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of laws, lasting five or six centuries, through the Persian war; and the third, the succeeding period of struggle and ruin.
AGE OF HEROES AND KINGS.
AFTER long and uncertain years, in which age had succeeded to age" and change to change, it seemed in Greece as if the ties that had scarcely been formed amongst men were about to be severed, like Gordian knots, by the swords which none knew how to sheathe. The ancient historian began his narrative of a later war by recurring to the memories of primeval conflicts, and wrote how Greece was clad in iron, and how the lives of its inhabitants were spent in arms." The shepherd who watched his flocks among the mountains or along the river's sides did not escape the universal warfare in the wild and lonely haunts to which he was sent against his will. His quarrels with his fellows were in wrathful mimicry of the battles and the glories which were denied him in the world; and when the warrior's call to arms resounded through the plain or up the glade, there was not one of his retainers who did not rejoice to throw away the crook and grasp the pointed spear. The historian quoted a few lines back lamented, on arriving at a subsequent epoch in the legendary times, that there was still no tranquillity nor civilization." It was harder for him, however, than for the humble-minded Christian to believe, that, when a whole nation is inspired with the same desires, and formed, apparently, for the same toils, it must through these, whatever be their kind, be directed to the attainment of some great ends. It appears, at first, as if in Greece, the field was only to be sown for harvest with human blood and bones.
4 See Hesiod's chronology in the It is scarcely necessary to menWorks and Days, 108 et seq. tion that Thucydides, here first cit
5 IIága yöp # ‘EX\as oriðmpopó- ed, was the greatest historian of pet 8tá ràs doppákrovs re oixàorets antiquity, or that his work was a kai oëx dorspaNeis rap d\\;\ovs épé- history of the Peloponnesian War. 8ovs, kai évváðm row 8taurav Heó He lived A. C. 471 -391. &m Aov mouhoravro, öormep oi Sáp
Bapot. Thucyd., I. 6.
Among a nation thus inclined and thus employed, almost any man could be a hero, provided he were brave and hopeful. The strong arm and the resentful mind were the endowments most coveted and most respected; and when united with princely, or even, as was often believed, with immortal birth, their possessor was the real and the exalted hero. The liberty of the age, however, is not to be judged by the nominal capacity of every warrior for heroism,” but rather by that obedience which the followers rendered to their dashing chieftain, in concession of his superiority. They who were emphatically heroes were princes in their own times, and, generally speaking, the progenitors, real or imaginary, of the later kings. Venerated with such submission as to make their poet speak of them as though they had been worshipped,” their preeminence was not confined to the present world; but in the divine existence to which most of them were summoned, they were above the mass of the immortals almost as much as above the mortals whom they had left behind to build them altars and make them offerings on bended knees. The freedom of such a period was primarily, at least, in the hands of the class from which it received its name. But the superiority of the hero is not to be regarded as founded merely upon martial prowess or severe dominion. He was the great, the greatest, warrior" of the host he led ; but he was also the one above all others to conceive the deeds and to endure the labors which no ordinary spirit could shape and no ordinary energy achieve." Menelaus, girding on his sword in the morning," or turning his brother's heart against a work of mercy,” is the warrior, the brute rather than the ideal hero. There are, fortunately, other images to instruct us in the purposes of the warfare and the objects of the preparation which characterize the heroic age. It would be absurd, indeed, to represent the heroes or the succeeding kings as having been conscious of making straight the ways of their posterity. But the legends which describe their actions seem to have described their aspirations likewise; and it is a harmless concession to give these a place in history, if not as realities, at least as illustrations of the character. and the freedom of the Greeks. It is impossible, however, to separate the legends into any chronological order, or to sift their grain of fact from the fables through which they relate the achievements of their heroes. Hercules, sprung from the loins of Jupiter,” was believed by many to have preferred, of his own accord, the path which virtue beckoned him to pursue.” Others credited the story of his father's oath in heaven, by which Eurystheus, the king of Argos, obtained the mastery over the hero, whose labors were therefore involuntary. But he was also, of his own will, a laborer, or rather a warrior; the stormer of cities, the conqueror of armies, and the protector of the weak who obeyed, as he was the hero of the brave who followed him." If these various traditions
*M) jouxáoraga aúčmóñval. Thuc., I. 12.
7 “In the poems of Homer,”— the best authority, by far, concerning the hero-age, — “it [the term hero] is applied, not only to the chiefs, but also to their followers, the freemen of lower rank.” Thirl
WOL. I. 15
wall, Hist. Greece, Ch. W. Creuzer remarks, more precisely, (Religions, etc., Liv. VII. ch. 1,) that the word was applied universally; and that “whoever raised himself by his merits above the common stature of humanity was a hero.”
8 eeds 8 &s riero ). Iliad, W. 78.
9 Et optimus quisque dictus āptorros, qui 'Apei (Marte) esset praestantissimus. Ever. Feith, Antiquitat. Homer, Lib. IV. 7. See Aristot., Pol., III. 10.
10 “The fundamental idea,” says Otfried Müller, “of all the heroic mythology may be pronounced to be
a proud consciousness of power in-
12 Iliad, WI. 62. 14 See Xenoph., Memorab., II.
13 So late as within the century 1, 21 et seq. before the Trojan war. Clinton, 15 See Grote's History of Greece,
Fasti Hellenici, Vol. I. pp. 78, 139. Vol. I. p. 128.
be susceptible of interpretation upon any single principle, they may be resolved into the glorification of force, though not carried so far as to be extravagant. The hero was received amongst the immortals, and the cup-bearer of Olympus, the daughter of Juno herself, became his bride; but the gods were wont to jeer at him, as if the strength by which he had wrought his famous deeds were not mistaken for the acme of human power. The voyage of the Argonauts under their hero Jason, typifies the adventure of their times, and is the first visible introduction of another occupation besides that of warfare amongst the Greeks. Nevertheless, the Argonauts were any thing but simple mariners. The birds, whose flight they followed across the Euxine, led them, indeed, to the golden fleece they sought; but battles were fought and crimes committed before the voyagers returned. Such an expedition, however conducted, beyond the seas, could not fail of being imitated and surpassed. The legend of AEsculapius chronicles the earliest science in Greece; and though he was but the beginner of its pursuit, his success in healing the broken limb and the fevered frame immediately proved so great as to provoke the fury of the gods of heaven and hell," enraged that a mortal should dare to play the giver of immortality. He was struck dead in consequence; but the deities themselves consented to his reception in heaven, while
16 Diod. Sic., IV, 71. Apollodorus, Bibliothec., III. 10. 4.