It has been often said, very truly, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of Greece - Mary Macgregor

The Delian League

For at least forty years Sparta was the chief city in Greece, and she was the head of the league which bound the cities of Peloponnesus together. It was her brave king Leonidas who had fallen gloriously at Thermopylae, it was her admirals who had been the chief commanders at Salamis and at Mycale. The decisive victory of Plataea had been won by the Spartan Pausanias.

But after the Persian war was ended, the power of Sparta grew less and less, while that of Athens increased by leaps and bounds, until it was she who held the first place among the cities of Greece.

One reason for this was that Athens, owing to the foresight of Themistocles, owned a well-equipped navy and could therefore rule the islands of the Ægean which had been wrested from the Persians.

Sparta had no navy, nor had she any great statesman to tell her that she must become a great sea-power if she wished still to hold the chief place among the cities of Greece. Sparta was content to drill her soldiers as she had been taught to do by Lycurgus, and she looked with contempt or with suspicion on what was new or unusual. It was only after Athens had far surpassed her in glory and in empire that her ambition was at length aroused, and she determined to win fame for herself by destroying her rival. Of Sparta's efforts to conquer Greece you will read when I tell you about the Peloponnesian wars.

After the battle of Plataea, Sparta soon lost the command of the allied fleet, through the folly and treachery of Pausanias.

The admiral was sent to drive the Persians from some of the Greek cities in the east. His success at Plataea had made him haughty and proud, and he treated his officers with contempt. He flogged his men for small offences or made them stand with an anchor on their shoulders. If food or water were scarce, he forbade them to help themselves until his own Spartan troops had been fed.

Aristides and another admiral named Cimon, who treated their officers with courtesy and their men with kindness, went to Pausanias to beg him to behave more justly. But the Spartan would not listen to the remonstrances of the Athenians. 'I have no time to hear complaints,' was his sorry excuse.

When Pausanias succeeded in taking Byzantium, which we now know as Constantinople, his pride and ambition increased, and he determined to play into the hands of the Persian king.

So he sent for some of the prisoners, and, setting them free, he bade them carry letters to Xerxes their king. In these letters he offered, as only a traitor could do, to subdue Sparta and the other states of Greece, and to hold them for the Persian monarch. He asked Xerxes to grant him money to carry on the war, and as a reward for his services he requested the hand of his daughter. Pausanias hoped in this way to gain his great ambition and become tyrant of all Greece.

Xerxes was pleased with the Spartan's letter, nor did he stay to wonder if so disloyal a citizen would be a faithful ally. He sent a letter to bid the traitor 'work on night and day to accomplish his purpose, without letting himself be held back by lack of gold or silver, or want of troops, for all should be at his command.'

When Pausanias held the king's letter in his hand, and saw the king's money at his disposal, he began to behave as though he was already the son-in-law of the great king. He clad himself as a Persian prince, he journeyed from place to place in royal state, attended by Persian guards. The Spartan simplicity in which he had been trained was forgotten, and he lived in as great luxury as did his new friends.

Rumours of the strange way in which Pausanias was behaving soon reached Sparta. When it was found that the rumours were true, Pausanias was ordered to come home, and another commander, named Dorcis, was sent to take his place.

But before Dorcis reached Byzantium, the fleet had refused to obey Pausanias and had placed itself under Aristides, the admiral of the Athenian ships.

A league, called the Delian League, was then formed, to enable Greece to carry on the war against Persia. It was named the Delian League because its treasures were kept in the temple of Apollo, on the sacred island of Delos.

Athens became the head of the league, Aristides its leader, and so greatly was he trusted that he was asked to arrange the sum of money or the number of ships which each city belonging to the league should provide.

Most of the Greek cities in the Ægean islands joined the Delian League, as well as those on the north and east coasts of the Ægean Sea. Those who joined took solemn oaths to be true to the demands of the league, and their oaths were ratified by sinking masses of iron in the sea. Not until these reappeared might the people be set free from the vows which they had taken.

Pausanias had now returned to Sparta, where he was thrown into prison. But though there was abundant proof of his foolish conduct there was none of his treachery, and he was soon set free.

The traitor continued to send letters to Xerxes by his slaves, and those who carried them never returned, for Pausanias feared lest they should betray him.

One of his slaves noticed that those who carried letters to the great king never came back. He made up his mind that when his turn came to go to Xerxes, he would find out what was in the letter he carried before he delivered it.

So when one day he was bidden to hasten with a letter to the Persian king, he no sooner left the presence of his master than he broke the seal, opened the letter, and found among other things an order for his death. This was what he expected, and he at once carried the letter to the ephors. It contained proof of the traitor's guilt.

But, so it is told, the ephors wished to hear that Pausanias was guilty from his own lips, so they laid a trap for him.

The slave was sent to take refuge in a hut that stood in a sacred grove. Pausanias soon heard of the strange conduct of his slave, and, as the ephors had foreseen, he at once hastened to the hut to demand why his servant had not sped on his master's errand.

Two of the ephors were hidden behind the hut and could hear all that Pausanias said to his slave.

In his anger the admiral forgot to be prudent, and exclaimed that he meant to subdue Greece and deliver her into the hands of Xerxes. The ephors had heard what they wished. They hastened home and at once ordered that the traitor should be seized.

But either Pausanias was warned or he was filled with sudden foreboding, for he fled to the temple of Athene for sanctuary. It was forbidden to drag a fugitive out of the temple, so the ephors ordered that the door should be built up, that he might starve to death.

His mother, in bitter anger because her son had wished to betray his country, herself placed the first stone at the door of the temple.

When hunger had all but done its work, Pausanias was carried out of the sacred place to breathe his last, lest the temple should be polluted by the death of a traitor.


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