A prosperous fool is a grievous burden. — Aeschylus

Story of Greece - Mary Macgregor

Attica Is Invaded by the Spartans

In the month of May 431 B.C. Attica itself was invaded by a large Spartan army, under King Archidamus.

Before he crossed the border into Attica the king bade his army halt, while he sent an ambassador named Melesippus to the Athenians, to offer them terms if they would submit to him. But Pericles persuaded the council to refuse even to listen to Melesippus, who had been told to return to his own army before the setting of the sun. As he turned away from the council, Melesippus said to the Athenians, 'This day will be the beginning of many woes to the Greeks.'

Pericles knew that the Spartans would march into Attica, as soon as their ambassador had returned, so he ordered the country folk to hasten within the strong walls of Athens for safety. Their cattle he bade them send to the island of Euboea.

The Spartans found the Attic farms deserted, but they destroyed and burned them, while they trampled down the cornfields and spoiled the olive groves and orchards.

As the invading army drew nearer to Athens, the people within the city walls could mark its progress by the smoke that rose from burning farms and villas. The men rushed to the gates, eager to go to attack the enemy, and it was all but beyond the power of Pericles to restrain them.

As winter drew near, Archidamus was forced to retreat, for he had neither money nor food to keep his troops longer in the country of the enemy.

Then Pericles knowing that the way was clear, sailed from Athens with thirteen thousand men, and surprised many villages on the Peloponnesian coast. He also burned the farms and houses in the district of Megara.

When Pericles returned from Megara, a public burial was given, as was the custom, to those who had been slain in battle.

A cedar box, in which were placed the bones of the fallen, was carried without the walls of the city and buried. For those whose bodies had not been recovered, there was an empty bed covered with a pall. The funeral oration, or Panegyric as it was named, was spoken by Pericles.

Here are a few of the sentences which Thucydides, the historian, heard, as he stood among the people and listened to the Panegyric.

'Our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is real use for it. To avow poverty is with us no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it.

'An Athenian citizen does not neglect the State because he takes care of his own household; and even those of us who are engaged in business have a very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man who takes no interest in public affairs, not as harmless, but as a useless character. . . .

'I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed with the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it . . . . they freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast. The whole earth is the sepulchre of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven, not on stone, but in the hearts of men. Make them your example.'


Front Matter

The Great God Pan
The Six Pomegranate Seeds
The Birth of Athene
The Two Weavers
The Purple Flowers
Danae and Her Little Son
The Quest of Perseus
Andromeda and Sea-Monster
Acrisius Killed by Perseus
Achilles and Briseis
Menelaus and Paris Do Battle
Hector and Andromache
The Horses of Achilles
The Death of Hector
Polyphemus the Giant
Odysseus Escapes from Cave
Odysseus Returns to Ithaca
Argus the Hound Dies
The Bow of Odysseus
The Land of Hellas
Lycurgus and His Nephew
Lycurgus Returns to Sparta
Training of the Spartans
The Helots
Aristomenes and the Fox
The Olympian Games
The Last King of Athens
Cylon Fails to be Tyrant
Solon Frees the Slaves
Athenians Take Salamis
Pisistratus Becomes Tyrant
Harmodius and Aristogiton
The Law of Ostracism
The Bridge of Boats
Darius Rewards Histiaeus
Histiaeus Shaves His Slave
Sardis Is Destroyed
Sandal Sewn by Histiaeus
Earth and Water
Battle of Marathon
Miltiades Sails to Paros
Aristides is Ostracised
The Dream of Xerxes
Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont
Bravest Men of All Hellas
Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Artemisium
Themistocles at Salamis
Themistocles Tricks Admirals
Battle of Salamis
Battle of Plataea
Delian League
Themistocles Deceives Spartans
Themistocles is Ostracised
Eloquence of Pericles
Pericles and Elpinice
The City of Athens
Great Men of Athens
Thebans Attack Plataeans
Attica Invaded by Spartans
Last Words of Pericles
Siege of Plataea
The Sentence of Death
Brasidas Loses His Shield
The Spartans Surrender
Brasidas the Spartan
Amphipolus Surrenders
Alcibiades the Favourite
Socrates the Philosopher
Alcibiades Praises Socrates
Images of Hermes Destroyed
Alcibiades Escapes to Sparta
The Siege of Syracuse
Athenian Army is Destroyed
Alcibiades Returns to Athens
Antiochus Disobeys Alcibiades
Walls of Athens Destroyed
March of the Ten Thousand
Pelopidas and Epaminondas
Seven Conspirators
Battle of Leuctra
Death of Epaminondas
The Two Brothers
Timoleon exiles Dionysius
Icetes Attacks Timoleon
Battle of Crimisus
Demosthenes' Wish
Greatest Orator of Athens
The Sacred War
Alexander and Bucephalus
Alexander and Diogenes
Battle of Granicus
The Gordian Knot
Darius Gallops from Battle
Tyre Stormed by Alexander
Battle of Gaugamela
Alexander Burns Persepolis
Alexander Slays Foster-Brother
Porus and His Elephant
Alexander Is Wounded
The Death of Alexander
Demosthenes in the Temple