All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth. — Aristotle

Story of Greece - Mary Macgregor

Brasidas the Spartan

The Athenians were encouraged by the victory they had gained at Sphacteria to hope for still greater success to their arms, and in 424 B.C. they marched boldly into the country of Boeotia. At Delium they seized and fortified a temple, sacred to Apollo.

Now the Boeotians were indignant with the Athenians for invading their land, but they were still more angry that they had dared to enter their temple. They at once marched against the enemy and defeated them with great loss, but the temple was still left in the hands of the Athenians.

As was the custom in those days, the defeated generals asked the victors to allow them to bury their comrades who had fallen on the battlefield. But the Boeotians answered 'When you give us back our temple you shall bury your dead.'

The Athenians refused to do this, saying that Delium, the site on which the temple stood, belonged to Attica, and they had a right to stay in their own land.

'If you are in your own land,' retorted the Boeotians, 'do as you wish without asking our consent.' It was easy to say this, for they knew that the defeated army was not strong enough to defy them.

When the invaders still refused to leave the temple, the Boeotians determined to drive them away by setting fire to the wooden barricades with which the Athenians had fortified the temple.

So they took a large beam of wood, and scooping out the centre made it into a hollow tube. To one end they fastened, by an iron chain, a huge caldron. In the caldron they placed charcoal and sulphur, while to the other end of the tube they tied bellows, by which a strong current of air could be blown through to the other end. When this was done the charcoal and the sulphur in the caldron were fanned into a great blaze, and the fortifications of the temple were soon on fire.

The Athenians tried to quench the flames in vain, and at length they were forced to flee, leaving the temple to the triumphant Boeotians, who no longer refused to let them bury their comrades.

The defeat of Delium was followed by many other disasters, and was the beginning of the downfall of the empire of Athens.

Meanwhile Brasidas had recovered from the wound that he had received at Pylos.

Never had there been so strange a Spartan as Brasidas. His countrymen spoke as little as possible, and what they did say they said in a brief, concise manner. In later days such short, pithy speech was termed laconic. This name was used because Sparta was also called Laconia. But Brasidas was not laconic, he spoke quickly and with ease, and while his comrades liked to do things in the way their fathers had done, Brasidas loved new ways and bold adventures.

Spartans were seldom liked by strangers, for they were rough, often even discourteous in their manner; but Brasidas had winning ways, and wherever he went he made friends. He was not only pleasant, he was also just, and strangers soon learned that his word could be trusted.

This was the man who was now sent with an army through Thessaly. The country was for the most part loyal to Athens, yet the Spartans reached Macedon unhindered.

Brasidas had been told that the city of Acanthus was ready to fling open her gates to him, but he found them guarded. He asked to be allowed to enter that he might tell the people why he had come to their city, and they, won by his kind and simple manner, admitted him.

His first words pleased them, for he told them that he knew how powerful they were, and that if they refused to throw off their allegiance to Athens many other cities would be encouraged by their example.

If they would trust themselves to Sparta, he promised that their city should be free. 'But should you refuse,' and his voice grew stern, 'and say that I have no right to force an alliance on a people against its will, I will ravage your land, and force you to consent. And for two reasons will I do this. The tribute you pay to Athens injures Sparta by making her foe stronger, and your example will make other cities resist the claims of Sparta.'

The Acanthians were afraid that Brasidas would fulfil his threat and destroy their fields, and trample on their grapes which were now ripe and ready to pluck, so they determined to trust Sparta and throw off their allegiance to Athens.

Brasidas was pleased, for, as he had foreseen, other cities quickly followed the example of Acanthus.

Encouraged by his success the Spartan general now determined to attack Amphipolis, an important town in Thrace, standing on the bank of the river Strymon.


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