peloponnesian War. The first stage,
which we have distinguished by the time-honoured name of the Archidamian War, lasted for ten years,
and ended in the Peace of Nicias which was the result of the courage and
tenacity with which Athens may be said to have defeated the Peloponnesian
attack. It may well have seemed to an observer of the time that the future lay
with Athens, had the resources of that city been guided by prudent statecraft.
But the restless genius of Alcibiades, tempted by the weakness of Sparta and
the hopes of brilliant conquests in the West, lured Athens into the disastrous
adventure of the Sicilian Expedition, and revived the war in Greece itself. The
failure in Sicily reduced the power of Athens to the level of her adversaries’
resources, and the struggle entered on its final phase which all but broke down
the Athenian democracy. The outcome was doubtful, even after the gold of Persia
was cast into the scale, but at last the destruction of the Athenian fleet at
Aegospotami left Athens at the mercy of her enemies.
The political history of
the fifth century ends in tragedy and is often sordid, but it is the century
which saw Periclean Athens as the intellectual centre of the Greek world, and witnessed the sophistic movement which led to an age of
illumination. The Athens of Pericles was the Athens of Socrates. The outward
setting of the intense life of the city was worthy of its culture, for triumphs
of architecture displayed in material form the rigorous clarity that
characterized Greek thinking and showed Athens great in art no less than in
politics and literature. In the final chapter we read also of the pediments of
the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina, ‘which, over a
hundred years ago, opened modern eyes to the beauty of archaic sculpture', the
sculptures of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, and the statues of Polyclitus. In
this same chapter the painting of Polygnotus and of
the Attic red-figured vases is set side by side with the masterpieces of
Finally, this was the age
made memorable to the historian by the fact that ‘with Herodotus and Thucydides
History as an art was born, indeed twice-born, in romantic and in classic
perfection.’ Above all, the political history of fifth-century Greece had the
privilege of being interpreted to future generations by Thucydides. In his
austere economy he ignores the achievements of Athens in art and literature,
but one thing he could not hide, that this age had produced his own
“What happened?” Such curiosity cannot be
equally addressed to what happened anywhere, at any time, to anybody: it would
then be so thinly spread as to disappear altogether. Eager curiosity means
concentration upon an object capable of exciting our mind or moving our heart
or both. Selective curiosity sometimes merges into deep emotional involvement:
in the realm of secular history, such involvement is very much a function of
nationality. We all attach value and meaning to some moments of our nation’s
past, marked by decisive and dramatic occurrences, the recounting of which so
arouses us as to draw us into the picture, quivering if impotent participants. Thus the critical times of our national history assume
almost the character of personal recollections: many Americans, I fancy, have
vicariously applauded the proclamation of lndependence and fought at Gettysburg.
No man can call himself a believer who is
not shaken to his roots by dwelling upon the events basic to his Faith; no man
can call himself a patriot who is not elated or saddened when remembering the
glorious or evil days of his fatherland; in between, no man may call himself a
humanist who remains ignorant of or indifferent to the major splendors or
tragedies of civilization. Great tragedy befalling great splendor, that is the
story of the Peloponnesian War.
The scene is a small one: Greece, studded
with a great many more “states” (poleis) than we count in the whole world today.
Far the largest territory was that of Sparta, containing 3,200 square miles,
the next was that of Athens (Attica), barely exceeding 1,000 square miles.
Corinth, which plays an important part in the tale, had a territory of 330
square miles. The citizenry of Athens was the most numerous of any: on the
authority of Thucydides it is estimated at 42,000 men.
Women, children, resident aliens (metics) and slaves
possibly made up a total of 400,000 inhabitants of Attica. This was regarded by
thoughtful men as an excessive bulk, and for a characteristic reason: it did
not allow each citizen to recognize his fellows by sight. It was in any case a
quite exceptionally large population, and Athens was the major town of Greece,
even though it held only some 10,000 homes, each harboring a much larger, less
subdivided family than ours.
These few indications warn us that we must
here think in numbers very different from those to which we are accustomed.
Most cities indeed counted their fighting men in mere hundreds, and a city’s
contribution to a confederate army was sometimes less than a hundred. Nor
should we picture Greek splendor in terms of high standards of consumption.
What our economists call “private consumption” was very low: no heating, next
to no lighting, very few vehicles other than ships, the same doth serving as
bedsheet and as dress, frugal fare. The luxuries the Greeks enjoyed were
collective: beautiful temples, strong walls (though Spartans prided themselves
on needing none), and public baths to which they resorted daily. Indeed personal luxuries were regarded as bad form. The
Spartans of course went to the extreme, but even the pleasure-loving Athenians
stood much nearer to the Spartan model than to what they regarded as the
besotting indulgences of the Asians.
The Greeks would rank low in our
statistical scale of “consumption per head.” What they consumed with delight
and discrimination was leisure: leisure spent in witty conversation, in healthy
physical exercise, in watching a play, in attending an athletic contest. The
famous conversations of Socrates were conducted with whomever he happened to
meet in the street, and the mass amusements of the Athenians were the great
plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. There was no such thing in Athens
as being unfit for war service, nor was there any such thing as being incompetent
to decide a political issue or a legal case. On one day the Athenian would hear
out, from sunrise to sundown, the orators arguing for and against political
moves and decide between them; on another day he would sit on the judicial
bench with many of his fellows and they would decide civil suits. Athens had
its way of life which was not the pursuit of a high standard of life but of a
high standard of achievement.
In 490 b.c. the Athenians defeated at
Marathon a minor Persian venture, in 480 b.c. they had to deal with an
all-out effort; leaving their very homes to the invader, they crushed his
forces in the bay of Salamis. Having thus saved herself, and Greece of the many
cities, from Persian domination, Athens fell at Chaeronea (332 b.c.) under Macedonian domination, which
embraced all Greece. Only a century and a half elapsed between glorious
Marathon and disastrous Chaeronea; “the glory that was Greece” is tightly
packed within that short space of time: then flourished, from Aeschylus to
Aristotle, the authors who have exercised a germinal influence upon Western
culture. The men who then lived in what to us is “a small town” have given us
our modes of expression of human feelings, tragedy and comedy (not the novel), our canons of beauty (architecture, sculpture), our
procedure of argument, abstract (philosophy) and practical (oratory). It is
around Plato and Aristotle that our philosophic arguments still revolve;
Demosthenes is still the model of political and legal speakers.
What happened to such people moves our
hearts because of their excellence and of our debt to them; but also it excites our minds because it displays the inherent
precariousness of political achievement. Men of the seventeenth century, like
Hobbes, or of the eighteenth, like Burke, did not for a moment doubt that
history should be learned in order to learn from
history, to acquire political prudence, short of which no political system can
The Peloponnesian War, related by
Thucydides, is the outstanding account of political imprudence. It shattered
the foundations of what we may call “the society of Greek city-states”: it so
damaged relations between cities and within cities that the whole edifice
creaked and slipped during the ensuing sixty years, and easily collapsed under
the Macedonian push Therefore this Great War has remained for all times the
classic illustration of the harm which a society of kindred states can inflict
upon itself by driving its conflicts too far. The Greeks were not mild people:
cities and factions were wont to clash quite roughly; but up to the Great War,
prudence intervened in time; it then fell into discredit, and only fitfully
recovered its sway while the prestige of ranters and
“bitterenders” established itself.
The idea of “A World Government” meets with
such favor today that it is perhaps proper to stress the value of the Greek
system of a great many self-governing city-states. The Greeks were well aware of another system which they had observed in
Egypt and Persia. There, vast expanses of land and a great number of people
lived under one government. This was to them “palatial” government. By the very
nature of things, it is impossible, in a vast state, that all should
participate in decision-making, and therefore understand the reasons for a decision
and regard it as their very own. If and only if they so participate, they are
citizens; when dimensions demand that decisions should be made in “the Palace”
and conveyed to men, then they are subjects. This the Greeks held to be not
only an undignified condition but a demoralizing one, as indeed the experience
of the Roman Empire was to show.
Since much is made in the account of the
war, of the contrast between democracy and oligarchy, it may be useful to
stress that the difference between the forms of government prevailing in Greek
cities was one of degree. All cities had a remnant of sacred authority: the two
“kings” of Sparta still led the armies in the field (but not the fleet, which
was an innovation); the archons of Athens still attended to religious
discipline but had ceased to matter in politics, and Athenian generals were
elected by the people. All cities had a council, “boule”: in the extreme
oligarchic system it replenished itself by co-optation, in the extreme
democratic system, at Athens, its members for the year were selected by lot
from lists drawn up in the constituencies. In all cities, the final word
belonged to the Assembly of the People, “ecclesia.” The reader will find that
the decisions of Sparta, like those of Athens, are taken by the popular
assembly: there the ambassadors are heard, there the reply to their requests is
adopted; the reader will notice that the advice given to the Assembly of Sparta
by their King Archidamus was overruled.
All political regimes of Greece involved
what we call “government by discussion”; all left the final word to the
assembly of citizens, which was natural enough, since there were no professional
servants of the state available to carry out decisions, but only citizens
themselves. There was, however, a great difference in spirit between the
oligarchic system of Sparta or Corinth and Athenian democracy.
Parentage counted a great deal in all
cities: even in Athens Pericles himself was responsible for a law which struck
from the registers of citizens those who could not prove their descent from
both an Athenian father and an Athenian mother; however their great number
(4,000) testified that the citizenry had been infiltrated by metics. Not so at Sparta. The Dorians who had conquered Peloponnesia some centuries ago had kept their ranks closed
against the previous inhabitants. (Incidentally this made losses suffered at
war especially exhausting for Sparta.) The importance of parentage also
influenced the composition and status of the Council at Sparta: it was a
preserve of the “great” families, whereas in Athens it was open to all, and the
Spartan Council exercised a far greater influence upon the Assembly of citizens
than in Athens where it functioned as merely a steering committee.
The prestige of lineage sat well with a
traditionalism, in itself much admired by some Athenians, among them Xenophon.
Rightly or wrongly, Socrates, his war record notwithstanding, was deemed an
admirer of Sparta, certainly some of his favorite pupils behaved as such. With
Spartan conservatism went a reluctance to venture, underlined by Thucydides.
The names appearing in Athenian history
point up the social contrast with Sparta. With the exception
of Pericles, they are “new men”: thus Cleon, who plays such a large
part, was a wealthy tanner, Eucrates, Lysicles, and Hyperbolus were substantial
tradesmen, Cleophon, whose name appears late in the
war, was the first artisan (he was a lyre maker) to make his mark in politics.
New men of that kind helped to give Athenian policy the proud, bold,
venturesome character which it developed under and after Pericles. Even more
ardent were the sailors of Piraeus; the port constituted the stronghold of “the
left.” Plato, a conservative, was to bemoan the damaging social and political
influence of the sea.
It should be remembered that, at the time
of the war, even in Athens three-fourths of the citizens were landowners who
commuted between their farms and the city. The stolidity of farmers prevailed
in the popular assemblies of the early fifth century; but as the enemy armies
despoiled the land during the Great War, the population, increasingly cooped up
in the town, grew into a mood of urban nervosity. The wholesale destruction of
trees for shipbuilding sealed the decline of agriculture which transformed the
social character of Athens.
The Great War broke out in 432 b.c., less than fifty years after Salamis.
At the time of the great Persian invasion, the Spartans at Thermopylae, under
Leonidas, had displayed heroism; but the Athenians at Salamis had demonstrated
effectiveness. Naturally enough, they took the lead in the sporadic conflict
which was pursued against the Persian Empire: they formed and led the Delian
League, commanded its confederate fleet, and took charge of its confederate
finances. The money was in fact spent by Athenian stewards, the suits brought
by allies against Athenians were decided by Athenian tribunals. This was not to
everyone’s liking. Moreover the Athenians, flushed
with pride, did throw their weight about in Greece, against the advice of
Cimon, but often enough on the advice of Pericles. This explains how Sparta
could play up the theme of “liberation.” As the war proceeded, military expenditures
were an increasing burden upon the allies and upon the wealthier citizens of
Athens, which goes a long way to explain why, in the last lap, Athens was
deserted by its allies and betrayed by its rich.
Its collapse in 404 b.c. was not pitied but
applauded all over Greece.
Indeed while our sympathies cannot fail to lie
with Athens, we must admit that the Athenians wantonly cast away the many
opportunities which were afforded to them of concluding an honorable peace.
Thucydides makes it clear that while Sparta was a republic of highly trained
soldiers, it had no venturesome disposition; its conservative leaders knew
that the chances of war are uncertain, and they even seem to have vaguely foreseen
the corrupting influence of total victory. However much we prefer the Athenians, we have to confess that their disaster was not
the outcome of a premeditated aggression by Sparta but the result of their own
This tragedy has served as a major item in
the education of would-be statesmen for more than twenty-four centuries. This
is justified not only by the substance of the tale but by the manner of its
telling. Thucydides is a great historian, possibly the greatest that ever was.
He may have lacked initiative as a general: so the Athenians
judged, when they banished him for his failure to reach Amphipolis in time; but
as a writer he displays exceptional vigor, drawing admirably clear pictures
with great economy of words. His facts have not been shaken by modern
criticism; the speeches he ‘‘quotes” are of his own composition, but it should
be remembered that the speakers were, in most cases, very well known to him
(the late-comers on the Athenian political scene excepted); he was well aware of their interests, feelings, motives, and these
he expounds in his made-up speeches. Such speeches indeed are the highlights of
the whole book.
The story is altogether a sad one and
strewn with horrible episodes. Thucydides does not inject into his account a
display of his emotions of sorrow, indignation, or pity; he has often
therefore been adjudged insensitive. Against this opinion should be quoted the
fact that Demosthenes, who was a most emotional character, is said to have
copied out Thucydides six times. Indeed men who write
in times of great misfortunes are least prone to make a show of their feelings:
to face and chronicle bleak facts they clothe themselves in stem sobriety. This
was also the case of Machiavelli, living amidst the wreck of all he cherished.
Such an attitude of withdrawn dignity is misunderstood in happier days, and
such men are then regarded as brutal realists, against the testimony of their
unimpeachable personal conduct.
Into the tangle of events, Thucydides
drives the cold steel of the anatomist, he cuts through to the essential
articulations of causes and consequences. We are fortunate in having such a
guide; we are doubly fortunate in enjoying a translation of his great work by
so eminent a political scientist as Hobbes. Hobbes used his translation of
Thucydides to train himself in political science; he stands surety to us that
this book is required reading; but also we can rest
assured that the Hobbesian version, an intellectual rather than a literary
exercise, grasps the innermost meaning of the original.
Hobbes mentions this translation in his
prose and in his verse autobiographies, both written in Latin. In the prose
text, he speaks of himself in the third person, thus: “Among the Greek
historians he loved Thucydides best; having achieved an English translation,
little by little in his leisure hours, he gave it to the public, which received
it with some applause, around the year 1628; this in order that the follies of
the Athenian Democrats should be revealed to his compatriots.” In the verse
autobiography, speaking of himself in the first person, he says of Thucydides:
“He made me realize how silly is democracy, and how much wiser a single man is
than a multitude; I translated this author who would tell Englishmen to beware
of trusting orators.” These statements are clear: Hobbes learned from
Thucydides to distrust Assembly rule and used Thucydides to warn his
compatriots against it. This fits in with his later advocacy of monarchic
government, urged, it should be stressed, in the interests of peace internal
and external and of individual safety. It is a major distortion to represent
Hobbes as the forerunner of totalitarianism: he wishes Authority to be unquestioned,
not in order that it might serve a violent passion, but so that it could abate
all passions. He conceived government not as driving men but as sheltering
their various pursuits. In his eyes the uncertainty and perils attending the
tussle of competing political forces was the greatest social evil.
Naturally, and legitimately, British
biographers have projected Hobbes’ interest in Thucydides upon a background of
waxing difficulties between Crown and Commons, which marked the end of the
reign of James I and the beginning of the reign of Charles I: the Bill of Rights
was passed in 1628. One may, however, conjecture that Hobbes had been impressed
by the breakdown of civil order and security which had been occurring on the
Continent since 1619, a drama which posterity was to call “the Thirty Years’
War,” the very name commonly applied to the Peloponnesian War. England rang in
1619 with the judicial murder of the virtuous and peace-loving Barneveldt, a
victim of the fanatical war party of the United Provinces: then was the great
Grotius condemned to life imprisonment from which he escaped, obtaining refuge
and financial assistance from Louis XIII of France. That kingdom itself experienced
civil strife; in 1620 there was a rebellion led by the Queen Mother; in 1621,
the representatives of the French Protestants assembled in the fortified sea port of La Rochelle and there proclaimed a republican
confederation. Worst of all was the general war which broke out within the Holy
Roman Empire as a sequel to the Prague riot of 1618. The empire was in fact a
complex political system of a great many practically independent states of very
different dimensions. For that reason and also because the war between states was aggravated by conflicts within the political
units, the situation must have suggested to Hobbes a parallel with the
The study of history would be unnecessary
for political education if the lessons to be drawn from great historic events
could be summed up in a few trenchant sentences. We would then need no more
than these final sentences. But political prudence does not consist in recipes
which can be conveyed: it is a virtue which has to be
acquired the hard way. The greatest possible economy of effort is achieved if
a very competent guide takes you through the important experiences of others.
He tells you just enough and not too much: why this step was taken and how it
turned out to be disastrous. It is for you to think out why it turned out to be
disastrous and how it might have been avoided: it is only by such personal
speculation that one gains political education; in that realm, as in all
others, one only learns by thinking for oneself.
The reader need not draw from Thucydides
the lesson which Hobbes so tersely summed up. But what he cannot fail to learn
is the inherent precariousness of the political structures which ensure
peaceful and rewarding human relations. This was true of the multi-state system
enjoyed by Greece before the Peloponnesian War and by Europe before 1914: the
diversity of governments was no obstacle to the ease and confidence of
intercourse; such great benefits can be preserved only by temperate policies,
they cannot withstand the imperious upsurge of national willfulness; and the
violent recasting of such a system, however alluring the ideas applied, must
prove unstable and lead to renewed convulsions eventuating in general weakness
and abandonment to outside control. The precariousness is true also of an
alliance, such as the Delian League, assembled because Athens had demonstrated
in the Persian wars her will and power to protect, and shattered when she lost
that power. It is true finally of a political regime, which lasts just as long as it proves capable to bear the strains it assumes.
It is not sufficiently realized what a task
it is to maintain a political structure. At times this seems easy, and
therefore it also seems harmless that weak or feverish hands should be applied.
But events, which may or may not be the work of these hands, occur to tax the
structure. Its fragility is then revealed and men
learn too late, as it topples upon them, that they should have bolstered it
with firm prudence.
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