Delightful collection of mythological and historical stories of the ancient Greeks, written for youngsters, yet appealing to all ages. This book provides an excellent introduction to ancient Greece, beginning with dozens of the best-known myths and then continuing with short history stories in chronological order.
The tales in this book are old; some of them, it may be, are even older than we suppose. But there is always a new generation to whom the ancient stories must be told; and the author has spent pleasant hours in trying to retell some of them for the boys and girls of to-day.
He remembers what joy it was to him to read about the Greek gods and heroes; and he knows that life has been brighter to him ever since because of the knowledge thus gained and the fancies thus kindled. It is his hope to brighten, if possible, other young lives by repeating for them the immortal fictions and the deathless histories which have been delivered to new audiences for thousands of years.
He feels that he has received valuable help from the keen insight and fine taste of Mr. George A. Harker, whose original drawings adorn and illuminate the volume. The spirit of the book speaks in those animated pictures where action and feeling are so clearly shown.
These stories belong to no one individual; they are the heritage of the race. To help the children of the present time to enter upon this priceless heritage is the aim and desire of
THE PEOPLE OF OLD GREECE
Greece is a country of clear blue skies, of sunlit, dancing seas, of tall mountains tipped with snow. At no place within its borders can you be more than forty miles from the sea or ten miles from the mountains.
The rivers hurry down the hill-sides, and no boat sails on their swift current. The winters are very cold, the summers are scorching hot. In the spring the land is beautiful with flowers; in the fall it is rich with ripened fruit and grain. Near the sea-coast grow grapes, olives, figs, oranges, and melons. Farther up among the hills barley and wheat and oak trees are found; higher yet are pine trees and beech trees, and still higher is the line where snow does not melt even in summer.
Eastward from Greece, the sea is full of islands, some large, others small. They also were settled by the Greeks. In the old days each of these was a kingdom by itself. Some were the homes of pirates who lived by robbing the vessels which came and went upon the sea. In others lived the merchants whose ships these pirates robbed.
As the Greeks increased in numbers they sailed from island to island, and reached the coast of Asia Minor. There they built cities which afterwards became rich and famous.
Westward an open sea lies between Greece and Italy. Colonies crossed that water, and settled on the shores beyond the sea. South of Italy lies the large island of Sicily, which also became the home of Greeks who built the famous city of Syracuse.
The first people who made their homes in Greece were called Pelasgians. We know very little about them, except that they must have come from Asia, for in the center of that continent was the earliest home of men. When that region became too crowded the young and strong journeyed east, west, north, and south, looking for new places in which to settle.
At some time, we do not know when, but long before history began to be written, a wandering tribe entered Greece. We cannot tell whether they arrived by sea or land, but very likely it was by sea. They found fertile soil, large forests, and mountains in which were copper, silver, and iron. It is said that they already knew how to farm and that they built cities.
Soon there was the old trouble—not room enough. The young people hitched their oxen to carts, in which they put their few bits of furniture, their children, and the weaker wives, and moved on to find new homes. This happened many times until Greece was dotted all over with small villages.
The rest of the world was also in motion. Other tribes came into this country of Greece and made themselves masters of its farms and towns. The people who had once been the free owners of the land now became slaves, and had to work without pay for others.
Long afterwards the country was called Hellas, and the people were known as Hellenes.
The mountain ranges in Greece run, some north and south, others east and west, so that there are many little valleys, shut away from each other by the high hills.
These valleys were settled by different tribes, among whom there was often war, though they were related to one another and spoke the same language. Those who had homes among the mountains lived by hunting, and on the milk and flesh of their sheep and goats. Those who found more fertile plains became farmers, and raised grain and fruit. Those who lived near the sea became fishermen and sailors.
So they lived for many hundreds of years before any history was written or read. All that time war was going on, cities were building, states were being founded, little vessels were sailing on the narrow seas from island to mainland, men were gradually learning the arts of civilization.
In those dim times cities were begun which afterwards became famous. Three of these were most important, Sparta, Athens, and Thebes. Sparta was the capital of a little district called Laconia or Lacaedemonia. Athens was the chief city of Attica, and Thebes was the capital of Boeotia.
Sparta had no walls. Every citizen was a soldier, and stood ready to fight for his country night or day.
The people of Thebes and its neighborhood were considered dull and stupid by those who lived in other states. Athens became the most splendid city in Greece. Her citizens loved everything beautiful. Year after year they built temples and monuments, carved statues, painted pictures, studied poetry, music, and the art of public speaking, and delighted in learning something new.
In the heart of Greece, deep among the mountains, lay the beautiful valley of Arcadia. The people were hunters and shepherds; simple, even rude in their manners, but happy in watching their flocks, and in dancing at their village festivals. They worshiped the god Pan, but beat his image if they had bad luck in hunting.
Some of the Greeks were fierce fighters, others were deep thinkers. For two hundred and fifty years the history of their little country is the history of the world. Their stories have gone into the literature of all Western nations, and nobody can claim to be well-educated who does not know something of them.
This little book is written that children may learn a few of the fables and some of the facts which are part of the treasure of the world. The facts are given as they are told by Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Plutarch. No doubt in the course of years fancy has mingled with fact so that the clear truth is hard to find.
It is hoped that this little volume may serve as an introduction to further study for those who have the opportunity, and that the recollection of its contents may give life-long pleasure to such as do not pursue their studies beyond the grammar grade.
NOTE.—In this book will be found many proper names which are strange to young readers. A list of such names, with their pronunciation has been placed at the end of the volume.